French Fridays with Dorie: Michel Rostang’s Double Chocolate Mousse Cake

January 21, 2011 at 11:09 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, french fridays with dorie, groups, sweet things | 24 Comments

michel rostangs's double chocolate mousse cake

This is baked chocolate mousse.  End of post.

Really, that’s all I think needs to be said.  It is dark and silky and my idea of a perfectly elegant chocolate dessert.  There are options with this cake, too.  You can bake of just part of the mousse as a base, then top it with the remaining mousse and either chill it as-is or bake it again.  If you bake it again, you can either eat it warm or pop it in the fridge and eat it cold.  Decision tree analysis is not my forte, but in the end I opted for the fully baked variation and enjoyed it chilled (and I think it was a good call).  Don’t fret when your cake comes out of the oven puffed and then totally sinks in the middle as it rests.  It’s supposed to…and anyway, that dip is the perfect spot to pile on whipped cream!

michel rostangs's double chocolate mousse cake

I think I’ll be making this again for Valentine’s Day.  For the recipe, see Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan.  Don’t forget to check out my fellow francophiles’ posts (and you might want to check out the P&Q section…some folks had problems with mousee seeping while baking, although I did not experience this)!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Fluff-Filled Chocolate Madeleines

January 11, 2011 at 12:20 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, cookies & bars, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 26 Comments

fluff-filled chocolate madeleines

Whenever I start a new food job, my new coworkers always seem to ask me where I’m from.  I’m going through this phase at my job right now, and sometimes the question makes me scratch my head…like, what was the last place I worked for, or where did I grow up?  I’ve come to realize that, more often than not, the person asking has recently moved to NYC from someplace else, and is wondering about my hometown.  While I think a lot about the places and people I grew up with, the day I left for college in the early ’90s was the last time I was ever in my childhood home…my parents packed up and moved cross-country a few weeks later.  And, apart from the two years I spent in Sydney, I’ve been in New York since 1996.  Sometimes I think that I’m more Brooklyn than NoVA now, but I don’t, and wouldn’t ever want to, forget where I’m from.

If you asked a Fluff-Filled Chocolate Madeleine where it’s from, it would probably tell you, that while it was born in France, it has spent the last couple decades living in Texas.  A plate of these guys would likely not make Proust remember anything, but one taste would probably shoot most American grown-ups right back to childhood!  Apart from their scalloped shape and cakey texture, they are pretty far removed from their French origins, but with ganache and marshie Fluff, they are instantly recognizable to me.  A couple of tips if you want to make these yummies at home: if you nuke your Fluff jar for 5-10 seconds, it will be much easier to get the sticky stuff out of the jar and into a piping bag; also, madeleines stale quickly, so if you like them soft, eat them soon after they’re put together.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here on Serious Eats) or read  Effort to Deliciousness, as it was Margot’s pick this week.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

 

Tuesdays with Dorie: Cardamom Crumb Cake

December 21, 2010 at 12:06 am | Posted in breakfast things, cakes & tortes, groups, muffins & quick breads, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 11 Comments

cardamom crumb cake

Have I told you what I have been up to lately?  I started November wishing I could find a part-time job, and now I have two part-time jobs, totaling way more hours than a typical full-time one.  I get very anxious about waking up for job #1 at 5:45 in the morning after I’ve been at job #2 until 11:00 at night.  How do I get myself into these things, and why have I started every new food job I’ve had during the super-busy holiday season?  Oh well, it won’t last forever…job #2 is only for another few weeks.

For the time being, I do really look forward to the one morning a week when I can drink coffee out of a proper cup and stuff my face with things like Cardamom Crumb Cake for breakfast.  I get really happy when folks like Jill pick a breakfast recipe for TWD, and this coffee cake highlights one of my favorite spices.  I’d say that this is a simple, plain cake, but cardamom is an interesting flavor and is something a bit more unexpected than cinnamon.  Combine it with orange zest, espresso powder and walnut crumb topping, and you’ve got a cake I’d eat any day of the week.  Happily, the second half of  mine is tucked away in the freezer until Saturday.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Jill’s Blog.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Apple-Coconut Family Cake

December 14, 2010 at 9:37 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 16 Comments

apple-coconut family cake

R and I just got ourselves a new desktop computer.  After working off laptops for the past six or seven years, my fingers feel very clumsy on a full-size keyboard and I’m not used to a mouse at all.  (Can you tell I also haven’t had a desk job in a really long time?)  I have to be sure to hit the spell-check button, or this post will be riddled with typos.  I’m excited to see all the beautiful Apple-Coconut Family Cakes on a big screen, though! 

