Sunday, September 30, 2012

Simple Chocolate Fondue

Late-night treat sessions with best friends are one of the greatest ways to spend a weekend night. Last night, I had two friends over for a night of takeout and romantic comedies (I know, crazy partying right there). At around 11, we decided to pause our movie and make this simple but delicious dessert.
 This chocolate fondue is one of the easiest yet most indulgent treats to make on whim. Cream, vanilla, and the chocolate of your choice are melted together to create this perfect dip for any sweet bite-sized snack. We used strawberries and mini marshmallows, and once we were out of those (although this doesn't look like all that much fondue, it is so rich that we only ended up eating about half of it, and trust me, we ate a lot of fondue), we tried dipping some frozen fruit, too.
 I actually have a fondue pan, but wasn't able to find it and didn't feel like searching the house at 11 o'clock, so I just made this in a saucepan. We ate it pretty quickly, so there was no need to keep it warm for a long time, but if you are serving this at a party where people will be eating it gradually, you may need to reheat it.
Chocolate fondue is the perfect late-night, date-night, family get-together, or hey, breakfast, indulgence, and this one is so simple, you can have it ready in five minutes. Enjoy!
 Simple Chocolate Fondue
(slightly adapted from Simply Recipes)

1 cup heavy cream
12 oz. chocolate of your choice, chopped, or chocolate chips (use good quality, as you will really be able to taste it)
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
bite-sized snacks for dipping, such as marshmallows or fresh fruit (frozen strawberries are good too!)

Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat.
Stir in the chocolate, salt, and vanilla. Stir over high heat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is creamy. 
Pour into a bowl and serve with bite-sized snacks on wooden or metal skewers for dipping.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fluffy Double Chocolate Buttercream

 Although I don't think I've ever talked about it here, I kind of have my own "business." It's not huge or fancy, but I love making cakes for other people. My customers are mostly my parents friends, with a few of my own here and there. The reason I haven't mentioned it before is just that when I'm being payed to make a dessert for somebody's party, that's not exactly the best time to try out new recipes. Better to stick to the tested, old favorites.
swirly little swirls
 This weekend, I was hired to make a cake for a little boy's first birthday. Happy birthday Sam! I made my favorite moist yellow cake recipe, but the only request for frosting was to make it chocolatey. The recipe I usually use is this one, but I wanted something creamier and fluffier. And this little creation was born.
 This recipe is actually quite similar to the one I used to use- I basically just added some more chocolate and beat it for longer to make it so fluffy, I wanted to eat it straight out of the bowl. Somehow, those two little changes made quite the big difference. And by the way, that's not to say that I didn't eat a few spoonfuls out of the piping bag once I was done making those little swirls...
a cake for the family, and a cupcake for the birthday boy to smash :)
 The chocolate flavor really comes through, and this frosting is perfect for any flavor of cake you can think up. A spicy ginger cake for the holidays, tall, dark, chocolatey layers, or my favorite (and the birthday boy's parents'), classic yellow vanilla. This is so easy to spread, but still firm enough to pipe without a problem. I used a star tip for the swirls on the cake above, but feel free to decorate as you wish. Enjoy!
happy 1st birthday!

Fluffy Double Chocolate Buttercream
(adapted from Savory Sweet Life)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate, melted and cooled

Beat the butter with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 
Beat in the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and salt. (At this point, I removed about 1/4 cup of frosting to use for the white letters.)
Add in the cocoa powder, and beat for about 3 minutes, until smooth and airy. Beat in the melted dark chocolate. Decorate as desired.
     -makes enough to generously frost and fill one 9" 2-layer cake

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall Spice Pumpkin Bread

 I'm back to new baking, and I'm loving it. I was so sick of endless breads and repeating the same recipes over and over, but yesterday I decided to get into all the fall baking. I recently realized that although I love it and tend to pay far too much for it at coffee shops, I've never made my own pumpkin bread. This had to be fixed!
Pumpkin bread is one of those "breads" that are really quickbreads, like banana bread- basically an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. Hey, I'm not complaining.
I went straight to this recipe on Allrecipes, which is basically the food blogger's go-to pumpkin bread- it has thousands of great reviews. Be warned, this makes a LOT of pumpkin bread. It's supposed to make three small-ish loaves, but I baked it all in one big tube pan, and ended up cutting slices in half. No matter how big the slices were, I was so glad I made this bread. It is delicious- so moist but fluffy at the same time, which is hard to do. Warm out of the oven, I thought it was a little bland, but after resting overnight, it was a whole different cake. It is full of fall spices and bursting with pumpkin flavor. The perfect way to get back into baking, and get into all my favorite delicious fall flavors. Enjoy!
Fall Spice Pumpkin Bread
(slightly adapted from Allrecipes)

