goat cheese scallion biscuits (or: i win most gullible of the year)

26 Aug

i’ve always been a bit too trusting.  for instance, as an innocent little second grader, i trusted that by closing the door to the bathroom this meant i was assured privacy as i went about my business.  poor, naive kelley. one particularly traumatic day, it took not 10 seconds after i dropped my pants for a boy, whose name i still mutter in anger to this day, to walk in on me. so there i am, mid-pee, stirrup-pants around my ankles, with the door wide-open as he-whose-name-i’m-bizarrely-protecting openly stared with a bug-eyed look something akin to rodney dangerfield’s. of course, compounding my humiliation was the fact that this was an in-classroom bathroom and my entire class was sitting right outside preparing for storytime. not once have i peed comfortably in public since that fateful day.

when i was 12, i trusted that my friend’s parents weren’t lying when they told me that cigars didn’t contain tobacco and were completely safe to smoke. (they were in the process of “quitting” and didn’t appreciate my friend and i pointing out that they didn’t seem to be doing a particularly stellar job at it.)  fast forward 12 years when i am at a bachelor party (yeh, you read that right) and taking my faux-manliness pretty damn seriously, if i say so myself, and decide to get in on the cigar action. because why the hell not? i’m in mantown.  and it’s not like there is any tobacco in there that can give me lung cancer and kill me, right?  (don’t worry tho, like bill, i never inhaled.) a couple weeks later, i was out to dinner with a friend describing my mancapades and trying to sound much cooler than i actually am.  it was at the point in the story when i was saying something along the lines of “yeh, i was pretty hot shit smoking that cigar in a savannah back alley, but there’s no tobacco in those things, so no bigs,”  that he started laughing in my face.  being a seasoned smoker himself, he felt compelled to correct my misconception.  annnd i’ve never felt like such a friggin’ tool.  what’s that on the ceiling? gullible? oh yeh, hilarious.

so now, here i am in 2010, and you would think i would have learned from my past mistakes. you would think that i would be older and wiser. you would think that i would have hardened into an untrusting lump of you-know-what. but no, once again i fell prey to my ingrained need to trust. as i read through one of the recipes i inherited from a baking course i took in the spring, i trusted that by being an official, paid-for program, the recipes would be correct.  alas, no such luck. please witness, exhibit a:

1.5 cups of liquid to 2 cups flour seemed a bit like overkill, but who am i to question my superiors? surely they are infinitely older and wiser… and capable of correcting typos. but several choice curses later, some rather soggy hands, and a couple dumps of flour, i made a complete failure of trying to correct this mistake. i ended up scraping the first batch (after making a friend suffer through a taste test), and made another go with different liquid measurements.  below is what you should actually do…you can trust me…maybe.

goat cheese scallion biscuits:

what you’ll need:
2 cups flour
2 tbsp baking powder
6 oz. goat cheese
4 tbsp cold butter
1/2 cup (maybe a bit more) light cream
1/2 bunch scallions, cleaned and chopped
1/4 tsp black pepper

1. combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. cut in the goat cheese and scallions. if you are having trouble with a pastry cutter (please cut eyes to the right), try using two knives.

2.add cream and knead lightly, just enough to mix everything together. don’t overwork the dough or else your biscuits will get tough…which is great for overly trusting personalities (ahem), but not biscuits. this also happens to be the step that destroyed my first go at this recipe.  i attempted to compensate for the overabundance of liquid by adding more flour and a bit of baking powder all willy-nilly-like. the result was an absurdly floury biscuit. not delectable.  round 2, i added 1/2 cup of cream to see how it looked, realized i needed a smidge more, grabbed the extra cream from the fridge, and then discovered it was frozen solid. so…that was awesome. instead i added a pinch of milk.

3. turn out the dough onto a floured work surface (i tend to go for the kitchen counter, which for some reason always makes me laugh. probably because i am imagining my mother’s look of horror). press dough out into an even layer 3/4-inch high.


4. using a floured biscuit cutter 2-inches in diameter, cut out biscuits and place on a buttered baking sheet.  (i actually just now realized it was supposed to be a floured biscuit cutter…thaaat would have helped.  i’m not sure if you notice above, but my first round was an utter disaster.)

