Friday, May 29, 2009

One-Pan, Stir-with-A-Fork Chocolate Cake from Chris S.

When I sent out the a.p.b. for a chocolate cake recipe for Emily, this most unusual one came in. Thanks, Chris S.!

Chris S. said: "I've got a really easy recipe that my mom made when we were growing up. Low-fat and you mix it right in the pan.

One-pan, Stir-With-a-Fork Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 c. sugar
3 T. cocoa
1 t. soda
Add 5 T. oil and 1 c. cold water with 1 T. vinegar added.
Stir with fork and bake 25 mins. at 350.

It sounds weird, but it's an easy and delicious cake."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hazelnut Pound Cake with Chocolate Sauce

Took this cake to a Memorial Day weekend party with friends. They are always a hungry, easy-going crowd, so I thought I'd experiment by adapting my favorite pound cake recipe. I used Frangelica (hazelnut flavored liqueur) instead of lemon juice and added a chocolate sauce, just in case the cake wasn't strong enough on it's own.

This recipe requires a food processor, but it is worth getting it out of the closet. It's a fast and easy way to make a pound cake. Learned this technique in a 2002 issue of Cook's Illustrated.

For the cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
1 1/2 c. cake flour, plus extra for dusting the pan
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 1/4 c. sugar
3 T. Frangelica hazelnut liqueur
4 large eggs
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9x5" loaf pan with softened butter, dust with flour, tap out excess and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a glass measuring cup, microwave the butter, just until melted. Whisk melted butter thoroughly to reincorporate any separated milk solids.

In a food processor, add sugar.

Add liqueur, eggs, and vanilla; process until combined about 5 seconds. With the machine running, add melted butter through the feed tube in a steady stream. Takes about 20 seconds. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.

Sift flour mixture over eggs mixture in three steps, whisking gently after each addition until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 15 minutes. Reduce to 325 degrees and continue to bake until deep golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto wire rack.

Poke holes all over the cake. On top and on the sides.

Brush on glaze. Cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour. Cooled cake can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days.

For the glaze:
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. Frangelica hazelnut liqueur

While the cake is cooling, bring sugar and liqueur to boil in a small nonreactive saucepan, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.

For the sauce:
adapted from a Betty Rosbottom recipe

4 T. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
4 ounces good quality dark choc. chips (3/4 c.)
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. light corn syrup
1/2 pint heavy cream
1 t. vanilla extract
1 T. hazelnut liqueur
1 cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts
pinch of salt

The Betty Rosbottom recipe has slightly different mix of ingredients (unsweetened chocolate, no salt, no liqueur, more cream) and she cooks this recipe on the stove, which takes at least 20 minutes of carefully watching and stirring. Too much hassle for me. I decided to do it in the microwave.

In a microwave safe vessel (I used a 4 cup Pyrex measuring bowl), place the butter, the corn syrup, the choc. chips, and the sugar. Mix it together thoroughly, so that it is uniformly wet.

Place the bowl on a plate and microwave it on high for 1 minute. Remove and mix the ingredients together until the butter melts from the residual heat and the mixture is smooth.

Cool slightly. Then, add a little bit of cream. Mix it in. Then add the rest of the cream, and stir until your mixture is homogeneous and smooth.

Heat for 5 minutes on high, stopping after each minute to stir thoroughly. Do not let it come to a boil.

Remove, add the vanilla extract. At this point, I set aside a cup for those who do not like nuts.

Pour the hazelnut liqueur over the hazelnuts, salt them, then stir together to coat. Fold them into the remaining chocolate sauce.

Makes 3 cups in total. Can be stored in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days, according to Betty Rosbottom. Reheat slowly on low heat, stirring constantly, before serving. Or pop it in the microwave on low for a while.

P.S. If you don't know Betty Rosbottom, she has excellent recipes and I enjoy her cookbooks. My mother-in-law gave me her Cooking School Cookbook.

