whole-wheat chocolate cake with red currant jam

Whole wheat chocolate cake with red currant jam

The past few weeks have been filled with way too many farewells with two of my close friends moving away to warmer regions of the country which simultaneously makes me happy and envious. I made each one of them something different before they left, Javi got the

black peppercorn, cardamom and raspberry sauce ice cream

while Matt loves chocolate chips. Chocolate chip cookies kept cropping up in my head but I really didn't feel like sending him off with cookies, I wanted to give him something a little more special, something he might have never tried before but every bit as chocolatey as possible.

handful of currants

A short farewell boat ride trip on the Potomac with a little bit of champagne and this cake seemed fitting, since farewells like chocolate are bittersweet. Luck was on my side, I was fortunate to run into some fresh juicy red currants in my neighborhood grocery store and pairing the dark chocolate against the tartness of the currants, turned out to be a match made in heaven. The red currant jam is delicious by itself and would be perfect as an appetizer with cheese or at breakfast on buttered bread. 

baking scene

The base of this cake is whole-wheat, make sure to use whole-wheat pastry flour and not regular whole-wheat flour to prepare this cake. I was happy with this cake recipe because the surface of the cake did not crack during baking and because I finally got it right after  a couple of trials to get the  ingredients and ratios worked out. The dash of instant coffee in the batter intensifies the dark chocolate taste giving it a richer flavor without imparting a coffee taste. 

chocolate bar

Make sure the cake is cooled in the refrigerator before slicing it to get a clean cut through the ganache glaze. I like to wash my serrated knife in running hot water before cutting each wedge, it always gives me a clean cut and without making a mess with the cake crumbs. This cake is rich and decadent and in my opinion, a chocolate lover's dream. At the end of the trip, Matt was happy with his cake and so was everyone else on the boat judging by the visible look of the food-induced coma in our faces that was to hit us that evening. 

Sifting

whole-wheat chocolate layer cake with red currant jam

whole-wheat chocolate layer cake

yields:

one 9 inch diameter cake

ingredients

1 teaspoon melted butter or a non-stick oil spray (canola oil)

5 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon instant dark roast coffee powder

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, chopped at room temperature

1 3/4 cup sugar

1 1/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt

1 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract

4 large eggs + 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325F. Line the base of a round 9 inch circular baking pan with parchment paper and lightly grease the pan with a little butter or a non-stick neutral tasting oil spray (like canola oil). 

2. In a thick bottomed saucepan, add the dark chocolate, 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder,1/2 teaspoon of instant coffee, water, and butter. Place the saucepan on a boiling water bath and stir till the chocolate is melted and the mixture completely combined. Add and stir 1/2 cup sugar to this mixture until completely smooth. Remove the saucepan from the water bath and keep aside to cool. 

3. Sift the flour, baking soda, 2 teaspoons dark cocoa powder, and 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder three times onto a clean sheet of parchment paper. If any husk or grainparts are left behind the sieve add them back to the sifted dry ingredients. Keep aside.

4. Using the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and the rest of the sugar for 5 minutes on medium high speed until completely pale yellow and light and fluffy. Replace the whisk attachment with the paddle attachment and add half of the cooled chocolate mixture from step 2. Combine the batter completely at medium speed and then add the rest of the melted chocolate mixture. 

5. Add half of the sifted dry ingredients from step 3 to the batter and beat the batter on medium speed until combined. Add the yogurt and vanilla extract to the batter with the rest of the sifted dry ingredients and beat the batter until completely combined. 

6. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking tin and smoothen out the surface with an offset spatula. Place the tin in the preheated oven on the middle rack and bake for 45 minutes or until the center is firm to touch or a skewer comes out clean from the center. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the baking tin and then remove it from the pan by running a butter knife between the cake and the sides of the pan. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and cool to room temperature completely before use. At this point you can wrap the cake airtight with cling film and store it in the refrigerator or freeze it. Bring the cake to room temperature before frosting. 

red currant jam

yields:

approximately 1- 1 1/4 cup

ingredients

12 ounces red currants

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons pectin powder

1. Mix the red currants with the sugar and lime juice in a thick bottomed saucepan. Heat on a medium high flame and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring continuously. 

