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Entries in recipes (578)

Thursday
May162013

Aztec Chocolate Creme Fraiche Pound Cake. Yes. 

Aztec chocolate cake

Dear Gesine Bullock-Prado,

Dudette, I love you. Not in a creepy way, because it is true you're kind of a baking big-shot. And deservedly so. But right at this moment, I am in love with you because you are the one who brought a little something called Aztec Chocolate Creme Fraiche Pound Cake into my life.

Before, I enjoyed regular old pound cake like a jerk. But I am telling you that I will never--can never--go back. Because it's so much better when it's crammed full of chocolate and creme fraiche in addition to butter, sugar, flour, and egg. Thank you for the recipe, which I found in Bake It Like You Mean It: Gorgeous Cakes from Inside Out

Yours in deliciousness,

CakeSpy

P.S. Here's how you make that ambrosial treat, sweeties. You're welcome.

Aztec Chocolate Creme Fraiche Pound Cake. (printable version here!)

Aztec chocolate cake

For the cake

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup coffee, very hot
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup creme fraiche

For the glaze

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (my adaptation)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • Candied walnuts, to garnish (my adaptation)

To Make the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally spray a large nonstick bundt pan with nonstick baking spray.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the chocolate and very hot coffee. Allow to sit undisturbed for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to melt, then stir to combine. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between additions until each egg is completely incorporated. Add the vanilla bean paste.
  4. Aztec chocolate cake
  5. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and cayenne.
  6. Add the creme fraiche to the chocolate mixture and stir to combine.
  7. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and mix on low speed, then add half of the creme fraiche-chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Continue alternating additions until all the ingredients are incorporated and well combined. Aztec chocolate cakeSpoon the batter into the prepared mold and level the batter with the back of a spoon. Bake for one hour and 20 minutes, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for about 20 minutes. Unmold onto a cooling rack.
  8. Chocolate cake 
  9. To make the glaze, heat the cream and chocolate over low heat until combined. Add the butter, stirring in until combined. Stir in the corn syrup until nice and smooth. Drizzle over that tasty cake, and garnish with the candied walnuts. 
  10. Cake
Wednesday
May082013

My Yoga Teacher's Chocolate Beet Cake Recipe

Choco beet cake

Sometimes, recipes come from the most unexpected places.

For instance: I am at a yoga class. I'm doing yoga. Whatever. Then after class...

the teacher slips me a tupperware package. Inside of it is a piece of CHOCOLATE CAKE. YES! I love exercise!

Choco beet cake

This was indeed a fascinating specimen: a chocolate cake sweetened with beets and maple syrup. Sound virtuous? Don't worry. It's not. The beets add a wonderful earthiness and natural sweetness to the dark richness of the chocolate, and the maple adds an interesting sweetness that works very nicely with the beets and chocolate. 

Choco beet cake

Now, I will confess, it was given to me sans topping. But I found that while the moist and tasty chocolate cake was great sans frosting...it was even better with a healthy dollop of creme fraiche or whipped cream. Yum!

Here's the recipe, with thanks to Blue Moon Hot Yoga for being the ones to introduce me to it. Doing yoga beforehand not necessary.

Chocolate Beet Cake

  • 1 1/2 cup cooked and pureed beets
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3/4 cup or 1 cup grade B Maple syrup (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • 1 3/4 cup flour (can be whole wheat, spelt and rice flour, etc)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Grease and flour a 9x13-inch pan.
  2. Scrub the beets well and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Steam until tender; puree the cooked beets in a processor.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Melt the butter over low heat in a sauce pan.
  4. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and maple syrup. Add the eggs and combine thoroughly, then stir in the chocolate, beet puree, buttermilk, and vanilla.
  5. In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add this to the liquid ingredients and mix into a smooth batter.
  6. Pour into your prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or a little longer until a cake tester comes out clean.

 

Monday
May062013

SpyMom's Not So Secret Chocolate Cream Pie Recipe

Chocolate Cream Pie

Oh, that's something tasty. Can't you just tell?

This is the chocolate cream pie I grew up with. The one SpyMom always made. The one we all devoured in about ten minutes after it was served. 

