Never Miss a Moment of Baking (or Life)

A post on The Vanilla Bean blog reminded me how easy it is to let the mind wander into territory of comfort and repetition, falling away for only a few moments from the project at hand.  Consequences inevitably arise.

The VB author posted about losing momentary focus when baking Chocolate Pots de Creme with Lavender & Sea Salt earlier this month.  It was a recipe she had made many times before and became lax when distracted by other activity.  We’ve all been there.

In a post a few months ago on The Essential Garden blog, I did a best-guess estimate on cooking time for Chocolate Souffle as I only had 3 oz ramekins and not the 8 oz souffle dishes called for in Robert Parks’ recipe that was posted on the Food Network blog.  Although experimentation is frequently necessary, it’s always a roll of the dice to alter cooking time.  The end result was a bit of “fall” when the souffles cooled.  Perhaps a few extra moments of attention in each stage of the recipe (including the baking) might have provided a different result.  The truth is that I know instinctively when I’ve glossed over a step in favor of speed or distraction.


What I’ve come to realize is that mise en place isn’t just about assembling the requisite utensils and ingredients before starting to cook.  It’s really dedication to a lifestyle that gives weight to being fully present for each activity in our lives, including the prep, execution and completion of cooking.

I wouldn’t want to miss a moment of it.


Never Qualify a Superlative

chocolate chip cookie cartoon

Chocolate isn’t the only thing in the world, but it was already present when the only thing in the world was discovered and it must have overseen the event.

I have the simplicity and intensity genes and they grow in magnitude when I bake.  So many times I wanted a cookie that would astound, delight and cause the recipient of the cookie to fall back into her childhood without knowing why.  Just as this cookie recipe of my dreams likely had its origin in my own past life, I knew there must be some contemporary expression of it.

Continue reading Never Qualify a Superlative

The Top 7 Reasons Not to Eat Dark Chocolate

Chocolate  Commentary

Top 7 reasons not to eat dark chocolate:

1. The risk of a possible cacao overdose.

2. You don’t give any credibility to that study that says eating dark chocolate daily reduces heart disease by 1/3.

3. You’re really afraid of what better health might feel like.

4. You’re convinced high blood pressure is a good thing.

5. You’re sure narrow arteries improve your focus and you don’t want better blood flow to dilute it.

6. Spiking insulin is a ride you like.

7. You already have an excess of theta brain waves and are totally, totally relaxed.























Chocolate Shortbread

Older confection recipes that are either non-standardized or have the ability to be recast interest me.

Chocolate Shortbread
Chocolate Shortbread

Chocolate shortbread is one such recipe.  Simple, elegant; dressed up, dressed down, it has a graceful foundation and future possibility as both its simple self and as a component for more sophisticated creations.

Elegance is obvious in its succulent mouth feel, a consequence of an extremely high percentage of butter.  Shortbread has a relatively low overall percentage of sugar.

The recipe I use was published in The Pleasures of Cooking, the Cuisinart mag that celebrated the company’s inception in 1983 or 1984.  An recipe includes vanilla and uses Dutch-process cocoa powder instead of the semi- or bittersweet chocolate in the The Pleasures recipe.

Chocolate Shortbread

Process 3 oz semi- or bittersweet (62-70% cacao) baking chocolate and 1/2 C superfine sugar in the Cuisinart using the metal blade, turning the machine on and off just until the chocolate is coarsely chopped.  Let the processor run for 60 seconds or until the mixture is very fine.

Add 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter cut into small pieces; process until creamy, scraping the bowl as necessary.  Add 2 C all-purpose flour, scraping down as necessary until well mixed.  Dough will form a soft ball.  Pat dough evenly into a buttered 13×9 pan.  Bake at 300 degrees F for 35-40 minutes, or until the center is firm.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 min, then cut into squares; allow it to remain in the pan to cool completely.

Each square may be decorated with a butter cream frosting rosette, if desired.

Butter cream frosting: Process 3 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temp, 1 C confectioners sugar and 1-2 Tbsp heavy cream in food processor.  Pipe onto chocolate shortbread with pastry bag with star tip to form rosettes.

It will be fun to experiment with both recipes to compare depth of chocolate flavor before deciding which to use as a component of future recipes.

Dutifully discerning desserts.

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