Flourless Chocolate Cake With Buttermilk Ganache

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We have friends coming over for dinner tonight and I was lagging a bit with the dessert-making. I really had no idea what I was going to make.

That problem was solved when my sweet husband received a text letting him know that our guest thinks he might be gluten intolerant. C was making brisket tacos so corn tortilla, no big deal.

Since I hadn’t made anything yet I decided to make a flourless chocolate cake so our friend wouldn’t leave feeling stabby pains in his tummy. I think his wife will thank me later. 😉

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I had a nice bar of chocolate on hand so the cake was all set. I got to use an 8″ springform pan that my sweetie bought me when we first met, that I had yet to use for some reason. The batter came together well and went off into the oven while I put G down for a nap.

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I was feeling pretty pleased with myself when I realized I had used all the chocolate and had no heavy cream. So where did that leave me in terms of the topping for the cake? Determined to not be ganache-less I scrambled to find a solution.

I still had buttermilk from last week’s cornmeal griddle cakes so I could use a recipe I found on the King Arthur website, no problem. That just left the chocolate. I thought I had read that 3 tbsp. of cocoa powder plus 1 tbsp. of shortening= 1 oz. of chocolate. That sounded gross to me, but I mixed it up, added sugar to taste and poured the heated buttermilk over it then mixed in the butter.

It looked shiny and as ganache-y as any ganache I’ve ever made and it tasted good, no weird mouthfeel like I had feared. It thickened a bit as it cooled so I frosted the cake while it was still a bit warm.

One of my favorite things about ganache is you just pour it over and it hardens to a shiny, beautiful finish. That didn’t really happen here, as it cooled it lost it’s sheen but if it ends up tasting good then that works for me.

I sprinkled some crystal-flaked salt on top and threw it on my cake stand. I’ll let you know later what the verdict was. 🙂

*adapted from the King Arthur buttermilk ganache recipe:

3 ounces (by weight) buttermilk (I used about 1/2 c)
7 ounces (by weight) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
**since I didn’t have chocolate I used 21 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, 7 tbsp shortening and 1/3 c of sugar
1/2 tablespoon butter, cut into 1/8″ pieces and chilled

INSTRUCTIONS:

Ganache is traditionally made with cream, but this works and has an interesting tang to it.

Heat the buttermilk until it just starts to boil, stirring occasionally, then add the chocolate and stir until fully melted.

Add the butter pieces and stir slowly.

Strain through a fine sieve and allow to cool. (The buttermilk will curdle a bit, this removes the lumps.)

^Mine didn’t seem curdly or lumpy so I didn’t strain. Plus, I didn’t feel like it. ^

**The verdict:

I was so pleasantly surprised to find that this cake turned out amazing. I was impressed with how yummy a flour-free dessert could be. The flakey salt on top was a MUST. A tiny piece each was plenty, it was so rich and chocolately. All the kids loved it too. This is a keeper, especially for gluten-free guests. I won’t use the shortening/cocoa powder thing next time, but in a pinch it works very, very well.

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Baked Sunday Mornings: Chocolate Malted Madeleines

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When my last baby was first born my husband got a job as the executive chef for a French restaurant. I helped him choose desserts for the initial menu even though, to be perfectly honest French baking intimidates me. (stop staring at me, Bouchon Bakery coobook!)

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I always intended to buy a madeleine pan and give them a shot– I love their soft, spongey texture and delicate seashell scallops–but until this week I never got around to picking one up.

I found a mini madeleine pan at the Home Goods store near my house. I love malt and was really excited about this recipe.

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I started baking these while my boys had friends over for a play date. I figured I would make them a batch of regular basic chocolate chunk cookies while they played. The madeleine batter needs to rest for an hour so that time seemed like the perfect opportunity to whip up some kid-friendly treats.

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I completely discounted the fact that I normally use my weekly baking time as sort of a tasty meditation and having a houseful of kids underfoot in a thunderstorm is maybe not the most relaxing of environments.

But regardless, I was able to shove cookies into the hands of all the littles so I could check on my madeleine batter and get them in the oven. Since I had never made them before I definitely overfilled the pan on the first batch.

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They looked more like chocolate pillows than delicate seaside collectibles so I scaled wayyy back on the batter for the second batch. But the texture was right so I was still excited about them, and guess who doesn’t care about the shape of a cookie? Kids. They didn’t even glance at them before shoving them in their mouths.

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I got the batter amount right the second time and they came out of the oven looking cute and delicate.

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They looked even better when I dusted them with cocoa and malt powder. Despite the chaos going on at my house while I baked this week, I was really happy with the way these turned out.

And now that I have a pan I can try out some classic madeleines. My boys will be decidedly less excited about those since they are on a weird lemon-hating kick right now, but that’s ok. I’m happy to eat them up test them out.