2. Stir in the pectin powder and cook for another 5-6 minutes until the jam begins to thicken. Remove the jam from the stove. 

3. Pass the hot jam through a sieve placed over a clean bowl. Press the pulp through the sieve to squeeze most of the fruit out. Discard the left over residue and seeds from the jam. Stir the jam in the bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature before using it to layer the cake. 

Note:

You can also can this jam by processing the jam in a sealed jar. Place the sealed filled jar in a water bath and bring the water to boil, allow the water to boil for 10 minutes, switch the flame off and let the jar sit in the water for 5 minutes before removing it out. Cool to room temperature completely. Adjust canning conditions as per local altitude. 

chocolate ganache glaze/icing

yields:

approximately 1 cup

ingredients

2 teaspoons light corn syrup

1/4 cup heavy cream

5 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate chips

1. On a medium high flame heat the corn syrup and cream in a thick bottomed saucepan and bring the contents to boil. Remove from the flame and immediately add the chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate is melted and silky smooth. 

2. Preferably, use immediately within the next 4-5 minutes while warm to glaze the cake.

assembling the cake

1. Slice the cooled cake in half on a turn table using a sharp serrated knife. Place the lower half of the sliced cake on a wire rack. 

2. Using an offset spatula, spread the red currant jam in a thick layer on the lower half of the cake. Carefully center the upper half of the cake on top of the jam layered cake. 

3. Pour the chocolate ganache glaze on top of the center of the upper layer of the cake and with the offset spatula push the excess chocolate glaze towards the outer edges of the cake and allow it to drip from the sides. Do not over do this step, you want to coat the upper layer of the cake in an even smooth layer with the chocolate glaze while allowing it to drip naturally from the sides. The glaze will begin to solidify immediately as it cools down against the cooled cake. Allow the cake to cool in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before serving. 

chocolate raspberry whole-wheat biscotti

Biscotti in a bowl

Instead of saying that I do this occasionally, I'll be honest and say that I do this often, more so than necessary. Whenever, I walk into the grocery store, I'll invariably stumble upon some ingredient that will pique my curiosity and of course, I'll end up picking it without really giving much thought to what I would/could do with it. This is exactly what happened when I saw a bag of these freeze-dried raspberries at the store last week, I just had to have them! 

freeze dried raspberries and biscotti

Eaten straight up, they can be quite tart! However, I still had a bag of dried berries to deal with. For a while, I've been wanting to try baking berry flavored biscotti. The problem was the liquid content, biscotti needs to be dry and crisp, and fresh berries would be too moist and they would reduce the shelf-life of the cookie. But these freeze-dried raspberries could avoid all of these complications! 

There I was sifting flour and mixing a batch of biscotti batter. The batter got colorful while I folded in the crunchy raspberries with bits of dark chocolate and walnuts. Baking biscotti is fun, you get to do it twice! You can cut the loaves to any thickness you desire, I normally waiver between 3/8 to an inch, just make sure you use a sharp serrated knife to get a clean cut. This to me, is fateful perfection; chocolate, raspberries and walnuts wrapped in whole-wheat flour all of which would end up getting dunked in hot tea or coffee at some point over the next few days. 

baking biscotti chocolate discs

chocolate, raspberry and walnut whole-wheat biscotti

yields: about 40-46 cookies

ingredients

2 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup freeze-dried raspberries
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (58.5% cacao)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt and keep aside.
3. Using an electric mixer, whisk the sugar, eggs and vanilla on medium speed until light yellow. Add the sifted dry ingredients into the batter and combine until a sticky dough is formed. Fold the raspberries, chocolate and walnuts carefully into the dough. Take care to prevent the dried raspberries from crumbling by folding gently. 
4. Transfer the dough onto a clean floured surface and divide into two equal parts. Form each half into a rough log about 10 X 2 inches in length. (The dough is sticky and it is helpful if you flour your hands while working with it). Transfer each log onto the prepared cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes until they turn golden brown. Rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking to ensure even cooking. 
5. Remove the logs and let them cool for 12 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300F. Using a serrated knife, slice each log diagonally into 3/8 inch thick sections. (The thickness of the sections are entirely up to you, if you like them thicker you can even go up to an inch). Transfer the cut slices back onto the parchment paper and bake until golden and crisp on both sides for about 10 minutes on each side. Rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking. Once cooked, transfer the biscotti from the cookie sheet onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an air tight container. 

