Devil’s Food Cake with Fluffy White Icing {ModBak}

This week’s Modern Baker Challenge recipe is the Devil’s Food Cake from the cover of the book. And I suspect that, like my friend Renee, a lot of people bought the book largely for the promise of this cake.

First things first, there is an erratum in this recipe in the original hardback version of the book. The fluffy white icing requires 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, rather than the 1 cup called for in the recipe. This error was corrected in the paperback version of the book.

This cake derives its characteristic moist, chocolatey crumb from a combination of dark brown sugar and unsweetened chocolate. And it’s a good cake. Really good. But for me, what sets this cake apart is the frosting.

Nick calls this “fluffy white icing”, and I was expecting it to be like a white buttercream. But with the combination of egg whites, sugar, and corn syrup, all of which are heated then whipped, it was more like marshmallow. Marshmallow creme, to be exact. And who doesn’t love that?

This was a great cake, one I’m sure I’ll make again. Definitely worth the price of the book. And I think that, like Renee, anyone who bought the book for this cake won’t be disappointed.

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Triple Chocolate Cake {ModBak}

A few weeks ago, I wrote about making this wonderful light and airy Cocoa Génoise.

Today’s Modern Baker Challenge post is about what I made with the génoise layer. As the name implies, this cake is chocolate on chocolate covered with chocolate. In addition to the chocolate cake, there are two versions of chocolate ganache — one used to frost the cake and the other a glaze that goes over the whole thing.

With my génoise at the ready, I began by making a moistening syrup, which consisted of water, sugar, and raspberry liqueur.

I set the syrup aside to cool while I made the ganaches.

First, the ganache for filling and spreading. While I heated cream and corn syrup on the stove, I melted bittersweet chocolate in a bowl.

I poured the cream mixture over the chocolate, mixed well, then whisked in softened butter.

Next, I made the ganache glaze, which was also made with cream, corn syrup, and chocolate, although not as much chocolate as the filling. And there was no butter in the glaze. And rather than melting the chocolate, I poured the cream mixture over the chocolate and let the heat from the cream melt the chocolate.

To assemble the cake, I cut the génoise into three layers. I put the bottom layer on a tart pan bottom and brushed it with 1/3 of the moistening syrup. I topped this with about 1/3 of the ganache filling and spread it to the edge of the cake. I repeated the layers two more times, then spread ganache frosting over the entire cake.

I refrigerated the cake for a while, then poured the ganache glaze over the top and smoothed it over the sides.

This cake was beautiful. The glaze gave it a smooth, perfectly finished look. The kind you see in a bakery and wonder, “How do they do that?”

I made this cake before my parents came for a visit so they could enjoy it with us.

This cake was amazing! It may be the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. And my parents, with over 140 years of cake-eating experience between them, agreed that this was by far the best chocolate frosting they’ve ever tasted.

As Nick points out in the notes, this is a cake for a milestone birthday or other very special occasion. It has enough flavor and visual appeal to match up to any celebration. And even though it’s a bit of work to put together, the accolades you’ll receive make it well worth the effort.

Rum-scented Marble Cake {ModBak}

I was all set to make this recipe the other day when my friends Kayte and Margaret tweeted that they were making it, too. So we decided to have a Twitterbake and make it “together” in our separate kitchens (and separate States). It’s always more fun baking with others, even if you are baking and tweeting from far away.

This is the third recipe in the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge. After starting with a delicious, if fussy, pound cake, I was looking forward to trying this recipe.

As impressive as it looks, this cake was really easy to put together, although it did dirty quite a few bowls. The base batter consisted of flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter (three sticks!), seven eggs, and dark rum. After making a heavy paste of the dry ingredients and butter, I whisked the eggs and rum, then added them to the butter mixture.

The chocolate swirl layer consisted of dark rum, milk, baking soda, bittersweet chocolate, and two cups of the base batter, all mixed together until blended.

To assemble the cake, I put half the base batter in the pan, smoothed the top, then topped it with the chocolate layer.

I covered this with the rest of the base batter, smoothed the top, then marbled it by dragging a knife through the batter from the center to the edge all the way around the pan.

I baked the cake for 75 minutes, until it was done through but still moist.

Pardon the pun, but the cake smelled intoxicating while it baked. The chocolate and rum combined to give it a rich, heady aroma, and I couldn’t wait to cut into it. I let the cake cool, then sprinkled the top with powdered sugar (although it really didn’t need any adornment).

