Saturday, December 31, 2011
It's an odd kind of day for December 31st. The sun is shining, the weather is mild, and there is no snow. The lawn is green. I am about to don my apron and settle into the prep work for dinner tonight. It will be simple: our favorite meal of crab legs, with some good champagne, and something chocolate for dessert. Many of the bloggers I follow are writing New Year greetings, choosing their favorite posts of 2011, hinting of things to come. I have been at this blogging project for barely six months, but what an interesting and exciting time it has been. After several false starts, I finally got the courage to sit down and write. I took the advice of a wise family member who told me not to delete anything. And what have I learned? I am not a particularly good photographer, but I am fascinated by the process of learning how to improve my food photos. I like to write about food almost as much as I love to cook. I want others to learn from what I write. That is my goal every time I publish a post. Toward that end I will be making some changes, both in design and content. The challenge is to make Devil's Food a fun place to visit and learn about good cooking. The inspiration I have received from the food-blogging community and the support of family and friends has been invaluable. So I will be here; cooking, baking, snapping photos, and sharing it all on this site. Happy New Year to all!
Monday, December 26, 2011
Even as a child I loved Boxing Day. Everyone is relaxed and reveling in the afterglow of Christmas. We would go visiting on Boxing Day; our large extended family made for ample opportunities to play with the cousins and check out everybody's new toys. There were lots of tasty leftovers for the taking and we ate fruitcake, shortbread, and mince tarts for breakfast, washed down with generous amounts of eggnog. When my children were young, Boxing Day was my day of rest. After weeks of shopping, cooking, cleaning, and entertaining large groups of family, I got to put my feet up and exhale. My sister-in-law always hosted dinner on Boxing Day. She would make pasta: big, generous dishes of lasagne or cannelloni. With salad, garlic bread, lots of red wine, and a casual atmosphere, it was just what we all needed. Today I have vowed not to cook (I am all cooked out, believe it or not). I want to spend as much time as possible with my three children and relax. There are leftovers, the most exciting of which is a liter of goose fat. I have great plans for that, and the braised cabbage from Saturday's dinner. That big chocolate cake that I tucked away in the freezer after taking my profile photos came in very handy yesterday, perfect with scoops of vanilla ice cream. So I wish a relaxing Boxing Day (or "day after Christmas", as my American friends would say) to everyone. Eat pasta, drink red wine, and enjoy the company of loved ones. Play with your new toys, see a movie, take a day off from cooking. Then, tomorrow, get ready for the countdown to the New Year. Cheers!
Monday, December 12, 2011
Devil's Food Cake (from David Lebovitz)
Makes on 9 inch layer cake
For the Cake
9 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup strong coffee (or water)
1/2 cup milk
For the Frosting
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I like Cacao Barry or Valrhona)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (3/4 cup).
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Butter two 9x2 inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. In a medium bowl sift together the cocoa, flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer (or by hand), beat the butter and sugar together until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat to incorporate. Mix together the milk and the coffee. Stir 1/2 the dry ingredients into the butter mixture then add the coffee mixture. Stir to blend, then add the remaining flour mixture. When smooth and evenly mixed, divide between the prepared pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until done. Cool on a rack and remove from the pans when ready to frost.
For the Frosting:
Melt the chocolate with the cream in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk in the butter, a few pieces at a time, until incorporated. Allow the mixture to cool until spreadable (which may take several hours at room temperature). Place one cake layer on a serving plate and scoop a generous amount of frosting atop, spreading it almost to the edges of the cake. Top with the remaining layer and frost the sides and top of the cake, making decorative swirls as you go. Store under a cake dome if not eaten the day it is made.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts (from Bon Appetit, February 2011)
Makes 16 brownies
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)(*I use Droste brand Dutch cocoa)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, chilled
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup walnut pieces
Position rack in the bottom third of the oven; preheat to 325F. Line 8x8x2 inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving a 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with non-stick spray. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and a generous 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in the nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from the pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 pieces. Store airtight at room temperature.
The Brewer's Blondies are named, not for our hometown baseball team, but for the malt powder and malt ball candies that add flavor and texture to the bars. The recipe is courtesy of Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, from their book "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking".
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons malted milk powder
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 3/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup malted milk balls (Whoppers or Maltesers) coarsely chopped in a food processor
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
vanilla ice cream, to serve
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13 inch baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and malted milk powder together. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer in a large bowl), beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until completely combined. Scrape down the bowl, add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add the flour in two batches and beat until combined.
Monday, December 5, 2011
These little cakes would look great on a Christmas cookie tray and they come together in minutes. Because they remind me of Mounds candy bars, I couldn't resist a little drizzle of chocolate atop each one. They are slightly chewy and moist, with a snow-white crumb and a clean coconut flavor. Try these as an easy addition to your holiday baking.
Individual Coconut Cakes (adapted from "Bake!, Essential Techniques for Perfect Baking", by Nick Malgieri)
Makes 24 individual cakes
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened dried coconut (long shred coconut should be chopped into 1/8 inch pieces in the food processor)
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut for topping the cakes before baking
Butter and flour mini-muffin pans, and preheat the oven to 375F. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and unsweetened dried coconut; set aside. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt until smooth (you don't want meringue, just enough whisking to eliminate the "ropey" texture),then whisk in the lemon zest and butter. Whisk in about half the dry ingredients, then use a rubber spatula to fold in the remainder. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, filling them about 2/3 full. Sprinkle the top of each cake with a pinch of shredded coconut.
Bake the cakes until they are well-risen and deep golden and they are firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 15 minutes. Invert them to a rack, then immediately turn them right side up and let them cool completely.
Keep the cakes covered with plastic wrap on the day they are made. For longer storage arrange in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid in one layer and refrigerate. If you want to decorate them with chocolate, simply melt several ounces of your favorite dark, semisweet chocolate and drizzle over the cakes with a parchment paper cone or a spoon.
*If you prefer you can bake the batter in a 8x2 inch round cake pan (buttered and floured). It will take about 20 minutes to bake; test for doneness with a cake tester in the center of the cake. Unmold, cool, and serve in wedges with a scoop of blood orange or coconut sorbet alongside.