Always

The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.

Jalal Ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

I love the romantic notions of that quote. To think that a part of my true love has always been with me and I with him. It’s so inspiring to think I’ve never been alone in spirit. Kind of cheesy and corny I know. But I’m a girl, I love pink, and high heels, flowers, and chocolate. I’ll own up to it.

A darling and antiquated notion, I know: true love that transcends time. A single soulmate for life. Unfailing. Yet I count on it.

A good friend once told me you’re  never alone if you have chocolate. Sort of the same idea… chocolate. It’s always there for me. And I am always there for it. I have always loved chocolate and I am reasonably chocolate has loved me for all of time.

Kind of like this buttermilk chocolate cake: old-fashioned and sweet. It never fails. I’ve known it forever.

And who’s to argue with true love?

Buttermilk Brownies… or Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake… or The BEST Chocolate Cake EVER

source: an old family recipe slightly adapted to “defat”

Cake

  • 1 C butter
  • 1/2 C dark cocoa plus 2 Tbsp black cocoa (regular cocoa if you don’t have black cocoa)
  • 1 1/2 C water
  • 3 C flour
  • 3 C packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs slightly beaten
  • 3/4 C buttermilk
  • 1/2 C non-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Get our your largest baking sheet. I mean large. 13″ x 17″ x 2″.
  • In a saucepan combine the butter, cocoa and water. Bring to a boil stirring often, then remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • In a very large bowl sift the flour, sugar, espresso powder, baking soda and salt until all incorporated. It’s important to do this so you don’t have to over mix your batter later which can result in a tougher baked good.
  • Combine the eggs, buttermilk, yogurt and vanilla. Mix until very well combined.
  • Pour the hot chocolate mixture over the flour mixture. Stir until combined. Make a well in the mixture and add in the buttermilk mixture. By hand, stir until just combined and there are no more clumps of flour.
  • Bake for 22-27 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake, comes out clean.

Icing:

  • 6 Tbsp dark cocoa
  • 1/4 C butter
  • 5 Tbsp buttermilk
  • 4-5 C icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • In a small saucepan, over medium low heat, combine the cocoa, butter and buttermilk. Heat until the butter has melted and everything is combined, being sure to stir the entire time.
  • Cool slightly then mix with the icing sugar and vanilla. You might need more or less icing sugar depending on how thick you like your icing. I make it pretty thick for this cake.
  • Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before icing. If you ice it while the cake is too hot the icing will just melt off (not that I know from experience). If you ice the cake when it’s just barely warm (and I mean hardly discernible) the icing will get enough warmth to get nice and smooth and shiny on top, without melting off the sides of your cake and all over your counter.
Notes:
  • This recipe is an old family favorite. I’m always reminded of happy family times when I sit down and savor a bite. It’s been adapted over the years (much less butter, the addition of espresso powder, darker cocoa, etc) but the essence stays the same. It’s perfect for birthday parties, family get-togethers, or to serve your loved one.
  • I always have a stash in the freezer. Just in case a chocolate craving calls me… or my true love…
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Don’t Knock It… Till You’ve Tried It

We’ve all heard it before: don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Yet, we’re all guilty of it. I think we can mostly agree that deciding to dislike (or very rarely, like) something  before experiencing it, is a total cop-out. Whether it’s country music, working with yeast dough, or road biking… how can I truly say I’m opposed to something before I even know what I’m talking about?

So I’m on a mission: to be more open minded and free thinking. I’m making a list (is that the opposite of free thinking?) and I’m going to try new things. I’m going to order something different at a my favorite restaurant. I’m going to sign up for a class where I don’t know anyone. I’m going to download a country playlist (and actually listen to it). I’m going to watch a science fiction movie. Maybe even read a book that takes place on the East Coast. I’m going to try a hatha yoga class.

I’m going to be brave. And strong. And face new ideas head on.

I’m going to make buns.

