Sunday, February 17, 2008

Chocolate for (not really) Cynics

I've never been one for Valentine's Day.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not really a cynic. I'm a huge fan of love and the expression thereof, but why only be romantic one day a year? Why fight other couples for jewelry and flowers and tables at over-booked restaurants?

But I'm not here to expound on the foolishness of the holiday. It is one thing, and that's a great excuse for chocolate.

I used my chocolate excuse to make these Molten Chocolate Raspberry Cakes (along with half of the other food bloggers in the world), and while they're not terrifically attractive little desserts, they are pretty terrifically tasty.

They are very rich and truly chocolatey, so if you're not a chocolate fan (god help you), these probably won't be your thing. But hopefully you are, so that you can enjoy these, and we can stay friends. Make sure, when you make these, that you use chocolate that you enjoy eating on its own. I went with one of my Trader Joe's usuals: the Ocumare 71% from Venezuela. It comes in a 2.8 ounce bar, and while the original recipe, once divided, only called for about 2.3 ounces, I just threw the whole bar in. No regrets on that front. I do think, though, that they could have been smaller. I made a third of a recipe, because dividing it into quarters involved dividing egg yolks, and that was not something I was prepared to do. I made two of them in 6-ounce ramekins, and I think that three in 4-ounce might have been a better call, except that we might have ended up fighting over the last one, and that's not really what you're looking for on Valentine's Day.

Molten Chocolate Raspberry Cakes
Adapted from Epicurious

for the cake:
1 T. & 2 tsp. sugar
2.3 ounces (or 2.8) bittersweet chocolate, preferably 70% or more
4 T. butter
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. flour

for the raspberries:
fresh or frozen raspberries (I used about 4 ounces frozen, because it was what I had on hand - experiment!)
sugar to taste (or none!)

for the raspberries:
If you have fresh, more power to you - I would suggest using them as is. With frozen, I simply warmed them in a small saucepan over low heat until they melted a bit, and added a little sugar. Reheat slightly before pouring over the cakes at serving time.

for the cake:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and generously butter and sugar the insides of two 6-ounce ramekins (or three 4-ounce).

Stir chocolate and butter in heavy small saucepan over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat egg, egg yolk and sugar until thick and pale yellow, about 8 minutes. Fold 1/3 of warm chocolate mixture into egg yolk mixture (making sure it's not too warm), then fold in remaining chocolate. Fold in flour, and a few raspberries from the raspberry mixture, if you like. Divide batter between two (or three) ramekins.

Place ramekins on baking sheet. Bake until edges are puffed and slightly cracked, but center is still a little trembly, about 13 - 15 minutes.

To serve, unmold cakes onto small plates and top with raspberry mixture and softly whipped, (very) lightly sweetened whipped cream.

They won't be pretty, but you'll eat them anyway, and it will be so completely worth it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Out of excuses

So the graduate school application is in, I'm more or less settled into the new job (I hope!) and anonymous readers are telling me to update.

I guess I owe you all some doughnuts, don't I?

Please excuse the lighting on the photos - it was fairly late at night when we began, and by the end of the process, we were far more interested in eating doughnuts than in photographing them.

Originally, my friend Katie and I hatched a plan for a doughnut brunch - which then became a midnight doughnut party - which then became an eight p.m. "hey, I have ingredients and a brand-new doughnut-cutter, do you want to bring your deep fryer over and make doughnuts?" sort of event.

There's something vaguely magical about deep-frying: the way the pale, flat rings of dough puffed and browned and floated to the top of the bubbling oil. We drained them on paper towels until they were only just cool enough to handle, and then we broke them into pieces and dipped them into cinnamon sugar and stuffed ourselves to the brim (and I'm not usually a doughnut person!) We even delivered one to the upstairs neighbour, (also a co-worker), who later pronounced them delicious and demanded that we bring a batch into work.

Well, we never got around to making another batch, but I have finally gotten around to sharing the recipe. So arm yourself with a deep fryer, several quarts of oil, tongs, plenty of cinnamon sugar, friends and a bottle of red wine - you'll find it's well worth it.

Sour Cream Doughnuts with Cinnamon Sugar
adapted from Epicurious

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled briefly
1 cup sour cream

Canola oil (for deep frying)
additional sugar and cinnamon to dip the doughnuts in

Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs until very thick, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla, and keep mixing. Gradually beat in melted butter, and then add the sour cream in 2 additions. Gently fold in dry ingredients in 4 additions. The dough will still be very sticky. Cover and set aside for 1 hour. (Hopefully you'll remember to do this before your friends come over. If you're like me, and you don't, you can use that hour to go and get said bottle of wine).

Sprinkle two baking sheets lightly with flour. Divide dough into three portions. On a floured surface, press one third of dough out to 1/2- to 2/3-inch thickness. Cut with doughnut cutter, reserving scrapes and placing doughnuts and holes on floured baking sheets. Repeat with remaining two thirds of dough, pressing and recutting scraps until everything has been used.

Line two plates with several thicknesses of paper towels. Heat deep-fryer (or oil in deep, heavy skillet) to 365 to 370 degrees. Fry doughnut holes in two batches until puffed and golden-brown, turning once, about 2 minutes each side. Using slotted spoon, transfer doughnut holes to paper towels and let drain. Fry doughnuts in batches of about 3, depending on how many fit without crowding. They will take a couple minutes per side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and let drain. Dip in cinnamon sugar and eat as soon as humanly possible. The original recipe says to let them cool before doing anything, but who, may I ask, is going to look at a doughnut for that long?

Not anyone in my kitchen.