One thing that will never be out of season is chocolate. All 4 seasons, all 12 months, and all 365 days a year, no one is going to turn down a good chocolate recipe.

On my vacation to India earlier this year I had a series of chocolate cake experiences. It was mostly because I get spoiled… a lot.

These chocolate cake experiences really made me want to make a chocolate cake myself. If you don’t like grocery store cakes and you don’t like paying the high price of fancy bakeries then to bake one yourself is an amazing alternative. It’s relatively inexpensive and it tastes so much better.

In my search for the perfect chocolate cake recipe I remembered Ina Garten’s Beatty’s Chocolate Cake recipe that I had put aside a while back. When I saw this recipe I instantly knew I would be making it because of the chocolate and coffee combination. I made it a while ago and never got a chance to put it up so I wanted to share it with all of you so you could benefit from this chocolate-coffee magic as well.

I love chocolate and coffee; putting these two flavors together in a cake seemed like a no brainer and I wish I had thought of it first. The coffee in this cake really brings out the chocolate flavor and makes it very rich and decadent. In fact, I would just eat this cake without the chocolate buttercream frosting… because it’s just that good.

I don’t make cakes that often, I’m used to making cookies or brownies and for a while I thought that in order to make a cake you had to use cake flour. But, as it turns out that is not true. This was my first try at making a chocolate cake and it turned out really really good. Maybe it was just luck or maybe my experience of eating chocolate cakes helped. In other words, I should eat cake more often… clearly.

If you like the combination of chocolate and coffee and you’re looking for a moist and delicious cake recipe then this is for you.

Chocolate Cake Recipe (By Ina Garten)

  • Butter to grease cake pans
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour (extra to coat the pans)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups cocoa powder (I used dark cocoa powder)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk ( I used half and half)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350°

Grease two round 8 inch cake pans with butter and flour.

Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix this together with an electric mixer until everything is incorporated. In a separate bowl mix together the half and half, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With your mixer on low, slowly mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Once that is nicely combined slowly add in the coffee and mix.

Pour the batter into your cake pans and bake it for 30-45 minutes just until you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean. Cool them for about 30 minutes before you take them out of the pans.

Butter Cream Frosting:

  • 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate ( I used Guittard chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 a pound of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder (if its too strong reduce to 1 teaspoon otherwise it will overpower your cake)

Melt the chocolate by putting it in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Mix it until it melts then set it aside so it comes down to room temperature.

With an electric mixer beat the butter (up) until its light and fluffy. Add the yolk and vanilla and beat for 3 minutes. Put the mixer on low and slowly add the confectioners sugar. Once it is all added put the mixer on medium and beat until smooth and creamy.

Mix your instant coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of hot tap water. Finally, on a low speed add the melted chocolate and coffee to the frosting until its well blended. It’s easiest to spread it right away onto the cooled cake.

Also you may have noticed from the picture but I garnished the top with some chopped walnuts just for the heck of it. It added a nice crunch!

 

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Orange Bread

August 26, 2010

Last weekend, I helped cook an iftaar (breaking the fast) dinner for 200 people along with four other ladies. I had never been apart of such large quantity cooking before so it was really interesting to see the process of familiar recipes and how they change. Instead of a tablespoon of something you put it by the cups and instead of putting cups of something you put it by the pounds. Anyway it was a lot of fun, the food turned out amazing, and after everything was all done and over we had left over food…of course. One of those left over items were oranges so now we have a bunch of oranges sitting at home and I wanted to make something out of it and ran across this orange bread recipe from Simply Recipes. I make their banana bread all the time and absolutely love it, so orange bread sounded like something good to try. The best part is that it’s really light…with only 1/3 cup of butter and 1 cup of yogurt to make it nice and moist.

Orange Bread Recipe (by Simply Recipes)

  • 1/3 cup of butter (about 5 1/3 tablespoons)
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins, chopped

Optional Glaze

  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange juice
  • 1/3 cup of powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°

Butter a loaf pan (I used a 5×9 inch.)  To make it easier to remove the loaf lay down a wide strip of parchment paper on the bottom and up the sides. Butter that as well.

With an electric mixer beat the butter until it becomes fluffy, add the sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until mixed. Finally beat in the orange zest.

