11 Jul 2017 Chocolate Cake, Mocha Filling & Coffee-with-Cream Frosting

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My daughter got married recently. I made the cake.  Three layer cakes (some of them double recipes), all with different fillings and frostings.  One cake was red velvet cake with cheesecake filling and a white chocolate Swiss buttercream frosting–because my grandson likes red velvet cake and the groom likes cheesecake.  Another cake was a wedding white cake with a tangy lemon filling and a lemon kissed Italian meringue frosting–because that’s what the bride wanted. The middle layer was a rich chocolate cake, with a mocha filling and a coffee-with-cream frosting–because that’s my favorite and I was making the cake, and I was the M-O-B, so I got to insist upon it!

I hope to get all the recipes for all the cakes posted, but let me start with this one, my current favorite special occasion cake: 3 layers of cake, 2 layers of mocha filling, and then all that is en robed in a coffee-with-cream frosting.  The recipe for the cake is an Ina Garten recipe from 2007 which was featured in Food and Wine magazine as “Double Chocolate Layer Cake” where I found it.  There is a frosting recipe included with Ina’s recipe, but I use a Ruth Cousineau recipe that ran in Gourmet Magazine in December of 2008 for “Coffee and Mocha Buttercreams”, which is a cooked meringue recipe, which is a whole lot of bother but tastes so much better than an American Buttercream, and makes two amazing variations. Using both variations, with this super rich chocolate cake (buttermilk and hot coffee in the batter) makes this cake a standout.

The cake is huge.  Cut thin slices (which is fine because the slices hold together very well). I had 10 people over for dinner last weekend, everyone had a decent sized piece of cake, and 5 people took a piece home, and I still and one-quarter of the cake leftover!  The picture above is from that one-quarter cake, and had been sitting in the refrigerator for three days before I decided to take a picture of it. Please note, my baked goods are better than my pictures!

Rich Chocolate Cake

  • 1 ¾ cups (8 oz/219g) all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s, it’s all that’s needed)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed, strong, hot coffee
  1. Make the coffee! Bring buttermilk and eggs to room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  3. Prepare 2 or 3 nine inch pans. (NOTE: original recipe called for two pans, I prefer three pans. It’s up to you.) Spray the pans with Pam for Baking, or spread with softened butter, or line with parchment paper. I line with parchment paper and then either lightly spray or lightly butter the parchment paper.
  4. Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
  5. Mix buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla in another bowl.
  6. With an electric mixer, add the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture, mixing just until all ingredients are blended.
  7. Slowly beat in the hot coffee, beating until all ingredients are fully incorporated.
  8. You will have about 6 cups of batter. Pour an equal amount of batter into each of the prepared pans.
  9. Bake the cakes at 350° F for 25 minutes for 3 layers (35 minutes for 2 layers), but don’t rely on time alone, check the cakes for before taking them out of the oven. The tops of the cakes should spring back when lightly pressed with a finger and the cake should be slightly pulling away from the sides of the pan.
  10. Remove from oven and let cakes cool in pans for about 30 minutes then invert onto cooling racks to cool completely.

Coffee-with-Cream and Mocha Buttercreams

  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • ¾ cup water
  • 6 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon instant-espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 sticks (1 ½ pounds) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon sized pieces and softened
  • 6 ounces fine-quality 60%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to lukewarm

Special Equipment needed: a candy thermometer; a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment

  1. Bring 1 ¾ cups sugar and water to a boil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals from side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil, without stirring, until it registers 220° to 225° F, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. At this point, while continuing to boil syrup, beat whites with espresso powder, vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt in mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add remaining ¼ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating, and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks.
  3. When syrup reaches soft-ball stage (238 to 242°F), immediately pour syrup in a slow stream down side of bowl into whites (avoid beaters) while beating at high speed. Beat until completely cool, 25 to 30 minutes. With mixer at medium speed, add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition (see cooks’ note, below) and until buttercream is smooth. (Mixture may look curdled before all butter is added but will come together at end.)
  4. Transfer 2 cups buttercream to a small bowl and stir in chocolate. If buttercream is too soft to spread, chill, stirring occasionally.

