Chewy Molasses Squares

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These were a consolation prize the Pie found after the disastrous experiment with s’mores cookies last week.  And they turned out to be an excellent way of depleting our more esoteric baking supplies.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter an 8″ baking dish.  I went with the extra precaution of lining it with parchment and buttering that, too.  Now I doubled my recipe and plopped it in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish because the recipe got its math wrong and there is no way that an 8″ square pan leaves you with forty 1 1/2″ squares.  It just ain’t so.  I only ended up with twenty-four, and that’s in the bigger pan.

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Anyway.  Don’t fret about the math for now, and whisk together 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and set that aside for now.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1/3 cup unsalted butter (room temperature) and 3/4 cup granulated sugar until they’re pale and fluffy, a couple minutes.  I used half white and half brown sugar here because I ran out of molasses so  I needed to boost the flavour a bit.

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Separate out 4 egg whites and use the yolks for something else.  I’m sure you could get away with tossing them into this mix, but it would make for a much denser cake.  I might try it next time.  Huck those into the mixer and beat to combine.

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Grab yourself 1 cup molasses.  I ran out of molasses halfway through and discovered that my Golden Syrup had corroded the tin it was in, so my only recourse was lily white corn syrup, which made my squares quite a bit more pale than they were supposed to be.  Your squares will be much darker.

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Anyway, pour that in as well and give it a stir until it’s all combined.

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At this point, the Pie remarked that this was one of the grosser-looking things I had ever made, with maybe the exception of banana bread.  He has no appreciation for the science of things.  Then of course I added in the flour mixture and whipped that around and he was all like, “ooooh, it’s so pretty and smooth!”  Figures.

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Anyway, smooth that lovely pretty substance into your prepared pan and chuck it in the oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of it comes out clean.  For the doubled recipe, this took about an hour.

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Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, then tip it out and cut it into as many squares as you like.

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Grab a bowl and dump in about 1/2 cup icing sugar, and roll each square in that just before serving (if you do it in advance then the icing sugar will be absorbed into the square and it won’t look as pretty).

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Then you eat them!

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Bookmark Brownies

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This recipe comes from a laminated bookmark I received as part of a promotional package from Chatelaine magazine.  While I was not so struck by this unsolicited mail that I wished to subscribe to the magazine, I kept the bookmark because the brownie recipe on it was gluten free with an interesting twist.  Actually this is a lie.  As soon as I’d typed in the ingredient list into this entry, I threw it out.  And was annoyed that it was unrecyclable.

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Below is the original recipe for one pan of brownies.  I tripled this because I was baking for work, so ignore my photos involving massive amounts of baking materials.

First, separate 4 eggs, and bring the whites to room temperature.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line an 8″ square pan with parchment paper, letting the paper hang over the sides of the pan (you’re going to use these as handles later, see?).

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In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups icing sugar with 2 cups ground almonds (I used almond meal), 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt.

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Add to that your egg whites and 2 teaspoons vanilla and mix well.

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Pour that thick loveliness into the prepared pan.  And by thick I mean that this stuff will suck you into oblivion if you’re not careful.

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Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is shiny and crusty and a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out mostly clean.

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Use the parchment handles to carefully lift the brownie out of the pan (you don’t want it to suddenly sag and break in half, for instance) and set the brownies on a rack to cool completely.

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What this recipe doesn’t tell you (because I guess the bookmark was too small) is that these things are next to impossible to cut cleanly.  I thought mine weren’t cooked enough and ended up putting them back in the oven for another fifteen minutes and they were still ridiculous, sticking to the knife and crumbling everywhere.  Warm, cold, didn’t matter.  Crumbles all over the place.

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But they tasted like brownies.  So that’s that.

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Carrot Cake for Interviews

Carrot Cake

While the Pie and I were back in Ottawa, I took advantage of our time there to finish off a few more interviews for my work with the local hockey team.  For my very final interview, the person I was interviewing wasn’t a huge sweet fan, so I decided to go with a nice, fresh carrot cake that I pulled off the Canadian Living website.  Plus it was easy peasy and I didn’t have a lot of free time.

Carrot Cake

Preheat your oven to 350°F and then butter and flour a 13 x 9″ metal cake pan (or, as I did in this case, two 9″ square disposable aluminum pans).

Carrot Cake

In a large bowl, whisk together the following:

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

I didn’t take a picture of it because it was boring, so you can have a picture of my dog instead.
Gren Learns to Swim

In another bowl, beat together the following until smooth:

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla
Carrot Cake

Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and mix until just moistened.

