Easy Chocolate Lava Cake

IMG_6494

I love a cake that is only a few ingredients and cooks all in one pan…and is decadently chocolate. I have ordered Molten Lava Cakes out at restaurants, but since I am not going to restaurants right now, what better time to try one at home. I saw this one on Williams Sonoma Instagram and made a few adjustments.

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks (I used Ghirardelli)
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 6 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 Tbs. Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted…plus more for dusting
  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly butter six ramekins and dust with cocoa powder. Set the ramekins on a small baking sheet.
  • In the top pan of a double boiler, combine the chocolate and butter. Set the pan over but not touching barely simmering water in the bottom pan and melt the chocolate and butter, then whisk until the mixture is glossy and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Set aside to cool slightly.
  • In the bowl of your stand mixer with whisk attachment, or a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks, 3 Tbs. of the sugar, and cocoa powder on medium-high speed until thick. Spoon the chocolate mixture into the yolk mixture and beat until well blended. The mixture will be thick and somewhat grainy looking. Detach bowl from stand mixer if using, set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, using clean mixer whisk or beaters, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they are very foamy and thick. Sprinkle in the remaining 3 Tbs. sugar and increase the speed to high. Continue beating until firm, glossy peaks form. You can tell they are ready when you detach whisk, turn upside down and peaks stay firm.
  • Spoon half of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture and fold in just blended. Add the remaining whites and fold gently until just blended. Spoon into the prepared ramekins, dividing evenly.
  • Bake the cakes until they are puffed and the tops are cracked, about 25-30 minutes. The inside of the cracks will look very wet. Remove from the oven and serve immediately in the ramekins.

    **I had some leftover cakes and refrigerated. They were delicious the next day after just 30 seconds in the microwave.

Tip: If you want something perfect to accompany this, I served it with a scoop of Helados La Neta, a handcrafted ice cream inspired by flavors of Mexico. I served the Horchata flavor, and just wow!

Cooking in Quarantine-It’s Cobblering Time!

The berries are abundant. We have no yeast. It’s time for a quick, use any fruit, simple ingredient cobbler recipe! My husband bought me Genius Desserts a couple years ago, and I cracked it open last week for some inspiration. Inside was the life-changing Meme’s Blackberry Batter Cobbler. It is so easy and so versatile! You literally can use any fruit you have on hand. I made it with a blackberry-blueberry combo last week, but this time I could not resist the strawberries and rhubarb at the store…mmmm…tastes like summer!

IMG_5605

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 c unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 4 cups fresh berries- I just filled a large measuring cup of what I wanted to try
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more for berries
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream (use whole milk if you don’t have cream)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

 

IMG_5595

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Place berries in a large bowl. Sprinkle some sugar over top to get the juices running. You may want to mash them slightly with your spatula if they are very firm.
  • Melt butter in a large cast iron skillet or ovenproof baking dish in the oven.
  • In another large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add heavy cream/milk and vanilla extract; mix until well combined.

 

IMG_5596

  • Remove baking dish with melted butter from oven. Pour melted butter into flour mixture, and stir.
  • Pour batter into baking dish and mound berries into center of batter- do not mix in or spread out.
  • Transfer dish to oven and bake until top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the batter comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Stay Safe and Cook On!

Other Posts in the Quarantine Series:

Cooking in Quarantine- Simple Sticky Buns

I have been dying to bake some sticky buns for a couple of weeks, but yeast has been non-existent in the stores. I know everybody is baking bread, but jeez! I found this riff on sticky buns in one of my Ina Garten books, added a couple of twists, and I may never need yeast again…This is seriously as easy as it gets for a sticky bun recipe.

IMG_5493

Gooey Deliciousness!

Ingredients: IMG_5485

Buns-
  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar (original called for light, but I have not been able to buy it for over a month)
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
  • 1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
Filling-
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup pitted dates, chopped

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a 12-cup standard muffin pan on a baking sheet  lined with parchment paper.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 12 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Put one scoop of the mixture in each muffin cup, evenly distributing. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.

IMG_5486

  • Lightly flour a surface- I used my countertop. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with half of the melted butter. Combine brown sugar, and cinnamon and sprinkle each sheet with 1/2 of mixture. Spread the chopped dates across the sheets.
  • Roll up the pastry sheets as tightly as you can, finishing with the seam side down. Trim the ends and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper. You will probably need to use a spoon to gather the filling still in the cups and redistribute on top of buns.

My husband mistakenly grabbed them a little too quickly and burned his tongue…it will be hard, but you may want to let them cool slightly 🙂 Yum, Yum!

