Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chocolate Valentino Cake with Ice Cream

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was to make a flourless chocolate cake, paired with a homemade ice cream. I made a rich cake using Valrhona dark chocolate, paired it with two different ice creams - coffee, and chile spice, and topped it all with a semisweet chocolate and brandy sauce. Now that Daring Bakers is checked by a bot, we need to have an obligatory sentence in our post. I followed the suggested recipe for the cake, but the ice creams were not based on the shared recipes. Anyways, "The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge."

If you decide to make this cake, you can use whatever sort of chocolate you'd like (except white chocolate; the ratios in that chocolate will throw off the recipe), just make sure it's a chocolate you love. Because the cake is only eggs, butter, and the chocolate, the cake will end up tasting just like the chocolate you put into it. As with most recipes, the better quality ingredients you get, the better this cake will taste.

Chocolate Valentino Cake:
16 oz. premium-quality dark chocolate (like Valrhona), roughly chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 large eggs, separated

Butter an 8"x8" pan, and line with parchment paper (the butter helps the paper hold shape). Preheat the oven to 375ºF. In a double boiler, combine the chocolate and butter over low heat, stirring continuously until fully melted. Don't overheat it, or the butter and chocolate will separate. Once melted, remove from heat and allow to cool down. Whip the egg whites into stiff peaks, but don't over-whip them or the cake will feel dry. Add the egg yolks into the cooled chocolate mixture, and stir to combine. Take one third of the egg whites and fold into the chocolate mixture, then gently pour this mixture back into the remaining egg whites and carefully fold. Don't over-fold, or the egg white foam will break, and your cake will deflate. Pour into the pan, and 20-25 minutes, or until the top begins to crack. An inserted knife will still come up damp, not dry. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Makes 8 servings.

Coffee ice cream:
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whole coffee beans
Heavy pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon finely ground coffee

In a medium pot, combine the milk, sugar, coffee beans, salt, and 1/2 cup of the cream, then warm over medium heat until steaming. Cover and take off of the heat, then set aside to steep for 1 hour. After it has finished steeping, place a metal bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice, and pour in the remaining cup of cream. Reheat the coffee bean mixture until steaming again. Whisk the egg yolks together, and add a small amount of the steaming milk into it while whisking to temper, then combine the tempered yolks back into the steaming milk while continuing to whisk to prevent curdling. Stir over medium heat using a wooden spoon until nappe, about 10 minutes. Strain into the chilled cream. Mix in the vanilla and ground coffee. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, then process ice cream as per manufacturer's directions.

Chile spice ice cream:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
2 jalapeños, or chiles of your choice, roughly chopped
3/4 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine 1/2 cup heavy cream with the milk, sugar, and chiles. Place into a medium pot over low heat. Once the mixture begins to steam, cover with a lid and set aside to steep for 1 hour. Bring this mixture back to a steam, then whisk the egg yolks together. Place the remaining cup of cream into a metal bowl, set into a larger bowl filled with ice. Carefully temper the egg yolks with a little bit of this steaming milk, then pour back into the milk mixture, making sure to whisk to prevent curdling. Place back over medium heat and continue to stir until nappe. Strain this mixture into the chilled cream, then add the remaining spices and stir. Refrigerate this mix for at least 2 hours, then process according to manufacturer's directions.

The coffee ice cream is heavenly on its own, but the chile ice cream definitely needs to be paired with some chocolate. The spice is pretty mild with all the dairy it's in, but it still has a bite that just doesn't feel right without some accompanying chocolate. The cake itself was heavenly, and like expected, it tasted just like a big Valrhona dark chocolate bar, but with the lighter mouthfeel of a cake. The ease of this cake means it's a great last-minute dessert, as far as fancy cakes can go.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Caramel Crunch Bars

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was picked by Whitney of What’s left on the table?. It's a rather soft coffee and chocolate flavored base covered with semisweet chocolate and topped with bits of Heath bar. The bars are perfect to share with a crowd, and are easy enough to make that you could produce masses of them without much concern. Give them a try for the next potluck you go to, or if you feel like serving a casual dessert.

Knowing how much chocolate went into these, I was surprised at how the coffee stood out the first time I bit into one. It took me a bit off guard, but grew on me before the first bar was finished. The way the flavors combine between the coffee, toffee, and chocolate are an instant hit.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 112 - 113

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Devils Food White Out Cake

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Stephanie of Confessions of a City Eater. This is the cover recipe for the book we've been baking from, so my expectations were pretty high, and I wasn't let down. A devil's food cake is sliced into four layers (if you can get it to rise, a common problem amongst the bakers) and is layered with marshmallow-like white frosting. Dorie leaves the option to frost all four layers like a normal cake, but I took her lead and copied her in chopping up one of the layers and using it as decoration.

If (when?) I make this cake again, I'm going to use some smaller cake pans so I can get thicker layers of cake. Because the texture was perfectly fine, I'm assuming that this cake just isn't meant to rise as much as I had expected, but I was a little bummed out by how much smaller it was than I had anticipated. Still, the mix of dark chocolate cake with light vanilla marshmallowy cream makes this cake a definite favorite.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 247 - 249

Monday, February 16, 2009

French Onion Soup

I stick by the idea that many of the best ideas were formed by sheer laziness. I was sort of running out of food, but really didn't want to make a trip to the grocery store until I had a full list of items I needed. Looking around the kitchen, I found a stack of onions waiting in the cupboard, so I ventured to make some French Onion Soup. Not to mention it's another slow cooker recipe, so I enjoyed coming home to another great-smelling house last week.

