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Mucho Gusto

Haitian Hot Chocolate

The holidays are here; the year is coming to a close, and for many of us this season is a time for reflection and resolution. I have put a lot of time and thought into my resolutions this year and, after looking in retrospect at my immense two decades of wisdom, I’ve decided to denounce the winter season. You may wonder, “how could he say something so controversial yet brave?” or exclaim, “but, Christmas is my favorite holiday!” By the time you finish reading this, though, you too may reconsider your relationship with Jack Frost. 

The winter season has been romanticized incessantly by popular culture. Between cheesy Hallmark movies, holiday specials of your favorite shows, family ski trips, the Winter Olympics and so much more, we have been spoon fed pro snow propaganda for centuries. 

The first and most common pro winter argument you may hear is the beauty of the winter landscape. While I can’t argue with the breathtaking view of a fresh snowfall or glistening ice, I can remind you of the aftermath. The pure white snow only stays white for so long before becoming a beige, slushy mess, and the glassy icicles on trees and buildings often become concussions and insurance claims. It’s absurd we’re expected to tolerate damp socks and wear hardhats for a quarter of the year just for a pretty short-lived view. 

Another reason people romanticize winter is the weather. Oftentimes, those who prefer winter will base their preference on their disdain for the heat and humidity of the summer season. This is a fair justification, but proponents of this hot versus cold debate often overlook the many negatives of this tradeoff. Consider the following scenario: You wake up on an average winter day in an area that regularly receives snow. You check the weather forecast and it will be between 15℉ and 25℉ plus windchill all day. You consider wearing a stylish pair of shoes. Nope, boots only. Your toes might freeze off. You consider wearing a nice outfit, but what’s the point if you’re going to cover it up with a coat all day? Changing songs or responding to a text on your walk to class or work is now an arduous process if you choose to wear gloves or mittens. After you’ve finally made it indoors, you now have to find a place to put your massive fluffy coat, or else the heat, which is almost always cranked to max, will cook you alive. The back of your chair is oftentimes the only storage option, but standing up or adjusting in your seat almost always drops your coat onto the floor and into the aforementioned beige slush that has been tracked in on everyone’s shoes. By themselves, these minor inconveniences seem tolerable, but by the time spring rolls around, they’ve accumulated and can turn even Wim Hof into a passionate winter hater. 

The final and weakest winter myth I’ll debunk surrounds food. Winter creates the perfect environment to enjoy hot, hearty foods and beverages, right?… Wrong! While a hearty tomato soup or hot cup of tea are fantastic remedies for a gross winter day, the existence of Haitian Hot Chocolate shatters the box we’ve lived in for so long. It’s a deliciously rich hot chocolate traditionally made with aromatic spices and unrefined chocolate. This adaptation, though, uses cocoa powder instead of raw Haitian chocolate for its accessibility.  Despite the Caribbean heat and sun, my parents grew up drinking it year round. 

Although I personally can’t afford to move away from winter as a broke college student and leech on my parents, I hope I’ve convinced you to make the superior choice. If not, I hope you make this hot chocolate regardless. Whether you have a winter wonderland outside your window or are lounging under the hot sun, it’s truly a treat.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons unprocessed cacao powder
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise 
  • 1 ¾ cups evaporated milk
  • ⅓ cups white granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Instructions

In a large saucepan combine the water, cacao powder, cinnamon stick, and star anise and bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly to avoid clumps and sticking to the saucepan. Simmer for approximately five minutes or until your cocoa powder is well incorporated and mostly clump free. Add the evaporated milk and sugar and simmer for an additional five minutes. Strain your hot chocolate with a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, add the salt, and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Yummy Medley’s Haitian Hot Chocolate: Perfect for Cold Winter Days! 

Cover photo courtesy of Yummy Medley

Categories
Mucho Gusto

Snowball Cookies

‘Tis the season of painfully cliché Hallmark movies: the constant reworking of the same plot line tinted with near-overwhelming Christmas cheer. The holiday finds the return of an independent working girl to her small, gossiping hometown to coincidentally reconnect with a high-school not-so-sweetheart. Christmas carols and gift wrapping turn into an irritating almost-kiss under the mistletoe. The directors test our patience, leaving us waiting until the last two minutes of the movie to see their lips finally collide under the first fall of snow. 

