21st Centery Salmon Pie (like Mom used to make, but better)

March 2, 2012 § 1 Comment

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Growing up, Mom made a salmon pie that was just salmon, potato, and crust. The addition of a little seasoning, some fresh dill, and an egg to hold it together brings the filing to a more modern level. Swapping out Mom’s old shortening crust for an updated all-butter crust brings this classic pantry dish into the 21st century. This pie is a crowd-pleaser and a family favorite.  You can use any canned salmon, and any type of mashed potato (fresh, leftover, or even instant). I’ve entered this recipe in a contest on food52.com for “Your Best Canned Fish Recipe.”  If you’re eager to get to the recipe, go ahead and scroll to the bottom of this post.
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I grew up eating this dish probably twice a year, so I’ve never been squeamish about canned salmon.  I know some people are, especially if you’ve only had it once and picked the type that has the skin and bones in the can along with the flesh of the fish.  Personally, I opt for the no skin, no bones variety of canned salmon.  However, there is actually more nutrition (more omegas, more calcium, etc.) in the “with skin and bones” variety.  I’ll leave it to you to experiment and determine which you prefer.
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Salmon, potatoes, onion, fresh dill, and one egg to “glue” it together.  This recipe is very, very easy to make, even for beginner cooks, but it ends up being a pretty impressive dinner centerpiece.
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I have to apologize for not having a photo of the whole, fully baked (and perfectly flaky and golden-crusted) pie.  I left it on the counter to go pick my daughter up from daycare, and returned to a pie minus two large pieces.  My husband apologizes.  Such are the pitfalls of being a food blogger with a (hungry) foodie husband.

RECIPE:
21st Centery Salmon Pie (like Mom used to make, but better)

4 six-ounce cans of Alaskan salmon (or equivalent), drained (yield 19-20 ounces of drained fish)
1 egg
2 1/3 cups mashed potato, salted and peppered to taste
3 heaping tablespoons diced red onion (approximately 1/2 small onion)
1/2 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped (you can use dried dill here too, cut to 1/4 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch garlic powder
yellow mustard
all-butter pie dough for a double-crust 9 inch pie (see my preferred painless pie crust recipe here)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In large bowl, flake drained salmon with fork. Add egg and stir well. Add mashed potatoes to salmon mixture and mash until combined.

Add onion, dill, pepper, and garlic powder to salmon mixture and stir.

Assemble as you would any double-crust pie.

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and quickly protect edge crust with foil. Return to oven and bake another 15-25 minutes. Pie is finished when it is pleasantly golden brown.

Cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with yellow mustard if desired.

NOTES: You can use instant mashed potatoes for this recipe – I have with excellent results. I wouldn’t skimp on the crust, though. I always use Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee.

Happy noshing,
Sarah

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Insanely Chocolatey Bread Pudding

February 28, 2012 § 2 Comments

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One recent wintery day I found myself daydreaming about warm, gooey, chocolatey desserts… the kind best served with a dollop of melty ice cream. My mind quickly wandered to a chocolate chip bread pudding I’d had at a restaurant in San Francisco. I started to think, could you make an all-chocolate bread pudding? Turning to my go-to cooking manual The Joy of Cooking, I found a mouth-watering recipe calling for challah or brioche (which I did not have) and heavy cream (which I did not want to use).  I decided to try my luck at altering the recipe for health and convenience.  The resulting dish was even better than I’d anticipated.
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I topped it with my homemade Faux Riche Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, and our family had dessert for dinner.  Don’t be too alarmed, the starter course was a spinach salad, so at least we got some veggies in.  Plus, the bread pudding is technically a custard, so we got our protein via eggs.

