Tag Archives: dark chocolate

Southern Dark Chocolate and Mayo Cake

Yes, I’ve been gone a while.  I can blame it on all manner of events and situations.  I was in the Holy Land…okay, so that accounts for two weeks.  I help my 95-year old father.  THAT is a constant but one that I typically enjoy.  I have tons of yard work.  I truly do and love getting dirt under my fingernails but the fact of the matter is I got tired.  And discouraged.  And my creativity ran dry, Dry, DRY!  However, with summer being firmly ensconced in South Florida, my mind tends to run to hot weather food…and dishes I relished as a child and as a young adult.  Recalling meals I discovered in my early days or travels has me hovering over the butcher block, knife in hand or in front of the oven pulling out a cake pan to test for doneness.  That brings me to this cake.  During my college days in Georgia, I was exposed to all manner of dishes; from brains to cheese grits to chocolate mayonnaise cake.  Made popular in the early 20th century, mayonnaise was the perfect substitute for pricy eggs and milk.  While the Hellman’s company didn’t invent the chocolate mayo cake they most certainly made it popular.  Here in the South, a loved mayonnaise is Duke’s and that’s what I use here.  Keep in mind, you are not including the moisture of butter and milk so, regardless of the brand of mayo you use, do not make the mistake of using non-fat or reduced fat.  You will find this cake to be incredibly moist and tender. It is the stuff of dreams.  Also, if you’re not a fan of dark chocolate, regular unsweetened cocoa may be used in both the cake and the icing and you’ll still have a magnificent work made by your own two, capable hands.  No one will ever mistake this cake for a boxed cake or, even worse, a grocery store cake.  And since mayonnaise is essentially eggs and  vegetable oil there is no tell-tale taste…nothing more than a drop dead, gorgeous, mouth-watering chocolate cake!

Southern Dark Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • shortening to grease pans
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder, Hershey’s makes one and it can be found in the baking section of your grocery store
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup mayonnaise, not fat-free or reduced-fat
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup cold, strong brewed coffee
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Dark Chocolate Frosting
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.  Grease, line bottoms with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper three 8-inch cake pans.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat at high-speed the eggs and brown sugar for 3-4 minutes.  The mixture will become light in color and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the mayonnaise until just blended.
  5. Add the coffee to the cup of water.
  6. Alternately mix in the flour mixture with coffee-water, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl in between each addition and do not over beat.
  7. Divide equally between the three prepared pans.  I measure about 15 ounces per pan.
  8. Bake for 20-23 minutes, checking at the 20 minute mark for doneness or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.
  9. On wire racks, cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans, peel off parchment paper and place on racks to completely.
  10. Spread Dark Chocolate Frosting or frosting of choice on cake when completely cool.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Dark Chocolate Frosting

  • Servings: 3 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder, SIFTED.  If the cocoa powder is not sifted you will have lumps that are impossible to get out.
  • 7 tablespoons boiling water, plus more is needed
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, SIFTED, plus more is needed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. In a large mixing bowl add cocoa powder and boiling water.  With a wooden spoon, stir by hand until the cocoa and water is smooth and completely combined.
  2. Using an electric beater on low-speed add the softened butter and mix until completely combined
  3. Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and beat on low until most of the sugar has been incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue beating on medium until the frosting is smooth.  The longer the frosting is beaten the lighter in color and the more fluffy it becomes.  If it too stiff add hot water one teaspoon at a time.  If the frosting is too loose add more SIFTED confectioner’s sugar one tablespoon at a time.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

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Peppermint Bark

It’s hard to stay away from holiday treats and Peppermint Bark is no exception.  Williams-Sonoma features a Peppermint Bark during the holidays that has to be, if not the best, one of the top two or three.  But at $29.00 per pound, well, I have to say, I can’t afford it.  Neither can my waistline so it’s probably better that way.  Between eggnog, coquitos and peppermint bark, December is usually the time of a losing battle for me.  I tried my hand at making my own bark and after quite a few attempts have come to a few conclusions.  Since most days in south Florida range from the high-70’s to the mid-80’s, chocolate is NOT going to firm up on your counter.  And if there is any humidity what so ever, and here there always is, the crushed peppermints will weep, bleed and stick all over everything.  I yearned for the “snap” of commercial chocolate when broken apart and learned that tempering chocolate is not enough.

