Queen of Sheba Cake

Oh Julia, you do know best. You changed the world of home cooking forever and we are so grateful for it. No one will be able to impact the professional and domestic inspired way of cooking like she did. When I first purchased her very famous book I could barely contain my excitement every recipe is pure gold. We try to cook out of it as often as possible all the recipes we have made taste perfect. This cake was no exception. It was dense and moist, and the rum flavor just made it sing. The frosting, oh my goodness, the frosting. I could have ate a bowl of it, and for someone who does not like chocolate frosting at all this was a big deal. This frosting tastes like chocolate silk. My one word of advice for this cake is do not, by any means skimp on the quality of the chocolate you use. You will taste the difference and for utter and complete decadence use a high quality 55-65% cocoa chocolate bars or buttons.

Since I had not made this cake before I wanted to make a small sample to test it. To see what I may have to change in regards to temperature, technique, and flavor. Why would I question Julia Child? Well it was because I have never made an almost flour-less cake like this before so I was a little concerned, completely unwarranted as it turned out perfect of course. When the trial cake came out of the oven Frank would not stop eating and said “I want to smear this all over my face, it’s so good.” In the movie Julie and Julia they make this cake seem very decadent as Julie’s husband smears it all over his face moaning “it is so good”. We used to laugh at it and think how odd, and what a waste of cake. Now we completely agree with the reaction in the movie it is spot on. This is now his favorite chocolate cake, and it was hard for him to admit that after the Chocolate Ginger Cake.

The recipe was taken directly from the book. I didn’t make any variations or changes, so the recipe will not be posted. I highly recommend you pick up Mastering the Art of French Cooking: by Juila Child. This is a book that should be in every cook’s kitchen, even if you think you cannot cook. The way the recipes are written makes it so that just about anyone with any amount of skill in the kitchen can succeed at making french food and just might learn a few things in the process. Now that I say that I think that maybe I should send my sister-in-law a copy…

Bon appétit!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

A repost and an anniversary of sorts!

I got a text from a close friend that just said she was coming by to make chocolate chip cookies. No reason other than just “it’s a long story”. It ended up being for one of those great “I win” moments in a relationship when someone presents you with “the best” of something and it ends up being sort of unmemorable. Then you get this smirk on your face as your mind starts going and you know you can do better or know someone whose is better. Being almost as competitive as my friend is, I was all for this cookie competition.

It also happens to be just over a year since my old oven broke and was replaced with the new one I have now. The first test of my new oven involved this classic cookie so it is very fitting (and freakish coincidence) that I’m making them again. Oh what a pain that was, to get a new oven through our apartment’s management company. Just getting it installed and working correctly was a day full of phone calls and complaints and some frustration on the part of the guy who finally hooked it up. I made these for my husband and also a thank you to my building manager who had to put up with me calling him and nagging about the stove more times than should have been necessary.

These are really good cookies but wow did I have some problems with consistency yesterday. Every time I bake a recipe that uses U.S. customary units I have such inconsistent results that I’m disappointed and irritated until I make them right. Thankfully I remembered the advice of all great pastry chefs and I busted out my kitchen scale and weighed my ingredients this time and officially converted my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe to metric. It makes a such a huge difference and results in the perfect cookie every time. Some day I will write a post singing the praises of using a kitchen scale like this one for baking, but in the mean time I hope you give it a try. You will be very pleased with the consistant results you get and how much sense it makes to weigh dry ingredients (and sometimes wet, like egg whites) rather than measure by volume.

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Chocolate Ginger Cake w/ Bourbon Butter Caramel Sauce

Back in October we went to my favorite restaurant for dinner and the dessert of the week was a chocolate ginger cake. One bite and I had to try to replicate it, it tasted like Christmas. Yes, I realize this is late for a Christmas cake, but it’s also an ideal winter cake.  The cake has a thick, fudgy texture that feels sinful to eat. What really makes this cake sing though is the bourbon caramel sauce. Serve it warm with some toasted pecans and crème fraîche and you have a highly complex, impressive dessert that is decadent and leaves you wanting more (usually because the person next to you kept stealing bites). This dessert will ruin your New Years diet resolution, so I am sorry.