I used a Country Buttermilk sandwich bread, trimmed of crust and roughly chopped into cubes.  I wanted texture so was careful not to chop with too much precision.  The different sized pieces of bread with rough edges added to the appeal of the pudding.
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The original recipe calls for 1 cup of heavy cream, and 2 cups of whole milk.  I researched custard a bit and found it is important to retain some of the fat in order for it all to come together, so I replaced the cream and whole milk with 2 cups of half and half and one cup of low-fat milk.
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What makes bread pudding a custard?  In one word: eggs.  This recipe calls for four eggs; two whole and two egg yolks.  As always I used free-range organic eggs.  In this case, the eggs I used are also DHA Omega fatty acid enriched.
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I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, but I’m sure you could try either bittersweet or even milk chocolate if you’d like.  If you used milk chocolate, you might want to reduce the sugar by 1/4 cup or more.  I replaced white sugar with brown sugar for this bread pudding.  I just love the warmer flavor brown sugar brings to the table.
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RECIPE:
Insanely Chocolatey Bread Pudding
adapted from The Joy of Cooking

1 pound (12 slices) buttermilk white bread, trimmed of crust and cut into 1 inch cubes (you can use any white bread, really)
2 cups half and half
1 cup low-fat milk
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla

Bring 1 cup half and half, sugar, and salt to a boil, stirring constantly, and remove from heat as soon as it gets rolling.  Add chocolate chips and set aside to allow chocolate to melt.  After 2 or 3 minutes, whisk chocolate mixture until smooth.

In very large bowl, beat eggs and egg yolks until light yellow.  Add milk, 1 cup half and half, and vanilla to egg mixture and whisk to blend.

Slowly pour chocolate mixture into egg mixture, whisking all along.  Be careful to add this slowly – you don’t want to cook the egg. Use rubber spatula to scrape every last bit of chocolate into the egg mixture.

Add bread to chocolatey egg mixture one handful at a time, carefully folding bread in to coat until all bread is wet with the mixture.  Allow bread to absorb chocolatey mixture for at least one hour (up to two hours), periodically pushing bread down to absorb more liquid.  Do not overwork the pudding/bread mixture, or your custard will be rubbery.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Select a shallow 2 or 2 1/2 quart baking dish to bake the pudding in and generously butter the inside.  Since this pudding is actually a custard, you will need to bake it in a water bath.  Don’t be nervous – it’s easier than you think.

Prepare water bath: take a large pan, large enough to hold your bread pudding baking dish without the sides of the pudding dish touching the larger pan.  I used a roasting pan.  Fold a dishtowel into quarters and place flat in bottom of larger pan, then place your selected pudding dish on top of the dish towel, testing to be sure the towel will support the dish.  You will want the water to come up to at least half of the height of the pudding baking dish, so here is where I recommend filling the larger pan with water up to the level you’ll need it.  Remove the pudding dish and set aside.  Pour your water into a large saucepan and place that on high heat, bringing it up to scalding (just barely boiling).

Pour the pudding mixture into the prepared smaller dish and smooth top with a spatula. Place the pudding back on top of the (now wet) towel, in the larger water bath pan.  When your water is scalding hot, quickly remove it from the heat, then quickly place your water bath pan and pudding in the oven.  Now very carefully, but also quickly, pour your scalding water (which you’ve pre-measured to fit) into the water bath pan, basically between the outside of your pudding dish but inside your larger water bath pan.

Bake in water bath until the center feels firm when pressed, 55 to 65 minutes.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes in water bath, then remove from water bath and allow to cool for an additional 35 minutes.  This cooling process is important, as your custard is still cooking.

Serve warm.  Best served with vanilla ice cream, but just as scrumptious with whipped cream or served alone.

Leftover pudding keeps for 3 days in the fridge, tightly covered.  I have even frozen individual portions.  You can re-heat individual portions of the pudding in the microwave.

Happy nibbling,
Sarah

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Painless Pie Crust, From Scratch!

February 26, 2012 § 2 Comments

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Growing up, my mother made pies for the special occasions. And for the holidays, up to six pies. I recall the process of making pie-crust as being labor intensive, but it was a labor of love. The flour flying in the air, the gentle grunts and barely audible curse words… making the dough for pie crust can be hard work. BUT, it doesn’t have to be.

