It’s hard to believe my year abroad is over, but I’m so excited to be back in my own kitchen with all my toys, an oven I understand, and familiar ingredients readily available.
For my first baking adventure now that I’m home, I went decidedly simple but not very Christmas-y. It will be gone by then anyway! 🙂
Chocolate Chip Cake
Almonds get all the attention, but I’ve always been partial to walnuts. The halves look like little brains, and I kind of like that they aren’t sweet. Of course they taste good with chocolate (brownies and fudge anyone?), but add coffee and the faintest hint of cinnamon and we’re talking near perfection.
You’ll be surprised how light and tender the crumb of this cake is – delicate as the flavors themselves. You could easily go the healthy route (skip the mocha frosting) and serve it for breakfast or for tea, but then it would just be coffee walnut cake, and you would miss out on the chocolate and the affinity that these flavors have for each other. Besides, who am I kidding? Frosting has rarely stopped anyone from eating cake for breakfast.
Mocha Walnut Cake
I know, it’s been a while… Let’s just say life has been a little crazier than usual this past two months.
Though I did get creative with a hotel room microwave and Lekue steamer, I missed my oven and the stress relief that baking brings.
And, what better way to celebrate my return to the kitchen than a little something chocolate (with a kick)!
Mexican Chocolate Doughnuts
Long before the tv wars and neighborhood cupcakeries, a different battle raged … for king of the lunch box. Whether it was Hostess, or Tastykakes, or whatever brand controlled the market in your hometown, it was a special treat. The one you begged your mom for at the grocery, promising to share the two-pack with your brother or sister. The one she tucked into your lunch box on a special occasion, hidden in with the apple and PB&J, and there was no way you were going to trade it for your buddy’s oatmeal raisin cookie. Sorry raisins, but if I have to decide between you and chocolate, there can be only one winner.
Faux Hostess Cakes
Or, perhaps more accurately, a “get happy” tart. Because, how can you be anything but gleeful when you finish your meal (Or if you’re feeling particularly naughty, to start it?) with a light but decadent, dark chocolate tart. Having tried the chocolate filling as I was making it, I’ll admit it was hard to focus on the main course when I knew this was the prize at the end of dinner…sinful, indeed!
“Is there anything, apart from a really good chocolate cream pie and receiving a large unexpected cheque in the post, to beat finding yourself at large in a foreign city on a fair spring evening, loafing along unfamiliar streets in the long shadows of a lazy sunset, pausing to gaze in shop windows or at some church or lovely square or tranquil stretch of quayside, hesitating at street corners to decide whether that cheerful and homy restaurant you will remember fondly for years is likely to lie down this street or that one? I just love it. I could spend my life arriving each evening in a new city.”
― Bill Bryson, Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe
Okay, so this quote isn’t about the pie so much as the travel (and this isn’t a travel/food blog), but what struck me was the comparison – that of the three best things in the world the writer could think of, he chose a simple chocolate pie. I’d honestly never had one before a few weeks ago when a friend similarly smitten with the silky smooth chocolate mousse filling challenged me to make one. Purists may demand a traditional pie crust, but I prefer the contrasting texture of a graham cracker base. Enjoy!!!