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Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting

10 May

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One of the most enjoyable parts of my Go Mighty goal of making 50 cakes for 50 people is the constant experimentation I am allowed to engage in, all in the name of cake-making. If I see a cake that looks interesting, I now feel as though I have a perfectly legitimate excuse for making it, whereas before…all right, so still I would have made it before I started on my cake journey, but at least now I get to give the cakes to people instead of just sitting around in my kitchen with a fork, eating cake for breakfast. This is the part where I should probably say something about how people should not be eating cake for breakfast. Moving on.

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This chocolate frosting was the topper for a chocolate and vanilla marble cake (much like this cake, but with plain milk subbed in for coconut milk) that I made a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to drizzle something over the top of the cake, but whipping up a simple glaze just didn’t seem to fit the feel of the cake. Because the cake is so light, I thought a glaze might end up making the cake a bit spongy, or, on the other end of the spectrum, when it sat a while it might form a bit of a crust, which would definitely be at odds with the delicate crumb of the cake. Does this sound like too many concerns to have for a cake? Because when I typed that just now, it seemed like I was maybe overthinking things a bit too much. It’s a cake, after all. It will taste good, glaze or no glaze.

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But! Why not make the cake taste great? And there it is, my friends. The very thing that makes me do things like audition chocolate frostings until I find one that is fit to be paired with one of my favorite cakes. This frosting, so intensely chocolaty, is more akin to a sauce than a standard finish for a cake. Lightly spooned over the top of any cake, it drapes beautifully down the sides and sets up like a dream. I imagine that this frosting/sauce would taste incredible over some vanilla bean ice cream, but, in a turn of events that shocks no one more than me, I haven’t yet tried that particular combination. Can I trust one of you to get on that and then report back to me on the results? If nothing else, it’s a great excuse to make some of this frosting/sauce. Not that you need an excuse (said the lady who is about to step away from the computer and make more cake).

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Last Year: Two of my all-time favorite recipes on this site– Rice Noodle Salad (Bún) with Vietnamese Turkey Meatballs and Coconut Lime Frozen Yogurt and Chewy Ginger Cookie Sandwiches (the best ice cream sandwich I have ever eaten in my whole life)

Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting

1/3 cup granulated sugar

½ cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder

½ cup milk (I used 1%)

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a small or medium saucepan set over low heat, stir together the sugar and cocoa powder. Slowly drizzle in the milk, stirring as you do so, taking as much time to add the milk as you please so that the mixture does not clump together. Increase heat to medium, then stir the mixture constantly until it just comes to a boil. Reduce heat just a tad, then continue to stir mixture for another 2 minutes while it just barely simmers, producing just a bubble or two at the surface every few seconds.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, then stir in the vanilla. Allow the mixture to cool for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the chopped chocolate and stir until completely smooth. Allow the frosting to cool completely before frosting a cake. If you are planning on drizzling some of this over some ice cream or profiteroles, it need not be completely cooled (in fact, slightly warm might be a preferable temperature in those instances).

Makes about 1 cup of frosting or sauce, enough to frost 1 bundt cake or lightly spread over the top and middle of 1 double-layer 8-inch cake (but don’t plan on using it to frost the sides—this is strictly a drizzling or draping type of frosting).

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Homemade Fudge Pops

25 Apr

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The weather this week has been marvelous. In fact, this entire spring has been marvelous so far. Not only did we get to experience the rare treat known as a sunny Easter weekend, but this week alone has boasted three gloriously warm and sunny days wherein we actually got to eat our dinner outside. Not wearing coats. I know, right? Due to the consistently gray and sorrowful weather we in the Pacific Northwest put up with most of the year, the early appearance of sunlight and warmth tends to excite us more than most people in other parts of the country are able to understand. As soon as we’re gifted a few spring days with no rain, we put away our winter boots. When the clouds part and the sun emerges, we ditch our coats. And when the temperature spikes above 70 degrees? Forget about it. It’s t-shirts, sundresses, picnics, and cold treats all day long.

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Naturally, due to our current spell of 70-plus degree days, it seemed like a good time to make some homemade popsicles. To up the ante, since it seems a little like cheating to claim that you’ve “made” homemade popsicles when, in reality, all you’ve done is pour a bit of juice into some popsicle molds and then waited for the freezer to work its magic, I set aside regular popsicle making in favor of something a bit more special: fudge popsicles.

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It’s actually rather puzzling to me that I initially chose to make fudge popsicles in lieu of fruit popsicles, since I don’t really care for fudge, but I can’t think of any scenario wherein I would turn down an invitation to eat some fruit. But, really, a fudge popsicle (or fudgesicle) is a closer relative to ice cream than proper fudge, and lord knows there is pretty much no situation during which I would turn down an offer to eat some ice cream. These fudge pops offer a nice in between, for those of you who are fans of both ice cream and simpler popsicles. While not as rich as chocolate ice cream, there is certainly more going on here than what one finds in a standard popsicle. Creamy and rich, yet also light and refreshing, I think I have found my new favorite warm weather treat.

