Sunday, March 15, 2015

Chocolate Stout Cake

They say everyone's a little bit Irish on Saint Patrick's Day. In fact, I am a little bit Irish every day. If you climb four branches up on my family tree, you'll find Leopold Bloom... maybe.

Picture by James Joyce, Wiki Commons
Looks just like me, no? Same neuroses around the eyes.

So, I'm not Irish enough to march in a parade. (Is there a Saint Patrick's Day parade in Baltimore?) At our March 17th wedding, we did not make a kiddush of green Manischewitz. But I am Irish enough to serve corned beef this Tuesday. And I will definitely bake a chocolate cake with enough Guinness that you can taste it in every bite. Good enough?

What if I throw in these four leaf clovers?


This recipe is a mashup of a cake from Taste of Home, my own Baltimore Buttercream, and candy clay decorations.

Can I just take a moment to tell you how much I love candy clay? Melt candy discs with corn syrup, wait six hours, and you end up with sweet play dough. It's so much less vile than fondant! No, you can't cover a cake with it and get a smooth finish. But how did we get to a point where it's normal to cover cakes with a rubbery coating intended to be peeled off before eating? How is this even a thing?

So, I am Team Candy Clay... Whew! Glad I got that off my chest.

This recipe makes a big, rich cake with about 16 slices. It will keep for several days in the refrigerator. You can, of course, use green fondant for the decorations. Or even omit them entirely if you want a more sophisticated look. You do you!

1/2 bag green Candy Melts (170g), divided
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (32g)
green food coloring (optional)
gold dragees (optional)

1 1/4 cup Guinness, or other stout
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (142g)
1 3/4 cups sugar (350g)
15 tablespoons natural cocoa powder (110g)
2 eggs, beaten
7/8 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (300g)
2 teaspoons baking soda

2 egg whites (70g)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (100g)
1/3 cup corn syrup (100g)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (165g)
2 cups (give or take) powdered sugar (260g)
pinch of table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the Candy Clay:
The night before, set aside a quarter of the Candy Melts (43g, or just eyeball it). Microwave the remainder in 30 second intervals, stirring between each until smooth. Mix in the corn syrup and tint with food coloring until you get the shade of green you like. Scrape the dough onto plastic wrap, cover and form into a disc, then let it rest at room temperature for several hours.

Bake the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350˚ (325˚ convection). Use baking spray with flour to coat three 7"- or 8"-round pans.

In a large saucepan, melt beer and butter. Remove from the heat and whisk in sugar and cocoa. Add eggs, sour cream and vanilla, whisking until smooth. Add in flour and baking powder, using a bit of elbow grease to break up any lumps. Divide batter between three pans and bake for about 40 minutes, until the cake is just starting to pull away from the sides of the pans.

Cool in pans for five minutes, then invert onto racks to cool completely.

Whip up the Frosting:
Using the mixer's whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until frothy. Add two tablespoons of sugar and kick the mixer up to high, beating until soft peaks form.

Meanwhile, stir the remaining sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil for a full minute, then remove from the stove. In several additions, pour the hot sugar syrup into the meringue, beating after every addition.

When all the syrup is in, turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for several minutes until the bowl cools to room temperature. One tablespoon at a time, add the soft butter to the meringue, beating well after each addition.

Beat in the vanilla, then the powdered sugar. The texture should be loose, but stiff enough to form soft peaks. If it's too loose, add a little more sugar. Too thick, add a teaspoon of milk.

Assemble the Cake:
Use a serrated knife to level the layers, smooth about half a cup of frosting between each layer, then apply a thin crumb coat of frosting all over the cake. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to set the crumb coat. Smooth the remaining frosting over the cake, taking as much time as you feel like investing to get a smooth finish.

Roll out 1/4 of the candy clay to about 1/8" thickness. Use a small round cutter or an icing tip to punch out rounds. With a paring knife, cut a small notch in each leaf, then use your thumbs to pull and press it into a cloverleaf shape. Roll the scraps into stems, then carefully press stems and leaves into the sides of your cake. Repeat with remaining dough until you get a pattern that you like.

With a sharp knife, chop the remaining candy melts into fine shards. Press these into the bottom inch of the cake to make grass and hide the stems. Arrange gold dragees on top.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Chocolate Blood Orange Pi(e)

I'm not usually in favor of third-tier holidays. It probably has something to do with being Jewish. Why do I need to celebrate National Doughnut Day, I make Shabbat every week? I already have shpilkes a month in advance thinking about Passover.

But Pi Day is different. Because math is perfection, and we should take every opportunity to celebrate it. Because Pi is the ultimate ratio, and understanding proportion is what makes a great cook. Because how hard is it to make a pie?

So, here's my Pi Day contribution. My starting point was a recipe for orange tartlets topped with meringue from Mimi Thorisson's incredible blog, "Manger." Even if I was capable of following directions (and liked meringue), I would never make individual tarts for my family. My kids would each eat three bites, leaving me with three half-eaten tartlets. It would be a sin to waste them, so I'd eat them all. In no time, I'd be big as a house. Clearly, making a whole pie is the only sensible alternative.

You can leave this pie plain, or just decorate it with chocolate lines. But if you're making it for Pi Day, you might as well take the extra five minutes and pipe the first thirty digits or so of Pi. It's much easier than it looks.

