Thursday, May 29, 2008

Chocolate Coconut Caramel Cake

Chocolate Coconut Caramel Cake

Chocolate Coconut Caramel Cake

This cake was meant to be a swan song of sorts. Between a full schedule of work and summer classes, there's no time for complex baking projects. I'll be moving soon, so I used up most of my baking ingredients on a multi-component cake. Now I can slowly start packing up the kitchen.

I picked this recipe from Payard's Chocolate Epiphany because the chocolate cake looked extremely simple. It's made with simple ingredients and simple techniques. I'd use it for other layer cakes because it's moist and it has good structure.

I didn't think the directions for this cake were particularly well explained; I wasn't sure what the cooked egg mixture for the mousse was supposed to look like, and I had a lot of trouble with temperatures. The recipe says the caramel glaze should be applied close to body temperature, but even at 80 degrees it was very runny.

I know that restaurants often use cream with a higher fat content. This might have been the problem, but it could have been a problem with my kitchen scale. If you have more success with the glaze, let me know. Mine tasted great, but it was more like a caramel sauce.

The best part was the filling. I loved the combination of rich chocolate mousse and dense, dark caramel. The toasted coconut garnish was also a nice touch.

Chocolate Coconut Caramel Cake
adapted from Payard's Chocolate Epiphany

Caramel Filling
1/4 cup (70g) light corn syrup
2/3 cup (125g) sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (150g) heavy cream, at room temperature (*you can warm it briefly on the stove or in the microwave)
3 tbsp (50g) unsalted butter, at room temperatre, cut into small pieces

Vegetable cooking spray, for the pan
2 1/3 cups (235g) all-purpose flour
2 tsp (10g) baking soda
1 2/3 cup (335g) sugar
2 tsp (7g) salt
1 cup (225g) buttermilk
3/4 cup (170g) vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (45g) dutch processed cocoa powder

Chocolate Mousse
1/2 cup (125g) heavy cream
3 oz (82g) 72% chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (62g) whole milk
1/3 cup (62g) sugar
2 large egg yolks

Caramel Glaze
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 1/3 cups (330g) heavy cream, at room temperature
4 oz (120g) milk chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp (30g) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (135g) light corn syrup

2 cups (150g) unsweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted

Make the caramel filling: Place the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Pour the sugar over the corn syrup and let the sugar begin to melt. When the mixture begins to turn slightly golden, stir it gently with a wooden spoon to make sure that the sugar dissolves and the caramelization is even. If sugar sticks to the sides of the pan, dip a pastry brush in water and brush the sides. Once the sugar reaches a dark amber color, after 5-10 minutes, add the cream and keep stirring over the heat, to ensure the sugar is completely melted. The sugar mixture will splatter, so be sure to not stand directly in front of the pan when you do this.

Transfer the caramel to a bowl and let it cool to room temperature, then stir in the butter until it is fully incorporated. Place the caramel in the refrigerator for about 1 hour, until it is thick but still spreadable. You can also make this a day ahead. In this case, soften the caramel in the microwave before using in 10 second increments, until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

Make the cake: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Spray a 9inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Cut a 9inch round of parchment paper, place it at the bottom of the pan, and spray it as well. (Use a 9x3 or taller cake pan- 2 inches will be too short).

Sift together the flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt over a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, and eggs, and add them to the dry ingredients. Whisk until the ingredients are just combined.

Place 1/2 cup (125g) water in a small saucepan over medium high heat, and bring to a boil. Whisk in the cocoa powder, and let the mixture return to a boil, constantly whisking. Pour it over the batter, and stir it in with a spatula or wooden spoon. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for about 30 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the sides slightly pull back from the edges of the pan. Let cool in the pan. (My baking time was 40-45 minutes).

Make the chocolate mousse: Pour the cream in a large bowl and whisk until it holds soft peaks. Set aside. Place the chocolate in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

Bring the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with the yolks until the mixture turns a pale yellow. Pour a third of the milk into the yolk mixture and whisk until the mixture is well combined. Lower the heat to low. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, and return to the heat. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook the mixture until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon, about 3 minutes.

Pour the mixture over the chocolate, and whip on medium high speed until the mixture is cool, becomes very fluffy, and nearly doubles in volume, 10-15 minutes. With a spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, and refrigerate until ready to use, at least 15 minutes and up to 2 days.

Make the caramel glaze: Place the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. When the sugar begins to turn slightly golden, gently stir it with a wooden spoon to make sure that the sugar dissolves and the caramelization is even. If sugar sticks to the side of the pan, dip a pastry brush in water and brush the sides. When the caramel turns a light caramel color, add the cream and keep stirring over the heat, to ensure that the sugar is completely melted. The mixture will splatter, so do not stand directly in front of the pan. Remove from the heat, and stir in the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup. The glaze should be warm, close to body temperature, when you pour it over the cake. If it cools down too much, transfer it to a microwave safe bowl and reheat it in the microwave in 10 second increments until it's pourable.

