Monday, September 28, 2015

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins #MuffinMonday

No nuts, no extraneous ingredients. Just some rich chocolate muffins with semi-sweet chocolate chips. Because my baby is leaving on Sunday and I’m going to miss her.

Everybody loves plain things. Or so says my younger daughter. That doesn’t mean she’s not an adventurous eater or unwilling to try new things. But, on the whole, she’d rather if you didn’t add raisins or nuts to her baked goods, thankyouverymuch.

I’ve been blessed to spend this summer with her, while she waits for a visa that will allow her to live and work in the United Kingdom. We’ve filled out forms, amassed documents and the packet has now come back twice because they want something else that wasn’t asked for initially or want us to send it somewhere other than where we were first told to ship it. I’m sure that many governments have this issue where the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing, so I am not singling out the British here, but I wish they could all get their acts together!

Meanwhile, I have enjoyed having her at home since her graduation from RISD in June. I've even put her to work, designing our new Muffin Monday badge. And I finally got the needlework she made for my fiftieth birthday framed! Only took me two years.

A quote from the fabulous Julia Child.

She’ll be heading back the States now to look for gainful employment (Send any interesting offers for entry level jobs in textiles her way, please!) while she continues to wait for official word from the UK.

This plain, but delicious muffin is for you, sweet thing. Thanks for your patience, your sense of humor and your good company this summer. I’m going to miss you!

3/4 cup or 180ml milk
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 3/4 cups or 220g flour
1/2 cup or 40g dark cocoa powder (I use Hershey's Special Dark.)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup or 80ml canola or other light oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup or 150g semisweet chocolate chips, plus 1/4 cup or 50g for sprinkling on before baking

Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C. Prepare your 12-cup muffin pan by greasing it or lining it with paper muffin cups.

Add the two teaspoons of vinegar to the milk in a measuring cup. Stir and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and vanilla, along with the slightly curdled looking milk/vinegar mixture.

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, until just combined. There may still be some flour showing and that’s fine.

Fold in the larger pile of chocolate chips.

Use a scoop or large spoon to fill the prepared muffin cups. They are going to be pretty full.

Sprinkle the tops with the remaining chocolate chips.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Mine took only 20 minutes. You do not want to over bake these and dry them out.

Put the muffin pan on a wire rack to cool for about five minutes.

Remove the muffins from the pan and continue to cool on the wire rack. You can eat these warm but be prepared to lick melted chocolate chips off of your fingers.


I’m delighted today to have eight additional delicious muffins to share with you! Many thanks to all my muffin baking friends!

#MuffinMonday is a group of muffin loving bakers who get together once a month to bake muffins. You can see all our of lovely muffins by following our Pinterest board.

Updated links for all of our past events and more information about Muffin Monday, can be found on our home page.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Cauliflower Leek Roquefort Tart #FridayPieDay

Cauliflower and leeks, gently sautéed in butter, are the perfect accompaniment to the tangy, sharp Roquefort and the fragrant green onions in this savory Cauliflower Leek Roquefort Tart.

When it a quiche a tart? Ah, good question. I’ve decided that it must be when the chef is English instead of French. I’m joking but perhaps there is a little truth to it. A couple of months ago I shared a recipe for a cheese, shallot and potato pie that I had adapted from the wonderful cookbook, The Good Cook* by Simon Hopkinson.

That same week, while I was enjoying the company and hospitality of generous friends in France, I made this tart as well, adapted from that same cookbook. As I read the recipe, I exclaimed, “but this sounds just like quiche!” And I felt the same way when it came out of the oven. Whatever you want to call it, it’s delicious.

The creamy filling and the mild vegetables are perked up considerably by the sharp and tangy Roquefort. And you can’t beat a flaky crust! I used my normal shortcrust recipe, found here, with all butter since Crisco isn’t to be found in France, but this olive oil pastry recipe would work just as nicely.

Pastry dough for one bottom pie crust (homemade - see links above - or store-bought)
2 tablespoons butter
2 large leeks (about 1 lb or 450g, whole or 7 1/2 oz or 240g, trimmed)
1/2 medium cauliflower (about 9 1/2 oz or 270g, trimmed)
Sea salt
2 egg yolks
2 eggs
2/3 cup or 150ml heavy whipping or double cream
1/2 cup or 115ml crème fraîche (or substitute sour cream or plain thick Greek yogurt)
Black pepper
Small bunch green onion tops
8 3/4 oz or 250g Roquefort

Make your pie crust dough (see choice of recipe links in last paragraph above or use your own) and set in the refrigerator to rest, covered well in cling film.

Trim the hard green parts off the leeks – these can be used in making vegetable stock, if you are so inclined – and rinse the white/pale green parts with ample running water, making sure to get all the dirt out from between the layers.

Slice the leeks thinly.

