Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

The 96th episode of Good Eats originally aired in December, hence the Christmas cookie theme. I say, however, that Christmas cookies deserve to be eaten at any time of the year, and March seemed like a perfect time to crank some cookies out of my kitchen. First up?

Sugar Cookies

This is a recipe that I actually made years ago (maybe in 2005?) for Christmas at my parents’ house. It was the first Christmas Ted spent with my family and I remember decorating the cookies on Christmas Eve prior to Ted’s arrival. My brother and I were going to head to Christmas Eve mass with our parents, and we somehow ended up with two martinis in our systems prior to church. Let me just say that mass was a little more entertaining than usual, and I ended up with very brightly (and abstractly) decorated cookies. The cookies were a hit then, so I knew they would be good when I made them this time around. This recipe begins by sifting together 3 C flour, 1/4 t salt, and 3/4 t baking powder.

Also, in a small bowl, combine 1 egg and 1 T milk.


Wet ingredients – egg and milk.

Oh, and place a sheet pan in the freezer. Next, in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together 1 C butter and 1 C sugar until light and fluffy.

Slowly add the wet ingredients to the mixer until mixed in.


Wet ingredients added to mixing bowl.

Then, slowly add the sifted dry ingredients on low, mixing until the dry ingredients are incorporated and the dough forms a ball.

Divide the dough in half, patting each half into a flat slab. Wrap the dough in plastic or wax paper and place it in the refrigerator for two hours.


Dough, divided into two equal slabs, and ready to head into refrigerator.

When you are ready to cut out your cookies, sprinkle your work surface with powdered sugar (Alton prefers sugar to flour because flour causes the dough to develop more gluten). Roll the dough to 1/4″ thick, lifting the dough every so often to be sure it isn’t sticking; I found that I needed quite a lot of powdered sugar to keep the dough from sticking to my counter.

Remember that frozen sheet pan from earlier? Place it on your rolled dough for 10 minutes to re-chill the dough before cutting.


Cold sheet pan placed on top of rolled dough.

Use cookie cutters (FYI Alton likes plastic ones) to cut cookies from your dough, transferring them to parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for four minutes at 375, rotate the pans, and bake them for four to five more minutes. I found that my cookies needed a little more time than this. Let them cool completely on racks before frosting.


Cookies, after baking.

This sugar cookie recipe is fantastic. The dough comes together super quickly and is very easy to work with. The resulting cookies are crispy on the outside and slightly tender on the inside, and they have a rich, buttery flavor. I highly recommend this one! Oh, and how should you decorate said cookies? With Alton’s recipe for royal icing, of course! See below.

Royal Icing

If you are looking for a way to decorate your sugar cookies, look no further than Alton’s royal icing recipe. To make his icing, beat four egg whites or three ounces of pasteurized egg whites (I used pasteurized egg whites) with 1 t vanilla, using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer.

Gradually add 4 C of sifted powdered sugar until you have a smooth, lump-free icing.

Divide the icing among small bowls, adding coloring as you desire. As far as coloring goes, Alton prefers powdered food coloring because it lasts the longest and has no additives. I only had liquid food coloring, so that is what I went with.


Royal icing, divided and colored.

Frost your cookies and let them sit until the frosting has set up. Oh, and if you end up with a bad color, Alton recommends adding cocoa powder until you have covered it up.


My decorated sugar cookies.

This icing could not be easier to make and it sets up beautifully. Since royal icing is thin, it can be a bit messy to deal with, but it looks and tastes great. This is a fool-proof royal icing recipe that pairs perfectly with Alton’s sugar cookies. I threw a bunch of my frosted cookies in the freezer for later enjoyment, so you can always make these ahead.

Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies

Last in this episode was Alton’s recipe for chocolate peppermint pinwheel cookies. I actually made this recipe years ago also, but for a cookie exchange when I was in graduate school. I remembered liking these cookies then. These cookies start with a batch of Alton’s sugar cookies.

Divide the sugar cookie dough in half (it is best to do this by weight), and place the dough in two bowls.


Dividing sugar cookie dough in half by weight.

One half of the dough will become peppermint dough, while the other half will become chocolate dough. Add 1 t vanilla to one of the bowls of dough, and add 1 t peppermint extract to the other.

To the peppermint dough, add 1/2 C crushed candy cane (or peppermint candy).

To the dough with vanilla extract, add 3 ounces of melted unsweetened chocolate (you can melt it in the microwave, stirring until melted).

Use gloved hands to mix the peppermint and chocolate into the two doughs. Additionally, add 1 egg yolk to the peppermint dough, mixing it in by hand.


Crushed peppermint and egg yolk added to dough with peppermint extract.

Chill the two doughs for five minutes. Roll out the two doughs to 1/3-1/4″ thick rectangles, using powdered sugar to keep the dough from sticking. You want your chocolate rectangle to be slightly longer and thinner than your peppermint rectangle. Place the chocolate dough on a non-stick mat or a pliable cutting board (I rolled my dough out on a non-stick mat, so I wouldn’t have to transfer it).

Place the peppermint dough on top of the chocolate dough, pressing the doughs together.


Peppermint dough placed on top of chocolate dough and the two are pressed together.

Use the edge of the non-stick mat or cutting board to roll the doughs into a log. Wrap the log in wax paper and refrigerate it for at least two hours.

When ready to bake, slice the log into 1/2″ slices, placing them on parchment-lined sheets.


Dough sliced into rounds.

Bake the cookies for 12-13 minutes at 375-degrees, rotating the pans once during baking. Cool the cookies for two minutes on the baking sheets before transferring them to racks.

These cookies are chewy and dense, and have little pockets of crunchy peppermint. They are pretty and fun to make, and they definitely have a seasonal feeling to them. That being said, though, why is peppermint only popular at the holidays? Peppermint ice cream is one of my very favorite flavors, but you can only find it for a couple months each year. Anyway, these cookies are worth a bake, and, yes, you can freeze these too!