Assemble the cake: Line a baking sheet with wax paper, and place a wire cooling rack on top of the paper. Unmold the cake. If necessary, trip the top of the cake w/ a serrated knife to make it flat. Cut it horizontally into two even layers. Place the top layer of the cake in front of you on a 9 inch cardboard cake round. Spread all of the caramel filling over the cake, then spread the chocolate mousse over the caramel. Place the bottom layer of the cake, bottom side up, over the mousse. This will ensure that the surface of the cake is smooth, which will make its coating easier.

Without removing the cake board, transfer the cake to the cooling rack and pour the caramel glaze over the cake. Use an offset spatula that is larger than the diameter of the cake to help the glaze flow down over the sides. The whole cake should be coated. Without removing it from the rack, refrigerate it for 30-60 minutes, until the glaze has set up. It will feel sticky, but will be thicker and firmer.

Place the coconut on a piece of wax paper. With a large serving spatula, carefully remove the cake, still on the board, from the rack and place it in the center of your left hand (or right if you are left handed) over the paper. With the over hand, scoop up the coconut and press it on the sides of the cake. When the cake is coated all the way around, place it on a serving platter. Refrigerate the cake until you are ready to serve it, up to 1 day. Remove the cake from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Yeasted Waffles

Yeasted Waffles

Yeasted Waffles

Of all the waffles i've made from scratch, these were my favorite. They were extremely crunchy, buttery, and slightly sour from the yeast. I dipped them in syrup. I dipped them in coffee. I slathered them with the last of my Nutella.

Since I was only cooking for two, I ended up with a gallon sized plastic bag stuffed with leftover waffles. I've been reheating them in the toaster, which works perfectly well if you don't mind the occasional burnt edges.

I'm working on a doozy of a cake (chocolate, caramel filling, chocolate mousse filling, milk chocolate caramel glaze...) for my friends who come over for Top Chef. I'm hoping it will turn out well; I definitely charred some candied orange peels yesterday and spilled chocolate cake batter inside the oven...

Someone asked for the rhubarb compote recipe I used. I can't remember where I found it, but it involved rhubarb, sugar, and orange juice and zest.

Yeasted Waffles
adapted from Cook's Illustrated

The batter must be made 12 to 24 hours in advance. If you want to keep waffles warm, place them on a wire rack set above a baking sheet, cover them with a clean kitchen towel, and place the baking sheet in a 200-degree oven. When the final waffle is in the iron, remove the towel to allow the waffles to crisp for a few minutes. (They are better fresh though). You can also freeze cooked waffles and reheat them in the toaster on a very low setting.

1 3/4 cups whole milk , or low-fat milk, or skim milk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 8 pieces
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat milk and butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool milk/butter mixture until warm to touch. Meanwhile, whisk flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in large bowl to combine. Gradually whisk warm milk/butter mixture into flour mixture; continue to whisk until batter is smooth. In small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla until combined, then add egg mixture to batter and whisk until incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 12 and up to 24 hours.

2. Following manufacturer’s instructions, heat waffle iron; remove waffle batter from refrigerator when waffle iron is hot (batter will be foamy and doubled in size). Whisk batter to recombine (batter will deflate). Bake waffles according to manufacturer’s instructions (use about ½ cup for 7-inch round iron and about 1 cup for 9-inch square iron). Serve waffles immediately or hold in low temperature oven.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Afternoon Chocolate Cake

Afternoon Chocolate Cake

I made some fantastic rhubarb-orange compote and quick pickles last week, but neither photographed very well. The natural lighting has been lousy, and my roommate's lovely table that so many of you commented on was loaded into a car bound for Buck's County, PA. I'm keeping my eye on craigslist for a new one.

I picked up Payard's Chocolate Epiphany from the library yesterday. I really like it so far; it lists very accurate gram measurements and strikes a good balance between simple and complex recipes.

This Afternoon Chocolate Cake only requires five ingredients and 23 minutes. Given my current lack of time and enthusiasm for baking, it seemed like a great starting point. It's a thin, dense chocolate cake that's something like fudge or a very dense brownie. Its texture depends significantly on temperature. It's great with ice cream or coffee.

The recipe suggests cooling this cake for 2-3 hours before serving. After about two hours it was somewhat like a warm brownie. After a day in the refrigerator, it had a more solid, fudgy texture. I'd like to try adding some toasted pecans, or infusing the butter with spices like cardamom and white pepper.

