Saturday, February 6, 2016

Chocolate Covered Blueberries Cake










It's been one of those weeks where chocolate is a necessity.  Know what I mean?

And blueberries - I eat them all year long.  Bags of organic blueberries are always in my freezer, for muffins, oatmeal, pies, crumbles, or just to eat with a spoonful of yogurt and sprinkling of cinnamon and almonds for a simple dessert.  Blueberries are my favorite berry.

We went out for dinner and a movie last Friday night, and shared a piece of lemon cake for dessert.  My husband sweetly insisted it was nowhere nearly as good as mine in flavor or texture, and I admit, I had to agree with him.  Rarely a weekend goes by that I don't experiment with a cake recipe, so on Saturday, of course, I had to make a cake.  Not lemon, but deep, dark chocolate.

A little chocolate makes blueberries even better, but the thing is, recipes for blueberry cake always seem to be vanilla cake with blueberries.  Not that there's anything wrong with that - I can't resist a pretty white cake studded with juicy blueberries.  But I wanted to try a chocolate cake version, so I baked a beautifully dark chocolate cake full of blueberries.









So the blueberries in chocolate cake...  The flavor of the berries does get a little lost in the intensity of the dark chocolate.  However, they make the cake so impossibly moist, that it's the most luscious chocolate cake you could imagine.

And as if whipped chocolate buttercream on dark chocolate cake wasn't enough chocolate, I covered the sides of the cake in mini chocolate chips.  There's no trick here - it's just scooping up handfuls of chocolate chips and pressing them into the buttercream, gathering up the fallen ones and continuing around the cake until it's covered.  The finished result is a little bit of a show-stopper, I think, but so easy to do.

One of my coworkers took a piece home for later that night, and she texted me that evening that it was the best life decision she'd ever made.

















Chocolate-Covered Blueberries Cake
printable

Cake.
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened, special dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1 ½ cups frozen blueberries
Buttercream.
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened, special dark cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1 bag (12 ounces) mini chocolate chips
Cake.
Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray the bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans with non-stick spray.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the remaining wet ingredients, except for the blueberries, and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Divide batter between the pans and sprinkle the blueberries over the batter.

Bake for 25-27 minutes, until the center springs back and a toothpick comes out clean.  Set the pans on wire racks, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and cool completely.

Buttercream.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for one minute.  Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, meringue powder and salt and mix on low to combine.  Add the vanilla and the milk and whip on medium high for about 5 minutes until very light and fluffy.

Frost the cooled cakes with the buttercream.  Press the chocolate chips against the sides of the cake, scooping up the ones that fall and pressing them into the buttercream, until the sides are completely covered.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lemon Bars






A new year is a time when most people are looking forward, but looking forward inherently means a bit of reflection on the past, too.  In between the chaos of our home renovations and the cycle from complete disarray to organized calm in between projects (we've been walking on splintery sub-floors for weeks while prepping to finish the floors on the main level), and the relentless demands of my job over the past year, I've had to force myself to pause, take a few deep breaths, and just think it all over.

Why do we do the same thing from year to year?  Is it because we're afraid of change, even if there's a possibility of being happier, or more fulfilled, or more challenged with something different?  Change is hard for me; it's easy to do what I know, day after day, with the people who are familiar to me and the work I'm so accustomed to, even though I always imagined something other than this.

It's not easy for me to take chances.  I tend to hold back, until I'm sure I know how it will end.

This year, though... this one will be different.  I look forward to a new chapter in this wonderful life my husband and I share together.

This isn't the first time I've posted this recipe for lemon bars on my blog, but after three years, they deserve some pretty new photos and a chance in the spotlight again.  Lemon bars are one of my favorite things, with their tart, creamy filling sandwiched between buttery layers of shortbread.  They are something we all ate when we were kids, probably made from a box and usually sprinkled generously with powdered sugar.  Bright and sunshiny yellow, they promise of spring and everything this year holds.








Lemon Bars
printable

Crust and Topping:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter,cut into pieces
Filling:
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • zest of 2-3 large lemons
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray a square 8x8 baking dish with non-stick spray.

