Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chocolate Raspberry Crêpe Cake

I... I can't even... I don't know where to begin, really. I almost didn't share this with you. Chocolate, cream, crêpes, more chocolate, more cream, ganache, raspberry jam, truffles, diabetes, chocolate, obesity, cream. In good conscience I couldn't give you this recipe. Luckily for you, I apparently gave up being a good person for Lent this year.

The cake: A dozen or so crêpes layered with chocolate ganache and raspberry jam, covered in chocolate ganache frosting, topped with chocolate truffles, and dusted with cocoa powder. If you enjoy chocolate, the odds are in ever in your favor (Did you see The Hunger Games this weekend? I did, and my inner tween loved it!) of enjoying this cake. This is easily the most ridiculous dessert I've ever made.

I don't wish to know the calorie count of a slice of this cake. It's unfortunate that I'm going to a beach in Florida in less than a month. I apologize to my fellow sand loungers. It's not going to be pretty. This cake is partially to blame, but it was worth every rich, decadent bite. 

Proceed at your own health risk. You may never breathe the same way again, but you will die happy.

Chocolate Raspberry Crêpe Cake
adapted from Sprinkle Bakes

yields about one dozen crêpes

6 large eggs
1 cup cream
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup confectioners sugar

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or a blender and process until well combined.  The mixture will be the consistency of heavy cream.

Brush a 9 or 10 inch skillet with melted butter and place over medium heat until butter just starts to smoke. Pour scant 1/4 cup of batter into the skillet. Swirl the batter with the pan lifted over the stove eye until the bottom is coated with a thin layer of batter.  Place pan on the stove eye and cook until the surface of the crêpe loses most of its glossiness and the top is set. Flip crepe and leave on the stove for another 20 seconds. Slide the crêpe out of the skillet and onto a plate.

Repeat process until all crêpe batter is used. Allow the crêpes to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache
**half this portion of the recipe if you do not intend on making truffles**

18 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Roughly chop the chocolate and place it in a medium heatproof bowl.

In a saucepan, heat the heavy cream and vanilla over medium-high heat until just boiling.

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Allow to cool slightly before using.

Center a crêpe on a serving plate.  Using a pastry brush, very lightly coat the crêpe with chocolate ganache while it is still thin (if ganache begins to set, you can gently heat it in the microwave at 20 second intervals). Thinly spread a little raspberry jam over the ganache and top with another crêpe. Continue brushing, spreading and stacking, ending with a crêpe on top.  Place in the cake thus far in the freezer for 30 minutes to set.

Refrigerate the chocolate ganache. When remaining chocolate ganache is of spreading consistency, use to frost the cake.  Let stand at room temperature until set.  

The remaining amount of chocolate ganache can be chilled and rolled into truffles.  Roll truffles in cocoa powder and garnish top of cake. Dust cocoa powder over the entire cake.

Die happy.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mini Key Lime Pies

For Christmas, my mom got me this adorable mini cheesecake pan. The bottoms pop out! Genius. It's been three months, but I finally took this guy for a test drive. I knew what I wanted my first recipe to be while opening this gift: mini key lime pies.

Make sure you use KEY limes. They pack so much flavor!

These little bites are creamy, sweet, and tart. A breath of fresh air to winter and a cool keynote - keyLIMEnote - to summer, these mini key lime pies will disappear quickly after you make them, to be sure. You could jazz them up in so many ways: whipped cream, mint, blackberry sauce, scoop of ice cream; but I decided to simply garnish with key lime slices. Enjoy!
Mini Key Lime Pies
adapted from Martha Stewart

yields 2 dozen mini pies (or 2 boring, regular-sized pies)

3 cups honey graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sicks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 can (14 ounces) can sweetened condensed milk
6 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons grated key lime zest
1 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter in a bowl (I used my fingers). Press into the bottoms of the mini cheesecake pan. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled.

Whisk together condensed milk, egg yolks, key lime zest, and key lime juice in a bowl. Pour into the prepared, cooled crust.

Return mini pies to oven, and bake until the center is set but still quivers when the pan is nudged, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Serve.
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Strawberry Banana Muffins

Today, in sunny Tucson, it hailed and snowed in mid-March. The apocalypse is near, my friends...

So instead of biking into work early, I decided to ride out the storm by making simple yet satisfying muffins. These muffins combine great breakfast flavors and are fairly healthy as far as muffins go, with neither butter nor sugar (agave and maple syrup instead).

Right as the muffins came out of the oven, the sky parted, I kid you not. The sun came back out, birds sang, and the ground dried up in less than an hour. Muffins FTW! I hope these little rays of sunshine make their way into your morning soon.

Strawberry Banana Muffins
adapted from Honey, What's Cooking?

yields 24 muffins

2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup overripe mashed bananas (3 bananas)
1 cup milk (buttermilk would make a nice muffin, I imagine...)
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups chopped strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin trays with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon).  Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients (bananas, buttermilk, canola oil, agave, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and eggs). Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold the mixture.  Do not over-mix. Fold in the strawberries.

Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners (I used an ice cream scoop) until 3/4 full.  Place the muffins in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden on top. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool.
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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Chocolate Malbec Cake

This was the birthday cake for my friend Kristen here in Tucson. Kristen is a great cook (the woman makes homemade pasta and a mean meatball), a wine lover, and, as any lady, a whore for chocolate. I had no other choice but to make this chocolate cake with red wine, cinnamon cream cheese frosting, and strawberries.

The egg whites make this cake airy, while the sour cream keep this cake moist. The butter just makes it fattening and delicious. Cinnamon, red wine, and strawberries all pair so well with chocolate that I thought I'd give this master combo a go, and the result was good -- I mean, really good (though I could be biased because 1. I made it, and 2. I had a few glasses of wine before I tried it...). And you can't beat fresh berries!

So to recap: Chocolate and wine. In a cake. You'll be glad you came. Happy Birthday, Kristen!

Chocolate Malbec Cake
adapted from Cooking with Wine

yields 2 8-inch cake rounds

2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 egg whites
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups red wine (I used a Malbec, if you couldn't tell...)

Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter the cake pans, line each pan with a round of parchment paper, and brush again with butter.

Sift flour with the cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.

Cream the butter in an electric mixer, beat in the sugar, and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the egg whites, one by one, and then the sour cream and vanilla, and continue beating 1 to 2 minutes. Sift a third of the flour over the butter mixture and fold them together, using a spoon. Fold in a third of the wine. Add the remaining flour and wine alternately in two batches.

Spread batter in the prepared pans. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until a metal skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. Let the cakes cool 10 minutes in the pans, then turn them out on a rack to cool completely.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (same recipe as the Owl Cupcakes)

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons milk

Beat butter and cream cheese. Add sugar, cinnamon and milk and beat for 2 minutes. Spread on anything.
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Owl Cupcakes and Death Valley

It would be a gross understatement to say that my friends Cecilia and Michelle like owls -- they love owls. They sport owl t-shirts and owl jewelry. Cecilia even has owl measuring cups. I can't really blame them. Baby owls are pretty darn adorable. So when I saw these owl cupcake liners from Meri Meri I immediately knew what had to be done...

Two weeks ago, Cecilia, Michelle, and I were lucky enough to camp in and around Death Valley, CA for 5 days for a planetary geology field trip. The views were overwhelming. I felt so small in the vastness. Standing in front of millions-of-years-old features makes you feel like a blip in time.

Back to the owl-lovers... here's Cecilia at Badwater Basin:

and Michelle at the Kelso Dunes:

and the 3 of us around the campfire - thanks for the picture, James -
We got not 1, not 2, but 3 flat tires on the trip, which naturally led to this series of pictures with all of the Canadian graduate students:

...which naturally led to the creation of this tumblr. But I digress.... The point: Death Valley is awesome!

You know what else is awesome? Cupcakes. And owls on cupcakes are stinkin' cute. Make some for your owl-loving friends and hear them squeal with delight.

*Note to rich men looking for a wife who will make our future children cupcakes like this all of the time:
I'm available, and waiting.

Vanilla Cupcakes
Martha Stewart

yields 24 cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl, and beat in vanilla.

Add flour mixture and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan, and let cool completely on wire rack.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons milk

Beat butter and cream cheese. Add sugar, cinnamon and milk and beat for 2 minutes. Spread on anything.
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Raspberry Crumb Bars and Taliesin West

My parents came to the big AZ this past weekend for a visit! My mom had one request: "Could you make those raspberry bars?" Done and done.

The raspberry bars were busy. They went to the pool, spring training games, and Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's southwestern studio and school of architecture (beautiful! see below).

The bars and I learned all about Frank's passion for natural architecture and his energy well into his seventies.  If you want inspiration for activity and creativity, this is the place to be provoked.

These raspberry crumb bars are a favorite. They basically taste like an oatmeal cookie sandwich with raspberry filling. Mmm mm mm, finger lickin' good! You can use either fresh or frozen raspberries (I recommend thawing the raspberries if they are frozen), so this recipe works any time of year! I hope you enjoy them as much as my family does :)

Raspberry Crumb Bars
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Crust and Crumb
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

Raspberry filling
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 pounds raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of one 9-by-13-inch or two 8-by-8-inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan. Put a long piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, letting the parchment extend up the two short sides of the pan and overhang slightly on both ends. Butter the parchment and sides of the pan.

Crust and Crumb:
Put the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until combined. Add the butter and pulse until loose crumbs form.

Reserve 1 1/2 cup of the mixture and set aside. Pour the rest of the mixture into the prepared pan and use your hans or the back of a large wooden spoon to push the crust into an even layer at the bottom of the pan. The crust should touch the sides of the pan. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let the crust cool. Keep the oven on while you make the raspberry filling.

Raspberry Filling:
In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon and flour together. Add the raspberries, lemon juice and butter and use your hands to toss gently until the raspberries are evenly coated. Spread the raspberry filling evenly on top of the cooled crust. Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly on top of the filling.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan every 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling starts to bubble around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then cut into squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to three days.
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