Friday, December 12, 2008

contemporary german chocolate cake

If you love chocolate and caramel and pecans and coconut, well then have I got the dessert for you...and it has Dr. Pepper in it, which is my husband's favorite. It is an amazing cake from one of my absolute favorite books Sky High. So amazing that I will in fact confess I threw the last bit of it away while my husband was at work because I was too tempted to eat it. I know...I am crazy because I also contemplated eating it out of the trash for a few seconds. (I promise I didn't). But, I sometimes lack all self control in the dessert area as well as not being able to afford a new wardrobe...
So, this is not a cake that you can just whip up in no time. The icing itself takes over two hours with cooling time. But, believe me, its so worth it. The only thing that makes this cake better is the fact that we made homemade French vanilla ice cream to go with it.

Just a side note-since the icing takes so long to cool, you probably want to make it first.

chocolate cola cake
Courtesy of Sky High

1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped coarsely
2/3 cup buttermilk
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
2 3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup Dr Pepper
Pinch of kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 9 inch round cake pans or use cooking spray if you prefer. Line the bottom of each pan with a piece of parchment paper (this will make things so much easier).

2. Combine the chocolate and buttermilk in a double broiler. Heat, stirring often, until the chocolate melts. This takes 5-7 minutes usually. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth. Note: Do not let the buttermilk come to a near boil because you do not want it to curdle!

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs and then beat in the oil and vanilla. Gradually whisk in the sugar until well blended. Stir in the melted chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth and completely combined.

4. In another bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. In 2 to 3 alternating additions, add the dry ingredients and cola to the chocolate mixture. Remember to beat well in between each addition.

5. Divide the batter among the three cake pans and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before you let them cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. Now, you can work on the icing if you haven't made it yet.

toasted coconut -pecan frosting

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut (plus more for the top if you want)
1 cup chopped pecans (about 4 ounces)
2-14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. On two large baking sheet, spread out your coconut and pecans to toast for about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn your coconut once or twice; it is done when it is lightly browned and your nuts will be fragrant. Transfer to a dish to let cool and do not turn your oven off.

2. Pour the condensed milk into a heatproof glass baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Set this in a roasting pan or any baking dish that is large enough for the smaller one to fit in. Fill the larger dish with enough hot water to reach about halfway up the side of the smaller baking dish.

3. Bake for 2 hours, stirring once or twice, until the milk turns a light caramel color. When you check your milk, make sure you are careful because there could be lots of steam! The same goes for when you take it out of the oven and remove the foil.

4. Transfer the caramelized milk to a bowl and whisk until smooth. Stir in the toasted coconut and toasted pecans. Let this cool slightly at room temperature. Then, cover with plastic wrap (the Press and Seal kind works great here). Refrigerate until cool but not set (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours).

Finally, if you are still with me, it is time to assemble the cake. Place one of your cakes (flat side up) on a plate or cake stand. Put about 3/4 cup of the icing on top and spread it out. Then, add your next layer and icing, and then the top layer. Spread the remaining icing on the top and allow the icing to drip down the sides. This is the amazing part of this cake. It practically decorates itself, and you do not have to stress about getting your cakes level and icing smooth.

This is the hard must refrigerate the cake for 1 hour uncovered so the frosting sets. Do not sneak have waited this long! Once its set, cover it until ready to serve. This keeps the moisture in and prevents the icing from getting a crust on the outside.

And, share your cake with lots of people...unless you are planning on getting a new wardrobe.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pizza, Mint, & Triple the Christmas

We actually decided to wait until AFTER Thanksgiving this year to put up the Christmas tree. Well, I guess we did not so much decide to wait, but we were forced to wait due to lack of time! Otherwise, I would have had them up 3 weeks ago probably :)

Since this can be a long process and is one that needs to be celebrated, I had to fix a good dinner and of course dessert! My mom came up and spent a few days with me so she was able to be here for all the fun and the tree stand drama! But, we got it all taken care of and all three trees are up (yes, we have 3 trees in our 2 bedroom apartment!). What can I say, we love decorating for Christmas.