In another bowl whisk the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

To the butter mixture beat in the yogurt and dry ingredients taking turns, starting with the yogurt. Beat just until its incorporated. Mix in the raisins and pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake on the middle rack for about 45-50 minutes (mine took 50 minutes) until you put in a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for a couple minutes and then remove and cool for another 15 minutes. This makes it easier to slice.

Prepare the glaze by whisking together the lemon juice, orange juice, and sugar. I tried to make the glaze but it was much too sweet for my taste so I didn’t use it. Plus the bread is really good on its own :)



Cholay (Curried Chickpeas)

August 20, 2010

So, we are in the midst of Ramadan and I would just like to wish any Muslim readers a blessed Ramadan! All kinds of good eats are made during this month, makes me wonder why we don’t eat this food year-round but I guess that is what makes holidays so special: the atmosphere, the traditions, the food.

Yesterday I decided to make Cholay and it turned out especially good. I love making this dish because it is so easy.  The whole thing is just chicpeas cooked with all kinds of good spices and you make everything in one pot which is my kind of cooking. Everybody makes Cholay differently and has their own variation of spices but nobody makes cholay like my mom. And… nobody will take her recipes and jazz them up except for me :) So here is my adapted version of “mummi’s cholay.”

Cholay Recipe                                                                                                                             serves 8-10 (you can easily reduce the recipe in half)

  • 2 28oz cans of chickpeas, drained
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red onion, chopped (half reserved for garnish)
  • 2 red potatoes, peeled and diced
  • a few tablespoons of olive oil to cook everything
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less to your taste)
  • 1/2 a teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ginger and garlic paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chaat masala (and extra for garnish)
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • a handful of cilantro, chopped

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan or wok and fry half of the red onion until golden. Add tomatoes and cook until it becomes like a paste.

To the tomato and onions add ginger and garlic paste, chili powder, turmeric and salt…fry it well until you get a dark red color.

To the mixture, add diced potatoes and cook for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. This will cook the potatoes about half way. Then add 2 cans of chic peas and stir until incorporated well with everything.

You will need to cook this for a while. Cover the pot with the lid and let everything cook, the potatoes are not fully cooked so this will take time; about 15 minutes. Give everything a big stir every now and then but keep the lid on.

Add the water,  tamarind paste, lemon juice, cumin, chaat masala and last the cilantro– mix well! Check to see if the potatoes are done, if not keep cooking, if they are then turn off the heat.

How I served it: Pour it into a big platter, garnish with the other half of the red onion, a dollop of plain yogurt, and lots of chaat masala.

Daal

August 13, 2010

Dear reader, I thought it was about time I got an Indian recipe on here for your indulgence. I made Daal the other day because it had been a while since I last made it and (quite frankly) I was craving it like crazy. So I thought why not snap some pictures and add it to the blog.

A lot of the Indian food I make is based on what I see my mom do or based on what ingredients I feel like putting in the dish so that’s how this recipe came to be. This of course is one of the main reasons I love Indian cooking– there are so many spices that you can vary on, it’s the perfect opportunity to get creative.

Daal is often called a “lentil soup” because it is made of lentils and technically it is soupy, but Indians do not eat it as such. It’s usually eaten with bread or rice along side another dish (such as chicken or lamb) more like a gravy. It is a staple in every Indian household and is probably the easiest dish to make. A great place to start for beginners in Indian cooking.

There are several ways to make daal since there are so many different types of lentils you can use. This recipe calls for masoor daal which is red in color but other types are: channa, toor, moong, urad,  etc… etc. It’s important to see what type of daal your recipe calls for because they vary in flavor, texture, and cooking times.

Daal Recipe:

  • 1 1/2 cups of masoor daal (red lentils)
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic and ginger paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 medium onion finely sliced
  • water to boil lentils
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Rinse lentils thoroughly and place in a medium saucepan along with tomatoes, garlic and ginger paste, salt, chili powder, turmeric, cumin, and garam masala. Cover with about 1 inch of water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender and soupy about 20-25 minutes. (Add more water if it becomes too thick)

Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onions and fry them until they are brown (but not burnt!) This will take a while, but just keep stirring it.

Add the fried onions and chopped cilantro to the daal and check to make sure it has enough salt to your taste. Serve with bread or rice.

The thing with daal is that its a dish that gets better and better the more you make it. Once you get a feel for it you will know how much of each spice you like and how long to cook it until its the perfect texture. I added the cumin and garam masala to it because it brings this depth of flavor thats really nice and warm. You could try adding your own spices and see how it turns out, be creative!

