Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate’

Cheese and Chocolate

If midnight had a flavor, these brownies might come pretty close to capturing it – at least what I imagine in my mind midnight might taste like:  dark, rich, dense, smooth and not too sweet.  Imagine, if you will, a pure chocolate indulgence that screams sinfulness, yet exudes a level of luxury and sophistication.  Sophistication aside though, it’s time to clean out your pie-holes, clear your palette, and get ready for some serious taste.

Allow me to present Chocolate Mascarpone Brownies.  I discovered this recipe on Bri’s blog: Xplicit Sweetness.  She posted about them awhile ago and I marked that recipe as one I needed to try.  The photo alone made them look so good they needed to go on the ‘make it soon’ list.

Since I’m currently underway with a lifestyle change ala weight loss, I’m fighting the urge to bake things that are so tempting as to derail my efforts.  Thankfully, I decided to make these as a kind of fair well to the old me – not so much a celebration of my old habits as much as a look ahead to the person who can some day make these kinds of treats and enjoy them in simple moderation, all the while being satisfied that I don’t need more than a reasonable portion.

So, these were actually made over a month ago, but I’m only now getting to the post.  The recipe uses Mascarpone cheese in the batter.  If, by some chance, you aren’t familiar with Mascarpone, it’s kind of an Italian cream cheese – not quite as ‘sweet’ as regular cream cheese and not as ‘hard’.  It is a bit more expensive, so I don’t buy it very often.  If you want to see some of the other uses for Mascarpone, just check out Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network – she makes good use of the stuff.

For the chocolate, I used my preferred baking chocolate – Ghirardelli.  I know a lot of folks prefer brands like Scharffen Berger, Valrhona, Guittard, Callebaut or even something organic like Dagoba or Green and Black’s.  I’ve tried many of them, and for my money, I’ve found the Ghirardelli to work best for my taste and for those who get to share in my creations.  They say if you like the taste straight out of the package, then cook with it – and Ghirardelli is one I do like straight out of the package.  I’m not much of a chocolate snob, but I know what I like, and if I can also manage to save a few bucks a pop, well, that just means I can afford to make more later.  For this recipe, I used their 60% Cacao Bittersweet baking bar.  I will say that if I were to do milk chocolate, the E. Guittard milk chocolate chips are a fine choice.  But, I digress.

After being topped with ganache and allowed to set up in the refrigerator overnight, you are left with an amazing-looking brownie.  These are not your typical eat out of hand brownies.  No, these brownies deserve to be served with some class.  I chose a simple presentation on a nice plate followed by a dusting of cocoa powder.  Partner with a good coffee or a tall glass of milk, and you have a recipe for simple indulgence.  Is this what midnight tastes like?  I don’t know, but I suspect once you try them, you’ll wait until midnight to pull them out so you don’t have to share.

I’ve posted a copy of the recipe here.  Click on any of the photos below for a larger image.

     

     

Read Full Post »

This month’s Daring Bakers challenge was Chocolate Éclairs.  Using a simple mixture of Pate a Choux pastry, pastry cream and a chocolate glaze, the challenge was to create our own version of this fancy treat.  I was really looking forward to this challenge since I’ve wanted to try Pate a Choux for some time.

I love the idea of making éclairs.  I got turned on to the prospect after watching an episode of ‘Good Eats’ on the Food Network called ‘Choux Shine’.  Alton Brown (AB) made the prospect of whipping up a batch of éclairs seem within my reach.  That being said, I never did take the chance to try it, until now.

Thanks to the Daring Bakers, I now had a challenge, one I couldn’t let slip by.  Thanks to Meeta and Tony for selecting this month’s challenge.

Overall, things went pretty well.  The dough was really no trouble.  I chose to use a food processor for the final incorporation of the butter into the mix as suggested in ‘Baking Illustrated’.  I also chose to use their recipe and instructions for both the pastry cream and the chocolate glaze.  Since chocolate and chocolate seemed bit too much for me, I decided to try both a chocolate and a vanilla pastry cream.  The creams and the glazes came together well.

My only real problem was the pastry.  Following some suggestions, I neatly lined out some marks on my parchment paper with a ruler so I could keep my éclairs in nice neat rows of the same size and length, while maintaining the spacing that is important for the rise of the dough.  I wasn’t certain how I wanted to do the piping, so I decided to follow AB’s suggestion from his show and did a kind of ‘s’ shape as I piped the pastry.  I think I missed one step though, and that was to smooth out the layers of dough into a more uniform tube shape.  As I pulled the puffs from the oven, I realized that because I didn’t do this step, the puffs were uneven and looked a bit like smaller tubes of dough stacked together, not one larger, puffier tube.  They did bake and rise well, but I shorted myself on another step – the rest in the oven.  That wasn’t a good choice.  Again, following another suggestion, I pierced the ends of the éclairs with a paring knife at the end of the baking to help release steam and placed them back in the oven with the door propped open to let them dry out.  Okay, that was fine, but I needed the oven to cook dinner, so I only let them dry for about 10 minutes – no long enough.  Most of my éclairs collapsed within the next hour, only a few survived.  I did pipe a few pastries in the classic cream puff shape and, aside from being a bit overcooked, actually turned out much better than the éclairs.