I guess the recipe was never a secret, but the pie was so good that it became a mythical thing in all of our minds. And recently, when SpyMom made it after not having made it for quite a while, I got up the nerve to ask if she'd share her recipe.

She was more than happy to tell me what it was: the recipe on the chocolate pudding box! All this pie is, my friends, is a pre-baked pie crust filled with cook and serve chocolate pudding and topped with whipped cream.

There is a reason why this back-of-the-box recipe has endured. It's simple as can be, but beautiful in its own way. It is creamy and chocolate-y and simply divine. You can dress it up in any number of ways: use part almond, chocolate, or flavored milk for the pudding, add a flavoring extract to the whipped cream, or add some chocolate chip or nuts to the pudding mix.

Chocolate Cream Pie

Here's the recipe.  With this pie, I played around a bit: I used 1 part almond milk and two parts regular whole milke for the pudding, and added a dash of vanilla extract to the whipped cream. I also garnished with shortbread cookies and a few pecans, for color contrast and cuteness.

Chocolate Cream Pie

Of course, that having been said, it's tremendous simply made straight-up--you go ahead and choose your adventure! 

Chocolate Cream Pie

Simple as can Be Chocolate Cream Pie (printable version here!)

Ingredients

  • One pre-baked 9-inch pie shell
  • One box (5.1 ounces--the big size) cook and serve chocolate pudding
  • 3 cups whole milk (can be part almond milk, etc)
  • 2 cups freshly whipped cream

Procedure

  1. Have your cooled pie shell at the ready, but to the side.
  2. Prepare the chocolate pudding according to the box instructions, bringing the milk to a boil and stirring frequently until thickened.
  3. Pour the pudding into the pie shell. Got a little extra pudding? Guess you'll have to eat it from the bowl, with a spoon. Life is hard sometimes.
  4. Let the pie set (sans whipped cream) in the fridge for several hours, 2 to 3 at least. Top with whipped cream and any garnish directly before serving. Enjoy!
Monday
May062013

Macrina Bakery's Almond Cake with Raspberries & Chocolate Ganache

You know what I love? Everything Macrina Bakery makes, that's what. And while I no longer live in Seattle, I keep track of them and their delicious recipes by virtue of their monthly newsletter. And I love to pass on what I have learned! So here's the most recent installment: Almond Cake with Raspberries and Chocolate Ganache. Here's what they have to say about it:

This combination of toasted almonds in a buttery cake, accompanied by fresh raspberries and bittersweet chocolate ganache is our best-selling wedding cake. It satisfies everyone's taste with nuts, fruit, and of course, chocolate. This recipe makes individually sized cakes that are baked in a jumbo muffin pan. Once they've cooled, you remove the paper liner, invert the cakes so the tapered side is up, fill with sweetened cream and raspberries, and top with chocolate ganache. 

Almond Cake with Raspberries & Chocolate Ganache

For the batter:
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds (skins on), toasted 
  • 1-1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-fat plain yogurt, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
For the whipped cream filling:
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries (about 24 berries)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
For the chocolate ganache:
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Makes 8 Jumbo Cupcakes

