CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE – No Frosting Needed!

chocolate bundt cake textIs it possible to have too much chocolate cake? I ask this because in the last 2 weeks I’ve baked 4 chocolate bundt cakes.

As many of you know, I’m a from-scratch baker. So I’ve been on a quest to adapt the Chocolate Bundt Cake my mother made from my youth. This was a recipe floating around back then, calling for, among other ingredients, boxed chocolate cake mix and boxed chocolate pudding mix.

The original cake was known for its moistness. And therein lay the problem. I found America’s Test Kitchen recipe, which required butter for the fat. While it tasted good, the crumb was very fine and dry. Since my mom’s recipe used oil, I thought I’d try half the butter and half the oil from each recipe. I, also, used dark brown sugar thinking the molasses would add extra moisture. Better, but still not there.

Since I was moving in the right direction, I omitted the butter altogether and used all oil, increasing it a little since I wasn’t using the boxed products. Much better.

My final tweak was to switch Dutch processed cocoa for the natural cocoa. Dutch processed cocoa tends to produce moister bakes plus an extra chocolatey flavor. By jove, I think I’ve got it!

So, in answer to my opening question: NOOOOO! It’s not possible to have too much chocolate bundt cake. To be honest, the hard part is restricting myself to one slice per day. (Thank goodness I have a coffin-sized deep freezer which is now full of frozen portions of chocolate bundt cake!)

Note: If you don’t have an electric mixer, you can mix by hand. Don’t use a food processor, though – it’s too powerful.

Additional Note:  You experienced bakers out there may be surprised to notice that I’m using baking soda with Dutch processed cocoa. Normally, one would use baking powder as the leavener with Dutch processed. But since this recipe has sour cream and dark brown sugar (both acidic), the baking soda will be activated.

CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE

  • 6 oz 60% bittersweet chocolate (use bar chocolate, not chips) (I use Ghirardelli)
  • 3/4 cup + 1 T Dutch processed cocoa powder, divided
  • 1 tsp instant coffee crystals
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 11 oz (2 cups, packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs
  • 8 oz (1 cup) sour cream
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Nestle’s)
  • 1 T butter

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Chop bittersweet chocolate into 1/2″-ish or less sized pieces. If you’re using a thin bar such as Ghirardelli, then you can break it by hand. Place pieces in a medium sized bowl. Sift the 3/4 cup cocoa into the bowl. (Cocoa tends to clump. Sifting will make for a smoother chocolate mixture.) bundt1Add in the coffee crystals and pour in the boiling water. Cover with a plate and let sit for 5 minutes to begin the melting process. After 5 minutes, stir. It probably won’t be completely melted yet. Cover with plate and let sit another couple of minutes. Stir again and let sit uncovered to cool.bundt4Into another bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. (In the picture I’ve not stirred yet.)bundt2Crack all 5 eggs into a tall glass. You’ll be adding the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Rather than cracking them one by one (and maybe getting bits of shell into the batter) as you beat the batter, you can just pour them from the glass – they’ll pour out one at a time quite easily. Set aside.bundt3Into the large bowl of your electric stand mixer put the brown sugar and oil. bundt6Turn on low to start (so the sugar doesn’t fly out), increasing to medium speed. Beat for 1 minute on medium. bundt7Add in vanilla and 1 egg. Beat for 20 seconds. Continue adding eggs one at a time, beating 20 seconds after each.bundt9Dump in about 1/3 of the flour mixture (you can just estimate) and beat on low to blend.bundt12Add in 1/2 of chocolate mixture and beat on low to blend.bundt13Add in half of remaining flour mixture and beat on low. Add in remaining chocolate mixture and beat on low. Finally, add in remaining flour mixture, beating until there’s still a little flour showing. Add in chocolate chips and beat on low, blending until all of flour is incorporated.bundt22Into a small bowl put the extra 1 T cocoa. Melt butter and pour into cocoa, stirring to make a paste. bundt8Using a pastry brush, coat the entire interior of bundt pan (even if it’s nonstick!). Use all of it – your cake will slide right out when done.bundt11Pour batter into prepared bundt pan. TIP:  Cover hole in bundt pan to prevent batter accidentally spilling into hole. The lid from a spice bottle works perfectly. So does a Dixie cup. REMEMBER TO REMOVE IT BEFORE PLACING PAN IN OVEN!!! (If you look carefully, you can see an indentation in my lid caused by me forgetting to remove it. I remembered after about 10 minutes in the oven. It melted a little, but is still usable for this purpose. And, more importantly, the cake was fine. bundt23Bake at 350º F for 45 – 55 minutes, gently rotating after 30 minutes. (Mine is done at 45 minutes, but your oven may not be as hot as mine.) Check for doneness with a toothpick. bundt18Because of the chocolate chips, there may be a little chocolate on the toothpick. Try another area to be sure it’s not raw batter (crumbs are okay). Let set 20 minutes in pan.