Filling and glazing were actually pretty easy – they all came together pretty quickly. 

The final results were okay.  I would have liked to have had prettier éclairs, but I wasn’t too disappointed for a first go.  As for taste, well, they were fantastic.  The dough was just right, the cream and the glaze were very good.  My wife and I both agreed that the vanilla cream and chocolate glaze combination worked better together than the double chocolate.  Just our personal preference.

Thanks again to the DB’s and to Meeta and Tony for this month’s challenge, it’s been fun.  If you would like to give this recipe a try, I’ve posted a copy of the complete challenge recipe here.

The Piped Eclairs

The Piped Eclairs

The Piped Puffs

The Piped Puffs

Eclairs..Before the Fall

Eclairs..Before the Fall

Whipping up some Pastry Cream

Whipping up some Pastry Cream

Filling the Hollow Puffs

Filling the Hollow Puffs

Finished Eclairs

Finished Eclairs

Finished Puffs

Finished Puffs

Read Full Post »

A Canadian Goodie

I may have mentioned before that the best thing about baking/cooking for me is when I get to do it for the enjoyment of others.  Such was the case this past weekend.  A friend of ours was celebrating a milestone birthday (I won’t say which one) and I wanted to bring something along for everyone to enjoy.  With the string of hot days we’ve had around here, something from the oven didn’t sound too appealing.  It needed to be something that could be done with a minimal amount of heat.

I seemed to recall a no-bake, minimal cook recipe I had read about in the past.  Then I recalled that our friend had mentioned recently that her favorite dessert was Nanaimo Bars.  Our friend proudly hails from Canada, and from what I’ve heard, Nanaimo Bars are a pretty big deal for Canadians, so much so that they even enjoy the distinction of being kind of an ‘official’ dessert of Canada.  I knew of these bars, but I had never had, much less made one before.  So, I hit the web to see what I could find. 

What I discovered was that there are about as many recipes for Nanaimo Bars as there are Canadian bakers.  Everyone seems to have their version of this recipe, but they seem to come down to a few key factors (Canadians, please feel free to correct me if I get any of this wrong).  Nanaimo Bars (named after the city in Canada where they were invented) are a bar dessert consisting of 3 layers.  Layer 1 is a base of graham crackers, coconut, some kind of nut, butter and chocolate.  Layer 2 consists of a kind of sweet custard/frosting that can apparently be made with a number of different flavors and/or colors – the key to this layer, apparently, is custard powder, something I’ve never seen before.  Layer 3, the top layer, is a simple layer of melted chocolate or even a ganache.

Preparation is fairly simple.  Some stove work is needed, but it’s minimal, so this is a nice dessert to prepare in the heat of the summer.  Since I’m not much of a coconut fan, I decided to use my food processor to not only crush the graham crackers, but to cut the coconut down to tiny little pieces – the flavor was still there, but those somewhat difficult to chew shreds of coconut were easier for my mouth to deal with.

The results were great.  The recipe called for a 9 inch x 9 inch pan, but I was cooking for a group, so I doubled the recipe and used a 9 inch x 13 inch pan.  Since doubling a recipe designed for 9×9 is more than what you would get for a 9×13 pan, my bars turned out a little thicker than they would have been, but no one complained.  In fact, everyone raved about them.  The birthday girl, gave an official Canadian thumbs up.  I asked if they were ‘authentic’.  She said they were close.  What did she notice was different?  Well, remember that custard powder I mentioned?  I didn’t have any, so the recipe suggested that I could substitute vanilla pudding mix instead.  You know what?  She could tell the difference.  I don’t know how much difference this custard powder makes, but I guess I’m going to have to try it for myself sometime.

If you’d like to try this recipe yourself, I’ve posted it here.  Thanks to the good folks over at Joy of Baking for another great recipe.

Read Full Post »

 

I haven’t.  In fact, I’d never even heard of a ‘Berger’ Cookie prior to reading about them on the Baker’s Banter blogsite from King Arthur Flour.  I asked a few folks I know if they had ever heard of them and the response was the same almost every time, “A burger cookie?, You mean one that looks like a hamburger?”  Their responses ranged from interest to those few who believed this mysterious cookie contained some form of ground beef.  Thankfully, there is no ground beef in these “Bergers”, and they would be, I believe, somewhat tastier than any meat cookie may be.

Actually, Berger Cookies are a local favorite, found in the Baltimore, Maryland area.  Favorite? That may actually be an understatement.  From what I can gather doing some simple research, people are nuts about these cookies, perhaps even obsessed.  The cookies are named after the brothers who founded what would become the bakery that still operates today, over 150 years after they first came to the United States.  From what I gather, these cookies are very popular in the Baltimore area, and those who leave the area find themselves in the position of having these cookies shipped to them, as they can only be found in a few locations outside of Baltimore. 

