And by that, I mean plagiarism, to my mind one of the worst kinds of frauds, as it steals someone else’s ideas to present them as your own.

The particular example I found while researching a recipe for tomato vodka sauce, a not complicated but tasty way to spice up something to put on pasta.  I went to Epicurious and found several recipes, but then I found an anomaly:  the recipe from Rocco DiSpirito, one is lead to assume is taken from his book  Now Eat This, copyright 2010.  Now, I went to Amazon to look at the index of this book and can find no mention of penne alla vodka, and the Epicurious site has a heading stating this recipe is from Lidia Bastianich.  I am curious as to why Epicurious would have a separate posting to Lidia’s Penne Alla Vodka from 2001, with a misleading credit to DiSpirito.  Clearly, the recipe posted with Rocco Dispirito’s name is the Lidia Bastianich recipe, word for word.








As simple a dish as this is, I have had requests for it in all my restaurants as far back as I can remember. I like the sauce a little feisty, so I’m generous with the crushed red pepper. You can add as much—or as little—as you like. Often, restaurant chefs finish this dish by swirling butter into the sauce at the end. You can do the same, or use olive oil to finish the sauce. I prefer olive oil, but I probably don’t have to tell you that by now.


  • Salt
  • One 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) with their liquid
  • 1 pound penne
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Crushed hot red pepper 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil for finishing the sauce, if you like
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for passing if you like


Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.

Pour the tomatoes and their liquid into the work bowl of a food processor. Using quick on/off pulses, process the tomatoes just until they are finely chopped. (Longer processing will aerate the tomatoes, turning them pink.)

Stir the penne into the boiling water. Bring the water back to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Whack the garlic cloves with the side of a knife and add them to the hot oil. Cook, shaking the skillet, until the garlic is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Lower the work bowl with the tomatoes close to the skillet and carefully—they will splatter—slide the tomatoes into the pan. Bring to a boil, season lightly with salt and generously with crushed red pepper, and boil 2 minutes. Pour in the vodka, lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer, and simmer until the pasta is ready.

Just before the pasta is done, fish the garlic cloves out of the sauce and pour in the cream. Add the 2 tablespoons butter or oil, if using, and swirl the skillet to incorporate into the sauce. If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, fish the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring to coat the pasta with sauce. Check the seasoning, adding salt and red pepper if necessary. Sprinkle the parsley over the pasta and boil until the sauce is reduced enough to cling to the pasta.

Remove the pot from the heat, sprinkle 3/4 cup of the cheese over the pasta, and toss to mix. Serve immediately, passing additional cheese if you like.

Per serving: 280.0 calories, 35.0 calories from fat, 4.0g total fat, 2.0g saturated fat, 10.0mg cholesterol, 180.0mg sodium, 57.0g total carbs, 2.0g dietary fiber, 29.0g sugars, 11.0g protein

Nutritional analysis provided by TasteBook, using the USDA Nutrition Database

Now Eat This by Rocco DiSpirito. Copyright © 2010 by Rocco DiSpirito. Published by Random House Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved.

Hailed as the “Leading Chef of his Generation” by Gourmet magazine, Rocco DiSpirito received the James Beard Award for his first cookbook, Flavor. He went on to author Rocco’s Italian-American (2004), Rocco’s Five Minute Flavor (2005),Rocco’s Real-Life Recipes (2007), and Rocco Gets Real (2009). DiSpirito also starred in the Food Network series Melting Pot, the NBC hit reality series The Restaurant, and the A&E series Rocco Gets Real.

Now, here is the 2001 post of Lidia’ Penne Alla Vodka:






This is more an American-Italian recipe than an Italian-American one. I found myself making this innovative dish, which always charmed our customers, quite a bit in the early 1970s.

As simple a dish as this is, I have had requests for it in all my restaurants as far back as I can remember: I like the sauce a little feisty, so I’m generous with the crushed red pepper. You can add as much — or as little — as you like.

Often, restaurant chefs finish this dish by swirling butter into the sauce at the end. You can do the same, or use olive oil to finish the sauce. I prefer olive oil, but I probably don’t have to tell you that by now.



  • Salt
  • One 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) with their liquid
  • 1 pound penne
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Crushed hot red pepper
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil for finishing the sauce, if you like
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for passing if you like


Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.

Pour the tomatoes and their liquid into the work bowl of a food processor. Using quick on/off pulses, process the tomatoes just until they are finely chopped. (Longer processing will aerate the tomatoes, turning them pink.)

Stir the penne into the boiling water. Bring the water back to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Whack the garlic cloves with the side of a knife and add them to the hot oil. Cook, shaking the skillet, until the garlic is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Lower the work bowl with the tomatoes close to the skillet and carefully — they will splatter — slide the tomatoes into the pan. Bring to a boil, season lightly with salt and generously with crushed red pepper, and boil 2 minutes. Pour in the vodka, lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer, and simmer until the pasta is ready.

Just before the pasta is done, fish the garlic cloves out of the sauce and pour in the cream. Add the 2 tablespoons butter or oil, if using, and swirl the skillet to incorporate into the sauce. If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, fish the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring to coat the pasta with sauce. Check the seasoning, adding salt and red pepper if necessary. Sprinkle the parsley over the pasta and boil until the sauce is reduced enough to cling to the pasta.

Remove the pot from the heat, sprinkle 3/4 cup of the cheese over the pasta, and toss to mix. Serve immediately, passing additional cheese if you like.

Reprinted with permission from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Bastianich. © 2001 Knopf


As anyone can see, a word for word copy of the same recipe.  So, my question is this:  why is there any connection to Rocco DiSpirito to this recipe of Lidia Bastianich, and was it done with Lidia’s permission?

I’ve never thought very much about DiSpirito’s talent other than his propensity for self-aggrandizement.  I remember seeing some of the reality TV show, The Restaurant, about the opening and launch of “Rocco’s on 22nd.  I remember thinking at the time that a restaurant that was planning to sell spaghetti and meat balls for over $30.00 a plate didn’t deserve to succeed, and I was right—the show was cancelled, DiSpirito was successfully sued by his financial backer Jeffrey Chodorow to ban DiSpirito from entering the premises, and the restaurant was shut down.  I can’t see any evidence that DiSpirito has done any restaurant cooking since, but he has been on TV and has written some cookbooks.  The question I have to ask is how much of what he has written is original?

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Gazpacho—A Summer Delight

Tomatoes are now at their best, especially if you can get them fresh at the farmer’s market.  And what better way to highlight some of the best of summer than to put these wonderful fruits to use to create one of the season’s best recipes, gazpacho.  There are many recipes for this cold soup, but let us do some exploration.

For years, we have used the recipe from the little cookbook that came with my first Cuisinart food processor.beard  In it is a recipe for gazpacho from Barbara Kafka:kafka  This recipe has become a summer staple—best when the tomatoes are at their best.  Even though this could be made the year round, somehow, it evokes Summer and farm stand tomatoes.  It is a chunky soup that can be made as spicy or as mild as one wants, with the use of jalapenos or hot sauce or both.  I like it garlicky, and so sometimes I use extra cloves to make it reek!  Here is the recipe:

Barbara Kafka’s Gazpacho, slightly modified


1/2 sweet white onion, peeled and quartered

1 1/2 firm medium cucumbers, peeled and cut in pieces

2 small green bell peppers, seeded and cut in eights

6 medium to large tomatoes (ripe and fresh from the farm if possible), cored, cut in eights.  Kafka says to peel them, but I don’t think it is necessary.  My spouse disagrees and says definitively peel the tomatoes.