Everything in these movies approaches a sense of being extraordinarily overdone, but nevertheless, they perfect the feeling of home. Each film bestows the warm, cozy, holiday atmosphere complemented by the recurrent scene of Christmas cookies by the fire light. Every time I switch the channel to Hallmark, there is an incessant desire to have cookies on standby and to fantasize about awakening to Boston beautifully frosted the next morning. 

As temperatures are quickly dropping, I am longing to see the first fall of snow to remind me why the exchange of a light jacket for my bulky puffer coat, that still fails to keep me warm, is worth it. Images of how nice it ought to be to attend college in Florida run through my mind, but the magnificent glisten of snow in Boston calls me to be thankful for the unwanted chill. Hopefully, we will be seeing snow sooner rather than later, but until then, these snowball cookies guarantee to satisfy our winter appetites and give us something to reach for when our televisions tease us with the perfect holiday setting. And even better, they will promise to leave us merry as exam season rolls around. 

Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for rolling/dusting the cookies

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups flour

½ to 2 cups ground pecans 

Directions

In a large bowl, cut the butter into 1-inch cubes and lightly warm in the microwave or, preferably, remove the butter from the refrigerator, allowing it to soften for 10 minutes at room temperature. If you choose to microwave the butter, be careful not to heat it for too long; you are looking for a soft but not melted consistency. Next, cream the butter with an electric mixer on its lowest speed setting or whisk by hand until you see the fluffy texture that is desired. 

Add in the remaining ingredients—the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, flour, and ground nuts. I typically use pecans, however, you can adjust the choice of nuts to your preference. Ground walnuts and almonds are also commonly used with this recipe. Mix the ingredients well and then chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 325℉. Roll out the dough into 1-inch balls and place evenly on ungreased baking sheets. 

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. While the cookies are still warm, roll them in confectioners’ sugar to give them that dusty, snow-ball appearance. Let the cookies cool, and then roll them in the sugar once again to make sure they are evenly coated. Enjoy!

Cover photo courtesy of Delish

Categories
Mucho Gusto

Creamy Cucumber Soup

As the cold weather creeps in, there is nothing that I crave more after a long day of classes and extracurricular activities than a rich soup to warm up my bones. My dad may argue that this soup is not considered food, because there is no chewing involved. However, it is very plentiful and pleasant, because it combines the starchy texture of potatoes with the refreshing taste of cucumbers. In reality, I am not a big fan of cucumbers, but in this soup, they add freshness and a pinch of acidity that is indulgent. 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, diced and seeded
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable stock paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 cup natural plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
  • Additional salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon raw sugar

Instructions

Begin by heating the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic to the pot, sauteing both until the onions become translucent. Add the cucumber and potatoes, stirring occasionally and allowing them to cook for about two minutes, or until the cucumber begins to lose some of its liquid. Stir in the water, vegetable stock paste, salt, and pepper. Cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Allow the soup to simmer for 15 minutes, or until the cucumber and potatoes soften, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. 

Carefully transfer  the soup to a food processor or blender and add the yogurt, sugar, and fresh dill. Blend on low speed until the soup reaches smooth, creamy consistency. Either transfer the soup to the pot and heat before serving, or refrigerate and serve the soup chilled. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you plan on preparing this soup in advance, do not add the yogurt to the blender, but rather stir in a dollop of yogurt to the soup before serving.

Cover photo courtesy of Love and Lemons

Categories
Mucho Gusto

Pizza Friday’s

Sizzling cheese, ruby red sauce, and crispy crust. This is pizza for me. My dad, Ed, is New York through and through, so pizza has always been held to the highest of standards in the Kuffner household. A Dominos or Papa John’s box has never entered our house, and we only order from our local pizza place Tony’s. The owners learned the trade from the famous Smileys Pizza in New York, so the pies are up to Ed’s standards, and it is the only place we will order from. As a kid, I remember running into Tony’s with a $20 bill in my hand, saying hi to the counter lady, and grabbing the piping hot box. Every week I would wait for Friday to come because I knew that that meant we were eating pizza. As a family, we rarely ate out since my mom always cooked homemade meals, but on Fridays, we feasted. 

