• Cakes,  Other

    Recipephany Turns 10

    Ten years ago I started this little blog with Black Magic Cake, a recipe that touched my life as it has probably touched the lives of countless other chocolate lovers. An easy recipe with simple ingredients produced a confection that, after one bite, dethroned our family’s long-revered celebration cake. I dubbed it a “halleluyum moment.” This was a recipe epiphany I wanted to share with everybody. At the time, I didn’t realize how much of a life-changer Black Magic Cake would become. It turned into a wedding cake—twice. As if the joy of their marriages weren’t enough, our son and daughter asked me to make the cakes that they would ceremonially smear over their…

  • Desserts,  Egg dishes,  Pies,  Snacks

    Caramel Custard Flan

    Ceci n’est pas une pie. It’s Pi Day. Ordinarily I’d bake a pie, but with the new “social distancing,” the two of us would have to eat the whole thing. So instead, I made some comforting caramel custard—AKA “flan”—from a forgotten can of Magnolia Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk in the pantry. The can had gone several months past its “best by” date, but rest assured the quality was fine and I had no sense of Russian food roulette. It really burns me how those dates trigger so much needless waste. Using this lost and forlorn can sparked joy—Marie Kondo-style—by both freeing up shelf space and inspiring this dessert. This recipe came right off the…

  • Chris's Fish Tacos Fabuloso
    Fish,  Main Dish,  Mexican,  Other

    Chris’s Fish Tacos Fabuloso

    Two years ago we packed our snorkel gear and headed to Baja California, Mexico. The fish put on quite a circus. A swirl of polka dots and iridescent stripes greeted us as soon as we entered the water. The Baja is also famous for another kind of fish marvel: the fish taco. It originated there, probably before the Spanish arrived. We sought out the best fish tacos in every town we passed through. The Los Claros restaurants won hands down as Baja’s best. We made triply sure by visiting all three—in Cabo San Lucas, La Paz and San Jose del Cabo. Los Claros believes in giving you options. They batter-fry or grill fish while…

  • Cakes,  Desserts,  Snacks,  Vegan

    Sweetheart (please make me a) 1-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

    How about a Valentine’s Day quickie? Make a warm, double-chocolate little “mug cake” for your sweetie any time he or she implores you. Betty Crocker, that tart, makes it possible with her “Super-Moist Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix.” Measure some mix into a mug or small bowl. Stir in water and chocolate chips. Watch it circle around in the microwave for up to 60 seconds. Cool slightly—the chocolate chips will stay gooey—then top with whipped cream. Most of all, it means less time in the kitchen—a lovely indulgence for both of you. Sweetheart 1-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake Adapted from Joy Bauer’s “3-Ingredient Chocolate Mug Cake,” Savory Magazine (Stop and Shop), January 2020, p.39 Recipe doubles…

  • Candy,  Desserts

    Oscars 2020: Fudge v Ferraro Rocher

    It’s Oscars time, and we’re shifting our puns into high gear. My pick for Best Picture, Ford v Ferrari, has inspired Fudge v Ferraro Rocher, a chocolate-fueled dessert competition to help us reach the finish line without colliding into awards-night boredom. This head-to-head contest will pit hand-crafted fudge made from All-American Hershey’s cocoa against the iconic chocolate-hazelnut candy from the Ferraro company, Italy’s own Big Chocolate. To challenge a best-seller from the people who invented Nutella takes some chutzpah—especially since I’ve never attempted fudge before. Sure, there are quick fudge recipes that call for three ingredients: sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips and nuts. But no, I had to choose the thrill of making a…

  • Indian,  Soups,  Vegan,  Vegetables

    Red Lentil Soup with Indian Spices

    Sometimes we just need the happy kick of richly spiced, ready-to-ladle Indian food. Why wait? Red Lentil Soup with Indian Spices takes less than an hour to whip up using pantry and fridge staples—and surprisingly few spices. The name says “spices” as if it’s a lot, but it’s really only two. This version of India’s spiced red lentil soup, Masoor Dal, has full-on flavor with just cumin and chili powder. Lots of onions and umami-rich tomato paste also blend with the sweet, nutty red lentils to satisfy your Indian food craving and, as my mom used to say, warm your kishkas. Red lentils have no skins, so they cook very quickly and self-pureé. It’s…

  • Breads,  Italian,  Other,  Technique

    Italian Star Bread Secrets Revealed! Make Bakery-Quality Loaves.

