outrageous chocolate cookie {cookie carnival}

Cookie Carnival is one of many blogging baking clubs. A special feature of this club is that one needs  to bake just once a month, and only if one wishes! A low-key and no pressure type of group is just my cup of tea.  All the cookies are posted at the end of the month here.

For May, I could choose between two recipes— Berry Cream Cookie Snaps (like a  Berry Cannoli) and Outrageous Chocolate Cookie.  I wanted to bake a thank-you gift for a chocoholic, so naturally, I chose the latter.

Roughly chop bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate,

melt in the microwave with butter at 20 second intervals,


Friday Flowers

Earth laughs in flowers.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I've always thought that irises are frilly and fun. The bearded ones make me giggle.

Have a beautiful weekend!


The Three B's- Part II

...this is a continuation from my post of 5.6.10

After the Bouchon Bakery pit stop, I headed over to Bar Boulud, which is right across the street from Lincoln Center.

Don't you like how the barrel-vault ceiling echoes their restaurant sign?

I've been wanting to try BB since it opened up a few years ago, so this was a long overdue visit.  I'd read about amazing charcuterie platters, but at 11:30 on a weekend, I was thinking Croque Madame, which is done to perfection here (according to Frank Bruni).

The fascination with the Croque Monsier/Madame must have started with our trip to Paris in Christmas of 2001.  There, we saw the McDonald's version...

Don't you love it?  The Croque McDo-available in a Happy Meal!  I'm sure the Parisians were cringing at the American interpretation (or bastardization?) of their beloved dish.


{sms} Butterscotch Pralines

Yum to Butterscotch.  ? for the Praline. Yeah to another recipe for Sweet Melissa Sundays.  Yikes for candy-making. I'm a total novice at that.

After looking up other praline recipes online, I was puzzled as to why this recipe calls for water and not heavy cream.  I'm assuming that the butterscotch morsels are making up for it?

I was mulling over that question as I measured out the sugars, and it didn't dawn on me until everything was dissolving over high heat and looking very murky,

that I was supposed to use LIGHT-BROWN SUGAR.  Uh oh.  These will just have a tad more molasses flavor.


Happy Friday!

I love it when The Kids wake up and are all smiles.  On a sunny Friday, that is almost always a given.

The rhododendron bush standing guard at my front door is what has given me a huge smile the past two weeks. I love the bright, fuchsia color and the generous, full flowers.

Hope your Friday is full of smiles and sunshine.


brown butter blondies- national chocolate chip day (may 15)

Did you know this day existed?  What isn't there a holiday for?  Mmm hmm, they had to squeeze it in somewhere, so why not close to Mother's Day?  Two great celebrations in one month.

For this new-to-me holiday, I baked a bar cookie: The Blondie. Bakerella posted it as The Congo Bar. (What's up with that name?  It makes absolutely no sense to me.)  The recipe piqued my curiosity and whetted my appetite. You must take a look at her photos, which are incredibly beautiful, delectable, and luscious.  Having only made these once or twice in my life, I felt inspired to bake a batch.

Don't they look fantastic?  In this case,
however, appearances are deceiving,
and they were WAAAY too cakey.


pumpkin bread pudding {sms}

If are an {sms} baker, you will have noticed the omission of the caramel rum sauce in the title... because I ran out of time to make it.

Believe you me, I love rum and I love caramel, and I SO wish I had the time. This bottle has already been used twice this week in other recipes, which is twice more than in the past five years. Odd how that happens.

On to the bread pudding. I accidentally plopped the whole 15 oz. can into the eggs, but was fortunate enough to scoop out maybe 1/2 cup. Oh well. I think that I could have left it in and it wouldn't have made a difference. The more pumpkin, the better!


Happy Friday!

I know this has nothing to do with food, but these lilacs stand right by the pathway to our home, and when in bloom have a fantastic scent.  I enjoy seeing students and parents stopping to smell the flowers when walking in and out.

