How Quickly Did These Gluten-Free Corn Muffins Disappear?


As an experiment to improve the heath of our children, we are trying out the gluten-free lifestyle. Like me and many of their forebears, Nina and Pinta have long had eczema, to varying degrees. This recently distressed Santa Maria so much that we agreed to try going gluten free.

Santa Maria was even willing to give it a shot herself, though lacking any health need she said she had nothing to gain. On the contrary, I told her, she would at least now be trendy. She didn’t really like that, but as the one charged with stocking the pantry every week and shoveling coal into the bottomless furnaces of our growing offspring day in and day out, I felt entitled to a bit of humor.

We started the experiment a few weeks ago, mostly by eliminating such beloved items as pizza and bagels from our diet. Aside from asking gluten-free friends for bread recommendations, we haven’t really tried replacing baked goods (though on the first day I attempted gluten-free pancakes, without doing proper research, and we all suffered). Monday afternoon, however, Santa Maria whipped up a batch of gluten-free corn muffins that made everyone forget the experiment.

She found a recipe online and substituted King Arthur’s gluten-free multi-purpose flour (which from subsequent pancake attempts we discovered is a good, if slightly sweet, replacement for regular flour, in some recipes). The muffins were light and crunchy, with a crispy edge and deep corn flavor. She added frozen blueberries and raspberries which delighted Pinta and added another level of color and complexity. Toasted and topped with melting butter, they disappeared faster than it could be revealed that they are gluten-free. I could barely find one left to draw when all was said and done. I hope we see more of these around the house soon. Here's her recipe.

Santa Maria’s One Bowl Gluten-Free Corn Muffins

  • 1 cup cornmeal (I like Bob’s Red Mill coarse grind)
  • 1 cup King Arthur multi-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup frozen blueberries and/or raspberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Grease muffin tin or line with paper muffin liners.

In a large bowl, mix together corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Add egg, oil and milk; stir gently to combine.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

Optional: add 1 Tablespoon frozen organic blueberries or raspberries to the center of the batter (my favorite is a mix of both).

Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean and the tops are lightly golden.

Serve with butter and a frosted glass of cold milk!

Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Gingerbread Cookies

If our lives were the movie “Frozen,” come the holiday season we wouldn’t be living in the Kingdom of Arendelle, but rather the Kingdom of Cookies. And, instead of being able to turn everything into ice, the reigning power, Santa Maria, would have different abilities. As it is, she’s the Sovereign of Sweets, the Monarch of Meringues, the Queen of Quick Breads. This year, with assistance from my fine friends at Kraft, who are sponsoring this post (and you thought it was Disney!), we decided to mix things up. Christmas recipes are never in short supply, and the Christmas cookie shouldn’t be trifled with, but I couldn’t help myself. I just had to try something new.

With Santa Maria’s help, I built on a gingerbread cookie recipe to make marshmallow fluff sandwich men. The cookies are fun to make with kids. Not only do you get to cut out the shapes, but you get to poke holes in the figures, and squish them together. The layer of Jet-puffed marshmallow flows up through the holes and makes decorating easy. Eating them is even more fun. The kids tend to pry them apart and the white topping of the gingerbread men is very festive. The full recipe is here.

Halloween Special: Burbling Blood Blondies


Every year we make special Halloween treats—candied kale chips with crystallized tofu-and-powdered shiitake puffs. Just kidding! That sounds too scary, even for a natural-food, organically minded home cook like myself. Something like that would give me nightmares.

Halloween food should be fun. When I was a boy, I remember my older sisters having sleep-over parties on the holiday, where they would play games involving cold cooked pasta and blindfolds, making miniature haunted houses. Or so I imagined, because, apparently, I was too frightening a figure to be included in their games. What little I learned came by listening from the top of the stairs after bedtime to their distant squealing. But it’s no longer so hard to get information on Halloween parties. If you want to make a killer Halloween dish, the Internet is full of ideas, from Halloween cupcakes to monster cakes.

I have a contribution to that graveyard of sweet delights—Burbling Blood Blondies. They are Santa Maria’s invention, and they are gooey and delicious. I hope you like them. You can find the recipe here, on the page for Kraft’s Tastemaker program, which sponsored this post.

