Remember Fanny’s of Evanston?

If you are a baby boomer and grew up either on the North Side or in one of the North Suburbs of Chicago, chances are that you knew or had gone to Fanny’s restaurant.  Fanny Bianucci Lazar had her landmark restaurant at 1601 Simpson Street in Evanston, Illinois from 1946 until 1987.  She was a diminutive but effervescent lady, and she or her husband Ray greeted you at the door.  The foyer was crowded with photos of famous people who had dined at the restaurant and awards for both the salad dressing and meat sauce from the International Epicurian Society of France.  I loved going there as a kid, and remember Fanny going into the dining room with a big bowl of spaghetti to offer seconds to anyone.  I remember going there for my birthday and getting coconut cake with a candle and being embarrassed when the servers would gather around to sing Happy Birthday.

Fanny died in 1990, but her son John sold her spaghetti sauce frozen or in jars from World Wide Food Products in Skokie.  Despite many requests, he had kept the spaghetti sauce recipe secret, saying it was worth “millions.”

I don’t know what has happened to John Bianucci.  The website is down, the phone number (847-679-4438) is not in service, and Sunset Foods has only 2 (after I purchased 1) jars left of Fanny’s meat sauce.  I haven’t seen the frozen in packet version of the meat sauce (or the frozen spaghetti dinner packet) in years.  I called the phone on the label (847-791-9660) and someone answered, so I guess World Wide Food Prod. Ltd. is still in business.  So, John, if you are still with us, can you give your Mother’s spaghetti recipe please?

The label of the meat sauce jar:

A photo of the dining room:


It is worth noting that Fanny employed black wait staff and cooks at a time when this was very unusual.  The restaurant was not on a fancy street in Evanston, but people flocked there.

The story below is from Old Lost Recipes, a web site that does not seem to be currently maintained, which is a crying shame!  Monica Kass Rogers, where are you?

My image

From the time it opened in 1946 until it closed in 1987, Fanny’s of Evanston was known for its unusual orange juice/pecan/chutney salad dressing, spaghetti with meat sauce, and? This fried chicken. You can still buy the dressing and the meat sauce from the Bianucci family’s Worldwide Foods online ( Not so, the chicken. But now, you can make the chicken yourself at home! (Thank you, Helen Bianucci!) The recipe has a really-truly “knock-knock” story to it: Upon opening, Fanny (a woman of faith) prayed for a cook. Two days later, Bob Jordan knocked at the restaurant door announcing “The Lord sent me to be your cook.” To Fanny’s “What-do-you-cook?” query, Jordan answered, “The best fried chicken around!” Hyperbole notwithstanding, we think Jordan’s recipe, which he prepared at Fanny’s for 25 years, has phenomenal flavor. Really a fricassee, (i.e. not crispy) this rich, fall-off-the-bones rendition has cream in the coating and butter in the dish.

Makes 8 servings


  • 3, 2-lb chickens cut into pieces
  • 1 stick each vegetable shortening and butter
  • 1/4 cup flour,
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Freshly-ground pepper
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 1/2 cup cream or half-and-half


Heat fat in heavy skillet. Mix flour, salt, pepper, and oregano in a bag. Dip chicken pieces in cream and then place in flour bag, shaking to coat. Remove chicken pieces to hot skillet, cover. Turn heat down to simmer and fry slowly for 30 minutes. Uncover. Drain fat, but leave meat juices and crumbly bits. Scrape those to unstick from bottom of pan, but do not discard: Add enough water to just cover bottom of skillet, and mix with the meat juices and bits. Cover skillet again and simmer another 30 minutes.

Now, I made this chicken and clearly there is something missing from the recipe.  I remembered Fanny’s fried chicken as moist chicken with a wonderful crispy coating, and this recipe delivers a moist well flavored chicken but not a crisp coating.  The second stage of adding water to the pan makes a lumpy pan gravy.  I’m going to have to tweak this recipe to preserve a crunch to the skin,  and improve the pan gravy.

What follows now is my attempt to recreate Fanny’s meat sauce.  I would love for people to try this and see if it comes close to their memories.  Here is a photo of the Fanny Meat Sauce jar label showing the ingredients:

Fanny label2


SDR Clone of Fanny's of Evanston Meat Sauce

4 servings


3 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes

1.5 pounds ground beef (ground chuck)

1/3 cup diced carrots

1 large sweet onion (Vidalia or Texas 1015, or similar), diced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons dried oregano

4 to  6 tablespoons unsalted butter

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Place the ground beef in a heavy skillet and break up into small pieces. Sauté until brown.  Drain the fat from the beef and put aside.  Wipe the pan and then saute the diced onion and carrots in 2 tbs of butter until the onions are translucent and soft.  Add the 3 cans of diced tomatoes with their juice to the pan.  (If desired, add 1 tbs of tomato paste).  Simmer for 1 to 2 hours.

Take the sauce and process in a blender (hopefully a Vita-mix or Blentec) to get a very smooth puree.  Return the sauce to the pan and add the beef. Finish the sauce with 2-4 tbs of butter whisked into the sauce.  If sweet onions were not used, one might need to add some sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes, but as I made it, the sauce is slightly sweet without the addition of sugar.

Serve over spaghetti or other pasta and finish with grated Parmesan cheese.

Please try to make this and see if it is close to your memory of the Fanny meat sauce, or do what I’m planning, a direct comparison with the bottled sauce.

Posted in Chicken, Cooking, food/restaurants/recipes, Italian, Recipe, Recipe clone, Sauce, Spaghetti | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The still best chocolate chip cookie (plus some others)

I think it is appropriate to talk about chocolate chip cookies again because they are such a universal favorite.  I was prompted to revisit the topic due to Sam Sifton’s NY Times cooking email, which reminded us that yesterday was Ruth Wakefield’s birthday (born Ruth Graves on June 17, 1903).  In 1926, she married Kenneth Wakefield, and 4 years later, the couple bought a building in Plymouth County, Mass., and opened an inn there.

Mrs. Wakefield’s claim to fame is the confection that was known originally as the Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie, after the Toll House Inn, a popular restaurant that she ran with her husband in eastern Massachusetts.

Legend had it that she was brainstorming about cookie dough while returning from a vacation in Egypt when she first came up with the recipe, a variation on another popular treat called Butter Drop Do pecan icebox cookies.

“We had been serving a thin butterscotch nut cookie with ice cream,” Wakefield recalled in a 1970s interview. “Everybody seemed to love it, but I was trying to give them something different.”  Her initial idea was to add melting squares of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate to the cookie batter, but all she had on hand for the experiment was a Nestlé semisweet bar, and she was too rushed to melt it.

Wielding an ice pick, she chopped the bar into pea-size bits and dribbled them into the brown sugar dough with nuts. (Susan Brides, a pastry chef, assisted.) Instead of melting into the dough to produce an all-chocolate cookie, the bits remained chunky as they baked.

In her “Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book,” Carolyn Wyman rejected the prevailing theory that the recipe was developed inadvertently. Mrs. Wakefield was too perfectionist a cook. “Confusion is unknown,” a promotional brochure for her restaurant boasted.

