Category Archives: Chocolate

Halloween

I guess you can call this post long over-due, but I have had my boyfriend over from Norway this week so I didn’t really want to spend my time blogging. But here goes the story of my first Halloween in USA.

My first Halloween in the US is over, and what a day it was! I was looking forward to this day for a long time and I was really enjoying planning out my costume and what treats to make. All the food blogs I follow have been filled with Halloween-inspired recipes, mostly involving pumpkin and candy corn. It was really hard to decide on what to make, but I think what I settled on turned out pretty good. Despite the rain in New York on Halloween night, we had a really fun celebration. We had good food, good drinks and good friends…everything you need for a memorable night. It was so much fun just walking around our neighbourhood, seeing all the little kids dressed up to go trick or treating.

Here we are all dressed up and ready to go out. We each represent one drink you would often find in a liquor cabinet. From top left: Myself as Jameson Irish Whisky, Grey Goose Vodka, Johnnie Walker, Southern Comfort, Sake, and Jose Cuervo. I don’t really like whisky, but it was fun to dress up like a leprechaun and walk around with a pot of gold!

Halloween was a good excuse for me to really go all out in the kitchen, as I knew I would have a lot of friends to share everything with. I settled on making caramel apples, sugar cookies and of course a batch of cupcakes. For the cupcakes I used this recipe with the chocolate frosting and half a batch of the vanilla frosting from this post. Since I have tried that recipe before I knew the cupcakes would turn out great, but I wanted to do something more fun so I decided to try and make a two-tone frosting. I filled one side of the pastry bag with chocolate and the other side with vanilla. This being my first try I was pretty happy with the result, but I know it will look better after a few more tries.

I have never made caramel apples before so I decided to “cheat” a little. Instead of spending money on a candy thermometer and going to the trouble of making my own caramel, I bought a couple of bags of Werther’s Original Chewy Caramel and melted them in a pan with a little heavy cream. This really worked wonderfully and the apples were so good! I really like how shiny and nice they turned out, this is definitely something I will make again.

Caramel Apple Recipe

6 apples of your choice (I used McIntosh)

3 150 g (5.5 oz) bags of chewy caramels

3 tbsp heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Remove the stem from the apples and press a craft stick or chop stick into the top, about half way into the apples.
  2. Find a tray that will fit all the apples and line it with wax paper or parchment paper sprayed with oil.
  3. Heat the caramels slowly in a pan over low heat. As the caramels start to melt, add the cream.
  4. Continue to stir until the caramels are melted and allow to cool briefly.
  5. Roll each apple in the caramel and place on the tray. Put in the fridge immediately so the caramel sets.

Source: Cooking Dunkin style

The sugar cookies were my biggest project for this Halloween. I have never tried sugar cookies, let alone made them. Many blogs, including some of my favourites have featured these types of cookies, all decorated beautifully. Since this was my first attempt I didn’t expect them to be perfect, but I was really surprised by how well they turned out. I’m actually pretty pleased with the result. I think I will try to make these cookies again before Christmas, using different shapes and colours. For Halloween, I settled on ghosts, pumpkins, and spider web cookies. Decorating with royal icing was so much fun, but it does require a lot of time and patience.

Sugar Cookie Recipe

1 cup (2 sticks/ 230 g) butter, softened at room temperature

1 cup (225 g) sugar

1 egg

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract (or 3 tsp vanilla sugar)

3 cups (375 g) all purpose flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add in the egg and the vanilla extract, and beat to incorporate.
  3. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt (and vanilla sugar, if using).
  4. Slowly add the flour to the butter mixture and beat until combined.
  5. Divide the dough into 2-4 portions (depending on the size of your baking sheet), and roll to just under 1 cm (3/8 inch) thickness.
  6. Chill in the fridge for 2 hours. Before you remove the dough from the fridge, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  7. Remove dough from fridge and cut your desired shapes. Remove the scraps and place sheet back in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. Repeat steps 5 through 7 with the scraps.
  8. Bake in the oven for 8-12 minutes depending on the thickness of your cookies (mine were a little thin, so 8 minutes was enough).
  9. Cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Source: Adapted from The Hungry Housewife

Royal Icing Recipe

4 cups (500 g) powdered sugar

2 tbsp meringue powder

5 tbsp water

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a hand mixer. Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes).
  2. Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container. This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating. Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated. Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping. Portion out the icing in different containers and add the colourings you are using.
  3. Using a pastry bag, pipe around the edges of each cookie. Let stand so the icing will set. Make sure to keep the leftover icing covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden.
  4. Once all the cookies have been edged, transfer some of the remaining icing to a separate air-tight container. Thin out by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smoothes in with that still in the bowl. If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it again.
  5. Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, transfer it to a squeeze bottle (or a plastic bag with a hole in one corner), and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie. If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along.
  6. Allow the cookies to dry and set overnight before putting them in containers.

