Posts Tagged Chocolate
Do you see the little “Science!” label down there on the right? After you scroll down a bit, underneath all the tasty stuff?
Those scientists and science bloggers are working hard to make foods better, safer, and more understandable for everyone else. Recently, the good folks at Biofortified have explained, in very clear terms, why GM foods don’t have any more scary genes in them than any other foods you’ve ever eaten, since of course bacteria and viruses are already everywhere, and every time you eat anything you eat the little guys and all of their genes as well. And if you still think after my earlier discussion of the subject that GM foods lead to horizontal gene transfer and presumably plant-people? The GMO Pundit explains an article that shows that a happy little beetle managed to get a useful little bacteria gene all his own, without a GMO in sight.
I know this is a food blog, and I promised chocolate, so I’ll keep this short. Basically, if you cook, you use science. You don’t have to think in terms of chemistry when caramelizing sugar, because following the
protocol recipe will get you results just the same. You don’t need to know the biological mechanisms of capsiacinoids to add the heat of chile to a dish. But I think at least knowing the information is out there– and that it’s available and understandable if you’re interested whether you did well in science in school or not– is important. And hey, it’s cool! Scientists are doing things with plants and nutrition that look straight out of science fiction, and it’s brilliant. Give it a quick peek, is all I’m saying.
So now we can get back to caramelizing sugar and melting chocolate and keeping that smell in your kitchen as long as possible. Because caramel and chocolate go together like nothing else. Because coffee makes both caramel and chocolate taste better. And because everyone should have a chocolate tart recipe. So I adapted one from David Lebovitz. I removed the flour from his filling, as mine seemed thick enough without it and I want to be able to pour it into a gluten-free crust* if we have company with Celiac. The chocolate is a tad darker in mine as well, but offset by the slightly sweeter chocolate ovals used to decorate it. And the smell in the kitchen? I turned off all air circulation in the apartment just so we could breathe it a little longer. It’s sweet and complex and full of coffee. If we could bottle that smell, I could quit my day job and just sell chocolate-caramel-coffee scented candles because who doesn’t want a dozen of those?
Ingredients (Makes 1 9-inch tart; serves 10-12. Crust adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s sweet tart dough, filling adapted from David Lebovitz’ chocolate tart)
For the crust:
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
9 T butter
For the filling:
1 cup sugar
6 oz. espresso
8 T (1/4 lb, 1 stick, 4 oz) butter
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
3 oz bittersweet (72% +) chocolate
2 eggs at room temperature
1 T vanilla extract
optional: for a bit of heat, add 1-3 t chile powder when you add the chocolate (how much you use depends on the heat of the powder you’re using; a pinch of Habañero powder goes a lot further than a whole teaspoon of Poblano).
Directions The crust comes first, of course. To prevent it being grainy, you’ll want to use superfine sugar. To make superfine sugar, place granulated sugar in the bowl of your food processor and run it for about 30 seconds to a minute.
Add the flour and salt and pulse briefly to combine.
Add the butter and egg (and the vanilla, not shown).
Apparently I forgot to keep taking pictures of dough making, but if you’d find them helpful it’s just about the same dough as used way back here for a lemon-blueberry tart. Sorry about that. Pulse the dough in 2-3 second bursts until it comes together in a smooth ball. Chill the dough for two hours or more, then roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick. Line a buttered 9-inch tart pan with the dough, and line the prepared crust with buttered tin foil. Add pie weights and bake with foil and weights at 375°F for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and weights and bake another 10 minutes to brown. Set aside the crust and turn the oven down to 350°F. Start the filling by caramelizing some sugar. Just pour a cup of sugar into a saucepan. . .
. . .and heat it up over medium-high heat, stirring gently, until you have thick, bubbly caramel.
Pour in the espresso and whisk vigorously to combine.
Try not to spill espresso all over the chocolate. Add the butter to the coffee-caramel mixture.
Whisk in the butter and add the chocolate.
Whisk the mixture until smooth.
Test the temperature of the mixture by dipping a spoon in it and tasting. If it’s scalding to the tongue, keep whisking until it’s merely pleasantly warm before adding your eggs. Unless of course you want scrambled eggs in you chocolate tart. When the mixture is not too hot, add the eggs.
Whisk the eggs in, giving the filling a lovely pudding-like texture, and pour it into the waiting tart shell.
Bake at 350°F for 20-22 minutes until the filling is just set but not dry or cracking. If you have any pretty chocolate pieces like these Valrhona fèves lying around, grab a handful for decorating the top. What can I say? I can’t resist the bulk chocolates at Central Market.
The texture is completely smooth, almost a warm pudding. The tart shell adds sweetness and a lovely crunch to the mixture, and the sweeter chocolates on top (only 53% cocoa) finished it out perfectly.