“Nowadays, people love the ‘dumb luck’ story of the person who wins the lottery, or invents something because they were doing something else,” Wyman wrote about Wakefield’s innovation. “But what she did was still revolutionary.”


The ruins of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Mass., after a fire damaged the property in 1984.CreditBarry Allen/Boston Globe, via Getty Images

That establishment, the Toll House Inn on Bedford Street in Whitman, eventually expanded from seven to more than 60 tables. It became a destination, famous for its sea foam salad ring (with lime gelatin), lobster dishes and desserts, including Boston cream and lemon meringue pies, Indian pudding and baba au rhum and other recipes Wakefield had inherited from her grandmother or created herself.

She included some of them in a cookbook, “Ruth Wakefield’s Tried and True Recipes” that she published in 1931. Her enduring chocolate chip cookie recipe first appeared in a later 1930s edition.

Her Toll House cookie recipe was reprinted in The Boston Herald-Traveler, and Wakefield was featured on “Famous Foods From Famous Eating Places,” the radio program hosted by Marjorie Husted (who was known as Betty Crocker).


In 1939, Wakefield sold Nestlé the rights to reproduce her recipe on its packages (supposedly for only $1, which has to be the worst licensing deal of all time) and was hired to consult on recipes for the company, which was said to have provided her free chocolate for life.

Nestlé began pre-scoring its chocolate bars for easy baking, then introduced Nestlé Toll House Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels which became known as chocolate chips. (For the record, Allison Baker, a Nestlé spokeswoman, said that the morsels do, in fact, melt, but retain their shape because of the way the fat structure of the tempered chocolate is aligned.)

Wakefield’s recipe was printed on the package. (It was later updated to account for the availability of pre-sifted flour and other modern ingredients.)

When Wakefield added the recipe to her cookbook in the later edition, she included this explanatory note: “At Toll House we chill this dough overnight.  When ready for baking, we roll a teaspoon of dough between palms of hands and place balls two inches apart on greased baking sheet. Then we press balls with finger tips to form flat rounds. This way cookies do not spread as much in the baking and they keep uniformly round.”  This vital step of letting the cookie dough chill and rest never made to the instructions printed on the yellow bag of the morsels.

In 1967, the Wakefields sold the inn. (It burned in 1984.) The couple retired to Duxbury, Mass., where Ruth Wakefield died in 1977.

The appeal of chocolate chip cookies is undeniable.  Just look at how ubiquitous they are.  They are found in almost every bakery, grocery store, or made at home from a treasured recipe.

I still think that the best chocolate chip cookie is my working of the New York Times article written by David Leite.  I believe the investigation Mr. Leite did goes far to understanding the underpinnings of the cookie recipe.

J. Kenji López-Alt has done an extensive analysis of the science and variations in chocolate chip cookies, and his article is linked here:

America’s Test Kitchen’s version of a chocolate chip cookie involves browning more than half of the butter used in the cookie to enhance the butterscotch notes in the final cookie, and that can be adapted to any variant of a chocolate chip cookie.


The 2008 NY Times recipe is mostly derived from Jacques Torres’ bakery chocolate chip cookie.  It uses both bread flour (more gluten and protein) and cake flour (less gluten and protein) in equal amounts (8 ½ ounces of each).  I now make the recipe using 17 ounces of King Arthur all-purpose flour, because I tried making the cookies with the bread and cake flour combination, and I found no real difference to the one made with the King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour.  There are differences in protein content of bleached and unbleached cake flours.  Protein content of the Softasilk bleached cake 6.9%, King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend 9.4%, Unbleached Self-Rising 8.5%, Unbleached Pastry 8%, KAF Unbleached All-Purpose 11.7% KAF Unbleached Bread Flour 12.7%.   No matter what flours are used, I strongly recommend that ingredients are weighted, not dry measured, for increased accuracy.  I do think there are variations in the commercial varieties of flour, and I have switched to using King Arthur flours in all my cooking and baking.

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie

Original source The New York Times


  • 17 ounces King Arthur unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 ½ sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
  • 1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces)granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
  • Sea salt.


  1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
  4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.
  • Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.  Ghirardelli makes a wonderful 60% cocao chip, available at Cost Plus and other retailers.  Belcolade 60% cocao nickel size discs are found on

Also, as the article details, let the cookie dough rest and hydrate thoroughly for 12 to 36 hours (the longer the better).  It definitely makes a difference in the end result.  I did tests at 1 hour, 3 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, and 36 hours.  At 36 hours, the cookies are much more complex, with caramel and toffee notes in the taste that is extremely pleasant without being overwhelming.  The 3 ½ ounce size of each cookie make a monster five inch cookie, with the 3 rings of flavor that Mr. Rubin talks about in the NY Times article, but in my oven, it cooks in 14 to 15 minutes.  A 1 ½ ounce size produced a 3 inch cookie, and took 11 to 13 minutes to cook.  This is less of a monster, but with similar taste, but with a less pronounced 3 ring effect.

I use a combination of Ghirardelli chips and Callebaut 60% cocoa.  I buy a 5 kilogram “bar” and slice off the needed amount with a knife, and then use the knife to create small chunks of chocolate (with the added benefit of tiny residual chocolate bits and powder which gets thrown in as well).  The combination creates a very interesting mix of texture and enhanced chocolate intensity.  I will also use the Belcolade discs to get a bigger and more intense chocolate bite to the cookie (Belcolade Belgian Chocolate – Dark Bitter-sweet Chocolate Discs, “Noir Superieur”, 60.0% Cocoa, 11 Lb./5kg. Bag found on Amazon).

Despite what Dorie Greenspan says, I think this cookie is fine without the addition of a sprinkle of sea salt.  There is enough salt in the dough and I think the salt counterpoint on the top of the cookie is overkill.  Timing is everything with this recipe, from the resting of the dough in the refrigerator to the exact cooking time (just a light color to the top of the cookie without the edges getting too well done) to the resting on the cookie sheet for 5 to 10 minutes before the transfer to the wire rack.  It pays off to do a small test batch to get the timing right for your oven and the size of your cookie. The 5 to 10 minute rest on the cookie sheet after it comes out of the oven finishes the cooking process, so don’t forget or prolong the time.

As usual, nothing but the best ingredients gives the best results, and this is particularly true concerning the chocolate.  The cookie will taste very different if made with Nestle’s semi-sweet morsels, or horrors, with milk chocolate chips.  I believe the higher percentage of cacao in the bittersweet chocolate gives a better counterpoint to the sweetness of the cookie dough.  Nuts can be added if desired (I use 1 cup of raw chopped pecans into a recipe but chopped walnuts works well too).

There is one more thing that will make cookie making much easier.  Making the cookie balls from the refrigerated dough is a bit of a pain to do, and I’ve come up with a better solution.  Once the cookie batter is done, form your cookie balls with the help of an ice cream scoop.  I weigh each ball to get a consistent and equal cookie (whether the 1½ ounce or the 3 to 3½ monster cookie).

