Another birthday: the classic remixed

June 28, 2010 § 1 Comment

A couple of days ago it was one of my housemate’s birthdays. You should know by now that the second I say “birthday”, you’re in for a really long story about everything that went wrong while making the cake that ends with, it actually turned out to be a beautiful and delicious cake. So if you would like to skip over all my ranting about this cake to the pictures, please feel free.

I’m absolutely positive that this is the best birthday cake ever — standard, vanilla yellow cake with chocolate frosting and colored sprinkles. Why? Because Deb at Smitten Kitchen said so. I’m also absolutely positive that you can do anything to this recipe, even get almost every single step wrong, and it will still come out utterly delicious. Why? Because that is exactly what I did.

It basically all came down to having none of the ingredients that the recipe required. I creamed the butter and the sugar only to find that my vanilla extract had magically disappeared from the kitchen. So this vanilla birthday cake quickly became cinnamon flavored. Then, I couldn’t find any baking powder even though I know, know, know, I had it somewhere. So in went extra baking soda and a cup of plain, non-fat yogurt. Then, as I was stirring in the 4 cups of flour, I started having even more doubts. The cake batter was thick, almost unstirrable. Frustrated I looked back at the recipe and realized I had left out all the buttermilk. And I had no buttermilk. So in went some non-fat milk and even more yogurt. After all this, the mixing bowl was overflowing and I had zero idea whether I would actually end up with a cake in the end.

I cooked the cakes in two batches and was mildly comforted when the first layer started to rise like a normal cake. I went out on a run and left my housemates in charge of taking them out of the oven when it was done. Surprisingly, both cake layers turned out beautifully domed and golden brown.

The icing issue was a whole lot simpler. I was planning on using chocolate buttercream frosting I used for my mother’s birthday cake but before I could start making it I happened upon the ingredient “3 sticks of butter” and I just couldn’t do it when it was written out like that in black and white. So I started with a smaller batch, with just a stick of butter and eyeballed the cocoa powder and icing sugar. Of course that made a miniscule amount of frosting so I ended up having to use about 3 sticks of butter anyway in order to frost the entire cake.

And now for the very predictable end of the story: the cake was great. The cinnamon flavor played well off the rich chocolate frosting and the cake layers were still slightly warm when served, which made it wonderfully homey. There is something very comforting about a standard yellow cake with sprinkles; it’s like celebrating your 5th birthday all over again. Except it was his 21st.

Best Yellow Layer Cake
Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

Read your mind: Hazelnut thumbprint cookies

June 13, 2010 § Leave a comment


You know that feeling when there is one thing that is bothering you and no matter what you do and how much is going on in your life, it is always on the forefront of your mind? Well that is me today. It’s like I’m incapable of thinking about anything else. Luckily, I have a batch of cookies ready. Cookies that could not be further from my mind right now but are nonetheless good and quite addicting. I’m sorry I can’t do them justice right now, you’re just going to have to trust me that they’re good. I tried both the chocolate and jam varieties and liked the jam-filled thumbprints best.

Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen, Adapted from Gourmet

1 almost-full cup (4 ounces) hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and cooled
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate chips or jam for the filling

Pulse hazelnuts, sugar, flour, and salt in a food processor until finely ground. (Be careful not to grind to a paste.) Transfer to a bowl and stir in butter, egg, and extract until combined well. Chill dough, covered, until firm, about 30 minutes.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Drop level tablespoons of dough 1 inch apart onto 2 ungreased baking sheets (though I lined mine with parchment paper, for an easier lazier clean-up). Roll dough into balls, then chill until slightly firm, about 10 minutes.

Press one piece of chocolate firmly into the top of each ball of cookie dough and bake, 1 sheet at a time, until tops are pale golden and undersides are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Be careful not to overbake. Transfer cookies to a rack and cool completely.

To fill with jam instead: After balls of cookie dough have been chilled for an additional 10 minutes, make a 1/2-inch-wide (1/3-inch-deep) indentation in center of each ball using your thumb, index finger, or the rounded end of a wooden spoon. Fill each indentation with 1/4 teaspoon jam.

