Tag Archives: Chocolate

Bundt Cake: Portland

5 Apr

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Well, call me lazy. I’m embarrassed it’s taken me more than three months since I made this cake to post about it. Perhaps because I had to download all the photos from my phone (there’s got to be a better way…).

For my first-ever Bundt cake, I’m pleased with how this one turned out. I decided on Root Beer Bundt Cake from the Crepes of Wrath, to help send off a coworker. The texture and taste were wonderfully rich and dense, but I might do without the frosting next time. It proved a little too rich with an already rich cake.

Bundt cake ingredients

Standard wet and dry cake ingredients were employed, along with some high-quality, real-sugar root beer (and, wow, could I tell a difference).

Blaine and bundt cake

Blaine, a devotee of Bundt cakes himself (and whose own Baileys Bundt cake photos I’ll post soon), volunteered to help me craft this cake. Here he’s stirring the butter-sugar-cocoa-root beer mixture to melt all the elements before incorporating it with the dry ingredients.

Bundt cake batter

Once cooled a bit, the wet ingredients met the dry ingredients in a lumpy batter that then went into a buttered and floured, nonstick bundt pan.

Beautiful bundt cake

Finally, because I’m always curious about the origins of things, when my mom had mentioned that Bundt cakes became a fad of sorts in the 1960s and 1970s, I looked up a bit of history.

It turns out the Bundt pan is the product of a Minnesota man: H. David Dalquist, a culinary pioneer who developed the signature pan, with its fluted sides and round center, according to a 2005 Associated Press obituary. The company that he and his wife, Dorothy, started in the late 1940s, Nordic Ware, still exists today. And there’s a reason why only Nordic Ware pans carry the “Bundt” in their name: It’s a trademark, hence why the “B” is always capitalized. (For example, this is the one I have, and it’s instead called a “fluted mold cake pan.”)

Though first created in 1950, the pan didn’t catch on until the 1960s, when the Betty Crocker brand of entertaining was taking off and cake-mix cakes were all the rage. My mom remembers a recipe for Harvey Wallbanger cake made with yellow cake mix and Galliano liqueur being passed around, but there are also from-scratch recipes available.

Frosted bundt cake

 

Here’s a final view of the cake. I only frosted half, and it’s not the most artful frosting, but the cake itself was just the right balance of chocolate and root beer. I’ll be using this recipe again.

 

Solo Project: Two Cakes

28 Sep

Both of my parents’ birthdays are in September. I never do full-sized cakes, because they often turn out sub-par. I’m much better with cupcakes! However, I made two cakes this last month that turned out beautifully, and I want to share them! 

One was a simple white cake with American Buttercream, for my mother’s 60th birthday. My mom is one hell of an awesome lady, and I wanted to do something really pretty for her! Following this as a model, I made her this cake: 

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My dad’s birthday was this last Monday, and he’s a chocolate fiend. Chocolate is better than pure gold, in his eyes. So, naturally, I made a chocolate cake (Martha Stewart’s recipe, of course), with a chocolate ganache as “frosting”. Man, was this thing rich. I swirled the frosting into rosettes, which is something I’d seen on pinterest. I didn’t follow a tutorial or anything – I just kinda went for it. I was really happy with how it turned out.

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Happy birthday, Mom and Dad. I love you!

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Ice Cream Sandwiches: Portland

11 Jul

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Turns out, trying to bake cookies in 90-degree heat was the most challenging part of this challenge. Well, I didn’t actually do any baking when it was that hot, but the weather certainly delayed my baking efforts for a few days. The Fourth of July was finally cool enough to use the oven (even in my second-floor apartment it was still pretty toasty), so I got to work on reverse Reese’s ice cream sandwiches, with peanut butter cookies and chocolate ice cream. And because I had access to a Cuisinart ice cream maker (thank you, Michael), I decided to try my hand at making my own. Special America bonus: The West Wing was on in the background.

