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Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

My springform pan went on walkabout when I moved last fall. I was in denial about this for a long time, but I finally surrendered and bought a new springform, and therefore, the season of cheesecake has begun! Chocolate cheesecake, to be specific. Actually, chocolate caramel cheesecake. I know.

chocolate cheesecake

Once you’ve gotten through the caramel-making step (of which it turns out to be utterly impossible to take a picture, because of the need to give not-burning-the-caramel your full attention), this recipe is dead simple. There’s not even a water bath, just chocolate caramel goodness.

chocolate for cheesecake

By the way, a word about springform pans: they come in two types. Both have a groove where the bottom and the part with the latch connect. In one type, this groove runs around the bottom of the latch part. It’s easier to remove the outside with this type, but trickier to assemble, and, if you’re me, more likely to leak. In the other type, the groove is in the bottom, like so:

good springform

I find these easier to manage, despite the fact that you have to remove the outside by lifting it. For this recipe, a nine- or ten-inch springform should work.

Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 c. (~10 oz.) chocolate wafers
10 T. butter
1 2/3 c. sugar
pinch salt
3/4 c. heavy cream
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I often use Ghiradelli chips to avoid chopping; if you do too, it’s about 1 1/3 c.)
1/2 c. sour cream
3 c. cream cheese (that’s 3 8-oz. packages)
4 eggs
1 t. vanilla

Crush the cookies. You can do this by whirring them in the food processor, or you can put them in a big plastic bag and beat them up with a rolling pin. Get the crumbs as uniform in size as you can.

Melt the butter in a large, microwave-proof bowl and then add the cookie crumbs, 2/3 c. sugar, and the pinch of salt. Mix to combine.

Assemble your springform and grease it. Then press the cookie crust into the bottom. You can do this by dumping the mixture in the middle and patting it down, then pressing starting in the center out towards the edges until it climbs up them. Aim for a crust as thin as you can manage on the bottom (but without holes!) and sides at least three inches tall. (If you’re thinking “it doesn’t look three inches tall in the photo,” you’re right. That’s because I am a smarty pants and forgot to double the crust recipe and could only use half the filling. We shall not discuss what I did with the other half.) You can leave the crust on the counter or put it in the fridge while you make the filling.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Put the remaining cup of sugar into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Make sure it’s completely dry when you start! Turn a burner to medium-low and cook the sugar, stirring gently with a silicone spatula, until it melts. Then stop stirring — that part is important — and keep cooking, swirling the pan to mix, until it caramelizes, turning a deep golden brown.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the cream, watching out for the steam and bubbling. The caramel will harden. Then return to the heat and cook until the caramel dissolves to liquid again. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate with a fork or whisk, mixing until smooth. Then add the sour cream.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese (which you should soften first, either by leaving it out or using the microwave) with an electric or stand mixer until it’s fluffy. Turn the mixer to low and beat in the chocolate/caramel/sour cream mixture. Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla. Make sure to scrape down the bowl!

If you’re the kind of person who is prone to getting cheesecake all over your oven (read: me), you want to do one of two things at this stage: either put the springform with the crust on a baking sheet or tightly wrap the bottom of the pan, where the two pieces join, in aluminium foil. Then pour the filling in and bake for about 55 minutes. It should be set about halfway from the edges to the center, leaving the center slightly wiggly when you tap the edge of the pan.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan on the counter, then chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours — and ideally all day or overnight — before removing the outside of the pan (run a butter knife around the outside of the crust to help) and slicing. Serve chilled or at room temperature as you prefer. Keeps about a week, covered and chilled.

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I would’ve sworn that I posted this recipe back in the fall, but I can find no evidence that I actually did so. That means I owe you an apology, because I’ve been depriving you of these delicious little bites of melty chocolatey goodness, probably for months.

chocolate cookie-cups

(I kind of love that picture.)

These little guys bake up as quickly as cookies, but have the whole mini-cupcake cute factor on their side when it comes to convincing people to pick them up. And once you pick one up, they speak for themselves. The espresso flavor is not pronounced: as is often the case, it comes through as depth and a touch of bitterness that balance the chocolate rather than a distinct taste of its own.

chocolate cookie-cups - unbaked

chocolate cookie cups - baked

Chocolate Espresso Cookie Cups
Adapted from Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition Desserts via Baking Bites

2 sticks of butter (1 cup)
3/4 c. plus 2 T. brown sugar
1/2 c. plus 1 T. white sugar
2 t. instant espresso powder
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
Pinch salt
2 c. of mixed chocolate chips (white, semi-sweet, and milk)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease or line a mini-muffin tin.

Cream the butter and sugars until well-mixed, then add the espresso powder, egg, and vanilla.

Mix in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. (Sift any of these ingredients that have big lumps.) Then add the chocolate chips.

Dollop into the mini-muffin pan and bake for about ten minutes, until the tops no longer appear wet. Remove from the oven. If you’re using liners, you can turn them out of the pan after about ten minutes; if not, give them a few more minutes so they don’t disintegrate on the rack.

