Tag Archives: chocolate

Liwi’s Believe in God Brownies

I was in Phoenix visiting my best friend Leah. (Oh! Already 2 months ago!) Our fairy tale began when we were 11 years old, believe it or not. We were both in the middle school band–she played trumpet and I played the clarinet. Maaaany years later, she is still my heart, my Liwi.

Anyway, my weekend desert getaway with Liwi was full of coffee, crosswords, swimming and general bopping around. I even convinced her to bake her  famous “Believe in God” Brownies for me. With a name like that one, you just know these are no ordinary brownies. The recipe calls for 1 cup butter, 4 cups chocolate, 1 cup cream, so you’ll definitely want to save making them for only very special occasions.

White and dark chocolate brownie smothered with creamy, rich ganache and topped with toasted nuts. I’m speechless.

So here is the recipe–from Liwi to me and now me to you.

Believe in God Brownies (recipe courtesy of Leah)

INGREDIENTS

Brownies

1 cup butter

4 squares unsweetened chocolate

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup white chocolate chips

Ganache

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 cups premium chocolate chips

1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped, toasted pecans

METHOD

For the brownies:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9 by 13 inch baking pan by greasing with butter or spraying with a cooking spray (such as Pam).
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Over low heat add unsweetened chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted.
  3. Remove from heat, mix in sugar (in saucepan). Add eggs and vanilla, stir until incorporated.
  4. Add flour, baking powder, and salt and stir just until combined (be careful not to overwork). Gently stir in white chocolate.
  5. Spread mixture in prepared pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes just until brownies begin to pull away from the sides. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

For the ganache-nut topping:

  1. Over low heat in a medium saucepan, bring heavy cream to just to boiling. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips. Let sit for a few moments in order to melt chocolate. Stir until all chocolate is melted and smooth. Let mixture cool and thicken slightly, stirring occasionally for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Spread chocolate ganache over completely cooled brownies.
  3. Press chopped, toasted pecans into the ganache. Let ganache harden and then cut into squares and then into triangles.
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Chocolate Peanut Butter Mocha Muffins

I made these little ones last week—sort of as a last hurrah for my role as housesitter and also because I was mad-craving peanut butter. I think I’d been dreaming about peanut butter for an entire week, but never found a recipe that sounded right. But then I found a good one for Peanut Butter Mocha Muffins on Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body (ha ha, cute). She made my little peanut butter dream come true 🙂

They’re fun to make and easy; crumbly and moist; adorable, chocolaty and whoa-so-peanut-buttery. I don’t taste any coffee flavor in there, but don’t actually miss it. (I also think it’s meant more to deepen the flavor of the chocolate anyhow.) They turned out perfect! I only wish the peanut butter blob on top didn’t look the way it does: it’s the BEST part, but kind of looks like baked brain 😛

Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Mocha Muffins (recipe thanks to Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body)

Makes 12. (My muffin molds are smaller, so I ended up with 14.)

INGREDIENTS

2 cups all purpose flour

1 stick (4 oz) butter, room temperature

1/2 cup peanut butter, divided

3/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup cocoa powder (I was a little more generous on the amount)

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 cup brewed coffee, room temp

1/2 tsp salt

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl mix the butter, 1/4 cup peanut butter and sugar with a hand or stand mixer. Add the eggs, vanilla and room temperature coffee. In a separate bowl mix the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the dry mix to the wet mix. Stir only until incorporated. Add about 1/3 cup mix to each muffin tin, filling almost all the way to the top. Top with about 1 tsp of peanut butter.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a fork inserted comes out clean.
  4. Cool for about 5 minutes in the pan then finish cool on a wire wrack.


Trail Mix Bread

I’m housesitting for my parents right now. Part of my official housesitter duties includes taking care of the three exchange students my parents have living with them. It could have been a lot of work, but luckily, these kids (almost adults) are superstar students who need very little care from me. All I do is prepare two meals a day, breakfast and dinner. I actually kind of like doing it. I get up every morning to make breakfast, chat with them about school and their plans, and then during the day, I do my own thing. In the evening, I prepare whatever I feel like making, and so far, they’ve seemed pretty satisfied!

