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We had a houseguest this weekend who's on a gluten-free diet, and my daughter, who likes to cook with me, decided that she'd like to make them a dessert. My daughter's only requirement was that it be something that she would eat, too. After consulting a few cookbooks, she spotted the recipe for “Racine’s Cake” from David Lebovitz's “Ready for Dessert”, which is a flourless chocolate cake, and we adapted it a bit to account for what we had in the house.
Photography-wise, I was trying to just use the available lighting in the kitchen, which in this case meant the halogen undercounter and hood lighting from my stove. I tried a bunch of things (bounce cards, some supplmental hand-held lighting, etc.) to try to mitigate the deep shadows I got as a result, but wasn't able to get quite what I wanted in the shot.
Here's what we came up with.
10 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 oz. unsalted butter
1 tbl. strong hot coffee
1/4 tsp. espresso powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbl. Grand Marnier
6 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
1/4 c. plus 2 tbl. granulated sugar
1/4 c. bittersweet chocolate chips (or a mix of bittersweet and white chocolate)
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Prepare a 9" springform pan by buttering the bottom and sides, then “flouring” the pan with cocoa powder.
Combine chopped chocolate, coffee, espresso powder, and butter in a double boiler and heat until smooth and well-combined. Remove from the heat, and stir in vanilla and Grand Marnier.
In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and 1/4 c. sugar, and whisk until pale yellow and creamy and forms a ribbon when running off the whisk.
In another bowl, combine the egg whites and remaining sugar and beat to soft peaks.
Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks and combine well. Fold the egg whites in two batches into the yolk and chocolate mixture, just until there are no streaks of egg white remaining. Pour mixture into the springform pan, sprinkle the chocolate chips on top, and bake for about 25 minutes. The center will feel like it's just barely set when done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing the pan and serving. You'll probably want to run a clean knife around the outside of the pan before removing the ring from the springform pan.
February 27, 2010
Chocolate Cupcakes Frosted with Chocolate Ganache
I baked these cupcakes back in February - yes, FEBRUARY - although not on Valentine’s Day as you might have suspected. I just used heart wrappers leftover from another time.
I followed my grandma’s chocolate wacky cake recipe, and it yielded 26 cupcakes (after Boyfriend and myself ate some batter).
The cake is vegan, but the frosting is NOT. When I want to make the entire cake vegan or dairy-free, I skip frosting and sprinkle the top of the (cooled) cake with powdered sugar.
The cake (vegan):
* 3 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 cups granulated sugar
* 1/2 cup cocoa powder
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 tablespoon vinegar
* 2 tablespoon vanilla extract
* 2/3 cup salad/vegetable oil
* 2 cups water
Preheat oven to 350° F. Mix all ingredients together in a big bowl.
For a cake: Pour this mixture into a 9”x12”x2” baking pan and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes - until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
For these cupcakes: Line cupcake baking pans with liners and fill each cup to about two-thirds full of batter. Bake for about 25 minutes - until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
The ganache (not vegan):
* Light cream (about a cup)
* Confectioner’s sugar (a couple heaping tablespoons full)
* Semi-sweet chocolate chips (about a cup)
I heated a mixture of cream and sugar on the stove until it just started to boil. I poured the cream over a bowl of chocolate chips and stirred it all together until the chips melted into the hot cream. I added a few more chocolate chips to make the consistency of the ganache thicker. I immediately frosted the cupcakes then sprinkled them with red sprinkles. Ta da!
For those of you who are curious about my kitchen, here's your chance to indulge yourself! I have a small galley style kitchen that some would find cramped, but which I have come to adore for its efficiency. Nothing is more than two or three steps away and there are few surfaces to have to clean. At the moment there is way more clutter on these surfaces than I would like, but when the surface-top junk is moved, the kitchen actually feels spacious to me.
The Ikea drawer unit was purchased a couple of years ago for about $350-400 and replaced a standard cupboard with two giant doors and two deep shelves. The drawer configuration is much more efficient and lets me conveniently access way more stuff than the cupboard ever did. It was well worth the money. We had to assemble every bit of it, every single *!@# drawer! The rolling drawers beneath were a bit of a luxury, but we haven't regretted those either.
For those of you who are planning to come visit me, memorizing the notes of what lives where in my 12-drawer Ikea unit will ease your disorientation and help you feel right at home more quickly.
Anyway, welcome to mah vegan kitchen!
Nice write up from Portland Phoenix about my personal chef business back when it was called "Chef@home".
Chez your place?
