Chocolate

The Pastry Queen's American Beauty Cake

Today is the very last Project Pastry Queen challenge. Over 2 years ago, Ashley and I met up in Austin to attend a cooking demo with The Pastry Queen, Rebecca Rather. I’d forgotten about several great recipes in the book and decided that I’d cook and bake all the way through the book.

100-ish recipes later, it is my most used, most stained, and most beloved cookbook.

The final challenge is pretty representative of the book: an involved, multistep, Texas-sized, show-stopping dessert with 9 eggs, 26 ounces of chocolate, 2+ sticks of butter, and 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream. Y’all…

The Pastry Queen's American Beauty Cake

It’s an intensely rich, dense, flourless chocolate cake that’s topped with a semisweet chocolate mousse, and then coated in a chocolate glaze. The Pastry Queen calls it The American Beauty Cake. My husband calls it The PMS Cake.

It’s similar to the Chocolate Overdose Cake but has one less component. And it’s one of those recipes that require you to read all the way through first because there’s an overnight step. One I missed last night but welcomed the “quiet time” in the kitchen this morning for a little baking therapy.

The Pastry Queen's American Beauty Cake

The cake is meant to be served from the freezer, so if – like me – you were born with a negative amount of will power, there’s still hope. I cut the cake into wedges, placed it on a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet, and froze the slices solid (~2 hours) before individually wrapping them in more plastic wrap.

Check out the other PPQ members’ take on American Beauty Cake. Thanks to all those who’ve baked and followed along with the project over the last couple of years. It has been fun.

I’ve already started to work up a fun twist for Project Pastry Queen, Part Deux. Stay tuned :)

American Beauty Cake

An intensely rich flourless chocolate cake, topped with mousse and a chocolate glaze.

Ingredients

  • For the cake:
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter
  • 12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp dark rum or liqueur of choice
  • For the mousse:
  • 4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) butter
  • 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • For the glaze:
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • For serving
  • Fresh fruit, like raspberries (optional)

Instructions

  1. Make the cake:Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Line the bottom of a 9-inch sprinform pan (outside wrapped with a triple layer of foil to protect from leaks in the waterbath) with a parchment round and lightly spray the bottom/sides with baking spray.
  3. Melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave in a large bowl, on 30-second intervals until melted.
  4. Whisk in the eggs and sugar until well combined.
  5. Stir in the vanilla and liqueur and then pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Place the pan in a larger pan (like a 13x9) and fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come up level with the batter.
  7. Bake 35-40 minutes, until firm to the touch, and then remove from the oven (but let cool completely in the waterbath).
  8. After the cake cooled, I cut ~4-inch wide strips of parchment and lined the sides of the springform pan, pushing the parchment down between the cake and sides (shrinkage made this possible). This helped with removal later.
  9. Make the mousse:Melt butter and chocolate in the microwave, stirring until smooth; set aside to cool.
  10. Whisk the yolks, sugar, and vanilla together until smooth and then whisk in the chocolate mixture.
  11. Using a mixer, whisk the whites until stiff peaks form.
  12. Fold the egg whites in 3 batches into the chocolate. Once an addition is almost completely incorporated, add the next. The texture will look completely questionable but keep going. It gets better.
  13. Place the cream into the mixer bowl and whip that just until soft peaks start to form.
  14. Fold the whipped cream into the mousse mixture until the texture is uniform - you'll fold this much, much more than a more traditional mousse.
  15. Spread the mousse over the cooled cake, wrap the top with foil, and freeze overnight (at least 6 hours).
  16. Make the glaze:In a small sauce pan, bring corn syrup and cream just to a boil.
  17. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla and chocolate.
  18. Whisk until smooth and then let sit in the pan for 30 minutes to cool and thicken.
  19. Remove the cake from the freezer and turn it out onto a rack set on a baking sheet or on a cake plate, mousse-side on top - remove the ring and peel off the parchment sides.
  20. Pour the glaze into the center of the cake, letting it flood the top and run down the edges (it won't cover the sides completely).
  21. I put the cake in the fridge to set the glaze and then cut pieces for the freezer.
  22. To freeze the whole cake, chill the cake to set the glaze and then wrap with plastic wrap and freeze.
  23. The cake is recommended as best-served just minutes out of the freezer.