Flash forward to my own adulthood, 3,000 miles from home, craving that home-style warm and fuzzy feeling that only a homemade pie can bring. I called my mom for her crust recipe and instructions. As I jotted down the ingredients and took notes on her technique, I realized one thing: I needed to find a better way. I experimented with the shortening crust over and over again and was never satisfied with the flavor of the crust.

Enter Martha. In 2008, I bought “Martha Stewart’s Holiday Season’s Eatings,” a collectible issue of her “Living” magazine. Within, nestled amongst 100 other holiday recipes, was one version of her recipe for Pate Brisee (aka: pie crust). Three ingredients: flour, salt, and unsalted butter (with a bit of ice water). I was sold. I have not wasted my time with any other recipe since.  Sorry, Mom!

I tried to find this particular iteration of the Martha recipe online and couldn’t… everything I found was just a teeny bit different (added sugar, less flour, more butter, etc.) So, here I give you the ingredient list from the 2008 recipe, with my own instructions. Plus links to Martha’s online accessible versions below.

When I make pie crust, I want flavor, flakiness, and convenience. I’m a home-style cook, not a pastry chef, and my “customers” (family and friends) are satisfied with how my pies turn out, and therefore, so am I. I am not claiming that my technique, learned from Martha, is going to give you the ultimate flaky crust. But it will give you a delicious, acceptably flaky crust without fancy ingredients, without a lot of labor and without a lot of time invested.

RECIPE:
Martha Stewart’s 2008 Pate Brisee

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup ice water

NOTE: For maximum success, all ingredients should be cold, cold, cold. See tips* But it is OK to just put the dough together with “as is” ingredients, you just won’t get as light and flaky of a crust.

* If possible, chill flour and salt in food processor bowl for at least one hour before making the dough. |
* I also cut my butter into cubes ahead of time and re-refrigerate for at least one hour.
* For the ice water, I fill a large glass with ice and pour filtered water to fill the glass and put this in the fridge for 20 minutes before I begin making the dough.

Pulse flour and salt in food processor to blend. Add butter and pulse until mixture forms pea-sized crumbs.

Per Martha: “With machine running, add 1/2 cup ice water in a slow, steady stream until dough just holds together without being wet or sticky, no longer than 30 seconds.”

“Divide dough in half; flatten and shape into disks, and wrap each in plastic.”

“Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.”

When you’re ready to roll:

Lightly flour a clean, flat, smooth surface (counter or table) and turn out 1 disk of dough. Use your hand to rub/dust your rolling pin with flour. (Leave your 2nd disk in the fridge to keep it cold while you’re working)

Roll to desired shape; usually this will be round and about 1/8 inches thick. If you mess up and want to re-roll, pat dough back into a disk and re-chill before trying again.

Makes enough crust for one 9 or 10 inch double-crust pie, or two single crust pies.

Happy baking,
Sarah

p.s. I intend to eventually blog a complete tutorial about working with pie dough, from raw ingredients to venting the crust, but wanted to get this recipe up in preparation for my forthcoming salmon pie recipe post.  Stay tuned!

Martha’s Pate Brisee – one iteration
Step by step pate brisee tutorial/slideshow from Martha Stewart
Another Martha Pate Brisee iteration – this one has sugar
Martha’s Cornmeal Pate Brisee

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Inside Out Egg Sandwich (with Spinach, Tomato, Cheddar, and Canadian Bacon)

February 24, 2012 § 8 Comments

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The inspiration for this high protein “inside out” egg sandwich is the classic Monte Cristo.  The addition of fresh greens and tomato is what helps make this sandwich more modern and healthful than the heavier traditional version, which is often fried with butter and loaded with more cheese and served swimming in maple syrup or even Thousand Island dressing.  I whipped this up to tackle this month’s Kitchen Bootcamp challenge (the egg!) from My Kitchen Addiction.  This recipe makes two sandwiches, which are complete meals themselves whether you have them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  My husband was taken aback by how delicious, light, and filling this sandwich is.   If you’re eager to get to the recipe, you can skip to the end of this post.
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I prepared the English muffins much like you would do for French toast: whisk eggs and milk in a shallow pan, then lay the halves of the muffins flat, turning every 5 minutes or so, until they are saturated with the egg mixture.  I brushed my pan with olive oil to keep the amount of fat used down, rather than trying to coat the pan with poured oil which often results in unnecessary extra calories.