Think personal chefs are only for the privileged? Then feel privileged
BY ANDY KING
It had been years since I’d seen someone wearing chef’s whites in my very own kitchen. My checkered pants and clogs have long since been hung in the closet alongside wife Jackie’s pastry jacket and toque, splattered with ancient pastry cream and cocoa powder from bygone jobs. So when we arrived home last Tuesday from a beer-steak sandwich-and-chicken wing luncheon at the Dogfish Café, we were slightly shocked to catch a glimpse of Chef Rick Barbata flashing around our place with a pan of sautéed leeks and bacon.
It’s true that we had hired him out to cook for a two-couple dinner we were hosting that evening, and it’s also true that we gave him a key to the house. So why were we surprised?
Your own apartment, or house, or parents’ house always carries with it a certain smell. Smell is the sense most strongly linked to memory, and I believe each and every one of you can remember a time when, traveling somewhere far from home, you stopped, smelled whatever was in the air, and said something like, "Wait a minute, why does it smell like Grandma’s house here in the Mekong Delta?"
When Jackie and I stepped into our house, we didn’t smell the typical dog fur and coffee that had nestled its way into the deepest regions of each room, but something else. Something wonderful.
It was the smell of absolution.
It’s that freedom from obligation and stress that Chef Rick is selling these days, after closing shop on Rick’s, on Congress Street, and serving a brief stint at Finch’s, in Falmouth. He is currently launching his own business, Chef@home, which specializes in high-quality, home-cooked meals for just about anyone who needs them. While parties and dates are by all means within his realm of expertise, he’s clearly passionate about allowing families to gather at the dinner table and enjoy their time together.
"We’re losing connections with our families," he explains, "We’re going out to dinner, we’re buying frozen food. It’s what I do best, cook with friends, and I think there’s a huge need for it."
His assertion isn’t just philosophical, either. According to the United States Personal Chef Association, the number of personal chefs (as opposed to private chefs, who live and work at a typically wealthy residence, or "crib") has gone from a negligible amount in 1992 to about 5000 in 2002, and is expected to double again by the end of this decade. Entrepreneur Magazine even rated it fourth in its list of Top Home-based Businesses for 2004.
While shopping, cooking, and spotlessly cleaning up for a number of families a week may seem like a lot of work to some, keep in mind that Rick used to work in Los Angeles, catering for movie production sets. And while meeting the stars of Titanic, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and The Cable Guy (among others) was cool for a time, he also worked 16-hour days trying to feed a 1000 people three squares: "I burn hot, so I don’t mind working, but three months at a time at about 90 different locations . . . it was just wild." So don’t feel bad about special requests.
But you probably won’t even have to do that, as Rick showed me a preliminary list of 300 items that he could prepare, from fried chicken to enchiladas with molé. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, lo-carb, Rick says he loves the challenge and the science of cooking specialized meals. You can plan for one meal or a week of dinners, frozen or fresh, and snacks for the kids and appetizers for next week’s visit from the Johnsons. You inherited Uncle Sven’s recipe for Swedish Meatballs, but you’re a hack at the stove? Hand it over. No problem.
We weren’t so picky when it came to our meal. All of us eat a good amount of anything, so I just wanted Rick to cook something he felt comfortable with, whatever looked fresh. The menu he came up with was perfect for the warming weather: watercress, grapefruit, and avocado salad with pomegranate molasses vinaigrette; Asian-style omelets with shiitake mushrooms, green onions, and miso; and seared diver scallops with rosti potatoes (fanned out and fried) and a bed of leeks and bacon, served over green pea puree. All of it tasted fresh, wonderful, and familiar, despite the detached familiarity of being served at your own dinner table. It’s the same feeling you get when you ride in the passenger seat of your own car for the first time.
Our menu might be too complex for your family every night, and Rick admitted as much, but it did speak to his self-described food philosophy: fresh and vibrant. "I don’t adulterate the food with a lot of complex ingredients. I let it speak for itself." And now, cooking at your house, he’s letting that food speak for you. So, vicariously through Rick, you can talk to food, and that’s the best deal of all.
May 7 - 13, 2004
The three recipes that DID turn out this day. Butterscotch drops are here :(
Chocolate Flourless Cake
Yield: 8 servings
Semi-sweet chocolate, chopped -- 5 ounces
Butter -- 2/3 c
White sugar -- 1 c
Cocoa powder -- 2/3 c
Eggs, beaten -- 4
Vanilla extract -- 1 ¼ t.
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease an 8 inch round cake pan, and dust with cocoa powder.
2. In the top of a double boiler over lightly simmering water, melt chocolate and butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Slices can also be reheated for 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave before serving.
Old Fashioned Caramels
Yield: one 9X9 pan
Butter -- 1 cup
Firmly packed brown sugar -- 2 ¼ cup
Light corn syrup -- 1 cup
Sweetened condensed milk -- 1 14 oz can
Vanilla -- 1 ½ tsp
1. Line a 9 X 9 pan with foil; butter lightly.
2. In heavy 3-quart saucepan melt butter; add brown sugar and mix well. Stir in corn syrup. Cook over medium low heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is well blended; remove from heat.
3. Stir in condensed milk. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thermometer reaches firm ball stage (248ºF) 15-20 minutes.
4. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.
5. Pour hot mixture into prepared pan. Cool to room temperature; cut into pieces.
Nothing tests your willpower like Halloween. Everything at hand is both delicious and terrible for you. And since it’s just one day, is a day-long sugar binge really all that bad?
Unfortunately, yes—because it’s never just that one day. The holiday season is upon us and Halloween marks the beginning of our collective descent into the depths of seasonal, socially-acceptable gluttony. All those surreptitious snacks add up in a big way, and not just in terms of empty calories. They’re full of synthetic dyes, preservatives, artificial flavors, and inflammation-promoting refined sugar.
My strongest craving is for peanut butter cups. It just doesn’t feel like Halloween without peanut butter cups, but if you’ve ever read the label, you know better than to eat the store-bought kind. You can do so much better by making your own vegan peanut butter cups instead.
Homemade peanut butter cups can have healthier chocolate, and less than half the calories (that doesn’t mean you should eat twice as many!). These peanut butter cups taste great and will satisfy any craving for sweets. In this recipe, I used 60% cocoa dark chocolate and the results were incredibly rich and satisfying, especially if you’re generous with the organic natural peanut butter. Once you’ve eaten peanut butter cups made with high quality (not to mention antioxidant-rich) chocolate, you won’t even want the cheap, mass-produced faux-chocolate and peanut-butterish polyglycerol polyricinoleate products the big candy manufacturers make.
The Origin and Politics of Peanut Butter
Peanut butter seems to be a uniquely American phenomenon, but peanuts, which are actually a legume, are eaten throughout the world. Originating in eastern Bolivia, the plant spread throughout South America and the Caribbean well before Spanish explorers first noted the “discovery” of peanuts in 1502 on the island of Hispaniola. From here, peanuts traveled back to Spain and then on to Africa.
In the 1700s, peanuts were introduced to the United States by way of the African slave trade. Peanuts were even a food ration for slaves during the treacherous Middle Passage. Once in the US, peanuts were still regarded as a food for slaves, the poor, and livestock. The peanut didn’t shake this reputation until the Civil War, at which point undernourished Confederate soldiers relied on the humble, fatty, high-protein food. Peanuts became an essential part of Confederate soldiers’ diets, but they did not eat peanut butter. Instead, southerners enjoyed roasted peanuts which are still a favorite southern snack.
We actually have John Harvey Kellogg, known for Kellogg cereal, to thank for expanding the popularity of peanut butter in the 19th century. Crushed, steamed peanut paste was originally intended as a no-chew, protein-rich food for sanitarium patients. It became popular among the upper classes when wealthy former patients returned home. At this point, peanut butter still hadn’t reached the masses.
This changed with hydrogenation, however. In 1923, Heinz became the first food manufacturer to add hydrogenated oil to peanut butter, which improved shelf stability and solved the oil separation problem. Peanut butter was finally available to everyone, but the hydrogenated oil content kept increasing. Some brands contained as much as 25% hydrogenated oil and only 75% peanut butter.
For 12 years, the FDA and food manufacturers argued over the appropriate percentage of peanuts that peanut butter must contain. Ultimately, peanut butter was defined as a product that contained at least 90% peanuts, and not more than 10% optional ingredients, such as salt, oil, and sugar. As we all now know, the trans fat content in hydrogenated oil is terrible for heart health. Since trans fats are on their way out of the American food supply, we’ve seen a shift back to “natural” peanut butter, which should only contain crushed peanuts and a little salt.
Unfortunately, many peanut butter makers are now adding palm oil, a saturated fat, into their no-stir peanut butter. I strongly recommend the old-fashioned peanut butter, the kind with oil separation—all you have to do is stir it. It has a better texture and a more peanutty taste than hydrogenated or palm oil peanut butter. Not only is palm oil ecologically unsustainable and mired in controversy,[8, 9] it also makes peanut butter greasy and less palatable. I used natural peanut butter (just peanuts and salt) in this recipe and it worked like a dream.
