Monday, March 18, 2019

Chocolate Cake with Mascarpone and Praline

I recently read Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl (this comes out on April 2,) about her years as Editor in Chief at Gourmet Magazine. It fits nicely between her other memoirs, and goes up until Conde Nast closes the magazine with little warning.

Early on in her time there, as she was building relationships with the staff, they were working on a chocolate cake recipe for a YAFI (or a "You Asked For It") feature. She recognized the cake and was able to show them she really knew her stuff in that moment.

Of course I wanted to make the cake. It's a bit of an unusual technique, with boiling fats, water, and cocoa powder together first, then mixing those with sugar and chocolate, then letting the batter cool before doing more with it. I didn't have a high enough round pan so I baked it in an 8" square, and it worked just fine.

This recipe is more of a one-shot, make for a dinner party cake. If you assemble it too early, the praline will go soft, the mascarpone will need to be chilled, and the cake will dry out in the fridge. To bring it to my co-workers tomorrow, I'll bring everything separately.  

Chocolate Cake with Mascarpone and Praline
(recipe from Gourmet Magazine, April 1999, now available at, originally from Cafe Mezzo in London. Recipe is also included in forthcoming memoir.)


  1. For praline
    • 1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
    • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup water
  2. For cake
    • 3 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
    • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
    • 2/3 cup water
    • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk
    • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese (about 1 cup) at room temperature
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar


  1. Make praline:
    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. In a baking pan toast nuts in one layer in middle of oven 10 minutes, or until almonds are lightly colored and hazelnut skins are blistered. Wrap nuts in a kitchen towel and let steam 1 minute. Rub nuts in towel to remove any loose hazelnut skins (do not worry about skins that do not come off) and cool completely.
    3. Line a baking sheet with foil. In a small heavy saucepan bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup, without stirring, washing down any sugar crystals that cling to side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, until it begins to turn golden. Swirl pan until syrup is deep golden and remove from heat. Stir in nuts and pour praline onto baking sheet, spreading evenly. Cool praline completely and break into pieces. Transfer praline to a sealable plastic bag and with a rolling pin coarsely crush.
  2. Make cake:
    1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Generously butter a 9-inch round cake pan (at least 2 inches deep) and line bottom with wax or parchment paper. Butter paper and dust pan with flour, knocking out excess.
    2. Finely chop chocolate. In a small saucepan combine cocoa powder, butter, oil, and water. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring until smooth, and remove pan from heat. Add chocolate and sugar, whisking until smooth, and transfer to a bowl. Cool chocolate mixture completely and whisk in egg. Sift flour and baking powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Whisk in buttermilk and pour batter into cake pan, spreading evenly. Bake cake in middle of oven 45 to 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean, and cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around edge of pan and invert cake onto rack. Discard paper. Cool cake completely and transfer to a plate. In a bowl stir together mascarpone and sugar. Spread mixture over top of cake and generously sprinkle with praline.

 Notes from JennyBakes:

-I used all hazelnuts because that's what I had... I also made shards from my praline instead of smaller pieces
-I used Guittard bittersweet chocolate discs
-I added an extra egg based on a discussion Ruth relayed in the book

Monday, March 11, 2019

Brown Butter Blondies

I needed a recipe to use up some chocolate chunks, and went searching for a good blondie recipe. The flavor of the brown butter elevates these cookies to possibly the best thing ever, ever, ever. Ahem. Make these. Add chocolate chips or chunks or don't but make them today.

Brown Butter Blondies
(recipe courtesy of Carrie Vasios Mullins on Serious Eats)


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease pan with butter. 
  2. Place butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until melted. Continue to cook (the butter will foam) until it is fragrant and a nutty brown color. Take off the heat and pour through a sieve into a large bowl. Let cool to room temperature.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  4. Add brown sugar to bowl with butter and whisk until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and whisk to combine. Stir in dry ingredients until just incorporated. Pour batter into pan and smooth top. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, 20-30 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Salted Peanut Bars

I was feeling baking ennui and came across an Instagram story from Deb at Smitten Kitchen about everyone making her salted peanut tart, in tart or bars form. I went through my mental inventory and realized I had all the ingredients, even the plain sour cream she recommends serving with it. Unlike the other recipes I'd encountered in books that would require a trip to the store for one essential ingredient each, this would only require me walking to the kitchen. Sold!