chocolate butter cookies

Chocolate Butter Cookies

This is that special time of the year when I carb load for a few days, no not for a race or marathon or any other sort of event that requires athletic prowess it's a simple way for me to celebrate my birthday. Each year, I make myself a different sweet treat/s, something that I've wanted to try/make all year round but avoided as a preventative measure to protect my waistline (The relationship between aging and waistline length is a direct proportion, at least for me). Ageing is an unwanted artifact of birthdays, as you cross a certain threshold (at least in my case), you have to learn some self-control. Taste and eat a little and occasionally indulge your tastebuds. Come birthday week and I will indulge every wicked dessert fantasy that has crossed my mind and make up for all those times I have been good. 

cooling cookies and forget me nots_1

One would assume that I might want a cake on my birthday, while I won't say no, this year I have a different opinion. Heck, I've made myself birthday cakes in the past but once in a while, I will crave for something other than a cake such as a pudding or a caramel flan. It all really depends on what my obsession was centered around. Images of freshly baked butter cookies have been circulating around my brain cells for a long time, just like those delicious Danish ones with that perfect nutty butter fragrance that melts in your mouth.

Strawberry flower and a lonely cookie

This recipe is based on the version I found in The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook. Browning a little bit of the butter, followed by a brief cooling period gives these cookies that extra heightened buttery nutty flavor that I absolutely love! To work with the dough, the refrigerator is your buddy. The dough is easy to work with when chilled and rolling it out between sheets of wax paper makes it even easier.

You can use any type of cookie cutter to shape your cookies, I used one of my Linzer cookie cutters. As my friend John says, they look like chocolate sprockets. Of course, depending on the size of the cookie you end up cutting, you will end up with either more or less cookies than I did. My cookie cutter measures around 2 inches and I got around 50-58 cookies. 

eating a cookie


chocolate butter cookies 
(adapted from The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook)

yields: approximately 52-58, 2 inch cookies

ingredients

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1. Melt 4 tablespoon of the butter in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir continuously until the milk solids turn orange brown. Remove the browned butter from the flame and stir in the cocoa to form a smooth silky paste. Keep aside to cool for 20 minutes.
2. Attach the paddle to a stand mixer, add the remaining butter, sugar, salt, and the cocoa-butter mixture. Mix completely on high speed, the mixture should appear light and fluffy. Add the yolks and vanilla and mix for about 40 seconds. Scrape the bowl down with a silicone spatula. 
3. Adjust the speed of the mixer to the low setting and add half of the flour mixture. Blend until completely incorporated. Scrape the bowl down with the spatula. Add the rest of the flour to the batter and repeat. Once the dough is formed into a ball, divide it into three flat discs. Transfer and wrap, each disc on to a large sheet of wax paper and refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut two large sheets of wax paper and sandwich a disc of the refrigerated dough between the sheets at the center. Roll out the disc into a rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Refrigerate the flattened dough for another 15-20 minutes. 
4. Preheat the oven to 375F and place the wire rack in the center. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, peel the top sheet of wax paper and cut out desired cookie shapes. Place the cut cookies onto a baking sheet or tray lined with parchment paper. Bake the cookies on the centered wire rack in the oven for 10 minutes (if the edges start to get dark, remove them immediately as the cookies are burning), rotating the baking sheet halfway during baking. Bake only one batch of cookies at a time. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. Any extra bits of dough can be pressed together and re-rolled and cut to make more cookies. Repeat with the rest of the refrigerated discs to make the rest of the cookies or refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days.