After the party, the consensus was the pound cake was excellent, including the fudge sauce, but the nuts in the sauce could have been skipped.

I was surprised how many people said they don't like hazelnuts. Interesting. But no one complained that hazelnut liqueur was in the pound cake. They loved it. And I must say that my microwave version of the chocolate fudge sauce was very tasty.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Help Me Name This Cookie, Please

Don't know what to call these petite cookies. They are cute little treats I made for a party we attended over the weekend.

They are made with mini vanilla wafers and dark chocolate nonpareils. I combined the grand kids' cookies with Tom's favorite chocolate.

But, I couldn't figure out how to get them to stick together until I tried some chocolate fudge sauce I was making for another recipe.

Worked perfectly. I had tried cake frosting before, but it ruined the cookie. It was icky --too sweet. And made it more of Oreo.

A long time ago, I discovered that chocolate goes well with a baguette --this cookie is a similar combo ---because those were the only things I could remember how to say in French when I got off the train hungry in Strasbourg on my first trip to Europe for Dansk. It became a traveling tradition.

Both kids and adults liked this cookie at the party. So, now it needs a name. Any suggestions?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Morocco-Inspired Braised Lamb Shanks

I braised lamb shanks using the wonderful smelling Moroccan spice mix Mary gave me from her recent trip. (see my May 7 blog entry) Not sure how the spice mix should be used in an authentic Moroccan dish, but we loved this whole meal.

Tom made a delicious side dish of rice with garlic, currants and peas. And we had a simple salad with fresh green and toasted pine nuts.

I like to braise --- it's just fancy crockpot cooking in the oven --- because you can use tougher, more flavorful, often less expensive, cuts of meat and get great results. And braised dishes aren't picky. It doesn't matter exactly what time they come out of the oven. This works well for our schedules.
Collected my ingredients: 2 Lamb shanks, 2 onions, the Moroccan spice mix Mary gave me, a knob of fresh ginger, some honey for sweetness, red pepper flakes for some heat, two bay leafs for earthiness, and stock for braising. Later I decided to add some balsalmic vinegar for depth, too.
It is important to sear the lamb shanks on high heat. It takes time but it is worth it. This pan I use specifically for browning ---never a non-stick pan --put some olive oil in the hot pan until it starts to swirl. Pepper all sides of your meat, then add it to the pan and don't move it until it is seared on the first side, then carefully brown all sides and ends to create good flavor. Watch out --use long tongs -- turn on your fan --
Place the seared lamb shanks in a shallow roasting pan, cut your onions in to big chunks and nestle them around the meat. Grate the fresh ginger all over and add the bay leaf, too. Sprinkle salt over the top, mostly on the meat.

On medium high, in the remaining oil/fat from the searing the lamb, add 2 or 3 T. of Morocco spice mix. Quickly mix together to toast the spices, so they don't taste raw. Don't let it burn.
Add the stock --about 2 cups ---a big glug of honey, red pepper flakes to taste, and about 2 T. of balsalmic vinegar. Bring to a boil and mix all of the ingredients together well.
Pour the liquid into the baking casserole. The meat should be covered about 3/4 or more. Add more stock or red wine if you need more liquid.
Cover with a tight fitting lid and place in a 325 degree oven for 2 or 3 hours. Turn the shanks over after the first hour, to be sure they are in contact with the braising liquid.
The result is a very rich sauce and very tender meat. The onions soak up all the flavor and become intense. After you remove the meat and the onions, you could reduce the broth even more and serve it as a sauce. But, I decided to save mine as is. I am going to buy two more lamb shanks, brown them, then braise them in the reserved liquid. I'll just add more stock if I need it for coverage. I'll add onions again, or maybe carrots, too.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Great Oatmeal Cookie Recipe - Two Ways

A winning Combination : Dark Chocolate Chips with Toasted Pecans & Hazelnuts, and Dried Cranberries or Cherries

My Newest Version: Dark Chocolate Chips with Toasted Macadamia Nuts, Dried Papaya and Toasted Coconut

This is my most requested recipe, so I thought I'd share it. I have tinkered with a Cook's Illustrated recipe --- my favorite food magazine --- until I can make these cookies reliably. I have added my own special touches.

