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Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

A Chocolate Cake for Every Taste

There are many ways to make a great chocolate cake. Whether a recipe uses butter or oil, cocoa powder or chocolate, or includes ground nuts will affect its texture and flavor. Chowhounds have a variety of go-to recipes, depending on their taste in chocolate cake.

Do you prefer a dense and very moist cake? Try the Hershey's black magic cake, made with oil and cocoa. It's quick to make, too. "I can have the batter done before the oven is finished preheating," says chowser. This double chocolate layer cake is similar, but uses chocolate as well as cocoa. It's "the best chocolate layer cake I've ever made," says heidipie, "and about the best I've ever eaten." Val notes that it is a huge cake, and suggests baking it in three 9-inch pans instead of two 10-inch pans.

Some hounds go for traditional butter cakes. This one is "by far, the best chocolate cake I have ever had," says tall sarah, who finds the ganache filling recipe makes enough to cover the cake as well. chowser is a fan of Cook's Illustrated's master recipe, which she says is soft and intensely chocolaty, but sweet.

Some prefer flourless or almost-flourless European-style tortes with nuts, like Maida Heatter's queen mothers cake and Julia Child's reine de saba. MichaelB says the reine de saba is "quite spectacular--conversation came to an abrupt halt while we ate it. Almost like a flourless chocolate cake but not so intense and fudgy, more velvety, and with a delicate crunch from the pulverized almonds. Really great."

Discuss: Please share your favorite chocolate cake recipe!

Crop Mobs, Rose Gray, and Jonathan Safran Foer

Welcome to the CHOW Crib Sheet, your weekly recap of recent food news and events. Now, a look at our top stories:

Hot News Feed

Farm Party
Twentysomethings in North Carolina spontaneously amass to clear rocks and haul mulch in “Crop Mob,” a farming version of Flash Mob. What, were pillow fights and zombie bar crawls not doin’ it for them? via New York Times

Smart Shoppers
In an experiment at SUNY Buffalo, mothers shopping in a fake grocery store bought less junk food when the prices were jacked up with taxes. When healthy food was discounted, they bought more of it, however they used the savings to buy more junk food. So the idea of subsidizing healthy food isn’t a great idea, apparently, in a world where 10-cent mini peanut butter cups exist. via Grist


Bake Yourself a Fifty Dollar Pie

Are you dying to try the famous Crack Pie from Momofuku Milk Bar, but blanch at the idea of paying $44, plus overnight shipping, to have one shipped to you? Good news: you can make it yourself. The Los Angeles Times has the recipe, and several hounds have tested it.

Crack Pie has a crumb crust made from homemade oatmeal cookies and a filling that "tastes just like a pecan pie without the nuts," says bluemoon4515. Made with egg yolks, heavy cream, and lots of sugar, it's "REALLY, REALLY, REALLY rich, sweet and buttery," says housewolf. "The cookie seemed weird when I made it," confesses Tom P, "the cookie crumble crust seemed like it would not support the pie, and it looked pretty ugly. But man oh man, did it taste amazing."

There is disagreement about whether the pie is best hot out of the oven or chilled, as the recipe specifies. Tom P thinks that, while it is good both ways, it is best warm; butterscotchtoki feels it's much better cold.

Discuss: Crack Pie Recipe

Waffles Go Savory

Fried chicken and waffles is one popular way to serve waffles in a savory meal, but why not incorporate savory flavors into the waffles themselves instead?

jvanderh loves these white bean waffles, which he tops with Hollandaise sauce. runwestierun recommends Bobby Flay's savory wild rice waffles.

bushwickgirl makes cornmeal waffles with creamed corn and chopped canned green chiles in the batter, and serves them with chili or chicken a la king. silverhawk makes waffles savory by steeping fresh herbs in the milk for an hour before making the batter. "One can add all sorts of flavors to the waffles by infusing the milk," he notes.

scuzzo says Dorie Greenspan's Waffles: From Morning to Midnight "is a great cookbook with lots of savory ideas." gimlis1mum concurs, and recommends the curried couscous waffles with red bell pepper dip from the book.

Discuss: looking for savory waffle recipes

Groovy Winery Alert!

The tasting room of four-month old winery Mercury Geyserville, in the Alexander Valley, has an urban-in-the-country feel. White walls, a vintage record player playing Johnny Cash, and shelves with homemade pickles and pear preserves in jars. The wine (three Pinots, three Bordeaux blends, a table wine) is delicious, and sold in non-traditional bottles. The Messenger, one of the Bordeaux blends, comes in an elegant brandy-style bottle (pictured.) The table wine is sold in mini-jugs. I predict fun parties at this tasting room, and fun parties at my house with the wine.

