Tuesday, February 28, 2012

chocolate birthday cake (with mint)

On December 28th, I made a ridiculously decadent mint-chocolate cake for my darling Michael's 21st birthday. Three layers of moist chocolate cake, glued together by a chocolate mint ganache, and surrounded by a creamy and perfect chocolate frosting before being decorated with melted mint chips...Heaven.

It's time that I shared my combination of recipes & chocolates.

For the triple-layered chocolate cake, I used this recipe.
The ingredients required are:
2 cups boiling water

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

I used large eggs, Callebaut baking cocoa powder (I ordered it on Amazon), and a halved portion of double-strength vanilla from Penzeys Spices. The batter was evenly portioned between three 9-inch pans, but I believe that it would have been fine in just two. Eventually, I'll figure out the time and temperature for that.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease 3 - 9 inch round cake pans. In medium bowl, pour boiling water over cocoa, and whisk until smooth. Let mixture cool. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at time, then stir in vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the cocoa mixture. Spread batter evenly between the 3 prepared pans.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool.

The chocolate mint ganache was adapted from this blog.
The ingredients include:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup + 1 teaspoon chopped mint leaves
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

However, I doubled the recipe and it turned out pretty well. It may not have actually been necessary in the cake (the cake was heavy enough as it was), but it was a nice addition.
I used 8 oz. of a Scharffen Berger baking bar (bittersweet dark chocolate; 70% cacao) that I purchased on Amazon. Next time, I might use the mint buttercream frosting from the same blog in between the layers instead of the chocolate mint ganache.
1. chop chocolate and transfer into a heat proof bowl.
2. heat cream and 1/4 cup mint until bubbles form around the edge of the pan, pour cream through strainer, over the chocolate.
3. let sit for 1 minute then stir until combined.
4. add butter and the remaining teaspoon of chopped mint and stir until combined.
5. let cool then transfer to the refrigerator to thicken, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Finally, the creamy and delicious chocolate frosting from here.

2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

I again used Callebaut baking cocoa powder and a halved portion of double-strength vanilla from Penzeys Spices. I may have doubled the recipe, or at least made 1.5 for the cake. The cake was frosted by piping with a larger star tip (Wilton 1M?), starting at the bottom edge of the cake and working my way around the cake then slowly working my way up, layer by layer.
  1. In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.

The decorative writing was done using melted Guittard green mint chips (also on Amazon), a pastry bag, and a Wilton filling tip.

Happy Baking!
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Friday, August 19, 2011

white chocolate & raspberry muffincakes

What exactly is a muffincake?

Well, a muffincake is basically a cupcake... with muffin-like qualities.
Or maybe a muffin that happens to have a more cupcake-y texture.

Either way, it's delicious. This wonderful treat is the result of my laziness. I was planning on making a batch of my raspberry dream cupcakes, but I didn't really want to make a white chocolate buttercream. Or reduce a raspberry filling. So I threw some white chocolate chips and fresh raspberries into the vanilla-almond batter. And a wonderful creation was born!

White Chocolate & Raspberry Muffincakes (approx. one dozen)
Ingredients originally based on this recipe.

1 2/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 tsp Penzey's double-strength vanilla extract)
~42 fresh raspberries, washed and dried (enough for 2-3 raspberries per cupcake, plus 12 for decoration)
~60 white chocolate chips (I stuffed 2 inside of each raspberry, though some fell out and into the batter)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. If necessary, line muffin pan with paper liners or spray with a nonstick cooking spray. (Paper liners are recommended, as the raspberries can be a little messy.)

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-to-large bowl. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the sour cream, milk, sugar, egg, and butter. Thoroughly mix, then combine with the dry ingredients using a rubber spatula.

Gently fold in the raspberries and white chocolate chips; attempt to distribute evenly throughout the batter. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3-3/4 full, and gently push a raspberry onto the top of each cup of batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tops are slightly golden and spring back from the touch. (Toothpicks may not come out clean from the center, as the water from the raspberries adds to the moisture/stickiness of the cupcake.)

Let cool on a wire rack before serving. (May be served before fully cooled, but should be cooled at least 5-10 minutes to allow for setting.)

Enjoy :)

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

flaky tart dough (Tartine)

This is probably my favorite pie dough. It's tender, flaky, and extremely versatile. I can use it for anything from my brother's favorite strawberry-rhubarb pie to a savory chicken pot pie. It is also very similar to the dough used to make fruit galettes.

The recipe is taken from the Tartine Bakery cookbook (Tartine), authored by Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson.

Flaky Tart Dough
(Makes two 9- or 10-inch pie crusts)

1 tsp (5 ml) salt
2/3 cup (150 ml) very cold water
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (455 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling tool and work surface
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 5 tablespoons (300 g) very cold unsalted butter (maybe frozen), cut into 1-inch pieces


In a small bowl, mix together salt and water. Keep very cold, perhaps in freezer, until ready to use.

Measure flour into the bowl of a food processor. Scatter butter chunks over flour. Pulse briefly until mixture forms large crumbs. Add the salt-water mixture until a dough begins to form into a ball but is not smooth. There should still be pea-sized streaks of butter.

(If a food processor is not available, you can use a pastry blender or forks to cut the butter into the flour.)

On a lightly-floured work surface (such as a large cutting board or clean counter-top), divide the dough evenly in half. Form each portion into a disk about 1 inch thick (about 5 inches in diameter). Wrap each disk with plastic wrap (or in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag-- see numbered points below) and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight (about 8 hours or so).

the remainder of the directions are taken directly from this blog

To line the tart pan or pie dish, place a disk of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out 1/8 inch thick, rolling from the center. Lift and rotate dough a quarter turn every few strokes to discourage sticking. Lightly dust the dough with more flour as needed.

If lining a pie pan, cut out a circle 2 inches larger than the dish. If lining a tart pan with a removable bottom, cut out a circle 1 1/2 inches larger. Carefully transfer the round to the dish/pan, easing it into the bottom and sides, pressing gently into place. With a sharp knife, trim the dough even with the rim of the dish/pan.

Line the pastry shells with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (you can also use dried beans.) For a fully baked shell, bake at 375 degrees F for about 25 minutes, or until the surface looks light brown. Remove from the oven and remove the parchment paper and weights. Return to the oven and continue baking until golden brown, about 5 minutes longer.

Cool completely on wire racks before filling.

Additional Reminders/Tips/Comments:

1) Do not pre-bake the pie shell unless your recipe calls for a pre-baked pie shell. Most of the pies that I bake only call for unbaked pie dough rounds.

2) Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for More Food gives a lot of helpful tips for rolling out pie dough. His recipe for pie dough instructs the reader to roll the dough out inside of a large zip-top bag. This makes it so that you don't have to worry about the dough sticking to the work surface, the rolling pin, your hands, or anything else in the vicinity. And then you just cut open the sides of the bag and peel the plastic layers off of your rolled-out dough. Really easy and far less messy!

3) Alton's recipe calls for a little lard, which I don't really have on hand. Therefore, I haven't yet tried out his version. However, I'm unbelievably satisfied with the super flaky and delicious pie crusts that result from the Tartine recipe. Just look at those layers that form!

Happy baking! I hope that you get as much use out of this recipe as I do :)

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

chicken pot pie

Here is the recipe and personal notes for the creation of a completely satisfying chicken pot pie, previously mentioned in this post.

Chicken Pot Pie. I mostly followed this recipe from AllRecipes.

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed (I used more than 1 lb.)
1 cup sliced carrots (used more than 1 cup, sliced in half-coins... ~3 carrots.)
1 cup frozen green peas (I may have used just over 1 cup.)
1/2 cup sliced celery (used more than 1/2 cup, thinly sliced... <1/4 inch? ~2 stalks.)
2 small-medium potatoes, cubed *optional
1/3 cup butter (used ~5-6 tbsp. butter.)
1/3 cup chopped onion (used more than 1/3 cup chopped onion. ~1/2 medium onion.)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (I only eyed the salt, didn't actually measure it. Definitely need more than 1/4 tsp.)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (I only eyed the pepper. Definitely used more than 1/4 tsp.)
1/4 teaspoon celery seed (used ~1/2 tbsp minced celery tops, rather than celery seed.)
1 3/4 cups chicken broth (used low-sodium organic, free-range chicken broth.)
2/3 cup milk

2 (9 inch) unbaked pie crusts (used the recipe from the Tartine Bakery cookbook for flaky tart dough)

In a saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, peas, and celery. Add water (or chicken broth, for more flavor) to cover and boil for 15 minutes. (*If adding potatoes, begin boiling ~7 minutes into the 15) Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. (I
added 1 cup chicken broth, then all of the milk, then the remaining 3/4 cup chicken broth) If necessary, add more salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Pour hot liquid mixture over. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape. (You may want to place the pie plate on a parchment-paper-lined, lipped cookie sheet in order to avoid a mess in your oven!)
(I u
sed the sauce to bind the crust edges, then glazed the top crust with olive oil and sprinkled with fine-granule sea salt. Delicious. I neglected to trim the excess dough from the crust, but that simply meant more tasty and flaky crust to eat with the filling. The excess veg & chicken & sauce was combined in the sauce pot. Totally yummy on its own. Or you can add in more chicken broth and some cooked orechiette pasta for a thick and creamy soup.)

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
(Keep in mind: the filling is precooked! Once the crust is done, the pie is done!)

Throughout the process, I'd forgotten to follow a note from the comments section:
- add a little garlic when cooking the onions. (I still haven't done this, and it has not been necessary.)

Dinner for four. The leftovers were also fantastic :)
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

chocolate peanut butter cake

Tartine's Chocolate Chiffon Cake, with peanut butter chocolate ganache and peanut butter cream cheese frosting, as mentioned in this post.

Chocolate Chiffon Cake, taken from the Tartine Bakery cookbook (10-inch by 3-inch) (I used this cake pan)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (250g)
1/2 cup cocoa powder (40g)
1 1/2 cups sugar (300g)
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used safflower)
6 large egg yolks (1/2 cup)
3/4 cup water
zest from 2 small or 1 medium lemon
10 large egg whites (1 1/3 cups)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar or lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 10-inch cake or springform pan with 3-inch sides with parchment paper cut to fit exactly; don’t grease the pan.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 1/4 cups of the sugar and the salt and whisk to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, egg yolks, and water. Make a well in the flour, add the yolk mixture, and then whisk thoroughly and quickly for about 1 minutes until very smooth.

In another large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy, then add the cream of tartar and beat on medium-high speed until it holds soft peaks. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar slowly while beating on medium-high speed until the whites hold firm, shiny peaks. Add a third of the egg whites and fold into the yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in the rest of the whites until just combined.

Pour the batter into the pan, smoothing the top if necessary. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack. Once completely cool, run a thin knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake an then release and lift off the pan sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment

(I didn't use a springform pan, and I probably should have lined the bottom of the pan with parchment paper or a cooking spray. Also, the cake took a little longer to bake. I had to test it 5 times before I was satisfied with the fork/toothpick.)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Ganache, influenced by Tartine and this recipe.

12oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used E. Guittard chocolate wafers/coins)
~3 tablespoons peanut butter (I used an actual spoon, not a measuring tablespoon.)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Heat the chocolate and peanut butter together in a double boiler until melted, then remove from heat and add heavy cream, stirring until incorporated. Use while still warm.
(I reheated a little to help it incorporate better. To be honest, I forgot to add the heavy cream until after I'd already used like 1/3 of the mixture, so I only used ~1 cup heavy cream after all.)

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting, mostly from this recipe.
10oz. cream cheese, room temp.
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp.
5 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter (I used ~3 heaping tablespoonfuls-- once again, using a regular tablespoon rather than a measuring tablespoon)

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.

Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

(This may have worked out better without an electric mixer, as it was a messy ordeal with the powdered sugar, but it still turned out well. It may have been a little too sweet, so maybe I didn't need all 5 cups of sugar... though the sugar helps the frosting retain its structure. The cake tasted awesome cold, though. I think the frosting was better after refrigerated.)


I only sliced the baked cake into 2 layers, rather than three.

I spread the ganache between the cake layers, then used it as a crumb coat on/around the entire cake. (Spread like frosting, in order to pick up the crumbs that the cake will inevitably shed before layering on the frosting, which looks better when it's not unintentionally speckled with cake crumbs.)

I then placed cake in refrigerator while making the frosting so that the chocolate would have cooled/stiffened enough before added the frosting.

Once frosted, the cake was ridiculously decadent.
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lattice-topped strawberry-rhubarb pie recipe

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie with a latticed top-crust, as mentioned in the previous post.

Adapted from two recipes, as well as users' comments:
Food Network: Grandma's Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
Epicurious: Lattice Topped Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Epicurious Comment:

Delish - Huge hit at my office. It was all gone in record time. Only use 1/2 teaspoon of cinn. and use 4 cups of rhubarb and 4 cups of strawberries and leave sugar amounts as receipe states. Use a heaping 1/4 cup of cornstarch for a nice thicker texture. Mix filling and let stand for 1 hour. Drain juice and reduce in a pan over low heat and reincorporate into filling right before putting it in the crust. After you finish the lattice top chill the pie for 15 minutes or so before baking. Bake tented with foil at 350 for 20 minutes then 40 minutes at 400. Uncover and bake until crust is golden (aprox. 20 more minutes). Make sure you place a pan lined in foil on the bottom rack to catch the drippings.

by Husberi from Seattle, WA on 07/09/09

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie (including own comments)

