Double Chocolate Bundt Cake

SNOW DAY!!  Denver gets heavy snow storms that shut down the city only once or twice a year…maybe.  It offers such a sense of contentment knowing that you have no choice but to stay home, bundle up and enjoy the day.  For most, a snow day signifies cozying up to a warm fire with a good book, taking a long nap or even making snow angels in the deep fluffy snow.  Snow days for me, however, seem to elevate the constant streaming of sweet cravings that are already quite a mainstay in my consciousness.  Here is an example of what happens in my mind…hmmm…”what ingredients can I discover in the pantry to create something sweet and irresistible?”  Thoughts soon become reality and the rest of the day is spent scouring through my many savored volumes of baking cookbooks, creating something truly decadent and consuming way too much of it.  Oh yeah and maybe capturing a few photos of the tasty subject if I can time it right (ie. before consuming way too much of it).  Don’t get me wrong…I still enjoy time spent cozying up to a warm fire, but it almost always seems to accompany the indulgence of cake in hand.

This cake is extremely moist, in part from the sugar syrup, but also from the chocolate chips.  It creates a slightly fudge-y center that when paired with a glass of milk, can’t be matched.  The cake is delicious at room temperature, but I like to heat a slice (or two)  in the microwave for about 15 seconds to get the inside nice and gooey.

Enjoy!

Double-Chocolate Bundt Cake          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 16 servings

Sugar Syrup:

2/3 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup water

¼ cup chocolate-flavored liqueur (can also use coffee-flavored liqueur)

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Cake:

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened (plus more for preparing pan)

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for preparing pan)

½ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 ½ cups 2% milk

1 cup semisweet chocolate mini-chips

Chocolate Glaze:

4 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Making the sugar syrup:

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and cool completely.

Making the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare a 12-cup Bundt pan by rubbing a small amount of butter to cover all corners of the inside of the pan.  Flour the pan lightly and set aside.

Lightly spoon 3 cups of flour in dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine the flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt), stirring with a whisk.  Set aside.

Place 1 ½ cups granulated sugar and 6 Tbsp butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at medium speed until well combined; light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).  Add the eggs and egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla extract.

Add the flour mixture and milk alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.  Mix well after each addition and scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary.  Beat for 2 minutes until well incorporated.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out almost completely clean.  Immediately pour glaze over the cake.  Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Invert the cake onto a cake platter and cool completely.

Making the chocolate glaze:

Heat the heavy whipping cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the edges just begin to bubble.  Add the chocolate chips and butter and whisk constantly until fully melted.  Add more cream as necessary to thin the glaze for a pouring consistency.

Drizzle the glaze over the cake and try not to eat the whole cake in one sitting.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light, March 2008

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Homemade Donuts with Chocolate Hazelnut Sauce

Good Saturday Morning!

I was conversing with my Mom a couple of days ago and she was raving about her new kitchen wonder…a Fry Daddy.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, your world (and your waistline) is about to change forever as mine quickly did.  She was tantalizing me with all of the great things she’d successfully fried in it…fish, shrimp, chicken…the list went on and on.  While the above foods no doubt are divine dunked in a hot bath of oil, all I heard was donuts, donuts, donuts.  Donuts would be amazing after a nice swim in the Fry Daddy.  The seed had been planted at that moment and it’s grown into a full on obsession that I can’t shake…I must make donuts!

These delightful bites of fried dough, while quite indulgent, are worth both the effort and the calories.  Don’t get me wrong…it’s certainly much easier to stop by the donut shop and pick up a dozen, but there’s something added to the enjoyment when you know they’ve been made from scratch.

I know I know…donuts are not the healthiest of foods.  Delicious morsels of dough fried to perfection…shoveling them in because you can’t just eat one.  But don’t we all deserve a little guilty pleasure once in a while?  After all, life should be filled with small indulgences every now and then to get you through the day.  This is my philosophy when it comes to just about any sweet treat…dessert just makes people happy and trust me, these donuts will bring on some smiles.