My daughter and I decided to sample it for a bedtime snack.

I was planning to take the rest of it to work today, but after tasting it, my daughter announced that I would be doing no such thing. The cake was rich, but not overly sweet, and had a great balance of flavors. Calling it “rum-scented” is quite apt, as the rum adds more to the aroma than the flavor.

This was another great recipe from The Modern Baker and has me looking forward to the next seven months(!) of cakes.

Check out Kayte’s and Margaret’s posts to see what they thought and to get a look at their beautiful marbling.

Cappuccino Thumbprint Cookies {ModBak}

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not a fan of fussy cookies. My idea of making cookies is mixing the dough, dropping the cookies onto a pan, and baking. Bar cookies are even better, as you get to skip the individual cookie dropping step. So I tend to pass over recipes with a lot of shaping, dipping, rolling, and filling. Like this one.

These cookies had it all, and then some. First, you make the dough, shape it into a square (I put it in an 8×8 pan), and chill it.

After the dough chills, you unwrap it (as you can see, I had a bit of trouble getting mine out of the pan), then cut it into squares.

The individual pieces of dough (all 40 of them) are then rounded, dipped in an egg wash, rolled in ground almonds, and placed on the pan.

Next, you make a cavity in each cookie and then bake them.

While the cookies are baking, you make a white chocolate and espresso filling. I’m not a huge fan of white chocolate, so I made two fillings, one with white and the other with bittersweet chocolate. After the cookies cooled, I piped the filling into the cookies, then sprinkled them with cinnamon.

These cookies were a lot of work, but they tasted really good. To my surprise, I even liked the white chocolate ones. I could see making these cookies again for a holiday cookie tray. Maybe by next Christmas I’ll have forgotten how much work they were.

This recipe is from The Modern Baker, by Nick Malgieri and is part of the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge.

Butterscotch Chocolate Chunk Cookies {ModBak}

Come on. You know you want one of these babies.

This is the next recipe in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge. I’ve bake these cookies twice already, in part because they’re so good. But also because I didn’t get any pictures the first time I made them. I went on a baking tear right before Thanksgiving, as we had lots of family coming into town. Unfortunately, I was so focused on baking that I didn’t get pictures of a lot of the stuff I made. I went ahead and posted some of the recipes without pictures, but these were such good cookies, I used the lack of photos as an excuse to make them again.

Although butterscotch is the first word in the name of these cookies, they don’t have any kind of butterscotch chips or other flavoring in them. The flavor comes from the combination of ingredients, chiefly the brown sugar. The dough also called for flour, baking soda, salt, butter, egg, and vanilla.

Oh, and chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

Bittersweet and milk chocolate chunks get folded into the batter after it is mixed. Both times I made these, I was surprised by how much chocolate there is compared to the rest of the batter. The addition of the chocolate chunks almost doubles the volume of the dough. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Having just enough cookie dough to hold together the chocolate is just fine with me.

After mixing the dough, I dropped the cookies onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment foil. I put the cookies in the oven, realized I had forgotten to take a picture of the dough on the pan, and took a quick shot of the cookies in the oven.

I baked the cookies for about 15 minutes at 350°F, per the recipe, although I think they should have come out a few minutes earlier. They didn’t burn, but they were crispier than we like them.

While the first batch of cookies was baking, M asked if we could make cookie bars with the rest of the dough, so she pressed the remaining dough into an 8×8 pan. We baked the bars for about 25 minutes, until the edges were starting to brown, but the center still looked nice and doughy. Unlike the cookies, the bars were baked perfectly.

These are really delicious cookies, with a definite butterscotch flavor. And, of course, a rich, gooey, abundance of chocolate. Even though the cookies were a bit on the crispy side, they were great for dunking in milk. And the bars were soft, crumbly perfection.

This is a recipe I will keep in mind when I want chocolate chip cookies. They are head and shoulders above your typical Toll House cookies, and not any more difficult to make.

Renee was the official blogger for this recipe for the Modern Baker Challenge. Check out her blog to see what she thought of them. And if you’d like to join the Challenge, you can jump in any time.

Espresso Walnut Meringues & Cinnamon Meringues {ModBak}

Me: I don’t like meringues. It’s like eating air.
Nancy: It’s like eating sugared air. And what’s wrong with that?

