Monday, February 27, 2012

Flourless Chocolate Cake

It feels a little wrong to me to call this "Flourless Chocolate Cake" like it's a special adaptation for celiacs or something. Like it's somehow less than regular cake. It's not. It really should be called "To Die For Ultra Mega Better-Than-Crack Chocolate Cake" or something. It's A-MAZ-ING! And if you're the type of person who feels that most chocolate desserts aren't chocolatey enough then you should make this. Now. With some caramel:
I scaled this recipe down from a larger 10" cake recipe. I wanted something portion-controlled since this is really decadent and easy to eat waaaaay too much of. So I baked it in ramekins. If you don't have ramekins, you could use wide mouth half pint jars or any oven safe bowls with a capacity of around 6-8 ounces. (Wide mouth half pint jars are available by the dozen from places like Ace Hardware, often for less than $10. I'm thinking you could even cool some servings, put the lid on, and freeze for later use. Just a thought.)

The cakes start with 9 ounces of chocolate melted in the microwave. I used dark baking chocolate for extra chocolatey flavor! I highly recommend using dark chocolate, preferably with a decent cacao percentage (60% or more).

Scrape the melted chocolate into a mixing bowl and then beat in the butter a little at a time.
Then you draw a shot of espresso. Or you could just use water. Or water and instant espresso. Or if you're me you draw two shots: one for the cakes and one to drink.

Then you beat in the espresso along with the sugar and salt. And finally you beat in the eggs one at a time.
Then you divide it among the ramekins and bake them over a water bath. Pay no attention to how dirty my oven is and the pizza stone wedged under the water bath.
Twenty-five minutes later and you've got eight chocolatey pieces of heaven. Here's the before and after baking:
The cakes will fall and pull away from the sides of the ramekins after a few minutes out of the oven. No it's not perfectly pretty, but it's part of the plan for maximum fudgy-ness. If you have a problem with the slightly blemished surfaces of the cakes, hide them under whipped cream. Duh! 
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Adapted from this recipe
Serves 8
Total Cooking Time: 45 minutes (20 Active, 25 Baking)


9 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (Mine's made with dark baking chocolate. Yay more cacao content!)
4 ounces (1 stick, 1/2 cup) unsalted butter
2 ounces (1 shot, 1/4 cup) espresso (or 2 ounces water & 1 tsp instant espresso or just water)
3 ounces (about 6 tablespoons) sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs


1. Move your oven racks to the center and lower positions and place a large pan of water on the lower rack. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

2. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals. Once melted, scrape into a mixing bowl.

3. Cut the butter into small pieces and beat one at a time into the chocolate using a mixer.

4. Beat the espresso, sugar, and salt into the chocolate mixture. Then beat in one egg at a time.

5. Divide the batter among 8 ramekins. Bake on the middle shelf over the water bath for 25 minutes.

6. The cakes will fall after a few minutes out of the oven. It's good warm, at room temperature, or chilled depending on how dense you want the cake to be (my personal fave is room temperature). You can garnish with whipped cream, caramel sauce, etc. but this dessert is awesome all on its own.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Yogurt Scones

A few weeks back I posted a Meyer Lemon Curd recipe and briefly mentioned these scones. And the more I made them, the more I felt they deserved their own post for multiple reasons:

1. They are awesome and make the perfect vehicle for curd, jam, clotted cream, etc.

2. They're consistent. You will always get a crumbly golden brown exterior and a moist, fluffy, layered interior.

3. They require a little technique. You need to freeze butter and press the dough together by hand. (Not hard, but requires a little explanation).

4. They're an excellent primer on how to bake with a scale, which if you don't do, you should. It's waaaaaay easier and cleaner than using volume measurements.  

I'm going to show you how to do this (mostly) with a scale, but don't fret if you don't own a kitchen scale, there's volume measurements below too.

First you get out a mixing bowl, slap it on the scale, zero it, and add 10 ounces of flour. (On average a cup of flour weighs 5 ounces, give or take, depending on the humidity and how long it's been hanging around your pantry.) Then you stir in salt, baking powder, and baking soda. For these I use a measuring spoon since they weigh a tiny amount that my kitchen scale is probably not accurate enough to measure. Then you zero the scale and add 2.5 ounces of sugar. Zero again and grate 4 ounces (1 stick) of frozen butter into the mixture.
Yes, you could use a pastry blender and incorporate the butter at room temperature. But grating gives you really small pieces of butter that distribute evenly throughout the flour, giving you the most tender scone interior ever!
Then your going to zero the scale again and add about 5 1/2 ounces of good quality Greek yogurt (I like Fage). Add 1 egg and stir everything together. If you're like me, you will panic at this point because you will have a crumbly mixture like the one on the right that will seem like it will never form a dough. Fear not! Flour your hands and knead the dough together until it just hangs together:

