Friday Favorites: Sweet Treats (Mostly Chocolate)

I come from a long line of noshers, and just like my dad I’ve got a serious sweet tooth.  So for my new blog series called Friday Favorites, a weekly round-up that will feature curated collections of food, recipes, fashion and design, I thought I’d start with some sweet treats and delicious bites that make me happy…and yes, they are mostly in the form of chocolate. In the words of Charles Shultz, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.” Happy weekend! xo, Batya

1. French Macarons from La Maison du Chocolate (Manhattan + Paris)
2. Chocolates from Marie Belle (Manhattan)
3. Bars from Mast Brothers (Brooklyn)
4. The Mount Baum Trio from Glaze The Baum Cake Shoppe (Denver)
5. Caramel Sauce from Helliemae's (Lakewood, Colorado). Also try the Chili Palmer Sauce!
6. Fondue au Chocolat Noir from Aux Anysetiers du Roy (Paris- beg someone visiting to bring it back! + Online) 
7. Chocolate Bark from Jacques Torres (Brooklyn)
8. Classic Salt Caramels from Helliemae's (Lakewood, Colorado)
9. Chocolate Bars from Ritual Chocolate (Denver)
10. Caramel Popcorn with Dark Chocolate from Jacques Torres (Brooklyn)
11. Boxes (Salt Caramels shown) from Nunu Chocolates (Brooklyn)
* How could I have forgotten Theo Chocolates out of Seattle. Try the Pili Pili Chili!

Have I missed a favorite of yours? Tell me which one. I'll try it and feature it in a future Friday Favorites

Note: This is not a sponsored post. It is a collection of sweet treats that remind me of good times and good people. Thanks to my colleague Carly at DLovesDesign for making this collage graphic! 

love + chocolate molten cake

It’s been 5 ½ years since my husband, Matt, proposed to me on Calder Hill at the Storm King Sculpture Garden in Upstate New York. About a week after the proposal, we were legally married at City Hall in Manhattan (which is also the same building where my husband’s grandfather used to work as a condemnation lawyer for the city- just a fun fact!). We filled out the marriage certificate, repeated a few phrases, there was perma-smile, laughter and a few tears of joy. And in an instant we were legally wed. In that moment my husband gave me two of the most valuable gifts of all: his commitment to our love…and health insurance.

Our legal marriage was followed by a religious ceremony in my parent’s backyard near the roses. It was important to them since they are observant and religious people. There was a ketuba, a rabbi, mumblings in Hebrew...and just like that, our union was sanctioned by the Lord (and though my husband and I are both agnostics and our interest in Jewish culture boils down to customs that revolve around food- it was important to our loved ones, so we did it).

By the time our third wedding came around, this one at Wave Hill in NYC in early November, all of the legal and religious requirements had been satisfied, so we could really just have a party and do things our way. We wanted the celebration to feel like “us”- so we asked our friend Rigsy to assemble a four piece Jazz Band - which we knew would set the tone we wanted. We walked down the aisle to Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World and concluded the ceremony with Down by the Riverside- which admittedly is a baptismal song with Gospel roots, but it’s a song that we’ve always loved and reminded us of our time in the Big Easy, which is where we met and fell in love. We also got married next to the Hudson River, so it kind of tied together nicely.

There were speeches about love and the early parts of our union. Our dear friend Megan read Walt Whitman's poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry and my father-in-law recited a Scottish sonnet that everyone remembers loving, but no one can remember where it came from or what the title was (if you know, let me know!). 

My mother- who's a really a great orator which I attribute to her years in education- presented the sermon. She talked about doing good and honest work (at which point many of my husband's Legal Aid colleagues erupted into applause) and then she talked about the significance of the chuppah, the bridal canopy. 
Standing under the chuppah, surrounded by 160 of our closest friends and relatives, was a truly wonderful moment-- one of the best of my life to be truthful. Our chuppah was constructed of poles, linen and what seemed like a million flowers (which were later donated to the Hebrew Home for the Aged for crafting projects). Traditionally, the chuppah symbolizes the couple's first home together and it is also usually associated with the tent of Abraham-- since it is open on all sides. The idea is that newlywed couple should be able to build a home that is welcoming to passersby, neighbors, friends and family.