5. bake biscuits at 400 degrees f for about 12 minutes, or until golden brown.

…and here’s hoping you had better luck then me.

biscuit ruiner of the year


pecan-cappuccino biscotti (or: a love song to that which i hate)

28 Jul

something about biscotti just rubs me the wrong way. could it be its rock hardness or its impossible to chewness?  or perhaps the fact that every time i crunch down on one i feel like a beaver gnawing on a hunk of sweet flavored wood?  one day i will crack a tooth–i just know it.  i will bite down, hoping upon hope that this time it will be different, this time the rock will give way to cookie, but instead a large “craccck” will sound and my tooth will split in two. i will raise my fist in consternation, adapting my best angry grandpa face, and shake with a fury generally reserved for delinquent children running through flower beds and dogs pooping in yards.  my voice will magically age 60 years as i warble out a string of choice curses.

apart from my fear of a toothless future, biscotti just annoys me on principle. because as we all know, it is perfectly appropriate, and might i add the american way, to hate that which we dont understand.  biscotti, i hate you, because i dont understand you.  and im okay with that.  but no, really, why were you created?

now, dont get all biscotti-activist on me.  dont try to tell me it is lovely for dunking or is great for sharpening your teeth.  biscotti is not the only victim to fall prey to my irrational distaste.  it has plenty of company.  for instance, weve got:

1. ketchup: it coagulates, it splurts out with aggression, it attaches to your flesh and then you smell like it for the rest of your life.

2. the pet name “baby”: shudder. a thousand times shudder. apologies (sort of, not really) to those of you who fall in this category… but it feels way too humbert humbert.  yeh, i said it.

3. going to restaurants between 3-5 pm:  there is no one else there, wait staff stare at you and wonder why you had to interrupt their break (maybe that was just me?), and it is just a weird timeframe to publicly eat.

now that i have described my feelings to such an extent, you might be wondering why on earth i would have baked and therefore subjected myself to the displeasure of a rock in cookie-disguise.  this is because i am convinced that i can train myself to like anything with enough mental fortitude– the exceptions of course being the 3 things listed above, and anyone who suggests that david blaine is better than david copperfield.  also, i happened to have all of the ingredients in my pantry at the time, and i am all about convenience…so, ya know, there’s that.

pecan-cappuccino biscotti
from weight watchers: mix it, match it

what you’ll need:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsps instant espresso powder
2 tsps cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1. preheat oven to 350 degrees f. line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with nonstick spray.

2. sift flour, cocoa, espresso, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. (here it is perfectly appropriate to sing that shake, shake, shake senora song from beetlejuice.)

3. whisk together the sugar, egg, and vanilla in another bowl.

4. add this to the flour mixture and stir until a dough forms. fold in pecans.

5. gather the dough with lightly floured hands and transfer to a lightly floured surface. roll into a log about 2 inches in diameter and 8 inches long. transfer your newly created log to the baking sheet and flatten gently until it is about 3/4 inch high. bake until firm to the touch, 20-25 mins.

4. transfer the log to a cutting board and cool for about 5 mins. with a serrated knife, cut into 12 1/4-inch slices. arrange these slices on the baking sheet.

5. reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees f. bake the biscotti for 10 mins, then turn over and bake until dried and slightly crisp (about 10 mins longer). transfer to a rack and cool completely. the biscotti will continue to dry out as they cool.

for those calorie counting, 1 biscotti is 94 cal or 2 ww points.

if you are looking for an adult chew toy, you can’t go wrong with this biscotti. i imagine if one actually liked biscotti, these would be quite enjoyable. the espresso really does give it a nice flavor.  they are on the small side however, which shocked me a bit since the photo in the cookbook made them appear giant… but honestly, the lengthy gnawing makes it take longer to eat anyways so they seem pretty large.  i can’t deny that i do appreciate food that tricks me into thinking i am getting more bang for my buck.

black midnight cake (or: how many times can i use the word romantic in one post?)

