Chocolate Archive

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

heavenly chocolate cake roll

le voila! barely a crack!

This is one of my family’s three cakes. The first one, a sour cream cinnamon chocolate chip coffee cake, came from my grandmother and her sisters, and my husband occasionally (but very quietly) threatens to skip family events if nobody is planning to make it. Nobody knows the origin of the second cake, my mom’s apple cake, but if you’ve gone to a housewarming party, well, ever and not brought it, well, I think you should have. And this is the third one. We make it on Passover but frankly, there’s nothing especially Passover-ish about it, aside from the absence of flour. There’s no ground matzo, theme of exodous or anything particularly religious about the way it is put together. In fact, while we’re being honest and stuff, there’s something particularly unholy about the way it’s put together in that growing up I used to call it the “sh*t” cake in honor of the word that kept slipping from my mother’s mouth as she tried to roll it without it cracking. It always cracked. I’m surprised my mother hasn’t killed me yet for sharing her yearly spasm of colorful language on my internet website, but I disappear after this post, well, you know…

bittersweet, in convenient 6 oz package
melted chocolate

I attempted to sidestep the expletives a few years ago and shared a doubled version with you that was stacked four high, a layer cake of the finest proportions. I included directions for making it as a roll cake — i.e. like a Yule log, or a Yodel, or a Ho-Ho… — but it seemed wrong not to have a post entirely devoted to the way we actually make it at home, and so I decided I would update the rolled recipe this year. Seeing photos of the process helps, I reasoned.

egg yolkspale yellow yolks and sugaregg whites, stiff peaksfolding egg white cloud into chocolate
the finished batter is light, foamysifting unsweetened cocoa over

Continued after the jump »

Friday, February 11, 2011

white and dark hearted brownies

white and dark hearted brownies

White chocolate brownies have it tough. They share a name with a baked good that needs no improving on; their chocolate is rejected by self-titled “real” chocolate eaters for being a pale imitation of the rich, nutty and bittersweet awesomeness of darker chocolates; this same chocolate is so sweet that you must dial back the sugar in your brownies to adjust for it, removing moisture, risking leaving them cake-like and if it couldn’t get much worse, they’re barely white. More like, pale-yellowish-beige. Yum, right?

white chocolate brownies
brown brownies

I was one of those white chocolate rejectors for a long time but I finally made peace with it when I stopped judging it through the lens of chocolate — which is bitter and complex in ways that white chocolate cannot be — and accepted it for what it is, a buttery sweet confection that, when used carefully, plays exceptionally well with others, like mint, berries, nuts and, well, dark chocolate. And since I’d come full circle with my reasoning, I made a batch of white chocolate brownies and a batch of dark chocolate brownies and hadn’t figured out what I was going to do next, only that nothing bad could happen from there.

ready to trade parts

Continued after the jump »

Saturday, January 22, 2011

chocolate-peanut spread

peanutella

People, I’m no good. I’m terrible news, a bad influence and possibly everything that your nutritionists, cardiologists and mamas warn you about. There I was, like most people with a pulse, enjoying the heck out of some Nutella on a slice of bread at my in-laws last weekend and I thought, you know what would make this even better? Peanut butter. I mean, is there any question that the combination of peanut butter and chocolate is at the very center of American hearts, gullets and junk food aisles? And then I thought, But it’s January. You’re getting in a bathing suit in a month. This is terrible idea. But then I reasoned, Well, it’s not like I have to eat more than a spoonful. Surely, it’s possible so exercise some self-control around chocolate and peanuts. Guys, I’m really funny sometimes, aren’t I?

puny peanuts
toasted again

So I started looking at recipes for homemade Nutella — pardon me, the non-trademark-protected gianduja paste — which is the smooth and shiny combination of hazelnuts and cocoa loved all over the world. I was surprised to find approaches, as well, all over the map. Some used honey, some began with a caramel but two techniques in particular caught my eye: one in which ground nuts were mixed with just cocoa, sugar and oil, quite close to the ingredient list of jarred Nutella and a very simple one from Martha Stewart, which relied on sweetened condensed milk for its body. I decided to make the Martha version second, but never got there because my mother (who was hanging out for the afternoon) and I never got our spoons out of the food processor bowl from the first batch long enough to even consider if it was less than perfect.

grinding

Continued after the jump »

Saturday, October 30, 2010

buckeyes

half-dipped

Once upon a time, when I was probably no older than in grade school and sadly, not a whole lot shorter than I am today, a friend of a friend of my mother’s presented her with a bag of peanut butter and chocolate candies that my mother and I, chocolate and peanut butter fiends, went ballistic over. Here in this plastic bag (that we kept in the freezer, a history of hiding foods I have no self-control around in the freezer long predates this site) were all of the awesomeness of Reese’s peanut butter cups but, a) larger and b) homemade. We had to have the recipe.

the goods
butter, peanut butter, cream cheese

No, we really had to have the recipe. We asked. We might have begged a little. But we were shut down, because this friend of a friend was writing a cookbook, and needed to save the recipe for future publication. Now, I don’t think my mother is especially one to hold grudges, but I tell you, it’s probably been more than 20 years since then and I mentioned chocolate peanut butter balls to my mother this week and she said, flatly, “I am still waiting for that cookbook.” You could say it’s kind of a running joke.

i want (peanut butter) candy

Continued after the jump »

Monday, September 20, 2010

monkey cake

monkey cakes

I’m pretty serious about birthday cakes. When I think of someone being presented with some shortening spackled quarter sheet cake from a discount grocery chain on their birthday — a day they only get to celebrate once a year! Which is like forever if you’re a kid or perhaps the sort of grownup who didn’t get the memo that at the age of 34, birthdays are really not supposed to be a big deal anymore — it makes me sad. Not judgmental-sad, because lord knows I could barely eke out this cake on Saturday, and it’s supposed to be, like, my calling, but empathetic-sad because I totally blame lousy, intimidating recipes for making the two-layer + frosting task seem not worth it to go it at home. I hope to make it as easy as possible for everyone to get the fluffy, towering, butter-laden imperfectly frosted, slightly crooked homemade cake they deserve for making it through another year. Or, perhaps, one’s entire life to date, for the first birthday set.

bananas a-mashingbanana batterlevelling the cakesmaking a mini-monkey

pinning on the earsbuttercream pillow, coming right up!little monkey cakemonkey cakes, senior and junior

Of course, the joke is on me because who went without a homemade birthday cake this year? Yup, you’re looking at her. Who else? Yup, the husband. It turns out, babies keep you really busy. But we don’t bear grudges, in fact, I figured if I could only get my act together for one single birthday cake this year, it might as well be a cake for the monkey. I may or may not have started planning this in June. I may or may not have spent 45 minutes last week practicing doodling monkeys so I could get it right. I admit nothing.

Continued after the jump »


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