Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Best Chocolate Cake

This cake isn't cakey. That probably sounds strange, but I mean that it's not your average birthday cake with layers of buttercream. It's a dense chocolaty flourless cake that isn't a cop out, and is best served with creme anglaise or fresh berries.
It's not just chocolate wither. There's vanilla, espresso, salt, and cinnamon going on there too. You don't taste them all separately, though. All of these additions share flavor notes with the chocolate, and just make the cake taste even more chocolatey. I like to use Valrhona for these because it has a more intense chocolatey flavor than my usual baking favorite, Scharffen Berger, which is sweeter with a little bit more fruit.
If you have a favorite brand, though go ahead and use that. I just prefer the less fruity flavor because the darkness of the Valrhona ties in better with the earthy flavor additions.

Deep Chocolate Cake
10 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, diced
5 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp instant espresso
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9 inch cake pan and dust with cocoa powder, tapping out the extra. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar, and add the vanilla, salt, and cinnamon.
In a small saucepan or microwave safe bowl, melt the butter, and add the espresso powder, then add the chocolate to the hot butter, and stir until melted and smooth.
Slowly drizzle the melted chocolate into the eggs, whisking the whole time.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and cover with a sheet of tin foil. Put the pan in a roasting pan and fill 1/2 way up the side with boiling water.
Bake the cake for an hour to an hour and15 minutes, or until the cake is set on top. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack and cooling to room temperature.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lightened up Buffalo Chicken Dip

It's Super Bowl Sunday. A weekend of sports, bets, beer, and eating things that you otherwise wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole. So, in the spirit of embracing this weekend's extremes, I made Buffalo chicken dip. I'd never heard of buffalo chicken dip before, but since I've been living in Central New York for about 4 months and have yet to eat a single Buffalo wing, I thought it was the perfect time to make this strange but tasty dip and watch some football!

Lightened Up Buffalo Chicken Dip
Serves 8-10

2 cups shredded chicken
4 oz reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup light Ranch dressing
1/2 cup hot sauce (most recipes called for Frank's, but I used the Tobasco Buffalo flavor)
1/2 cup finely diced celery

In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, sour cream, dressing, and hot sauce until they are well blended and smooth. Fold in the shredded chicken and celery, and add more hot sauce or cooling ingredients like celery or dressing to your taste.
Serve with celery sticks, carrots, and other mixed veggies.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Roast Chicken with Carrots and Potatoes

I can't believe I haven't posted since NOVEMBER!
I've already seen more than one snowfall.
I've already experienced the creeping of the Freshman 15.
I've already had my fill of pumpkin spice lattes.
I've already given a million Christmas gifts.
I've already gone to Hong Kong and then lost all my pictures (and food reviews) when my computer crashed!
Yes, I've been away for a long, long time. Far too long, if you ask me.
So what warm, welcoming comfort food do you need to fully understand how sorry I am?
Nothing too rich, as I know those resolutions are still going strong. Nothing too hard, because you're probable all cooked out from the holidays. Still, something warm and homey, because January may be over in just a matter of hours, but we've still got a couple of months of cold left--as evidenced by the snow falling outside my window.
How about a roast chicken with carrots and potatoes in the same pan?
Just like a French rotisserie chicken and potatoes, the vegetables are basted with the juices from the chicken and absorb all the savory, tart flavor from the meat and lemon.
This sweet, savory, and tart chicken is a roast ready for a weeknight meal or a holiday feast.

Roast Chicken and Root Veggies       
Serves 6-8

1 4 lb free range chicken
8 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbs honey
1 lemon, quartered
1 Tbs coarse sea salt

12 yukon gold potatoes, halved
4 medium carrots, but into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 350º
Clean and dry your chicken and coat with olive oil, rubbing the oil into the skin, then follow with the honey. Stuff the lemon chunks and 8 cloves of garlic into the cavity of the chicken.  Sprinkle the chicken with coarse salt and 1/2 tsp fine ground pepper.

In the bottom of a roasting pan, toss the potatoes and carrots with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Lay out evenly, leaving a gap in the middle of the pan for the chicken
Put a cooling rack over the potatoes and but the chicken on the rack.
Bake the chicken and potatoes for about 20 minutes per pound (an hour and 30 minutes for a 4 pound bird), covering with foil if the skin begins to get too dark. Stir the potatoes every 20 minutes. After the chicken is cooked for 20 minutes per pound, check that the internal temperature had reached 165ºF. If not, continue cooking until the internal temperature is safe to eat and all juices run clear. Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to sit for abut 15 minutes, until the juices have set inside the meat.
Carefully carve your chicken, serve and...

