White Chocolate Black Bottom Cupcakes

Not everything works the first time that you try it.

I had this idea. I had made Black Bottom Cupcakes a couple of times. Black Bottom Cupcakes are chocolate cupcakes with a cheesecake middle. I used the Smitten Kitchen recipe and they were always good. Extremely good. Especially when I made them in the mini muffin pan. Those are little bite size balls of delicious. (In fact, I won’t begrudge you if you stop reading now and just go make those because they are excellent.) But not long ago, I discovered Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting from her Rose’s Heavenly Cakes cookbook, which is a cream cheese frosting with melted white chocolate mixed in and I have been putting it on all the things. Banana cake, carrot muffins, chocolate beet cake, anything that I think might go well with white chocolate gets slathered with that frosting. And so when I thought of making these cupcakes again, I wondered if I could somehow bring that white chocolate frosting into the mix.

I took another look at the original recipe. I noticed that the cake was a simple oil based chocolate cake. I had seen another oil based chocolate cake on the Food52 website not too long ago and had loved it when I made it. (It is very similar to the Smitten Kitchen cake, but with a few key differences – white sugar instead of brown, double the salt, and slightly less oil.) All oil based cakes develop a more intense flavor as they sit and so are better the day after they are baked then the day of, but this cake was great as soon as it was cooled. I decided to use that cake for my base.

Then I looked at the white chocolate frosting and compared it to the cheesecake filling for the cupcakes. Both had cream cheese as their base, but everything else was different, including how they were prepared. The white chocolate frosting incorporated both butter and sour cream in addition to melted white chocolate and was made in the food processor. The cheesecake filling had sugar and an egg and was simply stirred together in a bowl. Also, the proportions were radically different. The white chocolate frosting called for 4 ounces of cream cheese and the cheesecake filling required 8 ounces.

I decided to use the frosting proportions and incorporate some sugar and an egg. I used half the sugar called for in the original recipe and only two tablespoons of a single beaten egg. I made the whole thing in the food processor. It looked about right, but the final result was not what I had hoped. First of all, there was not enough filling. Getting the filling into the center of the cupcake is always a bit of a challenge, but here the filling stayed firmly on the surface of the cupcake. Which is not a tragedy, but the other issue was the sweetness. The white chocolate and sugar together were overkill. Also, the texture of the filling wasn’t exactly right. It didn’t have that creamy cheesecake texture.

Back to the drawing board.

I would increase the proportions so that there were 8 ounces of cream cheese. I was keeping the sour cream and doubling it accordingly. The butter was going out and I was using a whole egg. I omitted the sugar entirely since white chocolate has sugar in it already. And I switched to a stand mixer instead of the food processor.

The resulting filling mixture was so light and fluffy that I had to stop myself from licking the mixer blade. (Raw egg. Boooo.) However, and this is important, the cheesecake filling is the only component of this recipe with egg in it so you can lick the spoons and bowls for the chocolate mixture as well as the bowl used to melt the white chocolate. You know, if you’re the kind of person who does that sort of thing. (I am.)

This second batch of cupcakes nailed it. Moist cake, creamy filling, and that hint of white chocolate. This is how I am making these cupcakes from now on.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Cupcake

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • teaspoon baking soda
  • cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • tablespoons canola oil
  • cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • tablespoon cider vinegar

Filling

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 4 oz. white chocolate, melted and cooled (but still fluid)
  • 1 egg at room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp almond extract

Heat the oven to 350° F and line or butter a 12 cup muffin pan.

Set your the cream cheese for the filling out to soften. If you do not keep filtered water chilled in your fridge, then set a cup of water in there to chill. Melt your white chocolate (either in the microwave or in a double boiler) and set it aside to cool. (You want it slightly warm to the touch and still fluid.)

Now make the cupcake batter.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vanilla, and vinegar.

Whisk together the wet and dry mixtures until smooth. Set aside.

Make the filling.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until it is fluffy. Scrape down sides of the bowl and add the sour cream. Beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the cooled and melted white chocolate and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. In a separate bowl, crack open the egg and beat it until the white and yolk are well mixed. Add the egg to the mixer bowl and beat on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the almond extract and beat until incorporated.

