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Friday, March 22, 2013

Cake Doctoring: Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Jam

I'm a sweets addict.  I love cakes, cookies, candies, donuts, ice cream.  You get the idea.  I have a lot of talent with cooking but not so much with baking.  Yes, I have a number of good recipes, ones that are tried and true, worthy of the blog.  I'm not the best baker.  There, I've admitted two things upfront!  More often than not, I will make a box cake mix over a homemade cake because they never fail.  Don't get me wrong, I love homemade cakes, but we've yet to master making a lower-fat version that's not like a rubber mat.  Box mixes are so full-proof you can literally use just a box mix and either soda or pumpkin puree and bake it and still have a good cake.
Our friends Astrid and Roger, made me a homemade, chocolate and raspberry cake for my birthday.  It was moist, rich and oh-so-good!  I have the recipe and one day, I'll make it.  But...I'll save it for a special occasion when I can devote some time to truly following the directions carefully.  I'll post the home-made version at the end, if anyone cares to make it.  You should, it's so worth making. My recipe is more of a "anytime" version.  It's sweet, moist, super tasty and EASY.  I cut the oil out, reduced the 3 full eggs to 2 and 1 egg white.  You could reduce it down a bit more if you wanted.  I substituted the water for coffee - heightens the chocolate flavors.  Added in applesauce and raspberry jam.  The end result was almost as good as Astrid's cake - not as good mind you, hers was unbelievably wonderful.  And the dish she served it on became my gift too - you can't beat that kind of cake gift!

Dark Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Jam Ingredients:

  • Dark Chocolate Cake Mix (I used a Duncan Hines version, which I like very much)
  • 2 Whole Eggs and 1 Egg White
  • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce (or an individual potion container)
  • 1/3 Cup Seedless Raspberry Jam
  • 3/4 Cup Black Coffee (cooled)

For Frosting:

  • 1/3 Cup Seedless Raspberry Jam - heated until the jam is liquefied
  • Chocolate Frosting of Choice - homemade or store bought


  1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Grease and flour a cake pan (a 9 x 13; 2 9-inch rounds, or even a 9 x 9 square pan) - I used flour and cocoa powder. Shake out excess and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs/egg white, unsweetened applesauce, raspberry jam and coffee.  Use a hand mixer and beat for 3 minutes on medium speed, or whisk by hand for 2 minutes until the cake batter is smooth.  
  4. Pour the batter into the prepped cake pan, put the cake pan into the oven and bake, 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the size of the pan(s) you are using.  My 9x9 cake took closer to 40 minutes to bake.  Test the cake after 20 minutes to see if a knife or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when you touch it in the center.
  5. When the cake is done (you'll smell it, test it and touch it!) cool it in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove it from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
  6. When the cake cooled and is ready to be frosted, cut the cake in half, if using a 9x9 cake or 9 x 13.  Spread one half of the cake with warmed/melted raspberry jam.  Frost the other half of the cake and sandwich both halves together, frosting and jam sides inward/touching.  When the cake is put together, frost the entire cake with the frosting.  
  7. Refrigerate uneaten portion.  Will hold for up to 5 days.  Serves 8 generously.
And now for the Super, Home-Made Version from my dear friend, Astrid:

Warm Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake
For frosting:
  • 3 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam (about 5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For cake batter:
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tsps. unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam (about 3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened (okay, I cheat here and use
  • salted)
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar (I also cheat here and use dark)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Garnish: raspberries

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and generously butter a 9"x2" round cake pan.
  2. Make frosting: Chop chocolate. In a small heavy saucepan bring jam, cream, and chocolate to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Pour frosting into cake pan.
  3. Make cake batter: In a bowl whisk together boiling water and cocoa powder until smooth and whisk in milk, vanilla, and jam. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy and add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Into another bowl sift together flour, baking soda and salt and add to egg mixture in batches alternately with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating well after each addition.
  4. Pour batter evenly over frosting mixture and bake in middle of oven
  5. 30-35 minutes, or until a tester inserted into cake comes out clean (frosting on bottom will still be liquid). Cool cake slightly in pan on a rack, 10 minutes. 
  6. Cake may be made a day ahead, cooled completely in pan and left in pan, covered, at room temperature. Reheat cake, uncovered, at 350 10-15 minutes. I've never tried this, so can't vouch for it. Run a thin knife around edge of pan and twist pan gently back and forth on a flat surface to loosen cake. Invert a cake plate with a slight lip over cake pan and, holding pan and plate together with both hands, invert cake onto plate. 
  7. Frosting will cover cake and run onto plate. If all the frosting doesn't come out, or it comes out unevenly, be brazen and go ahead and repair it. It'll look great as it cools. Serve warm, garnished with raspberries (this is *really* gilding the lily!).
  8. The original recipe says serves 6 generously. I suspect that's only if they haven't eaten in about 3 days and are confirmed chocoholics! It's rich.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Roasted Squash and Peppers with Chick Peas and Thyme