Greens, especially spinach, cook down so much – here you see how 2 cups of spinach sweats down to just the right amount to keep a good ratio for the sandwich.
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The assembly of this sandwich was quick and easy.  You could add a swab of whole grain mustard or your favorite spread.  Personally the saltiness from the cheddar and the robust flavor from the Canadian bacon was all I needed.

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RECIPE:
Inside Out Egg Sandwich (with Spinach, Tomato, Cheddar, and Canadian Bacon)
makes 2 sandwiches; recipe could easily be cut in half for one sandwich

2 English muffins, separated into halves (I used sourdough English muffins)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
2 cups organic baby spinach
2 slices cheddar cheese
2 slices Canadian bacon
1 small to medium tomato
olive oil for cooking
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk eggs, milk, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper in a shallow bowl.  Lie English muffin halves in egg mixture while preparing other ingredients, turning every five minutes or so until the bread is saturated.

Wilt the spinach: place greens plus 1 tablespoon of water in a small saucepan.  Cover and place on medium heat.  Every 3 minutes turn the spinach and check the amount it has cooked/wilted.  Remove from heat and transfer spinach to plate covered with paper towels (to absorb excess moisture).  Do not overcook the spinach!

Heat a frying pan to medium.  Brush slices of Canadian bacon lightly with olive oil and place them in dry, hot pan.  Turn after five minutes or so, lightly browning both sides of the meat.  Transfer to plate.

Brush heated frying pan with a light layer of olive oil.  Place saturated English muffin halves outer/flat side down in the pan.  Spoon any remaining egg mixture into the nooks and crannies of the muffins.  Cook for at least five minutes, reducing heat if necessary so as not to brown them too fast.

Turn the muffins to brown the “bubbly” side.  Place a heavy dinner plate or panini weight on your muffin halves, this will give a nice even browning to the side with crevices.  Once both sides of the muffins are browned, remove from heat. Lie cheese slices on two of the muffin slices and leave in pan until sufficiently melted.

Assembly: I layered in the following order: greens, tomato, Canadian bacon on the un-cheesy muffin half, then popped the cheesy side of the 2nd muffin half on top of those layers.  Voila!

Serve warm.

Happy nibbling!
Sarah, aka The Crafty Fork

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Faux Riche Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

February 20, 2012 § 3 Comments

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There are few things on this planet that are as intoxicating as the aroma of a freshly sliced vanilla bean. When I received these vanilla beans from my CSA I wanted to bite right into them. However anyone who has ever tasted a raw, unsweetened vanilla bean knows that that isn’t the greatest idea. My next thought was I’d have to make my favorite summer staple: a low-fat, no-cook brown sugar vanilla bean ice cream that I developed this past year when we were gifted an ice cream maker.  If you’re eager to get to the recipe, you can scroll to the bottom of this post.

To remove seeds from the vanilla bean, slice the bean lengthwise then use the dull side of the knife to slowly, carefully scrape the seeds out.
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Most homemade ice cream recipes call for heavy cream, eggs, and heat. You make a custard that you cool and then make that into America’s favorite frozen treat. I cheat and skip the heavy cream and the heat, because when the urge to make ice cream hits, I want it fast and I want it healthy enough to share with my 2 year-old. It also makes a great topping for warm baked goods, like Belle Foley’s Chocolate Cake.

