I often escape from my “outside life” into my “inside life” both methaphorically and physically. These days more so than ever. My outside life is partially on hold as I am sure yours is. My inside life is rich and full and can really be whatever I make it to be.There are various “inside rooms” that I go to. There is the “reading room” which is often my bed or sofa. I have my “South office room” that is not actually in my real office, which is upstairs or North, but is wherever I land downstairs with my laptop. There is “la petite cafe” which is our deck for enjoying drinks and meals al fresco, rather than sitting at our kitchen counter.
Some days the room previously known as the kitchen might be the “the room of earthly delights”. Those are the days when I make craveable delicious desserts such as this cake.
Densely chocolate and easy to make this is a cake to soothe both your “outside and inside life”. It is a cake that will make staying inside more tolerable and nice. Has the way you use the rooms in your home changed recently? Do you think of your home differently and see new uses for old spaces? Do you, like I do, give them names to specify their use? What are you baking in your “room of earthly delights”?
Do something sweet for yourself….then share it.
This recipe is from one of my favorite cooking books “Modern Baking – cakes, cookies and everything in between” by Donna Hay, published by Fourth Estate and can be purchased online or at many bookstores. My written recipe is directly from the book with a few minor changes.
Glazed Dark Chocolate Cake
Ingredients for cake:
- 250 grams unsalted butter, chopped
- 200 grams 70% dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 1/3 cups milk (330g)
- 1 cup caster/superfine sugar (220g)
- 1 cup light brown sugar (175g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs, room temp
- 1 3/4 cups self-rising flour, sifted (260g)
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted (35g)
- 200 grams 70% dark chocolate, chopped
- 100 grams unsalted butter, chopped
- 1/4 cup corn syrup (90g)
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a tube pan or Bundt pan well.
- Place the butter and chopped chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth.
- Whisk together in a large bowl the milk, both sugars and the vanilla. Add the melted chocolate-butter mixture and whisk to combine. Add the eggs and whisk until well blended.
- Add the flour and cocoa and whisk until combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour or until the caked is baked inside when tested with a skewer. Invert the pan onto a wire rack and let stand for 15 minutes before removing the pan. Let cake cool completely.
- For the glaze place the chocolate, butter and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth. Add the oil and stir to mix.
- Place the cooled cake on a wire rack over a tray and spoon on the glaze. Allow glaze to set before moving the cake to a serving plate. (I had glaze left over which I stored in the refrigerator in a glass jar and used a a topping for scoops of ice cream. Delicious.)
Recipe from: “Modern Baking – cakes, cookies and everything in between” by Donna Hay published in 2018 by Fourth Estate
I do believe certain foods are curative, not to mention comforting. Chicken soups are both of these things. Chicken soup is my go-to, my default, for comfort. Lordy Mercy don’t we all need all the comfort we can create right now? I know I do. Healthy, hearty, full of vegetables and broth, it is so very easy-as-this.
I started with half a store-bought broasted chicken tossed into a pot along with some carrots and celery, dried thyme leaves, salt, black pepper and water. After cooking down for a while, I removed the chicken pieces and pulled off any chunks of meat left on the bones and added back to the pot.
Half a head of cabbage chopped up and seared with a good splash of olive oil and a generous sprinkling one of my favorite spice mixes, Tajin. Do you know this mix? It is a Mexican seasoning made with chile peppers, salt and dehydrated lime juice. It is often sprinkled on slices of fruit such as mango, melon and pineapple in Mexico. Tajin makes a great margarita or bloody mary rimmer and a fabulous rub for slabs of meat or fish. It can be found in most supermarkets and international markets everywhere in the United States. Once again another reason to say Viva Mexico!
Tajin seasoned cabbage seared in my favorite Lodge Cast Iron skillet just until slightly softened then added to the pot of chicken soup. It is just so very easy-as-this.
Be safe, eat as well as you can, take a walk, wear a mask and talk to friends.
Chicken Soup with Tajin Seared Cabbage
- half of a store-bought broasted chicken, in pieces
- 2 quarts of water
- 3 carrots, cut into pieces
- 3 stalks of celery, cut into pieces
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 head of cabbage, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Tajin seasoning
- Add the chicken pieces to 2 quarts of water in a large pot. Toss in carrots and celery, thyme leaves, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes.
- Remove chicken pieces from the broth and let cool slightly. Pull all the meat from the bones, discarding skin and bones as you work. Add meat back to the pot.