There’s something about the term “family cake” that sounds really appealing…cute and cozy.  And there’s something about the apple-coconut combination that sounds unusual…how often do you see those two paired up?  Even though there is quite a lot of coconut  in this cake (I used unsweetened desiccated coconut from the health food store, which is more finely grated than the sweetened sheds), I didn’t find its flavor to be that pronounced…I actually thought it tasted more of the rum than coconut.  Instead, I noticed most what it gave to the cake’s texture– sturdiness and bit of chew.  A heap of diced apples kept it moist and the unsweetened coconut kept it from being too saccharine.  This is one I’ll make again.

We are just a family of two, so I only made half a recipe.  Despite its small size, my cake took longer to bake than the 45 minutes Dorie recommended for the full version.  At the 45 minute mark, the edge was nicely browned, but the middle was still wet, so I put foil over the pan and popped it back in the oven for an extra 5+ minutes.  That helped steam up the middle a bit and cooked it through.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Cobbler du Monde, as it was Amber’s pick this week.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

French Fridays with Dorie: Caramel-Topped Semolina Cake

November 26, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 13 Comments

caramel-topped semolina cake

Oops– Friday almost passed me by.  Too much leftover Thanksgiving turkey putting me to sleep, I guess.  But I did make this Caramel-Topped Semolina Cake last week, so gosh darn-it, I’m making sure I get this up, stat!

What intrigued me about this cake is it can be made with Cream of Wheat.  I always have a box of that stuff in the cupboard.  I just love it.  It makes me think of snow days when I was a kid.  Waking up and finding out that school was cancelled because of snow was the best feeling ever.  Going back to bed for another couple hours and later having a piping hot bowl of Cream of Wheat while watching “Classic Concentration,” “Scrabble” or “The Price is Right” on TV, then bundling up and going outside to horse around in the snow with my brother and our neighborhood BFFs, Shannon and Andrew…that, to me, equaled childhood bliss.

This cake turns Cream of Wheat (or semolina) into something almost flan-like.  Caramel on the bottom of the cake pan becomes sauce when the baked semolina custard-cake is turned out.  I think the result is supposed to be a bit more saucy than mine (all the caramel was absorbed into the cake), so next time I’ll double the caramel in the recipe.  Very tasty, though.  I’ll make this again and serve it with one thing I never ate my kiddie CoW with– rum whipped cream!

For the recipe, see Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here on Martha Stewart’s site).  Don’t forget to check out my fellow francophiles’ posts (not all of us are doing semolina cake this week)!

TWD Rewind: Cranberry Upside-Downer

November 23, 2010 at 12:01 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 12 Comments

cranberry upside-downer

This week the TWD crowd will be going in about 200 different directions (and I’m not just talking about holiday travel plans)– we’re having a “rewind” day to make up a missed recipe or remake a favorite.  I’ve been in the group for a long time, and I think I can count on one hand the number of recipes I’ve skipped.  At some point, I’d like to tick at least a few of those of the list, but not this week…this week, I’m revisiting a recipe I’ve been itching to try again.

Back in September I made a Summery Peach Upside-Downer, and I’m been thinking about trying the original Cranberry Upside-Downer version ever since.  Now’s the time, especially since I’m on a cranberry roll this month!  The cake was just as soft and cinnamony as I remembered from the first time.  I think I actually prefer this version, though, because the tart cranberries are a perfect balance for the sticky sweetness of the butter-sugar topping.  If my husband weren’t insisting on pie for Thanksgiving, I would certainly not hesitate to put this on the table on Thursday night!

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, or read Superfluous, as it was Sabrina’s choice a couple months ago.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll to see what everyone chose to make this week!  Happy US Thanksgiving!!

