It came to me in a dream…

I dreamt last night that I was somewhere, not sure where, and I saw a piece of the most beautiful, moist, rich, chocolate cake with a thick layer of fudgy frosting go by on a plate.  In the dream I said to my husband, “Ok, we can do that but can’t we have that cake first?”  When I woke up I decided that today was the day to bake chocolate cake.  Then eat some.  So here’s what I made.  It isn’t quite the cake that was in my dream but it is very good none-the-less.  These cake layers don’t rise up high and crumbly, they’re rather flat and dense.  But they are moist and the ganache – well, it’s cream, butter, chocolate, and raspberry jam.  So, yeah, it’s delicious.  This recipe looks like it has lots of steps, and it kind of does, but don’t be put off – it is very do-able.

Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Whipped GanacheIMG_1815

for the cake:

  • 4 oz (1 stick) butter
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c sour cream

for the ganache:

  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 3 Tbs raspberry jam or preserves

for the filling:

  • 3 Tbs raspberry jam or preserves

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and heat oven to 350° F.  Heat the butter, chocolate, and milk in a pot over low heat until all the chocolate is melted.IMG_1804  Do not boil or scald or even come close, this should not be steaming hot.  Whisk well then pour into a mixer bowl.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.IMG_1805

Lightly grease 2 round cake pans and line the bottom with either a circle of parchment paper or buttered waxed paper.  The chocolate mixture should be coolish to the touch, if it isn’t wait a few minutes until it is.

Beat in the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and sour cream.IMG_1806  Mix on low until fully mixed then beat on high for 2 minutes.  The batter should get lighter and thicker.  IMG_1807

Put an equal amount of the batter into each of the pans.  Tap on the counter to get out big air bubbles and to even the batter in the pans.

Bake for ~15-30 minutes (this will depend on your oven, the weather, etc).  After 15 minutes check the cakes.  When they are done they will have pulled away from the edges slightly and a knife inserted in the middle will come out clean.  Remove cakes from oven and cool in the pans.IMG_1811

While cakes are cooling make the ganache*.  IMG_1809Put the chocolate, cream, butter, and jam into a bowl over simmering water and let the chocolate melt.  Do not cook the mixture, remove from heat as soon as it is all melted.  Whisk well then put the bowl in the fridge.  Allow to cool.

When you are ready to assemble the cake get out the ganache and use a mixer to beat it until it lightens and thickens into a very thick whipped cream texture.  Remove one cake layer and peel off the paper.  Put the cake onto a plate.  Spread the top with the jam for the filling.  Put a couple of tablespoons of the ganache on top of the jam and spread out a bit (be gentle, the jam is slippery and it is hard to spread on top of it.)  Remove the second cake layer and peel off the paper then put the cake on top of the first.  Push down a little to even out the filling.  Top with the rest of the ganache, spreading it evenly on the top and sides of the cake.  If you want you can garnish with raspberries or chocolate shavings.IMG_1813

You can eat the cake now or keep in the fridge until you want to eat it.  It will last, well-covered, for a few days in the fridge.  If you don’t eat the whole thing right away, that is.

*A word about making ganache.  The most common method is to heat the cream and butter then pour it over the chocolate to melt it and mix.  This method has you doing it all together, only because it is somewhat easier.  If you have a different method you prefer then do that one.

Help! My CSA gave me beets and fennel…

IMG_1790We all know what to make if life hands us lemons but beets and fennel?  Maybe it’s not so obvious.  So, here’s a recipe to answer that question.  And, as a bonus, you end up with a delicious salad.  And red stained hands.  Enjoy.IMG_1787

Beet, Fennel, and Apple Salad

for the salad:

  • 1 bunch of beets (any colors/kinds you like)
  • 1 bulb of fennel
  • 1-2 apples (use flavorful ones like Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, or Granny Smith)

for the dressing:

  • 1 Tbs mustard (stone-ground, Dijon, or deli – don’t use yellow)
  • IMG_17843 Tbs honey
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup vinegar (cider, rice, or white wine)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced or crushed
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Cut the tops and tails off the beets then boil in salted water until they are tender (between 30 and 75 minutes depending on size of beets.)  Run under cold water until they are cool enough to handle then slip the skins off, rinse the beets, then set aside.  IMG_1788Trim and wash the fennel then slice the bulb thin and mince the fronds.  Thinly slice the apples and beets.  Put all the dressing ingredients into a jar then close the lid and shake well.  Toss the vegetables and fruit with dressing to taste.

Eggplant Ragu with Capers and Parsley

What do you do when you get your farm share and then go out of town?  An urgent need, the next week, to use up eggplant, parsley, and peppers.  So – this:

Eggplant Ragu with Capers and Parsley

  • 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Japanese or 1 Italian eggplant
  • 1 (or more) fresh bell peppers, any color
  • 3-5 cloves garlic (or more or less, to taste)
  • 1 bunch parsley (or handful of basil or spinach or all or some or none)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes (this can be bottled sauce, canned chopped tomatoes, fresh chopped tomatoes, homemade sauce, whatever)
  • 1 Tbs vinegar (white, cider, rice, wine, whatever)
  • 1-3 Tbs capers (or more or less or none, to taste)
  • salt and pepper as needed (with the capers it might not need much/any salt so taste to adjust)