For dinner, I made homemade individual pizzas since my husband, mom, and I all like different toppings. I decided to try a new pizza crust recipe, and I absolutely LOVE it. It tastes so good...soft on the inside and slightly crunchy on the outside. You must try this. I am already planning on making it again later this week and using some extra dough to make bread sticks! Trust me on this, this recipe is worth the extra time and effort.

Basic Pizza Dough
Adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus additional for rolling out dough)
2 teaspoons kosher salt (again, do not use iodized salt)
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated pepper
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (plus some additional for coating the bowl)

In a large bowl, combine the yeast and warm water. Stir to dissolve the yeast then allow the mixture to sit and rest for 5 minutes.

Next, sift about half of the flour over the yeast mixture and blend until smooth with your hands. This is a very messy process, and this is something as a child you would have loved to do. But, it is not so enjoyable as an adult for some. I personally channeled my inner child for this step and enjoyed it :)

Add the salt, pepper and honey and mix to blend (again with your hands). Sift in the remaining flour and mix until all combined. Lightly flour the surface you are working on. Place the pizza dough onto the floured area and knead for 3 to 5 minutes. The flour should feel smooth and the ingredients fully integrated.
Place the dough inside a lightly oiled large bowl-make sure the dough is completely covered in oil so that it does not develop a hard film on it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place, about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in volume. Mine did not take this long-it only took about 45 minutes, but be prepared just in case.

Press gently on the dough to indent it and place it back onto the floured surface. Divide the dough into the number of pizzas you want to make or keep it into one large ball if you want a large pizza. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow the dough to rest for an additional 15 minutes. I omitted this step because we were starving at this point, but next time, I am going to see if it makes any difference.
Roll out your dough and add your toppings...using fresh mozzarella really makes a huge difference that no cheese can compete with. If you are going to go through all this effort, please use quality cheese. And, by the way, sorry there are no pictures to accompany this recipe, but we were famished and devoured our pizzas before the thought of even taking a picture crossed my mind. You will have to wait until next time...

For dessert, it was all about mint and chocolate! I had taken my mom to Frasier's Gourmet Foods for the first time, and I fell in love with the miniature multi-colored chocolate cups. As soon as I saw them, I knew I had to have them and use them that night. So, I got three of them. I was already planning a chocolate mousse or something unique to put in them. However, because we were out fighting crowds shopping the day after Thanksgiving, time got away from me so I had to do something less time consuming. We then went to one of my favorite grocery stores Trader Joe's to pick up shrimp for my pizza only to discover that they had langostino tails as well, which I had to try. While we were there, as I always do, we visited the sample section where they had mint hot cocoa. One sip and I was sold. I knew I had to have it that night. I had been craving hot cocoa for a few weeks, and I knew this would more than do the job. Since I still needed something quick to add to my adorable chocolate cups, my mom suggested using mint chocolate chip ice cream, which was a genius idea. Trader Joe's has really good ice cream too. So, I made my purchases along with some other impulse buys and we headed home and finished our meal with this quick and aesthetically pleasing dessert...

Putting up the Christmas decorations definitely was not anything that we complained about after eating all of this food. The only problem was that we were so full we were ready to take a nap!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

happy turkey day

Happy Thanksgiving everyone...I hope that everyone had an enjoyable day and are not too stuffed. I am very thankful for many things including my husband and family. I have been busy lately and have had my in-laws visiting from out of town, but I promise I will be posting much more soon.

This is one of the cupcakes I made for dinner at my parent's house. They all love toasted coconut cupcakes so I have to find a way to create a cupcake that matches the holiday and has toasted coconut on it. Not too difficult for some holidays, but others this can be a huge challenge!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Banana Walnut Oat Muffins

So, I found myself left with the dilemma that many people have. You go to the store and are lured into buying bananas thinking that you will use them. But, we all know what never finish them all. So, the once soft yellow color is soon taken over by dark brown spots, the banana turns to mush, and the dreadful fruit flys arrive. Well, do you throw them away or use them for something? I personally hate wasting food. I cannot stand to just throw stuff away (ok, unless it is completely rotten, moldy, etc.). I must have got this from my mother, whose pantry and refrigerator is overflowing with containers of barely filled bottles and bags of crumbs. And, yes, I can admit that I am honestly like my mother in some ways :) There are some great things that you can do with the bottom of the jar contents and the crumbs, but we will get to more of that later...

