Tag Archives: Chocolate

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

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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…

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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…

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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.

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1897 Brownies: The Original Recipe to Honour National Chocolate Brownie Day

Did you know that today is National Chocolate Brownie Day? While I have no idea who proclaims such things, it is still cause for celebration.

To mark this momentous occasion, I finally tried a recipe I have wanted to make for some time – one which is purported to be the very first. The earliest published brownie recipe was in the 1897 Sears, Roebuck catalog, and its name, for that reason, is simply “1897 Brownies”.  I came across this in Food:  True Stories of Life on the Road, edited by Richard Sterling.  This is a wonderful collection of short essays on food experiences and explorations around the world.

The recipe followed a charming story of a young American woman who started a covert brownie business in Glasgow, Scotland in the 1970s.  I read it before our recent trip there, and I thought I might stumble upon a Scottish brownie somewhere.   While I did discover millionaire’s shortbread, there were no brownies to be had in Scotland (“nae brunies”…).

This recipe is fascinating – not only because it could be the original brownie – but it also has no butter.  (There is an alternative to using unsweetened chocolate, which includes cocoa and a modest amount of butter).  Thus, it is a lighter, lower-fat brownie. In fact, as National Brownie Day coincides this year with the last night of Chanukkah, it could be a good follow-up to the oil-laden or dairy-rich foods of the holiday.  The 1897 Brownie could be a good holiday treat for Xmas or New Year’s, as well.

For the review – and the recipe

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Double-Chocolate Double-Malt Frosted Brownies: Recycling and Reusing Recipes

Are you a die-hard chocolate-malt lover? If so, these chocolate brownies are for you.

For a few months now, I have had what my late grandmother Jessie used to call a “yen” for chocolate-malt (Jessie had a great brownie recipe, too).  I blame my chocolate-malt fixation on Geni of Sweet and Crumby, after her post on a famous chocolate malt cake from a diner in Pasadena.

Geni’s post prompted me to adapt her chocolate-malt buttercream frosting;  I used it as a filling for a cupcake, topped with a quick meringue icing from King Arthur Flour’s site via the tantalizing “Chocolate Bliss Cake” from Debbie’s instructive site, A Feast for the Eyes. The InterTubes seem perfect for reusing and recycling, if not reducing in this instance (and you can forget about that last one in the context of double-chocolate-malt iced brownies).

Recycling and reusing are not new to me.  My first “official” job was working for a recycling centre part-time while in high school, for the minimum wage of $2.65/hour.  Despite the low pay, there were perks, such as finding and reading a wealth of publications during slow times (not to mention the shocking revelation of a vast variety and quantity of unmentionable magazines – at least for a 16-year-old, back in the pre-InterWeb days of the 1970s).

More recently, I worked for a world-wide conservation organization, whose recognizable logo is an endangered black-and-white bear – have you guessed it yet?  At one teleconference, I offered that the well-known campaign “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is not a triumvirate of equals, rather it was a hierarchy.  That is, first, we should reduce consumption before reusing or repurposing things.  If those two are not possible, recycling is the next step.  I had said this in a discussion on how to best engage people in daily activities around conservation. The campaign of the “Three Rs”, dating back to the 1970s, was one to which people now give little thought about the components.  “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” are so well-known that rarely do people reflect on the better and best options within the trio.

At the risk of a Holden-Caulfield-esque accusation of a “digression”, this will be the last time I reuse photos from my recent trip to England and Scotland, with a vague attempt for food-related pictures.  In the charming Cotswolds town called “Broadway” (where the neon lights are not brighter, as neon does not exists in Broadway), the Horse and Hounds pub made a quaint subject for a photo:

In nearby Bath, the Sally Lunn Bun is famous.   I imagine it is no longer baked in the “faggot oven” (!?!) which I had in my previous post.  The light and tender rolls lent themselves to both the sweet (clotted cream and lemon curd) and savoury (Welsh rarebit) courses we sampled:

Near the impressive Exmoor National Park, the medieval village of Dunster had many dining options, including the very good Stag’s Head Pub (background), where we enjoyed a fine local dinner.