Source: Annie’s Eats

For the ghosts I edged the cookies with white icing and used the thick black icing to pipe the eyes and the mouth. I then flooded the ghosts with thin white icing. For the pumpkins I used the thick black icing to make the “stems”, and edged the pumpkin with the thick white and then flooded with the thin white. I then immediately sprinkled on a thick layer of orange sprinkles. For the spider web cookies, I did the edges in thick black, and then flooded with thin black. I then used the thin white and piped three concentric circles over the black. Using a tooth pick, I made a line going from the centre of the cookie and out to the edge. Be sure to wipe off the tooth pick between each line you make.

Before you make sugar cookies I would recommend checking out these posts by Annie, Leslie, and Bridget

Good luck with these cookies, and thanks for stopping by!

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Daring Bakers Challenge Macaroons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macaroons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

So, what does this mean? It means I have joined the Daring Bakers. Once a month we get a challenge which is secret to the public, we all bake something using the recipe from the challenge and then publish our posts on the same day (today). Hence, you can now expect me to blog about something truly wonderful and slightly advanced once a month. I was glad that this was my first challenge, I have made macaroons twice before (once successfully and once not so successfully…ok it was actually a disaster). The type of macaroons I’m talking about is of course not the chewy coconut kind, but the French kind – the amazingly cute and tasty kind. I have been to Ladurée in London, a very small pastry shop with a good selection of macaroons. When I was in Paris for my birthday this year my boyfriend bought me a cake and macaroons from their big store on the Champs-Élysées. Their macaroons are world famous and I can definitely understand why, they look too good to eat and they have a great selection of flavours. If anyone is ever in Paris, Ladurée is THE place to go for a treat.

I can say without hesitation that my macaroons did not turn out like they should have. My oven is very unreliable and it is impossible to know what the temperature is, so I think that is where it went wrong. At least, that’s what I like to think, for all I know it might have been a mistake I made that caused these macaroons to turn out the way they did. First of all, they did not look like proper macaroons should. I didn’t manage to get the trademark “feet” on my macaroons, instead they looked like plain old flat cookies. Secondly, they did not feel like macaroons. They were really chewy (which I actually liked), but they should have had a slightly hard outer shell and be soft in the middle. BUT, they did taste like macaroons! Yay! I filled mine with a simple chocolate ganache which I made by heating one part heavy cream to a simmer, and then adding that to one part 70% chocolate to melt the chocolate. I let it cool until the consistency was thick enough to pipe a nice thick layer on the macaroons, and then sandwiched them together. I really enjoyed the taste of these macaroons and I brought them with me to the dinner party I mentioned in my previous post. The girls all seemed to enjoy my failed macaroons, I don’t think they cared too much that they weren’t exactly perfect!

I think macaroons are really fun to make, so I will probably try them again some time. Next time, I will use a different recipe that I have had success with in the past. I think this recipe was a little too complicated, but you can find it on the Daring Bakers website if you feel like trying. I will recommend that if you decide to make macaroons you should find some other recipe, take a look on other websites and choose one that you think would work best for you. Good Luck!

Banana Chocolate Cupcakes

I am finally here in the Big Apple! My first week here has been fun, exciting, exhausting and wonderful. I have settled nicely into my apartment in Hell’s Kitchen and I am now getting ready to start studying again. I have filled up my pantry with most of the basic utensils and ingredients that I need for cooking and baking so I am now ready to get back into the kitchen. The first thing I made here in NYC was these amazing cupcakes from the always delicious Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. This is the third recipe I tried from this book and it hasn’t failed yet! When I made the Vanilla Cupcakes and the Marshmallow Cupcakes, the two recipes were almost identical. This recipe was different from them and incorporated more ingredients. And oh, so yummy they were! Definitely my favourite cupcakes to date. I was so lucky to be invited to a roof-top BBQ this weekend and we were all asked to bring some food. My sister and a good friend of hers were visiting me this week so I let them decide what we should bring. As they both love cupcakes they decided on Carrot Cupcakes and these Banana Chocolate Cupcakes. Stay tuned for a post about the Carrot Cupcakes. They were such a hit at the party! One girl even gave me a hug and told me she would be my first customer! I was really happy everyone loved them because I need someone here to cook for. As you probably now, I am studying to become a Dietician so I cannot really advice people to eat an entire batch of these cupcakes (although it would be really easy to do so), so invite some friends over for cupcakes or bring them into work with you!