5 cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup tomato juice (or more)  We tend to use V-8 instead.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon chili powder or chopped chili pepper of choice, such as jalapeno or serrano.

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Optional (but I think necessary) 2 to 3 tablespoons cilantro finely chopped


Using the food processor, chop the onion with the metal blade with pulses to create a fine dice.  Transfer the onion to a bowl.  Do the same with the cucumbers, and then the green peppers, adding them to the bowl after processing.  Process 5 of the tomatoes to a fine dice, and transfer to the bowl.  Process the last tomato with the garlic, tomato or V-8 juice, olive oil and chili powder (or chili pepper) until a smooth liquid is formed.

Combine the liquid and the chopped vegetables with some salt and pepper, and chill for at least several hours before serving.

Adjust seasoning just before serving.  Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.

The spice level of this recipe can be adjusted by the amount of chili pepper used.  I like to use a serrano pepper, but one could even use a Scotch Bonnet or Habanero pepper, but it might overwhelm the taste of the soup.  As with any chili pepper, the spice level will be much increased if you use the ribs and seeds of the pepper as well.

Several weeks ago, Julia Moskin published a recipe in the NY Times for a blended, non-chunky gazpacho:  I tried it and liked it, so here is the recipe.

Julia Moskin’s Best Gazpacho

  • About 2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and roughly cut into chunks
  • 1 Italian frying (cubanelle) pepper or another long, light green pepper, such as Anaheim, cored, seeded and roughly cut into chunks
  • 1 cucumber, about 8 inches long, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
  • 1 small mild onion (white or red), peeled and roughly cut into chunks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, more to taste
  • Salt
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste, plus more for drizzling
  1. Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic in a blender or, if using a hand blender, in a deep bowl. (If necessary, work in batches.) Blend at high speed until very smooth, at least 2 minutes, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
  2. With the motor running, add the vinegar and 2 teaspoons salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The mixture will turn bright orange or dark pink and become smooth and emulsified, like a salad dressing. If it still seems watery, drizzle in more olive oil until texture is creamy.
  3. Strain the mixture through a strainer or a food mill, pushing all the liquid through with a spatula or the back of a ladle. Discard the solids. Transfer to a large pitcher (preferably glass) and chill until very cold, at least 6 hours or overnight.
  4. Before serving, adjust the seasonings with salt and vinegar. If soup is very thick, stir in a few tablespoons ice water. Serve in glasses, over ice if desired. A few drops of olive oil on top are a nice touch.

This is a very easy soup to make.  However, the America’s Test Kitchen version of a creamy gazpacho is, to my mind, a more complex and deeper tasting soup.

Because this recipe uses salt to enhance the flavor of less than perfect tomatoes, one can use store bought tomatoes.  As ATK states:

In the States, the classic -“liquid salsa” style of gazpacho reigns supreme. But in Spain, the birthplace of gazpacho, a variety of styles abound.

The most popular type by far comes from Andalusia, the southernmost region of the country. It starts with the same vegetables as its chunky cousin, but is blended with bread to give it some body. The result is a creamy, complex soup. But unless you have fresh, flavorful vegetables, in particular fresh, ripe tomatoes, this soup can be unremarkable and bland.

So how could we ensure a flavorful gazpacho if we had to rely on supermarket tomatoes? In a word, salt. Salting gave our tomatoes-even mid-winter specimens-a deep, full flavor. Figuring the same process could only improve the cucumbers, onions, and bell peppers, we salted them as well. To maximize the flavor of our soup even more, we soaked the bread in a portion of the vegetables’ exuded liquid, rather than water. With a garnish of chopped vegetables, fresh herbs, and drizzles of extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar, this Spanish classic can be enjoyed any time of the year.

For ideal flavor, allow the gazpacho to sit in the refrigerator overnight before serving. Red wine vinegar can be substituted for the sherry vinegar. Although we prefer to use kosher salt in this soup, half the amount of table salt can be used. Serve the soup with additional extra-virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, ground black pepper, and diced vegetables for diners to season and garnish their own bowls as desired.

Creamy Gazpacho Andaluz

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Author: America’s Test Kitchen

Recipe Type: America’s Test Kitchen (PBS), Soups, Spanish


3 pounds ripe tomatoes, (about 6 medium) cored
1 small cucumber, peeled, halved, and seeded
1 medium green bell pepper, halved, cored and seeded
1 small red onion, peeled and halved
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
1 small serrano chili, stemmed and halved lengthwise
1 to taste Kosher salt
1 slice high-quality white sandwich bread, crust removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley, chives, or basil leaves
1 to taste Ground black pepper

1. Roughly chop 2 pounds of tomatoes, half of cucumber, half of bell pepper, and half of onion and place in large bowl. Add garlic, chili, and 1½ teaspoons salt; toss until well combined. Set aside.
Cut remaining tomatoes, cucumber, and pepper into ¼-inch dice; place vegetables in medium bowl. Mince remaining onion and add to diced vegetables. Toss with ½ teaspoon salt and transfer to fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Set aside 1 hour.

2. Transfer drained diced vegetables to medium bowl and set aside. Add bread pieces to exuded liquid (there should be about ¼ cup) and soak 1 minute. Add soaked bread and any remaining liquid to roughly chopped vegetables and toss thoroughly to combine.

3. Transfer half of vegetable-bread mixture to blender and process 30 seconds. With blender running, slowly drizzle in ¼ cup oil and continue to blend until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Strain soup through fine-mesh strainer into large bowl, using back of ladle or rubber spatula to press soup through strainer. Repeat with remaining vegetable-bread mixture and 1/4 cup olive oil.

4. Stir vinegar, minced herb, and half of diced vegetables into soup and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours to chill completely and develop flavors. Serve, passing remaining diced vegetables, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and black pepper separately.

Jose Andres has his own take on gazpacho.
“This soup is a summertime staple in my house. I keep a big pitcher of it in my refrigerator so I’m always ready to pour a few cups on a hot day for friends and family. If you want to be original, try using ripe yellow and green tomatoes from your local farmers markets.
I make this in my blender, with filling up the blender container 3 quarters of the way with cut tomatoes, cucumbers (with the seeds cored out) and about 1/2 of a green pepper (seeds and ribs removed), 2 garlic cloves, and the other quarter is the water, olive oil, sherry and sherry vinegar. I then blend everything together to a smooth puree.”

Andalucian cold tomato soup

Author: Jose Andres
Source: “Made in Spain”
Web Page:
Copyright: 2008

An elegant and authentic Andalucian Gazpacho by Jose Andres

Recipe Type: Appetizers, Great Chefs (From Pbs), Soups, Spanish, Spanish


1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 lbs ripe plum tomatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup Sherry vinegar
1/2 cup Oloroso sherry
3/4 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
2 slices rustic bread, 1 inch thick slices
1/4 cup spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 each cucumber, diced
1/2 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
to taste sea salt


1. To make the soup, combine the cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, sherry, olive oil and 2 cups of water in a food processor or blender. Puree the ingredients until everything is well blended into a thick pink liquid. Pour the gazpacho through a medium-hole strainer into a pitcher. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. When cutting the cucumber, remove the seeds with an apple corer, and save the round cylinders of seeds to be used as a garnish.

