WATCH: Taking a swig of pumpkin pie spice extract in this week’s Deskside Dish

I didn’t have anything new to taste test at my weekly deskside Periscope, but sure enough, some of the viewers prompted me to try the pumpkin pie spice extract sitting at my desk. I did and then quickly regretted it.

Other highlights: Getting to break in my department’s new selfie stick and talking about a cookbook that hit my desk this week that I couldn’t be more excited about.

I’ll be back at noon next Wednesday to tell you how my trip to Mexico City went!

Recipe of the Week: Jackson Pollock-inspired S’mores Pie

Drizzling melted chocolate on top of a marshmallow-topped chocolate pie can turn it into a s'mores pie in a snap. The recipe comes from "Sweet Envy: Deceptively Easy Desserts, Designed to Steal the Show" by Seton Rossini. Photo by Seton Rossini.
Drizzling melted chocolate on top of a marshmallow-topped chocolate pie can turn it into a s’mores pie in a snap. The recipe comes from “Sweet Envy: Deceptively Easy Desserts, Designed to Steal the Show” by Seton Rossini. Photo by Seton Rossini.

Chocolate chess pie might seem like the boring choice in the pie case, but not to Maryland baker Seton Rossini.

The author of “Sweet Envy: Deceptively Easy Desserts, Designed to Steal the Show” channels the creativity of Jackson Pollock when she makes this s’mores pie by drizzling melted chocolate on top of marshmallows and crumbled graham crackers.

The chocolate drips just like paint, and you could use butterscotch chips for yet another layer of color, flavor and texture. Craft stores sell a rainbow of melting candies, which means you could make an orange and black one for a festive Halloween dessert next weekend.

Jackson Pollock S’mores Pie

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Pinch of salt
For the chocolate filling:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 can (5 oz.) evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
1 heaping cup of mini marshmallows
3 graham cracker sheets, broken into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine all of the crust ingredients in a bowl, mixing with a fork until they begin to clump together.

Firmly press the crumb mixture on the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan and bake for 5 minutes, then set aside while you make the chocolate filling. Keep the oven heated.

In a bowl, combine all the filling ingredients (1 cup sugar through salt)and whisk until fully incorporated and smooth. Pour into the graham cracker pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is set around the edges and jiggles slightly in the middle. Let pie cool before topping.

Turn the oven on broil. Sprinkle the marshmallows and graham cracker pieces on top of the pie, then place under the broiler to toast the marshmallows. Watch carefully; this will only take a minute. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Alternatively, if you’re lucky enough to own a kitchen blowtorch, use that to toast the marshmallows.

Place the dark and white chocolate in separate bowls. Heat each in the microwave for 20 seconds, then stir, repeating until the chocolate is just about melted. Use a spoon to drizzle the chocolate all over the pie. (This is the fun part, so go ahead and get creative!) Cool to room temperature or chill before serving. Makes one 9-inch pie.

— From “Sweet Envy: Deceptively Easy Desserts, Designed to Steal the Show” by Seton Rossini (Countryman Press, $24.95)

Austin360Cooks: The surprising secret to crispy oven-fried chicken wings

Football every Sunday is a pretty great excuse to make chicken wings, but I’ve never had a deep fryer and hadn’t tried to make them at home.

And then I hear from my editor, Emily Quigley, that Cook’s Illustrated solved that problem a long time ago. (She’s @emilyquig on Instagram, where she posted this photo of the last wing of the most recent batch.)

By tossing the wings with baking powder, the skin gets super crispy when baked at high heat. Then you can toss the wings with whatever sauce you’d like, from the traditional Frank’s hot sauce, the key to Buffalo wings, or any other barbecue sauce or glaze. This version is from the Australian blogger behind Recipe Tin Eats (


Editor’s note: Through our #Austin360Cooks project, you can see what home cooks in Central Texas are making and share photos of your own dishes. Below the recipe, you can see the Storify of this month’s photos.

Oven-Fried Chicken Wings

4 lb. chicken wings
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 3/4 tsp. salt
For the sauce:
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup Frank’s Original RedHot Sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
For the blue cheese dip:
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. milk
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Pat wings dry with paper towels. Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Put one oven shelf in the lower quarter of the oven and one in the top quarter. Place the wings in a large plastic zip-top bag. Add the baking powder and salt. Shake the bag to coat the wings evenly.

Line a tray with foil. Place a rack on the baking tray and spray with oil. Place the wings skin side up on the rack. Bake on the lower shelf in the oven for 30 minutes. Then move the tray up to the higher shelf and turn the oven up to 425 degrees. Bake for another 40 to 50 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through. The wings do not need to be turned over.

While the wings are cooking, whisk together the sauce ingredients. Keep warm or reheat just prior to using. Also make the blue cheese dip, by mashing the blue cheese with sour cream until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and mix well until combined. Store in the fridge until required. Remove from the fridge 15 minutes before serving.