25 Jun

as soon as i saw this recipe, i knew i had to make it. the worn clipping was tucked in my mom’s recipe book, neatly typed out via typewriter, and trimmed down to a perfect little 3×5. the antiquated look, the name–black midnight cake–immediately my head was flooded with images of hot, sticky southern nights…unnaturally still waters reflecting the distant moon and stars… a pair of young lovers meeting in secret with only the cicadas and fireflies to bear witness to their indiscretions…  something about “black midnight” makes me feel overly romantic bordering on the nonsensical.  then again, i’ve always leaned toward hopeless romantic.

growing up, my mother always told me that “all is fair in love and war–right up until the altar.” i blame this advice for some of my more dramatic fantasies…and realities. my mom similarly fell prey to the idealism of love conquering all, and in this vein pursued my father with a reckless air of “oh, what the hell.” they met at a wedding, exchanged addresses (oh the days before the internet & cell phones), and once my mom returned home some 1,000 miles away, she decided based on the wisdom of the aforementioned saying that it couldn’t hurt to send a letter. and thus began the long-distance, hand-written courtship of my parents.  my heart breaks from the over-exertion of abundant sighing. if this is my reaction just from thinking about letters, imagine my brain high on black midnight cake!

modern-day romance seems so much less sigh-inducing in comparison to the days of yore. there are too many online dating sites and methods of communication. texting, emailing, iming, facebook messaging, facebook wall-posting– it makes my head spin. sure, the email might be the letter of the 21st century, but there is still something so much more romantic and idealistic about the act of putting pen to paper. i met a guy at a bar once who gave me his full name and network so i could later find him on facebook… yikes. i mean, i didn’t expect some quill-to-parchment action here, let’s be realistic, but honestly, a phone number exchange would have sufficed. curses 21st century!

but back to the black midnight cake. to my utter disappointment, it ended up being a bit like modern-day romance– a little meh. the title overpowered my overly romantic mind and belied the fact that it was preeeetty much just a chocolate cake. a tasty chocolate cake, but just a chocolate cake all the same.  i was expecting the flavors to be making sweet, sweet love on my tongue.  instead they politely introduced themselves to my taste buds, hung out for a second, and then moved on.  a nice memory… but forgettable.

but despite all of this, I shall attempt to harness the magic the name first conjured… i’ll just light a few candles, dim the lights, slice up a bit of this cake, and perhaps check the computer to see which men the online algorithms have conjured up.  ah, modern-day romance… i guess you’ve got to take what you can get.

black midnight cake:

what you’ll need:
2/3 cup shortening
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour (sifted)
2/3 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups water
1 tsp vanilla

1. beat the shortening, sugar, and eggs for 5 min at high speed. (also, how absolutely amazing is this mixer?  for starters, i don’t have to hold it other than for the initial helping hand to get it to start spinning. for seconds, i don’t have to hold it. for thirds… i don’t have to hold it.  did i mention i don’t have to hold it?)

2. sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking  soda, and salt. (when i can’t find a sifter…like in my parents house… mooooom… i find that a mesh/small-holed (?) strainer works better than nothing. eventhough it may seem unnecesary to sift, it really does make the cake a lot fluffier and therefore lovelier.)

3. mix dry ingredients  and then a combination of water and vanilla in alternately with the sugar/shortening mixture.

4. pour into 2 9-inch layer pans or 1 13×9-inch oblong pan (greased and floured).

5. bake at 350 degrees for 35 mins if layers, 40 to 45 if oblong.

milk chocolate icing: (if you like a lot of icing like me, i would suggest doubling the recipe. i stuck to it as written, but felt like there just wasn’t enough.)

what you’ll need:
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup cocoa
3 cups confectioner’s sugar (sifted)
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

1. melt together the shortening and cocoa.

2. stir in confectioner’s sugar, hot scalded milk, and vanilla. make sure to make a giant mess, esp if you are in your mother’s kitchen and she is anal retentive about keeping everything impeccably clean.

3. place the pan in ice water, and beat until a spreadable consistency  (about 3 to 5 mins).

according to the recipe creator another option is to add a few drops of peppermint flavoring.

now, i did not have a flat cake stand on hand for icing the cake so we tried to minimize the mayhem by putting wax paper under the cake, which we later slid out from under it. this definitely helped keep the pretty cake stand clean, though it made icing the cake a smidge tricksy. also notice that i did not slice off the tops to make the cake flat… this is because i am lazy. but, i guess we could pretend that i was going for a rustic feel?

