Tag Archives: baking

My Brazen Attempt at a Chocolate-Raspberry Torte From Scratch


IMG_0539-001
The end result – my Chocolate-Raspberry Torte

Brazen.  That’s the perfect word to describe my attempt at making a bittersweet Chocolate Raspberry Torte… from scratch.  Well, almost.  I don’t have a chicken coop to retrieve fresh eggs from so a slight exaggeration it is.

Well, it came out LOOKING okay per above… but……..

____________________________________________

The kids didn’t put me up to this although my Little-Cake-Boss-Now-Dreadful-Teenager would have likely devoured it.  Alas, she is gone for a week and a half on a bus vacation with my ex.  No, I don’t know where they are – not even in which state – which is part of the secret life they lead with their mother.  So, I needed a distraction.  Besides, I owed my good neighbors an experiment a treat.  Their two youngest kids were a wonderful influence on my two little rug rats as they were growing up.

I just happened to receive two wonderful Cook’s Illustrated recipe books on a super deal and while exploring it, I came across this challenge – the Chocolate Raspberry Torte.  There you have it.  (ps The two books together weighed at least 15 pounds!)

__________________________________________

Putting it together can be summarized in several steps:

  1. Make the two pieces of bittersweet, flourless chocolate cake;
  2. Make the filling;
  3. Make the ganache for the chocolate glaze; and,
  4. Make the mess putting it all together.

It really wasn’t all that difficult. 🙂

While I would encourage single men trying to impress a lady to subscribe to Cook’s Illustrated (besides, there’s even a short and informative video on how to put this concoction together on their website), the ingredients were as follows:

Bittersweet, flourless chocolate cake:

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, bar or chips (I cheat – I use the chip form.  I used Ghiradelli’s. If you buy a bar, you’ll have to chop it up which is a mess no big deal.)
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp instant expresso powder
  • 1-3/4 cups sliced almonds, lightly toasted (I forgot to do that)
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (I use MacArthur’s)
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature (I forgot to take them out, too)

For the raspberry filling:

  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries plus 16 individual raspberries for garnishing; pick the best ones for the garnishing
  • 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam (Since my good neighbors are health conscious, I bought an organic product.  In hindsight, it wasn’t as sweet as no sugar was added.)

Chocolate Ganache Glaze:

  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, bar or chips
  • 1/2 cup plus one tbsp heavy cream

You will also need a food processor, two good quality 9″ cake pans, a wire rack, cardboard rounds for the cakes and parchment paper.

Instructions

The cake:

  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Grease then line bottoms of the two 9″ baking pans with parchment paper.  Grease the parchment paper then dust with flour.
28242552806_51245500bc_o
Since I don’t have a suitable bowl for this, I always use my trusty Japanese bowl.
  • While the recipe says to melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over some barely simmering water, I cheat (via Cook’s Illustrated).  I zap the chocolate chips and butter for about 1-1/2 minutes at 50% power.  Stop when the chips pretty much lose their shape but don’t overheat.  Whisk gently and let cool 30 minutes, then add vanilla extract and espresso powder.  Whisk gently again.
28173492582_1754e794ca_o
Whisking the melted chocolate and butter.  Cool for 30 minutes before adding extract and espresso powder.
  • Process 3/4 cup almonds in food processor until coarsely chopped, six to eight 1-second pulses; set aside to garnish cake.
27995763840_bd863d5930_o
Coarsely chopped sliced almonds. Remember to toast!
  • Process remaining cup almonds until very finely ground, about 45 seconds. Add flour and salt and continue to process until combined, about 15 seconds. Transfer almond-flour mixture to medium bowl.
27995863890_21b0c30379_o
Ground almond slivers after flour and salt added.
  • Process eggs in now-empty food processor until lightened in color and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. With processor running, slowly add sugar until thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds.
27995923900_1ed7ecd06f_o
Before.
28242920226_907fe4263b_o
The five eggs after three minutes. Remember to use room temperature eggs!
  • Using whisk, gently fold egg mixture into chocolate mixture until some streaks of egg remain. Sprinkle half almond-flour mixture over chocolate-egg mixture and gently whisk until just combined. Sprinkle in remaining almond-flour mixture and gently whisk until just combined.
28173505002_fb98c2d221_o
After some folding of the eggs into the chocolate mixture. Note the streaks.
28243008056_f4b3f8bdcc_o
Addition of first portion of the ground almonds and before whisking.
28277423705_90a449592a_o
After addition of remaining ground almonds. Frankly, I may have over-whisked it. Doing so breaks down the aerated eggs.
  • Divide batter evenly between cake pans and smooth with rubber spatula. Bake until center is firm and toothpick inserted into center comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 14 to 16 minutes.  (ps I over-baked mine as the cake pulled away from the sides.  I’m thinking my oven was too hot so I need to lower the temp next time.)
28278175875_4654da276c_o
One cake before inversion. You do not have to invert the second cake.
  • Transfer cakes to wire rack and cool completely in pan, about 30 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cakes to loosen. Invert cakes onto cardboard rounds cut same size as diameter of cake and remove parchment paper. Using wire rack, re-invert 1 cake so top side (the shiny side) faces up; slide back onto cardboard round.