See how the dough has a few cracks and there's still some flour mixture left in the bowl. That's good! Lightly flour your counter and press the dough into an 8 inch circle. Then dump the remaining dry mixture on top and gently press it into the top of the round. Dust with some more sugar and cut into 8 wedges:
Arrange the wedges in a circle on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes.
And devour! These are stellar right out of the oven, but they'll reheat really well in a toaster oven too. If you store them more than a couple of days I would freeze them because they tend to absorb moisture and lose their crispy exterior after that. If you're not planning on slathering these with something sweet they'd be awesome with your favorite mix-in. Half a cup or more of raisins, chocolate chips, etc.

Yogurt Scones
Yields 8 scones
Adapted from this recipe.


2 cups (10 ounces) flour, plus extra for dusting
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) sugar, plus extra for dusting
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick (4 ounces) butter, frozen for 10 minutes plus

1 large egg
generous 1/2 cup (5 1/2 ounces) good quality Greek yogurt like Fage (or substitute sour cream)


1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Mix together the first 5 ingredients.

3. Grate in the butter and stir. Add the egg and yogurt and stir with a spoon. At this point the mixture will be very chunky.

4. Flour your work surface and your hands and knead the dough a few time until it just hangs together. There will be some dry flour mixture left in the bowl.

5. Press the dough into an 8 inch round on the floured surface and press the rest of the dry mixture into the top. Dust the top with sugar.

6. Cut into 8 wedges, arrange in a circle on the baking sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Garlic Soup with Poached Eggs

This soup is all about the accompaniments. Garlicky toast, a poached egg, cilantro, crushed red pepper, and a squeeze of lime turn a simple garlic broth into something closer to hot and and sour soup. Light, but satisfying, this soup takes under 30 minutes from start to finish.  It would make a great light lunch or go with a flavorful grilled meat (think steak with chimichurri). I got this out of one of the Best of Gourmet cookbooks. And if I were going to change anything for next time, I'd probably add more garlic since the garlic flavor is surprisingly understated next to all the other flavors.   
The recipe starts with a whole head of thinly sliced garlic. I love garlic, but I hate peeling it. It rates right up there with taking apart and cleaning a blender in the category of annoying kitchen chores. So I present you with this handy little device. It's a garlic peeler that you simply roll across the table to with a clove or two inside and it removes the skin. You could get the same effect by rubbing the cloves in a kitchen towel between your hands, but then you'd have a kitchen towel that would forever smell like garlic and have skin clinging all over it.
After you've got your garlic peeled and thinly sliced you saute it with some olive oil until it just browns a little:
Then you take the garlic out and make toast in the now garlic-infused oil:
Then you take the toast out, add the garlic, some crushed red pepper, and stock (I used some of the turkey stock I made last week). And poach some eggs in the soup:
At a low simmer the eggs take about 4 min until the whites are set, but the yolks are still totally runny. You could cook them more if you want, but like this they'll enrich the broth when you crack open the yolk in the soup to eat it.

The assembly:

Garlic Soup with Poached Eggs
adapted slightly from The Best of Gourmet: Featuring the Flavors of San Francisco
Serves 4

1 medium head of garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 baguette slices cut 1/2 inch thick (I used a flavored ciabatta, which was also good.)
1 quart chicken broth or stock (I used home made turkey stock.)
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
4 large eggs
1/2 cup packed fresh chopped cilantro (I didn't measure but probably used closer to double this amount. I love cilantro!)
4 lime wedges

1. In a saucepan, over medium-low heat saute the garlic in the olive oil until it browns slightly. Remove garlic and set aside.

2. Increase the heat slightly and toast the baguette slices in the same pan, turning once. Remove the toast and arrange in 4 bowls.

3. Return the garlic to the pan and add the stock and crushed red pepper. Bring to a low simmer.

4. Crack an egg in a small bowl and gently easy it into the simmering broth. Repeat with remaining eggs. Poach for about 4 minutes until white is cooked through.

