Marlon Delno’s Chocolate Date Cake, Southwest Style

Several years ago, the Epicurious.com site was a thriving hub for foodies curated by Condé Nast, not only culling the best recipes from Gourmet and Bon Appetit, but also managing a forum for discussion and submission of personal recipes.  They even published a cookbook of member recipes a few years ago, and I’m proud to say that one of mine was requested for inclusion (Sesame Noodles Jordan).

While many of us who met in that Epicurious Forum have regrouped and perpetuated a much livelier and enjoyable forum via Facebook, one of our favorite contributors, an older gentleman from Texas, has not participated.  But still,  Marlon’s Korean Bulgogi recipe inspires one of my favorite ways of grilling pork or beef kabobs – Korean Pork Kabobs – and his Chocolate Date Cake, Southwestern Style is an easy dessert I turn to often for its moist and unique combination of dark chocolate with a bit of a kick.

I made this again last night – and the photo shows that we enjoyed a bit for dessert before posting this recipe for

M. DELNO’S CHOCOLATE DATE CAKE, SOUTHWEST STYLE

 

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup whole pitted dates, coarsely chopped (Bob’s Red Mill chopped date pieces work perfectly for this)
  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1½ cups flour (I use BRM whole Wheat Pastry Flour, but any AP flour will work)
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground red chili (such as New Mexican), or ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 ounces coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate or same amount dark chocolate chips
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350º.

Generously butter bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan.

In a medium saucepan bring dates and 1 cup water to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add butter and sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted. Stir in baking soda until dissolved. Pour into a medium bowl and blend in egg and vanilla.

In separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, salt, ground red chili or cayenne, and cinnamon. Stir into date mixture. Then stir in ½ cup chocolate bits and chopped nuts. Pour into prepared springform pan and sprinkle remaining ½ cup chocolate bits over top. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a tester comes out dry.  Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, then remove sides and bottom of pan. Can be served warm or cooled completely.  Excellent on its own, but also especially nice with a scoop of coffee ice cream.

 

 

Harvest Fruit Puff Pastry Strudel

Over twenty years ago I fell in love with a recipe in Gourmet for a Harvest Tart – a combination of fresh and dried fruits, nuts, butter, sweetener and liqueur – baked in a sweet pastry crust and topped with a lattice crust.  It was a sophisticated and popular dessert at our Thanksgiving table.  The thick, slightly chunky fruit & nut filling was remarkably similar to the filling my mother used for her strudel – a taste memory I was thrilled to replicate.

Flash forward several years later to a few days after our Passover Seder, when I had an abundance of leftover “charoses”  Charoses (also spelled haroseth) is often just a forgettable mixture of chopped apples, walnuts and sweet wine, but the version I make is from an outstanding recipe in the NYT Passover Cookbook, incorporating a palette of ingredients very much like the filling for the above-referenced tart.  Rather than toss it or use it as a semi-chutney side dish, I experimented with turning it into a strudel like my mother’s, but baked in store-bought Pepperidge Farm puff pastry.  It worked!  And it tasted so much like my mother’s wonderfully complex fruit strudel that I did shed some tears of joy.

Now skip ahead to 2017, when all my instincts tell me that the Harvest Tart filling, when baked in Trader Joe’s wildly superior all-butter puff pastry, will yield a strudel worthy of center stage on your dinner-party dessert menu – especially for Thanksgiving.

Being under no time constraints to prepare this, I made the fruit filling yesterday and have let it chill in fridge before assembling and baking today.  This could actually be done a few days in advance of assembly and baking.  So let’s review the filling, because all that’s left after that is a package of TJ’s puff pastry thawed for 2 hours, rolled out to be filled and brushed with an egg wash, and baked:

HARVEST FRUIT PUFF PASTRY STRUDEL

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FILLING:

1 tart, crisp apple such as Empire or Granny Smith and 1 firm-ripe pear, such as Bartlett or Anjou, both peeled & coarsely chopped

8  ounces pitted prunes

6 ounces dried Calmyrna figs, stem tips removed

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dried cherries or apricots

1-2 tsp grated orange rind

1/4 cup sugar

4 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup Grand Marnier

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PASTRY:

1 package Trader Joe’s all-butter Puff Pastry (2 sheets weighing 18.3 ounces) defrosted for 2 hours and each rolled on a floured board to a 12 x 10″ rectangle

(NOTE: You could use Pepperidge Farm puff pastry if TJ’s is not available, but it’s made with shortening instead of butter.  The TJ’s is all-butter, from France, just like Dufour, but at $3.99/box it’s about 1/3 the price of a 14-ounce box of Dufour)

EGG WASH:

1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water

PREPARATION:

Combine all fresh and dried fruits and orange rind in a large saucepan with enough water to cover and simmer, stirring frequently, until softened – about 10 minutes.  Drain in a sieve or colander, and return to the pot with the butter, sugar and nuts, and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Coarsely chop the mixture in two batches in food processor with a few quick pulses, and remove to a covered container for storage in refrigerator.
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When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.   Gently roll out each sheet of puff pastry to about 10 x 12″  – they are almost that size to begin with – and spread 1/2 of the fruit filling on each, starting about 1″ from the bottom of one end, to cover about 2/3 of the sheet, leaving a 1/2″ margin on left and right edge.  Fold the bottom edge up over the filling and fold the other two edges in as well.   Then roll each into a log, making sure ends are tucked in.  Carefully move them to the parchment-lined baking sheet, lightly brush with egg wash, and make 5 or 6 shallow diagonal knife slashes across the top.  Bake until puffed and golden, about 35 minutes.  With a long spatula, carefully move to a rack to cool completely.  Cut on the diagonal into sections about 1 – 1-1/2 inches wide for serving.  Store in air-tight container.

