250 Cookbooks: Best You Can Bake Chocolate Desserts

Cookbook #141: Best You Can Bake Chocolate Desserts, Better Homes and Gardens, The Nestle Co., Inc., 1983.

Best You Can Bake Chocolate Desserts cookbook

“Free with purchase of one 12-oz. bag of Nestlé® Toll House® Morsels” reads the text in a white burst on the front of this booklet. Another manufacturer’s advertising booklet. Who needs one more book of recipes for cookies, cakes, pies, desserts and candy? Not I. But it’s in my hands, and it was my mother’s . . . so I’ll find something to bake from it.

I am surprised to find the original recipe for Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cookies as the first recipe of this booklet. These are my “signature” cookies, and I wrote about them three years ago in December 2012. I wondered back then where I clipped the recipe – now I know that it might have been from the back of a bag of Nestlé chocolate chips! My recipe for these cookies has evolved from the original – I use more frosting to make them totally decadent.

It’s kind of cute how the chapters in this booklet are named: Celebrated Cookies, Classy Cakes and Pies, Festive Desserts, Cookies Especially for Kids, Sweet and Fancy Candy. I’ll keep this cookbook, heck, it doesn’t take up much space.

I decide to make “Oatmeal Chippers” for this blog. This recipe has a lot of oatmeal in it – twice as much oatmeal than flour. It has peanuts in it, different from my usual choice of walnuts for chocolate chip cookies. I can see a need for these cookies in my repertoire!

Oatmeal Chippers recipe

Oatmeal Chippers

  • 1/2 cup butter (salted is okay)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 cups oatmeal (the quick kind)
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped salted peanuts (not dry roasted)

Beat the butter and shortening for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well. Stir together the flour and baking soda and then add this mixture to the beaten mixture. Beat until well blended. Stir in the oatmeal, chocolate chips, and peanuts.

Drop by teaspoonfuls on ungreased baking pans. (I always line my pans with parchment.) Bake at 375˚ for 8-10 minutes.

Oatmeal Chippers

These are delicious! The oatmeal gives these a light and crisp texture. And the peanuts and chocolate? Yum. A good change-of-pace chocolate chip cookie.

250 Cookbooks: Vegetariana

Cookbook #140: Vegetariana, Nava Atlas, The Dial Press, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1984.

Vegetariana cookbook“A rich harvest of wit, lore and recipes” continues the title. Yup, that’s this book! It has sat too long on my shelf. I am entranced with the illustrations and quotes:

“Of Soup and Love, the first is best”
“Ther ought t’be some way t’eat celery so it wouldn’t sound like you wuz steppin’ on a basket.”
“In the early Greek and Roman eras, beans were widely used as ballots. Casting a white bean signified an affirmative vote, whereas a dark bean was a negaitve vote.”
“Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.”
“Ginger sharpneth the sight, and provoketh slothful husbands.”

As I turn the pages of Nava Atlas’s book, I get hung up on reading and pondering all these non-recipe “extras”. I can copy a few quotes and a bit of lore, but I can’t show you all the illustrations (copyright issues and/or laziness on my part). Happily, Amazon will let you view some of this book (click on ‘Look Inside’).

Shame-faced, I haven’t tried many (or any?) of the recipes. I have always meant to take a day a week and cook no-meat meals. But it never really happens (and I can only blame some of this on my partner-in-eating).

I turn to the Introduction. Atlas begins: “‘What on earth do you eat?’ was a question I was often asked when I first became a vegetarian in the early 1970s. Even then, a meatless diet was not as widespread and accepted as it is today.” As a child, she didn’t have to be urged to “finish your vegetables” but to “eat your meat”. Meat just didn’t appeal to her. “It was not until I was sixteen years old that I was ‘adult’ enough to assert my way in the kitchen and delare myself a vegetarian. At first, this decision was not met with cheers from the family.”

She is a delight. And informative: “Many of my generation believe that vegetarianism sprand up in the 1960s and blossomed into the new age of health consciousness of the 1970s. However the roots of vegetarianism run as deep as ancient India, classical Greece and Rome, and the Old and New Testiments of the Bible. More recently, but perhaps even more obscure is the story of the almost concurrent, widespread vegetarian movements in ninteenth-century America and England, attracting scores of pominent writers and reformers.”