The Biology of Baking: Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie


Remember photosynthesis—the process of plants turning the carbon dioxide into oxygen? Trees take the carbon we exhale and fashion it into trunks and branches. Our breath literally becomes something physical, standing there in the forest, waving its leaves in the breeze. Raising kids works much the same way. As I exhale, they grow. Sometimes, I think I can see Nina and Pinta getting taller as I sigh. I’m not saying that they are sucking the life out of me. No, not at all. Quite the contrary. Like the trees give us oxygen, they return love, and who can live without that?

But all this energy transfer leaves little time for the other things we used to do, like have a life. I’m not complaining, just observing, because one thing I’ve also noticed is that this often leads to disagreements—or so I’ve been told—about who is doing what around the house. I’m not saying I have any direct experience with these matters, but I’ve learned that when kids are growing up and two parents are working, everyone can feel like they’re doing too much. It’s as natural as photosynthesis itself.

According to older and wiser married folks, the solution is for each person to contribute 100% and forget about keeping track. That sounds good, but it is human nature to want things to be fair—at least according to my children (do yours do that?). Also, try as I might, there are just some things that I can’t do, such as baking.

I’d done a little baking—I make a fine cornbread (thanks to Sam Sifton) and I've had fun making pound cake—but cookies, cakes, and pies, are as confusing to me as organic chemistry. Santa Maria, on the other hand, loves to bake, and when she’s not buried under her work and domestic tasks, she takes to the oven. Actually, even when she is saddled with a a big work load, she will bake something, be it Hurricane-Watch Oatmeal Cookies, light and sweat Banana Bread, or a killer Almond Torte.

Rhubarb is in season now, and the other day I came home to a sweet and enticing scent, and there on the stove was a lattice-topped strawberry-rhubarb pie. Here’s her recipe. Note the sugar content. She likes her pies like she likes her men—tart.

Santa Maria’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Lattice Crust

  • -2 1/2 cups rhubarb (trimmed and cut into 1” chunks)
  • -2 ½ cups strawberries (hulled and sliced)
  • -3/4 cup sugar
  • -juice of ½ lemon
  • -1/4 cup tapioca

Trim and mix fruit with sugar and tapioca.  Let fruit mixture sit half an hour while you prepare the pie dough and preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  This is important so that you do not have hard little pellets of tapioca in your finished pie. 

For the Crust

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup ice water
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • Plus 1 tablespoon sugar

Mix flour and salt.  Cut butter into the flour, until the largest butter lumps are the size of peas.  Slowly add ice water/vinegar mixture a tablespoon at a time and press the mixture together until it sticks together.  Wrap the dough in two separate bundles in wax paper.  Touch it as little as possible so your hands won’t melt the butter.  The lumps of butter within the flour are what create a flaky pie crust.  Stay at Stove Dad’s sister Eileen is the master of this delicate process.

Sprinkle flour on the counter. Press one ball of dough down on the counter. Roll it out with a pin until it’s just a few millimeters thick. 

Turn an 8 or 9 inch pie pan upside down, and place it on the rolled-out crust. Using your hands and/or a spatula, turn the pie pan and the crust over, so the crust is inside the bottom of the pan. With your fingers, press the crust into the bottom of the pan gently, and then use a sharp knife to trim any excess that might be hanging over the edge of the pie pan.

Fill the pie pan with the fruit mixture.

Roll out the other ball and cut the dough into half-inch or so strips. Weave a lattice crust over the top of the fruit mixture. Sprinkle with one tablespoon of sugar.

Depending on how deep your pie pan is, you may have extra fruit and or crust with which you can make delightful little tarts!  Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, then turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake another 20-35 minutes until your crust is golden and the ruby fruit bubbling through the lattice crust.

Serve with a glass of cold milk (or, for an extra treat, vanilla ice cream).

Note: I like my pies tart, so you will notice this has less than half the sugar of many fruit pies.

What's Margarine Doing in My Refrigerator? A Vegan Cupcake Recipe


When I was very young, I saved up my money and bought a blue ten-speed Fuji bicycle. I polished the chrome it every weekend, and I kept it as shiny as the day I bought it. When I was a little older, I ArmorAll-ed the vinyl of of a 1973 Ram-Air Pontiac Firebird Formula 400 so it looked like new. As a parent, I wipe clean the shelves of a Jenn-Air refrigerator, for that’s what I take pride in these days. 

The things that powered the ten-speed (an adolescent me) and what was under the hood of the Pontiac (a thousand raging horses) were thrilling, but my refrigerator runs on something less mystifying, Con Edison. However, what’s inside it can often be exciting, and confusing. I just came back from a trip away, and I found margarine in it.

