Month: February 2015

Wuv… twue Wuv

Valentine’s Day is around the corner. We all know this. When I was single, I was always very determined to ignore it completely. Now that I’m not, well, I’m not ignoring it completely because while I’m not a total mush monster, I do appreciate a well thought out romantic gesture, just not exclusively because Hallmark says so. What was my point? Oh yeah! I think this cake could definitely fall under the category of a not over-the-top but will definitely be appreciated Romantic Gesture. It’s a serious cake for people who really like it rich, but pretty easy to make, and combines three of my favorite things: beer, coffee, and chocolate.

I actually made it at work, for a party, so most of the pictures you’re about to see are what it looks like to make this recipe multiplied by… well, a lot. We needed to make 750 little cakes. The original recipe also includes a chocolate ganache topping, but you can pretty much decorate this cake however you like, and bake it in whatever shape and size you like. I’ll give you the directions as they’re written, because I’d like to imagine one of you making a three layered beauty dripping with chocolate. If you do, send me a picture, yeah?

Equipment:

hand mixer or stand mixer
whisk
large pot or saucepan
medium pot
two large mixing bowls
spatula or mixing spoon
knife and cutting board (if you’re chopping up the chocolate for the ganache)

Ingredients:

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups stout (chocolate stout, milk stout, regular stout– whatever kind you like)
1/2 cup strong black coffee
2 cups unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup sour cream

For the ganache:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 pound semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (or just use semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Preheat your oven to 350º. Butter three 8 inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper, then butter the paper, too.

In the large pot, bring the stout, coffee, and butter to a simmer over medium heat.

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Add the cocoa powder and whisk, whisk, whisk until everything smooths out. Allow the mixture to cool while you work on the rest of the recipe.

Whisk all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt) together in a large bowl. Set aside.

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In your stand mixer or with your hand mixer, beat the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla together until well combined.  With the mixer running, slowly add the cooled chocolate mixture to the egg mixture until it’s all incorporated.

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NOTE: Make sure the chocolate is cooled off… it doesn’t have to be cold, by any means, but if it’s too hot, it’ll cook the eggs.

Add the dry ingredients and blend until just combined.

Divide the batter equally between the three baking pans. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow the cakes to cool for at least 10 minutes in their pans, then turn them out onto a rack if you have one and let them finish cooling.

While the cakes are cooling, bring the heavy cream to a simmer in the 2nd pot. Take the pot off the heat, and add the chocolate. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Refrigerate it for awhile until the ganache is spreadable.

You can layer these with however much icing between the layers as you want. If it was me, I’d do a thin layer of icing on each of the first two layers, and then really slather it all over the top layer and around the sides. But, I’m one of those people who can’t resist sticking her finger in the icing on the outside of the cake, so I like to make sure there’s enough for the finger sticking/licking bit without damaging the cake to icing ratio too much.

I found some pink chocolate in our walk-in so I just used that to cover the whole cake and then did a little thing with some sprinkles and icing sugar and melted chocolate. Go crazy, though. This is a very rich, deep chocolate cake so it would pair well with just about anything, from fruit to something creamy like ice cream to, well, more chocolate.

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Happy Baking!

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Oh, Stuff It!

I’ve been doing a lot more cooking at home, lately, and planning ahead on my shopping trips to take advantage of specials at the grocery store. I used to be really good at that, and then started spoiling myself with all kinds of fancy food and just shopping all willy nilly without a list because apparently I thought there was a money tree out back.

NOTE: There’s not. I looked.

So, now, I plan a little. I think about when I’ll be home for dinner during the week, and how much effort I want to put into cooking for myself. Whether you’re a semi-professional like me, or not, it seems to be so difficult to get motivated to cook for one, right? Or maybe you are always cooking for an army and you want to smack me upside the head right now for complaining about this. That’s ok, too. For me, it’s just way more fun on the weekends when I get to cook for the boyfriend or make food to bring to someone else.

This recipe for Pork Chops Stuffed with Kale and Red Bell Peppers made use of a sale on boneless pork chops, some kale I already had on hand, and half a red bell pepper that wasn’t going to make it to the end of the week.  It was super easy to pull together in the absolutely laziest way I possibly could, and bonus! I had a leftover chop for lunch the next day.

Equipment:
oven safe skillet
baking sheet or pan (if you don’t have an oven safe skillet)
knife and cutting board
spoon or spatula
small spoon to use when stuffing the pork chops
toothpicks (optional)
aluminum foil
platter or plate

Ingredients:

salt and pepper
2 boneless pork chops
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 of a red bell pepper, julienned
2 cups baby kale, or regular kale, chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 375º.

Cut a pocket into one side of each pork chop. Be careful not to cut all the way through.

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Season both sides as well as inside the little pocket with salt and pepper (or use whatever spice blend you like).

Heat your skillet to what I can best describe as “screaming hot.” If you can’t hold your hand one inch above the surface for longer than 5 or 6 seconds, it’s hot enough. This is so you can get a good, quick sear on the outside of your chops. Do not put any oil in the pan.

Lay each chop into the pan, and just leave it alone for a couple of minutes. Don’t smoosh it or move it around or anything. Let that hot pan do its job. Flip the chops over and do the same thing on the other side. You want to see some good color, but you’re not trying to cook the chops through right now.

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When both sides have been seared, remove the chops from the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low.

Give the pan a few minutes to come down in temperature, then add the oil to the pan. Toss in the garlic and let it cook until it just starts to get some color… it should take less than a minute. Then add your bell peppers and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until they start to soften.

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Add the kale and give it a stir to get the wilting started, then season the veggies with a pinch of salt and pepper. The kale will reduce down quite a bit.

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Take the pan off the heat. Spoon the kale/red pepper mixture into the pocket of each pork chop. I kind of over-stuffed mine, and I didn’t use a toothpick to hold it shut. I probably should have, but I am sometimes a lazy mofo. If you want your chops to look a little prettier than mine, go ahead and grab a couple toothpicks to hold them closed.

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If you have an oven safe skillet, you can just cover it with foil and put it directly into the oven. If you don’t, just transfer the stuffed chops to your baking sheet or pan and cover that with foil. Pop them into the oven for 15-18 minutes, or the internal temperature of the thickest part of each chop reaches 155º. Once they’re out of the oven, let the chops rest, covered, on a plate or platter for about 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute and so the carry-over cooking can bring the meat fully up to temp.

I ate my pork chop with some pan roasted Brussels sprouts because I am currently very obsessed with them. You can eat yours with whatever tickles your fancy, since these already have some veggies inside of them.

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Happy cooking!