There are two options for filling the muffin pans:

1) Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full (about two tablespoons of batter) and then add a heaping tablespoon of the filling, pushing it down into the center.

2) Fill the muffin cups 1/2 full (about one tablespoon of batter). Add a tablespoon of filling to the center and then pour add more chocolate batter until the muffin cup is full. Add a small spoon of filling to the top.

Bake the cupcakes for about 25 to 30 minutes until the chocolate tops spring back to the touch and the cheesecake filling has set.

Cool on a wire rack in the pan. (The cheesecake filling will sink a little. Don’t be alarmed. It is supposed to do that.) Remove from pan and try not to eat them all immediately.

They will keep covered at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, but they taste great after being in the fridge and will last a few days longer that way.

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Mushroom Linguine

My friend has a new baby and with new babies comes joy and sleep deprivation and friends bringing you large containers of food. My friend the new mom was due for another round of such food deliveries. I asked her if she wanted anything specific, and she responded immediately. Did I remember that dish that our friend Nancy used to make? The mushroom pasta dish? That was what she wanted.

Nancy knew what dish I was referring to but she did not have an exact recipe to send me. She sent a list of the basic ingredients and a general overview of how she made it. She asked me to play with it and let her know what I came up with. Her recipe was simple enough. Saute some garlic in oil. Add mushrooms and cook through. Add some wine and let it reduce. Add cooked linguine, fontina cheese, parsley and some reserved pasta cooking liquid. Salt and pepper at the end. Be careful of clumping cheese.

There are times when I look at a recipe and instantly know that I will make it exactly as directed, with no changes, because there is an alchemical beauty evident in the instructions and I just want to experience the results. But there are other times when I immediately know I am going to mess with a whole bunch of things and this was one of those times.

First, I love a really well cooked mushroom but I am texture sensitive and an overcooked mushroom is a horror to me so I knew that the mushrooms were going to come out of the pan mid-sauce and go back in at the end.

Second, I suspected that her reported problem with clumping cheese was because something was missing to help bind it all together. I went online and perused a bunch of recipes for pasta with fontina. A lot of people were adding some cream to their sauce, but as soon as I saw one that was all about the butter, I knew what I was going to do. For me the difference between a cream sauce and a butter sauce is licking your fork versus licking your plate. So, that meant that the oil was getting nixed altogether in favor of mushrooms cooked in butter.

The result was a silky smooth sauce and mushrooms so good I could imagine sitting in front of a bowl of this pasta and becoming dismayed at the realization that you had eaten all the mushrooms first and now there were no more to have with your pasta. It made three large lunch/dinner size portions, though it could easily make five or six smaller portions served with some bread and a small salad. Next time, I will add more mushrooms.

Mushroom Linguine

Ingredients

One 16 oz. package of linguine noodles
Approx. 20 oz. crimini mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced *
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, separated
One tbsp. crushed garlic, divided **
⅓ cup white wine ***
One large shallot, minced
One tsp. sea salt
8 oz. fontina cheese, cubed
½ cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta, reserving ¾ cup of the pasta cooking liquid. (If you prefer to add salt to the water when cooking your pasta, you may want to reduce the salt added later in the recipe. I never add salt to the water when I am going to be using the cooking liquid later as I prefer more control over the saltiness of the final dish.)

While the pasta is cooking, you can slice your mushrooms, crush the garlic, mince the shallot, chop the parsley, and cube the cheese. (Though I only made it through the shallot prep before my pasta was done. I did the parsley and cheese while the mushrooms cooked.)

Melt 2 tbsp. of butter in a dutch oven or large skillet over medium-high heat. When melted, add ½ tbsp. of crushed garlic and let it cook for half a minute. Then add half of the sliced mushrooms. Let them saute, stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes. Once cooked, remove the cooked mushrooms to a plate using a slotted spoon, leaving any liquid in the pan. Add another 2 tbsp. of butter and melt. Repeat previous steps with remaining ½ tbsp. of garlic and other half of mushrooms. (If I were adding another 10 oz. of mushrooms, I would probably do it three batches rather than upping the size of the two batches as the mushrooms cook nicely and evenly in this amount.)

