I should be writing. Instead, chocolate forgiveness cake.

T: Just asking…Shouldn’t I be making a rich chocolate cake into which I then poke holes and onto which I then slather a thin ganache that will seep into the afore-poked holes?

C: What is stopping you?!?

T: I needed personal affirmations. 🤓

C: Go for it!

T: Shame and guilt also work. I am Catholic, after all 😇. Okay then. I’ll tell L that you insist. 

C: It is a little known fact that chocolate can absolve sins! I insist you search for forgiveness!

T: You’re kidding! I could have skipped that spooky confessional and chowed down on a Nestle’s Crunch Bar? …My ‘chocolate forgiveness cake’! I love it! 🙏.


So there you have it. Thanks to my texting pal, making my chocolate forgiveness cake (my name–website calls it The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe {Ever}) was a moral imperative.

This recipe calls for a cup of boiling water as the final ingredient.

As addapinch’s Robyn Stone tells you, the batter comes out very thin. Not to worry, the cake’s consistency came out just fine.


Besides enjoying the cake with my wife,
this was the best 12 seconds of the day.


And now, thanks to addapinch.com…
today’s chocolate forgiveness cake


Note: Back to the opening text conversation, and as if this recipe isn’t solid enough, I added the ‘poke cake’ feature. We tried two icings–chocolate for cake #1 and vanilla for cake #2.

I should be writing.. Instead, apple crisp…and apple cake.

This off-kilter shot is all about featuring our beloved former dog Bear’s watchful eye.

I really had no choice.

It’s officially apple season and the golden delicious tree is burgeoning.

So, last Sunday I slapped together an apple crisp sans recipe, though my trusty assistant in culinary crimes–my wife and herder of Buddy the Rescue Dog–pulled up an Epicurious recipe for a crust topping as a guide. For the filling, I just knew what ingredients I wanted and went from there.

Result: a caramelly ooze —gee, go figure, when the cook indiscriminately tosses in plenty of brown sugar and enough flour…well, there were the sweet cherries and their juice, and the chunks of golden delicioius–well, you get the picture… and the crust was as good as the apple-goo. 

Autumn…I love you.**

***

A few days later, within hours of finishing the crisp, and with plenty of Act of Kindness Writing chores I could/should be dealing with, it was time for an apple cake…or, as the recipe calls it, a ‘moist’ apple cake.

On its own, this is a ‘will bake again’ item. As always, though, I did stray ‘just a bit’…

  • I added allspice to both the apple mixture and the flour mixture.
  • When it comes to cinnamon, I just don’t get the low doses in most recipes. Can’t remember the last time I actually measured cinnamon.
  • I added rehydrated Craisins.
  • I made my own ‘apple sauce’. I just mashed away at, and then seasoned, chunks of golden delicious with the pastry cutter. And mashed away some more.
  • Figuring on a more moist result, I used a loaf pan instead of a 9” x 13” pan.
  • Fearing there might be spillover, I scooped out about a cup of the mixture and slathered that into a greased pie pan. Gotta say, when revisiting this recipe, I’ll be tempted to go exclusively with pie pans. It’s a quicker bake and four smaller cakes open the door to more experimentation, say a little creme de cassis reduction for one of them…and Ree Drummond’s Easy Caramel Sauce for another. Come to think of it…I guess it wouldn’t hurt to have those on hand for slices of this current version…

The problem with a spillover cake is its insistence on immediate measures for quality control.
Buddy anxiously awaiting ‘his’ afternoon coffee time.
He fully approves of fall flavors.

**“No, deeeear! I don’t know anyone named Autumn!”

I should be writing. Instead, drifting…toward chocolate cake.

  1. Raise your hand if:
  • you’ve ever left a measuring cup in the bag of flour or sugar.
  • you’ve intentionally left a measuring cup in the bag of flour or sugar for the next baking venture.
  • you skipped the ‘firmly pack the brown sugar’ step and instead just poured in an extra tablespoon or two of the stuff.
  • you would consider breaking off a hunk of this cake rather than resorting to a [pinkies up!] utensil. Recipe below…Note: Feel free to overdo both the chocolate chips and the cocoa.

2. Best way to get rid of the redolent odor of wildfire smoke in your kitchen? Four batches of roasted tomatoes, with generous supplies of garlic chunks, rosemary sprigs, etc. [It ain’t pretty here in Oregon right now…]

3. And then there’s this: Do you think dogs lying peacefully on the floor know the difference between our giving them half our attention [one hand scratching their chin and one hand clicking links or entering a passcode] vs. our full attention? Do we send out a ‘semi-distracted’ vibe when we are, in fact, semi-distracted?