Notes:

  • If buttercream looks soupy after some butter is added, meringue is too warm: Chill bottom of bowl in an ice bath for a few seconds before continuing to beat in remaining butter.
  • Buttercreams can be made 1 week ahead and chilled or 1 month ahead and frozen. Bring to room temperature (do not use a microwave), about 2 hours, and beat with an electric mixer until spreadable.

Thank you for stopping by my kitchen today. I hope you make this cake and get rave reviews.  I know you will.  This cake is delicious!

24 Mar 2017 Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

 

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This recipe is from the back of the bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips (see picture below).  The cookie is fabulous.  It’s like a peanut butter cup in cookie form.

My daughter made these cookies for a “Back of the Box” themed Cookbook Club meeting.  She loves peanut butter.  She saw the chips.  She read the recipe on the back of the bag.  She made the cookies. Everyone swooned. End of story.

Well, not quite the end of the story because now I’m posting the recipe, as is, lifted right off the back of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Chip bag. You’ve just read the recipe and my swooning review. You are going to go out to get a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips. You are going to make the cookie. You and yours will swoon. You’ll go down as one of the best cookie bakers EVER!

End of story.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (natural baking powder-like Hershey’s, NOT Dutch processed cocoa powder)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 10 oz. pkg REESE’S Peanut Butter Chips – divided use
  • 1 1/4 cups butter (2-1/2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

  1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  3. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer until fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
  5. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well.
  6.  Stir in most of the  peanut butter chips. Hold out some peanut butter chips to decorate the tops of the cookies before baking.
  7. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased, preferably parchment lined, unrimmed cookie sheet. If desired, press 2, 3, or 4 peanut butter chips onto the top of each cookie.
  8. Bake 8 to 9 minutes. (Do not over bake; cookies will be soft. They will puff while baking and flatten while cooling.)
  9. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.
  10. Makes about 4 dozen cookies, but depends on the size of your cookie.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

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20 Mar 2017 B.O.B. Brownies

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Google “Back of the Box” recipes and you’ll get lists such as 10 Best Back-of-the-box recipes from Epicurious, or Buzz Feed or The Daily Meal.  Never 20 best back-of-the-box recipes or 100 best back-of-the-box recipes.  Nope. Just 10. Because there are only about 10 really good back-of-the-box recipes 🙂

In my (albeit, limited) experience, it seems most back-of-the-box recipes sound good but in reality are quite plain and quite bland.  There are 10 good ones though!  Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies, Philadelphia Cheesecake, Alber’s Cornbread, Rice Krispie Treats, Lipton Onion Dip jump to mind.  Pssst…! And now I have found another one! It’s on the back of the bag of Dutch Process cocoa powder that I purchased at Costco (brand name: Rodelle Organics).

These brownies are delicious, and just my type of brownie.  Everyone seems to have their own preferred brownie type, right? This is mine.  Slightly crunchy top, oh-so-chocolately flavor, dense-but not fudge, light-but not cakey.  These are just right!  AND, they’re easy-to-make, and one batch fills a 9×13 pan!  The brownies slice well, too. What more could one want?

B.O.B.* Brownies

*Back of Bag (Rodelle Organic Dutch Process Baking Cocoa, sold at Costco)

  • 1 cup plus 2 T. butter
  • 2 ¼ cups sugar
  • 5 eggs (yes, 5. I was shocked, too)
  • 1 ½ tsp. vanilla
  • ¾ cup plus 1 T. flour
  • ¾ cup plus 1 T. Dutch Process cocoa powder (no substitutions)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup chopped nuts (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.
  3. Melt butter and sugar in a heavy saucepan on very low heat.
  4. Let the mixture slightly cool and transfer to a large bowl. Beat well.
  5. Add eggs, gradually, mixing well.
  6. Add vanilla extract.
  7. Sift dry ingredients together.
  8. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture, stirring gently and minimally.
  9. Stir in chips and nuts.
  10. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake approximately 35 minutes. Do not overbake.
  11. Cool before cutting.
  12. Cut into squares and enjoy.
03 Mar 2017 Double Chocolate Marble Loaf

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Weekend Cake!  Isn’t that a delightful subcategory of dessert? According to Dorrie Greenspan it’s a French concept. Weekend Cake is good for anything from breakfast through late night snacking.  Weekend Cake travels well, is long lasting and is best if left to sit a day before eating.

