chocolate

chocolate chip cookie baking in Germany

Yesterday, after two days of collecting ingredients from various grocery stores, I baked some chocolate chip cookies. It was quite an adventure.

Member of the millennial generation that I am, I documented the experience with my social media accounts. So, dear parents, grandparents, and friends who do not participate in Twitter and Instagram, here is what happened:


Chocolate chip cookie baking in Germany. | Step one: let the block of butter soften on a sunny windowsill.


Compare and sample the two barbaric alternatives to impossible-to-find chocolate chips. Decide they’re passable.


Throw the rest of the ingredients on the counter before you have the chance to wonder any longer if all those German words mean what you think they do.


Spend 20 minutes hacking at baking chocolate with a dull knife and muttering about chocolate chips.

At first I thought the butter was rancid. But then I looked at my innocent, little bag of sugar.


Taste the butter and sugar mixture and discover the loud, citrusy overtones of gelatin sugar for canning. Employ tablespoons of vanillin sugar as an antidote.

A bag of sugar shouldn’t have an ingredients list. This one did:
“Zucker, Geliermittel Pektine, Säuerungsmittel Citronensäure, Konservierungsstoff Sorbinsäure”


Taste the mutant, citrusy dough you’ve created. Add vanillin sugar. Repeat. Again. Don’t let the flatmates see you grimace.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE BAKING IN GERMANY

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE BAKING IN GERMANY

The equivalent of several tablespoons of vanilla extract, an oven tutorial from one of the flatmates, some Celsius-to-Fahrenheit calculations, a temperature adjustment or two, and three rounds of baking later: speckled chocolate chunk cookies.


Against all odds, place a plate piled high with sweet success – baked at 185° Celsius – on the kitchen table and watch them disappear.

 

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE BAKING IN GERMANY

They were chewy; there was not even the slightest hint of citrus tang; and they were gone in 18 hours. The end.

 

 

chocolate hazelnut granola + double almond granola

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Without a doubt, my gravest concern about living at college was the food. Staying in the dorms is mandatory for freshmen, so I knew I would have no choice about that. At first I held tightly to the faint hope that I would be able to cook sometimes at college. Alas, reality soon necessitated that I relinquish that fantasy.

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My dorm, which I chose and do love for its four-person style suites, recent construction, and cozy size of only 250 occupants, tragically lacks an adequate number of decent kitchens. Indeed, there is only one. This solitary tribute to the existence of home cooking is a rather grimy kitchenette on the third floor. On the rare occasion I enter this fated room, I notice that single panel light in the ceiling flickers almost imperceptibly as it blasts its sterile light onto the splattered and encrusted oven, microwave, and sink surrounded by the disturbingly speckled, formerly white-ish countertop. As I dutifully scan the faded brochure about fire safety hanging halfheartedly from the red bulletin board by a single pin, I wonder to myself what would happen if an epileptic decided to make a pot of pasta. I hope I never find out the answer to that question. In any case, the pseudo-kitchen is pathetic and worthy only of college-level cooking such as zuppe di ramen.

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Granted, before August I was unaware of the actual state of our dorm kitchen. Nevertheless, I presumed that I would be unable to do much cooking. Still hoping to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” I decided the best I could do was control exactly what I consumed for breakfast. Breakfast in the dining hall, after all, consists of various boxed cereals, waffles, pancakes, gravy, eggs, bacon, et cetera – half food I don’t like, and all food I don’t want to eat unless I make it myself. Naturally, I made granola.

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Now, you must understand that I have a long and complicated history with granola. I don’t recall being aware of its existence until sometime around age eight. That’s when we moved to Uganda for two years, during which time I consumed mass quantities of granola. Perhaps my juvenile memories of those years do not serve me well, but I remember eating granola nearly every day for breakfast. The same kind. The same recipe. With the same off-tasting milk. Or the same homemade plain yogurt. For two years. My taste buds were severely scarred from the granola marathon, and it wasn’t until two or three years ago that I could stomach the thought of munching on granola – still that fateful faithful recipe – again. However, I infrequently selected granola over boxed cereal options until I firmly established my eating and cooking philosophies within the past year. Then, I realized that I needed more exciting granola options if I was to breakfast upon it multiple times a week, between pancakes and toast and such. So, I always kept a batch of some interesting granola in the cupboard next to Mom’s usual type. Heading to college planning to eat granola for breakfast every single day of the semester, I was certain the undertaking would require more varieties of granola than ever in order to avoid a relapse into granolaphobia. I made five kinds. 22 cups. And that was just the first round.

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Inspired by nutella and all its divine scrumptiousness, but unwilling to mix it into my breakfast cereal, I made the next best thing: a dark chocolate granola with hazelnut chunks. As beautifully deep and chocolatey as it appears, the chocolate flavor itself is not at all overpowering but just strong enough to compliment the hazelnuts without masking their marvelous flavor.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Granola

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups hazel nuts
  • 4 cups oats
  • 5 tablespoons dark cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s specialty dark)
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until skins are cracked and flaking. Remove husks by rubbing the hazelnuts between towels. Pick off any remaining skins. Roughly chop the hazelnuts.

In a large bowl combine the hazelnuts with the other dry ingredients. Whisk together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, and then fold the mixture into the dry ingredients until well combined.

Spread the granola on a baking sheet or two. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes to prevent burning.

Similarly, while the double almond granola does not scream almonds – only almond extract would have accomplished that, I think – it does have a rich taste. With both the crunch of the whole almonds and the deep flavor of the almond butter, I think it’s just right, especially for eating with berries.

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Double Almond Granola

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups oats
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 + 1/2 cups sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Combine the almonds, salt, and oats in a large bowl.

In another bowl whisk together the applesauce, almond butter, vanilla, and honey until well combined. Stir this mixture into the oats until evenly distributed throughout.

