A Passion for Chocolate

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Chocolate Filled Macarons

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by Heather Harris Brady

This is my second macaron post! While the French method recipe is fine for a climate-controlled environment if you’re without air-conditioning and it’s humid, it can be unreliable.  So after finding lots of recipes agreeing on the proportions below I gave the Italian method a go. I’ve made this recipe many times, in all types of weather, and it’s close to invincible.

Macarons, Italian Method, Makes about 36

200 g almond flour

200 g powdered sugar

[Variation: Add 3 T. Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder for chocolate macarons]

200 g granulated sugar

50 g water

1/2 t. vinegar

150 g egg whites, divided into two 75 g portions

1/2 recipe chocolate ganache, or other filling of your choice

It’s easier if you pre-measure everything and have it ready. Combine the almond flour [cocoa if you're using it] and powdered sugar in a bowl. Mix well, I use an immersion blender. Add 75 g of egg whites and stir it into a thick paste.

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Combine the water, vinegar and granulated sugar in saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir to make sure all of the sugar dissolves. Let it boil while you put the other 75 g of egg whites in a mixer bowl.

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Beat the whites until they hold stiff peaks. Turn the mixer down to stir if your sugar syrup is not quite at the soft ball stage. When the syrup comes to temperature, turn the mixer to high and pour the sugar syrup in a steady stream. Try to avoid the whisk if you can.

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Continue beating on high until the mixer bowl is no longer hot. The resulting italian meringue will be very stiff. Fold the almond paste into the meringue.

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Take some strong strokes at first to knock a little air out and then keep folding for about another 20 strokes. It’s perfect when you can drop some of the macaronage back into the bowl and it will hold its shape for 15 seconds before starting to slump back in. When you get close to 20 strokes just evaluate it one stroke at a time until you’re there.

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Grease your cookie sheets and line them with parchment paper, or use a silpat. Pipe 1-1/2″ mounds. They won’t spread a lot so you can keep them fairly close. Drop each pan onto the counter three times to get any air bubbles out.

Preheat the oven to 300 and let the sheets sit out for about 15 minutes. The macarons will form a bit of skin on top.

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Bake for 15 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may want to change racks halfway through the baking time.

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Let the cookies cool completely on the sheets and then remove them with thin spatula. Sandwich two halves with ganache and store them in the refrigerator. Take them out 10 minutes or so before serving.

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The chocolate variation:

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Birthday Ice Cream Cake

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by Heather Harris-Brady

My wonderful son asked for an ice cream cake for his birthday, chocolate chip cookie dough, to be exact. Because every year I’m thankful that I can celebrate his birthday without the three days of labor it required the first time, I am happy to go the extra mile for the dessert.

I am not a big fan of ice cream cakes myself, so I had to find a way to get past the things about them that bug me and come up with a tribute to teenage dessert excess. Behold.

Ice Cream Cake, Serves 8

One 8″ square chocolate cake layer

One recipe hot fudge sauce

One half-gallon ice cream

Line a 9 x 5 loaf pan with aluminum foil, leaving some long tails down along the sides. Take the ice cream out to soften. Cut the cake layer into strips about 1/2″ wide. Completely line the mold with them. You should have about 1/4 of the cake left when you’re finished. If you’re making this for an over-21 crowd it would be nice to spike things up here and sprinkle the cake mold with kahlua or some such jazz.

When the ice cream has softened, scoop it into the cake-lined mold. Smooth it down as you go and push it into all the corners so your cake will be nice and solid.

Cover the top with the remaining cake strips. Press the top down lightly with your palms and then put it in a deep freeze for a few hours to set firm.

Grasp the foil hanging down on either side of the pan and lift out the cake. I like to turn it upside down on the platter but if that scares you just peel the foil off and set it on the serving dish.

With the hot fudge sauce at room temperature put a thin crumb coat all over the cake.

Put it back in the fridge to firm up and then do a second coat, adding any sprinkles or other tricks at this point. Stick it back in the fridge until serving time. The hot fudge will set up nicely, but will stay easy to slice through.

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The cake all around the outside gives you an equal bite of cake, ice cream and fudge in each forkful. It also neatly contains the ice cream so it’s easier to slice and serve like a regular cake. It’s also a nice little cost-saver. An 8″ cookie dough cake at our local shop is $19.99, this one tallies up at around $6.50.

