Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sweet Overload

Aunty Belle has requested my recipe for the Mexican hot chocolate I mention as a fitting accompaniment to the biscochito recipe I posted below.

Look out, though. This is seriously sweet stuff. Pair it with the biscochito or any other sugary delight and you could enter the Sweet Overload Zone, a state of sugar induced euphoria that is not, I repeat NOT, for amateurs.

Moi's Mega (Nuevo) Mexican Hot Chocolate
Makes 4 servings. Recipe can easily be doubled.

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate – don't skimp; get the good stuff like Valrhona – grated or finely chopped
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream (Your arteries are groaning, you say? Ignore them. They'll shut up.)
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon New Mexico ground red chile powder, preferably Chimayo

In a heavy saucepan over low heat, combine chocolate, milk, cream, sugar, cinnamon, and chile powder and heat until steaming hot, stirring constantly with a wire whisk or wooden spoon. DO NOT let mixture come to a boil.

Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, beat egg and vanilla with a wire whisk until frothy. Very, very slowly, add a half cup of the chocolate/milk mixture in a thin stream to the egg/vanilla mixture, stirring the entire time with a wire whisk. Then place the chocolate/milk mixture back on the stove add the egg/vanilla mixture slowly in a thin stream, stirring with a wire whisk. The point here is to do this slowly and carefully, so you don't end up with scrambled eggs. That would be yucky.

Cook mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, until once again hot but not boiling.

Remove from heat and with a wire whisk or rotary beater, beat the mixture until frothy. You should see a definite foam form, as in the photo above. Immediately pour into mugs, making sure each is topped with foam.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Cookie Comes on Little Pig Feet

What the buffalo was to the Plains Indians and other Native Americans, I believe the pig is to modern humankind. Or, at least, it should be. For its gifts are prodigious and worthy of worship. From the pig we get not only an unbelievably tasty, moist, and healthful meat, but also ham, bacon, proscuitto, chorizo, Italian sausage, and cracklins. Not to mention the hands down best cooking fat in existence: Lard.

It's incredible stuff and you can read all about it by logging onto

Here, I want to sing its praises as the main ingredient in the biscochito, a cookie that is near and dear to my heart, not only for its flavor (a fragrant mixture of anise, cinnamon, and sherry), but also for its famous texture, which resides somewhere between a sugar cookie and shortbread. Irresistible.

Okay, so I'm probably prejudiced. After all, biscochitos ARE the New Mexico state cookie, as much a part of our holiday celebrations as tamales and midnight mass, and I've been sucking on the things since infancy. You can, of course, eat them year round, but to me their spiciness is a little too heady for July. Best saved for this time of year, served after dinner with a glass of port or a mug of Mexican hot chocolate. And you can't ask for a better cookie to pair with coffee in the mornings.

Probably the best thing about biscochitos is that they are super easy to make. The dough is pliable without being sticky, and it can take multiple handlings and rollings out without affecting the final cookie's texture. They freeze beautifully, too. In fact I always store mine in the freezer and pull out one or two – or an entire batch – as I need them. Just give them a couple minutes to warm back up and they're good to go. If you don't freeze them, make sure you store them in a super airtight bin away from any humidity. You want them to keep their crunch.

So, here you go. Moi's Family Recipe.

1 cup Snow Cap lard, at room temperature*
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons coarsely crushed anise seed (make sure seed is fresh)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sherry, preferably Harvey's Bristol Creme (you may also substitute bourbon, brandy, or red wine)
3 cups white all purpose baking flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Set aside.

Cream lard, sugar, and anise seed on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add the lightly beaten egg and continue to mix on high speed until incorporated. Alternate the quarter cup of sherry with the dry ingredients until dough begins to form. Stop mixer and scrape out contents onto a lightly floured work surface and work dough quickly into a uniform mass. The dough should be soft, but not sticky. If too sticky, work in some more flour. Pat out to about an inch thick and place on a platter, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a small bowl.

Once dough is refrigerated, roll out onto a lightly floured work surface to 1/4" thickness. Cut dough into desired shapes and place on lightly greased cookie sheet. In my experience, the dough is soft enough to remain attached to the cookie cutter, which makes the shapes easy to pop out onto the sheet. If they stick to your work surface, use a thin metal spatula to release.

