Posts Tagged ‘Baking’

I have more kitchen tools than anybody should ever possibly need, and yet every year when Mister makes my Christmas list for his parents he manages to come up with something else that I’ve been ogling.  This year, among other things (ravioli mold!  Yay!) they got me something that I didn’t even know existed.

I had mentioned to Mister during one of our many discussions on the details of our someday house that I wanted a dedicated baking center with an inset marble counter for rolling out butter doughs.   So imagine my surprise when on Christmas I was handed an extremely heavy box containing this:

A marble pastry board!  My in-laws ROCK!  I didn’t know you could just plop a piece of marble on top of your counter and go to town.  Seems obvious now, but apparently I’d missed that page in the Williams-Sonoma catalog.  Dreams of puff pastry and croissants started dancing through my head.  I’ve made puff pastry before, but the only available place to roll out dough in my kitchen (Just say no to tile counters!) happens to be the cheap laminate right above my dishwasher.  Which means that I can’t wash dishes while my dough is chilling and resting since it’ll make the counter hot.  Very annoying.  But now the problem is solved!  I can put my pastry board on top of the tile on my island, and it provides a wonderfully smooth, cold place to roll delicate buttery layers to my hearts content.

So I ran to my Google reader and searched for “flaky goodness”.  (yes really…these are the kinds of search terms I use when I need inspiration) and the very first result was this delicious looking Spiced Apple Danish Braid from Annie’s Eats. I had starred it when I first read it, and it’s obvious why:  Fruit, cream cheese, flaky layers, beautiful presentation…what’s not to love?

I did make some changes though.  I’ve got a ton of homemade jam hanging around (future posts, I promise) so I wanted to see if I could use that as the filling.  I also wanted to eliminate the multiple glazes, to cut down on the sweetness and work a tad.  And it worked!   I also stretched out the resting/chilling over several days, not really intentionally, but everything seemed to come out just dandy anyway.  This makes the recipe really flexible with timing, even though it has a lot of steps.  Perfect for prepping ahead of time and just assembling in the morning when you have overnight guests or friends coming over for brunch or breakfast.

I don’t have pictures of the actual process – so if you need a visual explanation of how this comes together I highly recommend checking out Annie’s blog.  I’ll be as clear as I can though.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish Braid

For the dough:

  • 1.5 cups flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1.5  tsp. yeast (instant or active dry.  See instructions.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup milk (Annie calls for whole.  I only had skim, so I added a splash of cream)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 12 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

For the filling:

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temp
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp milk
  • 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1 cup blueberry jam (or any flavor that you like.  Use one with lots of fruity chunks though)

For the glaze:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 4 Tbsp demerara sugar (or turbinado, muscavado, “raw” or decorative sanding sugar.  Anything with nice big crystals)

If you are using active dry yeast:  Warm the milk slightly.  (I like to nuke it in my glass measuring cup for ~15 seconds.  Test it like you would a baby’s bottle.  If feels hot, it’s too hot.  You want just warm.)   Mix in a sprinkle of the ¼ c. of sugar and then scatter the yeast over the top.   Let sit for 5 minutes, or until frothy.

If you are using instant yeast, skip the above.

Combine 1¼ cups of the flour in the bowl of your mixer with the (remaining) sugar, and salt, milk+yeast combo (or just milk and yeast separately if using instant) and egg.  Mix with the paddle attachment till just combined, then switch to the dough hook and knead until a smooth ball of dough forms, about 7-8 minutes.  (The dough will be sticky but it should be mostly clearing the sides of the bowl even if it’s still sticking to the bottom.  If not, add the remaining ¼ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed.)
Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and with floured hands pat it into a square.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

Now…this part is totally cheating.  It worked though.
In a clean mixer bowl, combine the chunks of cold butter with one tablespoon of flour.  Toss lightly to combine, and then mix ON LOW with the paddle attachment until the flour is incorporated.  You do not want to whip the butter at all, or let it get very mushy.  Just smash in the flour.  Scrape the butter+flour paste out of the bowl onto a piece of plastic wrap and using the plastic to help you, form it into a 5” square of even thickness.  Wrap it well and chill for at least 1 hour.

