I owe a lot to my friends. I have great friends that I know well and people I consider “friends” even though I’ve never met them in person. We converse through e-mail and I’ve “known” some of them for many years.
One friend of mine recently brought me back some treasures from a trip to France. Tucked in a bag with some beautiful fabric there was a canister of sea salt from Camargue. I immediately hid it so it wouldn’t get used by mistake in everyday cooking. Then I began plotting what special recipe I would use it in first.
I remembered a delicious chocolate sauce recipe posted a long time ago on Gilt taste by Francis Lam. I’m always happy to see an article written by him in a magazine or on-line as I love his writing, and I’ve learned that the recipes he shares can be trusted. I’ve never met him but how could I not consider him a friend when he is willing to share something so delicious? Sadly, Gilt taste is long gone and so are the recipe archives. Fortunately, I’m a luddite who prints favorite recipes out and slides them into plastic sleeves and stores them in big binders, so I’m able to share this deliciousness with you.
The recipe is in grams and volume measures. I’ve found the volumes aren’t quite as accurate particularly when it comes to the cocoa powder. Really, get a scale, you’ll be much happier and it’s so much faster to be on your way to delicious hot fudge.
This is one of those recipe where you want to measure everything out in advance and have it ready to go. Once the sugar syrup is at temperature it all happens quickly.
The original recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate. I rarely have that around. Lately I’ve been buying these Guittard bittersweet chocolate wafers for cooking and baking. Use what tastes delicious to you and I’m sure you’ll be just fine.
After making the sauce it’s recommended – but not required – to pour it through a fine mesh strainer to ensure a perfectly smooth sauce. Then the salt is sprinkled on and stirred in.
This way there will be little crispy flakes of salt throughout.
And there you have it. All ready for topping ice cream or any other dessert or, you know, eating off a spoon straight from the fridge. I warm up the amount I need in the microwave to make it perfectly drizzle-able. It will keep in the fridge for a few weeks.
- 100 grams (a scant ½ C) heavy cream
- 30 grams (1/4 - ½ C) cocoa powder (if measuring start with the smaller amount and adjust after tasting)
- 20 grams ( 1½ T) water
- 140 grams (1/2 C + 2 T ) granulated sugar
- 60 grams (1/4 C) corn syrup
- 45 grams ( 1½ ounces) unsweetened baking chocolate
- 50 grams (3½ T) butter, cut into small pieces
- 3 grams (1 t) crunchy salt flakes
- You will also need a candy thermometer and a fine mesh strainer is optional.
- Be sure to measure all the ingredients in advance.
- Place the cocoa powder in a small bowl and slowly stir in the cream to make a smooth paste. This will make it easier to add to the sauce later.
- Add the water, sugar, and corn syrup to a saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Let it come to a boil and clip the thermometer to the side of the pan. When the mixture reaches 225 - 230 degrees take the pan off the heat.
- Whisk in the cream/cocoa mixture until smooth.
- Add the unsweetened chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
- Place the pan back on the stove over low heat and stir in the butter a few pieces at a time until it is all incorporated and the sauce is glossy.
- Strain the sauce.
- Stir in the sauce and it's ready to enjoy.
– – marcella
It’s been a busy month over here with travel and tons of cooking and sewing going on.
We started the month out with a class at the local fancy grocery store. Yes, they have a second floor with a very expensive kitchen shop/bookstore, a restaurant and a cooking school. I had met a woman at the baking club who teaches there as so we signed up for her lobster roll class.
So delicious. It was a demonstration class so watched her make Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins, chowder, the lobster rolls and coleslaw and whoppee pies. Our job was to taste test and everything was very delicious. Too bad she doesn’t live in my kitchen all the time!
The next morning I zipped off to New York to visit a friend, take a ballet workshop and have fun adventures since my sister and niece were in town at the same time.
Finis Jhung was offering an adult ballet student workshop – 5 hours a day for two days. Yep, my feet were worn out by the end. Actually they were worn out by the end of the first day. The studio was HUGE and really lovely with floor to ceiling windows on two walls. The view from “my chair” was so pretty and a nice distraction from my sore feet during break.