NOTE:  If you seem to have more fruit filling than needed, reserve some as a delightful spread for toast or English muffins.

 

 

 

Big Banana Nut Muffins

Today’s the day I finally decided to use that Ziploc baggy of three mashed ripe bananas that have been waiting patiently in the freezer next to my growing bag of Bell & Evans chicken livers.  A short tangent that has nothing to do with this recipe, if you’ll indulge me…

The livers I save until there’s enough – at least 10 ounces – to make a chopped liver paté.  Sadly, today’s whole chicken did not have the usual bag of gizzards which I fully expected to add to my collection.  There was a time when I’d be upset that they were there, since I had no need for them and resented paying for chicken parts that just went down the disposal.  But now that I’ve wised up about saving the livers, I called B&E to inquire.  Had a lovely chat with a woman in customer service who explained that at this time of year, with so many people needing chicken livers for something or other, they don’t always stuff them back into the birds, but package them for sale in tubs.  We shared a chuckle about this, and now I feel a bit better about getting my whole chicken’s worth of dinner for tonight.

Back to the bananas.  Several years ago I posted my banana bread recipe on the Epicurious website – Roni’s Banana Bread – and decided to modify that for some mega muffins.  The banana bread itself is huge, so I cut back volume by about 1/2 to satisfy the needs of 6 giant muffin tins.  High hopes here for…

 BIG BANANA NUT MUFFINS

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INGREDIENTS (what I used plus suggestions for substitutions):

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (or regular whole wheat flour)

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Rolled Oats, processed in blender to a flour texture (or any rolled oats, but not quick-cooking)

1-1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Shredded Unsweetened Coconut (optional)

3 large ripe bananas mashed

2 large eggs lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp sour cream (or plain yogurt)

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted briefly in microwave just to a liquid state (or use vegetable oil, walnut oil, or melted butter)

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

(or use 3/4 cup light brown sugar in lieu of two different sugars – I would have, but I was out of stock)

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350º and line muffin tins with parchment paper cups, or grease them.

In a medium bowl combine ingredients 1 though 8.  In another bowl whisk together remaining ingredients.  Combine wet and dry ingredients and fill muffin cups  – they’ll take about 2/3 cup of batter each.

Bake about 30 minutes, until toothpick or bamboo skewer comes out clean.  Cool on rack until your able to handle them and ease them out of the muffin tin to cool completely on the rack.  (If using paper liners, this can be done immediately).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Low-Fat Jumbo Maple-Walnut Muffins

Combing through my 4″ thick loose-leaf  binder of recipe favorites, I happened on these muffins I last made before the new millenium.  But even so, their chewy texture and rich maple flavor still resonated, and they became the perfect excuse to whip out my oversized muffin tin and the oversized parchment liners I found on sale last week.

I do have normal-sized muffin tins, but have used them recently simply for the individual portions of newish Jewish gefilte fish for Passover.  (Don’t cringe.  Those little babies are made with a combination of fresh salmon and cod and smoked trout, and they deserve a better name, like quenelles.)  When I bake muffins, I prefer to make them bodaciously big, and split one with my husband, as we do with the cobblestone cakes from Panera, or my knock-offs thereof.

These muffins are low fat, with only 1/4 cup vegetable oil… the rest of the moistness coming from unsweetened applesauce and chopped prunes (ok, dried plums if you must).

Of course they can be made to normal scale with adjusted baking temp and time – probably 25º cooler and 5 minutes shorter.  But go big if you can and share one with your sweetie.  As I write this I just realized I left out the ground cinnamon – not as disastrous as leaving out either of the leavening agents or the salt, but damn…I wonder how much I’ll miss that flavor note.

Jumbo Low-Fat Maple Walnut Muffins with Prunes

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill rolled oats

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup pitted prunes coarsely chopped

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup buttermilk (Bob’s Red Milk buttermilk powder – use 2 tbsp and then add water to make 1 cup

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B, now known as Dark Robust)

1/2 cup light brown sugar (or 1/4 cup each dark brown and white sugar)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract, or 1 tsp each vanilla and maple extract

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 375º.  Line 6 oversized muffin tins with parchment paper liners.  In large bowl combine first 8 ingredients.  Whisk remaining ingredients together in 4-cup Pyrex cup or medium mixing bowl.  Stir wet ingredients into dry until just combined.  Divide batter equally among muffin cups, all the way to the top.  I use a 1.3 cup measuring cup filled to overflowing and fill each muffin cup twice…keeps spills to a minimum.

Bake until tops are golden brown and tester comes out clean, about 33 minutes.  Ease the muffins out of their tins with a table knife – just enough to nudge them, as nothing is going to stick to the pan.  Let cool on a rack.

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