This “ice cream” is light, very tasty, and for whatever reason always seems colder than regular ice cream. Because of the low(er) fat content, the texture is more like an ice milk than full-fat, hard-packed ice cream. Despite being on the light side, it packs a rich flavor, hence the name “faux riche.” It melts rather quickly due to the lack of emulsifiers, too. But because you control the ingredients and make it fresh (and if you should choose to do so, completely organic) it is without a doubt healthier than Ben & Jerry’s or whatever your typical poison may be.
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RECIPE:
Faux Riche Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

3 1/2 cups half and half (nearly 1 quart)
1 cup dark brown sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Read the directions for your ice cream maker. Mine says to freeze the tub you spin the cream in for 24 hours. I leave the tub in the freezer all the time so I can make ice cream whenever I feel like it (rarely during the winter, probably weekly during the summer months).

Whisk ingredients together in a large bowl until sugar is dissolved. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, and up to 12 hours.

Follow directions for your ice cream maker to get it going. It is also possible to make ice cream without an ice cream maker, but I’ve never tried to with this low(er) fat recipe. I get my maker going before I take the cream mixture out of the fridge.

Just before you poor the mixture into the maker, give it a quick whisk to make sure nothing is settled at the bottom. Pour mixture into the maker, using a ladle to help it along if you’d like.

Spin for 15-20 minutes. Ice cream will be the consistency of soft-serve when it is done being mixed. Do not overmix! You can eat the ice cream at this stage, but it will melt pretty quickly.

Scoop into an air-tight container, using a rubber spatula to scrape the sides. Freeze for 5 minutes uncovered, then cover and freeze for at least one hour before scooping, or for 12 hours if you want “hard” ice cream.

Enjoy!

Happy nibbling,
Sarah

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Butter-soft Roasted Garlic

February 18, 2012 § 3 Comments

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What do you do when you have garlic that is a little bit past it’s prime?  Roast it.  I get bulk loads of organic garlic delivered every two months or so with my weekly CSA order.  I usually get about 30 little bulbs (not the big guys you get at most grocery stores).  While you can keep garlic for up to a year in a cool and dry space, it doesn’t stay super fresh for longer than six weeks in my kitchen.  So I roast it when I see the cloves growing little sprout hearts.  Roasting “new” garlic works just as well or better, but I thought I’d share my technique using my last few aging bulbs.
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When fresh and warm, this roasted garlic is soft and spreadable – like butter. You can spread it on toasted bread, make garlic bread with it, top a pizza, or use it as a building-block for other recipes, like roasted garlic aioli or other sauces. An old roommate showed me how to roast garlic in the oven. I developed the foil nest and toaster oven method described herein.

RECIPE:
Butter-soft Roasted Garlic

1 garlic bulb
1 T olive oil

Remove tray from toaster oven and preheat to 350 degrees (or, preheat conventional oven to 350 degrees and use a cookie sheet).

Cut the pointy end of the garlic bulb off, opening and exposing as many cloves of possible but being careful not to waste too much of the bulb. Alternatively, if you have a small bulb of garlic, you can cut the bulb in half (one pointy half, one rounded bulby half). That’s what I did with my little organic bulbs.

Tear off a sheet of foil that is roughly 6-8 inches from the roll and place on the toaster oven try (or cookie sheet). Place garlic in the middle of the sheet of foil, with exposed side up. Scrunch the foil around the garlic to create a nest (see below), with the goal of the garlic being upright and the exposed cut parallel with the counter or work surface.
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Drizzle approximately 1 tablespoon of olive oil over and into the exposed cloves. I like to drizzle liberally, until the cloves are saturated (but oil remains within the skin of the garlic bulb), so I often just eyeball and probably use almost a tablespoon per “nest.”  You can salt the garlic bulbs now as I have, salt later when they’re finished, or omit salt altogether.

Place tray in oven and loosely tent with foil. Roast garlic for approximately 30 minutes, remove foil, and roast for another 15 minutes (for a total of 45 minutes of roasting). To test, squeeze garlic bulb gently, and if the cloves easily pop out and are as soft as butter, you have properly butter-soft roasted garlic. If the cloves are still firm, return to oven for 5 minute increments until done.

