Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Baked Chicken in Lemon-Barbecue Sauce

The time this delicious chicken dish takes to bake will give you a few spare moments in your too-busy life! What am I doing with the hour that this chicken needs in the oven? I’m blogging this recipe for you, Dollinks!
Chicken Baked in Lemon-Barbecue Sauce:
To Prepare the Chicken:
Chicken parts, as required
All-purpose flour, as required
Salt and pepper, to taste
Shake chicken parts in bag containing seasoned flour. Heat oil over medium heat in medium skillet. Sear chicken parts just until golden, about 5 min. on each side. Transfer chicken to ungreased baking dish and set aside. Wipe out skillet with paper toweling, but do not wash.
To Prepare the Sauce:
1 tbsp. canola oil
One 10-oz. (284 mL)  can condensed cream of tomato soup
½ c. lemon juice
3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
½ c. ketchup
1 tbsp. dry mustard
½ tsp. coarsely ground pepper
2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1 large onion, sliced or chopped
Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. Combine sauce ingredients in skillet used to brown chicken, cooking 10 min. over medium-low heat. Pour over chicken in baking dish. Cover and bake 1 hr.

Begin with bone-in, skin-on chicken parts

Dredge chicken in seasoned flour and brown in hot oil 

Sear chicken until golden

You'll need only basic ingredients from your larder

Prepare Lemon-Barbecue Sauce while chicken rests

Nothing to it, Dollinks!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dad’s Chocolate-Oatmeal Cookies

Just in time for Father’s Day, these are the very best oatmeal cookies I’ve ever tasted! I’m sure you’ll agree that no oatmeal cookie can match them. Dipping these cookies in chocolate gives them a very “professional” look. 
Dad’s Chocolate-Oatmeal Cookies:
1 c. butter or margarine, softened
1 c. granulated sugar
½ c. light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
¾ tsp. nutmeg
¾ tsp. allspice
1-½ c. large-flake rolled oats
1 c. medium-thread sweetened coconut
3 or 4 semi-sweet chocolate squares or 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Using electric beater, cream margarine and sugars until no graininess remains, about 5 min. Add egg, molasses, and vanilla, continuing to beat. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Gradually beat into sugar mixture. Stir in rolled oats and coconut. Roll into balls the size of a walnut (or use a melon baller, as I do), compressing with flat base of lightly floured glass 3-in. apart on ungreased baking sheet (or baking sheet lined with parchment paper). Bake about 14 min. Cool on baking sheet before transferring to wire rack. Makes 5 dozen.

If desired, dip half of each fully cooled cookie into chocolate melted on low power in microwave oven or over simmering - not boiling - water. Allow chocolate to set on rack. Store and re-melt unused chocolate for next time.

Best Tip Ever: If you use a small, high pan to melt your chocolate, dipping your cookies will be easier. Does this sound sexy or what?

Add brown sugar to softened butter or margarine

Gradually add granulated sugar

To creamed mixture, add an egg, molasses, and vanilla

Butter-egg mixture is now very creamy and caramel-colored

Measure rolled oats and cinnamon so they're ready to go

Measure out cinnamon

Add nutmeg, allspice, more flour

Level all dry ingredients for the most accurate measurement

In separate bowl, sift measured flour together with spices

Add spiced flour a little at a time, beating after each addition

Use a melon scoop and you'll never dirty your hands

Dip a flat-bottomed tumbler into flour

Flatten to 1/4-in. thickness

Bake in 350 deg. F. oven

Remove 12-to-15 min. later
These are fabulous dipped (or not dipped!) in chocolate

Sweet temptation!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lentil Soup with Spinach

I once bought dried lentils in great quantities.They keep so well, I thought! After storing a batch for nine years (!), I learned that dried lentils that have been stored too long can take longer to cook than those that haven’t been sitting on the shelf past their freshness date - generally about a year. For more about lentils, see:
I remain a fan of lentils, but now buy them in smaller quantities. Low in calories and high in soluble fiber, lentils (as well as dried beans and tofu) are a tasty, low-fat meat alternative found in many recipes - including the soup I’ve just made! Unlike dried beans, lentils require no soaking. I prefer not to use canned lentils when dried ones are inexpensive and readily available year-round.
Lentil Soup with Spinach:
2 c. mixed, dried lentils, well rinsed and picked over for small stones or twigs
5 c. commercial or homemade beef bouillon (I used my Beef Stock, blogged March 9, 2012)
5 c. water
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4 large stalks celery, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. salt (see Note)
1 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
¼ tsp. hot sauce
One - 10 oz. (284 mL) pkg. fresh baby spinach, stems removed
Grated Parmesan cheese, as garnish (optional)
Combine all ingredients except spinach and cheese in very large pot. Bring to a boil on high heat, immediately reducing to simmer. Cover and simmer 20-to-45 min. or until lentils become tender, depending on their age. Stir in spinach during final minute of cooking. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cheese. Serves 6-to-8.
Note: Reduce salt to taste if using bouillon concentrate or cubes. 