Cookies after mixing and weighing. Small ones weigh 1 3/8 oz, larger one (with walnuts) weigh 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 oz. Into the refrigerator for 36 hours prior to baking

 I have been making the 1½ ounce size and it is easy to combine 2 cookies to make a monster cookie prior to baking.  I put the 1½ ounce balls in a ziploc bag for the 36 hours rest.  It is also easy to freeze the cookies after the 36 hour rest, and for those with instant gratification issues, having a supply of cookie dough in the freezer makes baking on a whim much easier.  Wait 20 minutes after removing from the freezer and press the ball to flatten the disc prior to baking.  Whether using the dough after the refrigerator rest, or using the frozen dough after the 20 wait, cooking on a silpat or parchment paper with the baking sheet is a must for good results.

Now, I’m going to give alternatives to my choice as the best chocolate chip cookie.  Why?  Everyone does not have the same preferences, and one must allow for variants, and sometimes, it is good to do something a little different.

Kathleen King has built a cult type following for her Tate’s Bake Shop chocolate chip cookies.  They are flat, and very crisp, but have a nice buttery mouth feel.  She published the recipe for her cookies in 2005 in her Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook.

Tate's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe from Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook by Kathleen King
Makes 4 1/2 dozen 3-inch cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup salted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two cookie sheets or line them with Silpat. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugars. Add the water and vanilla. Mix the ingredients until they are just combined. Add the eggs and mix them lightly. Stir in the flour mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips. Don’t over-mix the dough.

Drop the cookies 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets using two tablespoons or an ice cream scoop. Bake them for 12 minutes or until the edges and centers are brown. Remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

My second favorite chocolate chip cookie is a “double” chocolate chip cookie, the winner of  2600 entries in the Orchards’ 1987 cookie contest.  It is a dark cookie not from melted chocolate, but from the use of unsweetened cocoa in the batter.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Author: Junior League of Las Vegas

Recipe Type: American Classics, Chocolate, Cookies, Desserts, American

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 Tbs milk
1 cup chopped pecans, or walnuts
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips, (1cup)

1. Combine flour and baking soda, set aside. Cream butter with mixer, add vanilla and sugars and beat until fluffy. Beat in the egg. At low speed beat in cocoa, then milk. With a wooden spoon mix in dry ingredients just until blended. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.

2. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto nonstick cookie sheet. Bake at 350° F. for 12 to 13 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly before removing from baking sheets.

Yield: 3 dozen

Oven Temperature: 350°F

For some, the remembered and cherished tastes of our childhood is paramount and nothing satisfies as much as the original “Toll House Cookie” but I hope you look beyond the yellow bag of your youth and delve into the delights of better chocolate than Nestle or Hershey!

Posted in Baking, Chocolate, cookies, Cooking, Dessert, Recipe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apple Bars–a handheld alternative to Apple Pie

“As American as apple pie”  One out of five Americans surveyed picked apple pie as their favorite.  “For Mom and apple pie” was the reason why Americans went to war in World War II.  But is apple pie American?  The short answer is No.  The actual pie has origins in Britain, Holland and Sweden.  But apple trees didn’t exist in America (other than crab apple trees) until the 17th century. when seeds were brought over to north America by colonists.

I love apple pie.  I’ve got a bunch of different recipes for apple pie, and that could be the subject of a post of its own.  I’ve talked about apple bars in two prior post:  A Delicious Fall Dessert–Dutch Apple Pie Bars and briefly in The summer baking spree.  So, I like apple pie bars.  Why talk about it again?  I came across a recipe at Lindsay Conchar’s blog for apple bars, and I had to try them:

One can find many recipes for apple pie bars or apple squares, but which one to chose?  It can get confusing.  This post will discuss 6 different recipes.

Apple Squares

6 deciliters plain low-fat yogurt
3/4 deciliter vegetable oil
3 1/2 deciliters sugar
9 deciliters flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 liter apple, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 deciliters dark brown sugar
**sprinkling mixture**

1. Mix yogurt and oil together. Add vanilla. Mix dry ingredients together, and combine with yogurt mixture.

2. Peel and slice the apples (about 3 to 4 large apples).

3. Place the batter no more than 1/2 inch thick in 9X13 inch buttered pan, and distribute apple slices on the surface up to 1/2 inch from the sides of the pan. Use excess batter for second batch in smaller pan.

4. Make a “streusel” mixture of rolled oats, sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle on the surface, dotting with butter. Alternative method is to melt the butter and mix it with the 3 other streusel ingredients.

5. Place in a preheated 225° Centigrade (437° Fahrenheit) oven for 20 to 25 minutes until surface browns.

6. Cool and slice into squares.

7. Metric to American equivalents

8. 6 dl= 2 5/8 cups ¾ dl=1/3 cup 3.5 dl= 1 1/2 cups 9 dl=3 3/4 cups 1 liter=4 1/4 c or just over 1 lb of apples 1.5 deciliter=5/8 cup

Servings: 6

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Source:  a friend’s Finnish Au Pair

Not bad, but I think we can do better.

Barefoot Contessa Apple Pie Bars

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

For the crust:
1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp ground cinnamon
For the apple filling:
1 1/2 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced 1/8 inch thick (3 large)
1 1/2 lbs Golden Delicious apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced 1/8 inch thick (3 large)
2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
4 Tbs (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. For the crust, place the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, until light and creamy. Sift the flour and salt together and, with the mixer on low, slowly add to the butter-sugar mixture, beating until combined. Scatter two-thirds of the dough in clumps in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and press it lightly with floured hands on the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, and set aside to cool.

3. Meanwhile, put the mixing bowl with the remaining dough back on the mixer, add the walnuts and cinnamon, and mix on low speed to combine. Set aside.

4. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees.

5. For the filling, combine the Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples and lemon juice in a very large bowl. Add the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well. Melt the butter in a large (10-inch-diameter) pot, add the apples, and simmer over medium to medium-low heat, stirring often, for 12 to 15 minutes, until the apples are tender and the liquid has mostly evaporated. Spread the apples evenly over the crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border.

6. Pinch medium pieces of the remaining dough with your fingers and drop them evenly on top of the apples (they will not be covered). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is browned. Cool completely and cut into bars.

7. Cook’s Note–Ina lined the baking pan with parchment paper before making the crust.

Author: Ina Garten
Source: “Cooking for Jeffrey” by Ina Garten © Clarkson Potter 2016. Provided courtesy of Ina Garten. All rights reserved.

Like most things Ina creates, these taste great.  But one pound of butter for the shortbread crust is a little much!

Dutch Apple Pie Bars Adapted from Food and Wine

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
6 Tbs unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
12 Granny Smith apples (about 6 pounds)?peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 Tbs cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup water, as necessary
3/4 cup walnuts
3 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled

1. Crust: Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a 15-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes. At low speed, beat in the flour and salt until a soft dough forms. Press the dough over the bottom of the sheet and 1/2 inch up the side. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until the crust is golden. Let cool on a rack.

2. Filling: In each of 2 large skillets, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter with 1/4 cup of the light brown sugar. Add the apples to the skillets and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir half of the cinnamon and nutmeg into each skillet. Cook until the apples are caramelized and very tender and the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes longer; scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillets and add up to 1/2 cup of water to each pan to prevent scorching. Let cool.

3. Topping: Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast until golden and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop the walnuts. In a large bowl, mix the oats with the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the walnuts and press the mixture into clumps.