Photo by Yuna Sakuma

One hand up for the big city

June 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

I have never been able to make up my mind about New York City. I alternate between loving it and absolutely hating the city. Going to school just over an hour from the city, it has always been my escape when life hits rock bottom. Maybe that’s why I associate the city with my life being disastrous. Throughout the last two years, the city’s high rises, peaceful museums (on the off days), and many shopping areas have provided the comforting assurance that there are indeed people in the world. This is a type of comfort the small town of Princeton never provides. Additionally, it has been the city of many adventures. I turned 18 in the city, attended my first musical and stayed a few nights with my best friend in the sketchy Chelsea Star Hotel, complete with neon yellow walls and metal doors. I’ve learned that I feel safer in parks packed with runners, wanderers and homeless people and streets where people put their garbage out at night and drunks (old and young, rich and poor) stagger around riding the roller coaster of life, than I do in pretty, pristine suburbs. New York City has made me realize there truly is a difference between urban and suburban and I could now never dream of living anywhere but a city. I need people, I need crowds and I need things to move, and fast.

The past few days were spent touring the city with my family. Despite all the times I have been here, I have never actually done any of the tourist activities in New York. We rode the Cyclone on Staten Island and topped the afternoon with ultra-fake vanilla soft serve. We climbed to the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building after a dinner at Aldea. We went for a stroll in Central Park after a long dinner at Marea, the fancy coastal Italian seafood restaurant all the visiting San Franciscan cooks are writing home about. The first day, we walked twenty blocks for a taste of Momofuku crack pie and cereal milk soft serve (but ultimately chose the raspberry lemonade flavor) and the next day, another twenty for a Magnolia cupcake.

I now have a much brighter outlook on New York City, after discovering that it is not just a place to go to when you are unhappy. And with this many beautiful desserts around, it is hard not be happy when you’re there too.

Sicilian pistachio cake with candied kumquats and pistachio gelato at Marea.

Trio of chocolate cookies and cream, mint chocolate chip and vanilla gelato at Marea.

Cupcakes, one vanilla and one chocolate, from Magnolia Bakery.

Happy Birthday Mom!

June 1, 2010 § Leave a comment



Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday. I made a massive cake. I also made a mess of the entire kitchen. I used about three 18-ounce bars of dark chocolate. By the end of the day there was chocolate everywhere, in the cake, in the filling, in the frosting, and then, on the counter, the dining room table, the floor and even the bottom of the cake tray. How did all this happen, you may ask. Well, my mom’s birthday always seems to bring out the disaster in me. Last year it was how to rescue a bland cake. This year, it was one crisis after another. First, the chocolate cake batter was extremely runny, leading me to fear I had left out one of the cups of flour. I added a bit more cocoa and flour and anxiously stuck a test cake in the oven. Fortunately, it came out looking mostly like a cake so I went ahead and cooked the other two layers. They all came out looking very moist and fudgy so I committed to the possibility of having a brownie cake.

Then, the next day, I made the ganache which, surprise, also came out a little runny. When I tried to use it as filling between the layers, it just dripped all over the sides of the cake, the cake platter and the table. Forging ahead, I stuck the cake layers one on top of the other and stuck three large sticks down the center of the cake to ensure that it stayed upright.

A couple hours later, I started on the frosting. I used Joy the Baker’s recipe for chocolate buttercream frosting. It calls for Ovaltine. I had no idea what Ovaltine was. After a quick Google search, I still have no idea what Ovaltine is but I now know I have zero desire to ever use it. So I skipped both the Ovaltine and the heavy cream. Just the entire last step of the recipe. I made the frosting twice. The first time we were out of cocoa, so I used my brother’s cocoa for hot chocolates which is actually a mixture of cocoa and sugar. I should have known from my last time baking with it that that was a bad plan. The sugar in the cocoa mix never dissolved into the frosting, despite a violent turn in the blender and an extended hiatus in the microwave, and remained grainy until I finally decided to dispose of it.