I hope you can find time to do likewise.  Have a wonderful weekend!


mother's day pastry bonanza

Mother's Day breakfast came one day early.  The Husband must have read my earlier post in which I bemoaned not getting to the 4th B.  He drove up to Englewood, where Balthazar Bakery has their baking center and a retail store.  He came back with enough breakfast pastries to feed a family of ten- croissants, pain au chocolat, schnecken, almond croissant, chausson aux fruits, AND my new favorite, cannelés.

The Sister first introduced me to the cannelé a few years ago.
She brought some over from California for me to sample. 

 They are made in individual molds, traditionally lined with beeswax.

The cake is made with eggs, butter, sugar, milk, flour, vanilla and rum, and when baked properly, has a custard, slightly chewy interior with a dark, caramelized crust.  These, when toasted up, were delicious. (The DH called ahead and special-requested this items as they're not usually out at 8 AM.  He's The Best!)

If you don't have a pâtisserie making cannelés close by, Trader Joe's sells them in their freezer/dessert section.  Though not quite the same as a fresh one, they're worth trying out!


tres leches cake

A few days after eating the HEAVENLY Tres Leches Doughnut from Doughnut Plant, The Daughter received her issue of Food Network Magazine, which serendipitously had a recipe for a Tres Leches Cake.  The cake is a sponge cake soaked in tres leches- Spanish for three milks- which are whole milk, evaporated milk and condensed milk.

Mother's Day was the first day that we had a good chunk of time free to tackle this recipe, so we dove in after her soccer game.  (Yes! Soccer games on Mother's Day!!)

She, like I, tends to skim over details of recipes, so when I work with her, I double check we're reading every word.


{sms} Orange Blueberry Muffins with Pecan Crumble

Back in college, I loved eating at a fantastic shop in Glen Ellyn, IL, called Spice 'N Easy.  I would go with girlfriends for breakfast and would always look forward to fabulous coffee and delicious muffins, particularly the Raspberry Buttermilk Muffin.  The love affair with sweet breakfast foods has not abated, whether it be french toast, pancakes, cheese blintzes, chocolate babka, sour cream coffee cake... you get the drift. I, however, have never tried an Orange Blueberry Muffin, so this week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's pick is one that I looked forward to making.

Once again, I launched into the recipe without reading the recipe.  I put all the dry ingredients together, which made for clumpy brown sugar, which then had to be thrown into a food processor. After reading the comments from other bakers,  I adjusted the recipe to avoid "heavy" and "dry".  I don't mind dense, but I definitely want moist!


birthday boy and palm beach brownies

Today is The Son's 9th Birthday.  He is a low-key kind of guy, preferring small gatherings to large, particularly after last year's sleepover with six boys.  Six does not sound like that much, but the crazies managed to make it feel like a good dozen kids in the house.  Never again. This year, we're inviting three.

I wanted to make something for his class at school.  The Son loves Red Velvet Cupcakes, or perhaps I should clarify and say that he loves the cream cheese frosting atop the RVC.  I could make him a tub of frosting to share with twenty spoons, but Frosting Birthday Treat might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Though I love the brownies from Alice Medrich, I've had a hankering for Maida Heatter's Palm Beach Brownies.  I first came across the recipe in Sarah Leah Chase's Nantucket Open-House Cookbook in 1987. (Ms Chase credits Ms. Heatter for the recipe.) The Sister RAVED about these amazing brownies, using espresso powder, and since then, this has been my go-to recipe.

I love how the egg yolks circled around.

These are the biggest, thickest, gooiest, chewiest,
darkest, sweetest, mostest-of-the-most...
with an almost wet middle and a crisp-crunchy top.
-Maida Heatter

Palm Beach Brownies
adapted from Cookies by Maida Heatter and Nantucket Open-House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase

8 ounces unsweetened chocolate
8 ounces unsalted butter
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons powdered instant espresso
3 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 2/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
8 ounces walnut halves or large pecans, optional

Preheat convection oven to 350º F.

Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil.  Butter the foil.

Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a large double broiler over hot water on moderate heat, or in a medium heavy saucepan over low heat.  Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted and smooth.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the vanilla and almond extracts, salt, espresso, sugar and flour at high speed for 10 minutes.  On low speed, add the chocolate mixture and beat only until mixed.  Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Stir in the nuts and pour into the prepared pan.  Smooth the top.