On the King Arthur blog, they were recounting their attempt to mimic this interesting cookie, which had been profiled in the May issue of Saveur Magazine.  Reading through the blog, I saw that they looked rather tasty – a soft, puffy cookie coated with a thick layer of fudgy frosting on top, or, rather, the bottom.  Yes, the bottom.  Rather than frost the top of the cookie as would be tradition, the frosting mirrors the dome shape of the cookie, inch for inch, building up from the flat bottom of the cookie into a beautiful chocolaty mound.  The folks at King Arthur actually revisited this recipe after a number of local Baltimoreans contacted them to correct the error of their ways.  The second versions, based on their photos, were nearly identical to the original Bergers.

Since I am a fan of puffy and/or chewy cookies, and a big fan of chocolate, I had to give these a try.  I was going to order some originals over the internet to have something to compare these to, but I didn’t have time as we were leaving town for vacation.  My version would have to suffice for now.

The cookies are not too difficult to make, following King Arthur’s directions.  They are a bit messy, however as the best way to frost to the edge of the cookie appears to be hand dipping each cookie into the frosting, followed by a dollop of additional frosting on top of that to create the mound shape.

The result?  They were quite good (I’ve posted a copy of the recipe on my site here).  My testers were pleased and eagerly consumed them.  The cookie itself is a good basic cookie which I’ll plan on using for other applications in the future.  The big deal is all that fudgy frosting.  I used 1/2 Ghirardelli 60% Cacao chocolate chips and 1/2 Ghirardelli Semi Sweet Chocolate chips as that is what I had on hand.  They were dark and sweet.  I’m curious about the flavor of the originals and whether or not these were close in flavor – I’ll have to wait to get some original Bergers to sample before I know the answer to that.  In the meantime, I think I need to consider a trip to Baltimore…

Read Full Post »

Chocolate Disaster Cake

 

Okay, I don’t like to admit my mistakes, especially when they’re foolish ones.  But sometimes our mistakes are too good to keep to ourselves.  We were on vacation 2 weeks ago and I did a good amount of baking at that time (yes, baking was a planned part of my vacation, I don’t get that kind of time at home).  I wanted to start the week with a simple dessert, but something that would be appreciated by a chocoholic.

Enter the Flourless Chocolate Cake.  I’ve made these before.  Several years ago, I made this in mini bundt pans for a ladies tea my wife was hosting.  I served them with a light dusting of powdered sugar and a small raspberry sitting in the little indentation on the top of the mini cake.  They were a huge hit.  Very chocolatey, dense and somewhat creamy.  Well, I had come across a similar recipe on King Arthur Flour’s website via their Baker’s Banter blog (you can read their entry on this recipe here).   Theirs was similar, but also added a very tasty chocolate ganache as a topping – whoa, that sounded really good!

I didn’t have any cake pans available at the vacation rental house, but I did have some loaf pans, so I thought I’d give it a try and just extend the baking time.  So, I lined the loaf pan like the recipe said, leaving some extra parchment hanging over the edges to help lift the cake out at the end.  I started baking the suggested time for a cake pan, and, of course, it wasn’t done.  I started adding time in 5 minute increments.  I checked a second time and a third, still not done.  That’s where everything went south.  Something else missing in this vacation rental home was a second oven mitt.  I usually like to use both hands when putting things in or taking them out of the oven, just so I keep the batter level and avoid spashes, etc.  This time, with only one oven mitt, and therefore, only one hand on the pan, I lost it.  I had sprayed the pan with nonstick baking spray and had gotten some on the lip of the pan.  Let me tell you, that stuff is slick – literally.  My thumb slipped and the pan fell out of my hand – upside down, onto the open oven door.  Quickly, I lifted the pan off the door in the hopes that maybe I could save it – no luck.  The parchment did a fantastic job and released the entire cake from the pan, cleanly. 

The interior of the cake wasn’t done yet, so the gooey batter spread out amidst the baked portions.  Everything began to bake onto the ungreased, unprotected oven door.  I stood there, amazed, wondering what to do.  My wife heard the comotion and quickly assisted by scooping up everything that wasn’t baked onto the door back into the pan.  That was that.  Some serious cleaning ensued (baking soda and water worked very well to remove that nasty mess from the door) and I was left with a pan of partialy baked cake.  My wife encouraged me to make the best of a bad situation, and that’s when the muse struck – Chocolate Disaster Cake would be born.

I had already prepared the ganache and didn’t want it to go to waste, so I scooped out some generous spoonfuls of the batter – some baked, some not and topped it with the ganache.  You know what?  It not only tasted fantastic (kind of like a molten lava cake), but actually didn’t look too bad – you can see for yourself.

The moral of the story?  1.  Always use 2 hands and 2. Make the best of even your worst disasters.  I haven’t yet tried to reproduce this in the loaf pan to see if that would have worked, but considering the outcome here, I may have a hard time letting the next one bake all the way before I start hacking into it.  Ahh, sweet defeat.

You can find the recipe for Flourless Chocolate Cake by King Arthur Flour here.

Read Full Post »