Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chocolate Valentino (Flourless Chocolate Cake)

I am no Daring Baker (it was their February baking challenge) but with three ingredients, how could I not try this recipe? I'm not a huge dessert person, nor am I a baker, so really the only appeal of this recipe was the fact that it only had three ingredients. Fortunately, this was a very successful recipe for this non-baker.

Notes: I halved the recipe and filled three 5" ramekins (the kind you would use for creme brulee). Only half of each cake could be eaten at a time. These are SO RICH! Since I couldn't halve an egg, I used 2 eggs separated, and added 1/8 cup of Egg Beaters to the egg yolk bowl. I also didn't line the sides of my ramekins with parchment (they were scalloped...I can't be bothered with the time it would have taken), so I sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and the cakes unmolded perfectly. Tasted perfect too, fake egg and all.

16 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 large eggs, separated

Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan (an 8" or 9" spring form pan works best, or six 5 ramekins) and line with parchment, then butter the parchment.

Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry). With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.

Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate. Fold (don't stir!) in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C. (Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.) Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hooray for Hamentaschen!

My fondest memory of Purim is being at a Purim party at my synagogue when I was about 9 or 10, and my best friend's dad got sooo drunk when we were reading the Megillah (the story of Purim). My friend's dad was a very quiet, reserved man (and was also slightly more religious than I was familiar with) and to see him drunk was the shock of shockers.

The reason he was drunk was because when you are reading the Megillah, you are supposed to drink and make lots of noise every time the name "Hamen" is read (he's the villian in the story). And the reason we eat hamentaschen (translation: Hamen's pockets), is to symbolically destroy his memory. And they are triangles is because it seems Hamen wore a triangular-shaped hat (how fashionable!).

Anywho, unfortunately I don't really have a personal story behind hamentashen other than that are yummy, and I'm sick of spending $5 for 6 of them at Whole Foods. Guess what? I like mine better, though the ones at Whole Foods are definitely prettier (the picture at the top is of one of the good ones that I made...scroll down for a glimpse at how most of the rest of the gang came out).

Note: I found this dough really, really sticky and it was hard to work quickly with it, which is why I think my cookies were so sad looking in the end. If they were colder when they went into the oven, maybe they wouldn't have collapsed as much.

Apricot Hamentaschen
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons cold butter
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup apricot preserves

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar and baking powder. Then, using a pastry blender (or 2 knives in a criss-crossing motion), cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients, until the mixture resembles a crumb consistency.

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and vanilla extract. Stir in to larger bowl and mix until the dough creates a ball. Add extra flour one tablespoon at a time if dough is too sticky. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly flour your work surface, and roll out 1/4 of the dough to 1/8" thickness. Cut into rounds using a cookie cutter or drinking glass (I used a 4" drinking glass). Spoon 1 teaspoon of apricot preserves into the center of each round. Bring up the edges to create 3 sides, and pinch corners together (wet your fingers if the dough won't stay closed). Places formed cookies 2" apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all dough is used.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown the bottom and on corners. Transfer to a wire rack immediately.

Yields 24 cookies (using a 3"round cookie cutter; I got 20 with a 4" glass)