Pizza originated in Naples, Italy, and gained broad popularity in the 1940s when Italians immigrated to the United States. Now, pizza is one of the most popular foods in our lives and the food that I personally associate with my formative memories. Birthday? We had pizza. After winning a soccer game? Get pizza with your team. Fun movie night with friends? Order a pizza. Pizza is a light yet comforting food that excites your taste buds, fills you up, and makes you smile with glee all in one bite. Its simplicity is what makes it perfect. When ordering from a pizza place, my go-to is two slices of plain cheese pizza with extra basil. I love trying new places wherever I travel, and it is a time-old debate in my house over what is the best pizza we have ever eaten. 

For me, nothing will beat the piping hot pie I had while sitting on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea in Panza, Italy. I was on the brink of a cliff sitting on a rusty blue picnic table when the owner, who spoke no English, came out carrying the pizza in a century-old iron pan. The pie emulated typical Sicilian pizza found in the states, but its crust was perfectly crisp, and the sauce was bursting with flavor. This pizza was made with love, and I haven’t eaten anything as good since. 

Even though Tony’s will never be up to par with the Panza pizza, I still look forward to pizza Fridays, and now I make flatbreads and pizzas for the occasion. At Tony’s, I stick to plain, but at home, I love to look in the refrigerator and let my creative instincts kick in, enabling me to utilize whatever ingredients I have to make a mouthwatering pie. These four flatbreads offer something for everyone with a classic plain pizza, a hearty meat lovers pie, a fresh greek flatbread, and a sweet fig ricotta flatbread. As I have grown up, my palette has expanded and I enjoy indulging in elevated pizzas while bringing different tastes and textures to our Friday night tradition. 

Classic Plain 

1 package pizza dough 

¼ cup flour 

1 cup fresh tomato sauce

1 cup fresh mozzarella 

½ teaspoon oregano 

1 spring basil for garnish 

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 475℉. Spread the flour on a clean work surface to prevent sticking. Slowly knead and spread the dough using the palm of your hands until it is about ¼ inch thick all around. Spread the tomato sauce using a ladle evenly around the dough. Sprinkle the mozzarella around, and bake the pizza for 10-15 minutes or until the crust is crunchy and the cheese is lightly browned. Once removed, sprinkle with oregano and top with basil.

Meat Lovers Pie

2 chicken breasts 

2 teaspoons pesto

1 package pizza dough 

¼ cup flour 

1 cup fresh tomato sauce

1 cup fresh mozzarella 

½ cup sliced Italian soppressata 

½ teaspoon oregano 

Instructions 

Preheat the oven to 475℉. Cut the chicken breasts into 2-inch pieces and season with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet pan with oil on medium heat and once sizzling, add the chicken. Cook until fully cooked and then add the pesto, ensuring all the chicken is coated. Spread the flour on a clean work surface to prevent sticking. Slowly knead and spread the dough using the palm of your hands until it is about ¼ inch thick all around. Spread the sauce on the dough and then sprinkle the cheese evenly around. Place the soppressata and pesto chicken around the pie. Bake for 10-15 min or until golden brown. Sprinkle with oregano. 

Greek Flatbread 

1 flatbread crust 

1 medium onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup spinach 

½ cup zucchini, sliced 

½ cup yellow squash, sliced

½ cup cherry tomatoes halved

¼ cup red onion, sliced 

1 cup feta cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil 

½ teaspoon parsley 

Instructions 

Preheat the oven to 475℉. In a small skillet pan over medium heat saute the onions until sweated. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant and lightly browned. To assemble the flatbread, spread the onion and garlic on the bread, and top with the spinach, zucchini, and squash. Add the tomato halves and red onion. Sprinkle the flatbread with the feat cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and top with the parsley. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and the flatbread is lightly browned. 