2. For the garnish, preheat the oven to 450 degree F. Cut the bread into 1 inch cubes and toss in a mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Spread the cubes on a baking sheet and bake on the middle rack until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Set the croutons aside to cool.

3. To assemble, cut the cucumber cylinders into about 1/2 inch lengths. Place them in the bottom of the soup bowls, and distribute the diced bell peppers in the bowls as well. Add the soup and top with croutons, and drizzle with 2 tbs of olive oil.

Servings: 8

The Andres recipe is a little different from the ATK recipe.  Both are quite good.

Now, this summer, I tried an experiment.  I took the Kafka recipe, and char-broiled the peppers, and the cucumbers.  I removed the charred skins from the bell and chili pepper (I used a jalapeno), and then made the soup with the same technique as the original.  The result was interesting, with a smoky character that was pleasant.

However, the end result with all the grilling and the peeling was not enough different to justify the modification to the original Kafka recipe; so for a chunky gazpacho, the Kafka recipe remains supreme.  I like the creamy andulucian versions a lot, and they are a nice counterpoint to the typical salsa gazpacho recipes.  It is up to you.  My solution:  try them all!

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The without a doubt absolutely very best chocolate chip cookie!

Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies. Whether it is the original creation of Ruth Wakefield at her Toll House Inn in Whitman, Mass or the infinite numbers of attempts by commercial bakeries and home cooks to make variations on the primal concept, these cookies are all wonderful in their own way. However, the debate continues as to what might be the “ultimate” chocolate chip cookie.

This is not the first time I have visited this subject.  I posted the Grand Prize winner of the Orchards’ 1987 cookie contest (best of 2600 recipes) in my September 2013 blog, a great double chocolate chip cookie with nuts.  Exactly one year ago, I discussed the original “Toll House” cookie and America’s Test Kitchen reworking of the recipe.  In my quest for something even better, I have looked at many cookbooks and many recipes on the internet.  I’ve tasted a bunch of cookies from bakeries.  I haven’t found a stellar replacement that was a quantum leap better until now.

A post by Michelle Norris on her browneyedbaker blog lead me to a July 9, 2008 New York Times article by David Leite.  This article does a great job of explaining the history of the chocolate chip cookie, and ends up with a recipe that is a distillation of all the secrets of making a great chocolate chip cookie.  Since this is copyrighted material I can’t reproduce it here but it is imperative to read the article to understand the underpinnings of the cookie recipe.

In her blog, Michelle posted a variation of the NY Times cookie, and more recently, a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie variation, but I will post the original recipe from the NY Times article:

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie

Original source The New York Times


  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 ⅔ cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread 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.

Now, some caveats.  This recipe is mostly derived from Jacques Torres’ bakery chocolate chip cookie.  You will note that it uses both bread flour (more gluten and protein) and cake flour (less gluten and protein).  Why use both in equal amounts, if unbleached all-purpose flour has a middle amount of gluten and protein.  I suspect the recipe calls for both flours, because Torres’ bakery may have bread flour and cake flour in large amounts due to the needs of the bakery, but might not have all-purpose flour.  I made the recipe using 17 ounces of King Arthur all-purpose flour, and the results were spectacular.  Now, having said that, it is possible that there is a difference that can be tasted by using the bread and cake flour mix, as 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.  Since the time of the original posting of this article, I tried making the cookies with the bread and cake flour combination, and I find no real difference to the one made with the King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour.  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.

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.  I used 60% Ghirardelli cocoa chips, and did not bother to get the fancy fèves.  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 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 minutes to cook.  This is less of a monster, but with similar taste, but with a less pronounced 3 ring effect.  Update note–I now 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.

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 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 10 minute rest on the cookie sheet 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.  Nuts can be added if desired (I use 1 cup of raw pecans into a recipe).  Update 5/8/17–I ordered the Belcolade 60% cocoa discs that Jacques Torres mentions in the NY Times article from Amazon (it is not the custom made quarter size discs that Torres has specially made for his use).  Torres sells the quarter size chocolate feves on his website for $17.00 for 2 pounds (plus $16.50 shipping to the Chicago area), and the picture on the bag of 2 pound feves says made in Brooklyn!  So maybe Torres is not using Belcolade discs any longer.  The Belcolade discs from Amazon are about the size of a nickel and taste great!  I now will use a combination of the Belcolade discs and chunks from the Callebaut bar.

This is not a recipe for instant gratification, but it is worth the extra effort and time.  For all you cookie lovers out there, this is a must!  Don’t be impatient!  The best results come from resting the batter for 36 hours in the refrigerator.  Using the brown butter technique of America’s Test Kitchen could be applied to this recipe but it did not make a notable increase in the taste of the end result.

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).  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.  Cooking on a silpat or parchment paper with the baking sheet is a must for good results.

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Belly up to the bar cookie take 2

Another holiday season, and all the blogs and cooking sites are trying to claim that they have found the perfect cookie (or pie or entrée [you get the idea]).  I would not want to make such a outreaching claim, but I did find a nice alternative to make a pecan bar from Michelle Norris at  She published a recipe that she put on her blog last month, and I made a batch (  They are quite good.

Now, the reason I am slightly reserved in my enthusiasm for Michelle’s Grandmother’s recipe is that there is a better pecan bar, Ina Garten’s pecan squares (  However, this praise comes with a major caveat—the recipe uses over 1 kilogram of butter (for you non-metrics, that 2.2 pounds)—in fact, it uses 2.25 pounds of butter.  Yes, it makes a ton of cookies.  Yes they are great.  But you have to worry about several things that I will detail in a minute.

So, let’s do the numbers.  Michelle’s recipe first:

Chunky Pecan Pie Bars


For the Crust:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
¼ cup packed brown sugar

3 large eggs
¾ cup corn syrup
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¾ cups coarsely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate chunks in a bag!)
1½ cups chopped pecans


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.

2. For the crust, mix together the flour, butter and brown sugar until crumbly. Press into the baking pan and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown.4

3. For the filling, beat the eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla extract with a wire whisk. 1

Coarsely chop the pecans.2

Stir in the chunks and pecans.3

Pour evenly over the baked crust and bake for 25-30 minutes or until set.

4. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cool completely and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (or in the refrigerator if you live in a warm/humid area with no air conditioning).  Steve’s notes:  put the pan in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to chill prior to cutting the bars.  Use a plastic knife or spatula on the outside edges of the cookies to free them from the sides of the pan before chilling.  Because of the chocolate, it is best to store these cookies in the frig.

These bars are excellent, and they are a snap to make.  They are not as dense or as rich as Ina’s squares, but they are not meant to be an equal.  If you want to make the best pecan square, then Ina’s is the “nec plus ultra.”  It is not the easiest bar to make, and some special care is needed.  I recommend that you don’t try to make this on a typical half sheet pan, as it will overflow and mess up the oven, even with the precaution of using some aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to catch spillovers.  Nordicware makes a half sheet pan with 2 inch high sides, and it works perfectly for this recipe.

I also think that the recipe as Ina has written it has a little  too much citrus, so I would cut the amount of lemon and orange zest in half, and use 1/2 teaspoon of each.

Ina, when demonstrating this recipe on her show on Food Network, finishes the bars by dipping them in chocolate.  This is a little bit of a mess, and you can do better.  The squares definitely benefit from the counterpoint of a dark chocolate on top, so make a dense ganache of 2/3 bittersweet chocolate and 1/3 heavy cream (6 ounces 60% cacao chocolate, 3 ounces heavy cream, melted together in a double boiler).  Drizzle this over the top of the uncut cookies, or make a little squiggle pattern on top with the ganache.  That is a winner.

