Passover Baking….a delicious cake!

We were invited to our neighbors home for an Easter Dinner, which fell at the end of Passover this year. We said we’d be there, and I told Isabelle that I’d bring something for dessert. I knew that it had to be delicious, and I didn’t want to go with my old standby–flourless chocolate cake. The chocolate cake is fine, but I’m a little tired of it.

The week before passover I saw that Smitten Kitchen had put up a recipe for a Hazelnut-Chocolate Torte. I knew that was what I’d bake. I’ve never had a recipe from Deb turn out badly, and this one was no different. Though I admit that I questioned her when it was time to melt the chocolate and coffee together. I was afraid it would seize and be gross and disgusting. I was wrong, and it turned out beautifully. I should have known….just trust the Smitten Kitchen.

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At a first glance, it might look like a complicated recipe. There’s whipping egg whites and folding in the chopped nuts. But it is not complicated. Or time consuming. Do you believe me? Would I lie to you? Would Deb, of Smitten Kitchen?

I think not
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Chocolate-Hazelnut Macaroon Torte

I think this served at least 12 people, with very small slices

Macaroons
Oil or butter for greasing parchment rounds
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) granulated sugar
6 large egg whites
2 1/2 cups hazelnuts (about 12 ounces or 340 grams), toasted, then skinned as much as possible*
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract**

Chocolate filling
6 ounces (170 grams or the equivalent of 1 cup chips) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso granules (optional)

Whipped frosting and filling
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy or whipping cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Frangelico or another hazelnut liqueur or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract**

Decoration
A semi- or bittersweet chocolate bar for shaving (optional)

Make macaroons: Position oven racks in the top and lower thirds of oven and heat oven to 325°F. Outline four 8-inch circles on individual pieces of parchment paper. Turn each sheet of parchment over so your ink or pencil lines don’t seep into the macaroon, place each piece of parchment paper on large baking sheets, and very lightly coat each piece of parchment with oil or butter. (I sprayed mine with a cooking oil and wiped all but a sheer coating away with a paper towel.)

Place hazelnuts, 1 cup sugar and salt in a food processor and blend until finely ground. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large, dry bowl with clean beaters (or a whisk attachment) until soft peaks form. Drizzle in vanilla extract, then slowly add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Beat until stiff but not dry. Fold nut mixture into egg whites in 1/3 increments (i.e. a little at a time so it doesn’t overtake the fluffy egg whites). Spread 1/4 of macaroon batter evenly within each circle, filling completely.

Bake macaroon layers until golden and dry to the touch — this takes 20 to 23 minutes in my oven. Cool macaroons on their sheets on a cooling rack. You can speed this along by placing them for five minutes each in your freezer.

Make chocolate filling: While meringues cool, heat half of chocolate, water, and coffee (if using) in a small heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring until smooth. Off the heat, stir in second half of chocolate chunks until melted, which should also cool the mixture to lukewarm. Spread chocolate evenly over tops of meringue rounds; it will be just a thin slick on each. Cool until chocolate is set, a process that could take a few hours at room temperature or, again, could be hastened along by resting each disc in your freezer for five minutes, or until firm.

Make whipped frosting and filling:: Beat cream with sugar and liqueur or vanilla in a bowl with cleaned beaters until it holds stiff peaks.

Assemble torte: Gently peel the parchment off the back of each macaroon round. Arrange your first disc on your cake serving plate. If you like to follow proper cake-decorating protocol, you will insert some small strips of waxed paper under the edge to protect the cake plate while you decorate. If you don’t, hey, I too embrace cake imperfections. Spread 1/3 cup whipped cream over it. Repeat with second and third macaroon rounds, then top with final round. Frost top and side of torte with whipped cream. I did this in two parts, a thin “crumb” coat (after which I put the cake in the freezer for 5 minutes to “set” it, although whipped cream doesn’t really set) a thicker final one, with the remaining cream, which led to a neater final result.