    For decades I’ve sought this holy grail of bread recipes. Star bread, the American cousin of what I consider the finest bread in Italy, is the stuff of legends. Italian bakers introduced it to Springfield, Massachusetts, and a few other places in the state about a hundred years ago. Specialty Italian bakeries hooked customers on the twisty-shaped loaves, also called “horn bread” or “bolognese bread.” Those bakeries have dwindled to a handful, and star bread always sells out—often before it reaches the shelves. What makes it so special? The hard, golden brown, impossibly smooth crust has the crunch of a dry breadstick. In contrast, the soft crumb inside is fine, compact, and as bright…

  • Recipephany ingredient,  Soups,  Vegan,  Vegetables

    Haymarket Asparagus Soup

    It’s hard to cook asparagus to its elegant best. If you leave spears in too long, they go from vibrant and crisp to drab and droopy. Take them out too soon, and you’ll get a raw crunch instead of a tender, tasty bite. But it’s easy to cook asparagus perfectly in this soup. There’s no peeling or fussy prep. No matter how long the asparagus simmers, it doesn’t lose its sweet, earthy flavor. A touch of thyme and savory add garden brightness, and golden potatoes make it creamy. Crispy, salty prosciutto bits on top give contrasting crunch and color to the green smoothness. Best of all, you don’t need pristine spears if you’re just…

  • Breads,  Technique

    Brilliant Baking with the Bread Bucket

    Now I know how I’ll make my millions. I’ll dust the cobwebs off my MBA and manufacture a shiny new version of the bread bucket, a once-popular tool for cranking out bakery-quality loaves. I betcha even King Arthur Flour will feature this brilliant energy saver in their baking porn catalog. Of course, I’ll have to cut Bruce Belden in on the deal. Bruce, the illustrious president of my high school class, has become an ardent home bread baker and he tipped me off about the bread bucket phenomenon. Here’s Bruce’s story. Once you’ve read it, you’ll want in on the bread bucket business, too. ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ Cranking Out Loaves with the Bread Bucket by Bruce…

  • Desserts,  Pies

    Meri’s Berries

    Is it a crumble or a crisp? A cobbler or a grunt? Or maybe a slump? Whatever the name, it’s a fruit pie without a traditional pie crust. It frees us from rolling, crimping, and the customary fretting about flakiness. And let’s face it…sometimes we just prefer more fruit and less pastry. With Meri’s Berries, you toss together a crumbly dough that bakes into a crisp cookie-like topping. Sugar and flour in the dough combine with the berry juice to turn it a bit syrupy. This syrup won’t get as thick as pie filling does, but then again there’s no crust to make soggy. Meri Cayem shared this recipe back when our sons, both…

  • Dick's Hermit Cookies
    Cookies,  Other

    Dick’s Hermits

    How did these classic New England molasses-spice cookies come to be called “hermits”? Some say it’s because they kept well when hidden away on ocean voyages. Others think they resemble hermits’ robes. Let’s just chalk it up to the region’s wacky names. For instance, Rhode Islanders call milkshakes “cabinets,” and they don’t have a good explanation for that, either. Since my mother-in-law Dorothy (known as Dick) grew up in western Massachusetts, the heart of hermit country, these cookies may have been passed down from her mom. My husband usually beat his siblings to them, often stealing a couple right off the cooling rack. When he introduced me to these these tender bars—completely new to…

  • Dad's Favorite Coffee Cake
    Breakfast,  Cakes,  Desserts

    “Dad’s Favorite Coffee Cake”

    If Do-It-Yourself were an Olympic sport, my father-in-law would have won gold. To Louis (everyone knew him as “Louie”), every chance to fix the unfixable was an opportunity to achieve a personal best. As a contractor, he could do everything. He was a wiring wizard and mechanical mastermind. To solve a problem, he would cobble together ingenious gadgets out of scraps from his garage. When he was in his 80s, he even developed a computer program for doing his taxes. So why was I surprised to hear that he baked? I suppose it’s because his wife Dorothy (everyone called her “Dick,” a nickname coined by her little brother) kept the household swimming in brownies,…

