Chocolate Cake’s What the Doctor Ordered

…no but actually.

IMG_0349My best friend’s fiancé just began his residency about a month ago, and needless to say, we haven’t seen much of him. The two of them used to live in my brother’s basement (yes, we’re that kind of crew), but since he moved to Delaware to get all doctor-fied, and she moved out for the summer, my family hasn’t seen nearly enough of him.

This past weekend, the two of them had a rare weekend in Washington–to celebrate his birthday–and he wanted to come over to meet my new nephew (!) It’s not a birthday without a cake–especially a chocolate one, and I was dying to make this seemingly-very easy recipe from Food52‘s Amanda Hesser.

It reminded me how any stress immediately dissipates when measuring spoons, whisks, and of course chocolate, come into the picture. I’ve gotta bake more often.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups Nestle’s semisweet-chocolate chips [I used fancy Whole Foods chocolate because Nestle’s are surprisingly hard to find]
  • 1 ½ cups sour cream, at room temperature

PREPARATION

    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place a baking sheet on the lowest rack to catch any drips as the cake bakes on the middle rack. In a 2- to 3-quart pot, mix together the sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup of water. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until all of the ingredients are melted and blended. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
    2. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar. Grease and flour a 9-inch tube pan.
    3. When the chocolate in the pot has cooled a bit, whisk in the milk mixture and eggs. In several additions, and without overmixing, whisk in the dry ingredients. When the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and whisk once or twice to blend. Pour the batter into the tube pan and bake on the middle rack until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a rack. (This can be tricky — if someone is around to help, enlist him.) Let cool completely.
    4. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, then let cool to room temperature. Stir in the sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture is smooth.
    5. When the cake is cool, you may frost it as is or cut it in half so that you have 2 layers. There will be extra icing whether you have 1 or 2 layers. [I stored it in a Tupperware and served it alongside–for those similarly gluttonous] 

It has the rare quality of actually being chocolatey enough without overly dry. So basically, it’s my new go-to. The frosting? Just melted chocolate chips + sour cream. What could be easier?DSC_0049

We had some gorgeous nectarines–and I’m a sucker for fruit with chocolate–so on the cake they went, with just a couple of chocolate chips…

Pumpkin-palooza

Yes, it’s pumpkin season, and yes I got into it. For a pre-Halloween party gathering, I got into the seasonal spirit with pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies and a bread-and-cheese stuffed pumpkin (no, but really). Add to that a few deviled eggs and a slew of Halloween-themed cupcakes, and you’ve got an autumnal gathering.  Without further a-boo (wow, that was a bad one, even for me):

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies [from Food Network but with my changes–double the pumpkin purée and spices ]
Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups canned pumpkin puree
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips, not semisweet
Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper

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Directions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.

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Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the white and brown sugars, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds. Stir in the chips. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.

Now, these cookies are super (read: extremely) moist and sticky–more like little pumpkin cakes than crisp cookies. I’m a huge fan of any kind of cake, particularly if it masquerades as a cookie.IMG_7983

Cheesy Stuffed Pumpkin [from this recipe from Epicurious by Dorie Greenspan with some changes by yours truly]
Ingredients:
1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks [I did cheddar and Monterey Jack]
2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (my addition)
About 1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

IMG_7988Directions: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a very sturdy knife—and caution—cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween Jack-o-Lantern). It’s easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.IMG_7989

Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper—you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure—and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled—you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little—you don’t want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (It’s hard to go wrong here.)

IMG_7990Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper for about 2 hours—check after 90 minutes—or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.

When the pumpkin is ready, very carefully bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you’ll bring to the table. Mix the pumpkin and stuffing with a spoon and serve with toasts.

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 I’ve fallen into Fall, people, and now it’s very, very cold.

A Brooklyn Chocolate Teaser

DSC_0168Last Thursday, I spent the day jaunting around Brooklyn meeting wonderful chocolatiers and obviously sampling tasty treats. We traversed all around, starting in Dumbo at old school original Jacques Torres, then went to Mast Brothers in Williamsburg, Fine & Raw in Bushwick, Nunu in Boerum Hill and finally Cacao Prieto in Red Hook (the painting above is located across from Cacao Prieto).This is for a forthcoming article, but I wanted to share some teaser snaps from the sweet day of fun.

DSC_0016Jacques Torres

DSC_0036Mast Brothers

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