As someone who likes to cook regularly, my dad came up with a great Christmas gift for me in December. He and I do not live in the same town anymore, but he called a gentleman where I live and arranged to have all of our kitchen knives sharpened. I dropped the knives off at the knife sharpener’s house one morning and had them back a few hours later. He sharpened 13 items, including our serrated knives and two pairs of kitchen shears. Our knives are just like new again! If you know someone who cooks a lot, keep the knife sharpening idea in mind as a gift! FYI:  The knife sharpener told me to never try to sharpen my knives at home, nor to hone them with a steel. Instead, he told me to use a strop to hone our knives prior to each use; a strop is a piece of leather that was traditionally used to sharpen straight-edge razors in barber shops. Now, onto the 94th episode of Good Eats, which was all about candy.

Peanut Brittle

I have made some candy in the past, such as fudge, divinity, and caramels. Peanut brittle was the first type of candy Alton made in this episode. For this recipe, you will need a heavy saucier with a lid, a wooden spoon, and two half-sheet pans; line one pan with a silicone mat, and lube the back side of the other pan liberally with vegetable oil.


Two half-sheet pans, one with its back oiled and the other lined with a silicone mat.

Begin by rubbing the sides of your saucier with a vegetable oil-coated paper towel, as this will help with crystal formation on the sides of the pan.


Saucier with its sides oiled.

Next, put 3 C of sugar and 1 1/2 C water in the saucier.


Sugar and water placed in saucier.

Place the pan over high heat. Note:  If you are worried about your stove producing uneven heat, Alton suggests placing a cast iron skillet between your saucier and your burner to diffuse heat. Stir the sugar/water mixture occasionally, bringing it to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pan and set a timer for three minutes. This will allow the steam in the pan to wash down any crystals from the sides of the pan.

After three minutes, remove the lid and decrease the heat to medium. Meanwhile, toss 1 1/2 C lightly salted peanuts with 1/2 t cinnamon and 1/2 t cayenne pepper.

Continue cooking the syrup until it reaches a light amber color and has slow bubble formation, which Alton says is at 350 degrees; Alton says you really do not need a thermometer to make this brittle, as you can just eyeball it. I decided to use the thermometer, as “light amber” seems subjective to me. Yeah, so Alton’s temperature of 350 degrees is COMPLETELY WRONG, and will result in scorched syrup. I had to discard my syrup and begin again.

This time, I decided to eyeball the light amber color.


Second attempt at syrup – this is what I determined to be light amber.

Once you have reached light amber, turn off the heat and dump in the peanuts, stirring.

Immediately pour the mixture onto the prepared silicone mat, distributing the nuts evenly with a spatula. Press the mixture down with the lubed backside of the second prepared pan. Set the brittle aside to cool completely. Once the brittle has hardened, place the second half-sheet pan, this time inverted, on top of the brittle pan. By shaking the brittle between the two pans, you can easily break it into pieces. So, my verdict of this recipe is not that favorable. I have no idea how Alton recommended 350 degrees for the syrup, as it was just way too high. The second time I made my syrup, I think I probably pulled it off the heat too early, as my brittle did this weird foaming thing when I poured it onto the mat.


Brittle poured onto mat and beginning to foam.

My resulting brittle was opaque, somewhat gritty, and had an odd white hue. The candy tasted fine, but it wasn’t what I think of as brittle, which is normally caramel-colored, shiny, and clear.


Even my dog thought my brittle looked weird.

I think this recipe would have been much more successful if Alton had provided the correct temperature for the syrup, which a Google search says is around 300 degrees. In theory, the eyeballing technique could work for someone who makes candy often, but candy making requires more precision than eyeballing. I’d follow a different peanut brittle recipe next time for sure.

Acid Jellies

When we were kids, our parents would give us each a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day. I preferred nut-free candy (still do), so my box was typically a mix of caramels, creams, and jellies. It had been years since I had last had a jelly, so I was pretty stoked to see jellies appear in this episode.

To make Alton’s version of jellies, combine in a saucepan 1/2 C fresh lemon juice, 1/4 C fresh lime juice, 1/2 C water, and 8 packages of gelatin. Set this saucepan aside with no heat.


Gelatin, lemon juice, lime juice, and water combined in a saucepan off of heat.


Gelatin mixture after sitting.

In a second small saucepan, place 1 C sugar and 3/4 C water, and place the pan over high heat. Again, you can use a cast iron skillet as a diffuser, if you wish.


Sugar and water placed in small saucepan over high heat.

Stir this mixture until the sugar dissolves and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, place a lid on the pan and set a timer for 3 minutes. As with the recipe for brittle above, the steam in the pan will serve to wash crystals down that may have formed on the sides of the pan. After 3 minutes, remove the lid from the pan and attach a candy thermometer. Cook the syrup until it reaches 300 degrees.


Sugar syrup cooking to 300 degrees.

Once at 300 degrees, remove the pan from the heat and pour the syrup into the gelatin mixture, stirring constantly.


Sugar syrup being poured into gelatin mixture.

Place the mixture over low heat, continuing to stir until the gelatin dissolves. I had some difficulty with this phase of the process, as a solid mass of sugar seemed to form in the bottom of my pan. I am guessing this was because my sugar syrup cooled too much too quickly. I opted to increase the heat under my pan, allowing the sugar to dissolve again, which worked.


Gelatin mixture placed over low heat to dissolve.

Once you have a smooth, clear mixture, add 2 T lemon zest and 2 T lime zest, and pour the mixture into an oiled 8-inch square pan.


Completed jellies, poured into greased pan.

Let the jellies sit at room temperature for four hours. Once set, turn the jellies out and cut them into 1-inch squares with a pizza cutter.


Jellies, cut into cubes.

Transfer the cubes to a bowl and toss them with the remaining 1/4 C sugar until coated.

Move the cubes to a cooling rack placed over a sheet pan, and allow them to dry for 24 hours at room temperature before eating.


Alton’s jellies.

Alton’s jellies had intense citrus flavor and a great balance of sweetness and tartness. I did find them to be a bit more rubbery than I would have liked, but that could have perhaps been due to my difficulties with combining my two mixtures. I am tempted to try these again to see if I can get a better result, as they were pretty and their flavor was great. My only other complaint with these candies was that they remained very sticky and damp on the outside, and they never really dried out as Alton said they would; I found that this was a common complaint in the online recipe reviews, and I am not sure how to fix that issue.