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

**

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

**

  • 2 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 4 TBLSP cocoa

**

  • 3 six-inch long zucchini
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Cream first four ingredients together in large bowl.
  2. Add next three ingredients and stir well to mix.
  3. Measure next six ingredients into sifter; then sift into bowl of other ingredients.
  4. Finely grate zucchini into bowl; stir until blended. 
  5. Fold in half of the chocolate chips to mixture.
  6. Pour into greased 9″ x 13″ pan –or- two 9″ cake pans.
  7. Sprinkle rest of chocolate chips on top of batter.
  8. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. [Check it about the 37-minute mark. Hey, different ovens, right?]

*Cutting the oil in half barely changes the final result.

Curation Corner: A writing conference on one page

Fellow writers, in these pandemically, financially-challenging times, here–courtesy of BookBub–is your ticket to a writers conference and you can keep your bunny slippers on the whole time. [Hey, guy-writers, I’m not judging…]

The word cloud above supplies most of the topics. Check it out and run the sessions in the background while you’re baking writer’s block brownies for your self-selected ‘intermission’. Don’t forget the Italian roast, though I know some writers from the great state of Virginia prefer tea. ;-]

I should have been writing. Instead, a kitchen marathon

This is me…except he is smiling, has tons more hair, and his kitchen is clean. [Oh, yeah, I don’t wear that dorky hat. It would fall into the Instant Pot anyway.]

So, back to procrasticooking... Result: 35 new recipes in 30 days. Note: A few sites were repeated. Hard not to fall back on epicurious.com.

Discoveries:

1. I’m not sure I followed any of the recipes to their exact specifications. More and more, I’ve been treating recipes as general guidelines rather than strict instructions.

2. I ‘created’ a few of my own — simple ones where I combined new ingredients/seasonings. Example: Avocado oil-roasted potatoes with a favorite Moroccan spice mix, ras-el-hanout.

3. New cooking questions arose in that vast abyss otherwise labeled ‘my brain’, like…if I oil the veggies before seasoning them for roasting, will the oil serve as a barrier to absorption and reduce the flavors? And no, I stillhaven’t looked it up. Sometimes, you just want a mystery to linger.

4. Oh, lord, some of those recipe sites take *forever* to load up all the ads and videos. I know these folks want to make a little money, but I had no problem just closing them up and looking for faster-loading alternatives.

5. Despite the physical separation from my writing tools and settings, I did get some good prewriting and first draft material churning as I cleaned up afterwards.

6. Speaking of clean-up, yep, even with my wife doing her part, dishes and counter mess were the bane of my existence. I even took a couple of days off in mid-challenge just to dodge the scrub-and-soak-rinse-and-repeat detail. Plus, the horrors of dishwater hands…

7. Some utensils, pots, and dishes never really made it back to the cupboards. They were used, washed, air-dried or towel-dried, and put back to work.

8. Based on my ratings below…well, I’m easy to cook for.

9. Even after the challenge, I can’t seem to stop cooking new stuff. Just yesterday, on a whim, I baked a mango pound cake from Pati Jinich and made my version of Mexican street corn grits . Someone! Please stop the madness.

10. There was an added challenge this year…My gastronomically-devoted ‘shoo! chef’, Buddy.

black dog looking up at the counter

Passing through the work area, my wife would step around our furry child and mutter, “not quite a certified kitchen, I see.”


Here are my first five recipes with a few added comments, a letter grade, and a ‘Yes’ [would repeat this recipe] or ‘No’. Note: The letter grade is just as much a comment on how well I delivered as a cook as it is on whether I liked the recipe itself.

  • Bear Batter Bread by way of New Tastes from Texas by Stephan Pyles. B+ — Yes.
  • Slow-Cooked Garlicky Greens by way of Bon Appetit. A — -Yes.
  • Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Added dried cranberries and some almond flour to give them a little structure. In four of them, I added generous dabs of cold-hardened chocolate sauce. Result: Downright ugly, but cooked just right and resembling florentines. A- — Yes.
  • Savory cheese pancakes with half almond flour and half all purpose flour and the rest of the traditional pancake ingredients. I liked the nuttiness of the batter and the Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute. B+ — Yes.
  • Southern Fried Cabbage B+ — Yes

Links to procrasticooking:

https://www.instagram.com/procrasticooking/?hl=en

https://procrasticooking.wordpress.com

http://www.bakingequalslove.com/2014/10/procrasticooking-grilled-paneer.html

I should be writing. Instead, 30 recipes in 30 days

My first recipe from 11 days ago…Thank you, Epicurious.

So, yes, much like the summer of 2010 when I was laid up after Achilles tendon repair, I, like millions of others, am experiencing ‘restricted routines’. Hey, gotta do the right thing for others, including our front-liners. No complaints here.

And, as in 2010, it’s freed me up for another round of…

“30 New Recipes from 30 Sources in 30 Days”
Subtitle: “Without Gaining 30 Pounds”

Today’s entry, from Mom on Timeout: Peanut Butter Stuffed French Toast

Okay, now this is weird. I’m revisiting the recipe and son of a gun if I forgot the eggs!