Chocolate Crust
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (140g)
2/3 cup powdered sugar (80g)
3 tablespoons dutch processed cocoa powder (20g)
pinch of table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (90g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg yolks

Blood Orange Curd
1 cup blood orange juice
1 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons zest
4 tablespoons lemon juice
3 eggs, plus 2 yolks
1 stick butter
pinch of salt
1 drop red food coloring (optional)

melted chocolate (optional)
cocoa powder (optional)

9" tart pan with removable bottom
food processor

For the crust:
In food processor, pulse flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and butter for 20 seconds. Add vanilla and yolks, and turn the machine back on. (Stop thinking about all those recipes that urged you to handle pie crust gently. They are not the boss of you.) Leave the machine running for at least a minute, listening for the sound to change from whining to thumping. (Yes, I'm serious!) When it starts to come together in clumps, gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20 minutes. 

Roll out onto a piece of wax paper and fit to a 9" pie plate. Prick the bottom of the pie several time with a fork, and place in the freezer for an hour. Spray a piece of tinfoil with oil and fit it snugly into the pie crust. Make sure to push it into the corners and up the sides to prevent shrinking. Bake for 20 minutes at 350˚, while you get on with the topping and filling.

For the Blood Orange Curd:
In a large, glass bowl, combine the melted butter, eggs and sugar. Pour in juice, and whisk to combine. Microwave at 30 second intervals, whisking after each. Stop about 4 minutes in, when the mixture is just slightly thicker than melted ice cream. Strain out any lumps, and whisk in zest and optional food coloring if you prefer a more vibrant curd. Pour into crust and bake until filling is just set, about 25 minutes. Cool on counter for an hour, and chill in fridge for two hours to firm up filling completely.

For the Garnish:
Throw a handful of chocolate (chips, chunks, wafers, bars, whatever) in a glass bowl. Microwave in thirty second intervals, stirring after each. Let it cool for several minutes, then load it into a piping bag with a tiny corner snipped. Draw your designs on wax paper and let them cool until fully set before placing on the pi(e).

Monday, March 2, 2015

Oreo Hamantaschen

There are so, so many Hamantaschen in my freezer right now.

We've got the regular ones, like Poppy, Apricot and Date.

There are Chocolate, Cherry and Peanut Butter.

There are no striped ones this year, because I've learned my lesson, Thankyouverymuch.

My newest flavor is Oreo. Which I thought was pretty awesome, but the kids gave me a Whatever, Mom. Apparently, I've been going through an Oreo phase.

These kids have it rough!

Before I tell you how easy it is to make these, though, I'd just like to remind you of the ground rules for Hamantaschen from my Hamantaschen 101 post a couple of years ago.

Top Five Rules of Hamantaschen:
  1. You have to allow time to chill the dough so it will roll out easily: four hours in the fridge or one hour in the freezer.
  2. Canned fillings are okay - as long as you make your own dough, you get all the points. I'm not a big fan of bought fruit fillings, but if that's what you grew up with, then crank up that can opener.
  3. You have to freeze the formed cookies to prevent them leaking, spreading and slumping. Do not defrost before baking.
  4. More filling is not better. Especially with poppy, a great glob of filling, is just unpleasant.
  5. However your grandmother made them is the right way. If you don't like your friend's recipe, don't insult her Bubbe by telling her.
Seriously, you MUST freeze them, or they will spread into puddles of sadness. 

This is a slight variation on my regular, sugar cookie Hamantaschen dough. Try not to overwork it while you're rolling, or it turns kind of gray and ashy looking.

Hamantaschen Dough
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 cups all-purpose flour
5 Oreos

Oreo Filling
20 Oreo cookies 
3/4-1 cup of cream

If you want to use a hand mixer, then cut the recipe in half - this much dough will burn out the smaller motor. And if you don't have a processor, just put the cookies in a ziploc bag and bash them with a rolling pin. 
  1. In a stand mixer cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla and salt.
  2. Beat in the baking powder and flour on low speed, until fist-sized clumps of dough start to form around the beater.
  3. Scrape the cream from between the Oreo layers and set it aside for use in the filling. Pulse the cookies in the food processor until most pieces are finely ground; a few chunks is okay.
  4. Add the Oreo crumbs to the mixer and incorporate them on low speed.
  5. Pull the dough together into a ball, wrap or cover with plastic. Refrigerate for four hours or freeze for one.
  6. To make the filling, pulse the 20 Oreos and leftover filling in the processor until chunky. Pour in the cream and run the machine until you get to the texture of chunky peanut-butter. Store in the fridge until you're ready to use.
  7. On a counter dusted with flour, roll the dough out to 1/8" thick. Use floured glass or cutter to form 4" circles. Slide a spatula under the circles and move them to the side while you finish cutting out the dough.
  8. Drop 1 teaspoon of filling into the center of each circle, and fold in sides to make a triangle. Pinch the corners to seal.
  9. Freeze on rimmed baking sheets lined with wax paper. When hard, store the cookies in freezer bags. Do not defrost before baking.
  10. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350˚(325˚ convection). Arrange frozen hamantaschen about 2" apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  11. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the edges just start to brown, but the center is still pale. Cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container for two days.
Happy Purim! Freilichen Purim! Simchat Purim!