White Chocolate Coconut Rum Cake Monday, May 17 2010 

I may have mentioned before that I’m really, really, horrifically bad at remembering birthdays – it’s the number one reason I keep an up-to-date calendar, and even that isn’t foolproof.

And May is The Month of Birthdays.  Literally every weekend (and several week nights) is dominated by cake, ice cream, and presents.  I can’t even estimate the amount of icing I eat in May, but suffice to say it’s too much.  So I suppose I should’ve expected to screw something up sooner or later, but I may have really picked the wrong birthday to skip.

It goes without saying that Boyfriend and I work hard to see each other at least once a month.  Since we haven’t seen one another since early April, the ideal time for me to head up to Boston would’ve been the very first weekend in May – only my cousin was turning 21 and I was otherwise occupied screwing up cupcakes and taking birthday shots with her.  Mother’s Day weekend?  His parents were visiting.  Which brings us to last weekend, when I finally got to make the trip…much to Cousin’s dismay, since she turned 25 while I was in Boston. Obviously, I’m the worst cousin in the whole world.

To chip away at the years of penance I’ll certainly have to do to make up for my stupidity, I had to at least bake a cake for her.  And what was her reaction to the two-layer white chocolate coconut rum cake I presented her with?

“Um, you know I don’t like coconut, right?”

The hole I’m in just keeps getting bigger.

White Chocolate Coconut Rum Cake

I found these layers ridiculously flat – either my baking soda/powder is dead, or I lost something in the merging of too many recipes and ideas to count. Regardless of its teeny little proportions, it was delicious – moist, sweet, and just enough like coconut rum to remind Cousin that while she doesn’t like shredded coconut, she definitely likes the kind that can give you a good buzz.

For the Cake

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter

2 eggs

2 tbsp white rum (+ 1 tbsp extra for brushing onto cake)

1 1/2 cup flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 cup milk

1 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease two 8-inch cake pans.  Cream butter and sugar together in a medium bowl until pale yellow and creamy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in rum.

In a separate bowl, mix flour and baking powder together.  Slowly add to the wet ingredients, beating until incorporated.  Add milk and beat until smooth.

Pour into prepared pans and cook for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

When the cake has cooled, poke holes all over cake with a toothpick and brush it evenly with a mixture of 1 tbsp rum, 1 tbsp vanilla extract, and 2 tbsp water.

For the Icing

1 3.5-ounce coconut white chocolate bar (I literally used this only because the store I was at had no other white chocolate; I imagine a regular white chocolate bar – or even white chocolate chips – and a bit of coconut extract or coconut rum would work in place of this)

1 ½ sticks butter, softened

4 tbsp milk or cream

1 ½ cups confectioners sugar

In a double-boiler over medium heat, melt the chocolate bar with the milk/cream.  Once the bar is completely melted, let the mixture cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter until creamy.  Add sugar to butter and beat until combined.  Add chocolate, and beat until combined and creamy.

To assemble

If you’ve opted to freeze the cake, defrost it before assembly.  Line a cake plate with parchment paper, and place the first layer in the center of the plate.  Use roughly 1/3 of the icing to cover the top of the base layer.  Lay the second layer on top of the iced bottom layer.  Use the rest of the icing to cover the cake.

Advertisements

Red Velvet Cupcakes and Pomegranate Buttercream Monday, May 3 2010 

I’m sort of a cynical person.  I’m adamantly stubborn and incredibly sarcastic, and I rarely believe things I find to good to be true.  But I have a bad habit of putting an unreasonable amount of faith in new recipes.  I don’t know why this is – I just always assume that every recipe I try will work out flawlessly, perfectly, and effortlessly the very first time.

Obviously, it doesn’t always happen that way, and I’ve had my share of kitchen trauma.  I always feel guilty blaming the recipe when something fails.  Usually, I blame a variety of things: my failure to read specific instructions, the food itself, the ingredients, myself…the list goes on.  But I never want to judge something I’ve only tried once too harshly, since it could very well be my fault that it didn’t turn out right.  In fact, considering the sources of some of the recipes I’ve bombed, I’d say that’s a fairly reasonable guess.

