The Fabulous Baker Girl

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Almost Gramma’s Chocolate Biscuits August 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — amynb2008 @ 5:53 pm
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I remember many things about my grandmother.  The scar along her jaw line.  Her strong, veiny hands.  Her stubborn frown (very much like the ones belonging to all three of my daughters).  Her need to feed anyone who walked through her door.

My gramma’s specialty was sausage gravy and biscuits.  Everyone requested these from her and she always had the ingredients on hand.  If we were lucky, there were leftover biscuits and she would make chocolate biscuits out of them.  I remember eating them with a glass of milk, sitting at her kitchen table late at night.

I bet there are those of you out there who don’t have a clue as to what chocolate biscuits are.  I don’t know anyone outside our family who does.  Imagine my surprise when my mom called me up and said she had found a recipe for them in cookbook she had.

Before I started cooking dinner last night, I was thinking over what we were having.  Fresh green beans from the farmer’s market were on the menu.  This brought back memories of sitting with my grandma with newspaper on my lap helping her snap beans.  Later she would either boil them with salt pork or string them up to dry and cook later.  Thinking of these things made me long for something of hers and chocolate biscuits just seemed to fit the bill.

I ended up adding biscuits to our dinner menu.  They were so good and tender and buttery that we almost didn’t have any leftovers.  Luckily I had kept some off to the side.  After dinner I made the chocolate “gravy”, which is basically just chocolate pudding.

Next, I broke up half our remaining biscuits and put in a bowl.  I think my gramma left her biscuits whole or maybe halved.  I broke mine into bit-sized pieces.

Pancakes, chocolate biscuits 017Then I poured half the chocolate gravy over those:

Pancakes, chocolate biscuits 020Then I repeated the layers.  Since the chocolate gravy recipe I used didn’t thicken like I thought it would, I hoped it would do so as it cooled.  It did a bit but not nearly enough.  I remember my grandma’s being thick and rich and chocolately.  This was good and was definitely rich but it just didn’t taste the way I remember.  That’s why I did not include the recipe I used for this batch.  Instead I included a recipe for regular old chocolate pudding.  It is much more like what I remember my gramma’s being like and I think it will yield much better results.  The chocolate chips aren’t a traditional ingredient in my gramma’s gravy, but in this version it helps add a bit more sweetness and richness.  I’ve never used it to make chocolate biscuits before but I’ve always thought it would be good for them.  Guess I should have listened to my instincts.  Next time.

I wish I could include my gramma’s world-famous, heirloom-quality biscuit recipe but the few time I saw her make real biscuits, she never measured anything.  Later she just resorted to using Jiffy Mix.  I guess that was good for local economy since she lived down the road from where Jiffy is made.  You can use any kind of biscuit to make chocolate biscuits.  Homemade, Jiffy, refrigerated…it doesn’t really matter.

I miss my gramma everyday and ever since she died I remind myself how lucky I was to have had her for 32 years.  It makes me sad that my girls will never know her like I did.  Although they did seem to inherit her fiestiness and I’ll always have chocolate biscuits to make for them and share memories over.

I love you Gram.

Chocolate Pudding for Making Chocolate BiscuitsPancakes, chocolate biscuits 025

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups milk

2 ounces chocolate chips

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Stir together sugar, cocoa, and cornstarch in a medium sauce pan.  Turn heat on medium and whisk in milk.  Stir until pudding thickens.  Add chocolate chips.  Stir until chocolate it melted and pudding is at desired consistency.  Allow to cool slightly.  Add vanilla and stir in completely before pouring over biscuits.

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Tuesdays with Dorie: Classic Banana Bundt Cake August 4, 2009

Solar oven and banana cake 017

Classic Bundt Cake with a drizzle of powdered sugar glaze

For those of you who don’t know, Dorie Greenspan is the author of Baking From My Home to Yours.  There is a group of organized bakers who choose recipes from the cookbook to try every week and then post about them on their blogs every week.  You can find them all at http://tuesdayswithdorie.wordpress.com/.  I recently noticed that they were accepting new members so I decided to ask if I could join.  I haven’t heard word back yet about whether or not I was accepted, but on the chance that I am, I baked up this weeks recipe:  classic banana bundt cake.