OK, so maybe Nancy does have a point. But I’ve still never been a big fan of meringues. However, I knew if anyone could change my mind, it would be Nick Malgieri. Besides, these meringues were up next in the Modern Baker Challenge, so I was going to make them, like it or not.

Most meringues I’ve tried in the past seemed to be nothing more than egg whites and sugar, so I was intrigued by the addition of chocolate, espresso powder, and walnuts to this recipe. And the variation with walnuts and cinnamon sounded interesting, too. Given my overall skepticism, I decided to make a full batch of meringues, but divide the meringue in half so I could make a smaller batch of each kind to try.

I began by whipping egg whites and salt in the mixer.

I added half the sugar, a little at a time, while the egg whites were whipping. By the way, if you happen to have the hardback edition of The Modern Baker and are wondering what you’re supposed to do with the remaining sugar, the answer can be found in the paperback edition of the book. The rest of the sugar gets layered in with the remaining ingredients below.

Once the egg whites had reached meringue consistency, I removed the bowl from the mixer and divided the meringue between two bowls.

The bowl on the left contains walnuts, the rest of the sugar, espresso powder, bittersweet chocolate, and cornstarch. The bowl on the right has walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch. I folded the ingredients in gently, trying not the break the meringue.

I spooned the meringues in mounds on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. I forgot to take a picture before I put them in the oven, so I opened the oven door and took a quick snap.

The meringues baked at 300°F for about 30 minutes, until they were fairly dry. This surprised me, as most other recipes I’ve seen call for baking the meringues for 2-3 hours, and some instruct to leave the meringues in the oven overnight to finish drying.

The picture above is of the espresso meringues. The one below shows the cinnamon meringues.

The meringues smelled really good baking, and I was anxious to try them to see if they would change my mind. And they almost did. They were both quite flavorful. The cinnamon meringues had a wonderful, spicy aroma. And the chocolate in the espresso meringues made them quite tasty.

The only thing I didn’t really care for was the mouth feel after eating a few of them. I didn’t notice it at first, but after a while, my mouth felt really dry, and the meringues left a powdery aftertaste. I think it was from the cornstarch. Eating them with a cup of tea or coffee remedied this for the most part, but I just don’t care for that taste and feeling in my mouth. I have since looked at several other meringue recipes, and none of them seem to call for cornstarch.

If I make these again, I’ll try leaving the cornstarch out, as I really did like the flavor of both of them. I think they might need to bake longer without the cornstarch, as I suspect that is what shortens the baking time in this recipe compared to others.

It might be worth trying. They were mighty tasty.

OK, Nancy, maybe I see the point of sugared air after all.

Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chunk Bars {ModBak}

This is the last bar cookie recipe in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge. If you don’t like coconut, you won’t like these bars. If you do, you’ll love them.

This recipe starts with a rich, buttery crust made from flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and lots of butter. After mixing up the ingredients, I pressed the dough gently into the pan, then baked it for about 15 minutes, until it just started to take on some color.

While the crust was cooling, I mixed up the topping, which consisted of brown sugar, eggs, granulated sugar, vanilla, sweetened shredded coconut, pecans, and bittersweet chocolate. I mixed all these ingredients together and spread the topping over the cooled crust.

I baked the bars at 350°F for about 25 minutes, until the filling was set and nicely browned. These bars smelled so good while they were baking, with the chocolate and pecans, and with the coconut getting nice and toasty.

I let the bars cool in the pan, then cut them into the recommended 2-inch squares. They were as good as they smelled. Rich, buttery, chocolatey, and with a wonderful coconut flavor.

The only thing I would do differently next time would be to cut them smaller, as they were insanely rich. I could easily see cutting the recipe in half and still having enough for the whole family. Or perhaps making the full recipe but freezing half of the slab before cutting it into bars.

Either way, I will definitely be making these again soon.

Sour Cream Brownies & Caramel Crumb Bars {ModBak}

Today, we bring you a Modern Baker Challenge two-fer. One thing that I love about baking cookies, brownies, and bars is that it’s almost as easy to make two recipes as it is to just make one. In fact, growing up I don’t ever recall my Mom making just one type of cookie when she baked. And she still makes them in multiples to this day, as evidenced by the fact that she often shows up here with bags of Snickerdoodles, chocolate chips, and peanut butter cookies.

So it was not at all unusual for me to decide to bake Sour Cream Brownies and Caramel Crumb Bars from the Cookies, Bars & Biscotti section of The Modern Baker on the same day. In fact, I’ve baked a number of the cookie recipes in this section this way, even though I’ve blogged them separately. But there was just something about the way these two looked on a plate together that made me decide they wanted to be in the same post.