Read This Before Working With Chocolate
First and foremost—wear an apron, you won’t regret it. Chocolate stained clothes are no joke! Try to avoid using a cloth kitchen towel. Chocolate can be very messy and once it solidifies it’s difficult to wash out; you’re better off using paper towels and lining your work surface with wax paper.
Take care that you don’t get ANY water in your chocolate—water ruins chocolate. If you do make this mistake, DO NOT MIX the water into the chocolate, it will get ugly and strangely chunky. Just quickly grab a spoon and scoop out all the water and the afflicted chocolate.
Vegan Peanut Butter Cups Recipe
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooling time: 15-20 minutes, depending on the chocolate
Total time: 35 minutes
Servings: 9 Servings
⅓ cup organic peanut butter, stirred to incorporate oil
3 tbsp of fine coconut sugar
½ tsp pure organic vanilla extract
¼ tsp Himalayan crystal salt
1 ½ cups vegan chocolate chips
Apron, highly recommended
Wax paper, optional
Double boiler, or oven safe bowl and pot
Cupcake liners or chocolate molds
Start by melting the chocolate chips on medium-low heat in your double boiler. This will take about 10-15 minutes. Stay aware of its progress and stir occasionally.
While the chocolate is melting, stir the peanut butter, coconut sugar, vanilla, and salt together in a clean bowl, this should only take a minute. Once a peanut butter dough forms, pop the bowl in the freezer to make the dough slightly easier handle. You’ll remove it for step 5.
Stir your melting chocolate using a chopstick or small silicone spatula until all the chips have completely melted into a liquid. If this takes more than a few minutes, you can turn the stove up to medium for a minute or two to melt the chips faster.
Once the chocolate has thoroughly melted, remove it from the heat and set the container with the melted chocolate in your work area. Carefully pour a thin layer of chocolate into cupcake liners. Use a small spoon or your chopstick to smooth the chocolate into an even layer. Keep your chocolate warm by setting the container over the hot water again.
Grab your peanut butter dough from the freezer. Pinch off pieces and roll into balls, flatten them into discs that are slightly smaller than the mold. Carefully place peanut butter layer over chocolate.
Pour and smooth remaining chocolate into liners or molds. If you’re using cupcake liners, use your chopstick to swirl the top of the chocolate so it doesn’t look lumpy or uneven.
Carefully place your peanut butter cups in the fridge to cool for at least 20 minutes. Then you’re free to enjoy!
Tips for Working with Chocolate
This project is easiest if you have a double boiler, but it’s not a must. If you don’t have a double boiler, just put an oven-safe bowl in a pot with a few inches of water and melt your chocolate there. Once the chocolate has thoroughly melted, use a sturdy utensil like a wooden spoon to lift your bowl clear of the water and the steam. Grab your bowl with either a folded paper towel or a silicone mitt.
The melted chocolate might not spread evenly (or at all) when you pour it into your cupcake liners or molds. Just use a chopstick or spoon to flatten the dollop out. Take care to cover the entire bottom in an even layer when you spread the chocolate. Try to make the chocolate layers as thin as possible. If you accidentally pour too much, just press your peanut butter dough down a bit when you add it to the liner or mold.
Have you tried making your own chocolates or peanut butter cups? Leave a comment and let us know how it went!
Smith, Andrew F. Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea (the Food Series). N.p.: University of Illinois Press, 2006. Book.
Palmer, Brian. Why Do Americans Love Peanut Butter?. Slate Magazine, 9 Feb. 2009. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
Moss, Robert, and Serious Eats. “The Real Origins of the Boiled Peanut.” N.p., 12 Aug. 2015. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
Texas, State of. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg – Inventor of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. UT health science center library. Sept. 2016. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
Michaud, Jon, et al. “A CHUNKY HISTORY OF PEANUT BUTTER” Page-Turner. The New Yorker, 16 July 2014. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
Hamblin, James. “The Quest for Purity Through Peanut Butter.” The Atlantic, 23 June 2016. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
Tracy, Erika. What Is Natural Peanut Butter? — grower tour. The Kitchn, 29 Oct. 2014. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
Schaeffer, Ashley, and Rainforest Action Network. Palm Oil is Causing Mass Deforestation, Killing Animals – and It’s Making Us Sick. One Green Planet, 2016. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
Neslen, Arthur. “Greenpeace Blockades IOI Palm Oil Refinery in Rotterdam Port.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 28 Sept. 2016. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
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