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Tempering chocolate produces glossy, flawless chocolate that when bitten into breaks off with a snap.  Essentially, you’re raising and lowering the temperature of the dark, milk or white chocolate in order to make it behave properly…melt in your mouth not in your hand.  I tempered chocolate all day long yesterday and between the rain and heat of the day let’s just say ain’t no “snap” in MY chocolate!  That said I will move forward and skip the tempering process.  I also discovered that a decent quality white chocolate must be used, one high in cocoa butter.  White chocolate chips do not melt.  At least not for me.  Not in the microwave, over a double boiler or in the oven.   So.  Get thee good quality chocolate bars, for instance Guittard, not chips, especially when melting white chocolate.  When melting the chocolate make absolutely certain that not one drop of water comes into contact with it as it will seize up and become unworkable.  Take your time melting it.  Chocolate is delicate and can become grainy and lumpy if melted too quickly over high heat.  The water in the double boiler should be kept at a simmer and should never touch the bottom of the chocolate bowl as it can scorch easily.  As the chocolate begins to melt, stir frequently with a rubber spatula.  Take the bowl off the pot when the chocolate has almost completely melted and only a few small lumps remain.  Continue stirring off the heat until smooth.  I also found leaving the candy cane crumbles in a closed baggie will keep it from weeping and sticking to everything like all your fingers, the counter and the floor instead of the darn bark.  And last of all move fast.  Have your tray or large baking sheet well covered with parchment paper.  Pull out a wooden skewer and keep it close to the baking sheet alongside the crushed candy cane.  Merry Christmas!

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Peppermint Bark

  • Servings: 2 pounds
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 pound semi-sweet chocolate, chopped or broken into pieces
  • 1 pound white chocolate bars, chopped or broken into pieces, NOT chips
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup crushed candy canes
  1. Place 1″-2″ of water in the bottom of a  double boiler or pot and bring to a boil.  When the water comes to a boil drop the temperature and let water simmer.
  2. Place the semi-sweet chocolate in a bowl which fits snugly over the top of a pot or sauce pan.
  3. With a rubber spatula stir the chocolate until almost completely melted.  Take off of the heat, add 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract and continue stirring until shiny and smooth.
  4. Pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and smooth to the thickness and shape you desire using an offset spatula.
  5. Melt the white chocolate in the same manner.  When the white chocolate has melted completely, add 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract, mix in well and spoon over dark chocolate leaving space in between the chocolates.
  6. Using the blunt end of a wooden skewer, make designs and curlicues in the two chocolates by dragging the skewer from the middle of the candy to the outer edges.
  7. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes evenly over the bark and chill uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or until hard.
  8. Break the bark slab into pieces and chill until serving.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Mousse with Rum Spiked Whipped Cream

My mother was a complete fool for chocolate.  From the cheapest drug store candy bar to the finest handmade chocolates from Switzerland, Belgium or France, she loved it all and all was eaten in a frenzy and with abandon.  Mama was crazy for chocolate.  I made this mousse often in the 70’s and 80’s when we entertained and always made sure Mama got some.  This dessert is unbelievably easy and simple.  Velvety smooth and elegant, its depth and richness will make you swoon.  The recipe calls for just a few ingredients so use the best dark chocolate, the freshest eggs and highest quality whipping cream available to you.  Now is not the time to skimp.  It can be made a day ahead of serving and is excellent with after dinner coffees and dessert wines.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have…like right now when I pulled out a cup from the refrigerator just to “even it off”.   I had a little bit more because, well, it’s so good.  And then I couldn’t stop and didn’t until I thought, “I must have some kind of disease.  Like those people who can’t control themselves and eat dirt.”   I think all you ladies out there understand.  Enjoy but be forewarned.  This stuff is dangerous!

