Chocolate Dutch baby pancake

The holiday season is reaching a crescendo!  Are you busy wrapping gifts, baking cookies, hosting/attending parties, and just generally checking your to-do lists twice? My holiday is a little different this year.  It feels like one or all of us have been sick since Thanksgiving though luckily, we're all on the mend and feeling much better now. Also, cooking/baking is on hiatus due to our kitchen renovation.  
Chocolate Dutch baby pancake served with fresh raspberries and whipped cream
That said...we're still keeping up our Christmas spirit!  There are still goodies to eat, presents to wrap, hot chocolate to sip, and gingerbread houses to decorate.  We're being a little creative making the best of things though I'm counting down to the day when I can get back in the kitchen to make things like weekend breakfast.  Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later.

Before cooking halted, I whipped up a chocolate Dutch baby pancake for one of our weekend breakfasts and I wanted to share that with you now before taking a little holiday break and waiting for our kitchen to be operational again.  Now, a regular Dutch baby pancake - which is like a cross between pancake, thick crepe, souffle and popover in one - is one of our family's favorite things!  I make it at least twice a month for breakfast on the weekends.  I've tried talking my husband into trying a savory one but he's been reluctant to change a good thing.  But when I saw a chocolate version over at Mel's Kitchen Cafe, I had to try it; I mean, it's chocolate! Everyone was on board with that.  
Moments out of the oven, the chocolate version isn't quite as lofty as the regular but has a great chocolate-cake like flavor
I love the recipe I use to make my regular Dutch baby pancake so I actually leaned on that for this chocolate version, adapting it to include cocoa powder to make this chocolaty treat.  Mel's recipe is actually a bit more restrained when it comes to sugar and butter so you might want to check that out.  
Just like a regular Dutch baby, the lovely thing about this is the texture...crisp edges and a soft, thicker, custard-like center.  While we savor the eggy, sweet vanilla flavors of a regular Dutch baby, this chocolate version is like having a light chocolate cake-pancake.  You can embellish it however you like; I served mine with a spoonful of freshly whipped cream, a handful of fresh raspberries, and a dusting of confectioners' sugar.  It was a wonderful treat that my family and I were happy to polished off in no time.  



Millionaire's shortbread

As I type this and think about these tasty millionaire's shortbread I made recently, our kitchen is a gutted, dusty space...renovation has begun!  I'm taking it one day at a time and trying to just go with the flow.  I'm thankful to be able to have an updated kitchen to cook and bake from soon, and also grateful I had the chance to make a few more delicious things to eat before we packed up the kitchen and got things ready for the construction!
I've heard about millionaire's shortbread for a while now and I figured it was a great indulgence to attempt to make during the holidays to share with friends.  It's made up of a base layer of buttery shortbread, a center of soft and chewy homemade caramel, and a top layer of dark chocolate.  It's essentially homemade Twix bars.  As my husband says, it tastes like a "fresh Twix bar" or a "fresh, gourmet Twix bar".  Well, I think Twix bars are pretty good as it is - it's a childhood favorite of mine - but this homemade millionaire's shortbread is a knockout indulgence!
This is the recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  It's actually fairly easy to follow - the only "must" is a candy thermometer for cooking the caramel layer to ensure that it turns out smooth, soft, and chewy.  Using melted butter for the shortbread base, you can just stir the ingredients together and then simply press the crumbs into the pan. Finally, it takes a little time and effort to finely grate some of the dark chocolate that goes on the top layer and then to carefully - and slowly - melt the chocolate in the microwave for you to end up with a firm coating of chocolate that has a nice snap and won't bloom (turn gray).  Following the directions, this was as close as I ever got to tempering chocolate and I was very happy!
My bars aren't nearly as neat as the ones made by Cook's Illustrated but I can't say I'm too surprised.  I had trouble slicing the bars without making a ton of crumbs in the shortbread layer (and frankly, I was too impatient to try a little harder).  I'm fine with a little mess.  I packed up most of my batch for a few friends (the recipe makes a generous 40 bars so it's great for gifting) and I don't think my friends minded the mess, either.
I don't often eat a Twix bar these days but making these homemade bars was a great reason to indulge.  These millionaire's shortbread bars were so addicting.  The combination of buttery crunchy shortbread crust, with stretchy, sweet, and chewy caramel, wrapped up with a firm snappy dark chocolate top is a really winning combination.  This is the perfect time to make a batch!