~2.5 cups chopped red rhubarb (used 4 stalks of even thickness, 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices)
~2.5 cups cut strawberries (used ~3 small green baskets-worth from the farmers' market)
1/2 or 1/3 cup white sugar (used just over 1/3 cup Wholesome Sweeteners evaporated cane juice Organic Sugar)
1/2 cup brown sugar, light or dark (results in slightly different flavor) (used Trader Joe's brown sugar)
2 tbsp Minute tapioca (will result in small tapioca pearls unless ground) (ground ~1/2 cup in an electric coffee/spice grinder ahead of time)
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp lemon zest (didn't exactly measure... from 1/2 medium lemon)
1/2 tsp lemon juice (I may have added extra, probably amounting to just under 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (used Penzey's China Cinnamon--may have added an extra tiny pinch)
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 9-inch pie crusts (used the recipe from the Tartine Bakery cookbook for flaky tart dough, prepared before preparing the filling)

Mix filling and let stand for one hour.
(I continued stirring/folding from bottom for about an hour while watching an episode of Friday Night Lights, while waiting for the crust dough to refrigerate. I made sure that filling was always covered in juice to allow flavor to remain consistent throughout filling... even though this may have been unnecessary. But it smelled amazing, so it was totally worth it.)

Drain juice and reduce in a pan over low heat. Reincorporate filling right before putting in the crust.

(It was hard to drain the juice, and there wasn't much left after it was reduced. And it was already pretty thick to begin with. Might wait to add tapioca and flour until this step next time. I only added the reduced juice on top of the filling when already in bottom crust, then spread around the top a little. I had too much filling to fit in the pie, so I sautéed some of it in the reduction pan, and shoved the rest in a makeshift galette/turnover using excess pie dough.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Latticed the top crust, starting with the two longest strips criss-crossed across the center. (I used this tutorial). Used remnants of filling juice (from original bowl, not pan) to help adhere the strips to the bottom crust. Trimmed edges by running a paring knife along the edge of the 9-inch Pyrex pie plate. Used remnants of filling juice as a glaze, then sprinkled thoroughly with turbinado sugar. May mix a little cinnamon with the sugar next time.

Place pie on a parchment paper-lined pan, then place in oven.
(Used the middle rack position in the oven.)

Bake with tented foil
(loosely covered, pretty much) at 350°F for 20 minutes, 400°F for 40 minutes, then uncover and bake until crust is golden (~15 to 20 more minutes).
(I followed this carefully. I think I only needed the 15 minutes.)

Let cool on wire rack or stove grates, then serve.
(Made in the afternoon, before dinner. Reheated for ~5-7 minutes at 350°F. We served ours with Clover whipped cream. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It still tasted fantastic cold.)

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

strawberry-rhubarb pie ♥

Over a week since my last blog post? Man, I'm really slacking again.

At this point in my life, I am in the third week of my internship. F&G are on vacation after tomorrow's show, so I don't have to go in on Friday... or for another week and a Monday after that. A week-and-a-half off already?! A'ight. I can dig it.

Now where did I leave off?


House of Prime Rib for James' birthday was absolutely glorious. All of us, besides Tim, ordered the King Henry VIII cut, which is served still on the bone. I ordered mine medium rare. It was juicy, flavorful, meaty, and delicious. It was swimming in flavor. There was Yorkshire pudding, creamed spinach, and mashed or baked potato. I ordered the baked potato, which came with sour cream, chives, and bacon bits.

Phenomenal. I loved everything about the place, even the fact that it seemed to be a huge attraction for Asians. Seriously. Asians everywhere. Eating there, working there... We all thought it was hilarious-- since we're azn and all... except for our token white boy, Tim.


The next day, I got to work on James' strawberry-rhubarb birthday pie. I decided to be adventurous and created my own version of the recipe by combining two separate recipes and a very helpful user comment. I decided to really be risk-taker by making my first lattice-top pie.

And it turned out perfect. Absolutely perfect. I'll have to start putting recipes up on this blog sooner or later. Hell, I still need to properly type that recipe up. I have it written with all of my comments, but it's still just chilling in the kitchen. (06/23/11 Update: The recipe can be found HERE)

mm... yummy. I'm so making this again. We nom'd it so hard. It was good.


Besides the awesomeness of pie, big brother and I got Little Star pizza for our 'Friday Night Lights' Friday. Delicious and filling, and the caprese salad was pretty kick-ass, as well.

I've also now ordered my Palladium boots and reserved our Harry Potter VII:2 tickets. Yay!

In addition to all of the above, I've started playing Uncharted 2: Among Thieves on the PS3. It's great, and I love it.
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