Pie Day II: My Chocolate Pie-Lettes

March 14, 2009

One of the fun things about living in this country is all of the made up holidays. Days randomly picked out of the year to make us do silly things (anyone else celebrate backwards day when they were in school?) or on the side of the spectrum, force us to buy yet another gift to prove we love the people in our lives. There are holidays to make us more aware of environmental or health issues and there are holidays to celebrate the joys of things like yo-yos, and bubble wrap!

Last year I celebrated what has quickly become my favorite fake holiday. Pie Day! Not only does it celebrate a delicious dessert, but it makes this day (3.14) so wonderfully punny! It isn’t as funny if I explain too much so I really hope you get it 🙂

Anyways, last year I made a naked chocolate pie, with yummy caramel squished between a chocolate crust and a thick brownie layer. It was delicious and evil and more than a bit naughty.

This year I decided to go with something a lot more simple, but something that has always been my favorite (especially at thanksgiving…pie day for all the non-bloggers). A simple chocolate silk pie…or should I say mini chocolate pie-lettes. 🙂

I tend to prefer a graham cracker crust with my chocolate pie. I don’t know why but it just seems to work better with the chocolate than a crispy, flaky but not as sweet crust. However, this year we decided to go with a shortbread crust and I think I have become a convert. The contrast between the silky chocolate and the delicately sweet, crumbly crust is just amazing, especially considering we decided to make little bite-sized pie-lettes. 🙂

Chocolate Silk Pie-lettes
Source for crust: Joy of Baking

Crust:
1 cup (227 grams) (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (72 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (210 grams) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons (30 grams) cornstarch or rice flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

Chocolate Filling:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
2 cups whole milk
4 oz chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
generous splash of chocolate liqueur

Whipped Cream:
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chocolate liqueur

Crust:
Lightly butter miniature muffin tins or fill the tins with miniature cupcake wrappers. Set aside. Preheat oven to 325F. 

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together (approximately two minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract.

In a smaller bowl whisk the flour, cornstarch and salt. Gradually add this into the butter mixture and mix just until incorporated. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill approximately 1 hour.

Divide the dough into even pieces (approximately 1/2 ounces each, 32 balls) and place one ball of dough in the center of each muffin tin. With your fingertips, press the dough up the sides of the individual muffin tin so there is an indentation in the center. Once filled, place the tart pan, with the unbaked shells in the freezer for about 10 minutes so the shortbread can become firm.

Bake for approximately 18 – 20 minutes or until lightly browned. About halfway through the baking time, lightly prick the bottom of each shortbread, with the tines of a fork, if they have puffed up. Check again after another five minutes and prick again if needed. Once they are fully baked, remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Filling and Topping:
Mix all of the ingredients for the whipped cream in a bowl, but do not whip yet. Put in the fridge with your beaters/whisk to chill.

Whisk cornstarch, sugar, cocoa and salt in a saucepan, then gradually whisk in milk.

Place on the stove and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Allow to simmer until it’s nice and thick. Do not stop whisking while it’s cooking or you’ll get lumps. Remove from heat and whisk in chopped chocolate and butter until melted.

Transfer filling to a metal bowl and quick-chill by setting in an ice bath, stirring constantly. Allow to sit until completely cool.

Pour filling into a ziplock bag or piping bag and fill the crusts.

Take out the bowl with the whipped cream ingredients and beat until stiff peaks form. Generously top the pie-lettes, then decorate as desired. Enjoy!

These things really are amazing, and the few leftovers we had were even better after sitting in the fridge! (Don’t you love that?) If you try them yourself, keep in mind that the crust really does rise quite a bit if you aren’t careful so make sure you keep it nice and cold before popping it in the oven, or you won’t be able to put enough chocolate…and the more chocolate you can fit, the better. You can even use pie weights or rice (on top of foil, of course) if you decide to make a full sized pie.

Also, anything will work well for decorating: shaved chocolate, chocolate chips, berries, brownie crumbs… just be creative! You can also add 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder to the whipped cream for chocolate whipped cream.

Whatever you decide, it really is an incredible pie, and well worth any holiday…even the fake ones. 🙂


A Great Way to Die

March 9, 2009

What is it about the phrase “death by chocolate” that fascinates us so? If you do a google search on the phrase, among the many different recipes you can find all sorts of strange and fun things. Like a site handing out shirts and chocolate syrup for you to fake your death, a murder mystery party for pampering yourself and your girlfriends, a death by chocolate bake-off (looks like we just missed it!). There is even a music video!