Trim off the leaves and the hardest part of the cauliflower stem. Slice the cauliflower thinly.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the leeks and cauliflower with a sprinkle of sea salt, until they are soft and any liquid that comes out has evaporated again. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C. Place a flat baking pan in the oven. Line your tart pan (approximately 11 in x 2 in deep or 28cm x 4cm deep) with baking parchment.

Roll out your pastry as thinly as possible and fit it into the lined tart pan. Fill it with baking beads or dried beans or chickpeas and blind bake it for 15-20 minutes on top the preheated flat baking pan.

Remove the parchment and beads/beans then return the tart shell to the oven to bake for another 10 minutes.

Chop your green onions finely.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk the yolks and eggs with the cream, crème fraîche with a few good grinds of fresh black pepper. Add in the chopped green onions and mix well.

Pile the leeks and cauliflower into the baked tart shell and spread them around evenly.

Cut your Roquefort into cubes and scatter them all over the vegetables.

Pour the cream/egg mixture over the cheese. (If you are concerned about getting the full tart into the oven without spilling, pour 2/3 of the mixture in to the tart shell and slide it into the oven. Then pour the rest in.)

Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until puffy and golden.

Allow the tart to cool for at least 15- 20 minutes before trying to slice it. This savory tart is just as delicious at room temperature as it is warm. I daresay I'd have eaten it cold as well, but by the next day, there wasn't any left.


This is my contribution to FridayPieDay!

FridayPieDay is the brilliant invention of Heather from girlichef and I am pleased to join her on the last Friday of each month for pie and crust recipes, techniques, tools of the trade, and other inspiration.

This month Heather baked something that is a favorite at our house, beef and beer pie! In fact, almost every time we go out for a pub lunch, my husband orders some version of beef and beer pie. Heather's looks wonderful!

For more information and recipes, please check out her #FridayPieDay page!

*Amazon affiliate link. If you purchase the book after following my link, I earn some pennies, at no extra cost to you.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hawaiian Layer Bars #CreativeCookieExchange

A tropic twist of the classic layer bar, these chewy cookies are made with macadamia nuts, flaked coconut, dried pineapple and banana chips, baked on a crispy rough puff pastry base.

First, a confession: A couple of months back, when I read the theme for this month’s Creative Cookie Exchange – Layered Cookie Bars – I didn’t have a clue of what that meant. A quick search revealed deliciousness that I had clearly been missing all these years. Seven-layer bars, 10-layer bars, million layer bars! (That last one was an exaggeration, by the way.) They reminded me very much of Uncle Hector’s 100 Cookies with all the ingredient variations, but baked in layers instead of mixed together in a cookie dough. The bases varied widely as well: some crumb, some pastry, some cookie dough crusts.

I went to my baking cupboard and had a look through my potential ingredients. I have airtight plastic containers full of a variety of chips, dried fruits and nuts, all kinds and colors of chocolate and candies. I considered how many layers I could put together and it would have been impressive, although possibly still not one million. Instead, I decided to choose a theme, something tropical to celebrate the start of school and the end of summer holidays. And these Hawaiian layer bars were the result.

Rough puff pastry from this recipe or your own favorite
5 oz or 145g macadamia nuts
3 1/2 oz or 100g dried pineapple
3 1/2 oz or 100g sweetened flake coconut
3 1/2 oz or 100g sweetened banana chips
1 can (14 oz or 395g) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)

Preheat your oven to 400°F or 200°C and prepare your 8x12in or 20x30cm pan by lining it with baking parchment.

Roll the pastry dough out as thin as you can.

Take your fitted parchment back out of the pan and transfer the pastry to the center of the parchment. Trim edges straight with a sharp knife. This helps puffing.

Fit the parchment with pastry back in the pan. Dock the base thoroughly with the tines of a fork.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven. The rough puff will have puffed somewhat in the middle so just use your fork to repeat the docking and it will deflate.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F or 180°C.

Sprinkle on the layers. I wanted to see a little of everything on the top so I did layers but saved a little of each of the bottom layers to sprinkle again on the top.

Pour in the condensed milk, making sure to get some it all over and even into the sides and corners.

Bake again till golden, perhaps 20-25 minutes.


I can't even start to tell you how chewy and delicious these were, a perfect blend on the crusty golden crust.

Check out all the lovely layered cookie bars we have for you this month! Many thanks to our organizer, Laura of The Spiced Life.

The Creative Cookie Exchange gets together once a month on the second Tuesday after the 15th to bake cookies with a common theme or ingredient. If you are a food blogger who would like to join us, please send Laura an email: TheSpiceLife(at)gmail(dot)com.

You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes - be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them at The Spiced Life).

For lagniappe - in southern Louisiana where I come from this means something extra, a little treat that's thrown in at the end.

Here's what to do with the rough puff scraps you cut off when making the layered cookie bars.