If desired, use a vegetable peeler to scrape away curls from a chocolate bar for decoration. Remove waxed paper strips if you used them, and serve immediately or up to a day or two layer. Store in fridge.

Do ahead: Whipped cream confections are generally best on the first day, but we found ours to hold up just fine in the fridge for more than 24 hours. Macaroons alone, or macaroons with chocolate coating, can be baked in advance. Simply keep them separated with waxed paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days. Humidity is the enemy of macaroons, so if you live in a humid environment, you’ll want to store them as little time as possible lest they become sticky.

**** in the end, we did not use whipped cream to frost this cake. My husband is lactose intolerant, and he wanted me to use something that he could eat too. I used this recipe for a 7 minute marshmallow frosting. It has corn syrup in it, so its not strictly kosher for passover. But it was worth it.

Baking with Julia: Gingerbread Baby Cakes

Can you believe, I’ve never made gingerbread before?

Not the little men, or cake. Never. I guess there’s a first time for everything–even the easy stuff
I halved the recipe because I was pretty sure that my crew of tasters might not be that thrilled with it. I ended up with a loaf and three tiny cakes baked in silicone cupcake cups. I should have done the whole batch that way–they turned out absolutely adorably.
I mixed up the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, instant espresso, black pepper, and ginger. It felt like I was putting the kitchen sink in that bowl. Then the wet ingredients: butter, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, molasses and fresh ginger. Dry got folded into wet and into the oven it went.

My sous-chef, Adam was very excited to help me out with the mixing and pouring.
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Adam mixing the dry ingredients
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Adam pouring in the molasses. He was absolutely fascinated.
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Adam painting cake release into the pan. Cake release is pretty awesome, and very easy to make yourself. Here’s a link to the recipe I used to make it.

Did you know that a little oil in the measuring cup helps molasses (or honey or anything else that’s very sticky) come right out of the measuring cup?
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The pepper and ginger combined to make it a very spicy cake. It was dense and pretty good…though I have nothing to compare it to. The loaf went to school for the teachers, and I heard a few compliments.
Here’s one of the tiny cakes. I had to bring it outside to get a decent picture. Dark brown cake just doesn’t photograph that well in the dying light…
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In case you want the recipe, you can find it at Karen’s blog, or in the book. As always, take a look at the Leave Your Link (LYL) post on the Tuesdays with Dorie blog.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Best Ever Brownies

This weeks assignment was to make brownies. The recipe can be found on page 331 of Baking With Julia

When I make brownies I like them to be easy, and maybe only use one bowl. I never bake from a mix, but when it comes to brownies, I like them easy. And dense. And incredibly chocolately. These were not easy, nor dense.

This recipe used no less than 3 bowls plus a fine-mesh strainer that I use for sifting. One bowl for the flour, one bowl to melt the chocolate in, and one bowl to mix up the eggs and sugar.

I melted the chocolate and butter in a bowl set atop a pot with some water in it.
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It melted and then I added some sugar and took it off the heat
Then I whisked together the eggs and sugar and whisked half of that into the chocolate
Then I whisked the remaining eggs and sugar until they doubled in volume and folded them into the chocolate
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And then I folded in the flour. I licked the bowl
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And finally they went into the oven
And I brought them to my bunco group on Monday night. Nobody complained, but everybody knew that I’ve done better

I probably won’t be making these again any time soon. But, check out our host for the week, a Beautiful Mess, it looks like she got the beautiful, fudgy brownies I was looking for, she’s got the recipe posted on her site. Also, take a look at our leave your link page to see how other people did it.

 

Tuesdays With Dorie: Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake

This week’s assignmnet was to make the Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake from page 241 in the book. I’ve never made a chiffon cake, nor have I ever had any variety of an ‘upside down’ cake–pineapple or otherwise.

This wasn’t a terribly difficult recipe, but there were multiple steps. First to cut and arrange the slices of nectarine
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Tuesdays With Dorie: a Blueberry and Peach Birthday Galette

I know, I know, I’m a little late with this post.  Today is Thursday, and these posts are supposed to go up on Tuesdays. But we’re visiting my parents, and today is my dad’s birthday. He’s 62. So I baked a few days late. So sue me…..