But the cupcakes – I don’t necessarily think the cupcakes were all my fault. Nor do I think they were a complete failure, since they set up a little more the next day and lost the weird, jelly-like substance buried at the bottom of their cupcake liners under a deceptive, moist layer of cake.  But even if you looked passed the gelatinous depths of the pretty pink cakes, they had bigger problems: they failed to rise at all, and they just looked so pathetically diminutive in their half-filled cups.  There was no beautiful sloped top, no cute muffin-top puff over the edges of the liner, no nothing.  Just under-filled and underwhelming cakes, which were so cloyingly sweet that the taste just lingered in my mouth, coating my teeth with sugar and shattered dreams.  I knew the instant I pulled them out of the oven I’d be chucking them and starting from scratch.

And I did start all over, but here’s the thing – if I really cared to know whether it was me or the recipe that failed, I’d try again.  Unfortunately, I’ve never been a scientist, and I don’t like to waste handmade baked goods.  Instead, I scrapped that recipe, and found a red velvet cake recipe with over 100 successful attempts on All Recipes and a buttercream I already knew how to make. Because sometimes new just isn’t better, and when my cooking confidence is shaken, it takes a slam-dunk recipe to set it back on its feet.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Adapted from allrecipes

Makes 20 cupcakes

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 fluid ounce red food coloring

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp white vinegar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line or grease your cupcake pans.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until pale yellow.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add vanilla, buttermilk, baking soda, and vinegar, and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, and cocoa powder together, then slowly add the wet ingredients.  Mix until combined. Add red food coloring and mix until the color is uniform.

Spoon batter into cupcake liners, filling each about 3/4 of the way.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Cool completely.

Pomegranate Buttercream

1 ½ sticks butter

2 cups confectioners sugar

4 tbsp whole milk or half and half

2 tbsp pomegranate schnapps

In a large bowl, cream together butter and confectioners sugar until pale yellow.  Stir in milk and schnapps until creamy and pale pink.

Keep refrigerated until use.

Double Chocolate Scones Saturday, Apr 3 2010 

Easter is one of those holidays where, like Christmas, everyone gets up early.  For Brother and I, it was because there were gifts to be opened (in the form of adorable, bunny-shaped Easter baskets) before Church started.  And, of course, I had to allow time to dress in my frilly, white Easter dress and matching hat.  Of course.  But a girl never grows out of dressing for the occasion, so if you think for one second that I’m lying when I tell you that Cousin and I went searching for Easter hats last week…well then, please reread my last hundred or so entries.  Because of all the bad life choices I’ve made, Easter-hat-shopping, even though we came up empty-handed, will never be one of them.

So for all of you who will be up early tomorrow to dress up for Church and egg-hunting, might I suggest some  scones for breakfast?

Double Chocolate Scones

I used half whole wheat flour, half white flour here, and you really can’t tell the difference…plus it makes me feel better about it.  I also cut the scones into the shape of crosses…mostly because I like holiday-themed anything.

2 cups flour

1 tbsp baking powder

4 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

5 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into cubes

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup half-and-half or cream

2 tbsp cocoa powder

2 oz. white chocolate, chopped

1 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cocoa powder together.  Using a pastry cutter, incorporate the butter.  When it is broken up into small clumps throughout the dough, add the cream, milk, and vanilla, and stir just until a dough is formed.  Add the white chocolate and mix just until evenly incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead to bring all the bits together.  Once the dough forms a cohesive ball, either press it into an 8-inch cake pan, then turn back out onto the floured surface and cut into wedges, OR use cookie-cutters to create shapes, pressing the extra dough scraps back together and repeating until you’re out of dough.

Place the scones on the lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Cheesecake Monday, Mar 29 2010 

Ok, we’ll take a break from the travel posts (since San Fran isn’t the only place I’ve been in the last few weeks) because it’s been far too long since I, you know, cooked.

And why dive back in with something foolproof or quick?  No, no – bring on the hour-long cooking times and temperamental ingredients.  I’m back in business, baby.

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about this cheesecake though: it’s not tough to pull together.  It’s just that, well, all cheesecakes need to bake this long.  That’s why some genius somewhere invented no-bake cheesecake…because it takes for-effing-ever to cook.  But as we’ve discussed once or twice, I’m not only stubborn as shit, I’m also a really big snob, and I pretty much can’t stand no-bake cheesecake.  It always tastes cheap to me.  And it’s one of those things that people take a bite of and say “oh, that tastes pretty good for no-bake cheesecake.”  Um, no sir.  I don’t want it to taste pretty good for being a cop out.  I’m not interested in wasting calories on a dessert that’s pretty good for being mediocre. No, no.  If I’m going to eat a cheesecake, much less go to the effort of making the darn thing, then we’re going all out here.  You know what they say: go big or go home.

