Joni Mitchell said “I am a lonely painter, I live in a box of paints” but I (on the other hand) live in a bin of spices, flours, flavors and extracts and mostly I love it. Having spent summers in the art studios at Buck’s Rock Work Camp, I know that I prefer to stretch parchment paper than canvas. Below a few of my favorite things.
In this blog, we always strive to make the routine extraordinary, and Rice Krispy treats are a case study. No one would argue that they are not a decades-old fan-favorite, a staple for the egg and gluten-free and probably the most popular ‘bring-your-own’ at PTAs and bake sales across the country. There are a few issues that nearly always affect the enjoyment of these ubiquitous ‘baked’ treats. Such as:
Bad mouth feel: Made with stale cereal
Too hard: Not enough marshmallow
Boring: Zero flavor; or a tiring homogeny of flavor
Greasy: too much butter
Loose: too much marshmallow
I confess, in my years of making these I have encountered (i.e. caused) all of the above problems. There are slight differences in recipes on the Rice Krispy box and the Stay-Puft marshmallow bags, not to mention the Internet. Everyone has different “twists” and tweaks to make but I wanted something that was not just good but PERFECT. I did briefly experiment with using Cocoa Krispies and Fruity Pebbles once for a tri-fecta of different kinds and different flavors, but I found that the artificial flavors of these cereals created a terrible aftertaste.
Also, there a number of different marshmallows on the market ranging from the Stay-Puft brand to Vegan-friendly types, and of course, if you have patience, lots of sugar, time and a candy thermometer, it’s not that hard to make them on your own. But I digress.
The Breakthrough: I found that mixing in chocolate (Specifically this) cereal, the treats had a varied, and better flavor profile. Of course if you are a reader of this blog you know that I added vanilla and salt as well. And of course, used more marshmallows. Lastly, I have an aversion to making anything in an 8×8 pan, though I can’t explain why, but it leads me to only want to make things in a 9×13 pan.
4.5 cups of Rice Krispies cereal
2 cups of Chocolate Koala Crisp cereal
60 StayPuft marshmallows (that’s 1 1/2 bags)
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter
At least one tablespoon of McCormick natural vanilla extract
A pinch, or up 1/8th tsp of salt to taste
Spray a 9×13 pan with PAM or the equivalent. Add parchment paper.
In a large bowl, completely combine Rice Krispies and Chocolate Krispies.
Melt the butter in a dutch oven.
Add 60 marshmallows; stir until completely melted.
Add salt; vanilla, turn off heat, or turn to low (depending on your stove)
Add krispy mix, one cup at a time. (It’s helpful to have two people doing this).
When desired consistency has been achieved, turn out contents of dutch oven into 9 x 13 pan.
Spray a spatula with pam and level the mixture.
Turn onto a cutting surface and cut into small squares; this will allow people to eat more of them which is better than people eating one and longing for more.
Place extras in a ziploc bag. Add to lunches or bring to office as necessary.
Though Ireland is rich in heritage, I must say that my experience with both the nation and the holiday has been limited to savory experiences. Needing to come up with something for an office pot luck, I turned to the world of baking to find something good to bring. Apparently, putting Guinness Stout in cakes and bread is done quite widely, or at very least, lots of people write recipes about this combination. Having read quite a few of them, I determined two things. One, I needed to buy some stout (and had no idea if that would be challenging on the eve of Saint Patrick’s Day, but then I remembered I live in Boston) and two that I was probably going to make cupcakes, not a cake. I figured since beer-baking was new, I’d want to try it out before I shared it with a crowd. You don’t really want to start slicing a cake just to see if tastes good. In any case, they came out wonderfully and even my wife said they were as good or better than my signature best chocolate cake ever, which for me, was liking finding a pot of a gold at the end of rainbow.
Makes 24 Cupcakes.
1cup Samuel Smith Chocolate stout
10tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/4cup dark unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup regular unsweetened cocoa
2 + 1/4cups superfine sugar
¾cup sour cream
1.5tablespoon vanilla extract
2cups all-purpose flour
2 ½teaspoons baking soda
1/2+1/8 tsp of salt
8 oz cream cheese
5 tablespoons butter
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
5 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon of salt, to taste
1 tsp maple extract or a tablespoon of maple syrup
For the cupcakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cupcake pan and use liners.
In a saucepan, combine stout and butter, melt and then cool.
