Monday, July 28, 2008
Grrrr...this was a disaster. I wanted to make a flourless chocolate cake for my boss' birthday since she has a wheat allergy. I found a recipe on Allrecipes.com that looked promising although I was a little nervous about the steam bath cooking method. Sadly, I also attempted making this the day after our wine tasting. Although I was not hung over, I didn't get to bed until about 2:30 am and then got up at 8 am so we could make a 9:30 am screening of The Dark Knight. When I finally settled down to start this cake, my eyes were already starting to close again and my head a bit fuzzy...which should explain the huge mis-read I made when it came to the key ingredient in the cake. The recipe called for 18 (1 oz) squares of chocolate (presumably the Baker's squares). I was working from a big hunk of chocolate, I just went with the number of ounces which I read as 1 oz. In reality, I should have used 18 oz of chocolate (i.e. 18 - 1 oz squares). So, my "rich, chocolate" cake had about 5% of the amount of chocolate it was supposed to have...and that steam bath cooking method? The water leaked into the springform despite me wrapping the whole pan in tin foil. What is the light, coffee-colored goo at the bottom of the cake in this picture? I have no idea...maybe like baked egg with a light cocoa flavor? Anyway, here is the recipe if anyone wants to attempt it. I am pretty sure I will never try this one again....I just read the recipe AGAIN and noticed a step I hadn't previously seen before: chill cake overnight! Oh well, I doubt that would have saved a cake missing 95% of the key flavoring ingredient.
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup white sugar
18 (1 ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate
1 cup unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease one 10 inch round cake pan and set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the water, salt and sugar. Stir until completely dissolved and set aside.
Either in the top half of a double boiler or in a microwave oven melt the bittersweet chocolate. Pour the chocolate into the bowl of an electric mixer.
Cut the butter into pieces and beat the butter into the chocolate, 1 piece at a time. Beat in the hot sugar-water. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Have a pan larger than the cake pan ready, put the cake pan in the larger pan and fill the pan with boiling water halfway up the sides of the cake pan.
Bake cake in the water bath at 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) for 45 minutes. The center will still look wet. Chill cake overnight in the pan. To unmold, dip the bottom of the cake pan in hot water for 10 seconds and invert onto a serving plate.
This is a lemon cake I made for a wine tasting party that Victor and I held a few weeks ago. My luck with the scratch cakes (with the exception being the Sour Cream Coffee Cake) is hit or miss. I didn't want want to risk making a crappy, dense, flat cake for our party, so I made a box cake. As with all box cakes that I make, I substituted applesauce for the oil and "greased" the pan with olive oil spray rather butter or shortening. Both of these substitutions have never failed for me...and I think I actually prefer the cakes with the applesauce. They always seem moister to me than those made with oil. Since this was a wine tasting and people would be drinking wine and snacking on cheese and crackers, I didn't want to go with a heavy, super sweet icing on top of the cake. This glace icing is the same icing I use on top of the rolled/decorated sugar cookies...it, like the applesauce substitution, is another "no fail" move. The cake was just the right amount of sweet after all that wine.
Technically, in my cookies A to Z quest, I am currently on the letter E. I have an E cookie planned but I was easily distracted, wanted to do some experimenting and ended up with another cookie which started with the letter C. I could have lied and called these the "Everybody Loves Chocolate Shortbread" cookie or "Everyday Shortbread", etc but really, who wins in that situation? So, Chocolate Shortbread...Victor bought me a cookie gun back in April that I was anxious to check out, I wanted to experiment with using some pressed dutch cocoa and I was wondering how to make a nice crumbly shortbread. The key to the crumbly shortbread feel it turns out is baking the cookies at 250 degrees for 45 minutes rather than the usual cookie heat/time of 325 degrees for 10 minutes. These cookies, while maintaining the dry shortbread crumb were somehow fudgey at the same time. The cookie gun performed splendidly as you can tell from the picture above. The recipe is from www.astray.com/recipes (which cites 365 Great Chocolate Deserts).
