Friday, July 30, 2010

I'm so old...

that I can sign up for an AARP membership, apparently. At least according to them. Between the "You're a New Mom!" mail and that, I would say people are very confused. What is not confusing is that this cake is delicious. Please make it and drink champagne and be happy.

OOh, look at those orbs of chocolatey goodness.

And those beautiful strawberries.....

And, the finished product. If you can't tell, I got all ninja with my knife and cut the strawberries into hearts. I'm a very sensitive ninja.

And these are my lovely people who enjoyed my birthday cake with me! Great conversation+yummy dessert= Happy.

And the aftermath. It was totally worth it though, I promise.

Devil's Food Cake
adapted from David Lebovitz (can you tell I love this man?)

one 9-inch cake

NOTE: You can use either natural or dutch processed cocoa powder, though make sure to use a good one. Scharffen Berger and Valrhona are my favorites, and what I used. Because the cake is sweet by itself, you only need to use water to make the frosting, but you can use heavy cream if you prefer.

For the cake:

9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1½ cups cake flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1½ cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

½ cup strong coffee (or water)

½ cup  milk

For the ganache frosting:

10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

½ cup water (or cream)

¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter

For the topping:

2 cartons of fresh strawberrries (you'll have a few left over for your cereal!)

1. Adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Butter two 9" x 2" cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper.

3. To make the cake layers, sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl.

4. With a mixer, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Make sure to scrape down the sides with a spatula as you go.

5. Mix together the coffee and milk in a small bowl. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture (until fully incorporated), add the coffee and milk, then the rest of the dry ingredients.

6. Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Keep an eye on the cake once you reach 20 minutes, this cake is supposed to be moist and cooking just a little too long will dry it out. Cool completely before frosting. 

7. To make the frosting, melt the chopped chocolate with the water (or cream) in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.

8. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk them into the chocolate until completely melted and the ganache is smooth. Cool until spreadable. This may take an hour at room temperature, but popping it in the fridge for a half hour is good if you're in a rush.

To frost the cake:

Run a knife around the inside of each of the cakes which will help release them from the pans. Tilt one cake out of the pan, remove the parchment paper from the bottom and invert it back onto a cake plate. Spread a good-sized layer of icing over the top. Top with the second cake layer and spread the top and sides with the remaining icing as decoratively as you want.


You can take 1/3 of the frosting and mix with chopped strawberries for filling, or just layer them in between cake layers. Make the rest pretty or pile 'em on top, I promise it will be a crowd pleaser!

Storage: Cake is best the day it is made, although it's fine the next day. You can store the cake itself at room temperature under a cake dome, though if using strawberries or any other fruit, store in the fridge (I learned this the hard way. No one likes moldy strawberries).

Seriously guys, you need to taste this.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Experimenting can lead to failure AND tasty treats

So, I figured since a lot of my time consists of baking, thinking about baking, or trying to find someone to bake for, I would post my most recent adventures in the kitchen.

Sunday I was feeling good, had lots of kitchen energy, and decided to attempt THREE new recipes. Biscotti, Ladyfingers, and Florentines. I started with biscotti, using Valrhona cocoa powder (chocolate biscotti if you haven't guessed by now). Maybe it was the humidity? The biscotti dough was a gloppy, sticky mess. I had to dump cups and cups of flour just to get it to not stick to my hands. So, even though my biscotti was absolutely delicious (I was a bit naughty and dipped them in Scharffen Berger dark chocolate), the bottoms are a little white from the boat loads of flour.

You obviously can't tell from the picture, but here's the finished product! I don't think I've eaten a square meal since these came into creation.
My next project was ladyfingers. And I FAILED. I couldn't get enough air into the batter apparently, because they came out flat and looking like crepes. I did not take a picture of this horrible experience, as it does result in a first attempt failure of #12 on the list? Remember #12?

