Tag Archives: cocoa powder

Chocolate Macarons

I finally attempted macarons again. While my first attempt wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t amazing either. And these cookies are quite intimidating. So much can go wrong. But when they turn out well, they taste amazing. This time I used a recipe from David Lebovitz, but still mostly used Tartelette’s technique.  And my second attempt went much better. Overall they looked better, the size was better, and they tasted better. They were just a wee bit lopsided. But they have feet and they puffed up. Oh, and they were lumpy. Yes, I made an incredibly dumb mistake and didn’t sift my almonds after processing them. Luckily, the lumps didn’t come across in the mouth, just in looks. This really is a cookie where practice makes perfect. The texture this time was much better. Very airy, a little crispy, and then the creamy center. What a great little cookie!

Chocolate Macarons with Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling

Chocolate Macarons From David Lebovitz

Yield 15 cookies

  • 1 cup (100 gr) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered almonds, sifted!
  • 3 TB (25 gr) unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 large egg whites, room temp, 48 hours
  • 5 TB (65 gr) granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350º F (180º C).

2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or silpat) and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready. Grind together the powdered sugar with the almond powder and cocoa so there are no lumps; use a blender or food processor. Then sift!

3. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm, about 2 minutes.

4. Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. Should take about 50 strokes.  When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag (standing the bag in a tall glass helps if you’re alone).

5. Pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1-inch (3 cm) circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch (3 cm) apart. I actually used a scoop this time and it worked well. The batter was thick and lumpy because I didn’t sift!

Some of them cracked on top and I’m not sure why….

6. Let rest at room temp for about 30 minutes so the shells can harden, then bake them for 15-18 minutes. Let cool completely then remove from baking sheet. When cool, fill with strawberry cream cheese filling.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling, Adapted from Tartelette

  • 4 oz cream cheese, at room temp
  • 3 TB strawberry jam or preserves

Stir to combine. Pipe onto half of macarons and top with the other half. Keep refrigerated.

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The Cookie that beats up other Cookies

Recently I was watching The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Chocolate on the Food Network (one of the few remaining good shows on that network – jus’ saying). And what do you know, there was the Levain Bakery showcasing one of their most amazing and I’m sure incredibly delicious cookies. I don’t know because I’ve never actually had one before. I just keep seeing them on TV and each time I have to refrain from buying a plane ticket to New York for that very same day. This time they were showcasing their Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookie. Dear God, I think I may have died and gone to heaven! And, at this rate I am going to have to change the name of this blog to “Let’s Talk Chocolate”. I think that is one of those good problems.

My version of the Levain Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie.

If you know anything about the Levain Bakery, then you probably know they do not share their recipes. Guess their moms never told them sharing is caring. Or maybe they did, except when it involved a cookie that likely makes them plenty of money, in which case, go moms!  Thankfully we have many other talented bakers out there who are willing to share what they believe to be a very close copy cat recipe. I headed back to the blogger who first introduced me to her copy cat recipe, Lisa Michele. Turns out on the very same page as her Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever recipe she also has a Chocolate Peanut Butter cookie, which can easily be adjusted to make a Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookie.

And as luck would have it, I had just ordered two new cocoa powders from King Arthur Flour, their Double Dutch Cocoa Powder and their Black Cocoa. I was very anxious to give these cocoa powders a try in the cookie. (If you don’t have these, I’m sure the cookies will still be amazing, but do try to stay away from not-so-great cocoa powder like Hershey’s and store brands. Those poor quality cocoas will have a detrimental effect on your cookie.)

These are cookies, which means they are very easy to make. I used Lisa Michele’s recipe almost exactly, using the max amount of cocoa she suggests but also adding 1 TB of coffee. In order make them incredibly gooey, you will need to underbake them. However, if you aren’t a big fan of underbaked cookies, they will still taste delightful baked longer.

Fair warning, these are probably some of the most intense chocolate flavored cookies I’ve ever had. They could easily be a brownie. And they do require a scoop of ice cream or a big glass of milk. My dear hubby went crazy for these. I’m sure you will too!

Gooey chocolate chocolate chip cookie with a scoop of coffee ice cream.

Levain Bakery Copycat Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Modified very slightly from Lisa Michele

  • 2 sticks cold butter, cubed (cold is very important!)
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TB coffee, cooled
  • 1/2 cup dutch process cocoa** SIFTED
  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cup AP Flour, spoon and sweep method
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 to 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups good quality chocolate (I use guittard)

**I used 1/4 cup + 2TB KAF Double Dutch and 2 TB black cocoa. The black cocoa is not meant to be used all by itself, so you don’t want to use too much. Don’t forget to sift your cocoa powder!

