A Passion for Chocolate

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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.

truffle cake little house dunes

 

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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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Irish Hostess Cupcakes, Part III: The Icing on the Cake

Okay, so you have the cupcakes and the filling. Now all we need is the icing! I threw together a quick and easy icing from one my favorite cookbooks, Baking by Dorie Greenspan.

Quick Chocolate Glaze (Frosts 10 cupcakes)

3 oz. chocolate (I used Hershey’s Special Dark chips)

1 T. confectioner’s sugar

2 T. butter, slightly softened

Melt the chocolate in the microwave, stirring until smooth. Let cool slightly and stir in the sugar.

Then stir in the butter, until everything is smooth and glossy. Mine was spreadable immediately, but if your kitchen is warm you might need to put it in the fridge for a bit.

Assembling the cupcakes:

Cut a small core out of each cupcake with a small paring knife, put the cores in a bowl – you’ll need them again later. Fill the holes with fluff and use some of your cut pieces to cover the top of the fluff on each cupcake.

Ice half of the cupcakes with the frosting, ice the rest with the remaining marshmallow fluff, reserving 1/2 c. of fluff. Sprinkle the fluff-topped marshmallows with the leftover cake. Fill a piping bag with the reserved fluff and pipe it in swirls over the chocolate frosted cupcakes.

Next time I’m going to try and find some dessert glasses shaped like pints, and put the cake in the bottom with a “head” of fluff on top.


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Irish Hostess Cupcakes, Part II: Honey Marshmallow Fluff

So, we’re on to part two of the great Irish Hostess cupcake project! The cake recipe posted on Monday. I’m not sure I want to think too long about what is actually in the real filling of the cupcakes on the supermarket shelves. It’s super easy and fun to make your own fluff, and you know exactly what’s in it – sugar, just like nature intended. I’ve used honey here because it rounds out the stout nicely. This recipe will give you plenty to fill all the cupcakes plus some leftover. You can do what I did, and use the extra to frost some of the cupcakes or you can make a couple of the world’s best fluffernutter sandwiches.

Honey Marshmallow Fluff

2 egg whites

1/3 c. sugar

1/3 c. honey

1/3 c. water

1 t. vanilla

1 t. unflavored gelatin dissolved in 1 T. cold water

Beat the egg whites on high until you get stiff peaks. Set aside.

Combine the sugar, water and honey in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook to 246 degrees, the firm ball stage.

 

Working quickly, turn on your mixer and beat the hot syrup into the egg whites on medium-high until well-combined. When you’ve poured in all the syrup, add the gelatin mixture and vanilla, turn the mixer to high and beat for another five minutes, until light and fluffy.

 

Now on Saturday just the icing and then we’ll be ready to put it all together!

 


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Irish Hostess Cupcakes, Part I: Guinness Cake

Irish Hostess Cupcakes, Little House by the Dunes

So everyone has been talking about the whole Hostess bankruptcy thing lately, and feeling a little sad that at some point soon they’ll be buying their zingers on the black market. In the name of research, I bought one of the last packages of Ding-Dongs I could find to see if they were as good as I remembered. Sadly, they weren’t. The cake was dry and the filling was tasteless. The chocolate on the outside was the best part. Since so many people already have recipes to mimic the Hostess snacks, I challenged myself to go one better.

I created a light, soft chocolately cupcake made with Guinness Extra Stout. I should hedge this by saying I’m not a beer lover myself, but if you share your house with one as I do – you’ll both love this recipe. The stout keeps the cake from being overly sweet and adds an extra level of depth. Then for the filling I made a marshmallow fluff based on honey, to round out the stout flavor. I finished them off with a quick, dark ganache that pulls everything together. So rather than mourn the loss of dry cupcakes filled with preservatives and half your day’s allotment of saturated fats, bake these and celebrate having something even better! The stout will be noticeable the first day, but after that it will all mellow into a happy blend.

Guinness Cake Recipe (Makes 18 cupcakes)

1 stick butter

1-1/3 c. sugar

2 eggs

1 t. vanilla

2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 c. Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa

1/2 t. baking soda

1 t. baking powder

3/4 c. Guinness Extra Stout

Preheat the oven to 350. Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until well-combined. Beat in the vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder.

Beat half of it into the creamed mixture until well-combined. Beat in 1/2 of the stout. Repeat with the remaining flour and stout.

Divide the batter between cupcake tins and bake 15-20 minutes, until the center springs back lightly. Cool on a rack. Stay tuned this week for the rest of the recipe!


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Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate Pudding, A Passion for Chocolate

There is nothing like pudding to sooth the soul, and after a crazy busy week it was just what the doctor ordered. Even without a box it is entirely possible to throw it together with the rest of dinner and get it to the table while still slightly warm. This also makes great filling for chocolate cream pie.

Chocolate Pudding (Six servings or filling for one 8″ pie)

3 c. milk (whole milk is best, but I used 1/2%)

2 T. cornstarch

1/2 c. sugar

2 T. cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark.)

2 t. vanilla

1/2 c. chocolate chips

Warm the milk over medium heat. Combine the dry ingredients together well.

Whisk the dry ingredients into the milk. Continue to whisk over medium heat.

It will thicken up, bubble and start to look like pudding.

Break the eggs into a bowl and beat until combined. Spoon a couple large dollops of hot pudding into the eggs to temper them.

Stir together and dump it into the pan on the stovetop. Whisk briskly for another minute over the heat.

Take the pudding off the heat. Whisk in the vanilla and chocolate chips, stirring until the chips are melted and incorporated. This final step is what gives you the richness of boxed pudding.

Pour into bowls or dishes. You can serve it right away or put it in the fridge. If you don’t like the skin on the top, just press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface before you put it in the fridge.


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Everyday Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Everyday Oatmeal Chip Cookies, Little House by the Dunes

Growing up we were more pie and cake people as I recall but I have always made a point of keeping a full cookie jar in our kitchen. It’s one of the things I hope the kids will remember when they set up their own houses. With a fast-growing 14-yr-old son and an active nine-yr-old daughter, our jar starts to empty as soon as I fill it up.

These oatmeal chip cookies have a lot of things going for them. This recipe makes a lot – I typically get around 60 per batch, you can sneak in healthy things like flax seed and quinoa flakes in addition to the oatmeal, and if you underbake them slightly they are good keepers.

They are classic homemade cookies, in search of a glass of milk.  I bake a batch nearly every Saturday afternoon, provided it’s not too hot to turn the oven on!

Everyday Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup)

3/4 c. brown sugar, packed

3/4 c. white sugar

2 eggs

2-3/4 c. flour

1-1/2 c. oatmeal (whatever style you prefer – quick cooking tends to disappear more in the cookie)

2 t. vanilla

1 t. salt

1 t. baking soda

8 oz. dark chocolate chips

Other mix-ins of your choice: flax seed, quinoa flakes, wheat germ – all good

Preheat the oven to 375. Cream the butter and the sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Beat in the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients: flour, oatmeal, chips, baking soda and salt – include any extra mix-ins at this point. Beat on medium until everything in incorporated.

Drop by generous teaspoons onto greased cookie sheets. I like to underbake them (for gooey centers) so I check them at 8-10 minutes. When they are done to your liking, remove them and let them cool. Make sure they are completely cool until stacking them in your cookie jar. It’s perfectly acceptable to taste them to determine the appropriate temperature for storage. . .

So because I was feeling a sprocky the other day, I added 3 T. of Hershey Special Dark Cocoa. If you like brownie-type cookies underbake them by 2-3 minutes. They will crisp as they cool.