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Lightly grease the top of a jumbo muffin pan with canola oil to prevent any stray batter from sticking, and line 8 cups with jumbo cupcake liners.
  2. To make the batter, first grind the toasted almonds in a food processor until they are very fine and powdery. (Alternatively, grind them by hand: chop the nuts as finely as you can with a chef's knife, then use the flat side of the knife to crush the chopped nuts into a powder.) Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Add the almonds and toss with your hands to evenly distribute. Set aside. 
  3. Whisk 2 tablespoons of the yogurt, eggs, and almond and vanilla extracts in a small bowl. Set aside. 
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar; start on low speed and increase to medium, stopping to scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed to fully incorporate the ingredients. The mixture will be light, fluffy, and pale. Add the flour mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup yogurt, slowly mixing for 1 minute. Once the flour is incorporated, increase to medium speed and mix for 1 minute more, then scrape down the bowl again. Add the egg mixture in 3 additions, mixing for 20 seconds after each addition, then scraping down the bowl. 
  5. Using a large spoon or #30 ice cream scoop, fill the cupcake liners three-quarters full with batter. Smooth the tops for even baking. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cupcakes are deep golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. (Note that these cupcakes will rise only to the top of the muffin pan as they bake.) Cool them in the pan for 45 minutes, then remove them and peel off the cupcake liners. Invert the cakes onto a plate, so the bottoms are up and using a teaspoon, scoop out a 1-1/2 inch ball from the center of each cake and discard (or eat!) the cake.
  6. To make the filling, pick through the raspberries, reserving 8 beauties for garnish. Whisk the heavy cream and sugar in a small bowl, whipping until they form medium-firm peaks, then fold in the raspberries. You want the berries to break up a bit—but don't let them get soupy. Spoon the raspberry whipped cream into the hole in the cakes, piling in as much as you can and leveling the top. 
  7. To make the ganache, pour the heavy cream into a small saucepan. Over medium heat bring the cream to a froth just before it boils. Turn off the heat and add the semisweet and bittersweet chocolate chips. Using a rubber spatula, stir until the chocolate completely melts, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. The ganache will thicken as it cools. 
  8. To assemble, top each cake with 1 tablespoon of the ganache; spread it evenly, but leave a little of the golden cake showing around the edges. Garnish with a raspberry. 
  9. These cakes taste best the day they are made. You can prepare them up to the point of making the filling and store, covered, at room temperature for 2 days. 
Tuesday
Apr302013

Unique Sweet: Gajar ka Halwa, Caramelized Carrot Pudding

Caramelized Carrot Pudding

Image: Easy Indian Cooking

I love carrots more than the average person. My favorite afternoon snack is a nice, fat carrot, cut into coins or even just eaten like Bugs Bunny. Carrots, I believe, can be a fantastic dessert ingredient: they add natural sweetness and moisture. But don't worry, am not about to go on a healthy dessert kick here. I still think carrot cake needs cream cheese frosting, for instance!

Considering the above, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that when I received a review copy of Easy Indian Cooking, my eye went right to the recipe for Gajar ka Halwa, or Caramelized Carrot Pudding. As the recipe headnote reveals, "this is a favorite in north India and is particularly good when made with the sweet pink winter carrots grown in that area. The flavor is more delicate than other carrots, and they are juicier. I have never come across this variety in North America."

Well, thanks for tempting me with an unattainable carrot, dudette! But you know what? It works just fine with regular carrots, say I, not having tried the superior sort to tell the difference! Even regular old carrots make for an intriguing dish: sort of like a carrot cake-flavored pudding got a creamy chai kiss.

Oh, a as for the silver leaf? It's commonly used to garnish special dishes, so why not dress it up?

Gajar ka Halwa

From Easy Indian Cooking

Serves 8

Ingredients


  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, grated (5 or 6 large)

  • 4 cups whole milk

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup oil or unsalted buter

  • 1/4 cup raisins

  • 8 to 10 cardamom pods

  • blanched almonds, for garnish

  • silver leaf, for garnish


Procedure


  1. In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, over medium heat, combine carrots and milk. Cook, stirring frequenly, until milk is completely absorbed and mixture begins to solidify, about 1 hour.

  2. Stir in 1 cup of the sugar, butter or oil, and raisins. When the sugar dissolves, give it a taste. Add the remaining sugar to taste if desired. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to leave the side of the pan, 15 to 20 minutes.

  3. Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods, discarding the pods. Pound the seeds; stir into the pudding. Serve warm, or at room temperature. Before serving, garnish with almonds and edible silver leaf.

 

Thursday
Apr112013

Choco-Walnut Pie With a Shortbread Crust

Choco-walnut pie

If you've ever heard of a pie called Derby Pie, you know that it's a thing of great beauty. It's got nuts, it's got chocolate, all tied together with plenty of butter and maybe even a little booze. 

Yeah, it's good stuff.

And it has a great story, if I do say so myself. That story is featured in my upcoming book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts. I tell you all this because I love any chance to talk about the new book...but also because it's a nice lead-in for this recipe.

