Tag Archives: Chocolate

{ The Borough Market in London }

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Whenever I go into a city, I feel pressured to eat—and drink—just about everything in sight. In a brief two-block stroll, I can usually find time to eat a pastry, sample a gelato, snack on an over-priced French macaron or chocolate, down a cup of fancy coffee, and possibly even grab a cocktail of some sort. It’s down right impressive, albeit slightly sickening to my friends that are forced to dip into every corner shop café with me!

Why does the city send me into this preposterous food frenzy, you ask?

Because I am from the suburbs!! The suburbs of Philadelphia, no less: a place where good food requires some serious gas mileage and planning. You can’t find an authentic Italian restaurant, a crab shack, a sake lounge, and an artisanal chocolatier all within the same one-mile radius! If you want Indian, you drive to Iselin, NJ. If you want Italian, you drive to South Philly. If you want French, you’re shit outta luck. My point is, that you’re driving if you want to get good ethnic foods. So when I see Cambodian sandwiches, ramen, French pastries, and kebabs all within the same street, I get beside myself and feel the urge to try it all simply because it is there!

My most recent trip to London kept me eating around the clock because of the seemingly endless number of cafes and pubs, each one more adorable than the next. I plan to give a full review each meal, but I want to start off with my absolute favorite food experience in London, which doesn’t take place in a restaurant at all, but rather an open-air food market called the Borough Market.

My idea of heaven is an endless Borough Market where every vendor has free samples and they don’t judge you for taking more than one, instead they encourage it! The food is free, and it has no caloric value, and you never feel full so you can just keep on eating, and eating, and eating. #FatGirlProblems

The Best Prepared Meal Item: Thai Green Curry Paella with Chicken & Seafood over Rice. I did my research on the market before going (aka Googled the shit out it to see what other bloggers were saying!) in so that I could make an informed decision on what to eat once I got there. I read that the Paella place was one of the best, and I can confirm that it was better than some seafood dishes I had in Spain. It was creamy and flavorful and the rice was tender without being mushy. A food experience that was borderline otherworldly.

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The Best Cheese: The Borough Cheese Company’s 15 mo. aged Comte

It was the first cheese we sampled going into the market, and we continued to go back for more samples until we found ourselves just pounding down his entire platter one sample after another. Then it got awkward and we decided we were obligated to make a purchase, which was noshed down that same evening. I ate it like a slice of watermelon, right down to the rind, holding the wedge between my two hands.

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The Best Exotic Item for Purchase: Tartufaia Truffles’ White Truffle Honey

Need I say more? Truffle + Honey = guaranteed foodgasm

I might just have to fly back for more once I eat it all, and for only 5 pound a jar, it is the best bargain in London!!!

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The Best Eat at Home Purchase: West Country Preserves

I bought the Spicy Gooseberry with Cumin Seeds, which is more savory than sweet. It pairs well with chicken and meat, but also toast if your taste buds are like mine! I also bought one of the Ginger Curds, which is a sweetened yet naturally spicy spread that pairs lovely with toast and desserts. My friends got the pure Ginger Preserves, which were intensely flavorful but also amazing. The man knows how to sell too—he loves encouraging samples! I think I tried all 32 varieties before selecting my final two for purchase.

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Other Items I purchased and loved:

 Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella – So creamy and tender. I coupled these bad boys with some sliced tomatoes and avocado wedges when I got back home and they were lovely.

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Date and Walnut Bread from The Flour Station– I was on a date kick after my trip to Harrods (where I bought the best dates of my life!), and so I decided to get loaf of this bread. It turned out to be my breakfast pregame and late night snack for the remaining days of my trip. A fabulous purchase!

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1 BOROUGH MARKET YUM

Roasted Porchetta Sandwich with Applesauce and Rockett on Ciabatta – this was not my favorite, as I found the meat a bit too fatty and difficult to swallow. That being said, I did love the deep rosemary flavor to the meat and the pairing of the sweet applesauce, which is something I will replicate at home in the future.

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Mulled Wine – It was my first English mulled wine experience, so I will have a special place for it in my heart, but I went on to have much better from street vendors at the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. And priced at 4 pound a cup, it was difficult to catch a buzz!