Gingerbread biscotti with hazelnuts

Come November, I start craving those holiday spices we're all familiar with.  Since we're comfortably into December already, those cravings are at a peak!  It's so wonderful to bake something and have the aromas of warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, and ginger swirling in the air.  Sugar and spice really does make everything nice!
To get some of those holiday spices in the air - and for a taste of those yummy flavors - I made a batch of gingerbread biscotti.  To me, biscotti is just a great snacking cookie to have around all year round.  I really love making and eating them; they're not too rich but so satisfying, and go ever so very nicely with a warm drink.
I added toasted hazelnuts to these gingerbread biscotti, which are flavored with ground cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and a few grinds of black pepper.  The mix of these spices with dark brown sugar as it bakes makes an intoxicating aroma. The holiday flavors definitely come through!  

You can omit the hazelnuts but I think biscotti and nuts just go together.  The hazelnuts add a layer of richness to the cookies in a healthful way. Since this batch of biscotti has a little bit of butter in it, they are crisp and crunchy, as you'd expect, but maybe not quite as intensely hard as the biscotti that do not have butter.  I used to be firmly in the "no-butter in biscotti" camp but I've come around and now really enjoy both. 
I couldn't resist dipping some of my gingerbread-hazelnut biscotti in dark chocolate.  I think that white chocolate might have been more visually appealing but I'm all about the dark chocolate so I went with what we like to eat.  And I must say...I really, really loved the chocolate dipped ends of the biscotti!  That's probably not surprising given the well-established delicious pairing of chocolate and hazelnuts.  

If you're looking for a cookie option that's fit for the holidays but not quite so rich, gingerbread biscotti is a great one.  It's also just a great cookie to have on hand right now for snacking or everyday dessert...the gingerbread flavors put me in the holiday spirit while the nice crunch of these cookies always perk me up (so I'm ready for more holiday shopping)!



Cinnamon rolls with chestnut cream and chocolate

Recently, my husband celebrated a special birthday.  We'd made lunch and dinner plans out but I asked what he'd like for breakfast since we'd be home together and he requested financiers.  I popped open a jar of chestnut cream for filling the financiers and that got me thinking about how I should use the rest of the precious jar.  Then I got to thinking...the other thing my husband often requests for breakfast are cinnamon rolls...
A couple of years ago, I had a craving for cinnamon rolls and found a small batch recipe that I adapted.  Since then, my family and I have been hooked and you may have seen me make versions from Nutella-hazelnut to one featuring an almond paste filling.  With the holidays, I always think about chestnuts and I got to thinking that I should use some of my chestnut cream as a filling for my next batch of cinnamon rolls.  So this batch of cinnamon rolls with a chestnut cream filling - and a little chocolate - was born and it was a hit at my house...though I have to say that every version of homemade cinnamon rolls has met with approval here!
It's a special morning we look forward to when there are homemade cinnamon rolls coming out of the oven for breakfast!  There's nothing like enjoying them warm.  The rolls themselves are super soft, tender, and squishy.  The filling here is simply chestnut cream, with a modest amount (a scant ounce is enough) of finely chopped dark chocolate, and, of course, a touch of cinnamon.  My family and I really enjoyed the flavor; the chestnut cream provides a wonderful nutty sweetness and the chocolate melts and turns the filling into a marvelous chestnut cream-chocolate paste, that is very enjoyable.
To make things extra sticky, sweet, and tactile, I topped the warm rolls with a simple chestnut glaze I made with a little confectioners' sugar, low-fat milk and a little more chestnut cream.  Oh my...this was another great use of my chestnut cream stash. 

Like all delicious things, these cinnamon rolls vanished all too quickly.  We find ourselves whipping at the last bit of sticky glaze from our plates and wondering when we can have cinnamon rolls again...it's a recurring thing around here.


Chocolate thumbprints with peppermint ganache

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Not to rush from one holiday to another but it is the holiday season and I like to embrace these last few weeks of the year and soak up as much of the spirit and goodwill as possible.  That involves cookies!  Who's ready for holiday cookies and treats?  I know I am!
As we embark on the holiday season, I think about what it is I really want out of it. And basically, it's peace and joy, time with family and good friends.  May it be relaxing and comforting, reminding us of all the good out there and around us.  Of course, I hope it's filled with the sweet scent of cookies and the sight of steaming mugs of hot chocolate!