 

Sweet Honey Buns from The Pastry Affair

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 C barely warm water
  • 3 C all purpose flour
  • 1/4 C honey + 1 Tbsp
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  • Gently beat the egg with a fork. Add the egg, honey and salt to the water/yeast. Stir it until it’s well blended.
  • Add the flour until the dough comes together. This is a VERY sticky dough. Don’t add more flour because you think the dough is too sticky.
  • On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 8 minutes. Resist adding to much flour. The longer you work the dough, the  more workable it will become. I did not find the need to add more flour at all, however, if the dough keeps sticking to your counter top add a small amount of flour. Very small.
  • Lightly oil a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around so all the dough gets coated. Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap and a warm kitchen towel. Leave the dough to rise in a warm, draft free area until it doubles in size, about 2 hours.
  • Punch the dough down (how fun!). Divide the dough into 12 portions and shape each into a ball. Place the dough balls on a pan or baking sheet that is lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise about another 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  • In a small bowl combine the honey and melted butter. Brush over the the dough.
  • Place the buns in the oven and bake about  10-13 minutes or until lightly browned.

Notes:

  • These are fairly sweet buns. I think they would be great at Easter with a little cream cheese icing. I might even try tossing a little orange zest and a few dried cranberries or cherries into the dough next time around.
  • Next up on my list: a new sport. I might even break down and try golf. It is, after all Master’s weekend….

 

Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. Leo Tolstoy

Hip & Humble?

Can one be both hip and humble? Is it possible to carry the latest Chloe bag and not be seen as vain? Can one be sporting the latest Chanel le Vernis in black pearl and not be seen only as a hipster? Iced latte in one hand, and peanut free, gluten free, everything free pastry in the other hand…

But behold the lowly peanut. Often touted as a poor man’s food and the butt of many disparaging jokes; it is a humble food. It usually doesn’t take center stage in cooking, used more often to highlight the main flavor. It is most oft reduced to the bottom of the bowl when around it’s peers as the pecans, almonds, and walnuts get picked first. It’s nickname is Goober Bean. How can one not be humble with that moniker?

Despite it’s humble origins though, the lowly peanut packs a lot of nutrition. And how hip isn’t it to be amping up the nutritional power of what we’re ingesting these days. It’s a saucy little number that sneaks up on you in au current cuisine; when is the last time you went to the latest hipster joint and didn’t see some reincarnation of the classic PB&J sandwich?

Spice up the lowly legume, let it take center stage…

Put on your chuck taylors and own that “it” bag.

Hip & humble.

No problem.

Mexican Chili Lime Peanuts

Source: me and a mish-mash of the internet, inspired by snacks at Joe Jack’s Fish Shack (The hip place in PV ~ but no worries. You can show up straight from the beach in Havaianas.)

  • 4 C unsalted, dry roasted peanuts
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or pure chili powder (as in chilies you have ground to a powder. NOT the chili powder you would add to chili. It doesn’t have enough heat and is really a mixture of chilies, oregano, etc)
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • Combine everything and place on a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.
  • Zest of one lime
  • 1 rounded tsp sugar
  • 1 rounded tsp kosher salt
  • Combine rubbing the zest into the sugar and salt with your fingers.
  • Sprinkle over the peanuts once they’re removed from the oven.
  • Store the nuts in an airtight container. If they get a little soggy after time, put them back in the oven for about 15 minutes at 250 degrees.
  • Enjoy the humble but hip-ly spicy peanuts with a Dos Equis and pretend you’re someplace tropical!

 

 

Gratitude

Gratitude is the memory of the heart.

Jean Baptiste Massieu

I try, once a day usually in the morning, to humble myself and have a little gratitude session. It goes kinda like this:

Today I am grateful for ______________.

It isn’t fancy. It’s not always deep or super-contemplative. It just is.

It reminds me of all the positive things in my life (even if the best I can come up with is that I’m grateful I have long hair or I’m grateful that I’m out running or that the sun is shining). On days when the sun isn’t shining (outside my sparkling clean windows in the grey prairie sky, or in my not so sparkling mind) it serves to remind me of what is really important. It often reminds me that my world is so much bigger than me – to be thankful for others. It even helps to see some of the negatives things in  my life in a new light.

Now, you may be wondering, how can a lowly brownie recipe be linked to gratitude? Very simply.

I am grateful for my Mom (have patience… you’ll see the link soon enough). I inherited my love for all things sweet, chocolate-y, home-baked and sinfully high in calories from my Mom. In a negative light one might deem this a curse. After all, it leads to numerous extra treadmill sessions, hours spent baking in the kitchen instead of accomplishing other “worthy” tasks, and really, really high grocery bills. But in a mindset of gratitude that love for a good chocolate dessert has lead to a commonality with my Mom, time spent together as she passes down her knowledge and skills. It has lead to fabulous desserts shared around a table of friends and family. I think it might have even lead to this blog and it most certainly led me to try out the wicked brownie recipe below.

