It’s winter and…I’m longing for summer. What’s a girl to do when the cold, gray days seem like they will go on forever? Well, this girl finds a way to bake with fruit that reminds her of summer and the long, sunshine filled days ahead. […]
Well if this isn’t the perfect Valentine’s dessert for chocolate lovers, I’m at a loss. Actually, it’s a perfect dessert for just about any time of the year, Valentine’s Day just happens to be rapidly approaching at the moment. Rich, decadent, beautiful and totally delicious. Pretty swoon-worthy if you ask me. Entertaining and need an impressive dessert? These cakes are ideal because you can bake the cakes, make the creme anglaise, and puree the raspberry coulis the day before. All that remains on the day of your event…dipping cakes in chocolate ganache and assembly. Another reason to make these for your guests, they look as good as they taste. Stunningly beautiful. And a stunningly beautiful dessert that doesn’t require pastry chef skills…Yay!!!
As I mentioned this is an amazing dessert for any time of the year. In fact, this recipe was developed for my chocolate loving little princess, not Valentine’s Day. Her birthday happens to be in February and her only requirements…chocolate, and chocolate with red or pink decorations. I began looking through my cookbooks for anything that looked appealing and came up with a chocolate sour cream cake as my base. This recipe is drastically different from my starting point (a chocolate cake recipe in Baking Illustrated). It makes me so happy to create my own, especially when it turns out to be the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had!!! Since I try not to use any artificial ingredients or colors, the use of raspberries made us both happy. And, what little girl (or any human, grown or little) doesn’t love an individual cake? It’s special, makes one feel honored.
Let’s talk about the decorating options. There are so many easy ways to embellish this dessert. For the ganache, I simply dunked the bundt cakes in the bowl of ganache allowing excess to drip off. After doing this, give the ganache some time to set up (an hour or two should be fine. In the top photo, I spooned a couple of tablespoons of the creme anglaise onto a plate, added the raspberry coulis in dots (helps to use a squeeze bottle), and used a toothpick to swirl the raspberry coulis into the creme anglaise. In the second photo, the raspberry coulis dots were drawn through in a straight line down the center of each dot, creating a heart shape. I also wanted to give an option where the creme anglais and raspberry coulis were not used. In the third photo, I blended up some freeze-dried raspberries into a powder, made a simple heart stencil using parchment paper, placed the stencil on my plate, and dusted the raspberry powder over the stencil using a fine mesh sieve. This powder may also be used to sprinkle on top of the cakes. All cakes are adorned with fresh raspberries that have been glazed with a melted, seedless raspberry jam.
If you want to guarantee awesome results when baking, the use of a scale for measuring ingredients is preferred. A quality digital scale affordable and definitely a worthy investment if you are serious about baking. In the previous recipes, I did not give weight measurements for my desserts. I was on the fence about it, being unsure if it would appeal to the masses since many in the United States still don’t use scales. Well, now that I’ve lured you into my world, let’s try using a scale for measuring ingredients when baking! I’ve also included volume measurements because I never want to leave anyone out. You can always use the spooning flour into measuring cups and leveling off method, it’s just not as precise.
Hoping you make the ones you love smile with these beautiful cakes!
Happy Valentine’s Day 💕
Yields: 9 mini bundt cakes Bake Time: 20-24 minutes
Special Equipment: mini bundt pans
- 6.4 oz. (1 1/4 cups + 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour, sifted
- 3 oz. (1 cup) cocoa (not Dutch process)
- 2 oz. semisweet chocolate (60-64%), chopped
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 8 oz. (1 cup) whole milk (simmering)
- 6 oz. (3/4 cup) sour cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 10 oz. sugar (1 1/2 cups)
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 oz. quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 8 oz. heavy cream
- 4 oz. heavy cream
- 4 oz. whole milk
- 1/2 of a vanilla bean
- 3 Tablespoons sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- pinch of salt
- 1 package (10 oz.) frozen raspberries (not in syrup), thawed
- 1/4 cup sugar
- pinch of salt
- fresh raspberries
- melted seedless raspberry jam for glazing fruit (optional)
- Freeze dried raspberries, ground to a powder in blender
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Grease and flour 9 mini bundt cake pans
- Adjust rack to center position in oven
Begin by bringing the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan. Next, mix the cocoa powder, semisweet chocolate, and instant espresso together in a medium bowl. Add the simmering milk to the chocolate mixture and stir until smooth and all chocolate has melted. Cool to room temperature before adding sour cream and vanilla.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Whisk the sifted flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. With the mixer running on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by 1/3 of the chocolate mixture. Mix just until incorporated and repeat the process two more times, mixing and scraping down the bowl until evenly incorporated.