(this would probably be more dramatic if photographed during a black midnight.)

oatmeal crispies (or: how to bag yourself a cowboy; or: how baking prevented my implosion)

18 May

trying to figure out what to do with your life can be the absolute pits. lease-ending season always gets me unbelievably freaked out–to the point where i feel like im being buried alive, clawing at the coffin lid, wishing i were in the 1800s so i could grab a little bell string bringing someone to my rescue. (i have an overactive imagination, so my fantasies and nightmares tend to be on the lengthy, detail-oriented side. i also tend to frequently wish i lived in the 19th century for reasons unknown even to myself.) lately i’ve been somewhat of a mess. there are just too many choices and decisions to be made. who knew that when our past generations were paving the way for equality and the freedom to be whoever you wanted to be that they were creating ungrateful jerks like me who now wish there weren’t so many choices available. come on, 19th century. 2 choices: married or spinster. not much room for lengthy contemplation.

after listening to me whine and moan to the point of ear-bleeding, my hetero-lifemate suggested i try focusing on the things that make me happy and find something relaxing to do. after briefly contemplating going for a run in the great outdoors, and then remembering the fact that this tends to nearly kill me from over-pollenation and leave me wheezing for hours afterward, i realized that what really calms me down is baking. clearly. hence the blog. i decided to bake something from the pioneer woman cookbook, since she has actually managed to accomplish one of my life goals, namely, to marry a cowboy. and if she can do it, i can do it. right? there we go. choice number one–made.  these cookies are apparently her husband’s favorite, so i’m hoping they will help me catch myself a cowboy of my own.  there don’t seem to be that many roaming around boston, but maybe if i hit up that line dancing bar in manchester, i can at least find myself a seriously old dude who likes to dress up in cowboy hats. then i could work on life goal number 2: become some seriously old dude’s sugar baby.

in the meantime, there is one new man in my life:

this is olaf. he is my beta fish. i’ve been talking about buying a fish for about 4 years or so now, so it’s a pretty big deal that i finally went and saved him from his tiny cup prison at petsmart. (huh, look at that. i made another choice.) olaf happens to be a very recalcitrant beta fish, and therefore never comes when i call him and always refuses to wag his fins on command. he also likes to spontaneously go on hunger strikes to oppose various potential name choices (like darnell.. he hated the name darnell) and whenever i shield his bowl to keep him from creepily watching me (im preeeetty sure he was a perv in a past life). but he’s fun. sometimes he tries to leap from his bowl and bite me, which isn’t fun, and i’m half-convinced that one day he will turn into a dreaded snakefish and climb from his bowl and slither around my room and strangle me in my sleep, which also isn’t fun, but i’m sure we will get over this rough patch soon enough and live blissfully for the rest of time or at least until i implode from too many life decisions.

but in an effort to stave off the implosion, it is time for some relaxation and, let’s not forget, cowboy bait.

oatmeal crispies a la pioneer woman:
(note: the original recipe doubles the ingredients below. i was working with limited supplies and only had enough oats for half the recipe, so what follows is my alteration.)

what you’ll need:
1/4 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
liberal amt of chocolate

1. finely chop pecans and set aside. at one point in time, i used to chop each pecan individually.  then i discovered julia child and her knife wielding/chop-chopping. i now massacre many pecans all at once. much more efficient.  this also gives me less opportunity to eat the pecans as i chop. (ha! who am i kidding. i have to buy an extra bag for the snacking.)

2. in a large mixing bowl, combine the shortening and the sugars.  beat together until combined.

3. lightly beat the egg and vanilla in a separate bowl.

4. add the egg mixture to the sugar/shortening mixture. beat until combined.

5. in a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda. stir it up.  add to the egg/sugar mixture and stir some more/until combined.

6. toss in the oats and pecans and stir to combine.