On a more serious note: I am truly grateful for my Mom. She gave me my roots and my wings.

And  my love for chocolate.

 

The BAKED Brownie

source: Baked New Frontiers in Baking

  • 1 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 C dark chocolate (60-72% cacao), coarsely chopped
  • 1 C unsalted butter chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C firmly packed brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking pan.
  • Whisk together the flour, salt, and cocoa powder.
  • Put the chocolate, butter and espresso powder in a large bowl. Set the bowl in a saucepan of gently simmering water. Sir the mixture until completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat and whisk in the sugars. Let the mixture come to room temperature.
  • Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and mix until combined. Add the remaining two eggs and whisk again until combined.
  • Add the vanilla and whisk another fifteen seconds or so.
  • **Do NOT over beat the brownie mixture at this point or your brownies will be cakey. This is NOT a cakey brownie recipe.
  • Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk. NO over beating!) fold the flour mix into the chocolate until just a tiny bit of flour mixture is still visible.
  • Pour the brownie mixture into your greased pan and bake about 30-32 minutes. Your brownies are done when you insert a toothpick in the center and a few moist crumbs stick to it.
  • If you can wait, let the brownies cool…. then enjoy!

Note:

  • There will be no nutritional information for this recipe.

 

 

True Love {& Chocolate of Course}

Romance might happen every day. Lust might even happen every day. But finding true love?

About as rare as finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

A recipe that you want in your recipe box forever, that you don’t need to change or alter to make better. A recipe that stands the test of time. One which you are proud to bring to family gatherings and there is never a crumb left on the plate. A chocolate chip cookie so good that on a bad day just the smell emitting from the oven elicits a smile.

Luckily for me, I have both. And since I’m so generous I’ll share one of them with you. But hands off the other one ladies.

Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Oatmeal

Family recipe

  • 3/4 C butter at room temperature
  • 1 C packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 C all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 C slightly rounded oatmeal
  • 1 C dark chocolate chips
  • Bake in moderate oven until done.
  • Ok, ok… if you need a little more instruction then the recipe handed down to me here you go:
  • Cream the butter and sugars until lightly fluffy. One at a time, beat in the eggs until well incorporated. Beat in the vanilla for about 30 seconds.
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and oatmeal.
  • Add to the butter mixture and beat until just combined.
  • Add in the chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
  • Put the dough in the fridge and let sit for at least 24 hours before rolling the dough into about 30 cookies.
  • Bake about 9-12 minutes at 350 degrees.

Notes:

  • I got ahold of 72% cocoa baking feves last time I was in Montreal. They make the most amazing cookies! Beware though: if you are not a fan of dark chocolate the cookies might not be sweet enough for you. If you want to make your own purchase of baking feves try Valrhona Araguani Dark 72% Cocoa from Venezuela. Not that I would know (cough, cough) but you can order from chocosphere.com. They deliver the massive 6.6 lb box right to your door complete with a cool pack.
  • If you really, truly don’t like dark chocolate (booo on you) then you may (grudgingly) substitute your favorite, but inferior, milk chocolate chips.
  • Sorry for the long absence in posts. In addition to having the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe and true love I am lucky enough that my parents let me join them for a few weeks at their condo in the sun.

 

We’re All A Little Nuts Sometimes

Isn’t there some statistic that says three out of four North Americans suffer from some kind of mental illness? So take a look at the three closest people around you. Do they seem “normal”? You know what that means? You’re the crazy one.

I think we’re all a little nuts in our own way, in our own time. I say own it. Fly that freak flag. Break out your neon purple sparkly eyeshadow. Run 15 miles with wind then phone for a ride home. Write a 500 page book and self publish it. Wear a bikini to hot yoga.

And while you’re enjoying your own crazy have a few candied vanilla pecans… because we’re all a little nuts sometimes.