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"[P]lace all ingredients, including the oil, in a hand immersion blender cylinder and blend. Perfect, easy mayo every time. People often don't believe that this method is possible until I show them." - Sam Fujisaka

"Another 'trick' is to boil the egg for 1 minute, break it by cracking on a flat surface, gently pour it back into the water which should be on a gentle simmer. It holds its shape better." - Paulustrious, on poaching eggs

"The other sure-fire way to get anybody to eat them is to toss them in a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and maple syrup and then roast. The sweetness of the maple syrup and the bitterness of the sprouts make for a perfect match." - montrealwaitress, on Brussels sprouts

Hardee’s: Down and Out

CKE, the owner of Hardee's and Carl's Jr., is going private after taking a beating in the marketplace. The always reliably observant Dan Mitchell, writing over at The Big Money, takes a look at the management attitudes that allowed Hardee's and Carl's Jr. to lose ground while selling hamburgers in a recession. He roundly pastes the company for its sophomoric ads, and limns the main failing of the company: the failure of not figuring out how to sell cheap food to the masses in an era when the masses are clamoring for cheap food. At any rate, about those ads:

What We Can Learn from Jarred Pad Thai Sauce

Some foods are almost required to be fresh, they lose so much in quality when canned. Hot Chinese mustard must be mixed up freshly from powder for maximum heat; lemon juice from a plastic lemon is missing the full flavor and aroma of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Of course, some foods that come in jars are great. Chowhounds love Sriracha, or "rooster sauce," a jarred sauce of chile paste, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and salt. But rarely does anyone suggest grinding your own chile paste and mixing it up fresh instead. The jarred stuff is just fine! Thus balancing effort with reward, convenience with quality, is a crucial skill for the home cook. Where on this spectrum, Russel Shank wants to know, does sauce for pad thai lie?

That sauce is elemental and simple, says scubadoo97. The goal is a balance of three strong flavors: salty/funky (from fish sauce), sweet (from palm sugar), and sour (from tamarind and/or lime juice). There are three reasons why, in this case, homemade is leagues better than the jarred stuff.

One, it's incredibly simple to make—just three ingredients, no cooking. Two, the jarred stuff is kind of nasty. "The texture is often too thick, probably due to thickeners and stabilizers," says fmed. Finally, explains fmed, there's the necessity of balance in Thai cuisine: strong flavors together in perfect harmony. Too sweet, or not sour enough, and the balance is all off. And it's unlikely that the perfect balance of flavors for your dish is the one the sauce factory came up with. This is where the homemade version has it over the jarred version: It's infinitely customizable.

Discuss: Homemade Pad Thai sauce VS the stuff in the jar

Why Saudia Arabia’s Food Isn’t “Middle Eastern”

What we think of as "American cuisine" is not necessarily what Americans eat. In a large American city, you'll find restaurants serving Italian, Chinese, Thai, Peruvian, Ethiopian, Indian, and maybe even Czech cuisine—but not much meatloaf or succotash or apple pie. It's the same situation in Saudi Arabia. The restaurants are mostly Lebanese, Italian, Indian, and the like. Workplace cafeterias are likely to serve a hodgepodge of "part Lebanese inspired faux Italian faux Indian lunches," says luckyfatima. So what's real Saudi food like?

"Saudi Arabia is a huge country (about 1/4th the size of the U.S.), so naturally it has not only a national cuisine but many regional specialties as well," says hrhboo. luckyfatima agrees. "What Saudis eat as 'their cuisine' depends on if they are descended from Bedouins, settled people, mountain people, sea faring people, or people of non-Saudi origins who have taken Saudi nationality," she explains.

There are many traditional Saudi dishes, and they aren't the typical Lebanese/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dishes commonly found in America. The Gulf Arabic style of cooking includes "all of the warm spices of North Indian food but little/no chile heat," says luckyfatima. "The Gulf Arabic spice mix (bizaar) is pretty much like a South Asian garam masala variation." As well as that characteristic spice blend, "[p]aper thin ragaag bread," "tomatoey meat and vegetable stews," "wheat or rice beaten with chicken or goat," and "meat stew poured over shredded flat bread" make appearances in the cuisine, along with a small dish of dates or date paste at every meal. Rice and stewed and roasted meats are common. But not camel, so much—despite the meat's association with Saudi food, people in Saudi Arabia "eat camel as regularly as Americans eat say, buffalo or alligator," says luckyfatima.

There isn't much Saudi cuisine to be had in the States, but "if you want to taste something similar to Saudi cuisine (not exactly the same but close for an interested foreigner, and with many shared dishes and similar spicing/seasoning) I would recommend to find a Yemeni resto," says luckyfatima. Enjoy!

Discuss: Define Saudi Arabian cuisine

How to Roast Tofu

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Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. ... WATCH THE VIDEO