Not that I went big persay.  At the end of the day, this is a really basic cheesecake.  It’s moist and creamy and decadent as hell, but it’s not even in the same neighborhood as this gem.  I don’t even think my cheesecake lives in the same state as that cheesecake.  Maybe not even the same country.  But I wanted a basic, no frills cheesecake.  And this cheesecake came with sparkling recommendations from 2,816 (yes, you read that right – I said two thousand sixteen) reviewers on allrecipes.com.  I’m sorry – what the crap!? And the irony is that you know that there are people that have made the thing and were just too lazy to write a review (why yes, I am looking in the mirror – funny you should mention it…).  With that many testers singing it’s 4-and-a-half-star praises, not even the seven and a half hour prep time scared me.  Ok.  I’m lying.  It scared the pants off of me, but, like I said, I’m stubborn, so I decided to devote my day on Sunday to cheesecake-baking.

Only, on Saturday night, the birthday party I was “just swinging by for an hour” turned out to be so entertaining that I stayed till 3am and slept till 11:30 the next morning to compensate.  And guess what? I was still tired.  Laziness prevailed, and it was 7:30 at night when I elected to begin the process.  Go ahead.  Do the math.  What’s seven and a half hours from 7:30pm?  Too damn late for me to be awake on a school night, that’s what.  So, despite all of those reviews that demanded I use a water bath and let it cool sloooooooowly in the oven for five to six hours, it was freaking 9:30 by the time I pulled it out of the oven.  Yes, I pulled it out, because I love you cheesecake, but momma’s gotta get some sleep tonight.  And did it crack like the Grand Canyon not 20 minutes later, like everyone wrote in that it would?  You betcha.  Am I considering making some chocolate ganache to dump on top of that bad boy before I bring it into work to share on Wednesday?  Hell yes.

Lesson learned?  I think so.

Basic Cheesecake

Adapted from All Recipes

Because I lack the ability to create desserts without chocolate in them, I used chocolate graham crackers.  I was completely planning to nearly double the crust, but when I got to 18 graham crackers (the original was 15), it just felt like a lot.  So I stopped.  I feel like it worked for me, and my cheesecake came up pretty high on the sides of my springform pan, so I was retroactively glad I stopped at that point.  Obviously, you could keep going if that’s what floats your boat.

18 (chocolate) graham crackers, crushed into crumbs

4 tbsp melted butter

4 (8-ounce) packages of (ROOM TEMPERATURE) cream cheese

1 cup white sugar

3/4 cup milk

4 eggs

1 cup sour cream

2 tbsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.  In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and butter.  Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan.

Cream together cheese and sugar until smooth.  Blend in milk and eggs, mixing to incorporate (try to avoid overbeating here).  Add sour cream and mix until evenly distributed and smooth.  Add vanilla and flour, mix to combine.  Pour mixture into the prepared pan on top of the crust.

Bake (with a water bath if you’re more intelligent than me) for one hour (mine took nearly an extra half hour).  Turn the oven off, crack the door slightly ajar, and allow the cake to cool slowly for several hours.  If you pull it out into the world quickly, it will crack.  I promise.

After cake is cooled, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving.

White Chocolate Pistachio Scones Thursday, Mar 11 2010 

It started simply enough.  I woke up last Friday morning in desperate need of a scone.  This was admittedly bizarre for several reasons.  First, because I eat oatmeal almost every day and my body is generally too sleep deprived to react terribly vehemently to this automatic behavior.  Second, having gone out for a “few drinks” that lasted to the wee hours of the morning the night before, I expected myself to be in the sausage-egg-and-cheese-bagel mood I’m usually in on mornings when I go out the night before.  But, nevertheless, there I was at 7:45am, on my way to work, needing a scone.

Normal humans in this dilemma would’ve taken the easy route and bought a scone when they stopped for their morning latte.  But no.  Not this human.  This human is a snot.  And this human, having enjoyed homemade scones a few too many times, just couldn’t bring herself to purchase one that was undoubtedly mass-produced from some mix.

Instead of making the correct simple choice, I went grocery shopping after work.  I bought butter and flour and, in a fit of St. Patty’s Day anticipation, pistachios and white chocolate.  Couple things: pistachios? I know.  They’re green.  I kid you not – that is the one and only reason I bought them.  I swear to you that I’ve had pistachios a total of one time in my entire 24 years of life, and that was at a bar in Prague (where they evidently believe “barnuts” to be unshelled pistachios).  But here I was, shelling out $5 for a bag of something I wasn’t entirely sure I remembered liking, and deciding (based on literally nothing but the colors green and white being indicative of this whole March holiday thing) that white chocolate, rather than my prefered dark chocolate would be the way to go.  Alright, self, let’s take a risk.

