ffwD: Michel Rostang’s Double Chocolate Mousse Cake

I really enjoyed this week’s recipe! Though, I have to admit I hit a couple of bumps along the way. First, I got ahead of myself in reading the directions and whisked in the seven tablespoons of butter into the chocolate-y mix before I had poured in the strong, hot coffee. I thought that the hot coffee would completely melt the softened butter. But, when I looked at the mix, it didn’t seem like anything was wrong, and I figured if it affected the cake, I’d find out in the baking process. (By the way, I used 1/4 pound of Ghirardelli’s bittersweet chocolate chips and instant coffee to reduce the prep time.)

Second, I need to give you a little background on my history with springform pans. I never owned a springform pan until I joined this cooking group and had to make Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake in an 8-inch springform pan. After looking in two different bakeware stores, I couldn’t find an 8-inch pan. Instead, I found a set of 3, each measuring 8.5/9/9.5 inches. I settled for this option and gave the 9.5 pan to Chunklet’s mom. Using the 8.5-inch pan, my apple cake ended up being a little flatter than the cookbook photo. This also occurred when I made Julia Child’s Reine de Saba cake. Experience told me that my double chocolate mousse cake would probably be on the flat side as well. Though, if you look closely, you can see a bit of a slope from the edge of the cake to the center.

On top of the springform ring being slightly larger than the recipe called for, all of my baking pans were slightly dented or uneven. I had a sinking feeling that my batter would leek out from underneath the springform ring during baking. In fact, this did occur. But, it only happened a little and the batter that oozed out baked quickly. Thus, my resulting cake base was even flatter, but the bits that oozed out actually tasted okay. I crumbled up those bits and sprinkled them on the serving dish.

My final issue with the springform ring was that for some reason, I hadn’t closed the ring! This made the cake even flatter and near impossible to unmold. After running a knife around the edges several times and trying to shake the cake free, I finally had to flip the cake over, which did unmold it, but part of the cake came apart! This is why you’re only seeing a slice in the photos!

I opted for serving the cake warm because my sister wanted to try a piece soon after it came out of the oven. I made some whipped cream with vanilla bean paste to serve alongside. However, I forgot that I had given my co-worker (Codename: Tasha) my leftover cocoa powder so she could make a chocolate cake for Thanksgiving. Instead, I dusted powdered sugar on top of each slice. I think next time I make this, I’ll make sure to have some fresh red berries and sprigs of mint to help with the plating.

Despite my mishaps, this cake was very chocolate-y and velvety, which I thoroughly enjoyed! I’ll definitely be making this again. It was also extremely rich, so I could only eat one piece this time around, and I needed milk to help with the task! But, really, is eating a piece of chocolate cake a task? Hardly…

You can see the slope, vanilla bean specks, and the richness of the cake a little better in this photo

Make sure to check out other bloggers’ thoughts on this dish at French Fridays with Dorie. As usual, the recipe for this dish can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

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Joy of Cooking: Cornstarch Puff Cakes

My sister (Codename: DSN Engineer) gave me Joy of Cooking for Christmas this year! I was eager to try a recipe, but the cookbook is so voluminous that I really didn’t know what to pick first. So, I started simple and chose a dessert of some type.

Then, I read a post by Laws of the Kitchen wherein a muffin recipe was chosen specifically because the ingredients were already on hand. Seeing as this is how I choose many a recipe, I started with that same plan of action. However, I did make one adjustment. I seem to have acquired a rather substantial container of cornstarch, and I don’t remember how I actually came into possession of it. So, I looked up cornstarch, and lo and behold, cornstarch puff cakes!

These muffins came together very easily and were indeed very light and airy, like puffs! They were just sweet enough and can be easily eaten as a snack or as a dessert with some fruit compote or whipped cream. I was thinking about dusting some powdered sugar on top, but they really didn’t need it. I highly recommend these if you have some extra cornstarch you want to use up!

Cornstarch Puff Cakes (from Joy of Cooking)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Have ingredients about 70 degrees. Cream 1/2 c. butter and 1 c. sifted powdered sugar.

Add and beat until light 4 eggs and 1 tsp. vanilla.

Sift before measuring 1 c. cornstarch.

Sift 3 times again, with 2 tsp. double-acting baking powder.

Combine the creamed and the sifted ingredients until blended. Fill muffin tins with greased bottoms half full and bake about 15 minutes.

Weekend Food

My youngest sister, (Codename DNS Engineer), flew into Chicago this weekend for her Christmas break. Before arriving, she emailed me a recipe for Thousand Dollar Bars with the subject “Please”. Seeing as she aced her finals, including her thermodynamics course, I felt I had to oblige.