I made the dough yesterday (Wednesday) and the dough came together easily enough. I didn’t need to add the full amount of liquid in the recipe to get the dough to hold together. Though, the method of mixing the ice-water and yogurt or sour cream together is definitely odd in my opinion. Once again, there are no photos of the dough-making because my hands were covered in it. I need to employ a photographer….which I did do for the galette-making. My dad was happy to help (for the blog)

The dough was easy to roll out…maybe a little too easy, and then it stuck to my parchment paper and saran wrap. Into the freezer it went so that it could firm up enough to fold over the fruit. I wet my hands and got the crust a little wet and sprinkled a bit of sugar on it for a little crunch. And into a 400 degree oven it went.
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The rolling pin is a little narrow for my tastes, but it was made by my grandfather for my grandmother out of a broom handle a long time ago. I figure the rolling pin is at least 65 years old, if not older.
I filled the galettes with peaches and blueberries, even though our last assignment was nectarine/blueberry. I’m in New Jersey, and it is peach season. I just couldn’t help myself. This morning I also preserved 11 1/2 pints of peach butter, I made them with peaches we picked yesterday at Giamarese Farm in East Brunswick, NJ
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I’m 99% sure that it’ll be delicious, but I’m also 100% sure that this is one of the ugliest things that I’ve ever made. The first galette’s dough ‘broke’ while I was folding it, and is bubbling away in a most unattractive way in the oven. The 2nd one seems to be doing better.

you should visit the Tuesdays With Dorie page to see more beautiful gallette’s than mine. The hosts for this week are Lisa and Andrea, they both have the recipe up on their sites–in case you’re interested in attempting to do this on your own.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Blueberry Nectarine Pie

This week our assignment was to make Blueberry Nectarine Pie, and make our own crust. I never make my own crust. Usually I buy a premade crust from the freezer section because they’re parve (contain no dairy) and easy. This wasn’t difficult, and it was delicious, and when I need a crust for a dairy meal, I promise I’ll make it again.

I have no pictures of the crust-making process because my hands were covered in flour and butter and shortening. So, sorry about that. I actually made it twice. The first time I made it I put in 1 1/2 times the water called for. I was trying to halve the recipe and forgot to halve the water until it was too late. I kneaded in some more flour and put it in the fridge. And then I made another one, this time with the correct amount of water. It still ended up sticky and I still had to add more flour, and it turned out fine. So I probably could have used the orginal crust. Its in the freezer waiting for its time to shine.

The filling is a cooked blueberry and nectarine filling. Its got a little lemon juice, sugar and some flour to thicken things up. Its delicious. That’s really all I can say about it.
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I made the crust and filling and put it all together and left it in the freezer until we came back from vacation. Two days after we got home, I preheated the oven, lined a sheet pan with aluminum foil, brushed the pie with a beaten egg and sprinkled a little sugar on top. I put it in the oven, and it needed to stay in there almost an hour–probably because it had started out frozen. It came out looking BEAUTIFUL. it smelled AMAZING. and tasted GREAT. I put it in the car, still warm, to bring it to an evening of wine and art that was hosted by my friend Charlene.IMG_0699 IMG_0701
The girls at the dinner party enjoyed it throroughly, and I pulled off a slice to put in Dorothy’s lunchbox today. She helped make the filling, so I hope she tastes it. (as it turns out, she did not. it got a little smooshed in her lunchbox, and she did not like the way it looked. it tasted great though–I ate it! Children really don’t have any taste buds.)

Check out some other beautiful examples of this pie by visiting our hosts for this week at Hillary’s blog: Manchego’s Kitchen and Liz’s blog: That Skinny Chick Can Bake, as hosts, they’ll have the recipe on their blogs. As always there will be a LYL (Leave your link) post at Tuesday’s With Dorie

Birthday Baking: Flourless Chocolate Cake

Yesterday was David’s birthday.