This recipe for Double Chocolate Marble Loaf, a “weekend cake” is from her cookbook, “Baking Chez Moi” . I’ve never been much for Marble Cake, often finding it to be dry and muddled.  Not this one! It’s truly delicious.  I’ve only made the orange chocolate-white chocolate version, but I am dying to make the mocha-cardamom version and the chocolate-mint version.

Double Chocolate Marble Loaf

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (272 grams)
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1½ sticks (12 tablespoons or 6 ounces/170 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces best-quality white chocolate, melted and cooled (Lindt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange or peppermint oil (I used a bittersweet chocolate-orange chocolate bar, so no oil)
  • 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Pull out an insulated baking sheet or stack two regular baking sheets one on top of the other. Line the (top) baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, dust with flour and tap out the excess; set it on the baking sheet(s).
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.
  3. Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter on medium speed for 3 minutes, or until smooth. Add sugar and beat for another 2 to 3 minutes, scrape sides. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each one goes in. The batter may curdle, but you needn’t worry.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low and mix in the vanilla. Still on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing only until each addition is incorporated.
  5. Scrape half of the batter into another bowl. Using a flexible spatula, gently stir the white chocolate into half of the batter. If you’re using the orange oil, stir it in as well. Stir the dark chocolate into the other half of the batter.
  6. Using a spoon or scoop, drop dollops of the light and dark batters randomly into the prepared pan — don’t think too much about the pattern — and then plunge a table knife deep into the batter and zigzag it across the pan. It’s best to move forward and not to backtrack. Don’t overdo it — 6 to 8 zigzags should suffice.
  7. Bake the cake for 80 to 90 minutes, or until a tester inserted deep into the center comes out clean. (My cake was done in 70 minutes, and I might have taken it out 5 minutes sooner.) Check the cake at the halfway mark, turn it around and, if it’s getting too brown, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for 10 minutes, then unmold it, turn right side up on the rack and let come to room temperature.
  8. Storing: Wrapped well, the cake will keep at room temperature for up to 4 days. It can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost it in its wrapper.

Spiced Mocha Variation: add 1 tsp. ground cardamom into the white chocolate portion and 2 ½ tsp. instant coffee or espresso mixed with 1 T. hot water to the dark chocolate portion. Omit the orange oil.

Mint Chocolate Variation: stir ¼ tsp. peppermint oil into the white chocolate portion and use only regular semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate in the dark chocolate portion. Omit the orange oil.

24 Feb 2017 Italian Wedding Soup

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Italian Wedding Soup is easy to make, and is good as soon as it’s made (no need to sit overnight to intensify the flavors).  Not being Italian, I can’t claim this is just like my Nonna made. Nor can I claim to know the origin of the name, “Italian Wedding Soup”, but I did do a bit of Internet research.  Contrary to what some think, this soup is NOT served at Italian Weddings (although, because of it’s name, it is served at some Italian-American weddings in…Pennsylvania!).  Another theory is that the soup is a good “marriage” of ingredients, possibly green vegetables and meat. The most common story is the soup is easy enough for a new bride (or new groom) to make as one of their first home-cooked meals.  My non-Italian, non-traditional thought it that it’s great for a couple to make together.  One person could make the meatballs while the other makes the vegetable broth base.  Throw the vegetable broth and the meatballs together, simmer for a few minutes, and then sit down to enjoy a bowl or two of heart-warming Italian Wedding Soup.