7. dump in a large quantity of chocolate chips. however many will make you happy. for me… that is mucho de chocolat.  you should also take this opportunity to admire my matchy-matchiness and no, i did not do this on purpose.

8. place dough on a sheet of waxed paper and form into a roll about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. you can now wrap the waxed paper tightly around the roll and chill until you are ready to use. (i failed miserably at tightly wrapping the roll, so i won’t even disgrace this blog with a photo of it.) the roll can be refrigerated up to a week or frozen for up to 3 months.  i chilled the roll while cleaning my dishes with the idea that this would make slicing easier, but i ended up washing like a speed demon since i wanted my cookies asap. it is amazing how quickly i can get things done when cookies are on the line.

9. preheat oven to 350 degrees f. unwrap dough from waxed paper and slice into 1/2 inch thick slices.

10. place the rounds on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. using a spatula, remove the cookies from the sheet immediately. (i thought i was too good for a spatula and tried to remove with my hands resulting in a cookie missing its innards. needless-to-say… i grabbed a spatula for the rest.)

11. fin. eat. enjoy. bask in the glow of oozy chocolate and joy of knowing your innards are still intact unlike that poor cookie. grab some rope and wrangle a cowboy/old man pretending to be a cowboy (cowman?).

ps- today is my father’s birthday. happy birthday dadder!

cinnamon rolls (or: how to find yourself stuck in a time warp)

27 Apr

something about eating breakfast for dinner always makes me feel a bit mischievous.  it is that same feeling i got the first time i realized i was really living on my own, supporting myself, and that i could do anything i wanted. i could buy a ticket to hawaii and just go– i didn’t even have to ask my parents first! out-of-order eating turns into a mini rebellion, a little mark of my freedom and adulthood. no more of that “don’t eat that cookie, it will spoil your dinner” oppression i faced as a child, because guess what?  maybe this cookie is my dinner, and that soup? my dessert!  i can do that. im just that wild and carefree. i am that grown up.  now when i go home to visit my parents and they give me grief about pre-dinner snacking, i chuckle to myself, “ooo silly parents.  if only you knew the trouble i get into with my free-wheelin’ eating schedule.”  it would burst their delicate perfectly-timed-meal sensibilities to pieces.

the story of these cinnamon rolls however is not one of mischievous out-of-order eating.  well, it is, but not intentionally.  these cinnamon rolls were actually intended to be the main course for a romantical brunch i planned with my hetero-life partner nic, but ended up taking so gd long to make they ended up being a pre-dinner snack.  i had no idea these warm, gooey, sumptuous, eyes-closed-from-the-sweet-sinful-delight-of-them treats were such a bitch to prepare. blasted cooking light! you made it seem so easy with your meager half-page recipe length! fellow bakers, learn from my mistake: read the entire recipe before beginning, figure out how much time it will take, and then double that time (perhaps triple).   i am often convinced that i am stuck in some sort of time warp as it always seems to take me at least twice as long as a recipe says to produce anything.

now, once you have gotten over the stress of making them, there is something so comforting about cinnamon rolls.  the layers of soft, flaky dough flecked with cinnamon sugar and topped with a warm, dripping glaze.  i can feel the inner warmth spreading  just thinking about them.   in retrospect, it makes sense that i would choose to make something with such positive, cozy feelings attached to it when vacationing in my favorite spot– my grandfather’s house, or the old homestead as i like to think of it.  it is a beautiful yellow victorian on the eastern shore of maryland, literally in the middle of nowhere, chock-full of family history, and i’m pretty sure quite a few family ghosts.  (at least i had kinship and wafting cinnamon rolly scents on my side to keep them at bay.)  just being in that house makes me ridiculously happy and feel a sense of calm that is way too often lacking in my day-to-day life. thank goodness my timing blunder took place in this environment where i was incredibly sedate, or lord only knows how crazy i might have gotten when the sun set without my rolls yet complete.

but enough of the sentimental clap-trap… on to the recipe, so you, too, can spend a day salivating over the longest cinnamon roll process on the planet.

cinnamon rolls: (from cooking light magazine)

what you’ll need: 
1 cup warm fat-free milk (100° to 110°)
6 tbsp melted butter, divided
1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 package quick-rise yeast
16.88 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 ¾ cups)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ tsp salt
cooking spray
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ tbsp ground cinnamon

1. combine milk, 3 tbsp melted butter, 1 tbsp sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. let it stand for 5 mins. weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups.  add egg and remaining sugar to bowl. stir in 4.5 ounces (1 cup) flour. let it stand for 10 mins.