Homemade Donuts          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 2 dozen

½ cup warm water

2 pkgs active dry yeast (not fast-rising)

1 ¼ cups plus ½ tsp granulated sugar

¾ cup whole milk

4 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for baking sheet

1 ½ cups cake flour

1 Tbsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

4 large eggs

8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, well softened

4-6 cups Canola oil, for frying

Spiced Sugar Blend

6 Tbsp granulated sugar

1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp allspice

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp cardamom

Place the warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it.  Make sure not to get the water too hot or the yeast won’t activate.  Add ½ tsp granulated sugar and stir to dissolve the yeast.  Set the bowl aside and allow the yeast to proof until foamy, about 4 minutes.  Place the milk in a small saucepan or a microwaveable container and heat until warm to the touch (about 20-30 seconds).

Place the all-purpose flour, cake flour, remaining 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in the bowl of an electric mixer and use the paddle attachment to combine them thoroughly.  Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the yeast mixture, warm milk and eggs.  Beat on medium until a smooth dough forms.  Beat in the butter, then add enough additional flour on low speed to make a smooth, soft and elastic dough.  Switch to medium speed and mix for 2 to 3 minutes.  Turn the dough into a bowl sprayed with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap.  Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free spot (I used my oven with no heat).  Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Gently deflate the dough by pulling it from the sides of the bowl and turn it onto a floured surface.  Pat the dough into about a ½ thickness and cut circles with a plain-edged round cutter.  Place tem on a baking sheet dusted with flour and cover them with plastic wrap.  Allow them to proof while you heat the oil.

Heat about 4 to 6 cups of canola oil in a heavy-bottomed pot until it reaches about 350 degrees F.  Fry the donuts in batches in the hot oil keeping note of the oil’s temperature.  If you let the oil get too hot, the donuts will brown quickly on the outside, but not cook all the way on the inside.  Gently turn them until they are golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side (depending on the size).

Drain the donuts on a plate covered in paper towel and let cool slightly before rolling them in the Spiced Sugar mixture.  These donuts are ABSOLUTELY best when served warm, but they can be stored in an airtight container and reheated in the oven right before serving.

Florentine Doughnuts Recipe from Dolce Italiano, Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen, by Gina DePalma

Chocolate Hazelnut Sauce

Yield: 1 cup

6 Tbsp heavy whipping cream

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 Tbsp Nutella

Heat the heavy whipping cream in a small saucepan until just simmering.  Add the chocolate chips and the Nutella and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is well incorporated.  Begin dunking.

Enjoy!

Flourless Chocolate Brownies

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, the ever ubiquitous pumpkins, apples, spices, nuts and everything fall make their way into most of the desserts for this holiday of thanks.  I absolutely adore this time of year and all of its flavors; however, sometimes you just need a little break from tradition for a change of taste.  A profound chocolate craving took over my willpower this week (not unusual by any means).  These decadent chocolate brownies instantly came to mind and I knew they would be the perfect diversion from the classic fall desserts furthermore satisfying my intense craving (at least until next week).

These brownies are rich and fudgy, but not too sweet.  They are made without flour which further propels the chocolate onto center stage.  You won’t even miss the flour…in fact you’ll wonder how flour ever made its way into brownies in the first place.  Who knew the absence of flour in a baked good could be such a wonderful thing? Whether you have intolerance to gluten or simply want a divine fudgy brownie…this is absolutely the recipe for you!  What I like best about this recipe is that it doesn’t involve a mixer of any kind.  Just make sure that you stir the batter long enough (as directed below) otherwise the brownies can become crumbly.  The cocoa nibs are a wonderful addition creating a nice texture combination with the nuts. (You can find cocoa nibs at Whole Foods Market or any specialty food store).