- In a heavy skillet, heat olive oil over medium high until it “shimmers”. Add the cabbage to the skillet and toss gently with a spoon to coat with oil. Sprinkle the Tajin seasoning over the cabbage and continue to toss as cabbage cooks for about 5-7 minutes and is slightly softened.
- Add cabbage to the pot with the chicken. Bring to a low boil. Turn to simmer and cook for about 15 more minutes. Serve hot with crusty bread and additional Tajin to sprinkle onto bowls as desired.
Warm, cozy blanket-comfort food to me is toasted bread with a smear of butter melted down into the nooks and crannies with a spoonful of homemade marmalade.
A large bowl of citrus, Blood Oranges, Tangelos and Red Grapefruit, about to go south quickly, was sitting on my kitchen counter this past week. Most was left over from my last photo shoot which now seems ages ago. During “normal life” I cannot bear wasting food, so the peeling and slicing began. I find the making of marmalade as comforting as the eating of it.
Beautiful day, warm and breezy, windows open….Tulip and Honeysuckle blooms catching the breeze by the kitchen door. A good day for marmalade.
After rescuing all the good rind and flesh from each orange and grapefruit, I squeezed all of the leftover pieces for the juice adding it to the bowl.
I learned a few years ago that it is not necessary to be a totally crazy person when peeling the rind from the citrus to make sure none of the pith is left. My marmalade is still very tasty and not bitter with a little pith still attached. The slow simmer in the sugar-liquid mixture takes care of it.
Hot, thick, wonderful marmalade ready to be jarred and eaten.
What are you making to comfort yourself while being sequestered at home? I bet something cozy and delicious. Dishes that make you feel wrapped in a soft blanket? I hope so. Stay home, stay safe. This too will pass.
Comforting and Easy Three-Citrus Kitchen Marmalade
- 2 1/2 to 3 lbs of citrus rind thinly sliced, and flesh, seeded (Grapefruit, Blood Oranges, Tangelos are what I had on hand, but any combination works)
- any leftover juice from citrus
- 2.5 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup St. Germain Liqueur
- 1 1/2 cups natural apple juice
- Add all of the ingredients to a non-reactive cooking pan…stainless steel or enamel works great. Stir ingredients well to blend.
- Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring often, and cook for 10 minutes. Turn heat to low and simmer for an hour, stirring every now and then.
- The citrus rind should begin to look transparent after 45 minutes. Mixture will thicken as it cooks so keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t scorch or burn. You can add a splash more juice or water if need be.
- Wash 4 small half-pint canning jars and rims in hot soapy water and rinse well. Drain dry on a clean dish towel. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
- Fill clean, dry jars with hot marmalade mixture leaving 1/2 inch unfilled at the top of each. Wipe drips from jar edges. Add rims, and screw lids on firmly, but not too tight yet.
- Place filled jars on a baking tray and put in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes. Remove jars and let cool on a wire rack. Lids will “pop or ping” to seal as they cool down. Lids should be “concave”. When jars are totally cool, tighten screw lids. If any jars fail to seal, then store in the refrigerator.
Timely and Easy-As-This dessert, or snack, using salted or unsalted Matzo Crackers, good dark bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate and whatever else you might have in your “quarantine” pantry to add some bling to finish them off.
Rummaging through my pantry I found pistachios, pepitas, candied ginger, dried edible rose petals, some coffee-sea salt, edible glitter, and chunky sanding sugar. There was was an orange crying out to be zested on my counter. It can be baffling what I find whenever I begin digging into my little closet pantry. It is not palatial in any sense..smaller than a wee half bath…but with a lot of constant organization it resembles a “clown car” when I start rummaging around. Most of these ingredients were little bits left in packages that I can’t toss and seem to always find a use for.
Chocolate melted and smeared….
….studded with ingredients while still melted.
After a little while chocolate will be set and matzos are ready to be broken into smaller pieces for sharing or gifting. A great combination of sweet and salty and crunch and bling! It’s so easy-as-this.
Be safe, be sweet and be kind.
Happy Passover. Happy Easter from Food on Fifth.
Dark Chocolate Smeared Matzos with Bling
- 6 whole matzo crackers, salted or unsalted ( I used unsalted as I added lots of salts to embellish)
- 8 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (you can combine the two)
- 1/3 cup chopped pistachios
- 1/3 cup pepitas
- 1 orange zested (I used a veg peeler and then chopped the peel rather than a zester to keep the peel dry.)
