Wine

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

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Although I named my blog after one of my favorite things, I realized I don’t devote much time to writing about it. That’s really a shame, because I adore wine. Especially red wine. This oversight is something I plan to correct, starting today. Two stories, and a recipe.

Story #1. A couple months ago, I adopted an orange tabby kitten and named him Gatsby. He’s about six months old. He loves toes, laser pointers, toilet paper, catnip, the bathtub (really, bathrooms in general)…

…and apparently wine.

A couple weeks ago, I picked up a couple bottles of wine while grocery shopping and put them in the wine rack. I went into the kitchen to unload the rest of my groceries, and turned around to find Gatsby practically in the wine rack, investigating my new bottle of Tempranillo.

A few days later, I pulled that very same bottle out of the wine rack for dinner. When I opened it, I kid you not, Gatsby came running across the room. He smelled the bottle and my glass with every bit as much enthusiasm as he does with milk, the only difference being that this time he didn’t get a taste.

It’s a good thing this guy doesn’t have thumbs.

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Go home, Gatsby. You’re drunk.

(And no, he isn’t drunk here… he’s just tuckered out from his 6-month birthday. The picture is blurry for effect. See how I did that?)

Story #2. Cooking with both red and white wine is common, but you don’t see wine in baking as much as you might think. A couple years ago, a friend asked me for red wine cupcakes for his birthday. I dug around and found several recipes, but they all involved cherries, which he can’t stand. I finally found a non-offensive recipe, and the resulting cupcakes were good… but tasted nothing like wine.

Thanks to Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, my friend is now entitled to a do-over. Now, let’s see if he’s reading my blog so he knows to ask. :)

I made this cake for my colleague’s birthday, and it was an instant hint, with several requests for the recipe. It’s rich without being overpowering, and I love the depth the cinnamon provides. The original recipe calls for marscapone cheese in the frosting, which I’m sure is fantastic, but I wanted to work with ingredients already in my kitchen and adapted with the always-classic cream cheese frosting. The original is also 3 layers, but I don’t have 3 cake pans the same size.

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You can use any red wine you want; the best advice, of course, is to pick something you like to drink. One of my favorites for pairing with chocolate is a local Virginia wine, Potomac Point Cabernet Franc (also a favorite for beef stew).

Two final tips. One, don’t let the look or texture of the batter pre-flour/cocoa freak you out. It’s not appetizing, but trust me: it will work itself out. Second, don’t drink the rest of the wine in the bottle until you’re sure you have enough powdered sugar to make the frosting, or you’ll find yourself on the couch waiting to sober up so you can drive to the store.

Not that I speak from experience…

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Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
2 3/4 cups (345 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
2 cups (380 g) firmly packed brown sugar
2/3 cup (135 g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups red wine of your choice (I like Cabernet Franc)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups (115 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon table salt

For frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment, and either butter and lightly flour the parchment and exposed sides of the pans or spray with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, at medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add sugars and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well. (At this stage, the batter texture will likely remind you of the base of a cookie dough. Keep going.) If your mixer has a splash guard, put it on now. Carefully add the red wine and vanilla. (Don’t freak out that the batter looks like a disaster. It will all work out.)

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together, right over your wet ingredients. Mix until three-quarters combined, then fold the rest with a rubber spatula. Divide batter between pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top bounces back when lightly touched and cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cook on racks until cool.

In a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt. Beat in powdered sugar. With a large serrated knife, trim the domes of the tops of each cake. Place the first layer on a cake stand or plate, cut side up. Spread with a thick layer of frosting. Place the second layer cut-side down on top of the frosted base. Frost the top and, if desired, the sides. Chill cake in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Sticky Fig Jam

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This should be a picture of an embarrassingly large picnic spread. I’m not talking Americana cold fried chicken and potato salad and pie picnic food (although I do love me some pie).

I’m talking prosciutto, salami, several cheeses, crusty bread, crackers, marinated vegetables, maybe some aged balsamic vinegar and good olive oil, and of course, more wine than you know you should have but don’t really care.