Choco-walnut pie

This recipe is not for Derby Pie. But, it is sort of like a cousin to the famous pie. Because yes, it has nuts and chocolate. But this version is special. It's ridiculously rich in toasty walnuts and chocolate, but is very special because it's baked with a shortbread base as the crust. The exposed caramelly sides form a sort of chewy crust that is sort of like the texture of Mary Janes candies. Now, this is not going to be a texture to everyone's liking, because it will make your teeth stick together. But I have always rather enjoyed that part of those particular candies, and found it a lovely alternative to the back crust on a pie with corn syrup, which can get hard (you know what I mean?). 

Choco-walnut pie

Choco-Walnut Pie with a Shortbread Crust (printable version here!)

For the shortbread crust

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups flour

For the filling

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (water may be substituted)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 

Procedure

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

First, prepare the crust. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add flour and mix til fully incorporated. Press dough into a well greased 8-inch springform pan.

Choco-walnut pie

Sprinkle the walnuts and chocolate evenly onto the bottom of the crust; set aside.

Choco-walnut pie

In a large saucepan, combine the corn syrup, granulated and brown sugars, and bourbon and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid scorching. Remove from the heat.

Choco-walnut pie

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter, cornstarch, vanilla, and salt. Slowly pour about one fourth of the hot mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly (if you add the hot syrup too quickly, the eggs will cook). Add the remaining hot mixture, continuing to whisk. If you notice any small lumps in the mixture, strain through a mesh sieve.

Choco-walnut pie

Pour the filling slowly over the nuts and chips, being careful not to move them around within the crust. Choco walnut pie Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until set in the center; transfer to a wire rack to cool. Immediately run a sharp knife along the edge of the pan to help loosen the sticky pie; then let it sit for at least 45 minutes before un-springing it from the pan. Serve the pie at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired. To store the pie, wrap it tightly and refrigerate for up to five days. 

Choco-walnut pie

Monday
Apr082013

Heaven on a Plate: Boston Cream Shortcake Recipe

Boston Cream Shortcake

If that picture looks like an offering being made to the heavens, well, it should. Because right now, I'm about to say three words that may change your dessert-eating life forever.

Those words--those beautiful, heavenly words--are Boston Cream Shortcake. Go ahead, say hi.

Boston Cream Shortcake

Now, this series of words probably sounds familiar. Probably you're like "well, I know Boston Cream Pie, and I know Strawberry Shortcake." Well, I'm glad that you thought those things, if you did. Because this treat is a beautiful combination of the best parts of those desserts.

Boston Cream Pie is an almost perfect dessert. It's got cream. It's got chocolate. But the cake? It's way too spongey and dries out too quickly. Some might argue that this makes it a great "sponge" to absorb all of the creaminess. I personally find that it's more like soggy stale cake, though.

And then you've got strawberry shortcake. When served with biscuits--do not even waste my time with that sponge cakey kind--this is a dessert of great beauty. Buttery biscuits. Gorgeous whipped cream. If only it weren't for those healthy strawberries. I mean, what is this, a smoothie? I'm not on a diet!

So...why not combine the best parts of both desserts, and end up with something totally amazing?

Boston Cream Shortcake

I started with some of the biscuits I'd baked from Warren Brown's swell new book, CakeLove in the Morning. A good start...

And then, I referred to my own newest oeuvre,  The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts (it's out on May 7--lucky you!), for the Boston Cream pie filling and topping. I'll be honest, in the book the recipe has a regular old cake in the Boston Cream Pie recipe. I now wish I could go back and make it a biscuit. Actually, I wish I could edit every recipe ever for Boston Cream Pie and make it a shortcake. (OK, I am kidding. Sort of). So anyway, I didn't need to make the cake since I had the biscuits already. When it came to the cream and ganache, though, I decided to halve the recipes, since I didn't have too many biscuits left to fill. Let me tell you, it's a strange thing to prop open your own book and bake from it--but it's stranger still to adapt the recipe. 

I made up the half-batch of cream and ganache, and you know what? Both worked perfectly when halved. Just in case you ever need that info.

So, here's the way I made them. 

Boston Cream Shortcake

Boston Cream Shortcakes (print it here!)

