March 10, 2010 § 3 Comments
My roommates and I finally decided to man up and clean out the fridge. It has gone from overflowing with unidentified substances, to neatly organized and mildly OCD. We actually have our own shelves now! My roommates’ shelves have sensible items like produce and condiments, whereas mine is pretty much restricted to things containing the word ‘cream’ (heavy cream, sour cream, cream cheese….). My shelf clearly wins.
Having cream cheese on hand is especially important if you like to whip up birthday treats for people at the last second. Although deliciousness is always my main priority, portability is also an issue. These cupcakes are perfect: a moist, chocolatey cupcake is stuffed with a rich cream cheese filling, studded with dark chocolate chunks. No frosting needed! They can be stacked, toppled, and they still arrive in pretty decent shape. Also, they’re very very yummy, and always well received. An extra cupcake went to my roommate, who reported: “The texture is perfectly fluffy and omg there are chocolate-y bits in there! However, one major issue with this cupcake is that there’s only one of it here, or was.” Luckily the recipe makes twelve, so you can avoid this problem for approximately one day.
Black-Bottom Cupcakes – from The Great Book of Chocolate
Yield: 12 cupcakes
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used bittersweet chips)
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 5 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup unflavored vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the filling: Beat together the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in the chopped chocolate pieces. Set aside.
Make the cupcakes:
Preheat to 350°F. Butter a 12-cup muffin tin, or line the tin with paper muffin cups.
In a medium bowl sift together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, stirring until just smooth. Stir any longer and you will over mix the batter and end up with less-than-tender cupcakes.
Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Spoon a few tablespoons of the filling into the center of each cupcake, dividing the filling evenly. This will fill the cups almost completely, which is fine. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown and the cupcakes feel springy when gently pressed. These moist treats will keep well unrefrigerated for 2 to 3 days if stored in an airtight container.
December 24, 2009 § Leave a comment
I always have this idea that if I just had some time off, I would try out all those recipes I’ve been saving and bake up a storm of impressive concoctions. One impediment, though, is that I generally spend my vacations at various family members’ houses. Right now I’m visiting my dad, and while he’s a pretty accomplished cook, I don’t think anything has been baked in this house for the past decade or so. In practical terms, that means I don’t have my embarrassingly large collection of baking equipment and ingredients at hand, and need to stick to projects that are slightly more normal than what I may have had in mind.
Enter chocolate truffles. This recipe is the absolute simplest I’ve found for truffles. No tempering chocolate, no straining cream – only the essential steps, and the result is still decadent and luxuriously smooth. It does take a few hours of chilling time, but your work is incredibly minimal, aside from the necessary rolling (which takes me about 20 minutes, but I’m slow), and it calls for only four ingredients. The recipe is also a great base for any flavour additions you may have in mind: for example, my favourite variation is to roll the truffles in toasted chopped almonds, and you could also add a splash of your favourite liqueur to the ganache base. They also make great Christmas presents! Because they’re beautiful and delicious, and who doesn’t like chocolate? Okay, some people, but then keep the truffles for yourself and all is well.
The only note: these are easy to make, but the quality of the ingredients makes all the difference. Since a truffle is basically a chocolate vehicle, the chocolate you use is the main factor for the final taste. Get as high-quality as you’re willing to pay for – I used Callebaut, but Lindt would probably also be good.
Enjoy, and happy holidays!
Simplest Chocolate Truffles – adapted from Epicurious
Yield: about 30 truffles
- 2/3 cup whipping cream
- 12-ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped (or even easier, use chocolate chips, but make sure they’re good quality)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (or in this variation, 1/2 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped – for toasting instructions, see here)
Bring cream to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk in vanilla. Pour into medium bowl. Cover; chill until firm, about 3 hours.
Line baking sheet with waxed paper. Drop mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet. (If your drops are approximately spherical, this will make your life much, much easier in the next step. If they’re flat like in my picture, you might regret it.) Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.
Place cocoa (or nuts) in a bowl. Roll truffles between hands into rounds. Roll truffles in cocoa (or nuts). Cover with plastic; chill until ready to serve. (Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Keep chilled.)
Note: An extra bonus to using nuts is that no one can tell if you failed dramatically at making your truffles spherical. Yay!
more chocolate cake
November 14, 2009 § 2 Comments
I had every intention of bringing an elaborate and impressive cake to my friend’s potluck. But suddenly it was 2 in the afternoon, I was still in my pajamas, and the grocery store seemed very far away. So instead I rummaged through my cabinets and cookbooks, looking for a recipe that I could make quickly and only used what I had on hand. Luckily, I always have pretty much everything baking-related, so it wasn’t too hard – the main obstacle was that I kept getting distracted by pictures of pretty cakes. But eventually I overcame my tiny attention span and settled on the Chocolate Party Cake from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.