Sheep dot the landscape throughout the Lake District and provide the basis for many a Sunday roast in the UK (not to mention the inspiration for this unusual side “dish”, which I discovered linked to my post on Yorkshire pudding and German pancakes, just last week!).

Finally, at the very northern edge of the Lake District, the town of Cockermouth is “open for business”, after ravaging floods last year.  The downtown was very colourful and featured a pleasant restaurant called Carlin’s, where we dined one evening:

For the review of the brownie and the recipe…

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Millionaire’s Shortbread and Poor Man’s Almond Bark

What is “Millionaire’s Shortbread”?   I learned of this three-layered bar on a recent trip to Scotland and England.  It is shortbread, naturally, with a middle-layer of caramel, topped with a rich layer of chocolate – rich enough for a millionaire, of course.

For me, it is fitting that this is a Scottish specialty, as I associate Scotland with both shortbread and millionaires (think of JD Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, who were 19th-century “Robber Barons” in the US).   This is a dessert sumptuous enough for one of the great Scottish castles, Eilean Donan:

Of course, England is home to many castles and manor houses, too, including Chatsworth, once home to the dashing Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire:

Even the sheep of Chatsworth are lucky enough to cavort on ancient steps!

But the nearby Haddon Hall still has a very regal Lord Edward Manners (is his daughter Miss Manners?):

Promotional brochure for Haddon Hall

 

Perhaps Lord Manners politely indulged in a millionaire’s shortbread or two in his lower garden:

For the chocolate failure, rescue, and the recipe…

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The Anatomy Of A Cupcake

With all the attention to cupcakes of late, there is little on cupcake forensics.  I will dissect a birthday cupcake for you.


Sometimes, certain recipes, foods, or food combinations, for that matter, get in one’s mind and do not go away.  On the very informative instructional site, A Feast for the Eyes,  I recently had come across Debby’s recipe for Chocolate Bliss Cake.  I really liked the idea of an easy five-minute version of the classic seven-minute meringue icing (thank you, King Arthur Flour, for this simpler version!).  I thought it would go well with Debby’s moist chocolate cake – which included my favourite addition of coffee – and a chocolate buttercream filling.  While I am a big fan of chocolate cake with the icing of the same flavour, the contrast of a light, marshmallowy meringue icing is a treat for both the senses of sight and taste.

However, I also had been thinking about chocolate malt since I read Geni’s recipe for Chocolate Malt Cake on the engaging blog, Sweet and Crumby.  Chocolate and malt – as in Whoppers, Maltesers (NB:  this site prevents visitors under 12-year-old from exploring these chocolate-malt treats further…), chocolate malted milk balls, or a thick chocolate malted ice cream shake – are an irresistible combination.  Chocolate complements many other ingredients to star in desserts, e.g., coffee, mint, peanut butter, and raspberry, to name a few of my favourites.

If you are a devotee of chocolate malted milk balls, the chocolate-malted buttercream is reminiscent of the crunchy filling, with a different texture, of course.  I found it to be quite addictive, which I must admit, at this point, in this cupcake anatomy lesson.

In the  midst of these cravings, my friend Kip happened to mention that it was Jim’s birthday (which I should have remembered as he is precisely 12.5 years older than I am!).  A birthday cake on this island can be a bit of a challenge for those who do not like to bake, as there is one bakery – closed for holidays, at the time – and one baker who makes sumptuous cakes with impressive decorations, which are priced accordingly for major special occasions.  And Kip will be the first to confess to not being a baker, though she is a marvelous cook.   So I told Kip that I would bake something to celebrate.  I wanted it to be visually impressive, as Jim is one of the top professional photographers in Canada!

