Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chocolate Brithday Desserts: Flourless Chocolate Cake

As mentioned in my previous Chocolate Birthday Desserts post, it was my friend Eriks Birthday this past weekend and I put myself in charge of desserts.  There was going to be a lot of people and I need a gluten free dessert that hopefully everyone would enjoy.  The first thing that came to mind was a flourless chocolate cake.  Any time I have had this cake, it has been really dense and rich, so you only need a tiny peice of it, which meant a 8" round cake would feed lots of people. 

This recipe came from Martha Stewart's Fresh Flavor Fast Cookbook and was super quick to whip up, it just needed pleanty of oven time.  I was a bit afraid I was going to really screw this up.  You have to beat the eggs whites twice to two different consistancies and they are basically the cake.  I assume because of the eggs, this cake was suprisingly light compared to similar cakes I've had.  It was still very rich, but was a bit more spongy in the center.  Maybe I didn't bake it long enough, I couldn't tell if it was pulling from the pan edges, but it had been in the oven 15 or more minutes than the recipe time, so I decided it needed to come out.  It was still super yummy and Erik was pleasently suprised by his second dessert that came out with candles and a loud, bar filling version of "Happy Birthday."  Give it a try, it's not as hard as it sounds!
Cooling, precandles

Flourless Chocolate Cake
8 to 10 servings
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (I had a bit less, so I added a tiny bit of dark chocolate chips)
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees with the rack in the center. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.
  2. Place butter and chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and place over, not in a sause pan of simmering water.  Stir occasionally until almost melted.  Remove from heat and stir until completely melted.  Whisk in egg yolks. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add granulated sugar, and continue beating until glossy stiff peaks form.
  4. Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture; then gently fold in remaining egg whites.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and is set in the center, 45 to 50 minutes.
  6. Cool completely on a wire rack; remove sides of pan. Serve at room temperature, dusted with confectioners' sugar.
He was very excited about this cake

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chocolate Birthday Desserts: Compost Cups

My friend and neighbor Erik had his birthday bash this weekend.  He is normally out of town on an annual ski trip, so he rarely has a bithday party with his New York friends and he wanted a big party this year.    It was an excellent party at a great bar, Local 61, in Brooklyn which could accomadate his massive guest list, friends from Ohio and Boston made a trip out for the extravaganza.  I made it my job to make a cake or dessert of some sort.  At first he claimed he didn't want one, and it always seemed like he and his brother were not much for sweets, so I wasn't going to do anything.  But I doubled check the night before to make sure he didn't want anything and found out that he apparently LOVES chocolate.  How I did not know this after three years is beyond me. 

Chocolate made my search much narrower and since it needed to be gluten free, a Flourless Chocolate Cake was the first thing that came to mind.  At breakfast the next morning with a couple of our friends the idea came up to make the dirt cupcakes that you see at a kids birthday with the  gummy worms coming out.  Why?  Because Erik is a Master Composter.  In his spare time he helped set up a composting program at the Gowanus Canal Concervancy and currently oversees the Grow NYC Compost Program.  Needless to say, he is serious about his compost.  So I decided I would be making two desserts, there were going to be a lot of people anyway.

I flipped through my cookbooks and recipe binders until I found a flourless chocolate cake, which I will share next, and a Chocolate Ricotta Mousse recipe from Real Simple.  I added some crushed Gluten Free chocolate cookies to the top and placed a gummy worm and Swedish Fish in little terra cotta pots I bought for muffin making.  They turned out super cute and were very rich and yummy.  The blending of the ricotta and chocolate smoothed out texture of the ricotta and made is silky.  The cookie crumbled added a nice crunch to the texture.  I was not a fan of eating the gummies with the chocolate, but they certainly good on their own.  You should definately give this recipe a try. With or with worms.