I'm looking forward to trying some other recipes from the book. It looks really promising.

Charlie's Afternoon Chocolate Cake
adapted from Payard's Chocolate Epiphany

10 tbsp (150g) unsalted butter
8 oz (250g) 60% chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
2/3 cup (125g) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (75g) all purpose flour
9 inch round cake pan or springform pan

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Spray the sides and bottom of a 9in round cake pan with cooking spray. Dust it with flour, shaking off the excess, and set aside.

Bring the butter to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir a couple of times to prevent it from burning. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate to the pan. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Whisk together the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until well combined. Add the flour and mix well. Add the chocolate to the batter and stir until the mixture is just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven to 300F and bake for an additional 8 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool completely in the pan. Unmold and serve. This cake may be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to a month.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Queen of the Hash Browns.



This morning, I couldn't remember if i'd ever eaten hashbrowns. I've had my fair share of breakfast potatoes and frozen, packaged potato products like tater tots, but I have little recollection of hashbrowns beyond rehydrating gigantic cartons of dried potato shreds to fry for a summer camp.

I frequently ignore potato recipes. Baked, mashed, or gratineed, they've never struck me as intensely flavorful or interesting. I think of potatoes and I think heavy: dense potato salads, side dishes laden with butter and cream, or extra carbs that people want to avoid. Of course there are some exceptions; I love roasted potatoes with rosemary and garlic.

On a whim, I decided to try this recipe for hashbrowns. Ruth Reichl really touts hashbrowns in Garlic and Sapphires. I was tempted by the process of a crispy potato cake that required few ingredients and little labor.

I loved these hashbrowns. They tasted just like I imagined they should: hot, crunchy, and well seasoned. Sometimes I forget how good the simplest recipes can be. Salt, pepper, and good butter go a long way. Since these hashbrowns cost less than a dollar to make, i'll definitely make them again soon.

Cooking hashbrowns is easy; as long as you heat the butter enough, you can ignore them until they're really, really brown and crispy. You'll smell it if they're burning. This recipe calls for 1 pound of potatoes for a 10-inch skillet; however, I used one large russet in an 8-inch skillet. Next time, I think i'll add some chives, scallions, or cheese.

Classic Hash Browns
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
serves 4

To prevent potatoes from turning brown, grate them just before cooking.

1 pound high-starch potatoes such as russets or Idahos, peeled, washed, dried, grated coarse, and squeezed dry in a dish towel (1 1/2 cups loosely packed grated potatoes)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
Ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter

1. Toss fully dried grated potatoes with salt and pepper in a medium bowl.

2. Meanwhile, heat half the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until it just starts to brown, then scatter potatoes evenly over entire pan bottom. Using a wide spatula, firmly press potatoes to flatten; reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until dark golden brown and crisp, 7 to 8 minutes.

3. Invert hash browns, browned side up, onto a large plate; add remaining butter to pan. Once butter has melted, slide hash browns back into pan. Continue to cook over medium heat until remaining side is dark golden brown and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes longer.

4. Fold the potato round in half; cook about 1 minute longer. Slide hash browns onto plate or cutting board, cut into wedges, and serve immediately.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Carrot Cupcakes w/ Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Cupcakes w/ Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Cupcakes w/ Cream Cheese Frosting

I've gone through rather pronounced baking phases this year. Some involve a specific ingredient (bananas, semolina) and others involve a specific technique or cookbook.

At the moment I think i'm in baking limbo. I've been uninspired. I'm baking less frequently and i'm unfocused. I am impatient for the end of this strange, rainy, in-between season.

I have repeated a few recipes: cardamom poundcakes, granola, and these little carrot honey cakes with orange cream cheese frosting. I'm hosting a brunch on Sunday and i'll be repeating David Leite's baked french toast along with some steel cut oatmeal.

I'm really looking forward to the summer. There was some fantastic looking rhubarb at the food co-op today, so I bought a pound. I'll probably make a compote. Tomorrow i'm planning to visit the farmers' market in the Strip District and make some pickles.

Maybe the imminent influx of cherries, berries, peaches, and tomatoes will pull me out of this slump!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cardamom Pound Cake

Cardamom Pound Cake

Cardamom Pound Cake

"You might have to make another one of these before you go."

That was my mom's verdict on this rich, warmly spiced pound cake. It's a simple recipe that I highly recommend to anyone who likes cardamom. I like it lightly toasted with black coffee, but it'd be great with fruit compote or ice cream as well.

I love how much my family and neighbors enjoy my baking. I made another Cardamom Crumb Cake and caught different people (myself included) picking at the streusel all day. I made granola, a flan, a breakfast bread pudding, two kinds of cookies, and an apple-raspberry crisp. Today i'm going to try and whip out a cheesecake before I start packing for my return to Pittsburgh.

