Tag Archives: cooking

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

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In middle school, Georgia and I used to make homemade truffles to give to our friends around the holidays. Actually, Georgia started this practice—I remember being in awe of her cocoa-dusted truffles neatly packaged in tiny Chinese takeout boxes that she gave me one Christmas. I thought it was a genius idea to give out homemade treats and started doing the same. Some years I made chocolate peanut butter cups, packaging them in cheap holiday mugs for my family. They were probably melted by the time the recipients opened them, but I remember being quite pleased with my handiwork.

Despite living in New England all my life, I think I have a bit of Southern girl in me, as I believe that the best way to show people you care about them is by cooking for them. A simple omelet, a box of dark chocolate truffles, and a birthday cake all become more special if you’ve made them yourself.

Sophie, one of our closest friends, recently turned twenty. To celebrate her special day, we gathered and feasted upon a truly decadent red wine chocolate cake, topped with a mascarpone cream and fresh, juicy strawberries. Although it was simple to prepare and not grandiose in the least—the cake is only one layer—it was one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever eaten. The cake is rich, chocolaty and punctuated by pockets of deep red wine flavor, but perfectly complimented by the cool cream and sweet strawberries. It’s sophisticated enough to serve after a formal dinner, but easy enough to prepare that you’ll want to make it for every occasion.

If you haven’t thought of something to get your dad for Father’s Day, I recommend making this cake. It requires no more than an hour of your time, a few ingredients, including good red wine, and endless love.

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Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the cake
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg & 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
3/4 cup red wine
1 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder (we used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For the topping
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, then butter and flour both the sides of the pan and surface of the parchment.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth, then add sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and yolk, beat well, then add the wine and vanilla. The mixture might look a little lumpy, but fear not, this is totally normal and your cake will be fine.
  3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Sift the dry mixture over the wet, then beat until combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
  5. To make the topping, beat together mascarpone, heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form–don’t over-beat. Smooth over the surface of the cake and garnish with fresh strawberries or raspberries.

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Bacon & Brussels Sprouts Skillet Pizza

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After a long and seemingly endless winter break, I am back at college in the city. I took a small cooking hiatus (unless you count instant oatmeal as cooking) in order to settle into second semester, but here I am to share with you something Wright Time for a Schnack rarely features–a meal, not dessert!

I will admit that I’m quite partial to baking, but I do enjoy cooking myself a nice meal every now and then. When I saw this bacon and brussels sprouts pizza on How Sweet It Is, I knew I just had to try it. It has all the makings of a perfect meal: brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables (especially if they’re roasted), and everything’s better with bacon. Oh, and cheese. Enough said.

My roommate Hannah and I spent Saturday afternoon at the Union Square Greenmarket in search of fresh ingredients for our pizza. It was fantastic to see the greenmarket open post-Nemo. Less than fantastic, however, was the amount of watery slush we had to trudge through to get there. Oh, the joys of the New York City in the snow.

Unfortunately, this pizza isn’t too college budget-friendly. However, if you’re splitting the cost of ingredients with someone else, and you have leftovers for lunch tomorrow, and you taste the sheer genius of the ingredient pairing, you forget that paid almost $10 for bacon. And thanks to the wonderful cheese man at Whole Foods’ fromagerie (did anybody know they called their cheese shop a fromagerie? They do. It was printed on the cheese label), I was able to get exactly the right amount of cheese that I needed for this pizza. Apparently you can ask for a specific amount of cheese at the cheese counter, and they will cut it to size for you. I did not know this before. My life has changed for the better.

Let me forewarn you that the skillet pizza method is not foolproof, especially if you don’t have the proper ingredients (like a pizza peel, or a broiler in your oven). Albeit a couple mishaps and a crust that was overdone in a few spots, we ended up with a tantalizingly delicious pizza. The skillet pizza method is wonderful because it takes only minutes to cook–if your oven is equipped with a broiler.

Basically, what you need to do is heat a skillet under a broiler or on the stovetop for ten minutes until it is hot. Don’t touch it or else you’ll sear your fingers off and that would not be fun. Then, after artfully layering ingredients on the pizza dough, which should be set atop a well-floured pizza peel (or, in our case, a wooden cutting board), you’ll want to slide the pizza onto the skillet. This is where we had a bit of trouble–some of the ingredients tumbled into the skillet and started cooking on contact. If this happens and you’re quick enough, you’ll be able to position the pizza in the skillet and scrape the melted cheese off of the surface and onto the dough, wielding only a spatula and oven mitt. The oven mitt is necessary, as this is dangerous stuff. After you have settled the ingredients back onto the dough and had a quick tantrum about how sad and un-artistic the arrangement of the ingredients are, you will need to act quickly and place the skillet under a broiler for only about 2 minutes. Yes, 2 minutes. Unless you don’t have a broiler, in which case you will put the skillet on the top rack of your oven heated to 400 and hope the crust doesn’t overcook.

Drizzled with balsamic glaze (Hannah recently returned from Italy and brought back a bottle of balsamic crema, which is thick balsamic syrup. It’s amazing), this pizza is complete. The balsamic balances the salty bacon, Brussels sprouts and cheese beautifully. Unfortunately, because of our lack of broiler, the crust and cheese didn’t get that toasty look, but the pizza was delicious nonetheless. I recommend serving it with a side salad composed of whatever you can find in your fridge and pantry–red peppers, tomato, avocado, nuts, dried fruit–to balance the heartiness of the cheese. And don’t be surprised if someone walks into your room, drawn by the heavenly scent of melted cheese.

For the recipe, head to How Sweet It Is.

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