November 26, 2009

Red Velvet Cake (a.k.a. Waldorf Astoria Cake)

Red Velvet Cake (a.k.a. Waldorf Astoria Cake)

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 oz. red food coloring
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans or three 8-inch round cake pans.

2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

4. Make sure you have cake pans buttered, floured, and nearby. In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda. Yes, it will fizz! Add it to the cake batter and stir well to combine. Working quickly, divide batter evenly between the cake pans and place them in a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check early, cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

5. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. To remove the cakes from the pan, place a wire rack on top of the cake pan and invert, then gently lift the pan. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting. Frost with buttercream or cream cheese icing (recipe below).

Recipe Notes: *Sift cake flour once before measuring, then sift again with the other dry ingredients per recipe instructions. Wear an apron and be careful with the red food coloring–no matter how hard I try, I always end up staining something! As you’re mixing the cake batter, use a spatula to scrape down the bowl frequently throughout the entire process.

Cream Cheese Frosting

16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of salt

With an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Turn mixer to low speed and blend in powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Turn mixer on high and beat until light and fluffy. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. If refrigerated, the frosting will need to be brought to room temperature before using (after frosting softens up, beat with mixer until smooth).

Recipe Notes: If you prefer a sweeter and/or stiffer frosting, more powdered sugar can be added (up to four cups). But remember, the more sugar you add, the less you’ll be able to taste the tangy cream cheese!

Killer Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

Killer Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

For the Brownies:
4 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 stick butter, cut in cubes
1 tbsp instant espresso or coffee (optional)
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 fingered pinch of salt
1/2 brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour

For the Peanut Butter Mousse:
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter, (do NOT use natural or crunchy!)
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold

For the Ganache:
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1o mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, roughly chopped

Make the Brownies:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a round 9" cake pan with greased parchment paper. Spray the sides of the pan with cooking spray.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Place the chocolate, butter and instant espresso into a non-reactive heat proof bowl. Place bowl w/ ingredients over the boiling water. Stir constantly until the chocolate and butter have completely melted then remove bowl from heat. Cool slightly.

Add the eggs to a mixing bowl. Whisk. Next add the vanilla, salt, sugar and brown sugar to the bowl. Whisk thoroughly. Add the chocolate butter mixture then whisk again. Gently fold in the flour to the brownie batter until just combined. Over mixing will result in tough brownies!

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Place into a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted 3" from the edge of pan comes out with only a few crumbs. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack, at least 1 hour.

To remove from pan, carefully slide a knife around the edges to loosen. Place a a plate over the brownies then invert the pan. Brownies should easily flip out. Peel off parchement paper.

Make the Mousse:
While the brownies are baking/cooling prepare the mousse.

Place the peanut butter, cream cheese, vanilla and milk into a large mixing bowl. Beat by hand or w/ an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar. Beat until smooth. Set aside.

Place whipping cream into a separate mixing bowl. Beat until whipped cream holds stiff peaks. This is most easily done using a stand mixer or electric beater but can be done by hand, just be sure that the cream is extremely cold before whipping.

Working in four batches, gently fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture to form a light, airy mousse. Over working the mousse will cause the whipped cream to deflate so use a light hand! Scrap the mousse into a piping bag w/ a large round tip or into a gallon-sized sealable plastic bag. Place the mousse into the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour before piping.

Assemble the pie
Carefully place the brownie onto the plate you wish to serve/store the pie in.

Remove the mousse from the fridge. Cut about 1/4 inch of the bottom corner off of the sealable plastic bad if you don't have a piping bag. The plastic bag will act as your piping bag. Evenly pipe the mousse over the brownie in large spirling cirles beging on the outside and ending in the middle. Use all of the mousse. With a rubber spatula, smooth out and the top surface of the mousse. Place the brownie and mousse into the refrigerator. Chill for at least 30 minutes before finishing.

Make the Ganache
While the layered brownie and mousse are chilling, make the ganache. Place 1/3 cup whipping cream into a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add the chocolate. Let chocolate and cream sit for about 3 minutes. Whisk until smooth and shiny. Leave at room temperature until ready to finish pie.

Finish the pie:
Remove the pie from the fridge. Sprinkle the chopped Reese's cups evenly over the top of the pie. Drizzle with ganache. This pie must be served chilled or the mousse will deflate. Pie may be stored in the fridge for upto 3 days. It freezes well and can also be eaten straight from the freezer. Enjoy!

Nutella Bottom Pecan Pie

Nutella Bottom Pecan Pie

6 tbsp butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup light karo syrup, (light refering to the color not health)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp coconut extract
3 eggs, beaten (only use 2 if using extra large eggs)
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 cup pecans
1 frozen 9" deep dish pie crust, unbaked
1/2 cup nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rack in upper third of oven. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Add the butter, sugar, karo syrup and salt to a saucepan and place over medium heat. Heat over medium, stirring frequently, until the butter has melted and the brown sugar has dissolved, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and coconut extracts. Let cool for 10 minutes.