I then walked to the grocery store, which I should have just done in the first place, to buy cocoa and now, butter, because I had just used about a pound of butter for the failed frosting. The second time around, the buttercream worked perfectly, despite my skipping the final step. Finally, the cake was frosted.

Now don’t think the disasters are over. I had the (not-so-brilliant) idea to use an almond paste icing to do the green lettering on the cake. I more or less winged it for the icing, using some almond paste and butter and polishing off the ¼ cup of icing sugar that was left. The resulting icing was so thick it was hard to pipe, which is why the lettering is a little choppy looking.

Nonetheless, an entire day and a couple frustrated people later, we finally had a birthday cake. The chocolate cake comes from Smitten Kitchen, which you can find here. This is a heart-stopper of a chocolate cake. Only my dad managed to finish a slice of it.


Double Chocolate Layer Cake

Adapted from Gourmet, March 1999

3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Special equipment: two 10- by 2-inch round cake pans

Make cake layers: Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Joy the Baker

1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup milk (or to desired consistency)

Cream together butter, cocoa powder and salt. Butter mixture will be very thick. Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add powdered sugar. Turn mixer on low and mix in powdered sugar while adding milk and vanilla extract. As the sugar incorporates, raise the speed of the mixer to beat the frosting. Beat until smooth. Add milk or sugar until the frosting reaches the desired consistency.

My new favorite chocolate chip cookie

May 24, 2010 § 2 Comments


I’ve always shied away from making chocolate chip cookies. I don’t really know why as they are such a standard in America. But it could be because they are such a landmark cookie, so simply yet so difficult to get absolutely perfect. It starts with people having different ideas of what a perfect chocolate chip cookie is, some like them thick and dense, or chewy with crisp edges and a few even prefer a cakey cookie. Some like dark chocolate and some like milk chocolate. Nuts or no nuts. Chips or chunks. The variations on this standard cookie go on and on, and I’ve never found a recipe I thought was absolutely perfect.

Actually that’s not true. There is one recipe, the Stars Desserts chocolate chip cookie, that I think is absolutely perfect; it produces a light buttery cookie with a slight, soft chew in the middle and caramel note — from a full tablespoon vanilla — to accompany the chocolate chips. When my mom makes them that is. I’ve tried making them a couple times and have never achieved perfection, but my mom never failed to pull beautiful cookies out of the oven right as I was rushing out the door to high school. That is one of the many things I miss about living at home, I mean who wouldn’t kill for freshly baked cookies on your way to your 11 a.m. class?

But I’m not really here to complain about my lack of chocolate chip cookie making skills. In fact, I think I’ve finally found my match. And it comes in the form of whole wheat flour and semi sweet chocolate chunks, all courtesy of Kim of Good to the Grain. These cookies seriously look exactly like the cookies photographed in the book, with lots of melted chocolate and a crackly top. Make them big, like coffee shop sized. I swear they’re better that way.



Chocolate Chip Cookies

Kim Boyce, Good to the Grain

Dry mix:
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

Wet mix:
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, sifting and then pouring any bits back into the bowl. Cream the butter and sugars in a bowl until just blended. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Add the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and blend until the flour is barely combined. Add the chocolate to the batter all at once. Scoop mounds of dough about 3 tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving about 3 inches between them. Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes or until the cookies are evenly dark brown (I took some out when they were golden). Transfer the cookies, still on the parchment, to the counter to cool.

And eat, because whole wheat flour is good for you right?

A cookie with your coffee: Chocolate-sheathed almond biscotti

May 23, 2010 § 3 Comments


There are some things you just never really think of making yourself. For me, biscotti are one of them. I never, ever order biscotti in a café, or pick one out at a dessert table. The only time I ever really eat biscotti is when it comes as an accompaniment to the coffee I ordered after dinner. And then, I absolutely refuse to dunk the biscotti into the coffee — I mean, I can’t think of any other situation where it’s socially acceptable to eat a soggy cookie. But after reading several accounts of biscotti making that ended an ambivalence towards the cookie, I decided to give it a shot. I chose a recipe for Chocolate-sheathed almond biscotti out of my trusted Christmas cookie book, the same one that brought you those sugar cookies way back when. The chocolate coating — I left out the shortening because I just don’t like cooking with it — makes these totally more than edible without the cup of coffee. They are good just plain too, nicely spiced with cinnamon with a good crunch from the almonds. Homemade biscotti are softer than most biscotti you find in stores, which tend to be rock hard. To get the desired texture, you cook them twice (hence the name, biscotti), first as a big log and then as sliced cookies.