2 sticks of unsalted butter softened slightly
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 Unsweetened cocoa powder
In medium bowl, beat together butter and sugar on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add flour cocoa and salt. Beat on medium until dough comes together about 2 to 3 min. The recipes calls for the cookies to be rolled out on a floured board at this point, but I added to the cookie gun and just pressed out some shapes. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Refrigerate 1 hour if time allows. Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees F. Bake cookies 45 min or until firm. Let cookies cool on pans 5 min then remove to rack completely. Note that the low cooking temp is critical to the success of these cookies, so do not deviate on that aspect.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
My friends had their baby...a beautiful baby girl who is incredibly sweet, cuddly and adorable. I wanted to bring something with me to the hospital to say congrats. I recently heard on NPR that Los Angeles SoCal Edison are trying to ban those metallic balloons since they cause power outages when one hits an overhead power line....therefore I couldn't buy a bunch of those: I don't want to be responsible for even one non-functioning traffic light in LA! I had read online a bunch of new mother's discussing that while nursing they:
1. had the metabolism of a teenage boy
2. had to learn how to eat with one hand
3. craved chocolate chip cookies
Perfect! I like making cookies AND apparently new mothers like eating them (with little to no effect on their waistline). So, I whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Although a pretty common recipe, there are some slight variations out there that provide subtle taste differences. The variation I used is as follows...it's basically the toll house recipe with a few tweaks.
Chocolate Chip Cookies (including KR tweaks)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla (I used Mexican vanilla)
2 1/4 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 bag of semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Cream the butter. Add the white and brown sugars and beat until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in eggs, one at a time, making sure to beat well after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture gradually and beat until well mixed. Stir in chocolate chips. Refrigerate until firm. Drop onto cookie sheet and back 10-12 min.
Monday, July 14, 2008
My grandmom turned 88 this month, so I made her some sugar cookies to help keep her sweet ;) I used the same recipe that I had used for the heart cut outs but switched it up on the shapes. The rockets were heartiest of the cookies (i.e., no breakage while handling) although the palm trees were pretty cool looking. The cut out for the Pac-Man ghosts is actually a fondant cutter to make tulips...but since this is not a cake I can draw a stem on, they had to stand alone. Once I started decorating, it struck me that they looked like the Pac-Man ghosts.
The rolled out and decorated cookies always look nice when complete, but be prepared for a multi-day commitment. Let the cookies cool overnight before decorating. Once decorated, they must sit overnight again to ensure the icing is completely dry. Victor helped me with the decorating; he did a particularly super job on the rockets.
Technically there was no overt "challenge" issued in this coffee cake challenge but, the gauntlet was definitely thrown albeit in a genteel "there is coffee cake in the kitchen" sort of way. Let me back up...one of Victor's co-workers brought a coffee cake in work that she made from a box cake. So, he emails me at work during the day about this cake, how good it was, etc. Hmmm...I wasn't sure how to interpret this news. Was the message, "hey, I know you make your little cakes and they're ok, but my co-worker made a really good cake that you might want to check out?" Or was it more, "hey, my co-worker made this coffee cake...how come you haven't made a coffee cake yet?" I went with the latter interpretation and considered myself served! I called up my mom to get her killer Sour Cream Coffee cake recipe and was off to the market. True to form, while shopping, I misinterpreted some of the ingredients and only bought an 8 oz container of sour cream. I knew the recipe called for a pint of sour cream, but late in the day on Friday, I simply forgot how many ounces were in a pint. I know it's a pretty basic thing to remember but, you know, sometimes after lunch, usually in the 4pm hour, my brain grows weary. Anyway, while making the cake, I looked upon my sour cream shortage as an additional bonus round challenge to see if I could still pull off a decent cake which I did (yes, I was proud of this one). Oh, and while mixing up the batter, I lost count on the number of cups of flour I had already added, so I think only put in 3 cups BUT it was still good! Below is my very tasty yet bastardized version of my mom's recipe.
*Note that this makes a ton of batter. It was at the top of the bowl by the end....
SOUR CREAM CAKE
1 Cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
9 Tbsp. nuts
Mix and keep aside.
4 Cups flour (I used 3)
1 Pint sour cream (I used 1 8 oz container of fat free sour cream and 8 oz of applesauce)
1 Cup butter (8oz) soft
2 Cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
Cream butter & add sugar & vanilla, add salt & eggs. Beat at high speed. Add flour & baking soda. Add flour and sour cream alternately at low speed. Then beat approximately 1 minute at high speed. Shut off.
Pour half of batter in pan, sprinkle half of cinnamon mixture onto batter. Add remainder of batter and remainder of cinnamon mixture. Cut through with a knife.
Bake at 350 for about 50-60 minutes.