Sunday, September 29, 2013

Chocolate "Ding Dong" Cake

We all remember the Hostess ding dongs..cakes shaped like hockey pucks filled with cream and coated in rich chocolate.  This is basically a large 2 layer cake version of that.

The name of this cake is actually called a "Salted Caramel Ding Dong Cake."  However, when I think of caramel I do not think of chocolate.  The "caramel" ganache is made with chocolate but it does cook up to a caramel-like consistency. 

One slice proved to be a tasty combination.  Also the sight of the rich chocolate layers filled with a fluffy whipped cream filling did attract a lot of attention.  The last piece of this cake created a secondary request from a group that missed out on the first one, so I went ahead and made it a second time.

Note that this cake is 9 inches in diameter and requires 2 nine inch layer cake pans and also one nine inch springform pan.  Even though it has chocolate in it, melting does not require a double boiler. The cake does have to rest in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight.  This process is prior to the last coat of ganache.

Chocolate "Ding Dong" Cake
adapted from Bon Appetit Oct 2012 Issue


1 cup hot strong coffee
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter (room temp)
4 oz chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
2 cups cake flour
1 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Ingredients /Ganache

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
9 oz chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1 1/8 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water


1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 1/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Prepare all three pans by spraying the interior with non stick spray or oil.  Line the bottom of each with parchment paper and then oil or spray the paper.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Start making the cake layers by filling a medium size bowl with the hot coffee.  Then add the 4 oz of chopped chocolate, making sure it is even along the bottom of the bowl and not piled in the center. Sprinkle the cocoa on top and let the mixture sit for about 1 minute.  Stir until all the chocolate is melted and the cocoa is evenly distributed.  Once the mixture is smooth, blend in the buttermilk and vanilla extract, set aside.

Using a stand mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar.  The mixture should become light and fluffy after about 4 minutes.  Then beat in one egg at a time, running the mixer for about 1 minute for each egg and scraping down the sides prior to adding the next egg.

In a separate bowl, sift together the cake flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add one third of the sifted ingredients to the butter/sugar batter.  Stir with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are completely blended.  Pour in half of the chocolate batter and mix together.  Repeat the process, adding the last third of the sifted ingredients at the end.

Fill the cake pans with the batter, making sure the batter is measured evenly into each pan.  Place pans in oven and bake until tester indicates done.  Cakes should take about 35 minutes to bake.  Remove pans and let cool for 10 minutes.  After the 10 minutes, run a sharp knife around the edge and invert the cakes onto a cooling rack.  Peel off parchment paper and let cool completely and flip over again prior to assembly.  If cakes have a dome or are uneven, trim to a a flat, even surface.

For the ganache, fill one bowl with the 9 oz of chopped chocolate and salt.  Then fill a saucepan with sugar and water, place over medium low heat.  Stir mixture until the sugar dissolves.  Increase the heat to medium high and stop stirring.  Let the sugar cook for about 9 minutes.  At one minute intervals, swirl a wet pastry brush along the upper side edges of the ganache, preventing it from becoming a hard sugar layer.  Also swirl the pan at each interval.  Once the sugar becomes a deep amber color, removed from heat.

Add the cream to the sugar mixture, pouring it in a steady stream and mixing it at intervals. Since the cream is cold, the batter will seize into caramel.  Place the pan back on the medium heat and stir until it reaches a smooth consistency.  Add the caramel mixture and the vanilla extract to the reserved bowl of chocolate and salt.  Let cool for about 5-10 minutes.  The ganache is ready to use once it reaches the consistency of honey.

Place one cake layer in the springform pan and pour 1 cup of ganache over cake.  The ganache will need to set up.  Place the pan with the coated cake layer in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.  Let the remaining bowl of ganache sit at room temperature, covered with plastic.

