Category Archives: The Young Baker

Chocolate Pistachio Sables with Flaked Salt (makes about 5 dozen-ish)

My daughter wanted to make something sweet and a bit grandiose that would last to the New Year so decided on cookies. She knew she could make lots at one time and that they could be stored and eaten as the occasion (or urge) arose. With very strong enthusiastic encouragement from me she choose a recipe from my December issue of bon appetit magazine. My mouth watered over these ever since I saw they were generously decorated with my favorite salt in the world; Maldon Sea Salt Flakes!

Ide's Cookies

Ide’s Cookies

There is nothing difficult about these cookies and the proof is that my 12-year-old daughter made them with no help from me whatsoever. I know that when you think of kids in the kitchen, all you can imagine is the mess that is made, and that’s understandable. But, if you can get past that and realize it’s nothing a dish cloth can’t mop up later, you open up a whole wonderful world of teaching your children what it means to make something from scratch and the pure pleasure it never fails to give the ones cooking and the ones looking on. Your kids will never learn to cook if they are not allowed into the kitchen!

A fun Job for any kid!

A fun Job for any kid!

The thing that Ide liked doing the best was chopping the pistachios to bits with a rolling-pin and the challenge of separating the yolk from the white of an egg.  These buttery, chocolate-y, salty, nutty sables were mouth-wateringly delicious and more than worth the modest mess that was made during her stint in the kitchen.


You will Need:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use king Arthur’s brand)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 tsp fine salt (Ide used a fine grain celtic sea salt)

1/4 tsp baking soda

2 1/2 sticks (10 oz or 282 grams) unsalted butter – room temperature

1 1/4 cups soft light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg white

5 oz bittersweet chocolate (Ide use 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips)

1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios – coarsely chopped (Ide put the nuts in a plastic bag and bead then with a rolling-pin!)

sea salt flakes (Ide used Maldon salt)


Preheat oven 350* (do this 5 minutes before baking)

Measure dry ingredients

1 – Measure dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, cocoa powder) and add to a medium bowl

Mix dry ingredients

2 – Mix dry ingredients together with a whisk

In another bowl add butter, sugar and vanilla extract

3 – In a large bowl add butter, sugar and vanilla extract.

Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer

4 – Cream these ingredients together for about 4 minutes with an electric mixer

Add dry ingredients

5 – Add dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixer using a wooden spoon or on the lowest setting of your electric mixer. Then, mix in the egg white.

Add nuts and chocolate

6 – Add the crushed nuts and chocolate

Mix everything together

7 – Mix everything together

Divide dough and roll into four logs. wrap each one in parchment paper or cling film and place in the fride for an hour 9or into the freezer if not using straight away. They can be left out until thawed enough to slice whenever you want to have them.

8 – Divide dough and roll into four and roll into logs as best you can. Wrap each one in parchment paper or cling film and place in the fridge for 4 hours before using. (or into the freezer if not using straight away. They can be left out until thawed enough to slice whenever you want to have them.

Slice dough into rounds about 1/4 inch thick and place on cookie sheet or baking tray.

9 – Slice dough into rounds about 1/4 inch thick and sprinkle with sea salt flakes. Place on cookie sheet or baking tray and place in preheated 3508 oven and bake for between 10 to 12 minutes.

Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack.

Cool on a wire rack before serving.

The Best Chocolate Cupcakes I’ve ever Tasted (makes 12)

I have waiting too long to taste something this good1

I have waiting too long to taste something this good!

My daughter, The Young Baker of this blog decided to challenge herself last night and make something a little more adventurous than her usual sweet repertoire. She wanted to make cupcakes like the ones she has tasted from great bakeries like the Cupcake Cafe on the West Side of Manhattan: a challenge indeed.

The Young Baker managed to have time to give herself a harido right before her marathon baking session

The Young Baker made time to give herself a hairdo right before her marathon baking session

I told her I would help find a good recipe but that she could forget about any idea of trying to replicate their beautiful Buttercream Frosting flowers. She was fine with that. She just wanted to achieve that melt in your mouth gooey-ness without feeling like it was a glorified chocolate muffin that crumbled with every bite.

cupcake city

Cupcake city

The best place to look for a recipe was certainly in one of my American cookbooks. The cupcake to me is quintessentially American so no French or Italian influence would do. The best book for the job was going to be from my brand new giant Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. What better place to find an authentic cupcake recipe than from the most recognized Test Kitchen in the country.