This recipe is based upon one by Ina Garten, but I have changed Ina’s recipe somewhat.  The major change is I cook the meatballs in the broth, rather than bake them in the oven as Ina directs. I also make my meatballs out of ground beef instead of Ina’s ground chicken/ground chicken sausage combo.  I like a tastier meatball, and I think beef goes better with the Parmesan in the meatball than chicken does. I also added basil to the meatball. I don’t know why Ina forgot that!

I love soup. I can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. One tip, every time I make a pot of soup, I freeze one or two individual servings.  It’s wonderful to have a ready-made, wholesome bowl of soup in the freezer for those days when you are rushing from points A to Z with no time to spare.  A bowl of soup in the freezer can keep you away from those fast food places. Honest.

Now go on, try it…Italian Wedding Soup!

Italian Wedding Soup

For the soup base

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced carrots
  • 2 teaspoons dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (use more of the parsley in the meatballs)
  • 10-12 cups chicken broth (homemade is the best, of course)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup small pasta (orzo, tubetini, small stars, mini shells..)
  • 1 batch of meatballs (recipe below)
  • 12 oz. baby spinach, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • additional grated Parmesan, optional (for serving)

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pan.  Add the onion and saute until slightly caramelized, about 6 minutes.  Stir in chopped celery and saute for another 3 minutes. Stir in carrots, dill, parsley, chicken broth, and wine and bring to a boil. While soup is boiling, stir in pasta and meatballs.  Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Stir in chopped spinach and simmer for an additional 2 minutes.  Turn heat off. Taste broth.  Add salt and pepper as needed. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with additional grated Parmesan, if desired.

For the Meatballs

  • 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef (can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken, but the meatballs won’t taste as good!)
  • 2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs (2 slices of bread, crusts removed, whirled in food processor OR, in a pinch, stir in bought bread crumbs or Panko)
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed
  • minced garlic, to taste (1 or 2 cloves, minced OR 1/2 teaspoon garlic OR onion powder)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Place ground beef, breadcrumbs, basil, garlic, parsley, cheese, and desired amount of salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix lightly with a fork (don’t use hands because the resulting meatballs will be too dense).  In another bowl, combine the milk with the egg and beat lightly.  Stir the egg/milk mixture into the meat mixture, again, using your fork. When all ingredients are evenly distributed, use a small scoop or a tablespoon to portion meat and form into about 40 meatballs. Roll the scooped meat gently in palm of your hand to form into a ball. Use meatballs as directed above.

 

16 Feb 2017 Polly’s BBQ Sauce

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I’ve been glued to MSNBC since January 21. It hasn’t been good for me. I need a break. It’s time for me to post more recipes!

I’m starting with this BBQ sauce because I bought some country ribs on sale this morning, and oven BBQ’d ribs for dinner sound like a great idea on this rainy February day.

Homemade BBQ sauce is easy to make and it tastes so much better that the squeeze bottle of chemicals with a 2 year shelf life! Use it on anything. Chicken, Ribs, Burgers, Steak…

The original recipe for this BBQ sauce was from a newspaper column in the San Jose Mercury News in 2013, I modified it just a bit (bourbon!) and four years later it’s still my go-to BBQ sauce. You can dress this recipe up to suit yourself.  You’ll probably want more hot sauce, maybe some liquid smoke…you might even want to use beer or red wine in place of some of the coffee–but make the original first, then decide how you want to make it yours.

If it’s a rainy day where you are, and you are lucky enough to get country ribs on sale too, soak the ribs in BBQ sauce, and place the ribs in a large shallow pan. Cover with BBQ sauce. Cover the pan with foil. Bake at 400 degrees for approx. 1 1/2 hours.

My BBQ Sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups strong brewed coffee
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (or additional coffee)
  • 2 cups ketchup (yessss, I use ketchup…)
  • 1/4 cup favorite mustard
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (or honey)
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons cider or balsamic vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Lower heat.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Use immediately or refrigerate for up to a week.  Makes 4 cups BBQ sauce.