Barefoot Contessa Pecan Squares

1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound unsalted butter
1 cup good honey
3 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 pounds pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until light, approximately 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18 by 12 by 1-inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside. It will be very sticky; sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.
For the topping, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and zests in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the heavy cream and pecans. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and serve.
{published in the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, 1999}

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Looking for a cake with “Wow”

My cousin throws an annual party that has evolved from a “Death by Chocolate” theme to encompass all food, but the heart of the party is still chocolate.  I have enjoyed the competition, but the success that I have in the past with winning the “bake-off” engenders a problem.  I can’t repeat myself by baking the same thing!

Past winners that I’ve used include the Inside Out German Chocolate cake (from the Bridge Street Bakery of Waitsfield, VT written up by Gourmet March 2000), Maida Heatter’s fabulous “Queen Mother Chocolate Flourless Cake,” the Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake” from season 10 of America’s Test Kitchen, and the Pine Cone Chocolate cake from Rose Levy Berenbaum’s “A Passion for Chocolate.”

There is a common theme here—all these cakes are all desserts that taste absolutely great, look wonderful, but are very laborious and time consuming to make.  I’m very proud of the results, but it raises the bar as to what to make next!  I can work with fondant, and I can decorate with all kinds of tips with a pastry bag, but that does not mean the results are ethereal.  After all, I’m not trying to make a wedding cake (which often don’t taste great anyway, no matter how impressive they look).  So I am always on the lookout for recipes that have that “show-stopper” element.  The result must have eye appeal, and taste extraordinarily good.  A lack of complexity is not a criterion, nor is the time required.  Great things often require some effort!

I just made what I thought was one of the best show-stoppers yet, a recipe from Season 14 of America’s Test Kitchen that they called Chocolate-Espresso Dacquoise.  Dacquoise cakes have their difficulties.  The first one I ever made was a recipe from Jacques Pepin with 2 discs of meringue and a pastry cream and whipped cream filling (a wonderful cake by the way).  Last year, I made the torte au chocolat cake, and I have posted it below.  However, this chocolate-espresso cake  from ATK  is truly stellar.   I made some modifications that relate to the pastry cream and ganache quantities that remove some problems from the recipe:

Dacquoise Aux Chocolat

Modified from Chocolate-Espresso Dacquoise from ATK

Author Notes
The components in this recipe can easily be prepared in advance. Use a rimless baking sheet or an overturned rimmed baking sheet to bake the meringue. Instant coffee may be substituted for the espresso powder. To skin the hazelnuts, simply place the warm toasted nuts in a clean dish towel and rub gently. We recommend Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar with 60% cacao for this recipe.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen Season 14: A Fancy Finale

We made this elaborate and impressive-looking dessert more approachable by reworking the meringue and buttercream, making them simpler and more foolproof. We swapped the traditional individually piped layers of meringue for a single sheet that was trimmed into layers after baking, and we shortened the usual 4-plus hours of oven time by increasing the oven temperature. While many recipes call for a Swiss or French buttercream made with a hot sugar syrup, we opted for a German buttercream. With equal parts pastry cream and butter, this option required no hot syrup and it enabled us to use up the egg yolks left over from the meringue.

This multilayered showpiece of meringue and buttercream coated in ganache might just be the best dessert you’ll ever make—plus you can prepare it the day before.

SDR notes:  the amount of buttercream in the original recipe needed to be increased by at least 50% in order to have enough to put ½ cup between each layer and on the top, and still have enough to skim coat the sides of the cake.  Therefore, I’ve adjusted the amounts.  I doubled the amount of ganache, as I knew the recipe would be too scant, and this is also changed in the recipe below.  The other observation is that it is very difficult to spread the meringue evenly to allow it to end up with perfectly even thickness.  It would be worth the effort to pipe the meringue with a pastry bag and a large tip, then smooth with an offset spatula.  The meringue quantity is sufficient as per the original recipe.

3/4 cup blanched sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
1 Tbs cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup sugar (7 ounces)
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/8 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
2 tsp cornstarch
3/8 tsp salt
3 Tbs amaretto or water
1 tsp instant espresso powder
24 Tbs unsalted butter (3 sticks), softened
12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tsp corn syrup

12 whole hazelnuts, toasted and skinned

1 cup blanched sliced almonds, toasted

1. FOR THE MERINGUE: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Using ruler and pencil, draw 13 by 10 1/2-inch rectangle on piece of parchment paper. Grease baking sheet and place parchment on it, ink side down.

2. Process almonds, hazelnuts, cornstarch, and salt in food processor until nuts are finely ground, 15 to 20 seconds. Add 1/2 cup sugar and pulse to combine, 1 to 2 pulses.

3. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and whip whites to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. With mixer running at medium-high speed, slowly add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to whip until glossy, stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Fold nut mixture into egg whites in 2 batches. With offset spatula, spread meringue evenly into 13 by 10 1/2-inch rectangle on parchment, using lines on parchment as guide. Or as I suggest, pipe the meringue with a pastry bag and smooth to even with an offset spatula.  Using spray bottle, evenly mist surface of meringue with water until glistening (this will prevent cracking during baking).  Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off oven and allow meringue to cool in oven for 1 1/2 hours. (Do not open oven during baking and cooling.) Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes. (Cooled meringue can be kept at room temperature, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.)

4. FOR THE BUTTERCREAM: Heat milk in small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in bowl until smooth. Remove milk from heat and, whisking constantly, add half of milk to yolk mixture to temper. Whisking constantly, return tempered yolk mixture to remaining milk in saucepan. Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is bubbling and thickens to consistency of warm pudding, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer pastry cream to bowl. Cover and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours. Before using, warm gently to room temperature in microwave at 50 percent power, stirring every 10 seconds.

5. Stir together amaretto and espresso powder; set aside. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter at medium speed until smooth and light, 3 to 4 minutes. Add pastry cream in 3 batches, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Add amaretto mixture and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes longer, scraping down bowl thoroughly halfway through mixing.

6. FOR THE GANACHE: Place chocolate in heatproof bowl. Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Pour cream mixture over chocolate and let stand for 1 minute. Stir mixture until smooth. Set aside to cool until chocolate mounds slightly when dripped from spoon, about 5 minutes.

7. Carefully invert meringue and peel off parchment. Reinvert meringue and place on cutting board. Using serrated knife and gentle, repeated scoring motion, trim edges of meringue to form 12 by 10-inch rectangle. Do not press down with the knife blade, but let the serrations and repeated strokes score deeper until the cut is complete.  Discard trimmings. With long side of rectangle parallel to counter, use ruler to mark both long edges of meringue at 3-inch intervals. Using serrated knife, score surface of meringue by drawing knife toward you from mark on top edge to corresponding mark on bottom edge. Repeat scoring until meringue is fully cut through. Repeat until you have four 10 by 3-inch equal rectangles. (If any meringues break during cutting, use them as middle layers.)  Be very careful in handling the meringue rectangles, as they can easily fracture.

8. Place 3 rectangles on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Using offset spatula, spread 1/4 cup ganache evenly over surface of each meringue. Refrigerate until ganache is firm, about 15 minutes. Set aside remaining ganache.

