Saturday, February 28, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge, February 2009: Chocolate Valentino (Flourless Chocolate Cake)

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Nothing says February quite like hearts, flowers and chocolate. And Birthdays if you live in our house. Rolling (quite literally) off Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years comes February, host to 3 birthdays and Valentine's Day and all the associated merry-making that goes along with it. I've not dropped off the face of the planet, by the way, I've just been a little, ah, busy of late.

I looked at this recipe and it was similar to one that I already make, but in this one the egg yolks and whites stand in opposite corners and then come to play separately in the form of egg yolks mixed directly into the chocolate and the egg whites beaten into stiff peaks and then folded into the batter. Ok - I'm up for something new.

Since I didn't want to use the whole POUND of chocolate the recipe calls for I halved it. I added 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper powder to give it some interest. The batter was tasty and it had lovely golden fat blobs floating about in it, shimmering like molten sunlight. Since I was using individual pans, I reduced the baking time significantly and dropped it to about 10-15 minutes. I decided to use this cake/recipe for The Little One's birthday cake since I was cupcaked out from making a batch for school. My DS had given me these mini springform pans years ago and I've finally used them. We were going to have a small gathering of 8 people for his birthday "party" so I cut these little babies in half - each person got to eat half a cake! We really know how to celebrate around here.

Since these were such unique sizes/shapes I dug out 2 platters that were probably supposed to be used for appetizers or dips or somesuch, and repurposed them as party plates. I went for the homemade whipped cream topping option - I have made ice cream before - but transporting all this and 3 kids with ice cream was a little out of my league at the moment. Two cakes, a blob of whipped cream in the middle and a light dusting of cocoa powder to keep everything for looking so stark and Bob's your uncle.

Thanks to Wendy and Dharm for selecting this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge. You can find the complete recipe on their sites.

To see what all the other DBer’s did, you can find the blogroll here and if you’d like to join the monthly party, info about that can be found on that page as well.

Pin It
Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nutella Cake (don't get overly excited...)

I can't BELIEVE I missed World Nutella Day 2009 back on February 5th. I found out about it on the 7th and hastily moved to correct this heinous oversight. Since my kids all lovvvvvve Nutella, I decided that I needed to make a Nutella Cake for the Big Boys' birthday. Scrounging around the internet I found one from Nigella Lawson's book: How to be a Domestic Goddess.

I actually had all the ingredients on hand. (No way. Way.) I had ground hazelnuts left over from the French Yule Log Cake we made for the December Daring Baker's Challenge and I had a fresh, unscathed jar of Nutella waiting in the wings.

This cake looked so amazing! Too bad it didn't taste amazing. I was so disappointed and the kids were too. They were so jazzed about a NUTELLA BIRTHDAY CAKE!!! (singing: Mom is great, made us Nutella cake!) They were dancing around for joy, but after we sliced into it, it tasted absolutely nothing like Nutella when all was said and done. It just tasted like a so-so chocolate cake, although the ganache was good. Even my DH said "This isn't your best." Now that's saying something.

To make up for the Nutella-less birthday cake, on their actual birthday I joined them at school for lunch....... with a full jar of Nutella and three spoons. Happy boys. Happy girl. Happy Birthday.

I'm including the cake recipe here for posterity. Maybe I did something wrong, so you may want to try, but personally I wouldn't waste the liquid gold Nutella again on this one. Chalk it up to a learning experience, but it all worked out in the end with a little ingenuity and a few spoons.

Stiff egg whites
Batter with egg whites folded in

In the pan - it was very thick batter - it did not pour. I had to spread it in and around.

Skinned, toasted hazelnuts

Le cake

Le cake avec ganache et hazelnuts

Nutella Cake
adapted from Nigella Lawson and her book: How to be a Domestic Goddess.

6 large eggs, separated
pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 13-ounce container Nutellla
1 tablespoon Frangelico (hazelnut flavored liqueur) or rum
1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Frangelico or rum
4 ounces whole hazelnuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; butter a 9-inch springform pan.
In a large bowl (preferably metal), whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff. In another bowl, cream the butter and Nutella, then add the Frangelico, egg yolks, and ground hazelnuts. Fold in melted chocolate.

Add a blob of beaten egg whites to the chocolate batter, and mix gently until well-combined. Fold in the remaining whites, one-third at a time, very gently but thoroughly. Pour into springform and bake for 40 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting tester, which should come out mostly clean; lightly pressing finger into top to check for a slight bouncing-back; and observing edges beginning to separate from pan. Let cool completely, in pan, on a rack.

Toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet, shaking them around frequently. Do it for about 5 minutes, or until they are lightly browned, then let cool completely. If hazelnuts came with skins on, put them in a towel after toasting and rub around; this will remove most of the skins.

Chop chocolate, and add to sauce pan with cream and Frangelico over medium-low heat. Once chocolate is melted and components are combined, whisk until mixture reaches desired thickness, then cool. Remove rim of cake pan and pour cooled ganache over, spreading lightly to create a smooth, shiny surface, and apply hazelnuts all over.

Pin It
Bookmark and Share

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pantry Raid: Snack Time

Ok folks, another snackage that I came up with. The pictures aren't so hot, but you get the idea. The kids came home today from school: "We're hungggry and there's no snacks." Not proper English, but you get the point as did I. I've committed to paying off any new charges on the credit cards every month so that there aren't any carry over balances, which means no grocery shopping until the next statement cycle comes up. This translates into the Pantry Principle: I'm going to use up as much of the stuff in my pantry/fridge/freezer as I can before going shopping again. This is good, because some of this stuff hasn't seen the light of day since I bought it, or it's been lingering in limbo - half used/half eaten and just hanging out in the aforementioned locations.

Here's what I came up with today: using the tortilla concept that Chocolatechic came up with earlier in the school year, I broke out the tortillas that have taken up permanent residence in the fridge. Check! One package used up. Then I thought about Nutella. (I always think about Nutella, but today I decided to actually use it instead of eating it with a spoon on the sly.) What else do I have hanging around here? Nestle chocolate chips - monster Sam's club size bag - check. Cream cheese - check. And this other weird thing: about a third of a roll of sugar cookie dough. Don't ask where the other 2/3 went. So that was in the freezer (it's harder to eat when it's frozen) and I thought that it might be good chunked up and rolled into the tortilla. Check! Another thing used up. So, I stick the cookie dough in the microwave to defrost. Guess what happens to cookie dough when you forget to check on it? It melts and gets spreadable like peanut butter. Woo Hoo! A happy accident for once.

Use any combination of the following and spread on the tortillas and roll up:

Chocolate chips
Melted sugar cookie dough
Cream cheese (they weren't really crazy about the one that had this in it, but your mileage may vary - YMMV)

Aside from the cream cheese ones (and the Messy One gladly ate those) they were a big hit all the way around and everyone loved them So, the kids are snacked, I didn't spend any money and my fridge and freezer are a little cleared out. It's a good day.

Melted sugar cookie dough is spreadable

The finished product.

Pin It
Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chocolate Chip Crescent Roll Snackage

Easy peasy and big impact. They LOVE these and it takes about 15 minutes from the time you pop the can to pulling them out of the oven.

Chocolate Chip Crescent Roll Snackage
1 Can cresent rolls
chocolate chips

Unroll the cresent roll dough and place a small (or medium :D) amount of chocolate chips on the wide end.
Roll up the crescents like normal with the pointy end last
Bake according to package directions.

Serve and enjoy lavish praise.

I may stick mini marshmallows in with the chips next time.....

Pin It
Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chocolate Bourbon (Batter Buzz) Cake

I don't like football, or most sports for that matter. The Superbowl is remotely passable if there's a party with friends and even at that, I only actually watch the screen when the commercials come on OR during halftime when the chances are significantly higher that someone will have wardrobe malfunction. (Last year however, the thought of a Tom Petty wardrobe malfunction kept me in the kitchen the entire time with my eyes averted. {{shuddder}}.

You'll remember from my Toffee Crunch (aka Ghetto Toffee) post that I like to bring food fabulousness with me wherever I go. What to bring, what to bring? I thought about making my famous marbled sour cream pound cake, but eh, I'm tired of that one, even if it does rock. Then across the RSS feed comes Chocolate Bourbon Cake from Elise at Simply Recipes. Hmmmmm. It's not the Derby, but I'll stretch those culinary sports alcohol bonds and go with it anyway.

Having said that, if you have a grownup affair to go to, you need to make this cake. I'm not a hard liquor fan at all (at all!), and never would I have thought it was possible to get a "batter buzz" from like, ah batter, but oh yes you can! I didn't even eat that much! This stuff packs a wallop.

Learn from Elise and her dad's experience and use the whole cup of whiskey. The bundt pan will be very full when you put it in the oven - place it on a cookie sheet just in case it decides to flee the bonds of bundtpan-dom. Mine started this abstract art type of thing when the sides cooked faster than the middle and started to flip over. Cool.

