Archive for the ‘Cakes’ Category

First Timer

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

I did something today that I have never done before. I made molten chocolate cake.

I don’t know that I ever really considered making a molten chocolate cake before. It’s not that I actively avoided it, sneered at it while calling it names like “cliche”, or “washed up” behind it’s back.  No, I harbor no resentment towards molten chocolate cake.  It just never entered my mind as an option.

In fact, I can’t really remember ever eating one. Which seems odd, because for a long while they were everywhere. And for a long while, I had an aching sweet tooth, which sat in the back of my mouth, next to an aching chocolate tooth. (Thanks to my daily intake of sugar, my sweet and chocolate tooths have been quieted and given way to a potato chip tooth, and a bacon tooth, but that’s a different story.)

But this dessert is sooo cliche, and sooo over it’s prime, that it’s not even everywhere anymore.

Despite all this, today I made molten chocolate cake. Actually, I made 9 of them, at the request of a very special birthday girl. And I have to say, I can see why these things were everywhere.

Warm, gooey chocolate inside warm soft dense cakey chocolate. What’s not to love. I even garnished it with raspberry coulis, in little tear drops, and a dollop of whipped cream. If I had it on hand, I would have done this dessert right by itself, propped a sprig of mint in the top, and dusted the entire thing with powdered sugar.

When I began looking into making this birthday wish come true, I consulted my research assistant, Google.  Google led me to the original recipe, from none other than Jean-George. This recipe turns out to be in the category of urban kitchen legend I call, “fortunate misfortunes.” In other words, a blunder that turned out to be better than the intention.

Legend tell us that Jean-George pulled the cake out of the oven too early. Upon unmolding it, and cutting into it, the unbaked center oozed chocolate goodness. And they all lived happily ever after.

That is to say, the American public and the molten chocolate cake have been in love ever since.

Like I said, I get it.  It’s pretty dang good. And not only is it good, it is not hard to make. Whip the eggs and sugar. Melt the chocolate and butter. Fold together. Fold in a little flour. Bake in ramekins for 10 minutes.  Unmold and voila! Since the batter can be preset in the ramekins and kept in the refrigerator until you want to bake them, they are a dream for service.

I believe it’s safe to say that the molten chocolate cake has joined the ranks of new American classic. Desserts, like the brownie sundae, that are well on their way to being classics, but without the tenure of strawberry shortcake, or creamsicles.

And of course, this dessert will start teasing me, making me wonder how I can make it mine. How can I translate it through my present state of experience, filter it through my personality, and what would come out the other end?

It may never see my menu, but then again, I doubt I’d have a hard time selling a modern twist on the new American classic, the molten chocolate cake.

Molten Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
extra flour and butter for coating 4 – 4 ounce ramekins

1.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2.  Use your fingers to smear some of the extra butter inside the ramekins, coating the entire inside evenly. Put a spoonful of the extra flour in each ramekin, and shake it around until all the butter is coated in flour. Pour the extra flour back out of the ramekin, tapping it on the bottom lightly to make sure anything that isn’t stuck to the butter comes out.

3.Melt the butter and chocolate together. To do this, make a double boiler by setting a large mixing bowl over a medium pot of simmering water. Put the chocolate and butter in the bowl and let it melt slowly, stirring a few times to mix it together.

4.  When the chocolate and butter have melted together, turn the heat off the double boiler, and use pot holders to take the bowl of chocolate off the pot of water. Be careful of the steam from under the bowl, it could be very hot.

5.  Place the eggs, yolks, and sugar in the bowl of a mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on a medium to high speed. Continue mixing until the eggs become pastel yellow, thick, and glossy.

2. Pour the melted chocolate and butter into the bowl with the eggs, using a rubber spatula to scrape all the chocolate from the sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer on the lowest speed, and carefully mix the chocolate with the eggs, until it is even.

5.  Take the bowl away from the mixer, and add the flour and salt. Use a rubber spatula to carefully fold the flour into the chocolate, until it is very evenly mixed together.

6.  Divide the batter evenly between the four ramekins.

7.  Put the ramekins of chocolate batter on a baking sheet and bake them in the 450 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  The outsides should start to set, but the center should feel soft when you press on it lightly.

