Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chocolate Cupcakes with Mint Chocolate Frosting

I recently had a discussion with a good friend of mine about the utility of being part of social networks (that sounds fancy, but really we were talking about dating and facebook). I hate to admit it, but I'm a bit of an internet junkie. I love the internet- I check the weather about five times a day, I'm on twitter, facebook, gmail and I have this blog. I don't think that I am any less connected to the real world because I'm so connected to the internet world- in fact, I am probably more connected.

Last week I was asked to bring dessert for a meal and I decided on cupcakes (see my last post, I was still on my frosting kick). I came up with two good sounding options- Chocolate Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting, and Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Mint Frosting. I was having a hard time deciding which one to choose, so I decided to do a little online survey- I put the question on facebook and twitter, and mint won 12-5 (overwhelming majority!) The answers were pretty entertaining- thanks to everyone who voted!. Needless to say, its a good thing I have the internet, because otherwise I definitely would have made the banana cupcakes, and then no one would have eaten them. Good thing I'm connected.

Chocolate Cupcakes:
Recipe from www.joyofbaking.com

1/2 cup (50 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup (240 ml) boiling hot water
1 1/3 cups (175 grams) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly butter, or line 16 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a small bowl stir until smooth the boiling hot water and the cocoa powder. Let cool to room temperature.In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.Then in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated. Then add the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.Fill each muffin cup two-thirds full with batter and bake for about 16-20 minutes or until risen, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing. You can either spread the frosting on the cupcakes with a small spatula or if piping, use a large Wilton 1M open star tip to make lovely swirls. Makes about 16 cupcakes

Mint- Chocolate Fudge Icing:
4 ounces (120 grams) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup (150 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups (160 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 c cocoa powder
1 T ice water

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the extracts. Add the chocolate and beat on low speed until incorporated. Add the cocoa powder, mix well. Add enough ice water to reach desired consistency. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is smooth and glossy (about 2 -3 minutes).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Carrot Cake with FROSTING

Lately I've had a hankering to make frosting and I don't know why exactly. It started when I was back in Toronto- I made a chocolate birthday cake with chocolate frosting- the inside frosting was flavoured with orange liquer, and the outside frosting was flavoured with chocolate-coffee liquer. It was delicious, and frankly, so boozy that I'm lucky it was served as dessert after a heavy meal!

My first week back home I was asked to make dessert for ten. I knew that I could probably make cookies, or even a cake, but what I really wanted to make was a FROSTED cake. One with layers and swirls of icing all around. Now I'm not quite advanced enough to make some of the beautiful cakes I've seen on blogs lately- with syrups, and flavoured creams and frostings with different flavours and textures.... but I can be safely relied upon to make a decent cake with great vanilla icing. And who doesn't love carrot cake, really? The end result looked beautiful, with chocolate curls and all, but was a bit too sweet for my taste. Next time I would either go for cream cheese frosting (which is what the original recipe calls for- see below), or a lemon-flavoured frosting to cut the sweetness a bit.

I still haven't satisfied my frosting craving yet- I'm thinking about making iced cupcakes for dessert tomorrow (banana chocolate with chocolate icing, or chocolate with chocolate mint icing?) and I'm even considering making my own birthday cake- it's on Saturday- so I can play around with icing sugar a bit more. I will let you know when this crazy has passed.

Carrot Cake
1 cup oil
2 c (9 oz) flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs
2 1/2 c (8 3/4 oz) lightly packed, finely grated carrots
2 c (scant) light brown sugar
3/4 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c raisins
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 Lightly oil and flour the sides of two 9x2 inch round cake pans, tapping out any excess flour. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment.

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. In a large bowl with a hand mixer or with a stand mixer (I did this by hand) mix the oil, eggs, carrots, brown sugar, walnuts, raisins (I left the walnuts and raisins out), and vanilla on medium speed until well-blended, about one minute. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just blended, about thirty seconds. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake until the tops spring back when lightly pressed and a cake tester inserted into the centers come out clean (28-30 mins).