When we bought our home in Denver, it was our hope that it would be filled with a never-ending stream of loved ones and neighbors. And in that sense, our hope has come true. For almost nine weeks straight, family and friends came to stay with us- beginning in July and ending in the early fall. Friends who were road-tripping across the country, friends who were making Denver a pit stop on a larger trip to explore national parks, and friends who just wanted to see where we finally landed (and missed us!) all made their way to our new abode in Congress Park. My parents, my brother, in-laws, aunts and cousins came too. We all cooked together, ate together, drank together, and sat outside on the porch talking and laughing. There was warmth and love…and somehow, in our fair city by the mountains, we managed to create our own little chuppah-- where the door is always open…and if you come and visit you'll be greeted by something warm coming out of the oven…maybe, even, this chocolate molten cake.  
See you all soon! 
Wedding photography by: Courtney Davidson Photography

Last month Matt and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. To celebrate the milestone I made Chocolate Molten Cake, which was the dessert served at our wedding! This recipe comes from a former law school classmate, Laura Marasco, who like me, seems to have developed a love of cooking and baking. So thank you Laura for sending this my way. The recipe is an amalgamation from several sources and Laura cobbled it together about 10 years ago. If it is attributable to any one particular source, she can't remember. My only tip is: DO NOT over bake it! For all you Denverites out there, I suggest pulling the ramekins out of the oven at around 9 minutes!

Chocolate Molten Cakes
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons flour
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (Laura uses Hershey's Dark. I went with a bulk bittersweet block- label unknown)
2 tablespoons cold cream (or milk or half & half)
1/4 cup cocoa
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Grease and flour the ramekins or mugs.
In a double boiler (or a bowl set over a pot of simmering water), melt the stick of butter with the chocolate, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat.
Whisk in the cocoa (sift it in) and cream. Sift flour over top and whisk that in too.
In a bowl, whisk together (or use a mixer) the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla and salt until thick ribbons form, about 3 minutes.
Add sugar and mix until well incorporated. Mix a little of the chocolate into the eggs to temper. Add the rest gradually. 
Divide among the dishes and bake until the sides of the cake are set but the inside is still soft- about 10-12 minutes* (*Denver or altitude bakers- mine took 9 minutes). DON'T OVERBAKE!
Remove from the oven and let cool in the ramekins for 2 minutes. Then unmold (or you can serve in the baking dishes) onto dessert plates. 
Serve with a little coffee gelato or fresh whipped cream. I served it with a tiny bit of powdered sugar and berries.
Makes 4

Baking Nigel Slater's Chocolate Muscovado Banana Cake with My Boys

About three weeks before Otis was born, I made a list of all the things I thought I would accomplish once I became a full-time mother and left the workforce. I was leaving a job with incredibly demanding hours (a position which typically required 55-60 hours per week and where I was called "part-timer" when I left at 9 p.m.), so I though I would have (oh) so much time on my hands. I mean other than changing dirty diapers, singing ABC and 123 songs, going to early morning reading classes, putting the baby to sleep as many times as he needed, I'd have plenty of time left to spend ruminating on philosophy, reading Ulysses, Anna Karenina and War and Peace, teaching myself how to knit, actually completing the NYT crossword puzzle, and mastering Arabic...right?
Wrong. Though the first few months were relatively smooth (this early period of infancy is like a "fourth trimester" since the baby usually "wakes up" around month 4), I kind of overlooked the fact that I wouldn't really be sleeping at all during this early stage. Nope, not at all.   
I looked back at my "Things I Will Do Once the Baby is Born" list and realized that I was totally delusional and unprepared. It turns out that when you are a first-time mother, time really isn't on your side.
But after I got into the swing of motherhood (that took about a year), and I got a handle on our new sleeping routine(s), I was able to carve out a little bit of time to learn about food, how to prepare it and document my forays in the kitchen and our transition to life in Colorado in the form of this blog. 
I still find that one of the most challenging parts of motherhood is that you don't really have your own time, and when your interests/needs compete with that of your child(ren), well, that's when the problems start.
I save all my pinning, Facebooking, and blogging for the kids' nap time (or for when they are otherwise entertaining themselves). But when I want to bake and cook, well, I just have them do it with me. This is a case of "everyone wins." I get to try different recipes, photograph food and eat new things; they get to have fun making a mess, writing their names in flour, and eating food that they helped make. Yes, if you want to cook and bake with your kids there are some frustrations, more to clean up, and sometimes a broken dish or two. But you're building memories,  spending quality time and baking together. 
Since you can never have too many banana bread/cake recipes, here's a new one I tried last week. It's made with muscovado sugar (also called "Barbados sugar"), and like other dark brown sugars, it's basically white sugar with molasses added back in...but this one is darker and stickier than most brown sugars. Muscovado sugar is commonly used in baking recipes and making rum, so I took that as my cue to add a little splash of rum in the batter. If you aren't keen on rum, just omit it. 
I saw this great photo on The Kitchn which illustrates how much darker the muscavado sugar is from the commonly used "light" and "dark" sugars. (Image credit: Dana Velden)
Hope you enjoy this banana cake as much as we did. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to start working on my crossword puzzle, while I enjoy a slice of cake and some hot tea (you guessed it, the kids are napping)...
Happy weekend, 

Chocolate Muscovado Banana Cake (Adapted slightly from Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries II and converted, to the best of my ability, from The Wednesday Chef)
Makes 1 loaf cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (Denverites and other high-altitude bakers, I adjusted the recipe to 1 3/4 teaspoons)
9 tablespoons softened unsalted butter (1 stick, plus 1 tablespoon)
1 1/3 cup, plus 1-2 tablespoons, of muscovado or dark brown sugar
3 to 4 ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3.5 ounces of (100 grams) dark chocolate
Optional: Since muscovado sugar pairs really well with rum, I added a splash. Chopped walnuts would work too. 