Fig Ricotta Flatbread

1 flatbread crust 

1 cup fresh ricotta cheese

⅓ cup fig jam

8 dried figs, sliced 

Balsamic reduction drizzle 

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 475℉. Spread the ricotta evenly around the flatbread, top with the fig jam. Add the sliced figs and bake for 8-10 mins or until the flatbread is crispy. This flatbread will cook very quickly. Once removed drizzle with balsamic reduction and serve.

Categories
Mucho Gusto

Apple Coffee Cake

For most college students, the arrival of the fall holiday season causes mixed emotions. The changing of the leaves and brisk temperatures not only indicate that it’s the best time to bust out your sweaters, but they’re also associated with midterms, homesickness, travel, and many other stressors. Sometimes, it can feel as if the joy has been sucked out of the season we’ve looked forward to all year; however, in my experience, appreciating the little things that mark the holiday season is what reinvigorates me. What you associate with fall may differ for each person, but my go to each time the season rolls around is anything and everything apple. You may make an argument for pumpkin being the supreme fall flavor, and I am not here to squash that debate, only to share a fantastic apple coffee cake and some facts about America’s second favorite fruit

Apples have a long history on the Eurasian continent, but were first domestically cultivated in Central Asia nearly 10,000 years ago. They made their debut in North America between the 1600s and 1700s and were cultivated by European colonists. During the 19th century, before the shift to industrial agriculture, there were over 14,000 recorded, distinct varieties of apple grown throughout the United States, but today the modern apple industry relies only upon about 90 varieties for commercial distribution. The immense variety of the 19th century was due to what could only be described as a colonial obsession with apples. Like many other non indgenous crops, such as peaches, apples were familiar, easy to cultivate, and did exceptionally well in some of the climates and soils of North America; almost every farm in New England kept it’s own orchard or trees. 

Although today the apple obsession has somewhat died down, apples are still one of the most popular fruits in the states and have resulted in many of America’s cultural cornerstones. From butter, to sauce, to pie, if you put an apple in it, it will probably end up tasting delicious and smelling like fall. This cake is no exception, enjoy!

Ingredients

Topping

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ¼ teaspoon salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into ¼ inch cubes

Batter

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into approximately ⅛ inch cubes 

Instructions

To make the topping, combine your flour, sugar, oats, salt, and pumpkin spice in a bowl. Add your butter and incorporate with a fork or pastry blender until coarse crumbs form. Set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 350℉ and grease a 9×12 inch baking dish with butter or cooking spray. To make the batter, in a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth and the mixture’s color begins to lighten. Add your eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each. Next, add your vanilla and yogurt, and mix until homogeneous. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet until no dry spots remain and the batter is mostly smooth. Add your chopped apples to the batter and mix until evenly distributed. 

For assembly, layer half of the batter in the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle over half of the streusel topping in an even layer. Carefully dollop and smooth the remaining half of the batter over the layer of streusel and top with the remaining streusel. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely, then enjoy!


Recipe adapted from: Foodwishes and King Arthur Baking

Cover photo courtesy of KingArthurBaking

Categories
Mucho Gusto

Maple Cinnamon Matcha Latte

I sit in a honey-brown leather armchair melting into the rich, caramel material, as my friend Carlie and I wait for a table. It is my first time inside this lovely café. The bright windows let in the heated glare of a hot summer’s day, but I’m still in awe. I admire the funky modern light fixtures with octopus arms intersecting the lush hanging plants, the blend of mix-matched oak coffee tables and buttery leather chairs. Most notable are the vibrant, staggered chalkboards crowding the back wall, detailing the barista bar’s menu with quirky and colorful hand-made illustrations. It is the perfect backdrop for a movie, where love interests meet accidentally for the first time or where main characters have their brightest idea yet, driving the plot home. 

Perhaps most impressive is the ornate list of hand-crafted drinks. As a barista in a former summer job, I can appreciate the creativity and craft behind each one: a classic Americano, a simple vanilla latte, an interesting-sounding Mexican iced coffee, rose cardamom tea, and so on. Carlie and I are as eager as kids in a candy store, waiting to get our caffeine-fix. Once seated, we order innovative lattes, taking sips from each other’s and enjoying the ambiance and calming music of our newfound favorite café. This is no simple feat, as our tried-and-true, café in a quaint house recently went out of business, leaving a hole in our hearts ever since. Fondly known as Blue Max, the little house café was where we would gather, as if in the TV show Friends, to enjoy each other’s company over a bite and a comforting cup o’joe. But today, perhaps the gap can be at least partially filled. I can picture myself doing lots of great thinking in that chair by the window, fueled by this delicious emerald drink, also known as maple cinnamon matcha.