Fill the prepared mini bundt pans about 2/3 of the way full, smoothing the tops with a small spatula or butter knife. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-24 minutes. When a toothpick is inserted a few moist crumbs should be attached and when pressed with your finger, the cake should lightly spring back. remove to cooling rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes before inverting the bundt cake pan to unmold. Cool cakes completely before dipping in ganache. If making ahead, wrap cooled cakes in plastic wrap and store at room temperature overnight.
For the creme anglaise, begin by adding cream and milk to a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the seeds from the split vanilla bean and the vanilla bean pod (I cut my vanilla bean in half horizontally, seal the half I’m not using in an airtight container and split the remaining half down the center). Bring the cream mixture to a simmer and then remove from the heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until well combined and light in color. Slowly, and I mean slowly, whisk in the hot cream mixture to the egg mixture. return to the saucepan and stir over a low heat until the custard begins thickens and a path is left when your finger is drawn across the back of a spoon. Place through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl to ensure perfect consistency. mix in the pinch of salt, cover directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and refrigerate until ready to use.
The ganache could be prepared ahead of time and reheated, but it’s so simple, I always do it right before I’m ready to use.
Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and whisk until completely smooth. This makes more ganache than you will need for the cakes but keeps well in the refrigerator and I don’t believe you will let it go to waste!
For assembly instructions, see the above paragraph under photo number 3.
In my very first blog post, rigatoni with meat sauce, I gave a teaser for my Sunday sauce recipe, with a promise for an upcoming post. Well, I’m ready to share…and I’m soooo excited for you to try this for yourself! To me, it’s more than the taste and how absolutely perfect it is, there’s an emotional connection as well. This is the sauce my grandmother made (with a couple of small adjustments) and one of the first foods I remember falling in love with. Waking up to meatballs browning in olive oil, with the scents of garlic, onions, celery, and parsley permeating the house…it’s going to be a good day!
My grandmother shallow fried her meatballs in olive oil. I consider this a must if you want the very best meatballs and sauce. I know others who swear by baking the meatballs in the oven prior to sinking them into the sauce or simply dropping raw meatballs right into the sauce and allowing them to cook with the sauce. I say no and no to both of those methods! I’ve actually never tried dropping raw meatballs into sauce, because…browning = flavor, enough said. However, I did try baking the meatballs on a sheet pan once and the results were…not good enough to repeat again. Sunday sauce is going to require some time to prepare, understand that going in, accept it, and know that all your effort will not go unnoticed. Lightly frying in olive oil creates a beautiful texture to the meatballs, firm on the outside, but ultra tender on the inside. And, as I already mentioned, browned meat is more flavorful than un-browned meat, but meat browned in olive oil… has even more flavor.
Aside from having great flavor, these meatballs are fork tender. Meatballs that are firm throughout, that you could use a knife and fork to eat, that have a very tight/dense composition, make me sad. If you’re taking the time to make Sunday sauce, you want the end product to be exceptional. There are a few steps to follow in order to ensure tender meatballs. First, using a combination of beef, pork, and veal, produce a lighter meatball than using beef alone. Second, Using fresh Italian bread soaked in milk, as opposed to dry breadcrumbs, also aids in lightening. And, lastly, try not to overmix the meatball mixture.