When the cake is done, leave it in the pan for the prescribed 15 minutes and then flip it out onto your serving dish. Sprinkle with a little more bourbon. At this point, I covered it and put it in the fridge. I made it on Saturday and was going to serve on Sunday. I've found that most of these bundt pan cakes are so much better the next day. The flavors have had time to meld and the cake is 10 times easier to slice. Dust with powdered sugar before slicing. Use a serrated knife and voila! It's cake.

I also whipped up (tee hee) some whipped cream and added a little confectioners sugar and about a tablespoon of the bourbon to create Bourbon Spiked Whipped Cream to serve on the side. Everyone went nuts over this one and the kiddos were sad that they couldn't have any, but hey, that's why I made the toffee. I think I even spotted one guy eating the whipped cream plain. Winner!

Chocolate Bourbon Cake Recipe
from Elise at Simply Recipes

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, more for greasing pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, more for dusting pan
5 ounces high quality, unsweetened dark chocolate
1/4 cup instant espresso (can use instant coffee)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup
bourbon whiskey (can use 1/2 cup), more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar), for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a large
bundt pan (10 cup capacity), or two 8- or 9-inch loaf pans. Melt chocolate in a microwave oven or in a double boiler over simmering water. Let cool.
2. Put instant espresso and cocoa powder in a 2-cup (or larger) glass measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to come up to the 1 cup measuring line. Mix until powders dissolve. Stir in whiskey and salt; let cool.
3. Beat softened butter until fluffy (2-3 minutes on high). Add sugar and beat until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, baking soda and melted chocolate, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula.
4. With the mixer on low speed, beat in a third of the whiskey espresso cocoa mixture. When liquid is absorbed, beat in 1 cup flour. Repeat additions, ending with whiskey mixture. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes for Bundt pan (loaf pans will take less time, start checking them after 55 minutes).
5. Transfer cake to a rack. Unmold after 15 minutes and sprinkle warm cake with more whiskey (about 1 - 2 Tablespoons). Let cool. (I refrigerated mine at this point). Sprinkle powdered sugar through a mesh sieve over the cake before serving.

Pin It
Bookmark and Share

Monday, February 9, 2009


Hey, you still asleep? You sleep alot. I don't want to miss ANYTHING.
Hey, wake up will ya? Guess what? We're gonna be best friends.

Yes, they were actually that small. 4lbs, 9oz and 5 lbs, 2 oz.
(but do the math - you're looking at 9 lbs, 11oz. of baby right there)
7 weeks early. They would have been HUGE full term. I might have literally popped.

The first 2 hatchlings (pictured here just shy of 10 years later),
along with the 3rd one.
(That story to follow in about 16 days. February is a busy month around here...)
Happy Birthday boys,

Pin It
Bookmark and Share

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chocolate Almond Saltine Toffee Crunch {swoon}

When I saw these on Baking And Boys! by Katrina I KNEW I had to make them, especially when they also popped up on Lisa's Jersey Girl Cooks blog on the very. same. day. It was totally in the stars and fate said that I would be making these at some point, soon. Edit: Props to Lisa over at The Cutting Edge of Ordinary too (I love all my Lisas ;D), plus Ghetto Toffee sounds wayyy more like it.
Superbowl Sunday party. DH's Office People. Must make and bring something fabulous, yet incredibly easy.
Enter Chocolate Almond Saltine Toffee Crunch. I had 2 women almost tackle me (pun intended) wanting the recipe. Good thing it's easy to remember. This stuff IS addicting and so simple to make. In fact, you probably have all the ingredients on hand in your pantry RIGHT NOW to whip up a batch of these. Be sure you have somewhere to take them as I promise you will eat them all in one sitting if not.
Chocolate Almond Saltine Toffee Crunch
1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers (or as many as it takes to completely cover your tray)
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional - a little goes a long way)
2 cups chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350º. Line jelly roll pan with foil and spray with non-stick spray. (If you use a silicone baking mat, use the foil underneath anyway - makes it easier to lift out.) Lay crackers out flat on foil.
Melt sugar and butter. Add almond extract and bring to boil, whisking until all are incorporated and mixture looks "foamy" (about 3 to 5 minutes). Pour over crackers and spread to coat. Bake 5 minutes in 350º oven or until bubbly.
Remove from oven. While hot, sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips, let soften and melt, then spread. It will take about 4 - 5 minutes for all the chocolate to melt enough to spread. Offset spatula works great here. Sprinkle with whatever toppings you like or leave plain - I used toasted almonds.
I put the tray into the freezer for a few minutes to flash freeze, removed it and popped the slab of toffee out of the pan and peeled off the mat and the foil. Lay it on a cutting board and using pizza cutter, cut into squares. Alternately, you can break it into pieces. Keep stored in the refrigerator (if they last that long).

Pin It
Bookmark and Share