Flourless Chocolate Cake

 

One of the first desserts I ever baked from scratch (besides cookies) is this flourless chocolate cake. For my first job in high school I was a waitress at a little cafe in an antique store in Midtown. They had the best flourless cake and I probably ate my weight worth of this cake while working there. I figured it was a hard cake to make but turns out I was way wrong. I decided to try this recipe a couple years back when we thought I had a gluten intolerance. Turns out I can have gluten but this is still a favorite recipe around out house. This cake is definitely rich and dense and just a small piece is perfect for that chocolate craving.

Here is the recipe I use, found on Whole Foods’ website.

Ingredients:

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (I like to use a mixture of unsweetened dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate to give a richer taste)
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 3 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
1 1/4 cup sugar
6 eggs
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Spray the paper with cooking spray, too, then set the pan aside.

Place two-thirds (8 ounces) of the chocolate and 1 cup (2 sticks) of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Stirring often, melt chocolate with butter until completely blended. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. (Alternatively, you may use your microwave to melt the butter with the chocolate, if desired). Add sugar and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Sift cocoa into bowl and stir until just blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cake has risen and top has formed a thin crust. The cake should be just firm in the center when done. Cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a plate, removing sides of springform pan. Remove and discard parchment paper and set cake aside to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the chocolate glaze. Melt remaining 4 ounces chocolate and 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, then stir in milk, honey and vanilla. Set aside to cool slightly.

When cake has cooled, pour glaze onto the center. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, very gently smooth glaze along the top and sides of the cake. Chill cake, uncovered, for 30 to 60 minutes before serving to set the glaze and make the cake easier to slice.

Typically I make a single 9 in cake but for this evening I wanted to make mini cakes. I used 3 in springform pans and then stacked two mini cakes on top of one another to form these taller mini cakes. I also piped melted peanut butter into the shape of leaves and put them in the fridge to harden. I cooked the cakes for just 30 minutes since I reduced the pan size.

 

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The first image on the top of the post is a freshly glazed cake. You can tell from the other images the that glazes hardens when it is put in the fridge to chill.

 

 

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Attempting Caramel Cake

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Well the latest recipe that I attempted to make in my latest baking obsession was caramel cake. I adore caramel cake, especially the one they make at The Commissary BBQ in Germantown. I figured if I could successfully make 7 apple pies and three batches of macaroons I could make a three layered caramel cake. Well I failed, three times. I hate failing at things I try. It is seriously my biggest flaw, typically don’t try anything unless I know I will be successful at it… Yep I have major pride issues and want to be perfect at everything. Well this cake got the best of me.

The picture above is actually the only time I got the recipe some what right. And truth be told, this is actually half a cake that I iced twice. The cake recipe was actually pretty good and I nailed that twice but the icing is what killed me. I tried it three times and two out of the three times it epiclly failed, like ran off the cake and puddled on the plate. In my attempt to try and be more relaxed about my failures, I’m blogging this recipe to see if anyone knows why it failed so terribly. Either I am not meant to make caramel icing or this recipe is not a good recipe…

CAKE

  1. 1 cup whole milk
  2. 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  3. 2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  4. 3 cups sifted cake flour
  5. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  6. 4 teaspoons baking powder
  7. 3/4 teaspoon salt
  8. 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, softened
  9. 3/4 cup heavy cream

ICING

  1. 3 cups sugar
  2. 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  3. 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  4. 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  5. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  6. 1/2 cup heavy cream

Cake instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter three 8-inch cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and flour the pans, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup of the milk with the egg whites and vanilla extract. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of milk. Beat at low speed until blended, then beat at medium speed until smooth, 1 minute. Beat in the egg white mixture in 3 batches.
  3. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Stir one-third of the whipped cream into the batter, then fold in the rest. Divide the batter between the pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Unmold the cakes and peel off the parchment. Invert the cakes and let cool completely.

Successful cakes. This recipe produces a really light and airy cake.

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Caramel Instructions

  • In a saucepan, stir 2 1/2 cups of the sugar with the corn syrup and milk. Cook over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Keep warm.