There were about 40 people in class all adult ages and sizes and levels. He really focused on the mechanics of movement and it’s really helped my balance and turning ability in class.
All that dancing (and walking to and from class) got me starving and it was all I could do to wait patiently for dinner.
One night we walked down the street for burgers…
It was too big to fit in the frame any other way. That is one amazing chicken club sandwich. I only ate half though because when you’re at Junior’s you have to order the cheesecake and I needed to save some room.
Why yes, I did eat nearly all of my slice. The remainder was a breakfast hors d’oeuvre.
After two days of dancing it was time for a little adventure. We put on our walking shoes and headed out. We shopped and wandered and ate delicious things and a little bit of fabric might have made its way into my bag.
Because I am powerless when confronted with a wall of Liberty fabric.
We ended the day with a very fancy dinner at Del Posto. I have to say it was probably the fanciest restaurant I have ever been to. I’d rank the service as better than the French Laundry. Seriously, never even noticed the water glasses being refilled and they were never less than half full. Also, never got a dessert napkin before.
We had the 5 course menu with also started with an amuse of three dishes and ended with a final plate of tiny desserts to share – and this after our dessert course. Every bite was delicious.
Then it was home to humid weather and reality and lots of vegetables since our CSA started up for the season.
It’s been fun getting a box again, but I always miss having an excuse to go to the farmers market.
Mark brought home plums from a co-workers tree. They were more than we could eat so I made two batches of jam. One was regular plum. The second I was a little short of plums so I added about a cup of blueberries and that turned out really well.
On the sewing front it’s all been about scouting. I made 24 red felt vests for next years Cub Scouts. They put all their extra patches on the vest. I also made a pile of ribbon necklaces for the mom’s. As the boys earn their ranks the moms get pins and the ribbon is a nice place to keep them all. I still have a big pile of ribbon to go. Also, the Boy Scouts needed more neckerchiefs so I’ve been hemming away on those. I’m nearly done but just got an e-mail that the fabric is back in stock and on its way so there are more in my near future.
We took our first road trip in a Tesla. We did a quick weekend run down to southern California to visit family. On the way down we made two stops to recharge. I surprised my husband when I told him I had never stopped on that drive before. My parents were of the go to the bathroom before you leave because we’re not stopping variety. Since we didn’t have to stop for gas between our home and LA we never had stopped anyplace. For some people, it’s all about the destination and not the journey
So, making stops along the way was a fun experience for me. We often had a snack and at every stop we did a little geocaching adventure.
Back home we decided to visit a butcher shop I’d heard about. Turned out that not only did they have a lovely meat counter but also made some delicious sandwiches. We sampled a few things and brought home a lot of meat.
My husband is brining a huge brisket and will be smoking it to make pastrami. I have a pork belly curing to be smoked into bacon. It should be a delicious July.
– – marcella
It’s been a really long time since I’ve shared anything for a Work in Progress Wednesday. Time to fix that.
I’ve actually been pretty busy in my sewing room lately. I’ve dug out some old projects and have been making good progress on them. I pulled out a project that I had mostly cut out. I had seen this quilt (wow, in 2011!) and bookmarked it because I thought it was so great. Then I decided to use the original pattern and show off my Liberty fabric collection making each block a different print. I also started cutting out the background and made a single test block. Then I decided that the pattern method wasted too much fabric and that was as far as I got.
So, I pulled it out. Finished cutting the last few print squares and figured out a better triangle size for the background and went to work. I got all of the blocks made. Here they’re just slapped up on the design wall but at this point I’ve nearly got the rows sewn together.
I even ordered a Liberty print for the backing so it should be a very soft quilt when it’s finished. I do need to figure out the border because I don’t love the big solid fabric one on the pattern at all. Maybe no border and I’ll just bind it. I’m sure there’s a better idea out there though – help me out creative people!
Also, I dug into my scrap bag thinking a little “leader – ender” project would be good while working on those blocks.