Sprinkle the top of each cookie with the sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Bake in oven for 10-13 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned at the edges.

Once out of the oven, they are extremely delicate. Let them sit on the baking sheet for 10 minutes to firm up slightly. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 36 cookies. Recipe may be doubled.

* I know people who make these cookies with butter and to me the texture is NOT the same. So unless you are a vegetarian (in which case you'll want to use vegetable shortening), please, use lard. Your cookie will be better for it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Life Itself is the Proper Binge

In Moi's Pantheon of Heroes from which I draw daily (if not hourly, depending on how the day is going) inspiration, Julia Child resides most certainly at the top tier of the dais. While it was my mother who taught me the basics of cooking and baking – and to not be ashamed of deriving joy from their practice and those of the other domestic arts – it was Julia who took that satisfaction and showed me its possibilities for the sublime.

Especially when it comes to baked goods. And when it comes to baked goods, you can't get any better in your instruction than Baking With Julia (the companion book to the television series). While I am as certain as death and taxes that I will never again make puff pastry or fig-filled X Cookies (at least not sober), when it comes to almost every other recipe, this is most definitely my go-to baking book.

It also contains what Julia herself declares with her usual inimitable assurance as the best brownie recipe ever.

Thus speaks Julia:

Those who are passionate about brownies argue in defense of their favorite type, cakey or fudgey. If you're a cakey fan, go on to another recipe. These are the epitome of soft, dark, baked-just-until-barely-set brownies. Their creamy texture makes them seem wildly luxurious and very much a treat to be meted out in small servings.

Except for the small serving part, I agree wholeheartedly. I've made these brownies a bazillion times, in summer and in the dead of winter, early in the morning and late at night, and they are perfection every time.

So in case you have not just run out and bought the book (what, what are you waiting for?), I present to you the recipe in its entirety, with a couple of small tweaks that you can adopt – or not – as you wish.

SERVES 18 (uh, well, maybe)

  • 1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons New Mexico red chile powder – optional
  • 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon – optional
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° (To me, 350 is never hot enough for baking, AND I live at 7,000 feet – so I bake these at 365. You should be fine doing so as well, but check on the texture after 25 minutes to be sure.)
  2. Sift the flour and salt together and set aside (if using chile and cinnamon, sift in as well).
  3. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently and keeping a watchful eye on the pot to make certain the chocolate doesn’t scorch (Alternatively, you can melt the ingredients in the top of a double boiler over, not touching, simmering water. Or, if you're an experienced microwave chocolate melter, go for it.) Add 1 cup of the sugar to the mixture and stir for half a minute, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  4. Pour the mixture into a large bowl.
  5. Put the remaining 1 cup sugar and the eggs into a bowl and mix or whisk by hand just to combine.
  6. Little by little, pour half of the sugar and eggs into the chocolate mixture, stirring gently but constantly with a rubber spatula so that the eggs don’t set from the heat.
  7. Fit the whisk attachment to the mixer and whip the remaining sugar and eggs until they are thick, pale, and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes.
  8. Using the rubber spatula, delicately fold the whipped eggs into the chocolate mixture.
  9. When the eggs are almost completely incorporated, gently fold in the dry ingredients.
  10. Pour and scrape the batter in to an unbuttered 9-inch square pan.
  11. Bake the brownies for 25-28 minutes, during which time they will rise a little and the top will turn dark and dry. (I'm not sure if it's a high altitude thing or not, but at 28 minutes, the batter is still liquidy – I bake 35-40 minutes. Follow Julia's instructions and then up the amount of baking time if necessary).
  12. Cut into the center at about the 23-minute mark to see how the brownies are progressing: they’ll be perfect if they’re just barely set and still pretty gooey. (This is true, but again, see above.)
  13. They’re still awfully good on the other side of set, so don’t worry if you miss the moment on your first try.
  14. Cool the brownies in the pan on a rack.
A word about nuts: Never in a brownie, as far as I'm concerned, but if you insist, a cup of your favorite chopped and folded in gently after the dry ingredients will do ya.

And lookie, the texture is to die for. (Clicky photo for much larger, more mouthwatering, view.)