After baking these I did some internet roaming and noticed that there is quite a bit of strong opinion about what constitutes the perfect madeleine.

The ‘hump’ is quite important and it seems you achieve this by first chilling the batter and/or the pans. I had remembered reading about chilling the pans in the Bouchon cookbook but I had no idea it was such a big deal. Interesting.

Side note: Had my middle boy been a girl his name would have been Madeleine. 🙂

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Go see how all my fellow bakers’ yummy tiny cakes turned out!

Next up: Mississippi Mud Pie aka Coffee Ice Cream Tart!!!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Cornmeal Griddle Cakes

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I was looking forward to making these all week. I had plans to surprise my honey with breakfast before I had to go to work for a bit.

My plans were thrown off first by my sweetie getting sick mid-week, then by a surprising and very weird tragedy that happened to my extended family on Friday.

I almost didn’t make these at all.

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I’m so glad I did take the time out for this project, I was a complete nervous wreck and pretty much just pacing around my house.

Cooking soothes my soul.

I had to slow down and breathe to measure, whisk and mix. Midway through the process (which I was taking my time with since Baby G was down for a nap) I felt stress and tension melt away.

As each element of the recipe came together I felt my thoughts slowing down for the first time all day.

I decide to give making my own butter a try, something I have always wanted to do but had put off because I thought it would be a pain.

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It was so hard to keep mixing the heavy cream after it became gorgeous, perfect whipped cream. I had already added vanilla and some lemon simple syrup (leftover from the candied lemon peel I made for the Lemon Drop cake) and it was heavenly. I bit the bullet and kept mixing.

I was surprised to hear sloshing in the mixing bowl!

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It made exactly one cup of buttermilk, enough for the griddlecakes!

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The cakes cooked up quickly and beautifully. The edges crisped up but the centers were fluffy and not at all gritty or heavy like I was imagining. They were perfect. Even my poor sick husband enjoyed them.

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I topped them with chopped pecans and maple syrup. The recipe made about ten, I used slightly more batter than 1/4 cup.

We at half of them and I’m freezing the other half for school day breakfast for my littles.

I would definitely make these again! (Even though some sizzling hot butter jumped out of the pan and burned my hand when I was cooking the last griddle cake!)

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Head on over for the recipe and to see how everyone else fared!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Alfajores

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I have never eaten an alfajor before, so I was excited to give these a shot. The preparation of the dough was pretty straightforward except there were two things that initially threw me.

1. One cup of corn starch! I’ve never used a cookie that uses corn starch I don’t think, especially not a full cup. But I sifted that right in there, interested in what it would do to the cookies.

2. Rum. Although I saw on a blog that you could optionally use apple cider. Those things seem quite different to me. I didn’t have rum or regular old cider hanging around but I did have some apple ale. I was drinking some as I baked so I just tossed a couple of tablespoons in there. I have no idea if that hurt anything or not, but I couldn’t taste it in either the dough or the finished cookie.

I took the dough out after chilling and rolled it out between two sheets of unfloured parchment paper. That didn’t work too well since the dough was a bit sticky. A bit of flour fixed that right up and they rolled out perfectly.

I was a little worried that I was rolling them too thin, but it seemed that I was getting the proper amount of cookies so I just went with it. Re-rolling the scraps was easy and the dough didn’t seem to be negatively affected by it. (i.e: changing texture)

I had never made dulce de leche before and definitely wanted to give it a shot. I ended up microwaving it instead of using the oven or stovetop method mostly because I recently got a new microwave. It was easy and at the end of the suggested cook time the filling seemed to be the right texture although the color was not a deep amber but more of a light golden brown.

I’m torn as to what to do next time. I may buy a can just to compare taste and texture but I may also try the oven method. I normally value making everything from scratch but dumping some sweetened condensed milk into a bowl and putting it in the microwave is not exactly upping my baking game.

I had planned on filling them the same night I baked them but I got interrupted when baby G woke up needing me. I covered the cookies and tossed the dulce de leche in the fridge.

Honestly, I was a bit disappointed when I went to bed. I tasted the warm cookies and they seemed ok–a hint of lemon from the added zest but I was convinced they were going to harden up overnight and become brittle and crispy.

I do not like crispy cookies.

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When I got up this morning I warmed the filling for a couple of minutes to bring it back up to room temp and started filling the cookies. The dulce de leche was a great consistency: slightly sticky but easy to spread and it went exactly where I wanted it to when I pressed the cookies together.

For some reason I had expected it to be somewhat drippy or hard to manage but it wasn’t at all. The only problem I had was that I filled them with wild abandon on the first half of the cookies then realized I wasn’t going to have enough for all of them and had to greatly reduce the amount of filling I put in the rest of the cookies.