So us hippie baby boomers weren’t so groundbreaking. Funny how each generation thinks they are the first to discover the world.

Happily, Nava Atlas is still writing, and enchanting us and sharing recipes. Do visit her website: VegKitchen with Nava Atlas.

Recipes in this book? Lusty Curried Peas, Vegetable Lo Mein, Buckwheat Noodles with Snow Peas, Herbed Wheat Berries, Barley and Blackeye Peas, Mozzarella Mashed Potato Pie, Mushroom Barley Soup, Potato Corn Chowder, Chocolate Chip Peanut Cake. All the recipes look easy to follow, are nicely seasoned, use fairly common ingredients – and many are interesting, even to non-vegetarians.

I choose to make “Swiss Cheese or Gruyère Pancakes”. Cheese goes right into the batter of these crepe-like pancakes. Atlas suggests serving them with “Summer Harvest Squash Saute” (butternut and summer squash and zucchini sauted in butter with wine, soy sauce and herbs), filled with steamed vegetables, or sauced with Onion and Garlic Sauce.

Gruyere Crepes recipeI plan to stuff them with steamed vegetables. I made a half recipe; since it is hard to “halve” an egg, I beat up two eggs, weighed the total, then used 3/4 of the amount (this translated to 75 grams of beaten egg.) The remaining egg went into scrambled eggs the next day.

These cook up like crepes, so that is what I am calling them in my version of this recipe, below.

Gruyere Crepes
makes about 6 crepes

  • 2 eggs, beaten, then remove 1/4 of the mixture for a later use
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon white wine
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère cheese, firmly packed

Combine the eggs, milk and wine. Stir together the wheat germ, salt, paprika, and mustard, then add to the egg mixture. Stir in the cheese.

Heat a pan until a drop of batter or water sizzles when dropped on it. Turn the burner down to medium to medium-high because these crepes brown a bit easier than most due to the cheese in the batter. Add a little butter or non-stick spray, then pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan and tilt the pan so the batter spreads. Cook until brown, then flip and briefly cook the other side. Continue until all the crepes have been cooked.

cheese crepesI served them with a medley of steamed vegetables. I would also love these wrapped around cooked, creamed or plain spinach.

filled cheese crepesI added cooked salmon to the meal to satisfy our non-vegetarian cravings. Later in the week I used one like a taco, filled with ham and tomatoes and lettuce. Delicious!

Vegetanaria is a keeper!

250 Cookbooks: FYI Chem Recipe Book

Cookbook #139: FYI Chem Recipe Book, Second FYI Chemistry Conference: Global Communication for a Sustainable World, University of Colorado, Boulder, 2007.

FYI Chem CookbookThis delightful small book is a keepsake from the  second FYI Chemistry Conference, held at CU Boulder in the spring of 2007. I was still working then, and although I didn’t attend the conference, Dr. Margaret Asirvatham – a long-time colleague – gave me this book. (I’m not sure that the International Center for First-Year Undergraduate Chemistry, ICUC, the sponsor of the event, is currently active, since the url listed in the book says “server not found”.)

Conference participants contributed recipes from their homelands for this cookbook. Like many a group of university chemistry teachers, they came from all over the world: India, Israel, Italy, Peru, Mexico, the US, Greece, and Spain.

This is a geeky international chemistry version of a community cookbook!

I know I have made one recipe from this cookbook: Chicken Curry. This is one of Margaret’s recipes, and it was really good. I will make it again for this blog! A few of the other recipes I’d like to try are: Easy Rice Pilaf (baked with vermicelli), Vada (yellow split peas), Dolmadakia (stuffed grape leaves), Traditional Andalusian Gazpacho, Tacos Dorados de Pollo (shredded chicken fried in tortillas), Pinza (a traditional Italian cookie) and Chocolate-Mint Cookies (peppermint frosting!).

And here is my favorite ice cream recipe, although I can’t make it at home!

fast ice creamLiquid nitrogen! Since I was in the chem building for most of my working life, I’ve had this ice cream a lot. The undergraduate chemistry club liked to make it on “mole day” (celebrated on October 23), plus it worked it’s way into other parties and events.

Here is Margaret’s recipe for Chicken Curry.

