Category Archives: Chocolate

Birthday Cakes for Mom and a Move

Considering I’ve made birthday cakes for most people in the neighborhood, there was no question I would make one for my mom’s. Never mind that I was moving into the city that very same weekend so between cake-making and decorating, I’d also have to pack all of my stuff. Then my delusional brain decided it was a great idea to make two cakes so there would be enough for everyone at the party. Because I can’t seem to keep it simple these days.

I’m proud to say, there were no tears shed over these cakes either, and they took a lot less time to decorate. I might actually be improving!

Cake #1: Yellow buttermilk cake, chocolate and vanilla swiss buttercreams.

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Filed under Cake, Chocolate

Cake: an emotional rollercoaster

Cake has somehow taken over my life. It used to be a special occasion kind of treat I would make for birthdays, but suddenly there is cake in my home every day of the week. I am in deep water here…I need more vegetables.

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Filed under Cake, Chocolate, Pastries

Home cooked meals

My sister Denise came home this past weekend from college. And since dorm food is often less than satisfactory, I was determined to make her a home cooked meal. Not to mention, it is so much more fun cooking for others than just for yourself.

I’d like to take a moment and talk about ciabatta. It is a pretty excellent bread. It can also be infuriating because the dough is so wet and sticky it is difficult to work with. So difficult that your first batch sort of looks deflated and you have to make another batch just to prove you can do it right, which you do. Then after sampling bread from the two batches you find they’re both quite delicious and now you have twice as much bread! At which point you forgive the ciabatta and become friends again.

But back to dinner. Although I love all sorts of food and cuisines, whenever I haven’t had Italian in a while, I crave it like crazy. It is my ultimate comfort food, and best when cooked and shared with others.

So we made homemade pasta, to go with my Nana’s famous tomato sauce recipe. We even figured out how to shape them into bowties/farfalle. It was a tremendous success.

Lastly, because a fabulous dinner is best followed by a fabulous dessert, we made a chocolate cake. The same one, in fact, that I made when I learned I could, with great effort, whip egg whites by hand.

And so, we made our cake and ate it too. Of course, my sister took dusting her cake with powdered sugar to a whole new level.

Then proceeded to eat it within the outline of the sugar. If you know Denise, you wouldn’t be surprised by this. Then again, maybe this is just what inhaling too much sugar does to your head.

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Filed under Bread, Cake, Chocolate, Italian, Savory

Croissant Heaven

We finally got to finish our croissants in class! Last week we made our laminated doughs, but because class was canceled during the storm, we were unable to actually shape and bake them. Lucky for us, our teacher put the doughs in the freezer so that come Monday we could finish what we had started and no dough, and more importantly butter, would go to waste. As you might have read, I had ended up making my own croissants during the storm because I was afraid we would not have this opportunity. I’m so glad we revisited them in class though, because I learned how to properly and most deliciously roll them out (and stuff them with chocolate!)

Ok so check this out. In the process of rolling out a croissant, you cut and stretch it out like a little Eiffel Tower. Just in case you needed a reminder as to the origins of what you are making.

And then you roll them up to look like little armadillos. Adorable.

These things turned out more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I was so proud, and once again grateful to be taking this class. We learn so many things I never would have thought of, let alone picked up on my own. I don’t think I could have ever made croissants like these just following a recipe. I learn much better from watching and doing.

So the croissants were a big thumbs up. But the real winner of the evening/morning breakfast was the chocolate rolls. Oh my God.

Apparently the crescent shaped croissants are supposed to be just plain, while the stuffed ones are shaped into rolls. Which is smart if you think about it because then your chocolate is portioned out evenly throughout the entire thing, rather than just in the very center. We used these little chocolate sticks made specifically for this purpose. I also used like five sticks per roll instead of just one or two–but I feel no need to justify that, you know you would’ve done the same.

Maybe it was the many chocolate sticks, or just inattention to portioning the dough, but my stuffed croissant rolls were ridiculously huge. I only now wish I had made them smaller so they could have lasted longer. I had only one chocolate roll for breakfast the next morning before sharing the rest, and I can’t seem to get it out of my head. There was a perfect amount of chocolate between layers and layers of flaky, buttery, phenomenal pastry. I’ve been craving it like crazy ever since my first bite! I absolutely have to make these again soon, if only for my own sanity.

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Filed under Breakfast, Chocolate, Pastries

Blizzard Baking: Part Three

Turns out it’s really hard to capture a blizzard on camera.

But it’s even harder to resist eating another one of these brownies.

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Blizzard Baking: Part Two (with recipe!)

Slabs of butter are what make pastry so good.

Once I encased that into the dough, I folded it, rested it for an hour, then rolled it out like this:

Then I folded it, and now it’s resting again for another hour. It is one of those recipes that really tests my patience. So in between I’m making brownies. With more butter. Browned butter to be more exact and delicious.

As I prepared them my dad told me stories of the “snow of ’67” when the drifts were taller than his room window, which naturally led to a indoor snowball fight with his siblings. At this point all I’ll be able to tell about the “snow of 11” will be that I baked some (hopefully) excellent brownies.

If you’d like to tell the same tale, here’s the recipe. (I doubled it for sharing purposes, especially in these blustery times).

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts
from Bon Appetit February 2011

Ingredients
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
2 tsp water
1/4 tsp salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, chilled
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup walnut pieces

Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 8 x 8 x 2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and 1⁄4 teaspoon (generous) salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

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Filed under Blizzard, Chocolate, Recipe

Blizzard Baking: Part One

Oh man oh man. Chicago and pretty much the entire midsection of the country, you know what I’m talking about. They’re calling it the snowpocalypse. Classes are cancelled and everyone is freaking out. I am just excited. This is an opportunity for me to embrace being stuck inside and spend the day cooking and baking. And watch the violent wind have a snow fight with itself. It is seriously crazy out there.

I decided to catch up this blog by chronicling my culinary experiences in the next 48 hours. It’ll be more fun to write than going back and remembering all the things I’ve been making these past couple of weeks.

Thing is, I was supposed to be in class this evening. Last night we started our laminates, or puff pastry and croissant doughs, with butter folded into the dough in the most delicious way. We were supposed to bake them up tonight, but seeing as that isn’t going to happen, I’m going to make some here at home, and bake them up tomorrow. I’m hoping this experience will be much better than my last attempt.

So here we are so far:

Thrilling.

I will fold in the butter soon. Then it rests, then I fold, then it rests, then I fold, and on and on and on. Besides this I’ve got a long list of things to make, so grab a beer and get cozy. We’ve got a long blizzard ahead of us.

I might be biased but this is the best brewery name ever! Also, this milk stout is delicious!

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Filed under Beer and Vino, Blizzard, Chocolate