Using a rounded knife, loosen cake from outside edge of pan. bundt19Place a rack on top and flip. bundt20Remove bundt pan – the cake will have dropped to rack.bundt21 Let cool at least 4 hours.

Liberally sift on powdered sugar. (You can drizzle on a ganache if you like, but with the chocolate chips inside, I think it’s overkill.)

 

 

 

 

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TOMATO TART – A Super Shortcut Recipe!

tom tart textSome things are just meant to be.

Normally, I make nearly everything from scratch – yogurt, cakes, cookies, soups, breads. But one thing I’ve never tried is puff pastry. It’s a lot of work and the frozen Pepperidge Farms sheets are so tasty, I doubt I ever will.

I recently watched an episode of America’s Test Kitchen featuring a TOMATO TART using puff pastry sheets instead of the usual pie dough, which can become soggy from the moisture in the tomatoes. Since I had one sheet left in the freezer from ages ago, I decided to try it – halving the recipe.

It was super easy, it was beautiful, it was absolutely delicious. KISMET!

Note: This is the full recipe. If you want a smaller amount (even though TOMATO TART makes for fabulous leftovers), just cut everything in half, skipping the patching together of the 2 sheets since you’ll only need 1.

TOMATO TART

  • 4 Roma tomatoes
  • 1/8 tsp + 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farms)tom tart10
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 oz (1 cup) Parmesan Cheese, shredded
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 8 oz low moisture mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 T fresh basil

Note:  Make sure you use low moisture mozzarella to prevent a soggy crust.mozzarellaSet out package of pastry sheets for an hour or so to thaw. (Overnight in the fridge is best.)

Preheat oven to 425º Fahrenheit.

Slice tomatoes into 1/4″ circles, discarding stem and bottom ends. Lay slices on 3 layers of paper towels and sprinkle with a total of 1/2 tsp salt. (I lay the paper towels on an old terry towel for extra absorbency.) Let set for 30 minutes. This will draw out excess liquid that would make the crust soggy. After 30 minutes, blot tops firmly with another paper towel.tom tart9When pastry sheets are soft enough to unfold, remove them from package. Cut a piece of parchment paper (NOT waxed paper!) to fit a rimmed cookie sheet. Lay just the parchment (not on the cookie sheet yet) on the counter. Very gently unfold one of the pastry sheets and place it on one side of the parchment. (If the pastry tears, repair by pinching dough together with wet fingers.)

Paint a 1″ strip of beaten egg along the side next to the empty part of the parchment.tom tart1Overlap the other square on top. Press dough together firmly with fingers.tom tart2Using a pizza cutter or knife, trim edges so they’re straight. (You may not need to do this step.)

Cut 2  1″ strips down long side and leave in place. Cut 2  1″ strips along short side.tom tart3Paint entire rectangle with egg wash, but not the strips.tom tart4Place long strips on top of long edges and paint them with egg wash. There will be an excess of dough, which will be cut off.tom tart5Place the short strips along short side edges and paint them with egg wash. Cut off and discard overhanging dough strips. To help the border to rise straight upward (as opposed to up and out like mine did), press dough along inside edge of border.

