Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chocolate Marmalade Mini-cupcakes


I have been thinking long and hard about this word. Stop a second and actually think about it. Let it roll of your tongue. Try saying it fast so that you swallow the “s.” Then say it a little slower. Roll that “r”, and then ramp up as at the “s.” Then notice that you just spent the last minute not thinking about anything but sounds. You were putting the concept of that word into practice. You just found a moment where everything was in perspective.


I can’t say it is something I myself put into practice with any particular frequency. For the majority of the last two months, I have almost lost sight of a concept so noble as perspective. Work has consumed me, eaten me from the inside, and left me wholly unsatiated. In some meager response to the pressure, I have cocooned myself in even more work hoping the mountain of papers would somehow inure and protect my soul. If only at some moment in that month, I had realized that my soul needs no more protection than perspective. That one day off, one evening away from the labors of the office, would mean nothing more than my own sanity. Or, that taking the snow day to make a small batch of cupcakes with your girls is so much more cathartic and so much more real than anything work has to offer.


But sometimes when you are standing at the edge, you can’t find your bearings. It is when you step back, way back, when you see the wide vista of possibilities ahead, that the lines of perspective become so obvious. You can see your present in your peripheral vision but in front, small but nonetheless there, your future reassuringly beacons you forward.

Chocolate Marmalade Mini-cupcakes:
adapted from a recipe from the Cookie Shop

1/4 cup flour
3 T chestnut flour
Pinch baking soda
Pinch baking powder
4 T cocoa power
¼ sugar
2 T brown sugar

4 tbsp buttermilk
1 egg
Couple drops espresso
½ tsp vanilla extract
4 T olive oil
1 T marmalade

Bake in mini-cupcake tins (buttered and floured) for about 8 minutes. Top with chocolate ganache.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sweet Potato Whole Grain Waffles


Fake seems to have become a real fact of life these days. Think about it. No one is who they purport to be on facebook or twitter. In fact, on the internet, not being your real self can be a major selling point (ruth bourdain anyone?). And, as food goes, sure there are all the artificial flavors and colors. But, even with the new “real food” movement, think about the pictures. Many of those pictures have been styled, artificially lit, and preened to within an inch of their existence. For years, there have been accusations from psychologists that the plethora of airbrushed, surgically enhanced models in magazines and in video games would make young men unable to appreciate the normal female body. I am starting to think the power of food photography is affecting how I see regular food.

Multigrain Waffles
Multigrain Waffles

These waffles spring forth from their iron looking a little like a patio tile. Not the pretty Italian-made ones, mind you. More like the ones at the edge of the patio that have crumbled after putting up with one too many cold winters. And, if you aren’t used to whole grains, their bespeckled nature might concern you. And, then there is the sort of unfortunate orange of the dough. The marketer in me might call it terracotta. In other words, these are not the prom queen of waffles; instead, they make the wallflowers of waffles look like Miss America. And, then here is where my brain thinks societal conspiracy. I actually thought they are so ugly I wonder if they taste good. What? Why? My brain somehow placed visual data ahead of smell when it came to food. Who the heck cares what it looks like? I guess some food stylist/ lizard part of my brain. Luckily my husband, who abstains from all types of food porn on principle, is immune from such stupidity. He dug in and quickly attested to their deliciousness.

Whole Grain Sweet potato Waffles
In a blender combine:
250 grams cooked sweet potato
1 buttermilk
2 eggs
2 heaping T oil

Cook 100 grams bob's red mill hot cereal plus 3 T chia seeds with 1 cup almond milk. Cool and add to the wet. Mix.

In a large bowl combine:
145 g whole wheat flour
40 g chestnut flour
15 g flax seeds
10 g oat bran
60 g corn meal
1 T yeast
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 T brown sugar
2 T white sugar

Add the wet to the cold. Mix heartily. Let rest in covered in the refrigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature. Add 1/2-1 cup more buttermilk (or almond milk if you wish) to create a batter like consistency. Cook in a waffle iron at medium for about 5-7 minutes. These take longer to cook than other waffles we have made. Ours dings when it thinks they are done. So, we went through three of the regular cycles.

