Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hot Chocolate Layer Cake with Homemade Marshmallows

This year for Mart's birthday I wanted to make him something special. I am not much of a baker, but this really wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. He loves chocolate and we saw this in a magazine at school. It was delicious! The cake was really dense, almost like a brownie crossed with cake. It was so rich that a small slice is more than enough.

Hot Chocolate Layer Cake with Homemade Marshmallows

For the cake:

6 oz (3/4 cup) unsalted butter; more for the pans
13 ½ oz (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
¾ cup canola oil
4 ½ oz bittersweet chocolate; finely chopped (I used chocolate chips)
3 cups white sugar
2 ¼ oz (3/4 cup) natural unsweetened cocoa powder (If you use Dutch cocoa powder, don’t use any baking soda. Use baking powder instead and double what it should have been for the soda. i.e. 1 tsp baking soda = 2 tsp baking powder instead)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 Tbs. vanilla extract
2 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp. kosher salt

For the frosting:

2 ½ cups heavy cream
3 oz (6 Tbs) unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract (originally called for 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used chocolate chips)
2 cups white sugar
6 oz cocoa powder
½ cup corn syrup
¼ tsp kosher salt
Position racks in the bottom and top thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350 F.
Butter three 9x2” round cake pans (springform works best) and line each with a parchment round. Butter the parchment, then dust with flour and knock out the excess.
In a 3 quart saucepan, combine the butter, oil, chopped chocolate and 1 cup water. Heat over medium heat until melted.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and cocoa powder. Pour the hot chocolate mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until combined.
Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla, baking soda(powder), and salt. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans.
Set two pans on the top rack and the third on the lower rack. Stagger the pans on the oven racks so that no pan is directly over another. Bake, swapping and rotating the pans’ positions after 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Cook on racks for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks, remove the parchment paper and cool completely.
Make the Frosting:
In a 4 quart saucepan over low heat, combine the cream, butter and vanilla and stir until the butter is melted. Whisk in the chopped chocolate until melted (completely melted! Don’t leave any little tiny chunks). Whisk in the sugar, cocoa powder, syrup, and salt until smooth. Be sure the cocoa powder dissolves completely. Pour into a 9x13 pan and freeze until firm (about 2 hours) or refrigerate overnight.
Remove the frosting from the fridge or freezer. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium for 2 minutes to soften. Change to a whisk attachment and beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Homemade Marshmallows:

Gelatin 1 1/4 oz
Cold Water 16 fl oz
Sugar 1 lb 8 oz
Corn Syrup 12 oz
Honey 8 oz
Vanilla 1/2 fl oz

1. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.
2. Bloom the gelatin in 8 oz water. (Blooming is when you add the gelatin to water and wait until it absorbs it all and becomes a big blob)
3. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, honey and remaining 8 oz water in a heavy bottom saucepan. Stir to ensure all the sugar is moistened. Bring to a boil over high head stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stop stirring and skim the surface of the syrup to remove any impurities. Continue to cook without stirring, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan using a wet pastry brush. Heat to 252 degrees. Remove from heat, cool to approx. 210 degrees.
4. While the sugar is cooling, dissolve the gelatin over simmering water (using a double boiler, put a metal or glass bowl over a pan of boiling water, but do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
5. Stir the gelatin into the cooled sugar syrup using the whip attachment on high speed until medium peaks form.
6. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared sheet pan, the easiest way to do this is to place the mixture in the frame, place a sheet of oiled parchment on top of the marshmallow mixture and roll the marshmallow into the pan.
7. Remove the slab from the pan, inverting onto work surface and peel off the paper.
8. Cut the marshmallows and coat in 1/2 powdered sugar and 1/2 cornstarch.

Make the marshmallows. (Adrienne made some for her cake so I just used her leftovers). I'm sure you could use store bought as well, but it won't be quite as cool.
Assemble cake.

Here is my finished cake with the homemade marshmallows piled on top and dusted with some dutch cocoa powder!

It took me all day long, but I was so proud of my cake and really excited for Mart to see it and taste it. He loved it and it was by far the best birthday cake I have ever made.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Squash Soup with an Apple Cranberry Relish

This soup is super delicious and has a different flavor than just a pureed squash soup!

Squash Soup

6 cups (about 2 large squash - either acorn or butternut), cut in half and seeds removed
Melted butter, for brushing
1 Tbsp kosher salt, plus 1 tsp
1 tsp freshly ground white pepper, plus 1/2 tsp (black will work if you don't have white, it will just leave black spots in your soup)
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 Tbsp honey
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
4 ounces heavy cream (1/2 cup)
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Brush the flesh of the squash with a little butter and season with 1 Tbsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. On a sheet pan lay the squash flesh side up. Roast for about 30-35 minutes or until the flesh is nice and soft.

Scoop the flesh from the skin into a pot and add the stock, honey and ginger. Bring to a simmer and puree using a stick blender or a food processor (a blender would probably work too). Stir in the heavy cream and return to a low simmer. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. (Taste it, you may need to add more salt or pepper)

Relish Topping

1 crisp apple (Mcintosh or Granny Smith) finely chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries, chopped
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

When the soup is finished and ready to be served, top with a small scoopful of the relish.
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