Since when did we start eating that? And isn’t it bad for you? What is margarine, anyway? 

I found an easy answer to the first question: Santa Maria bought it to make vegan cupcakes for a nephew who has food allergies. The other two questions, I couldn’t answer right away. So I looked a few things up. 

It turns out that margarine is not necessarily bad for you. It depends on what you need, and who you ask. The Mayo Clinic says it’s better than butter if you need to protect your heart, but it’s important to make sure there are no trans fats, which are usually found in stick margarines. “Opt for soft or liquid margarine instead,” it says. A website called Wellness Mama, however, says it’s to be avoided. Margarines are made from vegetable oils, and those are worse than leaded gasoline, according to Wellness Mama. I’m not sure who to believe, but if someone is allergic to dairy, than there’s little choice.

As for what margarine is, that’s a long story. Created as a butter substitute, it used to be made from beef tallow, and is now typically made from vegetable oils. Some people consider it closer in its chemical composition to plastic than to food, but you can find all sorts of folks on the Internet.

My chief concern with margarine these days is that there’s a tub of it taking up space in my refrigerator, and I’d like to see it gone. So I was delighted the other night when Santa Maria offered make dessert for a picnic we were going to. She emailed the group that she would be bringing vegan cupcakes, and I could see the eyes rolling at the mention of that word, vegan. 

But everyone should have had more faith in Santa Maria. She doesn’t mess around when it comes to baking. Her vegan cupcakes, are excellent. She pulled the recipe off the Internet somewhere, but she’s since forgotten. She tweaked it enough, though, to call it her own, and she’s sharing it here. And if you need any margarine, I have some to spare. And I need to clean up my refrigerator.

Santa Maria’s Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes one dozen

  • 1 1/2 cups flour with germ
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (I like Terra Nova organic)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup Canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add the oil, vanilla, vinegar and water. Mix together until smooth.

Pour into a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners

Bake for thirty minutes, or until done.

Vegan Buttercream Frosting

Mix 1/5 cup Canola spread/margarine, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar. (If, like us, you aren’t actually vegan and you do have butter on hand, you can use softened butter for the frosting.)

Post-Thanksgiving Recap: Stuffing, Turkey, Cookies and More!


364 days a year, I’m an abstemious cook. I have a friend who will use more olive oil in one dish than I’ll use in a day of cooking. I routinely cut the amount of sugar in my pancake recipe by a third. Salt is something my wife is always reaching for, but I’ll just use to throw over my shoulder. Thanksgiving, however, I go all in, all out, and, ocassionally, out of my mind (but that's a tale for another time, perhaps a fifty-minute hour).

My brother hosted this year, and each of the guests brought a dish or two. I made Melissa Clark’s stuffing with mushrooms and bacon, and I let the bacon fat ride in the pan, per her instructions. I threw the full teaspoon of salt into the pan, and boom—it tasted like restaurant food! And if you are gluten-intolerant, know that I substituted in gluten-free bread and the stuffing was fantastic; that’s the magic of bacon fat. (I also made Sam Sifton’s Three-Pepper Cornbread stuffing, from his excellent book, “Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well.”)

The gathering was twenty-three-people large, and my brother prepared two turkeys for the group. They were both moist and delicious. One of them, he said, was dry-brined per Russ Parson’s recipe in the Los Angeles Times (though I would have been tempted by Frank Stitt’s method, in Food & Wine). The other, he told me, he cooked on the BBQ, after rubbing it with an ad-hoc mix of rendered bacon fat and various spices. On my second serving I reached for a turkey wing, and I will never forget its crispy skin for as long as I live.

At twenty-three people, this was the largest assembly of my family in its history. Sometimes, a party this large can be stressful for the hosts, and with good reason. How does one feed all those people (and wash up afterwards, for that matter), without going out of one’s mind? The Thanksgiving meal means added pressure, as most people don’t usually roast a fourteen-pound turkey everyday. The thing about the food, though, is for all of the hype and attention it gets, it is second to people. Getting everyone together to share time at the table is what matters. Corey Mintz, a Canadian food writer, made this point in an essay in the New York Times last week. If you haven’t seen it, and you are ever thinking about having people over for dinner, I suggest you print it out and post it in your kitchen.