I’m focusing on the meatballs because they are such a key element to Sunday sauce. I do add both sweet and hot Italian sausage to my sauce, but I do not make them myself. My grandfather made the best Italian sausage and someday I’ll have to master this. For now, I use my favorite local sausage. Some choose to add browned, pieces of pork or beef to the sauce. Feel free to do this as well. When allowed to slow cook with the sauce, the pork/beef becomes extremely tender.
Some call this gravy, some call it sauce. There is no wrong answer as long as you cook the meatballs properly and allow the sauce to slowly cook down, developing a deep, rich flavor. If you don’t want to get up early on Sunday to begin preparation, I recommend starting the day before. Make everything, allow to cook for 6-8 hours, cool and refrigerate. This Sauce will only taste better the next day!
Yields: 24 (1/4 c. scoop) meatballs with plenty of sauce and sausage for a large family gathering or put half in the freezer for another night
The ingredients listed below are for both the meatballs and sauce. Do your chopping once and divide for meatballs and sauce.
- 1 Lb. ground beef (80 %)
- 1 Lb. ground pork
- 1 Lb. ground veal
- 3 large onions, finely diced, divided
- 3 celery ribs, finely diced, divided
- 12 garlic cloves, finely chopped divided (8 – sauce, 4 -meatball mixture)
- 1 cup fresh, flat leaf, Italian parsley, chopped, divided
- 2 cups Italian bread, roughly torn and soaked in 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1 cup Romano cheese, grated
- 3 large eggs (lightly beaten)
- 1 tablespoon sea salt (meatball mixture)
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper (meatball mixture)
- 4 large (28 oz.) cans whole, peeled, plum tomatoes (pureed in processor or blender)
- 1 (18 oz.) can tomato paste (reserve can)
- 1 (6 0z.) can tomato paste (reserve can)
- sweet and hot Italian sausage (1-2 pounds)
- Extra virgin olive oil for frying meatballs and for sauteeing vegetables
- Sea salt and black pepper for sauce
First get your sauce going. In a very large stock pot ( I use a 10 qt), add 1/4 cup of olive oil and saute 2/3 of the onions you diced (2 diced onions), 2/3 celery (2 diced celery), 8, finely chopped, garlic cloves, and 1/2 cup parsley over medium heat, until softened, but not brown. Add the 2 cans of tomato paste and saute with the vegetables for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Fill your empty 18 oz. tomato paste can with water and add to pot. repeat two more times. Now, repeat the same process with the 6 oz. can. My grandmother would be very upset if you didn’t get every bit of paste out of those cans! Add the 4 cans of tomatoes you pureed either in the processor or blender. Stir well to combine and continue to cook over medium heat until it starts to bubble, then lower heat so that the sauce is just simmering.
For the meatballs, begin by sauteeing the remainder of the diced onions, celery, and finely chopped garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Use the same large skillet you intend to fry your meatballs in (no need to dirty another pan). Saute the onion, celery, and garlic, just until softened. Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes. Now, in the largest mixing bowl you have, add ground beef, pork, and veal. Next, add the rest of the freshly chopped parsley, the soaked Italian bread, Romano cheese, eggs, 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons ground black pepper. Pour in the cooled sauteed vegetables. Thoroughly combine all ingredients in the bowl, while being somewhat gentle. I used a 1/4 cup ice cream scoop to portion my meatballs onto a sheet pan. Coat your large skillet with enough olive oil to reach 1/4 inch up the sides of the pan. Brown meatballs, turning as needed, over medium-high heat until they have formed a nice crust on all areas. When browning is complete, place meatballs directly into the pot of sauce. You will have to work in batches while browning the meatballs and change out olive oil as needed. When finished with browning meatballs, brown your sausage and add to the pot as well. For your final step, remove most of the oil from your pan where the meatballs were browned, take a ladle of sauce, pour it into the saute pan, and pick up the browned bits. Now, return it all to the large stock pot. The hard work is now complete!!! Simmer, on low, for 6-8 hours, checking that nothing is sticking to the bottom from time to time. To finish, test for salt and pepper. I ended up adding 4 teaspoons of sea salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper, but start slow, tasting as you add so you can find the perfect salt level for yourself.