I didn’t cut into the tart warm, as it was a birthday tart for a co-worker and tradition dictates that the birthday boy or girl gets to cut the first slice, but I did re-heat a slice in the oven the next night and it was divine. Not that anyone complained at room temperature; there really is no comparison to a good chocolate tart.
Sadly, I can’t make or eat anything like this right now; I had my third molars removed this morning and am having a certain amount of difficulty with yogurt and mashed potatoes, let alone a delightful flaky-crisp tart shell. So eat one of these for me, okay?
* to make this a gluten-free pie or tart, simply use this filling and the gluten-free graham cracker crust found here, or any other GF crust that you like.
Meyer lemons only seem to appear here for a scant few weeks every year. When they do, I buy more than I can use and cook up a storm in hopes that the lemony goodness will last me until next winter. It never does, but that’s all right because there are sweet, delicious Meyer lemons right now.
As much as I love a traditional tiramisu, coffee and chocolate seem to make the dish a bit too rich for my taste. Replacing them with lemon removes any heaviness from the dish, replacing it with a tart freshness that acts as a perfect foil to the slight sweetness of the ladyfingers. A sprinkling of lemon zest and shaved white chocolate provide a perfect finish.
Probably the best thing about tiramisu is how easy it is to make, and how mind-bogglingly impressed people are when you make one. I buy ladyfingers pre-made, because although they’re not difficult to make, getting the sides perfectly straight isn’t a trick I’ve mastered yet, and I have no complaints about the flavor of store bought cookies. I do use raw egg, which bothers some people, but if your eggs are fresh and clean the risk of Salmonella infection is minimal. If you prefer, you can use pasteurized eggs to remove the possibility entirely.
Other than an egg and some ladyfingers, all you need is marscapone, a touch of sugar, the juice and zest of a Meyer (or regular, if you prefer) lemon, and a splash of vodka or limoncello.
Ingredients (makes a square three-layer tiramisu, serves two)
8 oz Marscapone cheese
2 T sugar
juice of one Meyer lemon, divided use
2 T vodka or limoncello
zest of one Meyer lemon
white chocolate shavings, to garnish
Measure out 2 T of lemon juice.
Combine the marscapone, egg yolk, sugar, and 2 T lemon juice, and 1 T of vodka in a mixing bowl.
Mix until uniform in color and texture.
Whip the egg white to stiff peaks. Scoop the egg white over the marscapone mixture.
Fold it in gently to incorporate.
Set the bowl aside and combine the rest of the lemon juice and the remaining 1 T of vodka in a shallow dish. Dip three ladyfingers in the mixture for about 2 seconds each side, being careful not to oversaturate. You’ll know it’s oversaturated if it crumbles in your hands. Arrange the three cookies on a serving plate.
Spread about 1/3 of the marscapone mixture over the three ladyfingers. Dip the next three, add them perpendicular to the first stack (this add structural stability, like in Jenga), then another 1/3 of the marscapone mixture, and finish with the rest of the ladyfingers and marscapone.
Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Before serving, grate the zest of a Meyer lemon over the top of the tiramisu, and grate a bit of white chocolate over that.
The flavor is bright but not overwhelming. The lemon is present, but takes a backseat the the creaminess of marscapone and the delightful contrast of texture provided by the ladyfingers. If you want something simple and elegant for Valentines day, add a couple of raspberries for the obligatory pink color and you’re set for dessert. In any case, make this soon. It’s amazing.
I know it’s been said about 84 million times before, but it still bears repeating: peanut butter and chocolate are made for each other. It’s Mr. B’s favorite-ever flavor combination. So you can imagine my shock when, at a delightful restaurant in Atlanta clever enough to ask you to order dessert before you eat, he went with peach cobbler.
I ordered the peanut butter pie for him. After I tried it, I wouldn’t share. It was that good. (Mary Mac’s, people. I’d move to Georgia just for this restaurant.) That pie was the sort of dessert that leads to religious conversions and serious risks of diabetes (the peach cobbler was also delightful.) It was the silky texture of a Key lime pie, and tasted more peanut-buttery than peanut butter by itself. It was an awe-inspiring dessert.
When I decided to make it at home, I had to guess. There are a million peanut butter pie recipes on the Internet, and half a dozen in my
modest scary and growing cookbook collection, but none of them seemed quite right. The one I ended up making was good, but I had to go order the Mary Mac’s cookbook at the end of it, because after eating theirs a close second simply would not do.
This didn’t stop us devouring it.
Ingredients (makes one pie, serves 8-12 depending on gluttony and availability of ice cream)
For the crust:
4 T melted butter
For the filling:
1 1/2 cups sugar (I’d probably use 1/2 brown sugar next time; I was out.)