Oh no, I got some frosting on my finger carrying the cupcakes to the party… too bad 😉

My first week here in NYC I have tried a lot of different food. There are two things I have noticed about food in New York; Portion sizes are HUGE, and there is always a healthy option. I think I have yet to finish and entire meal here and I think this offers some explanation as to why there are so many overweight and obese people here in the US. I am always surprised when I visit NYC that I don’t see more fat people. However, this week I went to Coney Island with my sister and her friend, and I discovered where all of them are. I mean, Come on People! Don’t feed your one-year old Pepsi and fried chicken. I thought that was common sense! But anyway, I have had so many other experiences with food this week that it would take too long to cover all of them. I have found an amazing deli right by the NYU campus with a really good salad bar and different soups, I have a feeling I will be going there a lot. I have had a really cheap but very good slice of pizza from a corner outside my building at 3 AM coming home from a club. I have tried frozen yogurt from Pinkberry in SoHo for the first time. That was so good, and a healthier option to ice cream.

I made a couple amendments to this recipe, one of which is reflected below. Firstly, I did not use the ground ginger as I didn’t have any on hand but I’m sure it would be really good so you should try it. Secondly I decided to add some chocolate chips, I think that really took these cupcakes over the top! The original recipe also calls for whole milk, but I find that if I get whole milk for baking I can never finish the bottle, so I just use whatever milk I have on hand (usually 1 or 2% fat).

Stay tuned for more posts about my experiences with food and cooking here in NYC, in the meantime enjoy these little portions of deliciousness!

Recipe (makes 12 cupcakes)

120 g plain flour

140 g caster sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

a pinch of salt

80 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

120 ml semi-skimmed milk

2 eggs

120 g peeled banana, mashed

50 g roughly chopped 70% chocolate (I used Green & Black’s)

1 quantity chocolate frosting (recipe follows)

Some dark chocolate shavings

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F). Line a 12-hole cupcake tray with paper cases.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt and butter until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Use a handheld electric mixer or a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment.
  3. Slowly add the milk to the mixture, mixing until all the ingredients are well mixed.
  4. Add the eggs and mix well, making sure to scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a spatula.
  5. Stir in the mashed banana by hand until evenly dispersed.
  6. Fill the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake for about 20 minutes. The cupcakes should be light golden and the sponge should bounce back when touched. Cool slightly in the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the Chocolate Frosting on top and finish with the chocolate shavings.

Chocolate Frosting recipe

300 g icing / powdered sugar, sifted

100 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

40 g cocoa powder, sifted

40 ml semi-skimmed milk

  1. Beat the icing sugar, butter and cocoa powder together on a medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well-mixed.
  2. Turn the mixer down to slow and add the milk a couple of tablespoons at a time.
  3. Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed.
  4. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. The longer you beat the frosting, the lighter and fluffier it becomes.

Source: Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.

Zebra Cake

One of my good friends was celebrating his birthday this week in London, so as always I offered to make a cake. For his actual birthday I made a strawberry cheese cake which was good, but not great. When it came to the actual birthday party I decided to make something that looked fun. I had wanted to try something from Annie’s Eats for some time now. That is definitely one of my favourite food blogs and her cakes look amazing. Since this was my second cake of the week I opted for one that looked pretty quick and simple to make, but would still require some attention. The Zebra cake looked absolutely amazing in her pictures; I think she had a better outcome than me. But I am still quite happy with what I managed to make. I followed the recipe as best I could although I didn’t have any almond or vanilla extract. I just omitted the almond altogether and substituted vanilla extract for vanilla sugar.