What I like best is the little crust that forms on the top – lovely texture contrast.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Word I Hate To Speak

But love to eat. Which is why I continue to struggle to make m-u-f-f-i-n-s. Because the ones you buy in the store? I dunno. They always taste either way overloaded with sugar and chemicals or like something you'd get if a troop of hippies spent all morning stoned to the gills on really, really good whatever it is stoners like to smoke, listening to "Suite for Judy Blue Eyes" over and over on the stereo, and then decided to bake. Dude.

Anyway. Emma, I didn't forget about you. I've just been really, really busy. And I made these back in, oh, God, May I think. Two recipes. Both from my handy dandy Williams and Sonoma Muffins cookbook. The first recipe, for carrot-nut muffins, is all earth mother crunchy. About the only thing they're good for is hiking, 'cause if you're seven miles into a trek up the side of a mountain and the last meal you had was four hours ago, you'll eat just about anything. The second, however, I think approaches near muffin perfection in terms of texture and taste. The first is made with oil. The second with butter. Proving, once again, my theory that nothing on God's great green earth despite the Mojave, beats butterfat.

See what you think.

Carrot-Nut Muffins

4 large eggs
1 cup canola or walnut oil
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
12 ounces shredded carrots
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (or any nut of choice, really)

Preheat oven to 350º F. Spray 24 standard muffin or 16 large muffin cups (will give you larger muffins) with non-stick spray.

Sift all dry ingredients, minus carrots and nuts, together in large bowl. Set aside.

In bowl of electric stand mixer, combine the eggs, oil, and sugar and beat for one minute on medium speed. Add sifted dry ingredients and beat on low speed until smooth. If you're pretty burly, do this by hand with a sturdy wooden spoon.

Then, using a large spatula, fold in the carrots and nuts until combined.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full with batter.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes before un-molding.

See, even the batter looks crunchy:

And the end result. See that weird texture? That's what you get with oil.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, separated
1-1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons coarse raw sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray 10 standard muffin cups with non-stick spray.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and salt. Set aside.

In bowl of electric stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and beat well after each addition until fully incorporated. Add the dry ingredients to the mixture in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk, then the lemon juice and vanilla. Beat just until smooth.

In another large bowl, beat the two egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gently fold into the batter until just blended.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full. Sprinkle the top of each with some raw sugar.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes before un-molding.

See? Pretttttyyyyy.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Birthday Pie

In response to Da Troll’s challenge to come up with a pie to celebrate Secretariat’s birthday on this Sunday, March 30th, I thought I would present to you one of my all-time favorite pies. Y’all most likely know this one. It’s scandalously easy, and oh-so-cheesy and I mean that figuratively, like, in a very 1970s way.

Lately, I've been on this 1970s kick. The fashion, the décor. Trans Ams. Famolares. Farrah Fawcett hair. Those little round, bright yellow radios on chains – remember those? – playing Terry Jacks' "Season in the Sun" over and over and over. AND, Secretariat was born in 1970. So there you have it. The ‘70s were simply fab.

Anyway, I was introduced to the weird deliciousness of Pistachio Pineapple Pie by one of my Aunts, my father’s youngest sister, a woman of exceptional patience and humor who each summer for several years had the dubious honor of hosting me, my brother, my father, and my bazillion cousins at her house in Massachusetts. How this woman put up with all our happy asses for two whole months, camped out as we were on her back lawn, running savage through the neighborhood, eating her out of house and home, I’ll never know. I should ask her one day. I wouldn’t be surprised if her answer was: “Percoset.” She did, after all, work for a dentist for a while.

At any rate, one of her favorite things to do with us was bake. Seriously. Five bazillion of us kids in her kitchen at one time, only two of us girls, making, among other things, this pie. And when it was finished, she’d mock-screech at us: “Now out of my hair and my kitchen, you little horrors [it always came out hah-ruhs – she may have been living in suburban New England bliss, but she was NYC born ‘n’ raised]. No pie for you until after dinner.”

And although I am posting this recipe in honor of a birth, I must also tell you one other association I have with this dessert. It was the pie we ate in silent solemnity the night my uncle came home, eyes rimmed red, his face slack, to tell us that Elvis Presley had just died.