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Chocolates and Fudge from Burnt Sugar– I loved the chocolate covered honeycombs made with rich dark chocolate, but learned that fudge is not really my thing. It might be the only food that I can say isn’t one of my weaknesses.

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Filed under Bakery, Baking, Breakfast, Brunch, Cocktails, Coffee Shop, Cookies, Dessert, International Restaurants, London Restaurants, Markets

{ Italian Florentine Cookies }

Florentine

Last week I blogged my recipe for Italian seven-layer cookies, and this week I am sharing my recipe for another classic Italian Christmas cookie: Almond Florentines. Also known as lace cookies, Florentines are an extremely delicate, paper-thin cookie made of macerated almonds and orange zest. They are crunchy and sweet, and with the chocolate drizzle on top–optional in this recipe, but a must for me!–they are absolutely decadent.

I like to make these for the holidays because other people so often gravitate towards making softer dough cookies like sugar cookies, spritz cookies, and snickerdoodles. Baking something with a little crunch factor helps to set you apart from the other women at the neighborhood cookie exchange!

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 3/4 cups sliced, blanched almonds (about 5 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Topping, optional:

  • 2 to 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

{ To Make the Italian Florentine Cookies }

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely chopped, but not pasty. Stir together the nuts, flour, orange zest, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

Put the sugar, cream, corn syrup, and butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a rolling boil and sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, then pour mixture into almond mixture and stir just to combine. Set aside until cool enough to handle, approx. 30 minutes.

Scoop rounded teaspoons (for 3-inch cookies) or rounded tablespoons (for 6-inch cookies) of batter and roll into balls. Place on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 3 to 4 inches between each cookie since they spread (and trust me, they do!!!).

Bake 1 pan at a time, until the cookies are thin and an even golden brown color throughout, rotating pans halfway through baking time, about 10 to 11 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve.

{ MUST HAVE  Chocolate Topping Drizzle }

Set up a classic double broiler system by putting the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Then bring a saucepan filled with 1 inch or so of water to a very low simmer; set the bowl of chocolate over the saucepan so that it is just above, but not touching, the water. Stir the chocolate occasionally until melted and smooth.

Chocolate in a double boiler

Drizzle melted chocolate over Florentines as desired. Set aside at room temperature until chocolate is set.

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**Store baked cookies carefully, separated by parchment or waxed paper, in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. Florentines are best stored separated from moist cookies and cakes.

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{ Italian Seven Layer Cookies }

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I come from a long lineage of family bakers. Cream and sugar are literally coded in my DNA.

And when I was growing up, the holidays signified one thing: cookie season! I would come home from school and my mom would have magazine clippings for cookie recipes that she wanted to try out at one of her infamous cookie exchanges. Given that it was not warm enough to play outside, she would encourage my sister and I to help her sift the flour, roll out the dough, and dip/glaze/sprinkle the tops of cookies in an effort to keep us from turning on the television (or the ‘boob-tube’ as it was referred to in my house!). Of course, we were always more more than happy to oblige!

We would make dozens of spritz cookies, sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, chocolate chip cookies, pecan tassies, mixed nut turtles, and traditional Hungarian kiffles. But the one cookie we never made, was ironically the one that was my favorite–the Italian seven layer cookie.

Whenever I would spot these in a party tray assortment, I would pick them out, stuff them in a napkin, and then scurry away to eat them by my lonesome. I was–and still am–an Italian cookie fein and hoarder.

This year, I decided to make my own seven layer cookies using the recipe printed in Gourmet, December 2005, and since them endorsed by The Smitten Kitchen food blog. I will admit that they were quite laborious and involved to make, but since they can be frozen in large blocks, I will have them to enjoy/gift over the next few months (or weeks, depending on my level of self-control!).

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{ Ingredients }

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 (8 oz) can of almond paste
  • 2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 25 drops red food coloring
  • 25 drops green food coloring
  • 1 (12 oz) jar of apricot preserves, heated and strained
  • 7 oz of good-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), roughly chopped

{ To Make Italian 7-layer Cookies }

Place oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan and line bottom with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two of the ends, then butter paper.

Beat egg whites in mixer fitted with whisk attachment at medium-high speed until they just hold stiff peaks. Add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating at high speed until whites hold stiff, slightly glossy peaks. Transfer to another bowl.