While the ganache is setting up, the filling can be made.  Fill a heatproof bowl with 2 tbs of cold water and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the water.  Let rest for 10 minutes.  Take out a small saucepan and fill it 1/2 inch deep with water.  Place it over a medium high burner and place the bowl of gelatin into the water.  Stir and cook for about 2 minutes.  The two minutes should be long enough for the gelatin to dissolve.  Remove small bowl from saucepan and set aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with powdered sugar and heavy cream.  Then split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the same bowl.  Using the whisk attachment, beat the ingredients together until soft peaks form.  Continue to beat, pouring in gelatin in a steady stream.  Once the mixture reaches a firm consistency, the filling is ready.   Spoon out all the filling and place on top of the chilled ganache layer.  Smooth the filling over the top of the cake layer, making sure it is all even.  Carefully place the other layer on top.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for a minimum of six hours or overnight.

Once that stage is completed, remove the cake from the refrigerator and open side latch of springform pan.  Run a spatula along the outer edge of the cake, making sure that the filling is flush with the edge of the cake layers.  Keep the cake stationed on the bottom of the springform pan but place it on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.

Check the consistency of the remaining ganache.  It should be the same state as when used on the first layer, like honey.  If too thick, rewarm in the microwave, stirring and checking every 30 seconds.  If to thin, place in fridge to thicken up a little.  Once the ganache is at the right consistency, pour over cake letting it drip down sides.  By tilting the cake and using an offset spatula on the sides, the ganache should evenly cover the whole cake.  Chill cake for another hour for the ganache to set up, then it is ready to slice and serve.

Tips and Notes:

1. This cake is moist and fragile when warm, so be careful when inverting after 10 minutes of cooling.
2. The recipe suggests semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, so if you like dark chocolate consider using special dark Hershey brand of cocoa.
3. The recipe states you can chill for 2 days before serving, but I think the chilling can make it dry.  For the best texture, serve it the same day as you pour the coat of ganache over the top.
4. The cake layers do deflate upon cooling.
5. The filling is quite thick but remember that it is sweetened whipped cream, not buttercream frosting.
6. I let the remaining ganache sit covered in the microwave overnight.  Since it is an extended amount of time, you may want to place it in the fridge and rewarm the next day.

                                    **LAST YEAR: Red Velvet Cake Roll**

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dulce De Leche Cheesecake Bars

We all have those things that we have to have in the kitchen at all times.  For most bloggers, that item usually falls under a certain ingredient.  However, for people that do not cook, it is some type of choice food, beverage or sauce.

Whatever the choice may be, some will always perceive it as being strange. I heard of someone with a whole refrigerator drawer full of bouillon cubes.  That one, I think would probably fall into the strange category by many!  The latest I have come across inspired me to make this particular dessert.

Even though the dessert is made out of Dulce de Leche, it is not exactly what my friend requires to be in the kitchen at all times.  They must have the so called "magic shell" topping for ice cream, caramel flavor, of course.  I do like caramel, but the magic shell is not something that comes to mind when I think of caramel. However, dulce de leche always does.

Anyhow, on to the recipe.  The flavor of dulce de leche can be found in the cheesecake batter as well as the top layer of this dessert.  Besides the tasty double caramel flavor, the bars are a better way to go when serving a crowd.  You get all the taste of cheesecake without as much guilt as a 3 inch thick slice of a standard cheesecake....Oh and as for my friend who enjoyed the bars, they continue to stay in the foods of convenience area-which includes the magic shell.

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars
adapted from Bon Appetit June 2010 Issue

1 1/4 sticks or 1/2 cup plus 2 tbs butter
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tbs sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
24 oz of cream cheese (3-8 oz pkgs)
1/2 cup dulce de leche
1 cup sugar

3 tbs heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup dulce de leche

Prepare a 9X13 inch pan by coating the interior with a non stick spray.  Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  For the crust, stir together all the dry ingredients until evenly mixed.  Place the butter in a saucepan over low heat or a microwave safe dish and melt it. Once completely melted,  pour it into the dry ingredients.  Mix until all the crumbs are coated with the butter.  The crumbs will easily clump together.  Empty the mixture into the center of the prepared pan.  Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan, making sure it evenly covers the bottom interior of the pan.  Bake for about 10 minutes. It should have a golden hue when done.  Place pan on rack and let cool completely.

