Chocolate Archive

Friday, September 20, 2013

fudgy chocolate sheet cake

airplane cake

My son’s first birthday cake was a banana cake with fudge frosting and it was shaped like a monkey with a mini-monkey smash cake. Because he loved them so much, his second birthday cake had to involve graham crackers, but in my carried-away hands it turned into a s’more layer cake (in the book) with a milk chocolate filling and a marshmallow frosting that was toasted because really, how could I not? His third birthday cake was a celebration of fall and trains — apples, applesauce, pie spices and a subway map on top because he was then and still is subway-obsessed. And I had already started plotting his fourth birthday cake — something involving massive pillows brown sugar-broiled peaches and sour cream, with the faintest trace of nutmeg, all late summery and perfect — when I had the strangest idea, something that hadn’t once occurred to me before: I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, and do you know what he said?

“Tchocolate. Chocolate with chocolate.”

what you'll need
dark brown sugar + butter

My husband and I have this joke when he talks because he’s sometimes so frighteningly articulate* that it’s impossible to pretend that we can’t understand what he said, even if we’d prefer to (such as when he requests spaghetti for dinner again or only wants to go to the playground furthest from our apartment). So, we say, “gosh, Jacob. You really have to stop mumbling.” and then he said,

CHOCOLATE. BROWN TCHOCOLATE. NOT WHITE TCHOCOLATE.”**

chocolate sheet cake batter

Continued after the jump »

Friday, March 22, 2013

chocolate-hazelnut macaroon torte

chocolate hazelnut macaroon torte

When it comes to large family gatherings, no matter how much I humble-brag about my brisket, roasted vegetable sides or the way I know my way around a salad, I am always instead nominated to bring desserts. So, like a certain Phoebe on cup-and-ice duty that I will date myself by referencing, I take things very seriously, in part because I have a lot of rules for Passover desserts. The first is that that whatever dessert I make cannot include even a speck of matzo meal. I’m sorry, I realize this is a sensitive topic and I should tread more carefully, but I find the taste of matzo meal just awful in anything but matzo ball soup. My difficult palate aside, I also figure if I’m going to go through the effort to come up with something new (and hopefully better) in the flourless department, it would be of more use to more people were it also gluten-free, so that’s the second rule. The final rule is that I want the dessert to be good enough that I’d choose it any other day of year. It can’t just be good for a Passover dessert. It can’t just be good for something gluten-free. It has to be objectively good. Really, shouldn’t everything be?

already toasted and kinda peeled hazelnuts
whirling and whirling the hazelnuts

My inspiration this year was a cake I found on Epicurious. Isn’t it a beaut? I knew I had to find a way to make it happen, but I also knew it wasn’t going to be the way it was written. Aside from the fact that it is not actually a Schwarzwälder Torte (a chocolate cake with whipped cream, cherries and often Kirsh, what we sometimes refer to as a Black Forest Cake) and that it contains both flour and powdered sugar (a Passover no-no, unless you find or make cornstarch-free stuff), reviewers seemed very unhappy with the meringues, which were too thin and from what I could tell, not particularly flavorful. I turned instead to the macaroon component of an almond torte I made a few years ago; the torte was a headache but the macaroons ended up having a lovely flavor largely because they contained such a high proportion of nuts. Given the choice, I always prefer meringues that are closer to macaroons.

ground hazelnuts with sugar and salt

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

salted caramel brownies

runny salted caramel brownies

A couple months ago, someone requested that I try my hand at caramel brownies. Amazingly, this person was not my husband, but he endorsed this idea so wholeheartedly that I suspect he might have paid this person off. Then again, in most people’s minds, who doesn’t want to make caramel brownies? What kind of strange person considers what would happen when sea salt-flecked deeply copper-colored homemade caramel meets a chewy, rich homemade brownie and then shrugs it off, “Eh, I’ll pass.” Guys, it’s me. It’s not that I didn’t think that a salted caramel brownie could be delicious, it’s just that I imagine it’s well-trodden territory, which to me translates as “people who want to make this already know how to” and then I figure my time would be better spent making other things, like weird egg salads and silky hummus.

granulated sugar, starting to meltmelted sugar, copper-coloredadding butter, hiss, fizzbubbling and smelling awesome