I made one random change - I have this giant bag of peanut flour that I bought ages ago to try out as another option for lower carb baking. I replaced half the flour with it, and it made everything extra peanutty, but I actually found that distracted from the top layer's flavor. I used golden syrup and light brown sugar because that's what I had on hand, along with exactly two cups of roasted salted peanuts!

Salted Peanut Tart

(recipe from Smitten Kitchen, with gorgeous step by step photos you should check out)
  • Servings: 8 to 10
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen, but inspired by Houseman Restaurant
You could also make this tart as bars! Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with two pieces of parchment paper, each extending up two sides. Press the crust dough evenly across the bottom and 1/4-inch up the sides of this pan. Parbake at 350 (no weights or freezing required) for 15 minutes, until very pale golden. Continue with topping as written; topping baking time is the same as tart. Once cool, cut into 16 square bars.
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine, cut into a few chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Filling
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces or 55 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup (125 grams) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (110 grams) honey or golden syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (about 10 ounces or 285 grams) salted peanuts
  • Flaky sea salt and plain sour cream to finish (optional)
Heat oven to 350°F (175°C). 
 Make the crust: Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and vanilla to the bowl, then run the machine until the mixture forms large clumps — just keep running it; it might take another 30 seconds for it to come together, but it will. Set a marble or two of dough aside, and transfer the rest of it to a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom set on a large baking sheet (for drips and stability of use) and press the dough evenly across the bottom and up the sides. Transfer to freezer for 15 minutes, until solid.

Parbake crust: Once firm, prick all over with a fork. Coat a piece of foil with nonstick spray, and press it oiled-side-down tightly against the frozen crust, so it is fully molded to the shape. Bake tart with foil (no pie weights needed) for 15 minutes, then carefully, gently, a little at a time, peel back foil and discard. If cracks have formed, use the marbles of dough you set aside to patch it. Return to oven for 5 minutes, until just barely golden at edges and dry to the touch. Set aside.

Meanwhile, make filling: In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and continue cooking it, stirring frequently, until it smells nutty and brown bits form at the bottom of the pot. Whisk in brown sugar and golden syrup or honey and cook at a simmer, whisking constantly, for one minute. Pour into a large bowl, scraping out all of the browned bits from the pot that you can, and place in the fridge or, as I did, on your very cold patio, for 10 minutes, until it has cooled somewhat. Whisk in apple cider vinegar (with cuts the sweetness and adds complexity, not a vinegary flavor, promise), vanilla, and eggs, one at a time, then stir in peanuts.

Bake tart: Pour filling into prepared tart shell, top with a little flaky salt, if you wish, and bake for 23 to 28 minutes, until just faintly jiggly in the center and golden brown all over. Cool on a rack to room temperature, or, like me, you can rush this along in the fridge, but don’t let it fully chill.

Serve: Decorate (if you wish) with powdered sugar. Serve in wedges at room temperature (not cold, which can be too firm) with a dollop of sour cream.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Scallion Pancakes

One of my favorite things to order at our local Chinese restaurant is the scallion pancake. Flaky, greasy, salty, delicious. I had a review copy of the Double Awesome Chinese Food cookbook and out of all the recipes, could not pass up the chance to try my hand at scallion pancakes. The recipe is below, but in the cookbook, there are very helpful step by step photos for the recipes.

This is my second attempt making scallion pancakes. The first attempt was cong you bing back in 2012, which I definitely did not master. These are much thinner and flakier and closer to how they should be, but still not quite there.  Someday I hope to visit China and take our friend's Old-Shanghai Breakfast Food Tour and taste the real deal.

