baking beast

a suspicious creature has been lurking around the streets, leaving behind delights that dreams are made of. what's to become of this baking beast?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

chocolate cake squares

i made the "chocolate cake squares (grandma hermalin's)" from maida heatter's book of great desserts this week.... sooo easy to make and sooo delicious!! it may not be the prettiest or fanciest cake, but it really hits the spot for some good ole chocolate cake squares that you crave in the middle of a busy week. the glaze called for was a semisweet one, but i only had milk chocolate left so i used that instead.. still delicious. in the cake batter, i added chocolate extract that i recently got from king arthur.. can't tell if it helped the cake taste better, as i have not had the cake without extract before. but the taste of the cake was fantastic. very chocolatey and moist cake!! no special ingredients in the original recipe, and it's even easier with cocoa powder as you don't need to fiddle with melting chocolate and such. i just used regular ole hershey's cocoa, which i thought had a weird flavor from previous baked goods experiences.. but no weird flavor in this cake. whew!! i was a little worried that it was going to come out tasting a little odd. the cake is very moist and somewhat dense.. and the glaze sets in later for a fudgy kind of frosting. anyway, for such a simple cake, i loved it and it was just what i wanted. :)

Chocolate Cake Squares (Grandma Hermalin's)
From "Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts"
Makes 9 portions

1 cup (4.5 ounces) sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup (1.75 ounces) unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp instant coffee
1/2 cup boiling water

1. Adjust oven rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan and dust lightly with flour.
2. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a seperate bowl, beat the butter a bit to soften. Add the sugar and cream for a minute or two until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. On lowest speed, add the cocoa. Then, in this order, gradually add one-half of the milk, one-half of the dry ingredients, remaining milk, and remaining dry ingredients, scraping the bowl frequently with a rubber spatula all during mixing. Mix only until smooth after each addition.
4. Dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water. While it is still hot, add it very gradually on lowest speed to the chocolate mixture. Beat only until smooth. Batter will be thin. Turn it into the prepared pan and bake for abour 40 minutes or until top spring back when lightly touched. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 min. Cover with a rack and invert. Remove pan. Cover with another rack and invert again to finish cooling right side up. Prepare the following icing:

4 ounces semisweet chocolate (or 4 ounces of whatever chocolate you wish to use)
2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, cut into 4 pieces

In the top of a small double boiler over hot water on moderate heat, melt the chocolate. Remove top from the double boiler and with a small wire whisk beat in the butter, one piece at a time, beating until each piece is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next.
This icing may be used immediately, or if it is too thin, place the pan into ice water and stir constantly until icing thickens very slightly, but watch it closely to see that it doesn't harden. It should still be fluid when used.
Pour it over the cake and smooth with a long, narrow, metal spatula.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

paper chef #5!

proscuitto "crackers" with herbed chevre and balsamic caramelized onions

so for my second time participating in paper chef, the ingredients were chevre, proscuitto, sherry vinegar, and green garlic. well, i couldn't find neither the sherry vinegar nor the green garlic, so i used balsamic vinegar and green onion instead. what i did was fried pieces of proscuitto to make them crispy and used them as a "cracker base", if you will, to put on herbed chevre i got at trader joe's. then, i caramelized a white onion and glazed the onions with balsamic vinegar so in the end they were meltingly sweet and flavorful. gotta love caramelized onions!! i have some leftovers, too, so i can't wait to put those to use :) then i put the onions on top of the cheese, and garnished with some green onions. overall, it was quite tasty.. and i've never been a huge goat cheese fan but i actually quite enjoyed eating it this way. the herbed variety gave it a great punch of flavor. i might've had too large of a cheese portion though, so maybe if i were to do this again i'd put the caramelized onions on first, then top with a few dots of the chevre. i really liked the combination of flavors, even if i couldn't get the actual ingredients called for :( it was pretty fun coming up with something and putting together the parts. it also pushed me to use chevre, which i probably wouldn't have used in a dish otherwise. yay for another installment of paper chef!

Friday, April 01, 2005

caramel cheesecake bars

i couldn't get enough of caramel from the shf, apparently... and made these caramel cheesecake bars. they're adapted from the strawberry cheesecake bars from king arthur flour cookie companion.. the great part is that you can take whatever you have on hand and swirl it in to make whatever cheesecake bars you want. i've made these before too with some leftover raspberry sauce. this time i didn't put nuts in the crust as i was making them for a big group and wanted to avoid nut allergy problems. still delicious. i would probably choose to put the nuts in next time if i could though, it gives the crust a great texture and taste. anyhow, these bars are very simple to make.. much easier than an actual cheesecake.. and this is easier to serve, transport, and makes more servings, too!! :) i like serving these chilled, like cheesecake, but they are fine at room temperature.

Caramel Cheesecake Bars
Makes 24 bars

1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped pecans, toasted (optional)

1 lb cream cheese
3/4 (5 1/4 ounces) cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
2 large eggs
caramel sundae sauce to swirl in (or you can use 1/4 cup jam)

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 9x13 inch pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.
2. Mix together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and butter. Stir in the pecans, if using. Press mixture into bottom of pan and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until it's set. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 min. while you prepare the filling.
3. Beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Gently beat in the eggs and vanilla. Spread the filling over the crust.
4. Squeeze lines of caramel sauce parallel to the 13inch side of the pan, about 3/4 inch apart. Use a knife to pull the caramel from side to side through the cream cheese at 1-inch intervals. (similarly, you can put the jam into a plastic bag and snip off the corner and pipe it onto the filling. warm the jam if it is too thick)
5. Bake the bars for 20 to 22 minutes, just until the filling is set. The middle should wobble slightly. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the filling to prevent cracking. Cool completely, then refrigerate until completely chilled and firm before cutting.