Thursday, January 29, 2009

Coffee-Cocoa Fudge Cake

"And above all, think Chocolate!"
- Betty Crocker

This has got to be one of my favorite cooking-with-chocolate resources of all time:

"The Best of Fine Cooking; Chocolate"

This book isn't really a book at all. It's just a magazine. About yea high:

But this magazine has the unique ability to make me salivate, even if I happen to be thumbing through it while eating a salami sandwich.
Not that that's ever happened or anything. I'm just sayin'. It could. If it wanted to.

It has everything a chocolate lover could possibly dream about:

Chocolate for Breakfast... (glad I'm not alone in that area:)...Cookies...

Brownies and bars... Cakes...

Mousses and Souffles (ok, to be honest, I haven't attempted either - YET)...and many kinds of toppings...

What I'm trying to say, using psycho-babble techniques, and a multitude of useless pictures is this: if you're a chocolaholic, acquire this magazine by any means necessary. Bodily force, if necessary.
You will thank me.
And you'll thank Fine Cooking.

What I'm also trying to say is this: the other night, after agonizing for a good 20 minutes over which recipe I should try from this magazine, I selected this one:

I wasn't real sure how it would turn out, especially since I pretty much dumped it all together like so much goulash.
But let me inform you - it turned out heavenly.

If you care to prepare this food of the angels, here's what you'll need:

10 TBS. very soft butter, or 1 stick plus 2 TBS, if you're a simple-minded baker like me.
White sugar...

2 eggs. At room temperature.
At this point, it was probably around 9:30, and after staring at the words ROOM TEMPERATURE for a few annoyed seconds, I decided to put the eggs in a bowlful of warm water until I was ready to use them. It would have to do.
And it did.
I never knew the difference.
Next, flour. Of the all-purpose variety.

unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)

And then a few of those pesky, unimportant ingredients;
baking soda
baking powder...
...And some good quality brewed coffee. Cooled to warm. -ish. Again with the time thing, I just let it sit in a bowl of icy water for a few seconds before I gradually added it in. And once again, no discernible adverse side affects.

So to begin, cream the very-soft butter together with the sugar.
While watching the mixer go round and round, and sneaking a fingerful or two, I pondered this deep thought: I wonder how much butter/sugar creamed mixture I've consumed through my entire life thus far.
And I concluded that it's probably somewhere in the pounds family. Yike.
I wonder, does kilograms sound any less repulsive?

No matter. What's done is done. My thighs may hate me (or vice-versa), but that's another point entirely.

Next, add those hastily water-warmed eggs, and cream until fluffy.

And now, let your eyes rest upon these two heinous words for a few seconds:

I realize there are more than two words...but I was referring to the two prominent ones. By hand.

I hadn't realized how spoiled I'd gotten with the Kitchen Aid mixer doing all the hard work for me. (Hard? I'm hearing some raised eyebrows. Yes, I can hear them.) But whatever. I like whisks. Whisks are cool.
And so came forth the whisk:

Whisk in the vanilla and salt.

Then sift all those dry ingredients right over the creamed mixture.

Before you mix that up, add the coffee, slowly, if you're a perfectionist cooking freak-o, and quickly if you're a chocolate craving non-perfectionist cooking freak-o.
Due to my freak-o status, (guess which one), I dumped it all in rather quickly, and had mixed it up before I even remembered to take a picture.

Looks yummy, no?
It looks yellow. But that's ok. I'm a picture-taking rookie.
Besides, it won't for long.

Pour it into your prepared pan...

...And then realize that it really wasn't your prepared pan. Not completely, anyway. You forgot to flour it. What's wrong with you?!!
Don't feel too bad, because apparently, the same thing's wrong with me.

So, since I just happened to have another identical pan, I just dumped the batter back into the bowl, prepared the other pan - and floured it this time - then poured the batter. Again.

And now bake at 350 for about 43 minutes. A little more, if you are able to abide by the directions and use a 9x9 in. pan. But I don't own one, so I had to use one a bit larger.

