This is another easy dessert–the only kind I make– courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen. I’ve adapted it to bring together one of my favorite flavor combinations; chocolate and orange but I think lemon would be equally as good. To add depth to the cake, I use a combination of semi sweet and bittersweet chocolate.
FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE-ORANGE CAKE
1 pound semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
1/4 cup strong coffee
Zest from 1 orange
8 large eggs, cold
Confectioners sugar or cocoa powder (for serving)
12 orange or Mandarin sections (for serving)
2 ounces dark chocolate melted (for serving)
Colored sugar crystals (for serving)
- Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly coat an 8-inch spring form pan with vegetable oil spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Wrap the outside of the pan with two sheets of heavy-duty foil and set in a large roasting plan. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
- Heat the chocolate, butter, and coffee together in a large bowl in the microwave, whisking often, until the mixture is melted and smooth, 1 to 3 minutes. Let cool slightly.
- Fold the orange zest into the chocolate mixture.
- Whip the eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until they double in volume, 5 to 10 minutes. Fold one-third of the whipped eggs into the chocolate mixture using a large rubber spatula until only a few streaks of egg are visible. Repeat twice more with the remaining eggs, then continue to fold until there are no more streaks.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan inside of the roasting pan and smooth the top. Set the roasting pan on the oven rack and pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the edges are just beginning to set, a thin glazed crust has formed on the surface, and an instant read thermometer inserted halfway into the center reads 140 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Carefully remove the spring form pan from the water bath and let cool completely on a wire rack, about 3 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- About 30 minutes before serving, run a paring knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, then remove the sides of the pan. Invert the cake on a parchment-lined plate and peel off the parchment from the bottom. Flip the cake upright onto a serving platter, discard the second piece of parchment, and let come to room temperature.
- Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar.
- Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave and dip each orange section into the melted chocolate then dip in colored sugar crystals. Place evenly along the edges of the cake.
YIELD: one 8 or 9 inch cake; serves 10 to 12
This is another tasty cake courtesy of From Away, my latest, go-to food blog. The combination of olive oil, rosemary, and chocolate is intriguing and surprisingly good. The cake comes together quickly making it a perfect ending to a weeknight dinner where dessert is a necessity. The ingredients are also staples in my kitchen and combined with our rosemary bushes in the garden, I will never have an excuse for not making the cake. I cautiously served the cake at our dinner last night—I am always hesitant to try out a new recipe on guests— but it was a hit. Even the children ate it; it probably helped that they ate it so quickly that they didn’t have time to see the little green flecks in the cake!
ROSEMARY OLIVE OIL CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, very finely chopped
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- Prepare an 8-inch cake pan with cooking spray. Pre heat an oven to 325 degrees.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer thoroughly beat the eggs, add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Slowly pour in the olive oil.
- Fold in the rosemary with a spatula.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and stir until just combined.
- Pour into the prepared pan and bake, 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.
- In a double boiler, slowly melt the chocolate over medium heat.
- In a small saucepan, warm the cream over medium low heat. Stir the cream into the melted chocolate until the mixture is thick and shiny.
- When the cake is completely cooled, pour the ganache over the cake and smooth with a spatula.
For the uninitiated Speculoos are Belgian cookies. Wonderfully crisp buttery and spice filled cookies that are served alongside coffee and cappuccino in cafes and coffee houses across the country. You can also buy them by the bagful in grocery stores; yes they are that good and addictive. They are similar to a gingersnap but less gingery–if that makes any sense. However you describe them, they are that good. And as if the cookies themselves weren’t enough they even sell the cookies in paste form. Similar in texture to peanut butter or Nutella the cookies are ground up into a creamy spread that can be smeared onto toast, sliced fruit or eaten with a spoon directly from a jar. (Not that I would know anything about that). And every Belgian pantry, including my own, always has a jar of this yummy goodness on hand.
And having a jar of Speculoos was perfect after I bought a bag of apples from the market and decided to bake these apple bars from the Yankee Kitchen Ninja. The Ninj’s recipe called for Biscoff which is essentially Speculoos with a different name. Bar cookies are great since they only require one baking pan and these cookies are no exception, coming together quickly and filling your entire house with the warm smell of caramel apples and spicy Speculoos. Your neighbors will be jealous!
Apple Speculoos Bars
8 tablespoons butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup Speculoos spread
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 small apples, peeled, cored and diced
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Melt the butter and sugar in heavy saucepan set over medium heat. Stir continually until the mixture is smooth.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the Speculoos spread. Cool slightly. (The batter will be very stiff but this is OK).
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, to the sugar mixture, beating well between each addition.
- Stir in the vanilla.
- Add the wet mixture to the dry, and stir until smooth.
- Fold in the apples as best you can.
- Pour the batter into a lightly greased 9 x 13 pan and bake for about 30 minutes.
- Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into bars.
Yields: 24 bars
I’m a huge fan of summer berries and going back to my Maine roots, blueberries are by far my favorite of all the berries. And because I am a native Mainer, when it comes to blueberries, in my opinion wild ones are far superior to cultivated ones. Smaller in size and darker in color, wild blueberries are sweeter and yield more of a “summer taste”. Unfortunately, fresh wild blueberries aren’t easy to find in many parts of the world so fresh cultivated ones will do in a pinch–because after all, fresh blueberries are better than no blueberries at all.
When you’ve had your fill of blueberry pies, pancakes and muffins and you’ve canned more jam than you can possibly eat and/or gift (can you tell what I do will all my fresh berries?), it is time to look for alternative uses for these sweet little berries. And when that time comes, look no further than this easy and flavorful tea cake from Williams Sonoma. The cake comes together quickly and with just a hint of spicy cardamom and a generous amount of fresh blueberries, it is the perfect snack or lunchbox treat. Of course, fresh wild blueberries are best but lacking them, feel free to substitute cultivated ones or even frozen berries. If you do use the frozen version, be sure to lightly dust them in flour before adding them to the batter. This will prevent them from “bleeding”.
BLUEBERRY TEA CAKE
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup plain yogurt
2 cups fresh wild blueberries
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)
- Preheat an oven to 350°F. Coat an 8 inch square baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and brown sugar until thick and fluffy.
- Using a wooden spoon, stir in the melted butter, rum and lemon zest.
- Add the flour mixture in two additions, alternating with the yogurt, and stir until just smooth.
- Using a rubber spatula, fold in the blueberries.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top with the spatula.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.
- Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool completely in the pan.
- Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar.
Yields: 1- 8 inch square cake
What chocolate lover isn’t a fan of brownies? I prefer mine to be rich, dense, and fudgy and am of the mindset that one small decadent bite is better than an entire pan of brownies that are only ho-hum. I’ve adapted this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen by substituting the almond extract for the vanilla extract called for in the original recipe. You could also use amaretto liqueur with similar results or go in a totally different direction by changing the extract flavor to peppermint or creme de menthe.
Regardless of the flavor you add, this recipe is fool proof and can easily be doubled if you are feeding a crowd. Because the brownies are so rich, I cut them into small, 1- inch squares. A little goes a long way with these treats. Versions of this brownie show up at every bake sale I contribute to or buffet table I put together. And they only thing that ever remains on the serving tray is crumbs.
AMARETTO FUDGE BROWNIES
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons extract of your choice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil then coat lightly with vegetable spray.
- Melt the chocolates, butter, and cocoa in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly.
- Whisk the sugar, eggs, extract, and salt together in a large bowl until well combined.
- Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in the flour until no streaks remain.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.
- Let cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, before removing the brownies from the pan using the foil and cutting into squares.
YIELD: 36 small brownies