And if you want to get people together, it doesn’t always take a giant turkey. Sometimes, it just takes cookies. I may be an abstemious cook, but I know how to have fun. I married Santa Maria, after all. She’s the baker in the house, and the day after Thanksgiving I had a smaller contingent of the extended Stay-at-Stove-Dad family over for an impromptu dinner of hot dogs and dhal. Santa Maria livened it up with a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies.

 A long time ago, Heirloom Cookie Sheets, a neat little family-run company in Wisconsin, sent me one of its signature stainless-steel cookie sheets. I haven’t used it much, but I broke it out for Santa Maria over the weekend. She was skeptical at first, but she reports that it cooks much better than any other cookie sheet she’s used. So if you're reading this on Cyber Monday, and you're looking to buy something, I suggest getting some for yourself or as a hostess gift for an upcoming holiday party. You’ll be much loved, too, if you bring a batch of cookies. Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cookies (Tollhouse cookies)

  •  2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks butter (1 cup), at room temperature
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 package semisweet chocolate chips (12 ounces) (Ghirardelli are my favorite)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, cream sugars with butter; add eggs and vanilla.  Mix with dry ingredients. 

Drop by spoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet; bake 7-10 minutes.  

The Cake in the Refrigerator: A Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Sunday morning, I was in the basement and the kids were upstairs, on their own for a few minutes. When I came back, I found Nina beaming. “Dad,” she said, “Pinta and I were having a really big fight, and I said ‘Remember, we have a cake in the refrigerator.’”

She was talking about a means of keeping the peace that Santa Maria and I picked up from Thich Nhat Hanh’s latest book, “The Art of Communicating.” In it, he has a passage that goes like this:

The Cake in the Refrigerator

One tool we can use to improve our communication is a cake. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a baker, don’t have a cake, or are gluten-free. This is a very special cake that is not made of four and sugar like a sponge cake. We can keep eating it, and it is never finished. It is called ‘the cake in the refrigerator.’

This practice was developed to help children deal with their parents’ arguing, but it can also be used by adults in a relationship. When the atmosphere becomes heavy and unpleasant, and it seems that one person is losing his or her temper, you can use the practice of the cake to restore harmony.

First of all, breathe in and out three times to give yourself courage. Then turn to the person or people who seem upset and let them know you just remembered something. When they ask you what, you can say, ‘I remember that we have a cake in the refrigerator.’

Saying, ‘there is a cake in the refrigerator’ really means: ‘Please, let’s not make each other suffer anymore.’ Hearing these words, the person will understand. Hopefully, he or she will look at you and say, ‘That’s right. I’ll go and get the cake.’ This is a nonjudgmental way out of a dangerous situation. The person who is upset now has an opportunity to withdraw from the fight without causing more tension.

The person goes into the kitchen, opens the refrigerator to take out the cake, and boils water to make the tea, all the while following their breathing. If there is no real cake in the refrigerator, something else can be substituted—a piece of fruit or toast or whatever you find. Preparing the snack and tea, that person may even remember to smile as a way to feel lighter in body and spirit.

Santa Maria taught this to the girls, and when they needed to resolve their difference, they tried it today. I was stunned. Usually when they need to resolve their differences, things—mostly insults, sometimes LEGOs—end up getting thrown.

Pinta said, “We went into the freezer to look for pumpkin bread, but we couldn’t find any so we made some toast.” They were at the table, munching on buttery bits of warm semolina-sesame bread as they told me this.

It nearly broke my heart to know that we’ve been able to teach them something so useful. I suggest you give this a try if you’re having a fight with someone you care about. And later that evening I found a bit of Santa Maria’s frozen pumpkin bread (which is delicious fresh and which freezes well and toasts up wonderfully), and I was reminded about how good it is. Here’s the recipe, as adapted from “Joy of Cooking” by the incomparable Santa Maria.

Santa Maria’s Peace-Making Pumpkin Bread

2 9x5-inch loaf pans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Sift together

            2  cups sifted all-purpose flour

            ¼ teaspoon double-acting baking powder

            1 teaspoon baking soda

            1 teaspoon salt

            1 teaspoon cinnamon

            ½  teaspoon ground cloves

            ¼ ground fresh nutmeg

In a large bowl, beat together:

1/3 cup sugar

¼ cup Canola Oil

3 eggs

Add and beat in:

            1 can cooked pumpkin (15 oz)

Now add the sifted dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with:

1/3 cup milk

Pour batter into a greased pan and bake about 1 hour our until bread tests done (baked batter does not stick to inserted sharp knife).