The filling:

  • Place ½ cup raspberries in medium bowl and coarsely mash with fork. Stir in raspberry jam until just combined. Spread raspberry mixture onto cake layer that is top side up. Top with second cake layer, leaving it bottom side up. (Tricky!) Transfer assembled cake, still on cardboard round, to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet.
28174392892_7c8b88e876_o
A horrible cell phone pic; it looked much better than this. 🙂 Smooth filling to almost the edge. Placing the second cake on top of this slightly squeezes the filling out.

The glaze:

  1. Melt chocolate and cream in medium heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. (Again, I zapped it, this time for about a minute at 50%.  Don’t overzap.)  Remove from heat and gently whisk until very smooth. Pour glaze onto center of assembled cake. Use offset spatula to spread glaze evenly over top of cake, letting it flow down sides. Spread glaze along sides of cake to coat evenly. (Having one of those portable lazy Susan gizmos for cakes helps.  Besides, all men like gizmos.)
c-30
Use an angled or offset spatula to smooth the glaze to the edges and allow to drip down. Use offset spatula to then smooth it around the sides. (Note: I inverted this top cake needlessly.)
  • Using fine-mesh strainer, sift reserved almonds to remove any fine bits. Holding bottom of cake on cardboard round with one hand, gently press sifted almonds onto cake sides with other hand. Arrange raspberries around circumference., placing one raspberry at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions; evenly place the rest of the raspberries using the first four raspberries as a guide.  Refrigerate cake, still on rack, until glaze is set, at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
IMG_0544-001
Finished!
  • Transfer cake to serving platter, slice, and serve.

It really wasn’t that difficult… although I forgot to toast the almonds and overbaked the cakes; sorry, Brad!  But now, your lovely wife can show off her own baking skills in your kitchen since since she can now follow the recipe! (Am I in trouble now?)

By the way, this was MY dessert treat calories after this brazen effort:

28297723985_97ba030ea9_k
Did you know Hostess is now owned by a Mexican company?  What’s made in the US of A anymore?

 

Florentine Bars from Scratch


c-10-721

My bud, Chef Cathy Thomas of Orange County, CA (link here), had posted on her website a marvelous, yummy looking dessert called “Florentine Bars”.  They are a creation of one of her culinary associates, Chef Wonyee Tom, who serves them up by the dozens at her establishment in Huntington Beach, CA called “Tomgirl Baking Co.”

The topping of dried cranberries and apricots plus sliced almonds in a cream and honey based homemade caramel mixture rests upon a wonderful buttery crust… and like all of Chef Cathy’s recipes, the recipe was detailed and easy to follow.

Even I could follow them!

_______________________________________

To make these, the ingredients are listed below but if you home chefs want to throw together this easy recipe, I’d encourage you to visit her webpage; there’s even a video!  (You know how men are visually minded.)

Video link: http://cathythomascooks.com/2016/02/01/tomgirl-baking-companys-florentine-bar-cookies-are-unsurpassed/

The ingredients are:

Sweet dough crust:
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (3 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1-1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
All-purpose flour for dusting parchment paper

Topping:
1-1/2 cups (5 ounces) sliced almonds (not toasted)
1/3 cup (1 ounce) diced dried apricots
1 cup (2 ounces) coarsely chopped dried cranberries
1/4 cup (1 ounce) all-purpose flour
3-1/2 ounces (7 tablespoons) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (5 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) honey
1/4 cup (2 ounces) heavy whipping cream
Nonstick spray

Here are some steps I managed to take cellphone pics of:

florentine1
Dried cranberries and apricots with sliced almonds.

 

florentine2
Softened unsalted butter and sugar ready for the mixer and before egg and flour.  When I add the flour, I set the mixer on the lowest speed briefly until most of the flour is under control.  Otherwise, you will have a plume of flour dust.

 

florentine10
Dough in general shape of pan and before rolling out. I crease my parchment paper to mark the pan dimensions; it helps me roll it out.

 

florentine6
Ready for the 350F oven.

 

florentine99
Making the caramel mixture. You should smell the aroma!  By the way, Chef Tom recommends using a stainless steel utensil to stir but I don’t have one that’ll work.  I’m assuming the wooden spoon may give off infused flavors from dishes past?

 

florentine8
Mix in the dried fruits and nuts off heat. It does set up very quickly so move fast!