On a side note, I much prefer David Leite's Baked French Toast to the Breakfast Bread Pudding in Fresh Every Day. The texture was pretty unfortunate.

Sour Cream Cardamom Pound Cake
adapted from Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day
makes 1 10-inch tube or bundt, or 2 9x5 inch loaf pans

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for buttering the pan
3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter a 10 inch tube pan or bundt pan (or 2 9 inch loaf pans) and dust lightly with flour. You can also line the pans with foil or parchment paper.

2. Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

3. In a separate large bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and cardamom together with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time.

4. Add a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix in half of the sour cream. Repeat, alternating between the flour mixture and sour cream and ending with the flour until all the ingredients are combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition and mix only until all the ingredients are incorporated and no flour is visible.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s) with a rubber spatula and smooth to even out the top. Bake the cake on the center rack of the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then turn the cake out of the pan onto a baking rack to cool completely. Serve warm or at room temperature. This cake will keep, tightly wrapped in plastic, for several days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Herbed Angel Biscuits

Herbed Angel Biscuits

Herbed Angel Biscuits

I dressed up these biscuits with fresh herbs from the Santa Monica Farmers' Market. I'm not entirely sure what I used; I think it was a mixture of parsley, thyme, and marjoram. They had crisp exteriors and fluffy, flaky insides. The herb flavor was subtle and paired nicely with chicken and soup.

Herbed Angel Biscuits
adapted from Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day
makes 12-15 2.5inch biscuits

1 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
3 cups self rising flour, or 3 cups all purpose flour mixed with 2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
8 tbsp (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces, plus more for buttering the baking sheet
1 cup well shaken buttermilk
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
about 2 tbsp minced herbs, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Lightly butter a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.

2. Stir the yeast and sugar together in a small bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup of warm water. Set the bowl in a warm place for about 5 minutes, until the mixture bubbles and doubles in volume.

3. Meanwhile, stir the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Add the shortening and the cold butter pieces and cut them into the flour with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in the fresh herbs, if using.

4. Add the buttermilk to the yeast and stir to combine. Pour the buttermilk-yeast mixture into the flour-butter mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough just starts to stick together. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it forms a ball. Do not add more flour than is needed to keep the dough from sticking and do not mix or work the dough any more than is necessary to bring it together.

5. Roll the dough about 3/4 inch thick and cut with a 2.5 inch biscuit cutter, leaving as little space between each cut as possible. If the dough sticks to the cutter, dip the cutter in flour. (I shaped the dough into a square and cut it with a dough scraper).

6. Place the biscuits on the baking sheet. If you want the sides to be soft, arrange the biscuits with their sides touching. If you want the sides to be crispy, leave 1 inch between the biscuits. Lightly brush the tops with melted butter and bake for 18-20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Los Angeles Eating.

Paulette Macaron

Paulette Macaron

Croissant from Boule

Nougat from Boule

Canele, Fleur de Sel Caramel Eclair

I had a full day of driving today and by the time I got home it was a little dark for photography. I settled for dark photos because I wanted to sample all of these pastries with my mom as soon as possible.

I wanted to try some new bakeries and restaurants during this trip, so I took some cues from Potatomato. It's a great blog with photos from many Los Angeles area restaurants. Here are some of the places I went:

Clementine is an upscale deli where you order at the counter, take a number, and find a table. It was insanely crowded (the lunch rush is usually from 12-2pm) but the food was great. Some of the flavor combinations were really interesting: red onions pickled with ginger and citrus, roasted tomato mayo, caper and anchovy vinaigrette...I was too full to try any pastries. I hear they are good.

I had lunch at Joe's again. It was a little disappointing. Maybe it was an off day, or maybe they're still recovering from a recent chef change. Joe's is near Jin Patisserie which i'm also hoping to visit again this trip.

I finally went to Patisserie Chantilly in Lomita. It was fantastic! I tried a few pastries, and my favorite was a tart cheesecake with candied citrus and a shortbread crust. It's two doors down from a great place for udon noodles. I can't remember the name but it was fabulous. I had wakame udon.

Today, after a visit to UCLA I stopped at Paulette Macarons. I preferred the macarons that had caramel filling rather than buttercream (salted caramel and New Orleans praline were amazing!) The macarons were soft and slightly cakelike- spongy rather than crispy.

I also stopped at Boule. I've read some mixed reviews of this place, but I liked it. The canele, fleur de sel caramel eclair, and croissant were fantastic. The nougat was so-so.

I also had dinners at Darya (great Persian food) and Pine Tree Korean BBQ (a family favorite. I love the little side dishes).

I think that's everywhere I went!