Ratatouille

August 11, 2010

I never thought I could crave a dish that I have never eaten, nor did I think that I could crave a dish that I saw in an animated movie. But it happened… and I decided to make that dish as a tribute to Remy for being such an adorable little chef. The only thing was, I had to find a good recipe. After I did some hunting I landed on Julia Child’s Ratatouille recipe. And here is what I ended up with:

not too shabby…

Flavor- I like all the vegetables used in this but I honestly had never tried them all together in one dish. So I was a bit skeptical, but the combination of these vegetables blend so well together, it’s no wonder why this dish is so common.

Serving and Moderations– Even though there are several ways to serve Ratatouille… if you pour it on some nice bread with a drizzle of olive oil… it’s awesome. The only moderations I made to the recipe was adding a yellow squash with the zucchini just for the heck of it, but mostly for color. Also, I felt I needed to put some chili powder and cumin to spice it up a bit…and that worked out really well. I put about 1/2 a teaspoon of each.

Multi-Step Process- Julia Child’s version of Ratatouille involves a layering effect which calls for prior cooking of each vegetable before the final layering. This tends to be time consuming when you just want something quick. BUT after making it once, it won’t take as long since you won’t be going back and forth to the recipe making sure everything is correct (or is that just me?)

This “multi-step process” is not the only way to cook Ratatouille. To be honest, when I make this again I would take a shortcut and just combine all the ingredients together in one pot and let it slow cook for a while. That’s the kind of cooking I like. If you haven’t tried this “peasant dish” I think it’s worth it because not only is it healthy, it’s inexpensive and it tastes pretty darn good… comfort food French style perfect for Summer when all this produce is fresh and available.

Thats quite a long title. But seriously these cookies were a complete experiment and ended up being really good. People were asking me for the recipe…so I thought it would be a good idea to blog it.

I was in the experimenting mood the other day and thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if I put all of these ingredients in one cookie…I was amazed (and relieved) when they turned out so well.

Whenever I want to experiment I just take a recipe I already know and substitute a few ingredients to make it a little bit different depending on what I’m going for. So, that’s basically what I did with this cookie. I used a chocolate chip cookie recipe that I have been using for years (from my ancient Betty Crocker’s Cookbook) and replaced the chocolate chips with: white chocolate chips, dried cranberries, walnuts, and some rolled oats. I was going for something chocolatey, sweet, tangy, and crunchy…and thats exactly what I got. These ingredients couldn’t be more perfect for each other. If you’re looking for a new cookie recipe that will be decadent and yummy here it is. I mean c’mon …just look at them.

White Chocolate, Cranberry, Walnut, Oat Cookies                                                      (with help from Betty Crocker):

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1 cup of walnuts
  • 1 cup of white chocolate chips

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies (depending on how big you make them.)

Cream the butter and sugar together until well blended. Beat in the eggs and the vanilla extract. Mix in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix in the oats, cranberries, nuts, and white chocolate.

Drop cookie dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet using a tablespoon. Be sure to leave 2 inches in between each cookie.

Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for at least 5 minutes.

French Apple Tart

August 2, 2010

a word on pastries

So I used to watch this show called Pushing Daisies (only lasted 2 seasons don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it). Anyway, the main character Ned was a pie maker. He would make these mouth watering pies that made me want to make a pie too. So I did. And it looked fine…and the filling tasted just fine…but the pastry was not so fine.

I hope I’m not alone in the fact that whenever I try to make pie pastry something goes wrong with the taste and texture. It has made me hate vegetable shortening, and it has made me love buying pies from Perkins (I’m a sucker for strawberry).

However, every culinary disaster is saved sooner or later. And for me, that is usually done with the help of Ina Garten. This pastry recipe for her french apple tart is so easy and turned out so good on the first try! It’s really light and buttery and you can use it as a base for any fruit tart, not just apples. But, the combination of green apples and apricot jelly really taste great together so I’d say stick with it.

A simple dessert…worth a try…the most difficult part is probably peeling and coring the apples. Here is the recipe.

By the way, the recipe says to mix the apricot jelly with calvados. I don’t know what the heck calvados is, and I didn’t bother to look it up. I just used water with it and it worked out just fine.