My lovely cookery bible

My lovely cookery bible

And sure enough, when I read to her what the Test Kitchen had to say about cupcakes, how their goal was to make a moist, tender cupcake that wasn’t crumbly, with deep chocolate flavor, and a frosting that was creamy with no sugary sweetness, she was excited to try it.

We happen to have nice cases for the job (note the chocolate-y hands!)

We happen to have nice cases for the job (note the chocolate-y hands!)

They were a bit of work for sure and she was confused at how many bowls she had on the counter at one time with the various chocolate mixtures, but the reward of being able to lick many different flavored spoons made up for all that. All I’ll say is “thank God for dishwashers!”

Quite pleased

Quite pleased

These were all she had hoped for, and at this point she is such the expert when it come to chocolate, her opinion is all that is needed to recommend the cupcake challenge to you!


You will need:

* I used Ghirardelli Brand chocolate*

for Ganache:

2 oz bitter-sweet chocolate

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 tbs confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar)

For cupcakes:

3 oz bittersweet chocolate

1/3 cup (1 oz) dutch-processed cocoa

3/4 cup brewed coffee, hot

3/4 cup (4  1/8 ozs all-purpose or bread flour

3/4 cup (5 1/4 ozs) granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate soda)

6 tbs vegetable oil

2 large eggs

2 tsp white vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

for Frosting:

1/3 cup (2 1/2 ozs) granulated sugar

2 large egg whites

pinch of salt

12 tbs 6 ozs, 169 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

6 oz bittersweet chocolate

1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Make ganache: melt ganache ingredients together very slowly in little pan on low heat until barely melted. Stir and transfer to a bowl and set aside.

make ganache

make ganache

Make Cupcakes:

preheat oven 350*

1 – Brew the coffee. Place chocolate and cocoa in a medium bowl and add hot coffee. Let it sit covered for 5 minutes, then stir gently until melted. Cool completely in fridge (about 20 minutes)

add hot coffee to cocoa adn chocolate

Add hot coffee to cocoa and chocolate

Stir gently

Stir gently

2 – In the meantime add flour, sugar, salt and baking soda to medium bowl and whisk together to incorporated.

Whisk dry ingredients together

Whisk dry ingredients together

3 – In small bowl mix together eggs, oil, vinegar and vanilla.

mix eggs, vanilla, oil adn vinegar together

Mix eggs, vanilla, oil and vinegar together

4 – Whisk the egg mixture into the cooled chocolate and then mix in the flour mixture.

Finish cupcake batter

Finish cupcake batter

5 – Place muffin liners into muffin tray and divide the batter between the 12 cups. Place a dollop (good-sized teaspoon) of the ganache in the center of each filled cup. Place in center of oven for about 18 to 20 minutes.

fill muffin cups

Fill muffin cups

7 – Remove from oven and sit tray on cooling rack for about 10 minutes before removing to let cool completely.

Cool cupcakes completely

Cool cupcakes completely

Make Frosting:

1 – Melt the chocolate on low heat in small pot, then set aside to cool.

Melt chocolate

Melt chocolate

2 – Place a cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a bare simmer. Using a bowl that will fit into the pot (one that sits on the edges, not touching the water) add the egg whites, sugar and salt. Whisk at low-speed for about 2 minutes (the mixture will take on a silky creamy look).

Whisk eggs whites with sugar & salt

Whisk eggs whites with sugar & salt

3 – While continuing to whisk, add the soft butter one tablespoon at a time.

add butter

Add butter

4 – Then add the melted chocolate and vanilla and whisk until incorporated.

add chocolate & vanilla

Add chocolate & vanilla

If the frosting appears thin (ours did), place it in the fridge for about 10 minutes. It will thicken up and get it ready for the next step.

Frost Cupcakes:

Spread a thick layer of frosting on each cupcake with a butter or palate knife.

spead with tons of frosting

Spread with tons of frosting

If you don’t devour them all in one sitting, they can be stored in a big plastic container and left at room temperature. They can also be stored in the fridge, but take them out at least a half hour before serving.

The best cupcakes ever!

The best cupcakes ever!

A Walnut-Nutella Torte and Christmas Party! (serves 10-12)

time to Party (anyone thinking: Deer? Headlights?

Time to Party (anyone thinking: Deer? Headlights?)