The creamy froth dances on my tongue, warming my throat on the way down. Its sweetness is almost nostalgic, like the warm milk and honey enjoyed by children. Each sip tastes like a spiced autumn hug. Ever since trying this matcha recipe at this café, I decided I had to recreate it at home. After all, it is the perfect drink to cozy up with in the fall! Subtly earthy with a hint of sweetness, this matcha latte will brighten up the rainy fall days that have covered the Chestnut Hill campus lately. With notes of vanilla, cinnamon, and other spices coupled with the nutty, sweet maple, this drink warms the taste buds and the soul. Matcha adds an unexpected twist to a traditional fall beverage, giving this drink a unique look and taste which will surely brighten your day. So, this November, spice up your vibrant matcha tea in time for the holidays and the cold weather with this maple cinnamon matcha latte recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon authentic ground matcha tea powder
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ¼  cup water
  • 1 ½  teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1-2 cups oat milk

Directions:

Heat water in a tea kettle on the stovetop with a cinnamon stick. Just before the water begins to boil, take the kettle off the stove, remove the cinnamon stick, and pour some of the water into your mug of choice. Only enough water to achieve a deep green mix is necessary, as this will determine how strong the concentration of the tea is. Froth and mix the matcha powder into the water, creating bubbles and froth. A matcha tea whisk provides the best results, but a small kitchen whisk will work as well. Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract to the matcha and combine, forming a homogenous mixture. Steam the oat milk in a milk frother or steamer until a pipping hot, bubbly layer of froth forms on top of the warm liquid. Not all the milk should evaporate; instead, only the top layer should be creamy and foamy for the perfect latte. Pour the milk over the tea slowly in a swirling motion. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon, as well as a drizzle of maple syrup, if desired, and enjoy!

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Mucho Gusto

Veggie Bolognese

Earlier this morning, I was still mourning the tragic loss of my sense of taste. Sipping on my black coffee — a cup that I would never choose to drink on an alternate occasion but not for the fact that its utter lack of flavor resisted any amelioration by a sweetener or cream — I may have felt a tear slide down my flushed cheek. 

Testing positive for COVID-19 has been quite the teaching moment. As I tried to look on the bright side of things, I imagined the extra opportunities to cook with the absurd amount of lonesome time on my hands, yet I found myself disappointed. Cooking felt useless when the meals I plated all tasted like, well, nothing, and the process itself consumed all my energy. Yet, this experience has shown me how inextricably intertwined my life is with food. It has allowed me to be grateful for the joy it brings me in the evenings, with my neck crooked over the stove, and in the mornings, as I indulge in my first bite of oatmeal. 

Fortunately, my pathetic reminiscence of food and cooking was put to a seizing halt, as on the night of the seventh day after testing positive with COVID, my taste buds reawakened, in fulfillment of my deepest desire: they ascended into flavor heaven. 

So, here, brought to you live from my quarantine kitchen, is my rendition of a vegetable bolognese that promises to resurrect the most muted of taste buds. To be completely honest, this recipe is a by-product of “wow is this really all I have in the fridge” and “oh it feels good to smell oregano again. But I was significantly impressed at the somewhat random occurrence in the saucepan. Still, given its creation by my mildly unreliable taste buds at the moment, if it is a miss, I urge you to blame COVID-19 and not the cook. 

The dish is perhaps a misuse of its title as bolognese without its classic meat base, but if you’re looking to enjoy this Italian cuisine favorite in a vegetarian style (by choice or convenience) it mimics many of the same hearty flavors with its robust spices.

