Monday, January 31, 2011

That Chocolate Cake

This recipe comes from Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate.  I decided to mix the dry ingredients ahead of time since I was going to bake it up in Tahoe on my cabin trip.

Original Recipe

Stacey's altered Cake Ingredients:
2 c white sugar, organic
1 c minus 1 tbs unbleached white flour, organic
3/4 c whole wheat flour, organic
1.5 tbs cornstarch
3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder (Scharffen-Berger)
1 tsp sea salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp baking soda
1/2 c sunflower oil, organic
1 c whole milk, organic
1 c boiling water

Stacey's altered Ganache Frosting Ingredients:
10 oz Guittard milk chocolate chips
4.5 oz Guittard 99% unsweetened chocolate couverture
16 oz heavy cream
1 oz Chambord (raspberry liqueur)

All the dry ingredients were mixed two days ahead and kept refrigerated in a plastic container (since it has baking powder in it). I also made the ganache frosting ahead of time and whipped it just prior to frosting the cake.

Frosting first... You have to make sure that the chocolate and cream stays in an emulsion, so I've found the best way to do that is to heat up the cream (I did it in the microwave with 30 second intervals until it reaches about 180F, but you can also do it over the stove), and then pour it over the chocolate.  The unsweetened chocolate takes longer to melt than the milk chocolate so I poured the some of the hot cream over that first, then added the rest of the cream and the milk chocolate chips.  If you don't stir gently and carefully (stirring small circles in the center of your bowl is the best way), the chocolate will come out of emulsion and ends up just floating in little chunks in the cream, which doesn't make for the best consistency.

Most ganaches are 1:1 chocolate to cream/liquid, but I wanted a lighter frosting, so there is more liquid than that ratio in my recipe.  After the chocolate and cream are combined, I streamed in the Chambord and continued to stir.  Then, I refrigerated the mixture and whipped it with a hand mixer prior to putting it between and on top of the cake layers so that it was lighter and fluffier than traditional ganache, especially since I frosted the cake and left it in the refrigerator for several hours until after dinner. 

I lined two 9"x9" baking pans with parchment paper (cutting where the corners are and folding the paper makes this much easier). 

I stirred the oil and the milk into the dry ingredients, and as I write this, I realize I forgot the 2 eggs that the original recipe calls for, so I've eliminated it from my ingredients list.  Then I poured the boiling water in and stirred / folded until it was all combined.  I poured even amounts into the two cake pans and baked them for 30 minutes, rotating the pans once at the halfway point.  I let it cool for at least an hour before frosting.

So my two major blunders: I forgot the eggs and I did not account for the altitude.  The cakes fell in the middle and made for a not so pretty, lop-sided, and much more dense, richer cake.
 (sorry for the crummy blurry pic below)

Everyone seemed to love it though - my boyfriend especially loved the frosting because it was so much lighter, less rich, and more like chocolate whipped cream than a frosting.  Will post again with better pictures when I do it right at my normal altitude. Sounds like from that you need to decrease the amounts of leaveners as well as the cooking time for high-altitude cooking.  Good to know. :)

Apple Crisp

This is a twist on the recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book, which has great recipes, by the way.  :)  It's the Apple Crisp recipe, but I thought I'd throw some marzipan into it for some added decadence.
First you prepare the fruit filling:
Then you use it in the crisp recipe:

Stacey's altered Fruit Filling ingredients:
7 granny smith apples, organic (peeled, chopped into 1/2" cubes)
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tbs dark brown sugar, organic
1 tbs white sugar, organic

Stacey's altered Crisp ingredients:
3/4 cup whole raw almonds (local from farmers' market)
3.4 oz marzipan (I used 33% almond version from The Gourmet Corner), cut into little cubes
1/2 c unbleached white flour, organic
2 tbs dark brown sugar, organic
1/4 c white sugar, organic
1-2 tsp cinnamon, Saigon (from Costco)
1/8 tsp nutmeg (whole nutmeg, freshly grated with a rasp)
1/2 tsp sea salt, fine
4 tbs unsalted butter, organic (1/2 stick)

I've made this recipe before, and I felt the juice should be a little thicker so I increased the cornstarch from the recommended 1 tsp to 2 tsp.  I also used brown sugar for 1/2 the sugar amount, versus all white.
I've found the best way to cut apples is to peel them first:
Then slice them in half, and I use a trick that an old co-worker taught me.  
Use a melon baller to get the seed portion out:

Then once you cut the remainder of the core out, slice vertically, then horizontally:

I mixed all the dry ingredients together and then pour it over the apples in the glass baking dish I'm baking the crisp in.  Granny Smiths are pretty sour already so I eliminated the lemon juice for this recipe.  [I made it before with honey crisp apples (which are pretty sweet, and also not very crunchy so I was just trying to use them up with this recipe) and I added probably a lemon's worth of lemon juice to it. ]

After it's all mixed, I covered the baking dish with foil and baked it at 400F for 20 minutes.

While that was baking, I prepared the crisp.  First I toasted the whole almonds (350F in the toaster oven for 10 minutes).  The original recipe calls for sliced almonds, but I had whole.  I mixed them with all the dry ingredients, including the marzipan cubes.
Uncut slice from marzipan slab:
Then I melted the butter in the microwave and poured it over the dry ingredients.  I mixed it all up with a fork. 

Once the apples were done in the oven, I took the glass dish out, stirred gently, like the instructions say, and crumbled the crisp over the top of the apples.  Back into the oven for another 20-25 minutes and you get this lovely, bubbly crisp:

I made this in Tahoe for a bunch of friends - I think it all got eaten and was reheated a few times. :)  However, I cut all the apples at home and subsequently left them in the fridge, so I will probably make this again shortly with a little lemon juice.  I think it could use a little additional tartness, but really doesn't need it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mint Meltaways and Mint Crunchies

I'm going to Tahoe this weekend with a bunch of friends and I'm always encouraged to bring desserts places.  These are two of the chocolates that I'm bringing.  I also have plans for an apple crisp and a chocolate cake. 

Mint Meltaways (recipe from Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner)
37 oz chocolate, melted
11 oz coconut fat, melted
10 drops peppermint oil

Combine chocolate, coconut fat, peppermint oil.  When I do it, I like everything to be at 90F, but I still get swirls of untempered chocolate sometimes.  I use this temp gun and I melt everything in the microwave at 10-30 second intervals. Recipe calls for a 12"x12" frame, but I used two 9"x9" cake pans lined with parchment. Pour into the pan after everything's mixed and then wait for it to set.  Usually overnight.  After that, cut it into squares and dredge in powdered sugar.  I tend to have problems cutting it without it cracking, especially when it's cold.  I've found that scoring it multiple times with a smaller, sharp, thin knife yields better results.
See what I mean about the swirls?
 Dredging in powdered sugar
Finished product as recipe describes

But, for those of you who know me, you know I can't do it all by the book all the time.  I also dipped some in a mixture of tempered milk / dark chocolate.  I use Guittard 64% dark and 38% milk couverture.  Hmm, guess they don't sell the 64% online.  I get it from a distributer ( since I still have a business license (if you know me you also know I tried to make a go at a silly little chocolate business called tomatette).

Mint Crunchies

This is a simple little thing that I started doing with leftover melted chocolate.  After I was done melting chocolate to dip the meltaways above, I put a little peppermint oil in the dipping chocolate and threw in some rice krispies - the kind from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods that aren't mostly high fructose corn syrup.  Then I spooned out little blobs. 

I think these are one of my boyfriend's favorites.

Apple crisp and chocolate cake recipes to come in the next posts... 

Happy making!