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Monday, March 31, 2008

Casey's Molé Cake

I love a challenge, especially when it involves a cake. This year for Casey's very special birthday, I was tasked to make a cake for someone who loves savory and chocolate. I wasn't about to make a bacon cake (her other favorite food). We decided on chili and chocolate. Taking influence from Casey's request and 312 square feet's boyfriend, Octavio's homeland, I made a Molé Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting with Pequin Chili. It had a creeping spice and was definitely rich.

I combined a classic chocolate buttermilk cake recipe with the ingredients for a traditional mole. The only thing I couldn't find was pumpkin seeds, so I would substitute with ground sesame seeds or even 2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter.

I also was able to bust out my birthday present for the first time! I got a Quisenart from Octavio and I finally got to use it to grind up the chilies to a fine powder. I was so excited by this gift. I finally get to retire my pour abused blender!

Not for the faint of heart, this adventuresome cake was loved by the birthday girl, but the spice was too unexpected for some palates!

Molé Cake

8 onces unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground pequin chilies
1 whole dried ancho chili seeded and ground
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon dried cloves
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, ground or creamy peanut butter or 1 tablespoon ground sesame seeds
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 sticks of butter
5 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 375. Grease and flour 2 nine inch cake pans.

Bring the water to a boil and pour over the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder. Let sit for about 1 minute before beginning to whisk until smooth.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Add the ground chilies, cinnamon, clove and if you are using ground seeds add those.

Cream the butter and sugars together in a large bowl. Add each of the egss one at a time, beating well in between. Add vanilla, buttermilk, peanut butter if you are using it, and beat until well combined.

Add about 1/3 of the four mixture and mix. Add in half of the chocolate and combine. Repeat adding in chocolate and flour until all is just mixed.

Pour into to the cake pans and bake for 45-55 minutes depending on your oven. This yields a very dense rich chocolate cake.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting with Pequin Chili

12 onces good quality dark semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups cream
4 tablespoons butter, sliced into pats
3/4 teaspoon ground pequin chilies
2-3 cups powdered sugar

Heat the cream until just bubbling. Pour over the chopped chocolate and chili. Let stand about a minute to melt the chocolate then whisk until smooth. Add the butter and mix until well combined. Let the mixture cool completely, stirring occasionally. Beat with an electric mixer and sift in the powdered sugar until it has a nice smooth texture.

Assemble the cake by cutting each completely cooled layer in half. See my post on the Black and White Cake for the technique. Layer the frosting and the cake layers. Top with some red sugar for effect!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Food Photo Tips

A post on the site Photojojo has 10 tips for better food photographs. The one I think that I could use the most is tip 2. Use Natural Light. Since there is no window in my kitchen area, I will start to bring the food nearer to a natural light source to light the food better! I cold have used that tip when taking pictures of my bread from this weekend.

All the tips here.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Brunch

Taking a lazy morning, Octavio and I decided to bake some bread to offset the lack of heat in my apartment this week and have a nice and hearty brunch.

312 square feet mascot is feeling better and begging for some of my baking! Or mayer she wants some of the delicious eggs that Octavio whipped up for us.

Easter Brunch
Scrambled eggs with Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese
Sauteed Swiss Chard
Golden Raisin and Fennel Irish Soda Bread

Golden Raisin and Fennel Irish Soda Bread

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup softened butter + 2 tablespoons melted for brushing
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup yogurt
1 egg
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cracked fennel seeds
1 cup golden raisins

Pre-heat oven to 375. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add softened butter and mix. Add in milk, yogurt and egg and mix until all the doughs is wet. Turn out on to a floured surface and knead lightly. Cut an X into the top with a sharp knife and brush with some melted butter. Bake for 45-55 minutes, brushing periodically with butter, until a toothpick comes out clean.

6th Annual Easter Party at 381

This year marked the 6th year of Kelly and Lisa's annual feast of debauchery in the honor of Easter. There was an excellent cheese platter and dips galore. Of course there was no lack for libations with everyone supplying many wonderful and varied bottles of wine.

I baked up an experimental batch of cupcakes inspired by an amazing cookie that I had at a friends baby shower. Triple ginger cookies with a lime icing, the cookies were sublime. These cupcakes came out pretty well, though I will increase the amount of spice in the cupcakes for more of a gingery bit. In the recipe I will put the amount that I will put in next time! Basically I would double it.