Zen and the Art of Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding


We were on the New Jersey shore last week, for an extended-family vacation, and I learned a few things about life, family, and cooking. The first is the secret recipe for a successful extend-family vacation:

                            Two houses + the words of Thich Nhat Hanh = great happiness.

Let me explain: I find sharing a house with too many relatives too stressful, and this year we were fortunate to have two houses close together. Keeping one family in one house and mine in another proved to be very, very relaxing. The other ingredient, the words of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, came to me through his new book, “The Art of Communicating.” I suggest it for all people who need to talk to anyone else, ever. It is (close to) magic.

Speaking of magic, the first night we were at the shore, my mother took the whole gang to dinner at Bistro 14, an extremely tasty and inviting restaurant in Beach Haven, where we had a dessert that made my head spin: Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding.

Like all good magic tricks, it is based on simplicity, but that doesn’t take anything away from its power. “It’s basically a riff on pain au chocolat,” the owner and chef Richard Vaughan said after I called him up and begged him for the recipe, “which is a croissant wrapped around a chocolate bar.”

A trip to Paris inspired the recipe. “The first thing you do in the morning there, is go to the patisserie and have a pain au chocolat,” Vaughan said. “My wife, Karen, came up with the idea of doing this back home, and the dessert was born.”

When they make the dish at the restaurant, they use eighteen croissants, and then cut out individual servings. “It’s always a good day for the staff when it’s time to cut up the servings,” Vaughan said. There are always extra scraps that aren’t appropriate for serving. “The staff hovers like seagulls,” Vaughan said, and gobble up the extra bits.

Vaughan was kind enough to scale the recipe down for the home chef. He said you can use any kind of chocolate chips, from Hershey’s to something more fancy, such as Valrhona (they use 2 ½ quarts of chips at the restaurant!). He added that this would make a great dinner-party dish—when it comes out of the oven, it puffs up, and if you can time it right, it would make a very dramatic, almost magical moment. Here’s the recipe.

Bistro 14's Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

  • 3 whole eggs
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 5 C half and half
  • 1 ½ C sugar
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 6-8 croissants
  • chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make the custard.  Mix the eggs, yolks, half and half, sugar and vanilla together until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Set aside. 

Slice the croissants.  Shingle the croissant bottoms in an ungreased baking dish.  Pour ½ of the custard over them.  Add a serious layer of chocolate chips.  Cover with the croissant tops, make sure you cover the chips completely, or they may burn. Add the rest of the custard.  Do it slowly, or it may run everywhere. Smoosh the croissants down so they absorb as much of the custard as they can.  Allow the pudding to rest for about 10 minutes.   

Bake tented with foil for least 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Uncover and finish baking for another 30 minutes.  Pudding is done when it is puffed and the custard is just set.  

Serve warm, or at room temperature, with heavy cream or crème anglaise.

Note: You can scale this dish up or down pretty directly.  We have even made individual bread puddings in soufflé ramekins, but in that case use a water bath to keep them from getting too dry on the outside.  

(Image courtesy of Deviantart.) 

Ultra-Rich Almond Torte


I had great fun being a part of Dove Chocolate's TasteMakers program, mostly because Santa Maria did the baking and I got to do the eating. But, as if in a testament to the impermanence of the Universe, this, like all good things, must come to an end. This is the final recipe. Not to worry, though, for it's a doozy: Ultra-Rich Almond Torte. Check it out: 

This is an old Austrian recipe, adapted from Camilla Way, the mother of my childhood best friend, Erica. Camilla is a renowned baker in my little central Pennsylvania hometown, and this golden, rich cake is perfectly complimented by the impossibly fluffy chocolate frosting. It is my brother, Hal's, very favorite, and a treat he used to regularly request for his birthday.

It is not difficult to make, but it does require patience and precision -- it's a lovely gift to offer friends and family for a special occasion.

You'll need over a dozen eggs (14 to be exact), and 4 sticks of butter, so plan accordingly so you don't run out later in the week! 

Sometimes I forget to get the butter out of the refrigerator an hour or so in advance so that it is easy to cream -- here's your reminder to do this too!