If you think about it literally, the idea isn’t actually all that great. You could choke on an m&m – painful. You could eat nothing but chocolate for years – not … enough .. variety. You could fall in a river of chocolate…okay, maybe that one is not so bad. Sure you would drown, but you would be wrapped in warm, silky goodness. By time it happened you might not care!

But in all seriousness, my man and I decided to make a Death By Chocolate Cake earlier this year.

When you make something like the flourless chocolate cake we made, it’s hard to top. This one doesn’t do that, but it’s just as good, it’s easier to make as you don’t have to set it in a pan of water to bake it. But more than that, what could be more appealing than the image of the chocolate cake itself drowning. 🙂

Death by Chocolate Cake
Source:
The Great Book of Chocolate

Cake:
8 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, separated
3 tbl chocolate liqueur

Ganache:
8 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tbl chocolate liqueur

Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour (or sugar) a 9-inch springform pan.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering water. Let cool.

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy.

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating until just blended after each addition. With mixer at low speed, gradually beat in the cooled chocolate, dry ingredients, and liqueur.

With mixer at high speed, beat the egg whites in a bowl until stiff peaks form. Use a large rubber spatula to fold the egg whites into the batter.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake until springy and a tester comes out clean – 40-50 minutes.

Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

To prepared the ganache, heat the cream and butter in a pan over medium heat and bring just to a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth. Add the chocolate liqueur and mix well.

Spread a very thin layer of the ganache on the cake and refrigerate for five minutes. Pour the rest of the ganache over the cake (being careful to pay attention to what you’re doing, and not the camera so you don’t drown your kitchen). Spread with a butter knife as needed, add whatever decorations you desire and refrigerate until the ganache is set or you’re ready to serve. Enjoy. 

We did the cake-drowned-in-ganache instead of the frosting recipe originally given but if you’re curious just let me know and I can send you the frosting recipe. However, we are obsessed with ganache and this recipe, leaves for a very simple but … to die for chocolate cake. (Sorry, I had to say it)  🙂


Giving Thanks With Bread

December 2, 2008

Sometimes it’s really hard to remember what this life actually offers that you can be thankful for. There are so many bad things in this world these days that it’s getting harder and harder to listen to the news without getting depressed. Hell, it’s getting harder to simply look at the grocery receipt without getting depressed but there are still good things out there. I personally have been lucky this year and have a few new things in my life to really be happy about but if there is nothing else, (ignoring the receipt of course) food is definitely something we can all celebrate this Thanksgiving. That is what this holiday revolves around, isn’t it?

As bread in particular has always managed to make me happy I thought this would be the perfect thing to share with everyone this Thanksgiving. It is definitely my favorite of all of the three recipes and was a hit for our big dinner.

Now, I know that I have already done not just one, but two different recipes for potato bread this year, but not only is potato bread my favorite, it also happens to be the type bread my family tends to crave for this holiday. I haven’t tried this particular recipe myself before now but I have heard many good things about it, and just couldn’t wait any longer to share.

Tender Potato Bread
Slightly adapted from: Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
A Daring Bakers Recipe

8-16 ounces of potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks.
4 cups water, reserve cooking water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 ½ cups to 8 ½ cups bread flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour

Put the potatoes and 4 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the potatoes are very tender.

Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well. We used a potato ricer but if you don’t have something like that it works best to mash the potatoes in the water, just make sure you measure out the water as directed below first!

Measure out 3 cups of the reserved potato water. Add extra water if needed. Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread dough in. Let cool to lukewarm (70-80F) – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.

Add yeast to 2 cups bread flour and whisk. Add to the cooled mashed potatoes and water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.

Sprinkle in the remaining salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1 cup all-purpose flour, stir briefly.

Add 2 cups of the bread flour and mix until all the flour has been incorporated. Continue adding more of the remaining flour as needed until you can handle it.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle. The kneaded dough will still be very soft. Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions, then divide each of those into thirds. Roll each segment into a rope, about 1/2 thick. Place three of the ropes on a sheet of parchment paper and braid lightly, being careful not to stretch. Pinch and tuck each end under, then repeat with the other loaf. Cover and let rise another 35-45 minutes or so, until doubled.

