With Sweet Dreams and Even Sweeter Days

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

German Chocolate Cake

It's hard to believe, but there are many desserts out there deemed "classics" that I've yet to try.

Growing up in a household where baking wasn't much of a priority and always choosing a chocolate and vanilla marbled bakery cake for birthdays didn't leave much time for the countless other cake combinations out there.

And even now, with so many options on my "to bake" list, all too often layer cakes fade to the background for something less fussy instead.

Therefore over the holidays, when I had the chance to make something for a large crowd, I jumped at the chance to dive in.

And when German Chocolate Cake popped up in the options, there was no turning back.

Yes this cake takes a little effort, but it's definitely manageable for even a baker who is convinced layer cakes are out of their reach.

Tender chocolate cake is soaked with a rum syrup and filled with a sticky coconut pecan filling.  It's then glazed with a deep chocolate ganache and is definitely a celebratory worthy treat.

Even if it's just celebrating the every day.

And let's face it, days filled with cakes such as this are bound to be awesome.

German Chocolate Cake
Servings: 10-12 pieces

** Try breaking this recipe up into multiple days for even more ease. Bake the cakes on day one, let cool completely and wrap in plastic wrap at room temperature.  Make filling, frosting and finish cake on the second.


For the Cake:
- 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 6 Tbsp water
- 4 eggs (whites and yolks separated)
- 16 Tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For Rum Syrup: 
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 Tbsp dark rum

For Filling:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 6 Tbsp butter (cubed)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup pecans (toasted and finely chopped)
- 1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut, toasted (if you can't find unsweetened, sweetened should suffice)

For Icing:
- 8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (chopped)
- 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup heavy cream


Make Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans.  Set aside.  Using a double boiler (or microwave in small spurts) melt bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate with water, stirring until smooth.  Let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites on high until droopy peaks are formed.  slowly add 1/4 cup of the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.  Transfer egg whites to another bowl.  In the electric mixer bowl then with the paddle attachment combine butter with 1 1/4 cups of the sugar.  Beat on medium-high until light and fluffily (4-5 minutes).  Beat in melted chocolate.  Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed.

In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture on low speed until combined.  Mix in buttermilk and vanilla extract until combined.  Mix in remaining dry ingredients until just incorporated.  Using a rubber spatula gently fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter.  Fold in remaining egg whites until just incorporated.

Divide batter between cake pans and bake in preheated oven for approximately 45 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and transfer directly to wire rack to cool completely.

Make Rum Syrup:
While the cakes are cooling (or the next day) make syrup.  Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally.  Off the heat, stir in the rum.

Make Filling:
Toast pecans in a 350 degress F oven for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until fragrant.  Chop.  Combine cream, sugar, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan.  Put butter, pecans, and coconut in a mixing bowl, set aside.  Heat cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon (170-175 degrees F if you have a candy thermometer).  Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan coconut mixture and stir until butter is melted.  Cool completely to room temperature.  It will thicken as it cools.

Make Icing:
Place chopped chocolate in a bowl with corn syrup and butter.  Heat cream until it just begins to boil and pour over chocolate.  Let stand for 1 minute and then stir until smooth.  Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator until firm enough for spreading.  (Take a look at my first and last picture.  It will be messy but stay when spread.)

Assemble Cake:
Cut two cake layers horizontally in the middle to yield four layers total.  Set first layer on serving tray or cake stand, cut side up.  Brush with rum syrup.  Spread 3/4 cup filling over the cake and spread to edges.  Set another cake layer on top of filling, repeat rum and filling step.  Continue with all layers, finishing with filling exposed on top of cake.  Ice the sides and edges on top with the chocolate icing.  I found it easiest to start on top and work my way down, but there is no right or wrong way.  Keep cake refrigerated.  Take out at room temperature at least 15 minutes before serving.  Enjoy.

Recipe adapted from: Annie's Eats and David Lebovitz

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Apple White Cheddar Scones

It's easy to see that sweet and salty has definitely been done, some might even venture to say overdone.