Today, I felt like baking bread. Outside is gray and quiet, which is not very motivating for getting things done. Baking—and baking for others—I’ve found is the best way to spend still days like these. The kids will appreciate it too, i.e. breakfast rolls!

I threw together this whole wheat bread with a delightful little mix of raisins, almonds, white chocolate chips and coconut flakes. Perfect for breakfast, and now that I think of it, ideal for taking along on a hike. It’s trail mix in bread form!  The recipe is one I found a while back on zestycook.com and is already a favorite because of the short ingredients list and simple method. I didn’t feel like futzing around with scales or complicated dough starters, so this recipe is exactly what I needed. The original used 2/3 cup each of raisins and walnuts; I skipped the walnuts and added white chocolate chips, coconut flakes and almonds in their place; I was also a little more generous in the amounts of each. (Why? Because those little “bits” you find in your morning bread are the best part!!)

Once you mix everything together and finish proofing (which I did in the bread machine), you can form the dough into the traditional loaf or you can do as I did and use your muffin tin. I was nervous about the bread sticking (the dough, at least mine, is pretty wet), but because I floured the tin before filling, sticking was very minimal. I thought this was a pretty genius idea on my part—scoop the dough into the tins and allow to finish proofing and bypass the messy, sticky part of shaping and moving the dough. Nice!

Golden, crunchy crust and sweet middle with lots of bits!! I WILL be making this again. Probably this week!

P.S. No pictures for now. I had a little theft incident in Lima (too scary to write about), which left me camera-less and also a little traumatized. This last week I ordered a new camera, which is supposed to arrive this week…

It’s here—my camera—and it’s pink!! Took a few pics of the last of the bread, and actually, it sttill tastes pretty good 🙂

Trail Mix Bread

recipe adapted from zestycook.com

INGREDIENTS

2 cups lukewarm water

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (or one 1/4-oz. packet)

2 tbsp runny honey (I used clover)

2 3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 to 2 cups all purpose flour (I used 1 1/2, which is why my dough was wetter, but which turned out fine.)

2/ tsp salt

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup white chocolate chips

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1/2 cup almonds, slivered, roughly chopped or whatever

METHOD

  1. In your bread machine, add water, yeast and honey, followed by flours and salt. Run dough cycle. (If you’re doing this by hand, in a large bowl, mix together honey and 1/2 cup of the lukewarm water; then add the yeast, stirring to combine. Let sit until foaming, ca. 5 min. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 cups water. Then, in another large bowl, combine flours and salt and mix. Pour into bowl with liquid ingredients, stirring until well combined. On a floured surface, knead dough for 5 to 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Add flour if necessary, but be careful not to make the dough too dry. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and allow to proof for 1 1/2 hours.)
  2. Punch dough down, add remaining ingredients and run the dough cycle until you see that all bits are well combined, ca. 5 min. (Hand method: Punch dough down and turn out onto floured surface. Knead in remaining ingredients.)
  3. With a scoop or spatula, distribute dough evenly among muffin tins. (Hand method: Shape into 1 large loaf onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet.) Cover with a damp cloth and in a warm place, allow dough to proof until nearly doubled in size, ca. 30 min.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 425 F. Bake bread for 15 minutes. Then, reduce the temperature to 375 F and rotate bread 180 deg. Brush or spray the crust with water and, if making rolls, bake for another 15-20 minutes, or if making a loaf, bake for 30.
  5. Remove from the oven and place bread/rolls on a rack and allow to cool.

Coconut and Chocolate Pains au Lait

I’m sorry! It’s been ages since my last post! But I promise I have a good excuse—actually, I have a few: I moved in with my brother temporarily, I partied, I said my goodbye to San Francisco, I partied 😛 … and now I am home again. Back to the bird’s nest for 10 days of recharging my batteries and soaking up as much family love as I can before the big move to Perú. (Did I mention already that I’m moving? I can’t remember. Why? For love (when did my life become a cliché?), and I need to find out if it will finally find peace there. When? In 5 days!!)