8.  Let the cakes cool for about 1 to2 minutes, to cool just a touch.  Using a dry dish towl, hold the hot ramekin with one hand, and carefully turn the cake out into your other hand. Quickly set the hot ramekin down, and use both hands to gently place the tender cake onto a plate.

9.  Serve immediately, with raspberry sauce and whipped cream.

Raspberry Sauce

2 cups frozen raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
the zest of 1 lemon

1.  Put the frozen raspberries in a bowl. Sprinkle the top with the sugar, and grate the lemon zest over the top of the sugar.

2.  Toss the berries with the lemon zest and sugar until they are evenly coated.

3.  Put the berries in a small sauce pan, and put it over low heat. Cook the berries for about 5 minutes, until the berries release all of their juices.  You will notice the sauce start to bubble and thicken a bit.

4.  Take the pot away from the heat, and carefully transfer the berries and juices from the pot to the cup of a blender.  Put the lid on the blender tightly.  Turn the blender on the lowest speed first, just to get the berries moving around a little, then turn it up to a medium speed to puree the berries into a smooth sauce.  If you turn the blender on a high speed right away, the hot berries might splash out of the blender!

5.  Pour the raspberry sauce into a strainer set over a bowl to remove the seeds.  Let the sauce cool in the refrigerator.

6.  You can make this sauce up to 3 days ahead of time.

The Easy Battle

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Sometimes I forget myself. I forget that I am good at what I do, do it every day, and have a solid lump of experience under my belt.

Hmmm…. that’s not quite right.

Sometimes I forget you. I forget that you aren’t me and don’t have the experience and daily handling that I do.

I am reminded of this occasionally when I am teaching a class and say things like, “it should be the texture of pastry cream.” You blankly stare at me, and I remember that you came to a beginners baking class today and may not have even heard of pastry cream, let alone know what it’s texture is like.

Molly Moon laughed at me a couple of days ago, saying, “Dana, I just love that you talk to me like I know what the heck you are talking about.” I thought we were discussing the hydration properties of the pectin in her stabilizer, but she just asked if I had put it in yet.

But often, my forgetfulness shows most when I make the statement, “oh this recipe is really easy.”

Then proceed to rattle off a dish that is easy to me in the professional kitchen I work in, or even in my home kitchen that I have outfitted with everything that makes my professional kitchen easy to work in, like giant super clingy cling film that sticks to everything, a box of full sheet sized parchment, a bakers bench with drawers full of every tool I could want, full of every pan I could need, bowls, sieves, and a stack of boxes filled with every pantry item I think to need.

My super easy strawberry buttermilk panna cotta is a breeze to me. But I have to admit, that the process might seem overwhelming to the novice. The cream is heated with sugar and lemon zest (everyone has a microplane, right?). The gelatin is soaked (everyone stockpiles sheet gelatin right?). Then the gelatin is melted into the hot cream and cooled slowly to body temperature (you have an hour to wait, right?). Meanwhile the strawberries, which have been frozen and thawed half way to damage the cell walls for better flavor, pigment, and pectin release, are pureed in a blender and sieved to remove the seeds and kept as cold as possible (you have a blender, sieve, and froze those berries in a single layer last night, right?)

Now, after all this, strain the cream into the strawberry buttermilk mixture, and pour into pretty little serving dishes (you have pretty serving dishes, and the refrigerator space to chill them, right?)

Well, I made a cake this weekend for a back yard barbecue that finally, finally, made me see what I was battling against when I tell people something is easy.

This cake is popular the country over with your church pot luck, back yard barbecue, and family gathering. While my family never made it, (we would have if my mom had the recipe), I have tasted this cake at friends gatherings. It’s nothing a “foodie” would claim to enjoy, although I bet many of them secretly do. During a plated dessert class we discussed nostalgic desserts and 3 of the students claimed this cake as their favorite nostalgic childhood dessert.