4. Assembly: Spread the apple filling over the crust. Scatter the crumbs on top, pressing them lightly into an even layer. Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 hour, until the topping is golden; rotate the pan halfway through baking. Let cool completely on a rack before cutting into 2-inch bars.NOTE: The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 days or frozen for up to a month.

These are not bad.  I just had a standard large cookie sheet/jelly roll pan that was about 13×18 inches. I followed all the same instructions except I didn’t use quite all of the topping.
NOTE: The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 days or frozen for up to a month.

Dutch Apple Pie Bars adapted from King Arthur's Cookbook

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 large egg, beaten
2 Tbs ice water
2 Tbs unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar, ( more if needed, depends on tartness of apples and personal preference)
1 pinch nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
5 cups peeled cored diced apples ( Granny Smith), (5 to 6)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 425°; lightly grease a 13×9 inch pan.
Crust: in a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and salt; using a pastry blender, cut in the butter. Drizzle the beaten egg over the mixture; toss lightly to combine. Add the ice water 1 tablespoons at a time, stirring gently until the dough starts to clump together; grab a fistful; if it sticks together easily, you have added enough water. Roll the dough into a generous rectangle to fit your pan or spread it to an even layer on the bottom of the pan with your fingers. Prick it all over with a fork; bake it for 10-12 minutes, until it is set and barely starting to harden. (10 minutes should be enough).

2. Filling:
In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, spices, and salt together; add in the apples, tossing to coat. Stir in the vanilla, then the cream; spread the filling over the crust.

3. Topping:
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. In another bowl, combine the melted butter and extracts; pout over the flour mixture. Stir until the butter is absorbed and the mixture forms fairly even crumbs; sprinkle over the filling.

4. Bake for 15 minutes; decrease temperature to 350°; bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the topping is brown and the filling is bubbly. Remove from oven and cool on a rack; let them cool to lukewarm before cutting.

Author: adapted from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion cookbook

Good crust, but the filling is not perfect.

So, I tried Lindsay’s recipe.

Apple Streusel Bars

3/4 cup (168g) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup (216g) light brown sugar, unpacked
2 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (195g) all purpose flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves ground
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups (272g) chopped apple (1-2 large apples)
2/3 cup (87g) all purpose flour
2/3 cup (150g) light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 pinch ground cloves
3 Tbs (42g) salted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C) and line the bottom of a 9 inch square pan with parchment paper and grease the sides.

2. Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl, then transfer to a mixing bowl.

3. Add the brown sugar and whisk to combine.

4. Add the vanilla and eggs and whisk until incorporated

5. In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

6. Slowly add the dry ingredients to wet ingredients until combined.

7. Spread about half of the batter evenly into the bottom of the pan.

8. Fold about 3/4 of the chopped apples into the remaining batter, then spread evenly into the pan.

9. In another bowl, combine streusel ingredients and mix together until it forms a crumbly mixture. Stir in the remaining apples.

10. Sprinkle the streusel over the top of the bars.

11. Bake the bars for 33-35 minutes, then set aside to cool completely.

12. Cut into bars and serve. Bars are best stored in the fridge.


Since the batter becomes the bottom of the bar, this recipe is a little easily than most.  The problem is the balance.  The use of nutmeg and clove creates an overdose of Thanksgiving like smells and taste, which overpowers the apple flavor of the bar.  More like an apple cake than an apple pie bar, if I make it again, I’d cut way back on the clove and nutmeg.

So after a lot of trial and testings, the winner is the adaptation of using the King Arthur bar crust with the America’s Test Kitchen filling.

Dutch Apple Pie Bars

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

an apple pie in your hand

These take 1st place

For the Crust:
8 ounces animal crackers, (4 cups)
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 pinch salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the Streusel:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornmeal
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (or better yet, 8 tbs)
For the Filling:
2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced ¼-inch thick
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch salt
Alternate Crust:
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1 stick
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons ice water, more or less as needed

1. Preheat oven to 375º F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing excess to hang over pan edges. If using foil, grease or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Make the Crust: Process the crackers, brown sugar and salt in a food processor until they have been reduced to fine crumbs, about 15 seconds. Add the melted butter and pulse to incorporate. Press the crumbs into an even layer in the prepared pan and bake until deep golden brown, 10 to 13 minutes. Cook on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Keep the oven on.

But instead, use this Alternate crust:
Preheat oven to 425º F. Lightly grease 9X13 inch baking pan. Whisk together the flour and salt; using a pastry blender, cut in the butter. Drizzle the beaten egg over the mixture; toss lightly to combine. Add the ice water a tablespoon at a time, stirring until the dough clumps together. Roll into a rectangle and fit into the pan (or just use your fingers to evenly layer the dough on the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork, bake it for 10 to 12 minutes (12 is probably too long), until set and barely starting to harden. Remove from oven, cool on a rack. Reduce oven heat to 375º.

3. Make the Streusel: Whisk together the flour, sugars and cornmeal in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and toss with a fork until the dry ingredients are all evenly moistened. Set aside.

4. Make the Filling: Combine the apples, melted butter, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft and the liquid has evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.

5. Assemble: Spread the apples over the crust in an even layer and sprinkle with the streusel. Bake until the streusel is brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Using the foil or parchment overhangs, lift the bars from the pan and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

6. 2nd Alternate topping (from the Silver Palate sour cream apple pie recipe):
3 tbs brown sugar
3 tbs sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1 c chopped walnuts
Mix well and sprinkle as topping

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies by Michelle Norris, the “Brown Eyed Baker” and by me.

the perfect bite sized apple bar

SDR: I don’t like using commercial products if I can make it myself. By making it myself, I avoid any preservatives and can control the seasonings.  I think those points are a fair trade-off to spending the extra time to make things from scratch.  Besides, where is the creativity of using something from a box!

America’s Test Kitchen used animal crackers instead of graham crackers to get a different flavor profile. However, the mild character of the animal crackers is not as good as a modified cookie crust. Therefore, I didn’t use Michelle Norris’ animal cracker crust, but used the crust from the King Arthur Dutch Apple Pie Bars, also in this post. If you want to make your own animal cracker cookies, I found a recipe for that as well, but it won’t taste as good.

The first time I made the streusel, it was too dry because I used only 2 T of butter as I was looking at the filling portion of the recipe, whereas the recipe calls for 6 T.   Even 6 T is not enough, so I now use 8 T to help the streusel brown and taste better, with much better results.

Now, why do this post at all.  I’ve posted the best apple pie bar recipe before.  As my wife says, why try other recipes when this one works so well.  My response is that I might find something even better, and if I stop searching, I might miss out!  Give that Lindsay Conchar’s recipe for the clone of Chris’ Outrageous Cheesecake was so good, I had to try her recipe.  I’ve laid out all the best alternatives that I have found so far.  But the first place winner is still my modification of the Dutch Apple Pie Bar.  Try them all, I invite your comments, and if you think you’ve got something better, I’m eager to try your recipe!


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I come to praise Caesar (the salad that is!)