 

Candied Vanilla Pecans

source: the world wide interwebs

  • 4 C or roughly 1 Lb. pecans
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 heaping tsp sea salt
  • 3/4C vanilla sugar (If you don’t have vanilla sugar, make some. The recipe is below. Or substitute regular sugar and increase the vanilla extract to 1 tsp.)
  • Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Mix together the sugar, cinnamon and sea salt.
  • In a large bowl combine the egg white, vanilla and water. Beat the egg until it’s light and frothy. Stir in the pecans and mix well. Pour in the sugar mixture and stir until all the pecans are coated.
  • Dump the mixture onto your large baking sheet and spread the nuts out evenly.
  • Bake about 1 hour making sure to stir every 15 minutes and break up any large clumps.
  • Cool completely on the baking sheet on a wire cooling rack.
  • Once cooled: eat. Like a crazy lady. Then store any left overs in an air tight container or share with all the other lovely crazies in your life.

Vanilla Sugar

source: the world wide interwebs

  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 C granulated sugar
  • Slice the vanilla bean and with the back of your knife scrape the seeds into an airtight container with the sugar. Bury the bean in the sugar, give everything a stir and seal tightly. Let the mixture sit for at least two weeks.
  • You may replace the sugar so you use it as long as your vanilla bean is still fragrant.
  • This sugar is really good as a substitute for regular sugar in iced tea. It would also be good in any sweet baked goods like chocolate chips cookies. Yum…..

Genetic Jeans

Ooooh the genetic heritage that befalls a woman of Mennonite heritage. Painfully uncool adolescent years where one wonders if they pass the grade of normal society or will forever be doomed, like the adults around then, to cankles, thunder thighs and the itty-bitty-tittie committee.

Us Mennonite woman are often plain (I dare you to find a super model, make that any model, with the last name Penner, Thiessen, or Klassen) but we are oh-so-eternally cheerful no matter what the circumstances. We are blessed with robust health, but long sinewy legs? No. High, graceful cheekbones? Not really. Exotically lush lips? Pft, that might lead to kissing. Porcelain skin? Puhlease. But, we do have bouyant personalities.

We are often taught that vainglorious is wrong. I love the word vainglorious.  That in and of itself should already signal trouble. And I must admit, I love my long, flowing, and high-lighted (not to mention low lighted, reversed balayaged, glossed, and whatever else my sytlist whips up) hair. Which I admire in the mirror on quite a regular basis. My darkly painted finger nails. My wickedly awesome baroque tattoo. And skinny jeans. I am literally running from my genes to fit into my jeans which at this point seems to be serving me well.

However, I have a feeling those Mennonite genes will eventually assert themselves and take over. But until they completely dominate, I will use everything in my arsenal to pass the muster of inclusion into fashionable society including tottering around in ridiculously high heels and sweating through countless hot yoga sessions: thunder-thighs be damned. I have even joined the ranks of Meatless Monday cooking on account of it being “healthy” and thereby reducing the onset of cankles. (Such is not heard of in a good Mennonite household: meat, potatoes, buns and butter. Then a little more meat. And a little more butter. And always dessert. Always.)

Chipotle Black Bean Soup

source: the non-Mennonite version of me

serves: many

  • 1 Lb black beans
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (seeded if you want to control the heat)
  • 1 chipotle pepper with adobo sauce (seeded if you want a little less heat)
  • 1 heaping tsp cumin
  • 1 heaping tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 strips bacon
  • 1 C Heinz chili sauce
  • 8-12 cups chicken stock
  • 3/4 C sherry
  • Soak the beans in water overnight. Make sure the beans are covered with at least 2″ of water.
  • Fry the three strips of bacon in your soup pot. Remove and set aside.
  • In your soup pot cook the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and jalapeno until tender (drain off the bacon drippings so as to eliminate the nasty fat and hinder onset of Mennonite genes). Generously season your veggies with pepper. And a little salt if you need. Once the veggies are tender add the chipotle pepper, cumin, chili powder and bay leaves.
  • Drain the black beans and add to your soup pot. Add 8 cups of stock, the chili sauce and the bacon. Bring to a boil. Reduce your heat to low, cover and simmer for 3 to 4 hours until the beans are soft. Stir occasionally. If your soup is getting to dry add more stock. Once the beans are soft turn off the heat and stir in the sherry.
  • Let your soup cool then puree.
  • To serve, heat and top with whatever your heart desires. I would add cilantro, pickled jalapenos and a few pieces of avacado. Those without a Mennonite surname might add tortillas chips, sour cream, and large handful of sharp cheddar cheese.