Of course, because nothing I do can ever be easy, I couldn’t find a bag of shelled pistachios.  Again, normal humans would have either a) abandoned the idea, or b) gone to another store.  Not this girl: I was committed.  I took them home, plopped myself down at the kitchen table, and shelled half of the bag of pistachios.  Thirty minutes later, I thought that toasting them up might be nice, and popped them in the oven.  Not four minutes later when I checked on them, they were burned.  Ruined.  Black.  And I shit you not, rather than surrender to whatever God it was that obviously was against my quest to have a goddamn scone on Friday, I shelled the other half of that bag.  Say it with me, friends: COMMITMENT.

Anyway, despite my best efforts to eff up as much as possible in one single evening, I eventually had my scones.  And they were green and white, and incredibly tiny and cute.  And by Saturday afternoon at 1:00, they were also very much all gone – courtesy of a family who “doesn’t really like pistachios.” Riiiiight.

White Chocolate Pistachio Scones

Adapted from here, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

1 3/4 cups flour

1 tbsp baking powder

3 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

5 tbsp (chilled) butter, cut into small cubes

3/4 cup pistachios

2 oz. white chocolate, chopped

1 cup heavy cream

Heat oven to 425.  In a spice/coffee grinder or food processor, grind 1/4 cup of pistachios into a powder.  Whisk this powder together with all of the dry ingredients except the other 1/2 cup of whole pistachios.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender (you can do this in a food processor as well, but I did it by hand) until it is mostly blended into the dry ingredients (there will still be some chunks of butter).  Stir in whole pistachios.  Mix in heavy cream until a dough is formed, then turn out the dough and all of the floury bits onto a countertop.

Knead just until it comes together in a sticky ball, then press it into an 8-inch cake pan.  Turn the dough back out of the pan and onto your countertop.  It will retain the shape of the pan, and you can then cut the dough into 12 equal wedges (I actually made 24 mini scones this time).

Place wedges on a baking sheet (I lined mine with parchment paper) and bake 12-15 minutes (scones will just be turning brown).

Birthday Cake and Mocha Buttercream Wednesday, Feb 3 2010 

I think it’s safe to say that I spend a fair amount of my free time reading food blogs – I read the blogs of chefs who inspire me with their creativity and innovative recipes, I read the blogs of writers I find truly hilarious, and I read the blogs of photographers whose work I will never come close to replicating.  Everyone has their little niche, their forte, the thing they’re especially good at.  Or, at least, the single thing that makes me immediately click on their site before another.  Because I know that if there’s something not to be missed in a specific food category, it’s up there.

This is how I feel about the Smitten Kitchen’s cake expertise.  Not to say that there are any shortcomings in her gorgeous, well-written site, but the woman baked an entire wedding cake. Bow down to her infinite cake-baking wisdom.  In short, I find her recipes (and not just the cake-related ones) concise, clear, and endlessly delicious, and Mom’s birthday cake was no exception…even though my failure to read resulted in too much batter (your pans are not 9 inches wide, Katie), which resulted in, well, the ugliest cupcakes I’ve ever seen due to, again, my inability to read (Seriously – cakes baked at 300 degrees for an hour are supposed to be flat so that they’re easy to layer; they will not produce gently rounded, perfect cupcakes. EVER. Stop trying.).  Quick! Hide my diploma!

So as not to steal her thunder (Plus, who am I kidding? Like I could ever explain a recipe this well), I’m linking you straight to the source of Mom’s chocolate layer cake with strawberry filling (I couldn’t find raspberries and, I’ll admit, didn’t try that hard because I really like strawberries).  For the frosting, I made a simple, mocha buttercream because on her birthday, Mom demanded buttercream.  And who am I to deny her?

Mocha Buttercream

Makes about 2-2 1/2 cups, or just enough to frost the 4-layer, 8-inch cake I made

3 ounces semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are fine)

2 cups confectioners sugar

1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature

2 tbsp hot brewed coffee

2 tbsp half-and-half

1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

In a double-boiler, melt the chocolate with the coffee, vanilla, and half-and-half under chocolate is completely melted and smooth.  Set aside to cool.  Beat together sugar and butter until butter is creamy, then add cooled chocolate mixture, beating until there are no longer visible flecks of butter, and the frosting is smooth.

