Archive for February, 2011

I’m crazy for coconut.  And I’m also crazy for chocolate.  So when Melissa Clark (one of my favorite food writers and cookbook authors) shared a recipe for coconut chocolate brownies this week in The New York Times, I had to try it.  And they’re good.  Really good.  The cool thing is this: they’re made with olive oil (no butter) and you sprinkle a pinch of fleur de sel on top before baking, so they’re kind of grown-up brownies, with a hint of savoriness.  And guess what? You can “Valentize” these by pairing them with a really nice Merlot or Malbec as the perfect finish to a dinner a deux.  (Chocolate and red wine are each other’s Valentine!)  These brownies are gooey, rich and sweet – but not overly so.  And they’re also kind of sexy looking, right?

They’re a little more complicated than your average brownie, but I’m here to step you through it!  Ready? Let’s bake!


3/4 C olive oil (plus a tablespoon or so to grease the pan)

1/3 C cocoa powder

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate (like Baker’s brand)

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/2 C white sugar

1 3/4  C all-purpose white flour

3/4 tsp sea salt

2 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (I used a 70% cacao bar)

2 C shredded, sweetened coconut (a 7-ounce bag does it; I had a little bit left over)

fleur de sel, for sprinkling


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; lightly oil a 9-by-13 baking pan (I used a glass Pyrex one).  Boil about a cup of water.

2) In a large bowl, whisk the cocoa powder with 1/2 C plus 2 Tbls boiling water until smooth, and then whisk in the chopped unsweetened chocolate.  Note: I had to do two 10-second zaps in the microwave to get everything to melt together smoothly.

3) Whisk in the olive oil. It’s going to look a little funky, but just keep going.  It’ll all come together smoothly as you add more stuff.

4) Add the whole eggs, the egg yolks and vanilla and whisk that all in.  Throw in the vanilla, too.

5) Dump in the sugar and whisk until all mixed in.

6) Switch to a spatula and add the flour and sea salt, folding it in. 

7) Fold in the chopped bittersweet chocolate.

8) Alrighty. Your batter is finished!  Now comes the messy bit, but stay with it! It’s worth it!  Pour half the batter into your greased pan (just guess, no need to measure).  And now sprinkle 1 C of the shredded coconut on top.

Yup, like that.  Now, pour the rest of your batter on TOP of the coconut layer, as evenly as you can.

When you’ve got it all in, use this sophisticated kitchen tool to spread it about in a somewhat even layer:

Yes, your fingers!  It worked for me (just be sure your hands are clean, duh).  Now sprinkle the final cup of coconut on top, and a pinch of fleur de sel, too.  Pop ‘er in the oven for 25-30 minutes.  All ovens are different, but I recommend going 30 minutes, because here’s the thing: these are going to be GOO-EY!  They will not really solidify until they cool – and even then, they’re going to be, well, gooey.  I baked mine for 25 minutes and wish I’d given them just 5 more minutes.  You cannot use a toothpick to test for doneness, because of the goo factor.  Just don’t expect them to come out like cake-y brownies.   When they come out of the oven, put the pan on a cooling rack and wait at least an hour to cut into them, so they’ll set up a bit. They’re definitely to be served on a plate, with a fork — and, as I mentioned, go crazy and have a nice glass of red wine with them  – red wine and chocolate are fantastic together!  Enjoy.

And if you’re looking for more sweets, check out Sweet as Sugar Cookies – SO many fun and delicious goodies!

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I woke up this morning at 7:30 and peered through the  curtain at this:

More snow, on top of the 20-whatever inches we got on Tuesday/Wednesday this week. And the first thing I thought of making was this:

Snow Pudding! My mom used to make this when I was growing up and we thought it was magical!  A bowl of pure white, light-as-air, fluffy, sweet, lemon-tinged delight with a blanket of cheery yellow creme anglaise.  It is an uplifting homage to winter and I found my mom’s recipe today and am here to share it with you!  It’s kind of hard to describe – the pudding itself is unflavored gelatin, sugar, lemon zest and egg whites whipped to a winter-white frenzy in Chuck, my sturdy and reliable KitchenAid mixer, and then refrigerated until the texture becomes light and fluffy.  It’s not meringue.  And it’s not gelatin, per se, either.  It’s snow pudding!  BEWARE: this dish does contain uncooked egg whites, so if you’re skittish about that, well – your loss, if you ask me!  Ready?  OK, let’s get crackin’!