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line sheet trays with silpat or parchment.

2. Scale all your ingredients. Put the butter back in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

3. Cream the butter and the sugar, along with the coffee in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated. Then add the cocoa powder (turn the mixer to low or off before doing this to avoid a mess!).

5. Mix the remaining dry ingredients together. Add to wet mixture and mix just until combined. Add chocolate chips and mix briefly.

6. Using a scoop, scoop the dough onto a parchment. The size is up to you, but you will get a gooey cookie with a crisp crust if they are bigger.

The cookie before baking. Yes, the dough tastes good, I tried it.

7. Bake at 375 for 12 to 18 minutes depending on the size. Since they are chocolate, determining if they are done can be a bit challenging and may require a little experimentation. This experimentation will no doubt involve tasting the cookie. Baking can be such a rough job.

Hopefully someday I will be able to try the real thing. I know they ship, but it isn’t the same as getting it from the bakery. Until then, I will enjoy these fresh out of my oven!

Tip: I think I first read this on Lisa Michele’s blog, but I can’t recall for sure. If you are like me, you might just devour all of these cookies within 24 hours. Not a great idea! So to freeze them, scale them out on a sheet pan and freeze. Once frozen, place the dough in a plastic baggie. Then whenever you are ready for a cookie (which is always, right?) just place the frozen dough ball on a sheet pan a bake. No need to defrost!

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Chocolate, Caramel, and Coffee. Cupcakes, that is.

Yes, this post is about all three – chocolate, coffee, and caramel. Three of my most favorite indulgences, all in one beautiful little cupcake. Last week I was requested, er, told, that I was to bring the dessert for a work pot luck.  I love making a dessert that makes people smile, so I needed something good. Really good. And I’m afraid I’ve outdone myself this time. I don’t know how I will ever make anything better. I’m a serious critic of my food, and this time, I am really proud.

What could I have made that tastes so good? Chocolate cupcakes with caramel pudding and a coffee buttercream icing. Oh yeah. When people ate these they had a look of pure pleasure on their face. That amazing.

And then, at the same time, I thought, Do I really want to share these? Maybe I should just buy cupcakes so I can keep these to myself. I got the cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen and she too writes that she didn’t want to share. In fact, she said “I kind of wanted to swat people off with a spoon.” I felt the same way! You will too. I promise.

Now these cupcakes didn’t come without heartache. I knew I wanted to put caramel pudding inside, but I had never made caramel pudding before. I’ve made pastry cream many times, but never caramel flavored. The first recipe I tried came out rubbery. I was worried because it didn’t have eggs like the traditional pastry cream. I was right to be worried. It was terrible. Bleh. Try number two I used a recipe from Hungry Cravings and I was fairly certain this recipe would work since it was a traditional pastry cream recipe. But, the first time I burned my sugar. Like black in my pan. Bad. Just a pointer if you do this, fill your pot of burned, hard sugar with water and bring to a boil. It will dissolve the sugar and then your pot will be clean! Second time though, the sugar didn’t burn and I had a delicious caramel pudding. Whew. Step one was done.

The pudding after chilling. Looks weird, huh? Stir first!

The cake went fairly smoothly, except I overfilled the cupcakes. I knew the cake didn’t rise a lot, but I still over judged how much to fill. So I had to very carefully peel each cupcake from the pan. If I wasn’t careful, I would tear the cupcake and it wouldn’t be pretty anymore.  And those “ruined” cupcakes, well, quality control is just terrible, huh? I couldn’t let them go to waste. Yummy.

Finally, the buttercream. I’m not sure why buttercream gives me such a headache, but alas, it does. I learned a very important lesson when I made this buttercream. My emulsion broke. Let’s chat a bit about emulsions. According to wikipedia an emulsion “is a mixture of two or more immiscible (unblendable) liquids.” What, that doesn’t make sense? Yeah, I didn’t think so either. Examples of emulsions are mayonnaise and vinaigrettes. Mayo is a “permanent” emulsion. Once it is done, it’s done and it won’t separate if it’s done correctly. Vinaigrettes will have to be mixed each time since they will separate. An emulsion forms when the mixture is well, mixed properly. It is broken when it’s not. And you know when it’s broken because it just looks terrible.

Now, did you know that ganache and buttercreams are also emulsions? Yup, they are. This buttercream was made with egg whites, sugar, and butter. All was going well with the egg whites, but when I started adding the butter, I had a grainy, icky, horrible looking buttercream.

Egg whites whipped to stiff peaks.