Initially, I had planned to bake a cake, but the image of Hostess cupcakes I had seen in the US recently kept making me think of filled cupcakes, an undertaking I had never attempted before.  As I have been in a more reflective state with my series on my grandmother, Jessie, I was thinking recently of a cupcake from a neighbourhood bakery of my childhood, which was a chocolate cupcake, filled with a white marshmallowy-buttercream centre, and iced with a dark chocolate frosting.  Thus, the Chocolate-Malt-Meringue Bliss Cupcake came into existence.

For the technique and the recipe….

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Hot Fudge Pie: What Would Jessie Dish? Week Six

What exactly is hot fudge pie? Before I baked this dish, I was not sure about this week’s recipe from my grandmother Jessie’s recently discovered files.

One thing for sure was that my grandmother liked hot fudge, chocolate, desserts, and sweets, in general.  I recall that she enjoyed a good hot fudge sundae, frequently with coffee ice cream, at the old-fashioned ice cream parlours, which were once common across Chicago.  She liked the Ting-a-Ling, very close to her last residence, a near-north-side condo.  I imagine Jessie visited many of the south side institutions, e.g., Cunis’s, Cunag’s, Gertie’s, or the original Dove Candies – which has become a superstar of the American-commercial-high-end-ice-cream-bar-and-chocolate scene.  When I visit Chicago, I do try to make it to Margie’s Candies, which still serves a traditional hot fudge sundae, featuring their home-made ice cream, in huge white plastic scallop-shell dishes.

In Key West, Florida in the 1950s, Jessie wrote about what happens from eating too much hot fudge pie and such (on the reverse of the above photo).

The hot fudge sauce at these ice cream parlours came in a small stainless steel pitcher (the size of a small creamer), always served very hot and separate from the sundae, with its whipped cream, chopped pecans or other nuts, and, of course, a cherry on top.  It was a revelation to see how a sundae-eater consumed the hot fudge sauce:

  • all in one pour on top of the sundae,
  • poured judiciously and intermittently as he or she ate the ice cream and whipped cream,
  • poured onto the spoon to coat ice cream, one bite at a time, or,
  • in the most audacious move of them all, drunk from the pitcher itself.

These techniques indicated one’s personality, we speculated.

Oh, right, this post is not about hot fudge sundaes. (I do promise to write-up a classic recipe from one of my cookbooks, Lost Desserts, by Gail Monaghan, which features a very special recipe for hot fudge sauce from a Los Angeles eatery, with the perfect viscosity and a truly profound chocolate-fudge flavour).  The hot fudge pie in question is a bit perplexing, as it is neither a pie nor a cake nor a brownie; it is in between a chocolate molten lava cake (the dessert of the 1990s), a self-saucing chocolate cake (very big in the 1970s), and a very moist brownie (timeless!).

For the hot fudge pie recipe… Continue reading

Chocolate Nut Revels – Rich yet Delicate Cookies: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 5

What exactly are these chocolate nut revels?  I was intrigued by this week’s installment of the lost recipes of my grandmother Jessie, especially as “revel” is not used often these days – much less as a noun than as a verb.

This particular recipe was an easy one to prepare, though it is another item I do not recall from among my grandmother’s repertoire.  However, the name made me wonder about some of the things in which Jessie used to revel.  In this first photo, from the 1950s, she is at a banquet, probably one which involved sports writers, promoters, agents, etc.  (She is third from right in the pearls, with my grandfather, Louis, next to her on the right.)  Jessie seems to be reveling in this event, having just finished her dessert:

One other thing Jessie reveled was spending time in the sun, particularly during the brutal Chicago winters.  Here she is in Miami, where my grandparents spent the winter from the 1940s through the 1960s (this picture is dated March 1965):

Another passion of Jessie’s was travel.  Below, she appears to revel in her proximity to one of the great pyramids in Egypt, in 1971:

Of course, as I mentioned in previous posts, Jessie reveled in baked goods and sweets, so it is no surprise that the Chocolate Nut Revels were among her index cards of recipes.  In preparing it, I followed the ingredients  precisely yet made a few modifications in technique, so I will only make a couple of notes in addition to the recipe at the end of this post.

For the chocolate nut revel recipe, Continue reading