December 26, 2016
Blog posts have been few and far between this year—this is my fifteenth post in 2016—and the era of consistent, twice-a-week posts (whaaa???) feels like it’s a lifetime away.
I love this space, even as I wonder why I keep it; the internet and my life have both changed a lot since 2009. Still, not a day goes by that I don’t interact with someone who I met because of Blue Jean Gourmet, and, from time to time, I hear from friends and acquaintances that they’re using one of the recipes archived here. That brings me so much joy.
Being a food writer may not be my ultimate calling, but I couldn’t have known that without giving it a whirl first. While I may eventually transition Blue Jean Gourmet into something else, this space has helped me determine which stories do feel like mine to tell, and that is a tremendous gift.
I know we’re mostly busy talking about what a dumpster fire of a year 2016 has been, but personally, I can’t write it off. This was the year that I signed a publishing contract, something I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember, and I am proud as heck for making that happen. Working on a book while teaching full time and parenting/life-ing is no joke, but it’s the best kind of problem to have, one of my own making and one that pushes me to live ever-more in line with what I say I want, and who I say I want to be.
This has been a year filled with a lot of examination around those categories—what I say I want, who I say I want to be—and some hard, important adjustments made in the wake of that examining. I’ve been a lot more honest with myself, which feels less painful and more powerful each time I do it; my bff Coco got me this awesome pin (side note: Emily McDowell’s stuff is so good) and it is an aspirational reach that I will take with me into 2017.
Ideally, I would have passed these recipes along before Christmas and Hanukkah came along, but they’re also both well suited for any New Year’s celebrations that you may be scheming, or you can just keep them in your arsenal for any time you may need to woo, placate, or dazzle someone with chocolate.
SALTED TAHINI CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
source: Danielle Orton, as shared by Food 52
You’ve probably heard about these cookies already, and maybe you thought, “Do I really need another chocolate chip cookie recipe in my life?” The answer is yes. But don’t make these unless/until you own good-quality tahini (ordering Soom online is worth every penny) and good quality dark chocolate (I used Guittard 66% semisweet baking wafers). Trust me, it’s worth the splurge;people will rave about these!
8 T unsalted butter, soft
½ cup well-stirred tahini
1 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup + 2 T all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 ¾ cups good-quality chocolate chips or chunks (since I had discs, I gave them a rough chop before using)
flaky finishing salt
Cream butter, tahini, & sugar together on medium speed for about 5 minutes—the mixture should look light and fluffy when you’re done. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla and mix for another 5 minutes.
Sift the dry ingredients into a separate bowl, then add to the wet ingredients on low speed. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold the chocolate in by hand, using a spatula.
From here, the original recipe instructs you to line a baking sheet with parchment, divide the dough into twelve scoops, and place the dough balls on the cookie sheet and freeze for 12 hours before baking. Either I wasn’t paying attention or I was feeling lazy, but I stashed the dough in the fridge, still in the mixing bowl, wrapped in plastic, overnight, then baked, and my cookies still turned out delicious. You do whatever feels right to you.
Whenever you’re ready to bake, you’re looking at 325F and about 12-15 minutes in the oven, until just the edges are getting brown. Don’t worry if the middle of the cookies looks a bit pale-that’s how they’re supposed to look. As they come out of the oven, sprinkle with salt. Cool on a rack, then move to a platter and watch them disappear!
PEAR AND BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE CAKE
an oldie-but-a-goodie from Smitten Kitchen
This is a “back pocket” recipe for me, one that’s simple enough to make but feels fancy, especially when served with some homemade whipped cream. It’s the technique here that really make a difference, so don’t ignore the instructions about making sure the eggs are at room temperature before you whip them for, yes, nine whole minutes. If you’ve never whipped eggs for that long before, you’ll be amazed at what happens when you do.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
3 eggs, at room temperature*
8 T unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
3 pears, peeled, cored, diced small (I like using bosc)
¾ cup bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips
Pan: 9-inch spring form pan, buttered & floured (I’ve also used a 9-inch square pan in a pinch)
Whisk dry ingredients together and set aside.
Using the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, whip the eggs for NINE WHOLE MINUTES until they’re pale and very thick. While that’s happening, brown the butter; melt it in a saucepan over medium-low flame, stirring occasionally, until it begins to smell nutty and the color turns brown. Set aside.
Add the sugar to the eggs and beat for a few more minutes. Turn the mixer down to low and add the dry ingredients and brown butter to the batter, alternating like this:
1/3 dry mix
½ brown butter
1/3 dry mix
½ brown butter
1/3 dry mix
Mix until just combined—don’t overmix, or the eggs will lose volume! Scrape the mixture out into the pan, then scatter the pear and chocolate pieces on top.
Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick comes away clean when inserted into the center of the cake; in my oven, that took a good hour, but you may want to start checking at 45-50 minutes, to be safe.
Serve with some barely sweetened whipped cream. If you’re feeling fancy, a drop of almond extract or a couple of drops of Amaretto in the whipped cream would also be nice.