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Those of you who have been reading my blog for the last week know that I am cooking with Julia these days and that all of my posts will be focused on recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking–at least until the release of the long-anticipated movie Julie & Julia.

Now I have a confession to make. Despite the fact that I own more cookbooks than I would want to count, have stacks and stacks of back issues of cooking magazines like Gourmet and Bon Appetit, and binders overflowing with recipes that I have printed off the Internet, MTAOFC was not a part of my library until a couple of months ago. I have other cookbooks by Julia, other books on French cooking. So why was I missing a classic that started a revolution in home cooking when it first came out in 1961?

I have no real answer except that it was always a book that seemed intimidating to me. Until my first trip to Paris, I had focused on Italian cooking, not French. I am also most attracted to cookbooks with glossy, mouth-watering pictures; Julia’s book with its illustrations and strange recipe layout would just make things more complicated than they needed to be, I reasoned. And wasn’t French cooking already too complicated? Who has the time to spent the whole day making puff pastry and wrapping it around a duck?

Which brings me back to Julie & Julia. Before it became a movie, it was a book; a memoir written by Julie Powell, who cooked her way through all 524 recipes in MTAOFC within the space of a year. There has been widespread criticism of Julie Powell in foodie circles for some of her opinions, her writing style and penchant for cursing, which is really too bad. Because when you come right down to it, what she did was an astonishing feat.

Many of the recipes in MTAOFC are complicated. They do take time. Very few people have the time or inclination to cook this way anymore. Putting together a dinner party from this cookbook can take a good couple of days from your life. Julie Powell did this on a daily basis–after coming home from a dead-end secretarial job.

Now this is not to say that every recipe is difficult. Once I started cooking from this book, I realized how accessible a lot of the recipes are. Julia Child walks you through everything in such detail that you cannot fail as long as you follow her instructions. Although I have not yet attempted an aspic or a Canard en Croûte, there are many recipes that don’t take a lot of time. In fact, I put a little dinner together for myself the other night that took no more than half an hour to make: Steak au Poivre, mushrooms in Medeira sauce, and Tomates à la Provençale. It was all so delicious that I wondered why I had waited so long to get this culinary masterpiece.


Julia Child’s Steak au Poivre


Pepper Steak with Brandy Sauce

Serves 4-6 people


2 tablespons mixed or white peppercorns

2 to 2 1/2 lbs. steak


1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons shallots or green onions

1/2 cup stock

1/3 cup cognac

3-4 tablespoons softened butter


1) Place the peppercorms in a mixing bowl and crush them roughly with a pestle or the bottom of a bottle.

2) Dry the steaks on paper towels. Rub and press the crushed peppercorns into both sides of the meat. Cover with waxed paper. Let stand for at least half an hour; 2 or 3 hours are even better, so the flavor of the pepper will penetrate the meat.

3) Sauté the steak in hot oil and butter 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove to a hot platter and season with salt.

4) For the sauce: pour the fat out of the skillet. Add the butter and shallots and cook slowly for a minute. Pour in the stock and boil down rapidly over high heat while scraping up the coagulated cooking juices. Then add the cognac and boil rapidly for a minute or two to evaporate its alcohol. Off heat, swirl in the butter a half-tablespoon at a time.


I have many memories of my trip to Paris. Taking a boat ride along the Seine river, touring the cobblestone streets of the Marais, sitting in the pew of the Sacre Coeur on Easter. I’m not much of a diarist but during my trip to Paris I recorded every detail so as not to forget all those moments that seemed so significant at the time but are already fading like the edges of an old piece of vellum. You can’t choose what you want to remember; as my first glimpse at the Mona Lisa slowly recedes from my mind, the memories of what I ate in Paris will remain. To my mind, food and memory are inextricably linked. Strange to some people, perhaps, but I think it makes perfect sense. If you are to truly experience a culture, you must experience its food. A nation’s cuisine is a confluence of centuries–sometimes even millennia–of tradition and history. It bears witness to whether a nation lives in wealth or poverty, whether it has been well endowed by nature. Culinary traditions teach us about a nation’s cultural level, about how people cultivated their fields and grazed their livestock, and about whether the land was crossed by main trade routes bringing in other nationalities, customs, foods, and spices. In other words, to eat a country’s food is to glimpse into its past.