browned butter and red wine brownies

Brown buttered brownies

December is going to fly by so fast, I just know it! We have been out and about with all the holiday parties and celebrations that it seems like Christmas will be here tomorrow. Thankfully all my gift shopping is complete though I still have a few gifts to be wrapped and all my Christmas cards to write and mail and I hope to get to it sometime this week. December is also probably when the bulk of my baking and sweet preparations occur. 'Tis the season for sweet and savory foods, literally! My oven provides good evidence for this since it has been in daily commission since the past two or three weeks and I think it will stay like that until the end of the month. 

A spoonful of Cocoa and an empty bowl

Last weekend I hosted a birthday brunch and instead of baking a cake, I did something different. I baked the birthday boy some brownies. This is a very easy recipe that I've adapted from Alice Medrich's Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts. This is my new favorite holiday dessert that I plan to make for myself and gift. This is also one of those recipes that has several benefits. It will make you and everyone else happy when eaten and they also make your kitchen and house smell very, very wonderful. According to my olfactory senses there is almost something magical when vanilla and cocoa scents take over my kitchen. Just as I did, I am sure you will also enjoy getting a whiff of this sweet fragrance when you open the oven door every time you check on the baking status of your brownies. Ideally you should avoid doing this and probably just do it once or twice towards the end but I admit to breaking this rule more than once. 

Butter and Walnuts

What makes these brownies special are two things, the browned butter flavor and the delicious red wine. Each of these ingredients flavor the brownie and improve the taste of the cocoa. By browning the butter the brownies get a smooth and wonderful taste that I would describe as somewhere between a light butterscotch to nutty flavor, if that makes any sense. I used a Malbec for the red wine since it is a bit robust and intense in flavor, even a good quality Shiraz would be great here. To make your life easier and less messy, I recommend either buying pre-chopped walnuts or putting the shelled walnuts in a bag and then pounding them a little a rolling pin to coarsely chop them. Remember eventually most of the walnuts will get sliced into once you cut your baked brownies into squares. These thin brownies have a light and thin crust but also have a soft and creamy smooth interior.  Enjoy immediately or store them in airtight container until needed!

Baking Brownies

browned butter and red wine brownies

yields: 16 brownies

ingredients

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons red wine (I used a Malbec)
2 teaspoons Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper and spray with a neutral vegetable oil.
2. Add the cocoa, salt, sugar, wine, and vanilla in a large glass mixing bowl. There is no need to mix the ingredients at this stage (the only rising agent, the lecithin in the egg yolks are mixed in later in the form of whole eggs).
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir with a silicone spatula. As the butter melts it will foam and the milk solids will separate from the fat and begin to turn reddish brown. At this point remove the butter from the stove and quickly pour it into the mixing bowl with the cocoa. Stir it with a silicone spatula to blend. Let it cool for 3 minutes, it will still be hot.
4. Add one egg at a time, mixing it in vigorously with the silicone spatula until completely combined. At this point the chocolate mixture will be silky smooth.
5. Add the flour and again mix it into the chocolate batter vigorously until you see no more white flecks of flour. 
6. Roughly chop the walnuts and fold them into the brownie batter.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and allow spread it evenly with an offset spatula. Bake the brownie batter in the middle rack of the preheated oven. The brownies will be done after 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out almost clean from the center. The brownies can still be hot and gooey even if the toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the baking pan for 20 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack for another 20 minutes to cool. Once cool, transfer the brownies to a cutting board and cut them with a clean serrated knife into approximately 16 squares of equal size.

blueberry chocolate jam

blueberry chocolate jam

Summer has ended and here I am in the kitchen trying to seal every bit of my memories in glass jars that will remind me of the good and happy times. This past summer was etched with fun trips, great family visits, and new experiences. New recipes and tastes to be tried and savored and my blog completed its first year. This is also my first summer of canning and preserving and I will admit that it is very addictive. The summer harvest was as generous with its bounty as it was with its experiences and I took full advantage, especially the fruit. Yup, you might have noticed that I'm always leaning towards the sweeter end of things.