Roll out the dough to a 9” square on a well floured and cool work surface.  (i.e. not your counter directly above a running dishwasher).   Place the square of butter (unwrapped) diagonally on the square of dough and wrap the corners of dough into the center to cover the butter.  (like I said…check out Annie’s blog for photo instructions)  Pinch the seams together, and then press your rolling pin into the dough starting in the center and working toward the outside to get everything a little more workable.  Gently roll the dough out into an 11” square, flouring as needed to stop it from sticking.  (all rolling from here on out should be gentle.  This is not pizza dough.  Have a light hand.)

Fold the square of dough into thirds toward the center, like a business letter.  (i.e. fold the top third down over the middle.  Fold the bottom third up over the top.)  Turn the dough 90 degrees, roll it back out and fold again.  This is two “turns”.    Wrap the dough well in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours.  Then repeat this process.  (roll out, fold, turn.  Roll out, fold, chill)

This final chilling period should be at least 4 hours, but I left mine for 2 days.  It was fine.  Just wrap it really well so it doesn’t dry out.

When it’s almost done chilling, make the filling.
Combine the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice and milk in a mixer and beat beat beat till light and fluffy.  Scrape down and beat some more.

On a well floured piece of parchment paper, roll the dough out to a 14” square.   Smear the cream cheese evenly over the center third.  Spread the jam evenly over the cream cheese.  Don’t worry about making it pretty, you won’t see it, just get it on there.

So now you have a square of dough with a long rectangle of naked dough on the left and right sides, and filling in the middle.   With a pizza cutter or a knife cut the naked dough into ~ 3/4” strips diagonally in opposite directions.  The left side should be cut heading down and the to the left, and the right side cut heading down and to the right.  You are essentially cutting a dough fringe for the center filling section.   Does this make any sense?  Just go look at the pictures…

Fold the strips over the center, alternating sides, to achieve the braided look.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm spot to proof for 30 minutes.  It won’t rise much, but will look a little puffy.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while it’s proofing.

After it’s done proofing, combine an egg with 1 Tbsp of milk and beat well.  Brush the danish gently with the egg-milk wash.  Sprinkle liberally with sugar and transfer to a baking sheet.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, turning the sheet halfway through.

Let cool to  room temp and slice to serve.  Mmmm…flaky goodness indeed.

On another note:
Yes – I’ve been MIA.  Sorry!  I have resolved to get back into regular blogging.  You wouldn’t believe the backlog of I’ve got.   There are just  folders and folders of crappy pictures of delicious food to share.   You can’t wait, right?


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I have a great love of what I think of as international hot pockets.    A delicious savory filling in a pastry crust  is always a winner in my book, and it seems like every cuisine has one.  Samosas, dumplings, peirogies, pasties…they’re all excellent.

So when I saw this empanada recipe on Smitten Kitchen I immediately added it to the list of potential frozen apps  to bring  to the shore with my family.

I made some changes, mostly switching out the chorizo (which I don’t often have) for Italian sausage (which I do always have), and using hot Hungarian paprika instead of sweet Spanish paprika.  Pretty sure my changes resulted in highly inauthentic empanadas, but they were a huge hit with my family.  There was talk of my quitting my job to open an empanada shack, and there was some skepticism about whether I had really made them myself since I just pulled them out of a plastic bag in the freezer and threw them in the oven.  So yeah, not only is the filling tender and flavorful and the crust flaky and buttery, but they freeze wonderfully.  I make them in giant quadruple batches and freeze them in gallon freezer bags.  Sadly I think I’ll have to hang onto my day job.  They’re good, but they aren’t that good.