  • Appetizers,  Breads,  Breakfast,  Side Dishes,  Snacks,  Vegan

    Raegan’s No-Knead Focaccia

    My daughter-in-law Raegan Sales, creative vegetarian home cook and baker, generously offers yet more proof that some great breads just about make themselves. She started with something called “Ridiculously Easy Focaccia Bread” and—yes—made it even easier. And ridiculously delicious. With Raegan’s Focaccia, a bubbly wet dough bakes into a delightfully chewy golden-crusted flatbread. It owes its tender crumb and lovely flavor to hours of fermentation in the fridge and oodles of olive oil. About all we do is stir and stare, except when we get to poke our fingers into the squishy, oily dough. The payoff: warm, aromatic, hole-studded focaccia eager to get dunked into more olive oil or devoured on the spot. It…

  • Egg dishes,  Ingredient,  Technique

    Egg-centricity: A taste test

    (Photo courtesy of Lynn Osborn) It’s almost Passover and Easter, a perfect time to share results of an egg taste test by guest contributor, Stan Rowin. First, some background. Stan is a photographer who started his career taking photos in Julia Child’s Cambridge kitchen, now a culinary mecca at the Smithsonian. The same Julia who never got rattled by a fallen soufflé or a splattered pancake showed Stan her perfectionist side during a shoot. “Julia was doing a chapter on eggs, and she wanted to show how fresh eggs look when fried,” says Stan. Then the frenzy began. “Out of three dozen eggs, she got one egg that looked good, but couldn’t find a…

  • Ingredient,  Jams and Condiments,  Passover,  Technique,  Techniques & Ingredients

    Quick Homemade Horseradish: If You Can’t Stand the Fumes….

    Making your own horseradish takes just four ingredients: horseradish root, vinegar, salt, and courage. The goal is to get from root to jar as quickly as possible, minimizing the time you spend holding your breath, clenching your eyes, and stumbling out of the kitchen gasping for air. But if you like horseradish, you’ll enjoy the challenge. No store-bought brand can mess with your pleasure/pain center quite like the stuff you make fresh. My dad famously made horseradish from home-grown root, yet it was Mom who consumed it with the most gusto. She heaped it onto her gefilte fish, laughing through her tears about how well it cleared her sinuses. As my neuroscientist daughter points…

  • Cakes,  Cookies,  Desserts

    Chocolate Mini-Donuts

    Do we really need another recipe for chocolate cake besides our definitive Black Magic Cake, the first Recipephany? Yes, because we also need chocolate mini-donuts drenched in chocolate ganache. Black Magic makes ultra-moist full-sized cakes, but is doesn’t work so well for tiny sweets. With this recipephany, you can make these intensely chocolatey cuties in the time it takes to bake a batch of cookies. These mini-donuts have a lot going for them. Besides looking adorable on a dessert plate, they’re great for portion control. Instead of cutting a whopping slab of cake, you can pick up one of these and dispatch it in a couple of genteel bites. Then you can go back and…

  • Breakfast,  Cakes,  Desserts,  Snacks

    Things to Do With Cranberries: Cranberry Streusel Coffeecake

    If you’re like me, you bought two bags of cranberries before Thanksgiving because it said on the Ocean Spray package, “Buy two, freeze one.” Now what do you do with the one in the freezer? Cranberries keep a year or more in the freezer. So you can dip into your cranberry stash any time and make, for instance, this tasty Cranberry Streusel Coffee Cake. This breakfast/snack/dessert has it all: cranberry and its best friend, orange; your favorite sour dairy product (sour cream or yogurt or sour milk); the baker’s drug of choice, vanilla; and cinnamon and nuts. You can bake one large sheet cake or two 9” square cakes. In the Ocean Spray spirit,…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Cakes

    Muriel Brody’s Wheat Germ Banana Bread

    My mom died in August, just a month shy of turning 102. She was a success at more than just longevity. She became an art teacher rather than a journalist because her father thought it was a safer profession for women in the 1930s. And even though she’d never picked up a paintbrush until she entered Moore College of Art, her watercolors were as masterful as if she’d been born with the divine gift. She gave up teaching to serve as a Naval officer’s wife at a time when “entertaining” was serious business. Throwing dinner parties and organizing wives’ club luncheons were part of the job, and she had the poise and smarts to…

  • Ingredient,  Other,  Techniques & Ingredients

    Chillin’ With Vanillin: How to Beat the High Cost of Vanilla

    If you can believe headlines these days, vanilla is nearly as expensive as silver. A cyclone in Madagascar last year put vanilla bean on the “endangered spices” list. Maybe we should now include vanilla extract in our homeowners’ policies. But all is not lost. For those of us who swirl spoonfuls into our yogurt and pour it into our baking, there’s no need to cut back. It’s “vanillin,” the active flavor ingredient in vanilla, that we really love. “Vanilla extract” has other chemicals, too, but they have negligible taste and degrade when heated. We’re in it for the vanillin. And we can get it in “imitation vanilla.” But why, Mr. Science, should we settle…

