Thursday, July 31, 2014

German Chocolate Cake



The traditional German Chocolate Cake recipe calls for "German's"-style chocolate, which can be a pain to find and doesn't produce a very richly flavored cake. Instead, I used a classic recipe from Hershey's, their Black Magic Cake. I don't know how the recipe can be this easy and this good, but it is. 


German Chocolate Cake
The cake recipe is my very slightly adapted version of Hershey's Black Magic Cake. It's the easiest cake I've ever made; it contains less fat than similar cakes; and it's delicious. You can also bake it in a 9 x 13” pan for 35 to 40 minutes or a 12-cup bundt pan for 50 to 55 minutes. The topping is from very slightly adapted from Betty Crocker.

Cake:

1 cup white sugar (200 grams)
1 cup dark brown sugar (220 grams)
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (215 grams)
¾ cup natural cocoa powder, such as Ghirardelli or Hershey's (75 grams)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup strong black coffee
½ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grease and flour 2 9-inch round baking pans (or use a baking spray containing flour; I use one by Pam). Preheat oven to 325F for dark-colored pans (such as nonstick); 350F for light-colored pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the sugars, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes (batter will be thin). Divide batter between prepared pans.

Bake side-by-side in the center of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes (mine took 33), switching positions after 20 minutes. Cakes are done with a toothpick comes out clean or with a couple moist crumbs. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool completely. Place one cake on a platter and spread half of the topping over the top. Cover with second cake and spread remaining topping over the top. Cake keeps well, covered, at room temperature for 3 days.

Topping:

3 large egg yolks
1 cup dark brown sugar (220 grams)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/4 to 1/2 tsp sea salt


In a medium saucepan, stir together the yolks, sugar, butter, evaporated milk and vanilla until combined. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thick and bubbly, about 12 minutes. Stir in the coconut and pecans. Remove from heat and cool, stirring occasionally, until mixture is spreadable, about 30 minutes. Stir in sea salt to taste.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lentil Soup with Ground Turkey and Indian Spices


Almost every soup I make is improvised. Either that, or I follow a recipe I wrote up for a soup that I improvised. This particular healthy, hearty soup combines a lot of things I had on hand with flavors I love. It combines brown and red lentils, the latter of which almost completely break down into the soup during cooking. I used a ton of Indian spices for flavor, then threw in the very Mediterranean addition of sundried tomatoes.

The nice thing is that I improvised it, and you can too! Any spices, any protein, different veggies. It's all on the table!

Lentil Soup with Ground Turkey and Indian Spices
Sambar powder is a spice blend specifically made for sambar, an Indian lentil soup. It's sold in Indian markets. Curry powder is a great replacement.

Serves 6 to 8

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
red chile flakes or chile seasoning to taste
2 tbsp sambar powder or curry powder or other Indian spice blend
6 to 8 cups liquid (I generally use half chicken broth, half water)
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup brown lentils
1/2 cup red lentils
1 pound ground turkey breast (or other protein)
6 to 8 oz spinach leaves
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes (approximate)
Juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add onion, season with salt and pepper and cook until lightly browned. Add garlic, fennel, chile flakes and sambar or curry powder and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until garlic is tender. Add 7 cups of liquid and bring to a boil.

Add carrots, cover and simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add lentils and continue cooking until tender, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the turkey in a skillet on medium high, crumbling with your spoon, until cooked through. Season to taste with salt, pepper and chile powder, cumin, onion powder, or any spices you like.

Add spinach to soup and simmer until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. If soup is too thick, add additional liquid as desired. Add turkey, sundried tomatoes and lemon juice. Stir until heated through. Taste and season as needed.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gluten-Free Pumpkin-Pecan Pancakes


More high-protein, (relatively) low-calorie pancakes! Ever since I figured out how to make pancakes with egg whites, I rarely make the traditional kind. These are moist, filling and honestly, I prefer them over the classic, flour-based pancake!

These are a very slight variation on my most recent banana pancakes. I replaced the bananas with a pretty-much-equal amount of pumpkin puree and amped up the spices. It's a great way to make a dent in the pumpkin pie spice lurking in the back of your spice drawer!

Gluten-Free Pumpkin-Pecan Pancakes
Adapted from my gluten-free banana pancakes.
I used liquid egg whites (not egg substitute), but fresh egg whites will work too (1 large egg white should measure 2 Tbs plus 2 tsp, so you need a lot to get to 3/4 cup). It's true that baking powder is double-acting, but you get significantly better results if you use the batter immediately after adding the baking powder (let it rest too long, and you miss out on the first chemical reaction and "rise").