But it’s three hours after breakfast and it just hit me! 

This recipe’s batter called for a quarter cup of flour, which is not something I’ve used in the past, and evidently, that supplied enough substance and adherence qualities [‘stickiness’ is really the better word] that I didn’t notice the lack of eggs. Weird.

Probability: You throw in enough of the good inner stuff, you don’t notice shortcomings. Case in point: I’m not proud of its appearance–I can tell you, the wrestling match just to get this on the tray was not a pretty sight–but this stromboli-saurus recipe earned a ‘repeat visit’ award.

My apologies to Lauren’s Latest…her final product was much more pleasing to the eye.
‘Ugly Delicious’ folks: are you reading this?

Speaking of ‘inner stuff’, there was no reason to stop at peanut butter, so I pulled out black cherry preserves and a thick blueberry sauce that accompanied the flourless chocolate cake I’d made four days prior.

Half the fun of ‘following’ recipes is taking the detours. [Thank god there isn’t a Siri or Google Maps in the culinary world. That digital chorus would be endlessly yammering at me. “No, you nimrod, don’t double the cheese!”]

My final detour at breakfast: “Well, there’s still batter left…I wonder if I tossed in a wad of brown sugar and a glop of the blueberry sauce and then soaked the bread…”

Yep, I’d do it again. And maybe next time, a little creme de cassis or brandy wouldn’t hurt.

And speaking of detours…do this: While you’re eating, close your eyes. My experience: The food’s taste is ramped up. [Drawback, so is the sound of your chewing and chomping.] It seems to follow the truism that taking away one sense heightens the others.

So, what does all this have to do with writing? Experimentation in writing, as in cooking, can be a pleasant little kick in the seat of the pants.

Fellow writers and cooks: Go pave a new path. Have fun. 

Stuck on a writing project?

Here is one possible solution:

https://www.newyorker.com/cartoon/a24040-dailycartoonjpg

***

Oh, sure, you might actually be serious about writing. In that case, here are a few ideas:

  • The tangential method
  • The switching gears method
  • The backstory method
  • The undoing method

***

I generally resort to turning on the oven. Matter of fact, I’m overdue for another version of my olive oil dough tear-and-shares.

My process:

  • pre-seasoned the dough [oregano, basil, granulated garlic],
  • rolled it out
  • spread out generous portions of grated cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, and sausage
  • rolled it back up
  • cut out portions
  • dipped them in beaten egg
  • placed them in the pan
  • poured the rest of the beaten egg over the portions
  • gave them another 20 minutes of rising time [not sure if I should have let them rise first and then poured the egg. Shrug.]
  • baked them at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes

For lots more tear-and-share ideas:

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/tear-share

I should be writing. Instead…bread pudding.

Sweet potato bread pudding, to be specific, inspired by an episode of George Hirsch Lifestyle

I had leftover monkey bread/pull apart from a local bakery–the parts lacking anything resembling sweet, syrupy, or nutty [i.e. the dry stuff that should have been drenched, but wasn’t. Okay, so I’m a hard-nose when it comes to unhealthy, but oh-so-good pastries.]

And I figured it would be a great springboard for a bread pudding.

Anyway, I steamed the sweet potatoes and worked in plenty of vanilla, cinnamon, and brown sugar. The resulting mash sat peacefully in the fridge for a couple of days and this morning mixed well with the sweetened custard, then the bread, chopped pecans, and rehydrated cranberries.

I can’t seem to track down the exact recipe, sorry. So, bakers, just mix it all together and keep an eye on it. At 350 degrees, the pudding–about 2.5 inches high– took about 70 minutes–foil-covered for the first 40 minutes, then crisping up the rest of the time.

L. convinced me that the sweet potatoes made this a health food. Worked for me.

I should be writing. Instead…mini-pies.

dog looking up at counter with pies
Other than the restricted access, we think Buddy approves.

Yep, not getting out much over the last week, so…

Substituted one cup of almond flour. [2:1 ratio–all-purpose:almond.] It added a nice [no surprise] nuttiness and richness to the crust. I’d do it again.

Filling: caramel-dried cranberry-pecan-apple.

Topping: a basic streusel I threw together [flour, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon]

Caramel: I think I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s actually what Ree Drummond calls her ‘brown sugar sauce.’

Why mini-pies?

  • Lots of different flavors.

  • ‘Fails’ aren’t as drastic. Therefore, it encourages experimentation.

  • Practice with different fluting techniques [though–as the photo shows–the almond flour gives the crust more of a ‘mind of its own’ once in the oven.]

  • Built-in ‘portion control’.

I do like the America’s Test Kitchen approach of high heat on a pre-heated cookie sheet for the first ten minutes. I go with 450º, then drop to 375º.

When was it done? We just waited for the inevitable ooze from the middle.

Need a justification for stress-induced baking? I’ve got it covered.

Stay safe, you all.