Now, back to the bananas. I decided to contrive a banana nut muffin recipe that I actually liked. I am not a fan of muffins and especially not banana muffins so I knew I had a daunting task ahead of me. However, after sending them with my husband to work and his boss flipping out that they were the best muffins he had ever tasted, I think I may have succeeded in creating a banana muffin that is worth making again...which is why I now purposely try and scout out the old bruised mushy bananas every time I go to the grocery store.

This recipe is very easy to make and offers wiggle room to make them your own. You can switch up the nuts that you use or you can eliminate them completely if you prefer. I find though that it adds to the element of taste and provides a good contrasting texture in the muffin. I am telling you people that these muffins are big...they overflow and create a very cute look to a muffin. You could very well make smaller muffins and get more, but then people would feel guilty for having to eat two :)

Oatmeal Crumb Topped Banana Walnut Muffins

Ingredients for muffin:
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 tsp kosher salt-using iodized salt can impart a slight mineral taste in your baked goods
4 very ripe bananas (mashed)
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg (lightly beaten)
1/3 cup unsalted butter (melted) not use margarine because you will alter the moistness and richness of the flavor butter provides
1/2 cup crushed walnut pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup oats

Ingredients for topping:
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped walnut pieces
dash of kosher salt
1/2 cup of oats

Preheat the over to 375 degrees. To make the muffin part, you combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl mixing to make sure they are incorporated. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas. You can keep some lumps if you like, but make sure the majority of the bananas are smashed up good. Then, add the sugar, beaten egg, and melted butter to the mashed bananas. Next, add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients and stir by hand (don't be lazy people!) until moistened. The mixture can then be divided into 12 muffins, and they are around 3/4 of the way full. This is where if you wanted to make smaller muffins you could make 15-16 filling them less full.
To make the topping, combine the brown sugar, cold butter, cinnamon, oats, and dash of salt in a small bowl. Mix this with your hands (yes, it is much easier to do this with your fingers as opposed to a utensil). Plus, this way it is more fun. Once this is a crumbly consistency, add the walnuts and mix again. Put plenty of topping onto the muffins-you will thank me later.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. If you are making smaller muffins, you will obviously bake them much less. When they are done, cool in the pan before removing.

Update* I made these with pecans and they are just as good. You can add more nuts or oats to the muffin batter or topping to match your preference.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

here's to new beginnings...

well, i must say, i have come to love all things food. my newest quest through the world of food blogs has inspired me to start one myself. i have no idea if anyone will even read this, but frankly, that is ok with me (but, really, it would be nice to have a few people out there that actually humor me by reading).

i guess i should introduce myself for those who do not know me. i love to bake more than almost anything (yes, even shopping)-those who know me will be highly surprised by this new confession. i also love to cook. i like to try all sorts of new things, and as we speak, the number of recipes i have marked to make and try almost out number the amount of shoes i own, emphasis on the almost. (this is again going to shock many). anyway, back to more about me...i am 27 years old, and i am married to the most amazing man ever. we have been married for about over a year now. i started out in med school, but then decided to pursue a new direction. i was in culinary school for a short time, but i had to quit because of my job. however, i am happy to say that just today, i met with the admissions office, and i am all set to start up again. granted, i will be taking one or two classes at a time, but i am just thrilled to start back up.

well, i hope that you enjoy my creations, messes and successes along the way. i am going to include many things on this blog... my take on recipes, my favorite things i make, the best cookbooks and kitchen utensils/gadgets (atleast in my opinion), and whatever else you would like. feel free to let me know if there is something you would like me to make that you are not bold enough to try or just have not had the time to, and i will do my best.