Chocolate chips

So here I am sharing a story of how I combined possibly two of the best ingredients that will remind me of a wonderful summer. Deep and dark chocolate with rich sweet blueberries all tucked away in a jar waiting to be opened and remind me of the warm sweet summer. I will admit, I was a little nervous about this jam, chocolate can be a bit overpowering when it comes to blueberries and a more concentrated flavor is needed to balance both the berries and the chocolate. The splash of citrus juices will help fortify the blueberries and they will hold their own against the chocolate. I added a little bit of pectin to quicken the jam process because chocolate gets scalded easily and you don't want to end up with a burned product. Burned chocolate is no fun. All in all, this is one jam that must be shared. Spread it on buttered bread slices for breakfast, drizzle it on pancakes, slap it on grilled pound cake, or anything else you could concoct at the moment. Gulping a spoonful always works too!

Note: Some cooks recommend dissolving the pectin first before adding it to the liquid. I added a teaspoon at a time and did not have a problem combining it into the jam. Also, I've made this jam a few times and stored it over a period of one year, it appears that the acidity is enough for it to be canned. You can also reduce the amount and make enough jam to store for a shorter period in the refrigerator.

This recipe was adapted from Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber.

blueberry and chocolate jam

blueberry chocolate jam

yields: 12 individual 4 ounce canning jars

ingredients


3 cups sugar
3 pints wild blueberries (I used frozen, fresh is perfectly fine too)
10 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate chips
juice of one lemon, fresh (no pulp)
juice of one lime, fresh (no pulp)
10 ml orange juice, fresh (no pulp)
5 teaspoons fruit pectin powder

1. Mix the sugar and blueberries in a large pot and cook on a medium flame. (If you use frozen blueberries then use the juices too.) Macerate the blueberries during this period with a masher and stir occasionally. Cook for about 10-12 minutes till the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour the entire mixture through a ricer or sieve and process to remove all the skins. You might have some tiny seeds that seep through the ricer/sieve, that is perfectly fine. Squeeze as much pulp and juice as you can. 
2. Add the pureed blueberry syrup into a pot and bring it a gentle simmer on a small flame. Stir in the chocolate chips. At this stage you need to stir the mixture continuously to ensure that the chocolate does not burn. 
3. Add the lemon, lime and orange juices to the mixture. Stir continuously for 15 minutes. Add the pectin to the mixture, a teaspoon at a time. Mix till it is completely combined. Perform the wrinkle test to make sure that the jam is ready to set. (Wrinkle test: Take a tablespoon of the hot mixture and smear it on a clean plate. Put the plate in the freezer for 5 minutes. When you remove it, run your finger through the center, the gel should wrinkle on the surface. This indicates that your jam is ready to gel). For some reason if your jam is not ready to gel, cook for another 5 minutes, take it off from the stove and repeat the wrinkle test. It took me two wrinkle tests to get the right consistency. Pour the jam into 12 clean 4 ounce canning jars and process for 10 minutes. 

Update: I recently designed some labels for my jars and thought I would share them with you. Do let me know what you think of them. Just note that each label is about 2 inches wide.

Disclaimer: These labels are for personal use only. If you do use them or credit them, please post a link back to the related original recipe and not the file. © A Brown Table                    




chocolate almond torte


So many things to celebrate!  Having my family here for the big commencement ceremony next Friday makes this achievement extra special and I am staying quite busy showing off the treasures of our Nation's capital.  Last week we had the opportunity to visit several places, but one topped our list--Arlington National Cemetery.  Having never visited this honorable and historic site, I was overwhelmed with the picturesque and breathtaking views. They also have a little museum that houses medals awarded to the U.S. from different countries which was a nice and interesting find.  Navigating D.C. has become quite easy for my family and they've been doing their own exploration during the day while I am at work, often coming back with interesting facts that I have missed. Besides me, Snoopy is loving having guests since he receives non-stop attention, gets to sit out in the garden and appears to have won my mother over since she is convinced he is always hungry and needs to eat more.