The great thing about this recipe is it’s a one pot wonder. The bundt pan I used was a gift for my birthday, and gave an amazing look to the cake. I have mentioned before about the trick to use dark pans vs light pans is to turn down the oven slightly by with a darker pan to avoid an over cooked outside with a undercooked interior. So keep that in mind when making this cake the temperature will go down 25°F if you will be using a dark aluminum pan.

The caramel is a basic butter caramel I have made before with some adjustments to make it dark and rich with the amazing flavor of the added bourbon. The leftover caramel sauce can (should) be saved in a sealed container in the refrigerator, because it is simply amazing on ice cream. Give this a try for your next party, or just to warm and spice up a cold winter dinner, you will not be disappointed.

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Amazing Brown Butter Brownies

I made these again this weekend and they turned out so good I thought I should give this recipe a bump and a new picture. I didn’t change anything with the recipe and they turned out better than ever. So read on and enjoy!

(Originally posted March 11th, 2011)

It’s friday, the weekend is here. I got a lovely dozen white roses yesterday from my husband to cheer me up after the past quite stressful and emotional two weeks. It worked, they look amazing. So, to do something equally nice I decided to make him brownies. I know they are his favorite and bring back memories of the very first thing I ever made for him. When we first moved in together 9 years ago, he was working nights, and I knew when he got home in the early morning he would go to his computer to play a few turns on a game and stay up for a few hours. To surprise him I made a batch of brownies and left them on his desk. Of course, they were received with much delight. Until that day I had never made brownies from scratch – they were always from a box. Since that day I refuse to make brownies from a box again.

I have never made brownies using this technique but I am sure they will be received with just as much joy and welcome as the first time I made him brownies. Browning the butter adds a nutty toffee element to the brownies, and adding in the espresso powder just enhances the chocolate flavor. The crunchy top, and fudge like center make this by far the best damn brownie I have had in my life, and that is not an exaggeration. My suggestion, make them when you will not be alone with them for hours. This recipe does require quite a bit of arm strength and at a few points things might not look right but trust me, in the end the work for these is worth it! Chocoholics beware.. this will take a lot of will power to resist consuming the entire pan.

Brown Butter Brownies

  • 10 tbsp Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/4 c Sugar
  • 3/4 c Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp Espresso Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 2 tbsp Water
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Paste or Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/3 c + 1 tbsp Unbleached Flour
  • 1 c Walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Using a Flour Baking spray, lightly spray a 8x8x2 Square Pan. Set aside.  In a small bowl combine, sugar, cocoa, salt, espresso powder and whisk to combine and set aside. In a small cup or bowl combine the eggs, water, and vanilla.  Whisk together to combine and set egg mixture aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat melt the butter.  When it starts to foam, stir it slowly for 2-4 min until you see the little brown bits of butter forming in the bottom of the pan.  Remove pan from heat.

Add in the cocoa and sugar mixture and stir till combined, it will look and appear gritty, this is ok. Let mixture cool for 5 min.

After you have let the mixture cool for the 5 min add in half of the egg mixture. Quickly mixing until well combined.   Add in the remaining egg mixture and stir till well combined, it will get thick and may look a bit smoother now.

Once the egg mixture is well combined add in the flour.  Stir vigorously stir for 20 strokes, scraping down the sides of the pan after the 20 strokes to combine into the rest of the batter.  The mixture will be thick and slowly become smoother.  Stir vigorously stir for another 20 strokes, scraping down the sides of the pan afterward to combine into the rest of the batter.  Your mixture should now become glossy and smooth. Stir vigorously for another 20 strokes (totaling 60), again scraping down the sides of the pan afterward like you have been doing.  Do not mix any more than this.  At this point you can stir in the nuts in no more than 5 strokes, or just turn the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25-30 min until a toothpick inserted into center comes out nearly clean.  It should still have some crumbs and look slightly like fudge,  but it should not look runny like batter.  If you see batter cook for 3 more min and test again.

Cool completely before cutting/serving. Due to soft fudge nature of the cake it must cool completely, about 2-3 hours.