Ingredients

2 red bell peppers

1 package baby bella mushrooms (roughly 10 mushrooms)

1 white onion

Olive oil

4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)

1 tablespoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 box pasta

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ tablespoon dried basil leaves

Parmesan cheese to taste

Instructions

Thinly slice the mushrooms and peppers lengthwise, and then dice the white onion. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables and cook for roughly 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and hot red pepper flakes and cook for one minute. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1½ teaspoons of pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil to the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. I often use a shell-style of pasta for this recipe, as the shape helps scoop the sauce in every bite, but any type of pasta can be used. 

While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce.  Add the nutmeg and basil to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.  When the pasta is cooked, transfer it to the pan with the sauce, saving the pasta water. Cook the sauce for one minute and then add ¼ cup of the pasta water. Let the sauce simmer for another 5 minutes, as the starchy pasta water helps to bind and thicken the sauce. Serve hot with Parmesan cheese on the side. Enjoy!

Cover photo courtesy of Dishingouthealth

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Mucho Gusto Uncategorized

Margaret’s CCC Cake

My curiosity for baking started as a meager first-grader intently watching Food Network. I was mesmerized by the enormous cakes Buddy Valastro concocted and the 1,000-piece displays on Cupcake Wars. My eyes were glued to the screen, and I was in awe of how the final products looked so real yet were edible. I studied how bakers frosted cakes or piped roses and would attempt to emulate their work. As a child, I dreamed of one day owning my own bakery and constructing five-tier wedding cakes. So, as a determined little girl, I set out aiming to achieve just that.

At age six, I designed and constructed my inaugural cake for my brother John’s birthday. It consumed me for hours and the final product was a five-car steam engine train sculpted by hand and embellished with candy as mechanical parts. The cake was crumbly, but I still felt unstoppable. I could not have been a prouder sister. Making this cake consumed me for hours and established my love for baking.  Thankfully, my skill has grown from there. 

After years of failed experiments, from burnt bottoms to curdled frosting, I now create original recipes and make the tiered cakes I dreamed of baking as a child. With cakes, I envision the cake as my canvas and the piping bags as my paint. The magic begins when my artistic instincts kick in, allowing me to swiftly pipe designs without a predesigned plan and transform the cake into a showpiece. Designing cakes is an outlet for me in which I am fully present in the moment and can create something that will bring people together and enlightening their taste buds.  Cakes have a deep symbolism in our culture, so I take pride in being the person people turn to for birthdays, weddings, and other celebrations.

Cake is no doubt my favorite food group and will always be present in my life. The possibilities are endless. Today, I’m sharing my chocolate chip cookie cake recipe, which has been on my mind ever since I perfected making the chocolate chip cookie. With no better combination of two desserts, this recipe offers a twist on the quintessential American comfort food. This cake boasts a chocolate crumble cookie crust with layers of fully chocolate chip vanilla cake, smothered in a decedent brown sugar buttercream, and topped with freshly baked cookies. This blend will simply delight your taste buds and the crowd. 

Ingredients

Chocolate cookie crumble 

1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cornstarch 

1 cup granulated sugar 

1 ⅓ cups cocoa powder 

½ teaspoon salt 

12 tablespoon melted butter 

Vanilla Chocolate Chip Cake 

2 ¼ cups & 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour 

2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt 

¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature 

3 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup whole milk, room temperature

1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips 

Brown Butter Buttercream 

1 ½ cups light brown sugar

⅓ cup water 

2 ½ cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 

9 cups powdered sugar 

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 chocolate chip cookies

Instructions

Begin by making the chocolate cookie crumble. Preheat the oven to 300 ℉. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Pour the butter into the dry ingredients and combine until it is a crumb consistency. Grease three 9-inch circular cake pans, evenly distribute the cookie crumble among the pans and use the back of a spoon to set the crumble in place. Bake for 12 minutes and let cool while preparing the cake batter. 

Moving on to the vanilla chocolate chip cake, increase the oven temperature to 350℉. In a small bowl, crack the eggs and add the vanilla, allowing them to sit for 5-10 minutes to enhance the vanilla flavor. In another medium-sized bowl, combine 2 ¼ cups of flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy for 2-4 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla mixture in three additions, making sure it is fully incorporated after each addition. Whip the batter for 3 to 4 minutes until light and fluffy. Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk, starting with flour and using three additions of flour and two of milk. Fully incorporate after each addition. Dust the chocolate chips in the remaining 2 teaspoons of flour and mix them into the batter. Once combined, evenly pour the batter on top of the pans with the chocolate cookie crumble. Bake for 20 to 25 mins or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool completely.