 

florentine4a
I slice mine up into triangles when there’s still a smidge of warmth left. (ps I also cut off maybe 1/4″ off the sides for presentation… It may be the best part!)

 

Voila!  Great with coffee…or anytime!

florentine11a

And as testament to the deliciousness, I had made it for the teachers and staff appreciation luncheon last Friday – and they asked my daughter for the recipe!

florentine7a

florentine7ab

Of course, I texted her the proper link to Cathy Thomas’ website.  You should check it out, too, and get on her email distribution!

http://cathythomascooks.com/

Happy baking!

Glazed Salmon


c-10-601
My Glazed Salmon for the kids.

Those dreaded words once again echoed in my kitchen.

“Papa, can you make something different for dinner?” asked my soon-to-be-dreaded-teenager, the Little Cake Boss Diva.

Ugh… Which reminds me I am overdue for another “She’s Killing Me” story…  Actually, I have tons but you will be spared.

______________________________________

Usually, there is no dinner menu for the kids when they are with me… primarily due to my Little Cake Boss Diva.  Her forte is executing her plans – a minute after she changes it.

Even then, she is late.  Always.  You can set your clock to it.  Kinda.

As my old-time buddy had come over as we planned from days ahead, I fretted over what to make that was new.  Then I recalled Stater Bros. had a sale on fresh salmon fillets so that was my first step.  I went to my cooking bible, Cook’s Illustrated, and found this recipe for “Glazed Salmon”.  After scanning the ingredients, I decided this would be it as it had soy sauce.  My son Jack will eat (almost) anything if it had soy sauce and Brooke (usually) eats what I make.

So after talking about old times with my buddy, I dashed off to the supermarket; I only needed a couple of items – like the salmon!  Unfortunately, the fillets were a tad thin; also, they weren’t of the same thickness but they had to make do (Having them the same thickness ensures the fillets cook at the same rate.).

____________________________________

Ingredients:

For rub:

1 – teaspoon light brown sugar

½ – teaspoon kosher salt

¼ – teaspoon cornstarch

* * * * * *

4 – center-cut skin-on salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each

Ground black pepper

1 – teaspoon vegetable oil

For Glaze:

3 – tablespoons light brown sugar

2 – tablespoons soy sauce

2 – tablespoons mirin (see note)

1 – tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 – tablespoon whole grain mustard

1 – tablespoon water

1 – teaspoon cornstarch

⅛ – teaspoon red pepper flakes

_________________________________

Preheat oven to 300F.

After I rinsed off the salmon and cut off the real thin parts, I placed them skin side down on paper towels and patted them dry.  I sprinkled them flesh side up with ground black pepper then applied the rub. (Sorry, these are all cellphone pics.)

c-10-605
Peppered and with rub applied. The rub has dissolved, by the way, so you can’t see it.

The glaze was next.  After mixing the ingredients together in a small sauce pot, I quickly brought it to a boil.  It quickly thickens; remove from heat and cover.  Set aside.

c-10-602

Heat a non-stick skillet and oil until very hot.  Place salmon flesh side down first and brown for one minute.  Flip and brown the skin side also for one minute, then transfer carefully to a baking sheet, skin side down.  (I have the wonderful Breville Smart Convection Oven, perfect for the small meals – and desserts – I make.)

c-10-603
Ready to serve!

Spoon the still warm glaze mixture liberally over the salmon, then bake in oven for 7-10 minutes.  Cook’s Illustrated says bake until an instant read thermometer reads 125F for you scientific cooks.  I did turn on the convection fan for the last three minutes.  The salmon came out wonderfully glazed and moist.

Plate and serve!

c-10-604

Note: Ever notice the white stuff that oozes out from your salmon at times?  It’s from using too high a heat.  It also indicates moisture has been squeezed out of the fish.

I also transferred the browned salmon to a baking sheet as my non-sticks are not oven safe.  If you have one that is oven safe, you can just throw the skillet right into the oven.

My Shepherd’s Pie from Scratch


c-10-530
My shepherd’s pie. The kids love it. They even eat the peas!

Well, my kids finally returned from Japan this past Monday; they had been gone for over three weeks.  Believe me, I didn’t like it ONE bit.  Worst part of it was my ex prevented me from emailing with them for longer than the last two weeks of their stay.  What kind of parent would do that, I ask?  There are some other irritating things about this trip – like her postponing applying for the Little Cake Boss’ passport until the last minute.  They finally picked it up from the Federal Building in Westwood two working days before their departure in late July.  No kidding.

But they are back albeit badly jet lagged; they went back to their mom’s today after a groggy week with me.  I had asked them what they would like to eat their second night back now that they are home and Jack immediately, said, “Shepherd’s Pie!”  So Shepherd’s Pie it was.