Shameless Plug Friday, Nov 20 2009 

A little magazine called Bon Appetit is running their blog-envy contest on holiday baking this month, and while I realize I didn’t bake this for the holiday they’re talking about, it was for a holiday.

 

So head on over here and vote – even if it’s not for mine!  But really, it should be for mine.  And really, they should’ve used the picture I submitted instead of the one with the Fed-Ex box full of beer in the background.  But let’s not split hairs, mkay?

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake Sunday, Nov 8 2009 

P1040359

Holy crap.  Do you have a bag of hazelnuts and two sticks of butter?  Then run, don’t walk, to the kitchen and make this cake.  Seriously.  It’s that amazing.  You read the title, right?  How could it not be incredible!?

P1040348

I made this cake Friday night (don’t judge me – I so have a life) for my grandparents’ birthday.  And, unlike my immediate family, they don’t have stringent demands about the components of their birthday cake (Brother = carrot cake, Dad = coconut and/or lemon, me = chocolate, duh, Mom = tiramisu usually), so I was pretty much allowed to bake whatever my little heart desired. Ohhh, the possibilities.  Because I hate doing anything the easy way, I picked a sort of fussy cake because it came so  highly recommended from the Smitten Kitchen, where I get all of my solid cake-baking advice.  And, also, because how could I pass up a chance to make a cake with hazelnuts, brown butter, and ganache.  Good lord, pass the mixing bowl.

P1040363

And for all the fear I had (about, oh, I don’t know: the tiny amount of flour and the absence of both baking powder and soda; the fact that egg whites are quite possibly the most temperamental thing ever and this was my second go-around with them in as many weeks; that incorporating still-warmish butter, beaten egg whites, and crushed hazelnuts is maybe one of the most challenging instructions I’ve ever read on a recipe…), this cake came out unbelievably good.  So good, that I am completely devastated that the last piece, hidden away in the freezer, is earmarked for Boyfriend when he comes home (!!!!) next weekend.  No one ever said I was good at sharing…

P1040358

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake

Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Sunday Suppers at Lucques

 

5 ounces hazelnuts, with skins removed (I not only bought chopped hazelnuts, not whole, but I was unable to get all of the skins off – not the end of the world, but do your best.  Deb has some great tips at the end of her recipe for this)

2 sticks unsalted butter (plus more for greasing)

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/3 flour

5 extra-large egg whites

3 tbsp granulated sugar

4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup heavy cream

 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet.  Toasted 10-15 minutes, until they’re golden brown.

 

Grease a 10-in cake pan, and cover the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper cut to fit.

 

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add vanilla and heat until the butter is golden and smells nutty (about 8 minutes – mine took a little longer), continuously scraping the solids off the bottom of the pan.  Once it has browned, set the pot aside to cool.

 

Grind the hazelnuts in a food processor along with the powdered sugar (my food processor is small, so I had to do this in two batches) until everything is finely ground, then add the flour and pulse to combine.

 

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites continuously, without stopping, for 5 minutes or so while gradually adding the granulated sugar – until they hold stiff peaks.  Then, slowly fold 1/3 of the flour/sugar/nut mixture into the egg whites.  Fold in 1/3 of the butter.  Continue alternating until everything is in one bowl, and gently fold to combine.  The batter will be gritty.

 

Pour batter into the cake pan (it will be very full, but the cake isn’t going to rise) and bake for 30-40 minutes (the original recipe says one hour, but mine was done at 35…).  Set on a cake rack to cool for 30 minutes.  Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake, then invert it onto a plate.  Peel off parchment paper.

 

To make ganache, heat cream and chocolate in a double-boiler until fully melted.  Remove from heat and pour over cake, letting it drip down the sides.

Chocolate Bread Pudding Friday, Oct 30 2009 

Welcome back, everyone.  So glad you’ve decided to join us for the continuation of the crappy photo display here at Mozzarella and Merlot.  We appreciate it deeply.  Tonight’s focus will be the result of leaving last week’s chocolate bread on the counter a leeeeeeeetle too long, thus allowing it to become, well, stale.  Fortunately, I wasn’t the first (and I sure won’t be the last) person to make such an error in judgment, and we have the genius inventor of bread pudding to thank for creating such a fantastic way to salvage otherwise useless bread.  Especially when it’s really, really good bread.