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I sprinkled a bit of sea salt over the top of the caramel before putting the top half of the cookie on. There was a bit of salt added to the sweetened condensed milk to make the dulce de leche but I love a small burst of salt mixed with creamy sweet caramel.

It was quick to fill them all and I topped them with a dusting of sifted confectioners’ sugar. They were really pretty cookies: not super fancy since I used a plain round cookie cutter but still very tempting on the plate.

I was completely blown away when I tasted them. First you taste the candy sweetness of the powdered sugar followed by the faint lovely lemon flavor of the cookie and then the slightly salty creamy- sweet caramel. The cookie is amazingly not crunchy or crumbly at all!! It is perfectly soft and delicate but it holds up to the dulce de leche perfectly.

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I am trying hard not to eat all of the 32 cookies I made but these are the most surprisingly addictive cookies I’ve made!

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Next up: cornmeal griddle cakes! Go over and see what everyone else made today!!

Baked: Nutella Scones

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My babies spend the night at their Papa’s on Wednesdays so tonight I wanted to bake them something special to see them off to school in the morning.

I made Chocolate Hazelnut Spread as part of Baked Sunday Mornings this past weekend and I wanted to use it up. (the last thing I would want is for yummy homemade goodness to be abandoned in the depths of the fridge) My boys LOVE Nutella so I knew Nutella Scones would surely be a hit.

I have only made scones one other time–a couple of years ago I attempted fig scones. This was pre-Kitchenaid so they probably weren’t great.

Now, you don’t need a stand mixer to make scones but until I owned my stand mixer I was not really advancing in my baking craft. There is really only so much you can do without one so even though I think I’ve always been a decent baker, the Kitchenaid helped me take it to the next level.

I have no idea how these will taste (hopefully fantastic) but scones are pretty easy to make. In this case you whisk together dry ingredients and set them aside, then smoosh in cold cubed butter. Next, whisk heavy cream and one egg then add to the butter/flour mixture. The chopped hazelnuts go in last.

Once the dough can more or less stay together you turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead/smoosh/guide it into a roughly 12×6 rectangle. After spreading the rectangle with Nutella you roll it (I had my dough on a flexible plastic placemat so I began the roll with the sheet around it to make it easier) into a cylinder.

Form the cylinder into a slightly flattened disc then cut into 6-8 pieces.

I was excited because I got to set up another drizzle station. Once the scones are baked you put them on a cooling rack and drizzle with warm Nutella.

The hard part for me was the baking time. I underbake cookies by quite a bit and underbake cakes slightly, but it’s my understanding that a scone that is too under has more in common with a raw pancake than a gooey brownie. (yuck)

Anyway, mine are all done! I can’t wait to have one with coffee in the morning!

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I hope my guys like them!!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

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I was thrilled to make my first recipe as part of Baked Sunday Mornings. Of course last weekend I made a Lemon Drop Cake and yesterday I made the Sweet & Salty cake but this my first time following the official baking schedule.

I was relieved that it was a quick and simple recipe so I could still have lots of time to celebrate my man’s birthday. I bought raw hazelnuts from Whole Foods last week when I was shopping for good chocolate for the cake. It was hard to gauge in cups at the bulk bin so I accidentally bought $15 worth of nuts, twice as much as I needed. Now I know why Nutella is so expensive: those suckers are not cheap. But the good news is they are immensely tasty so having extra on hand is not a bad thing.

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I roasted all of the nuts at once and spent the next day or so removing the skins at my leisure. I first rubbed them with a damp towel, as the recipe suggested. With the skins that remained I either slipped them off or rubbed handfuls between my hands to gently remove them. I don’t think you need to have totally naked hazelnuts, but the papery skins need to go so they don’t mess with the texture of the spread.

I am always amazed and delighted whenever whole nuts liquefy and turn to butter. However, my small 4 cup food processor was not so excited. 😦

My husband wanted to buy the big daddy when we were first looking at them but for some reason I vetoed it. Big mistake. I wasn’t too worried about it burning out but if I was I would have taken the hazelnuts out once they liquefied and mixed in the other ingredients by hand.

I didn’t do that and the motor did get a good workout. I smelled a bit of burning machinery towards the end. I won’t be sad if I’m forced to buy a bigger food processor! 😉

I didn’t use hazelnut oil, the nuts were expensive enough so I didn’t want to buy any more special ingredients. I used grapeseed oil which was fine but next time I would definitely use hazelnut oil so it could impart more warm nuttiness to the finished product.

The spread was perfect and yummy and will be happily spread on apples–done already 😉 and over toast and crackers and maybe biscuits or scones. We are definitely fans of Nutella here and homemade is even better!

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See you next week!! Next up: alfajores! Don’t forget to head over and see what everyone else did this week!