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Spring Brunch Brilliance: Porch Waffle Party

Dark chocolate dipped clementines with sea salt

We stored up quite a bit of cabin fever here in Baltimore this winter, so as soon as the weekend temperatures began to touch the 70s, the neighbors fell into action to get our notoriously non-rowdy porch parties back on the social calendar. While these affairs normally allow us to enjoy some wine and dessert as a summer day cools its way into evening, we traded down to morning so that we could trade up to waffles and mimosas for this season’s kick-off event. After an unfortunate electrical fire, we were also inaugurating our resident waffle mistress’s brand new iron, so it was perhaps best to get things going outside—just to be safe.

Waffle with butter

How do you like to top your waffles?

Mistress of the waffle iron

Mistress of the waffle iron

As the waffle production was very well in hand, I volunteered to provide some toppings. For once in my life I went simple, and I’m going to tattoo this lesson on my forearm so that I can enjoy making party food more and stress about it less. Whip a little honey into softened butter and add a tablespoon of sprinkles: perfect for the kids and takes about 5 minutes. Fry some banana slices in butter, deglaze the pan with bourbon, and stir in some pecans and a good dose of maple syrup: well worth the 20 minutes for the adult joy. A little fresh whipped cream and some mixed berries finished off the tray for the waffle traditionalists in the crowd.

Waffle topping table

Honey butter with sprinkles

Honey butter with sprinkles

With so little prep work to do, I also took a stab at some dark chocolate-dipped clementine slices with sea salt that had caught my eye on Pinterest. I don’t do a lot of fancy chocolate work, so I wasn’t super confident when I started the project, but this proved just as brainless as the rest. A 1/2 cup of good dark chocolate, a bit of shortening if you have some on hand to smooth things out, and then just melt it together in a double boiler, dip the slices, and rest them in rows on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Finish a row and run a pinch of salt flakes down the line. Repeat. The only hard part was setting them down instead of eating them. I popped them in the fridge overnight, covered well in plastic wrap once the chocolate set hard. The next day I just had to pile them in a bowl.

For those who would like a little more detail in their recipes:

Honey Butter with Festive Sprinkles

Banana Bourbon Maple Syrup

Dark Chocolate-Dipped Clementine Slices with Sea Salt

How do you like to top your waffles and pancakes?

The Countdown: The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook

Malted Milk Chocolate Cake

In Wonderland Kitchen, recipe research almost always equals Google searches and Evernote-taking. I rarely crack an actual, physical cookbook when looking for knowledge and inspiration, and yet I cannot seem to stop buying them! And those that don’t arrive on my doorstep via UPS show up skillfully wrapped in the hands of generous friends or as orphan cast-offs schlepped home from some musty church basement book sale.

Now, here they all sit in precarious stacks around my office, their beseeching gaze rivaled only by the CDs I have yet to split the cellophane on and review for work.

And so, as a 2014 self-improvement project that does not require public exercise, I’m on a mission to review each book in turn, to sit down and get to know it a little, and select a recipe which I will make and share here with my kitchen crew. Which is to say I’ll be doing this for me, but hopefully you’ll get something out of it, too.

Real world cookbooks present challenges

Real world cookbooks present challenges

I’m starting out with The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook. Now, this is honestly a very lovely book featuring beautiful but not-too-precious photographs and charming writing. But while I follow their blog, lust after their farm house, and appreciate a balanced collection that won’t break my toe if it slides off the counter, really it’s leading out of the gate because my awesome mother-in-law gave me an autographed copy for my birthday and I still haven’t made anything from it!!!


Baking pan ready for action

Now then, this is one of those books helpfully (if you’re into that kind of thing) arranged by season, starting with winter and a cozy list of baking projects. Though the recipe for “Snow Cream with Sweetened Condensed Milk” was tempting, I’m not sure that there’s any snow in Baltimore I’d feel safe serving to guests. As I paged through my options, I did appreciate that the desserts each seemed possible to execute without a professional pastry chef on stand by. A few of the recipes included commercial candy, which is not something I’d ever considered, and so usually being all DIY and kale and whatnot, I decided this was the way to go. Malted Milk Chocolate Cake: come to mama!

The cake came together just as easily as the one-page recipe implied, and the 9×13-inch pan serving 12-16 is no joke—this is a homey yet decadent chocolate cake-brownie of a treat, so you may want to keep your pieces quite small. I didn’t find it dry in the least, but offering coffee or a tall glass of milk to balance out the richness would not be amiss.

Malted Milk Chocolate Cake: Unbaked

Malted Milk Chocolate Cake
from The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook

1 1/3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup malted milk powder (I could only find chocolate flavored, and just went for it)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups AP flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup coarsely chopped malted milk balls
(If you can promise not to eat more than three balls before baking, you can buy the 5 oz box. All others might want to consider purchasing more. I roughly halved the milk balls and just gave the pile an extra whack or two at the end for minimal rolling-to-the-floor.)

Butter a 9×13-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment. Butter the paper as well and flour the pan. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Measure out the milk and add the malted milk powder and the vanilla. Stir to combine.