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Hot Fudge Sauce

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by Heather Harris-Brady

This is my favorite hot fudge recipe. I’m showing here on ice cream but I actually made it to frost an ice cream cake (spoiler alert) which will be the next post – because it’s a birthday week here at the little house! And not just any birthday, it’s a golden birthday.

This is a nice, rich hot fudge that puddles nicely along a scoop. It’s more runny warm and thickens as it cools.

Hot Fudge Sauce, Makes about 3 cups

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 can evaporated milk (you could use low-fat, but c’mon, it’s hot fudge)

1 egg

1/2 c. sugar

1/3 c. dark cocoa powder

2 t. vanilla

1 T. butter

 

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You can use a double-boiler but I don’t have one at the moment so I’m doing it directly on medium heat. Let the chips start to melt and whisk in the evaporated milk.

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It will look like a lumpy disaster but that’s okay. In a separate bowl beat together the egg and sugar.

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Then stir the cocoa powder into the egg mixture and pretend that I remembered to take a picture of it. Whisk the egg mixture into the hot milk. Continue whisking constantly for five minutes over the heat. If you’re using a double boiler you don’t have to whisk all the time. It will bubble up and get all dark and lovely.

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Remove it from the heat and whisk in the vanilla and butter.

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It’s ready to serve at whatever temperature you prefer.

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Cover and refrigerate any leftovers. It will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

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Heart’s Desire Cake

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by Heather Harris-Brady

Once upon a time I read a short story about a young career woman who received a package in the mail from her grandmother. It had a cake recipe, a heart-shaped cake pan and a note that she was to bake the cake on Valentine’s Day because it would bring her true love. With reservations she made the cake as instructed. It was raining really hard and since she was convinced no one would show up she cut a piece of cake. You can guess what happens here – there’s a knock at the door, a handsome stranger who needs to use her phone and he just happens to end up her true love.

Now I can’t guarantee that if you are looking for true love this cake will call them to your door. But even if it doesn’t you’re home with a chocolate cake, so either way – win, win!

Heart’s Desire Cake Recipe, Makes one 9″ cake (about 12 servings)

Mix in a bowl:

1-3/4 c. flour

3/4 c. dark cocoa (It’s a lot, I know)

1 c. sugar

1 t. baking soda

1/4 t. salt

Optional:

1 T. instant coffee

1/3 c. ground almonds

1/3 c. ground hazelnuts

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Add 1 c. buttermilk, 1/2 c. olive oil and 2 t. vanilla.

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Pour into a greased 9″ pan and bake – 20-25 minutes if you want a soft center, 30 minutes if you want a cakey center.

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You can serve it as is, with raspberries and whipped cream or drizzle it with kahlua. But, because every now and then one should pull out all the stops – I covered it in chocolate ganache.

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Chocolate YOLO Grenades

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People say there’s a fine line between genius and insanity, for some of us that line disappears under smears of chocolate and cake batter. I myself was pushed across this line by Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, which my family gave me for Christmas.   It’s my favorite kind of cookbook, with tons of stories along with the recipes for things like liquid cheesecake, bagel bombs and the infamous crack pie.

So, when I went to make my old-fashioned chocolate crinkles today and finish off my cookie posts I asked myself, “What would Christina Tosi do?” If you don’t have a strong constitution it’s probably best not to ask yourself that question. I answered it with hazelnuts, almonds, coffee and sea salt caramels. If I had some good-quality chocolate jimmies I swear on all that is sacred I would have used those as well.

Chocolate YOLO Grenades, Makes 18

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 c. butter
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1/3 c. ground hazelnuts
1/3 c. almond flour
1 t. instant coffee (I used Mackinac Island Fudge coffee.)
1/3 c. dark cocoa
3/4 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 c. milk
5 large sea salt caramels
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. powdered sugar

Cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then the melted chocolate.

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Beat in the nuts and coffee.

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Combine the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Beat in half the flour mixture, beat in the milk, and then the rest of the flour. Chill the dough for at least an hour or until firm.

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Cut the sea salt caramels into quarters, and put the sugars in separate bowls. Preheat the oven to 350.

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YOLO mise en place

Scoop out a spoonful of dough and mold it around a square of caramel.

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Roll it in the granulated sugar, then the powdered sugar.

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Leaving about three inches between cookies, place the balls on lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake for about 10-15 minutes. The centers should still be slightly shiny if you’re going for Tosi-gooey.