Broken buttercream. Ugly, yucky, disappointing.

Drat. What to do? I didn’t want to dump it out and start over – what a waste! Thankfully, Baking 911 had pointers for fixing a broken butter cream. The site suggested if it is cold and broken, melt about 25% of the butter cream and rewhip. This didn’t work for me the first time. I tried chilling in the refrigerator and then whipping. Nothing, nada, zip. I was on the verge of a meltdown at this point. Why wasn’t it coming together? So, one more shot. I put the buttercream in the freezer for 15 minutes, then melted some again. I was so certain it wasn’t going to work that I just put the mixer on high speed, insanely fast, and what do you know – I had a smooth, silky butter cream. I did a little jump for joy! Yahoo!

Then, it was time to assemble. This was the easiest part. Step 1, cut out little holes in your cupcakes.

Cupcakes with holes.

Place all your cake crumbs into a separate bowl. Save for later when you are craving this cake. This may be immediately.

Mmmm….snack.

Next step is to fill the cupcakes. The absolute, easiest way to do this is use a piping bag. There is no reason to be scared of a piping bag here. It requires no skill whatsoever. You are merely filling the cupcakes and it will make your life a whole lot easier if you use a piping bag. If you don’t have one, they are super cheap at your local craft store (particularly if you use coupons!). I prefer the 14″ Wilton Featherweight bags because they are dishwasher safe (hooray!) and just the right size. And, all you need is a simple piping tip like this one and you are set. No need for couplers here since you are using a larger tip and you are just filling cupcakes.

Finally, time to top the cupcakes with that buttercream. I used a piping bag here too, but it isn’t necessary. Do whatever is easiest for you.

Heavenly. Oh, so good.

People will love you for these. If you are willing to share, that is. And if you aren’t, don’t worry, I understand. They are that good.

Caramel Pudding

from Hungry Cravings

I only used about half of this in the cupcakes. So, either cut the recipe in half or enjoy the rest as tasty snack.

  • 6 ounces sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 ¼ ounce cornstarch
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ ounce unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine 5 ounces of the sugar and the water in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, brush down the sides of the pan with water, and boil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until caramelized (this only took about 5 minutes for me. The key is to watch very carefully! Do not leave the room!) The sugar will be fragrant and a deep amber color when it is caramelized. Remove the pan from the heat and dip the bottom into an ice water bath for a second or two. Slowly stir in the milk. (The sugar may harden at this point. Just keep stirring on the heat and it will melt again).  Return the pan to low heat and stir until smooth. Increase the heat to medium and heat to a simmer.

Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and remaining 1 ounce of sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk in the egg and yolks. Continue whisking while adding the hot caramel mixture (all of it, not just a little) in a thin stream. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it thickens and just comes to a boil. Immediately strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl and stir in the butter and vanilla. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate.

Double Chocolate Cake

From Smitten Kitchen

The recipe below is for 2 10-inch layers or about 32 cupcakes.

  • 3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Guittard
  • 1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used half King Arthur Cake Flour and half AP flour)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300°F. and prepare pans or cupcake liners.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

Note: This is a very runny cake mixture. You will think you’ve done something wrong, but never fear, it is supposed to be like that.

Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Coffee Buttercream

from Martha Stewart

I doubled this recipe and had just a little bit leftover.

  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon boiling water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place espresso powder in a small cup; add the boiling water, and stir to dissolve. Let cool.

Bring a saucepan with about 2 inches of water to a simmer. Combine sugar and whites in a large heatproof mixer bowl set over (not in) simmering water. Whisk until whites are warm to the touch and sugar is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes.

Place bowl on mixer stand; whisk on low speed until mixture is foamy. Whisk on medium-high until stiff, glossy peaks form and mixture is completely cooled completely, about 10 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium-low; add butter 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking to incorporate fully well after each addition (if buttercream appears curdled, at this point simply beat until smooth). Whisk in vanilla and espresso mixture.

Switch to paddle attachment; beat on lowest speed to reduce air bubbles, 3 to 5 minutes. To store, refrigerate airtight up to 3 days, or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature; beat with paddle attachment on the lowest speed until smooth and pliable, about 10 minutes.

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Red Velvet Cake

Cake is not one of my favorite things to make. I much prefer cupcakes.  I stress and stress about making a perfect cake every time.  Considering I only make full cakes a handful of times of year, it’s probably unreasonable to expect perfection each time.  But each time I do, and each time I disappoint myself with my errors. Of course, most people will not notice the little imperfections that us perfectionists notice. They will notice a delicious, homemade cake. And that’s what matters.

