First thing’s first: hi there! Welcome to September, aka the best time of the year (totally unrelated: it’s also the month of my birthday)- summer is on its way out, yet there’s still tons of great produce to be found (give me all the tomatoes). The days are often still sunny and bright, but all the gross August humidity has cleared. If you have an ac/central air: the end of expensive energy bills is nigh! Perhaps best of all, you can begin to enjoy sweater weather without any threat of the dreaded pumpkin spice latte insanity. It’s. too. damn. early….
Last installment in my Ultimate Chocolate Cake nomcast series airs today! We’ll be covering assembly and frosting, check it out here on Thursday 9/15 at 3pm EST.
Part 2 airs today, Friday 9/9, at 12pm EST. Tune in here!
Update: Original airing had to be delayed/rescheduled due to multiple issues/mercury in retrograde (kidding…kind of) so the new link to the video is right HERE. The old one above is still up, just in case you want to listen to me ramble for five minutes about trying to get the feed started/check out my super chic hairdo.
If you’ve ever heard of the New York institution that is Serendipity III, then this post needs no further explanation. If you haven’t, well, it’s basically one of the greatest things ever created- the flavor of hot chocolate, but FROZEN. That may not sound as exciting as I’m attempting to convey, but have you ever had a milkshake or frozen chocolate drink that really tastes like chocolate? Before anyone says it, do not even think of mentioning the Dunkin Donuts drink they market as one, because while I am a proponent of all things chocolate, it doesn’t come close to the original. People don’t wait three hours to get a table at DD so that they can try one, and drinking one with a friend will not create a 15+ year tradition of going annually. …
There is only one way to start this post: It’s babka, bitch.
My friend’s birthday was this past weekend a few weeks ago (because I have been terrible about posting) and, not having heard of much, assumed it would probably just be celebrated at the Feve. However, early Saturday evening, I got a mass text from his girlfriend saying she was throwing him a surprise party. My immediate response? DO YOU NEED CAKE?!?! For anyone who knows me, this is hardly a surprise.
Having conveniently in the mood for chocolate cake, I whipped up my absolute favorite chocolate cake. And it is just the best cake ever. It is my go-to chocolate cake recipe for several reasons, the most important being it is DELICIOUS. Also it can be done in one bowl, by hand, and requires no special ingredients other than cocoa powder and sour cream. I got the text at 6 p.m., popped the cake in the fridge at 9 and was and was at the house by 10 p.m. on the spot.
While planning a photo lab meeting, I asked my friends/co-workers Lucas and Gregory what I should bake for it. They said marbled chocolate cupcakes, so this is what I came up with, though I made them mini-sized. The cheesecake-filling didn’t quite sink in as much as I expected, but I suspect that didn’t matter too much. I think I’d use the tip of a knife to swirl the topping in a bit next time. I also omitted the chopped chocolate in the topping because I forgot to buy it. I managed.
I also just noticed I have been on a serious David Lebovitz kick lately, having just gotten two of his books over the holidays.
from David Lebovitz’s The Great Book of Chocolate
yields 12 regular-sized or 32 miniature cupcakes
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I omitted this because I didn’t have any chocolate on hand, but I’m sure it would have been great)
- Combine cream cheese, sugar and egg in a bowl and beat until smooth. You could use a hand mixer, but I found a whisk to be both sufficient and energy-efficient.
- Stir in chopped chocolate. Set aside while you prepare the cupcake batter.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
5 tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup unflavored vegetable oil
1 tbsp white or cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line or grease muffin/cupcake tin.
- Sift together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
- Stir the wet ingredients into the dry mixture until just smooth. Do not overmix- your cupcakes will suffer.
- Divide the batter among the muffin cups. For mini cupcakes, I found that a scant tablespoon of batter per tin was perfect.
- Spoon a tablespoon or two on each cupcake- I always do less on each so that each will get some, and then go over again with the remainder. For mini cupcakes, I used about a teaspoon per tin.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until edges are golden/brown. In my opinion, under-baked is always preferable to over-baked.