Ultra-Rich Almond Torte


For cake:

  • 3 ½ cups blanched almonds
  • ¾ cup pastry flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 eggs, separated


For frosting:

  • 4 oz. DOVE dark chocolate
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 6 egg yolks (you can freeze the whites and make meringues on another occasion!)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and parchment paper two 8 ½ inch cake pans.  (This is a fun activity for kids.)

Grind almonds in a blender until they look like coarse flour.  Mix with pastry flour.  Set aside.

Cream butter until pale and fluffy.  Add sugar gradually. 

Separate eggs.  8 egg whites in one bowl, 8 egg yolks in another bowl.  Make sure that the bowl with the egg whites is very clean.

Mix the egg yolks together gently.

Gradually add the egg yolks to the butter and sugar mixture.

Gently fold the flour/almond mixture into the butter/sugar mixture.

Beat the egg whites until they are rounded peaks (not stiff peaks).  The egg whites should slide when you tilt the bowl.

Gently fold the egg whites into the butter/sugar/egg yolk batter.

Carefully scoop the batter into the pans and spread it to the edges with a spatula.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Cool cakes before frosting.

For frosting:

Melt chocolate and mix into the softened butter.  **Watch your chocolate carefully on the lowest ‘melt’ setting to ensure that it doesn’t burn.

Add vanilla.

Mix the sugar and water and boil about 5 minutes (til it spins a thread).  Cool.

Add the 6 egg yolks to the chocolate/butter mixture and beat with an egg beater for 3 minutes.

After the sugar water mixture is cool, add to the chocolate/butter mixture and beat for 1 minute.


If you are not going to eat the cake immediately, refrigerate it so that the frosting won’t melt;  allow 30 minutes to soften outside the refrigerator before eating.

This cake freezes well.  Cover with aluminum foil and allow 2 hours to defrost outside the freezer before eating.

Makes: 1 beautiful layer cake, serves 20.

Surprise! Cookies

Surprise Cookies 2

All good marriages are partnerships, and I don’t just mean between husband and wife. For a marriage to prosper, partnerships with friends and extended family members must be created. These connections counter the modern feeling of alienation that even romantic love can’t salve, as Alain De Botton writes in “Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion:

In the lonely canyons of the modern city, there is no more honored emotion than love. However, this is not the love of which religions speak, not the expansive, universal brotherhood of mankind; it is a more jealous, restricted and ultimate meaner variety. It is a romantic love which sends us on a maniacal quest for a single person with whom we hope to achieve a life-long and complete communion, one person in particular who will spare us any need for people in general.

So we need our friends, we need our extended families, and we need good partnerships. This blog is no different, and recently it has partnered with Dove Chocolate, to become part of its TasteMakers program, which means I’ll be developing a few recipes for them here.

As the Stay at Stove Dad household is perfect partnership (ahem, with a good sense of humor), I’ve teamed with Santa Maria to develop the recipes. She’s much better at the sweeter things in life than I am. Here’s her first recipe, for Surprise! Cookies. And, is there a better way to make connections with others than to give them cookies? Here is her report:

One of the happy memories from my childhood is of biting into a warm cookie fresh from the oven.  My mom is a prodigious baker: molasses sugar cookies, Scotch shortbread, Tollhouse cookies, lemon sugar cookies, oatmeal cookies, snowballs, and, once in a blue moon, humble cookies with a delicious sliver of mint chocolate in the center.

That last recipe is lost, so I’ve done my best to create an equally delicious version that will give you a lovely chewy golden cookie, with a molten mint chocolate surprise inside.

The recipe is quick and easy – and if you prefer an even quicker and showier version, you can simply press the chocolates into the top of the batter, and not cover it. I prefer the surprise version because, who doesn’t like an unexpected treat?  And also because the chocolate stays gooey longer, insulated by the cookie batter.

Surprise! Cookies

  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • (2 sticks)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups unsifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package DOVE Mint & Dark Chocolate Swirl Promise

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Recipe will make 3-4 dozen cookies.

Stir flour with baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar until pale and fluffy.

Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time.

Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Place a DOVE Mint & Dark Chocolate Swirl Promise drop on top of each mound of cookie dough then, with greased fingers, gently push the chocolate drop into the batter, then pull the sides of the batter over the top of the chocolate drop so that it’s covered completely.

Bake for 10 minutes or til golden brown.

These cookies are delicious anytime, but a special treat when served warm from the oven, with a gooey center, and a cold glass of milk!