12. My personal goal...make Tiramisu completely from scratch, ladyfingers and everything! And then eat it of course!

I was going to make Tiramisu for my birthday, but now I'll just have to whip something up that is equally delicious since I already invited people over to help me eat it. I promise promise promise I will try again (I have to keep saying that or it won't happen).
After dumping the crapfingers in the trash, I was feeling very low. I was very happy to have left the most interesting and easiest recipe for last.

Chocolate dipped florentines! These beauties are so delish, and totally gluten free! Look at that golden glow they have, don't you just want to eat them right up? I know I do (and will).
Chocolate-Dipped Florentines
20-25 cookies
Adapted from David Lebovitz
The original recipe calls for orange zest, but I can imagine you could use a drop of orange oil if you have that on hand. I used almond extract because I LOVE the almond flavor that you get in almond muffins. Also, you can place these very close together on the baking sheet, as they do not spread during baking.

1 large egg white, at room temperature
1/3 cup (50g) powdered sugar
1 3/4 cup (130g) blanched sliced almonds
a good pinch of flaky sea salt (I used regular course sea salt)
1 teaspoon almond extract
1. Preheat the oven to 300F (150C).

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush very lightly with neutral vegetable oil.

3. In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients.

4. Keep a small bowl of cold water and a fork near where you're working.

5. Dip your hand in the cold water before lifting each portion of almonds, and place heaping tablespoon-sized mounds of the batter evenly spaced on the prepared baking sheet.

6. Once you've covered the baking sheet, dip the fork in cold water to flatten the cookies as much as possible. Try to avoid having many gaps between the almonds.

7. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. Exact time will vary based on how large your cookies are. The authors recommend lifting the bottom of one with a metal spatula to check and see if they're cooked through. If they're not brown across the top and bottom, they won't be agreeably crispy.

8. Let cookies cool, then lift with a thin metal spatula and place them on a cooling rack until crisp. Continue baking all the cookies on the same baking sheet. (I found no need to re-oil it between uses.)

Store Florentines in an airtight container until ready to serve.

To Coat the Cookies with Chocolate

To coat one side with chocolate, melt a few ounces of chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate in a clean, dry bowl, stirring until smooth. Use a brush or metal spatula to coat the underside of each cookie with a thin layer of chocolate. Let cool in a cool place or the refrigerator until firm. Once firm, store Florentines in an airtight container at room temperature.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Friends, Food, and Femi

So I've been totally procrastinating updating this blog, but just more and more stuff I want to post keeps piling up, so I'd better do it now before it never happens.

I'm ashamed to admit that there are already 3 things on my summer List that had a deadline that we didn't make and will no longer be happening. These things are:

3. Participate in our FIRST EVER restaurant week!

7. Attend one of the free movie nights at Hudson River Park

8. Go to one of the free events for Central Park Summerstage

It's quite unfortunate. But due to lack of funds, rain, and laziness, these things will not be happening. I've been splurging a bit on baking ingredients, and with the upcoming trip to Maine, restaurant week was out of the question. Alas! But, I did end up baking a whole crap load this week, some of which I have pictures. :)

But! There is good news! I have had a very busy couple weeks visiting friends, baking, cooking, attending to other lovely things on my list, and baking more.

To start, I made this AMAZING Lemon Yogurt Cake that my mom recommended to me. I'm not usually a huge fan of lemon desserts, but this hit the spot. Covered with some fresh blueberries and a scoop of Haagen Daz vanilla icecream was just the perfect thing. I ran some plates down to our neighbors Lisa and Eric, and they totally loved it! Definitely a great option for a (sort of) healthy dessert during the summer.

One of the things we did accomplish on the list was #13:

13. Attend Midsummer Night's Swing. I know it's part of Lincoln Center (where I work), but I've never been and it sounds awesome!