- 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
- 1/4 cup dried edible flowers (Rose petals are pretty, but any edible dried flower you like will work.)
- Various sea salts…I used a coffee-sea salt and a finely ground red-pepper-salt, but there are so many to choose from..whatever you might have..kosher salt.
- 1 extra matzo for breaking up onto small pieces and adding as “bling”
Note: This is really just more of an idea than a “recipe”…use your imagination and your own collection of kitchen goodies to come up with any combos you or your family will enjoy. There are endless possibilities for sure.
- Spread 6 matzo crackers out on a flat work surface.
- Gather all your “bling” ingredients together in little bowls.
- Melt the chocolate over low heat until totally melted and smooth.
- Working with one cracker at a time, spread with some of the chocolate from edge to edge all around and while chocolate is melted sprinkle with ingredients. Repeat until all crackers are smeared and embellished.
- Allow the chocolate to harden. Then break crackers up into pieces to eat or gift in little bags or boxes. Store in airtight container. Edible Bling for dessert or a snack with hot tea or a cup of coffee. Enjoy.
Teresa Blackburn. http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com
The past few weeks have been very surreal-real. There was a tornado in my neighborhood. The Coronavirus is in every nook and corner of our beautiful world. Self quarantine is the new normal. If you are a food stylist or a photographer, a prop stylist….anything in the production of images for magazines, television commercials or social media, not to mention cookbooks, things have come to a screeching halt. For the first time in my adult life I have a lot of something I put a high value on…. time. Maybe weeks of time…or months of time. There is no “knowing” or “absolutes”. The circumstance of all this time is horrifying…but, there you have it…lots of time.
I have saved quite a few recipes in a notebook to “make someday when I have the time”. The time is here and now, today. Variations on this bread recipe has been around for a while and can be found online from many sites such as The New York Times, Sweet Paul Magazine or Bake From Scratch. I have made bread often over the years, but in no way am I a real bread baker. This recipe is so doable I made 5 loaves in 2 days with very little “active” time needed. I did a bit of tweaking to make this easy bread even easier. It’s delicious with a wonderful crust and nice texture inside.
All these loaves were baked in enamel cast-iron Dutch ovens using the same recipe.
Each loaf wonderfully different in all ways.
The loaf below I added lots of dried dill which made it the perfect sandwich bread.
Some loaves I dusted with cornmeal for added crispiness. All these loaves used the same basic 5 ingredient recipe with some variations. It was truly as easy as this.
Warm slice with a nice smear of soft butter and some marmalade.
Sweet friends please stay smart, healthy and kind. Keep in touch. Peace and Love.
I would love to hear from you about how you are spending time in these times.
Timeless Dutch Oven Bread
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or a mix of all purpose and whole wheat) + extra flour for working with dough and dusting
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 1/4 cups slightly warm water
- 1/4 cup plain yellow cornmeal, divided
- Whisk together in a large bowl the flour, yeast and kosher salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add in water stirring with your hand(s) to mix together. Dough will be somewhat wet and that is fine.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 8 hrs, or up to 24 hours, to rise at room temperature.
- Scrape dough out onto a floured work surface and pat out into a round shape. Fold four edges in toward the center and flip dough over onto a sheet of parchment paper dusted with a combination of flour and cornmeal so that the smooth side is up. Sprinkle with additional flour and cornmeal, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 hours at room temperature. I usually just do this on my kitchen counter top. The parchment paper makes it easy to place dough into the hot Dutch oven. I just lift with two opposite corners of the parchment and carefully drop into the hot pan before adding lid and putting into the oven.
- Place a 4 to 6 quart enamel cast-iron, or regular black cast-iron, Dutch oven in a cold oven. Turn the temperature to 450 degrees. Do this about 1 hour and 45 minutes into the 2 hour rising time.
- Quickly, using hot pads, remove Dutch oven from the oven and sit it on top of stove. Lift dough using edges of parchment and drop gently into the preheated pan. Cut a slash in the top of the dough from one side to the other. This allows the dough to rise and expand well. Cover pan with lid and put back into the oven.
- Bake for 30 minutes with lid on. Remove lid and bake another 15 or 20 minutes. I like our bread with some dark charring so sometime I leave it in in increment of 5 additional minutes until it reaches the proper charing.
- Lift cooked bread from hot pan with corners of parchment paper and place on a cooling rack. Cool bread totally before slicing if you can resist!
Notes: You can add other ingredients to the dry flour mix without changing the proportions of flour, salt, yeast or water, but add before water to dry mixture.
