Emergency Chocolate Cake

This is not a new favorite cake. I have to be honest. It was good, but not great. And let’s look at the title. Doesn’t that kind of title make you think you can bake this cake quickly? The baking part goes fairly quickly but it requires such a long cool-down period. The ingredients list is also a bit fancier than the Amelia Bedelia cake the Fudgelet and I made before. If I was going to choose, I would make the Amelia Bedelia one again before this one because that one tasted better and was even easier to make.

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Celebration Rainbow Cake

Rainbows mean happiness in my book. They are pretty, represent the sun coming out, and can even have emotional meanings (look up rainbow babies if interested, but I will note that this was not my motivation, in case you were curious). Mostly, I am just excited to see them because they are beautiful and exciting. You never know when the next one will happen.

So, I feel it is appropriate to share this cake today on a week when I have happy news to share (on Thursday). We are just finishing a Maryland trip where we had plans to see lots of family, friends, the ocean (the Fudgelet’s first visit to see it and my uncle), crabs, hot weather (we don’t get much of that here), and the like. I am writing this in advance but know I will feel both happy to be returning home and a bit sad to be leaving everyone behind for a long time. We’re hoping to have some visitors this fall/winter with plans already in the works.

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French Mashed Potatoes (Pommes Purée)

For our 9 years of being together anniversary, we went out to eat at a fancy steak place. I got to try new (to me) types of steak, eat an amazing salad (yes, salads can be amazing), and swoon over the mashed potatoes. K was so excited about the mashed potatoes because he loves creamy smooth textures in food.

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Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

I’ve made jambalaya, and I guess I assumed I had made gumbo…but nope. This was a first. I don’t even know if I’ve eaten it before. So, this is not the place to come for confirming authenticity. In fact, I’m pretty sure this should be spicy. I omitted the cayenne pepper because we are weaklings here. I also added more vegetables because I wanted it to be more of a one-pot meal (1 bell pepper and 2 ribs of celery to serve 6?). I also could barely find kielbasa at my local grocery store, so andouille was out of the question. We enjoyed this, and I liked the mix of chicken with sausage.

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Overnight Yeasted Waffles

Last year, my friends and I went to a big Mom/Baby Halloween party. This year, most of us weren’t attending the party because it was so crazy last year (lots of people, overheating babies in their costumes, meltdowns galore…). As it turned out, the Fudgelet ended up taking an epic nap (for him) that day, so we would have missed most of it anyway. Besides, K’s work had a trick-or-treating event the same afternoon, so we went to that one instead. (Had to show off the matching family costumes, after all.)

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Cream Cheese Brownies

I have been making cream cheese brownies for a long time, but never the same recipe. I have tried many different ones trying to get what I feel is the ideal one. I don’t know if this one is “it” yet…it was good, but I think I would want to make it again slightly differently, or at least remain open to new recipes. I feel like this type of brownie should be on the thinner side. You want the usual chocolatiness, but you also want a decent ratio of the cream cheese to the chocolate. This recipe came close, but maybe using a bit less in the base, or changing the amounts a bit to use a larger pan (for a thinner base)? Like I said, I’m not sure. I did like some of the technique, and the suggestion of letting the brownies sit at room temperature before you want to eat them (obviously you need to keep them for long periods in the refrigerator due to the cream cheese). And if you’re impatient, or working on limited snacking time with a toddler who still doesn’t sleep long stretches? (ahem) You can totally microwave the brownies for 10-20 seconds to get the freshly baked taste, without it being too melty.

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French Onion, Bacon, and Mozzarella Tart

For me, having a baby means trying to find the right balance of being “me” and being “Mommy.” Obviously “me” = “Mommy” in many contexts, and I also have very little non-“Mommy” time to be just “me.” My husband K tries to help, and offers to take the Fudgelet at different points on the weekends. Usually this gets me a shower without a baby watching me (only weird when he gets older–haha) and a workout (mostly) free from worrying about the Fudgelet waking from his nap early. As far as my old hobbies, like reading books, watching tv, listening to music, etc….these things seem less important, and I have put almost all of those on hold. A few hobbies I have kept (for now), and these include exercising and cooking. Both are necessary. I have exercised regularly for over ten years now, and it has definitely helped with my stress and mental health. Cooking is also necessary since we need food to survive.