Scallion Pancakes

1 recipe Hot Water Dough (see below), rested
1/4 cup (52 g) toasted sesame oil
1 1/3 cups (80 g) thinly sliced scallions
neutral oil, such as canola, for cooking
kosher salt
soy vinegar dipping sauce (I used just straight soy sauce!)

Make the pancakes.

Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Take one piece and cover the rest with a damp cloth. Roll the piece into a ball, flatten it slightly, then use a rolling pin to flatten it into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. Use a brush (or your fingers) to cover the dough circle with 1 tbsp of the sesmae oil, then sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the scallions.

Roll up the circle into a snake, then twist the snake into a snail-like spiral and tuck the end underneath. Flatten slightly with your hand, then use the rolling pin to roll out again into an 8-inch circle. Repeat with the remaining dough to make 4 pancakes.

Cook the pancakes.

Heat a thin layer of neutral oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Don't skimp on the oil; ample oil is part of the charm of this dish. Carefully slide the pancake into the pan and fry on each side until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.* Sprinkle lightly with salt and place on a paper towel to cool. Repeat with the remaining pancakes. Cut into wedges and serve with soy vinegar dipping sauce.

Hot Water Dough

2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp (1 g) kosher salt
1 cup (240 g) water, boiled and let cool for about 1 minute

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon, slowly stir in 3/4 cup (180 g) of the hot water until a ball is formed and all the flour is incorporated. If the flour in the bottom of the bowl is not sticking to the ball, slowly drizzle in more water 1 teaspoon at a time and continue to stir.

When all the flour has come together into a ball and the dough is cool enough to handle, place on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 3-5 minutes. If necessary, add a sprinkle of flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or work surface. Place back in the bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and leave to rest for 30 to 60 minutes so the gluten can relax and the dough is easier to shape. When making in advance, the dough can rest in the fridge a day or two wrapped in lightly oiled plastic wrap. Bring to room temperature before using.

*Jenny's notes - the instructions say you can repeat the snail roll out for even more flaky layers, but my pancakes were flakiest if I only did it one time. (My dough was a bit dry though.) I tried medium-high heat for 3 minutes but on my electric stovetop, this was too hot and too long. I ended up on medium heat for 1-1.5 minutes per side.

I received a review copy of this cookbook from the publisher through NetGalley. It came out February 5, 2019.

Other recipes I am interested in trying:
-Dan Dan Noodles with Crispy Pork Belly and Brussels Sprouts
-Carrot Coconut Soup
-Hot and Sour Borscht
-Harvest Moon Curry

Monday, February 18, 2019

Chocolate Mascarpone Bundt Cake

I originally bought mascarpone for a meringue roll cake I intended to make over the holidays, but never did. In searching for a recipe that used the exact amount I had on hand, I came across this recipe. I fear I overbaked it, or perhaps I should have used oil instead of butter, because it was a bit dry. But tasty just the same.

Chocolate Mascarpone Bundt Cake
(Recipe from The Baking Fairy)

2/3 cup (10.5 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
8 oz mascarpone cheese (about 3/4 cup)
1 1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a bundt cake pan very well.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy.
  3. Add in the eggs and vanilla, and beat until fluffy. Stir in the sour cream and mascarpone, and mix until combined.
  4. Add in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and beat until creamy and fluffy.
  5. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Pour the batter* into the prepared bundt pan, and bake for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Let cake cool slightly in the pan, then invert onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Top Pot Doughnuts (Seattle, WA)

"Begun in February 2002 out of a small brick storefront on north Capitol Hill in Seattle, Top Pot pair[s] a vintage aesthetic with a gourmet spin on the traditional coffee and doughnuts pairing." (I stole this description from their website.)

I was recently in Seattle for the ALA Midwinter Meeting, and my Mom came up to stay with me a bit. I always like to go on some kind of bakery or baked goods adventure, and found Top Pot Doughnuts. The 5th Street location was charmingly lined with books (happy librarian here!) and had an additional layer of seating upstairs.