Life in Oregon is slow—slow driving, slow moving, slow talking, slow everything. It’s taking some getting used to on my part, but it feels kind of good to have time to think and talk. And bake.

I’m so excited about this recipe. It’s one I found a while back on a beautiful blog called Sweet Temptations, and it couldn’t be easier to prepare. The dough is gorgeous—smooth and glossy—and the buns—soft, buttery and briochy. They’re also pretty tasty the next day, especially if you toast them.

The original recipe called for Nutella, which I probably would have used if I’d had it….but I didn’t. My mom had white and dark chocolate chips, flaked almonds and flaked coconut in her cupboard, so I used them instead. A variety of fillings and toppings would work just as well. Another small adjustment I made was to increase the sugar amount from 2 tbsp to 1/4 cup—wanted something a little sweeter for the family.

Enjoy!

Milk Bread with Coconut and Chocolate (recipe adapted from Sweet Temptations)

INGREDIENTS

320 ml (1 1/3 cups) milk

28 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temp.

1/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

2/3 tsp salt

540 g (5 cups) all-purpose flour

1 packet (11 g) instant dried yeast (or 4 1/4 tsp active dry)

chocolate chips – dark and white

almond flakes (optional)

brown sugar (optional)

coconut flakes (optional)

METHOD

  1. Beat the eggs, and then whisk in the butter, sugar and milk.
  2. In your stand-mixer, mix together flour, yeast and salt. Make a well in the center. Add 1/3 of the egg mixture and allow to knead (using dough hook attachment) until somewhat combined. Then add the rest of the liquids and knead for another 10 minutes on medium speed.
  3. Put the dough into a large bowl dusted with flour and allow to proof for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.
  4. Once the dough has proofed, form small balls in your hand and flatten lightly. Add about a tablespoon of chocolate chips and almond flakes in the middle and seal. Continue the process until all the dough has been used. Let the little dough balls rise on a baking sheet for another 45 minutes.
  5. Brush the beaten egg over the pains and then sprinkle some brown sugar and/or coconut flakes over the tops. Put the buns on the middle rack of a pre-heated oven (350 deg. F) and bake for 20 minutes. After the first 10 minutes, you may want to rotate the buns to ensure even baking and browning.

Cream Puffs con Crema Pastelera de Tres Tipos

Made these in two rounds.

Round 1: FLOP. The plan was to impress a friend of mine on her birthday with homemade mini profiteroles filled with lucuma pastry cream (the same fruit I used to make cheesecake). I did give them to her, though there was nothing impressive about them. They were these completely deflated, doughy disks that tasted more like pancakes than anything else.

I learned the hard way just how important timing is here. I followed the recipe (found here, courtesy of Closet Cooking) exactly, and everything was fine until I started baking. I don’t think it was the instructions. I think it was a combination of factors—my oven, room temperature, ingredients, measurements, etc., but mostly, I think it was my oven. The puffs were still too moist after the initial 7 minutes of baking, and it being my first time, I didn’t realize that if the puffs aren’t dry enough, they will collapse, which is exactly what happened. Oh, the dissapointment. And I had already told my friend that I was bringing them…

I also had problems with the pastry cream: too much lucuma puree made the cream runny. Actually, this was a problem in Round 2 as well. Will have to work on the amount for next time.

Round 2: SUCCESS! Light, fluffy and crisp puffs that were not only easy to fill, but also were delicious and cute!! And the difference this round? Bake-time. Though I did watch the clock, I actually paid more attention to the look of the puffs as they baked.

After the initial 7 minutes, they still looked moist and even had little beads of moisture on their surface. So I gave them another 3 minutes before sticking the wooden spoon in the door.

I also increased the time with the door ajar (from 5 minutes to 8).

So by the time I was to rotate the tray, the moisture beads had dissipated and seemed dry enough to turn without causing deflation and then bake again. I increased the time from 8 minutes to 10.

Following baking, I very gingerly removed the puffs from the oven, placed them gently onto the counter top and left them to cool for a few hours. And they held up beautifully until it was time to fill them.