Here are some of the recovered HK pictures, as the chicken photos couldn't be saved:


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cranberry Walnut Bread

The "Wine and Cheese Party" has long been a staple of Bonaccorsi family meals. These "parties" are the dinners where we cut up bread, apples, and all our favorite cheeses and sit around the kitchen counter, snacking up a storm. If we're feeling really fancy, we'll occasionally bust out the shrimp cocktail. No matter how fancy or casual we're feeling, though, there's always a loaf of cranberry walnut bread from Whole Foods. Actually, there are two loaves, because this dream bread heats up like a dream for the next day's breakfast.

I have strong feelings about this bread and wanted desperately to make it myself while I was still in my bread making craze. When I looked up the recipe online, though, I found that the recipe for the exact Whole Foods bread isn't the greatest thing for your health (which is probably why it's so delicious) I decided to spruce it up a little.
This version uses whole wheat flour, a lot less sugar, and apple sauce instead of the fats that the traditional recipe.
I am seriously considering making this bread again and bringing it to Thanksgiving dinner with me, but that might be a little much as I am already responsible for the cranberry sauce (recipe to come). If you're hosting the meal this year, I strongly encourage you to make this bread--the smell alone is totally worth it!
I hope you love this bread as much as we do, whether you serve it at a feast or a wine and cheese party.

Cranberry Walnut Bread
Makes 2 round loaves

3 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs honey
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tbs unsweetened apple sauce
1 cup milk (I used almond milk)
5 tbs butter
1 Tbs dry active yeast

In a small pot or microwave safe bowl, heat the milk and butter until the butter is melted. Cool the milk Add the sugar and honey, and mix until dissolved.
All ow the mixture to cool until it is warm (105-110ºF), then mix in the yeast. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes, or until the milk bubbles through the butter layer on top.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, nuts, and cranberries.
When the yeast has proofed, add to the flour mixture, along with the apple sauce. Mix with a fork until thoroughly combined.
Turn out on a floured surface and knead the dough well for about 8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Form the dough into a ball and cover with flour. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and allow to sit until doubled in size, about an hour and a half. *If you need to move a little more quickly, you can let it rise for an hour, but the longer it sits, the more the flavors will develop.*
Preheat the oven to 400ºF
When the dough is risen, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for 1 minute.
Divide the dough into 2 balls and allow them to rise, covered, for 30 minutes.
Bake the 2 balls on a pizza stone or parchment lined sheet for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350ºF and continue baking for another 45 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool to nearly room temperature before slicing.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

I Miss You, so Here's a Plum Cake

Hey all! I've gotta say that only posting ince a week s killing me in a small way. I miss the days when I would come home from work, crank up the oven, oblivious to the summer heat, and bake, cook, simmer, and steam almost every day of the week. I'm lustful for the days of spontaneous meringue-ing, baking brownies in the middle of the night. Oh, and this early November snow? I'm finding my hands subconsciously rotating like I'm stirring soup.
I'm an addict. This is withdrawal. It's bad, bad, very bad.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, though. THANKSGIVING IS COMING! This means day after day of shameless cooking. Cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, pot pies, crumbles, smoothies, and custards are all coming your way in the very near future. Oh, and I get to make all the dishes to satiate your sweet tooth every sunday from Thanksgiving until Christmas--an even longer period of shameless cooking with even more spices!
See how dark the batter is? That's from all the vanilla!

I miss you--writing these posts, thinking of new ideas--just as badly as I miss my pink rubber spatula back home. Because I miss you and you're even more fantastic than Christmas cookies and sweet potatoes (the highest of praise in my book) I made you a plum cake. Gone are the days when prunes were the dreaded black, crinkly rocks in the very back of the cabinet. Soaking the prunes in warm milk, and folding them into a thick, vanilla scented batter brings them to life like you wouldn't believe. So bake up, eat up, and enjoy a deeply vanilla cake with bursts of sweet and savory prunes.