Makes 5 or 6

Assembly

  1. First, pair biscuits together so that like-sized ones were mates. Face one down and one up, so that the bottoms are facing together. Got it? 
  2. Boston Cream Shortcake
  3. Now, spoon some of the cream filling on to the "bottom" biscuit. Not too much or it will shoot out the sides. It will still taste good even if it does that, though.
  4. Boston Cream Shortcake
  5. Now, put biscuit 2 on top of it. Facing so that the bottom is the part going on top of the cream. Got it?
  6. Boston Cream Shortcake
  7. Ok. Now, spoon a little of that lovely ganache on top. Yummmm. Let it drip over a little, it's ok. 
  8. Chocolate topping Boston Cream Shortcake
  9. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve. These do taste best the same day made, dig it?

For the filling:

  • 1 tablespoon butter 
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch 
  • 3 large eggs

Procedure

  1. To make the filling (called "pastry cream" in French pastry parlance), in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the butter, milk, and cream. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar and cornstarch until combined. Add the eggs, beating until the mixture is light yellow and form ribbons when you lift the whisk, about five minutes.
  3. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking until completely combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into a medium-size pot and place  over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling, until the mixture begins bubbling; continue whisking until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of a pudding; this will happen shortly after it comes to a boil This process can take up to 15 minutes. If any bits of egg have cooked, forming lumps, strain the mixture through a mesh sieve before proceeding to the next step.
  5. Transfer to a bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard, to keep a skin from forming. Refrigerate for several hours, or until completely chilled. 

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped 

To make the chocolate glaze, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the  cream to a boil. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl; pour the hot cream over chocolate, stirring until chocolate is melted and well combined. Set aside to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

Sunday
Apr072013

Biscuit Time: Warren Brown's Basic Biscuit Recipe

Warren Brown biscuit recipe

It's possible that there's a bread product that I love more than biscuits. It's just that none come to my mind at the moment.

As a lover and (in my opinion, connaisseur) of the biscuit, I was delighted to see a recipe for them in Warren Brown's new book, CakeLove in the Morning: Recipes for Muffins, Scones, Pancakes, Waffles, Biscuits, Frittatas, and Other Breakfast Treats.

Warren Brown Cakelove in the morning

Now, you know I love Warren Brown and his cakes. And this is a rather pretty new book. For instance, I love the idea that this cake could be considered a brunch food, and can't stop looking at it.

Warren Brown Cakelove in the morning

But back to the biscuits.

As for Warren's recipe: I love his biscuits. When I baked them I didn't get incredible rise on them, but I am going to warrant a guess that this is largely because I was baking at a high altitude (currently in Santa Fe!). Warren Brown's Biscuit Recipe

Nonetheless, these biscuits are fo' sho' very tasty. Nice and buttery and flavorful. A nice canvas for flavored butters, sugar butter topping, or a great base for shortcake. 

Warren Brown's Biscuit Recipe Warren Brown's Biscuit Recipe

Here's the recipe.

Warren Brown's Basic Biscuit Recipe (printable version here)

Makes 10 to 12

  • 13 ounces (about 2.5 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 3/4 stick butter melted (optional--for brushing tops)

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place a rack in the middle position. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combein the flour, sugar, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Mix for 30 seconds on low speed.
  3. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and add them to the flour mixture with the mixer on low speed. Continue mixing until the mixture holds together when pinched, about 30 seconds. 
  4. Drizzle in the half and half until the dough is a wet, slightly pasty mass. You may not need all the liquid.
  5. Turn out the dough on to a floured work surface. Dust your hands well with flour. Lightly knead by hand and shape the dough into a disc 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick.
  6. With a 2 to 3 inch biscuit cutter (I used the floured rim of a drinking glass), cut as many biscuits as the dough will provide. Gently re-form any scraps into biscuits without cutting. Brish the tops with melted butter, if desired (do it!), and place them on the prepared baking sheets.
  7. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the biscuits are lightly browned on the bottom. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before serving. Store in an airtight container and reheat in the toaster oven (or in the oven).
Saturday
Apr062013

Sweet Treats: Semolina Sesame Cookies

Have I ever told you that one of my favorite bakeries, not only in Seattle, but in the world, is Macrina Bakery? From their biscuits to their morning rolls to their cookies, I can't get enough of their sweet treats. Every month they share a recipe via their newsletter, and I in turn enjoy to share with you. 