Once the mushrooms are cooked and set aside, add the minced shallot to the pan and cook for about three minutes, stirring frequently. Add the wine and bring to a boil, then let it reduce by half. Once reduced, add the mushrooms back into the pan with the remaining butter, the reserved cooking liquid and the salt. Let it cook until the butter melts, stirring frequently.

Lower the heat and add the cooked pasta, cheese and parsley to the pan. Stir everything until the cheese melts completely and the sauce coats the noodles. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Eat immediately.

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* I bought two 10 oz. packages of mushrooms but definitely wished I had more in the final product. I might add a third package next time along with another 2 tbsp. of butter, which would bring the total butter in this recipe to one stick of butter. If that seems like too much butter to you, then I would recommend still starting with two tablespoons of butter for the first batch of mushrooms and using a smaller amount of butter for each successive addition of mushrooms to the pot.

** Jars of crushed garlic are one of my favorite kitchen shortcuts as I find mincing garlic incredibly tedious. If you prefer fresh garlic, you probably want about four large cloves, divided.

*** If you do not have wine around and want to cook this, you can substitute ⅓ cup of vegetable stock with a tsp. of white wine vinegar added to it. (This is my preferred shortcut when I am wineless.)

Banana Streusel Muffins

My mother is going to hate this story.

Several years ago, when I was first starting to take baking seriously, every recipe that I read seemed to include the words “stand mixer”. I did not own a stand mixer and I was not completely convinced of the soundness of investing in one. Those things are expensive. I wasn’t sure I liked baking that much. I could buy a nice piece of furniture or an airline ticket with that money. And a hand mixer seemed to get the job done pretty well. Those Kitchenaid mixers were pretty, but my budget really did not allow for one.

At the time, I was still a smoker but I was weary of the habit and longed for a way to rid myself of it. I hit upon an idea. The cost of a stand mixer was the equivalent of my cigarette budget for two months. Horrifying, but true. If I did not touch a single cigarette for two months, then I would allow myself the purchase of a stand mixer. I have always responded well to reward systems so I was certain this would get me through those first two months of quitting. It didn’t guarantee success but I thought it would give me a really good shot.

I did not tell anyone of this plan. I smoked my “last” cigarette and marked the date of stand mixer purchase on my calendar. And it worked. Two weeks passed without a single cigarette. My withdrawal wasn’t even that bad. I think I only threatened to kill, like, two people. This was going to work. I started gathering the recipes I would make with my new mixer. And then on the fifteen day mark, a giant box arrived on my doorstep. My mother had seen a stand mixer on sale and had impulsively purchased it and mailed it to me. For no reason. Just because she does things like that. Just because she knew I was really getting into this cooking and baking thing and she is unbelievably generous. And because sometimes she has freakishly bad timing. So I smoked a cigarette while I read the instructions for my new mixer. And then I made some banana cake.

The smoking is no longer a part of my life. But the banana cake makes a regular and repeated appearance during the winter months. There is something snuggly about it. Also, it holds up well when you wrap it in foil and throw it in a bag to take with you for later. I like to turn this particular banana cake recipe into muffins for maximum portability, though it is easily doubled and turned into a loaf.

Now these muffins are terrific just as they are with nothing else added. But sometimes you want a little more from your muffin. Mix in a handful of chocolate chips (dark chocolate is my favorite but white chocolate is also fantastic) or some chopped toasted nuts and you have a whole other muffin. But this time, as I looked through my pantry, none of those things sounded like what exactly I wanted. I had images of my grandmother’s coffeecake streusel dancing in my head.

Now my grandmother’s coffeecake is the stuff of legend. A perfect balance of salty and sweet, cinnamon and buttermilk. But for most people the cake itself is just a vessel for that streusel. So I figured it could easily be transported on to another cake.