As a couple of my friends have asked me to provide them with the recipe, I thought I’d take a break from writing about my Leyte pilgrimage.  The pilgrimage was emotionally draining; it still is weighing on my heart, especially when I write about it for my family’s sake.

c-10-363
On Leyte, July 2015.

________________________________________

The recipe is quite easy.  I use Rachael Ray’s recipe for this one instead of my standby cooking bible, Cook’s Illustrated.  Besides, she’s as cute as a button.  (Did you know some “pro” chefs on TV don’t think she should be showing people how to cook?)

The ingredients are:

2 pounds potatoes, such as russet, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
1 3/4 pounds ground beef (lean preferred for me)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup beef stock or broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire, eyeball it
1/2 cup frozen peas, a couple of handfuls
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
For the potatoes, I use russets, about four of the potatoes found in your typical supermarket’s bulk bag.  While I wash the skin, I leave the skin on and drop them into cold water with about an inch to cover.  The reason I start with cold water is that I believe (ha) that the potatoes will cook more uniformly.  I feel that dropping them into boiling water will cook them unevenly, from the outside-in.
__________________________________________
Boil potatoes and remove when done.

Combine sour cream, egg yolk and cream.  Add the cream mixture into slightly mashed potatoes then mash until potatoes are almost smooth.

While potatoes boil, preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil to hot pan with beef or lamb. Season meat with salt and pepper.  Brown and crumble meat for 3 or 4 minutes.  Add chopped carrot and onion to the meat. Cook veggies with meat 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a second small skillet over medium heat cook butter and flour together two minutes. Whisk in broth and Worcestershire sauce. Thicken gravy one minute.  Add gravy to meat and vegetables. Stir in peas.

Preheat broiler to high. Fill a small rectangular casserole with meat and vegetable mixture. Spoon potatoes over meat evenly. Top potatoes with paprika and broil 6 to 8 inches from the heat until potatoes are evenly browned. Top casserole dish with chopped parsley and serve.
_________________________________________

As a side note, I do cook the carrots a bit first, then add the ground beef and onions to brown.  If still frozen, I throw the peas in for a minute before I add the gravy mixture.
Lastly, you’re not going to see the paprika and chopped parsley leaves in the picture above because… I forgot.  Old age sucks.
Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pie from Scratch


IMG_9680-10
My pumpkin pie.

Its from scratch.  Crust too, as you can see.  It looks like the world’s biggest churro’s surrounding the pie.

It was a lot of work outside of the crust.  Pumpkin puree, candied yams, syrup, heavy cream milk, eggs, sugar, nutmeg, salt and…grated ginger.

But my little Cake Boss said it “tasted better than the supermarket’s pumpkin pie”.

Does that mean I can keep my job?

Triple-Chocolate Espresso Brownies


IMG_8245-1
Decadent Triple-Chocolate Espresso Brownies

Long name, huh, for brownies?  O_o

Well, my little Cake Boss asked for me, her servant, to make her some brownies. And since I had all the ingredients at the house, I decided to do it from scratch…again.

Wasn’t someone supposed to tell me to stop this non-sense?

____________________________

IMG_8226-1
Sugar, salt and unbleached flour are not shown. As a side note, I much prefer Hershey’s unsweetened chocolate.  It’s a lousy photo but that’s a foil-lined baking pan in the background.

Per my yes-yes beacon, Cook’s Illustrated, the classic brownie should be moist, not “goopy” or dry.  The chocolate flavor should most of all be decadent – especially for my little Cake Boss.  Gotta raise her right, you know.

Like avoiding the supermarket pre-mixed who-the-heck-knows-what’s-in-it stuff.

Well… it’s really ‘cuz I wanted to avoid the uncomfortable situation experienced after baking the little Cake Boss a classic white double-layer birthday cake.  The little Cake Boss almost fired me because I didn’t do as she told me to.

_________________________

Some of the easy steps:

IMG_8228-2
Melting the chocolates and butter over barely simmering water. Gotta keep stirring!  Just like my homemade chocolate truffles.
IMG_8229-3
After it all melts, whisk in the cocoa and espresso powder. Set aside.
IMG_8233-4
Whisk eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. You then whisk while pouring in the still warm chocolate yumminess. Fold in the flour and pour into a foil-lined baking pan. Smooth over as best possible then bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.
IMG_8236-5
Don’t overbake! I’ve learned my oven runs on the hot side and items need to be rotated. It’s perfectly done if it domes slightly and some sticky brownie crumbs stick to a toothpick. Very logical (unlike the illogical “Common Core Mathematics” now being taught in elementary schools).

After cooling for two hours, lift out the brownies with the foil liner and pig out!

__________________________

Actually, this first batch of homemade “triple-chocolate espresso brownies” came out REAL good as the little Cake Boss came back for a second piece.

She must’ve been pleased.

I guess I’m still employed at the house.