Just Desserts: Two Naughty and Too Nice

April 12, 2010 at 9:36 pm Leave a comment

   I am working on our income tax return and fending off hysterics over the Paperwork Reduction Act Notice.  An early evening dog walk is just the break I need, so off we three trot – the pup, my husband, and I – into the cool pre-thunderstorm air.  We return home to find two ducks perched on the peak of our roof, taking their own break from the equally arduous task of flying back north for the summer.   

So, you could say that I have all my ducks in a row as I head back in to finish up the 1040.  Well, maybe you couldn’t, but I just did.  And with all that number-crunching eating up my day, I don’t have time to develop a menu worthy of writing about here.  However, Easter dinner gave me the perfect excuse to whip up a few decadent desserts, and the inspiration for a sweets-exclusive posting this week. 

The Fudgy Chocolate Cake is adapted from the recipe on the box for Baker’s® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Squares, and the Lemon Cream Cake with Strawberry Filling and Creamy Cheese Frosting is my take on several different recipes, combining the best from each – in my humble opinion.  Let me know if you agree. 

The third is a recipe for the not-ready-for-dietary-crime-time crowd, who would still like some nutritional redemption with their occasional splurge.  It falls into a category my husband has dubbed Duodenal Daredevils, for their heavy dose of fiber.  I call them Kitchen Sink cookies, for their lengthy ingredient list.  Gentlebakers, start your ovens. 

For a really moist chocolate cake, try this “one-bowl”* wonder: 

6 squares Baker’s semi sweet baking chocolate            3/4 C (1-1/2 sticks) butter

1-1/2 C sugar                                                               3 eggs

2 tsp Amaretto or vanilla                                                                       2-1/2 C flour

1 tsp baking soda                                                     1/4 tsp salt

                                    1-1/2 C strong coffee, cooled

Melt the chocolate and butter in a large microwaveable bowl on high for two minutes, or until butter melts.  Stir until chocolate is completely melted and scrape melted mixture into electric mixer bowl* (mine is not microwaveable, so the asterisk is required here).  Set mixer on low, and add sugar until well blended. 

Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low until each is well incorporated.  Mix in liquer or vanilla.  (Again, I’ll asterisk myself* here, because I like to whisk the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl to insure good distribution of the leaveners.)  Whisk together the flour, soda, and salt, then add flour mixture to the mixing bowl alternately with coffee, beating well after each addition until well blended.  Pour batter into two well-greased 9” cake pans and bake at 350° for 35 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks for ten minutes, remove from pans, then finish cooling on wire racks. 

Fill and frost with Baker’s One Bowl Chocolate Frosting (adapted): 

8 squares semi sweet baking chocolate                      16 oz powdered sugar

1/2 C (one stick) softened butter                           1 TB amaretto (or vanilla)

1/3 C milk (I use evaporated; DO NOT use cream!)            3/4 C raspberry preserves 

Microwave chocolate in large microwaveable bowl on high for two minutes. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Cool five minutes. Stir in powdered sugar, butter, and amaretto (or vanilla).  Beat with electric mixer on low speed until well blended.   Gradually add milk, beating until well blended and spread generously over cake.  I use raspberry preserves in place of the frosting between the two layers, with a small dollop of it in the center of the fully frosted cake’s top layer as a company-worthy flourish.                                        

Guilty pleasure number two is a fruit-infused cake with creamy frosting and filling:                            

5 large eggs                              1-3/4 C sugar                              pinch salt                              

2 C flour                                     3 tsp powder                                    2/3 C heavy cream   

6 TB melted butter              2 large lemons, “zested”                 2 TB fresh lemon juice

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, and salt; beat until thickened and a light lemon color.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Gently stir the flour mixture into the egg and sugar mixture a little at a time; blend well. Blend in the cream and melted butter; stir in the lemon zest (grated rind, yellow only) and juice.

Pour the batter into a greased 9x5x3-inch loaf pan and bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Remove to a rack to cool for 5 minutes, then turn the cake out onto the rack to cool completely.                                                                  

For the filling and frosting:   

1# fresh strawberries             2-3 TB sugar                1 TB Kirsch                  1/8 tsp salt

4 oz cream cheese                  ¼ C sugar                    1 tsp vanilla                 1 C heavy cream 

Halve eight berries and reserve. Quarter remaining berries; toss with sugar and let sit one hour, stirring occasionally. Strain juices from berries and pulse berries in food processor five pulses. In small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices and Kirsch until syrupy, about three minutes. Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries and toss to combine.    

Place salt, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Reduce to low and add heavy cream in a steady stream until well combined.  Increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds peaks, about three minutes longer. 

Slice cake crosswise into three even layers using a serrated knife. Place bottom layer on a cake plate or pedestal.  Pour one half of pureed berry mixture  in center, spread to cover any exposed cake, then gently spread ¼ of whipped cream mixture over berry layer. Place middle cake layer on top and press down gently. Repeat with remaining berry mixture, and 1/4 of remaining whipped mixture then gently press last cake layer on top. Mound remaining whipped cream mixture onto center of top layer and carefull use a frostong spatula to evenly cover top and sides of cake.  Garnish with remaining cut strawberries.  Chill until serving time. 

With forewarning that this nutrient-dense batter produces mighty substantial cookies, assemble:

1/4 C softened butter               1/4 C brown sugar                 1/4 C raw sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon            1/2 tsp baking soda              1/8 tsp salt

1 egg                                                 1 tsp vanilla                              1/2 C all-purpose flour

1/4 C whole wheat flour            3/4 C ground all-bran cereal   1/4 C ground flaxseed 

1/4 C wheat germ                 3/4 C dark chocolate chips      1/4 C dried cranberries                                                      

1/2 C chopped walnuts 

In large mixer bowl, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Whisk sugars, cinnamon, soda, and salt in a separate bowl until well blended then add to butter, beating until combined.  Beat in egg and vanilla until combined, scraping bowl sides as needed.  In the sugar-whisking bowl, combine flours, ground cereal (1-1/4 C all-bran cereal pulsed four times in a blender or food processor produces 3/4 C coarse-ground bran “meal”), flaxseed, and wheat germ. 

Mix dry ingredients into wet 1/2 cup at a time until incorporated.  Blend in chocolate chips, cranberries, and nuts.  To yield twelve large cookies, drop by 1/4 cup measures onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes at 350°.  Cool on wire racks. 

There we go.  Something for everyone, whether you’re feeling devilish or angelic.  If you have just finished rendering unto Caesar, then I say go ahead and be naughty.  It may not do a thing to change the tax code, but it could just soothe your frazzled nerves a bit.

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

And what is the "something" we are aiming for here? Simply a life of robust good health in every important area - spiritual, physical, cognitive, and emotional.

To that end we offer inspirational real-life stories about PEOPLE OF FAITH AND COURAGE; menus and cooking directions meant to fuel your creative inclinations and your healthy body in the form of MUSINGS OF A MIDWESTERN FOODIE; and ADVICE FOR LIFE from the perspective of those who have lived it to maturity. (Click on the green category tabs at the top of this page to learn more about each section.)

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