Loved all three filling flavors. As I mentioned before, however, I still need to figure out the lucuma puree to pastry cream ratio. Since I’m using frozen puree, it might be wise to strain some of the liquid out next time. If you have access to fresh lucuma, you should definitely use that instead of the puree.

Enjoy!

Cream Puffs con Crema Pastelera de Tres Tipos / with 3 Types of Cream

adapted from Closet Cooking’s adaptation of a Pierre Herme recipe

Cream Puffs (Pate Choux)

1/4 cup whole milk

1/4 cup water

1/2 stick unsalted butter (cut into 8 pieces)

1/8 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 eggs (room temperature)

Pastry Cream

1 cup whole milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 egg yolks

3 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (sifted)

1 1/4 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)

1 tbsp lucuma puree, for the lucuma cream

1 oz. dark chocolate, for the chocolate cream

METHOD

Cream Puffs

  1. Bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a roiling boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and mix in all of the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.
  3. Continue to stir for 2-3 minutes. The dough will be soft and smooth.
  4. Pour the dough into a bowl and beat in the eggs one at a time.
  5. Form the dough into the desired shapes on parchment paper lined baking sheets.
  6. Bake in a pre-heated 375 F (190 C) oven and bake for 7-10 minutes. (It’s very important that the puffs bake long enough, i.e. dry out enough, so they don’t collapse. I learned this the hard way on my first try.)
  7. Stick the handle of a wooden spoon into the oven door to hold it ajar and bake for another 5 minutes (I baked for 10).
  8. Rotate the baking sheet from front to back and, again with the door ajar, bake for another 8 minutes or until the eclairs are puffed and golden brown. (Again, baked for 10, rather than 8.)
  9. Let the puffs cool for a few hours.

Pastry Cream (Pastelera de Lucuma)

  1. Bring the milk and vanilla extract to a boil in a saucepan.
  2. Mix the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch in another sauce pan.
  3. Temper the egg yolks with a few tbsp of the milk and then add the remaining milk.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil while whisking and continue to whisk for a minute.
  5. Transfer the cream to a bowl and set the bowl in an ice water bath to cool while still stirring.
  6. Once the mixture has cooled off a bit, stir in the butter.
  7. Return the bowl to the ice water bath and continue to stir until completely cooled.
  8. For the 3 kinds of cream, split the pastry cream between three small bowls.
  9. In a small ramequin, melt the chocolate (I did this in the microwave) and allow to cool slightly. Stir into the first bowl of pastry cream until combined.
  10. Into the second bowl of pastry cream, add in the pureed lucuma and stir until combined.

Assembly

  1. Put a small-sized pastry tip into your pastry bag. Then fill the bag with the plain pastry cream.
  2. use the pastry tip to poke a hole into each cream puff and squeeze to fill.
  3. Repeat the process with the chocolate and lucuma creams.
  4. Serve immediately.


Marbled Pound Cake

Last Saturday a friend hosted an end-of-show event of an art exhibition. It’s a great organization dedicated to supporting local arts and local artists here in the Bay area.  (Read up about the Poor Artists League here.) They even support this little baker and her food art. (^_^).

Anyway, for the end-of-exhibition event, I volunteered to bake and sell a few sweet treats. I was super excited about it–I’ve never baked for strangers before. I’ve never sold anything I’ve made either. So my plan was to spread out the baking between Saturday and Sunday, giving me plenty of time to prepare for the Sunday evening show. However, as I found out Saturday morning from my brother, the show was actually Saturday night?!?!?! I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to bake a marble cake, 2 batches of brownies, and coconut cupcakes AND go to the museum and have coffee with a friend AND prepare a salad for dinner at another friend’s house. I was supposed to have lunch with yet another friend that day too, but “luckily” she cancelled. It all worked out in the end, but wasn’t my usual relaxing or therapeutic baking experience. (o_O#)

This marble cake was the first of the desserts I made. Look at the chocolate vanilla swirlies–so pretty!

I followed the recipe exactly and the only suggestion I would make is to do a pin check at the 50 or 60 minute mark during baking. The original bake time is 70-75, which I found to be a little long in my oven and which resulted in a cake a little drier in texture than I would I have preferred.

Enjoy!

