An article on pianist Daniil Trifonov

I read this article this morning and found it interesting. I can so sympathize with shyness! Here is the link: http://www.dw.de/a-tender-demon-pianist-daniil-trifonov-on-tour/a-17454996

On another note… once again I have been super busy and unable to post (déjà vu). I apologize. I have been baking but I have not been able to find the time for pictures and posting. I will hopefully, hopefully, be back with recipes by the next week or so. Until then I am going to try and keep posting about other things.

Do keep checking!

Some baking highlights of my week have been, making my first batch of freshly squeezed lemonade of the year and trying out (again in an attempt to find one like JD’s) 2 new cookie recipes. Plus, baking one of the batches of cookies in a whoopie pie pan!

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My handy dandy juicer

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Where has the time gone?

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Whew! Oh my! and Wow! would be three words that would accurately describe my last week. My family and I were in a frenzy between nieces spending the night  and then having to clean like crazy prepare for my young cousins annual two week vacation that they spend with us. So as I said before: whew!

I was going to do a special pi/e day post, but not only was I a little late with the pie, it was also a complete failure! ( I’m beginning to think fruit pies are not my thing…) From a mixture of blueberries, lemon, and mint, (it sounded good at the time…) that tasted ” eh” to an ”I don’t know how good it was” crust ( when I went to try a piece of just the crust the next day, it was a little soggy) I would say it was a total flop. Oh well. Bake and learn, right?

With chocolate chips

With chocolate chips

To turn to happier subjects, in all the busyness I still did some baking. As did also my mom and sister (so keep a lookout for some posts with their names on it!). One recipe I would like to share with you is for chocolate sugar cookies. Sugar cookies (of any kind) are not something I really crave or desire to bake that much, but throw chocolate in there and you’ve got my interest! These are really good, and of course, since one dose of chocolate never seems to be enough for me, I threw in some chocolate chips to boot. Adding chocolate chips is totally optional, but for fellow chocoholics I would definitely recommend the addition; it really bumps these cookies up a notch in my opinion. Whats also to like about these is that they are so easy and not too time consuming. So without further ado, here is the recipe.

Cottura felice!

Notes: 

The recipe suggests using a good brand of cocoa powder for these cookies. America’s Test Kitchen’s favorite brand of cocoa is Hershey’s Natural.

CHOCOLATE SUGAR COOKIES

Ingredients

1/3 c. granulated sugar

1 1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. ( 8 1/8 oz. ) all-purpose flour

3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. baking powder

14 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 3/4 c. packed dark brown sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. salt

1 large egg plus 1 large yolk

1 c. semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Directions 

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread granulated sugar in shallow dish; set aside. Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder together in a bowl.

Microwave 10 tbsp. butter, covered, in large bowl until melted, about 1 minute. Remove from microwave and stir in remaining 4 tbsp. butter until melted. Allow butter to cool to 90 to 95 degrees, about 5 minutes.

Whisk brown sugar, vanilla, and salt into butter until no lumps remain, scraping down bowl as needed. Whisk in egg and egg yolk until smooth. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips (if using)

Working with 2 tbsp. dough at a time, roll into balls. Working in batches, roll balls in granulated sugar and space them evenly on prepared sheets. Using bottom of drinking glass, flatten cookies to 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle each sheet of cookies with 1 1/2 tsp. remaining sugar.

Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until slightly puffy and edges have begin to set, about 15 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking (cookies will look slightly underdone between cracks). Let cookies cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Let cookies cool completely before serving.

Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

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IMG_0440I love good things. Sweet, simple, but good – very good- things. I blog about my appreciation of the good life here, but since this is a food blog, my post is about something very sweet, very good, and surprisingly simple. Enter Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Peanut Butter cake. This cake is quite possibly the most genius recipe ever. It is a basic chocolate cake x 3 layers, a creamy , not too peanut buttery filling and, if that weren’t enough for you, a luscious ganache that covers the entire cake. Any of the pieces from a component that stands on its own, but put together, makes a cake that is no-fail easy and impressive. I have big plans for using the cake batter for other recipes that are floating in my sweets-addled brain right now. In the meantime, go make this cake. Now. Do not wait another minute and go get your baking on!