For the filling, beat together the cream cheese and sugar.  A hand mixer or food processor working for about 1 minute should thoroughly blend the two together.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat in each egg (one at a time).  Spoon in the dulce de leche and add the vanilla extract to the batter.  Beat for about 10 seconds until the additions are evenly distributed throughout the batter.  Spoon the batter over the crust, and spread until even.

Place pan in oven and bake for about 38 minutes.  The center will be set and the edges will be cracked once the bars are done baking.  Place pan on rack and let cool completely.

The topping starts out with heating together the dulce de leche and cream.  One option is to heat the mixture in a microwave in 30 second intervals, mixing with a spoon at the end of each interval. The other option is to melt the mixture together in a saucepan on low heat.  Once melted, the glaze should be pourable, if not, more cream is needed.  Add just one tsp of cream and then test its pourability. Continue with that process until you reach the correct consistency.  The variance of the cream can be attributed to the different brands of dulce de leche on the market.  Pour the glaze over the cheesecake and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour prior to cutting and serving.  For storing this dessert, cover pan and place in refrigerator.

Tips and Notes:
1. Dessert can be prepared 2 days ahead
2. Recipe recommends that the pan of bars be cut into 4 strips by 6 strips
3. Suggestion made to sprinkle each bar with sea salt.
                                **LAST YEAR:Rum Raisin Almond Tart**

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

Peanut butter is something that is always around in my kitchen.  I usually have not only the creamy but the crunchy as well.  With such an abundance of peanut butter, I thought it was fine time that I bake something with it.

Like most bloggers, we all have something in our mind of what we do like and what we do not like when it comes to certain baked goods.  Regarding sandwich cookies, these did have some good qualities.  The cookies were less greasy than most homemade peanut butter cookies.  I think this can be attributed to the dry oats in the cookie batter.  As far as the filling, it was very creamy-unlike the solid type of filling you get with oreo cookies.  Homemade should always be better anyway.

There are special steps in this recipe and the simple fact that they are sandwich cookies keep them out of the quick fix recipe category. However, I feel that the time is well worth the results.  Be sure to read through all the recipe so you will know how much time is involved in creating these delicious cookies. This recipe makes about 2 dz large sandwich cookies

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
adapted from the Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients/ Peanut Butter Cookies
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup natural chunky peanut butter (well mixed)
1 cup and 2 tbs butter (softened)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 2/3 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 tsp salt

Ingredients/Cookie Filling
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (whichever brand-Jif, Skippy etc)
2 tbs honey
6 tbs butter (softened)

For the cookie batter, place butter and peanut butter in bowl of a stand mixer.  Add both types of sugars.  Then beat on medium high speed for 1 minutes.  Scrape down sides of bowl, beat for another minute and repeat for one last minute. 

Add one egg and beat on medium low speed for 30 seconds.  Do the same with the additional egg. Lastly, beat in the vanilla extract and set aside.

In another bowl sift together baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour.  Then mix in the oats. Using a wooden spoon, fold the dry ingredients into the wet batter until no dry streaks remain.

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.  Scoop out a heaping tablespoon of batter and place it on the prepared sheet.  Continue with this process, only making sure that the scoops of batter are not touching.  You will space them properly just prior to baking.  Chill the scooped batter by placing the pans in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

While the scoops are chilling, the filling can be made.  Place all filling ingredients in a bowl and beat for about 30 seconds with a hand mixer to make sure it is all blended.  Then cover bowl of filling with plastic wrap and also place it in the refrigerator to chill.