And now, as for that frosting...
I had to use a bit of imagination, because I didn't have the ingredients needed for the ganache that the recipe suggested (i.e., heavy cream). I can give you the ingredients I used for my frosting, but I'm afraid that's all. There was no measuring involved.
Besides, you'll probably want to use the ganache recipe, anyway. Because I bet it's good enough to melt your socks off. Or rot your teeth out, if you're a glass-is-half-empty type of person.
Nevertheless, here's what I dumped into a saucepan, melted together and drizzled over my cake:
chocolate chips
sweetened condensed milk
very strong coffee
creamer (half and half)

So there you have it. The texture of this cake is perfect: thick, but not too dense. Moist, but not wet. And the flavor is a perfect balance of coffee and chocolate.

Please, I beg you: make and enjoy!!!

Coffee-Cocoa Fudge Cake
10 Tbs. very soft unsalted butter; more for the pan
1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. table salt
1-1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pan
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 cups good-quality brewed coffee, cooled to warm

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter a 9-inch-square baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a square of parchment, butter the parchment, and then flour the bottom and sides of the pan. Tap out any excess flour.

2. If mixing by hand, put the softened butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Using a wooden spoon, cream them until smooth, about 1 minute. Switch to a whisk and blend in the eggs one at a time. Stir for another 30 seconds, until the batter is smooth and the sugar begins to dissolve. (If using a stand mixer, put the butter and sugar in the bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream until smooth, about 1 minute. Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing just until incorporated, about 20 seconds. Then switch to a whisk and blend in the rest of the ingredients by hand.)

3. Mix in the vanilla and salt. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder directly onto the batter. Pour in the coffee. Gently whisk the ingredients until the mixture is smooth and mostly free of lumps.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with only moist crumbs clinging to it, 40 to 43 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool for 20 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edges of the pan, invert the cake onto the rack, and remove the pan. Invert again onto another rack and let cool right side up until just warm.

8 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream; more as needed
Granulated sugar (optional)

1. Put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.
2. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk gently until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. (If using a 70% bittersweet chocolate, the ganche might be a bit thick; add more cream, a tablespoon at a time, to thin it. You might also want to add a couple of teaspoons of sugar when you add the hot cream.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Island Cookies

"A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand." - Unknown

My sweet tooth is a gruesome thing to behold.
A voracious monster.
A ravenous beast.
And I keep feeding it; It's the only polite thing to do. I know it's a habit I should work on curbing, but...well, to borrow the words of Mr. Schneebly...
"I like to eat! Is that such a crime?"

Besides, I occasionally jog, in an attempt to clear my butter and chocolate-strewn conscience.
Problem solved.
Now then, let's get down to business, shall we?

When my dad ate one of these, he firmly commanded that I throw away all other chocolate chip cookie recipes. And even though I don't think I'll be taking such drastic measures, these cookies are really, really good. I think they're in their own unique category of yummy-ness.

They come direct from the Nestle Toll House Cookbook!

First, you'll need flour...
1 and 2/3 cups of it.

Next, baking powder.
And since the writer of this recipe was apparently a precise and persnickety person, and since no one has invented a 3/4 of a tsp. measuring spoon yet, you must measure three 1/4 teaspoons.

Then baking soda, and salt.

Now 1 1/2 sticks of butter.
Yup. I cut that puppy right in half, paper and all ;)

As usual, I softened them in the microwave, 8 seconds at a time. Tsk, tsk. Feel free to do it the right way, and let them sit on the counter to soften.

Next up: brown sugar. And white sugar.

Cream the butter...

See that blue reflection on the silver part of the mixer?
That's my blue sweatshirt.
Which I have worn for...3 days(?) straight.
I'm a coldblooded creature of habit.

Now, add the brown and white sugar to the butter, slowly, so it has time to mix well.

Then dump in the vanilla.

Now I want you to prepare yourself. Because your are about to observe, step-by-step, while I crack an egg one-handed.
Please, at least pretend to be impressed.

(Name that movie!)

And voila! Perfectly cracked eggs. Don't feel bad. Not everyone was trained in the finest cooking schools Par-ee has to offer...


Anyway, it's not hard. Give it a try. It's all in the wrist :)

Phew, so once you get off of your egg-cracking tangent, hurry up with the rest of the mixing, because it's getting late, and your stomach is calling.

Once you mix in the egg, gradually blend in the flour mixture...

And now, for the ingredients that totally make these cookies...

Chocolate chips, coconut and chopped walnuts.

Mix them all in to the batter with a wooden spoon.
Or a yellow rubber spatula, if you really want to live on the edge.

Drop them by slightly rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet...

And bake at 375 for about 9 minutes. Or 10. Or maybe even 11. All depends on whether you like your cookie soft, or chewy, or crunchy. Personally, I'm somewhere between the first two, so I baked mine for about 9 minutes.

And there you have it! A unique twist on a classic cookie.

Island Cookies
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups (11.5-oz. pkg.) chocolate chips
1 cup flaked coconut, toasted if desired
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in small bowl.
2. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in egg.
3. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels, coconut and nuts.
4. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
5. Bake for 8 to 11 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hot Chocolate

This stuff is the bomb.
The bomb, I tell ya. And that is not a phrase I use lightly.
In fact, it's not a phrase I use at all. Ever. So you can pretty much believe me when I tell you that this hot chocolate is amazing. It is, in fact, the bomb.

Oh, and I thought I'd mention that it's fairly low in fat. Now, fat content is generally not something I give a lot of thought to. I mean, I don't cook healthy desserts. It's just not how I roll. But last night, I was pondering this, and I realized that one day, thanks to me, we are going to be a family of marshmallows. And Pillsbury Dough Boys. And that was a rather sobering thought.

So imagine my excitement when I realized that I could make this hot chocolate recipe without a lot of the fat. I just used what we had on hand to follow the recipe, and voila! Smooth, rich, creamy, and semi-healthy.
Can't beat that!

Before we begin, I would like to point out that we were ripped off. Snow was predicted last night. And it was supposed to stick. As in, accumulate. Well, when I heard that last night, I printed off about 10 hot chocolate recipes to try today. Actually, 7. But who's counting?
Anyway, I awoke this morning to cute little flurries flying around, which only stoked my cozy, make-hot-cocoa mood. After lunch, I was finally able to give it a whirl.
But alas - I looked out the window and this sight greeted me:

Uh - definitely not snow accumulation.
I was bummed.
But not so much so that I couldn't find it in me to make a little hot chocolate.

First, you'll need sweetened condensed milk. Normally, this would have made the recipe a bit fatty, but since we had the fat-free version on hand, I used that.

Mmm, Great Value brand, too. Class-eeee.

Next, some semi-sweet chocolate chips - 1/2 a cup, approximately. Or German sweet, if you wish to follow the original recipe. But who actually buys German sweet chocolate?
(My apologies to those of you out there who actually do buy German sweet chocolate.)

I realize that looks like 3/4 of a cup. It's the angle. Really. Cross my heart and kiss my elbow :)

The last thing you'll need, aside from some hot milk later on, is 2 cups of Cool Whip. Yup. Cool Whip. This really is a unique recipe.
But oh man...did I mention it was the bomb?
Oh yeah, I used Cool Whip Lite, which gave the boot to a few more of those pesky fat grams.

Melt the sweetened condensed milk and chocolate over low heat, stirring until everything's smooth and creamy and melty.

Please excuse the change of lighting:

Now, once the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth, you must...

I hate waiting. Have I mentioned that before?

Ah well, it can't be helped. Because the mixture has to get to room temperature.

Once it's at room temperature, fold in the whipped cream.

I think this looks kinda nifty:

So, once that's all blended and stirred and mixed and combined...

You can spoon about 1/4 cup of the chocolate mixture into a mug.
I just spooned a few globs in there. Taste and adjust. Those are the words I live by.

And then add some hot milk. Scalding, in my case, but that's beside the point. Just don't heat it so much that the disgusting membrane-like film forms on the top. Blech. Nothing worse than getting a glob of that in your creamy hot chocolate. I've done that before.
No more talk of membranes. I'm grossing myself out.

Stir it all up, and what do you get?
Delicious hot chocolate for a cold, snowy day. If you're lucky enough to have snow, that is.

Taste and see that the chocolate is good :)

Fabulous Hot Chocolate
1 (15 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 C. (4 ounces) German sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1 cup whipping cream, whipped or 2 cups Cool Whip
6 cups milk, heated

1. In a saucepan, mix condensed milk and chocolate pieces.
2. Stir constantly over low heat until chocolate melts.
3. Cool to room Temperature.
4. Fold in the whipped cream.
5. Use now, or store covered in the fridge for up to one week.
6. To make the hot chocolate spoon a 1/4 cup of chocolate mix into a mug, add 1/2 cup of hot milk, stir and enjoy.

Happy Cooking!