Wheat Allergy? Lactose Intolerant? No problem.

I made these for the sufferer of the above intolerances and what do you know, they were a hit!

Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies (courtesy of Epicurious.com)

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (about 9 ounces), divided
3 large egg whites, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick spray. Melt 1 cup chocolate chips in glass bowl in microwave, stirring twice, about 2 minutes. Cool slightly.

Using electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl to soft peaks. Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar. Continue beating until mixture resembles soft marshmallow creme. Whisk 1 cup sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend. On low speed, beat dry ingredients into meringue. Stir in lukewarm chocolate and 1/2 cup chocolate chips (dough will become very stiff).

Place 1/2 cup sugar in bowl. Roll 1 rounded tablespoon dough into ball; roll in sugar, coating thickly. Place on prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and tops crack, about 10 minutes. Cool on sheets on rack 10 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool.

Note: These cookies are good with a little cup of espresso, or just when you need a pick-me-up.


From Focus...to Frosting

I've recently finished reading My Life in France a book about Julia Child and her life and love of food and how it came to be. My friend Alexis lent me the book and I can't help but want to give her a big kiss for doing so. I think instead I'll give her some cookies.

In any case, during my feverish devouring of the words, I started to think about returning to my earlier baking roots. Back when, in the sweltering heat of the Tropic of Cancer, I'd make stews, cream-filled cakes and other items that normally would be better suited for a cooler climate. Back then, I was cooking to cope with the homesickness I was feeling and escaping into complicated recipes. The results weren't always on point, but the process was so much fun. Something that I remembered while reading Julia Child's memoirs.

In any case, something that I've been wanting to do recently is to make a proper cake. I've noticed a trend towards cookies and cupcakes, and smaller dessert items. I think one of the reason could be that people are actually thinking of what they put in their mouth (I could be completely wrong with the amount of fast food commercials that tempt me with sauce-drenched batter-fried chicken). So I picked up my Cake Bible and made an All-American Chocolate Cake.

The result was a rich and chocolaty cake, without being too fudgey. I filled it with her recipe for stabilized whipped cream and frosted it with a simple Peanut Butter Frosting that I swear tastes like the filling of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup®.

I am not going to reproduce the cake recipe here because I do feel that every baker should have The Cake Bible on their cookbook shelf, but the frosting is something that I feel compelled to leave here.

Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting (courtesy of Allrecipes.com)


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons milk, or as needed
2 cups confectioners' sugar


Place the butter and peanut butter into a medium bowl, and beat with an electric mixer.

Gradually mix in the sugar, and when it starts to get thick, incorporate milk one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is mixed in and the frosting is thick and easy to spread.

Beat for at least 3 minutes for it to get good and fluffy.

Notes: Once you fill and frost the cake, it keeps on the counter-top for at least 3 days. If it lasts longer than that (yeah, right), put it in the fridge to keep the stabilized whip cream filling from spoiling.

As American as...

So, I redeemed myself this weekend by proving that I can bake a pie.

Sometimes, you need to keep a few recipes up your sleeve that you can whip out and not only have something warm and wonderful for dessert, but also soothe that bruised ego when your last dessert was a flop. Apple pie happens to be the one I keep right above the cuff.

I love apple pie. I like it plain and warm, warm with ice-cream, or just cold for breakfast. It's something I learned to make from watching my mother make it over and over again when I was a child. Apple pie for me, like so many people, is home and happiness.

I am not posting my recipe because it's no better than my mom's or anyone's mom's apple pie recipe. I think something like apple pie is personal and everyone has their own secret spice to add.

Mine is love. (Yes, corny, but so true.)


Mistakes - it's what you learn from.

It turns out that I am an amateur baker after all - prey to the foibles of my random kitchen and appliances.

I recently made a Concord Grape Tart - the photo of which I fell in love with during my perusal of the last Martha Stewart Living magazine I received. I imagined a golden brown crust with the royal purple fruit filling bubbling through and then the taste would be a concentrated grape jelly enveloped in a crisp, buttery crust.

What ended up happening was that I got impatient. The recipe, although extremely simple, called for a lot of prep and cook time. There was boiling, and straining and cooling and stirring of the Concord grape filling. Then the crust – well let’s say after I had to put the damn things in the freezer for a third time, I had enough.

I stirred my filling one last time, I removed my crust semi-frozen, put everything together and plopped the darn thing in the oven.

