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What the hell is self-rising cake flour and, more importantly, where did I get it?

Recipe: Nigella’s Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

Cupcakes gone blond

So today my shining light of a daughter turns 18, which makes me 97, or maybe it just feels that way. Anyhow, with such an auspicious occasion to mark, I wanted to find an appropriate treat to cap the festive birthday dinner — traditionally the birthday girl’s choice, and as always she’s requested mac and cheese with grilled asparagus on the side.

Allegedly purchased by me, but when?

I found this delightfully easy recipe for chocolate cherry cupcakes in Nigella’s Domestic Goddess book, and was congratulating myself on coming up with the perfect marriage of the adult (sour cherries, dark chocolate) and the childish (cupcakes) in an incredibly simple recipe (bonus!), when I noticed that it called for self-rising cake flour. Now, this item struck me as just a tad exotic to have on hand, but lo and behold after a bit of frantic rummaging I did find some in the dark recesses of the pantry. It is, to say the least, unusual to find exactly what I need on any given day; however, given my customary frame of mind during a trip to Fairway, it is not surprising that I have in stock things I can’t recall ever buying.

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Embrace the Time Suck

Recipe: Chocolate Crinkles

I know, I know, refrigerator cookies are a pain in the ass. They’re fiddly and time consuming, either of which is usually enough to put me off making them. On the other hand, look at it this way, the chilling period frees you up to do other things, like read an improving book, catch up on your favorite Castle episodes, or have that life saving midday glass of wine to prepare for a bout of bathroom cleaning. (Why approach the toilet bowl without at least a small load on? I guess people do, but I think it’s inadvisable, even reckless.)

Now where did I put that cookie dough? courtesy rachelheldevans.com

Of course there’s always the risk that, having become a little over-relaxed during the chilling period, you’ll forget about having made the dough and discover it moldering behind the extra large Bosco bottle a month or two past its expiration date, but what’s life without the odd surprise?

Now, to make a proper crinkle, you’ve got to refrigerate the dough. Believe me, I’ve tried skipping it and it just does not work, and no, I don’t know why. You’d have to talk to a proper baker, or at least a sober one, to find out. But really what other kind of cookie offers the magical mix of a crunchy exterior with a soft chewy middle? It’s an unbeatable combination, and if you’ve got sufficient lead time, the chocolate crinkle is a real bake sale winner. If you have little kids and a truckload of patience, the rolling and sugar coating step is enough like a Playdough activity to keep them busy for a good hour. Don’t worry, the high temperature of the baking will kill most of the germs from the finger licking — theirs not yours. Though let’s be honest, when was the last time you made cookies without consuming half of the dough? And this is good cookie dough. Real quality product. Or so I have been told. Read the rest of this entry

Butter me up, Ina! I’ve got a yen for chocolate cake.

“Psst, your collar. Your collar is UP.” (courtesy Food Network)

People swear by the Barefoot Contessa, but I don’t agree. It’s not just that her bangs bug me, though they most certainly do, or even that I get so preoccupied with the desire to flip her collar back down where it belongs that I can’t focus on the food. What really gets up my nose is the not-so-subtle nagging quality to Ina’s recipes: use extra large eggs, finest quality chocolate, freshly brewed hot coffee. I mean really – once a cup of coffee has been baked into a cake, who could possibly tell the difference between a freshly brewed cup and one that’s been sitting around on the counter for an hour? I’ll tell you who. Nobody.

Then there are the oven temps where the Fahrenheit is always indicated, as in “350 degrees F.” Now there’s an important safety tip, Egon. You don’t want to take a chance that people will think they should set their ovens to 350 Celsius, which if memory serves is approximately the surface temperature of Mercury. But of course, our Contessa spends so much time on the Continent that one understands her need to clarify.

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