Category Archives: Dessert

Chill-Out Brownies: High Temperature Baking + Ice-water Bath = Creamy Interior + Chewy Crust

Are you looking for yet another brownie recipe? I was not, until I had come across one with a very unusual technique from the great Alice Medrich.

I though my brownie recipe collection to be complete, what with the extravaganza that is Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies, my grandmother Jessie’s very gooey double-chocolate brownie, the original 1897 brownie recipe, or the spectacular iced double-chocolate, double-malt brownies.  Really, I was not seeking another one for my arsenal.  After all, I have an entire cookbook dedicated to brownie recipes and a number of tried-and-true versions, with which I am completely satisfied.

However, I had borrowed Ms. Medrich’s book from the library, in an attempt to read more library cookbooks, rather than my habit of buying more and more.  This particular recipe jumped out at me.  Apparently, an acquaintance of hers named “Steve” rescued a batch of brownies from an oven which was much too high (or on fire – the author was not sure which) and immediately plunged the pan into an ice-water bath. Ms. Medrich relates that the brownies turned out to be very creamy, far from dry, with a chewy crust.  Thus, the “Steve ritual” intrigued me enough to try yet another recipe.

I had returned last week from a trip to Connecticut to visit my family, with a bit of time in New York; the latter destination was a day on my own for, in pursuit of evaluating the top cookies in the city at Levain Bakery and Momofuku’s Milk Bar.  I enjoyed my comparative taste-testing of Levain’s famed dark-chocolate-chocolate chip cookie and David Chang’s even better-known “compost cookies”.  This was most fun – actually it was a highlight of my trip – not to imply that seeing my family is not fun…

When I needed to make brownies for a potluck baby shower in Vancouver, I decided to try out this mysterious technique.

Gratuitous Floral Interlude

With the first day of spring – a Very Important Day of the Year – fast approaching, I noticed that the camellia outside our kitchen door finally started to bloom.  It is very late in blooming this year, what with the La Nina and her cold-wet winter, here in Canada’s so-called moderate Mediterranean climate (NB:  notice the teeth marks on the leaf below the flower – the local deer keep chewing the camellia’s leaves, although they are not supposed to like such leaves. Please get the word out to any deer you know…).

For the brownie review – and the recipe

Continue reading

S’mores Bars: The Classic Campfire Treat, Indoors or Out

When was the last time you had s’mores around a raging campfire? Yesterday?  Sometime during your childhood?  Never?

For those of you who did not have a North American childhood, “s’mores” is a contraction of “some more” – it is a challenge to eat just one.  S’mores consist of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. There are two ways of making them:

1. Large marshmallows are toasted on a stick or skewer over a campfire and then placed between two graham crackers with a piece of chocolate (the residual heat will melt the chocolate or at least soften it to make the sandwich.

2.  Marshmallows and chocolate are placed in between two graham crackers and wrapped in a piece of aluminum foil (or in a wire basket) which then go close to the fire to heat up the mixture for a melted chocolate-marshmallow result.

Apparently, it was the Girl Scouts in the U.S. who can claim bragging rights to these delectable sandwiches.   Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts came out way back in 1927.  The first published recipe made it into this fascinating guide-book (the title alone makes it worth seeking, at used book stores or rummage sales…).

I made s’mores bars for a new year’s bonfire/potluck party.  Originally, I planned to bring the ingredients for s’mores:  However I could not figure out how anyone could make these in a relatively safe manner, in front of raging fire – not your average campfire.  Fortunately, I had come across a simple and quick recipe Cajun Chef Ryan posted right before new year’s.

On our island, recycling is a major past-time, as is composting and “burns”.  The latter only can take place between mid-October and mid-April.  Such fires are ways of getting rid of non-toxic debris, as we have no municipal garbage pick up.

Gratuitous kitty pictures – to keep things in perspective:

Jinja likes to hide at the bottom of a branch-filled giant vase.

From this angle, Jinja looks like a giant cat, emerging from said vase.

For the recipe and the review…

Continue reading

Cocoa Angel Food Cake with Marshmallow-Meringue Icing: No-Fat But Loads of Flavour

Can a home-made cake be fat-free and flavourful? The cocoa angel food cake proves it is possible, capped off with a fluffy seven-minute-style icing (I used the same frosting as on the chocolate-malt-buttercream cupcakes).

I enjoy a challenge when it comes to baking.  As with the oaty-almond crisps (dairy- and gluten-free), I like to find recipes which suit the dietary requirements without resorting to “fake” baked goods.  Thus, I decided to try my hand at baking an appropriately significant cake for a friend’s landmark birthday, one which required a low-fat dessert.

On my island, we have a “free store”, called the “redirectory”. Essentially, the “redirectory” – sounds much more high fallutin’ than “free store –  is like a thrift shop or second-hand store without any costs.  The Gulf Islands do not have municipal garbage pick-up, so people try to recycle, compost, and donate useful items as much as possible, more than in places where there is weekly or daily garbage (and it provides income to the entrepreneurs who haul garbage, off-island, at $5 a large sack).  The theory is that people will donate items in good condition, other than clothes (the one church-run thrift store does that), and those who need something will take it, saving used goods from garbage dumps.