While the cake and crumble are cooling, move on to make the brown sugar buttercream. Begin by combining the brown sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until a soft boil, approximately 5 minutes. Set aside and let it cool slightly. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter until light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes. Slowly add the powdered sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Next, slowly pour the slightly warm brown sugar mixture into the mixer. Add the vanilla. Beat on high for 3 to 5 minutes. If the buttercream is too warm, place it in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes. Whip once again before using. 

After all the elements have been created, it is now time for the construction of the masterpiece. Start by placing one cake layer, cookie crumble side down, on your board using a dollop of frosting to keep it in place. Spread one cup of frosting on top, ensuring that it is level. Repeat this process with the remaining two layers. Spread a thin layer of frosting around the whole cake using an offset spatula. This crumb coat ensures that the crumbs are locked into the first layer and will not show for the final product. Freeze the cake for 10 minutes. Once slightly frozen, completely frost the cake, saving one cup of frosting for piping. Once completely frosted, use the Wilton 1M tip to pipe a ribbon along the top. Cut the pre-made or store-bought cookies in half and place them on the top of the cake. Enjoy:)


Recipe Adapted from Cake by Coutrney’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

Cover Photo courtesy of Margaret Kuffner

Categories
Mucho Gusto

Diana’s Favorite Rum Raisin Cake

As the weather gets cooler and the days shorter, I always look to my childhood sources of comfort to cheer me up. One such tradition I still rely on is baking. Every fall and winter holiday, my mother and I spend hours together in the kitchen, mixing batter and decorating desserts. I was always too indecisive to pick just a single favorite, but to this day, my mother’s is rum raisin cake, a rich and fragrant treat. A piece of rum raisin cake fresh out of the oven can make even the dreariest of autumn days a little sweeter. Although the finished product doesn’t have an alcohol content, you can’t call it rum raisin cake without the rum, which provides the opportunity for a brief discussion of the spirit’s history. 

In popular culture, rum is primarily associated with swashbuckling pirates and Caribbean getaways, but it actually has a long and complex history. It is a liquor made from fermented molasses, cane sugar, or cane syrup, that is then distilled to varying degrees depending on the desired color and clarity. Rum and its associated industries had a large impact on the slave trade, the colonization of North America, and even the eventual independence of the United States. 

Rum’s success in colonial America was due largely to the demand for cane sugar. Though sugarcane was first introduced to South America and the Caribbean regions in the 1400s, the early 1600s marked the beginning of the crop’s dominance. In what was dubbed the “Triangle Trade,” slave labor was used to cultivate sugarcane, which was then processed into sugar and its byproducts. The incredibly high supply of molasses meant that rum was plentiful and cheap, so it quickly became a favorite of colonial Americans. The British colonies especially took a liking to the beverage, and distilleries appeared throughout New England.

Despite the incredible volume of exports from the British colonies to Europe, Britain continually imposed higher taxes on sugar, rum, and other commodities, which caused tensions between New England and England. Of course, there were a variety of other factors that contributed to the eventual independence of the United States, so it may be a bit dramatic to say rum led to the American Revolution, but the fact that it had more than superficial ties to the history of the United States is fascinating. 

I hope this cool-weather treat brings you as much joy as it does to me and my family. 

Ingredients

Batter

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, softened 
  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 4 cups white bleached flour 
  • 1 ½  teaspoon cinnamon 
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground clove
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup raisins 

Topping

  • 1 cup rum
  • ½ cup raisins 
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon 

Instructions

This recipe will make two nine-inch bundt cakes. Soak the raisins in the rum for two to six hours. Refrigerate before separating ½ cup and any remaining liquid for the topping. Preheat the oven to 350℉ and grease two nine-inch bundt pans with butter or cooking spray. 

