Posts Tagged ‘desserts’

quick and easy chocolate dessert

Mom called it Fudge Crud--but it's delicious and festive enough for any dinner party.

When I was a kid, my mother made an easy, inexpensive dessert that was officially known as Hot Fudge Sundae Cake; Mom called it Fudge Crud. It was one of those science-experiment desserts: you made a cake batter (one without eggs), spread it on the bottom of the pan, then topped it with a mixture of cocoa and brown sugar and poured hot water over the whole thing.

And, miraculously, as the cake baked, the water and cocoa thickened into a sauce and the cake rose to the top, becoming a sort of chocolate floating island in a sea of fudge sauce. It never failed to amaze me–as they say, science works even if you don’t believe in it. There was just one little problem: It wasn’t chocolate-y enough. So this winter, when chilly nights made me think fondly of warm gooey desserts, I remembered Fudge Crud.

And I decided to tinker with the amounts of cocoa until it was chocolate-y enough. When I made the most recent version for friends last week, they declared that I had achieved my goal.

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake

1 cup flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa (good cocoa – I use Valrhona)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk or water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 3/4 cups hot water

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the first five ingredients, then stir in the milk or water, the oil and the vanilla. Stir until smooth, then mix in the nuts. Spread the batter in a baking pan.

Yes. Now, about that baking pan. The original recipe claims that you can make this dessert in a 9x9x2 square pan. And you can–but you will have chocolate goo all over the bottom of your oven if you do. I use a lovely 9x10x3 Le Crueset baking dish I received as a gift a few years ago. It’s perfect. If your friends don’t know you well enough to give you lovely deep baking dishes, try a 9×11 pan.

Anyway, you spread the batter in the pan. Mix together the half-cup of cocoa and the brown sugar and sprinkle it over the batter, then slowly pour the hot water over all. Bake for 40 minutes, until the cake floats to the top and firms up.

Spoon the warm cake into dessert bowls, making sure everybody gets plenty of sauce, then top with ice cream. Yum.



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A crunchy crust, a gooey caramel layer and a ganache topping--the perfect toffee bar at last.

By Laurie A. Perry
I’ve been making toffee bars since I was nine years old–but not the same toffee bar. I’ve tried a dozen recipes by that name, and I started numbering the ones I liked enough to make twice. Toffee bar number one had coconut and brown sugar. Toffee bar number two had a brown sugar and butter crust and a topping of melted Hershey’s milk chocolate (milk chocolate–no wonder that one fell by the wayside). Number three, from an ancient Better Homes and Gardens cookie cookbook, calls for a sweetened condensed milk filling and a fudge frosting. I liked it–and Mel really liked it–but it never quite worked.

So I’ve been tinkering with the recipe, and I think the current version is pretty darn good. Try it; see what you think. I’m taking a batch to a New Year’s Day gathering. Because, you know, there just aren’t enough sweets this time of year.


2 cups flour
1 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Ganache topping
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup cream

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×11-inch baking pan with foil.*
Make the crust: stir together the dry ingredients. Melt the butter; add the vanilla to the butter, and mix both into the dry ingredients. Pat the mixture into the prepared pan; it will be soft and easy to spread out. Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned.
While the crust is baking, make the filling. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a medium saucepan, add the butter and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about five minutes, stirring to keep it from burning. The mixture will thicken. Add the vanilla.

Pour the filling over the baked crust, making sure to cover all of the crust. Bake for another 20 minutes. It will bubble and turn a lovely golden brown (toffee-colored, in fact).
Remove from the oven and let cool for about half an hour. Make the ganache: break up the bittersweet chocolate and place in a heavy-bottomed saucepan; pour in the cream, and put the pan over low heat. Melt the chocolate, stirring. When the mixture is nice and smooth and glossy, it’s ready to pour gently over the first two layers. Once again, go for coverage–you want the ganache to cover the entire surface.

Chill. Remove the confection from the pan, using the overhanging foil as a handle. Cut into bars. These are rich, so don’t make the pieces too large.

*Maida Heatter’s fool-proof method for lining a pan with aluminum foil: Turn the pan upside down. Tear off a large piece of foil and press it over the pan, so you have the basic shape. Then press the foil into the pan, using a dish towel to keep the foil from tearing.

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These cupcakes are filled with a cream cheese and chocolate chip mixture. They're perfect for picnics: they're sturdy, they pack well and they have no icing to get all over everything. The only challenge? Bringing enough for all your envious seat neighbors at the Hollywood Bowl.

