Banana bread with chocolate covered cranberries

Banana bread

You could put dark chocolate on just about anything and I’d probably bake with it! As long as it’s vegetarian, of course! I’ve used chocolate covered cherries and chocolate covered ginger. My lastest foray into the chocolate covered world is dried cranberries. Very nice! Tart & sweet, just like you’d want them to be. I decided to bake them into banana bread, because we had some very ripe bananas, and, let’s face it, bananas and cranberries are a perfect combination, aren’t they?

Here’s Calypso Rose with Banana
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Coconut cake with blackberry mousse

Coconut cake with blackberry mousse

I work in a restaurant that has a candy dispenser. If I have two quarters left over at the end of the day, I’ll sometimes bring home small cups of candy to my boys. Twenty-five cents worth a piece. I always bring M&Ms to my little one, and skittles to my older son. It seems funny that their love for fruity or chocolate-y candy has become a defining characteristic for them. One small way to be their own boy. And an easy way to divide the spoils come Halloween or Easter! I made a cake for my brother and father the other day (they both have February birthdays). I know they like chocolate (who doesn’t?) but I always think of them as falling towards the fruity end of the sweet spectrum. So…flush from my success with the chocolate drambuie mousse, I decided to make them a coconut cake with blackberry mousse in between the layers. This being February, when raspberries and blackberries seem to cost about $10 a piece, I used blackberry jam instead of fresh fruit. (Honestly, if you have fresh raspberries, don’t you just eat them? Exactly as they are?) The mousse is actually a white chocolate blackberry mousse, because I didn’t want to use gelatin, and I thought the chocolate would help to make the mousse more substantial, once it un-melted. It isn’t a difficult cake to make, but the assembly process does have a few messy-fun steps.

Here’s Doc Watson’s Blackberry Rag.
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Drambuie & dolce de leche ice cream with bittersweet chocolate

drambuie ice cream

I’m a huge fan of ice cream. I can’t think of a more enduringly perfect food. I worked in an ice cream parlor for an embarrassing number of years, long after I should have gotten a “real” job. I dream of ice cream flavors, I really do! So when I found myself with some dulce de leche, and then my mother-in-law brought us a bottle of drambuie (thanks, Ellie!) you could see the little wheels spinning madly in my head. And the one food I find completely irresistible is melting ice cream. There’s something about the contrast between the still-frozen part, and the increasingly creamy melty part that’s about more than the delightful textures. It’s about time passing! There’s a wonderful feeling of risk, almost – you want to take your time, but if you wait too long, it won’t be ice cream any more. There’s a perfect moment, or series of moments, when the ice cream must be consumed! I could eat a whole gallon of ice cream, in this state! The thing about adding drambuie to ice cream, or any alcohol, for that matter, is that it preserves the ice cream in a perpetual state of perfect meltiness! It never freezes completely, so from the minute you scoop it out, you MUST EAT IT!

I should probably mention that since the drambuie’s not heated, the alcohol doesn’t cook off. I wonder how much you’d have to eat to get drunk? Hmmm… We let the boys have small bowls after dinner, and they could still balance on their roller skates. But when Malcolm asked me for some at 9 o’clock this morning…well, I drew the line!

I don’t have a real ice cream maker, I have one of those donvier ice cream makers. Remember those? Do they still make them? Anyway, it does the trick. I’ll give you the recipe, and you can freeze it however you like.

Here’s Ice Cream man, by Tom Waits.
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I love making cakes. Not fancy, special-occasion cakes, but every-day cakes, to have with coffee in the morning, or tea in the afternoon, or a glass of wine after dinner. I have a very simple recipe I use, that is a good starting point for any kind of variation you can think of. It’s a vanilla cake, but you can add any kind of flavoring you like. You can add chocolate chips, or nuts, or coconuts, or fruit. You can slice it in half and spread jam or nutella (or both!) in between and stick it back together again. You can add lemon zest or orange zest or cinnamon or ginger. You can make a chocolate cake by adding cocoa powder or melted chocolate. You can make a crumb topping with brown sugar, oatmeal, flour, butter and cinnamon. You can frost it, or put powdered sugar on it, or coat it with ganache, or make it into an angler fish for your son’s birthday. The possibilities are endless!

To show you how easy it is, I’ve made two at once! A pumpkin chocolate chip cake, and a coconut-almond cake with cherry filling.

Here’s some instrumental hip hop to warm up this dreary day.
RZA’s Cakes, and Pete Rock’s The Cake.
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