Notes

Yields: 14-16 slices

Source: The Pastry Queen

Estimated time: 8 hours

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Some little known facts about me:

Before retiring a couple of years ago – or maybe I’m just on sabbatical, I haven’t decided yet – I was a project manager in the tech industry. My clients made iThingies and super expensive servers and magical photo editing software that lets you zap that jerky ex-boyfriend out of any photo and replace him with any Hollywood or NFL cutie (I vote the latter). I miss it. But only sometimes. Usually when my kid has a set of molars coming in.

I never soften butter for baking recipes. Ever. Those recipes that call for a softened stick of butter? I throw a straight-from-the-fridge stick of butter in the mixer bowl and just turn it on medium-high while I get the rest of the ingredients out. I’m just gonna cream the heck out of it anyway, right?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

We named our daughter after the greatest NFL coach of all time. And the most annoying female character on Lost of all time.

I’ve never been as sick, so often, in my previous 33 years than I have been over the last 11 months. Ever. My daughter started preschool 11 months ago. These things are not unrelated. I’m almost certain that her school hires the Outbreak monkey to clean her classroom with dirty needles and used Kleenexes at the end of the school day.

As the daughter of two bakers and a reformed bakery brat myself – I still have that dream a couple of times a month where I’ve overslept and didn’t get to the bakery in time to bake croissants and muffins – I know better than to ever, ever want to open my own bakery. The hours. The overhead. The hours! No thanks. And any job that actually makes you hate the smell of baked goods should be illegal.

And when giving the choice between every fancy dessert in the world and a warm chocolate chip cookie, I’ll take the cookie 9/10 times – there’s no such thing as a bad chocolate chip cookie.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Okay, that’s not true. Remind me to tell you about the one time my mom opened the cabinet door and the canister of garlic salt came tumbling down into the mixer bowl. Those were turrible. But you know what I mean.

As long as you mostly follow directions – and don’t add 1/4 cup of garlic salt – you’re going to get a good chocolate chip cookie. But you can make a good chocolate chip cookie even better and that’s what we did here. We replaced half the butter with peanut butter, used more chocolate than we were supposed to, and added peanuts.

They’re gigantic and the perfect combination of chewy cookie, chocolate, and peanut butter.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Perfectly thick and chewy peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies studded with peanuts.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (softened... or not)
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups + 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 16 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup unsalted peanuts chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Cream the butter and peanut butter together until uniform.
  3. Add sugars and cream 2-3 minutes, until fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla.
  5. Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.
  6. Add to the mixer bowl and mix just until blended.
  7. Add the chocolate chunks and nuts to the bowl, mixing until distributed. The dough will be very stiff and even a little crumbly.
  8. Divide the dough into 16 balls, approximately 4 oz each (think larger than a golf ball; a 2.5-inch scoop will do the trick perfectly) and place on a lined baking pan.
  9. Chill the dough for 20 minutes (you can also freeze dough at this point). Bake 6 cookies per pan (they're huge!) for 18-22 minutes or until browned on the edges and just set in the center.
  10. Let cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.
  11. They'll keep several days in an airtight container or zip top bag.

Notes

Yields: ~16 cookies

Adapted from Levain Bakery-Style Chocolate Chip Cookies

Estimated time: 45 minutes

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Chocolate Cherry Ice Cream

If you love chocolate, cherries, and ice cream, you are in luck today. If you love skinny jeans and have problems with will power… I’m sorry. But look! I made you ice cream!

Our second recipe to celebrate National Ice Cream month is a dark chocolate ice cream, swirled with fudge ripple and chopped roasted cherries. I had intended to make the ice cream as a sundae, drizzling leftover fudge ripple over top and adding a cherry but the look in my husband’s eyes said, “Please don’t.”

