12 February 2011

Birthday Chocolate

Another February brings another birthday for my dad and I made him his customary double-decker chocolate cake. This year, instead of using a cake mix for his cake, I just went ahead and used the cake recipe on the back of the Hershey's Cocoa container. I've made it before, but I haven't put it on here for some reason. Anyway, I used the recipe for the Perfectly Chocolate Frosting, as well, which just so happens to be the same recipe as usual.

No matter how many chocolate cakes I try, this recipe is still my favorite. Kept covered at room temperature, it stays moist and perfect for almost a week, although it usually doesn't last that long in my house. This is just an excellent recipe for a straightforward chocolate-chocolate cake.

Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake
Makes about 12 servings

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost and serve.

16 January 2011

Ooey Chewy Gooey

When my new issue of Bon Appetit came in, these glorious brownies were gracing the cover. So, of course, I had to make them.

And they were GLORIOUS indeed. Nutty, chewy, moist, delicate, dense, with a crispy crust on top. Oh man. These were the best.

There's nothing more to say. Why aren't you baking them yet? Do it.

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts
Makes 9 brownies

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, chilled
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 325 degrees. Line 8 x 8 x 2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt. Stir to blend.

Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies.

26 December 2010

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me...

As you can see, I've been cracking open Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours more frequently as of late; and instead of just sighing at the beautiful pictures, I've been more motivated to try recipes out.

For Christmas dessert, I made this Brownie Cake with a caramel topping. The cake was really a no-brainer and it ended up tasting just like a brownie leaning more toward the cake-end of the brownie spectrum. The caramel was exciting for me; I've only made caramel once or twice before and each time I forget how to do it.

More notably, I forget how boring it is to sit there and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait for the caramel to change colors slightly while worrying that you'll miss it and that it will burn and everything will be ruined forever. That may be an exaggeration, but that's how I felt watching the caramel for seven minutes without blinking once. In the end, the waiting paid off and the caramel was salty and sweet and the brownie cake paired with it perfectly.

Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake
Makes about 12 servings

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoon butter, cut into 8 pieces
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2/3 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup salted peanuts

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8-inch spring-form pan, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess, line the bottom of the pan with a parchment paper. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet.

To make the cake, combine the flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl. Whisk together to mix and set aside. Add the butter and chocolate to a heatproof bowl and set over simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients are melted - do not let them get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugars till well-blended. Whisk in the corn syrup, followed by the vanilla. Add in the melted butter and chocolate mixture, and whisk till combined. Gently whisk in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. The batter should be thick, smooth and shiny. Pour it into the prepared pan and jiggle the pan a little to even out the batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the middle comes out almost clean. Transfer rack to a pan to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife gently between the pan and the cake and carefully remove the sides of the springform pan. The cake may have puffed up during baking, but don't be concerned if it develops a crater in the center while cooling. Allow to cool to room temperature. When the cake is completely cool, invert it, remove the base and peel off the parchment paper. Wash and dry the pan, place the cake back into the clean pan, right side up, and fasten sides.

To make the topping: combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in a heavy, medium-sized pan, stirring just to combine the ingredients. Place the pan over medium high heat. Heat, without stirring, till the caramel turns amber (5-10 minutes). As the sugar is caramelizing, wipe down any splatters on the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. To test the color of the caramel, drop a bit onto a white plate. Don't be timid about the color - if it's too pale, it won't have much flavor.

Lower the heat a bit, stand back and add the cream and butter. When the sputters are less vehement, stir to calm down the caramel and dissolve any lumps. Stir in the peanuts and pour the mixture into a 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup or other heat-proof bowl.

You will have more caramel than you need, but you want to get all the peanuts onto the cake, so spoon out all the peanuts out of the hot caramel and onto the cake. Pour or spoon over enough caramel to cover all the nuts, drizzling a little over the edges of the cake for presentation. Allow the topping to set at room temperature, about 20 minutes, before serving. Keep the leftover caramel at room temperature and save for another use.


Over Thanksgiving Break, my mom and I went to St. Louis to tour Le Cordon Bleu and go shopping. While we were there, we picked up a food magazine called Feast that featured a recipe for Bacon-Wrapped Turducken. Our minds were immediately made up and we decided that we would finally attempt and conquer the Turducken.

I'm happy to say we both created and conquered the Turducken with relative ease. Finding the duck proved harder than we both thought, but was well worth the effort. This meat-roulade turned out to be delicious. Wrapping it in bacon added another dimension. The bacon dimension. And we all know that that is the tastiest dimension of them all.

Bacon-Wrapped Turducken
Makes about 12 servings

6 cups water
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 boneless, skinless turkey breast
2 boneless, skinless duck breasts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
12 slices hardwood smoked bacon
Butcher’s twine
2 tablespoons olive oil
Bring water and salt to a boil in a large pot, and then remove from heat. Once cool, submerge turkey breast in brine for at least 1 hour, up to 12 hours. Remove turkey and pat dry.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place turkey breast on a large cutting board and cover with a large piece of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, gently pound the turkey to an even 1/4-inch thickness. Do the same with the duck and chicken breasts.