Let cool in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pans to loosen the cakes, invert them onto the rack, remove the pans and carefully peel away the parchment. Set the cakes aside to cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Frosting
The original recipe for this cake calls for a vanilla-cream cheese frosting, but because I was making it after a meat meal I decided to keep the frosting pareve (non-dairy). I made my frosting by creaming about 1/2 c of margarine with about a pound of icing sugar, 2-3 tsps of vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and a few teaspoons of ice water. Adjust the icing sugar-water ratio until the right consistency is reached.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 lb cream cheese, softened
12 oz (1 1/2 c) unsalted butter, softened
1 lb (4 cups) confectioners' sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 table salt

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter with the mixer on medium speed until very smooth and creamy, about one minute. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat on medium high until blended and fluffy, about two minutes. Cover the frosting and set aside at room temp until the layers are completely cool.

Assemble the cake
Carefully set one cake upside down on a large, flat serving plate. Using a metal spatula, evenly spread about 1 1/2 c of the frosting over the top of the cake. Top with the remaining cake layer, upside down. Spread a thin layer (about 1/3 cup) of frosting over the entire cake to seal in any crumbs and fill in any gaps between layers. Refrigerate until the frosting is cold and firm, about twenty minutes. Spread the entire cake with the remaining frosting.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours, or up to two days. The cake is best served slightly chilled or at room temperature.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Holiday Food and Back from Vacay

I just returned from Toronto. Every time I return to Israel I am amazed by the stark contrast between Canada and Israel. Everything from the culture, to the weather to temperament is different. When I left Toronto it was Fall- and it was freezing. Every day that I went outside and froze I cursed myself for not bringing boots. Funny though- all the Torontonians seemed to think that it wasn't boot weather yet. Seems like I've become too used to the heat; I wouldn't be able to handle a Canadian winter anymore! It feels like summer hasn't ended here. It is thirty degrees every day, and the only indication that seasons are starting to change is the slight drop in temperature at night.

I didn't have much time to post while I was away; helping to prepare for the Jewish Holidays of Sukkot, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana took up most of my kitchen time. The one thing that stayed comsistent throughout my trip was challah- always there for every holiday or Shabbat meal, I made at least twenty for the holidays. So here- a new challah recipe for my first post back.
recipe from Uncommonly Kosher, from Rebecca Spirn
  • 13-14 c. four
  • 4 pkgs. dry yeast
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 c. warm water
  • 1 c. oil
  • 2 T salt
  • 1 heaping c. sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten, for glaze
  • Poppy or sesame seeds
Dissolve yeast in water that is between 95-105 degrees (fahrenheit). When dissolved, add sugar, salt and half the flour; mix well. Add eggs and oil and then slowly stir in most of the remaining flour. Dough will become quite thick. Until kneading stage, dough can be mixed in a Mix Master. When dough pulls away from sides of the bowl, turn onto floured board and knead for approximately 10 minutes. Add only enough additional flour to make dough manageable. Knead until dough has acquired a life of its own; it should be smooth and elastic, springing back when pressed lightly with fingertip. Place dough into a large, oiled bowl. Turn it over so that the top with be oiled as well. Cover with a damp towel and let it rise in a warm place for 2 hours, punching down in four or five places every 20 minutes. Shape loaves and place into well greased bread pans or onto greased cookie sheets. Allow to rise again until doubled in bulk. Brush tops with beaten eggs mixed with a little sugar. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, if desired. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until nicely browned. Makes 9 large challahs (one for good luck).

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I am on a hiatus. I'm in New York for a month, working as an intern in a courthouse. It's fascinating. I'm learning a lot during the day, and trying to take in as much of the city as I can at night (besides as many cupcakes from Magnolia as I can get :) ) A good friend of mine lives in NY, and her family has been kind enough to take me in for the month. Needless to say It would be extremely rude to impose my kitchen chaos on my friend's family for the month- so I'm taking a baking hiatus; I will hopefully return to my blog in October. Until then, I hope to put up some pics now and then, and enjoy my time in this incredible city. So long for now!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Daring Bakers: Dobos Torte

The deadline was the 27th of the month. Truth is, every 27th is the deadline- the Daring Bakers deadline. Every month a new baking challenge is posted for the brave of heart, the group that calls themselves the Daring Bakers. I did not feel like I was up to the challenge of creating something so fancy this month- in fact, the fanciest baking I do is a chocolate cake- but I got a little push, and after ducking out last month I decided it was time to take on the challenge.

