March 15, 2017
Happy Valentine's Day! We hope this finds you and yours well and enjoying a love-filled day.
It is no secret that we here at Pretty Things & Cool Stuff are HUGE fans of good chocolate. So, we always are looking for ways to enjoy and share it.
One of our favorite chefs/food writers is David Lebovitz ( we feature a few of his books in the shop - Drinking French, The Perfect Scoop, My Paris Kitchen), and he has an amazing recipe for a chocolate cake that he describes as "extremely rich, and tastes like the most delicious, silkiest, most supremely-chocolate ganache you've ever had." We totally agree!
What makes this recipe really amazing is the fact that it is next to impossible to mess it up. In fact, David even once called it the Chocolate Idiot Cake! It takes just four ingredients, no special techniques, just some whisking, and once it has cooled, it can be refrigerated for several days before serving.
A couple of important notes:
10 ounces (290 grams) bittersweet or semisweet good-quality chocolate, coarsely chopped
7 ounces (200 grams) butter — salted or unsalted — cut into pieces
5 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for preparing the cake pan
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC).
2. Butter a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan and dust it with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess. Wrap the outside with aluminum foil, in several layers if necessary (see headnote), making sure it goes all the way up to the outer rim.
3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler (or microwave), stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar, then whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and cover the top of the cake pan snugly with a sheet of foil. Put the springform pan into a larger pan that can be put in the oven, like a roasting pan. Add enough hot water to the roasting-turned-baking pan so that it reaches halfway up to the outside of the cake pan.
7. Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. It should feel just set in the center, like quivering chocolate pudding. If you gently touch the center, your finger should come away almost clean.
8. Lift the cake pan from the water bath and remove the foil. Let cake cool completely on a cooling rack.
9. When it is cool, serve thin wedges of this very rich cake at room temperature, with crème anglaise, ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, Amarena cherries and their syrup, etc.
Storage: This cake can be wrapped and chilled in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Talk about having your cake and eating it, too!
What can be more Irish than Guiness beer and Bailey's Irish Cream? And just imagine combining them with chocolate in a deliciously dark cake for a double shot of Irish! The cake recipe comes from Clodaugh's Irish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Traditional Flavors by popular Irish chef Clodaugh McKenna.
2 1/4 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup Guinness
1 cup unsweetened, Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 large eggs
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking power
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted Irish butter
2 1/2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups cream cheese (not low fat)
4 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 12-inch, round springform pan with parchment paper.
Heat the butter in a a large saucepan over medium heat until melted. Stir in Guinness, then remove from the heat and the stir in cocoa powder.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and buttermilk and then slowly mix in the Guinness mixture.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder into a separate large bowl. Using a handheld electric mixer, slowly mix the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and keep beating until all is well combined.
Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Test to make sure the cake is ready by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake — if it comes out clean, the cake is finished baking. Let the cake cool in the pan, then transfer from the pan onto a wire rack.
While the cake is cooling, make the frosting: Using a handheld electric mixer, blend all of the ingredients together until light and fluffy.
Place the cooled cake on a plate and generously spread the frosting on top.
The cake will keep up to a week in an airtight container.
A rose is a rose is a rose. And what a wonderful cocktail it makes! Especially when combined with the French wine-based aperitif, Lillet Rosé, which is made from Grand Cru Bordeaux grapes and combined with fruit liquers.
This recipe is from the very talented mixology pioneers at New York's highly rated cocktail sanctuary, Death & Co., and it comes from their classic, beautiful, recipe-laden, encyclopedic, must-have book on Everything Cocktails.
4 heaping teaspoons of dried rosebuds (Mountain Rose Herbs is a great source for organic ones!)
1 750-ml bottle of Lillet Rose
In a container, combine the dried rosebuds and the bottle of Lillet Rosé. Stir well. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour and 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a glass of choice.
Yes, of course, you can get our own copy of the entire "The Violet Bakery Cookbook" by Claire Ptak,with all of its delish - morning to night - recipes here at Pretty Things & Cool Stuff!
Photo: Kristin Peters
One (10 by 4-inch) loaf cake, which cuts into 8 slices
All our lemons at Violet come from the Amalfi coast of Italy. They are large and sweet and have a very thick and pithy peel.