2. add 11.25 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) flour and salt to milk mixture. stir until a soft dough forms.  the dough will be sticky… and nearly impossible to remove from your hands. (this will result in a lot of hilarity, not to mention a very serious case of the dreaded dough hands.) turn out onto a lightly floured surface. knead until smooth and elastic (about 6 minutes). add enough of the remaining flour, 1 tbsp at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (…ha, good luck).

3. place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray; turn the dough to coat the top. cover and let it rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 35 mins on until it doubles in size. (now unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out how to get the heat to work in this bloomin’ house. i blame my father and his fancy heating system… and all those switches… and the creepy basement.  finding a warm place was next to impossible, so we improvised and put the oven on low and then stuck the bowl o’ dough on top of it. you really shouldn’t follow my example on this one as this apparently warms the dough unevenly and makes things a bit wonky, but it did suffice so i’m not complaining.)

4. after 35 minutes, check the dough. gently press two fingers into the dough. if the indentation remains, the dough has risen enough and we may proceed to the next step… which is to take your aggression out on your poor innocent dough and punch it.  really teach that dough who is boss.

once you have beaten it into submission (and it is cowering in fear), cover it back up and let it rise for another 35 mins or until it has doubled in size.  punch the dough again (because you are a sadistic beast of a baker); cover and let it rise another 5 mins.

5. combine brown sugar and cinnamon. turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; roll dough into an 18 x 11-inch rectangle. (as you can see, we did not have a rolling-pin.  luckily we did have the fortitude necessary to polish off this bottle of wine, which substituted nicely.) brush remaining 3 tbsp of the melted butter over the dough. (applaud yourself if you still have the remaining melted butter sitting around rather than having accidently washed it along with all the dirty dishes that were starting to threaten your safety.) sprinkle dough evenly with brown sugar mixture. beginning at one of the long sides, roll the dough tightly, and then pinch the seam to seal. (but do not seal the ends of the roll. that would just be silly.)

6. cut dough into 18 1-inch slices. arrange 9 slices, cut sides up, in each of 2 8-inch square baking dishes coated with cooking spray. cover and let rise for 35 mins or until doubled in size.  (hope you had nowhere to be. all. day. long.)

7. preheat oven to 350°.

8. uncover rolls and bake for 22 mins or until lightly browned. cool for 10 mins in dishes on wire racks. turn the rolls out onto the wire racks and cool another 5 mins. turn the rolls over.


what you’ll need:
3 tbsp butter, softened
2 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

1. combine softened butter and cream. stir with a whisk. stir in vanilla. gradually add powdered sugar and stir until blended.

2. spread the icing over the rolls; serve warm.

it may take you the better part of your day year life to make these, but don’t the figurative “they” say the best things come to those who wait?

chocolate espresso angel food cake (or: i discover my grandma was a wildcat)

27 Jan

as a child, there were several things i could always count on when visiting my grandparents’ house: mashed potatoes for dinner, pecans tucked away in the freezer, and an angel food cake cooling on top of the fridge.  angel food cake will always remind me of my grandma.  the woman loooved her angel food cake, and instilled this very same adoration into me as well at a very young age.  it also helps that it is significantly lower in calories than most cakes. (but this wouldn’t become a factor until i went through those lovely puberty years… woe were those years.) 

grandma as a young firecracker

my grandma has always been my hero… that is when david copperfield (the magician) wouldn’t suffice on my school reports.  (i loved him, legitimately loved him.  the man can FLY.  i can’t tell you how many fights i have had with people over the years due to my insistence that he is the most glorious of all humans.  i was once physically separated from a boy in middle school who suggested that he used wires. WIRES? that boy should get some help.  he’s clearly delusional…)  now, my grandma was a real go-getter.  when her family needed money, she placed an ad for a boarder, found one, and set her up in the house… later on she informed her husband that their money problems were solved… and that they had a new housemate.  when her husband died, she found herself a job and raised my mom and uncle on her own.  my mom was only 11, so there was still a lot of raising to do.  point is: she was pretty fabulous.  and a posh dresser to boot. 