I’m not entirely convinced that biscotti are the best things ever but they were a good treat to bring up to my grandparents this week. We enjoyed more than a couple with our afternoon tea.

Chocolate-sheathed Almond Biscotti
The Christmas Cookie Book
Lou Seibert Pappas

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/2 cup toasted raw almonds, chopping into halves or thirds

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Grease and flour a baking sheet.
Beat together the eggs and the vanilla and almond extracts in a small bowl until blended. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix until blended. Stir in the nuts.
Divide the dough in half. One at a time, place the 2 dough portions on the prepared baking sheet and form each into a log about ½ inch high, 1 ½ inches wide and 14 inches long. Space the logs at least 2 inches apart.
Bake the logs for 25 minutes, or until set and golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool on the baking sheet for 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce the over temperature to 300ºF. Transfer the logs to a cutting board. Using a serrate knife, slice at a 45-degree angle about 3/8 inch thick. Lay the slices flat on the baking sheet and return to the over for 15 minutes longer, turning them once, to dry slightly. Transfer to racks to cool.

The original glaze has you combining 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and ½ teaspoon vegetable shortening in a double boiler. I just melted some dark Dove chocolates in the microwave and it worked great!

Bring along some trail mix: Chockablock cookies

May 21, 2010 § 4 Comments



I really like Seattle, though I have a very limited view of the city from my seat in the airport. But I know the Seattle Airport has free Wi-Fi and that’s enough to make me love a city. I mean, I’m blogging from the airport.

But I didn’t make these cookies in the airport, though they are high-flying travelers themselves. These cookies are currently on their way in a US Postal box to Princeton, more specifically to one of my best friend’s mailboxes. She is probably one of the most indecisive people I’ve ever met, so it is fitting that these are her cookies, because they are the ultimate cookies of the indecisive. The recipe gives liberty to decide what kind of nuts, dried fruit and chocolate to use and, well, my indecisiveness kind of ran away with it. I used peanuts, dried cranberries, Reese’s Pieces and both dark and milk chocolate chunks, all wrapped up in a molassesy, oaty, coconutty dough. Technically, it’s a Chockablock cookie but it sounds more like crazy intense trail mix to me.

These are different than a standard everything (or compost) cookie because of the addition of molasses. There is quite a bit in there, giving the cookie a really interesting new dimension that is, at first, quite surprising. Dorie and Dorie’s Tuesday Bakers all seem to think this is a cookie everyone will like but my brother was definitely making faces as the dough came together. I think maybe a lighter molasses might be better for this recipe although I was careful not to use blackstrap. I’m a big molasses person (my favorite cookies are gingerbread and soft, chewy molasses cookies) but it does seem a bit strong and out of place here. But my Gran does love them as is, so I guess it’s all up to you.

Chockablock Cookies

Dorie Greenspan, from Baking From My Home to Yours

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup solid vegetable shortening (I substituted butter)
½ cup sugar
½ cup molasses (not blackstrap)
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans or peanuts are all good)
1 cup coarsely chopped dried fruit (such as apricots, prunes, or figs) or 1 cup of moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chopped, or 2 cups store-bought chocolate chips
½ cup sweetened shredded coconut (I used unsweetened because that is what I had on hand)

Position the racks to divide the oven in thirds and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and shortening together at medium speed until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another two minutes. Pour in the molasses and beat for 1 minute more. Add the eggs one at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Reduce mixer speed to low and mix in the oats, then add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the dough. Toss in the nuts, fruit, chocolate chips and coconut and, turn the mixer on and off quickly a few times to incorporate. Alternatively, you can stir them into the dough with a sturdy wooden spatula. (The dough can be wrapped well and chilled for up to two days. If you’d like, you can measure out the dough onto a baking sheet, freeze until firm, then put mounds of dough in a bag and freeze for up to two months; bake directly out of the freezer, adding a few minutes to the baking time.)
Place the 2-tablespoon mounds of dough on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the mounds. (I think my cookies were a bit smaller which worked out just fine)
Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, rotating pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until the cookies are golden and just about set. Remove the baking sheets to cooling racks and let the cookies rest on the sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring them to racks to cool to room temperature.

