Triple Layer Coconut Cake

Thomas Keller's Coconut Cake
Amazingly dense, rich, saturated with coconut flavor with a light, fluffy, creamy frosting that only compliments and doesn’t overpower the rich, dense and super-moist cake.  Yes, of course, this was the best coconut cake we’ve ever had.  And why, is that? Because it’s Thomas Keller’s recipe, and as anyone who has ever heard of or seen one of his cookbooks will know, everything he touches is gold.  This recipe, however, is not found in any of his cookbooks, but was featured in an article on Saveur magazine online.  It was a recipe that took him back to his childhood, to having a cake very similar to this in a small town diner.  We had this recipe bookmarked for months and finally gave it a go.  While you can tell from the pictures that my layering techniques leave something to be desired, the flavors were amazing.  Spot on.  I even took it to a picnic in 80 degree weather and it held up (barely).  This cake needs to be chilled the adequate time recommended, for sure.  Even with my missteps and imperfect execution, it was one of the best cakes I’ve had in years.

Go forth!  Be bold!  Make this cake!  We changed nothing – this is just one of those “I made it, so can you” kind of posts,  so I’ll simply copy the recipe for you, here!  Happy Weekend!

Keller's Coconut Cake

Triple Layer Coconut Cake

FOR THE CAKE:
Unsalted butter, for greasing
2 cups flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1½ cups sugar
eggs, separated
1¼ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup coconut milk
½ cup, plus 1 tbsp. buttermilk
2 tsp. coconut extract
2 tsp. vanilla extract

FOR THE MERINGUE:
6 egg whites
1⅔ cups sugar
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut

INSTRUCTIONS

Make the cake: Heat oven to 325°. Grease three 9″ cake pans with butter and line with parchment paper; set aside. Whisk flour, desiccated coconut, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Place sugar and egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment; mix until fluffy. Add mayonnaise, coconut milk, buttermilk, coconut and vanilla extracts; mix until combined. With the motor running, slowly add dry ingredients until batter forms; transfer batter to a bowl and set aside. Clean stand mixer bowl and add egg whites; replace paddle with whisk attachment. Whip whites until soft peaks form; fold into cake batter. Divide batter between prepared pans, smoothing tops with a rubber spatula; drop pans lightly on a counter to expel large air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cakes cool for 20 minutes in pans; invert onto wire racks and let cool.Make the meringue: Using an electric hand mixer, beat egg whites in a bowl until medium-stiff peaks form, 5–7 minutes; set aside. Bring sugar and ¼ cup water to a boil in a 2-qt. sauce pan fitted with a candy thermometer; cook, without stirring, until temperature reaches 250°, 4–5 minutes. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle hot syrup into egg whites until combined. Increase speed to high; beat until meringue forms stiff peaks, about 3 minutes more.

Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer on a cake stand and spread 3 cups meringue over cake; sprinkle with ¼ cup coconut. Repeat with second layer. Place remaining layer on top; cover top and sides with remaining meringue and cover outside of cake with remaining coconut, pressing lightly to adhere. Chill cake 30 minutes to firm meringue; serve chilled or at room temperature.

copied from Saveur 
Coconut Cake

Ginger Ale Poached Apricots over Warm Cinnamon Rice Pudding

Apricots Poached in Ginger Ale Poached Apricots with Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean
Simplicity.  I crave it, lately.  Maybe because I’m in a world filled with a bouncing-off-the-wall toddler and red-headed drama, or maybe it’s because the summer is heating up and I’m busy shooting weddings, all the while wondering who this little baby growing inside me will turn out to be.  I forget I’m pregnant most days.  Other than my sudden urge to rearrange all the furniture and the hair tie holding my pants together, it’s easy to forget while dealing with everything else.  That’s why I love cooking so much – it forces you to slow down and spend some time in thought.  Even if for just five minutes – there will be some point in meal prep where you must wait.  And in that waiting usually comes contemplation (if you can keep your phone out of reach).