Its tough to decide on a birthday cake around here, especially for the grownups. You want to make all the children happy, but still have a cake you want to eat yourself. I was going to make the French Strawberry Cake, which is my next Tuesdays with Dorie/Baking with Julia assignment, but Dorothy informed me that she doesn’t like whipped cream. Foolish child. So, we decided on this, a flourless chocolate cake. I think everyone would have eaten the strawberry cake, and only 2/3 of the children will eat this. Reid is my resident chocoholic, and Dorothy likes chocolate too; but, Adam does not enjoy chocolate at all. So, he’ll get a bowl of strawberry sorbet. Can’t please everyone, I guess.

This cake is not complicated to bake. It does require a little fearless-ness, especially if you’re new to the world of separating eggs and whipping egg whites to stiff peaks. I use a hand mixer for this and two bowls–one for the whites, and one for the yolks. Separate the eggs using a third bowl so if you break one yolk, you haven’t lost all the whites–just that one. Whip the whites first, that way you don’t have to wash your beaters, just go right over to the yolks and get to work on them.
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This was my sous-chef’s first time beating egg whites. Dorothy did just fine. She was very serious.
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Don’t get excited when you take it out of the oven. The top is very dry and crackly, and perhaps some of it did crack and collapse. This is supposed to happen. Just put some damp paper towels on it and gently press down.
I don’t know where this recipe came from. Its in the ‘cookbook’ that my mother compiled about 15 years ago, but she didn’t give credit to anyone. No matter. Its a damn good cake.
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CHOCOLATE SIN
Flourless – Good for Passover. This extremely rich cake would be delicious with whipped cream or a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or even a glass of ice cold milk

Butter
Flour (I use unsweetened cocoa)

10 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
1/2 cup lightly salted butter, cut into 8 pieces
6 large eggs, separated at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar (divided)
2 tsp. crème de cacao, Kailua or dark rum (I used rum)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups whipping cream well chilled (optional)
2 1/2 to 3 Tbs. powdered sugar (optional, but makes the cake look prettier)

Place oven rack in lower third of oven; heat oven to 375. Butter and flour (or cocoa) and sides of an 8 inch spring form pan; reserve.

Melt chocolate with 1/2 cup butter (in a double boiler, over, not in the water). Or, use a microwave in short bursts so you can stir the chocolate in between. If using a microwave, be careful not to burn the chocolate.

Beat egg whites in medium mixer bowl at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in 1/4 cup granulated sugar into whites; continue beating until stiff but not dry peaks form.

Beat egg yolks in large mixer bowl at high speed. Gradually add 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar. Beat until yolk mixture is pale yellow and thick, 4 to 6 minutes. Add chocolate mixture to the yolk mixture, beat until complete smooth. Add crème de cacao and vanilla and beat until blended.

Fold whites gently but thoroughly into chocolate mixture. Pour batter evenly into reserved pan; smooth top.Beat egg yolks in large mixer bowl at high speed. Gradually add 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar. Beat until yolk mixture is pale yellow and thick, 4 to 6 minutes. Add chocolate mixture to the yolk mixture, beat until complete smooth. Add crème de cacao and vanilla and beat until blended.Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350, bake another 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 250, bake 30 minutes longer. (Total baking time is 1 hour.) Turn off oven, prop open oven door and allow cake to remain in oven for 30 minutes. Remove cake from oven and cover top with damp paper toweling; let stand 5 minutes.

Remove toweling and cool cake completely. Dome of cake will crack and collapse; this is normal–press top of cake down lightly to smooth top. Remove spring form and transfer cake to serving platter.

Whip cream in chilled mixer bowl on high speed until soft peaks form. Continue beating, gradually adding 1 ½ Tbs. of the powdered sugar, until stiff peaks form. Dust top of cake with remaining powdered sugar just before serving. Serve cake at room temperature with whipped cream.