My cookies definitely weren’t golden, which leads me to believe I was using the wrong kind of molasses.

Sun and scones at the end of the tunnel

May 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

I had all these grand plans for this week. A margarita cake for Cinco de Mayo, strawberry shortcake cookies because I’ve been dying to make an all-inclusive handheld strawberry shortcake and lavender shortbread to send off to my best friend, who is leaving for India in four days. I bought a basket of strawberries at the local farmer’s market on Tuesday for this purpose and searched for lavender without success. Unfortunately, Princeton doesn’t quite have the same obsession with all things lavender — fresh stalks in a vase, dried stalks hanging from an open window, embroidered sachets imported from Provence — that most cities (or, towns) have come summer.

And sadly, this week, school got in the way. I’ve been in the library since lunchtime and it doesn’t look like I’m going to make that US Postal deadline to send off that package. Nor does it look like I’m going to get into the kitchen at all anytime soon. So, I searched through my photo archives, thinking I could at least leave the students here with a little finals period procrastination. These are some of my favorite food moments from last summer, in anticipation of this summer, which is quickly approaching.

18 Reasons, run by BiRite Grocery and Creamery in San Francisco, runs weekly local food events. This night last summer it was Chocolate: From Bean to Bar, featuring a presentation by Taza chocolate, cocoa bean and nip tasting as well as a variety of chocolate goodness and fresh milk from Bi-Rite. Taza is a small, direct trade chocolate company that uses cocoa beans grown in the Dominican Republic and process them using the traditional Mexican stone-grinding method. It was love at first sip with the chili chocolate milk. It’s deliciously sweet with a spicy burn and tingle that sets in a couple seconds after the sweetness.

Tea and scones might be my favorite combination ever. This lovely scone is part of a high tea service at the Point Ellice House in Victoria. My grandpa was adamant that it wasn’t real clotted cream because it wasn’t thick enough to be cut with a butter knife but I happen to enjoy my scones with a simple pat of blackberry jam anyway. Double props if it’s Granny’s blackberry jelly.

I’ve never had a lemon bar as good as my dad’s lemon bars. They are tarter than any other bar I’ve ever tasted. I love all things lemon — lemon loaf with that delicious lemon glaze, lemonade, lemon curd, lemon tarts…I could go on and on, but I won’t.

Decadence and excess: Salted Caramel Bacon Brownies

April 28, 2010 § 1 Comment


Decadence and excess is the name of the day. After one of my teammates enlisted my help — or surveillance — in making fudge for her French class, I decided today was a good day to try out one of the recipes that has been in the back of my mind for awhile: Salted Caramel Bacon Brownies. There are no words to describe these…rich, gooey, the base brownie tastes like pure melted chocolate and the caramelized bacon adds a smoky, salty note. That said, more than a couple bites of this is enough to make you feel quite guilty, and more than a little sick. I did cut a couple corners on this recipe; I stole the bacon from Cloister breakfast, neither wanting to fry the bacon myself or make the caramel using the leftover bacon fat. And we invited a couple of the swimmer girls over to eat them. Who, unfortunately, seem to exercise more restraint than lightweight rowers. Come on, don’t tell me you’re on a lawnparties diet too!

Some poor, depressed, heartbroken soul needs to come take these off my hands because these are the brownies hell is made of.

The brownie base is adapted from my favorite, David Lebovitz. The rest of the recipe is the creation of Kate from Savour Fare. See the recipe here or go to her site here.


