January 31, 2013

Polenta Chocolate Cake

Robin, 9 January 2013, “Varieties of Short”

8 oz dark chocolate, preferably G&B’s own either 70% or—recommended—the blow-your-socks-off 85% cocoa solids dark chocolate, which is intense.  I find it a little too intense for plain eating but the sock-blowing thing happens when you bake with it.

125g (4 ½ oz) good quality slightly salted butter

5 large eggs, separated

150g (5 oz) granulated sugar.  The original recipe calls for caster, which is finer-grained.  I like granulated, which seems to me to leave a faint residue of grittiness even after baking, although I may be hallucinating this.

100g (3 ½ oz) polenta.  Again, the original recipe stipulates fine.  In my experience this cake doesn’t really rise anyway, it falls.  It’s going to be gooey and sticky whatever you do.  I like the slight grittiness of not-quite-fine polenta.  All those eggs will stop it from being heavy, so if you like gritty, go for not-quite-fine.  I also prefer yellow to white.  This may also be hallucination but I think the yellow has a stronger flavour.

The original recipe also calls for rum.  Feh.  I like rum, in its place, but this isn’t its place.  I use about two tsps of good vanilla—and I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, but you all remember my doodah about GOOD vanilla, right?  None of this vanilla flavouring scam.  Get the real thing.

The original recipe tells you to butter and flour a 10” deep-sided springform cake tin.  I don’t.  This is going to be STICKY so I want it shallow so I can get it out better.  Springform is fine but I don’t think they make shallow springform?  Dunno.  But you could have chocolate-polenta goo all over your counter if you took the sides off too soon.  I use an ordinary big flat cake tin, butter and flour it AND THEN line with parchment paper and butter and flour again.

Melt the chocolate and butter in your bain-marie, let cool, vigorously beat in egg yolks one at a time, and then beat in about half the sugar.  It should be so gorgeously thick and creamy you have trouble not saying ‘bag the polenta’ and eating it as is.

Beat the egg whites with the rest of the sugar.  You want it as airy as possible but as I say, this cake is going to fall so don’t kill yourself over this.

Stir the polenta and vanilla into the chocolate mixture.

Finally ‘fold in’ the egg whites as the cookbooks always say, like this is going to work. You do want to preserve as much of the air and structure as possible, but it is going to collapse, so don’t let this disturb you.  Stir gently, till it’s shiny and homogenous.

Pour, still gently, into the cake pan, smooth the top, and bake at 350F/180C.  The original recipe says 40 minutes, but it’s supposing a deep-sided pan.  Because I am a twit, I have not written down how long I expect it to take.  I’d guess about half an hour.  It will change colour and look like it’s trying to turn into a cake . . . but as I say, think sticky.  Then take it out of the oven and let sit FOR A VERY LONG TIME.  Unless you want chocolate-cornmeal soup.  Not that this is a bad thing.  It WILL SINK as it cools.  Not to worry.

Dust it with icing sugar.  Then cut it up kindly and patiently into squarish globs.

Red Velvet Cake

Robin, 9 Oct 2011, ‘Geography and Chocolate’

½ c soft butter

1 ½ c golden sugar:  the raw, low-refined kind that isn’t the pure white of standard granulated.  It doesn’t have as much flavour as brown, but more than white, and it’s mellower than dark brown (and more interesting than light brown.  Say I).

2 large eggs

1 tsp REAL vanilla

2 c flour, or maybe a little more

¼ c unsweetened non-Dutch-process ‘natural’ cocoa powder

pinch salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 c buttermilk, or 1 c milk minus 1T, plus 1T vinegar to sour it.  I’ve been told many times this is cheating, but it’s a lot easier than finding buttermilk and then figuring out something to do with the rest of it.  Theoretically, I think, if you’re using vinegar, it should be skim or low-fat milk—‘butter’ milk is a misnomer—but I always used to use whole/full fat because that’s what I drank, and it worked fine.  Most of that soured-milk stuff works semi-interchangeably in baking—I always thought—you get a slightly different taste and texture if it’s sour cream or yogurt, say, but if your ingredients, especially your chocolate, are good quality it’ll all be silky—or velvety—and damnably excellent.