I want to point out that I found it to be very important to use big tablespoons when measuring out the batter. Preferably use proper measuring spoons, if you add too little batter at a time, you will end up with too many rings and when cooked just a light brown cake instead of white and dark brown. I had to make the cake twice to end up with a proper zebra striped cake. I took Annie’s advice and frosted with a thick layer of Hershey’s perfectly chocolate frosting. In the end, after two attempts, the cake ended up just as I thought it would! It looked amazing and was very moist and tasty. And what’s more, my boyfriend did the decorating for me J I think he did a very good job, don’t you?

As you can see from this picture the top of the cake cracked quite significantly. I didn’t mind though, once I had frosted the cake it didn’t look so bad. My boyfriend used regular store-bought icing tubes to make the stars and the writing. My hand writing is really awful so the cake would never have looked this good if I had decorated it myself!

I was pretty happy with my stripes, but they do not compare to Annie’s! I have no idea how she got her cake to look so good…

Recipe (serves 12)

4 large eggs

2.5 dl sugar

2.5 dl milk

2.5 dl vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract (or 2 tsp vanilla sugar)

1/8 tsp almond extract (this can be omitted)

5 dl all-purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

2 ½ tbsp cocoa powder (I used a little more, about 3 ½ tbsp)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 23 cm round cake pan with a circle of baking paper. Lightly grease the sides of the pan and dust with flour.

  1. Mix eggs and sugar until light and creamy and the sugar is mostly dissolved.
  2. Stir in milk, oil, vanilla and almond extracts. If you use vanilla sugar this should be added in step 3.
  3. In a separate bowl mix flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and whisk to combine.
  5. Measure out half the mixture, about 6-7 dl.
  6. Sift cocoa powder over one of the bowls and stir to combine.
  7. Put three tablespoons of the white batter into the centre of the pan and let it spread. Add three tablespoons of the brown batter in the centre of the white batter. Continue like this until you have used all the batter and you have some nice alternating brown and white circles.
  8. Bake for 38-42 minutes (my cake took a little longer, about 45 minutes) until the cake is light gold and a tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  9. Chill for 15 minutes in the pan, then move it onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
  10. Frost if desired. I made one portion of Hershey’s perfectly chocolate frosting, which turned out to be way too much. 2/3 of the recipe would probably be sufficient for this cake.

Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Baking Bites

Double Chocolate Layer Cake

My second time making the cake

My second time making the cake

I thought it was only suitable that this should be my first post. This was the first recipe I discovered when I started looking at food blogs. After spending hours looking through photos at Food Gawker and Taste Spotting, this was the recipe that caught my attention again and again. The recipe has an incredible 1285 reviews (and counting) on Epicurious, which I took as a good sign that this would be an amzing cake. Take a look yourself, most of the reviews basically say that this is the best chocolate cake ever. I couldn’t have stumbled upon this recipe at a worse time. I was in my last month of completing my Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition and I had three exams, a coursework and the final dissertation to do! But, in between all the reading and writing I had one thing to look forward to; my friend Sarah’s 21st birthday party. Weeks in advance I had offered to make her the perfect cake. As the party grew nearer I think I spent about half my waking hours doing actual, necessary work for uni, and the other half reading reviews and taking notes on how I would perfect this cake! And it was all worth it. Everyone loved the cake and my exams went well. No wonder I decided to make it again for my friends back home in Norway for Tine’s 24th birthday party!

The recipe was originally published in Gourmet, March 1999, but can be found freely on Epicurious. I did not have any problems making the cake, it was actually quite easy and straightforward. I did not have the cake tins recommended and ended up using one 22 cm and one 23 cm. It looked a bit funny and uneven when I assembled the cake, but I just filled in the extra room with chocolate ganache. I mean, you can’t really have too much chocolate? Even though I am a big fan of chocolate I feel that it can be too heavy sometimes. For this reason, I decided to fill and top the cake with raspberry whipped cream both times I made the cake. Not only did it look great with the pink cream and the dark chocolate colour, but it tasted great as well. Because I filled the cakes with the cream, I ended up with way too much ganache frosting. So, for anyone else using another filling instead of the ganache, I would recommend reducing the portion by a fourth. That should make for sufficient frosting to cover the entire cake.

The original recipe states that this cake serves 12 – 14. I don’t know how big pieces you serve over in the US, but both times I made this cake for birthday parties I was left with about half a cake! This cake is so rich it could probably serve 30 people for dessert.

Serving my cake at a 21st birthday party

Serving my cake at a 21st birthday party

For all the chocoholics out there: this is the cake for you!