Chocolate Mousse Cake a la King Arthur

King Arthur Flour (no I do not get paid for talking about them) has a monthly bake-along. February is a Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries. Looked and sounded delicious and something fun to make on one of my two February holidays. Well, if you know me, I changed it up just a bit. I was not going to spend a fortune on fresh raspberries in the middle of winter. I like chocolate covered cherries and I had a can of cherries in my pantry. I could use those.

So the original bake-along recipe is right here: Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries. I made the cake exactly. I happened to find four 8-inch cake pans, two of which were three inches deep so I baked the cake in two pans and cut these into the four layers. Hint for you: this is a thin batter just like they say. It may not be that wise to use pans that have removable bottoms. Just saying. I had a bit of leakage, very little but I had to bake the cakes on a cookie sheet. I also baked the cakes at 350 degrees F. They came out nicely. They did not have domes, so I am not sure if they fell a bit. The finished product is so rich it was impossible to tell.

  • 1 3/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 large eggs

Whisk dry ingredient together. Mix wet ingredients together but not eggs. Put wet ingredients into dry ingredients, combine thoroughly. Beat in eggs one at a time. Put into the greased pans and bake. The two 8-inch x 3-inch pans took 55 minutes. Cool completely and slice each layer in two.

The mousse filling was more difficult. It did not come out smoothly and was difficult to spread between the layers of the cake.

  • 2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Beat the butter, cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla and salt until creamy. Melt the chocolate and stir that in. Whip the cream with the remaining sugar until stiff. Fold this into the cream cheese mixture. This ended up swirled and not a uniform color. Perhaps that was okay.

I used a can of cherries, drained, and a jar of cherry fruit spread instead of raspberries. I mixed this and spread it on top of the mousse layer. I forgot to put cherries on the middle layer. I don’t think anyone noticed this omission.

Once this is done chill or freeze the cake for 30 minutes so it will be easier to frost.

At this point I am thinking about the frosting. This cake already looks extraordinarily rich. The KAF frosting calls for another cup of butter and 4 cups powdered sugar. That just is too much. I then remember I had made a chocolate sauce to serve with the disastrous orange cake for Christmas. Since that cake was inedible I had frozen the sauce for use at another time. This seemed to be that “another time.”

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon orange extract or liqueur (it was actually the poaching syrup from the disastrous orange cake A Christmas Sponge: an Orange Upside Down Cake)

Whisk sugar and cocoa in a small sauce pan. Gradually whisk in the milk until a smooth paste forms. Reduce heat and simmer whisking constantly for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and orange extract. (the orange taste does not come through at all.)

So I thawed the chocolate sauce and poured it out on the cake. This gave it a nice glazed cover. Now this glaze looks like a ganache but does not firm up like one.

This is not nearly as good looking as the picture on the King Arthur website. But served with a bit of whipped cream it is chocolate decadence! A little dab will do ya!

Lessons learned: If you want a rich chocolate cake that makes thick layers use this cake recipe. I would make a different filling or just use the fruit and preserves in between layers with some whipped cream. Cover with your own ganache or just sprinkle with powdered sugar. That way you could have a fancy cake with less fuss. But we are enjoying our indulgence a little at a time. Store cake in refrigerator.

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Cinnamon Bread

Quite a while ago Hubby asked if I could make Cinnamon Bread, or at least I think he did, but I did not make any. King Arthur Flour’s website is a gold mine of baking recipes for us home cooks. I saw this and thought I would make this. I used to bake breads all winter long but not this winter. Not sure why? Here is the link to the original recipe from KAF: Cinnamon Bread. I made a few adjustments.

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup instant dry milk
  • 3 tablespoons potato flour
  • 7/8 to 1 1/8 cups warm tap water
  • 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Whisk dry ingredients together in large bowl of stand mixer. Put butter and water together in Pyrex measuring cup and microwave for 30 seconds. Add the liquid to the dry, stir to combine, and then knead for 7 minutes at Speed 2. I first used the lesser amount of water but the recipe said the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl. With the lesser amount the dough cleaned the sides right away so I added the extra 1/4 cup. This made a more sticky dough that seemed to match the description from the recipe.

Place the dough in a greased bowl. To do this I scrape the dough to one side of the mixing bowl, spray with cooking spray, then scrape the dough to the sprayed side, and spray the rest of the bowl and the top of the dough. Cover and let rise until doubled. This took about an hour and 15 minutes.

Transfer dough to a lightly greased work surface. I did this. I had never not used a floured work surface for bread making. And this worked out well. Pat the dough into a 6 inch by 20 inch rectangle. Lucky for me my butcher block work surface has a pattern of 2 inch squares all over the top. So measuring the rectangle was to perfection!