To make the cake batter, combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, whip the ingredients together until the mixture is fluffy, homogeneous, and approaching a light color. After the butter and sugar have been creamed, add the egg yolks and mix until fully incorporated. 

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. In another bowl combine the 3 tablespoons dark rum, whole milk, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in four parts and the wet mixture in three. Begin with the flour mixture and alternate additions of the dry and wet mixtures to your butter mixture. Make sure the ingredients are fully incorporated before each subsequent addition. 

Next, whip the egg whites in a large bowl until they form stiff peaks and gently fold them into the batter. After the egg whites, gently fold in one cup of soaked raisins, divide the batter between both pans, and smooth the tops. 

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for at least an hour and turn onto a plate or serving dish. 

To prepare the topping, combine the ½ cup of raisins and liquid you set aside earlier in a small saucepan with the brown sugar and an additional ⅓ cup of water. Simmer gently, stirring constantly over medium-low heat until the mixture has thickened into a slight syrup consistency. This will give time for the alcohol to evaporate as well. Let the syrup cool before adding a pinch of salt and the cinnamon. Pour this topping over your cakes and enjoy!

Cover photo courtesy of Myrecipies

Categories
Mucho Gusto

The Cookies with a Million Names

I gazed intently through the glass window of the bakery below our apartment, the way only a child could. My eyes fixated with wonder on the perfect little snowballs in the center of the display case, located at the ideal eye level for my youthful height. The anticipation heightened as I watched the kind baker scoop a dozen of the cookies into the box my dad ordered for our family. My mouth watered as I remembered the last time I tasted the scrumptious powdered sugar and the crisp, crumbly nuttiness of the interior. I couldn’t wait to experience another bite. For the time being, I had to be content with holding the box on my lap during the car ride home, though I didn’t wait for very long. With just one glance, my dad and I decided eating just one wouldn’t hurt; we dug out a couple of the tempting cookies in the car. I sacrificed the festive bow holding the box shut, and finally, we snuck the pillowy yet crunchy cookies into our mouths. With my dad’s iconic oldies music playing in the background, we enjoyed the bliss of these unique, freshly-baked cookies. Evidence of my impatience, the delicate dust of powdered sugar covered my lap and fingers, as it always did. The sandy cookie, however, with its melt-in-your-mouth consistency, made up for this. 

White, round, and smooth on the outside and buttery, crunchy, and nutty on the inside, these blizzard-coated cookies always remind me of a sweet celebration. While they go by many names—Mexican or Italian Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes or Swedish Tea Cakes, Butterballs, Polvorones, Viennese Sugar Balls, and Snowballs or Snowdrops, to name a few—these cookies are clearly a favorite in many cultures. In my family, no holiday or special event goes by without these tasty, tender treats from our favorite local bakery or my aunt, who is an excellent baker herself. While great for holidays, these addictive, rich cookies are great at any time of year! They are easy to make and require just six ingredients. Enjoy with a warm cup of spiced chai or a dark, hearty cup of coffee this fall—there is nothing more festive or homey at the same time!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into mid-sized pieces
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cups powdered sugar, divided into ½ cup and 1 ¼ cup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 °F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Add the softened butter pieces, salt, and ½ cup powdered sugar to a large mixing bowl and combine with an electric mixer on medium speed. Incorporate the vanilla extract into this mixture. Then, add the flour and stir until the mixture is creamy. Add the chopped pecans. 

Now that the dough is prepared, use an ice cream scooper or tablespoon to form even balls of dough, one at a time. Shape about two tablespoons of dough into balls per cookie, adjust as needed, and place each ball on the cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for about 13 minutes until the cookies are firm and a tan or beige color, like shortbread cookies. Store the extra tray in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Let the cookies cool for about seven minutes. 

Add the remaining 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar to a small mixing bowl and roll the warm cookies until they are completely coated in the white powder (almost like snowballs!). This first layer should not be too thick, as part of the sugar will melt from the heat of the cookie. Let the cookies cool completely before rolling them in the powdered sugar a second time. Now, the cookies are ready to be eaten. Enjoy! 

Adapted from Mexican Wedding Cookies by Cooking Classy

Cover photo courtesy of Tried and Tasty