it wasn’t until i was helping my mom clean out my grandma’s townhouse at the tender age of 11 that i discovered another shocking aspect of her life—in the form of a disturbingly sexy leopard print lingerie set.  i don’t mean to be airing any dirty laundry here… i mean, it was totally clean… but there was a definite “…grandma!?” moment as i looked up at my mom, my eyes round in confusion.  at this point in my life i still believed that i was the product of an immaculate conception and, at the furious insistence of my next-door neighbor and best friend, that people stopped having sex by the seemingly ancient age of 35.  the mechanics of “old” people copulation was too fearsome for our young minds to comprehend.  i think in response to my discovery my mom must have muttered a bit and looked away… perhaps there was an awkward cough or two.  mom was always pretty mum about the whole birds-and-the-bees thing.  thank god for public school and 6th grade math class or i’d probably still believe in the stork.  (seeing as how at the age of 24 the topic never comes up.) 

reflecting back on that tumultuous day in which i realized grandma still had a libido well into her 80s, i realize that i too am something of a wildcat.  for instance, i was once the second choice for a threesome.  i declined, but still, it was nice to be asked… second.  i even was propositioned for a booty call recently… maybe.  well, he texted around 3 am (while i was soundly sleeping) and said “hey, what are you doing?” so i am just going to go out on a limb here and assume.  you might be thinking that these two points aren’t exactly wildcat material, but you know what, forget you!  just give it to me, ok?  i’m grasping at straws here.  

my latest recipe pays homage to both my grandma and her leopard print nightie.  i found the recipe in a recent cooking light magazine under the bold headline “naughty or nice,” which basically means it is right up my alley.  in spirit of grandma’s wild side, i added some pizzaz to the original chocolate angel food cake recipe by throwing in some espresso powder.  it really gives it a nice little kick.  i’ve made this cake both ways—boring (espresso-free) and kick-ass (espressolicious)— and much prefer the latter.  something about espresso and chocolate is just too glorious (not david copperfield glorious, but pretty close).  so if you are feeling wild, like grandma… and me (come onnn, give it to meee)… i suggest you do it up.  without further ado, i give you: 

chocolate espresso angel food cake 


what you’ll need: 1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 10), 1 cup cake flour, 2 cups sugar (divided), 1/2 cup baking cocoa, 1 1/2 tbsp espresso powder, 1 tsp cream of tartar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp salt 

1. place egg whites in a large mixing bowl; let it stand at room temperature for 30 mins. (i always forget about this 30 minute wait period and it gets me every time.  cries of anguish can be heard emanating out of my apartment. so at this point, you should crank up the stereo and do some shimmies around the kitchen.  grandma would have wanted it that way.) 

meanwhile, upon beginning the lengthy process of egg white separating, i discovered that there are several methods to this depending on how messy you like to get. 


 my lovely assistant is a “let it slide between your fingers” kind of gal, while i am more of a “let the eggshell do the dirty work” girl myself.  also, new fun fact: according to my new alton brown cookbook , it is best to crack eggs on a flat surface as opposed to an edge, thereby avoiding shell pieces and bacteria from entering your egg.  who knew?  

2. sift together the flour, 1 cup of sugar, espresso powder, and the cocoa.  repeat for good measure and then set aside. 

3. add the cream of tartar, vanilla, and salt to the egg whites.  


4. beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. gradually beat in remaining sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, on high until stiff glossy peaks form and the sugar is dissolved.  it should look something like this: 


5. gradually fold in flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time.  make sure you fold, rather than stir. my assistant got a delicate slap on the wrist around this point.  yes, i abuse my helpers. eh, ya got something to say? 


6. gently spoon into an ungreased 10 inch tube pan. 


7. cut through the batter with a knife to remove air pockets. 