Chicken and Sausage Empanadas adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 24 empanadas

  • 2.5 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (or thighs+legs)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper pepper
  • olive oil
  • 3 hot Italian sausages
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp hot paprika
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine*
  • 1/3 cups chopped green  olives (I just use the standard cocktail olives with pimentos.  Pretty sure it’s meant to be the much better non-pimento-ed kind.  Use what you’ve got)

Sprinkle chicken w/ salt and pepper and brown well on both sides in a swirl of olive oil in a deep skillet.   Remove chicken and set aside.

Squeeze sausage out of the casing and brown well in skillet, breaking up into small pieces as it cooks.  Drain off excess fat if needed, you want some still in there, but you don’t want it to be swimming in grease.

Saute the onions and garlic w/ the sausage till the onions are softened.  Add the bay leaf and paprika and cook for another minute. Add olives, broth and wine*, and bring to a boil, deglazing the bottom of the pan.  (i.e. scraping up the yummy brown bits).  Put the chicken pieces back in the pan along with any collected juices and reduce heat to low.   Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes until the chicken is nearly fall off the bone tender.

Pull out the chicken pieces and place them on a (clean) plate and allow them to cool until you can handle them.  While the chicken is cooling, if needed, simmer the remaining stock/wine/onion mixture until the liquid is the consistency of heavy cream.

Remove the skin and pull the meat off the bones in small pieces and mix it back into the broth/onion mixture and allow to cool for ~25 minutes.

Note: *I don’t always have white wine on hand, so sometimes I sub in 1/4 cup dry vermouth and make up the rest of the liquid with extra chicken stock.  You could also just use all chicken stock, but the little bit of alcohol definitely adds something worth having.  Vermouth is a great general sub for white wine because it keeps much much longer than a bottle of wine.  A Tbsp here, a Tbsp there, it’ll last you a long while.  Plus you’ll be ready if any martini drinkers drop by.

The finished filling, it’s not pretty, but trust me, it’s tasty:


  • 4.5 cups flour
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks  butter, frozen
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup ice water
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp paprika*

Combine flour, salt and paprika and mix well.

Place half of the flour mixture in the base of a food processor fitted with a shredding disc**.  Shred the frozen butter.  Dump the frozen butter shreds and flour into the rest of the flour mixture into a large bowl, and break up the butter clumps gently and as quickly as possible.

(You are trying to distribute the butter evenly while heating i t up as little as possible.)

Whisk together the cold eggs, ice water and vinegar, add to the flour/butter mixture and mix until the dough just comes together.  I’m serious about the coldness here.  The colder the liquid the less your butter pieces will melt and the flakier your crust will be.   It will still look dry and a little clumpy. Like this:

Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour, and up to 6 hours.  While it’s chilling the water will distribute itself and the dough will come together.


*I often  make multiple flavors of empanadas in one session to freeze.  I realized that i was going to need a way to tell one flavor from another, so I started adding colorful spices to the dough to color code the different flavors (pink/paprika=chicken, yellow/turmeric=beef, brownish/chili powder = pork).  I decided I liked the hint of flavor it adds, so I do it all the time now even if I’m only making one flavor.

**The shredding blade is not necessary.  It’s my favorite way to make large volumes of pastry crust in short order, but using a hand held pastry cutter, or just two butter knives will work just fine.  You just need to break the butter up into small pieces without letting it melt.


Divide dough into 3 equal pieces.  Work with one piece at a time, and keep the other thirds in the fridge covered with plastic wrap.

Divide each chunk of dough into 8 roughly equal pieces and roll them into balls.  Roll each ball out into a 3″ by 7″  inch oval on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin.

Gently pick up the dough oval and make sure that it’s not sticking anywhere, then place 2 Tbsp filling in the center of the circle and fold the dough in half over the filling to make a half circle.

Seal  the edges of the pocket by folding the bottom edge over the top and pinching well.   Keep the seal close to the filling, but don’t pull it taut.   Press the seal all around with the tines of a floured fork.

