Chocolate

Cardamom Scented Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Happy Chocolate Chip Day!!! (or is it on May 15th?)  You should always have a good chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Whether it’s something you that you develop on your own, or find something that you love, keep one in your baking arsenal.  Usually when we think of chocolate chip cookies, many of us think of the good ol’ Toll House cookie.  This recipe came about in 1937 at the Toll House Inn which was owned by Ruth Graves Wakefield and her husband.  She wanted to make some of her favorite cookies for her guests but was missing a key ingredient.  But she did have on hand a semi-sweet chocolate bar (made by Nestlé) which she crumbled up and mixed into the dough.  She thought that the chocolate would melt and spread out into the mixture.  To her surprise, the chocolate held its shape which she thought was weird but decided to serve it anyway.  It was a big hit, and thus the Toll House Chocolate Crunch cookie was born.  Now right on the bag of Toll House chocolate chips, it lists the date of origin at 1939.  That’s when Ruth and Nestlé settled into an agreement where she could get chocolate for life and Nestlé got to print the recipe on some of its packaging.  Here are a couple of links (here and here) that you should check out to find some additional info.  Exciting stuff!!!

On to some recipes.  Now everyone should be familiar with the tried and true Toll House Cookie recipe.  If not, just go check out a bag of Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chips.  Now I won’t be making those, but I did come up with a couple of recipes — Chocolate Chip Molé cookies  and Cardamom Scented Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Let’s talk about the latter one here.  The recipe isn’t too far from your basic cookie recipe, save for one step where I infuse some melted butter with the cardamom.  Not too complicated, right?.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 12 cardamom pods
  • 2 1/3 c. flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. chocolate chips

1.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan with the cardamom.  When melted, let simmer on the stove on low (if it is too high the butter will burn!) for about 30 minutes.  The cardamom should swell.  Set aside to cool and re-solidify.

2.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

3.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl.  In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the cardamom butter, sugars, and vanilla.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

4.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.  Mix well until just combined.  Do not over mix!  Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

5.  Drop cookies onto a sheet pan and bake for about 15 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Eat up!

Notes — This does have a lower proportion of brown sugar when compared to other recipes.  I did this so that the cardamom could stand out and not be overpowered by the molasses in the brown sugar.  You can change this if you like. . . You may have noticed that the cookies in the pictures are a little bit dark.  There is a good reason for this.  I was out of brown sugar, so I tried to make my own which should just be some regular granulated sugar and some molasses.  Now I don’t know why I didn’t use a measuring cup, but I ended up putting waaaay too much molasses.  But the cookies still tasted great and you could still taste the cardamom throughout, just not as much as it should have.  Hence the previous “note”.  The second batch turned out better. . . You could try this with some other herbs / spices.  I’m sure cinnamon would be great in this or maybe some cloves.  Maybe some peppercorns to make a variation on pfeffernüssen.  Lemon peel and ginger sound good too!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

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Is there a better combination that chocolate and peanut butter?  It is one of those combinations which is now a classic.  I am a huge fan of peanut butter cups, and it doesn’t matter who makes it either.  In fact, I love those ones that you find in the bargain bin at your local grocery store that you can buy by-the-pound for like $0.25 / lb.  I almost prefer them; maybe it’s all the additives.  But what I really love are the Peanut Butter Eggs that Reese’s puts out during Easter.  There is something about the Eggs that are delicious!  I don’t know what’s going on there, but those are the best!  And it’s just the Eggs.  The other things like the Christmas Trees just don’t taste quite right.

Anyhoo, to the cake. . . This recipe is a sour cream chocolate cake with a peanut butter cream cheese frosting.  I garnished the top with some chopped candied peanuts that I made earlier.  I was thinking about reversing it, having a peanut butter cake with a chocolate buttercream.  The problem was that I don’t have a tried and tested peanut butter cake recipe, so go with what you know.  I wish I could follow that logic with those damn Sugar Cookies (which is on take #3, by the way)!  This recipe makes 2 9-in. cakes which I split to make a 4-layer cake.  Since it has 4 layers, you may need a double batch of the frosting, depending on how much you put in between the layers.  Here’s what you need:

For the cake:

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 c. cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 c. sour cream
  • 1 T. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 c. cold water

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 9-in round cake pans with cooking spray; line with parchment and spray the parchment as well.

2.  Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch, cocoa, baking soda, and salt) into a medium-sized bowl.  Set aside.

3.  Whisk together the eggs and sour cream in a separate bowl until well blended.  Add the vanilla and mix well.  Set aside as well.

4.  In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, mix together the melted butter and oil.  Add the water and mix well.

5.  Add the flour mixture all at once and mix on low for about 1 minute.  Now add the egg mixture in one addition and mix until well blended (about another minute).  Scrape the sides down as needed.

6.  Divide the batter evenly into the two pans.  Bake for about 35 – 40 until a cake tester comes out clean.

7.  Cool cakes in the pans on top of cooling racks for 15 -20 minutes.  Then invert the pans onto racks, remove the parchment liners and cool the cakes completely before splitting lengthwise to make your four layers out of the two cakes..

For the frosting:

  • 1 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, about room temperature
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 T. vanilla

Using a food processor, mix all the ingredients until smooth and well blended.  Scrape down the sides as necessary.  To get the chocolaty frosting, I took a portion of the peanut butter frosting and folded in some melted chocolate.  But I’ve also folded in a dark chocolate spread before as well.  You can also fold in some Nutella or gianduia, that is if you are lucky enough to have some gianduia lying around the house.  One day I’ll be able to make this part of my regular pantry items.

