Archives for posts with tag: chocolate

Cake.  As much as I love cookies … and scones … and pastry … I ask you: is there anything that is just flat-out nicer than a slice of cake?  It’s the thing that we always seem to have for big occasions – weddings, birthdays, christenings and anniversaries.  But, it’s one of the easiest things that you can make to make every day feel special.

One of the things I really love about living in England is that they are all about the “everyday” cake.  Of course, they like their “show-stoppers” that are iced and decorated, just like everyone else.  But, they also like their simple, work-a-day cakes that you make when you have someone coming around for tea, or just for a little mid-week pick-me-up.  Much like an American pound cake, these cakes are simple but substantial and perfect for anything like a school bake sale or just having someone over for lunch.

Perfect for this type of simplicity is the bundt cake – whether they are a plain circular or if they have extra decoration (me, I’m a HUGE fan of NordicWare’s fantastic designs!!), they are a little more fancy-pants than a loaf tin or plain round traditional cake pans.  With the built-in “decoration”, all that’s left for you to do is to dust it with powdered sugar or maybe push the boat out with a flavored drizzle.

This cake is the result of about a month if research – oh, the things I do for you people!  The pain!  The toil!  But, I’ll be honest with you – I couldn’t be more pleased with the final result.  And, I think you’ll like it, too.

Mocha Bundt Cake

Cake

  • 2 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup Green & Black’s cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 bar Green & Black’s dark chocolate (70% cocoa), melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk, soured with the juice of one lemon
  • 5 oz butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup super-fine sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp hot espresso
  • 4 squares dark chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare a bundt pan by buttering it well.  (I’ve never had a good results from the baking spray – I warm butter until it’s mostly melted butter and use a pastry brush to make sure it gets into every nook and cranny – don’t forget the middle!)

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream the butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time and mix thoroughly, then add vanilla and melted chocolate and mix thoroughly, scraping down the sides.  Reduce the speed to low and alternate the flour mixture and the soured milk, starting and ending with the flour (I do 3 flour additions with 2 milk additions in the middle).  Once you add the last bit of flour, stop the mixer and finish mixing by hand.

Pour into the bundt pan and smooth across the top, tapping once against the counter to make sure it’s settled into all the decorative bits.  Place on the middle rack of the oven and back 50 minutes – 1 hour, until a tester comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for about 30 minutes, using a knife to loosen a bit before turning out onto a plate.

Once the cake is cooled, make your glace by putting all the ingredients in a saucepan over low heat and mix until the chocolate is melted and everything is thoroughly combined.  Drizzle over the cake and serve!

Mocha Bundt Cake

There are certain flavor combinations that are amazing together – where the whole is so much more than the sum of the parts.  Tomatoes and basil.  Peas and mint.  Garlic and almost anything.

The one combination that I simply can’t abide with is chocolate and orange.  It seems to be a “Marmite” kind of thing.  For those of you who don’t live in the UK, Marmite is a spread for toast.  It’s not like jam, it’s not like peanut butter – it’s a gooey, sticky yeast extract.  Yes, you read that right – it’s a yeast extract that they developed from the crud left over after brewing beer.

I know, right?  Sounds oh-so-yummy.  Yet my husband loves it on his toast.  In fact, it’s so polarizing that they actually use that in their advertising campaign – “Love it or hate it.”  Now, that takes guts.

At any rate, that’s my experience with the chocolate and orange combo – the people who love it really love it – then, there’s the rest of us who think it’s vile.  There doesn’t seem to be many in-betweeners.

Unfortunately, I work with two of the former.  So, when I mentioned that I was in the mood to bake over the recent bank holiday weekend, a request was made.  Not so much a “request” as lots of begging, pleading and, when that didn’t work, wheedling.

I decided that, if I was going to make chocolate and orange brownies, I was going to go the extra mile and make them truly diabolical.  So, these take a little extra time and effort, but I hear they’re well worth it.  In this particular case, I’m happy to take their word for it.

Diabolical Orange-y Brownies

Candied orange peel*

  • 2 large oranges with thick peel
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar

Brownies

  • 6 oz unsalted butter
  • 1 lb dark chocolate (I like Green & Blacks)
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 F and prepare a 9×13 pan by buttering and lining with parchment paper.