IMG_5492

Stay Safe and Bake On!

Other Posts in the Quarantine Series:

 

Baking with Booze

Now that we no longer know what day it is, seems fitting to bring some booze into the recipes. This week I took a family favorite, Clafoutis, and gave it a makeover with a few different types of fruit and alcohol. I know the name sounds fancy, but it is really just a French custard cake made with seven ingredients. I adapted my mother recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

 

Ingredients:IMG_5427

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 tbsps unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsps liqueur of choice (I have tried Rum, Frangelico, Amaretto)
  • 2 generous cups fruit of choice (I have tried apples, peaches, blueberries, cherries)

**Tip** DO NOT USE CITRUS FRUIT…it will curdle your batter

**Tip2**Gird your loins if you pick cherries…pitting is not for the faint of heart

Directions:

  • Heat oven to 400. Beat the sugar and eggs together with a whisk or in a stand mixer with whisk attachment, until they lighten in color. Gradually add butter, beating to incorporate.
  • Add the flour and salt all at once and whisk until the batter is combined. Next, slowly pour in the cream. Add the booze of choice, mixing well. The batter should be very smooth and shiny. Detach your bowl if using a stand mixer and move it to the fridge. the batter needs to rest 30 minutes before baking.
  • Meanwhile in a separate bowl, mix your fruit and liqueur together to macerate (fancy word for how the fruit absorbs the liqueur). Depending on fruit I add a few other ingredients to this party. For example, brown sugar and cinnamon for apples. Use your judgement and what you like.
  • Arrange half of your fruit in a buttered glass or earthenware baking dish, cake pan (9 or 10 inches in diameter) or skillet that can go in the oven. (I used a 9-inch cake pan.)
  • Remove your batter from fridge and add the liqueur left in fruit bowl. Whisk to combine. Pour the batter over the fruit. Arrange the rest of fruit on top of batter.
  • Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until slightly browned and almost completely set in the middle. Let sit at least 15 minutes before serving.

IMG_4339

Stay Safe and Bake On!

 

Cooking in Quarantine- Cookies & Curry in a Hurry

Sometimes you just don’t want to spend hours building a curry from scratch. Sometimes you don’t want to spend hours tweaking the perfect from scratch cookie recipe. Sometimes you just want a recipe on the back of a package and a jar of sauce. That sometimes came for me this week.

In the spirit of cooking from the pantry, I decided to go with just jarred sauce, frozen vegetables, and rice for dinner. This is not ideal, but is quick.

Easy Vegetable Korma

Ingredients:
  • 1 jar of your fave Korma sauce (I used Patak’s, but actually like Saffron Road better)
  • 1/2 bag of frozen peas
  • ~10 oz frozen California vegetable blend (I have a crazy big bag and used 1/4 of it)
  • 1 cup Jasmati rice (I like Rice Select, but use whatever brand and variety you have)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
  • Heat olive oil in large pan
  • Add vegetables and peas and cook until somewhat softened
  • Add entire jar of sauce and bring to a simmer
  • Allow to simmer over low heat until vegetables are soft and everything is heated through
  • Meanwhile, make the rice…combine rice and water in medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutesish, covered
  • Serve the Vegetable Korma over the rice…super easy and takes about 20 minutes total from pantry to plate

**You can easily add protein to this, if you want. In this iteration I added a chicken breast which I cut up and sauteed in the oil before adding the veg.

With such an easy dinner prep, it makes sense to make a little yummy for dessert…especially if it is is super easy like dinner 🙂

Tollhouse Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am not even going to write out the directions because you need to just follow the directions on the back of the package…seriously. Make sure you have flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, baking soda, butter and vanilla extract. No reason to reinvent the wheel when it is already perfect!

TIP***Baking often requires fats to be cold for optimal results. Cookie batter can get warm as you are waiting for a batch to finish before you put another in. Keep your batter cold by putting it in the fridge in between batches. I do this for everything that requires cold fats to achieve fluffy yumminess.

Stay Safe and Cook On!

Other Posts in the Quarantine Series:

Cooking in Quarantine: Easy Apple Cake

You gotta love a cake you can mix in one bowl, dump batter in pan and bake, almost without fail, perfectly. I give you my favorite Apple Spice Cake w/Caramel Glaze.