Carrot Cake

Stir in 2 cups grated carrots, 1 cup drained crushed canned pineapple (basically one 340mL can), and 1/2 cup chopped pecans.

Carrot Cake

Spread into your prepared pan(s) and bake for 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Carrot Cake

Set the cakes on a rack to cool completely.

Carrot Cake

For the glorious cream cheese icing, beat together the following:
1 8oz (250g) package plain cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup icing sugar

Carrot Cake

I needed a little extra icing and I wanted it to be a bit creamier, so I added in a further 1 cup icing sugar and 1/2 cup whipping cream.

Carrot Cake

So very smooth.

Carrot Cake

Spread the icing over your cooled cake.  Spread it with love.  You can tell that I love it.

Carrot Cake

Either inside the pan or without.

Carrot Cake

And then eat it all.  Because the one I made is totally gone now.

Carrot Cake

White Cake with Blueberries

This is kind of a mish-mash cake I made for Rusty (the man loves his cake), and it turned out pretty well, all things considered.  The cake recipe comes from Epicurious.com and the icing is a modified version of the one I used in the Pie’s vanilla birthday cake.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter and flour a 9″ x 9″ square cake pan (or, in this case, a 10″ round springform pan).

Cream together 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup softened butter.  Then add in 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Combine 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour with 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder and add that to the butter/egg mixture.

Finally, stir in 1/2 cup milk until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level the top.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Remove to a rack to cool completely.

I was a little disappointed at how flat this cake turned out.  I suppose if I were to do it again I would separate the eggs and whip the whites to boost the volume.  You can gently fold the whites into your mixed batter to make your cake much fluffier.

While the cake is cooling, prepare your icing.  In a double boiler, melt 4 oz white chocolate.

Cream together 1 package (250g) softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup milk, 4 cups icing sugar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla.  If you use heavy cream instead of milk you will need less icing sugar.

Add in the melted chocolate and blend until smooth.  Put that gooey goodness in the fridge to cool.

I decided to add a fruity boost to the cake with 1 cup blueberry fruit sauce (you can see the basic recipe here).  Make sure your sauce is cool before you put it on your cake or it will melt your icing.
When the cake is cool, carefully slice it in half horizontally so you have two layers.
Slather some white chocolate icing on the top of the bottom slice and cool that in the fridge for a few minutes.
Plop about three quarters of your fruit sauce on top of that icing layer and smooth it out.  I may have licked the spoon.  But everyone who ate it was related to me.
Plop the second cake layer on top and ice the whole cake with your icing.  Mine was pretty gooey and so oozed down the sides, but it worked out for me.
Pour the remaining fruit sauce on top of the cake.
Swirl with a knife for a marbled effect and then cool in the refrigerator until set.
EAT!

Chocolate Moose Cake

My siblings-in-law Rusty and Mags are arriving today for a couple of weeks.  It’s Rusty’s first time on a plane, so something tells me he’ll need some chocolate when he gets here.  And possibly booze.

I borrowed the actual cake recipe from here, but everything else I made up on my own.  Make sure you’ve got some time when you make this cake, or at least a list of other things to do.  There’s a lot of waiting around for things to cool.

First, you need a springform pan.  Mine here is 10 inches.  Anywhere around that size should be fine.  You see how it has a little lip on the bottom?

Well, flip that so the lip is facing down and lock it in place.

Now butter it like there’s no tomorrow, making sure to fill in all those wee squares, and then dust it with flour.  Knock out the excess and set that sucker aside.

Preheat your oven to 325°F.

In a large bowl, sift in and whisk together 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup water and 3 large eggs.

Chop up about 8oz bittersweet or dark chocolate (or milk, if you prefer, it’s your cake — who am I to tell you what to do?).  Melt that in a double boiler with 3/4 cup butter.

Remove that from the heat and whisk in the egg mixture until it’s smooth and feels like pudding.

Then whisk all that chocolate goodness into the flour mixture and get out all the lumps.

Add in 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and keep on whisking.  Make sure to rest your whisking hand often, as this is a very whisk-heavy recipe.  How many more times can I say “whisk”?

Pour that glop into your prepared springform pan.

Make sure to rap the pan on the counter to get out all those pesky air bubbles.

Bake for 75 to 90 minutes, until the cake is starting to pull away from the side of the pan and a wooden stick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes, then remove the ring and let the cake cool completely, about an hour.  Once the cake is cool you can carefully remove it from the bottom of the pan.