I made the banana muffin batter and a small batch of the coffeecake topping. But then I couldn’t decide if I wanted to sprinkle the streusel on top, have it layered inside the middle or maybe have a big streusel center. The great thing about muffins is that you are making twelve of them so you can assemble them any or all of these ways and decide later which is your favorite.

Muffins

The ones with the streusel center didn’t plump up much at all. Their tops stayed flat and even, but the disappointment was entirely visual. They did the best job of keeping the two flavors distinct within a single bite.

The ones with the streusel ribbon plumped up the most, with those nice round tops, but the streusel flavor was just a small note beneath the banana flavor. Still this was by far the fluffiest version with the biggest banana flavor.

The streusel on top puts the streusel flavor front and center. The banana flavor comes sneaking in afterwards.

The muffins are delicious all three ways.

BANANA STREUSEL MUFFINS (Adapted from Dorie Greenspan and my Grandma Alice)

Makes a dozen muffins.

Ingredients

Muffin batter:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) salted butter, at room temperature*
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste**
1 large egg, at room temperature
2-3 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 3/4 cup)***
1/4 cup sour cream****
1/4 cup nonfat greek yogurt****

Streusel:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 pinch of ground nutmeg
1 pinch of salt
4 teaspoons vegetable oil

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center.

Butter a large 12 cup muffin pan or line it with paper muffin cups.

Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside. (Don’t lose the whisk. You’ll use it for the streusel.)

Cream the butter in a stand mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar and combine, scrapping the sides of the bowl as needed, until fluffy. Add the vanilla bean paste, egg and banana one at a time, mixing until each is well incorporated before adding the next one. Then reduce speed to low and add half the flour mixture. Do not overmix. Add the sour cream and yogurt. Once those are incorporated, I remove the bowl from the stand mixer and stir in the remaining flour mixture by hand so I can ensure it does not overmix. You want to mix to the point that no dry ingredients are visible and then stop.

Now make your streusel. (You can use the bowl that your flour mixture was in.) Combine the two sugars and whisk together, breaking up any clumps. Add the flour, nutmeg, salt and cinnamon. Once the dry ingredients are combined, add the vegetable oil and mix until you have a nice wet crumble. (It should be the texture of wet sand.)

Now take the muffin pan. Here are the three ways to assemble the muffins:

1) Streusel top – Fill the muffin cup 3/4 full. Sprinkle streusel so it covers the top entirely.

2) Streusel ribbon – Fill the muffin cup halfway. Sprinkle streusel generously and then add more muffin batter on top, completely covering streusel.

3) Streusel center – Fill the muffin cup 2/3 full. Form the streusel into a little ball, about one teaspoon size. Push the ball into the center of the muffin batter.

Place the muffin pan in the center of the oven and back for about 25 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for five minutes and then remove from pan (carefully using a knife) and finish cooling on a baking rack.

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* The original recipe called for unsalted butter and you can certainly use that here, but I am a huge fan of a strong salt presence in my baked goods and swapping in salted butter here achieved the desired result. But if you are watching your salt intake, you can make the swap back to unsalted butter with no repercussions.

** You may not be familiar with vanilla bean paste but let me introduce you to it. It is very similar to vanilla extract only vanilla bean seeds are added to the mixture and the result is much more viscous. It only costs a few dollars more than high quality vanilla extract and I swap it out for extract in almost everything, but if you cannot get your hands on some, vanilla extract will do the job.

*** You will need two large or three medium bananas to make a 3/4 cup. You want those really ripe bananas where the skin has gone black and insides are all brown. I use a liquid measuring cup and mash the banana directly in that cup because I am always looking for ways to use less bowls.

**** The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt and I have made it both ways. I like what yogurt does for the texture and what sour cream does for the flavor, so I split the difference and use 1/4 cup of each, but you can easily use one or the other.

Inactive Time – February 12

In recipes, the total recipe time is usually divided into active and inactive time. The time spent doing and the time spent waiting. Here are some things to peruse during the waiting time.