Standard cake deal:  cream butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs.  Sift dry and add alternately with sour milk.  Beat hard, but don’t hang about either:  as soon as the vinegar hits the baking soda your batter starts expanding.  Turn into 2 8” or 9” round pans with removable bottoms which have first been buttered and floured with great enthusiasm and thoroughness.  (A greased and floured cut-out of parchment paper works just as well if you don’t have push-out-bottom pans.)  350°F about half an hour:  the layers should rise in the middle, and the edges start to pull away from the pan walls.  Let cool at least ten or fifteen minutes before you try and get them out of the pans.  I tend to think soured-milk cakes are more fragile than others, but that may just be my karma.

Frost when cool.  I recommend vanilla buttercream, myself, but as you like.

Sooty Cake

21 Aug 2010, Robin ‘Vote, vote, vote, vote, vote!!!!’.

125g butter

2 c plain flour

250 ml stout or porter: you want the darkest, richest beer you can find. The kind that has echoes on your tongue long after you’ve finished swallowing a mouthful. I live near the Best Pub in Hampshire and it makes a porter to die for. Except they don’t make it all the time. Sometimes you have to settle for draught Guinness.

2c dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/4c + cocoa: I use about 5T. You could try 6. I probably will the next time I make it.

1 tsp baking soda

Grease and flour an 8” cake pan with collapsible/detachable sides, although if you line it with parchment paper I’m sure you’d be fine with the solid kind. Heat oven to 350°F.

Cream butter and sugar thoroughly. Add eggs one at a time, and beat furiously. It’s going to curdle the minute you add the beer, so you want it as homogenous as possible at this stage.

Blend cocoa with a little of the beer in a separate bowl to make a kind of runny paste, then beat the rest of the beer into the butter/egg mixture. Beat in about half the flour, then sprinkle the baking soda over with about half the remaining flour and beat all that in. Then beat in the beer-cocoa, and last the final one-quarter of the flour. Beer is variable, like so much else in life and baking, and if your batter seems excessively liquid, add some more flour. First time I made this it didn’t rise properly—or rather it rose and then fell in the middle—but it cooked through and tasted great and even the texture was fine. Once I cut it up (supposing you are a master at the craft of cutting up fallen cakes to not show their fallenness, which I am) no one would guess. Next time I made it I allowed myself to paranoiacally add about another ¼ c of flour, and it behaved itself, but beer varies, especially, I think, home-made beer from the Best Pub in Hampshire. You’ll get a finer crumb, the less flour you think you can get away with, but this isn’t necessarily a cake that needs to be very fine.

Pour into cake tin and bake for 60-70 minutes, till it’s risen but (you hope) fairly firm in the middle and pulling gently away from the sides of the pan. Let cool a good half hour before you even try to get it out of the pan.

It’s very good with Earl Grey tea (if you like Earl Grey. Good Earl Grey, not perfumed floor sweepings). Just by the way.

Raspberry Streusel Cake

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 15 Aug 10

I’ve spent the last several years (when raspberries were in season) fiddling with this recipe and keep telling myself I need to write down the finished version. This contest makes the perfect reason to finally do so!

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Make the streusel.

1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. oats (chop them if you want a finer texture — I don’t bother)
3 Tablespoons firm butter

Mix until well combined (or crumbly) (I use a pastry knife, but I’m sure a fork and some determination works too) and set aside.

Make the batter:

1 c. flour
1 c. oats
1/2 c. brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 c. softened butter
1 c. milk
1 egg

Mix a little bit to combine ingredients, then beat for about 2 minutes (medium speed).

Spread half the batter in the pan, then as many raspberries as you want, then most of the streusel. Then, spread the second half of batter on top of that, then as many more raspberries as you want, then the remainder of the streusel.

I normally use a 9×13 pan, for which I use a double recipe of both streusel & batter. Some day I intend to try it in my smaller pan (8×11.5) to see if one recipe fills it, but I can’t quite bring myself to make a smaller pan of this yummy stuff! For my big pan I use about 2 pints of raspberries (roughly 1 pint per layer). I figure the more berries the better!