Chocolate Taffy

I suppose you couldn’t really have a candy episode without including something chocolate, so that’s where chocolate taffy comes in. This recipe requires only a few ingredients, beginning with combining 1/2 t salt, 2/3 C Dutch cocoa, and 2 C sugar in a large saucepan.


Salt, sugar, and cocoa.

Stir this mixture with a whisk to combine, and add 1 C light corn syrup, 1 t white vinegar, and 1/4 C + 1 T water. Stir the pot over medium heat to dissolve the sugar, and then increase the heat to bring the chocolate to a boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to low and attach a candy thermometer.

Cook the chocolate until it reaches 260 degrees, and then stir in 1 1/2 T butter.


Chocolate cooking to 260 degrees.

Pour the taffy onto a silicone mat-lined pan, smoothing it with a spatula, and set it aside to cool for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, don latex gloves and lube them with butter. It is time to pull the taffy. First, use the mat to fold the taffy into thirds.


Taffy, folded in thirds.

Next, fold the taffy in thirds again, but in the opposite direction. Knead the taffy with your hands, as if working with dough. The chocolate will still be quite warm.


Taffy, folded in thirds the other direction.

Pull the taffy from both ends, folding them back into the middle.


Pulling ends of taffy back to the middle.

Then, pick the taffy up and continue to twist and pull the taffy until it has striations in the middle and is very hard to pull.

Roll the taffy into a log on the silicone mat and cut it into four pieces with kitchen shears.

Roll each piece of taffy into a snake, cutting each log into 1-inch pieces. If the candy becomes too hard to cut, you can place it in the microwave for about five seconds to soften it. Keep the taffy pieces separate while you work, or they will stick to each other.


Taffy cut into individual pieces.

Roll each piece of taffy in a piece of wax paper and place them in an air-tight container. This one was disappointing for me because my taffy came out rock hard, while Alton described something like a Tootsie Roll. I am guessing that my taffy was not pulled enough to reach the desired texture, but I did pull it until it felt like it was solidifying. Maybe I needed to soften my taffy again, and pull it more? Or, maybe the “T-Rex” nickname my brother gave me as a teenager was more justified than I realized? Either way, I don’t think I will do this one again. All-in-all, this episode was pretty “meh” for me.

If last episode of Good Eats was all about cake, I suppose it is only fitting that this episode dealt with icing. Alton made the point that store-bought cake mixes are generally quite good, and, in fact, they are sometimes better than the cakes we can make at home. For this reason, a cake mix was used in this episode, and Alton used it to make two round layers. Once his cakes were baked, it was onto the icing.


One of my two cake mix layers.


First up, Alton made his version of buttercream. To make this recipe, you will need to have 10 ounces of softened butter, so you will need to set your butter out in advance. In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 C sugar and 1/2 C dark corn syrup, bringing this mixture to a boil over high heat. When your sugar syrup has large bubbles, turn off the heat and set the syrup aside for a few minutes.

While the syrup cools, beat 4 eggs with a whisk attachment until they are thick and have lightened in color.

It is ideal to use a metal turkey baster to add the hot syrup to the eggs, as you can drizzle the syrup into the edge of the mixing bowl, avoiding the whisk (the syrup will solidify upon hitting the whisk). You will, however, want to oil your baster first by drawing vegetable oil into the baster, and then pushing it out again. Using your lubed baster, and with the mixer running on low speed, drizzle the hot syrup into the eggs, trying to get it in the space between the bowl and the whisk.

Continue this process until all of the syrup has been added. When all of the syrup is in, increase the speed to high and beat until the side of the bowl is warm, but not hot, to the touch; this should take about two minutes.


Buttercream after adding all of the syrup.

Next, piece by piece, slowly add your softened butter, only adding a new piece of butter when the previous piece has been completely mixed in. Your resulting buttercream should be smooth, creamy, and thick enough to frost a cake. The key word here is “should.” Mine was not. My buttercream had turned into sort of a broken soup at this point.

I attempted to save my buttercream by first heating it on the stove to get the tiny lumps of butter incorporated.

I then tried beating it again, and it was smoother, but it still was not thickening properly.


Beating the buttercream again.

I decided to try chilling it and beating it again, which resulted in a slightly thicker consistency, but it still was inadequate. My last hope was to try chilling it even longer, but this still did not solve the problem.


Beating the buttercream after chilling.

After working on this buttercream for a couple hours, I finally pulled the plug. My buttercream tasted fantastic – rich, buttery, and sweet, but it just was too runny. I did use it for a pseudo crumb coat on my cake, but it just did not work well. Oh, and did I mention that while I was having my buttercream fiasco, my dog decided to sample my cake? Yep, he took a bite right out of the side.


Using the buttercream for a crumb coat.

I have successfully made buttercream in the past, using a sugar syrup. The recipes I have had success with in the past have all used a candy thermometer and specific temperatures for the syrup. I wonder if my syrup was not hot enough, or if I did not add it quickly enough. I also wonder if my butter was too soft. After reading the online reviews of this recipe, I see that I was not the only person to struggle with this particular recipe. Honestly, I wouldn’t bother with this recipe again, as I know that there are other buttercream recipes out there that work, while this one did not for me. When all was said and done, I wound up frosting my cake with store-bought buttercream, which is just not the same.


Giving in and frosting my cake with store-bought buttercream.

Oh, but if you choose to make this buttercream and it works for you, you do also have the option of adding flavor. For chocolate buttercream, melt 4 ounces of chopped dark chocolate, letting it cool for a few minutes. Add the melted chocolate to the finished buttercream. For coffee buttercream, dissolve 1 t of instant espresso in 2 t coffee liqueur. Or, you can add any extract or food coloring of your choosing. Store buttercream in an airtight container with an additional layer of plastic wrap. If you make the buttercream in advance, bring it to room temperature and re-whip it before frosting your cake.