I started with the Sour Cream Brownies. Like the Cocoa Nib Brownies, these babies are loaded with bittersweet chocolate. Nick Malgieri says that the inclusion of the sour cream cuts back the sweetness just a bit and keeps the brownies moist, and I’d have to agree. These brownies are very rich, but not cloying; and they are moist and fudgy, even after a day or so in the fridge.

If you’ve ever struggled with melting chocolate over a pan of simmering water while holding a bowl and trying not burn your fingers, or attempted to melt it in the microwave without burning it, you’ll appreciate Nick’s technique for melting the chocolate in this recipe. I melted the 6 ounces of butter called for in the recipe in a saucepan and let it bubble for a few seconds. Then I removed the pan from the heat, dropped in the chocolate chunks, and shook the pan to submerge the chocolate in the hot butter. By the time I had mixed the brown sugar, eggs, sour cream, salt, and vanilla in the mixer, the chocolate was melted and ready to be whisked into the butter.

I stirred the chocolate mixture, and then the flour and walnuts, into the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula — another trick I learned from Nick. Overmixing the batter results in tough brownies and fallen cookies, so he recommends mixing in the last few ingredients, including the flour, by hand.

I spread the batter in the pan, smoothed the top, and sprinkled it with a few more walnuts.

I baked the brownies at 350°F for 30 minutes, and not a second more. They still looked very moist in the center, but that’s exactly how the recipe said they should look.

I set the brownies aside to cool. Cutting them would have to wait a day, as Nick also recommends refrigerating brownies overnight. This makes moist brownies like these easier to cut and intensifies the chocolate flavor.

While the brownies were baking, I mixed up the Caramel Crumb Bars. These bars are Nick’s favorite cookie, and I can see why. They consist of three layers — a buttery dough, caramel filling, and crumb topping. And yet they are surprisingly easy to make.

I began by mixing the dough in the mixer. It was made of butter, sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and flour, all mixed together to a soft, silky texture reminiscent of Scottish shortbread dough. I pressed 3/4 of the dough into the pan for the bottom crust. I put the pan in the refrigerator to chill and added a bit more flour to the remaining dough to make the crumb topping.

The next step was to make the caramel. Despite my previous issues with making caramel for semolina cake and pineapple tatin, I have since had better success with caramel, so I felt pretty good about making the filling for these bars. Besides, this caramel started with sweetened, condensed milk and light corn syrup, so I was halfway home before I ever began.

I put the milk and corn syrup into a pan with butter and dark brown sugar. I brought it to a low boil, then let it simmer for about 10 minutes, until the caramel was thick and had taken on just a little bit of color. I set the caramel aside to cool for a few minutes before assembling the bars.

I spread the caramel over the chilled dough, then sprinkled the crumbs on top.

By this time the brownies were finished baking, so I put the caramel bars into the oven, which was still set at 350°F. I baked the bars for 30 minutes, until the filling was a deep, caramel color and the topping had baked through.

I cooled the bars in the pan for about 20 minutes, then cut them. Because of the thick, gooey caramel, these bars are easier to cut when still slightly warm. And although the recipe says to cool them to room temperature before serving, I can attest that they are delicious when they are still a bit warm.

I can easily see why the caramel crumb bars are Nick’s favorites. The sweet, creamy caramel filling is out of this world, and it pairs nicely with the soft, buttery, slightly chewy crust. And of course, crumb topping goes well with almost any sweet. These are definitely on the repeat list. In fact, just writing this post has me thinking about making them to take to work tomorrow.

The brownies came out of the fridge moist and chewy. They were rich, dense, and oh-so-chocolatey. And of course, walnuts are a classic addition to brownies and gave these a nice crunch.

Having made a number of Nick’s brownie recipes, I am convinced that using real chocolate, rather than cocoa or chocolate chips, is the way to go for rich, moist brownies. The only thing I’m not sure of is whether I liked these brownies or the cocoa nibs ones better. I’ll probably have to make both of them together so I can do a side-by-side comparison. In the interest of baking science, of course.

Cocoa Nib Brownies {ModBak}

It’s a new month, and a new section for the Modern Baker Challenge. If you’ve been following along with the Challenge, you know that the next section in the book is Cakes. However, since the beginning of this section coincides with holiday baking season, we decided to jump ahead in the book to the last section, Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti. And the first recipe in the Cookies section is Cocoa Nib Brownies.