We were invited to a Christmas Dessert Party at our friend Tom’s and of course we accepted. It is started to feel like Christmas even thought the days are unseasonably balmy. Anyway, it was an excuse for my daughter “the young baker” to test out another recipe from her favorite cookbook, The Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson


Ghirardelli chocolate

As she perused her book I told her to make it a little challenging, after all she was way past being daunted by cracking eggs and handling the vibration of the electric mixer. I knew it would come from the chocolate section (a given), and was happy she choose something I knew I would love but don’t possess the patience to make myself (too many steps for this One-bowl-And-It’s-Done-Girl!)

We had everything for her Torte in the pantry except for the hazelnuts, but when I went to the supermarket I couldn’t justify paying 3 times what every other variety of nut cost! I figured walnuts would work just as well, and in this case I was not wrong.

Nutella is a staple in our house!

Nutella is a staple in our house!

The other thing we changed in the recipe was adding a little more ground nuts to the body of the cake, and, using less nutella. That was for another practical reason: Ms. Lawson’s recipe called for 14 ozs of nutella but the standard jar in the US is 13 ozs, so went with that. I don’t believe in driving yourself mad following directions to the letter, and I’m trying to teach my daughter how not to get frustrated with recipes from cookbooks. That way she will learn how to relax when cooking and be more spontaneous.

finished torte!

Finished Torte!

Her cake was beautiful, and so delicious, I hated leaving it at Tom’s at the end of the evening.

A small selection of cakes at the party - yum!

A small selection of cakes from the party – yum!


for cake:

6 large eggs, separated

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup soft butter (2 sticks, 8oz or 226 grams)

1 jar Nutella choc/hazelnut spread (the small jar in the US is 13oz and this will do fine)

1 tbs water

1/2 cup plus 2 tbs ground walnuts (I ground up some in my food processor. They can be rubble-like or fine in consistency)

4 oz bitter-sweet chocolate, melted (I a bar of Ghirardelli chocolate)

for icing:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tbs water

4 oz bittersweet chocolate

for Topping:

3/4 cup broken walnut pieces.

Equipment: one 9″ springform pan which has been buttered and parchment or wax paper has been buttered and laid in the bottom.


Preheat oven 350*

1 – Separate eggs, making sure to use a medium/large bowl for the whites. Whisk the whites until stiff (but less stiff than for a meringue). Set aside.

whisk egg whites

whisk egg whites

2 – Place butter and Nutella (use a small spatula to scrap out the last bits clinging to jar) in a large bowl and beat until well mixed.

Beat nutella adn butter together

Beat nutella and butter together

3 – Add the ground walnuts, egg yolks and water to the mixture and blend well.

Add reamining ingredients (except choclate)

Add remaining ingredients (except chocolate)

4 – Mix in the melted chocolate.

Add melted chocolate

Add melted chocolate

5 – Fold in the egg whites. Be gentle as you want to keep the mixture as airy as possible.

fold in egg whites gently

fold in egg whites gently

6 – Pour into your springform pan and place in preheated oven for about 40 minutes. (start checking after 35 minutes, and if the cake is pulling away from sides of pan or top looks brown, remove). Place pan on top of a wire rack to cool completely.

scrape into prepared pan

scrape into prepared pan

7 – While the cake is in the oven, melt the chocolate with the cream and water. When it has melted, use an electric whisk to beat until it is thick enough to spread onto the top of your cake (it does not have to be stiff). Set aside until the cake has cooled.

Make icing for cake

Make icing for cake

*if the icing refuses to thicken, add 1 tbs of confectioners sugar (icing sugar) to the mixture and that should do the trick* And on the other hand, if it gets too thick add a little water until it is a good consistency for spreading*

8 – Roast the walnuts: put medium saute pan on medium heat and add the walnut pieces. Cook, tossing occasionally until the walnuts start to pick up a little brown color in spots (6 to 8 minutes). Remove to a plate to cook completely.

brown walnuts

brown walnuts

9 – When cake has cooled, remove from pan very carefully and place onto a cake plate (or any flat board or plate). Spread with icing with a palette knife or spatula.

The fun part

The fun part

10 – Decorate with walnut pieces.

finished torte!

Finished Torte!

Serve alone or with a dollop of fresh cream.

This is the best way to clean the bowl!

This is the best way to clean the bowl!

Molten Chocolate Baby Cakes (serves 6)

The one and only reason my young baker has not been documented baking luscious desserts lately is because she is a sneaky cook!

Molten Chocolate Baby Cakes

When my lovely 10-year-old daughter (nearly 11!) decided she was comfortable in the kitchen, she would disappear for between 30 and 40 minutes and then arrive from the kitchen with something sweet and delectable. Despite my being happy having something lovely to enjoy with an afternoon coffee, I wasn’t comfortable with her little white and beautiful hands taking hot trays from a 400* oven.

