Corn Muffins

I’ve been trying to clean out my pantry — my goal is to use up some of the foodstuffs I don’t typically use during the summer. Our house is not air-conditioned so we do a lot of outdoor cooking and very little inside cooking. Definitely no oven cooking!

This morning, I made corn muffins to aid in that goal. These muffins were corn-y and had a touch of sweetness — definitely a keeper. And I’m pretty picky about my cornbread/corn muffins too. Unfortunately, I still have a lot of cornmeal left!

Almost-Fudge Gâteau

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This is a little departure for me. Instead of the customary arrangement of me baking and then posting here, this time C. did the baking. He had to come up with a project for his French class and one of the options was to make a French recipe and report on it. So he and I perused Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours, and he decided that this was the recipe he wanted to make. AND, it served double-duty as my 40th birthday cake!

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Almost-Fudge Gâteau

5 large eggs
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (we used a mixture of bittersweet and semi-sweet, after reading a Tuesdays with Dorie blogger who suggested that 100% bittersweet chocolate was a bit too intense)
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons coffee or water (he used decaf coffee)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the Glaze (optional):

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (again, we used a mixture of bittersweet and semisweet)
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Getting Ready:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper, dust the inside of the pan with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

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Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a mixer bowl or other large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add the chocolate, sugar butter and coffee. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted; the sugar may still be grainy, and that’s fine. Transfer the bowl to the counter and let the mixture sit for 3 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, stir in the yolks one by one, then fold in the flour.

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Working with the whisk attachment of the mixer or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until they hold firm, but glossy peaks. Using the spatula, stir about one quarter of the beaten whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest. Scrape the butter into the pan and jiggle the pan from side to side a couple of times to even the batter.

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Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cake has risen evenly (it might rise around the edges and you’ll think it’s done, but give it a few minutes more, and the center will puff too) and the top has firmed (it will probably be cracked) and doesn’t shimmy when tapped; a thin knife inserted into the center should come out just slightly streaked with chocolate. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake rest for 5 to 10 minutes

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Run a blunt knife gently around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Carefully turn the cake over onto a rack and remove the pan bottom and the parchment paper. Invert the cake onto another rack and cool to room temperature right side up. As the cake cools, it may sink.

To Make the Optional Glaze:

First, turn the cooled cake over onto another rack so you’ll be glazing the flat bottom, and place the rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper to catch any drips.

Put the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave oven – the chocolate should be just melted and only warm, not hot. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a boil in a small sauce pan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir very gently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth and shiny. Stir in the corn syrup.

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Pour the glaze over the cake and smooth the top with a long metal icing spatula. Don’t worry if the glaze drips unevenly down the sides of the cake – it will just add to its charms. Allow the glaze to set at room temperature or, if you’re impatient, slip the cake into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. If the glaze dulls in the fridge, just give it a little gentle heat from a hairdryer.

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Here is the finished gâteau. It is yummy — rich, dark and very, VERY decadent.

Pita Bread

I was filled with confidence before I attempted this recipe. We made whole grain pitas in class and while not all of those puffed well, we figured out what the problem was — Chef Mitch forgot to add the salt, resulting in lackluster yeast performance. So making them at home would be a breeze, right? I used the pita bread recipe from The King Arthur Flour Baking Companion, and it seemed like it was a foolproof recipe (They won’t puff? Just bake for another minute or two. Still won’t puff? The oven temp must be too low. Boost the temp for the next batch.). Guess what? They just wouldn’t puff. They inflated oh so slightly, but not completely and there really was no pocket inside. Nevertheless, I carried on, mostly because I had counted on the pitas to be the bread for our sandwich dinner. I made the failed pitas into pockets by gently making an incision in the middle of each — not ideal, but it worked. C. proclaimed them perfect (he’d never had tried pitas before) because they stood up to the cheese in his patented American cheese-mesclun-Italian dressing-dill pickle sandwich filling. Actually, all in all, everyone said they loved them. I suspect they were just being kind, but I still appreciate it.
As a postscript, after my failed pitas, I looked at the recipe from class and it was very different from the King Arthur recipe. I think next time I attempt pitas I’ll use the Johnson & Wales recipe instead and see how that goes.

Oatmeal Cake With Broiled Icing


This cake recipe is from the Cook’s Illustrated website. This will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me well, but my primary motivation for trying this recipe was to use up ingredients I have lingering in my pantry and freezer (quick oats and sweetened coconut to be specific). The final product was moist and very tasty — sort of like an oatmeal cookie in a cake form. And it made the house smell really good!


Immediately above is the finished cake before I sliced it. I managed to get the cake out of the pan and off the foil by following the instructions from the recipe. I have to confess that for a few moments I wasn’t filled with faith that the authors knew what they were talking about!

Peanut – Mallow Brownies

I made these Peanut-Mallow Brownies (from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion) for my niece’s First Communion celebration this afternoon. I used the Fudgy Brownie recipe from the book as the foundation. C. took one look at the finished brownies last night and proclaimed that they looked much more like the kind of brownies he likes before realizing that they had a peanut butter filling. The filling is actually peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar and mini marshmallows all melted together (very sticky!) and the effect is more Mary Jane than Reese’s — the peanut flavor is very subtle and they are ultra-gooey and taffylike. Definitely decadent and very addictive!

Acme’s Rustic Boule!

OK, I won’t have time this weekend to post. Here’s a shot of a slice from the boule I made from the baguette dough.

Unfortunately (for me), I won’t be enjoying this fresh. I’m going out to dinner with a friend, and the (meat-eating) boys will be having burgers and hot dogs. The boule is for C., who looooooves grilled cheeses on home baked bread.