When I first looked at this recipe, I had no idea what cocoa (sometimes written cacao) nibs were. In the intro to the recipe, Nick Malgieri explains that “nibs are cocoa beans that have gone through the fermenting, roasting, crushing, and skinning process.” Generally, cocoa butter and sugar are added to the nibs, and the resulting mix is processed into chocolate. 

Cocoa nibs have become popular in baking and are used to add a bittersweet crunch to baked goods. If you’ve never tried them, the closest comparison I can think of is coffee beans. If you’ve ever tasted a roasted coffee bean, you have an idea what nibs taste like. Bitter, astringent, and not something you’d want to eat on its own. Now think of a chocolate-covered coffee bean. It’s still has a strong bitter flavor, but the chocolate tempers it, and the crunch and bite of the bean can be enjoyed.

That’s pretty much what nibs are like. You definitely don’t want to eat them on their own (although if you’re like me, you have to try them just so you’ll appreciate the flavor and texture). But mix them into something like a rich, fudgy brownie, and the bittersweet crunch they add is truly something to experience.

Other than the nibs, the ingredients in these brownies are all fairly common. Like most really good brownie recipes I’ve tried, this recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate, rather than cocoa powder. To make the brownies, I melted butter in a saucepan, then removed the pan from the heat and added chopped chocolate, allowing the heat from the butter and pan to melt the chocolate while I prepared the remaining ingredients.

I put dark brown sugar in the mixer bowl and added eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. After beating in salt, sugar, and vanilla, I removed the bowl from the mixer and folded in the chocolate-butter mixture with a rubber spatula. I mixed in the flour by hand, then folded in 1/4 cup of the cocoa nibs. The recipe is baked in a 9 x 13-inch pan, but only calls for 1 1/4 cups flour, so I knew the resulting brownies would be really fudgy.

I scraped the batter into the pan, which I had sprayed with pan spray. The recipe calls for lining the pan with buttered foil, so that the brownies can be lifted out of the pan in order to cut perfectly even squares. Since I planned to serve the brownies right from the pan, I skipped the foil.

I scattered another 1/4 cup cocoa nibs on top of the batter and baked the brownies in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes, until the brownies were firm but still very moist. After cooling the brownies in the pan (and maybe cutting off a tiny little corner to sample), I covered the pan and put it into the refrigerator overnight. The overnight rest made the brownies easier to cut — they were very moist — and really intensified the flavor.

I put the brownies on the snack table while my family was in town for Thanksgiving. I wasn’t around when the brownies were cut into, and everyone was trying to figure out what the crunch was from. No one had ever had cocoa nibs, but they all agreed that the bittersweet, chocolatey crunch was perfect for these rich, fudgy brownies.

This was a great start to the Cookies section in The Modern Baker and has me looking forward to the next five months of cookies, bars, and biscotti.

Truffle Brownies {Bake!}

The Bake! group is back in business after taking a break during August to catch up on missed recipes or just enjoy the final days of summer. Our first September recipe, chosen by Glennis, is Truffle Brownies. According to Nick Malgieri, these brownies derive their name from the fact that they are “almost as rich as chocolate truffles”.

Photograph “courtesy” of Margaret at http://www.teaandscones.wordpress.com

I had a computer breakdown last week and lost my photos of this recipe, so I borrowed the picture above from my friend Margaret’s blog.

 
The recipe for these brownies was fairly straightforward. It called for a lot of butter, brown sugar, and bittersweet chocolate, with just enough flour to hold it together. Nick wasn’t exaggerating about the flavor, either. They really did remind me of truffles.
 
These were by far the best brownies I’ve ever made, and probably the best I’ve ever tasted. The outside had just a bit of crunch to it, but the centers remained rich and gooey. These brownies would satisfy fudgy and cakelike brownie lovers alike.
 
The recipe says to cut the brownies the day after baking them, but we had a houseful of adolescent and teenage boys when I made these, so there was no chance of that happening. They were excellent shortly after baking. I can’t imagine them being better the next day (although I will definitely try them again to find out).
 
The Bake! bakers are a casual group of friends who make about two recipes per month from Nick’s book. Our Facebook page lists the upcoming recipes. Feel free to join in if you have the book!
 
Next up: Lattice-topped Apple Tart, chosen by Kayte.

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