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The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Mousse with Rum Spiked Whipped Cream

  • Servings: 2 3/4 cups or 4-6 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons brewed espresso or strong coffee
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  1. In a double boiler or a bowl set over simmering water but not touching the water, whisk the chocolate until it has completely melted.  Do not let the water boil as the chocolate will easily scorch and be ruined.
  2. Whisk in the coffee and sugar.  Continue to whisk while adding one egg yolk at a time.
  3. Continue whisking until the mixture has thickened, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. While the chocolate is cooling, whip the cream to soft but almost firm peaks using a hand mixer.  Watch the cream, you don’t want it to get “grainy” or turn into butter.  You just want it to hold its shape.
  6. Whisk the vanilla extract into the partially cooled chocolate mixture then fold in the whipped cream folding until all streaks of cream are gone.
  7. Spoon into serving dishes or glasses, lightly cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours up to 24 hours.
  8. Top each serving with a dollop of Rum Spiked Whipped Cream right before serving.
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 level tablespoon confectioners sugar
  • 1 tablespoon spiced rum, orange liquor or liquor of choice
  1. Pour cream into a small bowl and whip until cream starts to thicken.
  2. Add the sugar and liquor and continue whipping cream until soft peaks form.
  3. Spoon a dollop of cream over each serving of mousse.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Devil’s Food Cupcakes because it’s my birthday

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This weekend is my birthday.  And it’s a big one.  As my father asked, “Isn’t there a six involved?” Yes, Dad.  Yes there is.  We’ll be in Nola to celebrate and I’m planning on drinking gallons of champagne.  At all hours.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Because on your birthday you get to do whatever you want and everyone has to be nice to you.  I’ve had some truly wonderful birthdays and some that lean more towards, “Well, maybe next year will be better.”  That was almost the case when I turned 14 or 15.  Around then was when Mama and I started growing apart…squabbling and constantly butting heads.  I woke up that morning and it was already hot out.  Cranky and spoiling for an argument I came out of my room for another splendid breakfast of Cheerios and, as luck would have it, Mama was the first family member I encountered.  “Good morning, Cielo, and happy birthday.  Could you please make certain your bed is made before leaving the house today?  Thank you.”  Hackles up and muttering under my breath, they might as well have been fighting words.  I don’t know why I thought she was the enemy but I did and I did everything in my power to let her know it.  All through the day I huffed and puffed, I slammed doors and scowled at whoever made the mistake of trying to talk to me.  Late in the afternoon I spied an enormous brown, cardboard box in the living room.  We always opened our birthday presents in the living room after having had our choice of anything we want for our celebratory dinner.  Oh, and the opposition, that would have been Mama, hadn’t asked me what I wanted that night for dinner so I assumed it would be the usual dried up chicken with burnt to a crisp zucchini and tomato slices.  Anger gently simmered under my skin right next to indignation.  I looked closely at the box but to no avail.  There was nothing printed on it…anywhere.  It was just a big, brown box.  I snarled at Mama, “What’s that?”  She stopped what she was doing and sighed.  “We know you’re not going to like this but your father and I feel your schoolwork is suffering and we felt you should receive something for your birthday that you truly need so we got you A SET OF ENCYCLOPEDIAS.”  Encyclopedias.  Are you freaking kidding me?  Talking to myself but making perfectly sure that she heard me I said, “I hate you.  I truly hate you.” and with that I sang out with artificial happiness, “I’m going over to Kit’s house!  Be back in time for dinner!”  Kit was another bone of contention.  My parents didn’t like her…at all.  They said she was a “bad influence” on me.  And guess what?  She was!  She lived only one island away, just a quick bike ride for me.  I spent the afternoon complaining to Kit how horrible my life and my mother were and returned home before we sat down to eat all the while continuing the bratty act of spreading irritation and negativity.  Honestly, I don’t know how my incredible mother put up with me.  I would have…well, I don’t know what I would l have done but I know I was hateful and I do regret having put Mama through the wringer.  At any rate we were called to the table and, lo and behold, she had prepared my favorite dinner.  Rare roast beef, mashed potatoes with the pan juices of the roast, asparagus, salad and Pepperidge Farm rolls that weren’t even scorched.  I don’t think I had the grace to thank her and acknowledge that she had prepared my #1, best-loved meal.  Ugh, I was awful.  We made it through dinner without anyone getting sent to their room, i.e. me, and moved to the living room for presents and cake.  Wretch that I was, that box had me worried.  It was all about me  and I couldn’t be concerned with anything that didn’t directly affect me.  Daddy urged me, “Go ahead! Open it!”  Mama was silent.  I recall thinking, “Why?  It’s not like I’m going to use them or anything.  You might as well just take ’em back wherever you found them.”  For once I didn’t vocalize my thoughts.  I slowly tore the brown packing tape and opened the cardboard flaps.  Tommy and Pamela, who would have been seven and six at the time, had the good sense to keep still and not say anything.  They sat on the sofa with big eyes willing to wait for a piece of cake.  As I peered into the dark shadows of the box I realized there weren’t any leather spines, no golden gilt edges.  No.  Shame washed over me.  My parents had simply teased me and I had responded in an ugly, ugly fashion.  Nothing was said as I pulled out a turntable, speakers, a complete stereo system.  Reeling with the enormity of how hateful I had behaved, I looked up at Mama beseechingly with eyes that begged for forgiveness letting out a sobbing, “Oh, Mama!”.  And Mama, loving me and knowing me so well smiled and said, “Oh, Cielo.”  Some birthdays are good, some not so good.