It’s called a poke cake, and it’s made by baking a white cake mix, and poking holes all over it, to which you pour jell-o across. The jell-o (I used orange) soaks in, and makes a moist, sweet, and yes, yummy dessert. Cover the whole thing with whipped cream, or better yet, a frosting recipe made by mixing a box of instant vanilla pudding with one cup of milk, and a tub of cool whip.

The result was actually fairly tasty. It’s not going on my menu, but I understand how it can be considered a favorite and brought to various events.

But after all was said and done, this cake was EASY. I had opened 4 containers, used only 3 ingredients that would be in everyones kitchen (eggs, oil, milk), and spent a maximum of 15 minutes preparing it. I used only 4 dishes, a measuring cup, a whisk, a spatula, and a bowl.

While I know this cake isn’t the crowining glory of american cuisine, it is the median. It is a cake that represents the word “easy” to many many home cooks. Compared to my experience in the kitchen this weekend, my easiest of recipes is a handful.

This cake helped put me in my place, and remind me that when I teach and discuss food with people not as entrenched in cuisine as I am, I need to remember where they are coming from. I need to remember you.

For further reading on my panna cotta process link here

For further reading on my puree process read here

“Easy” Strawberry Buttermilk Panna Cotta

250 g. heavy cream

200 g. sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

5 sheets gelatin

250 g. buttermilk

250 g. strawberry puree

1. Soak the gelatin leaves in ice water until soft and hydrated.

2. Mix the cream, sugar, and lemon zest in a small pot, and bring to a boil, whisking until the sugar is disolved. REmove from heat.

3. Remove the gelatin from the ice water, squeeze the excess water from it, and add it to the hot cream, stirring until disolved and evenly distributed.

4. Let this sit on the counter away from heat and come down in temperature slowly, until it is just below body temperature.

5. Meanwhile, mix the buttermilk and strawberry puree well and keep cold.

6. When the cream has come down in temperature, strain it into the cold strawberry buttermilk, and whisk to combine.

7. Pour this into pretty serving dishes, and chill overnight, or at least 8 hours.

Bread Pudding

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

I once read that concerning haute cuisine, texture is the final frontier. The showiest developments in cuisine lately have certainly been textural. While many of the new textures are coming from knowledge of hydrocolloids, old (like corn starch) and new, we can still be attentive and creative with our textures without specialty ingredients.

My latest favorite texture is bread pudding. Our chef de cuisine Johnny was introduced to it at Alinea, and shared it with me last fall, when I was looking for a way to incorporate gingerbread into a dish. A far cry from the rustic custard soaked bread cubes, these bread puddings resemble the texture of a stove top pudding. By pouring hot sweet cream over chopped breads and spinning for two minutes in a food processor, I can turn a loaf of brioche into a dense, savory sweet smear for my plates, thick or thin depending on the cream addition.

These puddings can have an unexpected “chew” to them if left thicker, or be as delicate as a dish of “jell-o” style pudding. Currently on my menu is a brioche pudding, which sits under a puddle of passion fruit yogurt sauce on my creamsicle plate. It adds a rich, salty, yeasty addition to the flavor profile, which is built around orange, vanilla, and passion fruit.

This winter I was producing a pudding from a dark spicy gingerbread, with a depth that came from molasses, cocoa powder, and espresso. This pudding first found a home under my treacle tart, which spun the classic British tart by incorporating gingersnap crumbs instead of bread, and a dark treacle syrup.

As dishes came and went the gingerbread pudding stayed, finding homes on a few plates. It grounded a chocolate terrine to it’s spicy garnishes, a cinnamon brown butter marshmallow, candied ginger, and vanilla shortbread.

The pudding even found a savory home, served with foie gras and preserved sour cherries.

The most addictive use of this pudding method came from an extra box of krispy kream donuts. After we had eaten ourselves sick, we placed the remaining donuts in the robot coupe, and made ourselves some pudding. We devoured the first batch, making ourselves quite sick. Since then, this puree has been put through development, borrowing from WD-50′s fried cubes of creaminess, i.e. mayonnaise, hollandaise, and butterscotch, to become, “donut holes”. Little fried cubes of donut pudding, with jam for dipping. It’s not quite there, but the gap between my reality and the perfection I know is out there is getting smaller.