Rinsing lentils

Washing lentils

Chop one large onion

Four celery stalks ... add all prepared ingredients to pot

Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook
Add grated cheese for the finishing touch

Friday, May 25, 2012

Chocolate-Mayonnaise Cake

When I offered to make the cake for a family birthday party a few days ago, my host requested chocolate. This excellent cake cooks up in a jiffy: There’s no taste of the mayonnaise that provides its fat and some of its moisture. Because this was to be a party cake, I took extra care in its finishing, brushing the layers with Kahlua-Flavored Simple Syrup, icing the center with a snowy Bake-Shop Frosting, and topping it with a silky Sour Cream Ganache
The two frosting recipes I used appear just below this cake recipe. I’ve included a bonus post for Ganache lovers: Julia Child’s Heavy Cream Ganache. For those of you who think Ganache is a spiritual deity, check your spelling, Dollinks!
Chocolate-Mayonnaise Cake:
2 c. unsifted all-purpose flour
⅔ c. sifted cocoa powder
1-¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. baking powder
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-⅔ c. granulated sugar
1 c. full-fat mayonnaise
1-⅓ c. cold water
Kahlua-Flavored Simple Syrup (optional; see recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Grease and “flour” two 9-in. cake pans (see Note). Set aside. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder to medium bowl, combining well. Set aside. Beat eggs and vanilla at high speed, using electric mixer. Gradually add sugar, scraping down sides of bowl and beating until no graininess remains when you rub a small amount of batter between your finger and thumb. Continue beating until thick and creamy, about 5 min. Reduce beater speed to low and add mayonnaise.
Beginning and ending with dry ingredients, alternate additions of flour mixture and water, beating well between each addition and continuing to scrape down sides of bowl. Distribute batter equally between two cake pans. Rap pans once on work surface to remove large air bubbles. Bake 45 min., until a toothpick or skewer poked into centre of cake emerges dry. Let cakes rest in pans 10 min. before inverting onto cooling racks. While cakes are still warm, brush “crumb” side of each with 1 tbsp. Simple Syrup combined with 1 tsp. Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur. Frost as desired: The following posts will tell you how I frosted my cake!
Note: Use sifted cocoa powder to dust greased cake pans for chocolate cakes.  Dust pans for other cakes with all-purpose flour.

Further Note: Purists slice away the dome that results after baking some cakes. My personal preference is to press lightly on the top of each hot cake in the pan, flattening its dome while maintaining the delicate texture of the cake. That does the job to my satisfaction.
To Prepare the Kahlua-Flavored Simple Syrup:
Simple Syrup is a very useful ingredient to stock in the fridge. Among its many uses is keeping cakes moist and adding a burst of subtle flavor. To make basic Simple Syrup, boil equal parts of sugar and water together 5 min. Chill for future use. 
Simple Syrup: Easy to make, easy to use
I usually keep a modest amount on hand in a covered, labeled jar. For this cake, I brushed the “crumb” side of each layer (the side closest to the cake pan) with 1 tbsp. Simple Syrup to which I added 1 tsp. Kahlua. Tailor this basic recipe to your cake: Boil an orange with the Simple Syrup you intend to brush onto an Orange Cake, for instance, and add a splash of orange liqueur or non-alcoholic orange extract to the syrup. Let your imagination soar! 
For the record, Dollinks, I used only a whisper of alcohol in my syrup because this cake was intended for children. 

Dust pans with sieved cocoa. I use cake pans with built-in
sliding "cutters" that easily release the cake from the pan

Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda

Pre-measuring ingredients makes the work go faster!

Beat eggs, vanilla, sugar, and mayonnaise. To this,
 alternate additions of flour mixture and water

Prepare Simple Syrup as cake bakes. Use 
what you need, adding liqueur or extract

Brush cake with syrup ... no need to soak it!