When the wings are dark golden brown and the skin is very crispy, toss with hot sauce and serve immediately with blue cheese dip. They can be served plain, with a dipping sauce or tossed in sauce. Serves 8.

— Adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe by

Celebrating National Chocolate Day? Try these pudding-filled cupcakes

Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes from "Flavorful: 150 Irresistible Desserts in All-Time Favorite Flavors" by Tish Boyle. Photo by Andrew Meade
Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes from “Flavorful: 150 Irresistible Desserts in All-Time Favorite Flavors” by Tish Boyle. Photo by Andrew Meade

In today’s food section, we rounded up more than half a dozen recipes to help you throw a more sophisticated Halloween party. (Or maybe I’m the only one tired of cookies with strawberry jam that look like bloody fingers…)

One of the recipes we featured just so happens to fit with National Chocolate Day, which apparently some people use as an excuse to eat chocolate. (Or, as I also hear from People Who Know Stuff, attract page views on a website.)

Regardless, bookmark this recipe for the next time you want to play around with nice chocolate and cocoa powder.

Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes

The Brooklyn Blackout Cake is one of Tish Boyle’s most popular cake recipes, and in this version, the editor of Dessert Professional magazine baked them as chocolate pudding-filled chocolate coffee cupcakes that will knock your socks off, she says.

For the chocolate pudding filling:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate (about 60 percent cacao), finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened non-alkalized (natural) cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 cup buttermilk
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup hot brewed coffee
For the frosting:
4.5 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4.5 oz. bittersweet (about 61 percent cacao) chocolate, chopped
24 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

To make the filling, in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually whisk in the milk, making sure there are no lumps in the mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof silicone spatula, until the mixture thickens and just begins to bubble around the edges. Remove the pan from the heat and pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Add the chocolate and stir until it is completely melted. Add the butter and stir until melted. Stir in the vanilla. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup standard muffin pans with cupcake liners. In the bowl of an electric mixer, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add sugar and, using the paddle attachment, mix at low speed until blended.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolk, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. While mixing the dry ingredients at low speed, add the egg mixture in a steady steam. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then beat at medium speed for 1 minute, until well blended. With the mixer on low speed, add the coffee, mixing just until blended. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and stir the batter from the bottom of the bowl a few times to thoroughly blend the batter (it will be thin). Pour the batter into the prepared cups, dividing it evenly (each cup should be about two-thirds full).

Bake the cupcakes for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool in the pans on a wire rack.

To make the frosting: Put both chocolates in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Heat, stirring frequently, until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove the bowl from the heat and set the chocolate aside to cool until tepid.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat at high speed for 2 minutes, until light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, add the cooled chocolate, mixing until blended and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Raise the speed to high and beat for 1 minute, until slightly aerated. Use the frosting immediately, or cover well and keep at room temperature for up to 3 hours before using.

Using a paring knife, cut a 1-inch-diameter cone from the center of the top of each cupcake, reaching almost to the bottom, and remove it. Set the cake scraps aside. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch plain tip with the chilled filling. Pipe the filling into the cavity in each cupcake, filling it to the top.

Process the cake scraps in a food processor to form fine crumbs. Spread the top of each cupcake with a generous amount of the frosting (or pipe it on with a medium star tip, if you prefer). Sprinkle a generous amount of the crumbs onto the frosting on each cupcake. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. The cupcakes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Makes 24 cupcakes.

— From “Flavorful: 150 Irresistible Desserts in All-Time Favorite Flavors” by Tish Boyle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35)

Like Rocky Mountain oysters? Doug Moreland’s calfry returns Nov. 6-7

Musician Doug Moreland, who also hosts a weekend music and talk show on Sun Radio (KDRP 100.1), is bringing back his music and food festival called Cattlelacs Calfry in Manchaca on Nov. 6 and 7.

It’s a two-day celebration of live music and Rocky Mountain oysters, with teams competing to see who makes the best calf fries. Admission is free during the day for chainsaw carving, but when the bands start (at 6 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday), tickets cost $10 and $20, respectively.

On Saturday, the ticket price includes a plate of calf fries and barbecue. The lineup includes the Crooks, Possum Posse, and Moreland himself, and there will also be chainsaw carving demonstrations during the day. You can see the schedule at

Peace Corps service plants seed for Tiny House coffee business

Tiny House Coffee Roasters is a new coffee company in Austin that buys beans directly from farmers in Nicaragua. Photo from Tiny House Coffee Roasters.
Tiny House Coffee Roasters is a new coffee company in Austin that buys beans directly from farmers in Nicaragua. Photo from Tiny House Coffee Roasters.

After getting a degree in agricultural economics from the University of Tennessee, Blake Thomas decided it was time to join the Peace Corps.

His assignment? Head to Nicaragua and work in a small mountain town whose residents made a living by growing rice, beans and coffee. It was there he started building relationships with coffee growers, and when it was time to return to the U.S., Thomas decided to find a way to sell their beans directly to consumers.