When it comes to holiday cookies, thumbprints definitely fit the bill because there's something special about the extra treat tucked within the treat!  Here, I made chocolate thumbprint cookies, which have a soft, almost brownie-like texture and a little bit of a crunch on the exterior since they're rolled in sanding sugar.  I filled their centers with ganache - a peppermint one - because mint and chocolate are a inseparable part of the holidays and I'm all for it!
When it comes to holiday baking, you know it's time to roll out the special sugars, the sprinkles, and candies for decorating!  I had fun sprinkling my thumbprint cookies with different decorations.  It's not necessary but the holidays are about adding a little sparkle to everything.
These are fun little bites for the chocolate-lover.  The cookies are soft and rich, with the soft ganache in the center packing a little peppermint twist.  While the holidays are certainly a time for making and enjoying family favorites, I like squeezing in a few new treats.  I always appreciate both the old and the new.



Simple s'mores dip

Have you had s'mores dip?  I might be late on this but I made my first recently and my-oh-my, it was delicious!  I hadn't planned on posting it (as evidenced by the paper plate of graham crackers and filtered Instagram photo shown here) but I felt I had to help spread the word.  So here's my quick public service announcement: please make s'mores dip as soon as possible!  
I had the chance to do a good amount of cooking and baking during the weekend I made beignets for my family.  I think we gained a couple of pounds during those 2 days but it was totally worth it.  I tried a recipe for chicken with 40 cloves of garlic (it was great) and made risotto for another dinner.  We not only had beignets but also French toast that weekend and in between all that, there was this easy-peasy s'mores dip for dessert.  We loved it so much, and with the cold winter nights ahead, this is the kind of treat to make and dig into with your family.

So let me give s'mores dip a shout-out and encourage anyone who hasn't tried it to do so.  If you don't have a crowd to feed, it's totally worth going out and buying a small 6-inch cast iron skillet just to make s'mores dip!  And this is a wonderful "recipe" with just 3 ingredients!  You need chocolate chips, marshmallows and graham crackers, for dipping!  Some recipes call for heavy cream or butter but this super simple recipe from Dessert for Two worked beautifully - just place chocolate chips into the skillet (you don't even need to grease it) and stack some marshmallows on top. Put it in a 450 degree oven for 7 minutes or so until the marshmallows are browned (there is no need to broil or to torch them).  Then just take it to the table (with oven mitts, of course) and grab your graham crackers and be in for a treat!


Honey garlic chicken sliders

Do you know the very sweet Kelly from Life Made Sweeter?  Though Kelly and I have never met in person, I've gotten to know her via this food blogging journey and have the pleasure of considering her a friend.  Take a look at her site and it'll be obvious that Kelly is an incredible cook and baker.  You'll find her making delicious yet easy Asian-inspired meals, whipping up fresh batches of granola for her family, concocting fantastical cakes for her kids' birthdays, or tempting us with glorious desserts.  She's a supermom to 2 adorable little kids, a devoted wife, and a loving daughter.  Kindness just radiates from her and I can't thank Kelly enough for the support and encouragement she's shown me in the last few years.  
Lucky for all of us, Kelly just launched her first cookbook, The Asian Slow Cooker!  I am so happy for all her well-deserved success and it's clear she worked very hard on this book.  It's chock full of easy, mouth-watering, creative recipes with an Asian twist, often using the slow cooker to do the work so we can have more time to do everything else.  
I've tagged many recipes to make from the cookbook so I'll be busy for a while! And although it wasn't easy picking the first recipe to make, I went for the honey garlic chicken sliders...who doesn't love honey garlic chicken!  This is my kind of recipe - an easy one that uses a handful of mainly pantry ingredients with hardly any prep.  After a few hours in the slow cooker, the chicken turns out moist and succulent - and the sauce (which I thickened slightly with a cornstarch slurry to make more of a glaze) lends it a delicious sweetness; my son likened it to teriyaki sauce, which is a very good thing in our book.  Shredded, the chicken is great for sliders, as a filling for tacos, or eaten on its own with some rice or noodles.  
Making this for dinner on a busy weeknight, I used Hawaiian rolls and loaded them up with the chicken and plenty of the tasty sauce.  We had some roasted veggies - as well as tortilla chips and salsa - with it but to kick it up another notch, follow Kelly's advice and make a colorful and crunchy cabbage slaw to go with the sliders.  Either way, you can't go wrong.
There is something wonderfully cozy about a slow-cooker working away in your kitchen, filling your house with delicious aroma as you go about your day.  You can make a hearty, healthy meal to share with your family and often have leftovers to repurpose for another day.  For anyone who likes the idea of Asian inspired slow cooker recipes, or who loves Chinese takeout but is looking for a healthier, tastier alternative to enjoy at home, this is a great book for you!