Getting ready to bake

So, last night I had my camera ready when she crept into the kitchen to plan her “dessert ambush” She was very determined the only thing I did in the kitchen was take pictures, and so I bit my lip and offered no motherly advice. It turned out she didn’t need any.

she loves chocolate

She made a beautiful dessert with the help of her Nigella Lawson cookbook. It appears my life in this house as pastry chef has come to a close. Rock on Ide!


You will need: 4 tbs unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (or 12 oz bittersweet block chocolate), 1/2 cup sugar. 4 large eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/3 cup all-purpose flour. 6 ramekins, butter for greasing ramekins.

Preheat oven 400*

1 – Melt the chocolate and set aside to cool slightly.

Melt chocolate

2 – Cream the butter and sugar together until creamy.

cream butter and sugar

3 – Beat the eggs into the mixture one at a time.

Add eggs

4 – Add the vanilla, then stir in flour

Add vanilla

5 – Stir chocolate into mixture.

add chocolate

6 – Butter the ramekins and divide the chocolate mixture equally between each cup.

fill ramekins

7 – Place on baking tray, place in oven, and cook for 12 minutes.


8 – Remove and immediately turn onto a plate.


Serve moltenly hot.

Brownies (big batch)

Our friends’ Tom and Tina invited us to dinner, and the Young Baker volunteered to make the dessert. She took down her favorite book, “How to be a Domestic Goddess” by Nigella Lawson and settled on a big batch of gooey brownies.

lovely brownies

She changed the recipe as she doesn’t like nuts in chocolate. She substituted with more chocolate chips of course. It was a bold move, and worked splendidly.

What can I say? The girl knows how to win over a crowd with her baking prowess.


You will need: 1 2/3 cups unsalted butter,  4 cups bittersweet chocolate chips, 6 large eggs, 1 tbs vanilla extract, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1  2/3 cups sugar, 1 tsp salt.

Preheat oven 350*

1 – Melt 2 1/2 cups chocolate chips with butter in small pot on low heat. When it has melted, take off of heat.

melt butter with chocolate

2 – In large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar and vanilla until it looks well blended and creamy-looking.

mix eggs with sugar & vanilla

3 – Add the melted chocolate and butter to the egg mixture, and mix with whisk until well-blended.

add chocolate to eggs

4 – Mix the flour with the salt and then add to the chocolate mixture. Whisk until well-incorporated.

add flour

5 – Mix the remainder of the chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) into the mixture.

add chocolate chips

6 – Turn into a well-buttered 13 x 9 ” cake pan, or, into two 9″ round cake pans. Bake for 20 minutes if using 1 tin, and for 15 minutes if using two. The top should be lightly marbled with a gooey center.

transfer to a baking tray

Cool in its pan on a wire rack until cool.

Brownies with Cream, along with Tina's Chocolate Pie

Serve on its own, or with whipped cream. They will keep for at least a week in an airtight container or for months in the freezer. They are great right form the freezer.

Dense Chocolate Loaf (serves 10)

The Young Baker is at it again!

Dense Chocolate Loaf with Freshly Whipped Cream and Grated Chocolate

  When the kitchen became my girl’s hangout, that is, when she was old enough to grab onto my leg, she did what kids do, she started to absorb absolutely everything! The old saying about children and sponges is scarily true! It’s scary because you know that your every move is being documented, and filed away in their super-brains. So, you had better make sure that the things you do are ones you are happy to see repeated! Apart from a few minor embarrassments, we’re not doing too bad.

When my daughter decided to try things on her own I started a page on my blog for her. I wanted her to keep it up, and show her what she was doing was important and appreciated. Apparently, she needed no encouragement, and has been busy in the kitchen trying out new recipes whenever she has some down-time, and the kitchen is free.

She started off with me not helping, but I “hovered” in the kitchen in case she needed any advice, or help putting something into a hot oven. However, last week she disappeared into the kitchen, and when I became nosey, she told me to kindly keep out, and not to worry. She emerged an hour later holding a cake. She presented it to her brother and told him it was his “get well soon” present, (he happened to be sick that day). It was then I realised that she didn’t need me for everything. I made myself feel less wounded by the happy thought that she could now make the sweet stuff instead of me!