This bag sits next to my cutting table. Pieces of fabric too small to fold and put away but too large to toss in the trash without guilt go in here. I used to take this bag to quilt guild periodically and share the scraps with the scrap piecers. However, since I no longer belong to guild they’ve been piling up and the bag was getting awfully full. I decided to dig out all the Denyse Schmidt scraps and cut them into 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ rectangles. While digging I found a lot of white fabrics with little black or grey prints on them so I also cut those out in the same size. I ended up with pretty good sized stacks of fabric.
You’d think that scrap bag would be at least half empty by now but it actually looks exactly the same. I tell myself the fabric is just fluffed up but I suspect it’s one of those bottomless bags and no matter what I do it will never actually be empty.
At any rate, between sewing on my old projects I’ve been sewing these rectangles into pairs. I’ve made pretty good progress with them.
Rectangle stacks getting smaller, block stack getting bigger. One of these days I’ll hopefully have enough to make a quilt like this clever person made:
Check back here in 2020 or so.
Also, I pulled out an old hand sewing piece. I can’t even remember how many years ago I started this one. It’s an english paper piecing project which means itty bitty pieces of fabric are basted to itty bitty pieces of paper and then sewn together. The paper means the pieces fit perfectly. The basting means it takes …f o r e v e r… to do. Not long ago I discovered that the basting goes quicker with a skinny glue stick rather than with needle and thread. So, I sat down with some mindless TV and basted and basted until my glue stick ran out. Then I found a refill in my sewing room and I kept going. Now I have lots of diamonds ready to sew.
Six little diamonds make a star (they are 1″ on a side, because I really am that crazy) and 13 stars fit with little cream colored diamonds to make a row. You can see at the top I have two rows sewn together with the larger hexagons that fit in the middle. I need a whole lot more. I better put glue stick refills on my quilt shopping list!
– – marcella
A couple of weeks ago I needed to bake a lot of cupcakes for a couple of different events. Because one event involved children I wasn’t sure my usual cream cheese frosting would go over so well. I asked one of my sisters and her daughter if they had any favorite frosting recipes and they each shared a winner.
My sister shared a Fluffy Vanilla Frosting recipe that worked up really well. I have to say it swirled out of the pastry bag and made the cupcakes look like something from the bakery. The frosting is less sweet than the store-bought version and very smooth. I think the secret to this recipe is all of the time spent whipping the ingredients together. I actually set the time for 4 minutes to add the sugar and then for another 5 minutes to whip up that frosting so it was light and fluffy. Who knew air could be such an important frosting ingredient?
I liked the vanilla version so much that I decided to adjust her recipe to make it chocolate rather than using my usual fudge-y recipe. I melted some bittersweet chocolate, let it cool down so it didn’t melt the butter and beat that in after combining the vanilla, salt, cream and butter. Then I increased the powdered sugar to 4 1/2 cups to make up for the added liquid of the chocolate. It was a real winner. Never have I gotten so many compliments on cupcakes I’ve made.
- 1½ C (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
- 3 T heavy Cream
- 2½ t Vanilla extract
- ¼ t salt
- 3 C confectioners sugar
- Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter, cream, vanilla, and salt together on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to med-low, slowly add confectioners sugar, and beat until incorporated and smooth, 4 minutes.
- Increase mixer speed to med-high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, 5 minutes.
- Frosting can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; let soften at room temperature, about 2 hours then rewhip using mixer on medium speed until smooth, 2-5 min.
- For the Chocolate Frosting variation:
- Melt 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate and set aside to cool. After the beating together the butter, cream, vanilla and salt add in the melted chocolate and beat until smooth.
- Increase the powdered sugar to 4½ C and add it slowly to the creamed mixture and then beat it for 5 minutes to finish.
For my next cupcake event I used a variation on the recipe my niece sent me. I needed a larger quantity of frosting than the recipe she sent made and in searching for bigger batches I found the recipes big sister here. This one actually makes more frosting than you need for 24 cupcakes (and you can see I was rather generous with the frosting) but leftovers are never bad, or if you have a big layer cake this would be perfect.
