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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Angels Unawares, Serial #9 and Chocolate Chip Skillet Cakes

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Skillet and cake–now that sounds like a match made in heaven.

But the skillet needs to be a cast-iron skillet, like the ones your Grandma used to threaten Grandpa with. (Just kidding. Sweet little old white-haired Grandma–may she rest in peace–would never do something mean as that. Not! How about the time I reached for the cookie jar and got the flour canister by mistake because I couldn’t see over the edge and dumped the whole thing on the counter and on the floor and all across the kitchen–and on me too, covered from head to toe in white like a ghost. But a ghost could’ve hid from Grandma but I couldn’t–about wore my hindside out with that wooden spoon. Or was that the nightmare I had the other night?)

Where was I? Oh, yeah–skillet and cake. You need a cast-iron skillet with a cast-iron handle, so it won’t melt or get brittle when you put it in the oven to bake. If you don’t have one, go out and invest in this versatile and relatively inexpensive utensil. It doesn’t have to be enameled or Teflon-coated, just plain 100% cast-iron. You should be able to find it in any kitchen store or most grocery stores or even in some hardware stores, there behind the boxes of loose nails and the chainsaw files. The 10-inch size is the old reliable, but for most of us this is too big. Try a 6-inch one or, for this recipe, a couple 4 1/2-inch minis. The smaller sizes are big enough for frying a couple eggs or some hashbrowns, and a whole lot easier to handle and store.

Now this is important: If you get a new cast-iron skillet, or dust off an old one that hasn’t been used for years, you have to season it before using. Seasoning a cast-iron pan is simple as pie (or cake or cookies or a glass of water or whatever else you think sounds easy). Pour about a tablespoon of cooking oil into the pan and spread it over all cooking surfaces with a paper towel, discarding any excess. Then put the pan in the oven, heat it to about 250 degrees, then turn the oven off. Once the oven is cool, your pan is seasoned. After each use, just wipe the pan clean with a damp cloth or, if necessary, with a sponge and a little soapy water. Don’t put it in the dishwasher, and never leave it to soak–unless you want rust stains in your sink and on your counter and all over the pan. Iron rusts, so please don’t leave water in or near your cast-iron cookware. Other than that, the pan is pretty much indestructible (as my Grandpa found out–or was that another bad dream?)

So now you’re ready for this week’s dessert. And it is easy as pie (or cake)–stir, stir, stir; mix, mix, mix; blend, blend, blend; fold; pour; bake; eat. What can be easier? (As long as you have the right utensil, seasoned and ready to go.)

And while you’re waiting for the pan to season or the cake to bake, check out Angels Unawares, Serial #9. Josh’s long-lost daughter Angie makes an appearance–in Iraq, of all places. Her situation and life is about as far removed from Josh’s deathbed struggles as could be imagined. Or is it? Check it out. See what you think.

cookie cakes

Chocolate Chip Skillet Cakes

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup light brown sugar

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)

1/3 cup chocolate chips

skillet cake

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 4 1/2-inch cast iron skillets* with butter or spray with cooking spray, and set aside.

Add the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar to a mixing bowl. Cream the ingredients together until everything is well combined and the mixture is fluffy. (You can use an electric mixer to speed up this process.) Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract and beat into butter mixture. To this, add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and slowly mix the dry ingredients into the batter. Do not over mix the dough. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Divide the cookie dough in half and press each half into the prepared skillets. Bake the cake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. The center will look slightly underdone, but it will continue to set up as it cools. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool slightly. You can serve this cake warm with vanilla ice cream, or let it cool completely and frost (like the cookie cakes you see at the mall).

Makes 2 individual skillet cakes.

*You can also use one 6-inch cast iron skillet. Prepare the recipe the same way, but increase baking time to 30-32 minutes or until the edges begin to turn golden brown.

bite of cookie cake

{Adapted from Dessert For Two}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #9 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #9, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #9, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #8 and Death by Chocolate Cupcakes

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We all have to go sometime–why not by chocolate?

That’s an interesting end to contemplate. I mean, how would it happen? Would you eat so much chocolate you’d finally pass out from the sheer overload and they’d find you with a smile on your face and a smudge of chocolate on your lip? Or would some kind of chocolate monster rise up from nowhere–dripping Dove minis and cocoa-dusted truffles and dark chocolate chips–and swallow you whole, a sweet immersion into a vat of chocolate (now that would be some kind of spa treatment!)? In that case, they’d never find your body, just a cryptic note saying “Out for a snack” or something like that, with a smudge of chocolate on the corner of the paper.

Sorry–kind of got carried away. These Death by Chocolate Cupcakes aren’t really going to cause your death. That’s just a little literary device called hyperbole. But what these cupcakes might do is make you feel like you’ve, for just a minute, died and gone to heaven. And that ain’t quite as radical as really dying from too much chocolate. This way you can come back to earth and wipe that smudge off your own lip.

Now about this fascination with death theme–the novel that we’ve been serializing for two months, Angels Unawares, is about a man who is approaching death and the women, both real and other-worldly, that care for him in these last days, make his journey both insightful and redemptive. The book is a little more serious than Death by Chocolate Cupcakes, but it’s no less fulfilling. Give it a try by clicking one of the links below the recipe and photos.

death by chocolate cupcake

Death by Chocolate Cupcakes

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 1/2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt (about 1/8 of a teaspoon)

2 Tablespoons milk

1 1/2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Tablespoon semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Whipped Chocolate Buttercream

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 Tablespoons cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon milk or heavy cream

chocolate cupcakes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two muffin cups with paper liners, or spray with cooking spray.