At this point, I brushed the cake with the contents of a wee bottle (50mL) of Grand Marnier, an orange-flavoured liqueur, to keep the cake moist while it awaits the arrival of its consumers.

While your cake is cooking and cooling, you can work on your fondant covering.

We’re going to do a cocoa-mocha fondant today.  So, in the bowl of your mixer, plop in 3/4 cup butter, softened, 3/4 cup corn syrup, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.  Mix that until creamy, then add in 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, 3 tablespoons instant espresso powder, and, slowly, so you don’t start an icing sugar mushroom cloud, about 5 cups icing sugar.

You may need to adjust the level of icing sugar until you get the appropriate doughy texture.  You can always knead in more icing sugar with your hands.  Set that aside.  Possibly in the fridge to firm up a little.

Now we’re going to make the decorating fondant.  In a clean bowl, mix together 1/4 cup softened butter, 1/4 cup lily white corn syrup (because otherwise it won’t turn out as light as you want it to), and 1 teaspoon almond extract.

Mix that until it’s creamy, then add in about 2 cups icing sugar and mix until doughy.  Set that aside.  Again, you can put it in the fridge.  Or next to an open window to catch the cold Newfoundland breeze.  Of course if you live anywhere else at this time of year you probably have your air conditioning on so you could always use that.

Normally, you would create a buttercream icing to go under your fondant, a nice solid glue to hold everything together.  But since when do I obey the rules?  We’re going to go with a ganâche, and that’s all there is to it.

Chop up another 8oz chocolate (your choice, of course), and melt that in a double boiler.

When it’s completely melted, whisk in 2 cups whipping cream until smooth.  Chuck that in the fridge to let it cool completely and thicken.  Stir it around every once in a while.

As this cake is a welcome-to-Newfoundland dessert for my siblings-in-law, I thought I would put a moose on the cake.  The moose, in case you didn’t know, was introduced as a hunting species to Newfoundland at the end of the 19th century and, having no natural predators other than man (because introducing species to island ecosystems is a bad idea), has proliferated and is now one of the province’s biggest pests, wreaking havoc on people’s gardens within the city and accounting for high numbers of traffic fatalities for those unfortunate (or stupid) enough to drive across the island at night.  The moose is an extremely dangerous animal, for all its vegetarian-ness, but Newfoundlanders have adopted the moose as a cute symbol of what makes Newfoundlanders a bit different than everyone else.

What I’m saying is that it’s entirely appropriate to put a moose on your cake when you live in Newfoundland.

I printed out a stencil of a moose from the internet and cut it out.  I rolled out the white fondant onto a piece of waxed paper and laid my stencil on top.

I traced the outline of the stencil with a thin, sharp knife.

Then I peeled away the excess fondant.

And thar be me moose.  I set that aside to dry a little.

When your ganâche is cooled and thickened, you can slather it on your cake.

Like that.  Holy crap does that ever look good.  Chill that in the fridge to let the ganâche set a bit more while you roll out your coffee fondant.

The Pie and I used a rolling pin to ease the fondant onto the cake.  Because the ganâche is soft and squidgy it didn’t provide a very good base for the fondant and so you can see we have some cracks.  But we’re okay with that.  Plus the moose will cover up the worst of it.  For more information on dealing with fondant, check out my Raspberry Trifle Cake experiment.

Trim the excess fondant from the bottom and smooth the sides.

Lay that moose on down on top of the cake and smooth it down as well.

We used Cadbury’s chocolate covered raisins (like Glossette’s) as “moose poop” around the edges of the cake at the bottom.  And of course one big one, just behind the moose in question.

Keep this cake in the fridge to firm up the fondant and to keep the ganâche from spoiling.  Once you have cut into it make sure to keep it covered with plastic wrap, and eat it within a few days.

Delicious Disaster

Well.

I should know by now that experimenting with recipes before a dinner party is not a good idea.  But who else can I experiment on but my hapless dinner guests?

My goal was a dense, gooey, flourless chocolate cake, maybe with a glossy dark chocolate ganache poured over top.  I thought I had found the ideal recipe here.  It had four simple ingredients and no-nonsense instructions.  It even gave me the opportunity to use my kitchen scale, which had long sat unused.  Working in metric is such fun.

I’ll give you the recipe here, and then you can see for yourself how things went horribly wrong.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (that’s about 350°F for those of you who don’t have both measures on your ovens).  Grease (with lots and lots of butter) a 22cm/9″ cake pan and set that aside.

Measure yourself out 250g dark chocolate and chop that sucker into pieces.