I love to do a lot of cooking using the oven.  I'll maximize my cooking by prepping meats and vegetables and roasting as many things as I can.  It's minimal work and the only thing I really need to do is cut up stuff.  Most weekends I do all of my cooking on Sundays.  This past weekend, I somehow had Saturday afternoon free so I decided to get all my cooking done early.  I made a roasted salmon  with Dijon Crust fillet; turkey and spinach meatballs with "gravy"; roasted a brined turkey breast and 2 wings; roasted potatoes and I made a zucchini, squash, pepper and chick pea medley all in the oven in under 3 hours.  The trick is to start the quickest cooking items first; then increase the heat for higher roasting.  Rotate the pans and trays so all of your foodstuffs cook and roast without burning.  

When the meatballs and salmon were done baking after 15 minutes, I made room in the oven for the next round of food. The turkey meatballs went into the tomato sauce to finish cooking. Then I cranked up the heat to 425 and made the roasted vegetables and potatoes.  The turkey breast and wings went in last.  A body can get tired of the same old same old vegetable medley week after week.  This is a quicker and less ingredient version of a similar dish I've made in the past.  This recipe mixes it up by roasting the squashes and adding the chick peas, getting everything caramelized and crispy.  

Roasted Squash and Peppers with Chick Peas and Thyme Ingredients:

  • 2 Medium Zucchini - cut into large dice
  • 1 Medium Yellow Squash - cut into large dice 
  • 2 Bell Peppers - Red/Yellow/Orange or Green - cut into large 1/4 to 1/2 -inch dice
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Thyme Leaves
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt and 1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper 
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Can (14-16 ounces) Chick Peas - Drained and Rinsed


  1. Preheat oven to 425 Degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Use a large roasting pan or baking sheet. Wash and cut all the vegetables.  Place the cut squash, zucchini, and peppers onto the roasting pan and season with the olive oil, thyme, salt and freshly ground pepper, tossing to combine.  
  3. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  4. Add in the chick peas and roast for another 15 minutes, or until the chick peas brown.  
  5. Serve hot and season to taste with salt and pepper as needed.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Chicken Thighs with Olives, Thyme and Tomatoes

I was glancing through the latest issue of Martha Stewart Magazine yesterday and I came across the four "What's for Dinner" recipe cards featuring the humble chicken thigh. Inexpensive, moist and tasty, chicken thighs are the unsung hero of the poultry world.  They also happen to be my favorite cut of poulet.  I can find the organic thighs for a third the price of chicken breasts at most any grocery, so I will often buy them.  Bone-in chicken is tastier because cooking meat on the bone yields a juicier and tastier cut of poultry or meat.  I'd prefer skinless but don't mind removing the skin myself to save some fat calories and a few bucks in the process.  

I had a package of chicken thighs, some grape tomatoes, plenty of fresh and dried thyme and olives in the refrigerator, so I knew that I had to make this dish.  Like with many of the Martha Stewart recipes, I found that I needed to simplify it a tad - taking a good idea and making it work with what I had on hand as well as reducing steps and calories.  The original recipe called for shallots, mint and feta - none of which I had.  I wanted this to be a quick cook, one pot meal, not a big elaborate fancy dinner.  I'm thinking weeknight cooking - under 40 minutes.   Add or subtract what you want, the idea is what matters most.  We had this over some bowtie pasta, the tomatoes and onions made a sort of "sauce" that worked well.  It would also be good with roasted potatoes.  Serve with a green vegetable to round out the meal.  I had broccolini already made - perfect and saved some cooking steps too!

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Olives, Thyme and Tomatoes Ingredients:
  • 6 to 8 Bone-in Chicken Thighs (skin removed to save on fat calories)
  • 1 Large Onion - Half-moon slices
  • 1/2 to 1 Pint Cherry or Grape Tomatoes - washed and cut in half (use more or less, depending on how many chicken thighs you are making)
  • 1/2 Cup Pitted Spanish (Green) Olives 
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Thyme Leaves and 3 Springs Fresh Thyme (optional if available)
  • 1 Tablespoon Paprika
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 425 Degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Add the chicken, sliced onions, sliced tomatoes, and olives to a roasting pan.  Season with the dried and fresh thyme (if using). Drizzle with olive oil and season everything with the thyme, paprika, salt and pepper, tossing to combine.  
  3. Roast until at thermometer inserted into the chicken thigh registers 165 degrees - about 30 to 35 minutes.  
  4. Remove chicken from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes to continue cooking, covered loosely with aluminum foil.  Serve hot, with roasted onions, olives and tomatoes, along with any accumulated pan juices.  Serve with hot cooked pasta, egg noodles or over potatoes.  Serves 3 to 4 people, 2 thighs per person.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sautéed Veal Medallions with Brandy and Bitter Chocolate Sauce