To be honest, I had mixed feelings about this recipe.  On one hand, I had a bunch of overripe bananas that were destined for the freezer if I didn’t use them.  Not mention, banana bread is one of my very favorite things in the entire world.  On the other hand, this was not banana bread and I’ve never really understood the idea of banana cake.  Like I said, I love banana bread especially all warm and oozing with melted butter but this doesn’t seem to pass as dessert.

In any case, I was still enthusiastic to give the recipe a try.  When I looked at it I was relieved to see it was quite simple to put together.  The perfect thing to whip up while my soup was cooking.  I was joined in the kitchen by Melanie, my 4-year-old.  She likes to help when I bake.  She was particularly intrigued when I told her what we were making, but then again she thought we were making “butt cake”.  I’m still laughing at that.

As I said, this recipe was easy to prepare.  The only problem I had was that I didn’t have a bundt pan so I used a regular cake pan.  I probably should have used two but it all turned out okay in the end.  I loved the banana smell that filled the house.  It’s such a warm and comforting smell.

Not surprisingly, my three girls didn’t want banana cake for dessert.  Nothing but ice cream for them.  However, after my little one was asleep and my oldest one was up reading with Dad, Melanie asked me if she could have a piece.  She said she had “forgotten” to brush her teeth so she could still eat something.  She sat on my lap and ate a slice.  It was a very big hit.  She made all the “MmMMMmmmmm!!!!” sounds you could imagine and said it was “Delicious!”.

I have to agree.  It was delicious.  Even without the proper pan, the cake baked up moist and surprisingly cake-like with a rich but not overpowering banana flavor.  It was just the right amount of sweet.  Even though Dorie says that it tastes better the next day, I ate two slice while still warm from the oven.  I’m not sure how it could get any better.  I guess I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.

I’d have to say that this first Tuesday with Dorie was a success.

Although I do have to admit, to me, like I had predicted, this is much more of a snack cake.  You won’t find me serving this cake for dessert anytime soon but I think it may just find it’s way onto my breakfast table.  Or my snack plate.  Or my lunchbox.  Or…most notably, in my stomach.

 

Chocolate Cupcakes and a Birthday Celebration August 2, 2009

Filed under: Cakes,Chocolate,Dessert,Marth Stewart — amynb2008 @ 11:11 pm
Tags: ,

Ella's birthday party 017Ella’s birthday was a while ago but  just now got around to having a party for her and her friends.  She settled on an art theme.  Seven other girls invaded our “art studio” to make about five different art projects.

Of course, my very first question before deciding on what these projects were going to be was “what kind of cake do you want?”  Right away she settled on cupcakes.  I figured she’d go for a simple vanilla cake as she does not share my love of chocolate.  She surprised me though and asked for chocolate cupcakes.

And what my daughter wants….my daughter gets.

At least when it comes to chocolate cupcakes.

She also requested purple frosting with mini art palettes.  Easy enough to do.  I simply made the palette shape out of royal icing and then added the “paint” by painting on watered down food coloring.  I was going to add paint brushes but I didn’t have enough powdered sugar in my second batch of royal icing so it was too runny and they didn’t dry in time.  Oh well.  We perched the palettes  atop the chocolate cupcakes with purple frosting.  Very cute.

If you are anything like me and love chocolate, cake, or chocolate cake you’ll appreciate these cupcakes.  They are made in one bowl and are super easy to make.  The recipe says it makes two dozen but I get 2 1/2 dozen nice-sized cupcakes from it.  When I can get away with it, this is my go-to recipe any time I need a cake because they always turn out perfectly.  These are the cupcakes I gave Melanie for her first birthday (although not Ella — I wasn’t a baker yet and used *gasp* a box mix…please note my head is hung with shame).  They’re the easiest to make and always turns out moist and delicious.  Just my kind of recipe!  Thank you Martha Stewart!

One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes

from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cup dutch-processed cocoa powdered (I’ve used regular with good results)

2 1/2 cups sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large whole eggs

1 large egg yolk

1 1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (do not forget the 2 tablespoons, they do make a difference)

1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cup warm water.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.

Into the bowl of an electric mixer, sift together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  (I usually just run the mixer on the lowest speed for a few seconds.)  Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the eggs, yolk, milk, oil, vanilla, and warm water.  Beat on low speed until smooth and combined, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.  Bake, rotating pans halfway through, for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into one cake comes out clean.  Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool slightly.  Turn cupcakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Eat as is or add frosting (see my post Congratulations Salli for a good recipe).