Last week when I stood over my stove and smelled the tart sweetness of apricots stewing, I was transported back to the very first time I made jam.  It was about this time four years ago and the (now gone) huge, old apricot tree in our front yard decided to dump about 10 lbs of fruit on our lawn for a week straight.  I didn’t know what to do with all that fruit and I’d never made jam before, but I just started to create.  Took a base recipe and made all kinds of flavors: Vietnamese Cinnamon, Vanilla Bean, Red Pepper, Bourbon, Chinese 5 Spice – they were all amazing and I felt so good about not letting any of that fruit go to waste.  I also learned the simplicity of jamming.  The joy of tasting that fruit completely come ALIVE with just the addition of some sugar and a squeeze of lemon.  I never cared about apricots before that year, but since then, they’ve become one of my favorite fruits.
Poached Apricots in Ginger Syrup
I didn’t make jam with these store-bought apricots, but I did let them poach in some leftover ginger ale and a stick of cinnamon and vanilla bean.  The scent in my kitchen was as bright as the summer sun.  When the apricots were done poaching, I removed them from the liquid and let the ginger ale reduce until it was a syrup.  The apricots are sitting in that syrup in my fridge, now.  Waiting to be poured over ice cream or spooned over a warm biscuit with butter.  Or maybe just eaten straight out of the jar. Last week I made a cinnamon vanilla bean rice pudding for Olive’s snack time and added some poached apricots on top.  The combination was so comforting and for a few minutes, we both just ate and smiled at each other.

Coconut Milk Rice Pudding with Poached Apricots

Ginger Ale Poached Apricots with Cinnamon Rice Pudding

2 lbs of apricots, halved, pits removed
1 liter of ginger ale
two cinnamon sticks (or a tsp of ground cinnamon)
1 vanilla bean, split
1/4 cup sugar

Place the apricot halves in a large, non-reactive pot over medium-high heat.  Add the ginger ale, cinnamon, vanilla bean and sugar and let the mixture come to a boil.  After 10 minutes, remove the apricots with a slotted spoon and set them in a large bowl.  Allow the liquid to reduce to about 1-2 cups of liquid and pour over the apricots in the bowl.  Spoon apricots and syrup over rice pudding, ice cream, waffles, whatever you want!

Cinnamon Rice Pudding*
makes about 2 cups

1 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup arborio rice (short grain rice)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
pinch of salt
1 egg

In a medium saucepan, heat the milks, rice and salt until the mixture boils.  Reduce heat and let the mixture cook about 20-25 minutes, stirring often, until the rice absorbs most of the liquid.  Remove from heat and in a smaller bowl, add the brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean paste and egg and whip until smooth.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of the hot rice mixture to the egg mixture, stirring quickly to temper the egg.  Then, while whisking, add the egg/sugar mixture back into the pot of rice and let it cook over low heat until slightly thickened, about 10 more minutes.

Serve with poached apricots!

*adapted from this lovely recipe off Simply Recipes

The Best Peach Cobbler: Food is Healing

Peach Cobbler over Vanilla Ice Cream
I grew up in Eastern New Mexico.  Which is basically West Texas.  Which is basically the South.  Basically.  And in the South, when someone is ailing, grieving, winging it as a single parent for a week with a house full of kids, or whatever – we bring food.  The more comforting the dish, the better.

Enter: homemade peach cobbler.  The BEST peach cobbler you’ll likely ever have.

My Aunt Mary could have been my grandmother.  The oldest in a family of eight children, Aunt Mary has acted like our grandmother as far back as I can remember.  She picked me up from school, she made a few dresses for me, she always gave away the best homemade treats at Halloween and she stood in place of my own ailing grandmother when I got married.  Did the same for both my brothers’ weddings, too.  Aunt Mary also brings food.  I would guess it is her first thought when she hears of someone’s suffering.

A few years ago my dad’s 20 year-old carpentry business and production shop burned to the ground in one night.  I remember us all sitting around the dining room table a couple days later, feeling numb and really not knowing what to say or do next.  It was as if a close family member had passed away.  Aunt Mary walked in holding this still-warm peach cobbler and a pint of vanilla ice cream.  We made a bowl and after the first bite,  I felt a little bit of weight released from my shoulders as my heart sank into those amazing flavors.  It was the food-equivalent of a hug.  It could have been the emotions of the day or the fact that we all love Aunt Mary so much, but I think it was the best peach cobbler, or any cobbler, I’d ever had in my life.

When my grandpa passed away a couple weeks ago, we were sitting around the house the afternoon after his funeral and Aunt Mary called.  She said, “I was just sitting here and realized that I NEVER brought over any food!”  I smiled and said quietly to myself, “please let it be peach-” at the same time she said, “I JUST made a peach cobbler. Can I drop by?”