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

A few things went wrong- I only had medium sized eggs, so the cake didnt turn out to be as high as I would have liked, the layers were hard to peel off of the parchment, I didn't let the caramel cook enough, and I totally forgot about the hazlenuts. Either way, I'm mighty pleased. If anyones in the area, you should stop by for cake! I may not be a food photographer, but I am now a daring baker.

2 baking sheets
9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
a sieve
a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
a small saucepan
a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or stand mixer will make life much easier)
metal offset spatula
sharp knife
a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round, or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin.
piping bag and tip, optional

Sponge cake layers

6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
pinch of salt

NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.
1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
2. Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.)
3. Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)
4. In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
5. Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.
Chocolate Buttercream

4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.
NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.
1. Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3. Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5. When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Caramel topping
1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

1. Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2. Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
3. The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely

Finishing touches
a 7” cardboard round
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Assembling the Dobos

1. Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2. Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
3. Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4. Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pictures of August from Outside my Window

There's a week and a half left of August- so here you go: watermelon, my beautiful niece, clean whites on the line outside, the view from my bedroom window. Enjoy the last stretch of summer- eat as much watermelon as you can, go to the beach, revel in the sun! Happy August!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Orange Fennel Salad

I'm distracting myself with salad.
It was either make salad, or go out buy chocolate and make eclairs. Now that's not to say that I won't be making eclairs tomorrow- I've just staved off the eclair crazies for today. And so- onwards to salad!

Orange Fennel Salad
1 large fennel bulb
2 oranges, cut into segments
juice from the cut up oranges
2 T Balsamic Vinegar or Red Wine Vinegar
2 T Olive Oil
pinch of sugar (optional)
Segment oranges and cut the segments in half. Add the extra juice from the sliced oranges into a bowl with the orange segments. Slice the fennel, add to the bowl. Add the vinegar, oil and salt, and sugar (if using). Toss and serve.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mint Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt

My freezer is PACKED. Loaves of leftover bread started tumbling out as I maneuvered cold plastic containers around to make room for yet another dessert, which our household of two (la maman and myself), would prefer not to consume in one sitting.

The combination of bread overload (even for me there is a limit of how much toast I can eat, and I love toast), and summer heat has led me to a bread-baking hiatus. Last week I made vanilla ice cream. It was a big hit, but all tasters agreed that it was too rich to enjoy guilt-free. So, I decided to try my hand at fro-yo.
I trolled the internet and found that most recipes for frozen yogurt call for Greek yogurt. I know that it's supposed to be thicker than regular yogurt, but it's impossible to find in supermarkets here. I also read that you can strain regular yogurt to make it thicker, so I got my strainer out, and dumped a few containers of yogurt in it. Most of the yogurt fell through to the other side, a lot fell onto the container, and some onto the side of the bowl.... next time I'll go with cheese cloth. Either way, the final product was delish- exactly what I wanted. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed!

Mint Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt
This recipe is based on David Lebovitz's recipe for vanilla ice cream, and my sister's Philadelphia-Style Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream:
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 c. yogurt (strained or Greek if you like it thicker)
  • 1 bar of good bittersweet chocolate
  • green food colouring (optional)
Heat milk, extracts, sugar and salt in a saucepan until warm. While whisking the egg yolks, slowly pour in a bit of the milk mixture. Now pour the egg yolk mixture into the milk slowly while whisking the milk. Heat the mixture, while stirring, until the mixture coats the back of the whisk. Strain the thickened mixture into the yogurt. Mix well, and chill (either in the fridge or over an ice bath). Put a deep baking dish, or bowl made of plastic, stainless steel or something durable in the freezer, and pour your custard mixture into it.

After forty-five minutes, open the door and check it. As it starts to freeze near the edges, remove it from the freezer and stir it vigorously with a spatula or whisk. Really beat it up and break up any frozen sections. Return to freezer.

Continue to check the mixture every 30 minutes, stirring vigorously as it's freezing. If you have one, you can use a hand-held mixer for best results, or use a stick blender. You can also use just a spatula or a sturdy whisk along with some modest physical effort.

Keep checking periodically and stirring while it freezes (by hand or with the electric mixer) until the ice cream is frozen. (It will likely take 2-3 hours to be ready).

When the mixture is mostly frozen, melt a bar of good bitterweet chocolate in a double boiler. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the fro-yo, and place back in the freezer. About half an hour later, take out and break up the chocolate pieces and stir into the fro-yo. Freeze a bit longer until firm, and serve!