Whisk together sifted cocoa and superfine sugar and add to stout-butter combo.
In a separate bowl, combine sour cream, eggs and vanilla; mix well.
Add to stout mixture.
Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
Add to stout mixture.
Whisk or just combine; use a #2 scoop to fill your cupcake trays.
Whack your tray to reduce air pockets, place in oven for 22 minutes
For the frosting:Make sure ingredients are at room temperature
Cream butter and cream cheese together.
Add confectioner’s sugar.
Add vanilla, maple syrup extract and heavy cream, add a pinch of salt.
Mix until smooth.
Transfer frosting to piping bag (or equivalent) and frost cupcakes.
Many of my readers know about my white-whale like obsession with making an oatmeal cookie like those found at Petsi’s, a bakery in Somerville, MA. I have detailed in previous cookie recipes I have written here and here. In those recipes I discuss how I discovered the missing ingredient was butterscotch extract (heartbreakingly discontinued by Frontier Co-op). However good the cookies may have been, they were not EXACTLY right for some reason. This is despite soaking cranberries, using bread flour, and so much more. Baking has brought out my inner competitive spirit, so I cannot rest until I have cracked the code, and I think I have finally cracked the code.
How? Unlike the other recipes, I started again from the beginning, and by that I mean I did not use my own previous recipes as a base, but experimented with others— I started with the Cook’s Illustrated/Baking Illustrated recipe for “Chewy Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies.” Of course, I changed it a lot since I like cranberries instead of raisins and completely reject their assumption that cinnamon should be jettisoned in favor of nutmeg. And of course, I added Frontier Coop Butterscotch extract, which was the best butterscotch extract anyone makes anywhere. Aside from that, I had to make the following three changes:
Ground Oatmeal! One thing that was stopping me was the use of whole oats. All of the recipes and recipe writers that I respect say to use whole oats because they are better for you and have a better texture. Those things are true, but after sampling and resampling Petsi’s cookies (what I do for you, readers) I realized that the cookie texture did not seem like mine, ergo not whole oats. So, I ground whole oats in the cuisinart (not till dust, but no longer whole). Bingo! Added a great flavor and texture that didn’t feel like someone trying to make me eat oats but not telling me!
More Fat! Their cookies are soft in the middle and crispy outside. I figure they have some other liquid or fat besides butter. Oil? Cream cheese? Lard? Coconut oil? Many of these things were appealing thoughts, but ultimately they all changed the texture or flavor too much. Through research I came across a solution: Sour cream. Doesn’t change the flavor, but added a textural note that was heavily desired.
Vanilla Paste! Oatmeal cookie recipes NEVER have vanilla in them, but I don’t know why. Vanilla makes everything better and my love has deepened when I found Vanilla bean paste, which is great for when you don’t want to add a tablespoon of liquid to your recipe but a plasma like paste is perfect.
Then I was ready.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
16 tablespoons butter (softened)
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups quaker whole rolled oats, ground by pulsing them in a food processor
1/4 tsp butterscotch extract
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and set aside.
Chop or grind walnuts, add them and cranberries to flour mixture.
In a stand mixer, cream your butter and sour cream about three minutes.
Add both sugars and mix until fluffy.
Add the eggs, one a time.
Add the vanilla paste and butterscotch extract.
Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just combined.
Use a 2-inch scoop to form your cookies.
Bake for about 22 minutes, until the edges are just browned.
Taking a page out of a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, I added some chocolate to a half batch of regular macaroons I had made. After they came out it just so happened that I had some Ghiradelli White Melting Chocolate and a bit of coconut oil which I melted and dipped them in.
I just barely got the picture taken before they all dissappeared.
2 (14-oz.) bags sweetened flaked coconut
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp. sour cream
1 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
12 oz. bittersweet (and milk) chocolate, mixed and melted.
Tiny bit of salt, perhaps less than an 1/8th of a tsp
2 Egg whites
1/8th tsp cream of tartar
2 tablespoons of non-sweetened cocoa powder, sifted
White chocolate (for melting)
Coconut oil (for making the chocolate easier to dip)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients (except egg whites and cream of tartar) until thoroughly combined.
Place two egg whites and cream of tartar in a stand mixer until you can see foamy peaks. Fold into other mixture.