Add 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons dill weed to the dry mix for a delicious sandwich bread.
Dried fruit or nuts can be added as well to the dry mixture right before adding the water.
Rosemary, black pepper, parmesan, etc…can also be mixed in for variations.
My variation on this bread is a combination of many of the recipes available on line.
Teresa Blackburn. www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com
This recipe is in remembrance of Seamus Heaney whose poem, “Remembered Columns”, came to mind last week soon after the tornado created turmoil and destruction in Nashville.
These are times to test us, a time of tornadoes both real and metaphorical.
These are times of social uncertainty, times when we need each other the most while being encouraged to practice “social distancing”.
These are strange and interesting times.
It might just be the time to make all those recipes you have been saving for “later” which is what I have been doing. I have had this recipe for Irish Tea Brack for a few years and finally made it this week. It’s a traditional Irish bread chock-full of dried fruit that is soaked in cold tea and is just fabulous toasted and smeared with butter and/or some soft Camembert.
Thick slabs of “brack” smeared with Kerrygold Butter and soften Camembert was a very good lunch today. Comforting and homey for a quiet St. Patrick’s Day celebration reading Seamus Heaney whose poetry can touch the soul.
Another post from a few years ago on a tornadic night in Nashville “Stormy Turnips and Twisty Tornadoes”
Be kind, be patient. Be safe.
Irish Tea Brack for Seamus Heaney
- 2 1/2 cups dried fruit, a mix of whatever you like such as cranberries, raisins, chopped apricots, gooseberries, currants, etc…
- 1 1/3 cup cold tea (I used Earl Grey and Green Tea mixed)
- 1/2 cup superfine sugar (just whirl regular in a food processor)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice
- To serve: softened Kerrygold butter and Camembert cheese
- Soak the dried fruit in the tea overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a regular size loaf pan.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder and pie spice together in a mixing bowl.
- Add the dried fruit-tea mixture, the egg and sugar to the flour mix. Blend well and scrape into the prepared loaf pan.
- Bake for about 1 hour or until a dark golden brown on top. Test bread with a toothpick or skewer to make sure it is cooked throughout. Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Turn out loaf on the rack to continue to cool.
- Delicious sliced and toasted with butter. A smear of Camembert makes it all the better.
This recipe is from the cookbook “homemade” by Clodagh McKenna, published 2011 by Kyle Books.
Here….have a bite of this just out-of-the-oven warm pear clafoutis…with a cup of tea or coffee or maybe a small glass of champagne? It’s very simple and sophisticated at the same time. For dessert or breakfast, or maybe just for lunch? Clafoutis is a baked French dessert with a flan-like custard and is traditionally made with cherries, but peaches, pears, apples and most berries are tasty as well. You only live once so make all your bites special and delicious.
The past few weeks…really the past few months….or maybe even years I have approached my little food blog at times with doubt and uneasiness. Not because I have lost my love of cooking, nor my love of taking photographs of my results, but because so much of the friggin’ world has been turned on it’s head by malevolent politicians…the U.S. President in particular. The vile nature of the daily bombardment of not-well-chosen words by him has left me feeling helpless.Chattering away about food and recipes sometimes seems shallow and useless. Daily I have to remind myself to look at the good, the positive, the thoughtful and kind nature of life around me. So, this is what I am doing. It’s not so hard, but it does takes some mindfulness and intent. Cooking and blogging and reaching out via my blog is one of my mental “safety-nets”. We all need one….what’s yours? I would love to hear from you about this while your clafoutis is in the oven.
There are few recipes easier than this one. Ingredients, except for the fruit, get mixed together in the blender. Fruit gets sliced. Everything goes into a skillet or baking dish. Then baked. It is totally as easy-as-that.
Don’t forget what is important and beautiful in this crazy old world and do what you can to make it sane and delicious.
Oh Comfort Me, Winter Pear Clafoutis
- 2 ripe, but firm pears, cored and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoon softened butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2/3 cup granulated or raw sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- powdered sugar for garnishing
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Smear softened butter over the bottom and up sides of a 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet or baking dish.
- Add milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, salt and flour to a blender and blend until smooth and frothy.
- Pour the batter into the prepared skillet. Gently top with pear slices. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the clafoutis is puffed and golden brown on top and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Serve warm with a dusting of powdered sugar if you like. Great with a cup of tea or coffee or a glass of bubbly.
Note: This clafoutis is also great cold the next day.