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As cookies go, these were easy to assemble with some brown sugar, butter, eggs and peanut butter…

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…followed by flour, baking soda and baking powder. I did make the dough a few days before I was able to actually bake the cookies, so I froze it, hoping it would keep its consistency. It didn’t, but it turned out pretty much OK in the end. More on that later.

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For the ice cream, I went with Cuisinart’s Simple Chocolate Ice Cream recipe. I thought it best to use a recipe that was 100 percent compatible with the machine I was using. Ingredients: whole milk, whipping cream, white sugar, brown sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract. Stir to dissolve sugar and cocoa.

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Once everything was dissolved, I left it in the fridge until the ice cream maker bowl was frozen enough to start mixing. The mixing was its own challenge.

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When it actually came time to bake the cookies, they did not defrost well. There was a lot of crumbling, and the dough didn’t want to hold together. Ideally, I would have chilled the dough for an hour after mixing it, and then it would have rolled out nicely.

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With the traditional peanut butter cookie fork marks, you can see even more evidence of crumbling around the edges.

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But once out of the oven, they held together well. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from baking cookies, it’s to never make them too big, lest they spread out into one giant cookie mess. These were a little more crunchy than I would have preferred for an ice cream sandwich,

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This is how the ice cream turned out: semi-successful. I don’t think my freezer got the machine’s mixing bowl all the way frozen, so the ice cream never thickened as promised. Short on time, I shoved the whole thing in the freezer. The result was better than expected, but still a lot of ice crystals. (Not sure that I’d go to the trouble of making ice cream again, at least not with my freezer’s capabilities.) Eileen had the good idea of mixing it around with a fork like granita, and it definitely had that texture on the top. Once I scooped it, though, and it started melting together, it was a pretty normal consistency: dense, but creamy.

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Here it is all assembled. (Hand model credit goes to Eileen.) Now that it’s getting hot again, these are perfect for cooling down after a long bike ride home from work. The subtle peanut butter cookies and the creamy chocolate ice cream made a tasty combo.

Ice Cream Sandwiches: Denver

21 Jun

Truly not having my finest week, so I’ll keep it brief.

 

Ice cream sandwiches were delicious! Everyone who tried one enjoyed it, and they were a big hit with my family after a baseball game. Made ’em last weekend.

 

They were very simple to put together! Sift the dry, blend the wet, bake, fill, and freeze. I wrapped each newly-constructed sandwich in its own foil package, which made unwrapping them feel special. I finished some with sprinkles and some with sanding sugar.

 

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The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012: Portland

12 Dec

DSC_0290For this year’s cookie swap, I wanted to make a cookie with a technique I hadn’t tried before. Sliced cookies sounded like a good option, as I typically find rolled cookies a little too tedious for big batches, and I haven’t had good luck with the consistency and size of my drop cookies (see last year’s ginger snaps).

Instead of consulting the Internet for inspiration, as I typically do, I consulted the public library’s cookbook shelf and found “Christmas Cookies from the Whimsical Bakehouse.” This was a great resource for  all sorts of creative recipes, including shortbread snowflakes, spritz cookies and even a 3-D Christmas tree, with chapters on each cookie-making method.

Several cookies caught my eye, but I ultimately decided on a combination cookie with two doughs baked in one: cherry-almond and chocolate-walnut. They’re called yin-yang cookies in the book, but mine really didn’t turn out looking that way (as you’ll see below). The idea is to make to separate doughs, roll them into logs and then roll them together into one log that you slice later.

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Here’s what went into these combo cookies (note the Tillamook butter). The two doughs were pretty simple, but it did help to have a stand mixer. And a word of warning, this recipe makes a ton of cookies — up to 6 dozen, depending on how big your rolls turn out.

Cherry-almond dough

1 1/2 sticks butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. orange juice
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup blanched almonds (chopped)

1. Cream butter and sugar.
2. Add egg, orange juice and extract.
3. Add flour, cherries and almonds.

Chocolate-walnut dough

2 sticks butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup walnuts (chopped)

1. Cream butter, sugar and extract.
2. Add flour, cocoa and walnuts.

Once both doughs are mixed, make four logs out of each dough and let chill briefly. Combine two logs of each dough so you have four double rolls. Wrap and let these chill overnight (at least 8 hours is best). Cut into 1/4-inch slices and bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees until not quite brown.

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As part of my goal to learn from my previous baking experiences, I’m trying to become more patient when it comes to one of the foundations of baking — waiting until the butter is soft before creaming it with the sugar. And perhaps it helped the consistency of the cookies this time around. (This photo is from early on in the process, so it doesn’t have that silky, pale yellow sheen yet.)

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The cherries (actually cherry juice-infused Craisins, which added an interesting albeit potentially fake flavor) and the almonds looked so lovely chopped up together. In fact, cranberries (or any red berry) remind me a lot of the holidays (and fittingly, Hannah’s cookies had some cranberries, too!).

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After combining the ingredients for the cherry-almond dough, I mixed the chocolate-walnut separately. I was surprised that this dough didn’t call for an

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Each dough got separated into four logs, so I ended up with eight logs that I needed to roll together into four mega-logs. These were supposed to look like yin-yangs, but the directions didn’t help me that much, so I just opted to see how they turned out.

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The best thing about roll cookies is that they chill in the refrigerator for a long time, which means the dough is easier to work with and they won’t run into each other while baking.

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When I cut up the logs after a whole night of chilling, they looked a little too much like salami …

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… but they baked up just fine. I had some trouble rolling the chocolate-walnut dough into a cohesive log (and honestly I was surprised this recipe didn’t call for an egg), but they texture incorporated just fine with the cherry-almond when they baked.

I also wasn’t sure if I’d like two cookies in one, or if they were big enough, but I hope the bloggers I sent them to — the Lushers of Life with the Lushers, Vicki of My Purple Kitchen,  Cookie of Cookie Loves and my blog partner, Hannah — enjoyed them.

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Lastly, I have to give a shout-out to the amazing cookies I got from across the country.

First were Hannah’s cranberry-white chocolate shortbread, which looked and tasted wonderful.

Next were white chocolate peanut butter krispies from Mollie of Sprinkles of Life. These had almond bark, peanut butter, mini marshmallows, peanuts and crispy rice cereal. These had great texture and a great combination of flavors.

Third were amaretti cookies, made from almond flour, from Kristin of Nanna’s Cookbook. These seemed so simple, but they looked and tasted elegant.

Last were double chocolate biscotti from Kelley of The Culinary Enthusiast. They went great with my morning tea!

Here’s a photo of all of them together on one plate.

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I ended up having so many cookies (four dozen, plus extras from my batch) that I got to share with my friends and coworkers.

A couple things I’ll try to do next year, though: 1. Use social media better to share my cookie swap experience. 2. Come up with a cute (and safe) way of packaging. Another cookie swap success. I’m excited to do it again next year.

Happy holiday baking!

Challenge #9: Chocolate Espresso Tart

15 Jan

For this challenge, Hannah and I were (surprise, surprise) in the same city, Denver. I went out in January to check out the museums, mountains and mystery of her hometown. We decided because this was a rare opportunity to bake in tandem, we couldn’t pass it up.

I’d gotten Hannah the Martha Stewart “Pies and Tarts” cookbook to complete her trifecta of Martha Stewart baking editions (she also has Cupcakes and Cookies).

We decided to pick something without fresh fruit (not in season) and without booze (heartbreaking, but a bit expensive). We decided on a chocolate espresso tart with ganache and mascarpone cheese.

Check out our next entry, courtesy of Hannah, to see how it turned out.

Chocolate Espresso Tart: Denver

15 Jan

One time, I visited Hannah in Denver, and we made this delicious tart out of Martha Stewart’s new Pies and Tarts book. Here’s a visual journey through the experience. And by the way, the cat hat is tradition.