Beignets for breakfast

When the world seems crazy and uncertain, don't you wish you could just shut everything out and hunker down with your family at home, cooking and eating all day?  I do.  And every once in a while, I feel this urge to fry something!  The last time I indulged in this craving to fry, I happily made churros.  This time, we enjoyed some sensational beignets for breakfast courtesy of a recipe from French Country Cooking.
When I think beignets, I naturally think of New Orleans and Cafe du Monde.  While I've had beignets once or twice before, I've never been to New Orleans so I haven't had the pleasure of trying Cafe du Monde's legendary beignets that come loaded with powdered sugar.  Making some at home and enjoying them freshly made and still warm has got to be the next best thing.  
I don't know if it's just me but the thought and act of eating beignets feels like such a treat.  Is it the foreign name that sounds far fancier than merely saying "fritters"?  Or maybe it's because you don't find beignets as easily as you would donuts?  And there is a difference between the two.  
No chicory coffee but I did make cafe au lait (half coffee/half warmed milk) to go with our beignets
I'm no expert but beignets are made with a yeast dough and also resemble choux pastry with its hallow center.  They puff up as the dough hits the hot oil and that deep-frying makes them crisp while the edges have a slight chewiness to it (which I love).  Flavor might not be intense (hence the justification of topping them with plenty of powdered sugar) but you taste the complexity from the yeast and get a little sweetness from the evaporated milk in the dough.  
The hallow center in the beignets lends itself to a filling if you're inclined.  I opted out of the apricot filling in the original recipe and decided to keep my batch plain. However, I couldn't resist making a quick little chocolate sauce - essentially a chocolate ganache I made with equal parts chocolate and water.  It may not be necessary (the beignets are tasty enough on their own with a generous dusting of powdered sugar) but dipping sweet fried things in chocolate is always fun and delicious!
I prepped the dough the night before and we enjoyed beignets for breakfast last Sunday morning.  What a way to start the day!  It was totally worth the effort to fry and I was/am so happy the recipe worked out so well.  My family and I had a fun time indulging in this treat...and we can't wait to do it again!



Italian almond cookies, Sicilian style

Speaking of making variations of the same thing, if it's not chocolate cake, it's often some kind of almond cookie of the chewy, almond-paste variety.  I really do just adore almond pastries of all kinds!
So this version comes from the great David Lebovitz, so you know it's going to work and it's going to be good.  And it is.  I added the "Sicilian style" title to these because they're supposed to mimic almond cookies often found in Sicily and plus, they help me differentiate this recipe from other ones I've made before.  And I had fun making (and eating) this batch of almond cookies.  For a switch, these are made with almond meal instead of almond paste.  You kind of make the almond paste yourself when you take the almond meal and combine it with egg whites.  
For another twist, these cookies have a few spoonfuls of apricot jam in them.  Right away, I'm behind this idea because anything involving almond paste/almond cream and apricot jam is always delicious (honestly, I have tested this out many times and it's been proven true over and over again)!  The jam adds extra moisture and makes me think of apricot kernels that are in some amaretti cookies; it's probably why I associate almond pastries with apricot.
These cookies are easy to make.  Once you make the dough (no mixer needed), you shape little rounds into ovals and roll them in some lightly beaten egg white.  Then, roll the cookies in sliced almonds or pignoli nuts (which are great but very expensive), or you could even leave them plain or "nudi".  Instead of oval, you can certainly shape simple rounds but I have to say the shape is a little whimsical and fun to me.  
I thought these cookies turned out so cute!  Maybe it's their gnocchi-like shape (particularly when it comes to the "nude" ones, which I made for my son who had some teeth extractions and needs to avoid nuts for about a week), or the fact that the almond encrusted ones look like little porcupines.  I'm not altogether sure but they made me smile and then made me very happy when I tasted them! These cookies are all kinds of chewy and dense, yet soft and moist...just how I like them!