1 16 oz. can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 four person-serving package of instant pistachio-flavored Jell-O pudding
1 16 oz. tub Cool Whip
1 graham cracker crust, preferably homemade, but whatever, for 9" round pie pan
1 cup whipped cream, whipped up until stiff and fluffy, with two tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup chopped pistachios, unsalted

In a large mixing bowl, stir together pineapple with juice and Cool Whip. Sprinkle in pudding, a little at a time, and whip well to avoid lumps. Poor into crust. Put in refrigerator and let set until firm, 2-3 hours. Top with the whipped cream and chopped pistachios.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Make Cake, Not War

Recently, the Troll, one of Moi's 3.75 male readers, posted a recipe for what looks like a really yummy apple cake as a comment in response to one of Moi's posts. I think he posted out of sheer frustration over yet another one of my guy-mystifying ruminations on fashion, which I'm sure makes the Troll's brain itch. Most likely, he wants me to get back to posting something political, just so he can poke fun at Moi's libertarian viewpoints (are Libertarians True Conservatives or Raving Lunatics Who Just Want a Second Amendment Excuse to Wave Around their New 9mm Glocks While Drinking Martinis? Discuss.)

But, really, fashion hurts Moi's brain less than navigating the murky waters of today's pool of poleetical candidates.

So as penance, I'm posting the Troll's recipe. I've made similar cakes before and I can attest that apple cake is totally yummy. But, usually, like this one, nekkid. So I posted a suggested frosting, too.

Apple Cake:

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups sifted flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
3 cups thin sliced Granny Smith apples
1-1/2 cups Wesson Oil (note from Moi: a very light virgin olive oil works, too)
2 eggs slightly beaten
2 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 cup Coconut
1/2 cup Walnuts

Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease and flour a 9x13 pan.

Mix sugar, flour, soda, salt and cinnamon. Add apples and mix until well-coated. Add oil, eggs, vanilla, coconut and walnuts. Pour into pan and bake for one hour.

Then come up with a good frosting of your own creation if desired.

To frost, I suggest:

Fluffy White Frosting:
1 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 sticks butter, softened but not melted
1 tsp. Vanilla

In a large saucepan over low heat, combine the milk, flour, and sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until a pudding-like consistency is achieved. Transfer into mixing bowl of a stand mixer and allow to cool to room temperature. When cooled, add softened butter and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Frost cake.

What would YOU top this cake with?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Pie

If you happened to have read Moi's post on New Mexico's most famous and lucrative cash crop, and wondered, "That's all very well and good, but what do you all actually do with the stuff?" here's your answer.

You grow up in New Mexico, you can bet your family has in its recipe vaults some version or another of this enchilada casserole. No, we did not invent enchiladas. Just enchilada pie. It's as authentically New Mexican as you can get, comfort food at its finest.

This recipe was bestowed upon my mother by one of my home town's most venerable cooks. My mom passed it on to me. Now I pass it along to you.

2-3 cups authentic New Mexican green chiles, skin and seeds removed (24 to 30 chiles)
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 11 ounce cans of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, uncooked, straight out of can
12 ounces of real, full fat sour cream
1-1/2 pounds cooked chicken breast chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon authentic New Mexican red chile powder
3/4 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry
18 6" corn tortillas
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese


Chop green chiles into bite-sized pieces. Place in big mixing bowl.

Add the chopped onion and garlic, soup, sour cream, chicken, spices, and sherry. Mix well.

Spray a 9x13 glass pan with non-stick cooking spray and line with six corn tortillas. They come in packages like so, the best being our locally manufactured Bueno Brand.
In fact, these fine folks, who I know well, are your best resource for all things authentically New Mexican, from spices to tortillas to frozen chile and pre-made dinners. Check em out at:

Anyway. This is how your lined pan will look:

Then, place one third of your chile/chicken mixture on top and spread evenly to the sides. Sprinkle with a third of the shredded cheddar cheese. Repeat two more times, for a total of three layers.