This frosting is super creamy and not extra sweet. Several people asked me if it was whipped cream. It has that texture but with no cream involved.
Do be sure to really follow those picky seeming directions though – slowly whisk the cold milk into the flour and go slow so there are zero lumps. Be sure to cook the mixture at least 10 minutes even if it thickens earlier so that your frosting tastes delicious and not like powdery flour (which is totally not delicious!) And whip and whip it at the end until it is really creamy and fluffy and the sugar is totally dissolved. Give it a taste and if the frosting is the littlest bit grainy keep whipping until it is completely smooth. Finally, make sure you chill it so that it pipes out perfectly with crisp edges.
Hope all your cupcakes are delicious!
– – marcella
At the beginning of this year I set two sewing goals. One was quickly discarded and the other accomplished. After all, who could resist making a quilt for this cute guy?
I used the Pow Wow pattern which went together really easily. The quilting was done in rows alternating between straight lines and a meander. The back is a cozy flannel.
Then came all the things I sewed which weren’t on the list.
I had fun making some small projects. Always nice to be able to start and actually finish something in a short span of time!
Time was also spent making progress on projects.
I got another section of that Japanese Basket Quilt completed. The borders are nearly finished and then I’ll just have the flower filled center basket to complete. I made a whole lot of rows for the Moda Trifle Dish quilt. Just two left to go. I’m having a hard time deciding what to use for the sashing fabric between the rows. Finally, I couldn’t resist Lori Holt’s instagram Christmas quilt project. I really tried to just enjoy what others were making but then this darling snowman block showed up and I was hooked. I found the book at a local quilt shop and dug out some scraps and the top is very nearly finished. I even have a backing and binding fabric ready to go.
Last but not least are a couple of unexpected projects that I didn’t expect to do but I really enjoyed.
My son was married this fall and the bride was hoping for orange napkins. We found some in the perfect color but not enough for all the guests. In order to have enough matching napkins we ended up buying lots of matching orange tablecloths and cutting them up. I got really good at pressing and hemming!
This year I decided I really just wanted a little tree in the family room rather than a huge tree. I found the perfect tree at Home Goods and wrapped it with white dew drop lights. It sat on a little table next to the fireplace. However, it really needed a tree skirt to brighten things up. I remembered that years ago I had bought a wool kit at PIQF for a wallhanging. I turned that pattern into a tree skirt and it went together much quicker than expected.
Well, I didn’t exactly work on what I thought I would this year, but I did accomplish quite a bit. Here’s to another year of quilting surprises.
– – marcella
I’ve been having a lot of fun lately puttering around the kitchen and even in the sewing room. I’d nearly forgotten how to find the sewing room with all the wedding busy that was going on around here.
First adventure was making up some key fobs.
I had the hardware on hand and after rummaging though my scrap bag found some cute fabrics to use. These will be taken to quilt bee next week for a little holiday gift. The pattern I used is a freebie here.
After Thanksgiving we were craving some homemade soup. Nothing is better with some soup than hot homemade rolls. I’d bookmarked this recipe in Southern Living magazine.
I changed the shape a little bit – you know me, I have to change something. And we mixed the rosemary into the dough rather than into the butter that was brushed on the rolls. They were really yummy and worth the effort of a special trip to the grocery store for buttermilk and potato flakes.
Finally, I could no longer resist Lori Holt’s darn cute Christmas quilt-along that she’s been doing over on instagram – #haveyourselfaquiltylittlechristmas I’d been good. Just enjoying the blocks as they popped up and seeing all the adorable quilts being made. Then she posted a snowman block for the quilt label and I caved. I had to make a snowman!
Now she’s started a little quilt made up of nine of these guys. I’ve resisted that too. Mr. Snowman hangs alone right now on the design wall. Not sure what he’ll become, but he’s fun to look at.
