What’s the best way for a mother to send her child off to college; with a pan of super-chocolatey brownies of course. I had spent days packing for my son Michael, purchasing him some pots and pans, bedding and laundry detergent, as well as a variety of other items I know he’ll never use. I had filled boxes with every and anything a young man would need for his survival out there in the world. It was as if we were sending him off to the most remote region of the universe, when in reality he was only going an hour away to Santa Barbara. Oh my God, did I pack the electric pencil sharpener?
We loaded two cars and made the quick trip up the Pacific coast to the student housing where he was sharing an apartment with three other guys. I laughed to myself as we entered the apartment. There were three sets of parents unpacking, making beds, setting up tv’s and printers, and stacking a hundred boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese into the pantry closet. The kids all sat in the living room with their cell phones and laptops, laughing and getting to know one another, while the mothers nervously scurried about.
After roughly four hours in that apartment my work there was done, and I could see the look on my son’s face. “Mom, will you just go!” He couldn’t wait to begin his new adventure…without his mama! As my husband and I left, I handed him a tray of my chocolate truffle brownies. He had his pencil sharpener, a year’s supply of black sox, and brownies. Mission complete.
Chocolate Truffle Brownies
Bon Appetit, July 2010
- 12 ounces semi-sweet, or bittersweet chocolate ( do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped and divided into half
- 11 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 1″ cubes
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- Place the rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F.
- Line a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang. This will make it easy to lift your brownies out of the pan when it’s time to cut them. Spray the foil with non-stick vegetable oil spray.
- Combine 6 ounces of the chocolate, and the butter in a medium microwave safe bowl. Start microwaving at 25 seconds, then stir, then 20 seconds and stir until the mixture is smooth and melted. Cool the chocolate mixture for 10 minutes.
- Whisk sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt in large bowl to blend. Then whisk in the chocolate mixture. Stir in flour, then chopped walnuts.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the brownies until a tester inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 26-28 minutes. Transfer pan to a cooling rack and let the brownies cool completely.
- When brownies are cooled, bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Place remaining chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the heated cream over the chocolate. Let it stand for 5 minutes then whisk until smooth.
- Pour the chocolate ganache over the brownies in the pan and spread evenly to cover completely. A small off-set spatula works well for this.
- Let stand at cool room temperature until topping is set, about 4 hours.
- Using the overhang foil as an aid, lift the brownies from the pan and fold down the edges.
- You can now cut the brownies into squares, 1″x 3″ bars, or into 1″x 1″ squares.
Using better quality chocolate will yield better tasting brownies. Use the best you can afford.
When the brownies have cooled, place them in the refrigerator for an hour for easier cutting.
I like to keep my chocolate truffle brownies in the refrigerator as they turn to a fudge-like consistency. At room temperature they remain more cake-like.
Last weekend my job was to bring a dessert to a friend’s wedding shower. I thought I had been handed quite a daunting task. I knew that if I was going to serve dessert to a group of women in Los Angeles that it would have to be in mini portions. Perfect. No problem. What better way to end a meal than with a rich, creamy, chocolatey mousse. Any three ounce vessel will work for the mini portion. Being the Mama that I am, it made me very happy to see that everyone had finished their desserts.
Mini Chocolate Mousse
From Tyler’s Ultimate
- 6 ounces semi sweet chocolate, chopped (good quality)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Bring about an inch or two of water to a simmer in a saucepan; put the chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl and set it over the pan. Stir with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. At no time can any water get into the chocolate or it will seize. Remove the bowl from the heat and let the mixture cool slightly. Then whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time until the mixture is smooth.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff peaks form.Gently transfer the egg white mixture to a grease-free bowl, and rinse the electric mixer bowl with very cold water.
- In the cleaned bowl of the electric mixer, beat the heavy cream until it begins to thicken. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and the vanilla and continue beating until the cream holds soft peaks.
- Next, stir a spoonful of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the rest. Next, fold in the whipped cream, do not overwork the mousse or it will become heavy. You can now evenly divide the mousse among your glasses. This recipe will serve 4 regular sized portions, or about 10 mini portions.