This post is an update from a recipe I made back in 2007 for a Valentine's Day Themed Cooking Class at Williams-Sonoma. I recreated it again with some changes for another chocolate-themed series of cooking classes, this time for classes I taught at The American Table, in Collingswood, NJ. There were 3 classes on my schedule, 2 dinner/savory topics and one for desserts.  As I've written about the dessert class, I thought I should share the dinner recipe, it was so delicious and it translates well to using other meat/protein items other than veal.  I know you can easily swap out the veal for Portobella Mushrooms, thin slices of chicken or turkey (preferably cutlet style slices) or even tender slices of beef.
To make the pan sauce have a bit more oomph and body, I added in a medley of minced shallots, carrots and celery - a mire poix as it were.  It's not absolutely necessary, I just wanted more flavor and vegetables in the sauce.  If you use Portobella Mushrooms, clean them, slice them and then toss them into a plastic or paper bag with the flour/cocoa powder and seasoning mixture; shake the bag to coat the mushrooms.  This gets more of the seasoning on the mushrooms than by just pressing the mushrooms into the seasoned flour.  Trust me - it works better this way!  Pan saute the mushrooms first, then set them aside, keeping warm, while you make the pan sauce.  Substitute veg stock for teh chicken or veal stock.  If trying to keep this vegetarian and and you don't want to use butter to thicken the pan sauce, swirl in a tablespoon of Dijon Mustard instead of butter.  I served this dish with a side of roasted potatoes and carrot and zucchini ribbons with thyme
Season flour with Dried or Fresh Thyme, Salt, Pepper and Cocoa Powder
  • Sauteed Veal Medallions with Brandy and Bitter Chocolate Pan Sauce Ingredients:

    • 1 Pound Veal Cutlets - about 1 large per person
    • 1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
    • 1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder
    • 1 Tablespoon Dried Thyme ore 3 Tablespoons Fresh
    • Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper - to taste
    • Olive Oil - for sautéing as needed
      Pan Sauce:
    • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil - if needed
    • 1 Shallot - (about 1/4 Cup) finely minced
    • 1 Small Carrot - peeled and finely minced
    • 1 Celery Stalk - washed and finely minced
    • 1/2 Cup Brandy, Port or Dry Sherry (I used an inexpensive Brandy; bought a "5th" sized bottle)
    • 1 1/2 Cup Chicken or Veal Stock
    • 1/4 Cup Bittersweet Chocolate - finely chopped (70% to 85% Cocoa)
    • 1/4 Cup (4 Tablespoons) Cold Unsalted Butter - cut into small cubes
    • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper - to taste 
    • 1 Tablespoon Thyme Leaves - for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit and place a platter in the oven to warm.
  2. Use a shallow bowl or dinner plate, mixing together the flour, cocoa powder, thyme, salt and pepper. Dredge the veal cutlets into the mixture, shaking off the excess flour mixture. Set aside but use within 3 minutes so the veal doesn't begin to get soggy.
  3. Use a non-stick pan and heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in it over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Swirl the pan to spread the oil around, then add in the dredged veal cutlets and sear them. Use tongs to turn the cutlets. Cook the cutlets 2-4 minutes or until the cutlets are golden brown. Remove from heat. Test for doneness using a paring knife and gauge the colour. Medium rare will be very pink at the center; medium will be slightly pink; If the cutlets aren’t done to your liking, cook for a few minutes more.
  4. When the medallions are done, transfer them to the warmed platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil and set aside to rest. The meat will continue to cook from the residual heat.
  5. Making the pan sauce- put the skillet pack on the stove-top over medium-high heat. Add in a tablespoon of olive oil (if needed) and add in the minced shallots, carrots and celery. Sauté the vegetables for about 3 minutes, or until the shallots and celery turn translucent and the carrots are tender.
  6. Away from the heat/flame of the stove, carefully pour in the 1/2 cup of Brandy; return pan to stove and reduce the brandy down until only a few tablespoons of liquid remain - about 5 minutes.
  7. Next, add in the stock to the pan and scrap up any browned bits - the FOND. Reduce the stock mixture by half - about 5 more minutes.
  8. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the chopped chocolate, swirling the pan to incorporate. When the chocolate is melted, remove the pan from the heat and slowly add in 1 to 2 cubes of the cold butter at a time, whisking the mixture until the butter is nearly incorporated. Continue add the butter cubs to the pan, swirling and whisking to ensure a smooth pan sauce. The mixture should transform into a dark caramel coloured sauce with the consistency of heavy cream. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding the thyme leaves, a pinch of salt and a dash of black pepper.
  9. Plate the veal medallions and spoon some of the sauce over the veal and all around the plate. Serve hot immediately. Sauce will hold, refrigerated for 1 week.