I have been kind of obsessed with mushroom pasta lately, and I think the suggestion here that you rehydrate a small portion dried mushrooms and then use the liquid as part of the sauce is very cool. I’m going to be trying that.

I want to put this on all the things.

I need to put tempering chocolate on my list of goals. Maybe this will help get me there.

Farmers are awesome.

The Piglet is coming!

Chocolate Hazelnut Rosemary Ice Cream

First there was steak. Then there was ice cream.

I never used to cook. I mean, I heated things. I cooked noodles and poured canned sauce over them. I slapped deli meat between bread. I zapped things in the microwave. I forced down salad mixes when I felt that green things were absolutely necessary. Mostly, I just ate out. Cooking was something I never knew how to do and I assumed I would never be able to do well.

And then I got a Weber charcoal grill. There were two items that changed everything about the way that I relate to food, and the first was that grill. The grill was exciting because grilling was easy. I had seen my dad grill as a kid. You bought some meat, you slapped it on there, and cooked it until it was done. Nothing to it. I could handle that. And I discovered that yes, that was correct, you could make simple, edible food that tasted just fine with little effort on a grill. But then I got curious. How did a person make one of those steaks? You know, the kind where you used your veggies and bread to sop up every last bit of meat juice on your plate, unwilling to let a bit of it go. I wanted to make that. So I started reading how people did that. Cut to three years later and I was waking up at 5 am on Thanksgiving morning and covering my dining room table in plastic wrap so I could assemble a turducken from scratch. Sometimes things escalate quickly.

The second item that changed everything came almost a year after the grill. I had spent that first summer grilling up a storm, but grilling during the winter in Chicago exceeded even my enthusiasm. I spent the winter doing other kinds of cooking, but when winter started winding down, I became excited by the prospect of grilling again. I had ideas about the kinds of things I wanted to attempt and thought maybe some new toys for my kitchen would aid me in that endeavor. While wandering the kitchen supply section of a department store, I saw an ice cream maker.

I had no idea how a person went about making ice cream. The box said it was easy. Figuring out the steak thing had been easy once I put my mind to it. Surely, I could figure out ice cream. So I bought a countertop ice cream maker, went home and started reading. I quickly found a ricotta chocolate chip ice cream recipe, which required that you add a simple syrup to a ricotta and cream mix and then stir in the chocolate at the end. I tried it. I was so excited by the whirling new machine that I forgot to add the simple syrup. But one of the reasons why cooking burrowed quickly into my heart is that I never found failures dispiriting. They induced the occasional tantrum but, in the long run, kitchen failure always made me want to try again. So the kitchen quickly became the place where I was the happiest. Because failure didn’t bother me there. Failure was a sign that whatever I was attempting was asking more of me. And I found that more often than not, I could rise to meet the challenge.

And so the ice cream making began. Every time I would grill, a new ice cream would appear on the menu. Sure, classics like Vanilla Bean made regular appearances, but there was also Butter Pecan, Cinnamon Whiskey, Lemon Ginger, and Chocolate Rosemary. If you want to learn how to make ice cream, the best advice I can give you is to buy David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop and make everything in it at least once. That is how I learned.

And what I learned is that the ice cream that I like is a custard-based ice cream that follows a core recipe. One cup milk, two cups cream, ¾ cup sugar, and five egg yolks. You set aside one cup of cream and mix the rest in a pot with a pinch of salt. You heat it up and then add whatever your base ingredient will be — herbs, seeds, nuts. After the steeping is done, you remove the flavoring agent and reheat the base. You use it to temper the yolks, add the yolks to the mix and make your custard. Once the custard is done, strain it into the bowl with the cup of cream that you set aside. Chill in the fridge, usually overnight. Then mix in the ice cream maker. There are other small variations and variables, but basically that is what you need every time. Once you learn to master the core process, you can make anything.

The recipe below is a combination of two of my favorite recipes – a hazelnut chocolate gelato from Mr. Lebovitz and a milk chocolate rosemary ice cream. Sometimes, you add two things you love together and the end result is too much. Like when I tried to put goat cheese ice cream between two chocolate chip cookies. It was overkill. But this recipe is a lovely marriage of flavors. It is a big warm blanket of an ice cream bowl. I served it was rosemary madeleines. We will get to the madeleines later.