9. Using offset spatula, spread top of remaining rectangle with 1/2 cup buttercream; place on wire rack with ganache-coated meringues. Invert 1 ganache-coated meringue, place on top of buttercream, and press gently to level. Repeat, spreading meringue with 1/2 cup buttercream and topping with inverted ganache-coated meringue. Spread top with buttercream. Invert final ganache-coated strip on top of cake. Use 1 hand to steady top of cake and spread half of remaining buttercream to lightly coat sides of cake, then use remaining buttercream to coat top of cake. Smooth until cake resembles box. Refrigerate until buttercream is firm, about 2 hours. (Once buttercream is firm, assembled cake may be wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

10. Warm remaining ganache in heatproof bowl set over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until mixture is very fluid but not hot. Keeping assembled cake on wire rack, pour ganache over top of cake. Using offset spatula, spread ganache in thin, even layer over top of cake, letting excess flow down sides. Spread ganache over sides in thin layer (top must be completely covered, but some small gaps on sides are OK).

11. Garnish top of cake with hazelnuts in a line down the long axis of the center of the cake.  This decoration also acts as a cutting guide for slicing the cake.  Lift the cake with a spatula, and with one hand holding the bottom of cake, gently press the toasted almonds onto the 4 sides with other hand. Chill on wire rack, uncovered, for at least 3 hours or up to 12 hours. Transfer to platter. Do not let the cake warm prior to serving.  Cut into slices with a sharp knife that has been dipped in hot water and wiped dry, then slice.  Reheated and dry the knife before the next slice.  Serve.

Yes, this cake is very time consuming, but the results are worth the effort.

A similar cake of even more complexity was featured on one of Ina Garten’s FoodTV shows, and Paul Lemieux, the pastry chef at Auberge de Soleil in Napa, purported to give Ina the whole technique for making his signature dessert.  Unfortunately, it is impossible to duplicate his results in a home kitchen.  I found that plastic wrap (saran wrap or equivalent) will melt when trying to make the chocolate decadence the way it is described, and the hazelnut meringues did not come out with the cooking times and temperature given (even though I used a convection oven).  This recipe requires a lot of special equipment (6 inch ring molds, 6 inch cake pan, etc), plus glucose (available from Wilton).  This cake is spectacular in appearance and taste, but I think I like the ATK version better, and it is slightly less work.

Torte au Chocolat

  • Difficulty: very hard
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Author: Paul Lemieux, Executive Pastry Chef, Auberge de Soleil, Napa Valley, CA

There is a problem with this recipe’s cooking temperatures.  The dacquoise must cook at a different temperature, maybe even as high as 350°F, not 200°F, and for a different time. I have yet to refine this.  I bought a 6 inch cake pan for the chocolate decadence, and I need to work out the cooking time for the cake in this pan.  Cooking the decadence in non food service plastic is a disaster.

Recipe Type: Cakes, Pastries, and Desserts, chocolate, Dessert

Hazelnut Dacquoise
6 large egg whites
4 ounces granulated sugar
4 ounces confectioner’s sugar
2 ounces toasted hazelnut meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
cocoa powder, for dusting of meringues
Chocolate ganache
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
8 ounces Bittersweet chocolate
1 to taste glucose
1 to taste salt
Hazelnut purée
6 ounces hazelnuts, roasted in 350° oven for 8 min to remove skins
1 to taste confectioner’s sugar
Chocolate Decadence
10 ounces Bittersweet chocolate
10  ounces unsalted butter, melted
12 ounces sugar
7 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
For assembly
cocoa powder
candied hazelnuts
kitchen torch

1. Take 6 egg whites and beat until increased in volume by 3/4.  Then slowly add 4 ounces of sugar on low speed until the meringue is shiny and at medium peaks.  Take the bowl off the mixer, and fold in the powdered sugar, 2 ounces at a time.  Create hazelnut meal by toasting hazelnuts, removing the skins, and grinding in a food processor to create a fine meal.  Use 2 ounces of this meal and fold it into the meringue, then fold 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Create a template of a 6 inch circle, and, using a silpat on a half sheet pan, spread the meringue in a thin layer to fill the circle, smoothing with an offset spatula.  Repeat for a total of 4 discs,  Bake in a convection oven at 200° F for 25 minutes to dry the dacquoise (see notes above about temp and timing).  Dust finished meringues with white cocoa powder to help them remain crisp.

2. For the ganache:  Heat the cream to near boiling.  Put the chocolate with a little glucose and salt in a mixing bowl, and pour the hot cream over it.  Let sit for 1 minute, then stir to emulsify.  Set aside for use.

3. For the hazelnut purée:  Toast hazelnuts and rub the skins off.  Put in a food processor and add some confectioner’s sugar to make a thin paste.  Alternative:   Coarsely chop one pound roasted hazelnuts. In a food processor or blender, finely grind about 1/3 of the nuts at a time, until mealy.  Add egg whites from 3 large eggs, 2 cups powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons hazelnut liqueur.  Blend until paste forms. Wrap and store in a covered container, up to 2 weeks.  Makes 2-3 cups.  Also this hazelnut purée is known as “Gianduja”, and this is a sweet chocolate containing about 30% hazelnut paste, and is found in this country as Nutella (originally called “Pasta Gianduja.”  However, the hazelnut purée used here is composed of sweetened hazelnuts in a relatively thin paste.

4. For the chocolate decadence:  Melt 10 ounces of unsalted butter, and pour it over 10 ounces of bittersweet chocolate.  Whisk it together, then add 12 ounces of sugar, then add 7 large eggs and whisk it thoroughly, then add 1 teaspoon of salt.  Prepare a 6 inch ring mold with plastic wrap to line the interior, lightly spray the interior with canola oil, tie the plastic wrap on the exterior of the ring, and pour 9 ounces of the mixture into the mold.  The recipe makes 3 of these 9 ounce rounds.  Put the rings on a half sheet pan and fill the pan half way up with hot water.  Bake in a 325°F convection oven for 25 minutes.  See notes above, as I bought a 6 inch cake pan for this step.

5. Assembly:  using a 6 inch by 3 inch ring mold, put a meringue layer down and spread 1½  to 2 tablespoons of the ganache in a thin layer with an offset spatula.  Place another meringue disc on top of the ganache, and spread a thin layer of the hazelnut purée on top using an offset spatula.  Put a chocolate decadence cake in as the next layer, and spread a layer of hazelnut purée on the top of the decadence.  Then another dacquoise layer goes on, another layer of ganache, then the final dacquoise.  Warm ganache is poured over the top of the last dacquoise and fills the space in the periphery of the rounds.  Dust the top with cocoa powder.  Chill the cake.

6. To finish, use a blowtorch to heat the edge of the ring to melt the edge of the cake to allow easy removal of the ring.  Dust the edge of the cake with candied hazelnut, a mixture of ground hazelnuts and sugar.  Chill again before serving.

7. At the restaurant, an 11th layer is added with the addition of a 2 inch round of chocolate with the symbol of the Auberge de Soleil embossed in eatable gold leaf (secured to the top layer with a drop of chocolate ganache).  To me, this is a little bit of overkill!

Servings: 12

The wow factor is great for this cake, and the taste is wonderful.  However, it is a lot of work!

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While it’s still summer, let’s make ice cream

My son’s girlfriend gave me her Cuisinart electric ice cream maker, a vast improvement over the hand powered ice cream maker I had previously used.  For the upcoming block party this weekend, I’ve already made turtle cookie bars, so why not some homemade ice cream to go with them.  I thought I would try the Ina Garten recipe that I downloaded some time ago for a dark chocolate gelato, but I’ll also publish a wonderful lighter chocolate ice cream recipe from David Lebovitz.