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Now, I could just make really basic meals. I could also make the same old food over and over. Nothing wrong with those options, but for me, cooking gives me a chance to do something I loved before I created the Fudgelet. K sometimes thinks I should tone things down, but it makes me feel more “me” by cooking fancier dishes on occasion. This was one of those occasions. Just like with the cake, this was something I made fairly early on. In fact, you can see how long ago by checking out this picture I took while making this tart:

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So small! And now he won’t sleep in my baby-carrier unless I cover up his head so he can’t see as well. Sigh. Anyway, I still decided to streamline this dish for cooking. Being a mom to an infant gives me a few naps during the day to get things done. I was able to use one nap to prep the tart shell and another nap to prep the filling. When it was dinner time, it was easy to throw it together. Obviously you could also do it all at once, but not everyone has that luxury, so I give you some options below.

One step that is not optional is how you cut the onions. The directions explicitly stated to slice the onions this way:

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Before cutting crosswise like you see below. Supposedly this is key to how they cook, with the textures and all for the tart. I didn’t try the other way because I chose to believe them. 🙂

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Directions for French Onion, Bacon, and Mozzarella Tart

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book 

Crust

  • 1.25 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 Tablespoons butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled
  • Ice water

Spray a 9-inch tart pan with baking spray, then set aside. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Scatter butter on top of the mixture, then pulse until it looks like coarse sand (about 15 pulses).

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Add 2 Tablespoons ice water (and more if necessary), pulsing until large clumps form and no powdery bits remain.

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Pat the dough into the pan, starting in the middle, and working out to the edges.

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Put plastic wrap on top, then flatten and smooth the dough. Freeze it for 30 minutes.

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Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the tart on a baking sheet. Remove the plastic wrap and place a sheet of aluminum foil on top (sprayed with baking spray), pressing against the dough. Fill with pie weights and bake for about 30 minutes.

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The dough should just start to brown. Remove the foil and pie weights, then bake for 10 more minutes. Set it aside. You can cover it and chill it for a few hours if necessary before continuing.

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Filling

  • 4 slices bacon, cut into ¼ inch pieces
  • 1.5 pounds onions (not sweet onions), halved through the root end and cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • Ground pepper

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp.

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Remove from the pan.

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Leave 2 Tablespoons bacon fat in the pan. Add the onions, salt, and thyme.

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Cover and cook until the onions release liquid and start to wilt (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to low and cook with the lid slightly ajar until the onions are very soft and lightly brown (about 20 minutes). Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. You can chill them at this point and continue the remaining steps when ready to eat.

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Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, and some pepper. Add the onions.

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Pour into the tart shell, then sprinkle the bacon and mozzarella evenly over the top.

Bake the tart until the center feels firm to the touch (about 25-35 minutes). Let cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the tart pan.

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Directions for French Onion, Bacon, and Mozzarella Tart (without pictures)

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book 

Crust

  • 1.25 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 Tablespoons butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled
  • Ice water

Spray a 9-inch tart pan with baking spray, then set aside. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Scatter butter on top of the mixture, then pulse until it looks like coarse sand (about 15 pulses). Add 2 Tablespoons ice water (and more if necessary), pulsing until large clumps form and no powdery bits remain. Pat the dough into the pan, starting in the middle, and working out to the edges. Put plastic wrap on top, then flatten and smooth the dough. Freeze it for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the tart on a baking sheet. Remove the plastic wrap and place a sheet of aluminum foil on top (sprayed with baking spray), pressing against the dough. Fill with pie weights and bake for about 30 minutes. The dough should just start to brown. Remove the foil and pie weights, then bake for 10 more minutes. Set it aside. You can cover it and chill it for a few hours if necessary before continuing.

Filling

  • 4 slices bacon, cut into ¼ inch pieces
  • 1.5 pounds onions (not sweet onions), halved through the root end and cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • Ground pepper

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Remove from the pan. Leave 2 Tablespoons bacon fat in the pan. Add the onions, salt, and thyme. Cover and cook until the onions release liquid and start to wilt (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to low and cook with the lid slightly ajar until the onions are very soft and lightly brown (about 20 minutes). Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. You can chill them at this point and continue the remaining steps when ready to eat.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, and some pepper. Add the onions. Pour into the tart shell, then sprinkle the bacon and mozzarella evenly over the top.

Bake the tart until the center feels firm to the touch (about 25-35 minutes). Let cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the tart pan.