Into a medium bowl, measure out the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Run a whisk around the bowl several times until evenly incorporated. Set aside.

Using a hand or stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars on medium until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, thoroughly mixing in each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Lower the mixer speed and add the remaining dry (excepting the milk balls) and liquid ingredients in several alternating portions, starting and ending with the dry. Scrape down the mixing bowl and make sure all the ingredients have been evenly incorporated. (I failed a little here–learn from my mistakes!!)

Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pan and even out. Sprinkle the milk balls across the top.

Bake for about 40 minutes, until a cake tester (I’ve been loving using left over kabob skewers for this) comes out clean and the cake pulls away from the pan edge.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cake can be served from and stored in the pan.

Malted Milk Chocolate Cake

Having My (Double Chocolate) Cake (and Nibbling at the Edges)

Double Chocolate Muffins

I mentioned that it might be a little quiet in Wonderland this summer, but even I wasn’t expecting the silence to be so drawn out. And the longer the gap, the harder the re-start. I have a small stack of draft posts, but I haven’t been quite sure how to put what was holding me back into words even for myself. Today, it was put into pictures with way more power that I ever could have generated.

That’s not to imply that I have lost interest in researching or testing recipes, writing about or photographing meals (and eating remains a central priority in my daily life, one way or another). There is something so energizing about sharing food with friends and family around the table; the fact that in 2013 you can tweet a quick picture of that meal to a recipe creator and invite them in for a virtual “thank you” bite is a very sweet icing indeed.

While I’m nowhere near as serious as some, I find blogging to be a beautiful final step in documenting what was once ephemeral women’s work. For me, however, it often comes at a cost in lost attention to the present.

With that in mind, I’ve dedicated myself (unconsciously at first, I’ll admit) to being a consumer of internet knowledge this past month rather than a contributor to the volume, and it’s been grand. I’ve actually finally made a lot of the dishes on my “To Try” Pinterest board! Here’s a round up of some of my new DIY discoveries and recipes. Yes, I fully grasp the ridiculousness of expressing anxiety about the volume of internet content in a new post published on the internet. It’s hard to let go of the dopamine hit that is online (over?)sharing, for sure.

Wonderland on Instagram (clockwise from top left): citronella soy candles; natural lipstick; cocoa butter lotion bars; double chocolate muffins.

Wonderland on Instagram (clockwise from top left): citronella soy candles; natural lipstick; cocoa butter lotion bars; pre-bake double chocolate muffins.

I’ve also turned the kitchen over to crafting some DIY beauty products. While I recently figured out that my body is much too irritated by the baking soda in this deodorant recipe (who knew?), I’m loving these other Wellness Mama concoctions:

While you’re at it, take a second to make a little olive oil candle scented with the essential oils of your choice to keep you company in the bath. I rigged this wick with a bit of picture frame wire.

evoo candle

Now that I’m almost all the way back on this pony, more on other projects, such as DIY bug spray and citronella soy candle making to come…

For Want of a Cookie


You know how people always say don’t go grocery shopping hungry? I think I may need to apply a similar rule to recipe research: don’t go browsing while indecisive. When I sat down at my kitchen table to figure out what dessert to bring to tonight’s potluck, I knew I needed something easy to eat, small and sampler-plate friendly that would suit a smorgasbord for 15. But with not much more of an idea than that, once this Libra started spotting cookie recipes in line with my pantry stores, well, it was hard to stop at one.

Or two.

Or three.

Luckily, at that point I was out of time, out of counter space, and out of sugar, or else things could have taken a serious turn towards the diabetic.

The first of these recipes comes from a new-to-me site that I immediately paged through back to front, drinking in all the phenomenal photography and stopping here and there along the way to get to know the woman behind the lens. I can’t wait for her next post.

The second two are both from Joy the Baker, who I hear has a new cookbook out. Based on my experiences with these two cookie recipes (selected from among her top picks) I suspect that the book contains some real winners. If I had had any puff pastry in the house, you couldn’t have held me back from making a go at just one more cookie.

Want to make a batch of your own? I suspected as much. This way to the recipes!

Cocoa and Coconut Bits: It’s a potluck in 2012, so something vegan and also gluten free (unless you avoid oats, as well) seemed a good idea.

Citrus Sables: I used lemon and orange.

Dark Chocolate, Walnut and Golden Raisin Cookies: Though I used cranberries and almonds.

The Cowboy and the Lady (New Christmas Cookie Edition, Part 2)


So, as I was saying, Christmas 2011 is crying out for some new sweet treats, and I’m endeavoring to deliver. My first pitch was a peanut butter filled chocolate cookie, and though it had something of a utilitarian, PTA-meeting vibe to me, what it lacked in flash it more than covered for in tastiness. I had admittedly baked with skepticism, but I snacked with gusto.