These chocolate caramel shortbread bars are your jazzed up version of Twix bars, or as King Arthur’s Flour calls them, “Twix on Warren Buffet’s budget.” Just a tip: If you make these, score the bars after the chocolate has already set and cooled but DO NOT cut them. Let the caramel come back to room temperature to do the final cut. (Either dip the edge of your knife in water or coat with butter in between cuts.) I made the mistake of cutting them right out of the refrigerator, and the chocolate layer kept separating from the caramel shortbread part. But, my sister still happily ate them!

See the separations? It's because I cut them right out of the fridge.

The only alteration I made to the original recipe was adding a teaspoon of salt to the shortbread mixture because I only had unsalted butter. Other than that, the recipe for these yummy bars can be found on King Arthur’s Flour homepage.

Snowfall & Anne of Green Gables

Decorated bushes

The view from my balcony

Lake Michigan is in the distance 2 blocks from me

Friday night we got our first snowfall of the season in Chicago. I was so inspired that I walked to the grocery store and took pictures of my neighborhood along the way. It’s still snowing, and I’m back in the spirit of cooking and baking new things!

When I returned, my local PBS station, WTTW, was airing an Anne of Green Gables marathon. The books were so great to read growing up, and my family did the “environmentally sound” and “fiscally responsible” thing by borrowing the videos from the public library! It’s such an arcane and simple idea compared to the media availability now. I arrived at the part where Anne forgot to put the cheesecloth on top of the sauce for Marilla’s plum pudding. And right there, I got the urge to make something from Prince Edward Island. I found a P.E.I. tourism site that had a bunch of recipes and chose partridge berry loaf with hot sauce. However, my grocery store did not have any partridge berries, so I substituted frozen mixed berries instead.The brown sugar sauce has no viscosity like I thought it would. It really is just a sauce to spoon over the slice in order to make it moist. But, the end result is just so yummy. Make sure to have plenty of milk on hand when you eat this!

A slice of mixed berry loaf with brown sugar sauce

Mixed Berry Loaf with Brown Sugar Sauce
(adapted from tourismpei.com)
1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. frozen mixed berries, thawed
2/3 c. milk

Beat butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, milk and the mixed berries being careful not to crush the berries. Fold berry mixture into butter mixture. Fold into greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 F. for 45 minutes.

Hot Sauce
1 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. water
1 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla or rum, to taste

Place first three ingredients in a sauce pan and boil until bubbly. Slowly then add 1 tsp. vanilla or rum to taste. Drizzle on sliced berry loaf.

ffwD: Speculoos

Anyone experiencing a lack of food interest this week? Maybe it’s just me. Maybe the big hoopla surrounding Thanksgiving LAST THURSDAY made this week’s meals lackluster in comparison. Maybe having leftovers again, and again, and again ruined the idea of making anything that would leave uneaten food behind. Maybe coming back to work from a long weekend would make this week feel so draining. Maybe…

But then, in my state of blah, I found a light in the tunnel: French Fridays with Dorie! However, I noticed this on Wednesday night! So, after a quick perusal of the five recipes for this month, speculoos was the winner by default. Mainly because I only lacked one ingredient called for in the recipe. That ingredient? Ginger. Omitting ginger is not a problem for me. You see, I’m not really a fan of ginger. I’ve made many attempts and failed many times to “like” ginger. So if it hasn’t happened yet, it’s probably not going to happen. Surprisingly enough, I love ginger root in soups, but not ginger in baked goods.

Anyway, speculoos sound eerily like gingerbread cookies, which are probably my least favorite cookie. Therefore, I unapologetically omitted the ginger and doubled the cloves. As a crazy side note, all my brown sugar had dried out! So, I placed a few apple slices in the sugar, and an hour later, soft brown sugar! Oooh…soft brown sugar…

I let my dough settle in the refrigerator overnight, which I hope is okay considering that Dorie said the dough would be very soft. An overnight chill was probably better for my dough anyway because my apartment tends to get very warm very quickly. I just eyeballed the dough’s thickness when I rolled it out. The first cookies I punched out ended up slightly thicker than the last ones.

The end result? These cookies were pretty tasty! I made sandwich cookies from the thinner ones with Nutella in the middle per the bonne idee.

Speculoo Nutella sandwich cookie!

As for the thicker cookies, I left some plain and decorated some with a schmear of Nutella. I used a star cookie cutter for the “pretty” photos, like the one up top. But, for fun, I also made bone shaped cookies

Speculoo bones!

and a doggie shaped cookie for my toddler nieces!

Doggie speculoo!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. While you’re at it, take a look at the other French Fridays with Dorie posts for this week!