For his cake, Alton opted to make a ganache to use as a filling between cake layers. To make the ganache, heat 6 ounces of heavy cream with 3 T corn syrup in a small saucepan.

Add 12 ounces of chopped dark chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.


Chopped dark chocolate.

Remove the pan from the heat and add 1/2 t vanilla extract.


Ganache after chocolate was melted and smooth. Adding vanilla off the heat.

Let the ganache cool before using. Spread the ganache between cake layers, using a spatula to spread it almost to the cake edge.

Unlike the buttercream, this ganache recipe was super fast and easy, and it tasted great. I typically use a regular frosting between cake layers, rather than a filling, but I really liked the contrast of dark chocolate between layers. And, if you refrigerate your cake, the ganache becomes fudge-like and dense, adding a level of richness. Oh, and my suggestion if you happen to have leftover ganache is to refrigerate it until set. You can form balls with the firm ganache, rolling them in cocoa powder or powdered sugar to form truffles. Or, you can just eat it with a spoon like I did.

Writing Chocolate

A recipe for writing chocolate was last in this episode. For this one, combine 1 C chocolate chips and 2 t canola oil in a microwave-safe container, stirring to coat the chips with the oil.

Microwave the chocolate for one minute on high. Stir the chocolate until it is completely smooth. For decorating, transfer the chocolate to a piping bag or a plastic bottle.

This recipe also worked very well and was super easy. It is certainly an easy way to add some writing to a cake. It tastes much better than the artificial writing icing you can buy in the store too.

Cake Assembly

Though not a recipe per se, Alton did go over some of his cake assembly/decorating basics.

  1. He opts for a lazy susan for cake decorating, placing it on top of an upturned cake pan.
  2. To level his cakes, Alton uses two wooden yard pickets, placed on their sides in a V-shape. He places his cake inside the V and slices along the top of the pickets with a bow saw blade.
  3. He also uses the pickets for splitting cake layers, turning them onto their shorter sides. Again, using a bow saw blade, he slices across the top of the pickets, slicing the cake into two layers.
  4. When frosting a cake, place the layers in the following order from base to top:  bottom of cake 1, top of cake 1, top of cake 2, and bottom of cake 2.
  5. When you have the filling between your layers, first frost the cake with a thin crumb coat of icing (about 1/4 of your icing) and refrigerate. This crumb coat will make it easier to apply a smooth layer of icing.
  6. When frosting a cake, apply more icing than you think you need to the top of the cake. Spread the icing, working out to the edges and down the sides. It is always better to remove excess icing than to add more.

Sweet or Savory Pâte à Choux

When I was in elementary school, a different kid in my class was tasked with bringing snacks for the class each week. No-bake cookies with chocolate and oats were in regular rotation because they were easy to make and most of the kids liked them. My mom usually sent me with cupcakes or other (baked) cookies. One girl’s mother scored massive points with all of the kids (and probably made all the other parents feel like slouches), as she always made homemade cream puffs.

Personally, I have never made cream puffs or eclairs… until now. Baking and pastry are definitely two of my favorite things, so I eagerly whipped up a batch of Alton’s Pâte à Choux yesterday. Pâte à Choux is a pastry dough that is designed to make pastries that can be filled; therefore, when you bake the dough, it is supposed to only form one or two large bubbles, as opposed to the numerous bubbles desired in certain breads and such. In order to create these large bubbles in the pastry, steam needs to be created. Bread flour, and especially bread flour for bread machines, is ideal for Pâte à Choux because it has the highest protein content of all flours, which allows it to absorb more liquid; more liquid equals more steam production. To make Alton’s Pâte à Choux, combine a cup of water and 6 T butter in a pan. If you are making savory dough, also add 1 t Kosher salt. Or, if you are making a sweet dough, as Alton did in the episode, add just a pinch of Kosher salt and 1 T sugar.

Bring this water/butter mixture to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, weigh out  5 3/4 ounces of bread flour. I did not have bread flour for bread machines, so just used bread flour.

When the butter has completely melted and your liquid is boiling, add all of the flour, at once, to the pan.


Flour added to boiling butter/water.

Stir the flour into the liquid with a spatula until a paste forms. Decrease the heat to low and continue to stir the dough until all of the flour is incorporated and the dough is no longer sticky. Turn off the heat and transfer the dough to the bowl of a standing mixer, setting it aside until it is cool enough to touch.

While the dough cools, place four eggs and two egg whites in a measuring cup; the egg yolks will act as an emulsifier in the dough, while the whites will give the dough structure.

When the dough has sufficiently cooled, slowly add the eggs to the dough, keeping the mixer running. You want to continue adding egg until the dough hangs from the paddle attachment in a ‘V’ shape; for me, this required all of my eggs.


Dough after adding all of the eggs. A perfect ‘V’ shape off of the paddle.

At this point, you can use your dough immediately, or you can let it rest at room temperature for a couple hours before using. When you are ready to use your dough, prepare a piping bag with a piping tip; Alton did not specify which tip to use, but I used one that was about 3/8″ in diameter and it worked fine. Large Ziploc bags work well for piping too – just snip off one corner, insert the inside part of the coupler, place your desired tip on top, and screw on the coupler ring.


Ziploc bag turned into piping bag.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. If your parchment is sliding around, you can pipe a dollop of dough on each corner of your sheet pan, pressing the parchment down in the dough to keep it from sliding.

To make eclairs, pipe the dough into ‘S’ shapes, with the tail of each ‘S’ facing up toward you. With a wet finger, pat down the tails.

Alternatively, you can make cream puffs by piping the dough in concentric circle patterns, finishing in the center. Again, pat down any points with a wet finger.


Dough, piped into concentric circles for cream puffs.

Place the eclairs (or cream puffs) in the center of the oven, increasing the temperature to 425 degrees, and setting the timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and bake the eclairs for an additional 10 minutes. As soon as your eclairs/cream puffs are cool enough to handle, pierce them with a sharp paring knife to release excess steam.


Piercing a hot eclair to release steam.

Cool the pastries completely.