You can't put your hand out these days without hitting a cupcake topped with bacon or salt sprinkled directly onto a chocolate cookie.  While some of the combinations seem like a stretch, I've yet to find one that I wasn't open to at least trying.

Because when it hits the mark just right, sweet and salty has to be one of the best collaborations out there, and is also one of my favorite ways to enjoy food.

The fusion of sweet and salty in these scones is spot on.  Salty white cheddar cheese with subtly sweet granny smith apples brought together in a crumbly and tender dough was one of the best scones I've had in a long while.

I enjoyed mine warm from the oven, but even slightly cooled these are still impressive.  Best enjoyed on the day their made, with the batch only making six I think you'll find reason to share.

Or not.  They're that good.

Yes these require a bit more arm muscle than the average scone, but not by much, and the results are worth the extra few minutes of prep.

Sweet and salty at its near best.

Apple White Cheddar Scones
Servings: 6 scones

- 2 large (1 lb) granny smith apples (or other firm)
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt (plus additional for egg wash)
- 6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter (cubed)
- 1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz) shredded white cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 eggs
- sugar for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper/  Peel, core, and chop apples into small (but not minced) pieces.  Place apples on baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 20 minutes or until slightly browned and slightly drying out.  Leave oven on, and place apples in freezer for a few minutes until cool to the touch.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.  When apples are cool add them with butter, cheese, heavy cream, and egg to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Sprinkle flour mixture on top and mix on low speed until ingredients just come together and dough is formed.  It will be sticky that's ok.

Turn dough onto a well floured surface and sprinkle with more flour.  With floured hands work dough together into a disk and flatten into a 6-inch circle.  Cut dough into six equal triangles.  Line cooled baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon baking mat and transfer triangles to it (leaving 2 inches between each triangle).  Beat remaining egg with a pinch or salt and brush the tops of scones with egg wash.  Sprinkle each scone lightly with sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes until tops are golden brown.  Cool on sheet on wire rack for 5 minutes and then transfer directly to wire rack to cool another 5 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from: Smells like Home via Smitten Kitchen via The Perfect Finish

Friday, January 4, 2013

Peppermint Cream Cheese Melting Mints



Engage more with little things in life.  Do more of what I love.  Worry less.

In practice what I think I'm getting better at, but sometimes still lose sight of.  Some might look down on new years resolutions, but I'm a believer that goals are the way we shape our way from here to there.

And whether they come on July 27th or January 1st, they're certainly a welcome thing.

Maybe a tad unrealistic at times, but often the most wonderful things come from unrealistic thinking.

It was definitely unrealistic to think that in a kitchen with absolutely no flour, no granulated sugar, no eggs, and no willpower to go to the store in the holiday craze I could get any baking done.  And then, almost right on cue, this recipe popped out at me.

In a candy making book a rarely touch was a simple and straightforward recipe for peppermint cream cheese mints that I just happened to have all the ingredients for.

And that's how this one came to be.

I wish I had something to compare these to show how great they are, but truthfully I've never had anything like them.  

Somehow dense and light at the same time, soft, and sweet, the tang from the cream cheese plays off the sweetness of the sugar leaving you with a mint that tastes more like dessert.  These literally melt in your mouth and definitely warrant the word memorable.  

And are a completely breeze to whip up.  For impressing someone, or even impressing yourself.

Unexpected beginnings.  Wonderful endings.

And hoping that 2013 has a little bit of each.

Peppermint Cream Cheese Melting Mints
Servings: About 50 mints

- 4 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 4 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
- 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
- food coloring if desired (use gel not water based!)

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.  In a large bowl beat cream cheese and butter together until well blended.  Add powdered sugar a cup at a time, and beat until uniform dough forms.  Add extract and mix until blended.  (At this point separate dough into sections and tint with food coloring if desired, mixing until uniform color is reached.)  Roll dough into balls, or more complex shapes if you desire (I kept it easy!).  Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  These can be eaten cold or at room temperature.  I like both, but prefer at room temperature.  Just make sure to store while not eating in the refrigerator.  

Recipe adapted from: The Field Guide to Candy