This is a go-to Devil’s Food Cake from The New Basics Cookbook.  I use this recipe for both cakes and cupcakes.  It’s dark, luscious and rich…everything you want in a chocolate cake.  There’s not much more I can say except it won’t let you down and you MIGHT gain weight.

Kathleen's Devil's Food Cake

  • Servings: 24-36 cupcakes or 2 9-inch cakes
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  • 3 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375°.  Place cupcake liners in pans or grease and flour 2 9-inch cake pans.  Set aside.
  2. Place chocolate in a small, heavy saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring constantly.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer.  With the mixer on low-speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition,  Stir in the melted chocolate.
  4. Combine the cake flour, baking soda, and the salt.   Alternating between the two, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the chocolate mixture in three stages ending with the flour.  Then slowly stir in the boiling water and the vanilla.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans, half full for the cupcakes or divide the batter in half fi making the cakes, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 18-20 minutes for the cupcakes, 30 minutes for the 9-inch cakes.
  6. Remove cakes from oven and allow to cool on wire racks for 5 minutes.  Then invert cakes and place the cakes back on the racks.
  7. Ice when cakes are completely cooled.

 

4 Layer Boston Cream Pie Cake…for Brother’s Birthday!

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Growing up in my house there were three March birthdays.  Mine came first, early on, thank goodness!  Better presents.  Mid-March is Cynthia’s then towards the end of the month came our precious baby brother, Tommy’s, birthday.  Good Lord, when that boy was born you’d have thought the Messiah moved in.  A boy. A BOY.  My parents had a huge navy pram for him, natch, and Mama would let Cynthia and me take him for walks around the neighborhood.  People, mostly women, would stop, lean waaaaay forward to look inside and exclaim, “Oh, she’s beautiful!  And look at those curls!”  Our little bodies at six and eight would stiffen with rage and indignation as we retorted as angrily as we could, given that we had to exhibit perfect manners at all times, “It’s a HE NOT a she and he’s our brother.”  We positively adored him.  We were completely captivated.  We wanted to feed him, bathe him, change any diaper…even the muddy ones.  A little over a year later our younger sister, Pamela, was born.  Tommy became Cynthia’s baby and Pamela became mine.  The four of us grew up extraordinarily close.  Although at times we fought like cats and dogs in the privacy of our home, in public we protected each other to the end and by whatever means.  We covered up for each other with our parents as well.  For example, no one tattled-taled on another sibling if one had been drinking or partying during school hours.  Heck, no!  All our lives we’ve kept an eye out for each other.  And still do to this day.  Whether I ask Tommy, “Which do you like best?  These sandals?  Or these?” or ask his advice regarding the color of paint I should use in my hallway, he helps me with the same intensity, only thinking of what’s best for me.   Early on he helped me with relationship problems and just recently counseled me with the utmost patience and thoughtfulness through the heartbreaking loss of a dear, 25 year friendship.  He’s not demonstrative in the least but a few sweet words, a fast reminder of our quirky, outlandish childhood is all we need to become grounded and back on track.  He gives so generously of himself.  And that’s all we want.  So this cake might just be the tee-tiniest bit late but instead of two layers I made it four.  In place of pudding in between the layers I made a wildly rich pastry cream with lots of vanilla bean.  And rather than finish it off with an everyday chocolate glaze I crowned this beauty with a ravishing, magnificent dark chocolate ganache.  Because he’s OUR brother!