The slightly altered beef broth is cooked with onions, then topped with french bread. I actually used some sourdough because that's what I had on hand, just make sure it's a hard-crusted bread. On top of that is freshly grated Swiss cheese. You can either put the cheese on top of the bread and bake it in the oven until melted, then float them in your soup...or you can float the bread in the soup, smother the whole thing with cheese, and break out a butane blowtorch to melt it all down. Is the butane torch necessary? I doubt it, but I have to find some sort of excuse to use it! You can do the same with a broiler, but make sure your dishes are oven-safe.


6 medium Panoche Sweet onions (or another sweet onion)
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons butter
2 (14.5-ounce) cans beef broth
3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cups water
French or sourdough bread
8 ounces Swiss cheese, grated

Thinly slice the onions and mince the garlic. In a heavy skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onions. Cook until soft with frequent stirring, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes. You want to soften everything up, do not brown them. Place into a slow cooker and add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and water. Give everything a good stir and set the slow cooker to low heat for 6 - 8 hours. Ladle soup into bowls, then slice the bread 1/2" - 3/4" thick, float in the soup, and top with grated cheese. Using a blowtorch, carefully melt the cheese on top. Alternatively, you can toast the bread with cheese on it in a broiler or toaster oven, then float that on top of your soup. Serves 8.

French Onion Soup

Made in a slow cooker, this is a simple soup ...

See French Onion Soup on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Floating Islands

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Shari of Whisk: a food blog. These floating islands are poached meringues in a pool of creme anglaise. It's not a bold dessert, but its subtle flavor and sweetness make it delicious.

This was my first time making creme anglaise, and I loved how it ended up tasting. Creme anglaise ice cream, anyone? Creme anglaise is essentially ice cream batter on its own, so you could just throw it into an ice cream maker and have another delicious dessert waiting for you. I poached the meringues for 2-3 minutes per side instead of Dorie's suggested one. I knew that these would be sitting in the refrigerator for a few days, so I wanted to make sure that they held some structural integrity.

Unfortunately when I showed up with these at work, my serving dish was a ceramic pie pan filled with creme anglaise and topped with the islands. My boss asked me what was wrong with my lemon meringue pie. Uhm. So if I make this again, I'm going to make sure it's served in such a way that it's painfully obvious it's not a failed pie.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 401-402

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chicken Tortilla Soup

There's a plethora of great reasons to go over to my brother's house. Quality time with family, hilarious stories, delicious free food, and great lighting. Erm...understand that my kitchen has horrible lighting, which is why a lot of my pictures end up coming out rather dark. I could fix this with photoshop, but I lost my last copy. My roommates stopped asking me what I'm doing when I start moving and leaning lamps towards the kitchen so I can get enough light for a decent picture. Most of my favorite pictures that end up on this blog were taken instead at my brother's house. What can I say, I love the electricity there.

I was at my brother's house a couple weekends ago, helping to paint a nursery for my future niece (8 weeks now? She's coming so soon!), and my sister-in-law put together this soup in a slow cooker. The meal was fantastic, so I copied the recipe (out of a family cookbook her close friend gave her). As with most things crock-pot, the dish is both easy to put together and delicious.

Credit must be given where due - my brother assembled the behemouth in this picture. I didn't even think about taking pictures when I topped the soup, and it was to my chagrin that my brother suggested I take some pictures - after I had already started eating. I knew my bowl wouldn't do this soup any justice. Fortunately, he saved the day by topping his in a very photogenic fashion.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 (15-oz.) cans black beans in liquid
2 (15-oz.) cans Mexican stewed tomatoes (such as Ro*tel)
1 cup salsa
4-oz. can chopped green chiles
15-oz. can tomato sauce
Tortilla chips
Assorted toppings (shredded cheese, sliced avocado, sour cream, guacamole, onions, etc.)

Combine chicken breasts, black beans, tomatoes, salsa, green chiles, and tomato sauce into a slow cooker and set to cook on low heat for 8-10 hours. After it has finished cooking, remove the chicken with tongs and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Cut into bite-sized pieces and scoop back into the soup. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with tortilla chips. Top with your choice of toppings.

If you're in a rush and didn't quite plan as far ahead as possible, you can cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces before you cook the soup, and cook on high heat for 4 hours. This is exactly what we did this time around, and the chicken was still tender.

This soup is truly a great comfort food. Its warmth combines with the symphony of flavors and spices to produce a delicious melody reminiscent of summer in soup form. Next time I need some good winter comfort food, I'm going to shy away from macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes, and make myself a nice batch of this chicken tortilla soup.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This delicious comfort food mixes several flavors and spices to ...

See Chicken Tortilla Soup on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

World Peace Cookies

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Jessica of cookbookhabit. These delicious chocolate-battered cookies are filled with chopped chocolate, as well as a good serving of salt to accent the flavors deliciously. It's also an egg-free dough, so it's one of those doughs you can get away with eating raw without too many worries.

The dough is very crumbly, so it may be hard to shape loaves like Dorie suggests. Rather than alter the dough, I just scooped out packed tablespoon-fulls of dough and baked them in the oven as per directions. They retained their dome shape from my tablespoon, so after they had cooled for a few minutes I patted them down with a fork. These cookies are delectable, melt (fall apart?) in your mouth, and are packed with a surprisingly high amount of flavor.

I'd be interested to make these cookies trying different types of salts, and seeing what sort of difference it actually makes in the overall flavor. The salt was particularly pronounced to me when the dough was still raw, but unfortunately seemed to lose its edge after baked. Had I used fleur de sel instead of Mediterranean sea salt, the outcome may have been different. Plus that'd give me a good excuse to make four batches in a row. All in the name of science, right?

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan pp. 138 - 139