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These are some very serious cupcakes. You’re almost certainly going to have to go to the store before you can make them. They require you to make your own caramel. You’re going to have to wash a small mountain of dishes. But they are mighty. I used them to bribe people to help me move (it worked); I gave a couple of leftovers to my new mama friend, the one whose baby brought you those tasty, tasty cookies.

chocolate cupcake with salted caramel frosting.jpg

The mightiness of these cupcakes comes in many forms. First, there’s the one-two punch of melted chocolate plus cocoa powder. There’s the knock-you-upside-the-head richness created by over a pound of butter and the better part of a dozen eggs. But the richness somehow manages to mesh perfectly with a lightly-textured cake, and if you can stop eating the caramel with your fingers…well, you’re a better person than I am.

By the way, this recipe is being posted just a few days after I cooked it (not my usual MO) because my Dad specifically wrote to me to ask where it was. And also so that after you eat six of them, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting
Adapted from Cupcake Blog. The original is well worth checking out: it has a sneaky method for making a batch that’s half regular and half gluten-free cupcakes, as well as much snappier styling than what I’ve got.

For the cupcakes:
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate
3 sticks butter (that’s 1 1/2 c.)
2 1/4 c. sugar
8 eggs
1 1/4 c. flour
4 T. cocoa powder
1 1/2 t. baking powder
pinch salt

For the salted caramel
4 T. water
1 c. sugar*
2 T. Lyle’s Golden Syrup**
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 T. butter
1/2 t. lemon juice***
1/2 t. fine-grain sea salt

For the frosting:
2 sticks butter (1 c.)
8 oz. cream cheese (regular or reduced-fat; not fat-free!)
3-4 c. powdered sugar

Before you start:
Put the butter and cream cheese for the frosting on the counter to soften.

Make the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350.

Break the chocolate into pieces, either by hand or with a knife if necessary.

chopped chocolate.jpg

Put it and the butter in a large bowl and microwave in thirty-second increments, stirring in between, until nearly smooth. Then remove and stir until completely smooth. Stir in the sugar.

Check with a fingertip to make sure the mixture is not still hot. If it is, let it cool for a few minutes. When it’s not too hot to touch, stir in the eggs. I recommend doing this one or two at a time (eight is a lot of eggs) and stirring vigorously until they’re thoroughly incorporated.

Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the cocoa powder as well, sifting if there are any lumps. Mix until combined.

Scoop into lined or greased cupcake tins. Fill the cups only about 2/3 full so they don’t overflow. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pans (at least back-to-front; switch racks if you have them on two) and bake for about ten more minutes, until the tops appear just dry and a toothpick comes out clean. You can make the caramel while they bake!

baked cupcakes.jpg

[Note: for me, this made 26 cupcakes. For the extra two, you can use foil or silicone baking cups, both of which are strong enough to stand up on a cookie sheet. Put one of your pans of cupcakes on the sheet too and just tuck the extras in at the edge to save space.]

Make the caramel:
[A word to the wise: this would be a good time to make sure chaos-prone members of your household are not underfoot. Sugar syrup burns aren’t so fun, and you’re going to want to give this part your undivided attention.]

Combine water, sugar, and syrup in a deep saucepan and stir to combine. (I like to use a nonstick pan for easy cleanup, but it does make it a bit harder to judge when the caramel is done because of the dark interior. The “deep” part is the most important one, though!) Put the saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook for two minutes.

Then remove the cover and turn the heat up to medium-high. If the mixture isn’t already boiling, it will start. Cook it without stirring from now on. (This helps keep the sugar from crystallizing.) Instead, you can shake or swirl the pan.

You’re just going to cook it until it turns a nice, dark amber. The syrup is already a bit dark, so it can be tricky to tell exactly how this is going. It will boil for some minutes — I’d guess three to five — and then start darkening in color. (What’s happening is that the water is boiling off before the sugar starts to caramelize.) So look for the color to start changing towards darker. But also, don’t worry too much: I under-caramelized mine slightly, and it’s still excellent.

When it’s dark amber, remove it from the heat and wait a few seconds, then carefully pour in the cream and stir to combine. The mixture will bubble and steam, so keep your face away from the pot.

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, lemon juice, and salt.

Measure out one cup using a metal cup or by pouring it into a Pyrex measure.

You’ll probably have a few tablespoons left over; you can pour these on to foil to cool. I just ate mine, but you could use yours for cupcake decoration, too. You’ll need to throw it in the freezer if you want to do this in some way other than drizzling!

salted caramel

Make the frosting:
You’ll need to wait until your caramel goes from burning hot to merely warm for this part.

If your butter and cream cheese aren’t soft, soften them with a brief stint in the microwave on 50% power. (Use fifteen-second increments; you don’t want them melty.)

Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese together until they’re uniform in texture.

Sift in 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix to combine. (Start on a low speed if you don’t like your kitchen covered in sugar, yes? You can also throw a towel over the top of a stand mixer.)