In your food processor, combine the crust/topping ingredients until pea-sized pieces of butter remain.  Reserve one cup of the crumbs for the topping, and press the remainder of the crumbs firmly against the bottom of the baking dish.  Bake crust for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice for the filling.  Sift in the flour to avoid lumps and whisk to combine.

After the crust has baked for 15 minutes, remove from the oven.  Whisk the filling again and pour over the hot crust.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Sprinkle the reserved one cup crumbs over the filling and bake for an additional 20 minutes until topping is a pale golden.

Let cool on the counter for at least two hours to set before slicing into squares.  These can be served slightly warm or chilled.

Yields 16 two-inch squares.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Apple Rose Tarts








At Thanksgiving and Christmas, there were always two apple pies.  One for dessert, of course, and one that my mom let us cut into for breakfast.  It was a family tradition, that apple pie for breakfast, and there's still a part of me that thinks of apple pie as a perfectly acceptable breakfast.  In a bowl with milk poured over it, it's like apple pie cereal.

As I've recently discovered, there's more than a few ways to make an apple pie, and these little apple rose tarts might be the cutest things ever.  Very thinly sliced apples are laid in a row, each slice overlapping the next, then rolled up to resemble a rose, and nestled into a mini pie shell.

The bottom of each tart is filled with a spoonful of custard, which holds the spiral of apple slices in place as they bake.  The pastry bakes up golden brown and flaky, and the apples are warm and soft in the creamy custard.  A sprinkling of coarse sugar adds glamorous sparkle to each tart.

Each little tart is just a few bites of apple pie goodness, and I wouldn't judge one bit if you made them for breakfast.














Apple Rose Tarts
printable


Crust.
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
Filling.
  • 3/4 cup prepared custard, chilled (I used this champagne custard)
  • 4 apples
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • coarse turbinado sugar, for garnish
You'll need 8 individual tart pans (mine are fluted, with a base diameter of 2 inches and a top diameter of 3 1/2 inches), or you can use a standard-sized muffin pan.

Note that because of the custard in the bottom of the tarts, the crust will soften by the second day, and start to get soggy, so these are best eaten the same day they're made while the crust is nice and crisp.

Crust.
In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt.  Cut the butter in with a pastry cutter until the butter is the size of peas.  Add the milk and toss to combine, then turn out onto the counter and use your hands to pull the dough together into a ball.  Use a little more flour and roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut into 8 circles with a 4-inch cutter, gathering up the scraps to roll those out as well.

Grease the tart pans and gently fit the circles of dough into the pans.  Freeze for 30 minutes.

Filling.
Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set the tart pans on the baking sheet.

If you don't want to make custard, you could also use a spoonful of store bought jam instead - apricot jam, or even apple butter would be nice.  Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons of custard or jam into each tart shell.

Cut the apples into fourths and remove the cores.  Use a mandolin to slice the apples into very thin translucent slices.  Lay the slices on a baking sheet, drizzle with the lemon juice and sprinkle with the granulated sugar and the cinnamon.

Lay 12 or so apple slices down in a row so that they overlap, and roll up from one end to the other into a rose and place in the custard.  Add a few more apple slices around the edges if needed to fill out the rose.

Bake the tarts for 35 minutes.  Let cool for several hours before trying to remove the tarts from the pans.  Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar, and enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Yields 8 individual tarts

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Lemon Marmalade





Lemon marmalade is not something you're likely to find in grocery stores.  Sweet orange marmalade, of course, and that's always been one of my favorite jams.  And then there is lemon curd, sweet and tart and creamy and delicious on just about everything.  But why is there no lemon marmalade?

So, before Christmas, I set out to make some.  My parents were going to be visiting for the holidays, and my dad loves homemade jam, more than anyone I know.  I had a batch of his favorite cranberry orange compote already made, as well as apple butter, slowly simmered in the crockpot and richly spiced.  But I was pretty sure he would adore this lemon marmalade, too, and it would be something none of my family had ever tasted before.

It's simple to make, just requiring a bit of time to simmer.  But it's nothing more than lemon slices, water, sugar and a little pectin.  Essentially, you're just candying the lemons by slowly simmering them in simple syrup.  Poured into jars, it thickens when cooled into a perfectly delightful jam that's as good as you could imagine.

