We invented this recipe together. Declan wanted cookies with Reese’s Pieces after viewing the motion picture E.T. the Extra Terrestrial for the first time. That movie made we want some of the peanut butter candy, too and reminded me how sad and weird the story is. The kids barely made it through without crying when they thought E.T. was dead. But we all made it to the end when E.T. went back into outer space and lived happily ever after.
Although a Chess Pie is not much to look at, it is a truly decadent recipe using only humble ingredients from the pantry. A diamond in the rough, so to speak. It makes me feel like a queen when I indulge in a slice of this gooey, fudge bomb of a pie. It doesn’t matter that I am trapped in the house with my teenagers who make me want to pull every hair out of my head. This pie is like Calgon, it takes me away from all of their bickering, demanding of snacks, t.v. time, sulking and pouting. I take a bite and savor a brief moment of solitude, locked in my office before they come knocking on the door, yelling , “Mo-om! Where are you???”Continue reading
Fika, the Swedish coffee break that happens at least once a day, is my new favorite excuse to enjoy coffee and sweets whenever I need to take a moment. The aim is to find some sort of balance during the day in the pleasure of sipping a cup of coffee. Traditionally, sweets are eaten, as well, especially cinnamon buns but cookies and cakes are also invited to the party. It’s exactly the kind of thing that I enjoy doing in the middle of the afternoon to recharge my batteries. And, like most Americans who find themselves rushing around all day, I can always use some more fika in my life. One book I read on the subject suggested that fika could be considered a “caffeinated meditation”. Yessss. Taking a moment to relax, reflect, spend time with a friend or even to let the dog run around the yard while I put my feet up, that’s what I have learned is the essence of fika. According to my research, fika in Sweden happens twice a day. I can only hope to aspire to such a goal. Until then, I will do my best to fika as much as I possibly can.
Here is a cookie recipe that keeps well and is easy to make to have fika sweets at the ready. The balance of the dark chocolate, sweet shortbread and briny sea salt pair well with a cup of warm, slightly bitter coffee.
Chocolate Drizzle Shortbread
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out.
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
10 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon Crisco or flavorless oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine flour and salt in a medium sized bowl. Using a stand mixer, blend butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg and almond and vanilla extracts. Mix to combine. Add flour mixture and mix until all ingredients are combined. Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Take dough out of refrigerator. Dust a sheet of parchment or Silpat with flour. Roll out dough into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick using a floured rolling pin. place parchment or Silpat with dough onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until dough is longer shiny.
Remove par cooked dough from oven and gently slice into small rectangles about 1 1/2″ wide and 2″ long. Place in oven and bake again for 7-8 minutes until edges are lightly golden. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before separating cookies.
After separating cookies, heat the chocolate chips and oil in a microwave on 30 second intervals, stirring in between each interval until mixture is completely melted. Drizzle cookies with melted chocolate and immediately sprinkle with sea salt before chocolate hardens. Allow chocolate to harden for a few hours. Store in a sealed container for up to one week.
Enjoy your fika moment!
There are so many good reasons to make this cake. You might be really hungry or maybe you just love the flavors of chocolate, peanut butter and chewy caramel cookie candy on top. Perhaps you are on an all sugar diet and must eat sweets for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you are looking for a fun snack or a lunchbox treat, this cake is for you, too. But most of all, if it’s a special kind of day that warrants a celebration, then make this cake. After all, a 51st birthday only comes around once in a lifetime. Continue reading
I often search for gluten free dessert options with my sister, Karyn in mind. Whenever there is a gathering, I would rather make a dessert that is naturally gluten free so that she can enjoy it, too. Although she insists that she doesn’t want anyone to go to any trouble, it is troublesome to me that someone may have to skip dessert because of an allergy or intolerance of some kind.
On one occasion, it was a birthday party, if I recall correctly, I was making my mother’s favorite dessert, a specific, gluten filled cake that would not work with my sister’s dietery restrictions. But happily, I came across this recipe for Chocolate Chip Espresso Meringues that sounded absolutely delicious. I knew that she would love the flavors and the fact that there would be no need to make any special substitutions that may or may not work out as intended, was icing on the cake. So I made these confections just for her and packaged the rest up for her take home and enjoy later.
When Karyn arrived early to help with my mother’s birthday dinner, I happily informed her that I made something special, just for her.
“I made you some chocolate espresso meringues!!” I blurted out. Eager to have her try one.
“I hate meringues!” she said with such emphasis, that I dared not mention them again.
But as the evening went on and everyone sang happy birthday, I got madder and madder about her comment. I knew she would like them and how rude was her response to a gift that I made for her? I was determined that she would at least try them. she didn’t even know what she was missing, damn it!
While everyone else was enjoying cake, I pulled Karyn into my office where I was keeping her special stash of Chocolate Meringues.
“Get in here and try these, they are really good.” I said as I pulled her arm.
Karyn looked at the meringues and decided that they were worth at least a bite. Well, her face told me the rest. Then she devoured three more in quick succession before heading back into the kitchen to join everyone else.
Later that night, after everyone when home and all the dishes were done, I got a text from her:
“I just ate the last meringue. They are so good. Will you make me some more?”
Chocolate Chip Espresso Meringues
(Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine, March 2016)
(Makes about 24 small ones)
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons instant coffee
Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place egg whites in a medium bowl with cream of tartar. Mix with a hand mixer on low speed until mixture becomes frothy. Increase the mixer speed to medium and begin adding sugar one tablespoon at a time. Beat until the whites are stiff , about one minute. Fold in chopped chocolate and salt. Sprinkle cocoa and instant coffee on top of egg white mixture. Fold together 2-3 times to lightly incorporate.
Spoon about 24 dollops of meringue onto prepared baking sheet. (About one heaping tablespoon each) Using the back of a spoon, gently flatten the tops of the meringues. Place in oven and bake for one hour until the meringues are firm on the outside and still chewy on the inside. Let cool completely.
Can be stored in an airtight container for one week, if they last that long!