Amazing Six Layer Nothing but Chocolate Cake

Amazing Six Layer Nothing but Chocolate Cake

Amazing 6 Layer Chocolate Cake

 

I recently made this cake for a birthday.  In my family there is nothing but chocolate cake – no white cakes, no yellow cakes, no lemon or strawberry or marble – only chocolate so I’ve tried just about every chocolate cake recipe there is.  I personally like to make the chocolate cake with a rasberry jam filling but this particular birthday boy has a “no fruit” with his cake rule so it is all chocolate.  It looks really impressive, and if you wanted to you could even pour a layer of chocolate glaze over the top.  This cake is almost like a brownie, a little chewy on the outside but incredibly moist on the inside and one slice can put you into a chocolate coma!  This time, I was in a hurry and didn’t have enough of the same size spring form pans so I used three different sizes and only frosted the top layer, which actually made it look kind of cool.  The only problem was by using some smaller pans I over filled and had quite an oven mess to clean up – fortunately it didn’t hurt the cake a bit though!   

Amazing 6 Layer Chocolate Cake

 

Amazing Six Layer Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache Icing   

                      Cake   

3         cup    All-purpose flour   

4 ½     tsp      Baking soda   

3         tsp      Salt   

2 1/4   cup    Light brown sugar; packed   

2 1/4   cup    White sugar   

1½      cup    Salted butter; softened   

3/4      cup    Unsweetened cocoa powder   

3/4      cup    Boiling water   

6                    large Eggs; beaten   

3         tsp      Pure vanilla extract   

3         cup    Buttermilk   

                      ICING   

2         lbs      Good Quality Bittersweet Chocolate   

2         cups   Heavy (whipping) cream   

1         cup    butter   

Procedure   

CAKE   

1   Preheat oven to 350.   

2   Grease and flour 3  8- or 9- inch spring form pans.  If you don’t have spring form, you can use regular cake pans but butter and flour really well as this is a really moist (sticky) cake.   

3   In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Mix well with a wire whisk and set aside.   

4   In large bowl combine sugars with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add butter and beat to form a grainy paste.   

5   In small bowl combine cocoa powder and boiling water, and stir until smooth.   

6   Add cocoa mixture, eggs and vanilla to butter and sugar; blend well.   

7   Alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the batter. Blend at low speed just until combined – it will look almost curdled but don’t worry, it is supposed to be like that.  Pour into prepared pans.  DO NOT OVERFILL THE PANS!  It will look kind of skimpy but while baking they rise up a lot and will overflow – as they continue baking they shrink back down and turn out very dense and moist with an almost chewy, brownie like outside with a really soft inside.   

8   Bake 25-35 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leaving the cake in the pan, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate to make slicing easier.   

9   After the cakes have cooled, Slice each into two layers and ice with the ganache.   

CHOCOLATE GANACHE   

1   Place the chopped chocolate in a large stainless steel bowl.   

2   In a large, high sided saucepan or large bowl in the microwave, heat cream and butter stirring frequently, until it just starts to boil. Immediately remove from heat and pour over chopped chocolate   

3   Stir until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Cool completely and then, using the whisk attachment beat until light, fluffy and spreading consistency.  Once frosted, store the cake in the refrigerator.

Cherry Almond Pancakes – I declare myself the winner!

Cherry Almond Pancakes – I declare myself the winner!

Cherry Almond Pancakes

 

The idea for this was a contest for the best looking pancake photo which I decided to enter at the very last-minute so I had to go with the ingredients I had on hand.  Of course I thought my picture was by far the best (who doesn’t like their own work) and the winner was to be announced that day.  Alas, nothing more has been said about it and no winner was announced.  I have therefore declared myself the winner!  It turns out that they were really good as well as photogenic – simple but a great breakfast or dessert idea.  They are even relatively healthy by my standards with fruit, nuts, no added sugar and could even be improved with whole wheat or some other healthier pancake.  As I said, I had to go with what I had on hand, so today is completely brought to you by Costco.  I used the Kruzteas Pancake Mix, Diamond Sliced Almonds and frozen dark sweet cherries – obviously, you can use your favorite pancake recipe.  The recipe is:  

1.  Make the pancakes according to the package directions.  

2.  In another small/medium skillet (depending on how much you want to make) melt a couple tablespoons of butter and pour in 2-3 cups of the frozen cherries and 1/2 cup of sliced almonds for 4 servings.  Cook until the cherries start to soften and give off some of the juice.  Pour over the pancakes and sprinkle with a few more almonds.   