However, when I have shared the recipe in the past, some people have had trouble replicating them, so I thought I'd also share a few tips.

B's keys to success:

-use fresh baking powder
-toast your nuts, but don't over toast them
-use dark chocolate chips
-make sure butter is room temperature, e.g., soft and that it is UN-salted butter
-your egg should be at room temperature, too
-prepare and measure everything out ahead of time
-don't over beat the dough
-rotate the pans mid-way, don't skip this step
-don't over bake the cookies!!! This is the most important key to success.

The Ultimate Oatmeal Cookie
Makes Sixteen 4-inch cookies
From Cooking Illustrated, 2005
1 1/4 c. flour
3/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 1/4 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1 c. pecans, toasted and chopped (I use half hazelnuts)
1 c. dried sour cherries, chopped coarse
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks (3/4 c.) (I use dark choc. chips)
12 T.
(1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar, preferably dark (I use light when it goes better -- with macadamia version, for example)
1 large egg
1 t. vanilla extract

Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk flour, baking powder (be sure to use fresh), baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

In a second bowl, stir together oats, pecans, cherries and chocolate.

In a standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until no sugar lumps remain, about 1 minute.

Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula; add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Scrape down bowl;with mixer running at low speed, add flour, mixture;mix until just combined, about 30 seconds.

With mixer still running on low, gradually add oat/nut mixture; mix until just incorporated.

Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.

Divide dough evenly into 16 portions, each about 1/4 cup. Stagger 8 balls on each baking sheet.
Using hands, gently press each dough ball to 1 inch thickness. Bake both baking sheets 12 minutes (but I have learned to only go for 6 minutes), rotate them front to back and top to bottom.

then continue to bake until cookies are medium brown and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will seem underdone and will appear raw, wet and shiny in cracks), 8 to 10 minutes longer (but I have learned to go only 6 to 8 minutes longer, or 12 -14 in total). Do not over bake.

Cool cookies on baking sheets on wire rack 5 minutes; using wide spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

I turned one over so you could see the difference in how brown they are on the bottom but not on the top.

I package them up and deliver them as treats to my friends and colleagues. Will be interesting to see what they think of the new version.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

I like white. Tom likes red. I gave in and made red for him. Because he is a good guy and has been helping me with lots of projects around the house. But I still like white better.

I learned to make linguine with white clam sauce back in the days when I was broke and living outside Boston. It's a cheap and easy dish, more assembly than cooking. If you can open a can and chop, you can do this recipe. But you have to like clams and their texture, as they are the major flavor ingredient.

In making the red version for Tom, I learned that the only difference is the addition of crushed tomatoes.

The first step is to carefully cook the garlic in olive oil without burning it. When you will begin to smell the garlic as it infuses the oil, then quickly move on to adding the wine, clam juice and red pepper flakes. Today I added thyme, but usually I add basil.

Reduce the sauce. About 5 minutes.

If you are making a red sauce, add the tomatoes and cook until thickened, about 10 more minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the linguine in salted boiling water.

Near the end, add the clams and cook until warmed through, about a minute. Add lots of fresh parsley. Pepper, and salt, if needed. Drain the pasta and add it to same pot as the sauce. Mix thoroughly and serve.

A simple salad goes well with this dish.

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce
from Food & Wine Quick from Scratch series
Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, chopped (we use lots)
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 t. dried thyme (I prefer basil)
pinch dried red-pepper flakes
3 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (28 ounce can)
1 cup bottle clam juice
1 1/4 t. salt, more if needed
3/4 pound chopped clams, drained ( about 1 1/2 cups)
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound linguine