Another satisfied customer: Sydney

Two candles blown out ... seven more to go: Lyndsay

Bake-Shop Frosting

For the middle layer of my rich and gooey Chocolate-Mayonnaise Cake, I used a little more than half this easy-to-spread frosting, freezing the rest for “next time.” This is the typical kind of frosting you find on store-bought cakes - easy and inexpensive to make. With your ingredients measured in advance, this recipe takes just 5 min. to prepare! Although this frosting has no shortening taste, I do use a “trick” to make it taste “buttery.” 
Bake-Shop Frosting:
2 tbsp. water
¼ c. sugar
1 egg
1-⅔ c. sifted icing sugar
⅔ c. shortening
½ tsp. white vanilla extract
1-½ tsp. Wilton’s-brand Clear Butter Flavor (see Note)
Measure all ingredients before you start, because you’ll need to work fast. Boil water and sugar together for 2 min., stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whip egg with electric mixer at high speed. Gradually beat in icing sugar. Add the boiling water to the icing-sugar mixture in a steady stream and continue to beat. Lower speed of mixer to medium and stir in shortening and vanilla. This frosting will not stiffen or crack. The recipe makes 2 cups - enough to frost a 13x9-in. cake.
Note: You can buy Wilton’s Clear Butter Flavor in Michael’s Arts and Crafts stores, in Wilton’s stores, or online. Its use is optional in this recipe. If you choose not to use it, increase the vanilla extract to 1 tsp.

Tip: See recipes for Chocolate-Mayonnaise Cake, above, and Ganache, below. To prevent the white Bake-Shop Frosting I used between the cake layers from bleeding into the chocolate Ganache I used on the top and sides, I made a dam” ½-in. around the edge of the bottom layer where the center filling would go. To do that quickly, I used a plain, circular nozzle and filled a piping bag with some of the white frosting, edging the topside of the bottom layer with a ring of frosting near the edge of the cake. I chilled this layer for about 30 min., until the frosting had stiffened, and used a blunt knife to push the frosting slightly toward the cake's center, so that it formed a small “dam.” 

Within this chilled dam, I quickly added more white frosting before pressing the top layer lightly onto the bottom. With the “dam” holding the frosting inside, nothing squished from the sides of the cake. I then placed the cake back in the fridge to set the middle layer of frosting. Only then did I frost the top and sides of the cake with the Ganache. No leaks! No bleeds! This tip is one cake artist Deena Fisher of Cabo San Lucas uses all the time. 

Sour Cream Ganache

I topped the Chocolate-Mayonnaise Cake (posted above) with Sour Cream Ganache - one of the richest and most decadent frostings you can make. Ganache is thought to have been invented in Switzerland or France more than 150 years ago, where it was always made with heavy cream. It’s really quite simple to make - chocolate, cream, a splash of vanilla - but it’s also quite simple to ruin, if you don’t melt the chocolate with care and respect. You’ll want to use the best chocolate you can afford: Some people use a slab of Callebaut, but a pastry chef recently told me he finds the far-less-expensive Lindt brand every bit as good.  
My step-daughter, Los Cabos, Mexico-based cake artist Deena Fisher (, uses bittersweet chocolate and a small quantity of Kahlua in her Ganache. I can guarantee the result is out of this world! When I looked for bittersweet chocolate in my local supermarket, there was none. Unwilling to pay for a slab of premium chocolate, I used semi-sweet chocolate chips in this recipe. 
(The Cook’s Thesaurus reports that bittersweet chocolate “is a sweetened chocolate that's heavy on the cocoa solids and light on the sugar, giving it a rich, intense chocolate flavor.  Many pastry chefs prefer bittersweet to semi-sweet or sweet chocolate, but the three can be used interchangeably in most recipes. The best bittersweet chocolates contain at least 50% cocoa solids.”
(The Thesaurus suggests: “To make semisweet chocolate more like bittersweet chocolate, add some unsweetened chocolate or cocoa powder to it.” This excellent reference has more about chocolate at
Now, for the cream! Ganache normally uses heavy or “whipping” cream, but Deena and many other pastry chefs have turned to dairy sour cream for its lower calorie hit and excellent flavor. If you’re already on the road to calorie hell (as you are with the chocolate), you may want to use heavy cream. If so, see Julia Child’s recipe for Heavy Cream Ganache, posted immediately below this one. 
As for the vanilla, use a good one. This is not the time for an imitation extract! Or do what Deena does - add a small amount of Kahlua. No matter which type of Ganache you choose, I hope you’ll enjoy this lower-calorie, lower-cost version of a superb treat! 
Sour Cream Ganache:
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-½ c. dairy sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or 2 tsp. Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur)
Partially melt chocolate chips in heat-proof bowl over simmering - not boiling - water in saucepan, effectively making your own “double boiler.” Stir until smooth to complete melting. When chocolate has fully melted, stir in sour cream and flavoring. Frost chilled cake while Ganache is still warm. 
Note: Deena makes a very thin “crumb-coat frosting” on her cakes - a smart thing to do if you want your cake to be a show-stopper. 