During the last 15 minutes of the chilling time, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Once the scoops have firmed up from the chilling stage, remove pans from refrigerator.  Place each scoop of batter on the parchment lined pan, filling each pan with 8 scoops.  Also, each cookie sheet should be double panned (one baking sheet inside another) prior to going in the oven.

Bake pans of cookies for about 10-12 minutes, stopping at the halfway point to rotate each pan set.  Once the cookie turns a golden hue, remove and place pans on cooling rack to sit for 10 minutes.  Then transfer cookies to the rack to finish cooling.  Once completely cool, they are ready to be sandwiched.

Match cookies by size in pairs.  Take the bowl of filling out of the fridge. Place a scoop of filling (measuring right under 2 tsp) on the flat side of one of the paired cookies.  Press the other, flat side down, on top of the filling.  Repeat the process until all the sandwich cookies have been assembled.

Tips and Notes:
1. Mixing up the natural peanut butter before measuring is important to the texture of the cookies
2. The longer the chill time for the filling the harder it becomes, which could make the assembly process more difficult.
3. Someone raided my stored cookies from the freezer and they still were soft enough to eat.
4. If you want a little extra with your cookie, try adding chocolate by drizzling it on top or dipping one half of each in chocolate before sandwiching.
                                           **LAST YEAR:Peach Tarte Tatin**

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Brown Butter/Cream Cheese topped Carrot Cupcakes

Carrot cake is a classic favorite, yet because of the spices used I have always reserved it for the fall or winter time.  However, when I saw this particular recipe, I had no reservations to delay it until fall. Between the addition of the browned butter to the frosting and the use of curry in the batter, I would have to say this far from your grandma's recipe for carrot cupcakes.  As a food blogger, I try to go beyond the traditional and strive for something new and different.   After all, there is a reason for 31 flavors of ice cream-it would be a sad thing to just have a choice of vanilla, chocolate or strawberry!

This recipe makes 1 dozen cupcakes and be sure to plan for the 8 hours of chilling time for the batter.

Brown Butter Cream Cheese Topped Carrot Cupcakes
adapted from Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

8 egg whites (room temp)
1 3/4 stick or 14 tbs of butter
1 cup finely shredded carrot
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp curry powder
3/4 cup cake flour
1 cup almond flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar

Ingredients/Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup powdered sugar (sifted after measuring)
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
1 lb of cream cheese (softened)
2 tsp vanilla extract
sparkling or crystal white sugar (optional)

To make the cupcakes, melt the butter in a small saucepan on low heat.  Once melted, increase heat to medium and let cook, stirring periodically.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until the butter turns a golden brown.  Remove and pour into a heatproof bowl and let cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar and almond flour.  Set aside.  In a smaller bowl, sift the cake flour, spices (cinnamon, ginger, curry) salt and baking powder together.  Then add this to the brown sugar/almond flour mixture and stir until is evenly distributed.

Pour in the egg whites and blend with a wooden spoon.  Once blended, measure out approx one fourth of the batter and add it to the cooled brown butter.  Whisk together until smooth.  Pour the batter/brown butter mixture back into the original batter and mix together. Lastly, fold in the shredded carrot.

Cover and refrigerate batter for at least 8 hours or overnight.  Once the batter has been completely chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the top edge of the muffin cavities and line with cupcake liners.

Fill the cavities with the batter, using a bit less than 1/2 cup of batter per cavity.  Place pan in oven and bake until tester comes out clean.  Cupcakes should be done and golden brown on top in about 25 to 28 minutes. Remove when done and let pan rest on wire rack to cool.  Remove cupcakes once cool and let sit on wire rack until ready to frost.

For the frosting, brown the butter in same manner as stated in the cupcake recipe.  Set aside and let cool to room temperature.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together all the other ingredients except the sparkling white sugar.  It should take about 2 minutes on medium high for all ingredients to be blended.  Then turn down the mixer to medium low speed and continue to beat while pouring a steady slow stream of the brown butter.  Once all the brown butter has been added, beat for 30 seconds and then scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Beat for another 30 seconds.  Then the frosting is ready to use.