Add the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt to a mixing bowl. Stir all of the ingredients together, making sure to break up any large clumps of cocoa. To the dry ingredients, add the milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla and mix until everything is just combined, careful not to over mix. Fold the chocolate chips into the cupcake batter.

Divide the batter between the two prepared muffin cups. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes, before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting. (If you like a lot of frosting, double the recipe.) Add the butter and powdered sugar to a small bowl and beat with an electric mixer for a few minutes, or until the sugar is dissolved into the butter and it forms a light and fluffy mixture. Add the cocoa, vanilla, and milk, and continue to beat the frosting until it is a pale chocolate color and is very light and airy. Frost cooled cupcakes with buttercream. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Makes 2 cupcakes.

death by chocolate cupcakes

{Cupcakes adapted from Like Mother, Like Daughter}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #8 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #8, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #8, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #7 and White Chocolate Mousse

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So where in The Book of the Laws of the Universe is it written that Valentine’s Day is the do-all, end-all on defining the status of one’s romantic life and desirability? Who made up that rule? To believe all the hype being circulated out there, if you aren’t swept off your feet by Prince or Princess Charming in a 24-hour (which really amounts to only about four hours if you subtract for work and sleep and certain other hygienic responsibilities) whirlwind of flowers and jewelry and dinner and drinks and dancing, then you must be either be a psycho-loser or a loser with an eye growing out the back of your head (which might be kind of useful and maybe even sexy but that’s for another post).

To hell with that rule!

I mean Valentine’s Day is an OK day for love and romance–though the restaurants are jammed and the roses cost twice as much. But why not some other day–say April 6th or June 19th or September 27th? Those days are just as good for romance as dumb old (and cold and snowy) February 14th.

So we’ve got a suggestion for this February 14th. Let’s forget all the show and hype and hurt feelings when things don’t live up to expectations and do something we at Reading and Recipes know is guaranteed to bring pleasure and satisfaction–make (and eat) a kickass out-of-this-world delicious and sinfully decadent dessert!

This White Chocolate Mousse will make you forget what day of the year it is or care even if you remember. Prince Charming–who’s that? I’ve got something better to do on my February 14th. (But if Prince Charming shows up, there’s a second serving to give him–but only if he brings a really big bouquet of roses. If not, leave him out there in the snow and eat the second serving yourself.)


White Chocolate Mousse

2 1/2 ounces good-quality white chocolate (such as Ghirardelli), broken into pieces*

2 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 eggs, separated and allowed to come to room temperature

1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons Frangelico liqueur (optional)

2/3 cup whipping cream, cold

Add the white chocolate and butter to a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until both are melted. Set aside. (If this mixture begins to separate, just stir until the ingredients are mixed together.)

Add the egg yolks, powdered sugar, and Frangelico liqueur (if using) to a bowl. Beat the ingredients together with an electric mixer for about a minute, or until the mixture turns a pale yellow and a thick ribbon is formed when the beaters are lifted. Pour this mixture into the top of a double boiler. Cook this mixture, whisking constantly, over simmering water for 3 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from the heat and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the cooled white chocolate and butter mixture, and whisk until everything is incorporated and forms a thick, smooth batter (see picture directly below).

white chocolate mixture

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold the egg whites into the white chocolate mixture, creating a light and airy mixture (like the picture below).

after egg whites

In a cold, metal bowl, beat the cold whipping cream until stiff peaks are formed. Fold the whipped cream into the mousse mixture.

Divide the mousse between two serving cups. Refrigerate the mousse for at least 2 hours, or overnight. When ready to serve, sprinkle mousse with cocoa powder, fruit, candy, or toppings of your choice, or top with a generous portion of whipped cream.

white choc mousse

Serves 2.

*If using Ghirardelli squares, each square is 0.5 ounces; you will need five squares for this recipe.

bite of mousse

{Adapted from the “Silver Palate Cookbook”}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #7 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #7, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #7, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #6 and XXL Soft Sugar Cookie

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So Valentine’s Day is still a week away (eight days, to be exact–hint, hint all you male ignoramuses!). But it isn’t too soon to start thinking about the day. Here at Reading and Recipes we are working feverishly (and no, it’s not the flu) day and night to find the perfect Valentine’s Day recipe. Come back next week to see what we come up with.

But in the meantime, just to get you in the mood to start thinking about the day and also to mark the successful passing of the halfway point in the winter season (Hurry up, Spring!), we’re going to treat you to a recipe that’s pretty much synonymous with both Valentine’s Day and happy thoughts of spring–an XXL Soft Sugar Cookie!

And while most of our XXL cookies are designed to be eaten by one person (as in the first-person singular pronoun–ME!), we suggest that you consider sharing this one with your significant other, and hope that the treat reminds him (or her) of the big day just around the corner. (Those little hearts sprinkled on top should do the trick. If not, just tell him [or her] to be ready with a card and present in eight days or there will be Hell to pay!)

Nothing wrong with a subtle hint, right?

xxl soft sugar cookie

XXL Soft Sugar Cookie

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 Tablespoons sprinkles or jimmies, optional

XXL sugar cookie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with a Silpat mat, or spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, add the butter and sugar and cream ingredients together. Next, add the egg yolk and vanilla, and mix until everything is incorporated. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, cream of tartar, and sprinkles (if using). Carefully mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined, careful not to over mix.

Roll the dough into one large ball and place in the center of prepared cookie sheet. Bake the cookie for 14-16 minutes, or until the edges just begin to brown. Remove from the oven and let the cookie cool completely on the cookie sheet.

Makes 1 large cookie.

sugar cookie bite

{Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #6 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #6, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #6, text © Jeffrey Anderson