Saturday, February 27, 2010

Green & Black's Peanut Sticky Buns with Salted Butter Caramel Sauce

A couple of weeks ago, Tastespotting sent out a tweet on Twitter that said to contact them if interested in an opportunity that involved baking, blogging and chocolate. Those happen to be my three favorite things in the world aside from my kids.

I received a response a few days later asking for recipe ideas involving the new Green & Black's chocolate bar, Peanut. It is a milk chocolate bar containing caramelized peanuts and sea salt. I love Green & Black's chocolate. As many of you know, I eat exclusively organic food, including copious amounts of G & B chocolate. The ideas started coming. I sent a list of about 8 or more possible recipes to Sarah of Tastespotting and The Delicious Life, including these rolls. They picked four bloggers' submissions, and I was so lucky to be one of the four!

I had so much fun developing this recipe. I made it three times in five days, and unfortunately I ate almost all of them. True story: the day I was photographing the final batch, I looked down and saw that there were only five of twelve rolls left in the pan. I had eaten seven. SEVEN!!! They are just so damn tasty!!!

These are some of the most delicious, decadent things I have ever eaten. Really. They have everything: bread, crunch, chocolate, goo, caramel. Oh my. Oh. My.

The roll itself is not something I would call moist, but it is most certainly not dry. Soft. It is soft. It is ever so slightly sweet with a hint of vanilla. This is a roll that could stand on it's own - all too often I find that the bready part of a cinnamon roll/sticky bun is flavorless without all of its acoutrements. In this case, the roll is already so good, it is brought to a ridiculous level of deliciousness by its toppings and fillings. The Peanut bar is really quite something. I'm normally not a big fan of peanuts, but these are caramelized, so you get a wonderful sweet crunch every bite or so that is a lovely counterpart to the rest of the bun. The chocolate is rich and decadent but not overdone, and its sweetness is balanced by the barely sweet roll and the salty caramel sauce. Oh the caramel sauce. It is perfection. If I could eat it with a spoon I would. Oh, wait. I have been eating it with a spoon. It is smooth. So smooth. So creamy. The perfect balance of sweet and salty with a deep, dark caramel flavor.

Thank you so much to Sarah of Tastespotting for giving me the opportunity to create a fun and scrumptious recipe with a fantastic new chocolate bar. My recipe will be posted on the new Tastespotting blog. The blog launches next week, but there is no word yet on the order that the recipes created by myself and the other bloggers will be posted, so check back here for a link to the recipe.

*** UPDATE *** 3.23.10

The recipe is up!!! Here is the link. Enjoy!

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's about time, isn't it?! I can't believe I haven't posted in so long. And here I am with another chocolate chip cookie... I hope you're not tired of them. There have been many factors to my absence, not the least of which is the fact that I've baked several things that I wasn't really crazy about, and I have a hard time posting sub-par treats. These cookies, however are anything but sub-par.

These are the cookies that I surmised about in my last post. These are the Perfect Cookie and New York Times cookie hybrid. These are the cookies. The cookies.

They are drawn more from the NYT recipe than the CI one, the only real contribution from CI being the brown butter. What a contribution it is, though! I will never make another chocolate chip cookie without brown butter. It does add an extra step, but it is well worth it. I find it fascinating that the actual brown butter flavor doesn't really come through here. I tasted several to make sure. What it does is deepens the flavor of the cookie, tempers the sweetness and imparts a slight nuttiness. It is a smooth and subtle addition, one that highlights the tastes already present and seamlessly ties all of the elements together.

These fulfill all of my requirements for a perfect chocolate chip cookie: they are dense and chewy on the inside, with a crispy and sturdy outer shell; the flavor of the cookie itself is rich and complex and mysterious due to the brown butter; the balance of cookie to chocolate is right on and the sprinkle of salt on top is the perfect finish.

I have no criticisms of this cookie. None. They were given enthusiastic thumbs up by everyone who tasted them, were the winner of a blind taste test with this cookie, and my mom deemed them the best chocolate chip cookies she's ever had. That's the real ccc test, people. If my mom approves, it is a true winner.

The Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from The New York Times and Cook's Illustrated

8 1/2 ounces unbleached white flour
1/2 + 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, browned
5 ounces light brown sugar
4 ounces granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chip-sized pieces

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugars. Pour hot brown butter over sugars, and without stirring, place in refrigerator to cool the butter to room temperature. Attach bowl to mixer and on medium speed, beat until light in color and fluffy. If butter isn't becoming pale, it isn't cool enough. Pop it back in the fridge for a few more minutes and try again. When butter mixture is desired consistency, add egg and beat for 30 seconds. Stir in vanilla. Add dry ingredients, and mix until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate. Form dough into a log and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours (if you can stand to. If not, I understand). When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment. Form dough into balls a little over an inch in diameter, or 1.5 ounces. Place balls at least 2" apart on baking sheet, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until slightly puffy, dry on top and tinged with golden. Let cool completely on baking sheet.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies?

I know I just posted chocolate chip cookies a couple days ago, but here are some more for you. These come from Cook's Illustrated, and were brought to my attention by Nancy. As soon as I heard about them I had to make them. Why? They contain brown butter.

I have made my love known many times for all things brown butter, though for some inexplicable reason, I have never made chocolate chip cookies with it. Oh I've considered doing it several times, but I just never did. I am kicking myself now for not doing it sooner. I will have to make up for lost time.

Maybe the reason I waited so long was because I knew that I would love brown butter chocolate chip cookies so much that I would want to make nothing else and eat nothing else until the end of time. That's pretty much what has happened. If one could subsist on cookies alone, I would be tempted.

I'm giddy just thinking about them.

Now, are they perfect as the name of the recipe suggests? Weeeeelll, almost. The flavor is, without a doubt, the flavor of perfection. The brown butter is much more subtle than I thought it would be, but then it is battling 2 teaspoons of vanilla as well as dark brown sugar for flavor domination. That said, it is unmistakably there. It adds a richness and a nuttiness that only comes from the magic that is brown butter. I would drink the stuff if I didn't think I would instantaneously and simultaneously gain 35 pounds and have a heart attack. There is just the right amount of chocolate in these to ensure that every bite is perfectly balanced between chocolate and cookie, an elusive ratio. The edges are perfectly crispy and the centers chewy, though as with Dorie's chocolate chip cookies, they are just a mite too thin for me.

I think the next thing to do is try the New York Times recipe with brown butter, as that is the only version I've ever made that has the texture and thickness that I prefer in a chocolate chip cookie. I'll let you know how it goes.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Cook's Illustrated, May/June 2009

1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
6 ounces coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large heat-proof bowl, combine 10 tablespoons browned butter and 4 tablespoons butter, stirring until un-browned butter is completely melted. Add sugars, salt and vanilla, whisking until fully combined. Add egg and egg yolk and whisk for about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk again for 30 seconds. Repeat this twice more. Mixture should be thick, smooth and shiny. Add flour and baking soda, and using a rubber spatula, stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks. Form into balls about 1 1/4 inch in diameter, or 1.25 ounces. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges have set, but the centers are still soft. Cool cookies completely on baking sheet.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dulce de Leche + Cocoa Wafer Sandwich Cookies

I have made my love for Alice Medrich known many times. Especially in regards to her newest book, Pure Dessert. It is a beautiful book, with many fantastic recipes. I have probably baked more out of Pure Dessert than from any other book I have - with the exception of Baking from My Home to Yours, of course.

The first time I saw these cookies was on Smitten Kitchen, where Deb made a beautiful Icebox Cake out of them. This is incredibly intriguing to me, and one day I'll make one of them.

Then, quite a few weeks ago, Di and Nancy baked these cocoa wafers together via Twitter. I wanted to join in, but I wasn't able to on their appointed day & time. Plus, after looking at the recipe I noticed that it uses a food processor. Normally, I would just use my mixer and call it a day, but I was waiting on a 14-cup food processor to come in the mail - it was my big Christmas present this past year. It finally came at the beginning of February. It took me a couple of weeks to actually use it, but when I did I knew what I would be making first!

I wanted to do something special with these wafers, I didn't think a plain old thin cookie would have really done it for me. I was wrong. These are no ordinary cookies.

These cocoa wafers are magnificent. They taste purely of chocolate, and are on the bitter side. They are very thin, and very crispy. There isn't a hint of softness or chewiness in them. These would make a fantastic cookie crust (and I think Nancy and/or Di used them that way); you could make your own Thin Mints with them, or oreos, or fill them with some homemade dulce de leche as I did.

The sweetness of the dulce de leche is tempered by the deep chocolate of the cookie, and the result is a wonderfully satisfying cookie; crisp on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside, perfect.

My recipe is for Dulce de Leche is here. Cocoa Wafer recipe below.

Cocoa Wafers
adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich

1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and baking soda in bowl of food processor, and pulse until thoroughly combined. Add butter and pulse several times. Stir together milk and vanilla in small bowl, and add to bowl with food processor running. Process until dough clumps around blade, scraping bowl as necessary. Turn dough out onto board, and using your hands, make sure it is evenly blended. Form into a log, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour. When you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Cut slices 1/4 inch thick* from the log and place 1 inch apart on baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies look dry on top and are fairly firm to the touch. Cool completely on baking sheet.

* For these sandwiches, I rolled the dough out to a scant 1/4" and used my smallest biscuit cutter to cut them out.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

TWD: Dorie's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

This week the TWD bakers made one of my all-time favorite treats; chocolate chip cookies!

Chocolate chip cookies played a large part in shaping my childhood. My mom and I baked them together regularly, they were her specialty. They're still the only thing she bakes. I probably make chocolate chip cookies more frequently than any other treat.

I enjoyed these cookies quite a lot. It is no surprise, as Dorie mentions that it is a tweaked version of the Tollhouse recipe, which is the recipe I grew up on. I thought the flavor was wonderful - rich and caramel-y; the texture was good - crispy around the edges and chewy in the center. The only problem I had with these cookies was that they are too thin. I like to have a little more to sink my teeth into. Proving once again that the New York Times recipe is the perfect chocolate chip cookie!

Thanks to Kait of Kait's Plate for hosting this week. You can find the recipe for these yummy cookies on her blog.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chocolate-Dipped Marzipan Coins

Whenever there was a special occasion growing up, marzipan was my treat of choice. It was not available in the small town I grew up in - except for a short time when there was a much-loved (by me) candy store downtown - so it was only on birthdays and other holidays when I would get it. It came in a shallow little green mesh box, divided into 9 separate spaces. In each space was a molded marzipan fruit or vegetable, airbrushed some bright color or another. Thinking about it now, it sounds slightly repulsive, but back then it was magical. I would savor each piece, trying to stretch out my enjoyment as long as possible, but the marzipan never lasted more than a couple hours at best.

I was trying to come up with something to post that would be Valentine's Day appropriate, though sophisticated - nothing red, heart-shaped or containing catchy sentimental phrases. Not that there's anything wrong with those things, I'm just not so much in the Valentine's spirit this year.

These are treats that you could give anyone you love on V-Day, not just a significant other. They are also ridiculously simple to make.

They taste better than any marzipan I've ever eaten. They taste fresh, which is not usually something you get with the electric red strawberry-shaped version. They are moist, not too sweet, and tender. The store-bought variety can tend towards rubbery, and these are anything but.

If you have molds, you could certainly use them to make fun marzipan shapes. I rolled my marzipan out and used my smallest biscuit cutter.

If you need a last-minute Valentine to give someone, these are perfect. They are delicious, beautiful and only take about an hour from start to finish - including time for the chocolate to set.

Chocolate-Dipped Marzipan Coins
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

8 ounces blanched almonds
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon almond extract
4-5 tablespoons corn syrup*

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, tempered

Place almonds in food processor. Grind to a fine powder, then process a little longer. About 2 minutes in all. Scrape bowl, and add confectioner's sugar and almond extract, process until well combined. Add corn syrup* and process for another minute. The mixture will be crumbly, but when you squeeze a bit of it, it should form a cohesive piece. Turn mixture out onto a board and knead until it comes together. Form a log, wrap in plastic and place in freezer while you temper the chocolate.

To temper chocolate: Place 2.5 ounces in a heat-proof bowl placed over a pot of simmering water. Melt chocolate, stirring frequently. When temperature is over 105, add remaining .5 ounces of chocolate and stir until melted. When the chocolate cools to 90 degrees, it is ready. Keep it at this temperature while you're dipping.

When the chocolate is ready, remove the marzipan from the freezer and roll it out to about 1/4" thick. Using a cookie cutter, biscuit cutter, knife, etc... cut out shapes as desired. Dip into chocolate, and place on a piece of parchment until chocolate is set.

* I've had a couple of comments from people who have made this, saying that the marzipan was extremely sticky and difficult to roll out. My suggestion is to start with 4 tablespoons of corn syrup, and test the marzipan to see if it stays together when squeezed in a clump. If it is still crumbly, add the additional tablespoon. You can also try dusting your rolling surface & pin with powdered sugar, though I have made this twice in the last couple of weeks and didn't need any, so the ideal is to have marzipan that is soft, moist, not crumbly and not sticky (though it will be slightly oily from the natural oils in the almonds).

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Nancy's Brown Butter Buttons

I am making a real effort these days to put my many baking books to good use. I have amassed quite a collection in the last year. Every time I know I'm going to bake, I pull out a few under-used books and make the first thing that jumps out at me. A few days ago, I had some baking time on my hands. I had no eggs in the house, as I had just used my last four for Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia, so I knew finding a recipe would be more challenging. I started thumbing through Baking for All Occasions, and found these. These adorable little cookies combine two of my favorite things: shortbread and brown butter. I knew I couldn't go wrong. I just love the addition of the nutty butter to the sweet cookie.

Though I have made brown butter shortbread before, these are a little different. The main thing is that these have a texture that is so sandy it verges on crunchy. They are unbelievably satisfying, and entirely too easy to eat.

These sturdy little cookies are great for any occasion - or no occasion at all!

Nancy's Brown Butter Buttons
adapted from Baking for All Occasions by Flo Braker

8 oz unsalted butter, browned and cooled
2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Sift flour, baking soda and salt into a medium-sized bowl, set aside. In a large bowl, combine butter and vanilla. Stir in half the sugar, blending well, stir in the remaining sugar. Add the flour in two additions, stirring until just combined each time. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow flour to absorb moisture. Form dough into small balls, about 1" in diameter. Place about 1/2" apart on baking sheet. Bake until cookies crack across the top and brown around the edges. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer cookies directly onto wire rack to cool completely.

TWD: Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia

This week for TWD, we made brownies! Ah, any excuse to make and eat a brownie is okay by me.

At first taste, I didn't think I was a huge fan of these brownies. I actually wrote an entire post - but didn't publish it - about how I didn't really like them. Then I started looking at other people's blogs to see what everyone else thought, and they were all crazy about them. I decided to give them another shot. Not ten minutes ago, I went into the kitchen and ate a brownie, and I must say I have changed my mind. These are really delicious. The texture is very different from any other brownie I've ever had. They are fudgey, but light at the same time due to the whipped eggs that are folded into the batter. I tend to prefer a denser brownie, so I can't say that I've found my new favorite, but these were definitely a lovely surprise.

This recipe was chosen by Tanya of Chocolatechic, and can be found on her blog.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Walnut Pralines

I love Charleston, SC. Though I live very close, the first time I went there was only about 2 1/2 years ago. Pretty much my entire trip was spent eating, which was not something I complained about. So many fantastic restaurants there, it is probably a good thing I don't live closer.

There is a sweet shop in downtown Charleston. I don't know what its name is, and frankly, it's probably a big tourist trap, but they make pralines. Lots of pralines. They give out free samples of these pralines, and they are oh so tasty. We intentionally walked past that shop several times a day. There was just something so addictive about those nutty chunks of melt-in-your mouth caramel-flavored sweetness.

I've been intending to make pralines for a few months, and finally had the chance a couple of days ago. I was amazed at how easy and quick these were.

I took one bite, and I was right back in Charleston.

These pralines are rich, sweet, satisfying. They have the consistency of fudge with the flavor of caramel, studded with walnuts which lend a slight bitterness. I think the next time I make them, I'll try toasting the walnuts - or whatever nuts I use. I think it would bring out a wonderful flavor that would compliment the sugary candy beautifully.

Walnut Pralines
adapted from

2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
small pinch of salt
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

Line two baking sheets with parchment, set aside. In a heavy-bottomed 3 quart saucepan, combine sugar, baking soda, salt and cream. Over medium-high heat, cook until deep golden brown, stirring occasionally. The temperature should be 235 on a candy thermometer. Add butter and walnuts, and stir until butter is melted. Drop spoonfuls of mixture onto prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Work rather quickly, as mixture will become harder to scoop as it cools. Allow pralines to cool completely, about 1 hour.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Saucepan Fudge Drops

While looking for baking inspiration a few days ago, I pulled Bittersweet off of my bookshelf. I hadn't baked anything from it in a long time, and I was on a chocolate roll, so I was hoping to stumble upon something I would want to make.

I looked in the index under "cookies" and saw the title of this recipe, which I had somehow never noticed before. The name intrigued me. Then I looked at the recipe, and was even more intrigued by the method as well as the ingredients. I knew I had to make them.

These are the cookies you make when you want a brownie. Of course, you could just make brownies, but these are so easy and delicious and versatile why not make them instead?!

The cookie is crunchy on the outside, and incredibly fudgy on the inside. It has a slightly sandy texture, because the sugar never has a chance to melt, and a deep chocolate flavor. These would be incredible for ice cream sandwiches. Despite their soft, almost gooey interior, they aren't fragile in the least. They are similar to these cookies I made several months ago, but they have a greater textural difference between the center and the edges, and that makes them even better.

They are so fast and easy to put together, they would make a great last-minute treat for the big game!

Saucepan Fudge Drops
adapted from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich

1 cup unbleached white flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
1/3 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350, with racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl, and set aside. Place butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted and sizzling. Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa until smooth. Add sugars and stir until blended - mixture will be stiff and sandy at this point. Stir in yogurt and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined. Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart. You'll want to work quickly, here. If you take too much tim, the batter will thicken as it cools, resulting in a thicker and less attractive cookie. Bake until cookies look dry on top and are cracked all over, but are still slightly soft when pressed, 10-12 minutes. Rotate baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back about half way through to ensure even baking. Slide the parchment, cookies and all onto racks to cool.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pistachio + Date Scones

I've been chasing simplicity for quite some time, but can never seem to achieve it. In my mind, all I want is a quiet life in the town I grew up in; baking and being with my kids, friends, family. There is something very comforting about a place where you know everyone you see, and they have all known you since toddlerhood. In reality, I am nowhere near that (and may never be). The last few years have been very stressful for me. In no particular order; I've had two kids, gotten married, sold a house, built a house, moved 5 times, and opened a retail store. It hasn't all been easy - and it certainly hasn't been simple - but it's life. My life. Now another chapter is beginning in my life; that of being a single mom. It will certainly be an adjustment, but everyone will be a lot happier. Now that's all I'm gonna say about that.

Scones are simplicity itself - even when as gussied up as these are. So, even if I can't live my bucolic dreams, I can eat them.

These scones are eggless, and made with cream. I love breakfast treats made with cream - it gives them such a soft, light crumb that almost melts in your mouth. Pistachios have a very distinct flavor - buttery, smoky, savory - and are not commonly found in scones, so these are an unexpected and delightful addition. They are also a wonderful foil for the sweet dates. I love dates. I love them plain, I love them rolled in coconut, I love them in baked goods. I've never met a date I didn't like. When baked, they become unbelievably tender - date paste, almost - and if you're lucky enough to get one that is slightly exposed in the dough you're in for a real treat. The edges become slightly crispy and chewy and caramelized, and they are delicious.

These are sure to be a regular treat around these parts. Next time, however, I will add more dates - I think 1 1/2 cups instead of 1 cup. I thought the date to pistachio balance was a little off. Also, they took a bit longer to bake than the recipe specified. I had to turn the oven down and cover them with foil to prevent them from burning. I would recommend baking them at 400 instead of 425, as the original recipe calls for. I'm writing the recipe below as I made them, with changes I would make in parentheses.

Pistachio + Date Scones
adapted from eatmakeread

2 cups unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons palm sugar (or any other sugar; if you use unsalted pistachios, you could reduce this by 1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup dates, chopped (I think they need 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons pistachios, chopped, divided
1 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream, divided

Preheat oven to 425 (I think this should be more like 400). Line baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add butter, and using a pastry blender cut it in until well-combined, but so that there are still some large-ish pieces of butter in the mixture. Add dates and 1/2 cup pistachios, tossing with your hands, and separating any large clumps of dates. Add 1 cup heavy cream, and stir with fork until a dough forms. Turn out onto a floured board, and pat into a disk about 1/2" thick. Cut into 8 wedges. Place wedges on baking sheet, giving them as much space as you can. Spoon a bit of the remaining cream on the top of each scone, spreading it with the back of the spoon to coat the surface of the scone. Sprinkle tops of scones with remaining chopped pistachios. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until scones are golden. If they seem to be browning too quickly, cover them loosely with a piece of aluminum foil. Let cool on rack for at least 10 minutes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

TWD: Bittersweet Chocolate Mini-Bundts

I've been on the search for the perfect chocolate cake. Though I love chocolate in just about all forms, chocolate cake isn't usually my thing. It isn't ever chocolate-y enough. I am always willing to try a new recipe, however, hoping to close in on that ever-elusive perfection that I hope is out there.

I made 1/3 of the recipe, thanks to Nancy's meticulous math, and it fit nicely into one cup of my new mini bundt pan.

I read reports of a lack of chocolate flavor in this cake as written - milk chocolate, that is - so I went darker.

I topped my little cake with a ganache instead of the glaze in the book, as there were also lots of people who had issues with it.

The flavor of the cake was good - it actually tasted like chocolate - though it was a little dry. I may have over-baked it, but dryness was also a common complaint among the other TWDers, so I don't know. Nancy added some yogurt to her batter to help combat the feared dryness. Perhaps with that in mind, I'll attempt this again. We'll see how that works.

The search is still on for the perfect chocolate cake.

Thanks to Kristin from I'm Right About Everything for hosting this week. You can find the recipe on her blog.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Coconut Bread

I've always been impulsive.

This impulsiveness surfaces in every aspect of my life, from the most trivial - such as the constant changing of my hair - to the potentially dangerous...

An example: when I was 23 and I took off on a cross-country road trip by myself. It seemed harmless enough. I was supposed to be gone for 2 weeks, but close to the end of my trip I blew a tire on the interstate. I was just outside Claremore, OK, whose only claim to fame is being the birthplace to Will Rogers. The speed limit was 75, so I was going about 80. I was listening to Tori Amos' Tales of a Librarian, when all of a sudden my car started to fishtail. Before I knew it I was air-bound, flying off the side of the road. My car landed - blowing another tire - spun around several times and came to rest in some tall grasses. Miraculously, I wasn't injured. Not even a bruise. My car was another story. It required almost $8000 in repairs, and while it was being fixed I was stranded in Tulsa. For two weeks. By myself. I spent the whole time in my motel room watching Law & Order re-runs and knitting.

Though hopefully no experience as extreme as my stay in Tulsa will result from any decision I make in the kitchen, my impulsiveness shows itself in my baking, too - this is on the trivial end of the impulsive spectrum. Sometimes I have a desire to bake, but I have a hard time deciding exactly what I want to bake. If I happen upon a recipe that inspires me, however, I have to make it immediately. Whether it is late at night, early in the morning, in the last 30 minutes I have before I go to work, etc... This was one of those recipes.

As soon as I saw this on Seven Spoons, I started measuring ingredients. It was a perfect recipe to happen upon, as I had been wanting to make my boys a new quick bread for breakfast. Plus, I had just made this fantastic coconut cake that they weren't able to eat, which I felt a little bad about because it was so delicious. Making this bread was my way of giving them a little taste of what they had missed.

This coconut bread is like the less-refined cousin of that cake. Denser, heavier than the cake, with none of its fluffy delicacy though all of its coconut-y goodness. This has more heft, more texture from a greater amount of shredded coconut, which also gives it a little chew. It has a moist, soft crumb and a substantial crust. It is humble, yet sublime.

Taking a cue from the cake, I used coconut milk in place of whole milk to enhance the coconut flavor. I also used palm sugar to sweeten it - which comes from the coconut palm; coconut everywhere! This is a fantastic quick bread eaten plain or toasted with butter and equally as appropriate eaten for breakfast or with your afternoon tea. If you wanted to dress it up a little and serve it as dessert, I'm sure it would also be delicious with chocolate chunks - though for me it would slightly defeat the purpose, as then my kids wouldn't be able to eat it.

Thankfully, not all roads of impulsiveness lead to Tulsa.

Coconut Bread
adapted from Bill Granger via Seven Spoons

2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups coconut milk
seeds scraped from 1/2 a vanilla bean, or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup palm sugar
5 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) unsweetened shredded coconut
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan. Whisk together eggs, coconut milk and vanilla in a small bowl, set aside. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl, then stir in the palm sugar and shredded coconut. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour in egg mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in melted butter, mixing only until incorporated. Do not over-mix. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for about an hour, or until a tester inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan for 30 minutes, then un-mold and cool completely on rack before cutting.

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