3.  Eat.

Creamy Sausage Onion and Pepper Pasta

Creamy Sausage Onion and Pepper Pasta

Creamy Sausage Onion and Pepper Pasta

 

This one is a little different from the normal but is my son’s favorite.  Instead of Italian sausage, which is what I would expect in this combination, he prefers Polish sausage and growing up in a small town  with a large Polish population, I have an appreciation for it as well.  I do find that any sausage is a little too much fat for me to eat much of so it is perfect combined with the pasta and vegetables. 

Creamy Sausage, Onion and Pepper Pasta 

2      lbs       Polish Sausage sliced on the bias in 1 inch pieces 

1      large    onion coarsely chopped 

6                  Bell peppers coarsely chopped (any combination of green, red, yellow and orange) 

3                   garlic cloves, minced 

1      lb          Penne or other medium pasta shape 

1/2   cup      heavy cream 

1      cup      Shredded Parmesan Cheese 

Procedure 

Sausage Onion and Bell Pepper Pasta

1   Put water on to boil and cook pasta according to the package directions, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. 
2   While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet fry the sausage pieces until they brown over medium high heat 

Sausages browning

  

  
3   Remove the sausage from the pan (place in a bowl lined with paper towel) 
4   Pour off most of the grease, leaving just a light coating in the pan 
5   Add the chopped onion and cook until it begins to brown 
6   Add chopped green peppers and cook for about 2 minutes – they should still be very crisp 
7   Add minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds 
8   When the pasta is ready, return the sausage to the pan and add the reserved pasta water, the cream and the Parmesan cheese mixing thoroughly. 

Servings: 8

Pizza at Home – dough that works

Pizza at Home – dough that works

Margherita Pizza

 

 It’s no secret that I love pizza – numerous times a week works for me.  Nobody ever asks me to pick the meal or the restaurant because they all know what the answer will be.  In fact, I seriously considered serving pizza at my wedding but just couldn’t figure out how to get enough delivered and kept hot . . . so I ended up going traditional but not without a fight!  

Finally, after a lot of trial and error, I have figured out how to make pizza that is acceptable to me at home.  I at first assumed it is the ovens that restaurants have because the frozen or ready to bake ones are just terrible and I was never satisfied with my homemade pizza until lately.  I have to admit that considering how much I love to cook and how much I love pizza, much to my dismay, I was quite a failure the first few tries and had a really hard time getting the pizza right.  I tried both the oven and grill, with and without a pizza stone.  I tried making them with a thick crust, a thin crust, homemade dough and dough from Trader Joe’s – it looks so easy when you see the pizza guys throwing that dough around but I could just not get the hang of it.  When I rolled it, it snapped back like a rubber band, when I finally thought I had it thin enough, it puffed up like a Soufflé – not exactly the cracker like crust I was going for.  Also, not counting the totally burned ones, mostly I blame the first couple disasters on not having a pizza peel as they folded and smashed when I tried to put them on the cooking surface.  

 I have finally perfected my technique and can now make them at home.    I’m sure the real pizza makers would be rolling on the floor laughing at my technique but after trial and error, this is the best dough.  I can handle it, get it nice and thin and get it to cook without falling apart and it tastes great.  One thing I did learn is that if you need to use Trader Joe’s or a refrigerated dough, make sure you leave it out to rest and warm up before you try to shape it! 

Combo Pizza

 

1 3/4   cups   water divided, 1/2 cup warm, remaining at tap temperature 

2 1/4   tsp      dry active yeast (1 envelope) 