Dice the eggplant into 1/2″ cubes.  Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and put in the eggplant.  Cook, stirring a couple of times, for about 5 minutes while you dice the pepper in the same size pieces, finely chop the parsley (or basil or spinach, whatever) and garlic.  Add the pepper, parsley, and garlic to the eggplant then add in whatever tomato product you are using, 1 1/2 cups water, the capers, and the vinegar and stir well.  Turn the temperature down to medium low, low then cover the pot and simmer the ragu for about an hour, stirring it every 10 minutes or so.  If it looks like it is getting dry and sticking to the pot turn the temp down and add a little more water.  The eggplant should be tender when this dish is ready to eat.  When it is done you can eat it plain, on top of pasta or rice, topped with yogurt or fresh herbs/spinach.  You can eat this hot or let it cool and eat it as a cold salad.  Or you can poach/heat fish (salmon, ono, tilapia, cod, etc), chicken, tofu in it.  To do this when the ragu is cooked put fish filets, tofu pieces, shredded cooked chicken or thin strips of raw chicken into the ragu.  Cover and allow to simmer until the protein is cooked and hot.

Caprese Chicken Burgers. For Real.

I just spent about 20 minutes trying to figure out how to start this post.  Instead of any preamble, I’ll just get right to it.  Well, after a quick note to say this is a delicious summer burger choice.  Enjoy.

Caprese Chicken Burgers

  • 1 lb good quality ground white meat chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup bread or crackers crumbs
  • 1-2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 5-10 fresh basil leaves (depending on size)
  • 5 or 6 grape or cherry tomatoes
  • several grinds of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pinches kosher salt

Finely mince the garlic.  Chiffonade the basil (stack the leaves, roll them into a cigar shape, thinly slice.)  Chop the tomatoes into small bits.  Mix the chicken with the egg and crumbs.  Mix in the remaining ingredients.  The resulting mix will be stickier than regular burger mix.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper (or plastic wrap or foil).  Make the meat mix into flat patties and place them, not touching nor overlapping, onto the cookie sheet.  You can make 4, 6, or 8, depending on how big you want them.  Place in the freezer for at least half an hour.  When you are ready to cook the burgers heat your grill.  Cook the burgers from frozen, this will keep them juicy.  When they start to look cooked around the edges, turn them once and finish cooking.  These are delicious on any kind of roll – focaccia, ciabbata, kaiser, egg, etc and a little good quality mayonnaise.

Really, Really, Really Good Coffee Cake

This recipe makes coffee cake that is everything it should be:  moist, delicious, not too sweet, easy to make.  You can use whatever filling/flavoring agent you like best (chocolate chips, fresh blueberries, sugar and spice, jam, nuts and cinnamon, etc) and it always turns out great.  The recipe makes 3 full Bundt cakes or 4 short Bundt cakes or 1 full hotel pan cake.  You can cut it in half and make 2 short Bundts or 1 half hotel pan cake.  Or whatever, experiment and see what you like best.

The Very Best Coffee Cake

  • 1 lb butter (you can use a butter substitute but in this case, butter is definitely better)
  • 3 scant cups sugar
  • 10 eggs
  • 1-2 Tbs vanilla extract (you can also use almond extract or lemon juice instead)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tsp baking powder
  • 8 cups flour (I suggest either unbleached white or half unbleached white and half white whole wheat)
  • 4 cups milk (the best combination here is 3 cups whole milk and 1 cup buttermilk but 4 cups regular milk is also lovely)
  • flavoring/filling (what you want – fresh berries, chocolate chips, sugar and spice, nuts, jam, etc)
  • butter or baking spray for greasing the pans

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Using a strong mixer (an upright one is better for this than a handheld) cream the butter and the sugar.  Add the eggs, beating, one at a time.  Beat in the vanilla then the baking soda and powder.  Add the flour and milk, alternating (1 cup flour, 1/2 cup milk, etc).  Beat the batter thoroughly.  Well-grease the pans (I also like to use non-stick Bundt pans to start and then grease them.)  Evenly distribute half the batter among the pans.  Next put a layer of your flavoring/filling.  If you are using something sticky, like jam or nut paste make a small indent in the batter before putting the filling in and make sure the filling does not touch the sides of the pan (it will stick and break the cake coming out.)  I generally use 1/4 cup sugar ans spice (mixture of cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg) or 1 cup blueberries or raspberries or 1/2 cup chocolate chips.  Play around with the flavors you like best.  Try lemon zest and blueberries, chocolate chips and chopped walnuts, pecans with mixed spices and sugar, raspberry jam and chocolate chips, mashed ripe banana and nuts.  What you think will taste good here probably will.  Evenly distribute the remaining half of the batter among the pans, topping (or at least mostly topping) the filling.  Tap the pans gently flat on the counter to evenly distribute batter.  Bake at 350° F until edges are browning and cake is set.  You can check with a thin knife inserted into the cake, start checking after about half an hour – time will depend on thickness of cake, kind of pan, filling, and oven.  Remove cakes from oven, allow to cool at least half an hour before taking out of pan.  Turn pan over, onto a plate, and cake should slide right out.  If it looks like it is sticking, turn it back over very quickly and allow to cool and solidify a little longer.  This cake is great as dessert, for breakfast, as a snack, with coffee (thus the name), with whipped cream, with ice cream, plain, with fresh fruit, all ways.