Lightly dust the top of each braid with a little flour and immediately transfer the loaves to a baking sheet and carefully place in the oven. Bake the loaves for 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 375F and bake for approximately 40 more minutes or until golden brown and a thermometer inserted inside reads 200F.

Transfer to a rack and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

As this was Thanksgiving, I thought a easily rip-able braid would be more appropriate than a slice-able loaf, but you can serve this anyway you want. As always, just have fun with it!


Celebrating Chocolate

October 28, 2008

Here is a little riddle for you. What could be better than celebrating a birthday, whether you like birthdays or not, with a yummy cake? Celebrating National Chocolate Day! With any form of chocolate … Especially considering it comes just before the day most children get to gorge themselves on candy 🙂

 

I’ve always thought some of these little holidays were silly. I mean, who would want to celebrate National Rattlesnake Round Up Day? (Though National Kazoo Day is the same day…and that would be a lot more fun) But the fun of a blog is to have a great reason to celebrate this chocolatey day.

This October 28 (aka National Chocolate Day) I chose a recipe for Fudge that I have been using for many…many years thanks to my mother. It is the easiest Fudge recipe you have ever tried, and well worth it.

Chocolate Fudge

1 bag chocolate chips
1 can of sweetened-condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla (or 1/2 tsp vanilla 1/2 tsp chocolate liqueur)

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler. Remove from heat and stir in the milk and vanilla until perfectly creamy.

Line a pan with parchment or waxed paper and pour in the fudge. Let sit for several hours to set.

Once set, run a knife along the edge of the pan, turn upside down and cut into squares. Try not to eat all of it at once. Enjoy.

The hardest thing about this recipe is waiting for it to set. You can put it in the fridge if you want to munch sooner, but it really does set better if you can wait long enough for it to set on its own.

You can use any kind of chips for this recipe (milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch….) and sprinkle the top with your favorite nuts or more chocolate. Just have fun with it.  🙂


The Best Days of Our Lives

September 19, 2008

Regardless of whether you are 3 or 63, summer is almost always a wonderful time of the year. Long vacations, visits to the beach, picnics, sitting out on the porch, barbecues, tons of ice cream and milkshakes…

Unfortunately we can’t enjoy all of those things year round, but ice cream is the kind of treat you can devour as often as you want. This is the first summer that I have been a blogger, so I was surprised by how many bloggers actually made homemade ice cream….and of course, I was very tempted to do it myself.

It took me awhile, and the influence of a dear newcomer in my life who loves ice cream even more than I do, but even though summer is quickly coming to an end, I have finally made this incredible tasty treat.

The best thing about this recipe, is it does not require an ice cream maker. YOU are the ice cream maker so anyone like myself, who has not yet invested in one of these can make it.

Vanilla Ice Cream
Source: David Lebovitz

1 cup milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
5 egg yolks
2 cup heavy cream
A few drops of vanilla extract

Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the milk with the tip of a paring knife. Add the bean pod to the milk.

Stir together the egg yolks in a bowl and gradually add some of the warmed milk, stirring constantly as you pour. Pour the warmed yolks back into the saucepan.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Rinse the vanilla bean and put it back into the custard and cream to continue steeping. Pour into a deep baking dish, or bowl made of plastic, stainless steel or something durable and chill over an ice bath.

After forty-five minutes, open the freezer and check it. As it starts to freeze near the edges, remove it from the freezer and stir it vigorously with a beater, spatula or whisk. Really beat it up and break up any frozen sections. Return to freezer. Continue to check the mixture every 30 minutes, stirring vigorously as it’s freezing.

Keep checking on your ice cream and stirring while it freezes (by hand or with the electric mixer) until the ice cream is frozen. It will likely take 2-3 hours to be ready.

When it reaches the desired consistency, serve as always. Enjoy.

Anyone with a machine can make this themselves, just follow this recipe and when you get to the freezing process, finish up with the machine.