P1040197

Really, it wasn’t the travesty I’m clearly making it out to be because I only left out two slices.  But hey, I’m good at exaggerating and making a big to-do over routine occurances and aren’t we all having more fun because of it?  (Shut up, Boyfriend, I wasn’t talking to you.  Yes, it is a big deal when you don’t watch Grey’s and I have no one to discuss it with promptly at 10:01PM on Thursday.  I don’t care if you have homework and I am not overreacting! GOSH.)  So I figured that it would be a terrible, tragic waste to throw away food I’d slaved over the week before, and I made myself a little individual (and by individual, I mean I had to eat it in two sittings because it was too big to eat all at once – this kind of behavior is where a little thing called foresight would come in remarkably handy) bread pudding.

This is also the continuation of the Katie-feels-she-no-longer-needs-to-consult-recipes portion of the program, so I basically decided to wing it.  I chopped up the bread, beat and egg with some skim milk and a little cinnamon and nutmeg, dumped the whole shebang in a dish, poured almonds on top, and put it in the oven for a half hour.  And wouldn’t you know, it turned out wonderfully!  Not that I’m getting a big head.  No, no – whenever that happens, I just think back to the hot peppers and shudder quietly.  Clearly I still have a few things to learn.

P1040195

Chocolate Bread Pudding

2 thick slices of chocolate bread, cubed

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup chocolate skim milk

1/4 cup slivered almonda

Dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a small baking dish.  Mix egg and milk together with spices, then pour into the baking dish.  Add cubes of bread, and press down to make sure all of the bread is submerged in the liquid.  Sprinkle with almonds.

Bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes, or until set.

Chocolate (Non-Pumpkin) Bread Monday, Oct 12 2009 

Get excited, folks, because I’ve broken the cycle.  That’s right – no pumpkin here.  Who’s proud of me?

P1040135

Anyway, enough patting myself on the back for branching out.  The real story here is the bread.

I adore bread-baking, as you can probably tell from the recipes collected here.  There’s just something so basic and tranquil about it…more so than anything else I can think of.  It’s comforting, really. I mean, how long have people been baking their own bread?  Forever?  Definitely longer than they’ve been baking cookies.

But I don’t necessarily like baking the same kind of bread each time, because, as we all know, I have a rather short attention span and if I already know how something is going to turn out, it’s not that big of a surprise.  It’s not a challenge, a gamble, to pull the pan out of the oven, and I don’t hover over it with a mixture of trepidation and glee, waiting for it to cool enough for me to take that first experimental bite – the very bite that will ultimately determine whether the recipe is a success or failure.  Sometimes the waiting (especially with bread and it’s multiple rising times and lengthy baking) is too much for me and I can’t even wait for the food to cool down – I have to have it right that second, even though the steam rising off of it tells me that it will burn the roof of my mouth and interfere with my ability to taste for days to come.  But that excitement?  That anxious waiting period?  That one moment of bliss when the recipe succeeds and you’ve created something delicious?  That, my friends, is why I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen, and largely why I enjoy cooking in general.

But back to the bread – the chocolate bread.  I may have mentioned 10 or 12 times that I’m a full-fledged, over the top chocoholic, and this bread filled my house with the deep, rich smell of baking chocolate long after the loaf itself had been pulled from the oven.

I enjoyed it last night on its own, and again for breakfast this morning, drizzled with some creamy peanut butter and sliced bananas.  Never was a better sandwich made.

P1040139

Chocolate Bread

Adapted from the great Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup warm water

2 – 2 3/4 cups white flour

1 packet active dry yeast

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1/4 cup milk

2 tbsp butter

In a small bowl, add warm water, yeast, and a pinch of sugar.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together.  Add butter (I melted mine and stirred it in.  This is called bad technique/laziness, but it worked), egg, and yeast mixture, and mix into a rough dough.

Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface, and knead for about 5 minutes – until dough is smooth.

Oil a large bowl (I used the same one I mixed in – again, lazy but effective), and roll the dough ball around in the oil to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour – until its size has doubled.

Turn dough out onto a floured work surface, and press with palms to deflate.  Mold into a rectangle, and fold down sides to fit buttered loaf pan.  Place seam-side down in pan, and allow to rise again for about an hour, covered in plastic wrap.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Once dough is completely risen, place on middle rack of the oven and lower temperature to 350 degrees.  Cook 30 – 40 minutes, until dough is rough/hard to the touch and deeply brown.

Unmold and cool on a rack.

Next Page »