2         Tbs    olive oil , plus extra for brushing dough 

4         cups   bread flour 

1 1/2   tsp      table salt 

                      vegetable oil (or cooking spray) for oiling bowl 

                      semolina for dusting peel

1   In a small bowl place 1/4 cup of warm water and sprinkle in yeast; let stand until yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup warm water plus remaining 1 1/4 cups tap water and olive oil.   Pulse the flour and salt in a large food processor with the steel blade. Add liquid ingredients (holding back a tablespoon or so) and pulse. If the dough does not form a ball add the remaining liquid. Process until the dough is smooth, about 30 seconds more.
2   Turn out the dough on lightly floured area and knead a few strokes to form smooth, round ball. Place the dough into a medium-large, oiled bowl, and cover with damp cloth. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
3   I prefer to use a cast iron skillet rather than a pizza stone for baking but you can use either.  Preheat the oven as high as it will go and place a large cast iron skillet (or pizza stone) inside, letting it heat for at least 30 minutes.4.  Turn  out the dough again and use chef’s knife or dough scraper to halve, quarter, or cut dough into eighths, depending on the size of the pizzas. Form each piece into ball and cover with damp cloth. Working with one at a time, shape into the size and thickness you prefer, keeping in mind the size of your skillet or pizza stone. Transfer to pizza peel that has been lightly coated with semolina, brush dough very lightly with olive oil before topping with your favorite ingredients.  (See recipe for Pizza Sauce) 

Tomato and Garlic Pizza ready to bake

 

5.  Very carefully take out the iron skillet (it will be really hot so don’t forget to use a good pot holder or even a double up).  Add a small amount of oil to the pan, then slide the pizza on.  The crust will start baking almost immediately.  Place in the oven until the cheese starts to bubble.  This makes a really crispy crust. 

   
   

Slice of Pizza

Two Meal Roasted Chicken/Chicken Pot Pie – two great meals from one chicken

Two Meal Roasted Chicken/Chicken Pot Pie – two great meals from one chicken

Chicken Pot Pie

This makes two really good meals.  Since I have always cooked like I run a restaurant and now the kids are gone most of the time and it’s just the two of us, I have really had to work at getting rid of leftovers.  The roast chicken was a tasty simple one pan meal and the Chicken Pot Pie was amazing and enough different that it didn’t seem like the same chicken again.   I’ve become quite a fan of frozen puff pastry in the last few years using it for both savory and sweet dishes including ham and cheese appetizers, baked Brie and as a base for some really nice fruit tarts.  I haven’t having tried to make it from scratch yet, but someday I plan on doing that.   

     Two Meal Roasted Chicken/Chicken Pot Pie                

1                         whole chicken rinsed and dried

4      Tbsp          olive oil

4                         limes

1      large          onion chopped

5                         fresh rosemary sprigs

1      head          garlic head

1      lb               baby carrots

8                         potatoes, scrubbed and diced into 1 inch chunks

1      Tbsp          freshly-ground black pepper

1      tsp             salt

1      teaspoon   poultry seasoning

                           Chicken Pot Pie

                           leftover chicken and vegetables from above

3      Tbs            butter

3      Tbs            flour

3      cups          Chicken broth

1/2   cups          milk (or cream if you prefer a richer sauce)

2                         puff pastry sheets

Procedure

Roasted Chicken with Vegetables
1   Rinse and pat the chicken dry.  Stuff the cavity with the 1/2 of the onion, rosemary, garlic and limes cut in half.
2   Please the remaining 1/2 of the onion, carrots and potatoes in the bottom of a roasting pan and drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
3   Rub the outside of the chicken with olive oil, then season generously with the salt, pepper and poultry spice.
4   Bake at 350 for approximately 45-60 minutes until the internal temperature of the thigh is 170 degrees.
5   Remove from the oven, place on serving platter and tent with foil for 10-15 minutes.
6   Carve the chicken and serve with vegetables.  Return leftover chicken, including the stuffing, and vegetables to the roasting pan and refrigerate.
 

Chicken Pot Pie

1   Removed the leftover chicken from the bones and skin, shred into bite size pieces and return to the roasting pan.  Remove the rosemary springs and limes but squeeze the juice on the vegetables.

Shredded Chicken and Vegetables

 

 
2   Melt butter in a medium sauce pan. Add flour and cook over medium heat, about five minutes until dark brown.

Dark Roux

 

 
3   Add chicken broth and heat until mixture just begins to boil.  Reduce the heat and add the milk making a creamy light brown gravy.
4   Pour the gravy over the chicken and vegetables and cook on a burner until heated through.

Chicken and vegetables with gravy

 

 
5   Cover the top of the warm mixture with the puff pastry and bake at 400 degrees until lightly browned, approximately 15-20 minutes

Chicken Pot Pie ready to bake

 

 
6   Slice and serve

Chicken Pot Pie ready to serve

 

 

Servings: 16