This bread pudding method is highly versatile, with the texture range as dense or creamy as you make it. You could puree almost anything bread or cake like. I imagine a dark rye pudding, or sourdough pudding would be quite nice, or pumpernickel!

Here is my recipe for brioche pudding. It satisfies a need to be smeared on a plate cold in a silky manner, but offer enough “chew” to contrast the thinner passion fruit and greek yogurt sauce that pools inside the pudding.

Brioche Pudding

200 g. brioche, trimmed of crust and cut in one inch cubes

500 g. heavy cream

150 g. sugar

10 g. kosher salt

1. Place the cubes of brioche in the food processor.

2. Bring cream, sugar, and salt to a boil. Pour over brioche and let stand for one minute. Process the mixture for two minutes, until perfectly smooth.

3. Pass through a fine mesh strainer while still very warm.

Bee Cake for Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

My friend Leslie, when she’s not busy doing her Sammamish massage thing, likes to bake. With the help of a kit from Williams Sonoma, here’s her latest creation. Super adorable (and I have it on good word, delicious as well).

Bee Cake

Not sure if this is a strategy for shoring up the beehive population we’re losing due to Colony Collapse Disorder. (BTW, I would have prefered “Beepocalypse Now” as the title of Jordan’s post but to each his own.)

Recipe: Dark Chocolate covered honey-rosemary cake

Monday, April 9th, 2007

For Erik, who is like me in noticing the nakedness of the post featuring a cake I made recently, here are the recipes I used to create the cake. And for Britt, the honey mousse recipe is included, however, you had mentioned dipping strawberries into them, really great idea! In that case, I would omit the gelatin and use it right away. It has a nice creamy structure on it’s own, and will actually keep that way for a day or two, but I added gelatin to give it the structure it needed to support the cake layers.

This cake is really a two day process. Not just this cake, all cakes. Professional cake makers always, always bake the cake at least a day before it is to be assembled, wrapping it and storing it in the refrigerator or freezer. This allows the cake to stale a bit, tightening the crumb, drying it a tiny bit. By doing this, the cake layers are ready for another professional touch, the soaking syrup.

A simple syrup is made with a complimentary flavor and brushed over the cake for lasting moisture. This gives the cakes a better texture, and allows for another flavor dynamic in the cake. We are soaking our cake in a rosemary syrup, which if made ahead of time and allowed to sit in the refrigerator overnight intensifies the rosemary flavor in the syrup.

Because the cake is filled with a mousse that must set for at least 4 hours before the cake is covered in chocolate glaze, the two day project truly requires a little planning. It also allows you to break up the work and fit into pockets of free time from various days. The cake and syrup can be made up to a week ahead of time, the mousse filled cake can wait for it’s glaze for 2 days. The mousse and glaze, however, must be applied to the cake immediately.

To assemble the cake, begin by cutting the top and bottom of the cakes off in a thin layer. Split the cake in half evenly. Place the bottom layer of the cake in the pan it was baked in, which has been cleaned and lined with a circle of parchment. Brush both cake with rosemary syrup.

Prepare the mousse according the the recipe, and immediately transfer into the cake pan lined with a single layer of cake. Spread the mousse evenly over the cake and cover with the second layer of rosemary cake. Gently press the cake layer with your hands to ensure it has adhered to mousse evenly, and there are no buckles in the cake. Wrap this in plastic and store in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

When the cake has set, run a hot paring knife between the edge of the cake and the pan. Place a cardboard cake circle exactly the same size as the cake over the top of the cake pan, and carefully flip the cake over. Set this on the counter and remove the cake pan from the cake by pulling strait up, shimmying the pan a little if necessary.

Brush any loose crumbs from the cake and place it on a wire rack set over a sheet pan. Place this in the refrigerator while you prepare the glaze. Once the glaze is ready to pour, bring the cake out. Begin pouring the glaze focusing the stream in the center of the cake, and extending the stream about 8 inches above the cake. When all the glaze is on the cake, take a long cake spatula and push the excess glaze from the center of the cake towards the outside in 3 or 4 decisive motions.