5. With a slotted spoon remove the eggs and put one in each bowl. Season with salt.

6. Ladle hot soup into bowls, top with chopped cilantro, and serve with lime wedges.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Turkey Stock

A week after Christmas, my husband and I were wandering around the grocery store when we spied several turkeys with big sale stickers sitting in a refrigerated case. Knowing I had just enough space in my freezer to wedge one in, I scored a 14 pound turkey for 9 bucks. It's important to note that I've never made a turkey before, but in recent years I've had a Norman Rockwell-esque vision of myself hosting the perfect holiday dinner complete with a perfectly roasted turkey. No matter that I don't actually own a real roasting pan and that my apartment fridge was barely big enough to hold the sucker. It was time for a test run! I decided to go pretty simple and roasted it on my broiler pan with a foil tent for a while. And then took off the tent the last 45 minutes so it could brown more. The results:
Not too shabby, right? It wasn't the moistest turkey I've ever had, but the skin was awesome. I think an electric roaster or a domed roasting pan plus browning time in the oven at the end would give you the best of both worlds--really moist meat and crispy skin.

After my husband had carved the turkey up, I used the bones to make stock. This is something else I've always wanted to do, but never tried. The process is really easy and I'll be saving all the bones from roasted poultry in the future for stock making. First, I broke up the carcass and threw it into a 6 quart stockpot along with the drippings from the pan and a few chicken bones I'd been saving.
Then I added water in the neighborhood of 15 cups (a cup under 4 quarts). In hindsight, I should have added a little less because when I added the veggies later, I had to take out a couple of bones so the pot wouldn't overflow.
Then I put the heat on very low (180-190 degrees) and let it go for about 3 1/2 hours. Gentle cooking over a long period is supposed to be the key to a good stock. You don't even want it to simmer in this case since the bones are already cooked. I used a thermometer to get the right temperature and checked it every 1/2 hour or so. If you're oven has a low enough setting you could just do this in the oven so you don't have to monitor the temperature. (Of course, I thought of this afterwards.) At 3 1/2 hours I ran some vegetables through my food processor and added them to the stock with some seasoning. I cooked the stock for 1 more hour and then used tongs to fish out the bones and larger chunks of vegetables.

I let the stock cool for about 1 1/2 hours and refrigerated it. By the next day all the fat had risen to the surface and formed a semi-solid layer. I skimmed it off with a spoon. (If you have a gravy separator you could also use that to separate off the fat, although I think this method is simpler.)
I ran the finished stock through a strainer to get rid of any remaining chunks of vegetable and spices and portioned it out into freezer bags. My yield was 14 cups plus a few tablespoons. What's nice is you hardly lose any water to evaporation since you cook stock at such a low temperature. I think the missing water was actually absorbed by the veggies.  The finished taste was fantastic too. It tasted so much more meaty and roasty than store bought. Which reminds me, I just learned the difference between stock and broth: stock is made with bones and meat, where broth is made with meat only. It seems stock typically has more flavor too. Clearly I learned this after I labeled the bags in the next picture.

This may look like a lot of steps, but the active cooking time is actually really minimal and the results are awesome. You can freeze your leftover chicken or turkey bones until you have enough of them. If you're the type of person that never has a solid block of time at home, I'm thinking you could probably do this overnight or while you're at work in a slow cooker that has a low setting. The longer you cook the stock the better the taste is going to be. So if you want to run it overnight for 6-8 hours and then add your vegetables, go for it. Stock seems to be pretty forgiving in terms of ingredients too. According to this book the most important thing is to have a ratio of at least 2 pounds bones to 3 pounds water. Which means for every pound of bones, you should add 3 cups (1.5 lbs) of water. I'm including a recipe here, but if you don't have some of the vegetables or spices, don't worry about it. I used a little more bones and less vegetables than the recipe called for and the stock still came out way better than store bought. Plus after doing the math on how much I saved buying good store bought broth, I actually made like $3 by buying the turkey (not to mention the meat fed us for a week).

Turkey or Chicken Stock 


4 pounds cooked turkey or chicken bones from roast plus pan drippings 
6 pounds water (12 cups)
1 pound onions, chopped (about 2 largish onion)
1/2 pound carrots, chopped (about 4 medium carrots)
1/2 pound celery, chopped (about 4 celery ribs)
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons crushed peppercorns
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons parsley
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste 


1. Preheat your oven to 180-190 degrees. 

2. Add the bones and drippings to a stockpot. Add the water.

3. Put in oven and leave for 3 or more hours.

4. Add the vegetables and spices and cook for 1 hour more.

5. Remove the bones and strain out the vegetables. Let stock cool up to 2 hours.

6. Refrigerate overnight. Skim the fat off the surface. 

7. If there are still vegetables and spices left in the stock, strain again. Portion into containers and freeze for future use.