While the sugar mixture is cooling, spread the Nutella evenly in the bottom of the unbaked pie crust. Place the crust onto the lined sheet pan.

Once the sugar mixture has cooled, whisk in the beaten eggs until completely incorporated. Stir in the sweetened coconut flakes and pecans.

Pour the pecan-sugar mixture into the pie crust over the nutella. Place the sheet pan with the pie on to the rack in the upper third of the oven. Bake at 350 for about 55 minutes to 1 hour or until golden and when shaken the center is still jiggly like jelly but solid through.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Cool completely before serving. Pie may be made 2 days in advance and stored, covered, at room temperature. Enjoy!

Mexican Chorizo Cornbread Stuffing

Mexican Chorizo Cornbread Stuffing

1 tbsp oil
1 1/2 lbs fresh chorizo, casings removed
1 small yellow onion
10 cloves roasted garlic*
* day old and cut in roughly 1" cubes (recipe below)
2 roasted poblano pepper, seeded, stemmed and diced
1 roasted jalapeno pepper, seeded, stemmed and diced
kernels from 3 ears of white corn
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
3 cups chicken stock
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add oil to a large saute pan and place over high heat. Once the pan is hot, just before the oil starts smoking, crumble in about 1/3 of the chorizo. Allow the chorizo to brown before stirring and browning the other side, about 2 minutes per side of undisturbed cooking. Remove chorize from the pan and place on a paper towel lined place to drain. Place the pan back on the burner and repeat this process two more times with the rest of the chorizo.

Once all the chorizo has been browned pour off all excess fat from the pan. Return the pan to the stove and reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion to the pan. Cook onion over medium heat until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally about 8 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, add the diced cornbread, browned chorizo, sauteed onion, roasted garlic, poblano & jalapeno peppers, corn kernels, cilantro, kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Using your hands, toss to evenly distribute the ingredients.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and chicken stock. Add the chicken stock mixture to the cornbread mixture. Stir to evenly moisten the cornbread mixture.

Pour the cornbread mixture into a large baking dish sprayed with cooking spray and spread evenly across the dish. Cover with aluminum foil. Place into preheated 350 degree oven. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes then remove the foil. Bake for another 15-20 minutes uncovered until the top gets slightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

*To roast garlic, simply place peeled cloves with a little splash of oil & a sprinkle of salt and pepper into a piece of aluminum foil and fold into a packet. Place into a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour or until caramelized and soft.

Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing (aka Dressing)

1 recipe cornbread, day old and crumbled (recipe follows)
1 1/2 lbs garlic sausage, (you can use any sausage you like)
1 tsp canola oil
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 leek, white part only, washed, trimmed & diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth (plus more if needed)
3 green onions, sliced
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
2 tbsp butter, in a small dice

*Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Preheat a saute pan over medium-high to high heat. Add 1 tsp canola oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot add the sausage, removed from the casings, into the pan. Use a spoon or spatula to break up the sausage. Brown the sausage for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally to allow all areas to brown evenly.

Remove browned sausage from pan using a slotted spoon. Transfer to a paper towel lined dish to drain some of the oil.

Pour off all but 1 tbsp of the rendered fat from the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and place the saute pan back on the burner. Add the onion, celery, pepper and leek to the pan. Saute for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and soft. Add the garlic to the pan and saute for another 1-2 minutes.

While the veggies are sauteing, place the crumbled cornbread and browned sausage into a large mixing bowl.

Once the veggies have finished sauteing, add them to the mixing bowl with the cornbread. Add all remaining ingredients except butter to the bowl. Stir to combine. If the stuffing appears on the dry-side, stir in more chicken broth in 1/4 cup increments.

Place stuffing into a greased 13x9x2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle diced, cold butter over the top of the stuffing.

Place stuffing in preheated 375 degree oven. Bake at 375 for about 40-50 minutes, or until the top is golden and the stuffing is cooked through. Remove from oven and serve hot! Enjoy!

*You may vary the temperature at which the stuffing is cooked, as is often necessary with holiday meals. For 350 degrees, cook the stuffing for about 1 hour. For 400 or 425 degrees cook for about 30 minutes.

Butterscotch-Apple Cake

Butterscotch-Apple Cake
adapted from Taste of the South

1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups finely chopped, peeled apples
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup butterscotch morsels
Garnish: caramel sauce and whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large mixing bowl, mix together oil and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; beat well. Stir in vanilla, apples and pecans. (Mixture will be thick).

Spread mixture evenly in a greased 9 x 13 -inch baking pan. Sprinkle butterscotch chips over top. Bake for 55 minutes.

Cool completely in pan. Garnish with caramel sauce and whipped cream.

This cake is so moist and rich it will taste like you slaved in the kitchen all day.