  • Breakfast,  Cakes,  Muffins,  Other,  Snacks

    Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffin Cake

    There was something about the loftiness, the berriness, and the sugary crustiness of Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins that hooked Boston in the 60s. Jordan Marsh (“Jahduns”) was Boston’s answer to Macy’s for more than 150 years, until Macy’s had the final answer and acquired it in 1996. It speaks to the power of a good snack that a sugar delivery system for tired shoppers has become a favorite memento of this late, great New England retailer. The muffin’s originator, Jordan’s baker John Pupek, kept his recipe a professional secret. This triggered Muffin Mystery Mania, when home bakers and restaurants alike set out to recreate the oversized, overstuffed muffin. For decades, the media and the…

  • Biscuits,  Breads,  Side Dishes

    Emergency Corn Biscuits

    Emergency Corn Biscuits lured me in with the wacky name, but they could just as well have been called Cornbread-Lovers’ Biscuits. This recipe is out of the 1922 Good Housekeeping cookbook, from an era when American housewives apparently faced corn biscuit emergencies. I tried to imagine such predicaments: “Honey, the Johnsons just brought over baked beans.” Or: “The wrestling coach wants you to put on how many pounds, Jimmy?” Or: “How long has this sack of cornmeal been in the pantry?” But the emergency—and a serious one at that—was not in the American kitchen but abroad. This recipe came from World War I, when American households voluntarily conserved foods to help feed troops and save victims…

  • Desserts,  Gluten-free,  Pudding,  Snacks,  Vegan

    9-Minute Creamy Rice Pudding in the Pressure Cooker

    Luxurious rice pudding tastes divine and makes you feel good all over. But achieving a rich creaminess can be tricky. Baking can take hours, and the rice can even toughen. Thanks to the miraculous time-defying Pressure Cooker, this recipephany takes raw rice from zero to supreme creaminess in less than 15 minutes. Evaporated milk (milk that’s been concentrated by cooking it down) adds thickness plus a hint of caramelization. This slight nuttiness joins hands with the vanilla and cinnamon (rice pudding is a great delivery system for both) to create ahhh-inspiring yumminess. While you might think of rice pudding as the fluffy slippers of desserts, it has some hipness. When our son lived in…

  • Cookies,  Desserts

    Hall-of-Achievement Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

    What do architects know about cookies? A lot, I’m sure, since these chocolate chip oatmeal cookies won Best-Tasting Cookie at an architectural firm where my husband once worked. I had baked them early in the morning so they were still warm when he entered them into the contest, slightly crisp on the outside yet chewy inside. I suspect this structure may have swayed the judges as much as the flavor dimension added by an extra splash of bright vanilla and glug of bittersweet molasses. It was decades ago, but the construction-paper blue ribbon still hangs as a reminder in our Hall of Achievement. The award proudly holds its own in the swarm of diplomas,…

  • Breads,  Breakfast

    No-Knead Portuguese Sweet Bread (Mazza Savada)

    Portuguese Sweet Bread shows up at Easter with dyed eggs poking out the top. Frankly, I think it looks better without them. The mahogany crust and soft, eggy interior make a luxurious slice, turning toast or sandwiches into a special occasion. With this easy no-knead recipephany, you can make this splendid bread on a whim. Just stir ingredients into a shaggy dough and let it sit overnight. Next day, form it into a ball, let it rise in the pan, and bake. That makes the hardest part remembering to start the night before. While my mom didn’t bake bread, she set aside this recipe for me back in the 90s. She found it in…

  • Beef,  Latin American,  Main Dish,  Snacks

    Picadillo Tacos

    First, don’t confuse “picadillo” with “peccadillo,” although I often slip into that malapropism. While picadillo-filled tacos are not the least bit sinful, they can give you the same guilty pleasure as nachos for dinner. They fall into that category of slightly messy finger foods that go well with the football playoffs. A quick-cooking alternative to chili, this Cuban-style mélange packs a sweet and tangy punch. It starts with a tomatoey sofrito of aromatics and peppers, then adds a Mediterranean accent with raisins, capers and chopped olives. I first made picadillo from a Boston Globe recipe in 2001. I amped up the flavors and seasonings, figuring the “pica” stands for “picante.” When I finally had…