Transfer roasted bulbs to a plate. You can serve as is for a naturally delicious spread, or pop cloves into a little bowl and mash with a fork. I like to spread the tender cloves on crusty bread (homemade bread? Even better). Roasted garlic can be kept up to 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge if to be used as seasoning for other recipes.  I tend to eat half a bulb when freshly roasting, popping those warm tasty cloves like candy.

Happy roasting,
Sarah

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Belle Foley’s Chocolate Cake

February 7, 2012 § 8 Comments

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With all the baking I’ve done over the years, I had never attempted a homemade, from scratch cake. Believe me, I’ve had every intention. But whenever I’d research recipes, I would find lists of ingredients including shortening (blech), multiple types of flours and sifting (one of many complicated steps), or lists of specialty ingredients that I know I’d only use a few times. So I’d run to Trader Joe’s and get their organic boxed mix, which is actually quite good. But I challenged myself to make a chocolate cake for this blog, so I was thrilled when I ran across an old-fashioned, farm-style recipe for chocolate cake on Food52.com.  If you’re eager to get to the recipe, you can scroll to the bottom of this post.
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Belle Foley’s Chocolate Cake is made with pantry ingredients, is measured into and mixed in one bowl, and seemed like the perfect recipe to use to satisfy my desire for a delicious, organic desert this past weekend.

The only part of this cake that was not organic was the cocoa. I couldn’t find organic cocoa. So I opted for Scharffen Berger’s unsweetened non-alkaline baking cocoa, which is 100% cacao. It was a little pricey, but I’m a sucker for quality.

I loved how easy this cake pulled together, and I swear that beginning with the time I decided to make the cake and ending with me pulling the fully baked cake out of the oven, the entire process took under an hour. And that’s with taking photos!
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I measured my dry ingredients (minus the baking soda, per Belle’s instructions) into my largest Pyrex mixing bowl and whisked them together. I didn’t have whole milk, so I used skim and added one tablespoon of butter to the recipe. So I fudged a little (no pun intended). The end result was a light, fluffy cake that reminded me a little bit of the chocolate part of my mom’s homemade whoopie pies.  This cake was so moist, even the next day, that those who sampled kept asking if I’d used extra shortening, or added applesauce.  I hadn’t – it was just soft, moist, and delicious – as Belle would have wanted.
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I’m looking forward to experimenting with this recipe: buttermilk instead of regular milk? Different types of cocoa? Omit cocoa and replace with some portion of vanilla bean seeds? Espresso instead of vanilla extract? So many possibilities.

I also tried Belle Foley’s Chocolate Cake Chocolate Frosting. It was delicious, but I think I added too much milk, and again, it was skim milk vs. whole. I didn’t take pictures of the frosting because I ran out of daylight. Overall, the cake, with icing or without, was so delicious I had it for dinner (don’t tell my mom!) and will be bringing the leftovers into the office tomorrow… if I don’t I fear it will be tomorrow’s dinner too. It’s that good.
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RECIPE:
Belle Foley’s Chocolate Cake
(from boulangere of food52.com – I’ve updated some wording for modern folks, but the original, homey recipe is here)

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
4 rounded tablespoons cocoa
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 cup milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trace the outline of a 9″ round cake pan onto a sheet of parchment. Cut inside the line so that the circle fits inside the cake pan. Drop the circle into the cake pan. Don’t spray or grease the sides; you’ll get a more level rise.

In large bowl, whisk sugar, flour, and cocoa together. Add butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla and mix together until smooth. Some little lumps are OK. Batter will be a little thick but don’t worry.

Stir baking soda into the boiling water, then pour mixture into batter and stir well. Again, some little lumps are OK. Batter will seem thin, but don’t worry. Pour batter into pan and transfer to oven.

Bake for about 35 or 40 minutes (or until done, when you can bounce your finger off the top and the cake feels springy).

Remove cake from oven and let cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before depanning. Depan and let cool until room temp to the touch. Sift some powdered sugar over the top. Cut warm, generous slices and serve with big splops of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Or let cool and ice with frosting of your choice.

Happy nibbling,
Sarah

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