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Conceivably all cookie baking should be done, cookie tins assembled and gifted. That’s the goal, right? Every year, absolutely every year, I get overly ambitious when it comes to the number of different cookies I intend to bake. Inevitably I can’t fit them all in and some cookies are left to be made the following December. Problem is, by the time I’m in Christmas cookie baking mode again, I have a wealth of new recipes I want to try. There are just so many great options out there. This year is no different from the rest. I’ve planed for 5 different cookies and so far… I’ve completed 3. I did manage to get my 3 chosen holiday cookies baked and gifted, yay! And maybe… somewhere in between cooking and baking for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas dinner, I’ll manage to fit in at least one more.
I apologize for not getting this written up earlier in the week, but it’s here for you now. All last minute bakers.. this is a fun one to do with the kids on Christmas Eve. And if your a Pinterest pinner, be sure to pin for next years cookie agenda. I have been searching for the perfect gingerbread cookie for years, never before has it been quite right. This year, I’m done searching. What makes a perfect gingerbread cookie for me? It must be slightly chewy, not crisp through and through. It must retain its shape, having clean edges after baking. And last, but not least, it must have great flavor. I prefer a flavor that is more than just ginger and molasses. I tampered with a recipe I found in my Baking Illustrated cookbook and it came out perfectly. It retains its shape after baking, it’s spicy, but not overly so, and its crisp around the edges, but tender and soft at the same time.
I’m not going to go on and on with this recipe. I want to get it out there for you to try! I love to decorate these cookies with a simple royal icing. The artist in me really enjoys this part, but don’t be intimidated if you aren’t particularly artistic, just have fun with it. The royal icing I used comes from Serious Eats website. I love it because you don’t have to purchase any ingredients like meringue powder. It’s also cooked briefly, making it completely safe for all to eat. The basic recipe definitely needed some thining with cream in order to be fluid enough for more complex decorating, but if you want to keep your decorating simple, it works as is.
Happy Baking! Happy Christmas! Happy Holidays!
Yields: 20-30 cookies, dependent on size of cookie cutters
Adapted from the cookbook, Baking Illustrated
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, but trust me it’s great!)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a food processor, Process all dry ingredients (flour-salt) until well combined. Cut butter into 1/2-inch cubes and distribute evenly over the flour mixture in the processor. Process until the mixture resembles fine meal, 15-20 seconds. With the processor running, slowly add the molasses, milk, and vanilla. Process until the dough comes together. This could also be done with a hand mixer and large bowl, combining dry ingredients and adding butter, mixing until the texture is sandy, add molasses, milk, and vanilla and mix until combined.
Line your work surface with a sheet of parchment or wax paper that measures about 20 inches long. Remove half of your dough from the processor or mixing bowl and place on the parchment or waxed paper. Pat the dough into an even rectangle and place a second, 20-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper on top of the dough. Roll the rectangle between two sheets of paper until it measures about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer the rolled out dough to a baking sheet (18×13) and put in the freezer for 15 minutes or the refrigerator for 2 hours. Repeat this process with your second half of dough.
Adjust the oven rack to the center position. Preheat the oven to 350°.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Cut the cold dough into desired shapes and carefully transfer to the prepared baking sheets with a spatula, leaving an inch between cookies. Bake the first set of cookies in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, rotating cookie sheet halfway between cookie time. Place the second cookie sheet of cookies back into the fridge until the first set of cookies come out of the oven. Roll the scraps together into 1/4-inch thickness and put back into the fridge to firm up. Keep repeating this process of cutting out, rolling out scraps, cooling in fridge, and baking until all dough is used. Baking cold, cut-out cookies helps to keep a beautiful shape and makes them easier to handle. When cookies are done, allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
For decorating, I use this royal icing recipe from Serious Eats.