Bacon Salted Caramel Brownies

Adapted from David Lebovitz

For the Bacon Caramel:
2 slices bacon
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. sugar
6 T. salted butter

In a small saucepan, fry two slices of bacon until crisp (I find it’s easiest to do this when the bacon is cut in half). Remove bacon, set aside, reserving bacon grease in the pan. Add cream to hot pan and let cool. When bacon is cool, crumble or chop finely.

In a larger pan, heat the sugar over high heat until the mixture is liquid and a deep amber color. Add the butter and the cooled bacon cream all at once, and stir until the butter is melted. Add the chopped bacon and let the mixture cool thoroughly.

For the brownies:
8 T salted butter, cut into pieces
6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line an 8 inch square pan with two sheets of aluminum foil that covers the bottom and sides of the pan. Grease the foil with butter or a little Baker’s Joy.
In a large microwaveable bowl, melt the butter and the chocolate together in the microwave (start with 30 seconds, and stir thoroughly, then microwave for 10 seconds at a time, stirring between each bout of nuking, until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the butter) (You can also melt them together over the stove). Add the cocoa and whisk until smooth, then add in the eggs, one at a time, and the sugar, vanilla and finally the flour. Stir only until combined.

Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan. Then drop about a third of the bacon caramel, evenly spaced, over the brownie batter in the pan. It doesn’t have to cover the whole batter, but should be in splotches. Spread the remaining brownie batter over the top, then drop spoonfuls of the remaining caramel sauce over the top of the brownies and swirl.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, but err on the side of underbaking. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Bring on the cinnamon-chocolate swirl cake

April 21, 2010 § Leave a comment


Today was an awfully frustrating day. After 6 hours of class, I came back to the kitchen only to find it absolutely wrecked by the Asian dinner party group from the night before. Empty chip bags and salsa jars were strewn everywhere on the tables and the couches were inhabited by two guys working (or more likely procrastinating). So I lugged a huge bag of ingredients and several pots and pans to the kitchen downstairs and set to work on this cake. It’s the perfect cake to sit down to after a long day. At 8 p.m., when it finally came out of the oven, we sat down on the futon and dug into it, still warm.

A layer of rich chocolate batter is swirled into a cinnamon pound cake. It’s wonderfully simple to make as the two flavors are made with the same basic batter. I estimated the amount of cinnamon, as I didn’t have any teaspoons to measure it out with; next time I might go with a stronger cinnamon flavor. By the time the cake came out of the oven — I sat by the oven with the oven light on staring at the cake cook for about 1 ½ hours — I had no energy to make the chocolate ganache that tops the cake in the original recipe. It’s still great as a simple pound cake (I made it in a loaf pan. I mean, finding a bundt pan in these kitchens? Impossible) but I imagine it would be even better topped with rich semisweet chocolate ganache and served with coffee at the end of a meal.

There we go with the coffee again. I’m two cups in and still have 100 pages of reading to complete before class today. I guess that is what I should have been doing when I was watching the cake rise and brown in the oven last night.

The original recipe can be found at Dana Treat.

Cinnamon-Chocolate Ribbon Cake
Adapted from Bon Appétit

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3 cups cake flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat to 325ºF. Grease a 12 cup bundt pan (or one loaf pan and several muffin tins) and set aside. Place chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30-second intervals, stirring in between each one, until the chocolate is almost melted. Allow the residual heat to melt the rest of the chocolate and set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl. In a separate bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Add sugar and beat until thick and fluffy. Gradually beat in oil. Beat in milk and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and beat until just blended.

Transfer 1½ cups batter to bowl with the melted chocolate. Stir to combine. Mix cinnamon into remaining (non-chocolate) batter. Spread half of cinnamon batter in prepared pan. Spoon chocolate batter over. Top with the remaining cinnamon batter. Using small knife, swirl batters together to marbleize slightly.

Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes.

Dana gives a recipe for the chocolate glaze that uses cream, butter and corn syrup. My original plan was to make a standard ganache with cream and chocolate and I don’t have, and don’t like baking with, corn syrup. Also, I ran out of white sugar and used 1 1/3 cups of brown sugar and only 2/3 cup white sugar. That didn’t appear to have any adverse effect.

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