Ingredients

1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted and finely chopped*
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream, separated
¾ cup sugar (150 g)
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod reserved
2 sprigs rosemary
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa**
5 egg yolks***
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Pre-heat oven to 350 degree and toast hazelnuts on baking sheet, stirring once or twice. As soon as nuts are out of the oven, remove skins using a clean towel. Put hazelnuts in food processor and grind to a fine chop (but not a powder).

Combine milk, 1 cup of cream, sugar and salt in saucepan. Warm, stirring constantly until sugar has melted. Then remove from heat, add hazelnuts, vanilla bean seeds and pod, and two sprigs of rosemary, cover and let steep for one hour. (While steeping, chill medium sized mixing bowl in freezer.)

Just before the hour is up, prep your egg yolks. Whisk egg yolks together until mixture is smooth. Then pour second cup of cold cream into chilled bowl and set strainer above it. Set aside.

Once hour is up, set another strainer above empty bowl and strain milk mixture, pressing all liquid from hazelnuts. Discard hazelnuts and vanilla bean pod but rinse and reserve rosemary. Return milk mixture to pan. Whisk cocoa into milk mixture until all lumps are gone. Return mixture to heat. Temper yolks with ½ cup of warm milk mixture. Add heated yolks to pan and whisk constantly until mixture doubles in volume. Remove from heat. Stir in chopped chocolate until smooth. Mixture will be thick. Pour the second cup of cream into a bowl and place a strainer over it. Strain the chocolate mixture into the cream and stir. (If you want to speed the chilling, you can stir over an ice bath.)

Place reserved sprigs of rosemary on surface of mixture. Do not submerge! You will never get them out again without a lot of mess. Put mixture in fridge until chilled. (About two hours, but I usually just do it overnight and churn in the morning.) When chilled, carefully remove the rosemary sprigs and discard. Then freeze mixture in ice cream maker. Depending on how well chilled your mix was and how cold the freezer bowl was, the mixing should take about 20 minutes in a counter top ice cream maker.

Churn to desired consistency and place in the freezer. Or eat all of it immediately. That’s another option.

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* Whenever you toast nuts, the amount of toasting time depends on a couple of factors – what vessel you are toasting them in (baking sheet versus pie dish versus cast iron skillet changes cooking time drastically) and how many you are toasting (crowding in a pan is never good but sometimes you only have one clean pan option and it is only this big so it is what it is), but my rule for toasting nuts is to set the oven timer for three or four minutes again and again, shaking the pan each time, until the nuts are where I want them to be. Also, removing the skins from hazelnuts is messy and annoying business. I am convinced that is the primary reason that they are not used as frequently as nuts like pecans. They are just messier. After they come out of the oven, as soon as you can stand to hold one in your hand, use a clean kitchen towel with some texture to it and work in handfuls to remove the skins. Scrub hard. It doesn’t matter if they break into pieces. You’re chopping them up anyways.

** I bake enough to justify the purchase of a massive bag of really good cocoa, and the Extra Brut cocoa from Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder is my personal favorite for quality at a reasonable cost. However, because of the extra dark richness of this cocoa, I usually swap in semi-sweet chocolate for the bittersweet to balance it out.

*** I am never as successful at making use of leftover egg whites as I wish were. Probably because the number one thing that people tell you to do with them is to make something with a meringue, and I’ve just never been a great lover of meringue. If I use the egg whites, it is in one of two ways. Either I will make an egg white omelet with lots of sauteed leafy greens and some lemon soaked shallots or I will make candied nuts. Smitten Kitchen (one of the best food blogs in existence) has an outstanding Sugar-and-Spice Candied Nuts recipe here that makes a regular appearance in my kitchen, but I also use the basic concept to make other nuts. Remind me to give you the recipe for the candied almonds with wasabi, cardamom and orange zest sometime.