Inspiration - Pt. 2

Due to my current lack of baking thanks to my increasingly busy schedule, I’ve been eating other people’s baked goods.

Last night it was torrone from Modern Pastry. I don’t like nougat, BUT – this place makes me a nougat-lover. I have a long-distance relationship with the nougat from this shop as I live in NYC and my wonderful nougat is housed in the shop in Boston, MA. I was up in Boston recently and came back with almost two pounds of the stuff. Yes, I know, I’m crazy.

There’s something about the texture and flavors of this particular torrone that makes it so melt-in-your mouth wonderful.

So I think I am going to be making something marshmallow related this weekend because nougat is marshmallows that had a lot more syrup and other goodies added to it.



I think that the Chocolate Chip Cookie is one of the best cookies on the planet! Seriously – it’s got chocolate, it’s got cookie and when dunked in a cold glass of milk it tastes even more amazing than on its own.

I have baked hundreds of Chocolate Chip Cookies in my career as an amateur urban baker and recently, I’ve been experimenting. I’ve been adding blueberries, orange extract and now modified the standard Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe to make it even chocolatier!

So without further ado, here’s what I did:

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 dark drown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
1 tsp of good vanilla
1 tbsp of strong coffee or espresso (whatever you have leftover from your morning brew)
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of good cocoa powder (I like Ghirardelli)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 deg Fahrenheit. Grease two cookie sheets

Cream the sugars and the shortening together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Add the vanilla and coffee/espresso and mix well.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and gently mix/fold in. You don’t want to over beat because that will lead to a tougher cookie.

Mix in the chocolate chips into batter.

Bake cookies for 15-17 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheets before chowing down.

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies depending on how you size them.

Although my oven is only a couple of years old (as opposed to the archaic devices found in most NYC dwellings), it seems to have taken on the quirks of an older appliance. This means that the heat is distributed unevenly. So here’s a tip: When baking something like cookies, where your cookie sheets don’t both fit on one oven rack, alternate the sheets every 7-8 minutes until your baking time is up. This ensures an even batch of cookies every time. You can also invest in a brand new convection oven, but I think my trick is cheaper.




As you might have noticed, I have been reticent as of late in posting. Not so much reticent – more so busy with my life outside of baking.

Classes have started again and have readily usurped areas of my life I had in the previous month cleared. Suddenly my job upped the dronage factor and I’ve been bombarded with projects. And in an effort not to return to hermit-tude – I’ve been actively keeping up my social life.

So when does one bake? Well…for me, in the small moments in between when I want to feel better or make other people feel better. I might have mentioned this before, but baking is more than just making something sweet/savory/delicious to satisfy a food need. It’s to satisfy the soul. I know, corny, but the sentiment has been repeated in many a forum. Being able to pull something warm and good from the oven (toaster or otherwise) and making someone smile in the process is what it’s all about for me.

The title of this post is inspiration – so here are some of the things that inspire me to bake:

1) Family
2) Friends
3) Visiting pastry shops
4) Fresh fruit
5) My love of chocolate
6) The technical process that is baking
7) Being able to satisfy my sweet tooth without having to leave the house.

What are some things that inspire you?



I was reading an article in the NY Times about the current cupcake craze and how it is mirroring the sudden rise of Krispy Kremes.

What really got my notice about the article was not that cupcakes were being marketed as the next "donut," but rather one of the responses to the article by a reader. A person by the moniker cake eater stated,

"It is ridiculously easy to make good cupcakes yourself."

And with that in mind, I went ahead and decided to make some myself.

Personally, I am not a cupcake fan. The fact that the surface-to-interior ratio is larger than a cake, they tend to dry out quicker and then all you have is a dry piece of cake with lots of sugary frosting on top.

So I decided to make chocolate cupcakes, and fill them with some whipped cream à la Hostess Cupcakes style and then top with the remaining whipped cream.

And voilà, some pretty kick-ass cupcakes, if I may say so myself! I think the key is to use a fat-heavy frosting and filling to keep the cake moist. If you load it with sugar, you're not really helping the cupcake.

I found through this exercise, that cupcakes are ridiculously easy to make. You can make a lot in a short amount of time. And what you can't finish eating after a mini-binge, you can easily store in an airtight container. Since these cupcakes were frosted and filled with a heavy cream, err, cream - I kept the left-overs in the fridge. If you decide to forgo the homemade filling/frosting and use good ol' boxed, you can keep the cupcakes out of the fridge.

So here's my modified recipe for Chocolate Cream-Filled Cupcakes - try 'em, you might just save yourself a trip to the overpriced bakery in your neighborhood. ;)


1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup Ghiradelli baking cocoa powder
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk


1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar


Preheat your oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

In a bowl mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar (white sugar, not confectioner's) until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix well. Alternately add the dry ingredient mixture and the milk to the butter/sugar/egg/vanilla mixture. Make sure that there are minimal lumps in the batter once everything is incorporated.

Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Set cupcakes aside and let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, simply beat the heavy whipping cream, vanilla and confectioner's sugar until very stiff. Refrigerate until ready for use. Tip: This is something every cookbook will tell you and yes you should listen to them - chill your bowl and whisk/beater attachments before beating your whipping cream. It makes for a stiffer product.


When the cupcakes are completely cooled, you fill them! How? Take a round frosting tip and insert into your frosting bag. Fill bag with the now whipped cream and secure.

Poke the tip into the top of the cupcake and squeeze the filling in for about 5-7 seconds. If the cake ruptures, well...you know you've squeezed too much in.

After filling the cupcakes, use the remaining whipped cream to top them. I simply swirled the top, but you can add the "frosting" any way you like.




So, I finally conquered the pancake this past weekend.

Oh I know you can grab the box mix, maybe add some chocolate chips or blueberries to the batter and call it a day. I mean they still taste pretty good and I know for a fact that they will be appreciated by anyone you make them for.

I used to make pancakes from scratch when I was living on the other side of the planet and the convenience of boxed mixes was not available. They used to come out pretty decent. However, until recently, my pancakes were coming out either chewy, or flat or rubbery.

I figured I'd try something that usually I reserve for when I make waffles - instead of eggs (yolk and all) I used well beaten egg whites. My pancake recipe calls for 2 eggs per batch, so I substituted 4 egg whites, stiffly beaten. I also mixed the dry ingredients first, the wet ingredients next (milk and fat in this case) and finally, I folded in my egg whites.

Needless to say, the pancakes came out perfect and now I feel that all is right in the world again. Featured above are Blueberry Pancakes with Fresh Blueberry Syrup.

Blueberry Syrup

1/2 cup of fresh blueberries
1 tsp of fresh lemon or lime juice
1/2 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of water
1/2 cup of light corn syrup

Mix all ingredients together in a heavy saucepan or pot. Bring to a boil, mixing well then lower the flame (or whatever your stove happens to use as heat) to medium-low and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Serve either warm or cool on your treat of choice.