Although food historians surmise that the precursor to modern pastry was the Mediterranean paper-thin phyllo brought to medieval Europe by way of the crusaders, it was the Renaissance chefs who are crediting for developing puff and choux pastries. For me, the tart is the crown jewel of pastries, and none as quintessentially French as the tarte aux pommes.

You only have to be in Paris for a very short time to realize that there is a pâtisserie on every streetcorner, the windows displaying a variety of tarts and tartelets, each crafted with tradition and the utmost care.  I spent many a day in Paris with my nose pressed up to the glass of a pastry shop, trying to figure out which one beckoned the most. They all seemed too pretty to eat.

Although I have never been much of a baker, when I returned home I was determined to master the tart. No more Tenderflake crusts with all their bad fats for me. I wanted the real thing, and I wanted to be able to make it myself. Your first attempts at pastry hardly ever turn out the way you want them to, but it doesn’t take long to master a good sweet short paste. And what can be easier than filling it with some sliced apples, sugar, and a coating of apricot jam?

Which brings me to Julia Child’s tarte aux pommes. This week I continue to cook with Julia from Mastering the Art of French Cooking in anticipation of Julie & Julia, written and directed by Nora Ephron of Sleepless in Seattle fame and highly awaited by foodies everywhere. This classic French apple tart is, well–forgive the pun–easy as pie.

Tarte aux Pommes

from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child


Serves 8


10-inch partially cooked pastry shell

4 pounds cooking apples (Golden Delicious)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/3 cup apricot jam/preserves

1/3 cup Calvados, rum or cognac (or 1 tablespoon vanilla)

2/3 cup granualted sugar for topping

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


1) Preheat oven to 375F. Quarter, core, and peel the apples. Cut enough to make 3 cups into 1/8-inch lengthwise slices and toss them in a bowl with the lemon juice and sugar. Reserve them for the top of the tart.

2) Cut the rest of the apples into rough slices. You should have about 8 cups. Place in a pan and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.

3) Beat in apricot jam, Calvados, sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Raise heat and boil, stirring, until applesauce is thick enough to hold in a mass in the spoon.

4) Spread the applesauce in the pastry shell. Cover with a neat, closely overlapping layer of sliced apples arranged in concentric circles, as illustrated below:


5) Bake in upper third of preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the apples have browned lightly and are tender. Slide the tart onto a serving dish and paint over it with a light coating of apricot glaze. Serve warm or cold with whipping cream or a scoop of ice cream.

Apricot Glaze

1/2 cup apricot preserves, forced through a sieve

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Stir the strained apricot preserves and sugar over moderately high heat until thick enough to coat the spoon with a light film, and the last drops are sticky as they fall from the spoon (225-228 degrees on a candy thermometer). Do not boil past this point or the glaze will become brittle as it cools.

Apply the glaze while it is still warm. Unused glaze will keep indefinitely in a screw-top jar.


She was not an actress, not a singer, not a Kennedy–but a cook. Yet Julia Child remains one of the most iconic and well-loved Americans of the last century. It’s no exaggeration to say that if it weren’t for her and her classic tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking we’d all be eating boxed potatoes and canned green beans for dinner. There would be no boeuf bourguignon, no sidewalk creperies, no tarte aux pommes. No Martha Stewart or Ina Garten. No Food Network. Perhaps there would be no arugula, five dollar loaves of sourdough bread, or people willing to pay four bucks for a cup of coffee. Julia Child, among James Beard, Alice Waters and a handful of others, began an American culinary revolution that is still in an upswing. She took the grandest and most complicated cuisine in the Western world and made it accessible. “If you can read,” she used to say, “you can cook”. And how true this is, as long as you have Julia at your side.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know who Julia Child was. I used to watch her on re-runs of The French Chef when I was a kid, fascinated by her stature and that high-pitched warbly voice; I wondered if she was serious. Although she was deft and full of kitchen knowledge, she still made mistakes. Things didn’t always come out perfectly but that was a part of her charm. She made you feel like cooking wasn’t so hard and that if she could learn to do it, you could too. When I first started buying cookbooks, I bought Julia’s. She was the most famous, I reasoned, therefore the most trustworthy. The Way to Cook and Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom became bibles for me. But somehow, I never bought Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I was somewhat intimidated by French cooking, and many of the recipes seemed overly involved and complicated. It took me a long time to realize what I was missing.


