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ebruary
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Bittersweet Chocolate Souffle


This little love letter in a ramekin is the perfect way to say "I love you enough to learn what stiff peaks are" on Valentine's Day.

And in actuality, the ratio of difficulty to wow-factor is absolutely in your favor.  Have you had a chocolate souffle?  Have you made your own chocolate souffle?  Have you ever ended a blissfully romantic date by pulling (mostly prepped ahead) warm, airy, utterly decadent chocolate souffles out of the oven, whilst the room is filled with puffs of bittersweet chocolate love-air?

Or for that matter, have you ever taken a ten minute vacation, and sat alone on the couch eating your first warm chocolate souffle direct from the oven, without having to share one little bit of it. (highly recommended.)

This is absolutely a recipe that should be in your back pocket.  You can so do this, with just a few techniques to pay attention to.

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Espresso Chocolate Cookies


The Christmas season in my paternal grandparents' house, when I was growing up, was always marked by tins of the exact same assortment of homemade cookies, painstakingly baked in legions by Grandma Baumer.  There were wreath spritz cookies, apricot or mincemeat oatmeal bars, buttery vienna crescents, and then, the espresso chocolate balls.

The latter were not easy to love as a kid.  They didn't have the crunchy green colored sugar of the wreaths, or the gooey pie-like interior of the bars, nor the melt-in-your-mouth heavenly almondness of the crescents.  They were small, brown, unadorned, a little bitter, and crumbled in your mouth, crying for a glass of milk (which I wasn't a big fan of either).  And yet, year after year, I tried to like them.  I knew there was something challenging and grownup about them, and I'd give it another go each time they were the only remaining variety in the tin.

I recently came across the recipe again, in my grandmother's handwriting, among some of her belongings.  The inkling about them being a grown-up cookie was correct.  They are a deep bitter espresso, with a wave of dark cocoa, finishing just at the end with a flicker of salt.  They are also the quickest and easiest holiday cookie I have made yet.

These are subtle and elegant, and would be a charming finish to a winter dinner, alongside coffee, port or dessert wine.  Or try them as a late sunday afternoon snack with a glass of medium-bodied red wine.  I did.  With a toast to Marie.


Marie Baumer's Espresso Chocolate Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspooons vanilla
1 tablespoon instant espresso or instant coffee granules
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 2/3 cup flour, unsifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
confectioner's sugar, optional

Heat oven to 325 degrees F.

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Add coffee granules, cocoa, flour and salt, and blend well.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls (if the dough is warm or sticky, chill for a few minutes). Place on lightly greased baking sheet, or parchment or silpat, 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake at 325 degress for about 15 minutes, until done. Cool completely. Roll in confectioner's sugar if desired. Store in an airtight container or freeze.



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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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