Making Mr. Snowman got me in a holiday sewing mood. I dug out a wool kit that I’d bought a couple years ago. I’d seen the sample hanging at PIQF and couldn’t resist. Then I got home and opened the pattern and saw the zillion and sixty pieces to trace and cut out and packed it all back up. This time I took a good look; realized I could copy the pattern using a copy machine onto freezer paper sheets and it wouldn’t take long at all. That afternoon I’d stitched up three of the little stockings.
Two more to go and I’m done! The pattern calls for sewing them onto a larger piece of wool and framing it. I’m going to sew them onto a big circle of wool and make them into a little Christmas tree skirt. This year I’m thinking little tree on a table instead of giant tree in the living room. We’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll get energetic and we’ll have both.
Yesterday was book group and this is the one meeting with lots of treats. Everyone brings a small plate of something and we read something Christmas themed. I was craving homemade caramels so I gave this recipe a try.
They turned out really well. I do like my caramels toasty so I took the sugar fairly dark (like some recipes say “until it looks like a copper penny”) before adding in the cream and butter. The recipe says to cut them into 40 squares but that seemed too large so each square was cut in half. Now I have a TON of caramels, but that’s not such a horrible thing, is it?
What have you been making?
– – marcella
Recently I pulled out an old favorite cookbook that had been neglected too long. It’s The Simpler The Better by Leslie Revsin and it’s full of easy to make dishes that taste like they took more effort than they actually did.
I was wanting some sort of chicken but none of my usual recipes sounded like exactly what I wanted. I also wanted leftovers for lunch. The recipe in the book for Waldorf Chicken Legs filled the bill. The original recipe calls for 4 whole chicken legs but because of my need for leftovers I used 8 drumsticks instead. I am sure if you are a white meat lover you can use chicken breasts but you will have to adjust the cooking time.
Making dinner was simply a matter of mixing together some herbs and spices, rubbing them onto the chicken, adding a sprinkling of flour and roasting. I lined the baking pan with foil which makes my dish washing husband very happy at clean up time.
- 2 t paprika
- 1½ t dried oregano
- ¼ t garlic powder
- 4 large chicken legs
- 1 T worcestershire sauce
- 1 T flour
- salt & pepper
- Place an oven rack at the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil. Mix together the paprika, oregano and garlic powder. Pat chicken dry with a paper towel.
- Arrange chicken in a single layer on baking pan. Season with salt and pepper then drizzle with the worcestershire sauce rubbing it in gently. Sprinkle seasoning mixture over chicken and pat to adhere. Sprinkle flour over chicken and pat to help adhere.
- Roast chicken 30 minutes, baste with pan juices or just turn it over once or twice while cooking until nicely brown and cooked through.
– – marcella
Two years ago we attended Kneading West and really enjoyed the whole experience. We had always planned to attend again and last week we were able to do just that. The name of the event was changed to The Grain Gathering but the chance to interact with and learn from farmers, millers, brewers, bakers and grain scientists was the same.
We met at the WSU Mount Vernon extension and research campus. Many of the classes are held outdoors under tents on a lovely lawn between the orchard and the grain fields. Really, there are so many classes offered that it can be hard at times to choose. It isn’t uncommon to see people bouncing between multiple classes during a session trying to soak in as much as possible. Luckily I bring my husband along and we are able to share with each other what we learned.
New this year was the chance to participate in some production baking. Rather than have the bakers make all the delicious breads and desserts in their shops they taught it as classes and everyone got to enjoy sampling what was learned. I spent a morning helping to mix, portion and bake cookies for some of our meals. Here are some stacked trays waiting their turn in the ovens.
And I confess that I am more than a little addicted to these coconut macaroons. They are so crispy and chewy and not too sweet. It was happy times when these showed up at the dessert table after meals.
We also get to geek out on the science of baking. This was from the natural leavening class. We heard from both Andrew Ross a cereal scientist and Debra Wink a microbiologist. They were followed by one of the bread lab bakers sharing some of his insights working with starters and sharing bread made from starters at differing hydrations and made from either white or whole wheat flours.
