Thursday, January 28, 2010

Anna Belle Babson's 4 Minute Brownie Pie

Chances are my grandmother got this recipe off a sugar packet, or off the back of a box of cocoa, or out of the Los Angeles Times (the 'ng' in Angeles pronounced as it would be in bang), but the origins are now lost and it has become Anna Belle Babson's 4 minute brownie pie. Or just a brownie. Or, to M. and F. in Oxford, a Babson (the related verb being to Babsonize). By any name it is the perfect last minute dessert, taking more than 4 but fewer than forty minutes from start to finish and delivering all the fudgy, chocolaty goodness you could want without the mess of melting chocolate.
While perfect plain (and perfecter still with ice cream), this recipe is infinitely adaptable. It does just as well with whole wheat flour as white; nuts are an obvious and welcome addition; my sister has had success adding a dollop of yoghurt to the batter; and if you're having one of those days, why not add a handful of chocolate chips.

Anna Belle Babson's 4 Minute Brownie Pie

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 Tbs. cocoa powder
  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour an 8 or 9-inch pie plate and set aside.
  • Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Andd eggs and vanilla and beat well. Add salt and flour and beat until well combined. Carefully mix in cocoa powder. Beat until batter is beautiful and smooth. Do not worry about over beating this batter. I don't think you can. Add any nuts or chocolate chips or yoghurt or or or at this point.
  • Bake for about half an hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Do be sure that it has cooked all the way through or the center will fall. Allow to cool slightly before cutting.
Now go forth and Babsonize!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Truffle Cups

Some people put all the things that have been hanging around the pantry together and come up with hash. I put all the things that have been hanging around the pantry together and come up with chocolate-raspberry-hazelnut truffle cups. On the whole, I like my pantry better.

Truffle Cups

  • For the pastry:
  • 1/2 recipe pie crust
  • less one Tbs. butter
  • plus 1/4 cup roasted, ground hazelnuts
  • blank
  • For the truffle filling:
  • 1/2 recipe basic ganache
  • 1 Tbs. soft butter
  • blank
  • For the raspberry ganache:
  • 1 1/2 oz. white chocolate
  • 1/8 cup heavy cream
  • 3 Tbs. raspberry jam, strained and seeds discarded
  • Prepare pastry, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate at least a half hour before rolling. Roll out dough, cut out circles using a 2 3/4-inch biscuit cutter, and line the cups of a mini muffin tin. Trim the edges so they are flush with the top of the tray. Preheat oven to 350-375°F. Fill each cup with beans. Bake cups 25-30 minutes, or until edges are golden and dough is cooked through. Remove to wire racks and allow to cool.
  • Prepare ganache adding the butter once the ganache is smooth. Blend again for a few seconds to incorporate butter. Allow to cool slightly then pipe into cooled pastry cups.
  • Prepare white chocolate ganache in the same manner as the basic ganache. Once the ganache is smooth transfer to a bowl and stir in the jam. Spoon enough raspberry mixture on top of the chocolate ganache to fill the cup without any spilling over the edge. Allow to set before transporting. Raspberry topping will not harden entirely so don't stack the cups.
I used what I had on hand, and you should feel just as free to experiment--with this, with anything. What's the worst that could happen? You can always chop up any rejects and add them to your next batch of ice cream.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I have to thank the people at Saveur for including kulfi in the 'Saveur 100' this year. I had never heard of it before and was glad to have an excuse to try this recipe last weekend. This frozen milk dessert was the perfect conclusion to the Indian feast my family (or most of it) enjoyed Saturday night. Made with milk, not cream, it was light and refreshing. The flavors of saffron and cardamom built on themselves with each melting bite. And the pistachios. How can you go wrong with pistachios? One crucial thing: do not try to rush the reducing of the milk. Four hours does seem like a long time to be reducing milk, but what're you gonna do? I was working to a deadline so I turned up the heat, which did help the milk reduce more quickly, but I still have a pot coated with almost burnt milk in the sink. The kulfi, by some miracle, hadn't the faintest hint of a burnt flavor. I was lucky. So, if you find yourself wondering what to do with half a gallon of milk and four plus hours of your time, make kulfi.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I made brioche for the first time last weekend. I wanted French toast on Sunday, but nobody here sells brioche and why would I buy it anyway, because it's dead easy to make and oh-so-delicious. Of course, I did have to decide on Friday that I wanted French toast on Sunday, but nevermind.
I used a recipe from Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery (odd that it should be there and not in Julia's Mastering the Art), which was typically vague. Don't get me wrong, I love Elizabeth. How can you not? But while her writing is captivatingly descriptive, I find her recipes often fall short on detail. My first brioche dough was, as a result, not all it should have been. It was more closely akin to a quick bread dough than to a yeast dough--very soft, sticking to everything, having none of the stretch a brioche dough should. It turns out I added the butter too soon. I learned in The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts that fat interferes with the development of gluten and that your dough should be well developed and stretchy before adding the butter. So I followed that advise this time to stunning results.


