Thursday, April 26, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies

I am often in pursuit of desserts with less dairy and more natural sugars. But when I really need something rich, I need sugar and butter and chocolate. Becuase of this, I am constantly in pursuit of a dessert with more chocolate, more butter, more salt (All without going overboard, of course) to have on hand for those days. So you can imagine my delight to open my Food and Wine Magazine to find a recipe for brownies with hazelnuts, browned butter, and rich dark chocolate. So I adapted this recipe to be gluten-free and simplified it a bit. I mean, I want to eat the brownies, not spend all day making them!

So enjoy these simple-to-make, super-rich, and delightful brownies with a scoop of your favorite ice cream (I used dulce de leche), and some chopped hazelnuts. If you're anything like me, you'll eat it in record time . . . and by that, I mean, from the time I turned my camera off to the time the plate was white again was an embarrassing 3 minutes . . . but who's counting?

Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies
makes one 8x8" pan of fatty brownies
Adapted from Food and Wine, May 2012

1 cup hazelnut meal
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup butter
1 (12 oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips, separated
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup strongly-brewed coffee
Ice cream and chopped hazelnuts, for serving, if desired

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8x8" pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together hazelnut meal, cocoa powder, salt, and sugar.

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, keep cooking, swirling the pan every so often. Once the butter is lightly browned and has a nutty aroma, remove from the heat and stir in 8 oz of the chocolate chips. While whisking, add the eggs and combine. Whisk in the coffee.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the hazelnut mixture and stir just until combined. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool slightly before cutting. Serve with ice-cream and chopped, toasted hazelnuts, if desired.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Coconut Cake with Roasted Pineapple

Some of you may not know that I served a short stint in culinary school. In fact, it was culinary school that made my move from Upstate New York to Salt Lake City, UT a legitimate option. But 6 months later, I decided it was more important for me to work than to pay to go to school, and I stayed in Utah . . . For now, at least.

I learned more in those short 6 months about cooking and baking than the 21 years prior. And as important as the lessons from the books were, I am thankful for the lessons I learned when we were given some time to stray away and make whatever we felt. I can't remember who pulled out the pineapple, or even what class I was in when it happened; all I can remember is how the skepticism of the concept washed away as I opened the oven and was completely overtake by the smell of pineapple roasting along with brown sugar and a vanilla bean. I love the way smells can do that.

So, nearly 2 years later, I did my best to recreate that memory. And as I opened the oven and closed my eyes, the smell was almost exactly the same, but now had a bit of orange which put it over the top

Because this is a recipe I love so much, I knew I needed to create a recipe to compliment it well--something sweet, simple, and non-competitive: enter coconut cake. This coconut cake is soft and sweet and packed with triple coconut flavor. Now, if you choose not to make the compote (although, why wouldn't you?) or decide to use it for something else, this cake is perfectly lovely with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and a pat of butter with your morning coffee (because we all know that if you don't put frosting on a cake it's perfectly acceptable to eat it with breakfast). Enjoy!! (the taste, and the smell)

Coconut Cake with Roasted Pineapple Compote
makes one standard loaf cake

3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 (3.5 oz) package organic coconut pudding mix (now, you don't HAVE to use organic, but do
     yourself a favor and save yourself from all of the chemical-y, processed stuff)
powdered sugar, for dusting, if desired
pineapple compote (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour a standard loaf pan.

Cream together butter and sugar. Scrape down the bowl and paddle. With the mixer running on low speed, add eggs, one at a time. Add milk and vanilla. Scrape down bowl again.

In a separate bowl, stir together the rest of the ingredients (except the pineapple compote). Add this mixture to the other and mix on low speed just until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

When cool, remove from pan and sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Pineapple Compote

1 medium pineapple, peeled, cored, and diced into 1" pieces
1/2 medium orange
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 whole vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small roasting pan, stir together the pineapple chunks, juice and zest from orange, brown sugar, and vanilla bean innards. Place the emptied vanilla bean in the pan. Cover pan with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and inhale, inhale, inhale. Remove the vanilla bean from the pan. Serve warm over a slice of cake.

You can keep this mixture in the refrigerator for up to a week. Re-warm it to serve over cake.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Slice of Humble Pie (and One of a Giant Peanut Butter Cup)

Preparations for the Resurrection Party for Easter have been going on for months. When I volunteered to head up the bread, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought maybe I'd make a few loaves and get a bunch from the bakery at which I work. Easy Peasy. Not the case. Instead we decided to make a couple hundred flat breads and even more crackers. Hundreds and hundreds!

Now, being in charge of making a lot of bread is something I can do. Directing other people in this, however, I wasn't so sure. Delegating is not one of my strong suits, nor is patience. So spending the evening delegating responsibilities and letting people take care of things I'd rather do myself was a discipline. And a necessary one.