This month it's Semolina Sesame Cookies. As the headnote says, "These cookies are inspired by acclaimed baker Carol Field, who gathered a collection of wonderful regional recipes from bakers, grandmothers, and chefs on her travels through Italy. The essence of this recipe came from one of her books (I have them all!), and is so typically Italian. The semolina, a coarsely ground wheat flour used widely for making pasta, lends a beautiful crisp texture, and the sesame seeds make them a classic accompaniment to a sweetened shot of espresso. Buttery annd not too sweet, they'll totally satisfy the 4 p.m. nosh need!"

Makes 18 3-inch cookies

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon semolina flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

Procedure

  1. Position 2 racks in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Sift together the flours and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Start on low speed and increase to medium for a total of 5 to 8 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. The mixture will be light, fluffy, and pale. Add the egg and mix on low speed until fully incorporated, then scrape the bowl down again. Gradually add the dry ingredients mixing until they're just incorporated and the dough is smooth, about 1 minute. Be careful not to overmix: the cookies may become tough.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide it into 4 equal pieces, then roll each piece into a 1/2-inch-wide rope. Use a ruler to measure and then cut the rope into 5-inch segments. Each segment will become a cookie. If the dough is too soft, chill for 10 minutes to make it easier to handle.
  5. Lay each rope in an S shape, 1 inch apart, on the prepared baking sheets. Tuck the ends under and compress slightly. Chill the sheets in the freezer for 20 minutes to help the cookies hold their shape while baking. (You may also freeze the cookies at this point, covered tightly, for up to 1 week. Let them thaw for about 20 minutes before baking.)
  6. Brush each cookie with a little bit of water and top with the sesame seeds. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the cookies are light golden brown. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, these cookies keep their great flavor for at least 1 week. 
Wednesday
Apr032013

The Delicious Tale of Dobos Torte

Dobos torte

He may not have had nine lives, but József C. Dobos left a many-layered legacy that's considered a symbol of Hungary. It's called Dobos Torte, an elegant caramel-coated cake which, when cut into, becomes even better--because once you get past that eloquent exterior, you'll find several (between 7 and 11) layers of delicate sponge cake sandwiched with a luscious chocolate buttercream.

Dobos torte

Sometimes thought of as the Hungarian equivalent to Escoffier, the famous French foodie who was the inventor of, among other dishes, Cherries Jubilee, Dobos was a fancy chef from a long line of fancy chefs. After spending his life in the culinary arts, he settled down in his later years to open a gourmet food shop in Hungary. He created this cake as a pleasurable way to satisfy the need for a dessert that would keep well: refrigeration wasn’t as easy to come by as it is today, and the high ratio of rich frosting to cake ensured that the cake would stay moist for far longer than a plain sponge cake.

Dobos Torte

 But that wasn't the only selling point of the cake: Dobos, a true pastry pilgrim, had discovered buttercream in his travels to France--ooh la la! When he used it in his cake (at a time when most cakes were filled with cooked creams or custards), the sinfully luxuriant, sweet buttercream-filled Dobos Torte stood out. That's right: while the combination of cake with buttercream filling is commonplace today, at the time it was really quite a revolutionary dessert concept! 

Dobos Torte

Mr. Dobos also seemed to be quite the marketing expert for his time: after he grandly introduced his Dobos Torte at the National General Exhibition of Budapest in the 1880s, the cake became a sensation throughout Europe, earning devotees from far and wide. Dobos, like a modern-day pastry rock star, even toured European capitals, introducing the cake to different cities and presenting it in a special, custom-made container. Talk about hyping your brand!
 
Dobos went to the great meringue in the sky in the 1920s, but his very unique cake has lived on: among the many honors bestowed on him and his creation over the decades, my favorite remains the time when  a six-foot-diameter Dobos torte was paraded by pastry chefs through the avenues of Budapest! Dobos torte remains a classic today; look for it when you're traveling the world, visiting fancy hotels, restaurants, and pastry shops.
 