adapted from Elizabeth David

  • 2 Tbs. milk, warmed
  • 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 10 oz. bread flour
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 5-6 oz. butter, tempered
  • egg wash for brushing brioche
  • Dissolve yeast in warm milk. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix in the yeast mixture and then the eggs one at a time. Continue to beat the dough until the gluten is well developed and the dough is very stretchy. To temper the butter, put cold butter between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound it with a rolling pin. Add butter gradually, but steadily, to the dough with the mixer running. Beat until the dough is smooth and silky.
  • (This can, of course, all be done by hand, kneading where it says 'beat.')
  • Transfer dough to a greased bowl, cover, and leave to rise in a warm place for about 2 hours. Punch it down, transfer to a cold bowl and leave in a cold place (not the fridge) for several hours or overnight. Punch down the dough again, make it into a ball with a nice tight top, and place in a greased 1 to 1 1/2-quart brioche mold (or several small molds, or a loaf pan). Allow to rise in a warm place until it fills the mold, up to 3 hours (but check before that).
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush the top with egg wash then make a fairly deep circular incision about 1 1/2 inches from the side of the tin using a very sharp blade held almost flat to the dough. Allow to recover for a few minutes, then bake 25-35 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
Elizabeth suggest the dough sit overnight in a cool spot for its second rise, but I'm sure this could be shortened with little negative effect on the finished bread, which means you'd only have to decide you want French toast one day ahead instead of two. Either way, it's worth the wait.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Quail's Eggs

I was the lucky recipient last night of a coffee cup full of quail's eggs. Said eggs, unluckily, were left to freeze in the quail keeper's truck while he performed snow-related chores. They were still very pretty, but the yolks had become hard and rubbery, rendering the eggs inedible. It is perhaps for the best, though, as I have at present no caviar. I will endeavor to remedy this deficiency in order to be ready for the next unexpected quail's egg delivery.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


The last time Y. was in the city he bought me a madeleine pan, which made it my turn to take a stab at baking the fabled cookie. Or is it a cake? Either way it is a good idea to get one's first attempt at madeleines out of the way. I was pleased enough with my maiden madeleine voyage. Although they sadly did not form the coveted hump on their backs and two batches stuck badly to the molds, the ones that survived were orangey and buttery and delicious.
It might have something to do with the diminutive size of my apartment and the similarly tiny dimensions of my oven, but my baked goods seem to be getting smaller and smaller. Noticing this trend, Y. got me a madeleine pan that produces very tiny cakes. I'm not sure if this could have had an effect on the forming of bumps (or not) on my cakes, but it did cross my mind as a possibility. Or maybe in trying so hard not to incorporate too much air into my batter, I didn't incorporate enough. Who knows? I'm sure, however, that it was not the fault of the recipe and when I next attempt it I will learn more.


The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts way
  • 125 g sugar
  • 110 g flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • zest of one orange
  • 2 large eggs, room temp.
  • 110 g unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • Combine sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add the zest. With a whisk, mix in the eggs until just incorporated, being careful not to add too much air to the batter. Stir in the melted butter. Cover the batter and refrigerate for one hour.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease and flour your madeleine molds.
  • Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip and pipe a dollop of pastry into each mold. Do not overfill the molds.
  • Bake for about 7 minutes. The cooking time will vary according to how big or small your molds are. Cakes should spring back in the center when lightly touched. Carefully remove madeleines from molds and allow to cool on wire racks.
Aren't you proud? I managed to write about madeleines without once mentioning Proust. Oh, dear, I blew it...