Season the turkey, duck, and chicken breasts with fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. Lay the turkey breast flat, and then top with the duck breasts. Top the duck breasts with the chicken breasts. Bring the sides of the breasts up into a log shape and press together to hold, creating a roulade. Set aside.

Layer the bacon, slightly overlapping, on the cutting board. Place the roulade on top of the bacon, seam side up. Bring the bacon up around the roulade, overlapping the ends. Truss with butcher’s twine to secure.

Place the olive oil in a large nonstick pan over high heat. Once hot, add roulade and turn on all sides to sear bacon. Place roulade on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 90 minutes, or until an internal temperature of 170 degrees is reached. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

French Kissed

French Toast is my very favorite breakfast food. Well, maybe it's even with pancakes. But I consider French Toast to be much more of a treat than pancakes. Maybe it's because my mom used to serve it to me with clear syrup, and I thought that was the coolest thing when I was seven years old. Or maybe it's because I had a love/hate relationship with it when I was younger. I used to love the soggy bread but hate the egg bits on the sides. The older I've gotten (I'm quite old), the more I love the egg, though.

I was in charge of all the meals on Christmas this year, so I picked Baked French Toast for breakfast. First of all, I should mention that I cut the bread in the recipe but didn't think to cut the egg concoction, so our end result was much more eggy and soggy than a normal batch would have produced. It was pretty great, though; sort of like a scrambled egg/bread pudding combination. With syrup on top.

Baked French Toast
Makes about 10 servings
1 loaf French bread, cut diagonally in 1 inch slices
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups half-and-half cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup butter
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup

Butter a 13x9 inch baking dish. Arrange the slices of bread in the bottom. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, milk, cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour over bread slices, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar and corn syrup; heat until bubbling. Pour over bread and egg mixture. Bake in preheated oven, uncovered, for 40 minutes.

03 November 2010

The Cake that I Lit on Fire

Dorie Greenspan tells a really great story about this cake in her book, Baking from My Home to Yours. I can't top it. She calls it "The Cake that Got Me Fired."

I didn't have any armagnac, so I ended up using brandy. I also didn't have prunes, so I just took those out. This means that I just lit the brandy on fire in a pan - which was easily the most exciting part of making this cake. The cake in itself was really spectacular - moist, dense, and chewy with the heavenly ganache topping it off just right. I preferred it refrigerated, so that the chocolate was even denser and seemed to melt in my mouth.

Chocolate Armagnac Cake (Modified for Wussies)
Makes about 12 servings

2/3 cup finely ground pecans (or walnuts)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup Armagnac (or cognac, brandy or Scotch whisky)
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
3 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8-inch springform pan, fit the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment or wax paper and butter the paper. Dust the inside of the pan with flour and tap out the excess. Put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Whisk together the nuts, flour and salt. Preheat a pan on the stovetop for three minutes; remove the pan and pour in the Armagnac. Stand back and set it aflame.

Combine the chocolate, butter and water in a heatproof bowl, set it over a pan of simmering water and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted; or do this in a microwave oven. Remove the chocolate from the heat just as soon as it is melted and not very hot—you don’t want the chocolate and butter to separate.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Switch to a rubber spatula and, one by one, stir in the chocolate and butter mixture as well as the nut mixture.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold firm, glossy peaks. Stir about one quarter of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture, and then gently fold in the remaining whites. Turn the batter into the pan.

Bake the cake for 28 to 32 minutes, or until it is puffed, firm on top and starting to come ever so slightly away from the sides of the pan; a thin knife inserted into the center will come out streaky—the cake should not be wet, but you don’t want it to be completely dry. Transfer the cake to a rack and let it cool for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove the sides of the pan. Invert the cake, pull off the paper and turn right side up to cool to room temperature. The cake should be absolutely cool before you glaze it.

If the cake has crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even the top. Turn the cake over onto a cooling rack—you want the very flat bottom of the cake to be the top. Put a piece of wax paper or foil under the cooling rack to serve as a drip catcher.

To make the glaze, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, or in a microwave oven. Remove it from the heat and, using a small spatula, stir in the sugar, then the butter, a bit at a time, stirring until you have a smooth glaze.

Have a long metal icing spatula at hand. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake, allowing the excess to rundown the sides, and use the spatula to smooth the top of the cake if necessary—usually the glaze is a self-spreader—and to even it around the sides of the cake. Let the glaze set at room temperature or, if you want to speed it up, slide the cake into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. If you’d like the glaze to be more like a frosting, let it cool until it is thick enough to spread, then swirl it over the cake.

The cake can be served at room temperature or chilled; it is more flavorful at room temperature but intensely fudgy when chilled.

15 October 2010

Livin' in the South

I took a Food and Wine Pairing class online where we had to take a traditional Southern recipe and update it. I guess I'm boring (or lazy) (or both) because I just went ahead and picked a pound cake. I also think of pound cake as being one of the most basic cakes.