Certainly, it can take a good day to make a cassoulet or canard en croute, but there is so much more to this comprehensive and detailed cookbook. There are many simple recipes that don’t require fussy ingredients. Recipes that can take you from fumbling uncertainty in the kitchen to a confidence that you, you too can make French food–and make it well.

Now this is a lot–but there’s more. As much as Julia has been an inspiration in the kitchen, I find her inspiring in another–dare I say even more important–way.  Julia Child was a late bloomer. In an age where most women married straight out of high school, she was in her thirties before she met Paul Child, the love of her life and constant companion for fifty years.  She was also well into her thirties before she ever picked up a saucepan. She spent ten years working on MTAOFC and didn’t experience her first real achievement in life until she was almost fifty. When success finally shone its light on Julia Child, it shone with all its glory. Whenever I think that I will never find the person who gets me, who will always have my back, I think of Julia. When I feel I haven’t accomplished enough in my life, that I’m not where I want to be–that I should just give up–I think of Julia. She has taught me that it’s never too late, and that if you truly have a passion for something and you work hard enough, success will ultimately come.


On August 7, 2009, Sony Pictures will release Julie & Julia , a movie long-anticipated by foodies everywhere. To celebrate, the lovely Helene from La Cuisine d’Helene came up with the wonderful idea to have a Mastering the Art of French Cooking challenge in which several food bloggers agreed to cook recipes from Julia’s book and post them today.

Check out what some of us are cooking:

Salad Nicoise at La Cuisine d’Helene

Potage Parmentier and Chocolate Mousse at La Fuji Mama

Cherry Clafouti at More Than Burnt Toast

Coquilles St. Jacques a la Provencale and Biscuit au Beurre at Lisa is Cooking

Oeuf a la Bourgiugnonne at Confessions of a Cardamom Addict

Fresh Peach Ginger Peasant Cakes at Passionate about Baking


As for me, I decided to make Rapee Morvandelle, a gratin (of course!) of shredded potatoes with ham, eggs and onions. I thought no egg dish could top my beloved quiche, but this little dish is even better. The potato gives it substance and the ham is a perfect foil for the flavor of the slightly caramelized onions. Dotted with bits of golden butter, it’s like the mostly heavenly of potato pancakes.

Bon Appetit!


Julia Child’s Rapee Morvandelle


Serves 4


1/2 cup finely minced onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup (3 ounces) finely diced cooked ham

4 eggs

1/2 clove crushed garlic

2 tablespoons minced parsley, chevril and/or chives

2/3 cup (3 ounces) grated Swiss cheese

4 tablespoons whipping cream, light cream, or milk

pinch pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 medium potatoes (3 ounces)

an additional 2 1/2 teaspoons butter




1) Preheat the oven to 375F. Cook the onion slowly in the oil and butter until tender but not browned. About 5 minutes.

2) Raise heat slightly. Stir in ham and cook a moment more.

3) Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl with the garlic, herbs, cheese, cream or milk, and seasonings. Then blend in ham and onions.

4) Peel the potatoes and grate them, using large holes of grater. A handful at a time, squeeze out their water. Check seasonings.

5) Heat the butter in an 11-12 inch dish. When foaming, pour in the potato and egg mixture. Dot with butter.

6) Set in the upper third of preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is nicely browned. Serve directly from dish.


In my personal mythology I am a graceful creature. I glide into rooms, move with the fluid ease of someone who is comfortable in her own skin; someone with elegance and poise. But the truth of the matter is, I’m actually a bit of a klutz. Okay, maybe not just a bit. I’m a terrible klutz, as anyone who knows me well can attest to. Miraculously, I’ve never broken any bones, but my skin is always bruised from bumping into furniture, my skin marred with the scars from more than a few burns. As it happens, food always plays a starring role in my mishaps.