- Do not get any egg yolk into the egg whites, or stiff peaks will not form.
- Make sure all bowls and utensils used to whip egg whites are grease-free, or stiff peaks will not form.
- Do not get any water into chocolate, or the chocolate will seize.
Tradition is a funny thing. You don’t mess with it, that’s how something becomes a tradition. You do it over and over. It is rituals that are handed down from one generation to the next. Thanksgiving is the most important and revered tradition in my family. It’s been an American tradition for a couple hundred years, but for my family in particular, it began with my grandparents. It’s a day that my whole family now waits for all year, and it’s all about the food.
In my house I’m known as the CEO of Thanksgiving, the Titan of Turkey and the Potentate of Potatoes. I rule this holiday with an iron fist. I make the same meal year after year. So, after 27 years of making this particular meal, I have in fact perfected it. My turkey is worthy of any glossy food magazine, my potatoes glisten in buttery goodness, and my cranberry sauce has just the right amount of tart and sweetness. My mother however is the VP of stuffing. For 27 years that has been her contribution, and she nails it every time.
However, sometimes traditions have to change. In with the new, and out with the old. In this case, I’m the old. My son graduated culinary school over 2 years ago, and he has been working as a chef in a fine dining restaurant. Last night he approached me and said that he would like to make the turkey and mashed potatoes this year for our dinner. I was stunned at first. Was he trying to yank control of this holiday out of my hands? When I gained my composure I realized that it may be time to hand the baton over to the next generation. Yes, I guess it was time to pass the tradition on.
So, now that I didn’t have to worry about the main course, I could focus on the really important aspect of the dinner; dessert. I decided to go very traditional, and serve a trio of desserts. I’m going to do mini pumpkin cheesecakes with praline topping, vanilla bean ice cream and these mini apple pies. Here’s to tradition.
Mini Apple Pies
- 2 pounds tart apples, (I used Granny Smith, Jonagold & Fuji) peeld, cored and cut into 1/4 inch slices small enough to fit into each cupcake opening)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or ground if that’s what you have)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- In a large pot or a Dutch oven, stir together the apples, brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and cornstarch.
- Cook covered over medium heat stirring occasionally until apples are tender, about 18 minutes.
- Uncover and cook until the liquid has thickened, about 4-6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, chilled
- 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
- 5-6 tablespoons ice water, as needed
- Sift flour, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl. Add chilled butter and shortening. Working quickly and using your fingertips, rub or cut the fats into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Sprinkle on ice water, 2-3 tablespoons at a time, and toss with a fork. Turn dough out onto your work surface and using the heel of your hand, smear dough away from you, about 1/4 cup at a time. Scrape it up into a ball and wrap in wax paper. Chill for 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Roll dough out to 1/4-inch thickness on a floured work surface. Lightly spray the cavities of the cupcake pan. Cut circles, using a round cookie cutter or glass larger than the size of the cupcake opening.
- Gently fit the circles into the cupcake cavities. Spoon in the apple mixture, mounding it in the center. (the mixture will shrink so you’ll need to fill it generously). Dot the top of apple mixture with a small piece of butter.
- If you want a top crust, you can create a lattice top or another circular piece of crust on top. Using a fork I made sure that the top crust was connected to the bottom crust, trying to seal the two together so when they came out of the pan it did not separate.
- Brush the top crust with an egg wash – 1 egg and a tablespoon of cold water whisked together. Sprinkle granulated sugar over the top of each crust.
- Bake until crust is lightly golden brown and apple mixture is bubbling. (Place a cookie sheet under the cupcake pan to catch splatter).
- Let cool for 5 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the edges of cupcake cavities to loosen pies and using a spoon gently ease pies out of pan.