Make the filling: 1/4 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons flour. Beat one egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush this on the dough before sprinkling on the cinnamon mixture. This is to keep the swirl from making gaps in the bread while baking. Roll into a log starting with the short end. Pinch the ends and the long seam to seal. Place in your lightly greased or sprayed loaf pan. Tent loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise until 1 inch over the rim of the pan.

The size of your loaf pan will matter. I spent my morning measuring the three I have and they are all 9″ x 5″ pans. This loaf, per KAF, will rise more nicely in an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ pan. In the 9″ x 5″ pan it will rise to the rim. Mine rose very slightly above the rim in 1 hour and 20 minutes time.

Bake in preheated 350 degrees F oven. “Allow the bread to completely cool before slicing.” Yeah right!

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Perfect swirls!

This was yummy and makes a nice toast with my coffee. I just have to be sure I don’t eat it all in one day; that would wreak havoc with my goal of losing a few pounds!

I like recipes from which I learn something. From this one I learned that one could substitute potato flour for instant potato flakes, using an egg wash helps the filling stay in place, and one can use a lightly oiled work surface for shaping bread dough.

Chicken Cooked in Wine with Caramelized Onions

This is an adaptation of a recipe from a “diet book” with the theme of eating the same primary flavor throughout the day. Supposedly this will keep you satisfied and encourage less eating and encourages weight loss. I only tried this theme day once years ago so I have no idea if it would work or not. But this recipe I kept because it sounded good anyway.

We have been trying not to overspend on groceries so my cupboard is sort of bare. Not as bare as Mother Hubbard’s though. Remember that nursery rhyme? I have lots of pantry staples of beans, rice, more beans, pasta, canned tomatoes, more beans. I only had two onions remaining and that is all that this recipe required. And in the freezer I have one of those 5 pound bags of individually frozen chicken breasts. These are great. I pulled two out and put in the fridge to thaw during the day while I went to work.

  • 2 nice sized chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, sliced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup broth (I used vegetable broth; chicken broth would be preferred)
  • scant 1/2 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
  • 2 tablespoons rinsed and drained capers
  • 2 teaspoons crushed dried rosemary (I had dried this herb from my summer herb pot and used a mortar and pestle to crush the leaves.)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken breasts into a pan. I used a 10 x 7 inch pan which fit the two breasts just fine. Place in oven.

Meanwhile heat the oil and butter in a skillet and add the onions and cook for 5 minutes. They will be soft but not yet caramelized. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5-7 minutes. Pour this over the chicken in the pan in the oven. Bake for one hour. The sauce thickens and becomes a glaze.

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Sorry about the picture. It doesn’t really show case the chicken. We were half way through our meal when it occurred to me to take a picture. I served this with peas and carrots and a quinoa/rice mix.

 

 

 

Thoughts:

  • if using two chicken breasts, use half the amount of liquids.
  • one could use up to 6 chicken breasts for the amount of sauce the recipe makes. Just use a bigger baking dish.
  • the chicken was very moist and flavorful as was the sauce.

 

Glorious Morning Glory Muffins

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I haven’t written for a few weeks. It’s not that I’m not cooking, I’m just not creatively cooking. Or I make standard fare that I have already written about, such as chicken pot pie and chocolate cake. We had a fabulous post New Year Thanksgiving dinner with a roast turkey and all the trimmings including sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and apple pie. Sometimes I just throw chicken in the oven to bake with barbecue sauce or pan sear steaks or pork chops. Frozen vegetables, in a multiple of varieties, round out the meal. And I confess, sometimes dinner is sandwiches made with frozen breaded fish fillets!

And then there is the impetus for weight loss and heart healthy cooking. Hubby and I are not getting any younger and the medical folk have been looking at our hearts regarding cholesterol levels and hypertension, and our sedentary lifestyle, a little more closely lately. So how can I bake yummy desserts with these issues in the front of my mind?

I wanted to bake something. I used to bake muffins every week so that Hubby and the Girls would have something to take along for the commute to school. The Girls are now all grown up with boyfriends and fiances and such. But a healthy muffin might take the place of cupcakes, right? I have an entire section of my recipe notebook devoted to muffins. Most of them claim to be low-fat and have whole wheat and/or oatmeal in the list of ingredients. I chose this one because it has apple butter as an ingredient and I found half a jar of good apple butter when I did a recent fridge cleaning and inventory.