I am submitting this recipe to yeastspotting run by the lovely Wild Yeast.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Egg-less Chocolate cake


There were times when I was pregnant with Belle, when I was alone in the house and all was still outside. I would lie down on the couch hands cupped around my hard belly. I would breathe in and out as purposeful as possible. I would wait and attempt patience. And, I would wonder who this little person would be.

Then with a wallop, Belle would kick with all her might at anything in her way with an impressive lack of rhythm. Then, she would gurgle and swim casually brushing her hands across my belly in broad gestures.

Four years later, I wished I had written down who I thought that little person was. I am fairly certain whatever I thought was nothing like the true Belle. She has a finely attuned design sense. She would have you know, stripes work well with hearts but not polka dots, and not all pinks match. She loves all things dolly—prams, changing tables, and bottles. But at the same time she can build a mean tower. Mostly, she reminds me every day how important observation and curiosity are in feeding the human soul. She smells everything from food to scarves. She wonders about clouds, snow, heaven and God.
Every day is an investigation for her. Dessert is one of her particular specialties. Why is it that some cakes aren’t chocolate? Why is it that some cakes are deficient in frosting? Why are some cakes only one layer?

Belle’s love of chocolate is something that I anticipated bodily during pregnancy. I was not much of a sweet person until Belle resided within me. During my pregnancy, I would fanaticize about decadent chocolate cupcakes. Now, Belle is a woman who relishes the idea of visiting her grandparents, in the magical land of Cincinnati, where cupcakes are alright for breakfast.

This summer we experimented with the ideal chocolate cake. While I have more experience tasting chocolate cake, I think Belle has a natural insight. We make an ideal team. We tasted cakes. I talked, perhaps idly, about the required a balance between sweetness and bitterness; moistness and denseness. Though, Belle really summed it up, “it has to be super chocolate and good.”


Our first try at this cake was one that was basically a large brownie. When topped with cocoa butter cream, Belle was very satisfied.

When birthday time came around yesterday, I turned to this cake. Parenting is something that is harder when you pay attention to what you are doing. I probably should have just made the cake that she liked, but instead I decided to increase the buttermilk so that I would have a moister cake-like result. After all, sometimes a mother has to make decisions for their children.

I also decided to use three frostings, because sometimes a mother gets to break the rules. First I separated the two layers with marshmallow butter cream , added a crumb coat and then some with vanilla butter cream, and then frosted with cocoa-cream cheese butter cream. The result was a cake that would make your dentist call you to set up an appointment.

As we cut the cake, I waited to hear her observations. She sat down to her slice with almost religious fervor. She eschewed the paper napkin so that she might lick the frosting from her fingers. She then requested seconds and thirds (though both requests were denied.) And, then she played.

In the last four years, one of the few things I have learned about parenting is that often it is the quiet off-minutes, when socks are being pulled up or blocks being picked up that your children share. Today, when the house was quiet, and Belle and I were cleaning up her room, she said to me, “There was much more frosting on that cake. I am glad.”


Chocolate Cake:
Cream together:
4 oz cream cheese, softened
4 T butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar

In the microwave, melt 1/4 cup chocolate chips (or a little more)

Into the bowl of the stand mixer, add:
1 cup buttermilk
1 T instant coffee granules
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp cider vinger
melted chocolate chips

In a bowl, combine:
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 tsp salt

Add dry ingredients to wet, in 1/2 cup intervals, blending as you go.

Bake in 2-9 inch pans that have been greased and floured (or cocoaed) at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

I got a little mystical/ alchemistry-like with the frostings, so no recipes here…all I can say is that for the cream cheese frosting, I used 4 oz butter (soften), 4 oz cream cheese (softened), splash of coffee, and then added cocoa and powdered sugar with wild abandon. The others were a little of a blur.