Before we attended the event, we met in Manhattan and tried this new Sicilian pizza place on 2nd Avenue and 11th. I think it for sure converted me to authentic pizza, and no more of the American crap we fill our bellies with. I don't have any pictures for this, but it was just fabulous, and on our favorite restaurant row! (All our favorite, and most frequented restaurants are on 2nd between 11th and 12th)

After that, we walked around the corner and had an amazing authentic Italian dessert at Veniero's. Our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomaches as we ordered Tiramisu, a cannoli, and a mini cheesecake. We could barely finish it, then I made us waddle all the way to 8th Avenue because it hit me how much creamy fatty goodness we had just consumed.

This is Tyrone's order. It was my first cannoli, and I think it is seriously the perfect dessert for me! The crunchy crisp of the shell with the cream was just lish. I also ordered the Tiramisu, but was honestly disappointed in it. So, didn't think it was worth a photo!

This was the setup of Midsummer Night's Swing which takes place in Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center. A seriously cool event, though we didn't get in for free, and I was mad because I was supposed to get in for free. Can you tell I'm still bitter?

So, we watched from the sidelines. This evening was particulary fun because it was the son of Fela Kuti, who was the originator of Afrobeat. Femi Kuti and The Postive Force; they were just unbelievable.

This past weekend I made the trip out to Pawling, NY to visit my two friends Emily and Caitlin, who are moving to China and Japan! I am incredibly sad to not have them around, but it will be soooooo awesome if I can go and visit. How many people have a free stay in those countries? Ya know?

Caitlin and I partaking in the lovely warm water under Bull's Bridge in Kent, CT.

Caitlin came back to the city with me and we took the plunge and went to Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Now, for those who don't know, Shack Shake is famous for their burgers, and more famous for their incredibly long waits. This completes #4:

4. Eat at the famous Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Hopefully the 1 hour or more wait will result in delicious burgers and happy tummys!

Everything is made to order, so we were hoping the wait was going to be worth it. After only waiting an hour for both the line to order, and for receiving the food, we enjoyed delicious burgers, fries, and their AMAZING chocolate shake. I think they must use Valrhona chocolate.

This was Tyrone's portabella and beef burger (two separate patties). YUM.

Very happy, and very hungry. Caitlin took the picture and was very annoyed I made her wait to dig in. Haha. Sorry Caitlin!

GAH. Sorry for the long, rambling, somewhat mundane post. If you are reading this, thank you so much for making it through. I promise to be more on top of it in the future!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

I am happy to announce that a mere 9 days after my posting of The List I have already completed two items!

Firstly, on June 30 I was lucky enough to be friends with Mr. Bradley Diuguid and hear about a ticket giveaway for RACE on Broadway. This completes #19 on my list:

19. See a broadway show

Apparently they wanted to pack the house for the new cast and press; new cast including Eddie Izzard! I'm only familiar with his stand up, so seeing him in person, wearing pants, and acting was quite shocking. But he was phenomonal! Not that I was expecting him to be bad, but wow! We had a great time even though the content of the play left us feeling uncomfortable and thoughtful.

The second completed item on my very special list is #2:

2. Attend Shakespeare in the Park: This year it's A Winter's Tale and The Merchant of Venice (starring Al Pacino).

We went on Wednesday July 7 for A Winter's Tale, woke up at 6 am (which I haven't done since middle school) and got there around 7:30. I packed a huge picnic lunch including cucumber sandwiches, skewed fresh mozzarella and olives, fruit, and then the necessary pack of double stuffed oreos. We spent the next five hours happily munching away and making new friends with the people ahead of us. We do want to go again so we can see Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice, but our new friends warned us that they had to get there at 10pm the night before to get tickets. So, as far as that goes we're still debating on whether to dive into an overnight at Central Park or not. What do you all think?

Anyway, once we got our tickets at 1pm (a 5 hour wait is totally worth it, btw) we went home, showered (I took a much needed nap), then left to meet our friends Ruth and Nicole! It was an incredible set up with champagne, snacks, and the Delacourte Theater was a dream to a well trained theater eye. The show was just fabulous and I was immersed the full 3 hours. Definitely a night to remember!