IMG_5337

Cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • dash salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dk. brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups canola oil
  • 3 eggs, room temp
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 large granny smith apples, peeled & chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped

Glaze:

  • 1/2 stick butter (4 tbsp)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dk. brown sugar

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 10 in. bundt pan.
  • In a stand mixer, beat together sugars and oil for cake until combined. Add eggs and vanilla on low speed, scraping down bowl as needed.
  • Add flour, baking soda, spices, and dash salt to stand mixer. (I know, every recipe says mix separately and combine ingredients one at a time, but I have tried both ways with same result- this is EASIER.)
  • Once batter is smooth, shut mixer off and grab a silicone spatula. Add the apples and walnuts and fold into batter with spatula. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan.

***Do not skip on thoroughly buttering and flouring pan. The ease of release once baked will be your reward 🙂

IMG_5338

  • Bake the cake for ~70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes. This gives you time to make the glaze and for the cake to settle for easy release.

IMG_5340

  • In a small saucepan, combine the ingredients for the glaze. Bring to a boil, stirring for a smooth consistency. Boil about 3 minutes or until it begins to thicken- keep stirring. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. 
  • Center your serving platter over the top of bundt pan, and invert.

 

I usually take a butter knife and tap the pan just for good measure. Lift the pan and behold the beauty!

IMG_5341

  • The last step is to pour glaze over the finished cake. I do this very slowly to ensure good coverage.

Stay Safe and Cook On!

Other Posts in Cooking Quarantine series:

 

The Chemistry of Baking

IMG_2625As stated in my bio, I am a recovering baker. I love the scent of fresh cream butter, the whisps of flour that float in the air as you mix a batter and that knowing feeling that what is in the oven is done without a timer. It puts me at ease and makes me forget everything else.

So today is my birthday and I am making strawberry cupcakes with a dark chocolate buttercream frosting…because they are my favorite. When I first started developing my strawberry cake recipe, it surprised me how many recipes out there called for strawberry gelatin or jam. I wanted a fresh strawberry cake, but very few bakers on the web had tried this so I gave it a go. It became more successful every time I baked it because I kept adjusting the ingredients until they melded perfectly. For me this is the chemistry of baking- figuring out how ingredients interact with each other and the results that will ensue.

Over the years, lots of people have commented on the moistness of my cakes and the texture of my frostings and I know in my heart it is that understanding of what each ingredient does in a recipe, but a recent query from one of the Chemistry teachers in my building got me thinking about this more deeply. Is there a fat that makes cakes moister, a ratio of butter to sugar that keeps frosting from being grainy?

I believe there is and I used my birthday cupcakes as a vehicle for experimentation. I made two batches of strawberry cake- one using room temperature butter and the other canola oil to see which produced the better cake and what the real difference were using all the same other ingredients. img_2622.jpg

The Experiment

I am not a big measurer, but for this experiment, I measured everything precisely so my data would be reliable. I tend to always go for butter because butter makes everything better in baking. I always think a perfectly creamed butter will yield the most flavorful, fluffy cakes. But, in this case the canola oil really surprised me. I expected the oil-based cakes to be more spongy, but not as fluffy or rich as the butter cakes and the butter cakes did have a much smaller grain in the finished cake, but they were not appreciably better tasting.

I did not miss the butter in the oil-based cakes and they rose about the same size as the butter. TIMG_2623he oil-based cake was far moister. My only beef with it was the slightly spongy texture of the batter. You can also see from the picture, the oil-based cake had a much larger grain in the finished cake.

This cake recipe does have fruit in it so I will need to try this experiment again with a more straightforward batter, but for now the oil wins for me because of the incredible moistness of the final product- even the second day!IMG_2626

 

 

 

S’mores and Softball

IMG_0284

Cupcakes are a touchy subject with me.

I have actively eschewed them for about four years…about the time all the “Cupcakeries” started sprouting up. There seemed to be a cupcake shop on every corner, in every town I visited. I don’t like to follow the herd in baking matters, so my cupcake liners have laid fallow in their drawer.  Until two weeks ago.

My daughter plays travel softball and it was her coach’s birthday. It was an occasion screaming for cupcakes! Not just any cupcakes though, s’more cupcakes. The kind of cupcake that embraces all the great things about summer- campfires, simple foods, lazy evenings with groups of friends, vacations. The kind of cupcake that brings back all those golden childhood memories. The kind of cupcake that lingers with you not just for the flavor, but also the experience. That was the cupcake we needed.

A little backstory, Liv has been playing travel softball for three years  and much of our summer is spent in the shadow of a backstop with swirls of red field dirt floating around. When your child plays a sport, you want them to have a good coach who they respect and will learn from.