Weekend Food

Caramel Apple Cider Cookies

I first saw these caramel apple cider cookies on a blog by scrambled hen fruit. I wanted to make them as an after dinner snack on Thanksgiving, but my sister’s girlfriend brought over cookies as her contribution to the meal. Luckily, I had just placed the dough for these cookies in the refrigerator to chill for an hour and hadn’t started unwrapping the caramels. Instead, I just moved the dough into an airtight container and made them this weekend.

The process of unwrapping caramels and then forming the dough around the candies is rather therapeutic in its mindless nature. You can easily form all the cookies while paying attention to something else, like the Star Wars movie marathon! (Just saying!) However, make sure to keep your dough chilled or it will stick to your fingers and be difficult to work around the caramel. To remedy this, I popped my dough in the freezer while I was taking batches of baked cookies out of the oven.

These cookies are yummy, but you really do need to eat them warmed. If not, you’re just biting into a thick caramel that is hard to lick off and sticks to your teeth. I’m suddenly reminded of the book, Farmer Boy, where Almonzo Wilder feeds his pig, Lucy, some warm caramel, and by the next morning, the candy has cooled and essentially sealed Lucy’s mouth shut!

The original recipe suggests you rest the cookie on the rim of your coffee cup, tea cup or cider mug in order to melt the caramel. I found popping them in the microwave for about 10 seconds did the trick! However, the melty caramel did prove a bit difficult to photograph properly, which is why my cookie looks crumbly in my photo. These cookies are a definite must on a cold day. I love the apple cider flavor packets used in the recipe. I may have to try these cookies with my favorite seasonal Starbucks drink, caramel apple cider! Head over to scrambled hen fruit’s blog for the recipe!

On a side note, I was flipping through Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours, and a thought occurred to me. Is it okay to write in my cookbook? In high school, writing in textbooks wasn’t allowed. In college, I took most notes by hand on paper. In law school, I took notes on my laptop. So, for all the tips, variations and substitutions that others mention on their blogs, could I write them directly in the cookbook on the recipe page? I could write on little sticky notes and put them on the page, but then if I ever moved the sticky, a residue would be left on the page. Plus, I’d have a bunch of notes adding to the thickness of the book. I know it sounds strange because it’s my book and I should write in it if I want. But, I never really thought about it until now, and it seems quite an odd thing to do. What do you think?

ffwD–Caramel-topped Semolina Cake

Yum...caramel...

HAPPY BLACK FRIDAY! If you’re reading this, then you must be on your way to a sale, coming back from a sale or waiting in line to pay for your sale items! Or, you could be like me and you’re doing your Black Friday shopping online/having others get things for you while they’re out. Yeah, I’m that girl.

Anyway, for my final November ffwD recipe, I chose the caramel-topped semolina cake. End with the sweet stuff, right? This recipe piqued my interest because I’m not too familiar with Cream of Wheat. I admit I’ve never actually tasted it. I was an oatmeal girl growing up. Still am.

So, of course when I went to the store to buy semolina or Cream of Wheat, there were nothing but “family-size” boxes for entire families. Seeing as I’m a single gal and was unsure whether I’d like Cream of Wheat, I thought the best option would be to buy the smallest box of single-serving packets I could find.

This posed another dilemma: to purchase original or flavored Cream of Wheat. Since I didn’t know how Cream of Wheat would taste, I was on the fence. Unflavored is just that, unflavored and thus, no motivation for me to eat it later. Brown sugar flavor would possibly entice me to make a bowl for breakfast, but how would this affect the cake, which is the primary purpose for the purchase. In the end, I decided to get the brown sugar flavored variety so I could at least try and eat it for breakfast. Plus, I’ve seen pictures of plain Cream of Wheat with butter on it, and it kind of made me gag a little.

Preparing the batter was a bit perplexing because I had many things on my mind. While I was waiting for the Cream of Wheat to thicken, I was puzzled as to how thick it was supposed to be. I was distracted by the warm brown sugar smell being emitted. I was worried about whether this cake would flip out of the pan as my metal cake pans have all seemed to go yucky on me all at the same time and I was reduced to using a glass 9-inch pie plate.

To be honest, I was probably over-thinking this cake. (Hey! I’m an attorney! I get paid to over-think!) However, I’ll chalk it up to the unfamiliarity of the main ingredient instead. I think the cake ended up a little flatter that supposed to be, but it was delicious and pretty similar to the picture! My sister tasted it and said she could do without the fruit. In addition to my concern over the Cream of Wheat, I had purchased a bag of dried mixed fruit, so I painstakingly took out all the dark raisins and left the golden raisins, pineapple, apple and apricots. Not wanting to waste the rest of the bag, I gave the leftover dried fruit to my sister’s girlfriend. She liked the cake. But, our consensus was that I should just make flan next time.

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

See the fruit?

This is probably easier to see

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