This was the view of the line we had at 7:30am when we were at the very end of it. It keeps going after that, trust me.

This was our proof picture that we made it through the wait. We were prepered for the worst after the 107 degree day on tuesday, but it ended up being quite a pleasant day spent under Central Park's canopy of trees, and with new company to be enjoyed.

After the show glow. Right after this picture was taken Ruth almost jumped one of the actors (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) who is her modern TV hero. We giggled as the security guard kept asking her to step back.
I have only tackled these two things, but I have had so much fun and am so excited for the other 18 to come! Now, let's just get to prayin' that I can actually accomplish everything!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Let's Play Catch Up!

JULY 29-Ok, so as promised here are some highlights from the past year...My 21st birthday! Rather than buying or making a cake, Tyrone and I decided to go on a cupcake crawl around the city. This was my favorite cupcake at Sweet Revenge on 62 Carmine Street. We highly anticipated this event as we had been talking about it for months, but by the end we were totally cupcaked out. It's amazing how haggard too much sugar can make you.

AUGUST- The next month we traveled to Indiana for Andrew and Cami's wedding, and I got to meet my brand new cousin Everly Lucia. She is just the most precious baby I have ever met, and it's amazing how much she has already grown since then.

OCTOBER- I FINALLY convinced Tyrone that what we needed was a little kitty in our lives. After hopelessly searching online for a good adoption center, I saw her little face and just fell in love immediately. We went in to meet her and took her home that day! She has such a beautiful face and color, we had to name her Tippi Hedren after the actress in "The Birds." When she was brought in, she had been found with her tiny kittens, she only being 8 months old, dumped in a trash can and about to be taken by the garbage truck. I can't believe anyone would ever treat a living creature that way, it just breaks my heart.

Getting Tippi was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Tyrone and I realize that we have become those people who love their cat entirely too much. But look how cute she is!

MARCH- We found an awesome new place just one stop away off the L train. We finally had our own place! It is such a great space for us, and we got really lucky with our neighbors Lisa and Eric!
Tippi, however, was very nervous and scared during the whole process. She probably thought we were abandoning her! Here she is trying to guard her home. We had quite a scare the second day at the new place when we thought we had lost her. We couldn't find her for 9 hours, and the cable guy had left ALL the doors open. We were completely devastated. After a few hours of looking for her and filing reports, we decided we needed to keep moving in considering we still had almost the entire apartment to unpack. As we were putting together the futon, I heard this teeny meow coming from somewhere in our huge built in shelf unit. She had hidden in the spare clothes drawer to get away from all the noise! It was one of the most relieving and hilarious things to find her stuffed in the back of a drawer.

APRIL- We finally walked across the Brooklyn Bridge! It was incredible to look at, especially after talking about it for two years!
Under the Brooklyn Bridge, we had a nice picnic lunch along the East River. Gorgeous!

MAY-Tyrone's birthday consisted of row boating at Central Park, which was extremely rejuvenating after being in the city for so long. A girl needs her nature!

And it also consisted of me making his cake for 9 HOURS. I had planned to make it the day before, but our water was turned off for some repairs, so I unfortunately had to spend a lot of his birthday making his cake.
But the upside...this cake was amazing! It's a Chocolate Fudge Cookie Dough Cheesecake. It consists of a crushed oreo crust, a bottom layer of chocolate ganache, a coffee flavored cheesecake, a sour cream topping layer, and the cookie dough topping, then decorated with chocolate ganache! I definitely need to work on my decorating skills, but I've got the baking down!

Since then, I quit my job at the store and am still working part time at Lincoln Center. I am much happier with this decision and love being a part time house wifey! I never thought I'd say that, but these past couple years have taught me so much. I work to live, I don't live to work!

Now, time to get on that summer to do list...