First, make your candied peel.  In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, dissolve the sugar and water.  While that’s doing it’s thing, trim the tops and bottoms of your oranges and score them into the pith but not into the flesh, along their longitude, about 1/4″ apart.  Use a very sharp paring knife to peel the zest strips, getting as little of the pith as possible.  I like to lay the zest flat, white side up and do a final trim, getting as close to the orange zest as possible, then drop them into the syrup as you go.  Once you’ve done both oranges and gotten as much of the zest with as little of the pith into the syrup, raise the heat until it’s just simmering and cook them at least 45 minutes until they’re nearly translucent.  Lay them out on a wire rack to cool and dry as much as possible.

While the zest is drying, you can get on with your brownies.

Using a fairly large double boiler over medium heat, melt your butter and chocolate together.  Then set aside to cool a bit.  Put your brown sugar into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Add the grated zest and mix on a low setting until the orange zest is thoroughly rubbed into the brown sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time then the vanilla extract and salt, then and raise the speed to medium-high until the mixture has lightened in color.

Take your cooled and dried peel and chop it into a fine dice.  Toss the candied peel with the flour to coat well.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently mix in the chocolate mixture and zest/flour without losing too much of the air.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake about 25-30 minutes.  These are fudgy brownies, so a tester doesn’t have to come out completely dry, but it should be fairly clean.

*If you don’t want to make your own candied peel, see if you can find chocolate covered peel and just chop that finely – you’ll need around 1/2-1/3 of a cup.

It’s funny – when it comes to Christmas memories, it’s not so much the specific Christmases, themselves, that stick out.  Instead, I remember the small things – like when we brought home what was ALWAYS a “Charlie Brown Tree” – inevitably, our trees always seemed to have a bald spot or some kind of flaw.  While it was a disappointment at the time, now, I look back on them and love them for their reminder than nothing is perfect and it’s the flaws that make them unique.  And, I love the fact that it’s something that my family shares, part of our mythology, our tradition.

When it come to Christmas morning, itself, two memories stand out:  first, my brother, sister and I would go into the den to get our stockings, then we’d scramble back to my room to go through the candy and swap out what we liked most.  My other favorite memory is of my dad “playing Santa” and handing out the presents one by one so that each of us would take our time opening gifts and watching each other open theirs.  It made the morning stretch out and it’s something we still do today.

As an adult, I’ve enjoyed watching my neices and nephews get all excited about the holiday.  One of the things that still makes me laugh when I remember it was going to the children’s mass with my brother, sister-in-law and my two nephews about 20 years ago.  We took the long way to church so that we could look at all the Christmas lights, me and my sweet boys packed into the back seat.  They were so excited and so wound up for Christmas morning, they were about to crawl out of their skin, so my brother decided to loosen the pressure valve a bit by saying “okay everybody … on the count of three … SCREAM … one … two … three … AAAAAHHHHHHHHHH” with all five of us letting loose, followed by loads of laughter.

And it’s that memory that spurred me to post today’s last-minute Christmas recipe.  For all of you who might have little ones who woke up this morning and started counting down the minutes before they go back to sleep in anticipation of Santa or Father Christmas, this is an easy recipe that they can help you with … and maybe get their ya-yas out a bit.

Peppermint Creams

  • 1 lb powdered sugar, sifted thoroughly
  • 8-10 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • green food coloring
  • 1 1/2 bars dark chocolate (me, I like Green & Black’s)

Sift all the powdered sugar into a standing mixer and get it going on low as you add the condensed milk one tablespoon at a time.  When you have added about 6 or 7 tablespoons, add 1/2 tsp of the peppermint extract and mix, then taste to see how it’s progressing.  Keep adding the milk until it reaches a crumbly consistency (bigger than pea-sized crumbles), then turn up the power to medium and see how it starts to come together.  Taste for peppermint and add to your own taste – I don’t like mine to be Altoid-strong, so I used a total of 1 tsp, but, depending on the strength of your extract and our own personal taste, you may need less.  Add the food coloring a little at a time to get a nice, light green and beat again until it starts to come together.  Separate in half (wrapping the one you’re not working with in plastic wrap) and roll out one at a time to about 1/4″ thickness and use a mini cookie cutter to cut into shapes.  Since these are a bit rich, you really don’t want to use one that’s regular-sized as it would be a bit much, so smaller 1-1 1/2″ cutters are perfect.  Set the cut peppermint creams onto a wire rack to dry for at least an hour, then melt your chocolate on a double-boiler and dip dried the mints, letting the chocolate to cool and set.