Switch to paddle attachment, then beat together almond paste and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks and almond extract and beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add flour and salt and mix until just combined.

Fold half of egg white mixture into almond mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter among 3 bowls. Stir red food coloring into one and green food coloring into another, leaving the third batch plain. Set the white batter aside. Cover the green batter with plastic wrap and chill in fridge.  Pour the red batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with offset spatula (layer will be about 1/4 inch thick).

Bake red layer 8 to 10 minutes, until just set. (It is important to undercook. They’ll look like they’re not done, but a tester does come out clean.)

Using the paper overhang, transfer the layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean pan, then line with parchment or wax paper and butter paper in same manner as above. Bake white layer in prepared pan until just set. As white layer bakes, bring green batter to room temperature. Transfer white layer to a rack. Prepare pan as above, then bake green layer in same manner as before. Transfer to a rack to cool (see note #1).

When all layers are cool, invert green layer onto a parchment or wax-paper-lined baking sheet. Discard paper from layer and spread half of the apricot preserves on top. Invert white layer on top of green layer, discarding paper. Spread with remaining apricot preserves. Finally, invert the red layer on top of white layer and discard wax or parchment paper (see note #2).

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Cover entire “layer-cake” with plastic wrap and weight down with a large baking pan (I stacked cook books on mine for extra weight!). Chill for at least 8 hours. BE PATIENT!

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Remove weight and plastic wrap. Bring layers to room temperature. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Keep chocolate over the hot water.

Trim edges of assembled layers with a long serrated knife so they are clean lines. Quickly spread half of chocolate in a thin layer on top of cake. Chill, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and place another baking sheet on top, then invert cake onto sheet and remove paper. Quickly spread with remaining chocolate. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Cut lengthwise into desired number of strips, depending on the size and number of cookies that you want to yield. I cut mine into 10 I believe.   Cut strips crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide cookies  (see note #3).

**Do ahead: Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks. They’ll keep even longer in the freezer.

Three important notes:

Note #1Don’t stack the cakes during the cooling process: Not because they crush each other (they won’t) or because they’ll stick (they don’t), but because that paper liner is greased on both sides from baking and the chocolate shell won’t quite stick right to exterior of the red layer because of the grease accidentally left on it.

Note #2Be careful dividing your jam: If there is too much jam between one of the layers, it will ooze out when you cut the cake with a serrated knife. Sadly, the cookie will fall apart.

Note #3They’re easier to cut when frozen: Nevertheless, they tasted amazingly and I was all ready to do a victory lap around my wee kitchen counter, however, when I got to cutting them up and then it all went south. People, these were trying to cut. The problem lies within the differing textures of the layers — the top hard chocolate shell more benefits from a sharp serrated knife (a regular, even very sharp knife will crack the edges when you press down on it), the same serrated knife that gets gummed with jam and tries to pull the soft cake layers in between apart. It was exasperating. It didn’t go well. I packed up some for a party and stuffed the rest in the freezer, only to discover the next day that these cut fantastically when frozen. Seriously. Trust me. I have the gummy floor and gray hairs to prove it.

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Filed under Baking, Cookies, Dessert, Holiday Recipes, Recipes