Salted butter chocolate cake

I have to admit that I've made many renditions of this kind of chocolate cake.  This is the kind of dense (no leavening other than eggs), super-chocolaty cake that I'm quite partial to.  It's the kind of cake that needs no frosting - a dusting of powdered sugar, maybe a dollop of whipped cream is all you need.  It feels like a fancy dessert but it's really so simple.
This recipe called out to me because of what it is and also because it's another great back-pocket sort of recipe to have.  When you need a dessert and want a chocolate one (which applies to me in almost all instances, hence, why I need so many of these chocolate cake recipes to rotate through), you can make this with a few eggs, some butter (salted in this instance), sugar, and good dark chocolate.  There's nothing fancy going on here - yes, it calls for fleur de sel French sea salt but if you don't have it, you can use another kind of sea salt.  That said, I do think fleur de sel is a worthwhile investment; not only can you use it for baking but I love sprinkling it on my soft boiled eggs.  
Making this cake does not require any machines and there are no egg whites to whip separately.  You can make the batter very quickly and before you know it, your family and you are enjoying a slice of wonderful chocolate cake and making an occasion out of it. This recipe comes from Mimi Thorisson's new book, French Country Cooking, which I am loving.  If you love cookbooks you can read, I think you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

I divided the recipe in half and made this 6-inch version to share with my family.  I was very happy when I sliced into the cake and saw the soft, fudgy center.  It was just what I was aiming for.  You can bake it a few minutes longer for a firmer, more set, center but my family and I all agree that the gooey center of a chocolate cake like this one is the best part!  It tastes extra rich and decadent for the same number of calories.  Plus, the textural contrast between the middle and edges is nice, too.  And in case you're concerned, it's not too salty.  The salt gives the cake a nice rounded edge but you don't distinctly identify it.
While we were sitting down to cake, I asked my 11-year old son whether he'd prefer this cake or the Victoria sponge for "tea" if given a choice.  He said, fairly diplomatically, that the Victoria sponge is good but he likes this more.  I think maybe, just maybe...I have to agree with him.  For us, it's always chocolate for the win.



Sweet potato soufflé

I am a serious sweet potato nut!  My husband and I often joke about my addiction to root vegetables, and sweet potatoes are my favorite. While I'm partial to the white-fleshed Japanese/Korean sweet potatoes (which taste like a cross between sweet potato, potato, and chestnuts), I also love the classic orange-flesh kind and am always interested in different ways to cook with it.
So is it any wonder I've wanted to make sweet potato soufflé for some time now? With root vegetables like sweet potatoes taking center stage during the fall, and with Thanksgiving on the way, I thought it was a good time to give it a go and my family and I enjoyed the delicious result at lunch last weekend.
It was a few months ago that I ventured into savory soufflés with a cheese soufflé that turned out wonderfully delicious.  It made me want to try other kinds beyond the classic dessert variety (though I do love those!) and I think this sweet potato one was a great way to continue that idea.

Now, would this be considered a sweet or a savorysoufflé?  It's a bit of both; while it's not your classic dessert soufflé, there is definitely sweetness both in the natural sweetness of the sweet potato as well as from some maple syrup we add into the mix. Specifically, taste-wise, you clearly get the sweet potato as well as that natural warm fluffy "egg-ness" and texture expected from any soufflé.  My family and I enjoyed it a lot.
I find that I'm partial to the warm, custardy center of a soufflé (it's a bit like the sensation of digging into the center of a molten chocolate cake) but the firmer edges add such a great contrast in texture.  There's really so much to love about a soufflé, whether it's a sweet or savory one.  I'm convinced they're all delicious and we should eat as many as possible!
And I imagine you could turn this sweet potato soufflé into a pumpkin one if you're inclined.  There is a world of possibility for those who want to experiment.