Beat in the reserved cup of caramel. Then sift in more powdered sugar until you reach the desired taste and texture. The frosting will get stiffer as you add more sugar, but I found that three cups was about enough for me. It made for a relaxed kind of frosting — it’s spreadable even straight from the fridge — but it was as much sweet as I could take, even balanced with the cream cheese.

And Bob’s your uncle!****
Frost the cupcakes and try not to eat them all.

*This is a time when regular old granulated white sugar, or the closest thing you use to it, is your friend.
**Ok, so you could actually use corn syrup here — go for the light stuff — in a pinch. It gives me a belly ache though. Lyle’s is cane syrup and can often be found in the international foods aisle (along with other imports from the strange lands of England or Ireland). If not, there’s always the internet
***I wildly prefer Santa Cruz Organics lemon juice, which I can also get at my local natural food store, to regular bottled lemon juice.
****I learned this phrase when I was in Britain and I have an unreasonable love for it.

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Chocolate sheet cake

If you’ve ever needed cake for a crowd, this is your recipe. I made it recently for a baby shower with fifty people and still had cake to send home with the expectant parents. It tastes like a really good birthday cake from your childhood: sweet, moist, chocolatey, and uncontroversial. It doesn’t require sophisticated tastes or fancy equipment, and it’s just fine without them.

chocolate sheet cake

Note that this cake is designed to be baked in a 18×12 half-sheet or jellyroll pan. I baked it in one with 1-inch sides, and even though it seemed like a plan that doomed me to hours of oven-scrubbing, it was completely fine. If you don’t have one, it also works well in two 9×13-inch pans. If you stacked these to make a layer cake, I wouldn’t tell anyone.

Chocolate Sheet Cake
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond, via Serious Eats

For the cake:
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
pinch salt
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. baking soda
2 sticks (1/2 lb.) butter
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder

For the frosting:
1 3/4 sticks butter (that’s 7/8 c., for those keeping track)
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
6 T. milk
1 t. vanilla extract
1 lb. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Put one cup of water on to boil in a kettle or pot.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the cocoa until smooth. (Normally, I’m all for using a fork in place of a whisk, but the whisk is really the right tool for this job.)

Now pour the cup of boiling water into the cocoa mixture. Stir to combine, then remove from the heat.

melting chocolate for cake

In a large, heat-tolerant bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Pour in the chocolate mixture, and stir to combine.

Add the buttermilk and baking soda and stir again, then mix in the vanilla and eggs. Mix until roughly smooth; lumps are totally not the end of the world, but it’s good to get out the big ones.

Pour into the ungreased sheet pan (or two 9×13 pans) and bake for 20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, make the frosting by melting the other butter in a saucepan and whisking the cocoa in until smooth. Add the milk and vanilla, and then the powdered sugar, stirring until smooth and well-combined.

Just after the cake comes out of the oven, pour the warm frosting over the top. Ideally, you won’t have to spread much, so try to drizzle into all the corners. Use a rubber or silicone spatula if you need to encourage it a little.

Serve straight from the pan.

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A brownie confession

I have to admit this right at the top: well into the phase of my culinary life when I considered myself a competent, even accomplished baker, I made brownies from a mix.

I hate mixes. By that, I mean that my sister once gave me the nickname Ms. The-Devil-Bakes-From-Mixes. The enmity between us is serious, but when it came to brownies, the chewy goodness of the packaged stuff always swayed me in the end.

You too? Yeah, I know. But fear not! Let the chains of your oppression be broken.

brownie batter

Better-than-a-mix Brownies
These are very slightly modified from a friend’s mother’s recipe. True story.

4 squares (1 oz each) baking chocolate*
1 c. butter (2 sticks)
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 t. vanilla
pinch salt
1 1/4 c. flour

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a square baking pan, either 8″x8″or 9″x9″.

Break the squares of chocolate into quarters or smaller. If you’re really diligent, you could grate them or chop them, but I always find this too time-consuming when I want brownies.

Put the chocolate and the butter in the microwave and heat in 30-second bursts, stirring after each, until the chocolate is mostly melted. Then take it out of the microwave and stir it until it’s completely smooth. (This is a good chocolate secret: get it 90% melted, and then let the heat of the mixture do the rest. If you try to melt it all the way by heating, you risk burning and seizing.)

Add the sugar and mix thoroughly, then mix in the eggs and vanilla. Finally, add the flour and salt and stir until thoroughly combined.

Pour into the greased pan and bake about 30 minutes. They’re done when a toothpick stuck into the middle comes out with gooey crumbs but not batter. They’re hard to cut before they cool, but worth it both ways. Baked brownies keep well in the freezer: cool, slice, wrap tightly in tinfoil, and then stick the whole thing in a plastic bag.

mmm, brownies

*Would these be better if you used high-end unsweetened chocolate? No doubt. But they’re totally awesome even with whatever you can get at the store.

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