Hope you have enjoyed your summer as much as I have, and have treated yourself to plenty of ice cream.  Don’t forget, even if it’s snowing outside you can still enjoy this treat and think of past summers 🙂


Let’s Do the Twist

September 18, 2008

There are certain snacks that always seem to make people happy. Most of them are as happy-inducing because they have much sugar on top (hey, if a spoonful of sugar can make medicine better, why shouldn’t a cupful make everything else better? *g*)

This, however, is actually one of those snacks that is actually reasonably healthy…assuming you don’t over-do the salt and you’re not one of those weird anti-carb people…..but if you were anti carb you probably wouldn’t be reading this 🙂

These pretzles are not even remotely as good as those you can get in the city. But I don’t think it’s possible to make anything that good at home. But as soothing as it is to make any type of bread, and as fun as snacks like this tend to be, it’s another one of those I just couldn’t resist.

Soft Pretzels
Source: The Fresh Loaf

1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon malt powder or brown sugar
2-3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm milk

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix together until it forms a ball. Start with 2 cups of the flour and mix it together until it forms something like a thick batter, then add more flour a handful at a time until it’ll form a nice ball that you can knead by hand.

Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes until it begins to get smooth and satiny. Return the ball of dough to a clean, greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately an hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Degas the dough gently then cut into 6 pieces. Roll each one into a short log, cover with a towel, and let the dough relax for 5 to 10 minutes. After it has relaxed you should be able to roll it out and stretch again fairly easily.

Let them relax again and then roll and stretch a third time until they are long and thin (about 15 inches long and about as big around as your index finger). They’ll nearly double in width while baking, so you should roll them out very thin.

To shape the pretzels, place a rope of dough on the work surface in front of you. Take each end in a hand, loop the dough away from you, and bring the ends back toward you, crossing them about an inch above the rope. Apply a little bit of pressure to make the loops stick together, but not too much because you don’t want then to flatten out.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Dunk each of the pretzels into the boiling water for 5 seconds, then place them onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt or other toppings.

Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and eat immediately. Enjoy.


Cupcakes Outside the Comfort Zone

September 17, 2008

I have mentioned that I am a picky eater. I know that I can be a little ridiculous with it sometimes, but it isn’t really something I can control either. It’s just who I am. However, with the experimentation I am doing with this blog, I want to step outside of that comfort zone and get a little daring. (Keep in mind something daring for me will probably be normal for most bakers).

It’s probably a little ironic to use something as comforting as cupcakes (which bring up happy icing-covered memories) for something like this but the end result sounded great so I thought it would be a good idea to just dive in.

At this point you’re probably asking yourself what it is about this recipe that is so daring. It’s actually not one, but two things: mayonnaise and sour cream. The mayonnaise because of an incident when I was a kid making sandwiches with mom and tasted from the wrong knife….and the sour cream because of my great aversion to anything with the word “sour” (it took much googling to convince myself that the tart I made a couple months ago wouldn’t actually be “tart.”) I am sure there is a deeper meaning to that one too but I really don’t need to know all the varying depths of my insanity. 😉

Anyways, this recipe marries the wonderful goodness that is chocolate with two things I have taken great pains to avoid in the past, and thank god it turned out well. I also had a new and very enthusiastic helper, who ended up wearing almost as much chocolate as we put in this, so I was too busy enjoying the company, the chocolate, and the scent of these to-die-for cupcakes to really worry about the end result. Which, by the way, really did turn out incredible. 🙂

Mint Cupcakes
Slightly adapted from: The Reckless Chef

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
3 oz chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons mint extract
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sour cream

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix your dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, oil, milk, and water and fold them into the mix with a fork. Add mayonnaise, sour cream, and vanilla, and beat the mixture on low-speed. Add in the mint extract, and if the batter smells like plain chocolate instead of mint chocolate, add a bit more. Blend until the dry ingredients are no longer dry, and you have a consistent texture throughout.

Melt the 3 oz of chocolate in a double boiler then mix well into the batter.

Put cupcake papers into your cupcake pan. Pour batter into each cupcake paper, being as generous as you want. These raise decently but it’s always more fun if they come out as monster cupcakes.

Bake the cupcakes for 17 minutes, and test for doneness at any point after that. When a toothpick stuck in the middle of the biggest cupcake in the batch comes out clean, take them out of the oven and let them cool for a few minutes before removing from the cupcake pan.

Decorate as desired and enjoy 🙂

These are really amazing cupcakes. Perfectly moist and the mint chocolate is just irresistable. The kind of thing you can impress everyone with…if you can bear to part with any of them. 🙂