Monday, August 11, 2014

Double Chocolate Layer Cake

Anyone that knows me knows that I am a huge chocolate cake fan.  Growing up, I used to insist on chocolate mousse cake for every celebratory occasion.  Not just any cake either, I wanted it covered in a chocolate ganache, chocolate shavings, and decorated with delicious marzipan.   Because I have been eating it for so long, I consider myself to be somewhat of a connoisseur.  I can tell when a bakery uses cheap ingredients or fillers so unless I know a bakery is really good, I bake at home.  My go to chocolate cake recipe is one that I found in my Gourmet magazine back in 1999.....yes, I have been making it for that long!  I have tested many different brands of chocolate, cocoa powders, and coffees, in the process but believe I have come up with the perfect combination now.  I do prefer to use chopped up whole chocolate bars but this time I was in a pinch so I took a shortcut and used the chips. 
Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!  It may just end up being the only chocolate cake recipe you will ever need!

Double Chocolate Layer Cake

For the cake:

3 ounces of fine-quality semisweet chocolate (I use Guittard)
1 1/2 cups of a strong freshly brewed coffee (such as Starbuck's)
3 cups of sugar
2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
2 tsp. of baking soda
3/4 tsp. of baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. of salt
3 large eggs (room temperature)
3/4 cup of canola oil
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk (shaken well)
3/4 tsp. of pure vanilla extract

For the ganache frosting:

1 lb. of fine-quality semisweet chocolate (I use Guittard)
1 cup of heavy cream
2 Tbsp. of sugar
2 Tbsp. of light corn syrup
1/4 cup of unsalted butter

Special Equipment:
two 10x2 inch round cake pans
parchment paper

Directions for the cake:
Preheat oven to 300 and line cake pans with parchment paper.  
Combine the 3 ounces of chocolate in a small bowl with hot coffee and let stand.  Whisk until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth.
In a large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In another large bowl, beat the eggs with a hand mixer until slightly thickened and lemon colored (about 5 minutes or so).  Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs.  Beat until well combined.  Add sifted ingredients to the egg mixture.  Beat on medium speed until just well combined (careful not to over beat).  Divide the batter between the pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.  
Cool layers completely in pans on racks.  Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks.  Carefully remove the parchment paper and cool further.  Cake layers can be made one day ahead and wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Directions for the ganache:
Place chocolate in a large bowl (if using bars of chocolate, finely chop it).  In a 2-quart saucepan, bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved.  Remove pan from heat and pour over chocolate.  Whisk until melted and smooth.  Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting.  Whisk again until smooth.  Let the ganache cool.  Sometimes after this step, I beat it with a hand mixer to make it lighter but that is optional.
Spread the frosting between cake layers, over the tops, and sides.  Cake keeps covered and chilled for 3 days.  Make sure to bring it to room temperature before serving.  Lastly, enjoy!

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Gourmet Magazine, March 1999 Issue

Friday, August 8, 2014

Easy Granola Bars

We love granola bars in our household but buying them all of the time can wind up being super expensive.  I have tried out many different recipes in the past but finally came up with my own. This recipe is my most recent version that my eldest child declared to be "the best! better than the last ones!".  When I noticed that he was shoveling them into his mouth rather than dissecting them to remove the things that he isn't that fond of, I took it as a sign and wrote the recipe down! These are great as a snack but even taste fabulous crumbled over some Greek yogurt or ice cream!

Easy Granola Bars

3 cups of old fashioned oats
1/2 cup of raw slivered almonds
1/2 cup of raw cashew pieces

1/2 cup of dried tart cherries, chopped
6 dried prunes, chopped
1/2 cup of unsweetened shredded or grated coconut
1/4 tsp. of ground cinnamon

2/3 cup of natural peanut butter
1/4 cup of a good honey
1 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. of coconut oil
1/4 tsp. of Himalayan salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix the first three ingredients together and spread them out in a single layer on a baking pan.  Bake them until they are browned (watch them so they don't burn!), about 10 minutes or so.

In a large bowl, mix together the cherries, prunes, coconut, and cinnamon.  Stir in the toasted oats and nuts. 

Place the last five ingredients in a saucepan over low heat.   Stir until ingredients are melted and blended.   Add this mixture to the bowl and stir until well combined.

Line an 8x8 baking dish with parchment paper.  Dump the mixture into the dish and pack it down hard so it is all level (sometimes I use another dish or kitchen tool to press the mixture down).  Let the bars cool for an hour so that they harden, then cut into bars and enjoy!  Makes 12 bars.

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking