Tuesday, July 20, 2010

TWD (rewind): Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake

Over the last few weeks - months, really - I've missed several TWD recipes that I was really looking forward to making. As I get the chance, I'm going to go back and bake a few of them. Starting with this loaf cake.

Chocolate cake rarely impresses me. I usually find it too dry, and lacking in chocolate flavor. Oh boy, did this cake prove all of that wrong! It was amazing in every way: flavor, texture, appearance - even the batter was beautiful; it looked like fluffy chocolate mousse. The cake's inherent deliciousness, is elevated to an even higher level by the elements of filling and frosting. Even with all of that, it manages to seem miraculously light. This cake is a keeper.

The cake itself is deeply chocolate-y, the crumb is moist and tight - very reminiscent of a pound cake. Superb. After baking in a loaf pan, the cake is cut horizontally into 3 layers. Each layer is filled with a tart fruit jam - I used black currant; a perfect complement in flavor and texture to the cake. The frosting is amazingly simple. It is made of nothing more than melted chocolate and sour cream. As it cools it hardens, forming a bittersweet ganache-like texture with a sour cream tang. Wow. I'll be using this frosting again. I'll be making the whole cake again for that matter!

I love that this cake has so many elements, yet is so simple. Perfect for any occasion. Thanks to Amy Ruth of Amy Ruth Bakes for making this wonderful selection. You can find the recipe on her blog.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Peach Pie

There are few things as wonderful as a perfectly ripe peach - and few things as difficult to find. Even here in North Carolina, in such close proximity to Peach Country. Thankfully, over 4th of July weekend, I lucked out with a couple pounds of beautiful, sweet, smooth organic South Carolina peaches. My family requested a pie for our festivities, and, peaches in hand, I was happy to oblige.

This pie was unbelievable. Relying almost entirely on the peaches themselves for sweetness, the fruit nestled between two layers of buttery, flaky, perfect pie crust, served with orange blossom-scented whipped cream. Oh, my. It disappeared in a matter of minutes.

Peach Pie

For the filling
2 pounds of ripe peaches, pitted and cut into chunks about 1/2" x 1" (I left my skins on to create a textural difference in the filling, but peel them if you prefer)
1 tablespoon agave nectar (Madhava brand is best, it's the real deal.)
2 teaspoons tapioca powder or cornstarch

For the crust
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 1/2 cups white spelt flour
heaping 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks and frozen
1/4 cup - 1/2 cup ice water

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

Combine flours and salt in a large bowl. Add butter chunks and cut in with a pastry blender. You aren't aiming for a meal-like consistency here, you want butter pieces of various sizes - though none terribly large. Add the water a little at a time, working it in with your hands until the dough comes together. Work quickly, as you don't want the butter to warm too much. Turn dough out onto a board, divide into two, form each half into a ball, flatten into a disk and wrap well in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling.

When ready to assemble the pie:

Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 9" pie pan. Pull out one disk of dough at a time, and roll out on a well-floured board to about 1/8" thick. Line pie plate with first circle of dough, and trim overhang to about 1/8" - 1/4". Fill with peach mixture. Lay second circle of dough over filling, trim overhang to about 1/4 inch beyond bottom crust. Pinch edges of crust together, tuck top around bottom, and flute crust to make an attractive edge. Cut slits in top crust. If the dough seems to have softened a lot while you were working with it, pop it in the freezer for about 10 minutes before baking.

Bake for about 60-70 minutes, or until crust is evenly browned and fruit juices are thick and bubbling. Cool on a rack until warm.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

TWD: Salted Butter Caramel Brownies

It has taken considerably longer to get back into some sort of baking/blogging routine than I had expected. My life will still be in a bit of upheaval for the next several months, so bear with me!

The brownies for this week's TWD were supposed to have peppermint patty chunks in them, but there isn't a truly organic version (and the ones that are close are insanely expensive). I was planning on using chopped mint chocolate, but the town that I am temporarily in is very small, and there was none to be had! So I decided on adding pools of salted butter caramel. In my opinion, you can never go wrong with salted butter caramel.

It was a bit of an experiment, and though they were quite tasty, they weren't terribly attractive... I think I will play around with the way the caramel is incorporated. If I had had more time to make them I would have dropped spoonfuls of the warm caramel onto parchment, frozen them, and pressed them into the brownie batter so that it wouldn't be visible in the final product. I may also try a sturdier brownie recipe. I liked that this one was thin and fudgey, but it was rather flimsy and prone to falling apart. I'll let you know if I try this one again...

The brownie was chocolatey, not too sweet and nice and fudgey. I was pleased that the pools of caramel stayed soft and pliable even after 30 minutes in the oven, and the rich and creamy flavor was a wonderful contrast to the deep chocolate.

I baked these brownies for a family lunch, and they were quite a hit. Taste-wise, there really aren't any changes necessary, my only problems were more aesthetic in nature.

The Brrr-ownies were chosen by Karen of Welcome to our Crazy Blessed Life. The recipe for them (including the peppermint patties) is on her blog.

Let me add an apology for the less-than-stellar photos... We can't win them all...

Salted Butter Caramel
(makes more than you'll need for these brownies)

1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook sugar and salt, stirring frequently, until completely fluid. Add butter, stirring constantly - careful here, it will spit and boil furiously. Just keep stirring. Add cream and vanilla and stir until smooth. Pour immediately into heat-proof jar or bowl.

To finish the brownies like I made them, drop about a tablespoon of caramel into pan of brownie batter - portioning it so that there will be a pool in the center of each slice. (I cut mine into 9 pieces, so I had 9 pools). Bake as directed in brownie recipe.

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