Carefully, scoot the parchment onto a rimmed cookie sheet.

Sprinkle Parmesan evenly on tart, excluding the border strips – these will rise and act as a dam to prevent leakage.tom tart7Using a fork, liberally dock holes through cheese and pastry, excluding the border. You want the border to rise, but not the center.tom tart8 Bake at 425º F for 12 minutes. Remove from oven. If the center has puffed up, deflate by poking it with a sharp knife in a few places and gently pressing dough down with a fork.

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, 1/8 tsp salt, and pepper. Set aside.tom tart12Sprinkle mozzarella evenly in cooked pastry, excluding the border.tom tart13Layer on the tomato slices. Using a pastry brush, dab tomatoes with all of garlic/olive oil mixture.tom tart14To prevent the borders from over-browning, cover with strips of foil. Bake at 425º F for 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with basil. Let set a few minutes before slicing.tom tart18

 

 

GREEK SALAD – A Salad To Wake Up Your Mouth!

greek salad textSometimes, nothing tastes better than a nice salad.

GREEK SALAD can be a meal unto itself, particularly on a hot summer day when you don’t want anything heavy (or don’t feel like cooking!). It, also, makes a perfect accompaniment to a heavy meal to cut through the richness.

Easy to prepare, it’s pretty enough for company!

GREEK SALAD – makes about 7 cups

  • 1½ T red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, sliced
  • 1/3 cup red onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1 large tomato, shake out pulp & seeds, chopped
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1½ T capers
  • 2 T mint, coarsely chopped
  • 2 T parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 3 T feta cheese, crumbled
  • optional – croutons

In a bowl (I like to use the serving bowl to save dirtying an extra bowl) whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, and olive oil. Add in the cucumber and red onions. Let marinate at least 30 minutes.greek salad1Into serving bowl (which could be the bowl from above), place the romaine, tomato, olives, capers, mint, parsley, feta, and marinade with cucumbers/onions. Toss together. Pass around croutons, if desired.

BLEU CHEESE MASHED POTATOES: Jazzing Up A Standard Recipe!

bleu cheese mashed potatoes textGood old mashed potatoes. Straight forward. Easy to prepare. And, most of all, filling. This last one is important if you have picky eater children (I speak from experience).

But, how about if we fancied-up those potatoes to make them company worthy? What would happen if we added bleu cheese, a little thyme, and topped with port infused sautéed onions? A brilliant side dish, that’s what!

BLEU CHEESE MASHED POTATOES – makes about 3 cups

  • 1½ lbs russet potatoes
  • 3/4 tsp vegetable oil
  • 3/4 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp brown sugar, packed (it’s not much, but aids caramelization)
  • 1/2 lb yellow onions
  • 2½ T ruby port (or any sweet red wine such as Masala)
  • 3 T butter, melted
  • 6 T half & half
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme (or 1/3 tsp dried)
  • 2 oz bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Place whole potatoes (with skin intact) in a saucepan and cover with 1″ water. mashed pot1Bring to simmer and cook until easily pierced with fork – about 35 minutes.

While potatoes are cooking, prepare the onions. Cut onions into 1/4″ slices. In a nonstick skillet, heat oil and butter over high heat. Add in 1/8 tsp salt, brown sugar, and onions.onions saute1 Sauté 5 minutes – until they start to lose volume and become a little browned. Decrease heat to medium and continue cooking until well browned (about 20 minutes or so).onion saute2 Add in the port and letter simmer for 5 minutes to evaporate the liquid. mashed pot2Set aside.

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm half & half and thyme just to the simmer point. Cover and set aside.

When potatoes are cooked, remove from water and peel. (They’re very hot so you might want to use a fork to hold them in place, while peeling with a knife.) For best mashing results, use a ricer or food mill.mashed pot3 Gently fold in melted butter. Add in half & half, bleu cheese, remaining salt, and pepper. Very gently blend together. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

To serve, top with onions.