It’s one of those dry, scorching Southern California summer days and I’m headed back to the valley through Malibu Canyon. What was once so green and lush has quickly turned brown and parched now that the rain has stopped, and summer is clearly here. Malibu Canyon is one of those places that’s been seemingly untouched since prehistoric times. It’s just jagged mountains, huge rocks and dried brush, really not much else. As I meander my way through the canyon, out of nowhere appears a strawberry stand. My eye is attracted to a giant hand-painted sign of a large, red strawberry. I figure, if you’re out in the middle of nowhere, the these must be some mighty fine strawberries this guy is selling. I pulled over to the side of the road, dust flying everywhere and approach the stand that seems like an oasis in the middle of a desert. Damn, these are some good looking berries…so I buy five baskets.
When life gives you berries, make mousse!
The Silver Palate Cookbook
2 1/2 pint baskets strawberries, stemmed, washed, drained
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
6 tablespoons boiling water
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Cointreau
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
additional strawberries for garnish
1.Combine strawberries, lemon juice and gelatin in the bowl of a food processor with a steel blade. Puree until smooth. Pour in boiling water and process again, briefly. Let mixture cool to room temperature.
2. In bowl of a mixer, beat egg yolks and sugar together until pale yellow and thick. Whisk in Cointreau and beat for another minute. Pour egg mixture into the top part of a double boiler and stir until slightly thickened, and hot to the touch. Cool to room temperature.
3. Combine strawberry and egg mixtures and chill until just beginning to set.
4. Whip cream to soft peaks and fold gently into chilled mousse mixture. You can spoon mixture into individual dessert glasses, or one large bowl. You could pipe into chocolate cups, or spoon over fruit. Chill for at least 4 hours.
Makes 8 to 10 portions
Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always been very crafty and artistic. When I was six years old I entered a drawing contest on the Gene London show, a Saturday morning children’s program. Anyone from Philadelphia growing up in the sixties should remember that show. Gene was a little odd to say the least. Anyway, first prize was a trip to Disneyland, and second prize was a box of “Sparkle Paints”. I won second prize. I was excited none-the-less.
I still like to make things with my hands. I love making these chocolate cups, I just do. Several years ago when we were making our final graduation dinner from culinary school, I made 225 of these cups for the dessert course. Since then, I seem to look for any reason or occassion to make them. I fill them with homemade ice cream, fresh fruit or a light, lemon-y mousse. Chocolate and lemon is one of my favorite flavor combinations, and it’s the perfect dessert for a warm summer evening.
I use the 5 ounce paper cups because the inside of the cup is waxed and it will peel off of the chocolate easily. Measure up from the bottom of the cup 2 1/4″, mark it, then with a sharp scissor, cut the top of the cup off. (For me the 5 ounce cup was just too large as is). You can use any good quality bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate to make the cup. Melt about 16 ounces of chocolate in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring well after each increment. When the chocolate is a smooth consistency, pour it into the cup, filling the entire cup, and then empty the excess back into the bowl. Place into the refrigerator to harden. Once hard, re-melt your chocolate and repeat the process giving the cups a second coat. Place back in the refrigerator to harden again.
To prepare cups for filling: Using a rubber band to secure it, wrap double thickness parchment paper around the cups so that it’s 1 1/2 inches above the top of the cup.
From Barefoot Contessa, Back To Basics
3 extra-large whole eggs
3 extra large eggs, separated
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
In a large heat-proof bowl, whisk together the 3 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for about 15-20 minutes until the mixture is thick like pudding. Take off the heat and set aside for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate for about 1 1/2 hours, until completely chilled.
Place half the egg whites and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat until the whites are stiff and shiny. Carefully fold the beaten whites into the cold lemon mixture with a rubber spatula. Place the cream in the same bowl of the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed until the cream forms stiff peaks. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the lemon mixture.
Fill a pastry bag, fitted with a large round tip, with the lemon mixture. Pipe it into the prepared cups to the very top. Slide a knife over top of cup to take off excess so top is perfectly flat. Place in refrigerator for several hours to chill.
Right before serving, using a sieve, dust the top of the mousse with cocoa powder. Using a sharp scissor, cut the rubber band to release the parchment paper. Then, carefully snip the top of the cup and peel back the cup. Add any garnish of your choosing.
Makes 8 mousse cups