Sunday, July 29, 2007

Flourless Chocolate Cake... (aux framboises?)

Whoops; I just discovered Blogger had some weird setting locking down comments previously. Long story short, they're open now for everyone. :)

So, maybe I bit off a little more than I could chew which is funny (but not really) being written in a food blog. Nevertheless. It all started with raspberries...

I found a good amount on sale at the grocery store and grabbed them promptly (sale!). When I got home, however, I realized I had no idea what to do with them. I racked my brain, trying to come up with something to make. It was quickly becoming a crummy week (therefore I wasn't in the mood for pink, happy, light and fluffy cupcakes) so something darker was definitely on my mind. The very first thing I thought of was a dark, smooth chocolate cake with the raspberries as a sweet and tangy sauce to contrast with the full chocolate flavor. I found exactly what I was looking for in The Best Recipe book in the Ultimate Flourless Chocolate Cake; described as a "dense, buttery" dessert with a creamy texture. Perfect.

The ingredients are deceptively simple. I guess it's that way to offset the intense preparation of the cake itself. Water baths, exact timing, careful extraction. All problems I simply never had with plain ol' cupcakes. But the cake part was, uh... cake compared to the sauces and I had decided were to accompany the dessert.

The raspberry was also way too much work (blending sugar to make it superfine, straining the overdone mix) and the recipe was annoyingly vague. If I were to try it again (unlikely), I would definitely trust my instincts and let it cook much less (a minute, maybe); just enough to let the sugar dissolve and marry with the raspberry juice. I let it cook too long, too much of the water cooked out and it was way too thick. In retrospect, I may have been able to add hot water and return it to the stove to dilute more juice from the pulpy leftovers but I didn't think of it at the time. Live and learn.

The Vanilla Custard Sauce was not what I was looking for but ended up tasting fine all the same. I'd never made a custard-y anything before so the prospect of adding warm cream to egg yolks was terrifying (ew, cooked egg!). It was a chore but the result was satisfactory. Although, again, I would hesitate when faced with making it once more. So much stress.

I will say this, however: the vanilla sauce definitely compliments the thick chocolatey "cake" and the cake is a bit overwhelming without SOMETHING to accompany it. Fresh berries would work well in contrast, especially strawberries. Ignore the pictures; I would drown the cake in the vanilla sauce. (It just wasn't as pretty.)

This really is exactly what I had in mind when I concocted this little (week-long-stress-a-thon) dessert but it was so involved, I don't see myself attempting fancy schmancy dishes like it often. I took a stab, it came out right (exhale) and now I'll return to our regularly scheduled program of comfort food like cakes and cookies.

(From The Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated)

Serves 12 to 16

8 large eggs, cold
1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

(1/4 cup strong coffee or liqueur optional)

Confectioners' sugar or cocoa powder for decoration

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line bottom of 8-inch springform pan with parchment and grease pan sides. Cover pan underneath and along sides with sheet of heavy-duty foil and set in large roasting pan. Bring kettle of water to boil.

2. Beat eggs with handheld mixer at high speed until volume doubles to approximately 1 quart, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, beat in bowl of electric mixer fitted with wire whip attachment at medium speed to achieve same result, about 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, melt chocolate and butter (adding coffee or liqueur, if using) in large heatproof bowl set over pan of almost simmering water, until smooth and very warm (about 115 degrees on an instant read thermometer), stirring once or twice. (For microwave, melt chocolate at 50 percent power for 2 minutes, stir, add butter, and continue heating at 50 percent power, stirring every minute, until chocolate and butter have melted and are smooth, another 2 to 3 minutes total.) Fold 1/3 of egg foam into chocolate mixture using large rubber spatula until only a few streaks of egg are visible; fold in half of remaining foam, then last of remaining foam until mixture is totally homogenous.

4. Scrape batter into prepared springform pan and smooth surface with rubber spatula. Set roasting pan on oven rack and pour in enough boiling water to come about halfway up side of springform pan. Bake until cake has risen slightly, edges are just beginning to set, a thin glazed crust (like a brownie) has formed on surface, and an instant-read thermometer inserted halfway through center of cake registers 140 degrees, 22 to 25 minutes. Remove cake pan from water bath and set on wire rack; cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight to mellow (can be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days).

5. About 30 minutes before serving, remove springform pan sides, invert cake on sheet of waxed paper, peel off parchment pan liner, and turn cake right side up on serving platter. Sieve light sprinkling of confectioners' sugar or unsweetened cocoa powder over cake to decorate, if desired.

From Bon Appetit 1992 Yearbook

1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar

1. Place cream in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean; add pod. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour to let flavors marry.

2. Whisk yolks and sugar in medium bowl to blend. Bring cream mixture to simmer over medium-low heat. Gradually whisk hot cream into yolks.

3. Return mixture to saucepan and stir until the custard thickens and coats spoon (about 4 minutes). Do not boil. Strain into bowl. Cover and chill.

Makes 1 cup.