At this point, you can cover the casserole with heavy duty aluminum foil and freeze for up to six months, un-thawing overnight in the refrigerator before baking. If ready to bake now, simply pop into a pre-heated 375º F oven for 45-60 minutes, let sit for five minutes before serving, cut, and serve with a side of refried pinto beans, Spanish rice, and a dollop of even more sour cream.

As for liquid accompaniment, I find that the only wine that really pairs well with New Mexican cooking is, well, a New Mexican wine. Before any you oenophiles get all precious on Moi, know this: New Mexico is the oldest wine producing region in all of North America. They make wines here that will knock your socks off, so there. One of them, IMHO, is Santa Fe Vineyards's Tinto del Sol, a medium -bodied Cabernet blend with a rosy nose that brings out the best in either red or green chile. Ponderosa Valley Vineyards also makes a superlative Riesling, whose character is bold but sweet enough not to get overpowered by the chile. Otherwise, just save the strain on your brain and serve the pie with a good Mexican beer.

Monday, January 21, 2008

El Perfecto Chocolate Mousse

It's my contention that more words have been wasted debating the proper texture of chocolate mousse than that of any other dessert in the known universe. (Well, except maybe cobbler.) Which is why I nearly didn't post a chocolate mousse recipe. For some, the only proper mousse is something that bears a striking resemblance to cotton candy - light, airy, and elusive on the tongue. Still others turn their noses up in disgust at anything that doesn't resemble a texture so dense, it's like a fudge gone wrong – you can literally stand your spoon stick straight up in the middle of it, go dancing around the room in your underwear, and then come back to check and, yup, the spoon's still standing at attention where you left it.

I tend to lean towards dense myself. One, because it means you have to cook the egg yolks – an extra step, I know, but what price extra step if it means the immuno-compromised in your bunch won't fall over dead from salmonella poisoning once the dessert course is finished?

And two, dense means I can scoop the mousse out all pretty-like into melon ball sized servings and hence curtail my normal impulse to ingest an entire martini-glass full of the stuff like the little piggy that I am. Although, yeah, from the photo above, it sure does look like I'm about to ingest more than just a melon ball full, that's for sure. But I'm suffering with the hanta virus crud, and it's now three days into my terrible, terrible sickness, and I am therefore finding that there is little left to live for in this world except chocolate mousse. And Canada Dry Ginger Ale.

Now join me, won't you, in my sickness:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or chips)
1 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
Pinch salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Put the chocolate in a large sized heatproof bowl. Melt at 50 percent power in the microwave for about a minute. Stir. Keep melting in minute increments until almost melted. Stir to complete the job.

Whip the cream in a medium bowl until it holds soft peaks. Do not over whip (you'll know you've done so when it begins to look like butter, so stop just at the soft peak stage before complete anarchy ensues). Set aside.

Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and set on the stove to boil.

Put the eggs, salt, and sugar into the bowl of an electric stand mixer, grab a big ol' balloon whisk and beat until foamy and light, about 30 seconds. Set the bowl over the boiling water (the water should just touch the bottom of the bowl; if not, add or subtract as necessary), and continue to whip with the whisk until the eggs get very fluffy and hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. I know, it's hard, but you must keep whisking briskly, otherwise you'll get scrambled eggs and cuss a blue streak my way, when really, it will be your own damn fault. At any rate, think of it as a bicep workout and suck it up.

Remove the bowl from the heat, attach to stand mixer, and continue beating on high speed with the balloon whisk attachment until a thick ribbon falls from the whisk when lifted out of the bowl, anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes more. If mixture is still hot, allow to cool to room temperature. Fold in the vanilla.

Fold about a quarter of the eggs into the chocolate to lighten it, then fold in the rest of the egg mixture. Finally, fold the whipped cream into the entire mixture and fold and fold (or, because I know your arm has just about had it by now, go ahead and just stir and stir – it won't really affect the texture) until everything has been uniformly blended into a smooth, light mousse.

Pour the mousse into 4 serving dishes or wine glasses. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Damn the cholesterol and serve with even more whipped cream on top. And chocolate sprinkles. And/or biscotti. Really, the possibilities are endless.

Alternatively, leave the mixture in the bowl, let set another hour longer in the fridge, and then scoop out with one of those cute melon ball scoopers into small bowls or dishes and impress your friends with the preciousness of it all.