And the same comfort washed over us, again.  This time my uncle had the first taste and in his quiet demeanor, he just nodded and said, “That IS the best cobbler I’ve ever had.”  And he’s a farmer.  He knows his cobbler.  I sat Aunt Mary down before she could leave and told her that this time, she HAD to tell me the recipe.  So, from memory she just told me how she did it.  I love recipes like that.  She even apologized and blushed a little when she told me how much sugar. 🙂

So I want to give this comforting recipe to you.  So you can give it to someone else.  Food, sometimes, is so much more than nourishment, calories, ingredients, fast or fancy restaurants.  It can be those words you don’t know how to say or that comfort you wish you could provide but  just don’t know how.

Classic Peach Cobbler

Peach Cobbler

serves 8-10

1 stick unsalted butter
2 – 28 oz cans of sliced peaches (don’t drain.  And the ounces may vary.  Aunt Mary just said, “Not the soup-can size – the bigger one! So I guessed.)
3 cups sugar (I know.  You might eat this once a year.  It’s okay.)
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt (she told me 1/8 tsp salt, but kosher is bigger so I always double the amount if I’m using it)
1/2 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 400F.  In a 9×13 pan, melt the stick of butter in the oven.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the peaches with their syrup, two cups of sugar and let it start bubbling.  Meanwhile, mix flour and the remaining cup of sugar, baking powder and salt together in a bowl and then add the milk.

Pour the batter on top of the melted butter.  Then pour the peach mixture over the batter.  Bake about 40 minutes until the batter is a rich brown.  I’d really advise letting this cool down considerably before eating.  You’ll think there’s waaaaaay too much syrup, but it thickens upon cooling and you have this glorious syrup to pour over your ice cream. Worth it.

Peach Cobbler

Strawberry Shortcake

shortcake001
Happy Monday to you all!  In my head, we are having a glorious spring filled with the smell of honeysuckle and gentle breezes warming things to a moderate 70 degrees.  The reality is that we are in a dust bowl with winds around 50mph and gusts reaching into the 70mph zone.  Temps in the 90s already with occasional days of 30 dropped here and there to keep us nice and crazy.  I kind of forget why I’ve lived here so long.  Are the sunsets really THAT great?!

So the perfect spring in my head has lovely desserts enjoyed on front porch swings.  I can think of no prettier dessert than a strawberry shortcake.  I’m a bit picky when it comes to this dessert.  At the grocery store, they like to group items together so you’ll immediately think of a particular dish and buy every ingredient.  So, since strawberries are officially in season, you’ll see strawberries and angel food cakes set out next to each other in the produce section.

No.

Strawberry shortcake does not involve angel food cake.  Shortcake, shortbread – the “short” refers to the strands of gluten in the dough, making the final product dense and crumbly like a scone.  There’s not a lot to hold this bread together.  If you had long strands of gluten, it would make the bread chewy like bagels, pizza dough, etc.  So there’s your short lesson on shortbread.
shortcake006
For my ultimate strawberry shortcake, I took my mother’s biscuit recipe and replaced the buttermilk with heavy cream and added vanilla and a tablespoon of sugar.  I also used lard instead of shortening and I absolutely think it turned out to be the BEST base for the BEST strawberry shortcake I’ve ever had.  Matt, who really would never prefer a fruity dessert over say, a chocolate one, commented a FEW times on how good it was (he is not generous with his exclamations).  My dad, who got to share this dessert with us and who IS generous with exclamations, was reduced to a silent appreciation while he ate.  It will change your very nature, it’s so good.

I’m generous with dramatic statements.

So try it out – I’ll give you the quick recipe for every component but the shortcake was the star.  Take advantage of strawberry season and those glorious, $2 huge containers while you can.  And if they are beginning to look like they’re going to go bad, chop them up, drizzle some sugar and lemon juice on them and in a day you’ll have the perfect strawberry concoction to use for this recipe!
shortcake008
The Best Strawberry Shortcake

For the shortcake:

2 cups flour
1 TBS baking powder
1 TBS sugar
1/2 TBS salt
1/2 cup lard or shortening
1 cup heavy cream
1 TBS vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425F.