This is a funny story that I have to share with you. On the weekend while completing a couple of errands out in Virginia, we decided to grab lunch at a restaurant. Our order was not complicated, a couple of salads and drinks. For some reason, our order took forever so we asked the manager why everyone but us got their orders. The manager replied that it was taking some time but it would be there soon. Finally, we got our order and the assistant manager who brought our food out said "There's no cook". I was flabbergasted, it made no sense and is probably the most bizarre excuse I have heard in a while. Though we were annoyed, we were tired and hungry. We finished our lunch and got back on the road to finish the rest of our errands. Needless to say we will not be going back to that restaurant. 



I recently received a special request to bake a chocolate torte. Having never made one before, I was a bit apprehensive mainly because it is one of those desserts that requires a bit of patience and care during preparation. Since Alice Medrich is my go to for all things in the chocolate world, I was very lucky to find this recipe for her Italian Chocolate Almond Torte in her Pure Dessert cookbook. She has the knack of making the most complicated of desserts so simple and yet delicious. I added a chocolate drizzle to give the torte a richer texture and flavor. You can use blanched or unblanched almonds in this recipe. After having tasted a slice of this delicious torte, I have also come to the conclusion that it is way healthier than a rich chocolate cake since the yolks and flour are kicked out. So please do not feel guilty in indulging your cocoa needs and desires with this dessert. 



chocolate almond torte

ingredients

1 cup unblanched almonds
7 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
7 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9 inch circular springform pan and line the bottom with a sheet of baking paper. Keep aside. In a food processor, combine the almonds, salt, 1/2 of the sugar, and chocolate to get a coarse and crumbly mixture. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed to get soft white peaks. Add the rest of the sugar and continue to whisk at high speed for another 3 minutes. Gently fold in half of the almond cocoa mixture by moving from the outside to the inside, just like you would with genoise cake without destroying the structure of the foam that you made by whisking the egg whites.  Fold in the rest of the almond cocoa mixture. Pour the batter into the greased pan prepared earlier and bake for about 20 minutes in the oven. The torte is done baking when the top gets golden brown and the center is firm to touch. Let the torte cool in the pan and then remove to a serving plate. Drizzle with the chocolate drizzle (below).

dark chocolate drizzle
3/4 cup semisweet 75% dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
8 tablespoon powdered sugar
8 tablespoons hot water (90F)

To prepare the drizzle, melt the chocolate over a simmering water bath with the whipping cream. When completely melted and combined add the powdered sugar and keep mixing over the water bath. The mixture may form into a small ball. Add half of the hot water to the chocolate and keep mixing till incorporated. Add the rest of the water and combine till a smooth liquid is obtained. Remove the glaze from the water bath and allow to cool till it is lukewarm (rather does not feel too hot to your skin). Pour the glaze on the top of the torte. You can store any left over chocolate sauce and serve it on the side.

chocolate mint cake


I am in that final phase of thesis writing where I edit and re-edit, create tables and figures and transfer information from one program to another. Then I suddenly notice formatting errors due to that occasional software glitch where tabs and margins turn out to be more complicated than the actual research question or regressions that concern the paper. Software can definitely take a mind of their own and then there are those moments where I want to give it a piece of my mind. I really wish there was a command where I could type back "Whack Program Please"!


You might have noticed that I've been busy. I've been working on designing a new logo and also this special birthday cake. My friend John turned 30 this week and since this is a big one, I thought I would bake him his birthday cake as a special gift. I checked to see if he had anything special in mind for a cake and he said chocolate but it does not have to be as elaborate as the chocolate raspberry cake that I made for the chili cook-off. Still I wanted the cake to be fun, after all it was his big 3-0! Chocolate cakes are great but why not make it something even more decadent. A little bit of inspiration came my way, when I heard that he had stuffed his gym bag with some boxes of girl scout cookies. It was then that I said to myself, why not make a cake inspired by a thin mint cookie. I did not add too much creme de menthe in the buttercream, for one I needed to keep the ratios of liquid to fat constant so I did not end up with a very green buttercream but if you do want to add a little food color to it you could achieve the desired shade/color of green.