Serves 2; Makes about 10 small (4-inch) pancakes

1/2 cup rolled oats (gluten-free if necessary) (40 g)
15 grams unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup egg whites
2/3 cup pumpkin puree (160 g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon (scant) ground cloves
2 to 4 tbs (approx.) buttermilk or regular milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
Real maple syrup for serving

Add oats, coconut, egg whites, pumpkin puree, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, salt and cloves and blend on high power until combined. Add enough of the buttermilk to thin the batter; you should have a thick, but easily pourable consistency.

Preheat a skillet to medium heat and mist with cooking spray. About a minute before you're ready to start cooking, add baking powder to blender and blend until combined. Using about 3 tablespoons batter for each pancake (I just use a 1/4 cup measuring scoop and don't fill it all the way), add to pan and sprinkle with pecans. Cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Adjust heat up or down slightly as necessary. Serve with maple syrup.


Thursday, October 03, 2013

The "Baked" Brownie, aka My All-Time Favorite Brownies




I've made some great brownie recipes in recent years. Some are on this blog and some aren't. This one is NOT, and I've probably baked it more times than any other recipe. So. Finally. I give you my absolute favorite brownie. It's from the book, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by the owners of a wildly popular bakery in Brooklyn.

This recipe is wildly popular too. Pretty much anyone with a food blog has tried it. I'll tell you, though, it lives up to the hype. It's so, so good. So dense and fudgy, so packed with chocolate, so satisfying. The original recipe does not include any add-ins, but I love chocolate chips in my brownies, so there they are. I've also used peanut butter chips, which are pretty insane too.

If I feel like making the effort, I sometimes quick-cool the brownies in an ice bath. You can eat them sooner this way, but it also does some other good things, which I talk about in the recipe. If you like the decidedly fudgy brownie style and you want an ultimate chocolate fix, this is for you!


The "Baked" Brownie aka My Favorite Brownies
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

For the dark chocolate, I use Valrhona 71% Cacao that I buy at Trader Joe's. For the chips, I use Ghirardelli bittersweet. Quick-cooling the brownies (a trick from author and pastry chef, Alice Medrich) in an ice bath is optional, but I really like it (the brownies are great either way though). You're less likely to have over done edges, and I think it helps create that fudgy, yet light, texture that makes these so good. I've also baked them in a glass Pyrex dish and skipped the ice bath, which works fine too (Never put a hot glass dish in ice water, or it could break!).


Makes one 9 x 13" dish


INGREDIENTS


1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (150 g)
2 tbsp dark or Dutch unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp sea salt
11 oz dark chocolate (around 71%)
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 tsp instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (300 g)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (110 g)
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli bittersweet)


INSTRUCTIONS


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13-inch light-colored metal baking pan or glass baking dish with nonstick foil, leaving a few inches of overhang on the long sides. 


Add dark chocolate, butter and espresso powder to a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir occasionally until completely melted. Add both sugars and whisk for about 10 seconds. Remove from heat and continue whisking until completely combined; set aside for about 5 minutes to cool.


In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder and salt; set aside. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Whisk in the vanilla. Do not over mix at this stage or brownies may be cakey.


Add the chocolate to the flour mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 32 to 33 minutes (last time I baked these, 31 minutes wasn't quite long enough), or until top is slightly puffed and glossy and a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.


About 5 minutes before brownies finish baking fill a large shallow container (a roasting pan works really well) about halfway up with ice water. You need to be able to fit the baking pan inside without getting the brownies wet, so the water should come about halfway up the baking pan, which will float. This is easier than it sounds; you'll see what I mean. As soon as the brownies are done, place them in the ice water. This will stop the cooking faster so the edges don't get over done; it cools the brownies a lot faster so you can eat them sooner. Cool in the ice water for 30 minutes to 1 hour. If you not doing the ice bath, cool on a wire rack. You can refrigerate the cooled brownies for a few hours before slicing to get a nice, clean cut. When completely cool, cut into 9, 12 or 16 pieces and serve. The brownies freeze well; defrost at room temperature.




Thursday, September 05, 2013

Creamy Corn Muffins with Cheddar and Scallions


These are some tasty corn muffins. They're moist and pleasantly dense thanks to an ingredient list that includes creamed corn and sour cream. These two items also create a great tangy flavor. Sharp cheddar and scallions are thrown in for flavor. Sprinkling some of the cheese on top of the batter makes for a crisp and cheesy muffin crown.

The recipe comes from Cooking Light magazine, circa 2007. I mentioned them on my blog way back then, but didn't make them a second time until last weekend. Wow, I'm really glad I did. They are quite low in calories for all the deliciousness, and the extras reheated perfectly in a low oven. You'll definitely eat two of them, and you'll want to eat more. They made a great side dish for smoked pulled pork. If you're looking for something a little more interesting than the traditional corn bread, this is definitely it!


Creamy Corn Muffins with Cheddar and Scallions
Freeze any leftovers. Defrost them at room temperature, then reheat in a 250 to 300 degree oven for about 10 minutes.