Since it is summer, one also thinks of delicious sweet ripe stone fruits, like peaches, nectarines and plums.  I’ve put in some lovely recipes for fresh peach ice cream to satisfy these sweet desires!

Deeply Chocolate Gelato

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Web Page:
Copyright: © 2012

From Ina Garten.

2 1/4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (do not use chocolate chips because they contain stabilizers)
4 extra-large egg yolks
2 Tbs mexican coffee liqueur (recommended ( Kahlua)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large pinch kosher salt
8 chocolate hazelnut candies, roughly chopped, optional

1. Heat the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup sugar in a 2-quart saucepan, until the sugar dissolves and the milk starts to simmer. Add the cocoa powder and chocolate and whisk until smooth. Pour into a heat-proof measuring cup.

dutch process cocoa powder

dutch process cocoa powder

fine dark chocolate

fine dark chocolate



mix of cream, cocoa powder, chocolate and sugar

mix of cream, cocoa powder, chocolate and sugar

2. Place the egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and very thick. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the hot chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Pour the egg and chocolate mixture back into the 2-quart saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. A candy thermometer will register about 180°F Don’t allow the mixture to boil!

mix egg yolks and sugar to yellow ribbon stage

mix egg yolks and sugar to yellow ribbon stage

thicken mixture by heating to 180 degrees F

thicken mixture by heating to 180 degrees F

3. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a bowl and stir in the coffee liqueur, vanilla, and salt. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard and chill completely.

Final additions

Final additions

4. Pour the custard into the bowl of an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions. Stir in the roughly chopped chocolate, if using, and freeze in covered containers. Allow the gelato to thaw slightly before serving.

Chocolate Ice Cream (from the Perfect Scoop)

Author: (From The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz)

2 cups heavy cream
3 Tbs unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
5 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 cup whole milk
¾ cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla extract

1. Warm 1 cup of the cream with the cocoa powder in a medium saucepan, whisking to thoroughly blend the cocoa. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer at a very low boil for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth. Then stir in the remaining 1 cup cream. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, scraping the saucepan as thoroughly as possible, and set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.

2. Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in the same saucepan. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

3. Stir the mixture constantly over the medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (170°F on an instant-read thermometer). Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the chocolate mixture until smooth, then stir in the vanilla. Stir until cool over an ice bath.

4. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (If the cold mixture is too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it vigorously to thin it out.)

Yield: 1 quart

Ben & Jerry's Fresh Georgia Peach Ice Cream

Author Notes
The best way to capture the elusive flavour of summertime. Ben and Jerry prefer small peaches because they have more flavor and less water than the larger ones. Prep is 2hrs 15 mins which is almost all chill time. Freezing time is however long it takes for your ice cream maker to freeze it.
Read more:

Recipe Type: American Classics, Desserts, Ice Cream

2 cups peaches, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced

2 large eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk

1. Combine the peaches, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the lemon juice in a bowl.

2. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, stirring the mixture every 30 minutes.

3. Remove the peaches from the refrigerator and drain the juice into another bowl.

4. Return the peaches to the refrigerator. Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes.

5. Whisk in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more.

6. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend. Add the peach juice and blend. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following manufacturer’s instructions.

7. After the ice cream stiffens (about 2 minutes before if is done) add the peaches, then continue freezing until the ice cream is ready.

Fresh Peach Ice Cream

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Source Williams-Sonoma
Web Page:
Copyright: © 2012

For the best possible flavor, use only the ripest, juiciest peaches for this summertime treat. To peel peaches, cut a shallow X on the blossom end of each one, then immerse in a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a work surface. When cool enough to handle, slip off the skins with your fingertips or a small, sharp knife.

2 cups peeled, pitted and finely chopped ripe peaches
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the peaches, 1/4 cup of the sugar and the corn syrup. Cook, stirring, until the sugar melts and the peaches are heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour into a large bowl and set aside.

2. In the same saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the half-and-half and 1/2 cup of the cream, bring to a simmer and remove from the heat. In a metal bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until blended. Gradually pour the hot cream mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and leaves a clear trail when a finger is drawn through it, 4 to 6 minutes. Do not allow the custard to boil.

3. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into the peach mixture. Transfer three-fourths of the mixture to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Pour the puree back into the remaining peach mixture. Add the vanilla and the remaining 1/2 cup cream and whisk to blend. Refrigerate for about 1 hour.

4. Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container, cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days, before serving.   Serves 8.

Servings: 8

I made an amalgam of the two peach ice cream recipes.  The Ben and Jerry ice cream doesn’t cook the egg yolks, and the Williams-Sonoma recipe does (with beating with sugar, mixing with hot cream, and creating a custard cooked to 180 degrees F).  I used 3/4 of a cup of  agave nectar instead of the 1 1/4 cups of sugar to mix with the chopped peaches in the first step.  I think the agave could have been reduced to 1/2 cup and still have sufficient maceration effect on the peaches.

Because there is no “peach juice” generated by the agave, the end result is a peach ice cream that tastes like a rich vanilla ice cream flavored with but not overwhelmed by peaches.  I added some fresh peaches at the very end of ice creaming, and it goes from the ice cream maker into the freezer for final chilling.


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Belly up to the bars (cookie bars, that is)

It’s the weekend before Labor Day, and time to think about what to make for dessert for the annual block party (not that I really need an excuse).  For an informal party, cookies make a good choice for dessert, as the ease of eating a cookie, and having different flavors to choose works well.  In this blog, I’ve talked about cookies and blondies, so today, let’s look at other bar cookies.

I don’t know about you, but I love turtles, the candy of caramel and pecans covered with chocolate.  Here in Chicago, if you go to Fanny May’s Candy, they call them Pixies, but it is the same thing.  I prefer them coated in dark chocolate, but you can find them with milk chocolate as well.  The flavor combination is a classic.

Now, I readably admit that I am a food and cooking snob, and I do not apologize for this.  I like to control what I eat, and I refuse to use any recipe that utilizes prepared food products.  I do make a few exceptions; one of which is the Ghirardelli Triple Brownie mix (which I can only find at Costco as I’m not talking about the double chocolate Ghirardelli Brownie mix found at the supermarket).  My brownie gold standard is the Ina Garten Outrageous Brownie (made from scratch, not from the outrageously priced box), but the Ghirardelli Brownie is an excellent choice.

Many of the recipes on the Web for turtle bars use store bought caramels.  I recently bought a new cookie cookbook, The All-American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett (copyright 2001 Houghton Mufflin) and in the chapter on bar cookies is a recipe for Turtle Bars.  I figured that I had to try it, as it calls for making everything from scratch.  Basically, it is a turtle candy on a shortbread cookie base.  The caramel is created from butter, cream, sugars, and heat.  As long as you have a candy thermometer, it is no problem to make.

Turtle Bars

Turtle Bars (modified from Nancy Baggett)


2 1/2 cups pecans

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut in small dice

4 tablespoons whole milk

For the caramel:

1 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup unsalted butter

2/3 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter the inside of a 9×13 inch baking pan.  Using heavy aluminum foil, create a sling the width of the pan and overhang the length of the pan by 2 inches.  Place in the pan and butter the inside of the foil.  It is not necessary to flour the pan.