Marbled Pound Cake (recipe from Technicolor Kitchen)

Makes about 10 1-inch slices

INGREDIENTS

2 cups (280 g) all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 sticks (226 g) unsalted butter, at room temp.

1 cup (200 g) sugar

4 large eggs, at room temp.

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 oz (112 g) bittersweet chocolate (I used dark chocolate with 60% cocoa solids)

METHOD

  1. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler and set aside to cool.
  2. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 165ºC/325ºF. Butter a 9×5-inch (22.5×12.5cm) loaf pan or an 8-½x4-½ inch (21x11cm) loaf pan*. Put the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked one on top of the other.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until pale and fluffy, a full 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and beater and reduce the mixer speed to medium. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 to 2 minutes after each egg goes in. As you’re working, scrape down the bowl and beater often. Mix in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it is incorporated – don’t overmix. In fact, you might want to fold in the last of the flour, or even all of it, by hand with a rubber spatula.
  5. After the batter is fully mixed, transfer half of it to another bowl and gently blend in the melted, cooled chocolate. Alternate large spoonfuls of the light and dark batters in the pan, then run a kitchen knife in a zigzag pattern through the batters to marble them. Smooth the top.
  6. Put the cake into the oven to bake, and check on it after about 45 minutes. If it’s browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. If you’re using a 9×5 pan, you’ll need to bake the cake for 70 to 75 minutes; the smaller pan needs about 90 minutes. The cake is properly baked when a thin knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean.
  7. Remove the cake from the oven, transfer the pan to a rack and let rest for 30 minutes.
  8. Run a blunt knife between the cake and the sides of the pan and turn the cake out, then turn it right side up on the rack and cool to room temperature.

Storing: Wrapped well, the cake will keep for 5 to 7 days at room temperature (stale cake is great toasted) or up to 2 months in the freezer.

Liso’s French B-day Brownies

A little birthday treat for my littlest Liso who celebrated her big 28 last Friday.

I needed something that was compact and easy to transport—and something that would not make me look totally ridiculous waiting in line at the club (so much for that one—one club manager thought I brought my make-up kit). Brownies seemed like the wisest choice, yet again.

I could never get sick of brownies (baking or eating), but they are far from what I would call pretty. They’re  frumpy, brown squares—not exactly delicate or eye-catching. So how do you turn something ho-hum into something ta-dah?

You call them French (or at least, according to Dorie Greenspan, French-inspired) and all of a sudden you’ve upped the ooh la la quotient in a major way. That’s exactly what Dorie did in her recipe for French Chocolate Brownies (not sure why she thought it necessary to include “chocolate” in the title).

The base recipe is basic; same story with the method. And the resulting texture is good: crackly top and smooth and creamy middle. What makes these different is  Greenspan’s addition of rum, raisins and a dash of cinnamon to the batter, nothing fancy by any means, but oh, what a difference they make.  You’ll love these for the same reason you love rum-raisin ice cream—for that warm all over and ever so slightly naughty sensation you get when you eat them. (^o^”)

By the way, I substituted vanilla extract for the rum—I didn’ t have any at home, and vanilla was the closest thing I could find that has a similar alcohol flavor.

Dorie Greenspan’s French Chocolate Brownies (original from Baking From My Home to Yours and adapted by Dorie here on Serious Eats)

makes 16 brownies

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden

1 1/2 tbsp water

1 1/2 tbsp dark rum (I replaced this with 1 tsp vanilla)

6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp / 6 oz) unsalted butter, at room temp and cut into 12 pieces

3 large eggs, at room temp.

1 cup sugar

METHOD

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.
  2. Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you’re using it.Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed. (I obviously didn’t do this last part as I used vanilla—just added it straight to the raisins.)
  3. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It’s important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you’ve got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it’s better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.
  4. Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you’ll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won’t be completely incorporated and that’s fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.
  5. Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

*Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they’re even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

*Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Chocolate Almond Torte

This. Is. Gooooood. Deep, dark and nutty, this cake is more intense than  chocolate cake yet less dense than a flourless torte.  The whole house has been nibbling on it all week—and it’s still moist and flavorful. I’m convinced even that it tastes better now than when I first tried it.

