Chocolate Archive

Monday, June 13, 2011

dobos torte

mine

Last week, when it was ninety million degrees in New York City and all the sane people were cracking open fire hydrants, grilling on their roof decks and/or sticking their faces in their wheezing air conditioner units, I looked around my shoebox kitchen, with its half-counter and miniature oven, considered the sheer volume of items left on my to-do that I’d never get done and said, “Clearly, this is the day for me to make an 11-layer dobos torte.” Because my birthday was two days away and that seemed as good as any to sever what frayed tethers I had left to my sanity. [Plus, I already had cleaning help!]

lots of eggs, lots of yolks
thick, ribbony batter

Growing up, my family and I considered the 7-layer cake to be the ne plus ultra of bakery cakes. They were rectangular, filled with a pale, faintly mocha flavored buttercream and coated, top and sides, with a firmer dark chocolate frosting. I’ll be the first to admit that their flavor wasn’t always spectacular, but did you hear the part about the seven layers? The awesomeness of this trumped all chocolate intensity quibbles. What I hadn’t realized, however, is that the historical home of this cake was not (shockingly) a circa-1980s Central New Jersey strip mall bakery, but a Budapest, Hungary specialty food shop where one József C. Dobos invented it his namesake torte in 1887, which became so famous that the city threw a full scale city-wide fete to celebrate its 75th anniversary. That there is some cake.

puddle of batter

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, June 2, 2011

fudge popsicles

fudge pops

I have a tremendous crush on Matt Armendariz. It’s awkward, I know. I’m married, he’s married; I have a kid, he has dog children. It’s okay, my husband knows. He took a picture of Matt with his shirt half off a couple years ago, so I think we’re even. Fortunately for those who are now reading this uncomfortably at home, hoping this conversation ends quickly, my crush is more of a talent crush: Matt is a former graphic designer and art director and currently a food photographer, author and the man behind the Matt Bites blog. His photography is amazing, all natural light and unfussy, but what I find more addictive than anything else is his outlook, his energy for life. It’s hard to spend 5 minutes with him without getting hooked on his enthusiasm for family, good friends, great food and a life well lived with lots of travel to far-flung places. Seriously, he even went to Avery Island, Louisiana to learn how Tabasco is made. And didn’t take my husband with him. Alex is almost over it.

all set up
cooking the pops

And now he is a cookbook author too. [Amusingly, I think Matt and I signed our cookbook deals the same week except his book is in my hands right now and my book is … OH LOOK! Manhattanhenge! Did you catch it?] On A Stick! — yes, in which every recipe is speared or skewered or threaded on a handheld food device — is truly an exaltation of summer. It’s State Fairs and street fairs, frozen beach treats and the stuff picnics and backyard barbecues are made of: skewered salads, grilled marinated kebabs, melon with spices and fried pickles. Even unfathomable things get adorably impaled, like fried chicken and waffles, meatballs and spaghetti, potato chips (!) oh, and pizza too. It’s lighthearted, but there’s no skimping on the cooking: coconut shrimp, Chinese meatballs, pork belly and sweet and sour lollipops. Are you drooling yet?

almost like fudge pudding

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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

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