Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Chocolate That Binds Us!

Yesterday we celebrated J Sarah's (my best friend's) thirtieth birthday! Since her home was built in 1928, she hosted a cocktail party a la 1920's style! The menu included deviled eggs, canapes, Caesar salad, and lots of classic cocktails prepared by her husband. I volunteered to make her birthday cake. One of my favorite memories with J. Sarah is our weekend at the Hershey Hotel and Spa, and it was fitting to make her a Hershey chocolate cake since Hershey's dates back to the 1880's! The cake was delicious - perfectly moist and a crowd pleaser. The title of the recipe summed it up! I used the bundt cake variation and filled the middle with Hershey chocolate kisses!

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Directions:1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

VARIATIONS:ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.
THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.
BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.
CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Macaroni and Cheese 101

The photo of this mac and cheese, reheated from last night, does not do the dish any justice. Last night it came out of the oven in a baking dish bubbling around a golden crust. I made dinner for the two of us and needed a quick and easy recipe after a long day at work, and it really seemed like the last time I could make this dish for the season since its going to hit 90 degrees here in New York this weekend!

This recipe is courtesy of Ms. Martha Stewart, who has never failed me when it comes to recipes; all that I make of hers turns out perfectly. The recipe is lovingly referred to by her fans as Macaroni and Cheese 101. It is, indeed, the perfect introductory recipe for a favorite food.

I am so glad he enjoyed it, and I think next time I am going to make it a bit spicier for both our tastes and add more cayenne pepper along with some jalapenos. The perfect pairing for this dish was not wine - he made rum and cokes with Bacardi black cherry rum!

Martha Stewart's Classic Macaroni and Cheese
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
6 good white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces (I used Pepperidge Farm)
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste (I will add more next time - its a nice kick)
4 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese, (about 18 ounces)
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese, (about 8 ounces) or 1 1/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 5 ounces) (I used the Pecorino Romano)
1 pound elbow macaroni
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into bowl with bread, and toss. Set breadcrumbs aside.
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking, 1 minute.
While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup Pecorino Romano; set cheese sauce aside.
Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer's directions, until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce
Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, and breadcrumbs over top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes; serve hot.

Monday, June 2, 2008


My nephew eating his favorite food - "pitzee" as he calls it! Isnt he delicious?!?