Saturday, October 26, 2013

Red Velvet Cake

This was the cake I made for my son's birthday a few weeks ago.  I was actually quite surprised that he wanted this cake but he didn't regret it because this cake was so good.  The only comment from him was that it was a bit rich :).  But, nevertheless, he helped us finish the cake.

Red Velvet Cake

Makes 16 servings

3/4 cup unsalted butter

3 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 1-ounce bottle (2 tablespoons) red food coloring

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups buttermilk or sour milk

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar

Never-Fail Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)

Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degree F.  Grease and lightly flour three 9x2-inch or 8x2-inch round cake pans.  In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.

In an extra-large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed until combined.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes more, scraping side of bowl occasionally.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in food coloring and vanilla.  Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.  In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar; stir into batter.   Pour batter into the prepared pans, spreading evenly.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes for 9-inch pan, 25 to 30 minutes for 8-inch pan, or until a toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean.  Cool cake in the pans on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans; cool completely on rack.

Prepare Never-Fail Buttercream Frosting.  Place one cake layer, bottom side up, on a serving plate.  Spread with one third of the frosting.  Top with second layer, bottom side up; spread with one-third of the frosting.  Top with third layer, top side up.  Spread top with remaining frosting.

Never-Fail Buttercream Frosting

Makes about 4 cups

In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups milk, 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, and dash salt.  Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.  Reduce heat; cook and stir for 1 minute more.  Remove from heat.  Stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.  Cover surface with plastic wrap to prevent skin and cool completely at room temperature.  Transfer to a large bowl.  On medium speed of an electric mixer, gradually beat in 1 1/2 cups softened unsalted butter until mixture is smooth, scraping side of bowl occasionally.  (Frosting might look curdled until all of the butter is incorporated.)

Source:  adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking 2010

Friday, October 4, 2013

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

I've been busy.  When life is hectic sometimes I just want to put up my feet and nibble on something sweet.  This cookie fits my bill because it's portable, sweet, and goes together with a glass of warm tea.  Sipping the tea slowly while nibbling on the crisp edges of the cookie would lift up my mood especially when the weather turned blustery all of a sudden.  Crumbs fell to my lap and I looked at the time wondering how long had I been dreaming.  Time to go on with the everyday chore...

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Yield: 22 to 24 large (2 3/4" to 3") cookies; or about 4 dozen smaller (2") cookies.

1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional, for enhanced flavor
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon hazelnut flavor, optional, for enhanced flavor
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread, such as Nutella or Jif
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

Beat together the shortening, sugars, egg, vanilla, espresso powder, hazelnut flavor, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and chocolate-hazelnut spread until smooth.

Add the flour, beating gently until everything is well combined; the dough will be quite stiff and a bit crumbly. If it doesn't hold together well, drizzle in enough water or cold coffee (1 tablespoon or less) to bring it together. Watch out, though; if you add too much liquid, the cookies will flatten and spread out too much as they bake.

Drop the cookie dough by teaspoonfuls or tablepoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets (a teaspoon or tablespoon cookie scoop works well here), leaving 2" between them. The larger balls of dough will be about 1 1/2" in diameter, and weigh a generous 1 ounce each (if you have a scale); the smaller ones will be about 1 1/4" in diameter, and about 1/2 ounce in weight.

Use a large dinner fork to flatten each cookie to about 3/8" thick, making a cross-hatch design.

Bake the cookies for 7 to 12 minutes, until they don't appear super-moist any longer, and seem set. Since they're dark colored, it's difficult to tell when they're done by whether or not they're browned; it's a good idea to bake one test cookie first, to figure out the timing. Smaller cookies baked for the shorter amount of time will be softer; larger cookies baked for the longest amount of time will be crunchy.

Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool right on the pan; or on a rack.

Source:  adapted from King Arthur Flour