 

Five years old at Happyland kindergarten. Sweet boy, sweet days!
Five years old at Happyland kindergarten. Sweet boy, sweet days!

Although this cake is definitely old school I thought I would crank it up by making my favorite vanilla cake but if you’re short on time or energy a boxed mix is just fine.  If you choose a boxed mix then a few simple additions will make it even more luscious.  In place of oil use butter.  Replace water with whole milk, add an extra whole egg, a teaspoon of good vanilla extract and continue to follow the directions on the box.  While the cake cools make the pastry cream.  I use this recipe from Epicurious by Chef Lou Jones.  I must say the directions state that the cream thickens in about 1 minute but it took mine roughly 5 or 6 minutes to thicken.  Other than that it was pretty much on target…I wanted to eat it out of the pot.  The perfume of the vanilla in the kitchen was absolutely heady and intoxicating.  I spread it in between the layers of cake then refrigerated it.  I covered it with the chocolate ganache the following day.  Uhhh,  sweet Jesus, but it was gorgeous.  I studded the top with fresh strawberries that had been given a shiny shellac job with the help of a small paintbrush and melted passion fruit jelly.   I’m so glad it turned out to be the perfect birthday cake!

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Boston Cream Pie Cake

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
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Pastry Cream:

yield: about 3 cups

  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

 

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup milk, egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar and cornstarch.
  2. Transfer the remaining 1 3/4 cups milk to a heavy, medium-sized saucepan.  Scrape in vanilla seeds from bean and add the pod.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup sugar over, letting sugar undisturbed sink to the bottom.  Set pan over moderate heat and bring to simmer without stirring.
  3. Whisk hot milk mixture, then gradually whisk into egg yolk mixture.  Return all to saucepan over moderate heat and cook, whisking constantly until pastry thickens, about 1 minute. (Took me a few more minutes but nbd.)
  4. Remove from heat, discard vanilla pod and whisk cream until smooth.
  5. (At this point I covered 3 layers of cake each with 1 cup of cooled cream, assembled the cake stacking the layers leaving the top of the 4 layer cake bare but well covered with wax paper.)
  6. Transfer to a bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto surface.  Chill until cold, about 4 hours.  Pastry cream can be made ahead and refrigerated, wrapped well with plastic wrap on the surface, up to 3 days.

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Chocolate Ganache

yield: about 2 cups

  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon liquor, such as orange flavored, Armagnac, brandy, rum
  1. Place chocolate in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Heat cream to just before boiling point.
  3. Pour hot cream over chocolate bits in bowl and whisk vigorously until smooth.
  4. If using, stir in liquor until completely incorporated.
  5. Allow to cool slightly before pouring over cake.  This works best on a chilled cake.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

If you are decorating the cake with berries wait to place them on the cake a few hours before serving it so the fruit stays fresh.  Heat up a bit of clear jelly in the microwave and with a small paint brush spread the liquid jelly on the bottom or cut side of the fruit.  The jelly will act as your “glue”.  Carefully paint the jelly on the top and sides of the fruit to give it a glossy finish.  If the heated jelly starts to thicken while you’re working with it, it can be warmed up again in the microwave.

Outrageous Brownies

 