1. Heat the oven to 350F. Line a standard-sized loaf pan with parchment paper. Sift the flour and baking powder together in a bowl.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs into the butter and sugar one at a time until fully incorporated.
3. Peel the bananas and mash them with a fork in a small bowl. When you are done, the bananas should still be slightly lumpy and not entirely puréed. Stir the vanilla extract into the bananas.
4. Chop the chocolate finely and and fold it, along with the bananas, into the butter and sugar mixture. Gently mix the flour and baking powder into the banana batter.
5. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and bake in the oven for 50 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the cake is browned and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
6. Remove the cake from the oven and let sit on a rack for 15 minutes. Then, using the parchment paper as a sling, remove the cake from the pan and let it cool completely on the rack. When the cake has fully cooled, peel off the paper and use a serrated knife to slice.

Molly Moon's "Scout" Mint Ice Cream

It's been just over a month since my husband got me an ice cream maker for my birthday. Quite frankly I'm surprised the motor hasn't given out (yes, I've been making a lot of ice cream). In addition to the ice cream maker, I also received two terrific cookbooks: Molly Moon' s Homemade Ice Cream and People's Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops from Brooklyn's Coolest Pop ShopI decided to start with the Molly Moon's book. 
I first heard of Molly Moon's about 4 1/2 years ago. I was 6 months pregnant with my first son Otis and we were trying to figure out whether or not we should relocated to Seattle. Our apartment in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn was feeling pretty crowded and it was going to seem even smaller once the baby arrived. We were also starting to sour on the city, despite having most of our family and closest friends around. I always loved the Pacific Northwest, so we booked a flight and flew to Seattle to check things out. 
Seattle had a lot of things going for it: employment prospects were better for me because I was a member of the Washington Bar. And the overall cost of living, while not cheap, was more affordable than NYC. The food scene (amazing), hiking options (tons), and the politically active citizenry of Seattle made us think it would be a good place to live.
Once we got there we ate; we ate a lot. We went to Macrina Bakery for brunch, shopped at the Pikes Place Market, and stumbled upon a cheese festival that happened to be taking place while we were in town. We slurped tons of pho, dined at Tilth (oh lord that place is good)and walked around Gasworks Park. We also got tickets to see the Mariners clobber the Red Socks at Safeco field. (I was rooting for the Mariners because I was in their stadium. Of course I'm also a New Yorker and a Yankee fan-- so I don't have much love for the Boston Red Sox!)

We took a little side trip to Vancouver, which was fabulous (more great food and lots of great walks). Upon our return to Seattle we decided to get some ice cream. The spot? Molly Moon's. The line? Around the block. I heard their salted caramel flavor was incredibly popular and worth the wait. It was to-die-for. We got a pint. 
Anyway here we are, 5 years later. Lots of things have changed since that trip to Seattle. We are living in Denver, not Seattle, and our family now has 5 happy members (I'm including our trusted Rottweiler in this count). One thing that hasn't changed much is my love of ice cream...especially Molly Moon's.

Salted Caramel was the first recipe I tried. I paired it with a warm Ghirardelli brownie (above) and it was fantastic. Next up was Mexican Chocolate (nice heat from Vietnamese, a.k.a Saigon, Cinnamon) and blood orange sorbet (seasonal and refreshing). 
I didn't think it would be right to print every recipe I fell in love with, so I decided to post the Scout Mint because it is, hands-down, my new personal favorite.

I did my happy-dance the minute my husband returned from the grocery store. I could see those boxes through the shopping bag. Know which boxes I mean? Hmmmm? Yes? The little green boxes that are hard to find and sold by Girl Scouts around the nation? Thin mints! Yes, thin mints! THIN MINTS! 

People, it's very hard not to fall in love with this one. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. A special thank you goes out to the awesome people at Molly Moon's who let me publish their recipe. 