Notes (these are taken from some notes that Deb from the Smitten Kitchen made in this recipe):

>  The original recipe says it serves 12 to 16 but she (Deb) notes it serves more than that.

>  These cakes are extremely soft. They can be a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll very be glad you did this!

> Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a really good idea  for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you do this, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating.

>Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps if you chill it again to let it firm up. This step helps as the cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.

> (personal Sempre Dolce note) You can make the cakes early in the day and freeze until ready to frost. This cake is also good cold 😉

 

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze

Warning: this cake is extremely rich, so cut small pieces!

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake that serves 12 to 16

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Add in vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure that the batter is well mixed. Divide batter among the  prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.

4. Make the peanut butter frosting.

5. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

6. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (as oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing fully after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add peanut butter and beat until fully blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use warm.

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen who Adapted, only barely, from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

Posted by Shelbi

 

Chocolate truffle thumbprint cookies

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Cookies and milk. You couldn’t give me a better snack as a kid. Any day, any time, any mood, I was always up for a cookie (or two or three). Actually, I’m still always up for cookies. Especially warm, chocolatey cookies fresh out of the oven. One of the things I love doing in the long hot months of summer is going to my favorite cookie bakery ( I call it a cookie bakery because other than muffins, that’s all they bake ) and getting semi-sweet chocolate and m&m cookies with the best fresh squeezed cherry limeade. That, to me, is what makes for a perfect summer day. I can’t tell you how much I love this bakery’s cookies. Unfortunately, I have not been able (although my sister came close yesterday) to find a recipe that comes close to them. Not flat, perfectly round, crunchy on the outside, but oh so chewy on the inside. They are seriously, the best (not gourmet, in my opinion gourmet is another category of cookies) cookies I have ever had. Ah, the simple pleasures in life.

Since we are on the subject of cookies… how about chocolate thumbprints? Chocolate thumbprints are very palatable and yummy in their own right. How about chocolate thumbprints with truffles on top?

IMG_0428Here you go:

Notes

~ Thumbprints are rather versatile cookies. You can put any number of toppings on them. Glaze, glaze and pecans, chocolate kisses etc. The possibilities are endless. This past Christmas I made and topped them with Hershey’s peppermint bark truffle bells – delish! ( better eaten warm though )

~ The original recipe says it makes about 24 cookies, but I usually only get about 1 dozen at the most.

~ For all interested, the bakery I referenced to above is JD’s Chippery in Dallas, Tx.

Cottura felice!

                                                                                                                                                           

 

Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
sugar, for coating
about 6 milk or dark chocolate truffles, cut in half ( I used Lindt Lindor truffles )

Directions
Beat butter, sugar, egg yolk, milk and vanilla in medium bowl until fluffy. Stir together flour, cocoa and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Refrigerate dough at least 1 hour or until firm enough to handle.

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in sugar. Place on prepared cookie sheet. Press thumb gently in center of each cookie.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set. Remove cookies from cookie sheet to wire rack. While still warm enough to melt, place a truffle half on each cookie.

Cool completely. Makes about 1 dozen cookies.

If you would like to top with glaze
Combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon softened butter or margarine, 2 teaspoons milk and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract in small bowl; beat until smooth.

Spoon about 1/4 teaspoon filling into each thumbprint.

S’more brownies version two

Let me just begin by saying that Monday was not a good day baking/cooking wise. From burning sugar, to a pot of glaze boiling over. Yes, it was indeed a dark (and smoky) day in the kitchen. It was all because of a sugar shortage and meringue. Meringue. Why meringue? You’ll see why in a minute.

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I have not always been a fan of meringue, and in fact, until last year had never even tried it before ( except in a chocolate chip halfway cookie ). Knowing it’s contents – raw egg whites and sugar – I just never could bring myself to try it. But my intrigue with meringue began upon discovering my now  favorite bakery in Fort Worth ( Texas, did I even need to specify? ).  There was a really good looking chocolate meringue pie sitting and staring at me behind the case in the bakery, so I decided for the first time, to try some. Wow. This was not meringue; this was marshmallow fluff! Actually, no, it really was meringue, but a marshmallow ( or very close to it) meringue and  so much better then I could have imagined! Since that day, I had been interested in making a marshmallow meringue myself. Ha ha. I got a successful marshmallow meringue but not before some mishaps; let’s just say that at one point on Monday it smelled like a chemical plant as a cloud of smoke rose from a pan and wafted through the house. But as it is still too painful to talk about it right now, let’s continue to happier subjects.