Which brings me to her latest baking endeavour. We had friends coming to dinner, and I was again ousted out of the kitchen and she set to work. I had no notion what she was making, and only worried about her using the oven. I walked into the kitchen after a respectable amount of time away, to find her with oven mitts on, and her pulling a loaf pan out of a 350* oven. She was as cool as a cucumber, so I stifled my gasp of concern.

The Young Baker prepping dessert.

She made this chocolate loaf from Nigella Lawson and I’ll wager it tasted better than the one in Ms. Lawson’s Test Kitchen! You go Young Baker!!


You will Need: 2 sticks unsalted butter (8 oz), room-temperature, 1 2/3 cups dark brown sugar (we used light brown and it didn’t seem to matter), 2 lrg eggs, 1 tsp vanilla, 4 0z bittersweet chocolate, melted (we used 1 cup 60% chocolate chips and it was great), 1 1/3 all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 cup boiling water, 1 9×5″ loaf pan

Preheat oven 375*

1 – Put the butter and sugar in a big bowl and cream with an electric mixer. Add eggs 1 at a time, and the vanilla, beating in well. Fold the melted chocolate into the egg mixture.

2 – Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add it to the chocolate mixture in about 1/4 cup increments alternatively with the boiling water.

3 – Scrap the mixture into the pan and place in preheated oven for 30 minutes. After that time, turn the oven down to 325* and continue to cook for another 15 minutes (it will still be a little runny in the middle, but that’s how it’s suppose to be).

4 – Place pan on a cooling rack and cool completely before turning out.

This cake keeps for a week wrapped in foil or plastic.

Serve with freshly whipped heavy cream and grated chocolate.

You can serve this by itself, or, do what the Young Baker did above, and serve with cream and chocolate shavings.

Peanut Butter Squares (makes 30 approx.)

The Young Baker (see top of blog to read more) wanted to try her hand at these fabulous peanut butter squares from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, ‘How to Be a Domestic Goddess.” Even thought she has been instructed to follow recipes verbatim, I am also a firm believer in not panicking if you don’t have all the ingredients or in the right quantities. From years of experience I have learned that there are a few rules that apply to cooking, and if you follow the rule you can pretty much create whatever you want, and make it your own, (how do you think professionals do it?).

The Young Baker ready to go!

Baking has a few more rules, but I still think you can made substitutions and changes within reason. If I have (as was the case last night) different chocolate than is called for, I will try to use what I have. As my daughter gathered her ingredients she told me that there was no bittersweet chocolate, only 60% dark, and not enough of it for the recipe. I told her to use what she had, and divide up the chocolate so she had generally the right overall amount, and see what happens. She was happy with that solution as she wanted to get on with the process, and, she learned that there are no hard and fast rules (in some cases) into the bargain.

a very indulgent treat

She had a great time making these as all the ingredients were sticky and gooey, and, she got to stick her hands into part of the mix, which she declared was like “rubbly play dough!” I found myself doing what my childern do when I am making sweet stuff; hanging around hoping she would offer me a bit from the bowl or a lick of a spoon! When I tried to strong-arm a spoon she was very strict about me not having it, telling me to “wait until it was ready” Wow, I had created a “mini-me!”

Well, they were worth the wait. If you love peanut butter and chocolate, you will die for these bits of heaven. They simply melt in your mouth and the chocolate-y taste lingers for moments after wards. I also think you could throw some peanuts into the chocolate mix for extra crunch, and, we will be sure to try this next time.


You will Need: 1/4 cup soft brown sugar, (she used light brown), 1 1/3 cups confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar), 1 scant cup peanut butter,  1 stick softened unsalted butter,( 4 oz or 8 tbs), 7 oz milk chocolate, 4 0z bittersweet chocolate (she used about 6 oz milk chocolate and 6 oz 60% chocolate instead, because this is what we had; it seemed to make no difference and in my opinion is a better ratio of light and dark!), 1 tbs unsalted butter.

Equipment: Greased 9″ square baking pan, food processor or wooden spoon.

1 – Put chocolates and 1 tbs of the butter into pan and melt on lowest heat. Set aside.

melt chocolates and butter

2 – Put the sugars, peanut butter and softened butter into your food processor and whirl until nice and smooth.

What comes next?

Blend sugars with butters

3 – Transfer peanut butter mixture into greased pan and flatten evenly on the bottom with your hands.

Press peanut butter mixture into pan (perfect hand-size for the job!)

4 – Pour the chocolate on top and spread evenly. Place in fridge for about an hour, or until chocolate has set.

Spread chocolate on top

Cut into squares, or, cut as you feel the urge for a sinful treat

Serve in squares.