Place the cake in the refrigerator to set the glaze for 10 to 15 minutes. When the glaze is set, transfer the cake from the wire rack to a serving plate. Store the cake in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it, wrapping it lightly, but completely in plastic wrap if storing the cake overnight.

Recipe: Rosemary Scented Cornmeal Cake

Monday, April 9th, 2007

Brown butter is an amazing flavor addition for this cake, adding a richness and depth to the cornmeal. However, you can replace the 1/2 cup of brown butter with 1/2 cup of clarified butter, or another cooking oil. You can not melt 1/2 cup of butter and add that. Butter is up 20 percent water by weight, so what you are really adding within the 1/2 cup of liquid is about 1/3 a cup of butter oil mixed with water and milk solids. So either take the time to clarify or brown the butter, or add another cooking oil like canola or olive oil.

When choosing the cornmeal, I look for a fine ground cornmeal that still has a little tooth to it, not a corn flour. You can use any grade cornmeal from the fine grain I choose to the coarse pollenta cut, depending on the amount of tooth you want in your cake.

Fresh rosemary is an essential addition to this cake, so do find some rather than using the dry rosemary in your spice collection. 5 people on my block alone have thriving rosemary bushes in their yards, and all have been happy to share a few sprigs with me when I need.

Rosemary Scented Cornmeal Cake

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

½ cup brown butter

1 cup finely ground cornmeal

1 cup cake flour

1 cup milk

2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary

1 tbsp paking powder

Preheat oven to 390 degrees farenheit, 200 degrees celcius

  1. Place the milk and rosemary in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove from heat, and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the cornmeal in a bowl with enough room to hold both the cornmeal and the milk. When 10 minutes have passed, bring the milk back to a simmer, and pour over the cornmeal, stirring to make a “mush”.
  2. Place the egg yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a kitchenaid.. Using a whisk, whip the two ingredients until they pale in color, and thicken enough to form a ribbon when let to drip from the whisk. While whisking continuously, begin adding the brown butter in a slow stream until it is entirely incorporated.
  3. Scrape the sides of the bowl clean, and add the cornmeal mush to the bowl. Stir with a spatua until the mixture is an even consistancy.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder, and carefully fold this into the cornmeal batter. Set aside for a moment.
  5. With a very clean whisk and large bowl with enough room to hold both the whites and cornmeal batter, whisk the egg whites and salt until they hold soft peaks. Transfer the cornmeal batter from the mixing bowl to the bowl with the egg whites. Using a large spatula, carefully fold the egg whites into the batter just until they dissapear.
  6. Transfer the batter to a 9 inch round cake pan that has been greased and lined with parchment. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed in the center. Allow to cool before removing the cake from the pan.
  7. When the cake is cool, wrap it in plastic wrap well, and chill it in the refrigerator overnight. This process tightens the crumb, and stales the cake a tiny bit, which allows us to brush it with a rosemary syrup before layering it.

Recipe: Rosemary syrup

Monday, April 9th, 2007

Rosemary Syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

3 medium sprigs of rosemary, needles cleaned from the stem
1. Place the water in a small pot and bring to a boil. When the water starts boiling, remove from heat and stir in the sugar until it completely dissolves and the syrup is translucent.

2. Add the rosemary, and return the syrup to a low heat. Allow this mixture to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and transfer the syrup to a container, allowing it to cool completely before brushing it on the cake.

Recipe: Honey Mousse

Monday, April 9th, 2007

Choosing a high quality honey from a small bee keeper rather than the honey bear from the grocery store makes all the difference in the world. I am not a food snob, so when standard grocery store ingredients are a fair substitute, I’ll say so. But here, because this mousse was developed to highlight the singular flavor of honey, every flaw in the honey will show.

I taught this honey mousse recipe a class last summer, and the two men who chose this recipe as thier project ended up making it 3 times. They admited later that they saw the sparse ingredient list and thought it would be the easiest recipe. They learned that the list of ingredients was intentionally simple to allow focus on the methods. On their 3rd try, they prepared themselves properly, paid attention to each ingredient and the temperatures at which they were worked with, and had everything prepared in advance before they started making anything. They were amply rewarded with a beautiful mousse, and learned a great lesson about sucessfully aproaching a recipe.
The recipe seems wordy, but it includes tips on treatment of the ingredients that will help you take the simple list and turn them into something much larger that the sum of thier parts.