In her pastry kitchen, Los Cabos cake artist Deena Fisher 
trims away cake's rough outer edge before spreading 
thin Crumb-Coat Frosting on top and sides
A “crumb-coat frosting is one that catches and seals the crumbs that might otherwise mar a picture-perfect icing. Thick and creamy, Ganache doesn’t lend itself to “crumb-coat frostings,” but the above-posted recipe for Bake-Shop Frosting or my recipe for Buttercream Frosting (posted May 4, 2012) will. As chocolate Ganache will be spread over this cake, add a little sifted cocoa powder to your remaining Bake-Shop Frosting, spreading it very, very thinly over the chilled cake’s top and sides. Chill or freeze the “crumb-coat frosted” cake until you’re able to spread it with Ganache, with no risk that the two frostings will blend or that any loose crumbs will spoil the texture of the Ganache.

The thin Crumb-Coat Frosting catches
crumbs while locking in cake's moisture

Another cake with Crumb-Coat Frosting: Deena rounds 
edges slightly before chilling for final frost and decor
Deena passes along this tip: The wooden, stabilizing dowels  
some pastry chefs use for multi-layer cakes can flavor the
cake. Instead, drive a chop stick through cake - this one has
four layers - removing it to insert plastic straws to hold layers.

A closer view: Plastic straws slide into holes left by chopstick,
firmly securing cake layers for display and cutting

Trim straws to exact height of cake before further 
chilling, final frosting, and decorating. Stabilizing 
plastic straws are invisible, yet do the job.

Julia Child’s Heavy Cream Ganache

So here’s a classic, full-fat Ganache, as presented by Julia Child in 1989.
Julia Child’s Heavy Cream Ganache:
8 oz. sweet cream chocolate (or 6 oz. sweet and 2 oz. unsweetened)
1 c. heavy (“whipping”) cream
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2-to-3 tbsp. rum (optional) 
Confectioners sugar (“icing” or “powdered” sugar), as required
Chop chocolate coarsely. Add to large, heavy saucepan with cream. Stir over medium heat until chocolate has melted and cream starts to simmer. Stir vigorously to combine cream and chocolate. Remove from heat and add vanilla and/or rum (see Note). Transfer hot chocolate mixture to a large stainless mixing bowl set into a larger mixing bowl filled with ice. Beat with an electric mixer or balloon whisk until mixture thickens to spreading consistency. Sift in confectioners sugar, to taste (see NP’s Further Note). 
Note: Deena and I recommend Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur.
Further Note: The verb “sift” is extremely important! Ignore at your peril!
- Adapted from“The Way to Cook” © Julia Child (Alfred A. Knopf)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Riz aux Champignons (Rice with Mushrooms)

This side dish is so easy and so delicious that it’s long been one of my favorites. I know it will quickly become one of yours! 
Riz aux Champignons:
1 c. long-grain white rice
1-½ tbsp. onion soup mix (half a 1-oz or 28.5 g pkg)
One 10-oz.(284-mL) can sliced mushrooms (or use stems and pieces), juice drained and reserved
2 tbsp. dark soy sauce
¼ c. canola oil plus reserved mushroom liquid and enough hot water to make 2 c.
Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Spray-oil a medium serving casserole (1-½ qt. or 1.5 L). Rinse rice in sieve until water runs clear. Add rice and all remaining ingredients to casserole. Stir to distribute evenly. Cover and bake 1 hr., stirring once or twice during baking. Serves 6.

Oil-spray baking casserole

Add measured rice to sieve
Rinse it well

Add ingredients directly to casserole

Add canned mushrooms

Add oil, mushroom liquid, H2O

Add soy sauce to oil recipe calls for

Give a stir for even distribution
These were half-eaten before I remembered to take a photo!