Red Velvet is the one cake I’ve struggled with not just on the decorating side (that’s with all cakes) but with the cake itself. But as they say, practice makes perfect and I’ve certainly had my fair share of practice with this cake!

The first time I made red velvet it was brown (I ran out of food coloring), dry, and really not all that great. The second time I used a different recipe. Again, it came out average. The third recipe I tried was Smitten Kitchen and finally felt I was on to something. The first time I did this recipe though, it didn’t turn out perfect, mostly because I strayed from the recipe! Tsk, tsk! I try not to do that the first time using a recipe, and I did and suffered! It seemed so minute, how could it cause me problems? She clearly states “1 tsp red gel coloring dissolved in 6 TB of water.” Instead, I simply dumped gel food coloring into the cake until it was my desired color. I think that affected the end result. Maybe not the only thing, but the second time I made the cake I dissolved the gel and the color was not only better, but the cake was better! Who knew?

Finally, the third time, this most recent, the cake turned out so wonderful. Yes, my piping was just average. But the cake, oh my god. So yummy. This time I used King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour. I love this flour! Thankfully, it is now sold at Publix. And, it isn’t bleached. I still don’t understand the need for bleaching flour. Extra chemicals? No thanks. But this flour was soft and delicate, and I’m certain it contributed to the wonderful, moist cake. Did I mention how good this cake was? I wish there was some left.

As noted, you should use non-dutch process cocoa powder. I have tried dutch process and it doesn’t work well. If you aren’t sure if it is dutch process, just look at the ingredient list. Straight cocoa will just say cocoa. If it says anything else, it is dutch process. Also, DON’T forget to sift your cocoa powder! For most everything else you can get by with just whisking but with cocoa powder you are almost guaranteed to have lumps! Lumpy cakes are no good!

The pictures aren’t great for this post, but well, we were busy devouring the cake. We had a lot to celebrate! I’m sure you understand.

I followed Smitten Kitchen’s recipe exactly, except I made two 10 inch cakes instead of three nine, and I added the flour/buttermilk in three batches instead of two.  I also used her cream cheese icing but modified it slightly. I tripled it (yes, triple. I like my icing) and used one part mascarone and two parts cream cheese.

As you may notice in the first picture, I did multiple layers. The easiest way to do this is to use cake boards and a turn table, both of which can be bought for relatively cheap at your local craft store, particularly if they offer coupons! Second, you should use a serrated knife. Make small sawing motions while turning the cake and slowly work your way through the whole layer. Do not do this in large motions – it won’t work as well. Once you are done, use a cake board to help flip the layer you won’t be using right away. Load up on the icing, then top again with the layer. Repeat.

Before doing the crumb coat, you may want to take your knife around the entire cake and even it out. This is easy, only takes a second, and will really improve the appearance of your cake. Also, if you are really a perfectionist like me, you will also level out the top since cakes often bake with that “bump”. Then, you can enjoy the crumbs! After the cake is all level, do a thin layer of icing and chill for about 30 minutes. Then put another layer until the desired thickness. Smooth the icing and you have a beautiful cake!

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Icing from Smitten Kitchen

Red Velvet Cake

Yield: 3 cake layers

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups canola oil
2 1/4 cups granulate (room temperature)
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) red food coloring or 1 teaspoon red gel food coloring dissolved in 6 tablespoons of water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place teaspoon of butter in each of 3 round 9-inch layer cake pans and place pans in oven for a few minutes until butter melts. Remove pans from oven, brush interior bottom and sides of each with butter and line bottoms with parchment.

2. Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl. Be sure to sift your cocoa powder first!!

3. Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. (Take care: it may splash.) Add vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in three batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine. Always end with the flour mixture.

4. Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.

5. Divide batter among pans, place in oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pans 20 minutes. Then remove from pans, flip layers over and peel off parchment. Cool completely before frosting.

Cupcake variation: The yield is approximately 35 cupcakes, with the liners filled only 3/4 of the way, and the baking time should be between 20 to 25 minutes, but check in on them 2/3 of the way through in case your oven gets the job done faster.

10 inch cake variation: I figured it would take longer to bake 10 inch cakes, but it didn’t. They only took about 30 minutes, but this could just be my oven. The lesson here: keep a close eye on your cakes! Another way to tell if your cakes are done is when they pull away from the side of the pan.

Cream Cheese Icing

Adapted from several sources

Makes 6 cups

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter room temperature
3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl. With a handheld electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low speed to combine. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.

Note: as mentioned, I made this recipe times three, and used eight ounces mascarpone and 16 ounces cream cheese. I like the texture the mascarpone provides.

 

 

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