Pizza with amazing combinations like peaches and bacon or apples and sausage for dinner. And bread, always loaves of bread from different classes. All this in addition to what gets passed around in class or on trays afterwards among the crowds. Followed by an hour of sampling locally made products like crackers and cheeses just before dinner in case we hadn’t had quite enough to eat.
I was able to attend classes on braiding breads, breads and toppings for toast, a grain tasting, lecture and workshops on milling grains and the make up of oats. It was enough to keep my head spinning with information.
I even got to learn about cooking in a tandoor oven and try making a naan. It was really cool how the bread stuck to the side of the oven and then with two long metal skewers we’d peel them off the side once they were cooked.
Out in the field they fired up a thresher and showed us how that worked.
Now to read through my notes and all the recipes collected and decide what to bake next.
– – marcella
Until I downloaded the pictures from my phone I didn’t realize how much I had been cooking lately. Sure, it’s felt like all I’ve been doing is cleaning up the kitchen, but we’ve actually had some good treats that went with all the scrubbing.
For the warm weather some ice cream was necessary. There was a big bunch of mint in the fridge so I tried out the mint ice cream from Jenis Spendid Ice Cream and added in the chips from another recipe in the book and ended up with something pretty darn tasty.
Nearly every week we’ve been buying a big bag of peaches at the farmer’s market. They’ve just been eaten fresh but it seemed like a little baking was in order so I tried this recipe from the latest Bon Appetité magazine.
I did peel the peaches though and tossed in a few fresh raspberries we had in the fridge. The almond paste really adds something special to this cobbler.
Then I got a little panicky about the end of peach season being so close so I bought a really big bag of peaches and dehydrated them all for later snacking.
Then last lazy weekend I saw a magazine article on doughnuts and it sounded good to both of us. I cannot remember the last time we ate doughnuts let alone made them at home. I pulled out this old recipe I’d been meaning to try forever and as luck would have it we had all the ingredients on hand.
These are a cake doughnut. Some of them got dipped in sugar, some in cinnamon sugar and a few were glazed. I had scribbled down the recipe from a cookbook I’d borrowed from the library long ago but I found a close version online here. My notes had much less flour so the dough was quite sticky and also called for less butter. The nice thing about cake doughnuts is you don’t have to wait for them to rise.
This week jam making for the wedding began. I started with a single batch just to see if I could get the commercial one piece lids to work since I’ve never used them before. With that success I planned a jam making afternoon and made an additional 35 jars.
Instead of having a second jam day this week I took a break for apples. Gravensteins are just coming into season and our local CSA was offering them in 10 pound bags so I bought two. I spent the morning peeling and slicing and filling the dehydrator for more winter fruit snacks.
I put the sliced fruit in a big bowl of pineapple juice which keeps the fruit from browning without affecting the flavor as much as lemon juice and water does. The slices get laid out onto trays and I give them a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar before loading them into the dehydrator. Right now my garage smells like apple pie!
And now I realize why it feels like I’ve been mopping the sticky kitchen floor an awful lot. It’s because I have!
– – marcella
I’ve been working on this quilt for a long while and it’s nice to have a finish!
A friend had sent me a stack of 8 fat quarters thinking they would make something nice for my new great nephew. I immediately thought of the Pow Wow pattern that I had purchased but hadn’t yet used. It seemed like a good pattern for a boy.
The top went together really well. I do, however, have a zillion and three leftover half square triangles. The pattern gives suggestions on how to use them, but I think they will be put aside for a way in the future project.
The quilting was simple. I did rows of straight lines in one row of blocks and alternated with a stipple in the other rows. It was fairly quick and looks nice I think. I backed it with a herringbone flannel which has a similar shape to the pieced blocks.
Not being a fan of labels – I know, heresy – I did do a little embroidery on the binding.
When I took over the quilt I did get a big smile from my nephew. I’d like to claim it was because he liked his new quilt, however he’s just really a happy little guy and always has a ready smile.
A bit of a crooked picture, but that’s what I get for giving away the quilt before I check my photos. Oh well, at least you can see all the colors.
So nice to have a finish!
– – marcella