Saturday, May 26, 2012

German Chocolate Cake

Here is an interesting tidbit of information for you: German Chocolate Cake has absolutely nothing to do with Germany. Having lived in Germany and completely fallen in love with the country, its people, its history, and its food, I was a little disappointed that this recipe was not yet another delicious German recipe. Instead, however, this cake was originally called German's Chocolate Cake, after American Sam German, who developed a brand of dark baking chocolate for America's Baker's Chocolate Company. The product, Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate, was named in honor of him.

History of origin aside, this cake is unbelievably rich and tasty. Rich because it uses both baking cocoa and dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 72% cocoa dark chocolate bar) and because it uses a total of 1 whole pound of butter. So, no, this cake is not exactly cheap to make. It is very much a special occasion cake. Every weekend is a special occasion, right?
One thing that I really love about German Chocolate Cake, besides the epic yumminess, is the very unique flavor it has because of the 1 cup of strong brewed coffee that goes into the cake batter after being mixed with 1 cup of buttermilk. The hint of coffee goes so tremendously well with the dark chocolate flavor of the cake.
Then, of course, you have the caramel pecan coconut frosting, which, well, I don't really need to expound on that, do I? I didn't think so.
Now, just a warning, if you either do not have a sweet tooth, or have just a minor one, don't waste your time baking this cake, because you won't be able to enjoy it. I have a gigantic sweet tooth, and can eat absurdly rich desserts with no problem. I took 3 bites of this cake and felt like I wanted to lie down and not get up again for a couple was amazing. Wanting to sink into a coma of happiness is how you know a recipe is worth making again. This is without a doubt the most decadent cake I've ever eaten or made.
It was quite a bit of work and mess, I won't lie, but it is most certainly worth all the hassle. If you serve this at a party, you will have all the sugar and chocolate junkies worshiping at your feet.
So make it. Unless, of course, you don't want chocolate and sugar junkies worshiping at your feet..then make something like...meatloaf, or whatever....

I got this recipe from Shared Sugar.

    German Chocolate Cake

    makes one 8-inch 3 layer cake

4 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I used Ghirardelli's 72% cocoa chocolate bar)
2-1/4 cups unbleached cake flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) strong, hot coffee
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups pure cane sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup pure cane sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 seven ounce package (about 2-2/3 cups) sweetened coconut
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted
Pecan halves for garnish
    Cake layers:
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Butter pans and dust with cocoa powder (instead of flour which leaves white splotches on the chocolate layers), shaking off the excess.
    In a double boiler, melt dark chocolate. Remove from heat and cool. Quicken this step by cooling chocolate in the refrigerator.
    In a medium bowl, sift the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together coffee and buttermilk.
    In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, about three minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping sides of bowl down after each addition. Add vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the coffee/buttermilk mixture. Begin and end with the flour mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a spatula, fold in the melted chocolate.
    Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Batter should fill pans about half to two-thirds of the way full. Smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer cakes to a wire cooling rack for 20-30 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack and remove pans and parchment to let cool completely.
    In a large saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, evaporated milk and vanilla until well blended. Add sugars and butter and cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 12 minutes, until mixture is thickened. Remove from heat. Mix in coconut and pecans. Cool to room temperature.
    Trim tops of cakes to level out surface, if necessary. Place first cake layer on platter or cake stand. Spread one third of filling on top. Add second layer and spread another third of filling on top. Follow with final layer and top with remaining filling.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cast Iron Skillet Pineapple Upside Down Cake

This is my new favorite cake. Have I mentioned how much I love fruit? Well, in case you forgot, I really can't get enough of delicious fresh fruit. And this cake really has it all: fresh fruit, deliciously moist cake, buttery caramel sauce, and rum. Like I said, new favorite cake.

And this recipe is surprisingly easy, for how complicated it looks. It's as simple as heating the butter, brown sugar and rum in a cast iron skillet until bubbly, layering the pineapple in the caramel, then dumping the batter over top of the pineapple and sticking it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Inverting the cake wasn't really even that difficult, though the idea flipping a cake out of a hot cast iron skillet was a little intimidating! I'm really happy with how this cake turned out, and I'll probably make another one within the next couple days to share with more friends than I got too this time and also since I have a crap load of pineapple to use up. It was also a huge hit with the friends which I got to share this with, so I'm going to always keep this cake in mind when baking for gatherings.
I really encourage you to try making this cake, it's easy, it's delicious, and it looks like it was horribly tricky to make, which apparently impresses non-bakers ;), so it's really an all around win-win situation for everybody involved! Enjoy!!