2. Toast the pecan pieces in the oven on a baking sheet for 7 to 10 minutes, being careful not to burn them.  Let cool in a small bowl.  Take 1 3/4 cups and coarsely chop, and finely chop the remaining 3/4 cup.

3.  In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt.  Cut in the stick of butter using a pastry blender or your fingers.  Sprinkle the milk over the mixture and combine to create a dough that just holds together, but is not too wet.  It might take anywhere from 1 1/2 tbs to 5 tbs of the whole milk to accomplish this.  Do not overwork the dough.  Press the dough into the baking pan to create an even layer of dough all the way to the edges.  Refrigerate the pan for at least 30 minutes.

Chill the dough in the fridge

Chill the dough in the fridge

4. Bake in the center of the oven for 21 to 25 minutes, until the center is firm, and the edges are slightly brown.  Do not overcook.

5.  In a large saucepan, combine the cream, corn syrup, 1/2 stick (1/8 lb) butter, the brown and white sugars, and salt.

Combine the sugars, salt and cream in a heavy saucepan and mix together.

Combine the sugars, salt and cream in a heavy saucepan and mix together.


Bring to a boil and reduce heat to keep at a mild boil.  This will boil out much of the water.  Put a candy thermometer in the pot and you will see the temperature remain at boiling for several minutes.

Use a candy thermometer to take to a hard boil, 245 degrees F

Use a candy thermometer to take to a hard boil, 245 degrees F


Stir with a heat proof spatula occasionally.  As with any candy making, be careful not to splash any of the very hot mixture anywhere!  Carefully control the heat under the saucepan, and stir the caramel as the temperature rises above boiling.  As soon as the temperature reaches 245 degrees F, remove from heat, and add the coarsely chopped pecans and the vanilla.  Stir thoroughly, and pour onto the prepared shortbread, using a spatula to even the layer out to the edges.

Pecan caramel layer spread on top of cookie dough

Pecan caramel layer spread on top of cookie dough

Immediately, sprinkle the chocolate morsels evenly over the hot caramel.  After a couple of minutes, the chocolate will be melted.  Using an offset spatula, even the chocolate layer to the edges.

Melted chocolate spread evenly over caramel layer

Melted chocolate spread evenly over caramel layer

Sprinkle the finely chopped pecans on the warm chocolate as evenly as possible.  Refrigerate until completely cooled.

6.  Lift the foil sling to remove the slab.  Cut with a sharp knife into small squares.  Serve either at room temperature or slightly cooled.

The turtle cookie--shortbread dough, caramel pecan layer, chocolate top with finely chopped pecans

The turtle cookie–shortbread dough, caramel pecan layer, chocolate top with finely chopped pecans

Another winner of a bar is the black and white bar, a lovely combination of brownie base and coconut top.

Brownie Coconut Bars

From the show Everyday Food on PBS

Recipe Type: Cookies, Desserts, American

For the chocolate base:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, dutch process
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
For the coconut topping
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
7 oz sweetened shredded coconut, (1 package) reserve 1/2 cup for sprinkling

1. For chocolate base: Preheat oven to 375°. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a slight overhang; butter bottom and sides of foil (not overhang).

2. Place butter in a large microwave-safe bowl; melt in microwave. Add sugar and salt; whisk to combine. Whisk in egg, then cocoa and flour until smooth. Spread batter in prepared pan.

3. Bake just until sides begin to pull away from edges of pan, 10 to 15 minutes (do not overbake). Let cool slightly while preparing coconut topping. Keep oven on for topping.

4. For coconut topping: In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with sugar and vanilla. Gently mix in flour and coconut (except ½ cup reserved for sprinkling).

5. Drop mounds of mixture over chocolate base; spread and pat in gently and evenly with moistened fingers. Sprinkle with reserved ½ cup coconut.

6. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Lift cake from pan, peel off foil, and cut into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container 3 to 4 days.

Yield: 24 cookies

Try these, they are both winners!

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Making the best Chicken Parmesan better!

I watched America’s Test Kitchen show on classic Italian fare, and thought that their preparation of Chicken Parmesan solved many of the problems of this dish.

However, I thought it through and realized that by eliminating one step, it makes it even better.  The process is very similar to my Chicken Pesto Milanese, with removing the 1st step of dusting in flour, and using panko as bread crumbs.  ATK recommends a 20 minute salting of the chicken breasts to ensure a moist cutlet, but I think that is completely unnecessary and adds too much sodium.

Here is my take on an even better Chicken Parmesan:

A better Chicken Parmesan


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon each Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes mashed by hand
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste


  • 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated fontina cheese
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (grapeseed oil is best because of its high smoke point)


  1. Making the sauce is better than a store bought marinara.  Heat the olive oil with medium high heat in a large sauté pan, and add the finely minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds.  Then add the red pepper flakes, and the oregano, stir for another 30 seconds to bloom the herbs.  Take a large can of crushed tomatoes of good quality and add to the pot.  If using whole tomatoes, crush them slowly in a bowl with your hands before adding them to the pot.  Add the sugar and enough tomato paste to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.  Cook over low heat for 15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.
  2. Finely chop the parsley, thyme and tarragon.  Add them to the panko.  Add the parmesan or romano cheese to the bread crumbs.  Mix 2 tbs  of flour with 2 eggs to create a batter.
  3. With a sharp chef’s knife, slice the chicken breasts horizontally.  Remove any tendons from the tenderloin portion. Take a plastic freezer bag (Ziploc or similar) and place the sliced portion in the bag, and pound to a uniform ½ inch thickness.  See my comments relating to this in the Chicken Pesto Milanese post
  4. Dredge the chicken in the egg batter, and transfer to the plate with the herbed/cheese panko crumbs, pressing the mixture onto the breast portion.
  5. Heat the canola or grapeseed oil to near smoking point (about 365 degrees) in a skillet.  Add the chicken breast portions without crowding the pan (cook in batches) for 2 minutes per side, and transfer the cooked breasts to a tray lined with paper towels.  Finish all the portions and arrange them on a half sheet pan lined with heavy foil.  Combine the mozzarella and fontina together.  Cover the top of each piece with the mixture of mozzarella and fontina.  Turn the broiler on high.  Place the tray 4 inches from the broiler element of the oven, and brown (not burn) the cheese onto the chicken pieces.  This will take about 4 minutes.
  6. Plate the chicken with the tomato sauce on the top and/or on the side.

This recipe is nice and simple, and the results are spectacular.  The use of herbs in the panko crumbs elevates the taste and elegance of the dish, and the cooking method prevents soggy chicken portions.

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In the pursuit of caramel uses, take 3

As promised, I’m still looking at uses for the excellent caramel sauce (the recipe is in a prior post 3/3/14).  Today, I took the lessons learned from the less than perfect caramel chocolate cookie and applied it to a bar cookie, the coconut blondie from the 1992 Gourmet recipe (see 1/23/14).  If you don’t want to look back at what happened to the chocolate chip caramel cookie; basically I mixed the caramel into the cookie batter, and created a cookie that spread excessively and cooked too fast.

Today I took the coconut blondie recipe with no alterations until the spreading of the batter in the 9” X 13’’’ X 2 ½” inch pan.  I put ½ of the dough in the bottom of the pan, plus just enough more dough to ensure complete coverage of the bottom of the pan.  I then took cold caramel sauce from the refrigerator, and spread ribbons of caramel on to but not mixed in the dough.  I used the remaining dough to create a top layer, and spread it evenly.  I was careful not to have exposed caramel.  It might have been easier to have warmed the caramel sauce, but by using it directly from the refrigerator, it is probable that this prevents the caramel from mixing directly into the batter before cooking.

