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Archive for the ‘family’ Category

As you may remember, I spent last week in St. Louis visiting the midwestern branch of my family.  It was the kids’ spring break and all of their friends had high-tailed it for Florida or other points south, so I was hoping to be able to provide some in-house entertainment.

The first part of the week passed swimmingly, but inevitably, there came an afternoon when vacation had obviously gone on long enough and I found myself in the living room trying to pry the children from the doldrums.  After my first ideas were rejected, my niece A suggested we “make something.”

My sister-in-law is a wonderful cook with a huge cookbook collection, so a short while later we were searching through baking books and websites seeking cupcake recipes.  In the end, I turned to my old standby, Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours, and her Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes.

The flavor of these cupcakes is a very grown up deep and rich bittersweet chocolate.  Luckily my niece and nephew are young chocolate connoisseurs.  To make them a bit more kid-friendly I sprinkled theirs with pink-coated mini-chocolate chips.  The few I reserved for adults I topped with my favorite chocolate flavor-enhancer: fleur de sel.

The recipe isn’t complicated, and like all of those in this collection, if you follow it carefully you’ll get perfect results.  I love a well-tested recipe!

Chocolate-chocolate cupcakes
(from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)

For the cupcakes
1 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

For the glaze
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

Center the rack in the over and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  fill each cup in a 12-cup, regular-size muffin tin with paper muffin cups.

Make the cupcakes
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until it is soft and creamy.

Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until it is blended into the butter.

Add the egg, then the yolk, beating for about 1 minute after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Beat in the vanilla, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add half the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear.

Scrape down the bowl and add the buttermilk, mixing until incorporated, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.

Scrape down the bowl, add the melted chocolate and mix it in with the rubber spatula.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 22 to 26 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes are dry and springy to the touch and a knife inserted into their centers comes out clean. Transfer the muffin pan to a rack and let the cakes cool for 5 minutes before unmolding them.  Cool to room temperature on the rack before glazing.

Make the Glaze
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  Transfer the bowl to the counter and let stand for 5 minutes.

Using a small whisk or rubber spatula, stir the confectioners sugar into the chocolate, followed by the pieces of butter.  If the glaze is too thin, stir it over ice water for a few seconds – less than a minute.

Dip the cooled cupcakes into the glaze, giving them a little twirl as you pull them out for nice squiggle of glaze in the center.

Top with sprinkles, or, if you are feeling very grown up, fleur de sel.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sunday mornings around here are usually an occasion for lingering over breakfast and the newspaper.  S is a great breakfast chef and always makes something delicious; flipping pancakes or scrambling eggs to the strains of our favorite Sunday tunes:  Charlie Haden and Hank Jones’s album Steal Away:  Spirituals, Hymns and Folk Songs.

To celebrate that impulse (and because our old one has recently been retired to the garage) I got S a new waffle maker for Valentine’s Day.

So, of course, we had waffles. S used the recipe for Buttermilk Waffles that came with the waffle maker (his extensive collection of breakfast cookbooks is currently buried in a pile of other cookbooks as a part of our preparation for some home repairs) and they turned out perfectly.

Buttermilk Waffles
(the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen / All-Clad recipe)

Makes 8 waffles

3 eggs, separated
1 ¾ cups buttermilk
8 tbs unsalted butter, melted
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar

Preheat a waffle maker on medium high heat.
We just eat them as they are ready; but if you plan to make all the waffles before serving any, preheat the oven to 200 F.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the buttermilk, butter and vanilla until blended.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.  Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until smooth.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold 1 cup of the egg whites into the batter, then carefully fold in the remaining whites.

Pour about 2/3 cup batter into the center of your hot waffle maker and close the lid.  Cook until golden brown and crisp, 4-5 minutes (or until the waffle maker cheeps at you!).

Serve immediately with warm maple syrup, or place on a wire rack in the oven and keep warm until ready to serve.  Repeat with remaining batter.

All that butter probably helps them develop that perfectly crisp exterior.  S also thinks that beating the egg whites makes a big difference.

Whatever the reason, they were good to the last bite!

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Crab cakes anyone?

My husband S and my brother T are great friends.  One of the things they love to do together is cook.  As far as I can remember, the first food they conspired on were crab cakes, and for a long time they never made them except when they could do it together.

These days, though, S sometimes makes crab cakes on his own; especially at this time of year, when Dungeness crabs are in season in the Northwest.  The dish has also become one of my stepson’s favorites, so we usually have them at least once when he is staying with us.

The recipe S and T like (after trying several) comes from the Joy of Cooking.  It’s not complicated; like most great food it depends on great ingredients rather than fancy footwork.

Crab cakes
(adapted from the Joy of Cooking)
Serves 3-4 (the recipe can easily be doubled if you need to feed more people)

1 pound fresh lump crab meat (we use Dungeness crab here in the Northwest; in Maine we used the local “peekytoe” crab)
2 Tbs butter or olive oil
¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper
½ cup finely diced scallions
1 Tbs minced garlic (or more to taste)
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup mayonnaise (use homemade if you feel inspired, otherwise the kind from a jar works well)
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup minced parsley
2 Tbs + 2 cups Panko style bread crumbs (divided)
4 Tbs butter or olive oil (for sautéing crab cakes)

Carefully pick over the crab meat to make sure you have removed any stray bits of shell.

Heat the butter or oil in a medium saucepan until it foams.  Add the bell pepper, scallions and garlic and sauté until soft (8 – 10 minutes).  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the crab meat with the egg, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, salt and black pepper, cayenne, parsley and two Tbs of Panko breadcrumbs.  Add the sautéed vegetables and mix well.

Spread the remaining 2 cups of breadcrumbs on a rimmed baking pan.  Shape the crab mixture into 8 small cakes and gently coat each with the breadcrumbs.

Refrigerate the cakes, covered, for at least 30 minutes before cooking them (1-2 hours is even better, if you can manage it).

When you are ready to cook the crab cakes, heat the butter or oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the cakes to the pan 1 at a time.  Don’t crowd the pan (it’s best to cook these in small batches and keep the finished cakes warm in a low (250 F) oven while you cook the remaining cakes).

Brown the cakes on both sides, turning after about 5 minutes (these small cakes will need about 8 total minutes of cooking to be fully browned and warm throughout).


Serve hot with lemon wedges and Aioli or chipotle mayonnaise (or both, if you feel motivated).

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