I made this on a whim last Sunday, brought in one-third to the office and served it on Tuesday for another roomie night. I will most definitely be making this again!

Chocolate Almond Torte (original recipe from Joy of Baking)

INGREDIENTS

7 oz (200 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

11 tbsp (150 g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar, divided

4 large eggs, separated

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup (100 g) finely ground almonds

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place oven rack in the middle of the oven.  Place the sliced or blanched almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5-7 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Once completely cooled, place the nuts in a blender or small food processor and process until finely ground. Note:  The almonds need to be at room temperature before grinding to prevent them from clumping.  If you find the almonds still clump when you ground them, add about 1 tablespoon (13 grams) of the sugar from the recipe.  The sugar will help prevent clumping as it absorbs any oil exuded from the almonds.
  2. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and line an 8 inch (20 cm) springform pan with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  3. Separate the cold eggs, placing the egg yolks in one bowl and the egg whites in another.   Cover with plastic wrap and let stand until they reach room temperature (about 30 minutes).
  4. Melt the chopped chocolate and butter in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water.  Once melted, remove from heat.
  5. Meanwhile place the egg yolks and 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar in the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment.  Cream the yolks and sugar until pale and thick (about 2 to 3 minutes).  Beat in the melted chocolate mixture and vanilla extract.  Fold in the ground almonds.
  6. In a clean bowl, place the egg whites and whisk until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking until soft peaks form.  Gradually sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar and whisk until stiff peak forms.  Fold about 1/4 of the whites into the chocolate batter to lighten it.  Quickly fold in the rest of the whites and mix only until incorporated.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 to 50 (40 was sufficient for me) minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake has a few moist crumbs.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.  The cake will rise during baking but falls during cooling, leaving a crisp and cracked crust.  Once cool, run a spatula around the inside of the pan before releasing the sides.  If not serving immediately, cover and place in the refrigerator.   Serve cold or at room temperature.  Dust with powdered (icing or confectioners) sugar.

Waxing Poetic/Gastronomical and Three Recipes for Mexican Hot Chocolate

Liam and I had dinner this last Tuesday at Pho Vung Tau, my new favorite Vietnamese place in North Beach/Chinatown. (Dennis and I discovered it together a few weeks back…sigh.) With all that’s been going on in both our lives recently, I think we were both in need of some family time.

Over Seafood Chow Mein, Beef and Eggplant Saute and steaming cups of tea, we shared where we are right now. We’re kind of in similar places – both a little lost, both wondering where life will take us next—to a new job, back to Asia or to Peru even. Whatever we do and wherever we end up, I am grateful for the time we have together now.

I’ve posted a  poem Liam shared with me that night. (My brother, waxing all poetic—Love it.)

nagual speaks
written by tosi

here is natural darkness seen
lurking in waters beneath our dreams
whispering seduction to the schooling souls
incarnate sufferers new and old
nagual is speaking
listen
yin and yang, all the same
play the game
float above

fly

embrace the breeze and breath of the blissfully divine
within me, without me
life flows on

we are free

In honor of Liam’s poem, I decided I wanted to find something that inspired similar feelings in me but related to food (My turn to wax gastronomical–ha ha). And after brainstorming for a while, I came  up with Mexican Hot Chocolate—creamy, rich and completely comforting but at the same time dark, spicy, earthy and even magical.

I’m posting three recipes here. Though I can’t try them all right now, I like how each one varies in ingredients and method.

Mexican Hot Chocolate (adapted from a Tyler Florence recipe found on The Food Network)

A simpler version using Mexican chocolate—and the one I chose to try.

INGREDIENTS

3 ounces (tablet or cone) Mexican chocolate or bittersweet chocolate

3 cups milk

2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch salt

Miniature marshmallows, for serving

6 cinnamon sticks (preferably Mexican canela), for serving

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Using a sharp knife, break up the chocolate into smaller pieces. In a saucepan, combine the chopped chocolate, milk, sugar and salt over medium-low flame. Heat and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the milk is very hot, but not boiling (ca. 10 minutes).
  2. Remove from the heat and froth the chocolate milk with a whisk or molinillo. Divide the hot chocolate among big mugs, top each with a few marshmallows and serve with the cinnamon sticks as stirrers.