Baking47Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a deep, heavy saucepan. Cook the sugar over moderate heat, swirling occasionally, until an amber caramel forms.Baking48

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  • Carefully pour the warm milk mixture over the caramel. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the caramel dissolves. Stop stirring and cook until the caramel registers 235° on a candy thermometer.

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(I left mine get to soft ball before removing from the heat… I just took my picture too soon 🙂 )

  • Remove from the heat. Stir in the butter, vanilla and 1/4 cup of the heavy cream. Strain the caramel into the bowl of a standing mixer. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  • Beat the caramel at medium speed, gradually adding the remaining 1/4 cup of cream, until creamy, about 15 minutes.

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And here a couple looks at my failed icing. One was super thick and looked like the caramel that you would put on caramel apples.
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This one was super runny and I ended up using the leftover icing as a macaroon filling.
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  • Set 1 cake layer on a plate. Pour enough icing over the layer to cover the top. Top with a second cake layer and cover it with icing. Add the final cake layer and pour the rest of the icing over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides. Working quickly, use an offset spatula to spread the icing gently around the cake. Let the cake stand for 2 hours to set the icing before serving.

The first attempt, super thin and running icing:

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My second attempt, the icing that actually stuck to the cake but tasted funky. It was the creamiest and prettiest of all the attempts:

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My final attempt, a super sticky caramel that dripped and ran everywhere.

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Who knows what went wrong?! Utter failure… Maybe one day I will attempt another icing recipe but for now, I don’t want to see caramel icing for a long time!

 

Savannah

Chocolate Macaroons with a Caramel Sea Salt filling

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Everyone has been raging about macaroons and we are probably some of the last people to try them. It is probably a really good thing that it took us so long to try them because they are fabulous and its very easy to eat a handful of these little guys in one sitting. I always thought that the macaroon would be more fluffy and crispy when you bit into it. Surprisingly the texture was more like a chewy cookie and I definitely like that. I’ve made macaroons three times in the last two weeks and so far this recipe is my favorite for the cookie. I’ve made a couple different fillings and this light caramel one is a nice pairing with the chocolate (actually the caramel filling is a failed caramel icing that I decided to rescue)

While the recipe is really easy I’ve found that the cookies are really finicky to get just right. You really want the smooth top and the “foot” at the base of the cookie. After much research I learned that even the top pastry chefs in France end up only having 20-30% usable cookie from each batch. That’s encouraging because only a 1/3 of my cookies came out without cracks. The key to getting nice even tops, a low constant oven temperature. I went ahead and finally got an oven thermometer and found that our oven cooks about 50 degrees cooler than the thermostat on the oven reads. Big difference! I now trust the thermometer over the thermostat.

And here is the recipe that I used for my cookies. I found it on Epicurious, one of my favorite recipe apps.

Ingredients

Cookies:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons egg whites (from about 3 large eggs), room temperature, whisked to loosen
  • 1/4 cup sugar

 

preparation

For cookies:
-Arrange racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 3 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper.

-Pulse 1 cup powdered sugar and almonds in a food processor until nuts are very finely ground (but not to a paste), 60–90 seconds.

-Add cocoa powder and remaining 1 cup powdered sugar; process to blend well.

-Sift mixture through a medium-mesh strainer into a large bowl; discard larger almond pieces remaining in strainer (if more than 1 tablespoon remains, pulse nuts again in processor and re-sift).

-Using an electric mixer, beat 1/3 cup egg whites in a medium bowl on medium speed until white and frothy, about 1 minute. With mixer on medium-low speed, gradually add sugar by tablespoonfuls. Increase speed to medium-high; beat until firm peaks form.

-Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons egg whites. Fold meringue into dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing well between additions.

-Spoon meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4″ tip. (Alternatively, spoon into a plastic freezer bag, then cut 1/4″ off a corner of bag.) Twist top of bag and pipe quarter size rounds onto 2 of the 3 prepared baking sheets, spacing 1″ apart. Let stand until tops appear dry, about 10 minutes.

-Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through baking, until puffed and dry, about 16 minutes. Slide cookies on parchment onto a wire rack. Let cool completely. Repeat with remaining batter on third baking sheet.