As a counterweight to that, I selected a chocolate mint sandwich cookie which brought new meaning to the idea of multi-step baking. No step was difficult, but the devil was definitely in the details. Dried fruit needed to be chopped, dough needed to be chilled, rolled, and cut into identical squares. Chocolates were unwrapped and two different types melted–individually! There was baking and sandwiching and icing and drizzling. And finally, there was a house full of amazing, minty, chocolatey smells and a plate full of pretty cookies. They sure looked fancy; they tasted great. But I was so tired that all I really wanted to do was curl up under a blanket with a hot mug of coffee and a couple more of the peanut butter filled ones.

Chocolate Mint Cookie Sandwiches

Chocolate Mint Cookie Sandwiches
adapted from 1 Dough, 100 Cookies

2 1/4 cups AP flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder*
1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped *
pinch salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

15 after-dinner mints**
4 oz semisweet chocolate pieces
2 oz white chocolate pieces ***

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, cranberry pieces, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar, then add egg yolk and vanilla and mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Divide dough in half, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for one hour.

Once dough has chilled, preheat oven to 375°F and line two baking sheets with parchment.

Roll out and cut each piece of dough into 15 2.5″ squares (for a total of 30). I made 1.5″ squares and simply ended up with quite a few additional cookies. Bake each sheet for about 10 minutes (until cookies are firm). As soon as you remove them from the oven, top half the squares with a mint and cover with remaining cookies, pressing lightly. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Your kitchen will now smell amazing, attracting the attention of family members and pets, so monitor your cookies with care!

Chocolate Mint Cookie Sandwiches

When cookies have cooled, melt the semisweet chocolate pieces in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Allow to cool and drizzle over the sandwiches. Once the semisweet chocolate has set, repeat the process with the white chocolate. Enjoy the fancy sweets.

*I tossed these two ingredients in my small food processor and whirled them around for a minute. It made quick work of the chopping, and the powder kept the dried fruit pieces from sticking together in a clump.

**I used Andes chocolate mints, but made smaller cookies so I broke 28 of them in half. The left over pieces I just tossed in with the semisweet chocolate when I melted it for the glaze.

***My white chocolate was very dry when melted. A small amount of vegetable oil thinned it to a drizzle-able consistency.

Comfort and Joy! (New Christmas Cookie Edition)


I was bored with Christmas baking, and I hadn’t even started yet. Let me back up.

On Friday, my mom called to ask how my Christmas preparations were coming along. I gazed out my window at the Halloween pumpkin still decomposing on my front porch and refused to assume her plan-ahead, Martha Stewart decorating drive.

I don’t like to pack my holiday celebrations too tightly, and I was still working off Thanksgiving dinner, thankyouverymuch. Still, an examination of the calendar did indicate that perhaps some hustle on my part was in order. While I wasn’t ready to make a public lawn statement quite yet, I figured that some baking might help ease me into the spirit of the season. When I turned to my usual Christmas cookie contenders, however–the peanut butter blossoms, the pecan tarts, the Hungarian half-moons–they were all so perfect and lovely and…uninspiring somehow. I decided that I needed to break tradition: Christmas 2011 needed a new cookie.

Thus began the epic Googling. (What? I’m a girl who likes her research!) In the end I settled on two experiments. This is the first, the “cozier” and less fussy of the duo. A friend came back from a block party raving about them a few weeks ago and even though they are laid back, they sure are tasty. I think what sold me is how they are kind of like a Buckeye–a peanut butter ball wrapped in chocolate; what’s not to love?–but (bonus!) in this version they also function as cookies. I was not disappointed.

Cooks all over blogland have gone to town on this recipe (which appears to have originated in an issue of Better Homes and Gardens), so whatever version you need, you can probably find one to suit (the vegans, in particular, have done a range of adaptions). I went with this posting by Culinary in the Country, mostly just because I liked his cookie flattening technique and the fact that he, too, whisks his dry ingredients.

Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies
Recipe from Culinary in the Country; adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 large egg
1 T milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
pinch salt

For assembly:
a few tablespoons granulated sugar

Measure flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream butter, sugars, and peanut butter until smooth. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla, and continue mixing until well combined. Add dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Cover two baking sheet with parchment and divide dough into 32 pieces. (I only got 29 and wasn’t disappointed with their size, so use your own judgement.) Quickly shape into balls.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl or stand mixer, mix powdered sugar, peanut butter, and salt until smooth. Divide into enough pieces to fill your chocolate balls. I found the filling coherent and malleable enough to roll it out into a log, so I did that and simply divided it evenly with a butter knife rather than guess on individual balls, as the original recipe suggested.

Flatten each chocolate ball in the palm of your hand and top with a piece of the peanut butter filling. Fold chocolate dough as evenly as possible around the peanut butter and shape back into a ball before placing it on the baking sheet again. My “round” ball cookies always come out slightly flat, which in this case actually worked in my favor (see next step).

Lightly flatten each cookie with the bottom of a glass dipped in granulated sugar. You might need to get it a little greasy first to get the sugar to stick.

Bake cookies one sheet at a time until the surface of the cookies begins to crack slightly, about 8 minutes. Allow cookies to cool for 1 minute on the baking sheet, then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.