Bake until done (helpful, I know!). I start checking it after 35 min, but it often takes about 50 min. Since it has so many berries in it, I decide it’s done when the cake part gets a bit brown and the middle doesn’t wiggle too much when the pan is gently shaken.

I’ve never tried this with blackberries or other berries (I’m generally at Britt when our blackberries are most fruitful), but I bet it would work well with any of those kinds of berries.

Minty fudgy brownies

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 14 Aug 10

Adapted from some cookie book that once belonged to a roommate… Biggest changes – I use more/different chocolate, add mint chips, and take out some of the sugar.

6-8 oz semisweet chocolate (regular chocolate chips work fine)
3-4 oz dark chocolate ( >60% cocoa preferred)
2-3 oz mint chips (Guittard is the only brand I’ve found, but there may be others – tend to be easier to find around Xmas time)
1/2 c butter (I usually use just a little bit less)
1 – 1 1/3 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
1 1/4 cup flour
1 t vanilla
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350°.

Put butter, chocolate and mint chips in a saucepan on low heat. Let it all melt together (taking the time to let it melt into a really smooth mix is better than being impatient and letting it stay a little chunky). Remove from heat.

Add eggs and vanilla, mix well. Add sugar and salt, mix well. Add flour and baking powder, mix well.

Pour into a greased 13×9″ pan (or if you really want thick brownies, I have done this in a 9×9″ pan a couple times and it worked). Bake about 25 min – you want it to look *just* barely unfinished when you take ’em out of the oven. Have some patience and let them cool and set.

Cut ’em up and eat.

Mild variation – Either leave aside some of the chocolate and mint chips, or in addition to above measured quantities – mix some chips into batter with the flour, so then you get little chocolate chunks in the brownies.

The better the quality of the starting chocolate, the better the end product. It was quite startling how much of an impact this makes, the first time I discovered this.

I also make brownies with just semisweet (more or less the original recipe), or 50:50 mix of semisweet and bittersweet chocolate (depends on the audience). When I first added mint chips, I did 50:50 semisweet chocolate and mint, but discovered that using quite a bit less mint chips had almost as much impact, and allowed the brownies to be chocolaty-er. But proportions really depend on who I’m making the brownies for.

I also experimented with using chocolate chips and peppermint extract at one point when I couldn’t find mint chips, then I dropped and broke the bottle one day before I figured out the correct amount of extract, and discovered mint chips at the store a couple weeks later, and stocked up.

Honey Cake

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 11 Aug 10

1/2 cup honey (I’d recommend a light honey: clove or orange blossom)
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, warm
Additional flavorings optional (i.e. vanilla, citrus zest)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together honey and butter. Mix in eggs. In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.
Alternate mixing in a portion of dry ingredients with the warm milk until you have a smooth batter. The alternating is to keep it from lumping, which it will!
Here is where you would add any flavorings you desired.
Pour into loaf pan or an 8-in cake pan or cupcake pan, which ever is your preference. (Personal note: I’d not recommend the loaf pan, it tends to be too deep and the cake doesn’t always bake through but sometimes it does come out wonderfully…it’s finicky). Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the top is firm when tapped.

Bloody Doomsday Chocolate Raspberry Swirl (Vampire) Muffins

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 11 Aug 10

300 gr’ dark chocolate
200 gr’ butter
1.5 cups white flour
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
pinch of salt
1 tbsp brandy (or liqueur of choice)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (the real thing!)
1 tsp. baking powder
chocolate chips (optional)
raspberry preserves

Melt 200 gr’ chocolate, butter and sugar until smooth. add brandy (I used Drambuie cause I have no brandy at home just now) and vanilla. Add eggs gradually, then flour, salt and baking powder. Mix until smooth. Break apart the last 100 gr’ of chocolate into chunks and mix in.
Pour mixture into muffin tin (I use silicone), then swirl a bit of the raspberry preserves into each muffin. Bake for 20-25 mins at medium heat and enjoy!

A second option is to sprinkle the chocolate chips after swirling the preserves in, or to bake the mixture for 10-15 mins and only then add the preserves by injection. I made a couple of fang holes and filled them with the preserves. Just a suggestion – everything works here.