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Last Year: Two of my favorites, Lemon, Almond, and Cornmeal Cake and How to Make Homemade Crunchy Herb and Chèvre Croutons

Homemade Fudge Pops (Fudgesicles)

Adapted from On a Stick, by Matt Armendariz

Using the best semi-sweet dark chocolate you can find definitely makes a difference (I used 54% Belgian chocolate with a nice smoky aftertaste).

2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) chopped semi-sweet dark chocolate

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder

1 1/4 cups milk
(I used 1%, and I suspect that a heavier fat milk, or even a mix of milk and heavy cream, would be great here as well)

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan set over very low heat, gently melt the chopped chocolate, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, milk and salt. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon or spatula (my mixture took about 5 minutes to thicken up nicely).

Remove from heat, add vanilla, and stir gently until combined.

Set aside to cool slightly (the mixture will thicken even more as it cools) then pour into popsicle molds of your choosing. Freeze for at least 8 hours, but preferably overnight in order to obtain the best texture.

Note: After a bit of trial and error, I have found that the best way to release these things from their molds is to run the popsicle molds under a bit of warm water, then gently wiggle the fudge pops free. Trying to pull them out without first warming the molds will result in you most likely just yanking the handles free from the fudge pops themselves, which is just sad.

Sea Salt and Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

15 Mar

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It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? To all seven of you who read this website, I apologize for my sustained absence. There was work—lots of it—and there were late nights—lots of them—and then there was the inevitable crash afterwards that involved lots and lots of sleeping. Boy, that really makes it sound like my work involved the unregulated consumption of gratuitous amounts of alcohol, doesn’t it? It didn’t, by the way. There was no alcohol involved in any way. But! Moving along! Look what happened after all the work: cookies.

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My brother, cookie aficionado, tells me that these are his favorite chocolate chip cookies. This is no small amount of praise, since my brother just might be the world’s foremost expert on chocolate chip cookies. On more than one occasion, I have given him chocolate chip cookies as a birthday or Christmas gift, and the reception those cookies received was nothing short of rhapsodic. It was like watching a person being greeted by a heavenly specter. Or, you know, by really, really good chocolate chip cookies.

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The heart of this recipe lies with Cook’s Illustrated, they of the test-it-until-it-is-perfect methodology. Their recipe provides a good starting point, but I have always thought that the recipe fell short of perfect on account of its lack of oomph. The cookies were crisp at the edges and chewy in the middle—which was lovely—but the flavor was far too sweet for my tastes, and the sweetness sort of killed all the other elements of the cookie. Over the years, I have tinkered with the recipe until I came up with my own version, one that I like ten times better than the original, though I realize that such a statement is entirely reliant upon my own personal taste, and not the tastes of the masses. Still, if you enjoy the subtly nutty taste of brown butter, the deep flavor of brown sugar, and the undertone of sea salt, you’ll love these cookies as much as I do. And, of course, as much as my brother, Expert in All Things Chocolate Chip Cookie.

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Last Year: Italian-Style Herb Bread and Matambre-this dish’s name roughly translates into “hunger killer,” and, reading the recipe, you’ll soon see why

Sea Salt and Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

As noted in the ingredients below, you’ll really want to use either coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate, or bittersweet chocolate chunks or féves. Regular chocolate chips are specifically formulated to not melt when baked, and you really want pure, melty chocolate in these cookies, as it really makes the whole cookie shine just that much more. If you are really keen on the saltiness of a sweet baked good, feel free to sprinkle just a touch of flaky sea salt on top of the cookies as they emerge from the oven.

1 ¾ cups (8 ¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

14 tablespoons (1 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter

1/3 cup (2 ¼ ounces) granulated sugar

¾ cup packed (5 ¼ ounces) dark brown sugar

1 ¼ teaspoons flaky sea salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 ¼ cups bittersweet chocolate chunks, féves, or chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda. Set aside.

In a medium skillet or pan set over medium-high heat, melt butter. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly (or stirring with a wooden spoon) until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty scent, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, then pour butter into a large heatproof bowl.

To the browned butter, add both sugars, sea salt, and vanilla. Whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and egg yolk and whisk until smooth, about 30 seconds. Let mixture rest for 3 minutes in order to allow the sugar to really dissolve, then whisk again for 30 seconds, let mixture rest for 3 minutes, then repeat once more. The mixture will be smooth and shiny. Gently fold in the flour using a spatula or wooden spoon. When the flour is completely incorporated, stir in the chocolate chunks.

Measure out dough into 16 portions of roughly 3 tablespoons of dough per cookie. If you don’t desire such enormous cookies, portion out the cookies in 2 tablespoon chunks. Arrange cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, baking no more than 8 cookies at a time, per sheet (lest your cookies ooze into one another and attach into one long cookie).

Bake cookies 1 tray at a time, in the center of the oven, until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and the centers are still soft, about 10 to 14 minutes for cookies made in 3-tablespoon portions, fewer minutes for smaller cookies. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack. Allow cookies to cool almost completely before eating (I like a still-warm cookie, but you can certainly let the cookies cool completely before eating and nothing bad will come of it).

Makes 16 to 24 cookies, depending on how large your cookie dough portions are.

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