Flourless Chocolate Brownies          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 12 brownies

6 Tbsp unsalted butter

8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

¾ cup sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process

3 Tbsp corn starch

1/8 tsp salt

3 Tbsp cocoa nibs – optional but highly recommended

1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped – optional

Line the inside of an 8×8 square pan with foil so that it goes up the sides and wrap over the rim.  Lightly grease the foil with butter or non-stick cooking spray.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the butter, salt and chocolate in a medium saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly until smooth.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time.

Sift together the cocoa powder and corn starch in a small bowl then stir them into the chocolate mixture.  Beat the batter vigorously for at least one minute, until the batter is no longer grainy and nearly smooth.  It will pull away from the sides of the pan a bit.

Add the nuts and cocoa nibs, if using, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the brownies are set in the center and slightly cracked on top.  Be careful to not over bake. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a rack before removing from the pan and slicing.

Keep brownies stored in a sealed container for up to 4 days…but they probably won’t last that long.

Recipe from David Lebovitz, http://www.davidlebovitz.com

Italian Chocolate Kisses

Italian Chocolate Kisses

 

 

I love spending time in the library looking at books on baking.  It’s a bit of an obsession really…at any given time I can have a dozen baking books on my shelf with hundreds of post-it notes hanging out of them tagging my next great baking challenge.  It was in one of these books that I recently discovered these cute little Italian sandwich cookies and just had to make them.  The cookies truly melt in your mouth and have the perfect combination of salty and sweet flavor. The ganache filling provides a little extra sweetness along with the perfect amount of texture…truly delicious. One bite of these tiny morsels and I can almost invision myself sitting in an Italian piazza soaking up the sun, sipping a latte and enjoying these special cookies. I hope that you enjoy these cookies as much as I do!

Italian Chocolate Kisses          {Print Recipe}
Yields: 2 ½ dozen sandwich cookies

For the cookies:
½ cup whole blanched almonds
1 Tbsp granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
1 ½ cups plus 1 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp dark rum

For the ganache filling:
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup heavy cream
2 tsp dark rum or your favorite liqueur (optional)

To make the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (Farenheit). Spread the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them until they are light golden brown and fragrant, 14 to 16 minutes. Remove the almonds from the oven and turn off the oven until you are ready to form the cookies. Allow the almonds to cool completely, then grind them in a food processor with the 1 Tbsp of sugar until they are finely chopped.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and confectioner’s sugar on medium speed until creamy and light, about 2 minutes, then beat in the vanilla extract and rum and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, beat in the dry ingredients, followed by the ground almonds. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill for about 1 hour, until it is firm enough to handle.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or butter or line them with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 3 pieces. Work with 1 piece at a time, keeping the others wrapped and refrigerated. Roll 1 portion of dough into a small log about ¾ inch in diameter. Cut each log into ½ inch lengths and roll each piece into a ball, then roll the balls in granulated sugar to coat them completely. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spaced ½ inch apart. Repeat with the remaining portions of dough.

Bake the cookies, rotating the sheets 180 degrees to ensure even browning, until they are puffed and cracking on top, 12 to 15 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheets for 1 or 2 minutes, then use a spatula to remove them gently to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, make the ganache filling: Place the chopped chocolate and butter in a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until it comes to a boil and pour it over the chocolate and butter. Allow the mixture to sit for a few moments, then whisk until smooth and glossy. Whisk in the rum, if you like. Allow the ganache to cool, whisking it occasionally, until it is firm enough to pipe.

To assemble the kisses: Pair up the cookies according to size. Turn one cookie upside down and, using a pastry bag fitted with a plain or star tip, pipe a small amount of ganache onto the flat side, then place the bottom of the second cookie on the ganache to form a sandwich; the two round tops of the cookies should be facing outward. Repeat until all the cookies have been used. Allow the ganache to firm up, at room temperature or in the refrigerator if necessary, then transfer the kisses to a serving plate.

The cookies can be stored, layered between sheets of parchment paper, in an airtight container kept in a cool place for up to 3 days.

Recipe from Dolce Italiano, Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen, by Gina DePalma