I’ve ruined many a white shirt with blueberry or wine stains. My cupboards are full of sets of dishes missing pieces I’ve dropped on the floor. My hands, even my arms (don’t ask!), bear burn marks from my battles in the kitchen. It’s not that I don’t do my best to be careful, but because timing is so crucial while cooking, I can go from methodically and contemplatively chopping ingredients for a mirepoix to frantically trying to do three things at once. This is usually when accidents happen.

On Saturday, I was really looking forward to cooking dinner for my friend T. and had happily set aside the afternoon to work through my menu: lobster pie, strawberry and spinach salad, blueberry crisp. I knew things were not going to go well when I cut my finger chopping onions for the pie; within a space of an hour I also dropped a Pyrex measuring cup on the ground and cut my toe on one of the splinters.

Cooking can be a dangerous craft. I once contemplated a career as a chef–for about five minutes. I don’t have the physical stamina that is required for a life in the kitchen. Besides, I’d probably accidentally set my hair on fire or cut off my pinky.

So for now, I’m happy to write about food and cook for my family and friends, accidents notwithstanding. Because what’s a little cut or two compared to the satisfaction you get when you’ve made something truly wonderful and have made people you care about happy?

Individual Blueberry Crisps


I like to make crisps in individual 4-inch ramekins. They’re so pretty and easy to serve this way. You can make any kind of crisp you like with a couple of cups of chopped fruit and a crumbling of oats and brown sugar. Be sure to use rolled oats, not the quick cooking kind, or you will end up with a soggy mess. I chose blueberries, not only because they’re in season but because their tangy sweetness are the perfect foil for this crisp, buttery topping. Serve with a dollop of whip cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 4

Loosely adapted from All Recipes


2 rounded cups blueberries

3 teaspoons white sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/3 cup cold butter


1) Preheat the oven to 350F. Toss the blueberries with the white sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl and set aside.

2) In a separate bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut the butter into cubes and cut into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or a fork until crumbly. Butter the ramekins and press half the mixture into the bottoms. Fill each ramekin with the blueberries.

3) Sprinkle the remaining topping over the berries. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the blueberries are bubbling.

stspinachsaladI had a salad similar to this one in a restaurant once. I’m not a big believer in ordering salads in restaurants. Who wants to pay fifteen bucks for a plate of lettuce? When I go to a restaurant I like the chefs to work their magic on me, provide me with a meal I wouldn’t–or couldn’t–make at home. But when I spied this salad on the menu at a local eatery one hot summer’s day it sounded exactly like what I wanted without knowing it, and I have been making it ever since.

Because of the strawberries and sugared pecans, the salad has a sweet taste. I think a lemon poppy seed dressing goes well without overpowering the flavors. A balsamic dressing would also work nicely, complementing the tanginess of the strawberries. I like fig goat cheese in this but plain goat cheese may be more accessible and also tastes great in this salad.


Spinach & Strawberry Salad with Lemon Poppy seed Dressing

Serves 4



1/4 cup pecan pieces

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon honey Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

pinch salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 cups baby spinach

1 cup sliced strawberries

1/4 cup goat cheese, fig or regular



1) Set pecans, sugar, and water in a saucepan on medium heat. Simmer for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and pecans are golden. Spread out on a piece of parchment paper and cool completely.

2) Whisk the lemon, Dijon, salt, and honey together in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil. Toss the spinach with the dressing and divide between 4 plates. Garnish with cheese and strawberries. Serve immediately.


I have had my fair share of disasters with pastry dough, beginning in adolescence, when my early attempts resulted in rock hard pie crusts and exploding Pyrex dishes. Almost losing an eye while you’re making a quiche certainly can put you off baking, as it did for me–at least for a good couple of decades. That is, until I started this blog.

I had many motivations leading me to the blogosphere, but most notably, it was a way for me to teach myself to cook and bake. I considered myself a pretty good cook, I just wanted to be a better one. I realized I didn’t have a very wide repertoire. Whatever I knew to cook I made often, and although I had shelves full of cookbooks, I never followed their recipes; I simply used them as a springboard for ideas. But I was tired of inconsistent results in the kitchen, and decided to go back to square one. Find a new recipe, try it, post it. Try it again.