I went through countless traditional recipes of pound cake, each asking for "a pound" of each ingredient. I updated the recipe, measurement-wise, and added a pecan element as a callback to the Southern requirement of the assignment. I also added a maple drizzle. Don't ask me. I don't know why.

This wasn't my favorite thing. But it's a pretty basic pound cake, when it comes down to it. If you're a big pound cake fan, then you should try this. Otherwise, maybe just look at the pretty pictures and feel satisfied in that.

Butter Pecan Pound Cake with Maple Drizzle
Makes about 12 servings

1 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
3 cups granulated sugar
5 eggs
1 teaspoon rum (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1 cup chopped pecans, plus 1/3 cup whole pecans
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt pan.

Using paddle attachment on a standing mixer with a stationary bowl, cream together butter, shortening, and sugar until very fluffy, about seven or eight minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well-combined.

In a small bowl, combine rum and vanilla extract with milk. In another bowl, whisk together baking powder and flour. Alternately add liquid and dry ingredients to the butter mixture, starting and ending with liquid.

Stir in walnuts. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan. Bake for about 70 minutes until cake tests done. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and maple syrup. Drizzle over the cake after it cools for twenty minutes. Sprinkle whole pecans over cake.

07 August 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing

My boyfriend has two simple favorites when it comes to food: peanut butter and bacon. In fact, he was the person to introduce to me the Peanut Butter and Bacon sandwich. As the girl that bakes for him on a regular basis, I am always trying to find more recipes that he will go nuts over. This cookie meets both of those qualifications.

Although I also really enjoy both peanut butter and bacon, I did not enjoy these as much as he did. I felt like the bacon added a somewhat unpleasant meaty flavor to the cookie, as opposed to a more smoky accent. This could also be due to the fact that I used extra bacon to make it extra bacon-y delicious.

Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies
Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies

1 cup chunky or smooth peanut butter
1 cup sugar (1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar)
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 to 8 slices of bacon, cooked, cooled and dices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a skillet over medium high heat, fry up bacon until cooked through and let cool on paper towels until cool enough to dice. Dice up and set aside.

Grease a baking sheet with butter and set aside. In a mixer combine peanut butter and sugars until well combined, about 2 minutes. Add egg and baking soda and mix for another 2 minutes. Fold in cooked bacon. Roll into large walnut sized balls, roll in granulated sugar, and create a criss-cross pattern with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on a baking sheet for five minutes.

24 July 2010

Strawberries and Such

On the search for my Dream Cake, I frequently encountered recipes for strawberry cream cakes and strawberry shortcakes. Martha, as usual, made the most compelling bid, and I decided I should make it during the dog days of summer.

I know what you're thinking. Do I ever get tired of strawberries? The answer is, when it's 100 degrees outside, no. I never get tired of strawberries. On top of this, freshly whipped cream is one of my favorite things in the world. This slightly-sweet cake paired with the cold cream and the fresh strawberries make me think of...well, a relaxing treat on a hot summer's day.

Strawberry Cream Cake
Makes about 10 servings

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1 pound strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-ounce envelope)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan, and line with parchment paper. Butter and flour paper and sides. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture in 3 parts and milk in 2, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined. Spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes; invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. Using a serrated knife, split cake in half horizontally; place bottom half, cut side up, on a serving plate.

Make topping: In a large bowl, combine strawberries and 1/4 cup sugar; set aside. Place 2 tablespoons cold water in a small saucepan, and sprinkle with gelatin; let soften 5 minutes. Place saucepan over very low heat, and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat; let cool.

Using an electric mixer, beat cream and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl until very soft peaks form. Continue to beat, and gradually add gelatin mixture; beat until soft peaks form.

Arrange half of strawberries over bottom cake layer; top with half of whipped cream, leaving a 1-inch border. Cover with top half of cake, cut side down. Top cake with remaining whipped cream, leaving a 1-inch border. Refrigerate cake and remaining strawberries separately, at least 1 hour (or up to 1 day). Just before serving, spoon strawberries over cake.

27 June 2010

Blueberry Hill

My dad really likes to eat fresh blueberries during the summer. Let's face it, who doesn't like fresh fruit in the summer? Fruit is awesome.

Anyway, my mom and I made this cobbler from the recipe on the back of an old Bisquick box. It was quick, as the name would have you believe. Quick and delicious. I don't think there's anything wrong with using mixes, especially not when the result is this wonderful.

Bisquick Blueberry Cobbler
Makes about 10 servings

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups Bisquick baking mix
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups fresh blueberries
2 tablespoon. sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Measure milk into a bowl and stir in sugar until dissolved. Add vanilla and stir. Whisk in Bisquick just until combined.

Wash blueberries and pick over, removing stems. Toss blueberries in 2 tablespoons of sugar, or enough to coat. Mix blueberries into batter. Pour batter into prepared baking dish and bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream topping. Toss a few extra blueberries over the topping.