Caramel Filling

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • teaspoon of sea salt

-In a saucepan, stir 2 1/2 cups of the sugar with the corn syrup and milk. Cook over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Keep warm.

-Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a deep, heavy saucepan.
-Cook the sugar over moderate heat, swirling occasionally, until an amber caramel forms.
-Carefully pour the warm milk mixture over the caramel. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the caramel dissolves.
-Stop stirring and cook until the caramel registers 235° on a candy thermometer.
-Remove from the heat. Stir in the butter, vanilla, sea salt and 1/4 cup of the heavy cream.
-Strain the caramel into the bowl of a standing mixer. Let cool for 15 minutes.
-Beat the caramel at medium speed, gradually adding the remaining 1/4 cup of cream, until creamy, about 15 minutes.
A few pictures from making the macaroons.

Piped out meringue:

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Piping the caramel filling:

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Finished cookies:

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If you have patience and you are willing to stand next to the oven while the cookie bake, these are actually pretty easy to make. You can add whatever filling you want to the cookies. Dark chocolate ganache is also one of my favorites to use as a filling.
Also a nice thing about macaroons that I didn’t know until I made them for the first time, they are gluten free! We have friends who are gluten intolerant so it is nice to have these on hand for them at parties!
Savannah

Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Chocolate-Macaroons-with-Orange-Ganache-368930#ixzz2iJbPWdwO

Apple Picking and Pie Making

A few weekends ago we had a free Saturday and it happened to be perfectly timed with our local orchard’s apple season. Philip and I drove out to Millington and spent the morning picking apples. The weather was perfect and it was nice to get out of the suburban life. Here is a great Iphone quality picture from our morning in the orchard courtesy of a timer and my phone being propped up in the grass 🙂

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When we got home I decided to make apple piece using the apples we picked (Arkansas Black apples from Jones’ Orchard). I’ve never actually made a pie from scratch before and figured it would be a fun treat to try. Honestly I rarely bake or cook for that matter so I was a little nervous about how they would turn out. But much to my surprise they were delicious! Here is the super easy recipe that I used (and if I can make it, anyone can make it!)

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup frozen solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons (or more) ice water
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Filling

  • 3 1/4 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Topping

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Vanilla ice cream

Preparation

For crust:
Mix flour, salt, and sugar in large bowl. Add butter and shortening; rub in with fingertips until coarse meal forms. Mix 3 tablespoons ice water and vinegar in small bowl to blend. Drizzle over flour mixture; stir with fork until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; refrigerate 30 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch; turn edge under and crimp decoratively. Refrigerate while preparing filling and topping.

For filling:
Mix all ingredients in large bowl to coat apples.

For topping:
Blend first 5 ingredients in processor. Add chilled butter cubes; using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles wet sand.

Toss filling to redistribute juices; transfer to crust, mounding in center. Pack topping over and around apples. Bake pie on baking sheet until topping is golden, about 40 minutes (cover top with foil if browning too quickly). Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake until apples in center are tender when pierced and filling is bubbling thickly at edges, about 45 minutes longer. Cool until warm, about 1 hour. Serve with ice cream.

Source: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Cinnamon-Crumble-Apple-Pie-108650#ixzz2hqeWf0dO

I made two regular sized pies with this recipe and they were delicious! The crust was probably my favorite part; it was perfectly flaky and buttery. I’ve made pie crust from scratch before (for chicken pot pie) and i’ve never been able to get the texture correct. This is a great crust for those who have trouble with them previously. The key is definitely having the chilled butter and frozen shortening.

A couple days later we had our friend’s Trisha and Philip over for a night of sitting by the fire pit and playing life sized Jenga. I made the apple pie again but this time I made individual sized pies and made them with gluten free flour since Trisha is gluten intolerant. They pies looked great but the crust was a little dry; I think I messed up one of my measurements when I halved the recipe… Oh well.

Here is one of the little pies:

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After making 7 pies within a week the baking bug definitely got to me. Earlier this week I attempted macaroons for the first time. I’ll share that recipe later 🙂

Cheers,
Savannah