Tag Archives: dessert

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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Meyer Lemon Squares

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There are two things I attribute to a successful grocery shopping trip: Not seeing anybody I know from high school (to be honest, small talk is not my favorite) and finding obscure products like Meyer lemons. I suppose Meyer lemons aren’t that obscure, but in recent winter seasons I’ve begun to notice their popularity. I was quite excited to see a bag of these little yellow-orange wonders. Apparently, Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and a Mandarin orange, so they’re sweeter than your average lemon. (Georgia volunteered to try one. The verdict: sweeter, but not pleasant to eat by itself.)

The lovely thing about citrus in the winter is that it can really brighten a dreary day. We happened to make these on a cold/snowy/rainy day (is there any worse combination?!), which made the day a little bit nicer. If you’re experiencing the winter blues, I recommend these happy lemon squares. Take advantage of citrus while it’s still in season.


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After my Meyer lemon discovery, I excitedly suggested to Georgia that we make lemon squares. She quickly agreed, then proceeded to tell me that at seven years old, she made up a joke about lemon squares.

“Where do desserts go on Saturday nights?”

“To the lemon square dance!”

This is why we are friends.

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A couple tips for making these: always zest the lemon before juicing to keep things neat. If you want a thicker lemon layer, head over to Smitten Kitchen, where we got the recipe, for an thicker option. We mistakenly baked these a bit too long so the filling wasn’t as soft as it should have been, but delicious nonetheless. Make sure you pay attention to the bars while they’re in the oven, no matter how addicting Girls is.

Meyer Lemon Squares
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the crust
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2  cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt

For the filling
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest
2/3 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
2/3 cup flour

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with parchment paper or grease & flour the dish
  2. For the crust, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk together flour and salt and add to the butter mixture while the mixer is running. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough and press into the baking sheet; build the crust up 1/2 inch on the sides of the dish. Chill.
  3. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack.
  4. For the filling, whisk together eggs, sugar, lemon zest, juice and flour. Pour over the crust and bake about 20-25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

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Peppermint Macarons

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Meet our pink bundles of French joy, peppermint macarons, complete with white chocolate and dark chocolate filling! For those who are confused, macarons are not made with coconut like macaroons (although both are equally delicious!). Macarons are a sandwich of light, airy meringue cookies made with almond flour, egg whites and confectioners sugar with a yummy ganache or frosting filling.

This was both of our first attempts at making macarons, which are actually pretty technical. We decided to make peppermint macarons, some with white chocolate and some with dark chocolate filling. They are super cute and delicious and would make a fantastic Christmas gift!

Peppermint Macaron Shells
Adapted from Alison Eats

2/3 cup almond flour
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 large egg whites, left out, uncovered overnight
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 tsp peppermint extract
Red food coloring (optional)

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and with a pencil, draw 1-inch circles about 1 inch apart. Flip the paper over and make sure you can see the circles. (We did not flip the paper over and ended up with pencil on the macaron shells which isn’t unsafe but just not aesthetically pleasing)
  2. Blend the almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor until well incorporated.
  3. In a stainless-steel bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until foamy. Gradually add granulated sugar, peppermint extract and 10-20 drops of food coloring. Continue to beat until the eggs form stiff peaks.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the almond four and powdered sugar into the meringue in a couple additions.
  5. Preheat oven to 375. Fill a pastry bag with batter and carefully dispense the meringue into the circles on the parchment paper. Once the tray is filled, tap the baking sheet on the counter so the batter flattens a bit. Let the tray sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  6. Bake the cookies for 9-12 minutes, or until the tops of the shells are slightly crisp. Allow to cool completely before removing from the shells and cooking another batch.

 

Chocolate Filling
Adapted from David Lebovitz

½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
5 ounces bittersweet or white chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan until boiling just on the sides. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate. Let the mixture sit for a minute and then stir until smooth. Stir in the butter pieces. Allow the filling to cool completely before using. (If using immediately, place the saucepan over a bowl of ice water and stir frequently during assembly.)

Assembly

When both components have cooled completely, match the shells with like sizes.
Spread filling on one shell then top with the second shell.
Macarons are best consumed after at least one day. Store them in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature when ready to eat. Unless, of course, you can’t wait that long… they’re very good with no standing time!

For additional tips and techniques, visit David Lebovitz’s page Making French Macarons.


 

 

Grilled Apples with Dessert Granola

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We couldn’t really come up with a creative name for this one because it involves too many tasty components. Grilled (or, panini’d) apples, homemade whipped cream, and dessert granola.

Dessert granola? Like, the breakfast cereal? For dessert?

You bet’cha.

This recipe’s definitely one of our best and least time-consuming collaborations. Within five minutes, we knew almost exactly what we were going to make. I suggested apples. Georgia told me about the cinnamon apples she had grilled on a panini press the night before. I said apple crisp. But not as involved, because we’re lazy. I mean.. it’s Friday. Right. That’s why.

Panini’d apples + whipped cream + dessert granola = fancypants apple dessert deliciousness. It’s like an upscale apple crisp… apple crisp’s cool cousin. Warm, cinnamony apples with tasty homemade whipped cream and a crunchy, almond-y, buttery topping that would make Paula Deen proud. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

Grilled Apples with Dessert Granola

For the topping:
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1/3 cup crushed almond cookies (we used almond thins, but something similar would be fine)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter

Mix the first four ingredients together. Melt butter in a skillet over low heat, and cook granola about 5 minutes, or until the sugar is melted. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

For the whipped cream:
In a medium bowl, beat about 1/2 pint heavy cream on medium speed until thickened. Halfway through beating, add 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Chill.

For the apples:
Preheat a panini press. Slice 2 gala apples apples about 1/8 inch thick and place on panini press. Sprinkle with cinnamon and cook a couple minutes until golden.

To assemble the dessert, stack apple slices, then top with whipped cream and dessert granola. Serve while the apples are still warm!