And it’s been working. With Ina, Julia, and Martha at my side, I’ve figured out how to make my own hollandaise, the most scrumptious scones, even how to bake my own bread. I’ve even got the pastry dough down.

Now this is not to say that I haven’t had my struggles, particularly when it comes to shrinkage. Oh, that dreaded shrinkage! But with a box of newly acquired pie weights and a good oven thermometer, I’m finally on my way.

I can honestly say that when I made these tarts that they were absolutely dreamy. The crust was light and flaky, not the least bit soggy, and the perfect envelope for all this silky chocolate. Topped with honey balsamic figs and a dollop of cream, they were nothing short of spectacular.

I have been using Donna Hay’s recipe for shortcut pastry for my pies and tarts, but you can use any recipe you prefer, such as Martha Stewart’s pate brisee. Line the tart pans with the dough and bake according to the recipe directions. 

The chocolate filling is adapted from Epicurious, from Bon Appetit’s December 1998 issue. The filling is enough to fill 6 tarts or one nine-inch pie shell. Be sure to use really good quality chocolate for the filling–it’s the key to a truly delicious tart.


Chocolate Tart with Honey Balsamic Figs

serves 6




6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

6 pre-baked tart crusts



1) Combine the chocolates and cream in a heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until melted and smooth. Cool to just lukewarm.

2) Beat next 3 ingredients in a large bowl until well blended. Beat in chocolate mixture. Spoon filling into baked tart crusts. Smooth top with a spoon.

3) Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 2 days. Serve chilled with honey balsamic figs and a dollop of whip cream.


Honey Balsamic Figs


Honey balsamic figs are delicious not only in baked goods but also with cheese and crackers, in salad, even with pork or chicken. Try them with some pistachio crisps and a good lemon or pear Stilton.



8 figs, quartered

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon white sugar (optional)


1) Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and allow to marinate for at least an hour. Add white sugar if you find the figs are not sweet enough for your liking.


Looking back on my posts over the last four months, you could definitely say my blog is skewed to the sweet side of things. Taking up baking for the first time since I was a teenager has been a fun adventure and oddly satisfying. I say oddly because the truth is, don’t really have all that much of a sweet tooth. That’s not to say that I don’t love my pastries or indulge in my fair share of chocolate, but given a desert island choice, I would forgo the sweet for the savory.

I adore stick-to-your ribs meals like pork chops and mashed potatoes, hearty stews, pasta dishes smothered in cheese sauce and heaped with even more cheese. With all that comfort food, you would think I need a lot of comforting. My idea of a snack is a plate of cheese and crackers alongside a handful of cornichons. I can eat this every day, and I usually do.

Which brings me to the cracker conundrum. Take a look at most cracker boxes at the supermarket and you’ll find a long list of bad fats and unpronouncable ingredients. Stuff that I’d rather not put in my body on a daily basis. I go for the artisan crackers from time to time, but a box of them–like my favourite Raincoast Crisps–can set you back seven bucks. I can eat half a box of these in one sitting.

Raincoast crisps come in a variety of flavours: rosemary raisin & pecan, fig & olive, salty date & almond. With their slight sweetness and nutty, crispy texture, the crisps are delicious enough on their own. With a smear of pate or a dollop of antipasto, they’re out of this world.

So when I came across this little recipe for a similar crisp in a little book on pates and terrines, I had to make them right away. The one recipe alone was worth the price of the book. You can use any type of nuts you like. I love the taste and look of pistachios, but almonds, pecans, or hazelnuts would also be great choices. You can also experiment with other ingredients, adding a touch of rosemary or a sprinkling of sesame or sunflower seeds. 

It’s important to refrigerate the loaf overnight, as it must be very cold in order to slice thinly. You could pop it into the freezer for a couple of hours if you don’t have the time to spare. Like biscotti, the loaf is baked as a whole and then as individual slices. The original recipe says that they need to be baked for 20-25 minutes but I find this far too long. If they are indeed sliced thinly enough, they will start to burn after ten or fifteen minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t do so.