Mayan Hot Chocolate (recipe from What’s Cooking America)

This one seems the most traditional…

INGREDIENTS

2 cups boiling water

1 chile pepper (preferrably ancho), halved and seeds removed

5 cups light cream, whole or non-fat milk

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1-2 cinnamon sticks

8 oz bittersweet chocolate or 3 tablets Mexican chocolate, cut into 1/4-in pieces

2 tbsp sugar or honey, or to taste

1 tbsp ground almonds or hazelnuts

whipped cream, to top

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add chile pepper to boiling water. Cook until liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Remove chile pepper, strain water and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cream or milk, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick until bubbles appear around the edge. Reduce the heat to low.
  3. Add the chocolate and sugar (or honey). Whisk occasionally until the chocolate is melted and the sugar dissolves. Then, turn off the heat, remove the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick.
  4. Next, add the chile-infused water, a little at a time, tasting to make sure the flavor isn’t too strong. If the chocolate is too thick, dilute it by adding a little more milk.
  5. Serve in small cups and top with ground almonds or hazelnut and whipped cream.

Spicy Mayan Hot Chocolate (recipe from The Leftover Queen)

Most convenient version using ngredients you probably already have at home.

Serves 1-2.

INGREDIENTS

8 oz whole milk

4 tbsp Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Powder

2 tsp Dutch processed cocoa powder

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk. Add the hot cocoa, the cocoa powder and spices and mix until blended.
  2. Serve in mugs and garnish with a dollop of whipped cream.

Tri-flavored Dutch Almond Buttercake (Amandel Boterkoek)

Yay! We have internet at home! F.I.N.A.L.L.Y. No more stealing, no more switching/tweaking/adjusting laptop positions and unlocked wireless networks in order to get connected. Some people (esp. Dennis) might not understand how we three girls have managed to live like this for already half a year (?!?!?!)—actually, now that we have internet, I don’t know how we ever lived without it!

I had already planned on making this Dutch Almond Buttercake before coming home tonight. But now it feels almost like a celebration cake! Calorie-wise, it’s definitely one worth saving for a special occasion.

The recipe is from Almost Bourdain. It really couldn’t have been easier to put together—short list of ingredients; little to no prep, no fancy utensils required and short bake-time. I adapted the original by adding a layer of filling in the middle before baking: 1 part blackberry jam, 1 part unsweetened chocolate and 1 part plain.

I’m not really sure how to categorize this cake. It’s definitely more pastry than cake—crumbly shortbread texture, buttery and firm. It reminds me of a similar French teacake called “Gateau Breton”. However you want to categorize it, this pastry/cake is DIVINE. It’s dense, crumbly and rich in texture—like eating marzipan!! And as for flavor, it’s mildly sweet and SUPER almondy. The added filling is a great addition to the original in my opinion. The tartness from the jam blends well with the buttery crust, as does the chocolate. I imagine that the flavors will continue to blend and improve over time. The filling also provides a pretty layer of color.

Tri-flavored Dutch Almond Buttercake (Amandel Boterkoek) (adapted from Almost Bourdain)

INGREDIENTS

2/3 cup butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp almond extract

1 egg, beaten (reserve 1 tsp)

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted

1/4 cup jam (I used blackberry, but any would flavor would do)

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and almond extract.
  2. Add the beaten egg, reserving 1 tsp for later.
  3. In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add to the bowl with the wet ingredients.
  4. Layer half the dough in a greased 9-inch springform. Then, spread the melted chocolate onto 1/3 of the tart, repeating the same process for the second-third but with jam.
  5. Using a wet spatula and your fingers, carefully layer the remaining half of the dough in the springform until the filling is completely covered.
  6. Mix the reserved 1 tsp beaten egg with 1 tsp water. Brush this over the dough, smoothing over the surface of the cake.
  7. Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes or until the cake surface is firm to the touch.
  8. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely before cutting.