Melt that in a double boiler with 100g butter until smooth.  Remove from the heat.

Separate 4 large eggs.  Sift 175g icing sugar into a bowl, add the 4 yolks, and whisk until pale and creamy.

Fold the melted chocolate into the egg mixture.

In yet another bowl, whisk the 4 egg whites until soft peaks form.

Using a metal spoon, gradually fold the whites into the chocolate mixture.

Pour the mixture into the greased pan.  Mine nearly filled it, so I put a pizza pan underneath to catch any spills.  I needn’t have worried, it turns out.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the surface begins to crack but the centre is still gooey.

Alas, though the cake baked up perfectly and smelled divine, it wouldn’t come out of the pan, no sir.  Not at all.  I don’t even think lining the pan with parchment paper would have helped.

This is it after it cooled.

I ended up with warm, gooey, dense chocolate cake bits in a pile on a plate.

With three hours until the dinner guests arrived, the Pie said, “Well, you have time to make another cake.”

I gave him a dark look.

“Or,” he says, backtracking, “you could make a trifle?”

Huzzah!  Dessert is saved!  Another floor pizza crisis averted.

Of course, having never made trifle in my life (I save that duty for my mother-in-law, because Mrs. Nice does it so well), I do not own a trifle bowl.  Not to worry, I will improvise.  Though I wouldn’t mind getting a trifle bowl someday, hint, hint …

Trifle is all about the layers.  The traditional version is a sponge cake, usually soaked with some form of alcohol, like brandy or sherry, topped with fruit, custard, and whipping cream in alternating layers.  In a straight-sided container like a trifle bowl you can see all the layers and the effect is quite pretty.

This being a chocolate cake, I thought the custard would be inappropriate.  If I had more time, I would have made chocolate pudding as a substitute for the custard, but I didn’t have the time needed for the pudding to set.  Instead, I opted for a strawberry fruit sauce with drizzled melted chocolate between the layers of whipped cream, and topped with fresh raspberries.  I drizzled a wee bit of Grand Marnier over the cake and let that sink in.

When I made the fruit sauce I added a little bit of corn starch just so it would thicken, and then I made sure to let it cool.

I added butter to the melted chocolate so that when it cooled it wouldn’t be as hard as it was originally.

I also added a wee bit of cream of tartar to my whipped cream so that it would hold its shape better while chilling in the refrigerator.

Then I did my layering …

Gooey cake.  Drizzled chocolate.  Strawberry goodness.  Whipped cream.  Repeat.

Drop a handful or two of fresh raspberries on top and drizzle the remaining chocolate all over and we’re set.

The layering doesn’t look as pretty from the side but we have to sacrifice aesthetics sometimes.  Chill that sucker for a couple hours then feed it to your unsuspecting dinner guests with a sob story about your failed dessert.

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

This recipe comes from January’s Canadian Living magazine and it was so fabulous that my parents had to take their share to be redistributed at my mother’s physiotherapist.  They are too delectable.

The amounts below give you about 12 cupcakes but of course I multiplied the recipe, and ended up with a variety of mini, medium, and large cupcakes.  Perfect for sharing.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with cupcake cups.

Melt about 2oz chocolate (I ain’t gonna try to tell you what kind, you use your judgment) in a double boiler with 1/4 cup strong coffee until melted and smooth.

In a bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup milk with 1/3 cup cocoa powder and stir into your melted chocolate/coffee.

In another bowl (this time make it a big one), beat 1/3 cup softened butter and 1 3/4 cups icing sugar until light and fluffy — this will take you about two minutes.  If you do this by hand, well, then it will take you a spell longer.  Be lazy: use a mixer.

Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, as well as 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

In ANOTHER freaking bowl, whisk together 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1/2 teaspoon EACH baking soda and baking powder.  Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternately with the chocolate mixture, making three additions of flour and two of chocolate.  Stir that sucker up good until the colour and texture are even.

Divide the batter amongst your cupcake cups.

Bake for about 12-18 minutes, or until a tester/toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for about five minutes before removing them to a rack to cool completely.

To make your lovely double chocolate fudgy icing, beat together in a bowl 1/2 cup softened butter and 1 3/4 cups icing sugar until fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Melt together about 2oz each of unsweetened and milk chocolates (or use dark and light, I don’t care), and beat the chocolate into the fluffy stuff along with about a teaspoon of milk. You can add more milk if you like until the texture is lovely and smooth.

Spread that brown goo all over your cupcakes.

Be prepared to see them magically disappear!