"Scout" Mint Ice Cream (Courtesy of Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream, printed with permission)

Makes 1- 1 1/2 Quarts
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
2 teaspoons peppermint extract 
1 1/2 cups crushed Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies (about 15 cookies) 
Note: The cookies can be crushed into pieces as big or as small as you want them to be in your ice cream. We shoot for pea-size pieces and leave a cookie or two mostly intact- because who doesn't love finding a big cookie in their ice cream?
Put the milk, cream, sugar, and salt into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Before the mixture has come to a boil, remove from the heat. Pour the mixture into a shallow pan or bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly, 1 to 2 hours.
When the mixture is cold, stir in the peppermint extract. Pour it into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's instructions(mine takes 20-25 minutes from start to finish once the power is turned on and the bowl starts turning). During the last few minutes of processing, add the cookies. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the ice cream to an airtight glass or plastic freezer container. Cover tightly and freeze until the ice cream is firm, at least 4 hours. 
Note: You have to freeze the bowl that comes with the ice cream maker for 24 hours prior to use, so don't forget to do this in advance! 
Enjoy :)

Krisana Park's Mid-Century Modern (and Candy Buckeye)

Photo Credit: DWR
I've been known to day dream about mid-century modern design. And when the most recent catalog from Design Within Reach came through my mail slot, all I could think about was Saarinen, Eames, Jacobsen and Eichler. (Oh they would all look so good in our rental!) Then, almost immediately, I remembered two words: Krisana Park
In this tiny south-east Denver neighborhood there are Eichler-inspired, California-style, mid-century modern homes that were built between 1953 and 1955. It's right next to the Virginia Vale neighborhood, which is not too far from where we are living now. Someone had mentioned Krisana Park to me a while back, but it slipped my mind. I was reminded of it because of the catalog (see, aren't catalogs handy), so I strapped the boys into their cars seats and we set off in search of these mid-century gems. 

About 5 minutes later we turned onto a quiet street and that's when my head nearly exploded! This place is a mid-century dream. 
We took our time walking through the neighborhood. I tried my best to get a look inside these architectural stunners, but I didn't want to pry too much, so we stayed on the sidewalk (mostly). I had a quick flashback to the last time I tried to take a look inside someone's house just to size up the interiors. I (incorrectly) assumed the house was empty, but it wasn't. A man in his mid-40's popped into the window frame just as I was pushing my face onto his glass window to get a better look. He stood there staring at me, shaking his head back-and-forth in disbelief, and gave me a look of general disapproval. It was a bit uncomfortable for everyone, especially since I had the kids in tow. But this time I knew better...
Some of the mid-mods have "popped their top" or been modernized even further.

After walking around for a few hours I started getting hungry. I thought about food-- in particular, mid-century food.
I did a search for 1950's recipes and in the process I stumbled upon two really cool websites: Cheftalk and

Here's what was happening in American grocery stores halfway through the last century, post WWII (basically the beginning of processed and frozen foods):
  • 1953: 
    • Cheeze Whiz (Kraft)went on sale
    • Swanson debuted TV dinners
    • Pepperidge Farm butter cookies
    • Star-Kist brand (canned tuna)
    • Eggo Frozen Waffles
  • 1954
    • Trix (General Mills)
    • Stouffer's frozen meals (Stouffer)
    • Nonfat dry milk (Carnation Co.)
    • Peanut M&Ms (Hershey's)
    • Marshmallow Peeps (Just Born)
    • FYI: Fast food chain Burger King was born
  • 1955
    • Special K breakfast food (Kellogg's)
    • Pepperidge Farm cookies (Bordeauz, Lido, Milano, Orleans)
    • FYI: The first McDonalds (Kroc style)franchise opened and Kentucky Fried Chicken(Colonel Sanders)started selling chicken.

Initially I thought I would whip up a 1950's dip or something thematic that would compliment the architectural nature of this post. But after considering the options I decided not to. I toyed with the idea of making a Spinach-Artichoke dip, but then bagged it because I wasn't really in the mood for an app. Bu you don't have to eat like you're living in the 1950's to live in one of these houses, right? I hear a few of them are on the market...(did I mention that we are house-hunting!)
* * *
The day before I wrote this post, I went over to a friend's house for a cookie bake swap. I made Nutella-Stuffed Brown-Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt from  Ambitious Kitchen. My friend Mizzy made Oreo and Peanut Butter Brownies (her recipe will be posting shortly). And our friend Joy made these Candy Buckeyes- a non-cook recipe that has its roots firmly planted in Ohio's culinary history. 
The confection is a peanut butter ball dipped in melted chocolate. It ends up resembling the shiny, dark nut of the Buckeye tree-- which happens to be the state tree of Ohio. As I just learned (yesterday), that's why OSU football fans are called Buckeyes. 
These treats are a distinct Ohio tradition and they are totally 
delicious. We had a whole bag and now there is only one left. Time to me more? Yup! Enjoy.  

Store them in your freezer-- they keep longer and taste great.
(Recipe courtesy of Joy Z's mom)