My taste in recipes is thus divided between two extremes. There's the thrill of the new - be it an unusual featured ingredient or technique or flavour combination. And there's the constant rediscovery of old faithfuls. Just when you think you may have finally baked the Holy Grail of brownie recipes say, along comes another that teaches you how to do it even better. A little less of this, a little more of that. A little extra something, skip it altogether. Temperature makes all the difference, baking time is key. The permutations and the possibilities they present ensure the quest for refinement alone will keep one plenty occupied.
To this end - a particularly compelling number in my litany of cookbook purchasing excuses - two recent additions, both of which are exemplary recipe collections of the sort of all-American sweet treats W enjoys, who is returning after a long week away - what better reason for a bout of comfort baking?
Devil's Food Cake
All too often, devil's food cake fails to live up to its wicked name. Bake through enough recipes and you'll know the pale (in colour and flavour) pretenders from the cardinally sinful with a quick glance at the instructions. Nancy Baggett's recipe in The All-American Dessert Book is a fine example of a devil's food cake with all the right attributes - richly rounded chocolate flavour, moist tender crumb, dramatically dark good looks. The requisite hue comes from combining baking soda with non-alkalized cocoa powder (as opposed to Dutch-process, which has had its acid neutralized) - bicarbonate of soda reacts with the natural acid present in untreated cocoa to intensify the colour and lend it a reddish tint. The icing on the cake? A fabulously fudgy frosting that spreads like a dream.
Chocolate Chip Butter Balls
Chocolate chip cookie-meets-snowball in this delicate hybrid from Lisa Yockelson's ChocolateChocolate that delivers on its promise to melt in the warmth of your mouth. Once baked, the plump buttery pillows dappled with chocolate chips receive a thick powdering of confectioner's sugar.