Posts tagged ‘baking’

One Busy Afternoon

I didn’t photograph the Monopoly, but can report that my son manages to win the majority of our games with one simple strategy: you spend money to make money. In one recent game, which he likes to recall quite fondly, he cleaned me out in less than ten minutes and had made $50 (and this is Monopoly Jr, where the highest currency is a five.)

Chocolate Guinness Cake

I can’t believe that with all my cake posts in various places I haven’t written about this cake yet, from the Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame in Nigella Lawson’s Feast. It takes about five minutes to get into the oven, is rich, chocolatey, but not too sweet, and (perhaps my favorite feature) it is an excellent vehicle for lots and lots of cream cheese frosting.

For the cake:
Butter for pan
1 c Guinness stout
10 T (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/4 c unsweetened cocoa
2 c superfine sugar
3/4 c sour cream
2 large eggs
1 T vanilla extract
2 c all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t baking soda

For the topping:
1 1/4 c confectioners’ sugar
8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 c heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. (I seem only to have 8 1/2″ and 9 1/2″ springforms, but the 8 1/2″ works just fine)

In a large saucepan, combine Guinness and butter. Place over medium-low heat until butter melts, then remove from heat. Add cocoa and superfine sugar, and whisk to blend.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture.

Add flour and baking soda, and whisk again until smooth.

Pour into buttered pan, and bake until risen and firm, 45 minutes to one hour. Place pan on a wire rack and cool completely in pan.

Meanwhile, make the topping:
Using a food processor or by hand, mix confectioners’ sugar to break up lumps. Add cream cheese and blend until smooth. Add heavy cream, and mix until smooth and spreadable.

Remove cake from pan and place on a platter or cake stand.

Ice top of cake only, so that it resembles a frothy pint of Guinness.


Happy Birthday, Dad!

I’m forever tearing new recipes out of magazines and needing excuses to try them out, so baking birthday cakes for people I love — even if they aren’t here to share the cake — is one of the ways I work through the inventory.

This is a buttermilk caramel cake from the recent Gourmet. The cake is light and not too sweet; the caramel topping (and you know I’m all about candymaking right now) is easy and delicious. I think Dad would like it a lot. Ben and Eli certainly liked helping to make it, almost as much as they liked helping to eat it.

So happy birthday, Dad, and maybe next year we’ll be together on your birthday; for now, a picture will have to do.

Espresso Cookie-Tired

First, there was Stupid Tired. We’d been parents less than a week, and were driving the still-unfamiliar route to the pediatrician’s office for Ben’s first check-up when I said to Tony, “Shouldn’t you turn here?” And he responded, “Aren’t you driving?” (The irony of course is that now we could drive the route in our sleep.)

Then, there was Desperate Tired. The stand-out (although really, there’ve been so many times, it’s hard to keep track) was my first morning home after a trip with Ben to visit my sister in Virginia. Ben was about 8 months old. He hadn’t slept particularly in Virginia, and now on our first day back he woke for the day at 4:30 AM, Tony had gone in to work around 6:30, and by 9 I was lying on the living room floor, out of my head exhausted, crying pathetic tears and letting Ben crawl all over me.

Today didn’t start out seeming like a day when I’d realize a new level of Tired, but there were 4 clamorous kids (only one of them mine) in the house all morning and then a too-short nap from Eli. We followed-up the nap with some rough-housing on the big bed — at least I could be horizontal, right? We were baby cats, and then we were baby dogs. We did bouncing, and then we made a fort with the comforter. And then there was more bouncing. And maybe it was the oxygen-deprivation in the fort, but all of a sudden I realized I was… waking up with Eli jumping on me! Hmm. Don’t know how much time was lost.

Clearly (and I know not every exhausted mother would respond this way) it was time to do some baking, and Mayan Chocolate Cookies seemed like the right call. I tore the recipe out of the San Francisco Chronicle a few years ago and hadn’t tried them till today. They’re worth making. Even when you’re not Espresso-Cookie Tired.

for the dough:
1 ½ c flour
1 ½ t baking powder
½ t salt
½ t cinnamon
1 t instant espresso powder
¼ t ground black pepper
1/8 t cayenne pepper
¾ c unsweetened cocoa
¾ c butter
¾ c sugar
1 egg
2 t vanilla

for the filling:
about ½ c chocolate chips
about ¼ c white sugar

Sift together dry ingredients.

Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add egg and vanilla and beat well. Add dry ingredients and blend. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Put chocolate chips and sugar in separate bowls. Pinch off a walnut-sized piece of dough and press an indentation in the center; insert 4 chocolate chips and mold the dough around them to enclose completely. Roll the dough into a ball, roll the ball in the sugar, and place on baking sheet. Continue with remaining dough.

Bake for 8 minutes. Do not overbake; they’re best when still a little moist in the center.

Happy Birthday, Irma!

My sister reminded me that today is Irma Rombauer’s birthday. For those of you who don’t refer to your Joy of Cooking by her name, she is the author of Joy of Cooking, my kitchen dictionary. Irma is also my kitchen diary; following in my mother’s footsteps, I use the back, blank pages to record my annual Christmas baking. It’s not such an impressive list as my mom’s, yet; she used to host enormous open houses throughout the holiday season, and her cookie baking would extend into dozens of batches. But I’m getting there, and we’ll be home for Christmas this year (with my parents visiting!) so there’ll be ample opportunity to add to the list.

Here’s what I’ve baked in the past:

Christmas ’98 (dissertation-writing)
bourbon balls
chocolate/almond biscotti
lemon butter stars
coconut palm trees
gingerbread men
almond crescents
chocolate crinkle cookies
chocolate/chocolate mint chip cookies
raspberry thumbprints

no record of 1999 (job market) or 2000 (my first married Christmas)

Christmas 2001 (pregnant)
bourbon balls
lemon cornmeal stars
coconut palm trees
chocolate crinkle cookies
chocolate glazed toffee bars
raspberry thumbprints

no record of 2002, because we were hospitalized with a very sick baby

Christmas 2003 (21-month old baby)
pneumonia, strep throat, bronchitis and truffles

no record of 2004, as we were packing up the house to renovate

Christmas 2005 (7-month old baby; our house under renovations)
gingerbread men
lemon polenta stars

Christmas 2006 (Ben helping with the baking!)
gingerbread men
chocolate crinkle cookies
pistachio-cranberry cookies
chocolate-dipped candied orange peel

Tomorrow, I’ll post the batter-stained recipe to which my Joy of Cooking falls open when I pull the book off the shelf.

Summer’s Fruit and Cornmeal Cake

Goodness, this is a delicious cake! It’s quite a bit like last year’s Easy Summer Cake, though it’s got a higher proportion of cake to fruit, and the cornmeal gives it a nice crunch. I made mine with yogurt instead of sour cream, and served it with vanilla ice cream and some more fresh berries. Yum.