Bolzano Apple Cake

November 18, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 22 Comments

bolzano apple cake

When my husband comes home from work, he likes to plop down on the couch and settle in with some ESPN or some business news.  Yawn.  I like to plop down beside him and settle in with a cookbook.  For the past couple of weeks, my book of choice has been Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook.  I have to tell you that you won’t find many pictures in the book, but that’s fine with me because it makes way for heaps more recipes!  The book spans the archives of newspaper, and the recipes in each section are arranged by date (one day I’ll be adventurous enough to make you a cake from 1876, but for today’s one is from 2004).  It also has a beautiful red cloth cover, and would make a pretty sweet holiday present for anyone who loves to cook.

When I came across the Bolzano Apple Cake recipe in the book, I knew instantly that I wanted to give it a shot.  (Just because October has come and gone, does that mean I should move past apple desserts?  I hope not, because I still have half a crisper drawer full of them from my orchard excursion a month ago.)  What really attracted me to this cake, was that it sounded so similar to Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake (which I was crazy about) from a few weeks back.

The cakes are not quite identical twins– maybe fraternal?  Marie-Hélène’s has a healthy dose of rum in it, while the Bolzano is all about real vanilla bean.  And while Marie-Hélène’s certainly has a custardy texture, this one does, too, but even more so.  In the Bolzano cake, the apples are thinly sliced, instead of cut into chunks.  The cake bakes up into a stack of soft apples with batter barely seeping in between the layers.  I’m glad that I don’t have to choose between the two cakes, but can quickly and easily make either one!

Bolzano Apple Cake- makes 6 to 8 servings
adapted from  The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped and reserved
1 1/4 pounds (3 to 4 small to medium) Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup AP flour, plus mor for dusting the pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
Powdered sugar for dusting

-Heat oven to 375°F (190°C). Line the base of an 8-inch springform pan with parchment, then smear with thick layer of butter. Dust with flour; turn pan over and tap lightly to remove excess flour.  Melt butter in small saucepan (you can take it a step further and lightly brown it, if you like). Set aside.

-Beat together eggs and half the sugar in a bowl (it’s not hard to do by hand). Continue to beat while slowly adding remaining sugar until thick; it should form a ribbon when dropped from a spoon.  Add the vanilla seeds to the batter and add the pod to the melted butter.

-Peel, quarter and core apples, then trim ends and slice thinly.

-Remove vanilla pod from butter and stir butter into egg-sugar batter. Combine the flour and baking powder, then stir it into batter alternately with milk. Stir in apples, coating every piece with batter. Pour batter into pan, using fingers to pat top evenly.

-Bake for 25 minutes, then rotate pan; bake for about 25 minutes more, until cake pulls away from pan and is brown on top; a thin-bladed knife inserted into center will come out clean when it is done. Cool 30 minutes on a rack.

-Remove the sides of the springform, cut the cake into wedges and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Please note that the publisher, W.W. Norton, sent me a copy of this book…but I would have bought it anyway!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Not-Just-For-Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread Cake

November 9, 2010 at 1:01 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 30 Comments

not-just-for-thanksgiving cranberry shortbread cake

I am apparently the world’s worst interior decorator.  Bought a few rugs for the new house, and totally don’t like them with the furniture.  Got a new mattress for the guest bed, and didn’t realize I should have gone with a low-profile boxspring…looks ridiculous…like a princess and the pea bed.

At least I can usually make a cake look nice, although it’s not hard to do when the cake has a layer of gorgeous ruby-red cranberry jam running through it.  This Not-Just-For-Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread Cake that Jessica of Singleton in the Kitchen chose for TWD seemed more puffy cookie than fluffy cake to me, but I was more than happy to gobble it up.  It’s very good, and it’s not just for Thanksgiving at all.  I really like a nice, tart cranberry sauce, but it could just as easily be filled with fruit jam.  In fact, I’m tempted to try it with the lingonberry jam I buy from IKEA, and also to see if a half-recipe with fit in a loaf pan, because I think it would make for nice bars.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, or read Singleton in the Kitchen.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

I have a dentist appointment today…time to see if the past six months of sweets have caught up with me!  Eek!