Berry Crumble Butter Cake

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 10 Aug 10

This is an entirely original recipe in that the cake base probably originated from a golden Wattle cook book sometime in the 1950s or ’60s… my mum baked a lot of cakes (6 kids can eat a cake like locusts on a pea plant – gone in seconds) so I learnt it from her – using wooden spoon measurements – as in, 2 spoonfuls of butter! I’m trying to convert back to real weights. The rest came from one of those happy accidents of wanting to use something up and not knowing what to do

Heat oven to 180 deg

185g butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups self raising flour
1/4 cup of milk

Berry mixture
Any combination of 3cups of stewed berries. It works really well with stewed apricots or apples as well. The key to this is that the majority of the liquid is removed. Do this by sitting in a fine-ish sieve for several hours, or by sitting a heavy ladle in the mixture, and spooning out the fluid as it fills. The final mixture should be almost thick enough hold its shape when a spoon is drawn through the middle.

Crumble mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 cups dessicated coconut

Cream eggs and sugar, beat in eggs, then flour and finally mix in milk. Should be a nice smooth creamy batter consistency. Put mixture into a buttered and papered 23cm round tin (or about a 20 cm square one). Top with berry mixture.

Mix together crumble ingredients and strew over cake.

Bake for 1 to 1.5 hrs, until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. If the topping starts to over-brown, cover with alfoil


Lemon Tea Cake

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 10 Aug 10

A true six-word story about this recipe:

Made cake. Dropped cake. Bought cake.

Although, technically, I only dropped half of the cake. The other half was delicious.

* 5 oz. room-temperature butter
* 2/3 C granulated sugar
* 2 large eggs
* grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
* 1 C + 1 T self-rising flour (FYI, 1 C self-rising flour = 1 C AP flour + 1/4 tsp baking powder)
* 1/4 tsp. lemon extract
* 1/4 tsp. vanilla powder (or 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract)

Prepare a cake pan with butter and flour (and baking parchment, if you like; I certainly do).

Beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add lemon zest, lemon extract, and vanilla, and mix to combine. Sift the flour into the mixture and fold until well combined. Bake at 350 degrees F (unrepentant use of Imperial measurements, thanks very much) for 20 minutes. (If you double the recipe in anticipation of dropping the cake, it’ll take 50 minutes.)
While the cake is in the oven, dissolve 4 tablespoons of sugar in the juice of one lemon. Pour over the cake immediately after it comes out of the oven. Release the cake from the pan—very carefully—when it’s cool.
I’ve also been looking for a good occasion to make a lime version of this cake.

Intense Chocolate Cracker Cake

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 9 Aug 10

(6 big portion ones)

12 digestive crackers/biscuits,
1 cup (2.5 dl) heavy/double cream,
6 oz (150-180 g) intense (70% cocoa solids) dark chocolate,
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract,
4 tablespoon rum and/or fruit syrup such as the liquid from amarena cherries,
30-40 amarena cherries (that’s most of a cup-size jar),
4 oz (100 g) dark´chocolate of the kind intended for glazing.

You’ll also need a muffin tin for 6 big muffins or 6 ramekins, preferably big enough to contain a digestive without needing to break it.

Melt cream and chocolate together at low heat. Let it cool in the refrigerator for about an hour. In the mean time line the moulds with kitchen film/saran wrap, drain the liquid from the cherries into a bowl, and carefully pat the cherries dry on kitchen paper. Reserve the 6 finest cherries for garnish.
Now add the vanilla and liquid to the chocolate and beat it to a smooth creamy consistency about like a medium peak whipped cream. If it’s a bit too hard, let it stand on the table for a few minutes. If it’s a bit too runny, just give it another 10 min in the fridge.
Next drop a heaped tablespoon of chocolate cream into the mould, place a digestive – top side down – on top, add another spoonful, press in 4-5 cherries, and add another digestive on top. Repeat in the other moulds. Press the cakes lightly together in the moulds, and let them harden in the fridge – either overnight or while you melt the glazing chocolate.
Once the chocolate has melted turn the cakes out of the moulds, and remove the film/wrap. Glaze the cakes and garnish with the reserved cherries. Put the cakes back in the fridge until about an hour before serving. Garnishing with fresh cherries, and serving with cherry ice cream and the remaining amarena liquid is pleasantly over the top.

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