Abelardo Cesare “Caesar” Cardini, an Italian immigrant, lived in San Diego California and owned and operated an establishment in Tijuana where, since it was in Mexico, the restaurant was not under the restrictions of Prohibition.  According to his daughter Rosa (who was not born until 1929), on July 4, 1924, the restaurant ran out of supplies, so her father created the salad out of what was available, and made it at table-side for increased drama.  Claims by some of the restaurant’s staff to have invented the salad are unsubstantiated.

Over the years there have been many variations of the Caesar Salad, but generally, they consist of 3 components:  Romaine lettuce, croutons, and an egg based dressing.  Let’s take a look at some of the recipes:

A replication of the Original Caesar Cardini Caesar Salad

2 heads romaine letuce

2 large eggs

¼ cup garlic flavored olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large lemon, halved

½ teaspoon  Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup freshy grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

1 cup garlic-flavored croutons

Wash and dry the romaine, discarding outer leaves.  Separate remaining leaves, wrap in a clean dish towel, and refrigerate.  Leaves may be torn in smaller pieces if desired.

Bring a small pan of water to a boil.  Add eggs and remove from heat.  After 1 minute, remove the eggs from the water, and place them in an ice bath.

Place the romaine in a large salad bowl  Pour half of the oil over the romaine.  Toss gently.  Add the salt and the pepper, then toss again.  Squeeze the lemon juice onto the greens, and add the Worcestershire sauce.  Break the eggs over the salad.  Add the remaining oil and cheese.  Toss, then add the croutons and toss again.  Serve at once

Adapted from “Rare Bits” by Patricia Bunning Stevens

Note that this recipe does not use Anchovies.  Cardini did not use them in his salad, relying on the anchovy flavor in the Worcestershire sauce to give the taste and salty flavor of anchovies.  Also, raw eggs are replaced in this version of the “original” recipe with coddled ones, to lessen the possibility of bacterial contamination.  I happen to love anchovies and I prefer to have them in the dressing and on the salad as well.

Here is my version of Caesar Salad:


1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced thinly

½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 cup french bread, cubed

2 heads romaine lettuce, washed, dried, cut in 2 inch pieces 

1½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon dry mustard

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 anchovy fillets

1 large egg, boiled in water for 1½ minutes

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons white wine

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 lemon

3 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Place the sliced garlic in the olive oil for 24 hours.  Using 2 tbs of the oil, brush the bread pieces and either saute them or bake in a 400°F oven for 5  minutes to make croutons.

Coddle the egg in boiling water  for 1½ minutes.  Using the garlic from the oil, mash the garlic with the anchovy fillets, then add the egg.  Add the dry ingredients and mix well.  Add the white wine and the white wine vinegar, then the remaining 6 tbs of oil and mix until emulsified.  Add the worcestershire sauce, juice of one lemon, and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Toss in the dried lettuce, croutons, and parmesan cheese, and mix thoroughly.  Serve immediately.

This has the flair of presentation at table-side, and an excellent taste.  If I’ve got nice fresh eggs, I don’t usually coddle them first and use them raw (see note in the next recipe).  

However, we now come to what I think makes the best Caeser salad.  Here is a recipe that Michael Lomonaco created while he was the Chef at the “21 Club” in New York City.  I think the taste of the dressing is wonderful, and since the dressing can be prepared in advance, the only things to add are the lettuce, croutons, and parmesan cheese.  Adding additional anchovies is a little bit of overkill, since there are a lot of anchovies in the dressing.  It is best to make your own croutons as I did in my Caesar salad.  One can substitute Grana Padano for the Parmigiana-Reggiano Parmesan cheese, but not any other cheese.

Caesar Salad from the 21 Club, NYC

Author=Michael Lomonaco

2 large egg yolks **

5 large cloves garlic, peeled

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

¼ cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 can (2 oz) anchovy fillets, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 head romaine lettuce, cleaned, dried, torn

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup toasted croutons

In the large bowl of a food processor, combine the egg yolks, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce.  Pulse the mixture until the garlic is finely chopped.  With the processor on, add the olive oil in a slow steady stream to produce a smooth mayonnaise like emulsion.  Add the anchovies, pulse for 30 seconds.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  This will make enough dressing for 8 servings, and any extra can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

To serve the salad, place the torn romaine leaves in a large bowl, add the parmesan cheese, and enough dressing to coat the leaves of the romaine.  Toss, then add croutons and toss again.  Serve.

** A note about raw eggs.  The American Egg Board warns that consuming raw eggs might risk exposure to Salmonella, a bacteria causing food poisoning.  Healthy people need to remember that there is a very small risk of contamination and treat raw eggs accordingly.  Use only properly refrigerated, clean, unbroken shelled fresh grade A or AA eggs.

The only thing I modify using Mike Lomonaco’s recipe is that I will use the olive oil from the anchovy fillet can, and I don’t bother to chop the anchovies before I toss them into the food processor.  I sometimes use ever more garlic!  I will also sometimes use whole eggs rather than just yolks.  This is a great recipe to have, as it is foolproof and delicious.

Happy Salad Days!

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“Jewish” Apple Cake

For at least 30 years, my wife and I have been making a recipe for apple cake that my mother-in-law’s friend, Martha Segal, gave to us.  The cake itself is delicious, and since it has no butter or other form of dairy, it is a perfect dessert to bring to a friend’s house if they keep kosher, since it could be served at the end of any meal.  Because of the use of apples, this is a dessert we often make for Rosh Hashanah, and the association of oil with the holiday of Hannukkah makes this another time that people make this cake.  I’ve done some research, and have found variations of this recipe in many households, usually in the form of a hand written 3X5 card in a mother’s or grandmother’s handwriting.  Joan Nathan published a version in one of her cookbooks.  In September, 2008, Deb Perelman wrote about her Mom’s apple cake, complete with her Mom’s 3X5 card.

There must be a whole generation of Jewish mothers that must have read the same magazine or food section of the newspaper many years ago. Martha’s recipe is a virtual clone of Deb’s Mom’s recipe (it uses 1/4 cup more flour, 1 teaspoon less cinnamon, but otherwise, everything is the exact same ingredients and amounts).

I can’t ask Martha where she got the recipe from, as she is no longer among the living.  My internet research did not pin down a country, geographic area, or particular ethnic origin to the recipe.  The association of “Jewish” to the apple cake recipe might be due to it being served in Jewish households due to the parve nature of the dessert.  But I’ve seen similar recipes in church group cookbooks, and there is even a similar recipe from the Jewish Museum of Maryland, so the true origins of the recipe are unknown.  It doesn’t really matter. The cake is worthy of being served anywhere!

One of the things that make this recipe so captivating is it’s ability to pass from generation to generation. Both my 29 year old son and my 26 year old daughter make this cake and have shared the recipe with their friends. While we might ponder what original source the recipe might be, we can be sure that future bakers will continue to please their families by making “Mom’s apple cake.”

Jewish Apple Cake

3 cups Flour
2 cups Sugar
4 large Eggs
1 cup Cooking oil
1/4 cup Orange juice
3 tsp Baking powder
2 1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Salt
6 medium Apples
2 tsp Cinnamon
5 Tbs Sugar

1. Peel and slice 5 to 6 apples in square chunks about the size of a thimble. Sprinkle them with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon mixed with 5 tablespoons of sugar, and set aside.