Bake for 25 minutes- the brownie will have a thick, crisp crust on top, but if you insert a toothpick into the middle, it will come out wet and covered with chocolate.  Do not overbake.

Remove pan from the oven and let stand until cool.  Refrigerate the brownie for a few hours or overnight, or place it in the freezer for an hour or two.

Cut the brownie using a long, heavy knife with a sharp blade.

P.S.  I'm making the Medrich brownies today and conducting a taste-off.  I'm curious to which one The Kids like better.


The Three B's

In musical parlance, this refers to Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.

On a Sunday in NYC, it translated to Botero, Bouchon Bakery, and Bar Boulud. (Alas, no Balthazar.)

Before meeting The Book Designer for brunch, I spent a few spare minutes in the Time Warner Building, which houses two hulking Boteros- Adam and Eve- standing guard.  You cannot miss them.

His sculptures and paintings are united in their depiction of exaggerated, robust figures.

“I believe that it is important to create something in which the painting functions within free, imaginative, innovative parameters. It is not a matter of creating the kind of beauty that fits into the classical canons. The purpose, rather, is to reach a stage at which it has become possible to surprise and be surprised. It is a matter of finding something that, in the midst of exuberance and distortion, conveys peace and equilibrium.”
-Fernando Botero
Baking also allows for much creativity.  I love that every Sunday, I can log onto any one of the other {sms} bakers' sites and see what they've created. Though we've all baked from the same recipe, each one is uniquely imagined and presented. Not one is ever alike.
I passed by Adam and up two flights of escalators to visit Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery.  Whenever I'm in Midtown, I try to stop by this gem of a storefront and pick up some goodies.
I forego the Chocolate Tablets and the Foie Gras Dog Biscuits ($14/box) and eagerly see what pastry offerings there are.  

Everything looked so good, and I wanted to buy lots, but I was 30 minutes away from eating brunch at Bar Boulud, so I only picked up a raspberry almond croissant and two macarons for The Kids.

In the past, the macarons have underwhelmed us in their semi-dry state, but I kept the faith that Keller would deliver with his product.  They didn't have our favorites, passion fruit and lemon, so I chose pistachio and raspberry, which run a close second.  

I'm glad I picked some up, because this time the macarons were excellent, moist, flavorful, delicious.  The Son concurred.

Wishing you today what Bouchon has painted on their back wall- 
The Happy Charms of the Morning. 

to be continued...


{sms} Cookie Substitution

Fellow {sms} bakers, you'll have to forgive my substitutions for this week. On Saturday,  I had a Robert Schumann 200th Birthday Celebration for my piano students (all were performing one of his compositions) and I felt the need to bake goodies that would appeal to the widest range of 12-&-under palates.  In the past, I've baked large assortments of fancy tea cookies- linzer bars, checkerboard cookies, lemon squares, etc- and The Students inevitably ignore those and gravitate to the sprinkle cookies and chocolate chip cookies.  So, instead of the PB Truffles and still wanting to bake something from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, I tried Melissa's Sugar Cookies and  Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Almond.

The sugar recipe recipe is plain and simple, but for a rolled cookie dough, unless you're working at hyper-speed and have the air-conditioning on at full blast, this dough is difficult to keep firm for a long period of time.  Many of my cutouts got messed up.  That said, I believe that this would make a lovely tart dough, which is what Melissa suggests in her book.  You can find the recipe on Nina's blog, Nina's Cupcakes.

The chocolate chip cookie is worth mention because of the toasted almonds. I've never thought to add them to cookies, and I definitely like this variation.  I had a scant 1/2 cup sitting in the pantry (the exact amount called for) and left it out on a plate to be toasted.  The Husband came home, saw them, and proceeded to snack away, leaving me nine. Oh well. Kids usually don't like nuts in their cookies. I made exactly four cookies with nuts and ate them myself.

Of course, in the craziness of everything, I managed to get no shots of the cookies plated, but Herr Schumann loved his music, I'm sure, and The Students, well, they finished off the cookies.
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