Press dough into a soup spoon or small ice cream scoop or ball in your palm and place on baking sheet.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until lightly brown. If you want them crispy on top, it will be more like 30 minutes.
Remove from oven; let cool.
If possible, submerge (dip) the macaroon in melted chocolate and place on a tray lined with wax paper. (Don’t even start me on tempering the chocolate, that’s a whole other thing).
A good friend of mine had hipped me to my winning ginger snap/molasses spice cookie recipe and for me, that meant the end of tweaking. Even though I am a chronic recipe tinkerer, when something gets high marks, is asked for repeatedly, I leave it alone. Until another good friend suggested that there was a cookie of equal, if not greater merit by the Canyon Ranch called Triple Ginger Cookies. I made it and though I must say it was a very, very, very good cookie, I was missing some of the flavors from the other cookie that I loved, namely cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. So just for fun, I added them in to see whether or not it would make it better. It did. Know what else made it better? Full-fat cream cheese (the original recipe calls for low-fat cream cheese, which is gross).
Of course, playing with ingredients and fat means adjusting the baking time. The original recipe calls for a 9 minute baking time, but I found using small balls (1 inch scoop as a go-by), I needed about 16 minutes to get these to the right texture. Now that’s a subjective matter based on whether or not you like them pudding-soft or or teeth-breakingly crisp, or somewhere in between.
⅓ cup unsalted butter
⅔ cream cheese
1½ cups brown sugar
1 egg yolk
⅓ cup black strap molasses
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp himalayan sea salt
¾ cup white whole-wheat flour
1½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger root
½ cup minced crystallized ginger
1/2 cup sugar, for rolling.
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar on low speed with an electric mixer. Add egg yolk and molasses and mix on low until just combined.
Combine dry ingredients, whisk thoroughly.
Add to wet ingredients.
Mix briefly by hand, and a brief mix with the stand mixer (I find this is necessary).
If possible, wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or over night.
Using your hands or smallest scoop, create balls.
Dip and roll in sugar.
Add to a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
Bake for about 15 minutes. Cookies should have a crinkled look and be relatively flat.
There are a lot of Challah recipes out there. They range from sweet to savory and cover a wide range of origins. Growing up, I found challah to be a somewhat dry and flavorless bread that was usually served with no butter or topping, and very often at the point when I was at my hungriest (it is a tradition to slice a challah at the end of the Saturday morning services) and I would have eaten anything. I never thought too much about it, but as I got older, I was introduced to Challah French Toast, which was a revelation that made me realize I must have challah in the house at all times. This led me to Cheryl Ann’s (of Brookline) challah, which some fans have noted is more like a Mardi Gras King Cake than a traditional challah, as it so sweet, fluffy and eggy.
Challahs from other institutions like Whole Foods are good but have a strange smell when toasted. (This is kind of a turn-off, and I will refrain from my opinions of the smell)
This recipe below is modified from the King Arthur No-Knead Challah recipe, which I have modified slightly over the years. I have also made it Vegan, using Earth Balance, Egg Replacer and Agave. Still pretty good.
The recipe (and tradition) call for the challah to be braided. While I very much enjoyed learning how to do this (the indispensable but short video here), I found that the key to a light and fluffy challah (or any yeasted, baked product) was to handle it as little as possible once it was in it’s near-final form. Since the holiday challahs are round (to convey and celebrate the circular nature of life, etc.) I decided rolling out the dough into a log and baking it in a 9″ round was infinitely easier and resulted in a better final product.
Also, a bread thermometer is a good investment, but I have found that at 35 minutes at 350 degrees, this comes out perfect every time.
7 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons instant yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (plus more, if necessary)
4 large eggs
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup melted and cooled unsalted butter (you can substitute oil or margarine if you need it to be dairy free or kosher, but I have found it has much less flavor).
1 egg (any size) beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Poppy seeds to cover (about 1/3 of a bottle).
Directions (I never use the bread mixer attachment on my stand mixer or the like alternative. I always do this by hand).
Combine your dry ingredients and whisk thoroughly.
Make a well, and add the wet ingredients.
Use a spatula to mix the ingredients until you have a cohesive dough; finish with your hands. You should have a craggy, sticky ball of dough. You may need to add water if it’s too dry, or a bit of flour to make it easier to handle.
Cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for at least 2 hours.
Refrigerate the dough overnight if possible.