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There you have it. Check out that runny caramel in the brownie-like center. Brutal. Warm these a touch before serving.

I hope you’re happy Christina Tosi – I have a feeling you will be :)


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Peppermint Chocolate Ice Cream Cake Roll

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These cake rolls are really versatile, as well as surprisingly easy and quick to put together. I’m going to use this recipe to show you the basic method, then you can go to town and customize it however you like.  The one above is packed with peppermint ice cream,  and I served with a hot fudge sauce. You can adjust the proportion of cake to filling, mine is slightly overstuffed but I was going for something cold and refreshing.

I have filled these with chestnut ganache for yule logs, filled them with ice cream, jam, mousse, you name it! As long it will firm up enough to slice it’s fair game.

The cake roll recipe is the basic sponge sheet from Paula Pecks’ The Art of Fine Baking. This little book is very unassuming from the outside, but it is a treasure and worth much more than many cookbooks twice its size. It’s out of print, but there are typically quite a few copies on ebay. Her sponge cake recipe is a great example. She found a way around the whole steaming it in a towel mess.

Basic Sponge Sheet, The Art of Fine Baking (Paula Peck)

4 eggs

1/3 c. sugar

1 t. vanilla

1/4 c. cornstarch

1/4 c. flour

Separate the eggs.  Beat the whites to soft peaks, and then beat in the sugar one tablespoon at a time. Continue beating on high for five minutes until you get a VERY stiff meringue.

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In another bowl beat the yolks and vanilla together with a fork.

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When they are well-combined, fold in 1/4 of the whites to lighten them.

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Pour the yolk mixture over the remaining whites. Add the flour and cornstarch. Fold until combined.

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Line a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with parchment. Grease and flour it lightly then pour the batter into the pan.

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Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, or until barely colored.

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Let cool. The cake will be light and very flexible.

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When the cake is cool you’re ready to fill it! In our parts the peppermint ice cream is only available around the holidays, and the kids love it. So I turned the cake out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and spread it with a 1/2 gallon of ice cream that I whipped in my Kitchenaid to make it easier to spread.

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Begin to roll the cake up from the end. When you’ve finished, wrap it tightly in the plastic wrap.

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At this point I returned it to the freezer for an hour to harden since I was working with ice cream. To finish the cake. Unwrap it and turn it out on a large platter.

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Any tan crust on the cake will probably peel off with the plastic wrap, leaving you with a lovely light yellow sponge exterior. You could easily just dust it with powdered sugar and call it a day, but if you want to dress it up you have lots of options. For yule logs I ice it with a batch of chocolate ganache, and draw some bark lines in it with a knife. I was going to something a tad lighter this time, so I covered it in stabilized whipped cream with a dusting of powdered sugar.

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I typically slice it at 3/4″ intervals, which will give you about 12 servings. I sauced the plates with some bittersweet ganache before I set the slices down.

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Cake Truffles

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Today’s cake pop trend really has its roots on the rum ball family tree – for many, many years bakers have been using up their extra frostings and cake on these little dainties. When I used to do a lot of wedding cakes I did the same thing. I kept the extra ganache and buttercream, mixed it with cake trimmings, added some brandy and then gifted them to the serving staff when I delivered cakes. Call me a stick in the mud but I have a few beefs with the whole cake pop concept – one, things on a stick are cute but hard to eat gracefully and two, most of the recipes call for canned frosting. If you’re going to the trouble of turning a cake pop into a miniature frog or some-such, you might as well take an extra five minutes and make it taste way better.

I wanted to share a primer on these little treats, because they make very easy and chic mini-desserts or holiday gifts. Since these were for a group of ravenous teens, I’ve just covered them in ganache. But you can dip them in chocolate or roll them in nuts, cocoa, more crumbs, etc. They would be terrific as part of a holiday champagne bar.

Cake Truffle Recipe, Makes about 36

1 recipe Guinness cake, baked and crumbled (or just bake two 8″ layers of your choice)

1 recipe basic ganache

2 T. liqueur, rum or brandy if  desired

Crumble the cake into a large bowl. Pour the liquid ganache over the crumbs and mix until well-combined.

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Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until the mixture starts to firm up. Form into balls (I just use my hands but a melon baller would work) and drop onto cookie sheets.

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Coat them as desired (see notes above). I’ll be doing a related post soon on chocolate dipping.

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