Month: June 2013

S’mores Cake

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I’m a sucker for s’mores. Marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers… so good. Gourmet chocolate and homemade marshmallows, or Hersheys at Jet-Puffed, doesn’t matter. I have been known to try pretty much anything on a menu or in a grocery store tied into s’mores. I have also been known to eat them for breakfast.

Stop judging.

Anyway, no matter how much I plan — or don’t plan — the month of June, it’s always busy and never long enough. But, we had four birthdays in my office group in June, including my own, and I wasn’t going to let the month go by without a happy hour. I remembered seeing Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, and that it involved a blow torch, and my Thursday night was sealed.

This is a fairly heavy cake, so keep the servings small. I think it would also work well as cupcakes, with the milk chocolate as filling.

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S’mores Cake

From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman

Makes one two-layer cake, serving 16

Cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more from pans
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
2 cups (170 grams) finely processed honey graham crackers (about 14 sheets)
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Filling:
8 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 pinches salt

Frosting:
4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Special equipment: Kitchen torch

Make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9″ round cake pans, line them with circles of parchment paper, then butter or coat with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl down after each addition. Add one-third of the dry ingredients, half the buttermilk, and continue alternating, mixing between each addition until combined. Scrape down bowl and mix again if needed.

Divide batter between prepared cake pans, smoothing tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Cool in pan on racks for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the outer edges and transfer cakes to cooling racks, discarding parchment paper. Let cool completely.

Make the filling: Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Combine heavy cream and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour over chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Set over another bowl filled with ice water, and stir it until it firms up to a spreadable consistency. (To slow down cooling, cool in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally to ensure even thickening)

Arrange one cake layer on a serving platter or cake stand. If desired, use a long serrated knife to level the top of the cake; discard scraps. Spread chocolate thickly over bottom layer, then top with second cake layer. Level the top of the cake if desired.

Make the frosting: You’ll need to use the frosting immediately. Place egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, about 3 minutes. Beat with an electric mixer (if using a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment), starting at low speed and gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 4 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use immediately.

Frost the cake: Spread a thin layer of the frosting over the top and sides, binding the crumbs to the cake. Transfer the cake to the fridge for 5 minutes, then generously coat the top and sides with frosting. If you like, decorate the cake by piping additional frosting into big marshmallow-like dollops, or swirl it with your knife. Make sure there is nothing flammable around you. Using a kitchen torch on a low setting, lightly brown the frosting to create a toasted marshmallow effect.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

I can’t say for certain, but I think the first from-scratch baked good I learned to make was chocolate chip cookies. If it wasn’t the first, it was certainly the most frequent recipes of my childhood. Naturally, my mom’s 1976 edition Betty Crocker cookbook automatically opens right to the page. We probably made them at least every other month.

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I don’t know what it is about chocolate chip cookies that makes them appropriate for pretty much any occasion. It doesn’t matter if I’m headed to the beach with friends, playing Chocolate Chip Cookie Fairy at the office, or packing a road trip kit for my best friend headed to a new job 700 miles away… they just work.

What I haven’t broken to dear Betty is that I switched recipes six years ago and have never looked back. The original appeal of the recipe was that they’re only 88 calories apiece (provided you follow the suggested cookie size). I stay with it because it’s a damn good cookie.

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A couple weeks ago, I made a batch and brought them to the office, just because. As always, the reaction was delightful. Sample email: “When I tell you that your chocolate chip cookie was THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE I have ever had, you need to trust that I am not just exaggerating with glee in some sugar high state of mind.”

I’m not saying that to brag — I’m just saying, it really is that good.

When your cookie isn’t overloaded with butter and Crisco, the brown sugar and salt really come out.  The dough will be very crumbly, but the texture of the baked cookie is perfect. There’s no extra butter to disguise sloppy measuring — so measure carefully, and use parchment paper.

Whatever you’re celebrating or trying to forget this week, I promise these cookies will make you smile.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

From Cooking Light
Yield: 4 dozen

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (about 10 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Parchment paper or cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

Combine sugars and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add vanilla and egg whites; beat 1 minute. Add flour mixture and chips; beat until blended.

Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper or coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on pans for 2 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

Smoked Sausage, Onions & Peppers

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When the weather gets warm, my thoughts turn to baseball and grills. And while hot dogs are my quintessential baseball food, brats and sausages rank pretty high up there.

I’m between business trips this week, and I wanted something quick and light to throw together after teaching at the gym. This is a high-protein, lower carb meal that comes together quickly, with minimal cleanup. Not bad for a Tuesday night. :)

Smoked Sausage, Onions and Peppers

Inspired by Bon Appetit
Serves 3-4

1 small onion, cut into 1/2″ slices
5-6 sweet peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2″ slices (or substitute your favorite peppers)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
12 oz. smoked sausage or kielbasa, cut on a diagonal into 4″ pieces and halved lengthwise
Mustard and sauerkraut for serving, if desired

Place a 16×12″ sheet of heavy-duty foil on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toss vegetables and oil in a large bowl; generously season with salt and pepper.

Mound vegetables in center of prepared baking sheet; top with sausages. Place another large sheet of foil over. Fold and crimp all edges tightly to form a sealed packet. Make ahead: Can be made 4 hours ahead. Chill. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before continuing.

If using a grill, heat to medium-high. If using an oven, adjust oven racks to the top third and bottom third; preheat oven to 350°. Grill or bake packet until onions and peppers are softened (carefully open the packet to check; steam will escape), about 25 minutes.

If grilling, remove sausages from packet and grill until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. If using an oven, turn on broiler. Carefully cut open packet. Arrange sausages on top if necessary. Broil until sausages are browned and crisp, about 5 minutes.

Serve with mustard and sauerkraut.