We sampled the marmalade on everything, but I really liked it on the chocolate espresso loaf bread.  I baked a ham for Christmas dinner, and we ate ham for days, including leftover for breakfast, with hot baking powder biscuits and spoonfuls of lemon marmalade.  And my dad loved it so much, he took an extra jar with him when he left.










Lemon Marmalade
  • 4 large lemons
  • 5 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pectin
Cut 1/2 inch off the ends of the lemons and discard.  Cut the lemons in half lengthwise, then very thinly slice the lemons.  Pick out and discard the seeds, then scrape the lemon slices and juice into a saucepan.  Add the water to the lemons.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the sugar and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally; taste the lemons and continue to simmer, adding a little more sugar if needed, if the peels taste too bitter.  Stir in the pectin and cook for several more minutes.

Pour the marmalade into glass jars and refrigerate if not sealing the jars.

Yields about 5 half pint jars

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake






I read that in 1901, the first recipe for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was published in a Boston cooking school magazine, and its fame has spread ever since.  And it's been a popular combination for over a hundred years for good reason; salty creamy peanut butter and sweet fruit preserves are perfect together.  My favorite way to eat it is on hearty, grainy bread, toasted, so that the peanut butter melts against the warm bread and mixes with the jam into a gooey filling.

And while the sandwiches are classic, this cake, though, is something else entirely.  It's the most decadent dessert version of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that you could imagine.  Soft vanilla cake is filled with strawberry jam, and frosted with fluffy peanut butter buttercream that's lightly salted and flavored with vanilla.

I thought of using peach or apricot or cherry jam, but ended up going with strawberry, since it tends to be a favorite of most everyone.  Next time, though, just to please myself, maybe the apricot.

To top off this cake, I made a small batch of cookie dough and rolled it into balls for a pretty, tempting garnish.  And really, I don't know what's not to love about a peanut butter and jelly cake topped with cookie dough.










Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake
printable


Cake.
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
Filling.
  • 1 cup jam or preserves
Buttercream.
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
Cake.
Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease three 8-inch pans with non-stick spray.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined, then beat on medium speed for two minutes.  Divide the batter between the pans.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 21 minutes.  Cool the cakes in the pans completely before filling and frosting.

Buttercream.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the peanut butter and butter until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar, meringue powder and salt on low speed to combine.  Add the milk and vanilla, then whip on medium high for about 4-5 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Fill each layer with the jam, and frost with the buttercream.

For the piping, I used a small/medium star tip.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Sunday, January 10, 2016

White Almond Cake with Chocolate Buttercream









This was our Christmas cake.  What's funny, is that my family thought it was fake.  It was sitting under a glass dome in our dining room, all fancy with buttercream piping and Ferrero Rocher candy, and apparently, it gave the appearance of a prop cake, or something.  As though I would have anything but real cake sitting around to tempt guests.

After informing them that it was, in fact, meant to be eaten, they finally dug in.  And although the chocolate cream pie was everyone's clear favorite out of the five or six desserts I made, seconded by the apple rhubarb pie with crumb topping, layer cakes with buttercream always have a special place in my heart.

For some reason, I'm writing this post at 2 am and wondering why I am still awake. So, I'll say goodnight, and I hope my dreams tonight are filled with cake.



White Almond Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

Cake.
  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
Buttercream.
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk or cream

Cake.
Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray three 8-inch pans with non-stick spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl (clean and grease-free), whip the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Whip for another minute or two until the whites are not quite stiff, but stay on the beaters when you lift them up.  The whites should still be quite wet, not dry.

Add the milk, sour cream, vinegar and almond extract to the dry ingredients and whisk vigorously for about two minutes until well combined.  Gently fold in the whipped egg whites in three additions for a light and airy batter.

Divide the batter between the pans.  Bake for about 18-22 minutes, until risen and a toothpick comes out clean.  Set the pans on wire racks, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and cool completely before frosting.

Buttercream.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter until smooth.  In a separate bowl, combine the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, salt and meringue powder.  With the mixer on low, add by spoonfuls until combined.  Add the extracts and the milk, then whip on medium high for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen