Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rich Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream and a 30th Birthday Wish

These holidays must really be killing me this year b/c I have been lagging on posts like no body’s business. But that does not mean there hasn’t been massive commotion in my kitchen!

My sister’s 30th birthday was December 10 and I told her I would bake her cake. She chose, double chocolate. What can I say; she is a girl’s girl.

For the cake, I used my ‘go to’ chocolate cake recipe. I got the recipe from a local Michigan baker, Michelle Bommarito. My girlfriend Angel had her bake the cake for her wedding and let me tell you…by far the best wedding cake I ever had. It was dense, moist, and REALLY chocolate-y. Since then, I have been an absolute cake fanatic and went on a wild man hunt to find a similar recipe.

When I saw her on the food network months after my friend’s wedding…I swear it was like winning the cake lotto or something because now I have the recipe. I have the “golden ticket”!! (Who says that wedding cake should taste like dried up old gritty cake anyway? Ugh! Nothing worse.)

For the frosting, I based it on the same stipulation as the cake. I don’t skimp on flavor. When I make something, I go all out and it better taste good. I found a similar buttercream to that of my friend’s wedding cake in a book called Cake Love by Warren Brown. By far one of my favorite cake books and I can honestly say I have read it cover to cover….NUMEROUS times. The Italian Meringue Buttercream recipe is absolutely superb, it’s surprisingly easy to master, and I get compliments on my cakes/cupcakes EVERYTIME.

So here we go…a celebration to my sister’s 30th. May your next 30 years, "be the best days of your life." (And remember Kris…you may be getting old…but our big sister Sher will always be older than both of us. Lol! Jk !)

Love ya!

Rich Chocolate Cake
Recipe by: Michelle Bommarito from Food Network.com

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (packed) cocoa powder (I used Valrhona, don’t mess around use the good stuff!)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
8 ounces French roast coffee, freshly brewed and cooled
2 cups granulated sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
3 whole eggs
2 teaspoons Vanilla –This was my addition

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour a (2) 8-inch round cake pan or line cupcake pan with liners. (I used (2) 9-inch square pans--they were WAY too large for this recipe.

Sift the flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder together. Reserve.

Brew a fresh pot of French roast coffee. Cool and reserve.

In a bowl of an electric mixer combine the sugar, and butter. Mix on medium speed until combined well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add in the brewed coffee and combine on low speed.

Once combined, add in the buttermilk and then the eggs, 1 at a time.. Continue to mix on low speed. The mixture may look ‘curdled’ …this is ok.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Gently fold in the sifted dry ingredients.

Pour batter into the prepared cake pan and fill half way up.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Italian Meringue Buttercream
Recipe from “Cake Love” by Warren Brown

5 egg whites, room temperature
10 oz. (1 ¼ cup) fine granulated sugar, divided
¼ cup cold water
4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, broken into 1 tablespoon chunks

1. In a heavy bottom saucepan, add 1 cup of the sugar (save the ¼ cup of sugar for the egg white mixture) and the cold water. Stir with your candy thermometer and set up the thermometer to sit inside the saucepan so you can keep an eye on the temperature. Heat on medium heat until it reaches 245 degrees. (Just above the ‘soft ball’ stage).

a. Tip: Place the lid half way on the pot to collect the condensation so the sugar crystals don’t build up. To prevent it further, use water and a pastry brush to brush down the sides of the saucepan.

2. While the sugar syrup is heating, begin mixing your egg whites on high until you get stiff peaks. Once you get stiff peaks, add the ¼ cup of sugar while the mixer is still running.
3. Check on your syrup. It should be about 245 degrees now, if not, turn up the heat and KEEP AN EYE ON IT. You don’t want it going too far or else you will get caramel.
4. Once the syrup reaches 245 degrees, remove the thermometer. Keep the mixer running and slowly pour the hot syrup into the mixer along the side of the bowl. Be careful not to splash yourself with the hot liquid.

5. Keep the mixer running on high for 2 minutes, and then turn it down to medium speed for another 5 minutes or so until the meringue is cooled.

6. Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time.
Mix until it’s fully incorporated. Add your flavorings. I added about 2-4 oz of dark chocolate.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

TWD: Grandma's Sugar Cookies

It’s Tuesday and you know what that means! It’s another Tuesdays with Dorie! Ulrike from Küchenlatein hosted Grandmas Sugar Cookies from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From my Home to Yours on December 9. So if you would like the recipe, please visit their page!

Yes, I am doing TWD OUT of order this month!

I swear…these weeks have FLOWN by leading up to Christmas. I am up to my earlobes in gifts, baking, and tasks to do! But, I managed to make these sugar cookies with my nephews, as well as saving the other half of dough in the freezer for a couple weeks for my cookie day with my sister yesterday. Don't ask me how I manage...I may order a nice straight jacket for myself for Christmas.

I will have the official verdict on these sugar cookies, after the holiday as I plan on doing a blind taste test. I happen to have a favorite sugar cookie recipe that I also made because there is no way for me to compare unless I have the cookies next to one another. I happen to LOVE sugar cookies, and I am always looking to improve! So far, my taste test was successful. :)

I will say that the Dorie cookies were a little bit tougher to roll out. Most sugar cookies stick, but these seemed to stick a bit more. To fix that, I just added more flour to the board.

My alteration was adding a vanilla bean. Something I like to do to my sugar cookies.

These are so darn festive and cute! I just love them!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

TWD: Tall and Creamy Cheesecake and Double Trouble!

I am doing TWD this week…out of order. Anne of Anne Strawberry is hosting this version of TWD, so if you would like the recipe, check here! (If it is not posted yet, check back later in the month as Cheesecake wasn't on the TWD menu until the last week of December!)

If there were ever a cheesecake to change my mind about all cheesecakes….it would be this one. Yes, I admit, I have never really been a huge fan of it. But something struck me about this recipe that I was enticed to give it ‘one more try’. Not only did the recipe it include so many tips and direction, but it also gave so many enticing ideas for change.
I thought, change is good.

Let’s face it, we all go to restaurants and see the same old tired cheesecake listed on the menu. It’s enough to make me pass on dessert (almost). I don’t know about you but I was ready to experience a ‘new’ and improved cheesecake.

And "New and Improved"...it was!

I used the gingerbread crust from "Baking From My Home to Yours". My Cheesecake flavor I chose was cinnamon to compliment the gingerbread crust, but surprisingly, Dorie didn't have that in her book (out of ALL the numerous suggestions...I was really surprised!). So I added a few teaspoons of cinnamon.

My other alteration was that I used half mascarpone cheese and half cream cheese just because I am not a huge cream cheese fan. The mascarpone gives it a milder, creamy taste that was amazing!

And...there is an added bonus!!! (insert snide comment for the home shoppers network...lol!)...I made mini cheesecakes so it allowed me to sneak in a chocolate crust and orange cheesecake. I know...pretty crazy for a gal who didn't care for cheesecake!

So this week of TWD was a success! I think I might just make this again for Christmas!

Beef Roast in the Slow Cooker

There are many days I feel like putting on one of my June Cleaver dresses and my apron and making a roast. Yes, that is my goal in life, to be a stepford wife. Ok, not entirely, but I do epitomize the 1950’s.

Great things came from the 1950’s. My parents for one, great fashion, and great down home meals that still get ‘staple standard rewards’ in my kitchen.

Truth is, I would love to be home all day to cook. Even though I absolutely love it, I don’t have that kind of time and the last thing I want to do when I come home from work, is stand in front of the stove (then spending the remainder of my night cleaning up). I do this many nights. The great thing about this recipe is its easy clean up, it’s little effort, but gives great rewards.

1-2 lbs. rump or round beef roast ( I found a nice English Roast)
5 carrots, peeled, chopped into ¾ inch pieces
5 red skin potatoes (you could use 2 russets if you want)
½ (about ¾ cup) Spanish onion or yellow onion, chopped
1- 4oz.package button mushrooms (you can use any mushroom type you like)
1 ½ cups water or beef stock
¾ cup red wine (please make sure this is a ‘drinkable’ wine meaning, NOT cooking wine)

Chop up carrots, potatoes into chunks, add to bottom of slow cooker, season lightly with salt and pepper.

Add water/beef stock to slow cooker.
Season beef with salt and pepper.
In a heavy bottom skillet, heat until hot. Pour in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add beef and sear on all sides. Put beef in slow cooker on top of carrots and potatoes.
In the same pan you seared the beef, add a few more tablespoons of olive oil and add chopped onion. Cook until translucent. Turn up the heat and add red wine and scrape up any browned bits from the pan with a wooden spatula. Cook down for a couple minutes. Add to crock pot.
Add Mushrooms to the crock pot on top of the beef.
Put lid on, and set timer to 8-10 hours on LOW.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Apple Crisp and a Delayed Thanksgiving Post

I'm so embarrassed to even post my Thanksgiving feast because I put it off, then forgot. Oops! My brother in law was so adamant that I post 'his' (really it's my Mother-in-laws ;) ) apple crisp so...I feel since the guy cooks once a year (at Thanksgiving because his job is to bring the apple crisp to my house) I felt I should at least give him some recognition.

The pictures in the post are from making this myself to show you the steps and process in making it, of course, I chopped the recipe in half!

Thanksgiving at our place went well! I am getting really good at hosting large gatherings and finally learning how to plan ahead and I am also learning to 'relax' at the party. I also enlist my family to help and everyone brings something, whether its a dish, wine, beer, whatever. Every bit helps and for that I am truly grateful.
The kitchen getting ready for the frenzy

Let the eating, BEGIN!

This is actually MY plate...I think I ate all of it. *burp* Excuse me! :)

Me and my two brother in laws...Nick OPEN YOUR EYES!

And....the dessert table! It was PUMPKIN GALORE!!! Surprised? I didn't think so..

My BIL, Nick...sleeping immediately after the tryptophan kicked in. lol

We had my BIL's new puppy, Bella, here also so she got to visit with her big cousin (our dog), Annie. Annie is slowly learning how to play nice with other dogs and share with Bella. Well... Sometimes. :)

The two playing in the yard...

I am utterly appalled that she even ALLOWED Bella into her room!

I can't wait to celebrate again with family at Christmas..."It's the most wonderful time of the year..."

Oh, right.. you are here for recipes...not my silly family stories.... here is the Apple Crisp Recipe!

Apple Crisp
Recipe by: Claudia M. , Nick M.

1 cup oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 t. cinnamon
dash salt
1/2 cup butter

Mix above together until consistency of crumbs.

Peel and cut up enough McIntosh (I used Honey crisp..my FAVE!) apples to fill a 9x13 baking dish. 3-4 lbs.

Pour oat mixture over apples spreading evenly.
Bake at 350 degrees about 40 minutes or until apples are done.