Adapted: Bon Appetit

Chocolate Macarons with Coffee Buttercream

I now understand the term macaron madness.  I cannot believe how much fun I am having making these things!  Honestly, I don’t need this many macarons in the house and I wish all of you could show up just to take some away.  They are just too hard to resist eating.

For this batch of macarons, I wanted to come up with a filling that would require egg yolks.  I was left with three for every batch of macarons and would rather not waste them.  So, I took some inspiration from my favorite cooking show,  Masterchef Australia (link at the bottom). This version of buttercream uses egg yolks – yay no waste! – and it’s very smooth which complements the cocoa shells wonderfully.  I decided to add half of the espresso powder in the buttercream near the end give an almost crunchy texture to the cream with tiny bursts of coffee flavor to wash away the sweetness of the macaron. I don’t think it could have turned out any better.

Macarons are the bane and bliss of many food bloggers.  I have been semi-successful before but that was nearly a year ago.  I wanted to make them again as an alternative to my birthday cake. The problem was, my old recipe wasn’t working for me.  I wasn’t getting any pied or feet, I blame the new oven I got in the spring.   I gave up for a while until I read Tartelettes ebook, Demystifying Macarons.  When you want to make macarons, Tartelette is a pretty reliable go-to.  I had multiple success now with her recipe and technique by mixing it with some other little tips and tricks that worked for me.

Remember when you were told as a kid, “practice makes perfect”?  Well, Parisian macarons fall along those lines.  I cannot explain well enough in words what the mixture should be like.  Where to be gentle, where to just stir with some vigor, and the exact texture.  I will tell you I have found that adding cocoa powder produces a chewier cookie, and takes less folds than the basic macaron recipe does.  So, it’s just working with the basic recipe enough times to gain a feel for it, to know when you are at the right constancy.  If you decide to go down this road of trial and error, I promise to send you happy pastry thoughts.

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Vanilla Bean Ice Cream & Dark Chocolate Sauce

I know you are thinking, “What!? Ice cream without a machine? You woman, are insane!” Ok so you’re not thinking that exactly but I am nothing if not eccentric and quirky. So, however true that may be, I might add that I have quite an affection for vanilla bean ice cream, and even though most of the store bought varieties are made with dried flavorless seeds that have had the flavor sucked out and are there for mostly looks.  I love to see the speckles of vanilla goodness.

If you have followed me for even just a bit or looked back at my posts, I have a chocolate ice cream that doesn’t require a machine.  Our tiny apartment has a kitchen the size of cubicle, i just cannot afford the space for an item that would get only seasonal use.   I found a chocolate no ice cream maker ice cream, and made it into a mocha and rocky road, now modified into vanilla ice cream happiness.

Originally I had bought ice cream to go with my tart tatin.  I picked up a brand that claimed to have only 5 ingredients.  Of course a first trial of a mini tarte tatin with the ice cream was good but really it tasted like iced milk with a cheap extract.  I was not happy with it at all and however good and just delicious that tarte was, the ice cream ruined it.  I was not going to be happy until I had it perfect – another fun little quirk about me, I can be a little pedantic.

So with my ever quick wit and ever-growing desire to do things my way, I took that recipe and made it into vanilla bean dream ice cream!  By infusing the beans of the two pods with the extract, it made such an intense vanilla flavor that is hands down the best damn vanilla ice cream I have had.   So here ya go, 4 ingredients to awesome vanilla ice cream (no machine required!) I have ever had.

Also, my home-made chocolate sauce!  Super easy just takes 10 minutes and lasts for 2-4 weeks sealed and refrigerated.

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Quick Chocolate Mousse

Both of us were having a massive chocolate craving, so I glanced around in my fridge and freezer to see what I had.  I peaked my head out of the kitchen and shouted “mystery box challenge!”  Yeah, that was a Masterchef Australia reference.    I’m a big dork, but at least I acknowledge it and don’t even try to hide it, it’s what makes me awesome!   This was just one of those dishes that I was in almost shock of when it was completed.  Mostly because it really tasted just that amazing.  It took longer for me to figure out what to do almost giving up before I knew exactly what to make.

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