In a large bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients and then cut the lard in with a fork or with your hands until it resembles coarse, crumbly sand.  Mix in the cream and vanilla until the dough holds together when pressed between two fingers.  If it’s still pretty crumbly, even after kneading it in the bowl a couple times, add a splash or two more.  By not weighing the flour, you may end up with more or less flour than I did.  I should have weighed it.  Apologies.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough a few times, form into a ball and roll out into about a 1/2″ disk and cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter.  Place on a greased cookie sheet and brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter.  Sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

To assemble: Cut a cake in half, pour plenty of strawberry/strawberry juice on top so it soaks into the cake.  Top with a generous dollop of strawberry whipped cream and drizzle more strawberry juice on top and serve.  Recipes for those other components below:

shortcake004
For the strawberry whipped cream:

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons of strawberry juice (from your macerated strawberries)
1 or 2 strawberries from the same concoction

In a large cup with an immersion blender or in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the heavy cream, strawberries and juice and blend until thick and creamy.

shortcake003
For the strawberries:

1 lb strawberries, sliced thin
1/4 cup sugar
2 TBS lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and let the strawberries sit at room temp for a couple hours or in the fridge over night.  Stir once – the strawberries will release juices and form a glorious syrup with the sugar and lemon juice.

 

 

 

 

Banana Caramel Cream Pavlova

Bananas Foster Pavlova
This seems like a Sunday afternoon dessert.  Ethereal, light, comforting and sweet.  For many during the season of Lent, Sunday is a break from their chosen 40 day fast.  We had to break our fast this morning as we had family in town and went to church and then they had to get a quick lunch and get on the road.  So we had brunch out at our favorite place, Crafthouse.  Does it count if we didn’t pay for the meal? 🙂 Anyway, we are dedicated to our no-eating-out fast and will continue throughout the weeks and will not plan on breaking the fast on Sundays.

One of my plans for Lent is to plan meals that are more exciting than going out to eat – things we look forward to more than going to a restaurant!  This fancy-schmancy dessert could make anyone feel as if they were at a posh little bistro having dessert and coffee!  I’ve done a pavlova on this blog before, and I love how versatile they can be.  A few weeks ago I bought this yogurt in a moment of weakness.  I always buy plain yogurt and add my own sugar because flavored yogurts have SO MUCH SUGAR.  However, I couldn’t resist the flavor description: honey salted caramel?! After we tasted it, Matt suggested it would be awesome on a pavlova and that we could add bananas and have it be a shockingly all-white dessert.  Cloud like, from the Greek Gods themselves.  I added vanilla bean to my pavlova and torched raw sugar on top of the bananas and with the combination of the salted caramel tanginess of the yogurt, it made an incredible dessert!  It makes me want to try lots of different combinations with various yogurt flavors!  I’ll post my pavlova recipe for you, here, again and you can do whatever toppings you can dream up!

Vanilla Bean Pavlovas
makes 12-15 small meringues

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5-6 (about 6 oz) large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch salt

Place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 275°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.

In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites, cream of tartar and salt, starting on low, increasing to medium speed until soft peaks start to become visible, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.

Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour in the vanilla.  Increase speed a bit and whip until meringue is glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 4 to 5 minutes.

Pipe or spoon the meringue into 8-10 large round mounds that are 3 inches wide on the parchment-lined baking sheet.  With the back of a spoon, create an indentation in the middle of the mound for holding the filling once meringue is baked.

Place baking sheet in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 250°F. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside, and white — not tan-colored or cracked. The interiors should have a marshmallow-like consistency. Check on meringues at least once during the baking time. If they appear to be taking on color or cracking, reduce temperature 25 degrees, and turn pan around.

Gently lift from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. Will keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for a week.

Candied Apple Pie – a family recipe

slice of candied apple pie

My brother in law, Justin, is pretty amazing with a pie plate.  He’s been known to ship his cherry pies across the country just because someone requested it.  I tasted one the first year he was married to my sister in law, Julie, because he mailed one to us in Tulsa for Thanksgiving since he and Julie couldn’t come and were stuck working in Atlanta.  It was amazing and it made me doubly glad he married into the family. 🙂  He is a man of many talents and you’d never expect this hunter/carpenter/plumber/electrician type guy to be a whiz with baking, but he is!  And he loves it and you can tell.  There’s a pride in what he bakes that can literally be tasted.  Matt and I feel so fortunate that we have two more enthusiastic hands in the kitchen around the holidays in Justin and Julie.  We’re a family centered around the table with forks in hand!