I went back to the basic recipe for the genoise cake and baked two separate genoise cakes. The cake is then layered with a layer of mint flavored creme fraiche icing and two separate layers of dark chocolate creme fraiche icing. The entire cake is then coated and sealed with a simple buttercream icing infused with creme de menthe and then drizzled with a dark chocolate glaze which is again infused with creme de menthe. The edible silver pearls are just for a little decoration and can be found anywhere.


This cake was also featured at the Huffington Post on June, 26th 2012
chocolate mint cake


ingredients 


for the cake: 


Chocolate Genoise Sponge Cake Recipe


mint creme fraiche filling
4 tablespoon creme de menthe
1 cup creme fraiche
2 tablespoon sugar


chocolate creme fraiche filling
1/4 cup semisweet dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

1 cup creme fraiche
2 tablespoon sugar


mint buttercream frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 tablespoon creme fraiche
5 tablespoon powdered sugar
3 tablespoon creme de menthe


dark chocolate glaze
3/4 cup semisweet 75% dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
8 tablespoon powdered sugar
8 tablespoons hot water (90F)
2 tablespoon creme de menthe 


mint syrup
1 cup creme de menthe 
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup water


edible silver pearls for decorating the cake


After the two genoise cakes are prepared, cool and wrap them up (they can be made a day or two ahead and stored in the refrigerator or frozen for a month before use).

Heat the creme de menthe, 4 tablespoons of sugar  and 1/4 cup water in a pot and bring to a simmer. Allow to cool to room temperature before use. 
To prepare the mint creme fraiche filling, beat the creme fraiche with a whisk at high speed till it forms stiff peaks. Add the sugar and the creme de menthe and whisk till combined and fluffy. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before use.
To prepare the chocolate creme fraiche filling, beat the creme fraiche with a whisk at high speed till it forms stiff peaks. Beat in the sugar and combine. In the mean time, melt the chocolate with the heavy cream on a simmering water bath and then pour it into the creme fraiche and whisk on high speed till smooth and stiff. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before use.
To prepare the buttercream frosting, beat the butter and the sugar till it becomes light and fluffy. This will take about 7-10 minutes at high speed. Add the creme fraiche and creme de menthe and continue beating till  completely combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before use.
Slice each genoise cake through the center to get two separate discs of equal thickness using a serrated knife and a turn table. Place one cake on a foil covered cardboard disc of equal size. Place the cake with the foil covered cardboard disc on top of a sheet of parchment paper on a turn table/cake stand or plate (This will help you to decorate the cake and reduce any clean up). Brush the surface of the cake with the prepared mint syrup, you will use about 2 tablespoons of syrup per cake slice. Then spread the mint creme fraiche filling with an offset spatula. Add the second cake layer on top of the mint creme fraiche and brush about two tablespoons of the mint syrup. Spread 1/2 of the chocolate creme fraiche filling. Similarly, place the third cake layer and brush with the mint syrup and then spread the remaining chocolate creme fraiche filling. Add the final fourth layer of cake on top and brush gently with the mint syrup. Cover the cake with cling film. At this point the cake can be refrigerated for at least 2 hours before coating with the buttercream or kept overnight. Layer the buttercream frosting with an offset spatula by coating the sides gently and slowly. You can wet the spatula by running it under warm tap water to get a smooth finish on the frosting. Allow for about 2cm of buttercream frosting on each side of the cake. Start with the center and then move to the sides. Cool the cake in the refrigerator for another 1 to 2 hours before pour the chocolate glaze. The cake should be cool enough to allow the glaze to drizzle and spread. 
To prepare the drizzle, melt the chocolate over a simmering water bath with the whipping cream. When completely melted and combined add the powdered sugar and keep mixing over the water bath. The mixture may form into a small ball. Add half of the hot water to the chocolate and keep mixing till incorporated. Add the rest of the water and creme de menthe and combine till a smooth liquid is obtained. Remove the glaze from the water bath and allow to cool till it is lukewarm (rather does not feel too hot to your skin). Pour the glaze on the top of the cake at the center and then with an offset spatula push the glaze to the ends to allow it to drizzle and drip from the sides. It helps to use a wet offset spatula to move the chocolate glaze. Sprinkle a few of the edible pearls and allow the cake to set in the refrigerator for at least two hours before serving. Remove the sheets of parchment paper from the bottom of the cake before serving.