I was not impressed with the raspberry sauce but it does offer a sharp contrast to the smooth chocolate and vanilla so I do recommend some fruit sauce or fresh fruit to accompany the dessert, ultimately.


1-1/2 cups raspberries
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 vanilla bean

1. Put the raspberries and the sugar in a saucepan. Place the pan over med-high heat and bring to a boil.

2. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. When the raspberries have released some liquid, add the vanilla.

3. Cook, stirring and mashing the berries, until it is reduced by about 1/3.

4. Strain the raspberries through a strainer, pushing on the pulp.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Madeleines sont jollies

I got a Madeleine pan years ago. It sat in my cupboard and got lonely. I'm sure it's pining sonnets to me were lovely but I ignored it. And then? I wanted a slight interlude between cupcake flavors but still have the baking itch and there was the recipe.

This was from the Martha Stewart website so I was hesitant (I've had hits and misses with her stuff, to be honest). The end result was quite lovely, though. Light and sweet, just cake enough to melt in your mouth. I did put a little too much in the pans (not knowing how it would spread or rise being my first go at them) so they browned a little more than I would've liked but they taste perfectly fine. The lemon rind completely makes the cookie, though, with just the right hint of flavor.


Madeleines are best the day they are made.


10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1/2 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
Pinch of table salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Confectioners sugar, for dustin

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Butter and lightly flour Madeleine pan. In medium bowl, whisk both flours and salt together. In bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat eggs and sugar together. Add vanilla and lemon zest, then flour mixture; beat until just combined. On low speed, pour in melted butter in a steady stream; mix until incorporated.

2. Spoon rounded tablespoon batter into each form. Bake 5 minutes; reduce oven to 350°; bake until golden, 8 to 10 minutes more. Turn over immediately onto cooling screen.

Dust with confectioners sugar, and serve.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Chocolate Cupcakes Pwned.

I'm on a mission. A quest, if you will, to find excellent recipes for each and every cupcake flavor I fancy. There's a list. #1 was Vanilla and that was done. #2 was Chocolate. For some reason, chocolate hates me and the feeling (in the form of cake substance) is mutual. Each batch seemed wrought with new problems that just didn't coincide with the user reviews or other positive backing each recipe had.

Eventually (the fourth try), I finally found it. The recipe is one I found on another food blog as the author modified an existing recipe with her own adjustments. It came out wonderful! Chocolatey but still light and soft! Just what I expect from a cake.

I started with chocolate buttercream icings (the second row you can see I went a little overboard with the mixing and got a way too airy result) but I realized quickly I was in search of a more fudgy, thicker frosting. The best tasting one I found is a modified version of the Chocolate Frosting I which was not too sweet and just the right consistency (when adding about 2 extra tbsps of milk).

And now chocolate is done. \o/ I'm going to go collapse now.

(Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home)

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

(Adapted from Chocolate Frosting I by Tianne)

1/4 cup margarine, melted
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners' sugar

1. In a large bowl, beat margarine and cocoa together until combined. Add milk and vanilla; beat until smooth. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until desired consistency is achieved. Adjust with more milk or confectioners' sugar if necessary.

Vanilla Cupcakes: The Best Recipe

Man, CI wasn't kidding when they found The Best Recipe. I loved how the Magnolia cupcakes looked but to be perfectly honest, they didn't blow my skirt up. I just knew there had to be a better cake out there and with one final attempt on vanilla, I tried the one from my favorite recipe book (okay, only [legit] recipe book). These cakes came out so light and moist and completely melt-in-your-mouth quality. This is absolutely the best cake I've ever made.

I even lacked almond extract and so I added an extra tablespoon of vanilla (as opposed to the 1 called for) and it was delicious. The recipe in CI's book is for a white cake with raspberry-almond filling so the extract would certainly compliment the cake, no doubt, but that was not my intent. Simple vanilla was more than enough!

Source: The Best Recipe, Cook's Illustrated

1 cu milk (room temperature)
3/4 cu egg whites (about 6 large or 5 extra large), room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups plain cake flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease two 9 by 1 1/2-inch or 2-inch round cake pans with vegetable shortening and cover pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper or wax paper. Grease parchment rounds, dust cake pans with flour and tap out excess. (Skip this and just throw some cupcake liners into a pan and you're set.)

2. Pour milk, egg whites and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.

3. Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery ingredients remaining.

4. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.

5. Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until cake needle or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. (Adjust lesser for cupcakes, around 17-20 minutes.)

6. Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto greased cake racks. Reinvert onto additional greased racks. Let cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.

Adapted from Magnolia's Buttercream

Makes enough for one 2-layer 9-inch cake or 2 dozen cupcakes

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

6 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/3 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Vanilla Cupcakes + Pink = Happiness

So here it is: a food journal! Naturally, the first post had to be cupcakes.

These are Magnolia's Vanilla Cupcakes that always seem to turn out okay when they're fresh but turn a bit dry and crumbly very quickly afterwards. I'm still trying to figure out if it's the extra cooling time in the pan (15 minutes the recipe calls for) that dries them out.

In any event, they come out looking rather lovely.