8. bake on the lowest oven rack at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until lightly browned and the entire top appears dry. immediately invert pan. cool completely for about 1 hour.  (more dancing and shimming ensues… or you turn on “center stage,” because it a timeless treasure of a movie.) 

9. run knife around side and center tube of pan. remove cake to a serving plate. 



what you’ll need: 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, 3 tbsp half & half cream 

1. in a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and cream. stir until smooth. 

2. drizzle over cake.  i recommend pouring the glaze into a ziplock bag and then cutting a bit of the corner off.  it makes it significantly easier to drizzle than say, if you used a spoon, like i used to do back in the day while i cursed the baking bloggers who exceled at the art of the drizzle.

once all steps are completed, you will have yourself an amazing cake.  congratulate yourself with a hefty slice or eight.  i won’t tell anyone…. especially seeing as how i find myself infused with uncontrollable urges to grab hunks with my bare hands when near this cake and left to my own devices.  i’m sure grandma wouldn’t mind.

the angel food cake queen herself with a baby tiny me.

chocolate amish friendship bundt cake bread stuff

24 Sep

IMG_8254 copy10 days of labor and love. 10 days of mashing until my fingers bled. 10 days of smelling fermented yeast wafting about my bedroom. 10 days of begging strangers to take my future starter babies.  10 days of lead up to this… my creation! chocolate amish friendship bundt cake bread like thing..amajig.

i switched up the flavoring a bit from the “traditional” amish friendship bread, but the result turned out to be a big hit. my friendship-bread-fearing roommate even accepted it and said she would be willing to keep nasty festering baggies of yeast in our house if i promised to make the eventual cake/bread chocolate-flavored. heck, that’s something.

full instructions on how to make this delicious friendly treat are below.  i should add that it will probably help things if you rock out to frank turner as i did while baking this.  (i may or may not have a minor obsession with his music right now.  dear frank turner, if you are out there and happen to enjoy the odd baking blog, you should probably know that i love you and will feed you cake if you come to boston and jam in my kitchen. thanks a bundle. xoxo.)

the full process:

day 1: do nothing.

day 2: mash the bag

day 3: mash the bag

day 4: mash the bag

day 5: mash the bag

day 6: add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk. mash the bag.

day 7: mash the bag

day 8: mash the bag

day 9: mash the bag

day 10: do the following:

1. pour contents of bag into a non-metal bowl. (they are very big sticklers about not using anything metal when dealing with your yeast.) add 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups milk. mix with a non-metal spoon.  (don’t even think about metal!! curses the day metal was created!! the amish hate metal!!)

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i warn you now… it will be a mother effer to stir this stuff up… would you take a look at my poor non-metal spoon??

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2. measure out 4 seperate batters of 1 cup each into 4 seperate ziplock 1-gallon baggies. this means you give a bag along with this recipe to 3 victims poor saps people who dont know any better friends and keep one for yourself.  (this way you get to bake bread every 10 days for the reeeest of your liiiiifeeee… or… i took all of mine to work, harrassed my coworkers incessently, and then eventually abandoned the starters with an untraceable note in the kitchen…)

3. baking the bread:

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what you’ll need: 3 eggs, 1 cup canola oil, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 tsp hazelnut extract (in retrospect i probably should have bumped this up to a full tsp), 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 cups flour, 2 small boxes instant chocolate pudding mix

– add these ingredients to the remaining batter in the bowl.

-grease up a bundt pan. i used crisco gooed up on a paper towel. let me tell you, paper towels are handy stuff, and coincidently, not metal, so the amish shouldn’t have a problem with it.

-sprinkle some sugar about in the bundt pan.  i thought this may add a nice little pazow to the bunt cake bread stuff… i didn’t really see anything exciting result from it… so your choice.

-pour the batter in bunt pan, and then sprinkle some more sugar on top (you know, if you feel like it). bake at 325 degrees f for about an hour.

IMG_8268 copy(the recipe is usually used with 2 bread pans, but seeing as how i only have one, and it was late, and i was tired and whine whine complain complain… i decided to throw it all into a bundt pan and call it a day. since this “bread” tastes more cake-like anyways, it seemed an alright leap.)


also, in case you were wondering… it tastes just like friendship.