Just when you think you’ve perfected that picnic spread, fig jam walks in and blows your mind.

Game. Over. It’s that good.

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Fig jam is like strawberry’s sexy, more sophisticated older sister. Jam is also seriously easy, and is a great project for a novice canner if you’re so inclined. If not, you can refrigerate unprocessed jam for a few weeks.

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Fig season is fleeting, but if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some this recipe should definitely be on your must-do list for the weekend. The beauty of jam is that you don’t need perfect fruit. If you’re canning, be sure to use bottled lemon juice, which has a more consistent acidity level (important for safe and effective canning).

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I’ll be sure to upload a picture just as soon as I have a worthy picnic spread. For now, you’re stuck with pictures of jars in my pantry. In the meantime, feel free to daydream your own picnic spread.

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Sticky Fig Jam

From Put ’em Up! cookbook, by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Makes about 4 cups

2 pounds figs, stemmed and quartered (I used black mission figs)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice

Bring the figs and water to a boil in a large nonreactive pot. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes to soften the fruit. Crush the figs with a potato masher. Add sugar, vinegar, and lemon juice and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until thick and jammy but not dry, about 20 minutes. Test for gel (for a how-to, go here). Remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes, stirring to release air bubbles.

If not canning, ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

If canning, use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot 4-ounce or half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. If any jars did not seal, refrigerate immediately.

Raspberry Fool with Toasted Angel Food Cake

One of my motivations to start a food blog was to share experiences about food and cooking across my diverse community of friends. I would love more friends to share recipes, stories, and memories as guest bloggers, but not everyone is comfortable or has the time to share.

I love sharing recipes and stories, but I want the blog to be more about just me — I want to create community. I want to give people ideas, sure, but I also want to, well, I don’t know… DO stuff.

And then the latest issue of Bon Appetit came, and it was all so clear. Virtual cooking dates! Everybody make the same thing, over relatively the same time period, and then shares about it if they choose.

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Raspberry Fool with Toasted Angel Food Cake looked simple yet elegant, and easily customizable. I shared the recipe with a bunch of friends and asked them to put their own twist on it over the same time period.

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The results were pretty spectacular. I made two versions myself (confession: it was all I could do not to eat an entire cake in one sitting), and a couple friends shared their own variations — including a couple pictures. It’s not quite the same thing as hopping on a plane to see an old friend or meet a virtual one, but it does make me feel a little more connected.

Here is the original recipe, followed by the variations. What other ways might you serve this treat?

Raspberry Fool with Toasted Angel Food Cake

From Bon Appetit

2 1/2 cups raspberries (about 12 oz.)
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest, plus more for serving
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
4 cups 1-inch pieces angel food cake (from about 1/3 of a cake)

Preheat oven to 375°. Spread cake pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toast until edges are golden brown but centers are still soft, 8–10 minutes. Let cool; set aside.

Using a fork, coarsely mash raspberries, 2 Tbsp. sugar, and 1 tsp. lime zest in a small bowl. Let sit 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat cream, crème fraîche, and remaining ¼ cup sugar in a medium bowl until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes.

Layer cake, raspberry mixture, and cream mixture in glasses or small bowls; top with lime zest.

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RHRW version #1: omit the lime zest,. Top bowls with grated chocolate, and serve with cordial glasses of raspberry wine (I like Doukenie Winery‘s raspberry merlot dessert wine)

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RHRW version #2: layer cake, berries and whipped cream in 1/2-pint (or smaller) mason jars. Screw on lids and store in the refrigerator. Send them with your dinner guests as to-go desserts, or pack them for tomorrow’s lunch.

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Nina’s version: substitute angel food cake for a gluten-free almond pound cake made with almond flour. Replace sour cream with Marscapone.

Carrie’s version: Add a dash of cardamom to the raspberries. When beating the cream, add a splash of Vermont maple balsamic vinegar. When assembling the dessert, layer in a little toasted coconut.

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