I made brownies tonight for one of my favorite Valentines, Jamesy.  I have another Valentine, his daddy, who heard about my brownies when he came to pick me up for our second date and met my family for the very first time.  My entire family.  I had moved back to Fort Lauderdale from Atlanta and was living at home.  Let me make this perfectly clear.  I had no problem moving back home.  It was great!  No rent and I could do whatever I wanted.  For our first date we had met for lunch and had the time of our lives.  We finished THAT date at the Parrot shooting melonballs with vodka floaters all afternoon and making out.  Hard to believe, but I really was a “nice girl”.  Anyway, on our second date Jimmy was to pick me up at home and, by default, he met my family.  Being a nice girl I had been taught “always make them wait”.  Okay.  In my bedroom, Pamela and I were messing around with makeup, maybe a little shoe chat was involved.  But OUTSIDE my bedroom, it was a whole different story.  Jimmy knocked on the front door and my older sister, Cynthia, answered.  She’s somewhat soft-spoken, incredibly gentle and super sweet.  With big eyes and a huge smile on her face, she swung open the door and murmured serenely, “Hi! You must be Jim! Come on in!”  And HE thought, “What do you mean?? What’s wrong with her?  She on drugs??”.  He stepped into the house and halfway through the living room encountered my little brother, Tommy, who had just scarfed down the latest batch of brownies I was tinkering with.  I believe they were chocolate with peppermint patties in the middle.  Tommy was ecstatic!  “Hey, Jim!  I’m Tommy!  Man!  Have you ever tasted Alicia’s brownies? Oh, my gosh!  They’re out of this world!  You gotta try her cooking!  She’s the best!”  And Jimmy’s thinking, “Is there something wrong with her?  Jesus.  What, are they trying to marry her off?  This is starting to get weird.”  He crossed the room, when Dad came barreling out of the kitchen, knife in left hand, right hand cupped with something wet and red, dripping all over the floor.  “Yeah!  Good to meet you!  Jack Wattley!  I’d shake your hand, but mine’s covered in BLOODWORMS.”  Yup.  That’s what he fed the tropical fish he bred.  Bloody, runny, squirmy bloodworms.  Dripping from his hand.  I was told later, Jimmy went white in the face.  Jimmy doesn’t do yucky, on any level.  After a quick recovery, he sat down in the Florida room, where my mother was seated, arms crossed, teeth clenched.  In her heavy Spanish accent, her first words ever to him were, “So!  What are your politics??”  Can you imagine? WHAT ARE YOUR POLITICS?  Right about that time, Pamela came bouncing out of the bedroom and said, “Hey, Jimmy!  You here to pick up Yaya?”  He said he almost bolted.  He said he almost got up and walked out, thinking, “Goddamnit.  I’m 35 years old.  I don’t need this shit.  Picking up her up and I have to meet her parents??   And they call her YAYA?”  Yaya is my nickname, the name Tommy and Pamela gave me as babies unable to pronounce “AH-lee-cee-AH”.  Unbeknown to us, Yaya in Greek is either Grandmother or old woman.  And, remember, Jimmy’s 100% Greek.  That totally rattled him.  How, I don’t know, but somehow, we made it.  Here we are 22 years later, still together after all the ups and downs and all the wild rides.  Happy Valentine’s Day, my Sweeties!

I’ve made countless brownies over the years but I feel the most perfect ones are Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies.  When you take a look at the ingredients you’ll see why.  Past decadent but unbelievably sublime.  The only changes I’ve made to her recipe is in the procedure of putting them together.  Oh, and no nuts…Jamesy ain’t a nut man.  Because they are so incredibly rich I cut them into smaller portions.  Also, know this recipe makes quite a few.  Oh, and they ship really well, just make sure you pack them tightly in their shipping container.   I filled gaps in care packages with boxes of Conversation Hearts, little heart-shaped Red Hots and one, big plastic heart with silly Valentine phrases stamped on it.  So, let’s kiss, sweet talk, love ya, text me, URA star, #1fan, and be mine, my baby!

Outrageous Brownies

  • Servings: 20 large squares or 40-60 small portions
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 pound, plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, Hershey’s works great
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee powder or granules, I use instant espresso, Pilon or whatever you have on hand
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups chopped walnuts, purely optional

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Line a 12 X 18 X 1-inch baking sheet with tin foil and spray with non-stick spray.
  3. Melt together the butter, the 1 pound chocolate chips,  and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. (I do my butter chocolate mixture in the microwave in 1 to 2 minute increments, stirring often.  Up to you)
  4. Allow to cool slightly.
  5. In a large bowl, stir, do not beat, together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar.
  6. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool.
  7. Sift 1 cup of flour, the baking powder and salt and add to cooled chocolate mixture.  Don’t mix quite yet.
  8. Toss the 12 ounces of chocolate chips in the remaining 1/4 cup of flour, add walnuts if using.
  9. Add floured chips to chocolate batter and mix until just combined.
  10. Pour onto baking sheet.
  11. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until brownies come away from edge of pan.  Do not overbake. You want a toothpick to come out clean when testing for doneness.
  12. Cool thoroughly, refrigerate, then cut into squares.

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