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil 
2/3 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a large bundt pan, or two 9x5" loaf pans. 
In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans. 
Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

TWD: Whole Wheat Loaves

So sorry for the absence- I've been busy with other life-related things, like the start of school and Sweet 16 planning.  All good things, but they take up time! I've also been stuck in a bit of a baking rut... I'm sick of making breads and savory things, and I don't know what else to do. This week I had a free afternoon and promised myself that I would make something sweet, and I did, but it was an old favorite- this cherry pie- which, don't get me wrong, is wonderful, but I need something new.
cheesy rolls
Anyone want to send me your favorite sweet fall recipes? I'm looking for a great pumpkin bread...
 But back to today. This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums and Teresa of The Family That Bakes Together. Thanks for hosting! I decided to fancy it up a bit by baking half of the dough into little rolls, which I tucked some shredded mozzarella and a little butter into when I folded them into thirds. I baked them in my muffin top pan, and got 8 large rolls from half the dough. This was a fairly quick recipe (I did use maple syrup instead of malt extract, which can be hard to find) - I had a little trouble with the initial kneading of the dough, but it eventually all came together. This bread is tender and has a great flavor- not overwhelmingly "healthy-tasting," as some whole wheat breads can be.
I have been enjoying this bread as toast with nutella in the mornings and peanut butter and jelly. Yum! The recipe can be found on the hosts' blogs or in Baking with Julia, as always. Enjoy!
PB&J with homemade bread!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Flourless Chocolate Cake

 This was made on one of our last few nights in Brazil last week. It is a dense, chocolatey cake, naturally free of flour. This was actually my first traditional flourless chocolate cake recipe - it wasn't quite as fast to make as I thought. With the help of the food processor, though, it ends up being pretty simple to put together. Especially if you have great company drinking coffee in the kitchen with you! Oh, I wish we lived near family all the time, not just while we were on vacation...
Overall, this is a great recipe. It bakes into a... well... "rustic-looking" cake, but nobody will mind. The cracked top shows a glimpse of the dark, silky inside. It is rich enough that ten people didn't finish the whole thing, but we enjoyed every bite! Both those people who don't eat gluten and those who do loved it. Be sure to use good-quality chocolate, as you will really be able to taste it in this recipe.
Flourless Chocolate Cake
(ever-so-slightly adapted from  Gluten-Free Goddess)

16 oz. your favorite dark chocolate
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white  sugar
3/4 cup very hot strong coffee (or use espresso powder in very hot water)
2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), room temperature, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
8 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare a 10-cup springform pan by lining the bottom with buttered parchment paper.
Break up the dark chocolate into pieces and pour the chocolate into the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until the chocolate breaks up into small bits. Add the sugar. Pulse until the chocolate and sugar turns into an even, sandy grain.
Pour the hot water or coffee slowly into the feed tube as you pulse again. Pulse until the chocolate is melted. Magic!
Add the butter pieces and the cocoa powder, and pulse to combine. Add the eggs and vanilla, and process till smooth. The batter will be liquid and creamy.
Pour the batter into the lined Springform pan. Wrap the outside of the whole pan with a big piece of foil. Bake at 350ยบ F in the center of the oven, till puffed and cracked - about 55 to 65 minutes (this may take more time if you use a smaller pan, since the cake will be thicker.) Use a wooden toothpick to check the center of the cake; pick should emerge clean, with maybe a crumb.
Place the cake pan on a wire rack to cool. The cake will deflate. Don't worry! When cooled a bit, press down on it gently with a spatula to make it even, if you wish.
When the cake is completely cooled, release from pan. Serve in thin slices.
-about 15 servings