At this point, you can bag and freeze the pastry shells for up to a month, bag and store them at room temperature for a week, or you can fill them with a filling of your choice. To do as Alton did in this episode of Good Eats, make vanilla pudding, using only 3/4 of the recommended liquid.

Then, using a small star tip and a piping bag, poke a hole in each eclair/cream puff, filling them with the pudding until the pudding starts to come out the end. Chill the filled pastries.

To bedazzle your eclairs/cream puffs with chocolate, melt 1 C chocolate chips with 1 t vegetable oil in a double boiler. Dip each pastry into the chocolate mixture. Or, you can pour your chocolate into a squeeze bottle and decorate them that way. I opted for the dipping method.

If you do not plan to eat your eclairs right away, keep them refrigerated. I made a mixture of eclairs and cream puffs, ending up with 17 eclairs and 6 cream puffs. I stuck most of my pastries in the freezer for later use, but filled several yesterday.


Chocolate dipped eclairs.

I have to say that this is a great recipe. Not only are these delicious, but they are really super easy. My pastries turned out light, airy, and slightly crispy on the outside. The pastry itself was barely sweetened and each pastry had a perfect cavity inside for filling. The vanilla pudding was a super easy filling option, and the chocolate set up into a slightly crispy shell. This one is a keeper. For a different option, you could make ice cream sandwiches with cream puffs, splitting them in half. Or, you could make Alton’s savory Pâte à Choux, filling split puffs with a savory salad.


A cream puff, cut in half.

Funnel Cake

So, what else can you do with Pâte à Choux? Well, you always opt for funnel cake! To make this classic carnival/fair favorite, heat ~1 inch of vegetable oil to 375 degrees.


Oil, heating to 375 degrees.

Using a #12 piping tip, pipe Pâte à Choux into the hot oil in a circular pattern. Cook the pastry until it is golden brown, flip it over, and cook until the second side is golden.

Remove the pastries to a rack over a sheet pan and dust them liberally with powdered sugar.

My funnel “cakes” turned out more like funnel “straws,” but they were still quite delicious.IMG_6018 I found that the pastry was too thick for the #12 tip, though I had set my dough aside for a while. Still, my pastries were like eating little fried pillows with powdered sugar. These were definitely tasty, though not as pretty as they should be.

In Season 1 of Good Eats, chocolate was chosen as the subject of the final episode, which I wrote about here. That episode featured a couple of chocolate desserts that used chocolate chips. Again, chocolate is the star of the 63rd episode, but this time the recipes utilized cocoa powder as the source of chocolate.

Baking with cocoa powder always makes me nervous since we have two dogs. Years ago, I made a chocolate cake from scratch and placed it INSIDE a kitchen cabinet. Imagine my surprise when Ted called to tell me that he had arrived home to find that Hitcher, our male hound, had jumped onto the kitchen counter, pried open the cabinet, and eaten the chocolate cake. Thankfully, Hitcher turned out to be just fine!

Cocoa Brownies

Naturally, the first recipe Alton tackled with cocoa powder was for a classic brownie. I have always found that brownies made from scratch with cocoa powder are much richer and have more intense chocolate flavor. For baked goods, Alton recommends that you use natural process cocoa, which is redder and more bitter than Dutch process cocoa. To make his brownies, preheat your oven to 300 degrees and spray an 8″ square pan with nonstick spray. Additionally, line the pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over two opposite edges of the pan; this will allow you to easily lift the brownies from the pan. The online recipe does not mention the parchment paper, but it really is a good trick.


Pan sprayed with nonstick spray and lined with parchment paper to overhang on two sides.

When your pan is set, sift together 1 1/4 C natural process cocoa, 1 C brown sugar, 1 C sugar, 1/2 C flour, & 1/2 t Kosher salt.

Next, in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat 4 eggs until light.

Add the sifted dry ingredients to the eggs, gradually incorporating them until smooth.


Batter after incorporating dry ingredients.

Once the batter is smooth, add 2 t vanilla extract and 8 ounces (2 sticks) of melted butter; you will want to add the butter gradually and on low speed.

Finally, scrape the bowl and pour the batter into your prepared pan.


Batter in pan, and ready to go in the oven.

Bake the brownies for 45 minutes before checking with a toothpick. You will want to remove your brownies from the pan when a little bit of crumb still sticks to the toothpick, which took about 49 minutes in my oven.


My brownies, after baking for about 49 minutes.

In the Good Eats episode, Alton strictly tells you to remove the brownies from the pan as soon as they come out of the oven. He also tells you to immediately cut the brownies, using a pizza cutter.

Once cut, allow the brownies to cool completely on a rack. My brownies were a little tricky to cut, so I would probably let them cool for a few minutes out of the pan before attempting to cut them. These brownies are really good if you like your brownies to be super dark and rich. Seriously, you cannot eat a lot of these. These paired very well with vanilla ice cream, which helped to cut the chocolate slightly. Personally, I like brownies to be kept in the refrigerator… but that’s just me.


These brownies pair greatly with vanilla ice cream.

Cocoa Syrup

Next up in Alton’s cocoa arsenal was his take on chocolate syrup. Growing up, I was always more of a hot fudge sauce girl, while my brother was a chocolate syrup fanatic. I was curious to see if homemade chocolate syrup would convert me to more of a syrup person. For this particular recipe, you will want to try to use Dutch process cocoa, as it works better in applications with low fat content. Honestly, I looked at three stores for Dutch process cocoa and could not find it, so I made my syrup with a cocoa powder that was a blend of natural and Dutch process cocoas. To make Alton’s chocolate syrup, begin by combining 3 C sugar, and 1 1/2 C water in a pan. Bring the sugar and water to a boil and add 2 T light corn syrup; this will prevent crystallization.


Sugar, water, and corn syrup being brought to a boil.

To this, slowly add 1 1/2 C cocoa powder, along with 1/4 t Kosher salt. You will want to gradually whisk the cocoa powder into the liquid, which will take a little bit of time.


Salt and cocoa powder, gradually being whisked into liquid mixture.

Finally, once all of the cocoa powder is incorporated, stir in 1 T vanilla extract.

