Apple Hazelnut Chocolate Cake

Apple Hazelnut Chocolate Cake Valrhona Sliced

This cake reminds me of Iron Chef: Battle Apple and Chocolate. I kept thinking that apples and chocolate can’t possibly pair well because I couldn’t think of any recipes that highlight both ingredients. Think of apple desserts and caramel likely comes to mind. As far as chocolate desserts go, even if many fruits taste great with chocolate, apples are seldom high on the list.

Quite frankly, I wouldn’t have tried this recipe if it wasn’t from Valrhona, but I hear they know a thing or two about baking with chocolate.

Flourless and leavened only with whipped egg whites, this chocolate cake is dense and moist. The gooey center fell from the weight of the fruits and nuts as the edges souffléd, forming a border reminiscent of pizza crust. The roasted hazelnuts also added crunchiness along with the crisp apples that tasted fresh even after baking.

The bottom line is, bittersweet chocolate and tart apples actually taste great together.

View Apple Hazelnut Chocolate Cake - Valrhona Recipe

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Cranberry Drop Scones

Cranberry Drop Scones

Tender and flaky mounds are studded with chewy dried cranberries in this simple scone recipe that comes together in minutes (once all of the ingredients are at room temperature, that is). The scones are light and airy with just enough sweetness to keep yourself from puckering up as you bite into the tart cranberries.

Cranberry drop scones are almost as delicious freshly baked as they are frozen and reheated days later. It’s never a bad idea to have a few on hand for a quick breakfast or afternoon snack, although it’s so easy to prepare that you might as well bake a fresh batch instead.

View Cranberry Drop Scones Recipe »

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Gingersnap Cookies

Crisp and Snappy Gingersnap Cookies

It took several tries to get the crisp texture and cracked tops characteristic of gingersnap cookies, tweaking the recipe a little each time. When I finally noticed that I’ve been mistakenly using baking powder instead of baking soda, it turned out that the original recipe was perfect straight out of the box.

Baking soda is used with the acidity of molasses to create gas when baked, helping the cookies expand and crack the tops open. The baking powder cookies were dense and soft with the slightest hint of chewiness, so feel free to use baking powder, intentionally or not, if that’s your preference.

View Gingersnap Cookie Recipe »

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Sachertorte – Austrian Chocolate Cake

Sachertorte Austrian Chocolate Cake

Sachertorte is the cake for chocolate lovers — a layered chocolate cake filled with apricot jam is coated in chocolate ganache and finished with a chocolate glaze. In this recipe, you can easily tweak the chocolate bittersweetness by using the cacao percentages of your choice in the cake, ganache, and glaze.

Unfortunately, I can’t say how good the cake turned out because it disappeared shortly after the turkey got carved. I’ll take that as a good sign. Thanksgiving was a huge gathering this year so a small dinner table was set aside exclusively for desserts. The table turned into an orgy of all pies pumpkin, apple, and pecan. I thought it improbable that my contribution would be the only chocolate dessert option but I was wrong.

It was only an 8-incher (that’s what she said), so I should’ve known better. Lesson learned: shiny dark disks stand out in a spread of matte brown desserts.

View Sachertorte - Austrian Chocolate Cake Recipe »

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Whole Rye and Wheat Sourdough

Whole Wheat and Rye Sourdough

Do you have any recipes that use dark rye flour? A 25-pound bag from Bob’s Red Mill is taking up valuable freezer space for manly essentials such as White Castles and Eggo, so any suggestions would be well appreciated.

Buying a sack of dark rye seemed like a good idea considering that shipping costs were split with an Austrian co-worker. I hear they’re huge on rye — he’s probably on his second or third bag by now. He doesn’t seem like the type who keeps spreadsheets of bread formulas, though.

I haven’t seen many recipes that specifically call for dark rye flour so I mainly use it as a replacement for medium or whole rye. Dark rye is milled from the outermost layers of the grain, making it rich in bran and fiber. It also gives breads a stronger spicy rye aroma, a deeper shade of reddish-brown in the crust, and a darker and tighter crumb.

This whole rye and and wheat sourdough recipe originally calls for medium rye flour so it’s a bit more dense than it should be. The acidity from the whole rye starter gives it a good shelf life and subtle sourness. Since rye flour also retains moisture well, the crumb stays moist even without additional fats or sugar.

The dough consists of 50% white wheat flour, 25% whole wheat flour, but only 25% whole rye flour. I guess I could consider it a good start in freeing up some freezer space.

View Whole Rye and Wheat Sourdough Recipe »

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