Victoria sponge cake

I think if the last post for soft chocolate molasses cookies gave off Christmas vibes, I was going for an afternoon tea theme with this one.  That's basically because this is a Victoria Sponge - the classic English cake often served at tea time or at a special occasion or celebration.
Traditionally, the classic Victoria Sponge (or Victoria Sandwich) is two layers of sponge cake filled strawberry jam and whipped cream.  You might see variations using a different type of jam, some including fresh fruit, and maybe even buttercream instead of whipped cream.  I took my own liberties and filled this little 6-inch rendition I made with cocoa whipped cream.  In my book, why use regular whipped cream when we can make it chocolate?
And in trying to maintain some sense of tradition, I did serve the cake (to those who wanted it) with strawberries on the side.  My husband likes his sweetened so I tossed his with a bit of sugar.  We think it's good with or without the strawberries, maybe because you can't go wrong with a classic golden sponge cake.  There's something familiar and welcoming about that buttery, eggy scent and flavor that makes this perfect with a cup of tea, or not...I say that because in all honestly, half of this cake was served to two 11-year old boys who had no problems devouring this "sandwich" without a tea leaf or tea cup in sight.  It's funny how reality often differs from fantasy...
I've been wanting to make a Victoria sponge for a long time so I'm glad I spotted this recipe from the New York Times cooking section that put me into action.  We polished off this little cake very quickly, which is always a good sign.  I have to admit I still have afternoon tea on my mind...for a long time now, I've been daydreaming about creating my own afternoon tea at home - with food I actually want to eat and a tiered cake stand filled with mini pastries.  I don't know if or when I'll make it happen but it's a nice thought and I have fun planning it in my head...



Soft and chewy chocolate molasses cookies

These chocolate molasses cookies gave me Christmas vibes.  I hope that thought doesn't make you cringe; I know it's not even Halloween yet and we're in flux in general these days because while the fall foliage outside clearly tells me it's autumn, the recent 80-degree days leave me a little unsettled.
I do have Christmas on the mind though - not only because I love the holiday but because I'm contemplating the thought of not baking or cooking a lot during the holidays.  Timing is uncertain but we might be doing a kitchen renovation in the next month or so.  It's probably more likely that work won't begin until the new year but the possibility of not having a functioning kitchen in December does exist.  I have mixed feelings about it and I'll just wait and see how things work out and what we decide. Since our kitchen is small and we're not making any major changes beyond updating the old with new, it will hopefully not be a big or long endeavor.  
It's fair to say I'm comforting myself by baking up some Christmas-like cookies right now!  I went into my recipe archives and dug up this recipe - a very easy one you can simply whisk together for a batch of soft chocolate molasses cookies.  I couldn't decide what type of sugar to roll the cookies in so I used plain granulated sugar and experimented with turbinado as well as sanding sugar.  The turbinado gives the greatest crunch while the granulated sugar is subtle, with the sanding sugar being a nice mix of the two.

These cookies are slightly under-baked and meant to be soft and slightly more dense and chewy in the center.  The molasses flavor conjures up gingerbread and holiday spices.  And I think the chocolate/cocoa component adds a richness and depth of flavor that is always welcome when it comes to treats.  I definitely feel better after making and eating a few of these!
I have a feeling I'll be doing a little bit of early holiday cookie baking this year just in case and this was a good way to ease into it...



Pancrepes

I love weekend breakfast/brunch so it's always fun to try new recipes to serve up for that first meal of the day.  But that said, I have to tell you...I would have made these pancrepes simply so I could say the word, "pancrepes" over and over again What a great name!
I spotted this recipe from Ayesha Curry's cookbook.  Whenever I pick up a new cookbook, I gravitate towards the dessert and the breakfast sections first.  The title of this recipe - pancrepes - got my attention and made me smile.   I don't know how many other pancrepe recipes there are out there but this one apparently happened with Ayesha Curry left the baking powder out of a pancake recipe and enjoyed the result.  

And basically, this is a pancake recipe without the leavening.  I was tempted to make a few changes - i.e., use butter instead of olive oil, sugar instead of honey, and vanilla extract instead of almond - but in the end, I figure I'd try the recipe exactly as written.  
So I made a small batch a couple of weekends ago to try with my family; it was fun announcing we were going to have pancrepes for breakfast over and over again, and we were curious to try it.  And the result was interesting...the pancrepes are very much a denser, thinner version of pancakes (though thicker than crepes).  Texturally, it's chewy.  In a way, it reminded me somewhat of Asian-style glutinous desserts because of that chew.  If you like that kind of chewy, dense texture, you'd likely find it oddly addicting like I did.  But if you are looking for moist, fluffy, feather-like pancakes in thinner form, this is not that and I think it's important to have realistic expectations.