But then, as I did a quick search or two, I discovered things that caused me to make that crooked face that I made when I’m thinking really hard, because sometimes after a day of explaining to a preschooler why we have to wear pants when we leave the apartment when I fully understand the desire to simply not wear pants sometimes, thinking is really hard. The first is that a whole lot recipes started with store-bought caramels or caramel sauce, which made me sad, because the homemade stuff requires three ingredients that you probably have, is really easy to make and the flavor comparison (especially if you add a fourth ingredient, salt) … well, there is none. They barely deserve to share the same name. The next thing that gave me pause was that they all looked achingly sweet, as if little consideration was given to the fact that dousing an already-sweet brownie with caramel sauce might cause teeth to hurt/dentists to buy new vacation homes.

pour onto a parchment-lined plate

Continued after the jump »

Friday, January 25, 2013

intensely chocolate sables

intensely chocolate sable

Although I would hardly say that having a kid has made me wiser — there have been just too many incidents like the one this morning, when not a single of the following clues piqued my concern: 3 year-old going into bathroom to bring his step-stool into another room; the sound of a cabinet opening, a fridge opening followed by a banging sound on the counter, until it was too late and a once-clean child in a once-clean kitchen was making “skwambled” eggs — I can’t help but have come to a few salient conclusions about children/life itself over the last few years that I find infinitely applicable. One, there are few things wrong that a good night’s sleep cannot fix. Two, sometimes you really just need to scream and yell and have a great big noisy fuss for a few minutes and get it all out — pounding your tiny, dimpled fists on the carpet is optional, but this is no time to hold back feeling all the feelings, you know? — so that you can resume being sweet and awesome for the remaining minutes of the day. Finally, there’s not a single person in this universe who does not need a cookie at 4 p.m. each day, like clockwork. Nobody. Not even you. Even in the month of Resolutions.

the balthazar chocolate sable, my obsession
grated chocolate

One of my great cookie loves, and the most ideal 4 p.m. mini-escapist treat, is the chocolate sable from Balthazar Bakery. I don’t get it often, because that would be dangerous. I usually indulge when I’ve mentally committed to walking either there or back or both (exercise!) or I’m having the kind of day that only a walk to SoHo would improve (justification!). If you’ve ever been to Balthazar, you’ve probably looked right past it to ogle the pain au chocolate or burnished plum tarts because it looks plain and dull, hardly competitive with its surroundings, and I think you’ve missed out because alone in its 1/4-inch thick fluted round is the intensity of all the chocolate in Paris. Okay, I exaggerate but still, that’s no excuse to miss it. It’s bittersweet, crisp and sandy; it absolutely aches with chocolate impact and it makes me very happy.

sift the dry ingredients (cocoa is lumpy!)

Continued after the jump »

Friday, October 26, 2012

roasted pear and chocolate chunk scones

roasted pear and chocolate chunk scones

One of the saddest things you should probably know about me is that I’m a terrible host. I don’t mean to be; in my head, I’m the kind of person who would find out you were coming over, quickly gather some wildflowers from the side of the road, put them in an old Mason jar, pour-over some coffee from a local roaster, steam cream from an upstate dairy in a spouted glass and pull out something warm and enticing from the oven right as you arrived. In my head, I understand that none of these things are terribly difficult to pull off. In reality, were you to come over right now, you’d find a plate of pears (one with a toddler mouth-sized bite removed) and mostly-empty jar of something delicious, but alas, too delicious to have lasted until you arrived, on the table, a colossal explosion of wooden train tracks and fire station parts all over the carpet and a fireman in a time out (“What did he do?” I asked. “He did NOTHING!” I was informed. Well, then…). Also notable is the absent aroma of freshly-brewed coffee. Upon closer inspection, you might see that I don’t actually own any coffee-making apparatus. And not a single warm thing has left the oven this morning; we had stove-top oatmeal for breakfast again.

tippy pears
peeling the pears

Seriously, you’d revoke my book contact if you saw this place. I might have kept this to myself forever, but I have been found out. I have been found out because in the last month, more strangers have entered my apartment than have in the three-plus years we’ve lived here. They come under the auspices of writing articles about tiny kitchens or wanting to watch me make a recipe from the cookbook, but I know the truth: they want to see how we really live and when they find out, well, I hope they are relieved because are all of the fruits in your bowl intact? Are no firemen in unjust time outs? Good, you’re a step ahead.

pretty pears get a longer photo shoot

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