3/4 C white sugar

1 envelope unflavored gelatin (such as Knox brand)

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp lemon zest

1/4 C fresh lemon juice (juice of one lemon)

2 egg whites


1) In a small saucepan, combine sugar, gelatin powder and salt.  Add 1/2 C cold water.  Stir over low heat until gelatin and sugar are dissolved, about 7-10 minutes.  Remove from heat.

2) Get your microplane or whatever and get 1 tsp of lemon zest, like this:

Add your lemon zest,  lemon juice and 3/4 C water to the sugar-gelatin-salt mixture.  It’s gonna look something like this (not appetizing yet, but just wait):

2) Stick the pan into the fridge for about an hour; you want the gelatin to set a bit – but nowhere near entirely.  While you’re waiting you can make your creme anglaise (see below).

3) When your lemon-gelatin mixture is a little thick – but not set like Jello – remove from fridge.  Use a rubber spatula to scrape the whole lot into the metal  bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. You can also use an electric hand mixer if you want – but know you’re gonna have to mix for 8-10 minutes.  Add your 2 egg whites.  Start the mixer on slow, and gradually rev it up to full power (or one notch below; I alternated between the 2 speeds) and let ‘er rip for 8-10 minutes.  It’s gonna start getting white and frothy and when it begins to hold it’s own shape, like this — you’re done:

4) Gently transfer to a large bowl, like this, and refrigerate for at least one hour.  As far as I know it’ll keep quite well for up to 24 hours (covered with Saran wrap).

And now for the Creme Anglaise!


2 C half-and-half (You can substitute whole milk, but I used half-and-half)

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1/2 C white sugar

4 large egg yolks, at room temperature


1) Alright, this is the first time I’ve made this and I followed a recipe by Grace Parisi from Food & Wine. It came out great, but you do need a shitload of bowls, and a fine-mesh strainer. First you want to rig up your chilling-straining apparatus, like this:

On the bottom: a large bowl of ice water. Next: a glass bowl into which you’ll strain your hot creme anglaise and Last: the strainer. OK, onward!

2) In a large saucepan,  add the half-and-half and vanilla seeds (which you gently scrape with the edge of a knife, directly into the pan). Cook this over low heat for 5 minutes, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges, like this:

3) While the dairy-vanilla mixture is cooking, get another bowl and whisk your egg yolks and sugar just until they’re combined.

4) OK, when your vanilla-dairy stuff is ready, take it off the heat and very slowly pour half of it into the sugar-egg mixture, pouring it in a thin stream and whisking constantly like this:

5) Alrighty, when you’ve got half the dairy-vanilla stuff into the egg-sugar stuff, take your pan back to the stove, over medium heat and add the egg-sugar-dairy mixture you just whisked up to the pan.  The whole point of Steps 4 and 5 is to temper the eggs, so they don’t curdle and seize up into some whacked-out scrambled-eggy mess.  And it works!  Now, set a timer for 4 or 5 minutes and stir this lot constantly with a wooden spoon until it starts to thicken a bit.  I recommend 4.5 minutes.  Do not over-cook it!

6) Immediately pour the creme anglaise through the strainer, into your bowl set over the ice-water bowl, to stop the cooking.  Add more ice if you have to – you really want this stuff to chill down fairly quickly.  The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and stay put when you swipe a finger through it, like this:

Also, it should TASTE DELICIOUS! Refrain from eating more than one spoonful, if you can (man, it’s good).

7) Now you want to chill it for at least an hour, and to do that, get some Saran wrap and set it on top of the creme anglaise, right on the surface, so that a skin doesn’t form, like this:

And you’re done!  Serve the snow pudding in individual bowls, or on plates and top with creme anglaise. Smile at winter and have another bite.

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