Mom’s Dolmades Recipe

My Mom and Dad just had their 31st wedding anniversary, and she said she might make these for my dad as his present. If she does, I’ll post the picture. Until then, here’s her recipe from her Greek cookbook, which, oddly enough, does not include olive oil. Hmmm…

Dolmathes Avgolemono Me Kima (Stuffed Grape Leaves with Chopped Meat)

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Smells Like Burnt Nirvana

There’s this moment when chocolate mousse actually becomes chocolate mousse in baking process that I relish. I’ll call people in from other rooms so they can stand over my shoulder and witness the exact moment when the foamy, crinkling egg whites completely dissipate into the chocolaty, yolky, thinkness of the mixture, all by my simple, patient folding. I consider it, in all honesty, to be a magical baking moment.

Ganache carries with it a similar thrill. The general ratio for a standard chocolate ganache is 1:1 heavy cream and chocolate. The process is simple:

  • Finely chop the chocolate and place in a bowl
  • Heat the cream to just before a simmer
  • Pout hot cream over chocolate
  • Stir gently ’til fully mixed

Just as with mousse, this is where the magic happens with ganache as well. For the first minute, the whole mess looks like just that — a mess. Half-melted lines of chocolate swimming in tan-toned cream; a bowl of sweet-smelling dreck. Then you blink, or turn away to watch the cat do something cute, or answer the phone and SWOOSH! One last stir around the bowl and the mixture knits itself together in a sea of ganachey goodness. Oh sigh…

Of course, it’s not always nirvana. I made a chocolate hazelnut torte on Tuesday wherein the primary ingredient is Nutella. And for the top, a Frangelico-tinged chocolate ganache poured over to set up into a thick layer of loveliness. But I was in a rush; wanted to get to bed; had dreams to dream and snores to snore. So I committed what I would dub a Kitchen Crime: I hurried my ganache. I nagged nirvana.

I tossed the half-heartedly chopped chocolate into a little pot, poured in the cream, measured out a bit of liquor and flipped on the gas flame. And promptly burnt the ever-lovin’ cocoa nibs out of my chocolate.

A few things to remember, folks: Chocolate starts to melt at 80-degrees F, which, if you touched it to your lip, would feel as cold as an ice cube. If chocolate is hot to the touch, you’re in trouble. Chocolate burns at 123-degrees F. And just like when chocolate gets cold, chocolate that gets burned also thickens and hardens as the milk solids change formation. All this is to say… well… I wish I could say I committed this Kitchen Crime in the name of blog-education, but I won’t lie. The pictures tell the story best, anyway:

Bad Ganache
Bad Ganache

Good Ganache made in repentance and poured over torte, side-by-side with bad ganache as a little reminder of my failure:

Good Ganache

The pictures aren’t amazing because they’re taken with the most fickle camera in the world that either takes amazing shots or ruins everything. But I think you get the idea.


  • Add liquor when cream is heated (Frangelico, Chamboard, spiced rum all work well)
  • Though when originally combining the cream and chocolate you want to stir gently, after the ganache forms you can vary the consistency from fudgey and pourable (like above) or whipped and spreadable. The more your stir, the more air you work into the ganache and the more whipped and spreadable (like icing) it becomes.
  • Get the best of both worlds: set half of it aside, stir the other half until it’s nice and airy, fill the cake layers with the whipped version and then pour the more fudgy version over top to ice the whole thing.

Pumpkin Buns: Stage One

I promised the recipe for my Pumpkin Buns, and so I come today to deliver…in stages. First, I give you the recipe for Choux Paste, which is the dough that makes the bun-like container for the dessert. These are eggy and not too sweet, and you may know them better as cream puffs, sans the cream.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I would rate these a 3.5 for difficulty for one reason alone — the choux requires a degree of judgment for when the dough is ready, rather than a measure of minutes. Otherwise, this is a silly-simple recipe.

Pumpkin Buns:Choux Paste (the bun part)

1 C milk

4 oz. butter, small piece

7 oz. AP flour

1/2 t. salt

5 large eggs

(water to adjust)

How to:

  • Combine milk and butter in saucepan, bring to a full boil. Butter should be melted by the time it boils.


  • Add flour and salt once milk mixture comes to a full boil. *Flour will not absorb all liquid if not at full boil.


  • Take off heat. Stir until it the dough looks a bit like a limp of firm mashed potatos, or for you Germans in the audience, a kenerdle.


  • Return to heat, stirring, until it steams and just begins to stick to bottom. *It will “crack” like PlayDoh.


  • Transfer to a mixing bowl with paddle attachment. Stir to cool. *Eggs added to hot dough will cook, resulting in no structure for later in the baking process. Dough does not need to be cold…just warmish.
  • Add eggs one at a time. With each egg, dough will first look sloppy and wet, then suddenly the egg will incorporate to form a kind of batter. If dough is still too thick, add water 1 Tablespoon at a time to get it to a smooth state. How do you know it’s at a smooth state?….

Three tests for Choux paste

a. Turn off mixer and you want to see the paste actually slump (no pic as a “slump” is hard to capture)

b. Pull up the mixer paddle, see if it the paste coats the beater and comes to a point.



c. Pull finger through the paste to make a canyon, see if the edges curve in slightly.

Piping the Choux

Fill a pastry bag (or ziplock bag) with choux paste. Pipe from a large-ish hole onto parchment covered baking sheet.

Egg wash ( one whole egg, beaten) *Do not get wash on paper or choux will stick as it rises.

Dip a fork in water and make indents across tops of buns (like with peanut butter cookies) for expansion as the dough rises in the oven.

Place in oven at 375-400° for 15-18 min. for buns piped to the size of a donut hole. (Larger buns, like the ones I made, require about 10 extra minutes.)





Stages of baking for choux:

1) doubles in size in the first 12-14 minutes (!!!Do not open oven at all during this first baking period!!!)2) bakes in pace for next 3-4 minutes*Note.

They’ll pop right off the parchment. You’ll find you can split them very easily to make two halves, and even dig out the guts a little to make a deeper container for when you put things like pastry cream or mousse inside. Or, poke a hole in the bottom and fill them using a pastry tube and bag.

*These freeze nicely in a bag. To defrost, pop in oven @ 300° until warm. They do not make a yield, they are merely a batch depending on how large you pipe them.