1 1/4 cups peanut butter
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 T vanilla
1/2 t salt
4 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the Oreos, filling and all, in the bowl of a food processor.
Process them until finely ground. There will probably be a few outlying chunks. I just ate them and didn’t worry about it.
Pour the crumbs into a bowl and mix in the melted butter.
Press the chocolate cookie mud into a buttered pie pan. Set the crust aside.
Place the cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar(s) in a mixing bowl.
Mix well. The mixture will be very grainy and thick, like cookie dough.
Add the egg yolks, salt, and vanilla.
Mix them in, too. The mixture should be creamier now.
Add the cream.
Pour the mixture into the Oreo crust.
Bake at 300°F for 40-50 minutes until the filling doesn’t slosh anymore. The filling on mine cracked and bubbled and was altogether rather evil-looking (I’d have taken pictures, but we had guests.) but it was very tasty. I think it needed less cream, maybe even none at all, to get the thicker and richer consistency.
Chill before serving. As with most pies, this only gets better with ice cream!
You may not be aware of this, because you may be summering in the Southern hemisphere or on the space station or fielding an expedition to the North Pole, but it is HOT out here in Texas. I’m talking 107°F without a cloud in sight. And since the Dallas area has some kind of religious aversion to trees, there’s not much shade to be found, either.
Times like these call for desperate measures. For things crisp and cold topped with fresh berries and then frozen again because fresh berries just aren’t cold enough. It helps that this pie is also easy to make, enough so that I didn’t mind making it between 11:30 PM and 1:00 in the morning so that it would be nice and frozen for the fourth of July shindig I was heading to after work. Another bonus to baking in the middle of the night? It’s not so damn hot. Only about 85°F. My air conditioning can do more than growl helplessly at 85°F, even with the oven on.
I found the idea for this lovely pie here, and my first thought was “Cool. But that looks finicky. Why not use an Italian meringue?” So I did. I also used chocolate graham crackers instead of Oreos, because I’m not allowed to have Oreos in the apartment. It isn’t safe. The filling, even at room temperature, is a pile of sticky goodness that I just wanted to eat out of the bowl (Note to everyone who ate these pies: I did not. I did, however, lick the spatula once the pies were in the freezer. And it was great.) and I’d like to try to make meringue cookies using this much berry flavor. I don’t know if that will work, though. It’s a lot of berries.
Ingredients (makes 1 9-inch pie. I doubled the recipe and made two. Each pie serves about 12.)
For the crust:
9 chocolate graham crackers
3 T granulated sugar
1/2 t salt
5 T butter (6 if your graham crackers are freakishly dry, like mine were.)
For the filling:
3 cups mixed berries (I used half blackberries and half raspberries)
1 cup sugar (divided use)
1/4 cup water
3 egg whites
extra berries, for garnish
We start with the crust. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Then you want to crush the graham crackers. There are about 84,000 ways to do this, including putting them in a bag and handing them to a husband or child, but my favorite is this.
Put them in a food processor and process until you have a fine powder. This leaves no big chunks you have to pull out and eat so no one finds them.
Add the sugar and salt to the crumbs and stir with a fork.
Then stir in 5 T of melted butter. If you can’t get a pinch of the crumbs to stick together at this point, add another tablespoon of melted butter and stir it in, too.
Press the crumb into a buttered pie dish. I forgot to butter my pie dish. This made removing pie slices complete with crust virtually impossible. Butter your pie dish, kids!
Bake the crust at 350F for about 15 minutes. Set the crust aside while you make the filling. Oh, you can turn off the oven. We’re all stove top from here on out. Rinse out your food processor and fill it with berries.
It’s worth noting that when one doubles this recipe, the berry puree surpasses the maximum liquid fill line of a seven-cup food processor. This line is not a polite suggestion. It is the point at which your food processor starts oozing berry puree underneath the blade. On the plus side, you can use a blender if you have one, and liquify as many berries as you want.
Pour the puree into a fine mesh strainer and scrape it down until everything that isn’t a seed is in a bowl. This took me twenty minutes. I need a slightly less fine mesh strainer. You could skip this step if you are very fond of seeds, but I don’t think most people are. I can’t stand them, and obviously I represent complete normalcy with regards to taste. Set the berries aside.
Pour 3/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
While the sugar starts to cook, whip the egg whites and a pinch of salt to soft peaks in a large bowl. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and continue to beat on low speed until your sugar reaches the soft-ball stage.
Oh. I don’t use (or own) a candy thermometer. The one time I used one is the one time I burned caramel. Just use your eyes. when the bubbles in your boiling sugar look lacquered and the syrup makes long thread as it drips off of the back of a spoon, it’s done. At that point, pour the boiling sugar into the egg whites. Whip the sugar and egg whites together for a long time, until the bowl is room temperature. This took me almost ten minutes. When you’re baking after midnight and have to get up for work at 5:30 the next morning, this seems like forever. I did it anyway.