Remember the s’more brownies from last week?

A couple of weeks ago when grocery shopping, I happened to notice some miniature graham cracker crusts and decided to make the s’more brownies again but in mini form and with some changes. One of the changes being a marshmallow meringue on top of the brownies. Now, if you have never had marshmallow meringue before and are possibly only familiar with what I like to call the “southern kind” ( even though I don’t know if it’s more of a southern thing or not ) then you are probably wondering at the idea of putting it on top of brownies. But this is not regular meringue, or whatever you call it, this is a marshmallow meringue. And as I stated earlier, it tastes like very fluffy marshmallow fluff, so it compliments the brownies beautifully.

I know you are really going to like these brownies. I was so happy with the finished product, that I just couldn’t wait to share it with you!

So here is the breakdown: A brownie snuggled inside a mini graham cracker crust, topped with two squares of a Hershey’s Chocolate Bar, and finished with a marshmallow meringue.

I think what I like best about them is the gooey melted chocolate bar in between the brownie layer and the meringue. They are great for a personal dessert ( no need to share – hee, hee…) and would be great to take to parties.

Now that you have been acquainted with the brownies, and I hope had a good laugh at my mishaps, here is the recipe.

Cottura felice!

Notes
~ For the marshmallow meringue, you really want to be careful when boiling the sugar and corn syrup. The recipe calls for 3 to 5 minutes of boiling, so I would really recommend starting out with just 3 minutes – especially if you don’t have a candy thermometer.

~ If you don’t have a candy thermometer, don’t worry about it. It’s not a big deal. I seemed to have lost mine, and so had to make the meringue without it and it turned out fine. Just read these tips on boiling sugar.

For the brownies

2 packages miniature graham cracker pie crusts
1 C. ( 2 sticks ) butter, melted
3 C. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 1/2 C. all – purpose flour
1 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
1 C. semi sweet chocolate chips

2 ( 4 ounce ) milk chocolate bars

 For the Marshmallow Meringue

2 Teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 cup water
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
4 egg whites
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 325° F. On two baking sheets, arrange pie crusts ( 6 six crusts on each sheet ).

In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar, and vanilla.

Using a whisk ( or mixer ), add in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.

Gradually, using a spatula, add the flour mixture to the egg mixture using a little bit of a folding motion until thoroughly combined.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Fill each crust 2/3 full. Next, place 2 milk chocolate squares on top of each brownie.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until moist crumbs stick to a toothpick when inserted.

Transfer brownies to a wire rack to cool.

While the brownies are cooling make the meringue.

In a small saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch and 1/4 cup of water. Place over medium-high heat and cook, whisking constantly, for about 2 minutes or until thick and translucent. It will turn into a jelly- like blob. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a separate small saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and the remaining 1/2 cup of the water and stir gently to combine. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, and cook, without stirring for 3 to 5 minutes or until the syrup registers 248 degrees F on a candy thermometer (the firm-ball stage).

While the sugar is cooking, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment ( or use a hand-held mixer ).

When the sugar reaches 248 degrees F, turn on the mixer to high speed and slowly add the sugar syrup into the egg whites, drizzling it down the side of the bowl to keep it from hitting the whip and spattering.

When all of the syrup has been added, continue whipping on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the mixture turns white and billowy.

Turn down the speed to medium, add the cornstarch mixture, vanilla, and salt and whip until fully incorporated.

Continue whipping for 3 to 4 minutes, or until barely warm to the touch.

Heap the marshmallow meringue on top of the brownies in billowing piles. Use the back of a spoon to tap the top of the meringue lightly and quickly to create tall peaks.

Serve & enjoy!

Brownies adapted from Brooke’s Best Bombshell Brownies, Marshmallow meringue adapted from the Flour Cookbook by Joanne Chang