Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake

My sister requested that I post the recipe of a cake I baked during her last visit to Chicago. It's super simple and tasty and get this...the secret ingredient is whiskey ;) ;) ;) I wanted to make it again, but this time I thought I would alter it a bit.

When I was a kid, oh how I loved to eat that heavenly confection called Terry's Chocolate Orange.

You know the one - that foil ball of goodness that when broken revealed semi-sweet chocolate segments with just a hint of orange. I'm pretty sure that it was my sole source of Vitamin C back in those days.

I tried to replicate these flavors by substituting the whiskey with a little Grand Marnier and orange zest. The results were surprisingly good.

Chocolate Whiskey Bundt Cake
Adapted from Gourmet, September 2005 Issue
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process) plus 3 tablespoons for dusting pan
  • 1 1/2 cups brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup American whiskey*
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

*NOTE: If you'd prefer to make the chocolate orange version, just substitute the whiskey with the following:
  • 1/2 cup Grand Marnier or another orange liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest 
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Butter bundt pan well, then dust with 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, knocking out excess.

Heat coffee, whiskey [OR Grand Marnier, if applicable*], butter, and remaining cup cocoa powder in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, whisking, until butter is melted. Remove from heat, then add sugar and whisk until dissolved, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool 5 minutes.

While chocolate mixture cools, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together eggs and vanilla in a small bowl, then whisk into cooled chocolate mixture until combined well. Add flour mixture [AND orange zest, if applicable*], and whisk until just combined (batter will be thin and bubbly). Pour batter into bundt pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.

Cool cake completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours. Loosen cake from pan using tip of a dinner knife, then invert rack over pan and turn cake out onto rack.

Whipped Cream (for serving)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
In a large metal bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat, cream will then become lumpy and butter-like.

NOTE: For best results, chill the bowl and cream before preparation.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Trifecta!

Cherries, pistachios and chocolate...

There's no denying that these ingredients on their own are delish, but combine the three together (preferably in cookie form), and you better slip on those elastic waist pants. These cookies are seriously a crowd favorite; even my husband, who has always been more of a savory snack kind of guy cannot resist. This recipe makes a generous 4 dozen...that is, if you can contain yourself from eating most of the batter.

Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies with Dried Cherries and Pistachios
Adapted from Luscious Chocolate Desserts by Lori Longbotham

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup miniature bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup unsalted toasted shelled natural pistachios, chopped
  • 3/4 cup dried tart cherries, chopped
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of an oven and preheat to 375°F. Butter 2 cookie sheets OR line two cookie sheets with a silicone baking mat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the brown and granulated sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add the corn syrup and beat until well blended, then beat in the milk and vanilla. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat just until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Using the spatula, stir in the chocolate chips, pistachios and cherries. Transfer the dough to a work surface and press it together with your hands.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place them about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. With the palm of your hand or the flat bottom of a glass, flatten each ball into a disk about 3/8 inch thick. Bake for 4 minutes, switch the position of the pans and bake until the cookies are light golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes more.

Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let cool for 3 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the racks and let cool completely. The cookies will crisp as they cool. (The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Best Cocoa Brownies

It's Sunday, 8:46 PM when a craving for a little something sweet suddenly hits me like a ten ton truck. Normally this is not an issue, but with the painful Arctic temps Chicago has been experiencing I am in full hibernation mode...i.e., NO GROCERIES.

I feverishly scour the cabinets to see what ingredients I have on hand and find an unopened container of Scharffen Berger cocoa powder...SCORE! After a quick search on the Internet, I ran across this recipe. Sweet tooth crisis averted.

Best Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

In a medium heatproof bowl, add the butter and set on top of a large sauce pan with barely simmering water. Melt the butter, then add sugar and salt, and stir until well combined. Next add the cocoa powder and stir until mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

This recipe makes what I call the perfect brownie - a chewy (not cakey) middle with a thin crust.

Monday, January 4, 2010

All this cake is going to my bundt!

So I've been on what you would call a bundt cake streak. Since the holidays began, I have probably made about five or six of these bad boys (so simple, yet still decorative!). I usually opt for the chocolate variety, but today I'm going to make a blueberry-lemon bundt as a little welcome back gesture for a friend.

My friend has been in Argentina for the last month and was recently married in her hometown. Lemon cake is one of her favorites, but the poor girl had been on a major diet in preparation for the wedding since last summer. For six months, I went on my weekly bagel dog runs solo and she refused all sweets during our various pastry weeks at work. I was really starting to miss my old friend.

Well, her willpower and all that dreadful exercise paid off because she looked AMAZING in her wedding dress! She also assured me that the diet would be over immediately following the wedding...phew.

Blueberry-Lemon Bundt Cake
Adapted from Everyday Food

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 teaspoon for blueberries and zest
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • Nonstick cooking spray, for pan
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional) 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk 2-1/2 cups flour with baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions of sour cream.

In a bowl, toss blueberries and zest with remaining teaspoon flour (this prevents blueberries and zest from sinking to the bottom of the pan); gently fold into batter. Coat a 12-cup nonstick Bundt pan with cooking spray. Spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 20 minutes. Invert onto a rack; cool completely, top side up. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving, if desired.

Lemon Glaze 
The recipe actually calls for a dusting of confectioner's sugar, but I prefer a glaze. 

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
Combine both ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until smooth. Poke holes along top of cake using a wooden skewer. Drizzle over cake.