Cut the dough in short pieces and roll in cinnamon sugar. Lay out on a cookie sheet covered with parchment.

Bake with the base of the layer cookies above in your 400°F or 200°C oven.

Again, enjoy!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Graham Cracker Bundt with Chocolate Ganache and Toasted Marshmallow Frosting #BundtBakers

A s’more in Bundt form: This tender crumb cake is made with crushed graham crackers and chopped pecans, then covered in dark chocolate ganache. And, of course, the final ingredient has got to be marshmallows, so I added marshmallow frosting and toasted it with my handy kitchen torch.

Years ago, when I was a Girl Scout, I liked nothing better than to camp out with my fellow scouts – we were primarily a camping/hiking troop as we grew up and headed into high school – and the highlight of our trips was always the evening campfire, singing camp songs and roasting marshmallows for s’mores. Girl Scouts transformed me from the foreign girl to a friend, gave me my first real job out of college and helped me pass down skills and values to my daughters. But they also gave me a lifelong love and appreciation of campfires and making s’mores as a way of bonding in a group. Take this Bundt cake along to a potluck and see if folks don’t love you too!

The graham cracker cake is slightly adapted from this recipe from The Country Cook.
The marshmallow frosting is adapted from the boiled frosting recipe in Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook.

For the cake batter:
2 3/4 cups or 270g graham cracker crumbs (32 squares or two sleeves of the  three that come in a box) Good substitute: McVitie’s Digestive Biscuits
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup or 200g sugar
1/2 cup or 113g butter, softened
5 egg yolks (Save two of the whites in a clean bowl for making the marshmallow frosting. Make meringues with the other three.)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup or 240ml milk
1 cup or 120g chopped pecans

For the dark chocolate ganache:
200g dark chocolate
7 oz whipping cream

For the marshmallow frosting:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons water
2 egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare your Bundt pan by greasing and flouring it or spraying it with non-stick spray for baking. I used my classic 12-cup Bundt because I knew any pan details would be lost under the ganache and frosting but this would fit in a 10-cup Bundt pan without any problems.

If you are starting with actual graham crackers, pulverize them in a food processor or crush them into crumbs inside a plastic bag using a rolling pin.

Measure your flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into the cracker crumbs and mix well.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy.

Add in 1/3 of the graham cracker mix and mix briefly.

Add in 1/3 of the milk and mix again. Continue adding 1/3 of the crumbs and 1/3 of the milk until it’s all mixed in.

Fold in the chopped pecans.

Spoon your thick batter into your prepare Bundt pan and baked for about 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If you are using a small pan, it may take longer since the resulting cake will be deeper.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before turning the Bundt out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the ganache: Break or cut your chocolate into small pieces. Heat your milk till just at the point of boiling and then remove it from the stove. Tip in the chocolate pieces and give it a stir.

Let the chocolate melt for a few minutes and then stir vigorously to combine. Keep stirring occasionally as the ganache cools and starts to thicken. If you'd like it to cool more quickly, pour it out of the hot pot into a clean bowl.

To make the marshmallow frosting:
Heat your sugar, cream of tartar, salt and water and in a small pot until it begins to boil. Insert a candy thermometer and continue boiling the mixture, without stirring, until it reaches a temperature of 260°F or 127°C.

Remove the pot from the heat. Whisk your egg whites on high in your stand mixer or with electric beaters until soft peaks form.

Still whisking at high speed, pour the hot sugar mixture into the egg whites in a thin but steady stream until all of the mixture is incorporated into the egg whites. Continue whisking until the bowl is no longer warm to the touch.

Finishing up
Once your Bundt is cool and the ganache is a good consistency for pouring – that is to say, still thick enough to spread out a little but not thin enough to drip right off the cake – spoon it over the Bundt cake. You can test this by lifting up a spoonful and dropping back in the bowl. The ganache should not settle right back in but sit in a mound of the top briefly before, once again, becoming one with the greater bowl.

Let the ganache harden up further until it’s fairly well set before piping on the frosting. Use a piping bag and a large hole tip to pipe the frosting onto the top of the Bundt.

Use a kitchen torch to gently toast the marshmallow frosting. This was the best part! It smelled just like marshmallows on a fire!

I honestly had no idea what this layering of toppings would do over time so I am delighted to report that the cake, ganache and frosting and all lasted several days – until it was eaten – just as pretty as day one. Only one word of warning: You cannot cover it with cling film so a cake cover is your best bet for keeping it fresh. I tested a small corner to see and even though the toasted marshmallow frosting feels a bit dry to the touch, cling film will stick to it.


Many thanks to our host for this Creative S’more Bundt cake challenge from this month’s BundtBakers host, Lauren at From Gate to Plate.

Check out all the creative s’more Bundts we have for you this month!


#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

Updated links for all of our past events and more information about BundtBakers, can be found on our home page.