almond and pear chocolate flan


This was a week packed with punches and kicks! It included my foray into the world of kickboxing, I've been in desperate need of a more spelled-out and defined workout schedule and I hope this new athletic venture of mine filling that gap. It feels more like winter than fall in Washington, the sudden drop in the 50s and the relentless rain is making me moody. What does get me through this kind of weather, is the smell of the warm oven while I bake and hot tea at any time of the day! The oven seemed to beckon, to make this cold and wet weekend enjoyable and warmer. Having recently purchased several autumn Bartlett pears,  the urge to bake a pear flan with an almond and chocolate filling seemed hard to ignore this weekend. I modified a tart recipe from my copy of the The Essential Baking Cookbook.


Halloween is officially around the corner and I still do not have a costume or even an inkling of what to wear. It keeps getting harder each year. This weekend is also the Taste of D.C. which will be an exciting and delicious walk through Penn. Ave.


I had chopped almonds in the pantry but if you can find pre-ground almonds, that will work as good. This pear flan is best served chilled after at least 2 hours of baking. I used my food processor to save time on making the dough. I have also found that making pastry dough with frozen versus chilled butter produces a much lighter and flakier crust. Rolling out the pastry dough between cling wrap or parchment paper makes it easier to handle the dough, without having to flour the surface that could make the pastry dry.


almond and pear chocolate flan

yield: 6-8 servings (9" inch tart)

ingredients

For the Pastry
1 1/4 cup flour
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and frozen
1/4 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
a little extra butter for greasing the tin

For the Filling
1 stick unsalted butter or 150 ml vegetable oil
2/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2/3 cup melted unsweetened dark chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup ground raw almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons flour 
3 ripe peeled, cored and sliced (length-wise) Bartlett Pears

1. Attach the dough blade to the food processor and pour in the flour and cubed butter. Pulse till the flour resembles a crumbly mixture. 
2. Pulse in the sugar, followed by the addition of the egg yolks, one at a time. Remove the dough ball from the processor and wrap it in cling wrap and leave it to rest for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator. 
3. Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly grease a fluted tart tin with a little butter. Cut a circle of baking/parchment paper equal to the size of the base of the tart tin and line the bottom of the tin with it. Remove the dough and roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper to form a 14 inch circle. Now, remove the top layer of the parchment paper from the rolled out dough and line the tin with the dough. Remove the other layer of parchment paper and using the rolling pin trim off any excess dough from the edges of the pan. Lightly proof the pastry surface with a fork to let any trapped air exit during the baking process. Cover the surface of the pastry in the tin with dry uncooked beans or pie weights. Bake the pastry shell for about 10 minutes. Remove the beads and then bake the pastry for an additional 5 minutes. Let the pastry shell cool for about 15 minutes in the refrigerator. 
4. To prepare the filling, cream the  butter and sugar by beating in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs individually. Pour the melted chocolate and mix it  in the filling mixture. Now fold in the ground almonds and flour. To the cooled pastry shell, gently pour in the pie filling in an even layer. Arrange the pear slices on the surface of the filling and bake the tart for about 30 minutes or till the center is firm. The pears will caramelize a little during the baking process. Allow the tart to cool to room temperature in the tin and then transfer it to the refrigerator to cool for another hour or till firm before it can be served. Using a sieve, dust the surface lightly with sweetened cocoa powder and icing sugar.