So read through the recipe, be prepared by having every thing measured, and all your equipment gathered before you begin.

If you are using this recipe to fill a cake, then you will need to have the cake layers trimmed, brushed in their syrup, the bottom layer sitting in the cake pan you baked it in as a mold. Have these on the counter ready to go, so when the mousse is completed, it can be used to fill the cake imediately, before the gelatin begins to set.

Honey Mousse

Prepare a double boiler using a pot with a wide enough mouth to fit a large bowl.

4 egg yolks

4 oz. honey (just over 1/3 a cup)

half a vanilla bean, seeded, or 1 tsp extract in a pinch

2 tbsp water
1 tsp gelatin

2 cups cream

1. Prepare the cream to whip by placing it in the bowl you intend to whip it in, and placing that in the refrigerator along with the whisk you intend to use.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin in the bottom of the smallest pot you own. (I use my stainless steel 1/2 cup measuring cup, which holds up to the low heat the gelatin is later melted over) Cover the gelatin with the 2 tbsp of water, making sure every granual is covered and can absorb water, using a little more water if needed. Set aside.

2. Making the honey sabayon: Place the yolks, honey, and vanilla in a large stainless steel or glass bowl, and place it over the pot of simmering water you have prepared as your double boiler. With the water simmering, but not boiling rapidly, start cooking the honey mixture while calmly whisking constantly. Continue whisking the honey and eggs over heat until they start to thicken, and lighten in color. This can take as little as 3 minutes, and as long as 10, depending on how much heat is transfering to the bowl from the simmering water in the pot. It is best to cook this slower as you will have a more stable base for your mousse.

3 . When the honey sabayon is finished, a little mound will appear on the surface when a small amount is drizzled from the whisk back into the bowl. At this point, remove the bowl from the double boiler and set aside.

4. Place the tiny pot of bloomed gelatin over low heat, and cook until it melts, stirring as needed. Transfer the gelatin to the warm honey sabayon and whisk it until the gelatin is evenly distributed. Set aside and allow the sabayon to come down in temperature. In preparing the sabayon for the incorporation of the whipped cream, it needs to be cool enough that it doesn’t melt the cream when it is folded in, but not so cool that the gelatin sets.

5. While the sabayon is cooling, remove the bowl of cream and whisk from the refrigerator and begin whisking. Whisk the cream to soft, thick, billowy peaks, by hand if possible. If using a kitchenaid mixer, turn the mixer on to speed 6, but no higher. The slower incorporation of air into very cold cream creates a denser whipped product, which adds structure to the delicate mousse, and creates a more luxurious mouthfeel. The more structure we can add from the correct cooking of the sabayon, and whipping of the cream, the less gummy gelatin we need to add making a delicately ballanced mousse.

6. When the cream has been whipped and the sabayon is at room temperature, begin incorporating the two. Place 1/3 of the cream into the sabayon, and whisk to incorporate. Place another 1/3 of the cream into the sabayon, and fold in carefully with a large rubber spatula. Finally, add the remaining 1/3 of cream to the sabayon and again, fold in carefully.

Recipe: Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze

Monday, April 9th, 2007

The glaze I chose for this cake is a recipe I adopted from Alice Medrich’s book, Bittersweet. It is designed as a pouring glaze for desserts that are stored in the refrigerator, which is where your mousse cake will sit while waiting for it’s grand appearance. Medrich suggests pouring this glaze at 90 degrees for optimal results. This can be gauged with an instant read thermometer, or by taking a small dab of the glaze and touching it to your lip. It should feel to be the same temperature as your lip, so if it’s warm to the lip, wait another minute.