We love the Hollywood Bowl. We look forward to it every summer. Not only do we hear great music under the stars, as the ads say, but we have great picnics under the stars–and the helicopters and airplanes, of course. We like to grab a table on a hillside overlooking Hollywood, with a view of the Capitol Records building, open a bottle of wine and dig into the feast we have packed.

Our first concert–finally!–is Thursday. Needless to say, we’re planning our inaugural picnic supper with some care.
There are certain essentials for the first one. Later we’ll branch out, but here are the items we must have to start:

Ripe, homegrown tomatoes
Ryan’s grilled artichokes
Black bottom cups

We’ll be writing about a number of picnic supper items, but in the certain knowledge that life is short, we’re beginning with dessert. This recipe came from Mary McGinnis years ago, and I’ve tinkered with it a bit. It comes under the category of crazy cake, meaning it’s a cake batter made without eggs.

Black Bottom Cups

16 ounces cream cheese
1 egg
2/3 cup sugar
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and fill 29 muffin cups with cupcake papers.

Beat the cream cheese until it’s soft and smooth, then beat in the egg and sugar. Stir in the chips. Set aside while you make the cake batter.

Combine the dry cake ingredients thoroughly (to distribute the baking soda throughout). Pour in the vanilla, melted butter and buttermilk. Stir until smooth.

Spoon the cake batter into the cupcake cups, filling each one about half full. Add a heaping spoonful of filling to each cup, dividing the filling among the 29 cupcakes.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the filling is barely tinted brown.


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I amplify the chocolate power of my brownies with chocolate chips.

I believe brownies were the very first cookie I ever made. I was nine. And, because of my lunatic father’s devotion to the wilds of Idaho, we were living in the Clearwater Mountains and cooking on a wood-burning stove. So you can see why I truly do not understand why anyone would make brownies from a mix. I mean, if a nine-year-old can make brownies from scratch and bake them in the oven of a wood-burning stove, anyone–absolutely anyone–can make brownies.

There are zillions of recipes for brownies. There are entire books devoted to variations, and I’ve tried a lot of them. This is my version. It’s easy enough for any nine-year-old to tackle, and the results are always delicious.

Laurie’s Brownies

2/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup good cacao (I use Callebaut)
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Heat the oven to 350 degrees (and take the time to appreciate the fact that you don’t have to chop the damned wood for it!). Grease a 9×11-inch baking pan.
Mix the cacao, vegetable oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla together. The batter should be smooth. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt by hand. Don’t use a mixer; it will add too much air to the batter. Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the batter to fill the pan.
Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. Check at 22 minutes; brownies should always be slightly underbaked. You want crumbs to stick to the knife but you don’t the batter to still be liquid.

You can let the brownies cool before you cut them into bars, or you can just start digging them out with a spoon and eating them hot. I like them with vanilla ice cream melting over them.


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I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t own a cookie jar. Neither does Laurie. Mel has a cookie jar, but Mel doesn’t bake, which tells you something, doesn’t it? I don’t bake a lot, and as the weather warms up, I bake even less. That’s when I start making one of my all-time favorite confections: Fudge Meltaways. They aren’t fudge, and they aren’t really cookies, but they do melt away.

The version I make came from a 1960s Betty Crocker cookbook and, as far as I can tell, was only in one edition; I have a later edition and the recipe’s not in it.

These are definitely not suitable for a cookie jar, unless you keep your cookie jar in the fridge, but you really won’t have to worry about storing them; there are rarely any left over.

Fudge Meltaways

1/2 cup butter
1-ounce unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg, beaten
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup nuts, chopped

1/2 cup butter
1 tbsp. milk or cream
2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

3-4 squares unsweetened chocolate

Melt 1/2 cup butter and one square of chocolate in saucepan. Blend granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, egg, graham cracker crumbs, coconut and nuts into butter-chocolate mixture. Mix well.

Melt butter and chocolate and stir in the sugar

Press the crumb mixture flat

Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil, letting some hang over the sides so you have handles. Press the crumb mixture evenly into the pan. Refrigerate until firm, at least an hour.

Beat together 1/2 cup butter, milk, powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Spread carefully over the crumb mixture. Chill.

Spread the frosting over the chilled base.

Melt three squares of chocolate and spread evenly over chilled filling. Not easy to do–I find my silicon pastry brush works well for this if I use a light touch. Chill again.

Cut into small squares before completely firm. Makes 3 to 4 dozen bars.

