Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fall starts today

Fall is official in my house. It always starts with the football season beginning (last week) and then the Halloween candy appears in the grocery stores. But it's not OFFICIAL in my house until I haul out the tubs of Halloween decorations, light up my favorite fall spice candle and bake something with pumpkin. Today, it has arrived.

These are the pumpkin swirl brownies from Martha Stewart and they sounded so damn easy, how could I pass them up? I was also assured the pumpkin & chocolate flavors meshed well by my last chocopumpkin attempt with muffins. There would be a big difference between the two, but I'll get to that in a second.

I had to adjust the baking time because I didn't have a 9" square pan, but an 8"; it took an added 20 minutes and it was only just coming out with the toothpick clean. I also didn't add any nuts as the original recipe suggests sprinkling on top and now I wish I had. I think walnuts would've been perfect. My instinct to omit them was completely wrong.

Now, the difference from these brownies and the muffins: the thing about the muffins was, it was all pumpkin then lovely little bits of chocolate chips. In these brownies, there is equal amounts of pumpkin and chocolate and, to be honest, the chocolate kind of takes over. It's like they stepped into the ring and the pumpkin got KO'ed. However, the batter doesn't mix completely (as you can see from the layers), so you can taste them separately. The cayenne, especially, is noticeable in the pumpkin layers (and it's the tiniest bite but it's good!)

These were good but I kind of want a big pumpkin flavor when I make something with it. My pumpkin craving wasn't satisfied at all from this so I'm definitely looking for what's next!

Source: Martha Stewart

Makes 16

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Optional: 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts or other nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan or dish. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter lining.

Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until fluffy and well combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture.

Divide batter between two medium bowls (about 2 cups per bowl). Stir chocolate mixture into one bowl. In other bowl, stir in pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Transfer half of chocolate batter to prepared pan smoothing top with a rubber spatula. Top with half of pumpkin batter. Repeat to make one more chocolate layer and one more pumpkin layer. Work quickly so batters don't set.

With a small spatula or a table knife, gently swirl the two batters to create a marbled effect.

Bake until set, 40 to 55 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chocolate & Raspberry always works

I saw the movie Hot Fuzz the other day and while it was awesome, one moment stuck out: Nick Frost's character was munching away on a chocolate cake with some sort of red filling. I was asked to make a cake for my friend's birthday and that's the first thing I proposed.

This was another one of those collecting pieces of recipes from all over to create something. I get nervous when I do this; it feels like creating a Frankenstein monster. Who knows if it'll be okay or such a disaster, the townsfolk start gathering their pitchforks. Thankfully, it was the former.

I went with the trusty Ina Garten but, more importantly, a chocolate cake she'd featured in her show from a "Beatty", that had unheard-of positive reviews. 5 stars, almost across the board. And I could very well go to Food and add my own rave review because this cake was phenomenal. It was moist but not too dense, perfectly chocolately without being overpowering. Absolutely terrific.

Now, for the red filling, I had to start scouring the web in search of what existed in my mind but which I wasn't sure I'd seen materialized outside of a Simon Pegg movie. A few came up that never sounded exactly right but then I finally stumbled on a straightforward Raspberry Filling recipe from, strangely enough. I'd never used any of their recipes before but this appeared so easy and I was going for a simple taste that wouldn't complicate the cake. It came out exactly as I'd hoped, thickened by the corn starch and tart but still sweet and seriously hard to stop eating.

To even out the tartness of the raspberry filling and the richness of the chocolate, I added a layer of whipped cream. Chocolate ganache topped it off and voila! Chocolate raspberry cake! It was a hit with the birthday girl and my family. I was honestly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It took some time to prepare all the components but it was absolutely worth it!

Source: Ina Garten

Butter, for greasing the pans

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Chocolate Ganache (recipe follows)
Raspberry Filling (recipe follows)
Whipped cream (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Assemble the bottom of the cake, flat side up, with a layer of raspberry filling then whipped cream (recipes follow). Set top cake layer on the filling layers. Refrigerate to set filling layers to cakes.

Make chocolate ganache then let come to room temperature. You may need to let it sit in the fridge as well (continue stirring every five minutes or so to allow to chill evenly). When it is a thick, spreading consistency, spread evenly over cake. It will be a thin layer (ganache is dense and strong) so it is easiest to pour all ganache in the center and slowly work out and down the sides with a flat spatula.

Serve soon or refrigerate if storing. Whipped cream will not keep long.

Adapted from:

1 pkg (16 ounces) frozen raspberries packed in sugar thawed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Makes: Filling serves 2 cups.

Drain raspberries, reserving liquid. Add enough water to liquid to equal 1 1/4 cups.

In large saucepan, combine liquid, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice; mix well. Heat and stir until mixture boils and thickens. Cool completely.


1/2 cup heavy cream, well chilled
1 tbsp confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Place a mixing bowl and beaters from electric mixer in the freezer or refrigerator until well chilled, about 15 minutes.

Combine the heavy cream, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla extract in the mixing bowl.

With an electric mixer on low speed, begin beating the cream, gradually increasing the speed to high as cream thickens. (Do this slowly, or the cream will splatter.)

Beat until the cream is thickened, past soft peaks. It should have some structure so it can stand on its own as a layer under the top of the cake.

Source: Ina Garten

1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.