Now pour the berry puree over the whipped meringue.
And fold the mixture together.
Pour the berry meringue into the pie crust.
Oops! there was some unmixed berry in the bottom of the bowl! No matter, we’re going to cover that up. Put the pie in the freezer at least 4-6 hours. Arrange 12 red raspberries and 12 white raspberries (okay, so they’re yellow. I didn’t name them) around the perimeter of the pie.
My white raspberries came with a mangled, leafy raspberry branch, so I plucked the best looking leaf and posed it under a white raspberry in the center of the pie. A mint leaf would do fine as well. Or no leaf, since no one’s going to eat it anyway.
Let it soften for 5-10 minutes before serving. It’s perfect on its own; I think whipped cream or ice cream would just be too rich and a bit redundant. I mean, it’s a frozen meringue. Do you really need to add something cold and sugary to it? If you decide it needs an accompaniment, a pile of fresh berries or a squeeze of berry puree would do nicely.
Coconut. My ancient foe. Why anyone would want to eat the chalky white innards of a nut that lives, smug as you please, at the top of a very non-climbing-friendly tree just waiting to detach itself and smash your car? Stupid coconuts.
But since I just can’t say no when a fierce little Russian asks for a coconut and chocolate cake for her birthday, I opened the Baked cookbook to the page I thought I’d never use.
Honestly, I’m glad I did. Not because of the coconut filling. I didn’t even deign to try that part. But the chocolate cake was revelatory. I ate the bits I had to shave off to flatten the layers for stacking, and even though those bits were all edge (the driest part of the cake, yes?) this was the moistest cake I’ve ever made. Those shavings were delightful with peanut butter. Were I less of a drama queen, I might have even enjoyed a slice of the cake. But let’s face it, I’m not going to eat coconut voluntarily.
I adapted the Baked recipe pretty heavily, which I don’t usually do. I didn’t use pecans in the filling, for one. I used milk instead of buttermilk, instant espresso powder instead of coffee, and substituted some of the granulated sugar out in favor of brown sugar. In other words, don’t blame Lewis and Poliafito if you don’t like this cake; I did change it up. But if you like coconut (or want to use a peanut-butter cream cheese frosting instead of a coconut filling), I recommend this cake. It’s so moist it needs no frosting, light enough to happily absorb liquid (you know, in case you want to soak some coffee liqueur into it) and, one of the perks of a three-layer cake, it feeds even a ravenous group quite nicely.
Ingredients (makes a 3-layer cake, serves about 12)
For the cake:
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 cup milk
2 1/2 sticks (20 T) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup boiling water
3 T instant espresso powder
4 oz. dark chocolate
For the filling:
2 2/3 cups shredded coconut
1 cup sugar
1 stick (8 T) butter
1 5-oz can evaporated milk
3 oz milk
3 egg yolks
1 t vanilla extract
Line three eight-inch cake pans with parchment paper, and butter the paper and sides of the pans. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Put the dark chocolate and espresso powder into a small bowl,
and pour 1 cup of boiling water over them. Wait 1 minute (yes, 60 whole seconds) then whisk the mixture together until smooth. Set the hot chocolate coffee aside. Try not to think how amazing it would be as a drink.
Beat the butter and sugar together, add eggs and beat again, add vanilla and beat one more time.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt over the butter-sugar-egg mix.
Pour the milk into the coffee-chocolate mix.
Pour the now eminently drinkable mixture over the rest of the batter and mix until homogeneous.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and shimmy the pans around a little to get the batter even in height.
Bake about 30 minutes, and set them aside to cool while you make the filling.
For the custard, toast half the coconut. Just spread it in a sheet pan and bake for less than five minutes at 350°F.
If you don’t know how to measure 3 ounces of milk, cheat. Pout the 5-ounce can of evaporated milk into a 1 cup measuring cup. Add milk till the measuring cup is full. Tada! Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the milk, sugar, vanilla, and yolks, and whisk together.
Once it starts boiling hard, pour the custard into a bowl sitting in an ice bath and whisk in the coconut, both the toasted and non-toasted half.
Stir the filling until it is room temperature. Then you’re ready to build your cake! Just level the tops of the cake layers with a bread knife, stack one on your serving plate (or just a sheet of parchment paper if you’re me), spread 1/3 of the coconut filling over the layer, stack on layer 2, add another 1/3 of the coconut, stack on the final layer, spread on the rest of the coconut, and you’re done. no frosting required. I sprinkled a handful of extra coconut over the top because I thought it looked nicer than just the cooked filling, but you don’t have to.
Enjoy on its own or with ice cream.