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Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

Crowd Pleasing

Well now this is just embarrassing.  Another chocolate post?  Have I no shame?  I looked at my Recipes page and about one third of the dessert recipes up there involve chocolate.  This from a woman who doesn’t crave chocolate.

My excuse?  Chocolate is a crowd pleaser.  If you show up at a dinner party with a cheesecake or a blueberry pie, there’s a chance someone in the crowd doesn’t like cheesecake or has a “thing” about blueberries (for the record, these people mystify me).

But bring something chocolate, and people will swoon.  And, in my book, if you go through the effort of making dessert, you want people to swoon.  So, like a guy to his favorite t-shirt, I come back to chocolate again and again.

I baked these cookies over Memorial Day to accompany an ice cream sundae bar my mom put together.  They are the perfect sidekick: small enough that no one will feel guilty grabbing one to go with a sundae, yet so addictive that people will ending going back for more.

Technically, these are cookies, but they almost have the consistency of a brownie: slightly cakey, rich and bursting with chocolate flavor.  In other words, crowd pleasers par excellence.

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Peace Offering

Well, it’s official: I am the worst.  I make all these promises (“I’ll be better about blogging!” “I’m back!” “I won’t be a total lame-ass anymore!”), and then I break them pretty much immediately.  It’s no wonder my readership on this blog has plummeted.

To my five remaining readers: I am really, really sorry.

I was going to post a recipe for sweet pea crostini, or the multigrain muffins I made recently, but no.  I could not post a semi-healthy recipe as a peace offering.  Unacceptable.  Peace offerings should involve sugar.  And cream.  And chocolate.

So instead, I offer you this chocolate-hazelnut cake: a moist chocolate cake filled with a milk chocolate/hazelnut cream and coated in a bittersweet chocolate glaze.

Let the groveling commence.

I’m not going to make outlandish claims for this cake, but it will win you new friends, elicit marriage proposals and bring about world peace.  Just sayin’.

In fact, it was such a hit at my friend’s dinner party that several guests demoted their prevailing “all-time favorite” desserts and moved this cake into the top spot.  Whoa.

So, if you think you could forgive me and my slack blogging, I was hoping — maybe — we could kiss and make up.  What do you think?  Not sure?  Why don’t you give this cake a try, and maybe then you’ll give me a second chance.  (more…)

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Yeah, yeah, I know: another rhubarb recipe.  Yawn.

No!  Wrong attitude!  Rhubarb’s season is brief, and we’re running out of time.  We only have a few more weeks to find new and interesting ways to put this stuff to use.

And, as part of this blog’s resurrection from the grave, I’m trying to feature more local, seasonal ingredients wherever possible, which I hope will give all of you ideas on how to use your farmers’ market spoils.  (And, happily, chocolate and vanilla are always in season, so fear not: there will be plenty of non-fruit-and-veggie recipes on offer too.)

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this strawberry rhubarb tart without some reservations.  Wait, you say, a strawberry rhubarb tart with a crisp topping? That sounds awesome. Well, it was…almost.

Everyone who tried the tart loved it (and, admittedly, it tastes delicious — sweet and tart and…well…like spring), but in my mind, the recipe wasn’t perfect.  Here’s the problem: Rhubarb and strawberries give off a lot of juice when cooked, and if your tart crust shrinks even a teensy bit, the juices bubble up over the sides and leave you with a soggy, flabby crust.  Bleh.

In my case, only one side of the crust shrank, so one side ended up soggy while the other was flaky and tender.  So it wasn’t a total disaster, but it wasn’t perfect.

My recommendation?  Try it with this crust, which never shrinks on me.  It’s sweeter than the one called for in the original recipe, but I think it will yield a better tart.

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Well, well, well.  Look what the RSS dragged in.  I’m sure the one person who still follows this blog is thrilled.  (Hi, Mom.)

Alas.  It’s been, what, 18 months?  As in, I could have possibly birthed two children over the course of this interlude.  Don’t worry; I haven’t.

I have, however, quit my job, moved to London, moved back to DC, and started and finished the first draft of a novel.  So…yeah.  I’ve been busy.

But I’m back!  And I’m going to get better about this blogging thing.  At least I’ll try.  Hard.  Even if some of my blogs don’t provide recipes and are more discussions of food-related issues.  Would you mind?  Because, frankly, at this point there are so many recipe blogs out there that I hardly stand out from the crowd.  And when I go back and read some of my earlier entries on my blog, I blush.  Some of the writing is so…I don’t know…nerdy and stiff.  Also, bad.  And the photos?  Let’s be honest.  I’m no Smitten Kitchen.

So, Mom (and whoever randomly forgot to delete me from their Google Reader), let me know what you think.

In the meantime, here’s a recipe to make up for my prolonged absence.  Consider it a peace offering.  It’s a rhubarb crisp that Roger — the crisp/crumble aficionado — deemed “perfect.”  Perfect?  Wow.