Ilili *****

ilili
212.683.2929
236 5th Ave (corner of West 27 & 5th)
New York, NY 10001

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

I am the kind of foodie that seeks out hole in the wall restaurants,  loves eating sketchy street foods, and believes that you can get 5-star quality food from a truck. That being said, I also do occasionally enjoy going to hyped up,  “mega restaurants” in the city to determine whether or not they are really as overrated as the NY Times critics claim.  This past weekend I went to Ilili, where chef-owner Philippe Massoud is combining traditional Middle Eastern and modern Mediterranean flavors to create inspired and upscale Lebanese dishes. The atmosphere is nothing short of grandiose with seating for over 300 people, in a bi-level restaurant space that is broken up into multiple cozy lounges and dining nooks.
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My friend Liz and I took our seats in one of these little cubbyholes and began to salivate while reading over the menu. I asked our waitress to recommend the best three dishes on the menu, and without an hesitation at all she replied, “the Chankleesh, the brussel sprouts, and the Ilili candybar dessert.”Her confidence was convincing so we got started with an order of the Chankleesh, which is a creamy feta cheese combined with ripe tomatoes, onions, olive oil, and za’atar spices ($10). It sounds simple and it is, but every single ingredient is top  notch quality and each flavor is perfectly balanced. It was also the first dish to arrive at the table and in my starving state, it was anxiously anticipated and quickly scarfed down. I used the warm and pillowy soft pita to pick up the bits and pieces and tomato that remained on the plate and soak up the remaining oil and za’atar spices.
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Finally our cocktails arrived. I ordered the From Beirut with Passion, which is a basil cilantro mint infused vodka with sparkling passion fruit juice. It is served on the rocks and it is the perfect blend of herbal and sweet, without being too fruity.
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I preferred it to Liz’s Poison Sumac Margarita with tequila, orange liquor, pomegranate juice, and lime. 
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Next to arrive at the table were the Brussel Sprouts with grapes, fig jam, walnuts, and minted yogurt ($14). Almost every table in our nook had an order of these, and I totally understood why after my first forkful–they are the absolute BEST!!  A unique combination of flavors that transform an basic every day veggie into a over the top Lebanese comfort food. So rich and delicious. In fact, chef Massoud posted the recipe on the website (click here for the link!)
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Liz is into shrimp so we also split an order of the Black Iron Shrimp with jalapeño, garlic, and cilantro ($15). I thought the shrimp were a bit tough, and would probably opt for a different appetizer next time, as they were nothing special in comparison to rest of our meal.
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For the main entree we shared the Mixed Grill Meat plate for two ($64). We figured this would be the best way sample a variety of meats on the menu, exposing us to the greatest amount of Lebanese classics. The meat plate included chicken shish taouk, kofta lamb kebabs, and lamb chops along with a side of ratatouille and a garlic whip trio, which is a heavenly emulsion of oil and herbs.
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My favorite meat on the plate was by far the lamb kofta which is basically a Lebanese meatball that is rolled into the shape of a sausage link.  The word kofta is derived from the Persian word ‘Kufteh’ meaning mashed, which represents the ground meat (oftentimes lamb) that is then mixed with cumin, coriander, parsley, mint, onion, and garlic. I ate a lot of kofta while traveling in Croatia and these were just as authentic and delicious as I can remember.
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The lamb chop was cooked to perfection and seasoned straight through. I was cleaning the bone shamelessly, holding the chop between my two fingers. The chicken was juicy and tender but not nearly as flavorful as either of the lamb dishes.
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 Despite my feelings of overwhelming fullness (let’s face it, none of these dishes were light), I had embarked on gluttonous journey that would not be complete without dessert…..and two of them!
We ordered the Ilili Candybar3, which is a chocolate lovers dream plate consisting of rich chocolate ganache, a chocolate Lebanese ice cream with hints of caramel and fig, and a white chocolate sesame sauce with crumbles of pistachio ($12).
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Ilili is known for this dessert and chocoholic Liz looked like she was having an out of body experience with each bite, but I seemed to prefer the Labne Cheesecakes which were rich, smooth, and creamy ($10).
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Overall the meal was one of the best dining experiences of my life from the food to the atmosphere to the service. The service is impeccable by the way. The wait staff knows the menu inside and out, which is incredibly important at ethnic restaurants, and they can help any indecisive dinner arrive at a good ordering decision. Your water glass will never go empty an the delicious pita basket will be refilled continuously throughout the meal. I had no expectations for Ilili because I really hadn’t read any reviews prior to my meal there (very unusual for me….as I normally like to get acquainted with menu pages and yelp reviews before I dine somewhere new), but I left feeling justified with every penny spent. A perfect meal at a reasonable price. I cannot wait to go back!