You can serve these crackers with an endless assortment of accompaniments, but keep in mind that they’re on the sweet side. I like them best with a mild blue cheese like Bresse Bleu, or a lemon or pear Stilton. You could also have them with smoked salmon or a myriad of pates and cheeses. I like to serve them with a bunch of grapes or some figs that have been soaked in Marsala wine.

There’s something about these crisps that seem the height of indulgence. Be sure to have them on offer the next time you have guests over. They’ll surely be impressed, but no more than yourself. For such an elegant cracker, they’re incredibly easy to make.

Twice-Baked Pistachio Crisps

adapted from “Pates and Terrines” by Fiona Smith

makes about 30 crackers



3 eggs

1/4 cups sugar

1 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons flour

3/4 cup pistachios


1) In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until well mixed. Fold in the flour and pistachios, taking care not to overblend.

2) Spread the mixture into a 8×4 inch loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 45 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

3) Wrap the loaf in aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.

4) The next day, preheat the oven to 325F. Cut the bread diagonally as thinly as possible with a sharp knife and lay the slices out on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

5) Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until crisps are lightly browned. Keep checking them in the last 5 minutes of baking, as they burn easily. Let cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


We are at battle, cake and I. Although I’ve tried a variety of cake recipes over the years, I can’t say that most of them have turned out the way I’ve wanted them to. I’m not talking about carrot cake, pound cake or other types of cakes that require a bowl, a pan, and a few simple ingredients. I’m talking about layer cakes, filled with delights such as cherries, custard, or cream. I’m talking about cakes decorated with edible flowers, marzipan, swirls of rich, buttery icing. Cakes that are feast for the eyes and make your knees buckle with the rapture in each heavenly bite.

I have always wanted to make one of those cakes.

My attempts have been less than satisfactory. Something always goes amiss; the cakes comes out lopsided, I run out of icing, the layers puff out so much while they’re baking that they look like hats. The cakes themselves usually taste okay, they just look nothing most people would want to eat. I’ve mastered pies and tarts, can make the most delicate crepes, but the beautiful layer cake eludes me.

I am convinced that there is a perfect-cake-making gene. Either you have it or you don’t. My friend Elissa at 17 & Baking is a prime example. This girl makes the most wonderful cakes and she’s only seventeen! Every time I read one of Elissa’s blog posts I want to run to the kitchen and reproduce her creations. They’re that divine. The fact that her writing is also exquisite shows what a talented soul she is.

I’m not one to back away from a challenge, though. I’ve been reading up on the science of baking and I’m in the middle of Michael Ruhlman’s new book Ratio. My reading brings to light a lot of things I hadn’t really considered before; for example, how the amount of protein in the flour you use can drastically affect how your cakes turn out. Michael’s book is all about the basics ratios used in cooking as well as in baking. Once you know one ratio, it’s like knowing a thousand recipes. It can also help you spot a recipe that just won’t work–which often seems to be my problem. See! It’s not me. It’s the recipe!

I’m going to keep working on the perfect layer cake. In the meantime, Donna Hay’s Easy Chocolate Cake is going to stay front and center of my repertoire. I love Donna’s books. Her recipes are always simple, producing beautiful results, and the pictures are exactly the type of photography I aspire to–clean and minimalist, with the food taking center stage.

Donna Hay’s Easy Chocolate Cake



Adapted from Off the Shelf: Cooking from the Pantry


8 ounces (250g) butter

1 1/3 cups brown sugar

3 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted

1 cup sour cream

8 ounces (250g) milk or dark chocolate, chopped

1/3 cup cream

edible flowers for garnish, if desired


1) Preheat the oven to 325F (160C). Grease a 9-inch round cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add the eggs and beat well.

2) Sift the flour, baking powder, and cocoa over the butter mixture. Add the sour cream and chocolate. Mix until just combined.

3) Pour the mixture into the cake pan and bake for about 1 hour or until set. Cool in the pan.

4) To make the chocolate glaze, combine the chocolate and cream in a saucepan over and cook over low heat, stirring until smooth. Allow the glaze to cool for 5-10 minutes before spreading on the cake.

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"Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet." -Julia Child

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July 2009
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Photos and text copyright 2009 by Darina Kopcok
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