Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I love Molly O'Neill and chocolate

Pictorial proof of why I don't need any more cookbooks

I love Molly O'Neill.  I've loved her since I first started reading her  food columns in the Sunday New York Times years ago.  However much I loved her, though, I think my husband felt even more so.  He'd grab the Times Magazine before reading any other section so he could pronounce "Well, here's what Molly's got to say today," and then enlighten me about her topic of the week.  Her "New York Cookbook" is a treasure, and I think it set the tone for her new book "One Big Table," which also revels in the pleasures of the cooks and their recipes. 

I recall being Very Impressed that our downstairs neighbor's meatballs were highlighted in the "New York" book.  That book's introduction is what really seduced me into my Molly passion.  She tells about her first visit to a NYC deli, where she assertively ordered a "bailey."   The waiter forbore from typical NYC insolence at the hilarious misprouncing and when he delivered it he said "BI-A-LY...No butter, schmear--that would be the cream cheese--Miss, on the side."  That reminded me of when I took my childhood chum Martha Dowling to the Jewish club my parents belonged  to in Des Moines.  Laughter rippled across the dining room when the waiter announced that my friend had ordered "kerplash" soup.  

When The Mount announced that Molly would be speaking at its second "Food For Thought" program for October 23, I reserved my spot immediately.  She appeared along with Amanda Hesser from the NYT and, and the legendary editor Judith Jones.  Given the lineup, I was surprised that The Stables wasn't filled to overflowing but perhaps it was nothing more than announcing the program rather late.

Both Molly and Amanda have brand new cookbooks out.  Were I the type to want cookbooks as holiday gifts, I'd definitely put Molly O'Neills's "One Big Table" and Amanda Hesser's "Essential New York Times Cookbook" at the top of my list.  But I've already got them so I'll need to find others for my wish list.

Molly's book new is subtitled "A Portrait of American Cooking," and highlights local cooks all over the country.  She traveled extensively for almost a decade, visiting pot luck suppers, community dinners, local food festivals, family meals, and so on and so forth for almost a decade.  Read about a Maine fisherman and what he makes for dinner, then turn the page and there's another story, this one about a chef from Indoesia with her recipe, and so on and so forth. There's always at least one photo accompanying the engaging little tales told about the cook, so it's like meeting a whole bunch of new people who share your love of cooking and eating.  

I need to brag a bit.  "One Big Table" literally came off the printing press the night before The Mount's program, so the four copies of it on the check-in table were the very first four for sale.  I was the first one to buy it, and when Molly autographed it, she wrote "To Laury--who has just purchased this, the very first copy of this very large book.  Best, Molly O'Neill."  Oh, you can't imagine the joy!  Someone mentioned I could sell it on Ebay for a fortune, but I just wanted to go home and start reading.  Which I did.

I'm working my way through it slowly, trying to prolong the pleasure of her writing and point of view.  So this post won't feature any of those recipes because I simply haven't had the time to experiment yet.  Instead I'm offering my two favorite chocolate desserts.  Neither is complicated and both are as delicious as anything chocolate you can imagine.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

My daughter Debbie is a splendid baker.  Her most famous creation is chocolate mint cookies, but she steadfastly refuses to share the recipe, even with me, her beloved mother.  As a sop to those lusting for that chocolate mint cookie recipe, here’s one that she willing shares.  And I’m grateful because these are a real show-stopper...and easy, too. 

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 T unsalted butter, cut into little pieces
2 c semisweet choc chips
1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch –process)
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 c sugar
3 large eggs
11/2 t vanilla

Melt unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup choc chips in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally.  Cool.

Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

Beat together sugar, eggs and vanilla with electric mixer until pale and frothy, about 2 minutes.

Mix in melted chocolate mixture and then flour mixture at low speed.  Combine well.  Stir in remaining 1 cup choc chips.

Chill, covered, until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Roll (or scoop) dough and arrange 2” apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake in center of oven until puffed in the center and set, about 10 minutes.  Cookies should still be soft in the center.

Chocolate Bundt Cake is my new favorite go-to site for recipes on the internet.  One day while browsing through the site, I spied a recipe with the hot-button the words“chocolate” and “bundt.” The next day, in anticipation of my New York family’s Labor Day visit, I made it.  Naomi, my daughter-in-law, and Tali, my granddaughter, both highly discriminating chocolate lovers, pronounced this “most delish.”  Which it is.  Really.

 2 c sugar

1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 t salt
1 t baking powder
2 t baking soda
1 c sour milk
1 c freshly brewed strong black coffee
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a bundt pan and dust the inside with cocoa powder, set aside.
Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl. Set aside.
In a mixer on low add the milk, coffee, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla one at a time. mix until everything is incorporated.

Then, with the mixer still on low speed, slowly add in the dry ingredients. Once all of the flour mixture is added, mix the batter for a full four minutes on medium speed.

Then, pour the batter into the bundt pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Allow to cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

The original recipe calls for dusting the cake with powdered sugar.  Instead, I used a simple buttermilk and powdered sugar icing.  That recipe is:
1 T plus 1 t well-shaken buttermilk
¾ c confectioners sugar
Whisk together and drizzle over cake.

Naomi, who knows an excellent chocolate cake when she eats it, decided she preferred a mocha drizzle.  Here's what she likes to put on top:

Mocha Drizzle

1/4 cup boiling-hot water
5 teaspoons instant-espresso powder or instant-coffee granules
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Stir together boiling-hot water and espresso powder in a medium bowl until powder is dissolved, then stir in confectioners sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt until smooth.

 Bon appetit!

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