Pour the syrup into a squeeze bottle and allow it to cool to room temperature.


My chocolate syrup.

If you want to reheat your syrup, place the squeeze bottle in hot water for ~10 minutes. I served this chocolate syrup in the traditional way – over vanilla ice cream, and with cake on the side.


Chocolate syrup over ice cream.

I have to admit that this syrup is pretty darn good, and much better than the stuff you can buy. The chocolate flavor is much more intense, and this tastes like a much darker chocolate than store-bought syrups. I also think this syrup is a bit thicker than other chocolate syrups I have had, which I like. If you’re a chocolate syrup fan, I’d certainly give this one a try. Note that this recipe makes a lot of chocolate syrup, but you could always cut the recipe in half.

Hot Cocoa

Last but not least, no cocoa episode would be complete without a recipe for hot cocoa. To make Alton’s hot cocoa mix, into a large, lidded container place 2 C powdered sugar, 1 C Dutch process cocoa, 2 1/2 C powdered milk, 1 t salt, 2 t cornstarch, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Place the lid on the container and shake the mixture to thoroughly combine.


The shaken/combined cocoa mix.

To serve Alton’s cocoa, fill a mug 1/3 full with Alton’s cocoa mix and add boiling water just to cover the powder.

Stir the cocoa/water mixture to create a thick slurry. Finally, top off the mug with more boiling water and stir again to combine.

We do not typically drink a lot of hot chocolate, but this was pretty good. Of course, this isn’t really the season for hot chocolate either. We both really liked the addition of the cayenne (I added a pretty hefty pinch), which made this a little different from your typical hot cocoa. We had our hot cocoa with whipped cream because really, why not?


Alton’s hot cocoa, served with whipped cream, of course.

I will probably make this mix again, though I will likely wait for colder weather to make it again. I have to say, though, that I have a serious hankering for some chocolate after typing up this episode. Though the brownies are long gone, we still have homemade chocolate syrup and hot cocoa mix, one of which I will probably be tapping into shortly!

Thanks to my little Good Eats project, our post-Boston Marathon week consisted largely of recipes for tofu. Considering that we were quite gluttonous for a couple of days after the marathon, I think we were ready for some tofu! I know many people who turn their noses up at tofu, but I happen to like the stuff, as does Ted. My first experiences with tofu were when I was in high school and going through a phase where I did not eat a lot of meat; somehow, I had convinced myself that I really didn’t like meat. My brother was out of town and my dad decided he would try to cook a few tofu recipes for he, my mom, and me. We affectionately refer to this week in our lives as “Tofu Week.” I don’t recall what the various tofu preparations were, but I remember whispered conversations between my mom and me where we both agreed the tofu was horrible, but did not want to hurt Dad’s feelings. Thankfully, Dad sat down at the table, took one bite, and said, “This is horrible.” This exact scenario played out several times during that week, leaving us all to think that tofu was pretty darn disgusting. While I later gave tofu another shot and really liked it, I don’t think my parents ever quite recovered from Tofu Week.

Fillet O’Fu

Alton’s first tofu preparation was his tofu fillet. For this tofu recipe, you want to use firm tofu, which has less moisture than silken tofu, and therefore has a higher concentration of nutrients. Firm tofu is like a sponge, so it will soak up any flavors you want to impart. When marinating meat, one purpose of the acid in the marinade is for tenderizing the meat’s proteins. Since tofu’s proteins are already coagulated, tofu marination is solely for flavor injection. To make Alton’s tofu fillets, slice a block of firm tofu lengthwise into four equal slices.

One block of firm tofu.

One block of firm tofu.

Block of firm tofu, cut into four fillets.

Block of firm tofu, cut into four fillets.

Wrap the tofu fillets in paper towels, weigh the tofu down with a sheet pan and some canned goods, and allow the paper towels to absorb the moisture for a good hour.

Tofu fillets wrapped in paper towels and weighed down.

Tofu fillets wrapped in paper towels and weighed down.

Tofu fillets after sitting in paper towels for an hour.

Tofu fillets after sitting in paper towels for an hour.

Meanwhile, make a marinade of 2 T sherry vinegar, 2 T Worcestershire sauce, and a few dashes of Tabasco sauce.

Marinade ingredients:  Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and sherry vinegar.

Marinade ingredients: Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and sherry vinegar.

Place the tofu fillets into the marinade for 15 minutes on each side. Alton explains that since the tofu is sponge-like, it is not necessary to do a long marination.

Tofu fillets into marinade for 15 minutes.

Tofu fillets into marinade for 15 minutes.

Tofu fillets flipped to marinate for 15 minutes on side two.

Tofu fillets flipped to marinate for 15 minutes on side two.

When ready to cook, fill a large non-stick skillet with 1/8″ of canola oil, and place over medium-high heat.

Canola oil in non-stick skillet.

Canola oil in non-stick skillet.

In a shallow dredging dish, crack two eggs and lightly beat them. In a second dredging dish, place 1/2 C flour.

Two dredging dishes:  one with flour and one with eggs.

Two dredging dishes: one with flour and one with eggs.

Eggs beaten with a fork.

Eggs beaten with a fork.

Blot the marinated tofu with paper towels to get rid of excess marinade and dredge the fillets lightly in flour, tapping to get rid of any excess flour.

Marinated tofu on paper towels.

Marinated tofu on paper towels.

Tofu dredged lightly in flour...

Tofu dredged lightly in flour…

After dredging the tofu in flour, dip the fillets into the eggs, and slide them gently into the hot oil.

...and then coated in egg.

…and then coated in egg.

Fry the fillets for two minutes per side, or until golden brown.

Tofu fillets into hot oil for 2 minutes.

Tofu fillets into hot oil for 2 minutes.

Tofu fillets flipped to cook on second side for two more minutes.

Tofu fillets flipped to cook on second side for two more minutes.

Pan-fried tofu fillets.

Pan-fried tofu fillets.

Coonhounds will eat tofu.

Coonhounds will eat tofu.