I was pleased to find the variety of both glazed and cake varieties, and happily without the silly trends of ingredients like breakfast cereal that you can find a few hours south at Voodoo (see my previous posts of Portlanders Standing in Line for Donuts episode 1 and episode 2.) Also impressive - the shop was busy but not over busy. We didn't have to stand in line or wait for a seat.

Maple bars are one of my favorite doughnuts but I swear they can't be found outside the northwest. Maple doesn't come from there, it's a northeast thing. But still, maple bars are a standard traditional doughnut everywhere you go for doughnuts in the northwest. Why? No idea. But I couldn't even take a picture before taking a bite, very satisfying.

My other favorite doughnut is a really good chocolate cake. Top priority is coconut, but without coconut, I'll go for glazed. Top Pot had both "old fashioned" (pictured, half eaten, whoops), and a more standard variety. This was an incredibly tender and chocolatey doughnut and I was a happy doughnut wanderer.

The latte I had was fine but not the star of the show. It was... fine. I used to think of Seattle as the best coffee city but I'm going to say that isn't true in 2018. Half the places I went served Counter Culture, and I like Counter Culture just fine but it is prevalent in the south as well. And Starbucks really dominates everything to an extent that it is difficult to find non-Starbucks places. At last Top Pot had their own!

Monday, February 04, 2019

Kauk Mote | Crepes with red beans and coconut (Burma/Myanmar)

I'm reading books from Asia this year, and alongside that will be baking and cooking some new recipes from various countries. For Burma/Myanmar, the three most frequently mentioned dishes are the tea (see at the end of this post!), fermented tea leaf salad (difficult to track down in the states,) and mohinga, a seafood-curry-noodle soup that is frequently consumed for breakfast. I struggled to find the right ingredients so I decided to make this interesting crepe, a street food often found in this region. It could have had more ingredients in the filling, like coconut cream, chopped roasted peanuts, or savory ingredients, but I went with the red bean and coconut.

The original recipe I found, which is copied elsewhere on the internet, has a major flaw. If you use self-rising flour, you should omit the additional salt and baking soda included in the recipe, which I imagine someone wrote down as what to add to flour to make it the equivalent of self-rising flour. I ignored my instincts and went ahead and added it, and the pancake/crepe batter was awful.

Pictured is one of the books I'm reading right now, about a man who grew up in a traditional way and made it all the way to the UK to study English.

Kaku Mote
(recipe from Hsa*ba, also posted on World of Crepes)

160g of self rising flour (.70 cup)
80g rice of flour (.35 cup)
1/2 teaspoon of salt [DO NOT ADD WITH SELF RISING FLOUR]
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda [DO NOT ADD WITH SELF RISING FLOUR]
2 tablespoons sugar
100ml coconut milk (almost half a cup)
300ml water (1.25 cups)
oil for frying

200g sweetened red (azuki) beans or red bean paste
80g fresh grated coconut
pinch of salt

Put the dry pancake ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the coconut milk and water, stirring to form a runny batter. Rest for at least 30 minutes, preferably a couple of hours.

Lightly grease a pan with a little oil and heat on moderate heat. Using a ladle pour the batter carefully. The idea is to have an even layer of batter to cover the pan. To spread the batter, tilt the pan.

Cover and leave for a few of minutes. When bubbles appear on the surface, carefully spread the red beans and grated coconut. Remember to mix a pinch of salt with the coconut first. Cover the pan again and allow the pancake to cook for a further minute or two until the edges are golden in color.

Using a flat spatula, fold the pancake into half and ease onto a plate. Serve while warm. The outside should have a lovely crispiness and the inside soft with the filling oozing out.

 Pictured with the tea is a book of folktales from Burma, highly recommended.

Myanmar/Burmese Tea (bonus recipe!)

Brew a black tea double strength, or strong, anyway.
For every 6 oz tea, add 1 oz condensed milk and 1 oz evaporated milk. Or adjust to taste.
Delicious! I've made it three times since 2019 began!