(OUR NOTE: If you don't happen to live near the Amalfi coast or your local market does not have lemons from there, remember to choose a lemon that's heavy for its size and has a pleasant fragrance. The skin should be bright yellow with no wrinkling. A thinner-skinned lemon will yield more juice, while a thicker-skinned one may be better for zest.)
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
1 1/3 cups sugar
Zest of 3 or 4 lemons (save the juice for the lemon drizzle and icing)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat your oven to 355°F . Butter a 10 by 4-inch loaf pan and line the base and sides with parchment paper, extending the paper about 2 inches above the top of the pan.
First make the sponge (cake). In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar well, though you don’t want as fluffy a mixture as you would for a layer cake. Zest the lemons into the butter mixture and mix thoroughly. Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each one is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix half of this into the creamed butter mixture, scraping down the sides, until barely combined.
While the mixer is still going, beat in all the milk. Then add the remaining flour and mix until just combined. Scrape the bowl and give it one last mix.
Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an icing spatula or rubber spatula.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the top of the cake is springy and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
To make the lemon drizzle, combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a small pan and heat just until the sugar is melted. Do not let this boil, or the fresh flavor will be lost.
Use a skewer to poke holes evenly throughout the baked loaf. Pour the lemon drizzle over the loaf and let it soak in while you make the icing.
In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice until smooth.
To remove the loaf cake from the pan, run a small paring knife along the inside of the pan, then tilt the pan on its side and coax the loaf out, using the parchment paper as a handle. Peel off the paper and turn the loaf upright on your cooling rack or worktop. Drizzle the icing over the loaf and let it drip down the sides. Use a spatula to lift the loaf onto a serving dish. This keeps well for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
Reprinted with permission from The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photograph copyright © 2015 by Kristin Perers.
(Think Earl Grey tea, but with a superior flavor. Yields 100 truffles)
24 ounces bittersweet chocolate — preferably Valrhona Manjari 64% (not too bitter and not too sweet, perfect!) — finely chopped
8 ounces milk chocolate — preferably Valrhona 42% — finely chopped
2 2/3 cups heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
6 ounces of Smith Tea Lord Bergamot Blend 55 Loose Leaf Tea , plus a little extra to decorate truffles. (You can substitute an Earl Grey tea, but the flavor will not match that of the Lord Bergamot!)
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups cocoa powder (not Dutch processed), preferable Valrhona, for rolling truffles in
1. Line a 13-by-9 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap; set aside
2. In a heatproof bowl, set over simmering water (don't let bowl touch water), melt 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate and milk chocolate together until it reaches 120 degrees.
3. Place cream in a small saucepan over medium heat; heat until cream just comes to a boil. Place loose tea in a medium, stainless steel bowl. Pour cream over tea and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain the cream mixture through 4 layers of cheesecloth.
4. Remove chocolate mixture from heat and add 1 1/3 cups cream mixture, reserving remaining cream for another use. Using a heatproof spatula, mix together, starting from the center of the saucepan and working your way to the outer edges until mixture is emulsified.
Add butter and and mix with an immersion blender until well combined. Pour mixture into prepared baking sheet, evenly spreading mixture with an offset spatula; cover with plastic wrap, pressing down gently on chocolate mixture to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, and up to overnight.
5. Line the back of another 13-by-91/2-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Uncover chocolate and invert onto parchment paper; remove second piece of plastic wrap. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, and a ruler as a guide, cut chocolate into 1-inch squares.
6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Roll each square of chocolate between your hands to form a smooth ball. Transfer chocolate balls to baking sheet; refrigerate for 1 hour.
7. Melt remaining 16 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl, set over (but not touching) simmering water. Place cocoa powder in a shallow dish. Place some of the melted chocolate in the palm of your hand and roll a chocolate ball in the melted chocolate to coat, then roll in cocoa powder. Sprinkle some of the extra Lord Bergamot loose tea on top of truffle and press in gently.
Repeat process with remaining chocolate balls. Transfer truffles to an airtight container, stacking truffles no more than 2 to 3 inches high, and refrigerate up to 2 weeks. Bring truffles to room temperature just before serving. ENJOY!
Recipe inspiration from Smith Tea and Charles Chocolates