And now in photos in case the text description makes no sense (sorry about the nail polish):

At this point if you wish you can freeze the empanadas on a tray till firm and then package in freezer bags or saran wrap and foil. (saran first, then foil)

Bake directly from frozen (or unfrozen)  at 400 degrees for ~20 minutes on a parchment or silpat lined sheet till golden  brown.   Your oven may vary, keep a close eye on them and switch the position of the cookie sheets halfway through baking.  Remember the filling is already cooked, so no worries about undercooked meat.  As soon as the crust is done you are good to go.  They’ll look like this:

The one on top there is actually a beef empanada, with tumeric in the dough – hence the yellow color.

And then if you cut one open it’ll look like this, and you’ll want to cram it into into your mouth as quickly as possible so as not to lose any flaky goodness.  Mmmm…

P.S. Just for funsies – recipes like this can get pretty tedious.  I like working with dough, but when I make a quadruple batch of empanadas (24×4=96) that’s a LOT of rolling and filling and sealing.  So this is how I make it less tedious:

That’s blurry me, on the couch in my sister’s living room, rolling out empanadas on a cutting board on my lap (kinda getting flour everywhere…sorry sis) while watching Harry Potter DVD’s.  So now you know my secret, and you too can engage in couch cooking!  Hopefully you are less messy than I am and/or you have a coffee table without little grooves around the edges to trap the flour when you try to wipe it up.  (sorry again sis!)

(The choice of a blurry picture is intentional…my hair is a fright and I think I’m still wearing my PJ’s.)

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I went to an all-girls summer camp for two weeks every August from about 4th grade to 10th grade.   The last year I was there I was actually older than some of the junior counselors but I just wanted to squeak in one more year of being a camper.  I LOVED that place.  My sister and I still talk about it as if it was some sort of idyllic fantasy-land.  Which honestly, it kinda was.   You wake up every morning snug in your sleeping bag with the crisp mountain air wafting through the screened cabin, spend all day riding horses, swimming, hiking, canoeing, doing arts and crafts, dancing, and playing tennis and volleyball, and then you lull yourself to sleep at the end of the day by reading books by flashlight under your sleeping bag.  And as you can imagine, all those activities result in a healthy appetite, so thankfully, the food was actually good!  Institutional food is rarely anything more than edible, but the ladies who cooked at my camp kept it simple and tasty (think tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches), and there was always dessert.  My absolute favorite was the gingerbread, which they served with big bowls of whipped cream and lemon curd.

Now that last part may have induced a “huh?”, but trust me.  Gingerbread with lemon curd is not to be missed.  So when I had a half a bowl of leftover lemon curd from my sister’s baby shower, I immediately started looking for something gingerbread-esque to go with it.  And David Leibovitz came through with these chewy ginger cookies.  He paired them with lemon-ginger ice cream, so you know I’m not crazy.  They are dark and intensely gingery, with a soft yet chewy texture.  They are actually non-fat, which is great, but that is totally negated by adding lemon curd.  The cookies call for 2 egg whites, which leaves you two yolks for making a small batch of curd.  Clearly it’s meant to be.

Chewy Ginger Cookies adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes about 20 cookies.

David recommends cooking down applesauce from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup and using that in the cookies for a denser cookie.  I just used apple butter since I have several jars leftover from last year’s apple picking bonanza.  I think the apple butter added an extra level of spicy goodness, so if you were making this with apple sauce I’d consider bumping the spices up by just a pinch.  He also calls for mild-flavored molasses, but I have no idea where you’d find such a thing.  Regular old molasses worked fine for me.  Also, I love that David gives weights because I hate using a cup to measure molasses.   If you don’t have a kitchen scale just give your measuring cup a quick spritz of Pam and the molasses will slide out much easier.

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 apple butter (75 g)
  • 1/3 cup molasses (45 g)
  • 2 1/4 cup flour (315 g)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/2 tsps cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsps ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 egg whites at room temp (set aside the yolks for the lemon curd)
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped candied ginger  (I like leaving a couple of slightly bigger chunks as a nice surprise in some bites)
  • ~ 1/2 cup white sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon for rolling

Beat the brown sugar, apple butter and molasses on medium for about 5 minutes.  Scrape down, add the egg whites and beat for another minute.

Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the wet with the mixer on low.  Mix well.

Stir in the candied ginger and then chill the batter.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put your cinnamon sugar in a shallow bowl or dish.

Scoop the batter in heaping tablespoons and plop into the sugar dish.  Roll the balls of dough into rough spheres using the sugar to help keep the sticky dough off your fingers.  They don’t have to be perfect.

See, not perfect:

Place the dough balls on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets with at least 3 inches between balls, because these will spread.

Bake for about 13 minutes, until just barely set in the middle.  They are supposed to be soft, so don’t overcook.  Let cool.

Lemon Curd (not sure where exactly this came from…but it’s lemon curd.  It’s a staple)

Makes a small batch.   I didn’t measure.  Maybe about a cup?

  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp (white) sugar
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 egg yolks

Combine the lemon juice, lemon zest and about half of the butter and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Whisk together the yolks and the rest of the sugar.

Slowly pour about half the hot juice mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly, and then pour the yolks back into the rest of the hot juice in the saucepan.

Cook on medium-low, whisking, until the whisk leaves a trail.

Turn off the heat and add the remaining butter, whisking well to combine as it melts.

Strain into a bowl and press plastic wrap directly to the surface.

Chill at least 30 minutes.

Serve sandwiched between cooled ginger cookies.  Or on top of gingerbread.  Or with a spoon.

(now I want to try making a layer cake version of gingerbread with lemon curd as the center filling and a whipped cream lemon icing.   Hmmm…)

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My mister has very specific taste when it comes to desserts.   He likes chocolatey chocolate chocolate.  He likes cheesecake.  And he likes chocolate chip cookies.  So of course one evening when I found myself with a hankering for some cookies he requested chocolate chip.

I usually make the Tollhouse bag recipe, but I didn’t have any chips and was planning to use a chopped up Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bar so I headed off to the interwebs to see which recipe I wanted to make.  Bridget over at The Way the Cookie Crumbles came through big time with a chocolate chip cookie comparison post.  Reading through her comments, I decided on the Cook’s Ilustrated Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip cookies.   She described them as “cookie flavored bubblegum” which doesn’t sound like a glowing recommendation, but I have a thing for chewy cookies.  And chewy they were.  I’m a definite fan, but I have three quibbles:

1. The instructions involve a ridiculous forming, ripping, rotating, reforming process instead of just normal balls.  I tried it, saw absolutly no effect and decided that I was A-OK with my usual scoop and plop method.

2. Freezing had an interesting effect.   I froze about half of the dough and when i cooked it later it came out as a very different cookie.  Still tasty, but it lost a lot of its chew.  Mister actually liked them better this way.

3. The dough tasted strongly of vanilla extract.  I actually didn’t mind that, but Mister did and that meant that when i grabbed a chunk of frozen dough to eat while watching Mad Men on Netflix he handed his piece back to me and I was stuck eating it all on my own.  (ahhhh…first world problems)

So all in all, they were good.  If you want chewy cookies and want to freeze the dough, make something else.  And if you want to eat frozen dough and don’t like the idea of a slight alcohol flavor, make something else.   But if you want warm from the oven, giant, soft and chewy chocolate chunk cookies?  Go for it.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Cooks Illustrated via The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Makes 1½ dozen giant 3-inch cookies

  • 10.5 oz flour (2 1/8 cups.)
  • ½ tsp salt (I used kosher, because that’s what I have.  I increased it to 3/4 tsp to account for the increased volume of kosher salt)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • ½ c. white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5 cups chocolate chunks (semi or bittersweet)

Preheat oven to 325 deg F.

Mix flour, salt, and baking soda.

In your stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, mix butter and sugars well. Add in egg, yolk, and vanilla and mix well.  Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined.  Stir in chunks.

