And while admittedly I’m revelling in brown rice, legume soups, fresh vegetables, kashi-krakkling 7-oat health snacks and yes (always) the occasionally hunk of HEALTHY dark chocolate (mmm), there is always a place and a time for a snatched sweet treat. All the better if homemade, and not because it’s always necessarily more delicious at home – although it often is – but because making a batch of something means you get tons and tons of sweets to share with your friends instead of one luscious bakery-gotten bite. Maybe not metric tons and tons, but that “swimming in cookies” feeling, haha, you know what I mean…
Moving backwards in time, because that makes sense to me, just last night I rolled a bushel of tiny PB & J thumbprint cookies with short sandy texture and bellies full of button-bright apricot-cognac jam. Almost grown up but you can’t ever go wrong with peanuts and jam together, and I’m not sure why kid-ish is bad or necessarily unrefined. No, they’re pretty refined actually, and take longer than I thought they would take (ie: slower than chocolate chip cookies, slightly) – make batter, roll 4 dozen cookies, chop peanuts, dredge cookieballs in peanuts, bake, fill with heatened up jamjam, EAT. Then eat more cause they’re SUPER good. And worth a bit of respect and care and time. I kinda wanted to a try a tahini and thai marmalade version, too. Or almond and orange. Cashew and blueberry? COCONUT CHOCOLATE CARAMEL CRISPY FUN? Oh wait. That’s a samoa. Moving on…
In other recent news I made a kind of thyme & chocolate cake that was pretty good but I wanted it to be even more drenched in thyme syrup, and with a more velvetty cream, and maybe with a third/fourth layer… you know, like a MMM MELTING HERBAL MOUSSE & FUDGE kinda sensation, totally over the top. That being said, it was devoured in a few hours (gone gone gone without a crumb), so yes, it was good anyway. ^^; I DID appreciate that it wasn’t very sweet, yet deeply chocolatey, light (surprisingly) in texture and fairly grownup-ish. Also, sliced like a freaking dream – perfect layers. Easy to make, too.
Moving back, back back in time, to a place where insanely buttery crusts house tea-poached pears and frangipane…. and then get draped with drizzles of creme anglaise like it’s the most natural thing in the world. My kitchen! And yours, too, potentially! I wish I could tell you exactly how to make this, but it’s more of an amalgam of parts than a single recipe. In that way, it’s actually kind of freeing for the baker at home. All you need is a simple pie crust, 3 or 4 poached pears to slice thinly and arrange in a pretty pattern, and a quick frangipane (almond cream) to spatch all around it like a lilting duvet that hugs the fruit as it bakes… for about 30-40 minutes at 350 C, or until the crust is browned and the frangipane is puffed, golden and set. Warm it’s ambrosial, and good at room temp, too.
More franken-recipes for complicated people, this time in the form of a dirt cake. I rather draw the line at litter cakes, having few to no pleasant olfactory associations to cat pans and all that jazz… but a faceful of warm fresh earth wasn’t out of the question as a cake theme at all. Flowers and moss and berries and … worms! Especially for a birthday boy who’s heart lies with horticulture and gardening. And sugar.
The trick was making it 100% from scratch, which included, I’m afraid, a batch of homemade gummi worms to eventually crawl their way through the chocolate. I just followed this recipe, and used fresh squeezed juice for two of the layers (raspberry and orange), and then made a yogurt-strawberry-banana layer for opaqueness and fun. All striated together, and then sliced up into some of the most delicious and gruesome little bugs ever. Oh, and they stuck like slugs to everything! Fantastic!
After that, the rest was easy as whipping up a batch of homemade chocolate wafers, a double batch of moist vegan chocolate cake, loads of chocolate pudding, whipped cream, and topping it all with real seeds, mint sprigs, wild strawberries and flower gummies (admittedly the flower gummies were store bought, but they were already there on my dresser and they looked mega cute, I couldn’t resist at all). Layer inside of a giant planter pot, serve to 40+ guests, enjoy the chocolate goo, crunch and fluff. (Also scraped clean by the end of the night).
There were also, for some reason, some chocolate chunk muffins. With cherry-amaretto-cinnamon preserves. My roommates are currently making vegan ginger-lime-vanilla cupcakes in twee baby blue liners. It’s a miracle I’m not fat. God, I can’t wait for those cupcakes. Yay for dessert!
Chocolate Chunk Muffins
from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours
Yield: 12 muffins
- 3/4 of a stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter / 85 g
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped / 112 g
- 2 cups all-purpose flour / 160 g
- 2/3 cup sugar / 133 g
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted / 33 g
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk / 312 g
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
Melt the butter and half the chopped chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; or do this in a microwave. Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted butter and chocolate over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough—a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin molds.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the centre of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.