2. Preheat oven at 350 degrees.

3. Mix the batter ingredients together until batter is smooth (use Kitchenaid or other heavy mixer, as the batter is very thick). The preferred method is to mix the eggs and sugar together until the ribbon (pale yellow) stage, then add the oil, orange juice and vanilla, then mix. Add the dry ingredints and mix until smooth. Pour 1/2 of batter into a greased tube pan or bundt pan 10″ in diameter. Put 1/2 of the apple mixture on the batter. Then pour in the rest of the batter, followed by the rest of the apples, trying to distribute the apples as evenly as possible.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours (the cake assumes a golden brown color), and remove immediately. Turn out of pan onto a cooling rack.  By the way, the kitchen will smell wonderful.

5. Another version of this recipe uses 5 ts cinnamon , and 1 T Vanilla, and direct the mix of the ingredients as follows. Combine dry ingredients, make a well, and put liquid ingredients in well. This version cooks for 1 hour at 375 degrees. A third version uses 1/2 cup of orange juice, 4 ts cinnamon, and bakes at 350 for 90 minutes. A fourth version uses milk instead of orange juice. (Varients are from friends).

6. Deb Perelman has published her “Mom’s Apple Cake” in her Smitten Kitchen Blog. It is almost identical to Martha’s recipe (2 3/4 cups flour instead of 3, 3 tsp cinnamon instead of 2), but otherwise exactly the same.

Servings: 16

Recipe Type: Cakes, Desserts, Jewish Food, American

Author: Martha Segal
Source: Bea’s friend from Lauderhill, FL


Now the details.

  1. I use Golden Delicious Apples, and the sugar is based on that variety.  If you use Granny Smith, increase the sugar slightly, and decrease the sugar if using a sweeter variety of apple.
  2. Use a neutral vegetable oil such as canola or safflower oil.  Do not use olive oil!
  3. Fresh orange juice only please.
  4. When we started making this cake, we used a tube pan that we used for angel food cake with good success.  In the past, we tried making in our old bundt pan and had problems with the cake sticking despite dusting flour and butter prior to use.  I bought a new bundt pan from Williams-Sonoma made by the originator of the bundt pan, NordicWare, but this one is in the “gold-touch” non-stick finish.  The new pan worked perfectly (with the prior treatment of all the inside with “baking spray” (the combination of oil and flour in a spray) so that getting the cake out is a piece of cake!  The bake time is the same for the gold touch pan (90 minutes).
  5. Be sure to mix the apple mixture well prior to adding it to the batter, so the liquid is evenly distributed.  Don’t be tempted to mix in the apple mixture to the cake batter.  I tried this one time, and the cake was totally different and less moist and much less appealing.  It is important that ½ the apple mixture goes on top of the first half of the batter, and the second ½ of the apple mixture goes on top of the rest of the batter.


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A Cake that is way over the top

Tonight is my cousin Steve’s annual “Death by Chocolate” party.  Now, for those who are new to the blog, I will tell you that I sometimes win this informal competition, and I have a reputation (and my previous successes) to maintain.

So, every year, I look for something new to make that looks intriguing and might taste great.  Sometimes, I pick a recipe from one of the many cookbooks in the house, and sometimes I find a recipe from anywhere on the internet that seems interesting.

This year, I saw a recipe from a woman in Atlanta Georgia, Lindsay Conchar, and I made it.

The recipe’s author, Lindsay, says it is an attempt to recreate a Cheesecake Factory dessert called Chris’ Outrageous Cheesecake, and looking at the picture at the Cheesecake Factory site,Chris' Outrageous Cheesecake™ it looks very similar, but with pecans pressed into the frosting instead of mini chocolate morsels.  An Internet search found a number of different attempts to make a clone of this Cheesecake Factory dessert.  This recipe sounded good enough to try as this year’s entry, and the result was spectacular.  I always like to know the source of any recipe, so I left a comment at lifeloveandsugar and asked Lindsay if her recipe is all her own work, and she replied that all the components are works of her own creation.

Is it a cheesecake, is it a brownie, is it a German Chocolate cake--guess what, it's all three

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

yield: 14-16 SLICES



1/4 cup + 3 tbsp (56g) all purpose flour
1/2 cups (104g) sugar
3 tbsp (21g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup (60ml) milk
2 tbsp (30ml) vegetable oil
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg white
1/4 cup (60ml) hot water


6 egg yolks
12 oz can evaporated milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups (310g) sugar
3/4 cup (168g) butter, cubed
2 2/3 cups (227g) sweetened shredded coconut
1 1/4 cups chopped toasted pecans


1 cup (207g) sugar
10 tbsp (140g) unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup (98g) all purpose flour
6 tbsp (43g) natural unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt


16 ounces (452g) cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup (138g) sugar
2 tbsp (16g) all purpose flour
2/3 cup (153g) sour cream, room temperature
2 tsp coconut extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup (86g | 3 oz) chocolate chips


3/4 cup (168g) butter
1 cup (169g | 6 oz) semi sweet chocolate chips, melted
3 cups (345g) powdered sugar
4-5 tbsp (60-75ml ) heavy whipping cream
2 cups ( | 12 oz) mini chocolate chips



1. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C). Line a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan with parchment paper in the bottom and grease the sides.
2. In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk until well combined.
3. In another medium sized bowl, combine the milk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and egg white. Whisk until well combined.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk together until well combined.
5. Add the water and whisk until well combined. Batter will be thin.
6. Pour the batter into the springform pan and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few crumbs.
7. Remove cake from the pan and set aside on a cooling rack to cool.


8. In a large saucepan, combine the egg yolks, milk and vanilla extract and whisk until well combined.
9. Add the sugar and butter and cook on medium heat for 12-15 minutes, or until thickened and almost pudding-like and golden brown, stirring constantly.
10. Remove from heat and stir in coconut and pecans.
11. Set in the fridge to cool completely.


12. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C). Line a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan (the same pan you used for the chocolate cake) with parchment paper in the bottom and grease the sides.
13. In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
14. In another medium sized bowl, combine the butter, sugar and vanilla extract.
15. Add the eggs and mix until well combined.
16. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix until well combined.
17. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
18. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.


19. In a large mixer bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar and flour until well combined (Use low speed to keep less air from getting into the batter, which can cause cracks). Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
20. Add the sour cream and coconut extract, mixing on low speed until well combined.
21. Add the eggs one at a time, beating slowly and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
22. Stir in the chocolate chips.
23. When the brownie is done baking, reduce the oven temperature to 300°F (148°C). Remove the brownie from the oven and top with about 1/3 of the coconut pecan topping, then pour the cheesecake batter evenly over the topping.
24. Wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil, then place the springform pan inside another larger pan. Fill the outside pan with enough warm water to go about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. The water should not go above the top edge of the aluminum foil on the springform pan.
25. Bake the cheesecake for 45 minutes. The center should be set, but still jiggly.
26. Turn off the oven and leave the door closed for 30 minutes. The cheesecake will continue to cook, but slowly begin to cool as well.
27. Crack the door of the oven for 30 minutes to allow the cheesecake to continue to cool slowly. This process helps prevent cracking.
28. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and water bath wrapping and refrigerate until firm, 5-6 hours or overnight. Once completely cool and firm, remove from the springform pan.