He moved to Austin and started Tiny House Coffee Roasters, which sources its beans directly from the producers he met while living in Central America.

By buying beans directly from the farmers, Thomas could ensure they were getting more per pound than if they went through a distributor, but he has also established a revenue-sharing model that he says helps the producers make twice as much as what they would get selling to an exporter.

After buying the beans, Thomas roasts them here and has started selling one-pound bags at the Barton Creek Farmers Market, Lakeline Farmers Market and the Sustainable Food Center Farmers Market at the Triangle. You can also buy the coffee online at

New book from Austinite Veronica Meewes covers fish sauce, from soup to dessert

lzWDJ5jFish sauce can be as divisive as cilantro, but if you have a palate for umami and certain Asian cuisines, you’re probably already a fan. Austin writer Veronica Meewes reached out to chefs across the country to show just how diverse this ingredient can be, working with big names like Andrew Zimmern as well as local chefs, including Evan LeRoy of Freedmen’s and Tim and Corey Sorenson, who run Cow Tipping Creamery.

Her new book “The Fish Sauce Cookbook: 50 Umami-Packed Recipes from Around the Globe” (Andrews McMeel, $19.99) includes dozens of recipes, such as hamachi toastadas, Vietnamese caramel chicken, warm Brussels sprouts slaw, and crab and roasted tomato soup.

Métier Cook’s Supply, the kitchen and cookbook store at 1805 S. First St., is hosting a launch party for the book at noon Nov. 15 that will feature samples from chefs and bartenders whose dishes are included in the book.

Blind Cafe returns to Austin for dining-in-the-dark event

The Blind Cafe invites guests to eat a meal and listen to a concert in complete darkness. Photo from Blind Cafe.
The Blind Cafe invites guests to eat a meal and listen to a concert in complete darkness. Photo from Blind Cafe.

For several years now, the traveling Blind Cafe has brought its unique dining-in-the-dark restaurant pop-up concept to Austin.

It’s a sensory tasting experience that is both startling and fascinating, featuring a vegetarian meal prepared by a local chef, blind servers and live music, all in complete darkness.

The event returns to Austin on Tuesday through Thursday, Nov. 3-5, with two seatings each night, 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Organizers sell tickets on a sliding scale, from $55 to $195, based on what you can pay. You can buy tickets and find out more at

Have a favorite applesauce muffin or cake recipe? Try this trick

Applesauce muffins, breads and cakes usually share some ratio of clove, cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Many cooks just add whatever measurements called for in the recipe, but Kathy Hester, author of “The Easy Vegan Cookbook: Make Healthy Home Cooking Practically Effortless” (Page Street Publishing, $21.99), reminds us in this applesauce cake recipe that you can add more or less of any of them, depending on your preference. In this vegan cake, for instance, you can add more ginger to make a more gingerbreadlike bread.

Applesauce cake from "The Easy Vegan." Photo by Ann Oliverio.
Applesauce cake from “The Easy Vegan.” Photo by Ann Oliverio.

You can’t build a gingerbread house with it, but it’s a good treat to have on hand if you have guests coming to town this fall.

Applesauce Spice Cake

1 cup applesauce
1/3 cup oil
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup coconut or regular sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and oil a tall 9-inch cake pan. Mix the wet ingredients together in a large measuring cup. Mix the dry ones together in a medium-sized bowl.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry until just combined. Scrape out the batter into the cake or loaf pan and bake until a fork comes out clean in the middle, about 45 minutes. Serves 10.

— From “The Easy Vegan Cookbook: Make Healthy Home Cooking Practically Effortless” by Kathy Hester (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)

KTonic selling kombucha made without added juice

KTonic is a new Austin-based brand of kombucha. Photo by Addie Broyles
KTonic is a new Austin-based brand of kombucha. Photo by Addie Broyles

The kombucha revolution is well underway, and the members of my household are ready and willing participants.

Both of my kids, ages 8 and 5, can’t get enough of this probiotic-packed drink that people have been consuming for thousands of years. In the past 10 years or so, the drink has had a major renaissance, and it’s slowly starting to appear in cities that don’t have quite as many kombucha options as Austin.

I recently found another local kombucha brand I hadn’t yet seen: KTonic Kombucha, which doesn’t add juice to sweeten or flavor the single-fermented tea. In an effort to create a product with less sugar, the company uses organic tea, herbs and other botanicals from Texas Coffee Traders, Nile Valley Herbs and Starwest Botanicals, as well as non-GMO cane sugar, to make three flavors: original, made with green and black teas, ginger and lemongrass; Master-K, the original but with extra ginger and lemongrass and a hint of cayenne pepper; and Hibiscus, which has a touch of tarragon.

You can find bottles of the tea (about $4 for 16 oz.) at Cuvee Coffee Bar, the Bee Grocery, Ingredients, Seventh Flag Coffee, Daily Juice, Caffe Medici, Royal Blue Grocery, Houndstooth Coffee, the Herb Bar and Red Horn Brewery in Cedar Park. You can find out more at