We ate these fillets as our entrée and we liked the crispy “skin” that coated the tofu. While you could taste the marinade, it was faint, so I wonder if a longer marination would result in better flavor injection. I think I will try this recipe again, but with a 24-hour marination, as that is what I have done with some other tofu recipes that have had more flavor. Texture-wise this was a good tofu dish, but it was a bit bland flavor-wise.

No Guilt Caesar

What better to pair with tofu fillets than a green salad with tofu Caesar dressing?

Caesar ingredients:  Parmesan, garlic, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Kosher salt, black pepper, and silken tofu.

Caesar ingredients: Parmesan, garlic, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Kosher salt, black pepper, and silken tofu.

To make Alton’s tofu dressing, grind 2 ounces of Parmesan cheese in a blender.

Two ounces of cubed Parmesan.

Two ounces of cubed Parmesan.

Cubed Parmesan in the blender.

Cubed Parmesan in the blender.

With the blender running, dump 2 cloves of garlic down the chute.

Garlic added to Parmesan.

Garlic added to Parmesan.

Once processed, turn the blender off and add 2 T Dijon mustard, 1 1/2 t white wine vinegar, 1 1/2 t Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of Kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and 1 C of silken tofu.

Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Kosher salt, and black pepper added to dressing.

Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Kosher salt, and black pepper added to dressing.

Silken tofu added to blender.

Silken tofu added to blender.

Blend until smooth. Once smooth, slowly pour 2 T of olive oil down the chute with the blender running.

Olive oil drizzled into dressing.

Olive oil drizzled into dressing.

Finished tofu Caesar dressing.

Finished tofu Caesar dressing.

Tofu Caesar dressing over arugula.

Tofu Caesar dressing over arugula.

The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. We were pretty happy with this dressing, though it does have pretty intense garlic flavor. If using two cloves of garlic, I would recommend using smaller ones. I served my dressing over arugula because that is what we had in the house, but we will have to get some Romaine and make a true Caesar-style salad. This is a good, easy, healthy salad dressing, and you would really never know it has tofu as a main ingredient.

Moo-Less Chocolate Pie

The third recipe in this episode is for Alton’s tofu chocolate pie. As far as desserts go, it doesn’t get any easier than this one.

Ingredients for tofu chocolate pie:  silken tofu, semisweet chocolate chips, coffee liqueur, vanilla, honey, and a cookie crust.

Ingredients for tofu chocolate pie: silken tofu, semisweet chocolate chips, coffee liqueur, vanilla, honey, and a cookie crust.

In a blender, combine one block of silken tofu, 1/3 C coffee liqueur, 1 t vanilla, 1 T honey, and 2 C semisweet chocolate chips, melted. Blend until smooth.

Tofu in the blender.

Tofu in the blender.

Melted chocolate chips, vanilla, honey, & coffee liqueur added to the tofu.

Melted chocolate chips, vanilla, honey, & coffee liqueur added to the tofu.

Blended until smooth.

Blended until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a prepared chocolate cookie crust and refrigerate until firm. The online recipe contains a recipe for a chocolate wafer crust, but Alton used a purchased chocolate cookie crust in the episode, so that is what I used.

Prepared cookie crust.

Prepared cookie crust.

Filling poured into crust.

Filling poured into crust.

Pie after setting in the refrigerator.

Pie after setting in the refrigerator.

Dense tofu chocolate pie.

Dense tofu chocolate pie.

This pie is delicious, and I will absolutely make it again. The pie is super rich, full of chocolate flavor, and has a dense, smooth texture. You would NEVER guess that tofu is in this pie. I would say this is one of the best recipes I have made so far in this project.

Tall & Tangy Tofu Thangy

The final recipe in this episode is for a tofu smoothie. In advance of making this one, freeze a small can (8 1/4 oz) of fruit cocktail in light syrup. I actually could not find a small can of fruit cocktail, so I weighed mine out and froze it in a ziplock bag.

Smoothie ingredients:  frozen fruit cocktail in light syrup, lemonade mix, cranberry juice, and silken tofu.

Smoothie ingredients: frozen fruit cocktail in light syrup, lemonade mix, cranberry juice, and silken tofu.

When ready to have your smoothie, dump the frozen fruit cocktail into a blender, along with 1 t powdered lemonade mix, 6 ounces cranberry juice, and 1 block of silken tofu. Blend until smooth and drink.

Frozen fruit cocktail in the blender.

Frozen fruit cocktail in the blender.

Lemonade mix added.

Lemonade mix added.

Six ounces of cranberry juice.

Six ounces of cranberry juice.

Allison's camera 066

Silken tofu added to the blender.

Silken tofu added to the blender.

Blended until smooth.

Blended until smooth.

The finished tofu smoothie.

The finished tofu smoothie.

We had this smoothie for breakfast yesterday, and thought it was okay, but not outstanding. It is a pretty thick smoothie that is really more tart than sweet, and we both found that the flavor of the tofu really came through, which some people may not care for.

The Coonhounds got a little taste of the smoothie, and they thought it was pretty good.

The Coonhounds got a little taste of the smoothie, and they thought it was pretty good.

I probably will not make this one again, as I think my own tofu smoothie “recipe” (I don’t measure anything) is better; mine consists of a banana, frozen berries, silken tofu, honey, soy milk, and some yogurt.

Chocolate Mousse

Because I am human, I could not help but be excited for the recipes in the 13th Good Eats episode. I mean, who doesn’t like chocolate? The first recipe Alton conquers in the episode is his Chocolate Mousse. With a short prep time, and only six ingredients, this is a dessert that is fit to be made anytime. You start by combining semi-sweet chocolate chips, a pinch of Kosher salt (guess this makes it seven ingredients), espresso, dark rum, and butter in a double boiler.

Chocolate chips, butter, salt, espresso, and rum.

Chocolate chips, butter, salt, espresso, and rum.

While the chocolate is melting, you measure 1 1/2 C of heavy cream in a liquid measuring cup, pouring a couple of ounces of this into a metal measuring cup. Note:  The online recipe calls for a total of 1 3/4 C of cream, while Alton uses a total of 1 1/2 C in the episode. I went with the 1 1/2 C of cream, per the episode.