The yummy, no-bake confection is perfect for warm weather--though the bars will melt in your hands as well as your mouth.

This recipe has never needed a lot of tinkering because it’s pretty perfect on its own. But the original version did have a few issues. The original instructions tell you to spread the layers in a baking dish; it’s way easier to use a lined jelly roll pan. And easier to remove the finished bars too. I always make more frosting than the original recipe called for. Same goes for the chocolate to spread over the top; the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 squares but it just isn’t enough, so I double it.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? And it is. I promise you’ll get rave reviews; I always do!


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Saturday was my sister Hellen’s birthday. Her husband called to ask if I wanted to join them for sushi, and of course I said, “Well, yeah!” Off we went to our favorite sushi joint, which just happens to be midway between their house in the mountains and their son’s apartment in LA and– very conveniently– right around the corner from my house. My nephew Will and his fiancée were to join us, but they still hadn’t arrived by the time we were on our last roll. They finally made it just as the host seated someone else in their places. So they decided to order to-go and join us at my house, a mere three blocks away. I left while they waited for their order and decided on the way home to make my sis a birthday cake.

We all know you can’t make a birthday cake in that short a time, but I have a fabulous molten chocolate souffle recipe that takes about half an hour to make. Lucky for me, I had a 17-ounce bar of semisweet chocolate from Trader Joe’s but not quite enough eggs, so my sister Dee ran down to the 7-11 and grabbed a dozen eggs. In the five minutes it took her to get eggs, I had the chocolate and butter already melting in the double boiler .

She got back and I separated the eggs. I had it assembled in just a few minutes and in the oven before the rest of the group arrived. So, in case you need a quick but terrific dessert, here’s the recipe:

Molten Chocolate Cakes (4 servings)

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1 tbls Frangelico

2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
5 tbls sugar
1 tsp vanilla
large pinch of salt
1 tbls flour

1/2 cup chilled whipping cream

Generously butter 4 soufflé dishes (3/4 cup) and arrange on baking sheet. Stir chocolate and butter in heavy saucepan until smooth and stir in Frangelico. Cool 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Using electric mixer beat eggs, yolks, 4 tablespoon sugar, vanilla, salt in medium bowl until very thick ribbon falls when beater is lifted (about 6 minutes). Sift on flour and fold in. Next, fold in chocolate mixture and divide between dishes, filling completely. (This is a great recipe for dinner parties because it can be made a day ahead. Cover loosely and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before baking; failing to do so will result in flat souffles — never a good thing!)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake cakes until tops are puffed and dry and a tester inserted into the center comes out with moist batter still attached, about 15 minutes. Cool cakes 5 minutes.

Beat cream and 1 tablespoon sugar in small bowl until firm peaks form. Top cakes with whipped cream and serve warm.

I doubled the recipe, but I needn’t have; it was way too much after sushi! I own a dozen clear 3/4 cup soufflé cups, but I think I need to buy a set of even smaller ones so I can make a single recipe and not end up throwing out eight half-eaten soufflés. Oh, yeah, and I need to buy some dang birthday candles; apparently I don’t own any!


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Tough Bananas

Let me just say that Hazel hates bananas. If she were in charge of banning foods, bananas would disappear from the planet. I don’t hate bananas, but I don’t love them either. So it is just possible that our hearts were not in it when we decided to make bananas foster on New Year’s Eve.

Okay, it wasn't bananas foster--but it was pretty darn good!

It was a last-minute request from our sister Margaret; Hazel had most of the ingredients–not, needless to say, the bananas–and I grabbed my copy of Lee Bailey’s New Orleans, found a recipe for a bananas foster shortcake and figured we could work with that.

It was not a success. We ended up with about a quart of butterscotch sauce that we could not flambe– and tough bananas. I didn’t even know it was possible to make bananas tough.

Sometimes, though, salvaging a failure can result in something pretty delicious, even if it isn’t what you had in mind to start with. We served that butterscotch sauce warm over ice cream, along with decadently chocolate cookies, and we were all happy.

Those tough bananas? Hazel has a compost pile and marauding raccoons, so the bananas didn’t go to waste either.

Here’s the recipe for the butterscotch sauce. It’s great. Skip the bananas.

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup rum

Bring the cream to a simmer and stir in the brown sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the salt, vanilla and rum. You can either continue to simmer it to burn off the alcohol, or you can serve it immediately. But don’t bother trying to flambe it–it won’t happen.


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