29. Beat the butter until smooth.
30. Add the melted chocolate and mix until smooth and well combined.
31. Slowly add the powdered sugar, mixing until smooth and well combined.
32. Add 4-5 tablespoons of cream, as needed, to get the right consistency frosting.


33. Place the cooled and firm brownie cheesecake onto a serving plate and top with another 1/3 of the coconut pecan filling and spread into an even layer.
34. Add the chocolate cake layer to the top of the cake.
35. Frost the sides of the cake with chocolate frosting, then press mini chocolate chips into the frosting.
36. Pipe swirls of the remaining frosting around the top edge of the cake and add the remaining coconut pecan filling to the top/center of the cake.
37. Refrigerate cake until ready to serve. Cake is best for 4-5 days.

I did some things a little differently from the instructions.  First, I made the chocolate cake layer in a 9 inch cake pan lined with parchment paper on the bottom, and this worked fine.  I was very careful in adding the first layer of coconut/pecans on top of the brownie so as not to break the brownie layer.  I used Belcolade 60% cocao discs as the chocolate for the cheesecake, and for the melted chocolate for the frosting.
To facilitate the placement of the layer on coconut/pecan on the cooled cheesecake layer,
I took 1/3 of the coconut pecan filling and spread it out to approximately 9 inches in diameter on a sheet of parchment paper.IMG_2707Then I flipped it over onto the top of the cheesecake and pulled the parchment paper away with an offset spatula.  Then it was easy to spread the layer evenly.IMG_2708
The chocolate cake (made the day before and wrapped in plastic wrap and parchment paper) was centered on top
I did the same transfer technique to move the final 1/3 of the coconut pecan mixture to the top of the chocolate cake, leaving a 1 inch border on the top periphery.  The cake was removed from the springform pan, and placed on a 10 inch cake round.  Wax paper was placed under the cake to help with frosting and coating with the mini-morsels.
Here is the finished project!
I think I need to practice my piping skills a bit more for better consistency, but otherwise, I was pleased with the appearance of the cake.  And, I thought it tasted great.  It was a hit and won the best dessert of the chocolate party.
  1. A word of warning–the cake is very heavy, not surprisingly with all its ingredients, but can be sliced into thin pieces. The denseness of the brownie are well balanced by the cheesecake and the German chocolate cake like combination of coconuts, pecans, and chocolate frosting.  It easily served 30+ people at the party.
  2. I would swap the mini-morsels and replace them with toasted chopped pecans, just like the Cheesecake Factory original.  There’s already a lot of chocolate here, but the Nestle’s mini morsel of semi-sweet chocolate don’t add a lot of flavor .  As one might deduce from prior posts, I’m a great advocate of using the best chocolate.  So, if you put chocolate applied to the outside frosting, use finely chopped Belgian chocolate .  Another alternative is to just make a nice decorative border in the frosting edge.  My wife proposed yet another alternative–using chocolate sprinkles on the frosting.  I thought of another option:  make the chocolate cake recipe by increasing all the ingredients by 1¼ times, and baking it in a 10 inch cake pan (calculation based on πr² {remember Geometry?}) .  Then, trim the cake to a 9 inch round, and crumble up the remaining cake to be pressed into the chocolate frosting side.  So many choices!
  3. The new problem is what do I come up with for next year’s party that will continue the winning streak?
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Chocolate Chip Cookie Redux

So far, I’ve not heard from anyone if they have tried variations of the Toll House cookie.  I posted some thoughts on this quintessential American standard in previous blogs:

Another series of thoughts on that perennial favorite, the classic chocolate chip cookie

The without a doubt absolutely very best chocolate chip cookie!

I made the America’s Test Kitchen variation (using brown butter) yesterday, and they are not bad, but I still think the NY Times 2008 recipe (as published in my 2015 post) is still the winner.  For a very detailed look at the science of the “Toll House” cookie and modifications, look at J. Kenje Lopez-Alt’s article at Serious Eats:

The reason for this rehash is to talk about the chocolate, not the cookie recipe.  No matter which recipe is used, the essential step must be resting the dough in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.  The chocolate used in a chocolate chip cookie becomes a personal choice.  Some prefer milk chocolate.  Some stick to their childhood memories and use the Nestle semi-sweet morsels.  But for me, anything less than 60% cocao doesn’t work.  I’ve used the 72% Callebaut chips, the 60% Ghirardelli chips, and the 60% Belacode discs.  Of these 3 choices, I prefer the Belacode discs, but they may not be for everyone right out of the bag, since they are slightly less than a quarter in diameter, and in the center, are about 2 quarters thick.

a large (3 1/2 inch) cookie with the Belacode chocolate discs

a 5 inch cookie with halved belacode discs and walnuts

The full size disc of Belacode makes for a substantial bite of chocolate in the cookie, so for some, cutting the disc in half might be preferred.  For a more rustic appeal, use chopped pieces of 60% cocao Callebaut from the 5 kilo bar (yes, I buy the 11 pound bar and saw off what I need) and incorporate the bits and all t he shavings into the batter.  A combination of chopped pieces and discs is a little bit more work, but often worth the extra effort.  I like nuts in my cookies, but that is not for everyone.  I will often make the first cookie portions of the dough without nuts, then mix in nuts for the remainder of the dough.  Given the number of people with nut allergies, it is important to segregate the nut containing cookies.

The timing of the bake is critical.  One minute too long, and the edges are too crisp, one minute too little, and the cookie is too soft.  You want to aim to get the rule of thirds that Maury Rubin talks about in the NY Times article (soft center, crunch on the edge, and a wonderful in between).

Posted in Baking, Cooking, Dessert, Recipe | 1 Comment

A Delicious Fall Dessert–Dutch Apple Pie Bars

This is not the first time I’ve posted a recipe for apple pie bars.  Back in September 2013, I posted a recipe that I modified from Michelle Norris’ post (that had been published first by America’s Test Kitchen):

This recipe is good (I made it better by not using crushed up animal cracker cookies for the crust).  I’ve also made a recipe adapted from Los Angeles’s Big Sugar Bakeshop that was printed in Food & Wine and posted on the web:

I don’t completely love the topping on the F&W bars, so I kept looking and found a posting on Genius Kitchen that adapted a recipe from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion Cookbook.  This one works well, and it doesn’t use a whole pound of butter–the main reason that I am not advocating the Barefoot Contessa recipe of Ina Garten’s that has a dense shortbread type base:

The post is from Genius Kitchen:

Dutch Apple Pie Bars


  1. Preheat oven to 425°; lightly grease a 13×9 inch pan.
  2. Crust: in a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and salt; using a pastry blender, cut in the butter.
  3. Drizzle the beaten egg over the mixture; toss lightly to combine.
  4. Add the ice water 1 tablespoons at a time, stirring gently until the dough starts to clump together; grab a fistful; if it sticks together easily, you have added enough water.
  5. Roll the dough into a generous rectangle to fit your pan.
  6. Place the dough in the pan; prick it all over with a fork; bake it for 10-12 minutes, until it is set and barely starting to harden.
  7. Filling: in a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, spices, and salt together; add in the apples, tossing to coat.
  8. Stir in the vanilla, then the cream; spread the filling over the crust.
  9. Topping: in a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
  10. In another bowl, combine the melted butter and extracts; pout over the flour mixture.
  11. Stir until the butter is absorbed and the mixture forms fairly even crumbs; sprinkle over the filling.
  12. Bake for 15 minutes; decrease temperature to 350°; bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the topping is brown and the filling is bubbly.
  13. Remove from oven and cool on a rack; let them cool to lukewarm before cutting.