But I might have to agree with him.  It’s pretty awesome.  You can barely taste the rose flower water, but combined with the vanilla bean, it adds a floral note to the tangy rhubarb.  And I’ve already told you how much I love crisps, crumbles and the like.  So just add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and you have a perfect springtime dessert.  It may not make up for an 18-month hiatus…but hey, I’m trying.

Sorry. Crisps are hard to photograph. Alas.

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I know what you’re thinking: Another chocolate recipe?  From a woman who claims she doesn’t love chocolate?  Just look at the number of chocolate desserts on this site.

Well.  I don’t know what to say, other than to insist that although I’m adding another chocolate dessert to the recipe catalog, I am not a chocoholic.  I swear.

As I’ve explained, it’s not that I dislike chocolate; it’s just that I don’t crave it all the time. However, there are some days that demand it, where nothing — nothing — but chocolate will do. Today it is cold and rainy, my husband is out of town (and potentially heading to India), and I have a nasty case of stomach cramps. Today is a day for chocolate.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pop Cat on a Hot Tin Roof into my DVD player and curl up on the couch with a blanket and some hot cocoa. In the meantime, make this recipe. You won’t be sorry.

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I still remember the worst apple dessert I’ve ever eaten. It was an apple “cobbler” at the restaurant next door to my apartment, and it was truly hideous.

Roger and I were both surprised at how terrible this dessert was because the restaurant itself is decent — your typical burger/salad/sandwich joint, with surprisingly excellent dinner rolls and occasionally interesting soups. So we figured dessert was a safe bet. After all, who can mess up apple cobbler?

Well, apparently this restaurant can. Aside from the fact that they put strawberry ice cream on top (we’ll let that one go for now), the taste fell somewhere between “medicinal” and “metallic.” How they accomplished this feat, I do not know. But I do know that we have never — ever — ordered dessert there again, despite the fact that we go there a few times a month.

alsatian-apple-tart-1

What’s funny is that you don’t have to do much to apples to make them taste good in desserts. Sure, a little brown butter here, a little spice there, but less is usually more. The more you throw into the pot, the more the apples start tasting like a pile of spicy goo, rather than something sweet and honey-like.

Historically, my favorite apple tarts have been those along the lines of the tarte tatin — the apples bare and exposed, not overtaken by the caramel flavor but melding with it — that is, until I made this Alsatian Apple Tart. Here, the apples are bathed in a mellow vanilla custard and encased in a sweet buttery crust. There are no spices, no competing flavors, just the tender apples, soft custard and crisp crust.

Oh, and did I mention it’s also a snap to make?  You don’t even need to roll out the tart crust; you can just dump the raw dough right into the pan and press it up the sides (thank you, Dorie Greenspan).  When a delicious apple dessert is this easy to make, one wonders why an entirely repellent one would show up anywhere.  As long as a bad one never shows up in my kitchen, I guess I can’t complain!

I should also note that the so-called “Breakfast Series” will return soon — I just couldn’t resist posting this tart recipe.

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After a prolonged absence from Proof of the Pudding, I am back (one year from the day I started this thing!) and ready to blog. Why the prolonged absence?

Well, first there was the wedding. Now, I’m not one of those ladies who has been planning her wedding since she was 7. In fact, I kind of thought I might never have one. But even the most low key of brides finds herself inundated with “To Dos” in the month leading up to the big day. And thus…any time to blog essentially evaporated. (For the record: Happiest night of my life so far. So, so wonderful.)

Then, the Friday after the wedding, my grandfather passed away. He was an honorable, passionate and loving man with an insatiable appetite for knowledge and an endless supply of compassion and love. His death didn’t come as a surprise; he was 95 and suffered from Alzheimer’s, and he had been ill for quite some time. But loss is never easy, regardless of whether or not you have time to prepare for it. We all miss him tremendously.

And then there’s the fact that I work in business and financial news. In Washington. Which means my work life has been capital “C” crazy lately. Nothing like an economic meltdown to add some spice to the workplace.

But I couldn’t let the one year anniversary of my blog go unnoticed. This blog has been such a wonderful outlet for me, and through it I’ve “met” so many interesting fellow foodies and learned from their food adventures. Over the next few months, this blog will be taking a bit of a different turn. I’ll still post recipes and stories of my kitchen trials and tribulations, but I want to broaden it out to cover broader food issues as well. I promise not to bore you — that is if I haven’t lost you already!

But before said shift takes place, here’s another recipe to add to your collection. It’s yet another recipe adapted from Kate Zuckerman’s The Sweet Life, one of my favorite dessert cookbooks, and boy is it a winner. Brown butter, vanilla bean and almond? Swooooon!

Thank you all for your comments, links and feedback over the past year. You’ve made writing this blog so much fun, and I can’t wait to see how the site develops over the next few months!

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