Ayesha Curry serves up her pancrepes with a raspberry sauce and granola.  When I think crepes, I think chocolate-hazelnut spread and bananas so that's how I choose to serve my pancrepes at home.  I don't think maple syrup would be enough here in the sense that these heftier pancrepes need a heartier pairing.  My sister recently brought me a jar of Venchi chocolate-hazelnut spread from her summer trip to Italy and this was a perfect opportunity to pop it open. 
These were described as not only being a textural mix between pancakes and crepes but like the bottom part of a Dutch baby.  I admit that got me excited because I make a Dutch baby pancake for breakfast about every other weekend; it's one of one of our favorite things!  After making these pancrepes though, I'd have to say that a Dutch baby bottom is far more moist and custardy than these, which are more dense and chewy. My family and I kept saying "okay...it's good; we like it..." without a strong sense of commitment though everyone cleaned their plates.  Ultimately, I think we enjoyed these as a fun change.  And more importantly, I got to say pancrepes over and over again like I wanted to.  I still think it's a genius name!



Making chocolate 3-layer "magic" cake

Have you heard of 3-layer "magic" cake?  I hadn't until a couple of weeks ago when I saw it on POPSUGAR.  That was when I found out about this cake where you make one batter and, "magically", it bakes up into three separate layers.
I wanted to give it a try and, naturally, I opted to make the chocolate version (there is an original one as well as other versions such as lemon and Nutella that you can check out from Jo Cooks).  The batter sounded fairly easy to make (there are a few steps involved but any cake that doesn't involve frosting is comparatively simple to me) and I was just plain curious as to whether I'd really get 3 layers from the single batter.  I thought it would be a neat trick to show my son.
Well...I followed directions and made the cake batter, which involves incorporating separately beaten egg whites into a chocolate base that ultimately results in a thin consistency.  And I did get 3 layers...but maybe my magic wand needs to go in for maintenance because my layers didn't quite turn out exactly as described.

I was supposed to end up with: a top layer of sponge cake, a middle layer of custard, and a denser, somewhat "fudgy" bottom.  It seems my order got shaken up a bit because while I certainly got that top sponge cake layer, the other 2 parts were flipped!  I ended up with that darker, fudgy layer in the center and the custard was at the bottom!  I've actually seen an image online that looks identical to the result I got; however, I have seen plenty of images of the "magic" cake how it's supposed to be. I am still feeling confused!
Another thing that bothered me is the "skin" that formed at the bottom of my cake - similar to a skin that would form on a pudding.  My husband insists he actually likes that but I removed it for the rest of us who preferred the cake without it.

So this was an interesting experience that left me scratching my head a bit.  It certainly was not a wasted effort because taste-wise, it was a good cake.  My favorite part was actually my dark center - that thin layer was moist and the most chocolaty part of the cake.  This cake tastes deceptively light and with that, the cake did do a magic act...by disappearing quickly!  I'm not sure I'll be attempting this particular trick again but I sure would love to know if anyone has tried it and achieved a different result.



Chocolate chip muffins

Here I go with another muffin recipe!  I make no apologies for my muffin-making addiction.  They are so gratifying to make and who can resist the occasional indulgence of eating a little cake first thing in the morning!  So let's have a simple, classic chocolate chip muffin this time.
I always keep an eye out for "back pocket" type recipes and they often fall in the category of muffins.  These are recipes that I know everyone will generally like, that aren't complicated - built off a base of simple ingredients that I usually already have around so I can whip it up quickly.  This simple recipe for chocolate chip muffins that I found in the Damn Delicious cookbook totally fit the bill.
While I've baked and enjoyed more complicated muffins, sometimes you just want to grab a couple of bowls and a few ingredients from the fridge or pantry to make something simple.  That's what we're talking about here.  
These muffins were actually titled "bakery style chocolate chip muffins" and that got me thinking about what makes muffins "bakery-style".  To me, I tend to think of large muffins that are very crusty and brown on top.  These aren't exactly what I picture but when it comes to bakery muffins, I think you also expect a moist and tender one that's also sturdy at the same time.  I think these chocolate chip muffins fall into that description and in general, they're tasty and simple, something you can make on a whim when you have a need or craving for muffins.  I feel that need/craving quite often.



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