Triple Ginger Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream Frosting

makes 24 cupcakes

2 3/2 all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 inch cube of ginger grated and any juice
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 teaspoon ginger

Pre-heat oven to 350. Cream the sugar with the butter. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds in between eggs. Add in the vanilla, lemon zest and grated ginger. Sift together all the dry ingredients. Add the milk and the dry ingredients alternating between dry and wet in six additions. Fold in the crystallized ginger. Bake for 15 - 18 until they pass the tooth pick test.

For the Icing:
1 lb. confectioners sugar
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
juice of one lime (about 2 tablespoons)

Beat the butter until it gets fluffy and sift in the sugar beating until well combined. Add the lime juice and beat until fluffy. Add more sugar or lime to suit your taste.

Frost the cupcakes with a large ridged pastry tip and decorate with some strips of powdered ginger.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

La Sirene Redux

To celebrate the reasonable score of 600 on the GMAT, 312 boyfriend took me out to one of favorites La Sirene on Broome. It had been a while since we had visited Chef Didier and he was as vivacious as ever. Fleeting around the small space, acting as host, waiter and chef. It is inspiring to see what can be done in such a small space by a dedicated and talented chef.

We started out with the special Octopus Salad which was marinated in olive oil, tomatoes and saffron. The octopus had the satisfying chew but was by no means tough and the saffron complimented the Mediterranean influence in the dish. We let that influence the rest of the meal, sharing our plates like tapas.

I gambled on a rich stew of monkfish with mushroom, red wine and bacon. It was so satisfying on the chilly night. Many fishes could have been overwhelmed by such a thick and hearty sauce, but the monkfish is not called the poor man's lobster for no reason. It held up well, retaining it's texture and fish flavor against the salt and smoke of the bacon. My only wish was that there were more potatoes in the stew so that I could have eaten more of the delicious sauce!

Octavio had a whole stuffed black sea bass. We have had the stuffed fish at La Sirene and it is always satisfying. Crammed full of thyme and pan roasted, served with the sides du jour the whole fish was excellent.

Using us as guinea pigs, Chef Didier presented us with a new dessert. Frequent readers know that I have a soft spot for sweets and love to bake, so this was a welcome treat! He touted it as having an Americanized flavor with maple syrup, but I think that if it were truly American it would have been sweeter and suffered for it. Apples and blueberries baked in a modified crepe dough with a hint of the maple served with home made raspberry sorbet, the clafouti was a perfect finisher, not to sweet, not to tart. Finishing the meal with espressos from the new machine, we left La Sirene happy and full!

This week Frank Bruni gave La Sirene one star! Congratulations, La Sirene! Here's to hoping that we can still get reservations for 312 square feet! Bruni Really captured the atmosphere of the cozy (NYC code for small) yet vibrant bistro. Read the NY Times review.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

BRGRS with David

312 square feet regular David came over for a much needed study break in early March. We noshed on home made burgers with simple garlic aoli and rather than fries, roasted cauliflowers. We sipped cocktails made of passion fruit and triple sec to take the edge of the impending GMAT exam. It was a welcome break from the ongoing long nights of study.

The burgers were made from grass fed beef that I got from the farmers market and to season them I mixed the ground beef with finely minced sweet onion and fresh parsley. Served on grilled Portuguese rolls with a dollop of simple garlic mayonnaise (I just added some crushed garlic to organic mayonnaise from Traders Joe's and plenty of salt) on top, they made for a fast and delicious dinner and were so much better than the burger debacle at Coco 68 recounted here at Cafe Drake. I have no need to elaborate since Drake did a wonderful job of capture the supreme ineptitude of this Greenpoint new comer.

Here at 312 square feet, Ronnie has been a sick kitty and I am knee deep in graduate school applications. Keep your fingers crossed for your hostess! Applications for Columbia, NYU's Stern School and the Zicklin School are all due stat! Columbia's the long shot, so keep Ronnie and I in your thoughts on that one!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Unexplained absence

Now that the major step of studying for and taking the GAMT has been accomplished, I will be back with a backlog of pictures, recipes and reviews! Burgers with David, a return visit to Le Sirene to celebrate and upcoming baking experiments! I am still here, slaving in the kitchen for you! Expect more frequent updates and even more frequent libations!