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

TWD: Peach Upside-Down Chiffon Cake

    If all I showed you was the picture above, you would think my cake came out just like all the others. That it was light and fluffy and perfectly cooked. I've said before on this blog that when I really don't like how a recipe came out, I don't post it - unless it's worth my making again, I don't want you thinking you should be making it. However, the point of Tuesdays with Dorie is to try out new recipes. To learn techniques and flavor combinations I've never tried. So, I think  I should tell you the truth about this one. I didn't quite beat the egg whites enough, I think. I'm pretty sure the cake should have been baked for more time, but the recipe says 45-50 minutes, so I figured that after 60, it had to be done. I took it out, it was browned and yummy-looking. Twenty minutes later, there was a ditch in the center, and when I flipped it over, I saw this:
But that's really okay. The center was uncooked, so I cut it out and threw it away. But the rest of it - the outer circle of peaches (I was in the mood for peaches instead of nectarines), was so light, so fluffy, so delicious. I have never made a cake this fluffy, at least not that I can remember. I left the oats out of the streusel, but it baked up crunchy and delicious (even though I skipped the food processor and did it by hand!). Obviously, this cake wasn't a huge success. But it's a great recipe if you bake it for longer than the recipe states, and we found a way to still enjoy it. I know I'll be trying another chiffon cake in the future. Thanks to Marlise of The Double Trouble Kitchen and Susan of The Little French Bakery for hosting this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. The recipe can be found on their blogs or, as always, in Baking with Julia.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Airy Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse

 Family recipes are the greatest. Especially the old ones: although they are sometimes hard to understand or make with the ingredients you can find at your grocery store (I'm thinking grandma's handwritten recipes saying "bake in hot oven until ready"- true story), they have stood the test of time. Perfected over the years by generations, I love getting my hands on a new one and finding out why so many people in my family make this specific recipe so often.
My mom and I just came home from Brazil this morning, and I am oh-so-sad to be away from so much family again. This mousse was part of one of our last few sweet nights having dinner with friends. It is an old family recipe, perfected by a great-aunt, and made (this time) by me and my cousin. It doesn't take too long to put together, and though it uses lots of eggs, the ingredients are all probably ones you have on hand. We probably made it in half an hour, and then let it sit in the fridge for about nine - although around four hours is probably enough. It is so airy, with lots of bubbles; it makes you feel like you are eating a light dessert, even though it is actually filled with butter and chocolate. Its classic deep chocolate flavor makes it the perfect dessert for a dinner with friends and family. 
Airy Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse

250 grams bittersweet chocolate
250 grams butter
9 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 egg whites

Chop the bittersweet chocolate and cut the butter into several pieces. Place in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in one-minute intervals until melted, or melt in a heat-proof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar in an electric mixer until the mixture becomes a very pale cream. Stir in the hot chocolate mixture and the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Fold into the egg yolk and chocolate mixture. 
Pour it all into a big bowl or serving dish and refrigerate until serving, at least 4 hours.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cheesy & Sweet Cornbread

I do realize that I have been putting up a ridiculous amount of corn-centered recipes lately. This is for several reasons:
1. It is probably my mom's absolute favorite quick snack or breakfast treat. Hey, I like it too, so l don't complain about making it all the time.
2. Since my mom found out she has Celiac disease and can't eat gluten, we discovered that cornbread/cake is one if of the easiest things to make. Usually the recipes only take a bit of flour, which can be substituted, and many are naturally gluten-free.
3. Everybody swears that their recipe is the best (this particular one is my aunt's, slightly adapted by me.) Hey, that means we have to try all of them, right? Our problem is that they are all good! One I made last week was moist like a pudding; another recent one was a classic, one you could make for just about any meal or time of day; this one is cheesy and sweet at the same time. So yes, I have a lot of cornbread posts. But they are all worth trying. I promise.

This cornbread comes together in about five minutes- from a counter of ingredients, you are less than an hour away from cheesy goodness. You might think the combination of cheese and sugar doesn't go together, but it does- think of cheesecake. Or just trust me on this one. I promise you'll thank me later.
This isn't dessert, but it's sweet enough to feel like a slightly indulgent snack. It's best eaten warm, when you still have some gooey shreds of cheese to balance out the sugar. Eat it with a cup of coffee for breakfast, with a glass of milk as a snack, or with a big bowl of chili for dinner... You may find it impossible to resist eating large slices of it between meals. Not that I would do that (cough cough). Enjoy! <3
Cheesy & Sweet Cornbread

2 1/2 cups cornmeal
2 cups sugar plus 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup oil
1 1/2 cups grated cheese
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 11x17" pan (you can use a 9x13", but it will be thicker.)
Stir together the cornmeal and 2 cups of the sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the cornstarch, baking powder, eggs, milk, oil, and cheese one by one.
Pour into the pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the edges are browned and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
As soon as it is out of the oven, prick all over with a fork. Spread on the butter so it melts and sprinkle on the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and the cinnamon. Serve warm.