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{ Chocolate Chip Cookie Throwdown! }

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookie
When The New York Times published the recipe for their favorite chocolate chip cookie, shit hit the fan…..in the food blogging world, at least!  It was like everyone instantaneously took out their kitchen aid mixers and got to baking and blogging. Post after post on my RSS feed featured reviews commenting on the cookie’s flavor, texture, and composition. Bakers and cookie connoisseurs alike disputed in blog columns whether or not this recipe was actually the best, and then offered their comments/suggestions to make it even better. With all this sugary hype, I  knew that I would just have to try the recipe out for myself. And being the type A, OCD freak that I am, I decided that I would also give a go at two of the other recipes suggested as contenders for the title of best chocolate chip cookie: (1) Jacques Torres’ Original Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe & (2) blogger, “Will Bake for Tattoos’” Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Batches
So with three types of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies before me, which cookie recipe proved victorious?!?
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Jacques Torres Chocolate
The New York Times recipe (#1 on the baking sheet) is a modified version of this classic (and it was a close second place), but the texture was uniform throughout the cookie. I liked that Jacques’ recipe  (#2 on the baking sheet!) had a crispier edge with a softer/chewier center.
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The “Will Bake for Tattoos’” Recipe (#3 on the baking sheet) was far too commercial tasting in my opinion; it had a very “cakey” texture as opposed to a chewy texture, and the sugar in the cookie never caramelized to create a golden rim around the edge.
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One thing that I did for all of the cookies, was allow them to chill in the refrigerator over night. The New York Times published an article in 2008, stating that the secret to a perfect chocolate chip cookie was to let it chill for a minimum of 24 hours, and ideally for 36 hours! I made sure to plan ahead (a rarity), and prepared my dough 24 hours in advance of baking to get the maximum quality out of the doughs.
Without further ado, here is the recipe for Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies:

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons pastry flour
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

{ Directions }

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Reduce the speed to low and add both flours, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, and chocolate; mix until well combined.

Using a 4-ounce ice cream scoop, drop the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.

Bake until lightly browned, but still soft, about 20 minutes.

Cool slightly on baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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{ Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake with Ganache }

Certain things are just meant to go together: biscuits and gravy, bacon and eggs, rum and coke, and last but not least, chocolate and peanut butter! Independently, these items are all delicious, but put them together, and they are like an orgasm for the tastebuds. So when I came across this recipe for a Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake with Ganache on Pinterest the other day, I knew it would be divine. It’s just kind of hard to justify a three layer cake for one person with no real special occasion. But I wasn’t about to just “Pin” this recipe and forget about it. No, I was determined to make this cake ASAP. And so I began scrolling through my Facebook calendar in search of upcoming birthdays #Diary of a fat girl.

My Uncle’s 50th Birthday was the perfect excuse, and given his borderline unhealthy obsession with peanut butter, the dessert couldn’t be more perfect for him.

This  was my first time ever making a layer cake, and I am proud to say that it was much easier undertaking than I had initially anticipated. So do not be nervous if you are a layer-cake virgin too! Just do NOT rush the cooling/assembly process and you will be fine.

NOTE: This will make a lot of cake. This cake is very rich. Be prepared to share with lots of friends, family, and neighbors! 

*Recipe Originally from The Pixelated Crumb

{ Ingredients }

For the Chocolate Cake Layers:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghirardelli)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I ONLY use Madagascar vanilla, makes a huge difference)
  • 2 eggs

For the Peanut Butter Frosting: (I found that I had to double this recipe to frost the entire cake, so you may want to double it as well!)

  • 10 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups of confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 2/3 cup of smooth peanut butter (preferably, a commercial brand so that the oil doesn’t separate out)

For the Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache:

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half

{ To Make the Chocolate Cake Layers }

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare three 9″ round cake pans by buttering the bottoms and sides. Line the bottom of each pan with a sheet of parchment paper and then butter the surface of the paper. (I traced the cake pan on the paper and cut it out to get a good fit….this really helps the cake pop of the pan nicely.)

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and the sour cream and whisk to blend.

Gradually beat in the water. Mix in the vanilla and the vinegar.

Whisk in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat until will blended. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared cake pans, filling them up only half way.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for at least 20 minutes on a drying rack. Then run a knife around the outer edge of the pan, and invert onto plate to remove the cake. Peel back the parchment paper and allow to cool completely. (If you are making the cake layers in advance, you can wrap them in parchment paper and store them in the freezer for a couple of days!)

{ To Make the Peanut Butter Frosting }

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, scarping town the sides of the bowl after each addition. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes).

Add the peanut butter and beat until well blended.

{ To Make the Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache }

NOTE: Make this after you have already assembled and frosted your cake, because the ganache is used immediately!