40 minutes later, what I pulled out of the oven was a far cry from what the picture promised. I had a pale, listless crust with the filling oozing all over the place. The taste was too sweet for my palette and even when completely cooled, the filling refused to remain jellied.

So what did I learn? I learned that in my quest for simple recipes that anyone can whip up in an hour or so, I’ve forgotten that sometimes, you need to spend time with your recipe in order for it to turn out perfect.

Haste, in this case, did make waste.


Vegetarian...possibly Vegan

I remember the first time I had a mock-dessert, i.e. a dessert that pretended to be something scrumptious but ended up tasting like mud. I was in a bakery and I saw this chocolaty cake-like confection and thought that it would be a perfect thing to have after a light meal.

After taking my first bite, I had to spit it out. I know that people have food allergies and lifestyle choices that make it difficult for them to have a regular chocolate cake. But this was really awful and very sneaky. It was my fault for just pointing at it and telling the bakery counter person "I want that one," instead of actually asking what it was, but it looked so innocuous. Now I always ask.

The point of the story above is that since that mistake of a dessert happened, I've been wary of anything that called itself, say, a "chocolate chip cookie" but didn't actually have any chocolate in it.

However, I feel that I have been prejudiced because when faced with the task of creating a vegetarian cookie for my mom, I realized I'd have to put my prejudice aside and attempt to do my best in baking. And you know what? I actually did!

I made these Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies (which later turned into Vegetarian Peanut Butter Cookies because I added chocolate chips), which I ended up devouring more than anyone else.

So here's a recipe that you can make for the dietary restricted people in your life:

Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies (adapted from a recipe found on Cooks.com)

1 cup shortening
1 cup creamy peanut butter (I used a low sugar, low sodium variety)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup of buttermilk (see substitution in previous blog post)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups of chocolate chips (optional)


1)Preheat oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit. Grease two cookie sheets.
2)Cream the shortening with the brown sugar until lighter in color. Add peanut butter and beat well. Add buttermilk and vanilla and beat for about 2 minutes.
3) Mix in flour, baking powder and salt until a smooth batter is formed. Now, if you're only vegetarian, you can add the chocolate chips. If you're vegan, add carob chips or chopped nuts or just leave it plain.
4) Drop teaspoonfuls of the batter, one-inch apart on the cookie sheets. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until the cookie looks set and is a light brown.

Enjoy with a cold glass of milk, see picture for instruction.


Let's Make Whoopie

...pies that is. (Stop thinking smut, sheesh!)

I might have mentioned in a previous post (or not) that I go to Boston quite a bit. When I go there, I end up spending a good amount of time in the North End and a good amount of money in the various bakeries and other food related establishments there. Needless to say, I wear my "comfortable clothes" when I head to the North End.

There's this one unpretentious bakery I go to (I don't remember the name, just the location) where I buy Whoopie Pies from and cart them back to NYC for my brother's to devour. The other day when I was thinking of marshmallow treats, I thought about attempting to make these overblown versions of Oreos and found myself a pretty sweet recipe on my favorite recipe site - epicurious.com.

Of course, I modified it to meet the needs of my pantry and I think they came out pretty swell.

Take a looksee:

My brother's declared that they were 10 times better than any Whoopie pie they've had. So I guess I have some extra space in my duffel bag the next time I go up to Boston.

So here's the recipe (modifications included):

For Pie part:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey's here, but epicurious liked fancier Dutch-processed cocoa)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk*
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup of vegetable shortening
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg

For Filling:

1 pint of heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar


1) Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl until combined. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl.

Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg, beating well. The alternatively add buttermilk mixture and dry mixture, beginning and ending with the dry mixture until the batter is smooth and well incorporated.

Spoon 1/4-cup mounds of batter about 2 inches apart onto 2 greased large baking sheets. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes until the cake is set. Remove from oven and cool completely before filling.

To make the filling, simply whip the heavy cream, vanilla and sugar until very stiff. Refrigerate until use.

To assemble, simply spread the filling on the flat side of one cake and sandwich together. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate until you get time to.

* If you don't have buttermilk on hand (like most people) you can make it by mixing together lemon juice and whole milk. It also works with 2%, but you get a more buttermilk like substance with whole milk. What I did for this recipe was use 2 TBSP lemon juice and added enough milk to make the 1 cup.