Chicken Curry RecipeThis recipe calls for bone-in chicken pieces, and I have made it that way before. This time, I want to use some boneless chicken thighs instead. This makes eating the sauced-chicken easier (plus I have some boneless thighs in the freezer). I didn’t have fresh ginger, so I used ground ginger from a jar. My husband sees turmeric and sees yellow – and hates it. So, I left it out. When he asked what I was cooking for dinner, I said “spiced chicken over rice”. If I had said “curry”, he would have hated it. So. Below is my version of this dish.

Note: Don’t leave out the cayenne, garam masala, or coriander. Otherwise, this is just another chicken dish. The spices make it special.

Chicken Curry
serves 2-3

  • 12-14 ounces boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts (or use bone-in pieces)
  • olive oil for frying
  • 1 smallish onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1/4-inch fresh ginger, diced OR use 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 medium or large tomato, diced
  • optional: 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/4 – 1 teaspoon cayenne (to your own taste)
  • 1/2 teaspon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • salt (to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • fresh cilantro leaves to taste (optional)

Cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks and fry in a little hot oil. Remove from the pan and set aside. Fry the onion (and fresh ginger, if you are using it) in a little hot oil until it softens and is lightly brown. If you are using ground ginger, sprinkle it over the onions as they cook. Add the garlic and stir about half a minute.

Add the chopped tomato and cook 5-7 minutes. Add the turmeric (if using) and cayenne and cook at low heat for a few more minutes, then add the yogurt, garam masala, coriander powder, and salt and pepper. Stir well.

Add the chicken back to the sauce, stir, and then cook for about 30 minutes (more if you are using bone-in pieces). Serve over rice with cilantro leaves sprinkled on top if you like.

This did take quite a gathering of ingredients:

chicken curry ingredientsThe final dish:

chicken curryI loved this curry! My hubbie went back for seconds, so he liked it too (I never told him it was curry).

Another success in my kitchen lab!

250 Cookbooks: Ryzon Baking Book

Cookbook #138: Ryzon Baking Book, Marion Harris Neil, General Chemical Company, 1917.

Ryzon Baking Book cookbook1917! This was my grandmother’s cookbook. She turned the pages when my mother was only one year old. On one page there are crayon marks: Could they have been made by Mother? On another page my grandmother wrote some math calculations. She was good at math.

The book is a bit water-wrinkled with a few sugar stains (and crayon marks) but otherwise in pretty good shape. It’s hard-covered, unusual for an advertising booklet. “Price $1.00” translates into $20.24 in today’s inflated dollars. Another blogger wrote about this cookbook too: The History of Food and Drink Collection, What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections.

“Ryzon”, what’s that? Ryzon was a brand of baking powder sold for a few years in the early twentieth century.

What is baking powder? It is a chemical mixture that makes breads and cakes “rise” in the oven. It is called a “leavening agent”. Before baking powder, yeast was used to leaven breads and cakes. In a mixture of flour and water, yeast ferments, and on baking, the mixture releases carbon dioxide, putting little bubbles in the mixture and the bread rises. Yeast-risen breads and cakes tend to have a distinctive yeasty flavor.

Baking soda is another leavening agent. It is sodium bicarbonate, a weak base that can be found in natural deposits. When baking soda is mixed with water, flour, and a small amount of an acidic ingredient like sour milk or vinegar, it too releases carbon dioxide on heating and causes breads and cakes to rise. Baking soda was used by the ancient Egyptians for paints; by the mid-eighteenth century it was used for baking. Baking soda breads tend to have a distinctive flavor of their own because one ingredient must be sour.

Baking powder was introduced to the cooking public in the mid-nineteenth century. It is a dry mixture of baking soda and a weak solid acid. This acid can be one of several phosphate or sulfate compounds:

  • monocalcium phosphate
  • sodium aluminium slufate
  • potassium bitartrate (potassium hydrogen tartrate, or cream of tartar)
  • monosodium phosphate
  • sodium acid pyrophosphate

Cornstarch is added to the weak base-weak acid mixture to keep the two from combining (and reacting) on storage. The cornstarch also keeps the baking powder from clumping. Percentages: baking soda 30%, weak acid 5-25%, rest is cornstarch.

Baking powder gives virtually no flavor to baked goods (although some may argure this point, see the next paragraph) and bakers don’t have to include an acidic ingredient in the batter. It is simple to use because you don’t have to wait for a dough to rise. That’s why breads leavened with baking powder/baking soda are called “quick breads”.