Notes:

  • I used all 12 cups of stock. I thought my soup looked a little too liquidy at the end, but once it was blended it turned out just the right consistency.
  • For 12 servings there are approximately 220 calories, 4 grams fat, and 30 grams carbs per serving.
  • I did not let the soup cool enough before pureeing. To help out those as vainglorious and impatient as me: if you do not have a handy immersion blender and have not donned an apron do not wear a shimmery, violet hued silk t-shirt when blending dark, hot liquids.

There’s Always Time To Build A Fort

Go ahead. Before reading any further list five things you can learn from a seven year old.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Did any of your points involve scurrying around like a blind mouse through a maze, trying to be everything and everyone on every single day? Using my extremely vast vat of knowledge I am going to answer for all of us and say no. But so often I get caught up in the busy-ness of everyday life that I lose any connection to the people around me and often with myself too. I have lists to complete. Tasks to finish. Goodies to bake. Places to be that are so hugely important I can’t see anything else around me because of the blinders I have on.

But ask a seven year old and there is always time to build a fort. Or bake cookies. Or read a story.

The mail can wait. The laundry isn’t going anywhere. And the dishes can hide in the sink. But my niece won’t be little forever. She won’t always want to come over and bake cookies that look like mice. And she won’t always throw around kisses and hugs with wild abandon.

I can learn a lot from her.

 

Spiced Cardamom Cookies

  • 3/4 C butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 1/2 C icing sugar
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • sliced almonds
  • brown mini M&M’s
  • dried chow mein noodles
  • Preheat your oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Whisk together the flour, cardamom, cinnamon and all spice.
  • Beat the butter until it’s light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add both both sugars and beat until well combined.
  • Add the egg and beat well, at least one minute.
  • Beat in the vanilla until combined.
  • Add in the flour mixture and beat until combined.
  • Grab about 1 to 2 Tbsp of dough and roll into a small oval. Gently press one end to form a more pointed end. This will be the face of the mouse. For the eyes, press in two brown colored M&M’s (Or whatever color your seven year old might desire….it surely won’t be boring brown.) Insert two sliced almonds for the ears. And for the tails use the chow mein noodles.
  • Bake about 12 – 15 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned.

Note:

  • Your seven year old sous-baker might come up with some fantastic uses for the chow mein noodles. Like a mouse-tache.

 

Valentine’s Day

Be You.

Be Loved.

{Especially if it is love by chocolate cake}

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake from BAKED

For the Chocolate Cake Layers:

  • 3/4 C  dark cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 C hot water
  • 2/3 C sour cream
  • 2 2/3 C all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 C (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 C vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 C firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  • Butter three 8″ round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment and butter the parchment. Dust with flour.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa, hot water and sour cream. Mix well and set aside to cool.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Beat the butter and shortening about five minutes on medium speed until they are combined and ribbon-like.
  • Add the sugars and beat another five minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Finally, add the vanilla and mix for 30 seconds.
  • Next add the flour mixture alternating with the cocoa mixture starting and ending with the flour mixture.
  • Divide the batter between the three cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake for about 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle of each cake comes out clean.
  • Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes then invert the pans, remove the cake and cool completely. Remove the parchment once cooled.

For the Salted Caramel:

  • 1/2 C heavy cream (35% whipping cream)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/4 C water
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1/4 C sour cream
  • In a small sauce pan combine the heavy cream and the salt. Very slowly bring to a simmer until the salt is dissolved then remove from the heat.
  • In a medium sauce pan combine the water, sugar and corn syrup. Stir together carefully making sure not to splash up the sides of your pan (if you do it will seriously burn on). Cook over high heat until your candy thermometer reads 350F or until the mixture is a dark amber color. This should take about 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool 1 minute.
  • Add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Whisk in the sour cream. Let the caramel come to room temperature then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the cake.

For the Whipped Caramel Ganache Frosting:

  • 1 Lb. dark chocolate chopped (at least 60-70% cacao)
  • 1 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/4 C water
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 2 C unsalted butter cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • Put the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and set aside.
  • In a small sauce pan slowly bring the cream to a simmer.
  • Meanwhile, keeping a close eye on your cream so it doesn’t burn, in a medium saucepan combine the water, sugar and corn syrup. Once again, stir to combine carefully making sure not to splash any up the sides of your pretty, shiny pan (which will no longer be shiny if you splash up the sides). Cook over high heat until your candy thermometer reads 350F. It should take about 6-8 minutes. Remove the caramel from the heat and let it cool one minute.
  • Add the cream to the caramel and stir it until it’s well combined, about two minutes. Then pour the caramel over the chopped chocolate (a little taste test might be warranted at this point). Let the mixture sit for a minute or two then starting at the center of the bowl, working your way out to the edges slowly stir the mixture together until the chocolate is fully melted. (Again, you better taste it just to make sure.) Let the mixture cool for a while then transfer it to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with your paddle attachment.
  • Mix on low speed until the bowl is cool to touch (this could take a while). Once cool, increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the butter. Once it’s all added beat on high speed until fluffy.