Compost Cups
6 servings
  • 15 oz ricotta (one container)
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 2 or 3 chocolate cookies (gluten free if desired), crushed
  • milk chocolate shavings
  • gummy worms
  • Swedish Fish
  1. Melt the semisweet chocolate chips in a microwave dish.  Make sure you do not burn it so start with one minute on high, stir and put it back in for increments of 15 to 20 seconds, stirring in between each time.  There should be a few unmelted chunks the final time you stir them, and the stirring will finish melting it all.  It shouldn't take more than three minutes total in the microwave, depending on you machine.  
  2. In a blender (or food processor if you have one), blend the ricotta, sugar, and melted chocolate until smooth.  Make sure to stop the blender and scrap down the sides to get everything mixed well.
  3. Line six terra cotta pots with parchment paper and place a gummy worm in each one.   Fill the pots with the chocolate mousse mixture.  Sprinkle the crushed cookies on top.
  4. Put them in the fridge to set up for bit, then stick the Swedish Fish in, they should not sink down once the mousse is a bit thicker, and sprinking the chocolate shavings on top.
  5. Real Simple's recipe says that you can store this in the fridge for up to two days and to bring it to room temperature for serving.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Banana Bread

For a couple weeks I took a break from my scones, not because I wanted to, but because there was cornbread to be had and then banana bread.  My freezer was filling up with too many bananas again and it was time to get rid of some, plus I was in a baking mood.  I've already shared my number one way to use up bananas.  Banana bread is number two.  I guess I really shouldn't say that, it just depends on my mood.  This time I gave my roommate the option and he went for the bread.  

Since I was kinda leaning toward cake when I asked, I drizzled some icing over it. I wanted to make it to take for breakfast, I I opted to make a couple mini loaves and 6 muffins, but normally I would just make one big loaf or 4  mini ones.  This is another recipe that I have been making forever.  For the life me I don't know why, but almost every time I forget the walnuts.  They are, in my opinion, what makes the bread.  I end up dumping them in after it's been poured in the pan and trying the swirl it around a little bit.  I remembered this time before pouring the batter in the pans:)  We're improving! 

Banana Bread
makes 1 regular loaf  or 4 mini ones
  • 3 or 4 over ripe bananas (if frozen thaw)- mashed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 melted butter
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 to 2 tbsp milk
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 
  2. Cream the sugar and bananas together with the butter.  
  3. Mix in the remaining ingredients- saving the walnuts for last.
  4. Pour into a greased 9" bread pan.  Bake for 1 hour.  If you use muffins, they will take about 30 to 40 minutes and the mini loafs will still take about an hour.  Start checking them at 40 minutes, just to make sure.  A toothpick will come out clean when it is done. 
  5. Let cool.  While it is cooling mix the powdered sugar and milk together in a small bowl.  Add milk one teaspoon at a time until the mixture is no longer clumpy but a smooth mixture that is not too runny. (Clear as mud?) 
  6. Drizzle over the bread. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Gumbo Party (& Cornbread)

Melissa had to stand on her toes
see in the massive pot! 
A few weeks ago when it was as cold as it seems to be getting around here, my Louisiana roommate decided it was time for some more gumbo.  I was very excited for this since the first round was so delicious.  The smells floated through our apartment all day long.  Several friends came over during the remaining hours and we pretty much sat around salivating.  It was painful waiting for the final product.  I again had nothing to do with the gumbo preparation, but I did make some cornbread.  Which was weak in comparison to the gumbo, but a good side/dipper none the less.  Melissa made a tasty savory cornbread with chilies and cheese while I made a sweet one.  
I've been using the same recipe forever.  I never really thought about it being a "sweet" recipe.  It's the way I have always had it.  the recipe does have an "if desired" written next to the sugar.  Compared to Melissa's it was definitely sweet, but I still like it that way better.  I assume I got it from my mom and I normally make it every time I make chili which is not often enough.  I then have leftover to smother in syrup for breakfast.  It's a simple easy recipe that you can whip up in a few minutes.  If you want to double the recipe, you can bake it in a 9 by 13 inch pan for the same amount of time. 

Golden Cornbread
makes a 8x8 pan about 16 serving

ahhh breakfast! 