Vanilla Plum Cake
Makes 1 9 inch cake

1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1.5 tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
6 large prunes

Preheat the oven to 400ºF, and prepare 1 9-inch cake pan by greasing, lining with parchment, greasing again and dusting with flour.
In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the milk for 1 to 2 minutes, until it's very hot but not boiling. Add the prunes to the hot milk and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and flouw until light and smooth. Add the egg and vanilla, mixing until well incorporated. Remove the prunes from the milk when they are plump and softened. Add the lemon juice to the milk and mix.
Add 1/2 the flour to the butter and egg mixture, when it is fully combined, add half of the milk. Add the rest of the flour and milk, mixing well.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and scatter (or carefully arrange) the prunes in the batter. Lightly cover the tops of the prunes with more batter to prevent burning.
Bake at 400º for 20-25 minutes. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before turning out to slice.
This cake is great served at any temperature, but is at its best when served warm!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Gluten Free Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies were a challenge to myself.
I sometimes do that, set random challenges for myself when I am bored.

This time around, I wanted to make my favorite thing ever: A Chocolate Chip Cookie
The rules were: I needed to use up the rest of my glutenous rice flour, left from mochi making
                         I needed to make something totally gluten free without a trip to the grocery store
                         I needed to make something with browned butter. And 1 bowl. (Mix in the pot!)
                         I needed to make something that I would want to eat myself.
My chips were a little...huge

These cookies are chewy! There's really no other way of describing them, other than beautifully caramelized, golden with browned butter, and extra soft from extra brown sugar.
Really, though, they're the chewiest cookies I've ever had. I love it!
The recipe may seem a little confusing as they are gluten free cookies, made with glutenous flour. This description is just of the texture of the flour, not the actual gluten content.

I sometimes find the texture and taste of rice flour a little too starchy and just a little off, but the toastyness of the browned butter, the slightly caramelized sugar, and chunky chocolate (something I usually don't go for in chocolate chip cookies) meld so well together, and really counteract any white-starch taste that could otherwise lead to a pasty cookie.
Browned Butter and Brown Sugar

Gluten Free Browned Butter Cookies

1 stick of butter, browned
1 stick of butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups + Tbs glutenous rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 350ºF, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Cream the softened butter and white sugar until fluffy.
Brown the other stick of butter in a medium sauce pan. Quickly mix in the brown sugar and mix well, until some of the sugar has totally dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
Beat in the softened butter and white sugar and add the eggs one at a time, beating until well combined. Add the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Whisk out any lumps in the flour, and to combine.
Add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar, mixing well with a rubber spatula. Gently fold in the chocolate chunks.
Portion the dough into 1 inch balls and refrigerate for 1 to three hours. Place chilled dough on the cookie sheets and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges but still soft in the middle.

*These are slightly different from standard cookies, in that they can be under baked. I know, it's a great shock, but it's true. Rice flour has a slightly starchy consistency so if it's under baked the cookies will taste a bit off. Letting the dough sit and meld in the fridge will help a lot with this, so make sure it gets at least 1 hour to chill*

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

Sometimes I get stuck in a rut. A less flattering term might be obsessive. I am currently going through a yeast phase, a bread obsession. I working with yeasted dough is just about the most fun a girl could have (my weekends sound crazy, I know.)

So, after making a lot of yeasted loafs and rounds, I decided it was time to mix it up and make a flatbread, specifically pita bread to go with the crazy hoarder-like stock of hummus in the refrigerator.
These were really fun to make and the dough is so minimal, you probably have all the ingredients sitting around already--you can even use all purpose flour and it will work just fine.

Whole Wheat Pita Bread
Makes 10 medium pitas

4 cups white whole wheat flour, plus more for rolling and shaping
1 1/4 cups warm water (105ºF)
2 Tbs olive oil, plus extra for rising
1 Tbs dry yeast
1/2 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the ven to 500ºF and place a pizza stone or baking pan in the oven to heat on the bottom rack.
In a small bowl, mix the water, honey and yeast and allow it to proof until it foams. If the mixture does not foam, try again with new yeast.
In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Add the proofed yeast and water, and olive oil.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
Roll the dough into a ball, cover with the olive oil and place back in the bowl. Cover with kitchen towels and rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Split the dough into 10 balls and roll them flat, about 1/4 inch thick. Place on the heated stone and bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 30 minutes, flipping 1/2 way through.
Serve with hummus, baba ganoush, or your favorite fresh veggies!