In the top of a double boiler system, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use immediately, while the mixture is still warm.

{ To Assemble the Layer Cake }

Image taken from The Pixelated Crumb

Place one layer on a cake stand and spread 1/3 of the frosting evenly on the top of the cake. Repeat with the next layer.

Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting (unless you doubled the frosting recipe like I did, in which case, you will probably have some left over!).

Refrigerate the frosted cake for at least 1 hour to set the frosting.

To decorate with the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ganache, simply pour the warm glaze over the top of the cake and help spread it evenly so that the mixture runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. I used a spoon to help guide the chocolate down!

Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes so that the glaze has time to set completely.

Remove 1 hour before serving to bring to room temperature!

 

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{ Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies }

I was really sad about missing Thanksgiving dinner this year. Sad to the point where I dreamt about rosemary-infused stuffing, cranberry condiments, and golden-glazed turkey long after the holiday had passed. These thanksgiving “accruciaments” (as Tony Soprano would say) are all obsolete in Argentina, a country that is recognized for both its prized bovine and lack of importation. The only cans of cranberry sauce and pumpkin puree to be found, were in the possession of foreign service agents that had “special postal privileges.” There was literally a black market among BA expats for gravy starter and Sarah Lee products. Unfortunately, my measly teaching salary did not afford me one of these luxury canned items (I will never look at a food-drive the same way again), and so I resorted to a chicken stir-fry on Thanksgiving evening.

For a foodie like myself, this is a crime because Thanksgiving is unequivocally the best day of the year–a day where we are finally accompanied by family and friends in our passion for food and the desire to consume exorbitant amounts of it. So to miss such a momentous event…well, it’s downright depressing. So my family decided to have Thanksgiving round #2. They say it was just for me, but how many people really keep a spare Butterball in their freezer?!? A 16 pound one no less…

We made all of our Thanksgiving family favorites; starting with a juicy Lemon-Herb Roasted Turkey, accompanied by Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Lemon-Scented Broccoli, Rosemary and Sage Infused Stuffing, Corn, and my mom’s delicious Homemade Gravy!

But it wouldn’t be a proper Thanksgiving feast without some sort of pumpkin-flavored dessert, so my sister and I decided to try out Paula Deen’s recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (although we made some modifications, as one must with Paula Deen’s butter rich recipes!).

Overall, I thought the cookies had a really great flavor but they were more cake-like than cookie in composition. If you are a fan of soft cookies, then you will love these!! I would probably opt for my Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting in the future though, because I like crunchy cookies instead.

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups (1 12-ounce bag) semisweet chocolate chips
  • Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper
{ To Make the CookiesPreheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or nonstick spray.
Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the sugar, whisking until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, until everything is well combined.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet mixture in 3 parts, and continue to mix on a low speed until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and drop cookies onto prepared cookie sheet. NOTE: I like to use a small ice cream scoop so that the cookie batter is evenly distributed!

Place the cookie sheet into the oven and allow to bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Allow to cool and serve!

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{ The 12 Desserts of Christmas }

Foodies keep tabs on other foodies–especially blogging foodies! I must admit–with some embarrassment–that I spend a great deal of my day looking at food related tweets, facebook posts, RSS feeds, photos, and last but not least, blog posts (the I-pad has only made my food addiction more accessible!). I want to know what people are eating, and where people are eating.

For this Christmas, I have decided to compile a list of my favorite holiday desserts, drawing on the delicious recipes of my blogging idols, celebrity chefs, and family members. And since I have a sizable amount of free time on my hands, I have decided to present them in song format as the 12 Desserts of Christmas! Just click on the image and it will redirect you to a page with the recipe!

Merry Christmas everyone!