Enter Vanessa. She is a twenty-something, sassy, former D1 college softball player who took on our group of young ladies- I use the term ladies loosely- this season. She is one of those beautiful souls who tells it like it is, always. She has inspired Liv with her knowledge of the game, passion for playing, and easy-going humor. Vanessa is one of those rare people who come into your life and you hope they will stay.

Vanessa’s birthday happened to fall on a weekend we had a local tournament. She willingly gave up birthday plans to coach our girls. Liv and I decided we needed to do something to celebrate and whenever we decide that, it usually results in baking. We have ten girls on the team plus parents and siblings, so cupcakes were the logical confection. We wanted to do something different though; something you could not just pick up at the local cupcake shop. We talked about flavor profiles and what V. liked, but we were struggling.

As we got on the subject of dinners with Vanessa, it struck me that all of our pre-game rituals involved a Starbucks stop. V. has been on the S’mores Frappucino pretty heavily lately and from that the idea was born. We would bake s’mores cupcakes, bruleed marshmallow and all. With Liv doing the torching…maybe.

My main issue going into this was the frosting. I can make a rockstar, solid-peaked meringue, but how to incorporate marshmallow was the sticky wicket. I thought about melting marshmallows down like I do for Rice Krispie treats, but I worried it would solidify too fast to incorporate. Then a thought from my childhood came to me- Fluff!That gooey, goes best on peanut butter but is good friends with jelly ambrosia of my younger years. I mentioned it to Liv and she gave me the puzzled look. I realized at that moment I had fallen down as a parent. My child had never experienced Fluff. No fluffernutter sandwiches, no banana fluff snackies- how could I have let this happen. Now it could be because she hates peanut butter or that I spent a decade of her life banning all processed foods, who knows but it was getting remedied that afternoon. She was dubious; I was excited.

After our jaunt to the grocery store and the great hunt for Fluff, which by the way is now called “marshmallow cream” and no longer resides in the peanut butter and jelly aisle, we got to work. I gave Liv Nanny’s no-fail chocolate cake recipe and let her have at it. Hard to believe a year ago she barely knew how to make pasta. Now classmates clamber over her cookies and brownies when she brings them to school. They often don’t make it past the bus. Pretty cool!

Ingredients:

Nanny’s No-Fail Chocolate cake (makes one layer cake or 24 cupcakes):
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup Hershey’s dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 3/4 cup room temperature butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream
Marshmallow Meringue frosting:
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 oz. Fluff

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin pans with non-stick spray and line cups with parchment cupcake liners (you can get them anywhere, including Kroger).
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda, and salt.
  • In a stand mixer, beat the room temperature butter with the sugar until incorporated and fluffy. Add the eggs for the cake one at a time.
  • Add the vanilla extract and on low speed, begin adding the flour mixture. Alternate the addition of the flour mixture with the sour cream.
  • Once combined, grab your ice cream scoop and fill the cups about 3/4 full. Bake for about 18 minutes, depending on how fast your oven cooks. You want a toothpick to come out clean when inserted.
  • Remove from oven and cool completely.

Meanwhile, let’s make the frosting.

  • Using a clean stand mixer bowl (clean is really important for meringue), beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. I will say I mistakenly added the sugar prematurely, but everything came out okay so don’t freak out if you make a mistake. Sometimes some of my best recipes come from mistakes!
  • Add in the sugar on high speed until the meringue looks glossy and stiff peaks form. You can judge the peaks by stopping the mixer and lifting the whisk out. If the meringue does not move and holds the peak shape, you are good to go.
  • Time for the Fluff! Fold the Fluff into your meringue. Most people will say you need to be gentle here, and that is preferable, but if you get a little impatient and fold too quickly, just use a hand whisk and bring the meringue back.
  • Once combined, put your frosting in the fridge for about 30 minutes to set.
  • Once cupcakes are completely cool and frosting is set, get out the piping bag and frost the cupcakes.
  • For the brulee, I like a hand torch. They are inexpensive and readily available at most stores. You could also use your oven at high heat. Torch each cupcake to light golden brown color.
  • Insert your mini hershey bars and graham pieces, and voila, S’mores Cupcakes!
IMG_0285

Yes. She did torch the meringue!

After some cooling time, wrangling of the chocolate bars because you know the store did not sell mini hershey bars, and some mangled graham cracker cracking; the cupcakes were frosted and adorned. Of course we tried one because as responsible bakers we could not let things leave our kitchen without a taste test. They were delicious, gooey, and more importantly, Vanessa loved them. Another success for Liv and I!