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 vegetable shortening
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients. 
  3. Add the milk, egg and shortening.  Mix until just combined and fairly smooth- about a minute. 
  4. Bake in a greased 8" square pan  for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Cool a bit and serve. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Homemade Little Debbies: Oatmeal Cream Pies

I am happy to report that I am not the only person who has been craving Oatmeal Cream Pies... I think mine started when I saw and empty wrapper lying on the sidewalk.  Bake Perfection seemed to have the same "Oh my gosh I need to make some of those now!" thought when she decided to make hers.  I had been trying to decide what to take for my friends Superbowl party, I was told I needed to bring something amazing and sweet.  These had to be up for the task.

And that they were! I would have liked the cream to be a bit more flavorful, but they were still really good.  I started making the cookies a bit big I think, so I started making smaller ones and ended up with 20 1/2 pies.    If you're having trouble finding the marshmallow fluff like I was, check the jelly and peanut butter section... it was tucked right in there. 

Homemade Oatmeal Cream PiesMakes 20 to 24 pies
Love the retro fluff label
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups quick oats
Cream Filling
  • 2 teaspoons hot water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow fluff
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Look at all those cookies! (& that mixer:)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a bowl.  Set aside.
  3.  In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars.  Add in eggs, beating after each.  Finally beat in molasses and vanilla. 
  4.  Add to the flour mixture to creamed mixture and beat until just blended; mix in the oats with a wooden spoon. 
  5.  Drop dough by tablespoons on parchment lined sheets, with plenty of space in between. 
  6.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until just starting to brown around the edges, they will look underbaked in the center.  Let sit on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
  7. While the last cookies bake, prepare the filling: In small bowl, dissolve the salt in the hot water. Set aside and allow this to cool. 
  8.  Combine marshmallow cream, shortening, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a bowl; mix on high until fluffy (3-4 minutes). Add the cooled salt water and mix well. 
  9.  Spread filling on flat side of one cookie, press second cookie on top. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

Look at those tasty veggies! 
Ok- I must appologise for my mini hiatus.  I  have posts lined up to go, but just haven't finished them to get them online.  It has been a busy couple of weeks with Architecture for Humanity NY  stuff going on and other architecture related events.   I promise to try and get myself back on track!  
Today I bring you a yummy recipe from Real Simple  that I have been holding on to from the February 2009 issue.  It was cold around here for about, oh... five minutes?  In that time I was so excited for hearty, warm comfort foods like this Chicken Pot Pie.  In fact I really want it to get cold again for two reasons: I want to have an excuse for more meals and soups like this and I have a trip to Montana planned at the end of this month to do some skiing and snowmobiling- I NEED SNOW!  Oh and I want to wear my amazing warm and fuzzy winter boots and this 40 degrees weather is too warm for such things.  They require cold.  Freezing.  Snow.  I might be going through withdrawals...
Sorry, I'll get back to the recipe, I just really love snow.  OK- so, even though this recipe is a bit time consuming with all the vegetable chopping and cook time it is completely worth it.  I made it on a Monday and it was my lunch for the rest of the week.  (I love not having to think about what I am going to take for lunch every day or what dive near my office I will be getting lunch from!)  I thought about making my own crust, but since I knew  I would be making this on a week night, I stuck with the store bought crust.  Unlike the recipe, I used both crusts, (two came in the package), for a top and bottom, I have a soft spot for crust.  One think I kind of screwed up, was I did not cut the carrots small enough.  Everything tasted fine, but the carrots were still a bit crunchy after all of that cooking and baking.  I substituted dry thyme for fresh since I didn't have any.  I hope some of you are still able to enjoy your winters and can whip this up, because it is so tasty.  
Chicken Pot Pie
Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped (about 1 pound)
  • 4 carrots, diced (about 1 pound)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups  milk
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen peas
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 9-inch store-bought pie crusts, thawed if frozen
  1. Heat oven to 400° F. Cook the chicken in a pot of simmering water until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes; let cool, then shred.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, 6 to 8 minutes (do not let them darken). 
  3. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  
  4. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Add the milk and simmer until the sauce thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. 
  6. Stir in the chicken, peas, thyme, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  
  7. Place one of the crusts in a shallow 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish.  Transfer the chicken and vegetable mixture to the dish.
  8. Lay the crust on top, pressing to seal the crusts together.  Cut several vents in the crust.  Place the pot pie on a baking sheet and bake until bubbling and the crust is golden, 30 to 35 minutes.