I have just returned from an amazing few days at Lake Kivu, which is the lake that borders between Western Rwanda and Eastern Congo. It’s honestly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been- the water is a teal-green you’d expect to find somewhere in the Caribbean, and you’re surrounded by mountains. I don’t have any pictures to show [yet] but what was almost as exciting as swimming (despite my irrational fear of marine life) was the FOOD. Basically, most of my meals in my homestay here have been some rice and a bit of salad- the meat here is funky to say the least, and I don’t eat beans. It’s not really that big of a deal, but the hotel we stayed at had veggies, pasta, fresh passion fruit, fresh-baked bread and CHEESE. Real cheese that melted- we even had something that resembled mac and cheese and it was glorious. Again, lacking photos right now, but I was so excited I took pictures of every meal.
Onto what I’m really thinking about: pie. It’s fall back in the States, and in New York/Oberlin that means my favorite weather, beautiful leaves, apples galore and, for me, the beginning of pie season!!! (Pause for cheers). Granted, pie season never really ends for me, but there is something special about baking a pie when the weather begins to cool down and the thought of turning on an oven doesn’t make you want to burst into flames.
As it happened, I returned today from paradise *weep* to see that my friend had messaged me asking for this pie recipe. So I figured why not share it with everyone! This is the pie that made me a pie-lover. Prior to baking this, I actually never cared for pie, finding the filling always too sweet and the crust unappealing, though in retrospect I believe it’s because I’d never had a truly great pie crust. I made this pie a year ago, with a frozen, pre-made pie crust (being without even a basic pie tin) for my photo class, and it was gone in 10 minutes. Since then, I have made this pie over ten times (it’s even gotten the thumbs-up from my chocoholic family) and many others as a result. The original recipe calls for a cup of chopped walnuts, which I do not care for in the least bit, so I usually compensate by adding an extra 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chips. Also, anything you put in it will sink to the bottom, so if you want something to remain on the surface, like some chips, sprinkle them on top halfway through the baking time.
I’ve also learned (quite easily) to make pie crust from scratch. Yes, that word again- but it’s really not as difficult as it seems. Most people make them in food processors or with a pastry blender (my preference) or just two knives/a fork and, with a little practice, it’s super easy. I just watched a few how-to videos on YouTube and gave it a go. If you’re really opposed to it, pre-made pie crusts sold in stores work great too, though I find they often roll out a little short in the pan. If you have access to one, Trader Joes has a pretty fantastic frozen crust.
Lastly, do NOT underbake this pie- it is quite gooey when it is fully baked, so if you like things underdone like I do, fight that urge, because there’s no need in this recipe. I’d also recommend letting it cool for a good 20 minutes (30 if you can) for the pie to set. Enjoy!
Adapted from Very Best Baking
- 1 9-inch pie crust, unbaked (recipe below)
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups (6-8oz) chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 325 degress
2. Beat eggs until light yellow in color and/or foamy
3. Beat in sugars and flour, then butter
4. Stir in chips and/or nuts
5. Spoon into pie shell
6. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes (if you know your oven runs hot, go for the lower amount; if it runs cool, go for 60-65)
Serve warm, with lightly sweetened whipped cream
Single 9” Pie Crust*
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
- 1 1/4 cups flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold
- 1/2 cup water, ice cold
1. Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl
2. Remove butter from refrigerator only when you are ready to cut it in- this is especially important if your kitchen is warm
3. Blend butter into flour mixture until it resembles peas
4. Add water a couple of tablespoons at a time and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula, until it is more or less formed together- you don’t necessarily need to use all the water
5. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead a couple of times until smooth- you don’t want to handle it very much, just until it’s all combined (visible pieces of butter are not bad!!)
6. Roll dough into a ball, then flatten into a disk (it will make for easier rolling) and wrap it up in plastic wrap, refrigerating for at least 30 minutes
*The Smitten Kitchen link is attached to the original recipe, which is for one double-crust 9” pie. It is also a very detailed tutorial with beautiful photos if you are new to pie crust making.