Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Deeply Delicious Chocolate Cake

Certain events demand certain desserts, and there are times in life when a fruit salad just won’t do.  To honor those occasions you’ll need a recipe that can hold up to the emotional weight of a true celebration.  This deeply, delicious, chocolate cake will do just right.

For a very special Shabbat dinner last week I wanted to make a beautiful cake for dessert.  I chose to halve this famous recipe (originally found here) and use a square baking pan.  This helped the cake come out a little more elegant and thin, rather than a traditional high standing layered cake, which I think is better suited for a birthday.  The hint of coffee in the batter helps enrich the depth of chocolate flavor in the cake.  And though the recipe isn’t difficult, it does require some loving measuring and specific ingredients. 

The Jewish celebration of Shabbat always falls on Friday nights, and after a full week of work, it can be a dreaded task to prepare the holiday meal.  But I find that staying home and sharing wine and good food with family and friends can be the best way to end the week.  I decided to make this cake two days in advance because it keeps very well, and after all, it’s easier to be lazy when you’re well prepared.

2 cups sugar
¾ cups cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup coffee
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ¾ cups lour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line with parchment paper, butter and dust with flour two 9 in. round baking pans. (I halved this recipe and used one 8 in. square pan, so do as you please!)

In a large bowl stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, buttermilk, coffee, vanilla, and oil.  Add this wet mixture into the dry one slowly, mix until incorporated and then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  The batter will be very watery.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake @ 350F for 35 to 40 minutes (until a tooth picked when inserted into the cake comes out clean).  Cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then lift out the parchment paper and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Nutella Cookies: 3 Ingredients. 5 Minutes. Dessert Done.

Sugar + Flour + Egg.  That's it...and Nutella of course.  The simplest recipe I may have ever made with the most indulgent chewy delicious results.  These took less than 5 minutes to make (including time spent finding a misplaced measuring cup) and exactly 8 minutes to bake.  Which makes me wonder what kind of super food Nutella really is...

What's ironic about this batch of cookies is that I wasn't even trying to find an extreme example of effortless baking.  I was really just trying to accomplish two things: use up a giant jar of Nutella I had inherited without sufficient cabinet space to house, and make some cookies I could send to my best friend back home.  So I Googled "Nutella Cookies" and lo and behold this diamond in the rough of approx. 2.1 million related sites was revealed.  Find the original inspiration here.

And a last little note about who these very special cookies were sent to.  My BFF and I have been baking since we could hold a spoon, and our kitchen adventures are as numerous as the years gone by.  But there's one that perfectly sums up all the others.  It was the holiday of Passover and we were baking special cookies that don't use flour because of the strict dietary rules that define the holiday.  Since the recipe was so specialized we tried our best to follow it exactly.  Until we popped the cookies into the oven and realized we had forgotten to add in the cup or so of orange juice that the recipe called for.  Not ones to hesitate, we just took the carton of OJ out of the fridge, opened the oven door and poured juice over all the baking cookies and the entire baking sheet.  And even though I distinctly remember a gigantic mess in the kitchen, I don't remember them tasting so bad.  I love you Elizabeth! 
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