                                                               On the first day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me
                                                                Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
 Christmas Rocky Road from Nigella Lawson
 
                                                             On the second day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
                                                   Fat Fluffy Snickerdoodles by How Sweet Eat Is
                                                              
                                                              On the third day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
                                                             Mixed Nut Turtle Cookie by Me

 

                                                               On the fourth day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
   Italian Rainbow Cookies by All-Recipes

 

                                                                On the fifth day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
                                                                       Pecan Tassies by Me

 

                                                              On the sixth day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                                         6 almond tortas
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
Almond Cake with Clementines by Two-Tarts

 

                                                              On the seventh day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                                    7  ricotta cheesecakes
                                                                         6 almond tortas
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
Ricotta Cheesecake with Blackberry Compote by Design Sponge

 

                                                              On the eighth day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                                  8 peppermint brownies
                                                                    7  ricotta cheesecakes
                                                                         6 almond tortas
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
Peppermint Infused Brownies by Jennifer Joyce

 

                                                              On the ninth day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                              9 macaroons with chocolate
                                                                  8 peppermint brownies
                                                                    7  ricotta cheesecakes
                                                                         6 almond tortas
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
 Coconut Macaroon with Chocolate by Fosters Market, NC

 

                                                              On the tenth day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                                      10 Hungarian kiffles
                                                              9 macaroons with chocolate
                                                                  8 peppermint brownies
                                                                    7  ricotta cheesecakes
                                                                         6 almond tortas
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
 Hungarian Kiffles with Lekvar from Great Grandmother’s Recipe

 

                                                            On the eleventh day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                                 11 chewy amaretti cookies
                                                                      10 Hungarian kiffles
                                                              9 macaroons with chocolate
                                                                  8 peppermint brownies
                                                                    7  ricotta cheesecakes
                                                                         6 almond tortas
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
 Chewy Amaretti Cookies from The Smitten Kitchen

 

                                                            On the twelfth day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                                 12 ginger bread men cookies
                                                                 11 chewy amaretti cookies
                                                                      10 Hungarian kiffles
                                                              9 macaroons with chocolate
                                                                  8 peppermint brownies
                                                                    7  ricotta cheesecakes
                                                                         6 almond tortas
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
Homemade Gingerbread Men with Royal Icing by The Food Network

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{ Food from Barcelona, Spain Pt. II }

Milk Bar

Gignas 21,
Barcelona, Spain 
{Metro strop: Jaume I}

(www.milkbarcelona.com)

By the time we got to Barcelona, Ariana and I were already two weeks into our trip and we were craving some sort of an American breakfast (especially after coming from Morocco where we had been on the Quaker granola bar diet for five days—the consequences of unsanitary water are far from desirable). We hadn’t seen eggs, bagels, or pancakes in forever, and we wanted to taste a little piece of home. I honestly can’t tell you what I would have done for a Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee, a veggie omelet, and a WWET bagel (whole wheat everything) toasted with cream cheese. But we were in Spain, and there are no Jewish deli’s or Jersey diners there, so we did the usual and turned to Google for help! The search returned: “MilkBar: Best recovery brunch in Barcelona.” Sounded American enough to me!

When we arrived at the café/bar, we were pleasantly surprised by the eclectic and vintage décor but disappointed to find out that they only served brunch Thurs-Sun from 10 am till 4 pm. It was Wednesday….sad face. Of course, we made the trek the following morning though.

I ordered the French Toast topped with Greek Yogurt and Fresh Berries and Ariana got the Ranchero Omelet with Spicy Chorizo, Chili, Mixed Peppers, Scallions, and Crème Fraiche. Certainly not the ideal “American breakfast” we had been yearning for, but we figured it was as close as we were going to get. The quality of the ingredients was excellent (one of the best Greek yogurts that I have ever tasted, and incredible chorizo in the eggs), but for some reason both dishes were slightly off and unsatisfying. It was odd that they smothered the warm French toast in chilled Greek yogurt because it made both elements of the dish room temperature. I like my food like my coffee…hot or cold, not lukewarm. And Ariana’s omelet had a nice spicy flavor, but it was drowning in crème fraiche. Too much crème fraiche is just never a good thing.

Although I wouldn’t recommend MilkBar for their recovery brunch, their lunch menu looked very appetizing and their nighttime bar scene looked very trendy and hip. I would go back to cozy up on the cool upholstered sofas and have a drink, but I would skip breakfast there.

Lesson learned: When in Spain, just stick to eating a traditional Spanish breakfast, which is a pastry or piece of bread with jam.