Makes 12


2/3 cup white whole wheat flour (85 g)
½ cup yellow cornmeal (65 g)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 (8.75-ounce) can cream-style corn
½ cup reduced fat sour cream
Dash of cayenne pepper or hot sauce
¾ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 3 ounces)
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.


In another large bowl, whisk the egg. Add corn, sour cream and cayenne and stir to combine. Stir in a scant ½ cup of the cheese and the scallions. Add to flour mixture and stir until just moistened.


Spray a standard muffin tin with cooking spray. Divide batter among muffin slots, filling about 2/3 full. Sprinkle remaining cheese over muffins. Bake in the center of the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool in tin for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Soft, Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Toffee and Coconut


On Sunday, I had the urge to make cookies. It felt like I hadn't had any homemade dessert in my life for a while, so I dug through all the recipes I've saved online and decided on these. Spoiler alert: they're so yummy!

Although I love oatmeal cookies, this isn't what I usually go for. Believe it or not, I've never baked anything with toffee bits before (is that weird?). These cookies are chewy around the edges thanks to the addition of shortening and a bit of cornstarch. The cornstarch is a great trick (I've used it before with chocolate chip cookies) for creating a soft texture--it has the same effect as using instant pudding mix in your cookie recipe (like these, for example). The centers are soft because of not baking them too long (we need a better term than "underbaking"). The cinnamon and dark brown sugar add tons of flavor.

Finally, I'll end with a warning: if you love eating cookie dough, you'll be powerless against these. Oatmeal cookie dough is the finest kind, and these are just the cream of the crop.

Soft, Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Toffee and Coconut
Adapted from Hershey's and Taste and Tell
I replaced 1 tablespoon of the flour with cornstarch, which helps create that soft chewy texture. The shortening and coconut also keep the cookies soft, so you can't lose with this lineup of ingredients. 

Makes 55 cookies

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, minus 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup shortening, at room temperature
2 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups quick cooking rolled oats
1 cup (packed) shredded sweetened coconut
1 (8 ounce) bag toffee baking bits (like Heath brand) with milk chocolate (1 1/3 cups)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside. Beat the butter, shortening and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until combined. Add oats and beat until combined, then repeat with coconut and toffee bits. Refrigerate at least 45 minutes and up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop slightly rounded tablespoon-sized balls of dough and place on baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart (I used insulated baking sheets and did 16 per batch). Bake in the center of the oven until edges are set (centers will still look moist), 8 to 10 minutes (bake 9 to 11 minutes if you want the centers set). Cool on baking sheets for 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough. I recommend freezing any cookies you don't eat on the day of baking. Defrost at room temperature.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Healthy Monte Cristo Sandwiches



Here's something I didn't really "get" until recently: The classic Monte Cristo is a double decker sandwich made with layers of ham, turkey, swiss cheese and usually jam. It's battered and deep fried and served with a dusting of confectioner's sugar. Oh my goodness. That's really the way it's supposed to be. Of course, you don't need to go the killer sandwich route to get a very similar delicious experience.

There are just as many "less-elaborate" recipe versions of this sandwich hanging around the internet. Some actually don't resemble a traditional Monte Cristo at all, but plenty are great, calling for pan-frying (so much easier than attempting to submerge a double layer sandwich in batter and hot oil). The recipe I put together treats the bread like French toast to create a crisp exterior and soft interior.

You could fry it butter, more like a grilled cheese sandwich, but I keep it pretty healthy. I also don't bother with two types of meat because I absolutely love the ham and gruyere combination. The addition of some slightly chunky, high-quality jam takes that combo to another level, where sweet and savory are joined in harmony. So simple, so good and I don't even need powdered sugar.




Monte Cristo
This is perfect with leftover holiday ham, if you're the type to buy a half or whole spiral cut ham just so you can cook with the leftovers. Of course, it doesn't have to be the holidays to do this. Avoid basic deli ham unless you know it's really good. 

Makes 2 sandwiches

Dijon mustard
Fruit jam, such as blackberry or raspberry
4 slices Aunt Annie’s Potato Sandwich Bread
4 to 6 oz baked ham
2 oz (approx.) Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced


2 large eggs
3 tbsp milk or half and half
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Cooking spray

1) To make each sandwich, spread one slice bread with Dijon and another slice with jam. Top Dijon side with ham and Gruyere; cover with jam side.

2) In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and black pepper until combined.

3) Preheat one or two heavy skillets on medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Dip each sandwich one side at a time (try not to coat inside of the sandwiches) in the egg mixture, allowing bread to absorb to absorb egg for a brief moment. Transfer to skillet and cook until bread is toasted and golden brown and cheese is melted, turning once. Cover the skillet with a lid to help the cheese melt and adjust heat as necessary to prevent over browning; the second side will cook more quickly. Cut sandwiches in half on the diagonal and serve immediately.