Spread the granola on a baking sheet or two. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the oats are no longer moist and have browned lightly. Stir every 10 minutes to prevent burning. Enjoy! Add some berries; I think it’d be excellent.

our spartan kitchen: tuesday scones

Tuesdays are homeschool co-op days. Tuesdays are pizza for supper days. Tuesdays are running at the beach days.

Tuesdays are scones for breakfast days.

Not too long ago on a Tuesday in mid-March as something of a challenge, I arose around 6am and, working by the the faint light of  late winter dawn, mixed together some yogurt scones. Despite my best attempts at complete silence and stealth, my early-rising father emerged from his room, wondering who was, as he thought, eating breakfast at the unusual hour. In a stroke of daybreak brilliance he turned on the faint light of the microwave over the stovetop for me. Having baked the scones, I left them for my mother and youngest brother, who had just begun to stir, and for Dad, for breakfast, hopped in the nearest car, and rattled down our gravel driveway, heading out to the beach. The loop, which is not actually located on the beach itself, is a popular 3ish-mile elipse that crosses over the intracoastal waterway twice and is extremely popular with everyone in general: walkers, baby stroller-pushers, runners, dog exercisers, joggers, miscreant cyclists, et cetera. Running this wonderful oval of breezy, partially live oak-shaded sidewalk is most enjoyable before it become congested with other enthusiasts; therefore, my arrival with the sun allowed me to take full advantage of both the cool temperatures and temporarily sparse population of the cement. I love it.

Since then, it has become a Tuesday routine for me: get up, bake scones, go run, and return to eat the last scone. Alas, extenuating circumstances – namely, catering lunch for 18 and 28 people on two separate occasions! – forced me to temporarily abandon my scone making on two Tuesdays. Also, now that Mom and the boys’ co-op is finished for the year, I am uncertain as to whether I shall continue to make scones on Tuesday. I should. But I probably won’t.

All that to say, I tried to concoct a different scone every Tuesday, and, excepting one tragic lapse of photographical awareness, I snapped a quick picture or two of all of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yogurt Banana Scones with Walnuts and Dates

Ingredients:

  • 2-⅓ cups whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2-½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cups + 2 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
  • 2 whole very ripe bananas, mashed
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1 cup plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the 2 tablespoons brown sugar, to make a moist but minimally sticky dough. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. On a floured surface form dough into a disk 8 inches in diameter. Cut the dough into 8 triangles. Place on a baking stone or lightly greased baking sheet and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the scones have browned and test done. Enjoy!

I snarfed down the last of the strawberry scones before it ever occurred to me to take a picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Strawberry Scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2-½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cups + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the 2 tablespoons sugar, to make a moist but minimally sticky dough. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. On a floured surface form dough into a disk 8 inches in diameter. Cut the dough into 8 triangles. Place on a baking stone or lightly greased baking sheet and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes until the scones have browned and test done. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Specialty Dark Double Chocolate Scones

Ingredients:

  • 2-3/4 cups whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2-½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup specialty dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup specialty dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup walnuts (optional)
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1-3/4 cups plain yogurt
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Combine all of the ingredients, except for the 2 tablespoons sugar, to make a moist but minimally sticky dough. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. On a floured surface form dough into a disk 8 inches in diameter. Cut the dough into 8 triangles. Place on a baking stone or lightly greased baking sheet and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes until the scones have browned and test done. Enjoy!
Perhaps you are starting to get the idea that the baking instructions for these scones are nearly identical. It’s not just you. They are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dried Cranberry Orange Scones

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • zest of one orange
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Combine all of the ingredients, except for the 2 tablespoons sugar, to make a moist but minimally sticky dough. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. On a floured surface form dough into a disk 8 inches in diameter. Cut the dough into 8 triangles. Place on a baking stone or lightly greased baking sheet and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes until the scones have browned and test done. Enjoy!
There you have it: scones ad nauseum.

our spartan kitchen: chocolate banana freeze


I like to think that I have been on some sort of pseudo-healthy desserts kick recently. In reality I have only tried two pudding-like recipes, both of which pleased me immensely. So, I decided to create my own. Somewhere in my recipe browsing I had noted the idea of throwing frozen bananas in a food processor to create an instant ice cream-like dessert. I liked the concept, but it seemed a bit dull. Naturally, I turned to chocolate, the solution to all the world’s problems, including that of bland bananas. I am very much my father’s daughter. For that matter, I am also my grandmother’s granddaughter; the blood on that side of my family runs thick with chocolate and olive oil. Anyway, I did not satisfy myself with that typical weak and pathetic cocoa powder of that color reminiscent of the brown haze of distant air pollution. No, no! I knew from the aforementioned puddings that the average brown dust would produce a flavor and color akin that of chocolate milk: one just chocolatey enough to compound a passing fancy for something chocolatey and transform it into a profound need for rich, dark chocolate. No, I used the dark variety, the true, pure chocolateness of 100% specialty dark cocoa powder.

I tossed 4 or so frozen bananas in our food processor. Happily for me, we keep a ready supply of super-sweet, overripe bananas in our freezer. I just thawed them slightly, peeled them, and refroze them.

I added 4 tablespoons of milk (almond in this case; that’s another kick I’ve been on), so the food processor had some liquid to work with, and 3 tablespoons of the magical, wonderful dark cocoa powder (which looks less dramatically deep in hue in my picture).

After blending it until the bananas, chocolate, and milk melded together in smooth creaminess, I carefully spatula’d as much of the soft ice cream-like freeze into two cups as humanly possible before finishing my cleaning of the food processor container with a spoon. Waste not want not!

The sweetness of the banana is perfectly proportionate to the slight bitterness of the chocolate, just as balance  of banana and chocolate flavors is just as it should be. Yum.