This recipes was one he made over the Christmas break.  He first made a candied cherry pie and followed that up with this candied apple pie, which was so beautiful and rustic, I had to take pics and then, I had to have the recipe after I tasted it – amazing.  I know pie season is over and New Years Resolutions are done, but if you have room in your heart for one more pie this winter, make it this one.

candied apple pie

Candied Apple Pie
makes one, 10″ pie

For the crust:

2 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks of butter, very cold and in small cubes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup ice water, more or less as needed

In a stand mixer, add the first cup and a half of flour, the salt and sugar, and gradually beat in the butter by small handfuls until each addition is pretty well incorporated.  When all the butter has been added, add the last cup of flour and mix slowly to combine.  Add tablespoons of water until the dough just comes together when pressed between your fingers.  Wrap the dough in a plastic bag (I use a bread bag) and flatten out into a disc and let chill for at least 30 minutes.  When ready for the pie, take it out of the fridge and let it warm up a bit on a lightly floured counter space for about ten minutes, and then divide the dough, not exactly in half, but let one half be a bit bigger than the other.  You’ll use the slightly smaller half for the top of the pie.

For the Filling and Assembly:
3-5 lbs Granny Smith apples (or any firm, tart apple), cored, peeled, halved and sliced thin
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick of butter (8 tbs)
1 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 egg white

In a 10″ cast iron skillet melt the butter and add the brown sugar. Stir until brown sugar is dissolved.  Set aside.

Peel and slice the apples (this little gadget is worth buying!). In a large mixing bowl,  stir 1 cup granulated sugar with the cinnamon and mix in the apples. Set aside.

Roll out the bigger of the two pie crusts and lay into the skillet, on top of your brown sugar/butter mixture.  Fill crust with apple mixture.  Roll out the smaller crust over the top and crimp edges and and trim any excess. Cut several single blade-width vent slots. Baste top with lightly whipped egg white then sprinkle with white sugar. Cook at 350 degrees for one hour.

Serve right out of the pan with ice cream or wait a bit for it to cool and the caramel in the bottom will be extra gooey.  It’s up to you.  If the bottom seems to be sticking and won’t come out, simply warm the skillet on a burner over low heat until the caramel melts and you can remove a slice.

Enjoy!

skilled apple pie

Banana Chocolate Bread

Banana Bread with Dark Chocolate
We are experts at wasting bananas.  I blame it on the Redhead.  She always says she wants one, takes one or two bites, and then plays with the peel and leaves the rest.  She sometimes takes a bite out of the SIDE of the entire banana, then is done.  I usually cut up the bananas beforehand, but I feel like I’m always a bit of a chump when she asks me for “a big one!” and I give her a whole banana and the situation mentioned above happens every single time.  So, I very often turn left-over bananas into smoothies with a bit of plain yogurt, but by the time I’ve been played twice, I give up offering her bananas, and at least three turn brown before the week is over.

Enter banana bread.  This recipe called for exactly three, old, brown bananas!  I wanted to use up our produce and stuff in the fridge before we left town for Christmas travels because I hate wasting food, and banana bread helped use up those old bananas, my yogurt that was about to go bad, a couple eggs and some milk.  We enjoyed this bread going down the road to Tulsa for snacks and breakfast and it was one of the best banana bread recipes I’ve used.  Obviously, as it came from Cooks Illustrated’s awesome cookbook, The New Best Recipe.  I always feel safe using their recipes.  They had a variation for adding chocolate to their banana bread, and as you may have seen on this blog, I won’t pass up an opportunity to use chocolate in a baked good.

Banana Chocolate Bread

Banana Chocolate Bread
makes one 9″ loaf

2 cups (10 ounces) AP flour, plus more for dusting the pan
10 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped very fine
3 very ripe, large bananas, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5″ loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out excess.

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and chocolate together in a large bowl; set aside.

Mix the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with a whisk in a medium bowl.  Lightly fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until just combined and the batter looks thick and chunky.  Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about an hour.  Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.  Bread can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temp for up to 3 days.

Chocolate Banana Bread

Chocolate Covered Espresso Brownies

Chocolate Covered Espresso Brownies

I was paid $25 to make this recipe.  Well, technically,  I was paid about $12.50, because Matt was paid the other half to make a loaf of his awesome bread.  Why?  Because an old co worker from his previous job had a Christmas party to go to and a twenty-five dollar limit to spend on a gift.  So he contacted us and said, “Make a couple things.”  The fun thing about these office party gift-exchanges is that the person whose gift got the most steals, or trades in the game, wins $100.