I’m sad.  One of my favorite TV series just finished for the season.  No, not Downton Abbey (although we’re mid-way through the season and I’m already dreading when it’s done).  This year, I succumbed to the allure of The Great British Bake-Off .  GBBO is a contest where everyday people – grandmas, students, professionals, stay-at-home-parents – compete against each other in the kitchen making pretty much any kind of baked good you can imagine, from bread to pies to tarts to cakes to cookies … the whole schmear.  The prize?  Basically, the world’s ugliest trophy and bragging rights to the title Britain’s Best Amateur Baker.  No guaranteed book deal, money, recording contract, TV deal – to be honest, it’s nice to see people try to win for winning’s sake for a change.

Although, having said that, today’s recipe comes from a new book out from last year’s winner, Edd Kimber, aka “The Boy Who Bakes.”  Edd is embarassingly young and cute in a dorky-but-totally-charming-in-a-sweet-Opie-ish-sort-of-way.  And boy-howdy, can he throw-down in the kitchen.  Case in point:  his double-chocolate and sour cherry cookies.  Now, I admit, I tinkered with the recipe a very little bit, but not because I think it needed help … it was more because I just can’t help my personal taste when it comes to baking.  At any rate, this was last week’s work treat and it went down a storm.  So, show Edd some love and check out his new book – it’s absolutely lovely and is written with the home baker in mind.  Oh, and hey, he even has a gorgeous recipe for Bourbon Pecan Pie that I can’t wait to make – and he’s not even from the American South!

Double Chocolate and Sour Cherry Cookies  (Red’s version, makes about 4 doz)

  • 6 (yes, 6) bars of Green and Black’s Dark Dark Chocolate
  • 7 oz butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/3 cup dried cherries

Preheat your oven to 350 and prepare baking trays by lining them with parchment paper.  Then slowly melt three of the bars of chocolate in a double-boiler, putting the other 3 into a plastic bag and bashing the heck out of them to make shards, dust and chips.  After the chocolate has melted, remove it from the double-boiler so that it will start to cool while you make the cookie dough (me, I like to give it at least 30 minutes, if possible).  Last bit of prep, put the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl and use a whisk to sift them together.

Okay.  Now, put the butter and sugars into the bowl of a large standing mixer and use the paddle to beat on medium three or four minutes until fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time until smooth, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all the butter is mixed in.  Next, beat in the melted chocolate and vanilla until smooth.  Turn the mixer down to low and add the flour mixture – when it’s about half-incorporated remove the bowl from the mixer and add the bashed chocolate and dried cherries, mixing in by hand just until the flour is fully incorporated.  Don’t overbeat the flour – you don’t want tough cookies.

Next, use a teaspoon to drop the mixture onto the prepared trays, leaving at least three inches between each and bake about 13 minutes.  When they’re done, slide the entire sheet of parchment paper onto a wire rack and let the cookies cool that way for at leat 10 minutes before taking them off the paper and letting them finish cooling directly on the rack – this way, they’ll maintain their shape.

It’s all my fault.  The earthquake.  Hurricane Irene.  The drought in Texas.  I went an entire week without cooking or baking and I think it’s caused a disturbance in the Force.  It was a nutty-busy week at work, so the mister cooked a couple of days, we had dinner with the MIL one night, Friday was fish and chips – the result was … no cooking.   By the time Friday rolled around, I still had a fridge full of groceries (which is since migrated to the freezer) and, really, nothing to show for five days – no blog posts, no Tweets.  I felt like I had been slacking.

So, to make up for it – flourless chocolate cake from Peyton and Byrne!  (now, THERE’S atonement)  You know how most flourless chocolate cakes are dense and almost overwhelming?  This one is gorgeous and chocolatey and a lot lighter than you’d expect.  It doesn’t need any embellishment, but it is absolutely lovely with a dollop of whipped cream on the side.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

  • 5 1/2 oz dark chocolate (I like Green & Black’s dark chocolate)
  • Pinch salt
  • 5 1/2 oz butter, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 F and prepare an 8″ springform pan by buttering it and lining with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl over (but not touching) simmering water, melt the chocolate and salt.  When it’s finished melting, turn off the heat, but leave the bowl over the water, and drop in the butter and let it melt without stirring – wait until it’s finished melting, then stir in.  Remove from the heat and let cool a little while you whip the egg whites.

In a standing mixer, whisk the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks, then add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until it’s fully incorporated and you have nice, glossy peaks. 

Add the egg yolks one at a time into the chocolate and whisk in thoroughly, then stir in about 1/3 cup of the whipped egg whites to lighten the chocolate mixture.  Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites until it’s about half incorporated, then add in the ground almonds and fold in thoroughly.   Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-45 minutes until a tester comes out clean.

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