French Fridays with Dorie: Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

October 29, 2010 at 12:01 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, french fridays with dorie, groups, simple cakes, sweet things | 27 Comments

marie-hélène's apple cake

I mentioned last time we met, that R and I went apple picking in Warwick, NY.  Sometimes it’s really nice to escape the city and go to a place that looks like this.  It’s also nice to have a bin full of apples at home!  The first thing I did with them was to make Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake.

This cake is easy to make because it’s easy to mix.   No creaming required, as it uses melted butter.  I actually used browned butter in my cake, which wasn’t entirely intentional (I put it on to melt before I’d had my morning coffee), but as soon as I tasted the cake, I knew it wasn’t a mistake either.  Rum and vanilla flavor the apples, and while you could use cinnamon instead if you wanted, I really think that apples and vanilla are a fabulous combination.  I went a tad skimpy on the sugar measurement, because although I was using a mix of apple varieties (like Dorie and her friend Marie-Hélène recommend), they were all on the sweet side.  There’s really only just enough batter here to hold together all the chunks of apple, and the result is an almost puddingy-soft texture inside.  Definitely one I will make again.

For the recipe, see Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here on Epicurious).  Don’t forget to check out my fellow francophiles’ posts!

Want more apple cake?  How about Double Apple Bundt Cake, Fresh Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze, Applesauce Spice Bars or Applesauce Snack Cake?

“Anyway You Like It” Pumpkin Bread

October 14, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Posted in breakfast things, muffins & quick breads, simple cakes, sweet things | 6 Comments

"anyway you like it" pumpkin bread

Before I’m able to face the slew of holidays that are fast-approaching, I need to clear my cupboard of the ghosts of holidays past.  Here, I’m talking about a freakin’ can of pumpkin pie “mix” I bought at some point last year, thinking it was straight-up pumpkin.  I always think I must be losing it when I do stuff like that, but gosh, don’t those cans look so similar?  That slip-up is far more understandable than the times I’ve returned from the grocery store and put my purse in the fridge!

I had to get rid of that can, because it’s been taunting me for almost a year now.  I didn’t know what to do with pumpkin pie mix, though, because I have no idea how much sugar is really in there, so I turned to the expert source, none other than the Libby’s website, for a little help.

What I came away with was a great pumpkin bread recipe that promises it can be made “anyway you like it.”  Hmmm…I like it with chocolate chips (I am always surprised by how good the pumpkin-chocolate combination is) and spinkled with a little spice sugar, so I don’t mind if I do.  This bread may not have quite the texture you’d normally expect for pumpkin bread, but that’s because it really has very little added fat.  It’s still quite moist, and kept just fine for three days, so I’d gladly trade the reduced oil for reduced guilt (and chocolate chips!).

“Anyway You Like It” Pumpkin Bread- makes one 8 x 4-inch loaf
adapted from Very Best Baking

Steph’s Note: The recipe below is half the size of the one on the website, which makes two loaves and uses a big 30 oz can of pie mix.  If you’re more in the mood for mini-loaves or muffins, those variations are at the end. 

1 3/4 c + 2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 t pumpkin pie spice
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 c stir-ins (raisins, sweetened dried cranberries, chopped dates, nuts or chocolate chips)
1 15 oz can of pumpkin pie mix (the stuff with some sugar and spices added)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup orange juice, apple juice, skim milk or water
1 large egg
1 to 1 1/2 T sprinkle-ons (chopped nuts, cinnamon sugar, seeds such as: poppy, sesame or sunflower, optional)

-Preheat oven to 350° F.  Grease an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan.

-Combine flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.  Combine pumpkin pie mix, oil, orange juice and eggs in another large bowl. Pour pumpkin mixture into flour mixture; stir just until moistened.  Fold in stir-ins. Spoon batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle with your choice of sprinkle-ons.

-Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.

for four 5 1/2 x 3 1/4-inch mini-loaf pans:
-Prepare as above. Bake for 38 to 42 minutes.

for one dozen muffin cups:
-Preheat oven to 400° F. Prepare as above. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes.

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