Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Mini Chocolate Banana Muffins


Even though I made these chocolate tahini banana muffins not long ago, I still thought these mini-muffins worthy (recipe found here). They have fewer specialty ingredients, too, AND you can add spinach! They are less sweet than most muffins, but both my kids loved them. The original recipe said it would make 24 mini-muffins, but I got 34 which, by my count, would be about 12 standard muffins (you’d just have to adjust the baking time accordingly if you made them standard-size). 

3 small very ripe bananas (about 1 ½ cups sliced) 
3 eggs 
¼ cup lactose-free butter, melted and slightly cooled 
¼ cup honey or maple syrup 
1 tsp. vanilla 
2 cups lightly packed baby spinach (optional, but I used it) 
1 cup rolled oats 
¾ cups white whole wheat flour 
¼ cup cocoa powder 
1 tsp. baking powder 
¼ tsp. baking soda 
¼ tsp. salt 
¼ cup miniature chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 350 °F and grease mini muffin tin. 

In a high-speed blender, place the bananas, eggs, butter, honey, vanilla, and spinach. Blend well. (If you are not using the spinach, you can do this by hand in a medium bowl – just make sure to mash the bananas first.) 

In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips. 

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir until just combined, without overmixing. 

Fill the prepared muffin tin to about the edge of each cup (I had to bake 2 batches). Bake for 10-12 minutes (mine took 15 minutes) or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

May outing

[Update: Showings have been extended until July 11th!]

In May, with restrictions easing up (and all eligible members in our household fully vaccinated), we went to a production of Charlotte’s Web at the Magik Theater. It was the perfect outing in that our last fun thing pre-pandemic had been at the Magik Theater as well

This production had only six actors playing a total of 19 roles, with lots of quick costume changes, and they were fantastic! We really loved the set as well, especially the way Charlotte wrote the words in her web. Plus, because the Little Prince has read the book a few times and both kids have seen the movie, they were able to follow along easily (though it should be said that the Fox was starting to lose patience towards the end). It runs until July 3rd and I highly recommend it! 

In case you are curious, parties are seated together with at least 2 seats of space between each, and the theater is not at full capacity. Everyone wears a mask (except the actors).

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Pear and Chocolate Jam


I had bookmarked this pear and chocolate jam recipe forever ago and finally decided to make it. I halved the amounts below (4 pears, 1 ¾ cups sugar, 1 pinch salt, 3 oz. chocolate) and got 3 jars full (I believe Bonne Maman jars are half-pint jars?). Again, I didn’t bother with proper canning procedure and kept everything in the fridge while trying to use it up quickly. I couldn’t get it to quite the right temperature (it would go no higher than 205 °F and started burning a bit at that point), so it’s a bit loose – more like a sauce than a proper jam, I think. 

This jam is particularly good on croissants, as well as crêpes and pancakes. That being said, I feel like the jam is grainier than I expected, because of the pears. I wonder if that would have been attenuated had I chopped the pears more finely or cooked them longer… 

2 ½ lbs. ripe pears (approximately 7-8 pears) 
2 lemons, juiced 
3 ½ cups granulated sugar 
½ tsp. ground cinnamon (I omitted it) 
5 ½ oz. good quality dark chocolate (70% minimum, higher is better) 

Prepare a boiling water bath canner and 5-6 half pint jars. 

Peel, core and chop pears. Place them in a wide, non-reactive pan with the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons water. 

Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until pears begin to soften and break down. 

While pears cook, chop chocolate and set aside. 

Once pears are quite soft, add sugar and cinnamon. Increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring regularly, until the jam reaches 220 °F (see note above). 

Remove the pot from the heat and scrape in the chocolate. Stir until it is fully melted. 

Funnel into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process for 10 minutes. 

When time is up, remove jars from canner and place on a folded kitchen towel to cool. 

Once jars are fully cooled, test seals. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly. Sealed jars can be stored at room temperature for up to one year.

Friday, June 04, 2021

Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding

This recipe is (slightly) adapted from Jessica Seinfeld’s Double Delicious!. It calls for carrot purée, which you could never tell is there, and dried cherries, which are a wonderful addition. This was a really good dessert, but I could see it being a decadent weekend breakfast as well. We loved it! 

3 cups lactose-free milk 
6 Tbsp. cocoa powder 
½ cup light brown sugar 
1 cup carrot purée 
8 oz. soft whole-wheat bread, cubed (about 10 cups) 
½ cup dried cherries 
2 large eggs 
2 tsp. vanilla 
2 tsp. almond extract 
1 pinch salt 

Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Grease an 8” square baking dish. 

In a small saucepan, whisk the milk, cocoa powder, and sugar. Bring the milk mixture to a near boil. Remove from the heat. Pour into a large bowl and stir in the carrot purée. Add the bread and stir to coat. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes, until the milk mixture cools enough to touch. 

Add the cherries, eggs, vanilla, almond extract, and salt. Stir well, until the eggs are incorporated, and the liquid becomes smooth and coats the bread. 

Transfer to the baking pan and bake until the bread pudding is crusty on top and puffy in the center, 45 to 50 minutes.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Matzo Ball Soup

It’s a rainy day here today. A rainy week, actually. Perhaps a hearty beef and maple stew would not be out of place. Or soup, like matzo ball soup. I’d been meaning to cook up a homemade version of my matzo ball soup, so I ended up comparing different versions (like Bon Appétit’s or this gluten-free version from The Kitchn), but in the end, it was Smitten Kitchen that won out. 

This soup recipe is in two parts: making chicken broth, then using some of it to make the actual soup. The ratios in my chicken broth were off, because I had 5 pounds of chicken wings, but then only 2.5 quarts of water would fit in my stockpot (I added another 2 cups once the broth was strained and cooled, so 3 quarts total). My broth turned to gelatin in the fridge, but that’s not a big deal because it liquefied again on the stovetop, obviously. As for the matzo balls: the amounts below make 9 matzo balls for me, so feel free to double or triple depending on how many people you are serving. However, I would recommend only making the balls for one meal at a time, as they don’t really keep well. 

Despite the fact that my broth was more concentrated than the recipe, the Engineer found it watery and bland. I agree that it could have used more salt. Honestly, unless I really wanted homemade bone broth for whatever reason, I’d probably just use a good storebought broth (I like Better Than Bouillon organic chicken broth), though the downside is that then I wouldn’t have schmaltz for the second part of the recipe. As for the matzo balls, they were fluffy and perfect. Absolutely perfect! I wouldn’t change a thing. For serving the soup, I’d throw in celery along with the carrots next time, and it would obviously be prettier with some herbs. In a smaller bowl and with better lighting. But it is delicious. 

For the chicken broth (the yield is about 3.5 quarts) 
3 ½ to 4 ½ lbs. chicken necks, backs and wings 
3 celery ribs, cut into big chunks 
3 carrots, scrubbed and cut into big chunks 
2 parsnips, scrubbed and cut into big chunks 
2 onions, unpeeled and quartered 
1 head garlic, cut horizontally in half 
1 Turkish or ½ California bay leaf 
1 Tbsp. black peppercorns 
1 Tbsp. kosher salt (or more, to taste) 
4 quarts cold water (I only used 2 ½ quarts; see note above) 

Bring all ingredients to a boil in an 8- to 10-quart heavy pot. Skim froth. Reduce heat and gently simmer, uncovered, for 3 hours. 

Pour stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and discard solids. If using stock right away, skim off and reserve any fat (you can use it in the matzo balls). If not, cool stock completely, uncovered, before skimming and reserving fat, then chill, covered. Stock can be chilled 3 days in the refrigerator or frozen 1 month (I froze my leftovers). 