Dobos

When it comes to making Mr. Dobos' creation yourself, don't be daunted by the long list of ingredients and instructions: this is definitely a recipe that requires time and attention, but it's not very difficult to prepare, and once it's served, you'll secure a spot as baking royalty among your family and friends. The crowning glory is the caramel top layer, which, when applied, will undoubtedly make you feel as if you are adding the torch to the Statue of Liberty.

Full disclosure? When I made this cake, I made it slightly wrong. Usually the caramel is cut as triangles and then placed at a rakish angle along the cake's top, like this. I made it as a topping layer. You know what? Still tasty, even if not quite 100% traditional. So I have it that way in my tutorial!

Dobos

Dobos

Dobos Torte (Printable version here!)

Makes one tall 9-inch layer cake (16 servings) 

For the cakes:

  • 9 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 egg yolks (use the last egg yolk for the buttercream)
  • 1/4 cup milk (whole or 2%)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, from 1 large lemon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting 

For the buttercream:

  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces 

For the caramel:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Have ready two 10-inch cardboard circles.

 To make the cake, put the egg whites in the very clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites until frothy, then gradually add the sugar. Continue beating just until soft peaks form. Transfer to a large, wide bowl to make later steps (folding, etc) easier.  

In another bowl, whisk the  8 egg yolks with the milk, lemon zest, vanilla, and salt until well blended. Fold about ¼ of the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites to lighten the mixture; fold in the rest of the yolks in a second addition. This will keep the mixture from deflating. Sift the flour over the egg mixture, and fold in two additions, making sure that the flour has been completely incorporated.  

Measure about 1 cup batter into the prepared pan, then spread and level it, using an offset or rubber spatula. Bake for about 4 to 7 minutes, or until lightly browned on the edges, with a dull finish on top, and the cake has begun to pull away from the edges of the pan slightly. Remove the cake from the oven, and let sit for a 3 to 4 minutes before removing the layer from the pan with a metal spatula. Dust the cake lightly with confectioners' sugar (this will keep the layers from sticking), and place on a rack to cool.

Clean and grease the pan; repeat this process until all of the batter is used, about 6 times more. As you bake, stack the layers between waxed or parchment paper, and cover with a clean towel. Refrigerate the layers until completely cold, about 2 hours.

To make the buttercream, start by melting the chocolate in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, or in the top of a double boiler. Stir slowly and constantly until the chocolate melts. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and egg yolk on medium-high speed until they reach the ribbon stage (“ribbons” will drip when you hold up a whisk, rather than just drips). Turn off the mixer, but leave the egg mixture in the bowl.

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and let the mixture come to a boil; cook to 240 degrees (the soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer Take pan off the heat.  

Return to the egg mixture. Whisk on low speed,and pour the hot syrup into the egg mixture in a slow but steady stream. Increase the mixing speed and whip the mixture until it is roughly the texture of whipped cream and has cooled to room temperature (the mixing bowl may still feel slightly warm). Add the butter in 3 parts, stirring so that it gets mixed in. Then add the melted chocolate (it should be just slightly warm). Continue to whip until smooth and well blended.

To assemble the cake, start with one layer of cake; set it on one of the 10-inch rounds; cover the top surface with some buttercream ( a slightly overflowing 1/3cup), and then press down with another layer to make a good seal. Repeat this with all but one of the cake layers. Wrap the torte in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours; also wrap and chill the remaining buttercream (you should have about 2 cups left). Place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the other cardboard round, and place the last layer on it; wrap and refrigerate.

To make the caramel topping, in a medium saucepan, cook the sugar and water over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until an amber caramel forms, about 5 minutes.

Unwrap the single cake layer. Carefully pour the caramel over the cake layer and spread it thinly, using a small offset spatula. Don't worry if some of it drips off of the cake while you spread it. Working quickly, use an oiled or buttered sharp knife to indent the top of the caramel into 16 wedges (this will ensure that the caramel doesn't crack when you cut slices). Allow to cool slightly, and then retouch the indents with the knife again. Place the layer onto a countertop dusted with confectioners'sugar, and allow the caramel to cool completely.

Place more buttercream on top of the chilled torte, and top with the caramel round. Frost the sides with the remaining buttercream. Cover loosely, and chill the torte for about an hour before serving; let come to room temperature before serving.

Store, loosely covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days. 

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