 La Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boquiera

Rambla, 91
Barcelona, Spain
{Metro Stop: Liceu}

(http://www.boqueria.info/)

Mercat de la Boqueria is  foodies Mecca. It is the end all, be all of gourmet food markets. In fact, it gives new meaning to the word food market. Upon entering, I experienced same overwhelming emotional feeling that I did when I first saw the Roman Coliseum—it was complete sensory overload. But after a few short minutes, I regained my sense of purpose and devised a plan of attack; heading first for the fresh squeezed fruit juices, and ending at the nuts and candy. I cannot really even put the experience into words, so just enjoy the photos!

Ohh, and just outside the mercat is a little pastry/chocolate shop called Escriba and they have incredible truffles, quiches, and coffee (photos are included at the end):

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Filed under Baking, International Restaurants, Markets

Economy Candy ****

212.254.1531
108 Rivington Street
New York, NY 10002

CHECK OUT THE WEBSITE!

I am sure that even those of you who haven’t been to New York, have at least heard of Dylan’s Candy Bar. It is famous for it’s extravagant candy displays, it’s excessive selection of all things sugary, and it’s outrageous, wallet-depleting prices. Dylan’s marks up a candy bar the same way that a nightclub marks up alcohol—200% being the minimum. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I haven’t gone to check it out. In fact, I couldn’t wait to go on my very first trip to New York because of all the hype surrounding it. But once I walked in, I felt the same overwhelming/dizzying/nauseating feeling that I got the very first time I walked into Forever 21. I mean it is 3 floors of candy that climb from ground to ceiling…the only thing that this place is missing is Augustus Gloop! But once I overcame the initial shock of it all, I began to notice many problems with the store (other than the obscene prices and massive crowds). You see, all of the candies are self-serve and conveniently located within the arm’s reach of a 4 year old. 4 years olds pick their nose, therefore, they should not also be allowed to pick their candies from a communal bucket with their hands. Of course there were metal tongs supplied at each candy station, but this did not stop countless adults and small children from using their grubby little fingers…can you say bacteria haven?!? Yuck!

I also quickly became frustrated by the obnoxious selection of candies and chocolates. I don’t need cocoa scented bath salts, or edible panties, or a chocolate spa (whatever that is), I just want to get my favorite sweets and get the heck out! Thus, I was very relieved to discover the Economy Candy Store on this most recent trip to NY. Almost everything at Economy Candy is in some sort of packaging and there are employees (wearing plastic loves, might I add) to help you get the items that are not wrapped. Therefore, you can eat your food without wondering about all the millions of hands that have touched it before your lips!

Economy Candy is significantly smaller than Dylan’s Candy Store, but it appears far less crowded because it is not a tourist destination and there aren’t as many screaming children running around (big plus!). But just because they have less square-footage, doesn’t mean that they have less brands/kinds of candy available (there just aren’t Hershey’s pillows or monogrammed chocolate bars). They carry all of the old-school names in candy though such as, Bazooka, Pop-Rocks, Sugar-Daddy Caramel Lollipops, Razzles, Fizzies, and even hard to find candies such as, Bubble-Gum Cigarettes, English Chocolates, Lemon-Heads, and White-Chocolate Kit-Katz (didn’t know that those they existed? Well, they do in Europe, and Economy candy is nice enough to import them and bring them to you!). The best part about Economy Candy though, comes when you arrive at the register. Unlike Dylan’s Candy Bar, you won’t go into cardiac arrest when you are told your total…you can survive the purchase and take your chances with diabetes after eating all of your affordable goodies!

The Exterior Window of Economy Candy

I purchased a ½ pound bag composed of mixed Dark Chocolate Cherry Cordials, Dark Cherry Coated Orange Peels, Chocolate Coated Espresso Beans, and Cocoa Dusted Almonds. I loved all of the candies with the exception of the cherry cordials, which I expected to be chocolate covered cherries, but turned out to be something entirely different that I still cannot figure out. I also purchased a box of Bazooka Gum, Dried Apple Rings (yes, they even have healthy snacks!), Chocolate Coated Marzipan, and an assortment of flavored Gummy Bears. All of this was under $15 dollars. I actually found myself buying extra just to meet the credit card minimum!!

5 pound bag of Gummy Bears!!

Dylan’s is a place to see at least once, but this is the place to actually buy your favorite candies, whether they are child-hood favorites or modern day delicacies. Take a stroll off the beaten path and find you’re way to the Economy Candy Store!

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Filed under Candy Store, Markets, New York Restaurants