These bars are best served lukewarm, but can be served from the refrigerator as well.  I did not need to modify the recipe, but if you don’t have almond extract, you can ignore it and just use a fraction more vanilla extract.   Enjoy!

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A new recipe for Holiday Brisket

In our house, we typically have brisket for dinner twice a year.  Every New Year on erev Rosh Hashanah, and every 1st night of Pesach (Passover).  Jori prefers a sweet brisket recipe using a sauce of onion soup mix, cranberry sauce, and ketchup, mixed with enough ginger ale to braise, and I prefer a red wine and onion braise that is not sweet.  However, this year, Jori found a new recipe on the internet for a savory brisket that we tried for the first time, and I think it is great.  Here is the link:

The back story of this recipe is interesting.  This is the brisket made by Walter Ferst’s grandmother in Philadelphia.  A branch of the family that was in Germany was fortunate enough to leave in the mid 1930’s and ended up in Sweden.  In the 1970’s Walter reconnected with his cousins in Stockholm and had a family dinner with them.  He recognized the smells and realized he was being served the same meal as his Grandmother’s favorite brisket.

Holiday Brisket with Garlic, White Wine and Onions


Disclaimer:  We did not make the Ferst recipe as detailed below, but a modified version.

Kauffman/Ferst Family Braised Brisket

Serves: 12 to 15
Time: 4 hours, plus 20 minutes resting time

One 7 to 8 pound whole brisket, flat and deckle attached
14 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1½ teaspoons Hungarian or sweet paprika
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4 medium (2½ pounds) sweet onions, cut crosswise into thick slices
3 cups dry white wine
1½ cups water

Large roasting pan
Wooden toothpicks

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Rinse the brisket and trim any excessive hanging pieces of fat, leaving the majority in tact for cooking. Make 14 small ½-inch incisions in the brisket and insert a whole clove of garlic into each.
2. Season both sides of the brisket with the salt, paprika and pepper, then place in the center of a large roasting pan, fat side up. Pin whole slices of onion to the meat with toothpick to completely cover the brisket, scattering the remaining slices around the brisket.
3. Mix the water and wine together and pour over the brisket. Cover the pan tightly with foil.
4. Cook until the meat is tender when pierced with a fork 3 to 3½ hours, then remove the foil and continue to cook for 45 minutes, basting with liquid every 10 minutes.
4. Let the meat rest for at least 20 minutes and remove toothpSicks before carving and serving with the pan juices.

Now, here is what we did with the Ferst recipe:

Jori looked at this recipe and decided to take some of the techniques from her cranberry/ginger ale method, and incorporated parts of the Ferst recipe.  She used a first cut brisket, trimmed of some but not all of the fat cap.  She seared it for 15 min per side at 400ºF first in the roasting pan. She removed the brisket, made slits down into the fat cap into the meat one inch apart and put in slivers (not whole cloves) of garlic.  Placing the meat back in the roasting pan, she covered the fat cap with the sliced onions.  She didn’t use paprika or toothpicks and didn’t cook it uncovered.  She used a combination of white wine and water in a ratio of 2:1 to cover the brisket.  Covering the pan tightly with foil, she cooked the brisket at 350ºF for 2 1/2 more hours.  Taking all the onions off, she removed the brisket to the refrigerator.  The pan drippings were strained and the fat was removed with a fat separator.  She puréed the cooked onions in the Blendtec with the deglazed pan juices, and this made a marvelous sauce.  It is very helpful if you have a Vitamix or a Blendtec to get the sauce to the correct degree of purée, but using a regular blender, powerful stick blender, or a food processor could be OK.

Brisket is always easier to cut when cold, so we wait until the next day to slice the brisket, removing excess fat from the slices.  The slices are then reheated with the sauce from the deglazed pan drippings and the onions in a 325ºF oven.  The use of the white wine instead of the typical red wine resulted in a much more interesting taste and smooth texture.

A day or so later, we were at Costco and saw whole brisket Grade Prime for $2.99/pound. I thought that we had to try this.  The smallest one we found was 8 1/2 pounds.  Between trimming of fat, shrinkage during cooking, and trimming of fat from the sliced pieces, we ended up with about 3 1/2 pounds of meat! The result was amazingly tender.  Now, I know that I can’t expect to get Prime brisket at that price again soon, but it was worth it!

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Egg Me On–Make Great Egg Foo Yung


I really enjoy Egg Foo Yung (or Young).  Literally meaning “Hibiscus egg,” this omelette is found in  Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, British and Chinese-American cuisine. However, in the States, most of the time, it is poorly made, and served with a gloopy brown sauce that tastes of uncooked cornstarch.  You can do better at home, it is not hard.

The protein in Egg Foo Yung is up to you.  It can be pork, (bbq or otherwise), chicken, beef, or shrimp.  Since the cooking of the Egg Foo Yung patty will be insufficient to cook the protein, it must be pre-cooked first.  Here is a recipe for my favorite, Shrimp Egg Foo Yung:

Shrimp Egg Foo Yung

Recipe Type:  Chinese, Main Dish

1/2 pound Bean sprouts

1/4 cup Onion, thinly sliced

3 Celery Stalks, finely sliced

3 Scallions, finely sliced


2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon finely minced ginger

1/2 teaspoon Paprika

2 teaspoon dry Sherry


1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined (and, depending on the size of the shrimp, cut in bit size pieces)

6 large eggs, beaten

Peanut oil for stir frying

Egg Foo Yung Sauce

3/4 cup chicken stock or broth

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Options for thickening:

Cornstarch slurry (2 tbs dissolved in water)

Roux consisting of equal amounts of flour and butter (3 tbs each)


Combine cornstarch, ginger, paprika and sherry.  Add the shrimp to the marinade and combine to coat completely.  Heat wok and add 1 tbs peanut oil.  Saute the onions for 1 minute, then add the celery and bean sprouts.  Remove the vegetables to a bowl, add 1 tbs of oil to the wok and stir fry the shrimp until they are pink.  Add to the vegetable mixture in a bowl, and mix in the beaten eggs.  Add green onions.

Place 2 to 3 tbs of peanut oil in the wok, and heat to smoking point.  Add one ladle of the egg mixture (about 6 ounces) to the hot oil.  With the paddle, toss hot oil on the top surface of the patty to help set the top surface, and after 1 minute, use the paddle to flip the patty over.  Cook for 1 minute to get overall golden brown surfaces.  Place on a warm plate, and cook remaining patties.

To make the sauce, combine the thickening agent (I prefer the roux) to boiling chicken stock and whisk to combine and thicken.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve over boiled rice, and garnish with chopped cilantro.

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