Cooks are often picky when it comes to their choice of the weak acid used in the baking powder product they use. Some don’t like aluminum-acid containing baking powders because the aluminum lends baked goods a metallic taste; some believe aluminum is not be good for your health.

Some baking powders are “double acting”, meaning they contain two different weak acids, one that starts acting as soon as water is added and one that doesn’t act until it is heated in the oven.

Ryzone was a single-acting baking powder: it used only monosodium phosphate. The Ryzon Baking Powder cookbook claims that phosphate baking powders are the most desirable. One section raves about the purity of their monosodium phosphate and the cleanliness of their factory and workers.

What kind of baking powder do I use? I generally use whatever brand my local supermarket sells. Currently I have an open can of Clabber Girl Double Acting baking powder in my cabinet. The acids in this brand are sodium aluminum sulfate and monocalcium phosphate. I also have a new can of Bakewell Cream (purchased from King Arthur Flour) that includes only the weak acid sodium acid pyrophosphate (although they claim it is double acting).

All this might be boring to you, but for me – as a chemist and as a cook – I liked reviewing a baking process I use all the time.

Here are some take-home lessons to help our quick bread baking:

  • When using baking powder or baking soda, you always need to get the batter in the oven as soon as possible so the little bubbles don’t escape before your bread or cake is baked. (You probably have 10-15 minutes.)
  • Baking soda is the choice when you use sour milk (buttermilk) or yogurt in the batter.
  • Recipes often call for a combination of baking soda and baking powder. This is because double acting baking powder gives an extra “umpf” when the batter is heated.
  • Baking powder is a less-concentrated leavening agent than baking soda because it has a filler (cornstarch). It is 30% baking soda, while baking soda is 100%.
  • Be careful not to use too much baking powder, because if it is not all used in the baking process, it might lend a metallic taste to your baked good.
  • If you are out of baking powder but have cream of tartar, you can substitute: mix two parts cream of tartar with one part baking soda.
  • Rule of thumb: use one teaspoon of baking powder per cup of flour in a recipe that does not have an acidic ingredient.
  • Rule of thumb: use 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda per cup of flour and cup of buttermilk.

I decide to make Ryzon Gingerbread for this blog (and for us!).

Ryzon Gingerbread RecipeNote the bit of history in the above clip: “Gingerbread is probably one of the oldest forms of cake known. It has certainly been known since the fourteenth centure, when it was made and sold in Paris.”

I have always liked gingerbread, but I don’t make it a lot. In fact, I don’t even have a “go to” recipe for plain old gingerbread (I do make a great Apple Gingerbread Cobbler). This Ryzon recipe has lots of molasses in it, which is considered a healthy-ish sweetener. (I am surprised at how many of the recipes in this Ryzon cookbook are called “health breads” and have whole wheat flour in them.) And it has nutritious raisins and nuts. The recipe calls for “a shallow pan” – I chose a 9-inch square pan and it worked fine. A “moderate” oven is 350-375˚ – I chose 375˚. Below is my version.

Hearty Gingerbread

  • 1 cup molasses (340 g)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup nuts
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 eggs

Combine the molasses, butter, sugar, and water in a pan and heat gently (with stirring) on the stove until the butter melts. Remove from heat and let cool.

Butter and flour a 9-inch baking pan (or a 7×11-inch pan). Heat the oven to 375˚.

Combine the nuts and raisins on a cutting surface and chop roughly. (You can, of course, chop them in any way you like.) Add the nut/raisin mixture to the molasses mixture. Stir together the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and flour and then add it to the nut/raisin/molasses mixture. Beat the eggs and add them too.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 375˚ for 40-50 minutes, until it is nicely browned and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

GingerbreadI really enjoyed this gingerbread. Gingery and molassesy. And dense with nuts and raisins. We had it for dessert with cool whip. It’s also good for snacking during the day, and for breakfast!

Note: after writing this post, a friend alerted me to posts on the Serious Eats blog on baking powder and baking soda. Excellent discussions.

I liked the way the book lay open on the counter:

open Ryzon cookbookI also like the page that describes how to measure a level teaspoon and the two inside-cover pages from the back of the book that talk about the General Chemical Company factory.