To Assemble the Cake:

  • 2 tsp fleur de sel (sea salt) plus more for garnish if you want
  • Place one cake layer on your prettiest serving platter. Spread 1/4 C of the caramel over the top of the cake layer. Let it soak in then spread 3/4C of the ganache frosting over the caramel. Sprinkle 1 tsp of your sea salt over the frosting. Repeat using the second cake layer. For the third layer spread with caramel then crumb coat the cake and put the cake in the fridge to cool for 15 minutes. This will firm up your crumb layer of frosting making it easier to have a smooth finish on your finished product. After 15 minutes, remove from the fridge and final coat with the ganache frosting. Garnish with chocolate swirls or fleur de sel.
  • You can keep this cake at room temperature for up to three days. I like it a little chilled so I kept mine in the fridge. The ganache has more of a fudge-like consistency if it’s a little cool. Personal preference.

Notes:

  • This cake is a lot of work. It’s worth it. Trust me.
  • There will be no nutritional information for this cake. Eat it. Savor it. LOVE  it.  Then head over the treadmill and run like crazy.

The Attraction of Opposites

You like dark, rich chocolate. He would rather have vanilla.

You were first in line for the iphone (and perhaps eagerly awaiting the white on white version). He is glued to his Blackberry.

You like sappy, romantic comedies with happy endings. He prefers shoot em’ up action.

You love the city, all it’s shiny lights, and endless parade of 5″ heels. He wants a beach with a pounding surf break and an endless parade of bikinis (although, for your man, you’ll happily strut your goods in your new Mikoh bikini especially if it means escaping the cold).

You have a GPS nav system. He doesn’t even ask for directions (how he actually found South Beach from Naples is still a mystery).

You guys are living proof that opposites do attract. After all, there can be no black if there is no white. No left if there is no right. And no positive without a negative. One can not exist without the other.

Kinda like Extra Dark Chocolate Mocha Cupcakes. And Double Dose Vanilla Cupcakes.

Double Dose Vanilla Cupcakes

from Simply Recipes

  • 1 1/2 C plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 C butter at room temperature
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 egg plus 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1/4 C sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line your cupcake tin with papers.
  • Cut open and scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean. Place the seeds, empty bean and 1/2 C milk into a small saucepan. Heat slowly to just under a few simmer. Stir constantly for about three minutes. Be very careful not to scald the milk. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the milk to steep in the vanilla as it cools. Once the milk is cool remember to remove the vanilla bean.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In another bowl whisk together the vanilla steeped milk, vanilla extract and sour cream.
  • In yet another bowl (hope you have a dishwasher!), beat the butter for about three minutes on medium speed until it is light and fluffy and the color is a pale yellow. Add the sugar and beat at least another three minutes. You will notice the color and consistency change once you’ve beat long enough. Then add the whole egg and beat for about a minute. Add the egg whites one at a time and beat for a minute after each.
  • Add the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the butter mixture in alternating additions (dry-wet-dry-wet-dry). Mix until just combined. Please don’t over beat.
  • Divide the batter into your cupcake tine and bake for 17-20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Frosting:

  • One 8 oz. package of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1  1/4 C whipping cream (35%)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • dash of salt
  • white chocolate curls for garnish
  • Beat the whip cream until VERY stiff (it need to be stiff enough to serve as icing). Place in fridge to keep cool.
  • Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla until very smooth, about three minutes. Fold in the whip cream and any gel coloring if using (I used a rose color).
  • Keep cool in the fridge if not using immediately. I often chill the frosting for an hour to let the cream cheese cool and make the frosting thicker.

Note:

  • If you’re wondering why you have to beat the crap out of the butter/sugar mixture but not once the flour is added I once read something like this: the butter/sugar/egg stage is where you incorporate air into your baking to make your goods light and fluffy. If, however, you add too much air into the flour stage you will produce tough, dried out baked goods.