Cast Iron Skillet Pineapple Upside Down Cake (adapted from Bijouxs)
Serves 6-8

1/3 cup (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tsps rum of your choosing (I used Blackheart Spiced Rum)
7-8 slices of fresh pineapple, cut into 1/8" wedge slices
Maraschino cherries as desired
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350°. Melt the butter in a 10-inch cast-iron or heavy ovenproof skillet. Add the brown sugar and rum and cook over a medium-low heat, stirring until the mixture is smooth and the sugar is completely dissolved, thick and bubbling. Remove from the heat and arrange the pineapple slices  in a concentric circle patter until the pan is covered. Place maraschino cherries as desired.

In a large mixing bowl or work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the shortening and sugar until well mixed. Add the vanilla and the egg and beat well until the mixture is creamy and well blended. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the shortening mixture, combining well. Add the milk and mix until the batter is creamy and smooth.

Spread the batter evenly over the pineapple topping, gently spread to edges without disturbing the pineapple slices. Place the skillet on a baking sheet and bake in a 350° oven about 30 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool for 10 –15 minutes. Cover the skillet with a large plate and carefully invert the cake on to the plate, keeping the plate and skillet tightly pressed together as you invert the cake. Replace any pineapple slices that may stick to the pan onto the top of the cake. Serve warm or room temperature with freshly whipped cream, if desired.

Kiwi Lime Granita

I love slushies. Especially fruit slushies. So it obviously can't get better than homemade fruit slush, right? Yeah, that's what I thought too.

I don't usually buy kiwis. I love kiwis, but I always seem to overlook them in the store. Don't ask me why, because I wouldn't be able to tell you. But for some odd reason the other day, I purchased a few just for the heck of it. They were extremely ripe, so I knew I needed to use them as soon as possible, so I started scouring the internet for recipes, because why would I just eat the kiwi fruit like a normal person when I could make something out of them?! That would just be silly.

It's been pretty warm here recently, so I've been wanting to make more summer-y, cool foods. So when I saw a recipe on Mom de Cuisine for kiwi slush that also had lime (I'm in love with lime and lemon; slightly obsessed, actually), I knew I'd found the perfect solution to almost over-ripe kiwis.

This recipe is incredibly easy, but rather time consuming, since it requires A LOT of waiting. The only change I made to this recipe was that I used 5 kiwis instead of 4. When it was finally ready to eat, it was oh my, so very, very refreshing and tangy. I will definitely be filing this recipe away with my other favorites!

Kiwi Lime Granita

4-5 kiwis, peeled and roughly chopped
3 limes, zested and juiced
3 cups water
1/2 cup honey

Bring water to a boil and stir in honey until dissolved. Remove from the heat, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Combine the kiwi, lime juice and zest in a food processor. Puree to desired consistency. If you don't want seeds in your granita, just pass the mixture through a fine strainer after pureeing.
Stir together kiwi mixture and cooled honey mixture. Pour into a large, rimmed glass dish. Freeze for 4-5 hours, stirring every 30 minutes, until the granita is the texture of a slightly too-frozen slushy. Scoop into a freezer safe container, or serve immediately. Will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Oven Baked Zucchini Fries

    I impulse buy food. It's a very bad habit of mine. I never have problems going to a store and impulse things like jewelry or shoes or anything like that. But send me to a grocery store, and I'll probably come back with about 15-20 random items that weren't on my list and I probably don't need. Simply because I see some delightful looking edible and I feel I must taste it and make something with it or my life will not be complete.
    And that is precisely what happened when I went grocery shopping a couple days ago and came home with 5 small zucchinis, along with a few other items. I don't cook with zucchini very often. I love zucchini bread, and shredded zucchini in salads, but other than that, I don't use it much.
   My original plan had been to bake some zucchini bread, but the day after I bought them, I took them out of the fridge, stared at them for a minute and realized that I didn't want zucchini bread.
   'Well, what on earth are you going to do with 5 zucchini then? Maybe you should have thought a little more clearly before buying 5 for just yourself, you silly woman!'. My conscious is mean to me....
   I did some digging around in my pantry and came up with olive oil and panko bread crumbs. Eureka! Baked Zucchini Fries. And yes, that's all I used, zucchini, olive oil and panko. Sooo easy and simple, but really, some of the most satisfying and delicious food is the simplest to prepare.
   So I just cut the small zucchini into spears, dunked them in olive oil, and rolled them around in the bread crumbs. I laid them out on a cookie sheet, and baked them in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, and then I turned the broiler on high for just a couple minutes to get the panko nice and golden brown.

Remove from oven. Let cool 10 seconds. Devour.