Assemble the cake:

I like to start by putting a small dollop of the frosting in the middle of a cakeboard round.  This helps hold the cake in place.  Place about 1/3 – 1/2 c. of frosting on top of the first layer and smooth it out.  You can use strips of wax paper in between the bottom cake layer and the cakeboard to help keep it or the serving platter clean.  Place the next layer on top of the bottom one and repeat frosting.  Repeat with the other layers as well.

Smooth out a crumb coat on the outside of the assembled layers and place in the refrigerator to cool for about 15 minutes.  Complete frosting over the crumb coat.  You can garnish the top of the cake with some of the chocolate frosting mixture (if you made some) and pipe out some rosettes.

Notes — One trick you can use is to cut a very small notch out of the cakes before you split them.  That way you can line them up correctly so you can get a nice level top.

Chai cupcakes with a Chocolate Chai ganache

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So it’s National Iced Tea Month.  And I understand that this is a cupcake recipe, but it’s got chai in it, so that’s close.  Just have a glass of an iced beverage when you have a cupcake.  You just won’t have “ice” and “tea” incorporated into a single item.  But, in my opinion, it’s really hard to come up with an interesting recipe for iced tea that doesn’t involve Long Island.  Maybe I could post a sun tea recipe. . .

Anyhoo, back to the cupcakes.  I use an instant chai mix to add the flavor and color to a nice cupcake recipe.  I did also add a little bit of whole wheat flour to add some additional color, texture, and flavor.  The instant chai is also used in the glaze by dissolving it in the heated cream before adding the chocolate to it to make the glaze.  This makes about 2 dozen standard-sized cupcakes.  Here’s what you need:

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 T. baking powder
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 1 T. instant chai

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Line your pan with paper or foil liners.

2.  Sift together the flours, salt, and baking powder into a medium-sized bowl.  In a measuring cup, dissolve the chai into the milk and set aside.

3.  In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter until light.  Gradually add the sugar and mix until fluffy, about 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Then add the vanilla and combine.

4.  In three additions, add the flour mixture, alternating with half of the chai mixture.  Mix until just blended, being careful to not overmix!

5.  Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until set in the middle.  Cool in the pans for about 20 minutes before removing them.  Cool completely on wire racks before glazing.

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 8 oz. chocolate, chopped (I used a dark chocolate)
  • 2 t. instant chai

1.  In a double boiler, combine the cream and chai, making sure the chai is dissolved.

2.  Add the chocolate, and stir until melted.  Remove from the double boiler and allow to cool slightly.  Use a spoon to dollop on a bit of the ganache onto the cooled cupcakes.

Notes — I liked the finished product, but there are a couple of things that I want to try:  (1) I might try to use cake flour instead the AP flour; (2) maybe use three eggs instead of two; (3)  might also try using the “one-bowl” method instead of creaming.  That method is supposed to reduce the gluten that is formed, which is important to consider when using whole wheat flour.  In theory, you should be able to substitute up to 1/2 of the flour in a recipe without changing too much, but there are differences between AP (all-purpose) and whole wheat flours to consider (like moisture content).  So you may need to tweak things a bit.

Passover Chocolate Torte

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Since it’s Passover / Easter time, I thought that it would be a good idea to post a recipe that could be served at the seder or other family get-together during the holiday.  Now this is specifically for Passover, but of course can be used at Easter brunch.  I just specifically decided to list this because of the dietary requirements for the Passover holiday.

My understanding of Passover isn’t as in-depth as it probably should be.  Being a non-Jew, memories of this holiday for me usually involve huge baskets filled with candy with some weird gigantic pastel rabbit hopping about.  But at Passover, any kind of leavening or chametz is forbidden.  This Jewish tradition commemorates when Pharoah released the Jews from slavery back in the day.  They knew they had to hurry and get out of Dodge, so they could not even wait for the bread to rise — hence the whole unleavened tradition.  Pharoah did eventually have a change of heart and went after the Jews, but that didn’t really go well for him.  If you would like a visual accounting of what happened, just watch The Ten Commandments.  I’m sure it will be on TV sometime in the coming weeks.

Now this isn’t limited to cakes or breads, but applies to alcoholic beverages for the most part (I wonder about potato vodka).  I think that this is all about fermentation and yeast.  So I don’t know how chemical leavening (baking soda, baking powder) factors into this.

Anyhoo, let’s get to the recipe.  This is a flourless Chocolate Torte, so it should be fine for Passover.  Here’s what you need:

  • 1 lb. chopped chocolate (dark or bittersweet)
  • 3/4 c. butter, diced
  • 2/3 c. water
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 7 whole eggs
  • 9 in. round pan

1.   Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and coat your pan with cooking spray.

2.  Place the chocolate and butter in a medium-sized heat-proof bowl.

3.  Combine the water and the sugar and bring to a boil, making sure the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate & butter mixture.  Stir with a spoon until melted and smooth (you could use a whisk to combine, but I think that would incorporate too much air into the cake).

4.  Whisk the eggs to combine.  Add a small portion of the chocolate to the whisked eggs to help temper them.  Then gradually mix in the eggs to the remaining chocolate.

5.  Transfer to the prepared pan and bake in water bath halfway up the side of the pan for about 45 – 50 minutes, until the center is set.  Cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator.  Cool in the fridge for 2-3 hours or overnight.

To plate, you’ll have to warm the cake up to get it to release.  You could do this by placing it in a water bath (kinda like you did when you baked it) for a few minutes.  It should release when inverted onto a serving plate after tapping it out.