Original Instructions:  Form scant ¼ cup dough into ball. Holding dough ball using fingertips of both hands, pull into two equal halves. Rotate halves ninety degrees and, with jagged surfaces exposed, join halves together at their base, again forming a single cookie, being careful not to smooth dough’s uneven surface. Place formed dough onto one of two parchment paper-lined 20-by-14-inch lipless cookie sheets, about nine dough balls per sheet. Smaller cookie sheets can be used, but fewer cookies can be baked at one time and baking time may need to be adjusted. (Seriously America’s Test Kitchen?  I know overly complicated recipes are like, your thing, but still.   Ridiculous.  There was no discernible difference between cookies made using this method and the scoop and plop below.)

My Version:  Scoop into balls using a large spring loaded scooper or two tablespoons.   Make the balls big.  Giant cookies are better than little cookies when it comes to chewy.  Places the balls onto silpat lined cookie sheets, about 9 per sheet.

Bake, switching your cookie sheets top to bottom halfway through baking if you are lucky enough to actually have an oven that will hold two sheets at once, 13 to 18 minutes.  They will be lightly colored, and set and crispy around the edges but still soft in the middles.  Leave them on the sheets to cool and then eat while still slightly warm.  With a glass of milk.

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Go-To Yellow Cake

I admit it, I’m a box cake snob.  I’ll eat them, happily, in giant pieces slathered in frosting.  But I won’t cook them.  I just can’t make myself do it.

I wanted to have a counterpoint to my favorite chocolate cake at my sister’s shower, so i went looking for a good yellow cake recipe that could stack up to the box cake standard.  And lo and behold, I found it over at Smitten Kitchen.  Has it become clear yet that I am a big fan of Deb’s?  She waxes rhapsodic about the joys of this cake as a birthday cake stand-by, and I have to agree.  It’s moist (there’s that word again), it’s soft without being too squishy to stack easily and it has a great vanilla flavor.  I will happily be filing this away in my recipe box to make an appearance at birthday parties and celebrations for years to come (whenever I can drag myself away from the chocolate cake of course).  I’m looking forward to trying this as a layer cake, but I can say with certainty that it is excellent as a cupcake.

Go-To Yellow Cake borrowed (not really adapted at all, just cupcaked) from Smitten Kitchen

made ~24 cupcakes, but also works for a 2-layer 9″ cake.

  • 4 c plus 2 Tbsp cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks softened butter
  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs, room temp
  • 2 cups buttermilk*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.   Line cupcake pan wells with cupcake liners, or if making a regular cake, spray 2 9″ cake pans with Pam, line with parchment and then spray the parchment.  Or use butter, which is messier, but probably a little better in the taste category.  I am lazy and use Pam.

Combine dry ingredients (except sugar).  In a separate large bowl beat butter and sugar till fluffy.  Add vanilla and beat.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating and scraping after each one.  Turn speed to low (so as not to fling batter everywhere) and slowly add the buttermilk.  It will look like a mess.   Trust in Deb and just keep going.   Add the dry ingredients in three batches, mixing until just incorporated (i.e. no dry streaks).

Fill the cupcake liners about 1/2 – 2/3 full, and smack them on the counter to get rid of air bubbles.  (or fill two cake pans, also with the smacking).  Bake until it’s a lovely golden color and a toothpick comes out clean.  (Deb says 35-40 minutes for a cake, cupcakes take considerably shorter.  My oven is unpredictable so I’d say start checking around 15 minutes to be safe.)  Cool in pans on rack for ~10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on racks before frosting.  The frosting I used for these cupcakes are here.

*As usual, I subbed in regular milk+2 Tbsp lemon juice.  Combine, let sit till curdley, mix and use as directed.    One of these days I’ll buy some powdered buttermilk.

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You know how some words just make you wrinkle your nose?   I’ve found that among my friends and acquaintances, the most cited “nails on a chalkboard” word is moist.   And I can kind of understand it.  Moooiiiisssst.  It’s not the most appetizing word.  But I don’t think I can describe this cake without using it –   Damp?  Dewy?   What other word works to describe the perfect lush crumb of this deep dark chocolaty cake?  So, moist it is.    Or if you prefer – as a friend of mine exclaimed while eating a cupcake, “This cake is so freakin’ M-word in the middle!”

I’ve made this cake a number of times and it’s always wonderful.  Most recently it appeared as cupcakes at my sister’s baby shower, but before that it was also the bottom layer on her wedding cake, cupcakes at a PartyLite party and 2 birthday cakes.  The first time I made it, I failed to read the recipe thoroughly and used an 9″ cake pan instead of the 10″ called for.  Do not make that mistake!  I was scraping chocolate cake off the bottom of my oven for some time, but the cake itself was great after some drastic leveling.   It goes particularly well with chocolate ganache to take it into the next level of chocolaty goodness, but it’s also excellent with peanut butter frosting or caramel.   Check out this post for for the frostings I used at the shower.

Since then I’ve made this cake in so many different sizes that I finally  just made a conversion spreadsheet so I didn’t have to resort to long division on the margins of the recipe card.   Yep, I’m a dork.  But, I’ve saved it here as a Google doc if you want to check it out.  Change the blue highlighted numbers at the top to match your pans and then follow the light blue measurements.  Don’t worry too much about the odd decimals.  Just eyeball it as best as you can; it’s worked so far for me.

M-Word Double-Chocolate Cake from Epicurious

Makes a 2-layer 10″ cake, which translates to about 40 cupcakes but see spreadsheet linked above for other sizes.

  • 3 oz good semi-sweet chocolate*, chopped
  • 1 1/2 c. hot coffee (I’ve used super weak coffee before for coffee haters.  You don’t really taste coffee, it just amps up the chocolate)
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 c. buttermilk**
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and grease 2 10 inch cake pans, line with parchment paper and grease paper.  If you are making cupcakes use liners , and skip the greasing.

Pour the hot coffee over the chocolate in a small bowl, and let it sit until the chocolate is melted.  Stir until smooth.

Sift together all the dry ingredients.  (Or use my lazy method and dump them into a bowl and then whisk for a minute to break up any clumps)  Beat eggs with a mixer until they lighten in color and thicken up.  (3-5 minutes).  Slowly add the rest of the wet ingredients and the melted chocolate mixture to the eggs, beating until well combined.  Add dry ingredients and beat on medium until just combined.  (absolutely no streaks of dry left).

Pour into pans and bake for ~1 hour.  A tester inserted into the center will be mostly clean, but may have a couple of clingy crumbs.

Let cool and then frost as desired.

*No chips.  No Hershey’s.  I like the Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bars, which are great quality for the price, but if you don’t have a TJ’s any good quality bar chocolate will do.

**I never have buttermilk on hand so I always use the handy dandy milk+lemon juice substitution.  Put 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice in your measuring cup, fill up with milk to the 1 1/2 cup line and let it sit for a couple of minutes.  Stir well before adding to the recipe.

Note:  Vanilla cake recipe to follow.  🙂  And excuse my terrible piping.  One of these days I’ll get a jumbo tip and a steady hand and actually learn how to turn out pretty cupcakes.

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Heading down the home stretch of the baby shower tea party food – a tea party needs tea cakes!  This one comes from Tartine via No Special Effects and was written for a loaf pan.    I decided that I was going to do  mini-cakes, but as you can see from the picture, it took a little trial and error before I figured out the cook time for the mini-tea cake version.   (not that I really “figured” anything out.  You’ll see below)  But even the extra-cooked version was delicious.  These little cakes are soaked in a lemon syrup that practically turns them into candy.  But at the same time, they aren’t too sweet.  With the tang of the lemon, they are weirdly refreshing straight from the fridge.   Also, according to my mom who was saddled with the leftovers from the party (hard life that), they hold up quite nicely to freezing and thawing.

And because changing the size wasn’t enough fiddling, they are also supposed to be mixed citrus (lemon+orange), but I’m a lemon head so I subbed in all lemon.  The original version is probably a bit more complex, but I guess I’m a simple creature because I loved them as straight up lemon cakes.

When I make these again I’ll skip the fancy mini-bunt pan though.  This recipe doesn’t have a dense enough crumb to really show off the detailed shapes of a novelty pan so it’s better off in simple shapes.  I definitely recommend making them bite-sized rather than using a full-sized loaf  so you have the excuse to keep popping them in your mouth on your way past the fridge, so mini-muffin tins are the way to go.

Almond Lemon Tea Cakelettes adapted from Tartine via No Special Effects

  • 3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 7 oz (or 3/4 cup) almond paste*, at room temp and broken into little bits
  • 1 cup  sugar
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 tsp lemon zest

-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

-Spray the wells of your mini-muffin tin well.  Assuming you don’t have 3 mini-muffin tins, this will be made in batches.  I didn’t have any issues letting the batter rest between batches so I don’t think it’s a problem.

-Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.  If you want to be technically correct they should be sifted, but as long as I don’t see any lumps I just whisk a bit and call it a day.

-In another bowl whisk together the eggs and vanilla.

-In your stand mixer (or a big bowl with a hand-held mixer or a LOT of arm power) beat the crap out of the almond paste until it is in little pieces.  Add the sugar gradually, mixing all the while.  You want to really break the almond paste down.  Somebody operating with say, a fork and a plastic cup might not want to attempt this one.  (Hi meg!)

-Add the butter, about a tablespoon at a time with the mixer running on low.

-Scrape down the mixer and then beat on medium speed till fluffy.  (several minutes)
-Add the eggs slowly, with the mixer running.  Scrape down the sides and then beat in the zests.

-Add the dry ingredients and fold till just combined.

-Pour into the muffins tins and smack the tins on the counter to settle the batter.  (there’s no rise to speak of, so go ahead and fill them fairly high)

-Bake for…and this is the part where I’m an utter failure of a food blogger.  I’m not sure how long to tell you to bake them for.  My three batches, despite two of them being in the oven simultaneously, and all three of them cooking for about the same amount of time, came out completely different colors.  My oven sucks at holding a temp or being even from top to bottom/side to side.  I’d start with 15 minutes and keep peeking at them.  They’re done when they are set in the middle and are just starting to color.

-Cool on a wire rack while you make the glaze, but make sure they don’t get too cool.  You want them to be warm for their lemon bath.

Citrus Glaze

  • 6 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar

-Stir together in a small bowl.

-Brush onto the little cakelets, on a wire rack over a cookie sheet (to catch the drips) making sure to get the sides along with the top.   They’ll look totally soaked, but that’s fine.  All the glaze should be used up once you are done.

-Once they are completely cooled put them in the fridge in an airtight container.  I agree with Mark over at No Special Effects that they are best chilled.

*Almond Paste

You can always buy this, but I tend to have almonds in my pantry all the time so I just make it.  This makes more than you need for the recipe, but it’ll keep for at least a month in the fridge in an airtight container.  Feel free to scale it down, but I figured fractions of eggs are more trouble than they’re worth.  The recipes I’ve seen also call for almond extract, but I don’t have any so I don’t use it.  Add a tsp if you’ve got it, otherwise just be happy with a more subtle almond flavor.

  • 1 1/2 cups blanched almonds**
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered’ sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 tsp salt

-Whiz almonds in the food processor till finely ground.  We aren’t making almond butter, but you don’t want any chunks.

-Add the rest of the ingredients, process till well mixed and smooth.

**Blanching Almonds

Apparently this is a Russian nesting doll of a blog post.  If you have un-blanched almonds, blanching is easy and actually kinda fun.

-Boil water

-Pour boiling water over almonds, let sit for 1 minute.

-Drain almonds and rinse well with cold water

-Remove skins (they’ll pop right out.  See how many almonds you can “accidentally” shoot across the room)

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