Heavy cream.

Heavy cream.

You want to keep the cream in the liquid measuring cup chilled. To the cream in the metal measuring cup, you add some gelatin, and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes.



Gelatin bloomin in some of the cream.

Gelatin blooming in some of the cream.

By this time, your chocolate mixture should be melted, and you want to remove it from the heat.

Melted chocolate mixture.

Melted chocolate mixture.

While your chocolate cools, you beat your cream in a chilled metal mixing bowl, using a chilled beater. You should beat your cream until you have medium peaks.

Chilled mixing bowl and beater.

Chilled mixing bowl and beater.

Heavy cream, ready to be whipped into submission... or medium peaks.

Heavy cream, ready to be whipped into submission… or medium peaks.

A taste of the cream for "helper" #1.

A taste of the cream for “helper” #1.

And a taste for "helper" #2.

And a taste for “helper” #2.

The gelatin/cream mixture gets heated over a gas burner or a candle until all of the gelatin granules are gone. You do not want to boil this liquid. Once the gelatin is dissolved, you add the cream/gelatin to the chocolate mixture, stirring to combine.

Heating the gelatin/cream mixture over a candle.

Heating the gelatin/cream mixture over a candle.

Adding the gelatin mixture to the chocolate.

Adding the gelatin mixture to the chocolate.

Now it is time to combine the chocolate with the whipped cream, but you want to do this gradually and gently, beginning by stirring 1/4 of the cream into the chocolate. Then you will gently fold the remaining cream into the chocolate in two additions.

Side by side bowls of goodness, ready to be combined to make even greater goodness.

Side by side bowls of goodness, ready to be combined to make even greater goodness.

Stirring in about 1/4 of the whipped cream.

Stirring in about 1/4 of the whipped cream.

Alton stresses that it is okay to have streaks in your mousse. The important thing is to gently fold the cream into the chocolate, so as not to remove the air from the cream. I definitely had some streaks in my mousse.

The final product, after folding in the remaining whipped cream.

The final product, after folding in the remaining whipped cream.

You gently spoon the mousse into individual serving cups and refrigerate it for an hour before covering the cups with plastic wrap.

Yum. Chocolate mousse.

Yum. Chocolate mousse.

I made my mousse several hours in advance and we ate it for dessert three days in a row. I also shared some mousse with my parents. We all thought this mousse was delicious. It was light and fluffy, and mine had tiny bits of chocolate throughout, which I’m sure were not supposed to be there, but were actually a nice touch! The mousse was very rich without being heavy. There was a hint of rum in my mousse, but the espresso flavor was really not discernible. This is a recipe I will be making again because it is easy, fast, and delicious, and because my mom has already requested it!

Chocolate Lava Muffins

I will confess that I have made Alton’s Chocolate Lava Muffins a few times in years past, so this was not a new recipe to me. I still watched him prepare the recipe on the episode to ensure that I completed the recipe as prepared in the episode. When I made these in the past, I followed the online recipe, and as we know, there are usually differences between the online and episode recipes.

You start by melting chocolate chips with butter and vanilla extract.The online recipe calls for 1/2 t of vanilla, while Alton uses 1 t in the episode.

Melting chocolate chips with butter and vanilla.

Melting chocolate chips with butter and vanilla.

Once melted, you beat the chocolate mixture. I used my handheld mixer, which was given to me by my grandma about 15 years ago (she became quite the QVC shopper in her later years). It sometimes gets warm and emits a funky electrical smell, but it’s still ticking, and I use it occasionally.

The melted chocolate mixture.

The melted chocolate mixture.

One by one, you beat in four eggs, until incorporated.

Beating in the eggs, one at a time.

Beating in the eggs, one at a time.

Then you sift in your dry ingredients (Alton uses 4 T of flour in the episode, rather than the 3 T in the online recipe), and beat the mixture for at least 5 minutes (that electrical smell was present after that!) until the batter is light and smooth.

Sugar, flour, and salt.

Sugar, flour, and salt.

Adding the sifted dry ingredients to the chocolate.

Adding the sifted dry ingredients to the chocolate.

The completed batter, after beating for over 5 minutes.

The completed batter, after beating for over 5 minutes.

You chill the mixture to let it set a little bit. How long? This is not specified in either the episode or the online recipe. I chilled my batter for about 20 minutes. While the mixture chills, you can grease your muffin tin, and coat the cups with some cocoa powder.

Muffin tin, greased and dusted with cocoa powder.

Muffin tin, greased and dusted with cocoa powder.

Alton then tells you to use a 4-ounce scoop for each muffin. I used a ladle (not sure what size), and simply filled my muffin cups until they were about 2/3 full. This filled all 12 of my cups, while many reviewers on the Food Network site said they ended up with 8 or 9 muffins.

Batter in the muffin cups.

Batter in the muffin cups.

Once your cups are full, you stick the muffins in the oven and bake them for about 10 minutes, or until the sides are set and the centers are still jiggly. I checked my muffins at 9 minutes, but they were not quite done. Ten minutes was perfect for my muffins.

Baked lava muffins.

Baked lava muffins.

The baked muffins.

The baked muffins.

To serve the muffins, Alton makes a sauce by melting vanilla ice cream with espresso powder, and pours this over the top.

Melting vanilla ice cream with espresso powder.

Melting vanilla ice cream with espresso powder.

The completed sauce.

The completed sauce.

Lava muffin with sauce.

Lava muffin with sauce.

I have now made these muffins at least three times, so I guess that tells you that I like them. They kind of look like little chocolate hockey pucks. Perhaps filling the muffin cups a bit more results in more of a typical muffin shape, but I actually like the small size of these. They are very dense and rich, with an almost-liquid center and cake-like edges. I like them with the sauce, though I think they would maybe pair better with plain vanilla ice cream or barely sweetened whipped cream. The combo of the muffin with the sauce is just sweet on sweet. The muffins keep nicely for a couple of days, and while you can serve them warm, I think they are great at room temperature also.

With that, I complete Season 1 of Alton’s recipes on Good Eats.