So, on Wednesday we gathered the home community together and got to measuring, mixing, rolling, shaping, baking, and just about anything else you do to dough. Because I knew it would be a long (and I mean LONG) night, I thought that an extra special treat would be just thing to keep the gang happy. This creation of mine, a huge peanut butter cup, was just the thing.

Fleet of mixers prepped to mix dozens and dozens of pounds of dough!
As I took little breaks throughout the night, to eat bits of cake, scrub my hands of dough, and take some deep breaths away from the inhalation of flour (and flour, and flour), I took moment to stop and appreciate, allowing myself to be amazed--completely amazed--by the abilities of my community. Their readiness to work for over 5 hours to make bread and crackers for the community practically melts my heart. Thinking about it days later, I could not be more thankful for the willingness of a group of people who got dragged into this task for being in community with an eager baker. And thankful for the slice of humility served up to me, after realizing that people are not only so much more able than I anticipated, but willing to perform such a daunting task of making hundreds of loaves and crackers with complete devotion.

So, when you need a break, take a second to be thankful, and eat a piece of the biggest peanut butter cup you've ever seen. In between layers of dense chocolate cake, crispy peanut butter filling, rich chocolate ganache, and crunch sea salt, it's hard not to be thankful :) I hope you all have an amazing Easter!

Giant Peanut Butter Cup

4 tablespoons butter
6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons finely ground espresso powder
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
peanut butter filling (recipe follows)
chocolate ganache (recipe follows)
flake sea salt, optional

Preheat oven to degrees 350 degrees F. Grease, with butter, a 9" tart pan with tall sides or a 9" springform pan. 

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt and stir together butter, chocolate, and espresso powder until melted. Remove from heat. Quickly stir in beaten eggs. Stir in the sugar.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour and baking soda. Stir into the chocolate mixture until incorporated. 
Pour mixture into prepared baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Freeze for at least an hour. 

Peanut Butter Filling

4 cups gluten-free Rice Crispies
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter

In a food processor, grind Rice Crispies until they look like dust (you can also do this by hand by beating them to death in a well-sealed plastic bag, if that's something you feel like you need). Stir in powdered sugar. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over low heat, melt and stir together peanut butter and butter until combined and completely melted. Stir in Rice Crispy Mixture. Press onto frozen cake. Return to the freezer while you make the ganache.

Chocolate Ganache

1 cup heavy cream
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Set aside the chocolate in a small bowl. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate chips. Let sit 2 minutes. Stir together and pour over the top of the Rice Crispy layer. Sprinkle with sea salt. Place in the fridge and allow to set (at least an hour) before removing from the pan.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Not Your Average Carrot Cake

Well here we are, 3 days from Easter, with the quintessential carrot cake post (you know, for the bunnies). But it would be so unlike me to do something boring, as would be expected.  So here we have carrot cake, probably not like you've seen it before. 

This carrot cake is made with both almond and coconut flour, has a jazzed up version of cream cheese frosting--made with mascarpone--and has homemade candied pecans on top for a little something extra.

So, as we finish up this year's Holy Week, I will continue to savor the sweet and gently spiced carrot cake with my new favorite frosting, anticipating the week's culmination with the best food I'll eat all year at Sunday's resurrection party.

Carrot Cake
makes one 1-layer 9" round cake

2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup canola oil
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 cups shredded carrots
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 recipe mascarpone frosting (recipe follows)
candied pecans (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour (I used brown rice flour) one 9" cake pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together almond flour, coconut flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger. Stir in the remaining ingredients, one at a time, stirring between each addition to incorporate.

Spoon batter (batter will be thick) into prepared pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Mascarpone Frosting

8 oz mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean powder (seriously, invest in the powder)

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat mascarpone and sour cream on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix on low speed until incorporated. Turn the speed to medium and mix 1 minute more.

Candied Pecans

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup pecans
1 tablespoon corn syrup
coarse salt, for sprinkling

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease lightly.

Combine all of ingredients, except salt, in a small saucepan over medium heat, without stirring. As soon as it begins to boil, turn the heat to low and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Pour nuts onto prepared pan and make sure, for the most part, that the nuts aren't touching one another. Sprinkle with a bit of salt. Cool completely.

Assemble the cake: Spoon all of the mascarpone frosting onto the cooled carrot cake and smooth (feel free to frost the sides if you want, as well). Arrange the candied pecans on top of the cake in any pattern you like.

About Me

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Salt Lake City, Utah
As a pastry chef by trade and by hobby, being diagnosed with Celiac Disease has not been easy. But through some experimental baking and a whole lot of faith, I'm living a full(er) life.