For the matzo balls 
½ cup matzo meal 
2 eggs, lightly beaten 
2 Tbsp. reserved chicken fat (or vegetable oil, but I used the chicken fat) 
1 tsp. salt 
¼ tsp. black pepper 
2 Tbsp. seltzer (for a lighter texture; I used mineral water) or chicken broth 

For the soup 
2 to 3 quarts prepared chicken broth (recipe above) 
1 carrot, thinly sliced (I would also add celery) 
a few sprigs of dill (optional) 

Mix all matzo ball ingredients in a bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 

Bring 1 ½ quarts of well-salted water to a brisk boil in a medium sized pot. Reduce the flame. Run your hands under water so they are thoroughly wet. Form matzo balls by dropping spoonfuls of matzo ball batter approximately 1-inch in diameter into the palm of your wet hands and rolling them loosely into balls. Drop them into the simmering salt water one at a time. Cover the pot and cook them for 30 to 40 minutes. 

About ten minutes before the matzo balls are ready, bring prepared chicken stock to a simmer with the sliced carrot in it. Ladle some soup and a couple matzo balls into each bowl and top with a couple snips of dill. Eat immediately.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Café de Olla Ganache


This recipe is from Bon Appétit (I came across it online first, then saw it in my print copy). “Café de olla,” from Mexico, is a combination of ground coffee, piloncillo, and cinnamon – admittedly, mine was far from authentic here because I only used a pinch of coffee and a pinch of cinnamon, and brown sugar instead of the piloncillo. This cake is made from ground nuts, and is delicious either cold or at room temperature, especially a day after being made. 

I changed the amounts slightly to make things easier (like 1 stick or 8 Tbsp. butter instead of 7 ½ Tbsp., and an even 6 oz. chocolate instead of 150 g which comes out to 5.3 oz.). The amounts of chocolate were also inconsistent in the print, with the same weight of chopped semisweet chocolate being referred to once as 1 cup (in the cake) and once as 1 ½ cups (in the ganache); it’s been “corrected” in the online version to use 200 g in the ganache, which makes more sense, but is still not consistent with the volumes. Since my ganache didn’t thicken much at all, I’ll use the increased amount of chocolate below. Even then, however, I’m warning you that you’ll have way too much ganache – you can leave it in a bowl on the countertop and have something near pudding-like consistency the next day, assuming you use coconut milk like I did, or just halve the amounts. 

For the cake 
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) lactose-free butter or vegan margarine 
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped 
1 ¼ cups (125 g) raw pecans, plus chopped for serving 
1 cup + 2 Tbsp. (125 g) almond flour or meal 
½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt 
6 large eggs 
¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar 

For the ganache (consider halving) and assembly 
7 oz. semisweet chocolate 
¾ cup lactose-free cream or coconut milk 
1 Tbsp. corn syrup (or maple syrup for a vegan version, but the ganache will be thinner; or omit it) 
1 Tbsp. finely ground espresso or other dark roast coffee 
½ tsp. Ceylon cinnamon 
½ tsp. grated piloncillo or brown sugar 
1 Tbsp. lactose-free butter 
1 pinch kosher salt 

For the cake 
Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 325 °F. Lightly butter a 9x5" loaf pan; line with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on long sides. Butter parchment. 

Combine butter and chocolate in a medium bowl and set over a large saucepan of simmering water (do not let bottom of bowl touch water). Heat chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from heat and set chocolate mixture aside. 

Pulse pecans in a food processor until somewhat finely ground (it’s okay if there are some coarser pieces). Pulse in almond meal and salt; set aside. 

Beat eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the motor running, gradually stream in sugar and beat until mixture is very pale and nearly doubled in volume, about 1 minute. Stream in reserved chocolate mixture and beat until no streaks remain. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in reserved pecan mixture with a rubber spatula, making sure to scrape bottom of bowl, until well incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan and tap pan on counter to remove any air bubbles. 

Bake cake, rotating pan halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in pan. 

For the ganache and assembly 
As soon as the cake is almost cool, place chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring cream, corn syrup, coffee, cinnamon, and piloncillo in a small saucepan to a faint simmer over medium heat. Pour over chocolate, whisking constantly until melted and smooth. Add butter and salt and whisk until butter is melted and ganache is shiny and smooth. Let cool until thickened slightly, 15–30 minutes. 

Turn cake out onto a large plate or cake stand and turn right side up. Pour ganache over (it should flow over the sides but not quite hit the plate). Scatter chopped pecans over as desired; chill until ganache is set, 10–15 minutes.