Gary won.  🙂 So I guess you could say these are $75 brownies.  Or $37.50.   Or probably less, because as I well know, it was most certainly Matt’s bread that won the contest.  Hey, Matt – guess what?  You won 1st place for your bread.  Only this time, instead of a $6 check like at the fair, some other guy got $100.  That’s better, right? 😉

The brownies were indeed, great.  I followed a recipe from Fat Witch Brownies (a most awesome brownie book) for an espresso brownie, and then I thought, “What could make this more show-worthy for a gift exchange?”  Covering it in a rich chocolate ganache!  Then, with some sprinkles of cocoa nibs, these brownies become a huge version of a chocolate-covered espresso bean, which in my opinion, is the ultimate adult candy.  They’re like one big “congratulations” for getting older.

And so are these brownies!  Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Brownies

Chocolate Covered Espresso Brownies*
worth $37.50

7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon hot water
1 cup AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 recipe dark chocolate ganache (see below)
cocoa nibs or crushed up coffee beans for sprinkling

Grease a 9×9″ baking dish with butter.  Dust with flour.  Or use that awesome flour spray.  Preheat oven to 350F.

Melt butter and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl at 30 second increments, stirring with a rubber spatula after each time, until smooth and melted.

Cream the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth, then add the cooled chocolate mixture and continue beating until incorporated.

In a small dish, mix the espresso powder with the hot water until dissolved.  Add it to the chocolate mixture and continue to beat until well combined.

Measure the flour and salt and then sift together directly into the batter.  Mix the batter gently until well combined.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 1 hour.  Make your ganache while the brownies cool.  After they cool, cut them into 16 squares and gently remove and place on a drying rack, or on sheets of waxed or parchment paper.

Dark Chocolate Ganache*
makes 1 cup of goodness from the heavens

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream

Over medium heat, place the heavy cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove the saucepan from the heat immediately after it has just started to boil.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and let them sit for a minute.  Then, with a rubber spatula, gently begin mixing the chocolate in tiny circles in the center of the bowl.  You will think it will never incorporate.  Keep mixing.  You will think your cream wasn’t hot enough.  Keep mixing.  Chocolate demands patience.  Then, just like magic, the chocolate will deepen its color instantly and you will only have a few more stirs, incorporating the sides and scooping down to the bottom of the bowl, to end up with one, big, glossy, gorgeous bowl of thick, dark chocolate ganache.  Take this and spread over the tops and sides of your cut brownies and sprinkle the tops of your brownies with the nibs or crushed beans and let it cool till the ganache firms up.

*both recipes adapted only very slightly from Fat Witch Brownies.  Go buy this book for someone for Christmas.

EAT! ENJOY!

Flourless Double Chocolate Cookies

Double Chocolate Flourless Cookies
I’m going to post about chocolate, again on Saturday, most likely.  Because a friend from Matt’s old job just paid us $25 to bake him something for their company Christmas party.  We thought it would be last Friday, so I made these flourless chocolate cookies.  You can win any gift exchange or White Elephant situation with chocolate.  Unfortunately (but fortunately) the party was cancelled due to ice and so I had to make a different chocolate indulgence today.  It was hard, but I got through it.

These cold days beckon rich, dark, warm chocolate.  One of my favorite things in the cooking world is the moment when you’re stirring hot cream into chocolate chips and you think it’s never going to melt the chocolate, but then suddenly, a rich pool of blackness forms in the center of the bowl and in about ten more seconds, the whole bowl is transformed into ganache.  This happened, today, as I was making the ganache to go on top of my little brownie creation (to be posted this weekend!) and I found myself grinning like an idiot.  Transforming something good into something even better is one of the perks of working with chocolate.  It never fails to please.

Like these little cookie gems!  Flourless, fudgy, dense, chewy and melty bits of chocolate throughout.  My one and only friend with celiac disease will be so happy 🙂 You’re welcome, Heather.  I can’t imagine a world without flour, but if I had to, these cookies would be repeat visitors to my kitchen, for sure.

Flourless Chocolate Cookies

Flourless Double Chocolate Cookies*

makes about 2 dozen
2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional but good
1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
3 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets. Stir together all of the ingredients till smooth. This is hard.  The batter gets so gluey, you will be certain you have made a mistake.  You haven’t.  Just keep stirring.  If I could do it over, again, I’d use a stand mixer. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and stir again till smooth.
Drop the batter-like dough onto the prepared baking sheets by heaping tablespoons.
Bake the cookies for 8 minutes; they should spread, although mine didn’t much, become somewhat shiny, and develop faintly crackly tops.

Remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool on the pan.

*recipe from King Arthur Flour

Sweet Potato Pie with Butter Rum Sauce

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Last weekend we were invited to our friends’ house for a dinner party.  The theme was Cajun and so Matt made a humongous pot of gumbo, which has been many meals this week and is very good, and I made this sweet potato pie that was obliterated by the end of the night and I sadly didn’t have any leftovers for breakfast.  I’m actually glad it got gobbled up because that’s instant portion control. I shared one slice of this pie with Olive, she ate most of it, and I enjoyed every bit.   I had a lady at church last night say, “I’d love to live in your house so that I could eat your food, but then I’d be 7,000 pounds.”  I’m not exactly sure this blog is conveying the truth if that’s the overall sentiment!   I’m also not sure I’m conveying properly the amounts of these foods I DON’T eat.  I made three batches of The Cinnamon Rolls over the course of two weeks and I think overall, I ate two whole cinnamon rolls, maybe three.  But it wasn’t a couple each batch, or “the whole pan” like a lot of people swear they’d eat if they made it themselves at home.  I don’t think people give themselves enough credit.  Of course you wouldn’t eat the whole pan.  How on earth would that be enjoyable to have a stomach ache because of something you baked?  Maybe that’s the whole problem with portion control with indulgent foods.  People get a feeling like they need to “eat the whole thing” to pretend like it never happened, to remove it from sight and further temptation.  They feel “bad” eating it in the first place and so why not eat it badly?!  Whatever the reason, it’s a wrong mindset.  And one I hope to never impose on Olive-that rich foods are somehow bad and we should feel guilty or gain 7,000 pounds for eating them on a weekly basis.

During the week, we eat simply.  Bowls full of beans, rice, sauteed chard and potatoes and steamed fish, beet pasta, roasted carrots, butternut squash soup-that was this week.  These do not make the most riveting blog posts, nor do I always remember to take pictures of “regular” meals.  Perhaps I should!  Maybe it would help balance out peoples’ fear of the occasional pie or butter sauce.  My hope for myself and anyone who loves to cook is that we find a good balance and that we effectively remove all GUILT from eating.  Find a way.  Whether that’s eating smaller portions or just meals made from fresh, good ingredients that couldn’t live in a box if they tried.  Maybe if that was the norm, and eating at home was what we did 6 days out of the week, than a crazy good, gooey brownie on the weekend or a night out at a restaurant would seem like the treat it is, instead of the impending portion of guilt that it’s come to be.

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This pie was light and fluffy almost like a souffle.  It wasn’t overly sweet and so it went AMAZINGLY well with the butter rum sauce I decided to make at the last minute.   I think it would be perfect without the sauce, but it was the gilding of the lily for a festive occasion like a dinner get-together.   I also adore the website I adapted this from – The Gumbo Pages!  That is the best website name, possibly ever.  And the recipe was clearly from someone who never had to write it down.  A lot of “approximate” measurements and “about this much” kinda talk.  I love the nature of a recipe like that.  And I love that this recipe came from someone with the nickname “Pie Man.”  Honestly, how can you go wrong with that combination?

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Sweet Potato Pie with Butter Rum Sauce
makes one, 9″ pie

3 cups cooked, peeled and mashed sweet potatoes (about 3 medium potatoes)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
dash of salt
1/2 cup sugar

Boil the potatoes whole in plenty of water (covering them by about two inches) for about 30 minutes, until tender all the way through.  Peel them after they’ve cooled a bit and give them a rough dice.  Mix the potatoes in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until they are smooth and very few lumps remain.  Mix the eggs with the cream and spices, lemon juice and vanilla until smooth and gradually mix it into the potatoes.  Add the salt and sugar and let the mixture blend on medium for about 5 minutes. Pour filling into UNbaked 9″ pie shell, bake for 40-45 minutes at 350-325.  Serve with butter rum sauce or whipped cream!

Butter Rum Sauce

1 stick of butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
a few pinches of kosher salt to taste
2 tbs rum

Let the butter melt with the cream and sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Add salt until it tastes right to you – let it take some of the sweetness away and give it some depth.  Add the rum and mix well and serve!