Or maybe it said, “Do it and I’ll have you committed.” The two looks, they’re very similar.

Chocolate Cherry Ice Cream

I stopped looking for a chocolate ice cream recipe the day I stumbled across this one in The Perfect Scoop. It’s everything a chocolate ice cream should be: rich, dark, and insanely chocolatey (I even add an extra tablespoon of cocoa powder).

Making this ice cream involves making the ice cream and chilling it for a couple of hours in the fridge; roasting the cherries, chopping them, and then chilling them in the fridge; making the fudge ripple and then chilling it in the fridge. But you only have to make the fudge ripple once all summer. It keeps forever in the fridge.

Chocolate Cherry Ice Cream

A decadent dark chocolate ice cream swirled with chunks of roasted cherries and fudge ripple.

Ingredients

  • For the ice cream
  • 2 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 4 Tbsp Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 5 oz good semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • For the roasted cherries:
  • 1/2 lb cherries, pitted and halved
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • For the fudge ripple:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 Tbsp Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Warm 1 cup cream with the cocoa powder and whisk thoroughly.
  2. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 seconds, whisking constantly.
  3. Remove from heat, add the chocolate, and stir until smooth. Then stir in the remaining cream.
  4. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, scraping the saucepan as thoroughly as possible.
  5. Set a mesh strainer over the bowl.
  6. Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in the saucepan.
  7. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the yolks together.
  8. Slowly whisk the warm milk into the egg yolks and then pour the yolk mixture back into the saucepan.
  9. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat , scraping the bottom, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of your spoon.
  10. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the chocolate mixture until smooth.
  11. Add the vanilla.
  12. Set the bowl in an ice bath (put several cups of ice into the sink and fill with a few inches of water).
  13. Stir every 15 minutes until cool and then chill mixture thoroughly in the fridge (~2 hours).
  14. While the ice cream is chilling, roast the cherries and make the fudge ripple.
  15. Preheat the oven to 425.
  16. Toss cherries with sugar and place in a small baking dish.
  17. Bake for 20-25 minutes and let cool slightly before transferring to a small food processor or blender and pulsing to chop the cherries into small pieces.
  18. Transfer the cherries to a covered bowl and refrigerate thoroughly.
  19. To make the fudge ripple, stir together the water, sugar, corn syrup and cocoa over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges.
  20. Let boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly, and then remove from heat.
  21. Stir in vanilla.
  22. Let cool and then store in a jar in the fridge (will keep for several weeks). The fudge ripple must be completely chilled to use.
  23. Pour the chocolate custard into your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer directions.
  24. Transfer 1/3 of the ice cream into the storage container.
  25. Drizzle 2 Tbsp of fudge ripple and half of the cherries over top.
  26. Repeat, with the next 1/3 of the ice cream, 2 Tbsp fudge ripple and remaining cherries.
  27. Transfer the last of the ice cream to the bowl, drag a spoon or a knife held upright through the bowl in a figure 8 pattern to lightly swirl.
  28. Cover with a lid, and freeze completely.

Notes

Yields: Chocolate ice cream and fudge ripple from The Perfect Scoop

Estimated time: 4 hours

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Cherry Chocolate Chunk Muffins

There are 10lbs of fresh, pitted cherries in my freezer right now – they probably won’t still be there when that cherry margarita craving hits in November, but I do plan to stretch cherry season out as long as I can this year!

We’ve managed to work cherries into dinner, dessert, and most importantly: margaritas. What’s missing from that list?

Breakfast.

And pizza. One thing at at time, though.

Cherry Chocolate Chunk Muffins

I took my very favorite stripped-down basic muffin recipe – it’s moist, reliable, and bakes up a beautifully domed top every single time – and converted it to a dark, chocolatey muffin loaded with fresh cherries chunks and chocolate chunks.

And it was sweet, rich, and decadent. Exactly like dessert-for-breakfast should be.
Continue Reading…

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