Frost the cupcakes as desired.  Also, the recipe suggests turning the cupcakes upside down and rolling the frosted top in a bowl of crystal sugar.

Tips and Notes:
1. Just under 1/2 cup of batter almost fills the cupcake cavity to the top, but this is ok because the cupcakes do not rise very much.
2. Room temperature is important when it comes to the eggs and brown butter, your mixtures will blend together easier and better.
3. The amount of salt may seem like a lot for the frosting but that is what gives it the salty sweet flavor combo. However if you are using table salt and not kosher only use half the amount stated.
4. Due to the crystal sugar topping, I wanted a stiffer frosting to work with so I let it chill for about 20 minutes before frosting.
                                    **LAST YEAR: Apple Butterscotch Bundt Cake**

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Peach Amaretti Crisp

When I think of crisps, the oatmeal type is the first that comes to mind.  However, there really are too many other options out there to be limited to one type.  This particular recipe uses amaretti cookies in the topping, something which I had never even tasted until I made this dessert.

While almond is not a flavor that goes with all fruits, this particular topping will be one that I will use when making cherry or peach crisps in the future.  The almond is much more complimentary than any oat topping.

The cookie recipe makes 16 cookies and the crisp is baked in a 2 qt dish and serves about 8 people.

Amaretti Cookies
adapted from Ready for Dessert

1 egg white
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tbs granulated sugar
1/2 tsp flour
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and prepare 2 pans by lining with parchment paper.

Place flour, almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor.  Grind the mixture together in the processor until the almonds become a powder.  Set aside.

Using a hand mixer on low speed, whip the egg white until foamy.  Add salt and put the mixer on high and beat until soft peak stage.  Add 1 tbs of granulated sugar and beat for 30 seconds.  Continue with the same process with the additional tbs of granulated sugar, then beat until stiff shiny peaks are formed. Fold in 1/3 of the almond mixture. Add the additional 3rds, beating after each addition. When adding the final measure of the almond mixture, pour in the almond extract before beating.

Then pipe or spoon the batter onto the prepared baking sheets.  They should be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and be placed about 3/4 inch apart.  Bake for about 10 minutes, rotate pan and then bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Turn oven off and let the cookies sit in oven for 20 minutes.  Remove the pans and let cool until firm and then transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Peach Amaretti Crisp
adapted from Room for Dessert

1/2 tsp almond extract
3 lbs of peaches
1 tbs flour
2 tbs granulated sugar

crushed amaretti cookies from recipe above (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup toasted almonds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter (1/2 cubes, chilled)

Prepare the fruit by peeling and pitting the peaches.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and almond extract.  Cut the peaches into 1/2 inch slices and toss in the flour/sugar mixture.  Place slices in a shallow 2 quart baking dish, making sure the slices are even and completely covering the bottom interior of dish. Set aside.

For the topping, set up a food processor with a metal blade in the bowl.  Fill the bowl with all the topping ingredients except the butter cubes.  Pulse the dry mixture until the almonds are in small bits with some larger chunks remaining. Drop in butter cubes and run the food processor until the ingredients can clump together in your hand.  Sprinkle topping evenly over peaches and place pan in oven.

Crisp should take about 40-50 minutes to bake.  When done, the crisp will bubble at the sides and the interior be easy to sink a knife into.  Serve warm with whipped cream, creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream.

Notes and Tips:
1. For the filling, the almond extract can be substituted with 1 tsp vanilla extract.
2. The crisp shown in the picture was baked in a 9x13 size cake pan and it only took about 40 minutes to bake.  Using this type of pan is good in a pinch if you do not have the right size dish.
3. The topping can be made in advance and frozen to save time.
                                    **LAST YEAR: Trucker Cookies**