So I found an angel food cake pan more than a year ago at the “redirectory”.  I put off making angel food cake, with all the other cakes vying for attention – not to mention the sheer number of eggs and care needed for making angel food cakes.  However, I have made sponge cakes and génoise cakes before, and I decided that I should give it a try.

I also had found an antique angel-food-cake slicer, at a vintage shop on a trip to Vachon Island, Washington, last September.  It is an elegant implement, used for angel food or chiffon cakes exclusively, though it is somewhat reminiscent of afro-picks from the 1970s, as a guest pointed out.  What other implement can have such disparate associations and represent fundamentally oppositional eras?  There is the prim-and-proper ladies’ tea – think of the 1920s-1950s heydey of angel food cakes and the newcomer, the chiffon cake. In the 1920s, the angel food’s richer sister, the chiffon cake, had its official coming out as a sassy debutante.  For these two desserts, I picture:  white gloves, white bread sandwiches, white cake, and white ladies, on the one hand.  On the other,  the Afro-pick connotes, for me, big-curly hair, free-love, sex, and drugs and rock-and-roll – from the Summer of Love through the disco era of the 1970s.

For the cake review – and the recipe… Continue reading

Flat and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies: Sophisticated, Elegant, and Perfect for its Genre

Do you need another chocolate chip cookie recipe for your arsenal?  I really was not looking for one – beyond the America’s Test Kitchen recipe, about which I already have written here. However, sometimes I am compelled to try a variant or new recipe just for fun.

The October issue of Saveur featured Amanda Hesser’s Flat and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie, excerpted from her latest publication, The Essential New York Times Cookbook.  This is a wonderful cookbook, I must tell you, even though I have yet to make anything else from it after receiving it at Xmas – the recipes span the more than 150 years the NYT has been publishing on food.

Also in that edition of Saveur, my favourite food writers Jane and Michael Stern wrote about some of the glories of central Ohio cuisine.  There are many varied and delightful specialties in that area of the Buckeye State, some of which I have sampled on road trips.  I liked the Stern’s description of a tantalizing chicken noodle soup recipe from a Polish restaurant, Babuska’s Kitchen.  The recipe included directions for home-made noodles – something I had never done before – and seasonings for the soup such as fennel seed and garlic, neither of which I typically use.  It was a super-soup recipe, which I recently made for dinner on a blustery rainy Friday night – to be capped off with more comfort food:  chocolate-chip cookies.

For the major CC cookie genres, the review – and the recipe

Continue reading

2010 – A Year in Food, Part Two

Following on the previous post, here are my favourite dishes which I made for the first time in 2010, followed some year-end musings.

Top Savoury Dishes

5. Yorkshire Pudding – from My Grandmother Jessie’s Recipes

4. Jewish Pork Tenderloin – from My Grandmother Jessie’s Recipes

3.  Linguine Umami – My original creation

2.  Deep-Dish Chicago-Style Pizza – from America’s Test Kitchen

For the top savoury dish, top sweet treats, and…

Continue reading

2010 – A Year in Food & Food Trends for 2011

What are your favourite food-related items of 2010?

As I realized my blog is just over a year old (December 23, 2009 was my first post), I decided to jump on the bandwagon with my own year-in-review.  This post is on 2010’s top posts, photos, and favourites, plus trends for 2011.

IslandEAT‘s Most-read Posts

According to site stats, my most popular posts are unexpected – at least, by me.

5.  My adaptation of Peter Reinhart’s Multi-grain Bread.

4. No-bake Whipped Cream Mocha Ice-box Zebra “Pie”

3.  Thick and Chewy Brown-Sugar-Beurre-Noisette Cookies

2.  Thick Chewy Chocolate-Chip Cookies

For my most popular post in 2010, Five Food Trends, and Top Food Pictures…

Continue reading

Chocolate-Pecan “Turtles” and Salted Caramels: National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

Today we celebrate National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day.  Did you know about this holiday?  I find it a bit odd – chocolate-covered ANYTHING? – really??It is worthy of celebrating, nonetheless.

Just in time for the bigger “holiday season”, the recipe I have chosen to honour this day is home-made “turtles” or chocolate-covered salted caramels with pecans (caramels au fleur de sel aux pecanes et chocolat, if you want to sound fancy in some non-Francophone milieu – and, if you are unfamiliar with the term, I do not mean someone named Frank on the phone but speakers of French).

I noticed on a trip to France a few years ago that caramels with fleur de sel had become very popular.  It must be the combination of contrasts, between the caramel’s rich sweetness with the fleur de sel‘s saltiness (mais, oui!) as well as the caramel’s thick-creaminess with a bit of crunch from the salt. The fleur de sel makes me think of crack cocaine, which I believe looks like white crystalline chunks – not entirely unlike clumps of the French sea salt – and fleur de sel makes the caramels absolutely addictive.

Thus, when I found a recipe for soft salted caramels from the fine Canadian food writer Lucy Waverman a few months later, I needed to try it.  Lucy had adapted a recipe from the great Jacques Pepin.  It is easy enough to make if one has a candy thermometer and can follow directions precisely.  I had never made caramels before but found the recipe straight-forward, simple, and fun, though requiring a bit of time and one’s attention.  But it is worth the effort.

For the inspiration – and the recipe, keep reading.

Continue reading