The chocolate glaze was made with a bittersweet chocolate containing 64 percent cocoa solids. Look for a chocolate of similar bitterness, but nothing higher. The acidity of extra bittersweet chocolate does not balance well with the sweet subtlety of the honey mousse, and the essence of the rosemary gets lost. If you can’t find anything at 64 percent, choose a semi sweet chocolate instead. For those who don’t live near a metropolitan area that provides many choices in chocolate, Nestle, the maker of toll house chips, has come out with a chocolatier line that is sold in large chain grocery stores like Safeway. If I even hear that you tried to make this with Bakkers chocolate, I will come find you, and slap your hand. Repeatedly. That stuff is not chocolate.

Bittersweet chocolate glaze

8 oz dark chocolate chopped finely

6 oz butter, (1 1/2 sticks)

1 tbsp light corn syrup

2 tbsp water

1. Place all the ingredients in a small heatproof bowl and set over a wide mouthed pot of simmering water.

2. Allow the chocolate and butter to melt, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the double boiler when it is almost, but not quite, melted. Set the glaze aside to finish melting, stirring once or twice until perfectly smooth.

3. Place the filled cake on a wire rack set over a sheet pan. When the glaze is smooth and shiny, pour it over the cake to cover it completely. Chill the cake in the fridge for 10 minutes to set the glaze before removing it from the rack.

4. Transfer the cake from the rack to a serving plate and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. If the cake is to be kept overnight, wrap the cake lightly, but completely to avoid condensation forming on the glaze.

Baking Chocolate Covered Honey-Rosemary Cake

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

With my days now full of savory banquets rather than the pastries I had grown so accustom to in the 2 years past, I come home with a craving. Not a sweet tooth, per se, rather an overwhelming urge to bake. Cookies, brownies, cakes, you name it, I have been a home baking fool.

However, just picking up a recipe and making a few cookies isn’t the kind of satisfaction I come home burning for. No no no. My urges stem from my years developing recipes in a business setting, creating conceptual desserts. Thus, rather than making a few cookies from a recipe I have been looking to try, I have redefined my banana bread. But that wasn’t enough.

I started building a custom cake business. I couldn’t help it, really. It just happened! It’s been two months without a pastry outlet, and I have managed to come up with DC Customs. I even have business cards!

The concept is that I take on very few customers, making it possible to consult with each individually, and create a cake unique and individual based on the event and the person the cake is to please most. Starting from the inside out, I talk about flavors the client likes best, their favorite food as a kid, the bakery they trekked across town weekly to, just for their monkey bread, the cherry lime-aid from sonic that they guzzled in college. I have been building the cakes from the inside-out, choosing flavors and textures first. Then, we can decide how the cake is to look later, based on the limitations and allowances of the flavors, and the emotions you’d like the cake to elicit.

It’s taste I want to inspire each unique creation, not a picture seen in a recent wedding magazine.

To make my image reflect my mission, I have chosen to model it after a custom auto body shop. I am meeting with a tattoo artist soon to design the logo, and have chosen the simplistic name DC Customs to let everyone know, I’m not Martha.

Looking back, it’s almost silly. 2 months without a menu, without flour in my hair and chocolate under my nails and I have come up with a business.

Last weekend I developed a cake for a simple Sunday evening dinner party. Tim the cook, a friend and cohort at the Rainer Club, created his menu using the first of springs ingredients. The cake was to reflect the shifting season, to be elegant, sophisticated, yet humble enough for the intimacy of eight.

Because the world of desserts spends early spring in limbo, this was a challenge. The rich, comforting flavors of winter are no longer desired, yet the bright, acid pop of citrus didn’t fit the relaxed setting of the dinner. Rhubarb, the first hint that fruit is coming, is not quite here.

I chose to use Rosemary, and to scent a Brazilian cornmeal cake with it’s distinct flavor. The cake was split in two layers, soaked in a sweet rosemary syrup, and filled with honey mousse. To bring elegance to this rustic cake, I covered it in dark chocolate glaze. A crown of candied pine-nuts, which share the essence of rosemary, garnished the cake. I don’t often use inedible garnishes, but the petite lavender flowers blooming on rosemary bushes right now were to much to resist.

Thus, Tim’s cake was born.

You can see from the pictures, I had an expert taste tester. Bianka liked the cake so much she had to be sent to “time out” in the bathroom until the cake was safely on it’s way to it’s destiny.