The cake is a sour cream chocolate batter, baked in a Bundt pan and then brushed with cocoa syrup, making the crust shiny and nearly black. How does this stack up against my go-to chocolate bundt, the Chocolate Guinness Cake? Despite their mutual resemblance, they’re pretty different. This cake is lighter and fluffier, with a more distinct butter flavour. I think I still prefer the moist denseness of the Guinness cake, but this is definitely also a nice option. Also, the lack of frosting makes it easy to transport, and it serves a ton of people, so in some ways it’s the ideal potluck dessert – especially because you generally receive a warm welcome when showing up with a giant chocolate cake.
Chocolate Party Cake – adapted from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes
- 2/3 cup walnut halves
- 1 cup sour cream
- 3/4 cup sifted cocoa powder
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 cups sifted flour
- 1 1/4 cup sugar (this is approximate because I measured by weight: 8.7 ounces / 250 grams)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup sifted cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup boiling water (or more)
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a Bundt pan and coat with cocoa powder.
Toast walnuts for about 7 minutes. Pulse in food processor until medium fine, or finer if you don’t like the texture of nuts in your cake.
In a medium bowl, whisk sour cream, cocoa, eggs, and vanilla, until the consistency of slightly lumpy muffin batter.
In large bowl, mix walnuts, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add butter and half the cocoa mixture. Beat on low until moistened, then raise speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Add the remaining cocoa mixture in two additions, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each one. Scrape batter into cake pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.
Shortly before the cake is done baking, make cocoa syrup: whisk together cocoa and sugar. Add a small amount of boiling water and mix until moistened. Add the rest of the boiling water. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring often. Remove from heat, and add vanilla. Add water to equal 2/3 cup, and use while still hot.
When cake comes out of oven, pierce all over with skewer. Brush with one third of syrup. After 10 minutes, turn cake out of pan and brush all over with remaining syrup.
Note: to avoid my last Bundt cake’s pan-sticking disaster, I was really thorough about greasing and powdering the pan. Since there’s no ganache here to hide mistakes, I highly recommend similar obsessiveness to everyone.
a grown-up dinner party
October 15, 2009 § 11 Comments
I decided to finally take my last step into adulthood by having real grown-ups over, for a real dinner party. Frankly, I was surprised it took me so long – I’m well into my twenties, I love to feed people, so why don’t I host stylish and well-executed dinners? Then, five days before the event itself, I realized that I still don’t own any chairs. Thus illustrating one of the many reasons why I do not fall into the category of real grown-ups.
After briefly considering and discarding cardboard boxes as a valid seating option, I turned to Craigslist to save the day. My efforts were somewhat hampered by the fact that I also don’t own a car and can’t go anywhere far away, but eventually chairs were identified and secured, setting the stage for the perfect dinner party. And then I also bought a tablecloth! I am so very classy.
The most important thing though, was of course the food. I settled on what is probably the perfect dinner party dessert: a nearly flourless chocolate cake. It’s simple and stunning, but it’s also best if made a day ahead, saving the mad dash that occurs on the day of. Now, I wasn’t exactly organized to make this ahead of time, but it is theoretically possible. As for the recipe: I’m actually not generally a fan of flourless chocolate cakes, as they’re pretty intense, but this was definitely a good one. The single tablespoon of flour makes it less overwhelmingly dense, but it’s still rich and decadent. Plus, when my friend took his first bite, he started doing a little happy dance – generally a good sign.
Nearly Flourless Chocolate Cake – from Rachel Eats
- 200g butter
- 200g very good quality dark chocolate, chopped
- 250g granulated sugar
- 5 eggs
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8-inch round cake tin with baking parchment and butter the parchment.
In microwave, melt butter and chocolate. Let cool for a few minutes. Scrape the butter and chocolate into a larger bowl and stir in the sugar.
In separate small bowl, lightly beat one egg and then add it to the other ingredients and stir thoroughly. Again in the separate bowl beat another egg, add it to the mixture and stir in. Repeat until you have added all five eggs. Stir in the flour.
Scrape the mixture into the lined tin. Bake just until the top is dry and cracking, but the centre of the cake still wobbles slightly, about 25 minutes. Keep a close eye after 20 minutes and be careful not to overbake.
Allow the cake to cool completely in the tin, about 2 hours. Gently invert it on to a wire tray and then revert it on to the serving plate. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.