Into a preheated 350 degree oven, checked at 20 minutes, removed at 25 minutes when the edges got brown and pulled away from the sides of the pan.  Here is a picture at removal:


Let the blondies cool completely in the baking pan on a wire rack before cutting into squares.  This picture shows the cut bar cookie:


I’ve learned the lesson.  The secret is not directly exposing the caramel to direct heat.  The blondie cooked normally, but the caramel adds a layer of complexity to the already excellent taste of the bars, and is a notable improvement.  Of course, it helps to have already made caramel sauce in the refrigerator!

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Caramel and toffee, take 2, or building a better cookie

I promised a further investigation into the use of the caramel recipe of a prior post on this site.  Here’s what I discovered so far:

Mixing the caramel into a toll house type chocolate chip cookie dough was interesting in taste but doesn’t have a good appearance, at least not the way I tried to make it.  Putting toffee into the cookie dough worked much better.

First things first:  the cookie recipe.  1st, the original Toll House Chocolate Chip recipe (yup, that’s the one printed on every bag of Nestle’s Toll House Chocolate Chips, the recipe the Ruth Wakefield sold for a lifetime supply of chocolate chips!), and 2nd, America’s Test Kitchen’s “improved” version.

Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies (half recipe)

Recipe Type: American Classics, Chocolate, Cookies, American

1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour, (1 cup + 2 tbs)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 lb unsalted butter, softened ( 1 stick)
3/8 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup + 2 tbs
3/8 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, (6 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

1. Preheat oven to 375° F. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Mix softened butter, sugars and vanilla until creamy. Add in eggs, one at a time, beting well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips (plus the 1/2 cup of optional chopped nuts).

2. Spoon cookie dough (rounded tablespoon) onto ungreased baking sheet and bake 9 to 11 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer cookies to cooling rack.

Yield: 2.5 dozen

Now, as much as the original recipe is the “gold” standard, I think the ATK version is the platinum standard.cookie 3

Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies Redux

Author Notes
Why this recipe works: Rich and buttery, with their soft cores and crispy edges, chocolate chip cookies are the American cookie-jar standard. Since Nestlé first began printing the recipe for Toll House cookies on the back of chocolate chip bags in 1939, generations of bakers have packed them into lunches and taken them to potlucks. But after a few samples, we wondered if this was really the best that a chocolate chip cookie could be. We wanted to refine this recipe to create a moist and chewy chocolate chip cookie with crisp edges and deep notes of toffee and butterscotch to balance its sweetness?in short, a more sophisticated cookie than the standard bake sale offering.
Melting a generous amount of butter before combining it with other ingredients gave us the chewy texture we wanted. Since we were melting butter, we browned a portion of it to add nutty flavor. Using a bit more brown sugar than white sugar enhanced chewiness, while a combination of one egg and one egg yolk gave us supremely moist cookies. For the crisp edges and deep toffee flavor, we allowed the sugar to dissolve and rest in the melted butter. We baked the cookies until golden brown and just set, but still soft in the center. The resulting cookies were crisp and chewy and gooey with chocolate, and boasted a complex medley of sweet, buttery, caramel, and toffee flavors.
Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; as the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored. Our winning brand of chocolate chips was the Ghirarelli 60% cacao bitterswett chocolate chips, for a better flavor and more complex taste.

Author: America’s Test Kitchen
Source: Season 10 “The Cookie Jar”

a “perfect” chocolate chip cookie

Recipe Type: America’s Test Kitchen (PBS), American Classics, Chocolate, Cookies, Desserts, American

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, 8 3/4 ounces
1/2 tsp baking soda
14 Tbs unsalted butter, 1 3/4 sticks
1/2 cup granulated sugar, 3 1/2 ounces
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, 5 1/4 ounces
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips, or chunks
3/4 cup chopped pecans, or walnuts (optional)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Servings: 1
Yield: 16 cookies

So, I used the ATK cookie and tried taking the caramel sauce and mixing it into the batter.  Big mistake, as it dilutes the batter, and the cookie spreads too much and cooks much faster.  The result was a flat sheet of dark brown cookies joined to each other.toffee cookie


Another use of a form of caramel is english toffee, and I tried a recipe from Arizona.  This recipe is not without hazards, as I will describe.  The idea of putting toffee into a cookie is a nice touch, as the toffee has nuts, you get the crunch of the nuts and buttery goodness of the toffee in one bite.

English Toffee

Author Notes

There are recipes that call for roasted nuts. The toffee is cooked to 290 degrees and the roasted nuts are layered on a sheet pan. Next, the toffee is poured over the nuts. We prefer to use raw almonds and roast them in the butter-sugar mixture, which infuses the nutty flavor into the toffee and creates a toffee that isn’t overly sweet.

We add a dose of “Vitamin L-O-V-E” which translates to a lot of stirring – absolutely key to a successful batch of toffee.

We use a combination of both milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Our favorites are Belcolade and Callebaut. Callebaut milk chocolate has caramel undertones and marries nicely with the toffee.

Author: Donna Gabrilson, Goodytwo’s Toffee Company
Web Page:

1 lb unsalted butter
1 lb granulated sugar
1 Tbs water
8 oz raw almonds, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
Melted milk and dark chocolates (recommended: combination Belcolade and Callebaut)

1. In a saucepan, melt the butter and then add the granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil and cook to 260 degrees F.

2. Stir in the raw almonds and continue cooking to 290 to 300 degrees F. Remove from the heat and add 1 teaspoon vanilla.

3. Immediately, pour the mixture onto a sheet pan that is upside down and covered with heavy aluminum foil.  Spread to an even thickness.   Cool and cover with melted chocolate with additional crushed almonds as an option added after the chocolate.

I tried making this toffee, and it didn’t work.  I think I know the reasons for the failure.  The 1st thing to be sure all the sugar is dissolved into the butter, and to do this on lower heat.  Then, stirring continuously, gradually increase the temperature of the mixture to 260 degrees F, add the raw nuts, and take the temperature of the mixture to 290 degrees F.  Immediately remove from the heat, and add the vanilla, let the vanilla steam for 1 minute (mix well), then pour out on the prepared surface.  Let cool and set up overnight, then covered with the mixed chocolate followed by the finely chopped nuts, first the top side, and when set, flip over to coat the other side.

The failure is that the mixture can separate out the butter oils and turn into a hard mass of crystalized rock!  If it is poured out before it sets up as a rock in the pan, it still is a tasty mix of sugar/nuts with toffee crunch!  I used some of this (without coating with chocolate) in the cookie dough, and got a nice toffee cookie.cookie 2

In a final note about the above toffee recipe, the source of the recipe, the shop “GoodyTwo Toffee,” in Scottsdale, has closed (although they are apparently still selling toffee online).

So, what have we learned?  Caramel sauce and cookie dough should be mixed by creating a standard size cookie, and taking a ½ teaspoon of caramel sauce on the top and press into the dough but not all the way down!  I need to experiment with a thicker dough to make a chewy cookie that can withstand the caramel addition.  The toffee cookie works well, but again, I will try a different batter and might try the chocolate coated toffee (which will prevent the toffee itself from melting as the cookie bakes).  I might try some other toffee recipes to find a more fool-proof recipe as well.  More results to come!

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