Remove from fridge and separate into two. (King Arthur says it can be made into three, but I like bigger 9″ rounds).
Roll into a log and coil into a 9″ inch (Pam-sprayed) round cake pan.
Allow the challah to rise for about 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the topping.
With a pastry brush, brush the challah over every visible surface.
Lay on the poppy seeds, heavy.
Bake the Challah for 35 minutes. Don’t open the oven. Use a bread thermometer to ensure it’s at 190°F. Once that’s the case, you can put away your bread thermometer, you won’t need it.
Let cool (until you can hold it to slice it), about 15 minutes. Serve warm with butter, hummus, apples and honey or other toppings. Great for toasting, and for making Challah French Toast a few days later.
For Alexander Hamilton’s birthday, I gleefully re-present the collection of flavors (The Federalist Flavors) I worked to create with my sister-in-law at Jane’s Ice Cream and my family (my brother did the poster and ice cream containers)! We did it as a labor of love and then they were able to share it with the original cast of Hamilton at the Richard Rogers for an ice cream social.
Again, we did it just to thank the incredible cast and crew for creating the most incredible broadway show of our generation. When Hamilton: An American Musical posted the ice cream menu to their Instagram feed (https://www.instagram.com/p/BD6-8Sgo9Yc/), it got over 31k likes and 16k comments. For Hamilton that’s not unusual, but it was exciting to be a part of! We were huge fans and the fans loved it! The Hamilton flavors aren’t available to the world but the great Ice Cream of Jane’s Ice Cream is. Happy birthday to the 10 Dollar Founding Father! #alexanderhamilton#janesicecream
If you are a reader of this blog you know that I never claim to completely invent my recipes, and that this blog is simply an expression of ideas that may make regular or standard issues easier or more appealing than they are from existing popular or standard recipes. But very often, if not always, the recipes begin somewhere else. This salad was created by my wife, and I don’t know if she was just feeling inspired but it is my single favorite salad of all of time and I never want another salad if it’s not this. OK, I will eat other salads, but if you ask me it will be this all the time.
Arugula (1 bag, bunch)
2-3 shallots, carmelized
~4 tablespoons of sunflower seeds
~ 1 cup feta cheese
Juice of half/whole lemon (to taste)
Balsamic vinegar (to taste) (I like Finibut don’t use cheap supermarket stuff).
Add Arugula to salad bowl, add lemon.
Add feta cheese.
Sprinkle sunflower seeds.
Heat olive oil in frying pan, about four tablespoons (this is the only oil in the salad). When hot, add sliced shallots. Carmelize.
Add contents of pan (oil, shallots) to salad bowl.
I found schnitzel to be ubiquitous when I visited Israel, and like their hummus, delicious everywhere I had it. Their schnitzel is so much better than what ours has become, basically a chicken nugget- that I was inspired to try and recreate it. Of course thanks to the Internet, that’s pretty easy since there are lots of great recipes out there. The one I started with is from Janna Gurr. As she notes, and I agree with, it is best served with hummus, pickles and something green, like a salad.
Even though it is fried in oil, a good schnitzel should be light — not heavy, so make sure your oil is the right temperature and get your pieces in and out quickly.
2.5 half pounds of chicken. (If you buy fillets you won’t have to pound them).
1 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with:
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Canola and Peanut oil for frying
If necessary, pound your chicken to scallopini thickness or whenever your hand gets tired (I find it optimal to not just pound but also cut the breasts in half or smaller. This allows me to put more pieces in the pan at once, cook them faster and provide each one with more crispy surface. But that is for you to decide).
Beat the eggs in a bowl with dijon mustard and 1-2 tablespoons water.
Prepare the flour by sifting it together with the additional spices.
Add your Panko to a bowl and prepare a plate covered with wax paper next to it for finished pieces.
First—Dip chicken in flour mixture. Then, shaking off the excess, drag through egg mixture, and when done, drop in Panko. Place finished pieces on wax paper while you prepare oil.
Using at least a 12-inch cast iron pan or equivalent, heat your oils to medium high temperature. I find that the addition of a small amount of peanut oil adds a tremendous amount of flavor where canola oil has almost no flavor at all. I tried sesame oil but it has too much flavor.
Fry each piece for 2-3 minutes. They should be golden brown, not dark brown.
Salt them upon taking them out from the oil, and set them on brown paper bags (if your grocery provides these) or paper towels to try.