Morning Glory Muffins: this is an adaptation of a recipe submitted to All Recipes.com 2005 by a Jack D. I adjusted the eggs and the amount of sugar and the raisins.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (in future I would use 1 cup all-purpose)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (in future I would use 1 cup)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 cup Craisins
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup apple butter
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons toasted wheatgerm (I did not remember if the wheatgerm I have is toasted already so I dry toasted it in a small skillet over high heat on top of the stove)

Oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 18 muffin cups or line with papers. I was able to make 20 muffins.

Whisk eggs, apple butter, oil, and vanilla together in a medium bowl

Whisk all dry ingredients together in a larger bowl. These are the first 7 ingredients.

Add the goodies, carrots, apple, Craisins, to the dry ingredients. Then stir in the apple butter mixture just until all is moist.

Mix the wheat germ and the walnuts together in a small bowl.

Spoon into the muffin pans, sprinkle each with the wheatgerm mixture, and bake for 20 minutes. The tops will spring back when lightly pressed.

These were fabulous. I don’t remember baking these before even after printing out the recipe back in 2006. They are enjoyable warm right out of the oven, in the middle of the morning as a snack, and also the next day, and evening, and then for morning again…

Chicken Vegetable Casserole

Greetings my dear readers! This is an updated version of a casserole I used to make when I first started a family many years ago. I am not sure where I got this but it is one of those canned soup recipes. And back then I used canned soups. I don’t anymore and haven’t for a long time. I have learned how to make my own cream sauce. I thought I would share this with you all. I had thawed chicken thighs and didn’t want to do another lemon chicken recipe. So here is what’s for dinner.

Original recipe: 2 cans cream of mushroom soup, 2/3 cup mayonnaise, 1 pound large cut vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and carrots, shredded cheese if desired, and one cut up chicken.

Here’s my update:

  • 8-10 medium sized chicken thighs; I wanted to be “healthy” so took the skins off.
  • 1/2 super large bag of frozen Normandy style vegetables: zucchini and yellow squash, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower; use at least two pounds of large cut vegetables. You could cut fresh vegetables for this as well.
  • (I could have added about  4 ounces of mushrooms but the ones I had smelled too earthy for my liking.)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • generous sprinkling of seasonings of your choice; I used Herbs de Provence; it is my new go-to herb mixture
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt; I threw this in at the last minute to add a creamy “healthiness”
  • 1 cup shredded cheese; I used a mixture of cheddar.

Super simple to make: heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray your 9×13-inch baking pan with cooking spray, or oil it if you prefer. Place your vegetables in here. Place your chicken on top of the vegetables. Make your sauce.

Melt the two tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan. Add broth. Sprinkle on your seasoning or herbs. Mix the cornstarch with the half-and-half. Add to pan and bring just to boil. This will not be thick but on the verge of thickening. Pour the sauce on top of the chicken. This looked thin to me so I smeared the yogurt on top of the chicken. Sprinkle the cheese over this.

Bake for at least one hour. Test chicken for done-ness with meat thermometer: 165-175 for thighs.  Dinner is served. This has your vegetables and your protein. Rice or egg noodles could be a side which would be nice with the sauce.

Enjoy!

Hoppin’ John

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It’s New Year’s Day and these are the ingredients for dinner. My Mom used to make something like this saying it would bring good luck in the New Year. The three basic ingredients are pork, rice, and black-eyed peas. Mom would soak dried peas overnight but I chose canned. The two ladies in the grocery store trying to find them also wanted to use canned although one said her mother also used to soak the dried. The three of us had a time finding these cans as they were buried in a stack of boxes and not readily available on the shelf. They are using a ham bone; I am using pork chops. Some traditions add greens, such as Collard, but I like spinach. I make this differently each time so here’s how I made it this year.

  • bacon, I hacked off about two half- inch chunks of bacon from the end of the package
  • 1/2 diced onion
  • 1-2 cups frozen spinach
  • about two cups of quinoa/rice mix; this was one envelope from this “cook in ten minutes” box cooked according to directions
  • one can black-eyed peas, undrained
  • several hefty shakes of red pepper flakes
  • one pork chop per person

For the Hoppin’ John, I cooked the bits of bacon and the onion in a cast iron skillet until the bacon was cooked. Sprinkle the red pepper flakes into this. I then added the spinach and continued cooking the concoction for about five minutes before adding the black-eyed peas and the prepared rice mix. Stir that all together and let heat thoroughly. The liquid from the can of black-eyed peas will reduce somewhat.

IMG_0838 1My original plan was to “stuff” each pork chop with the Hoppin’ John mixture. But Hubby wanted to glaze them with the blackberry preserves and he looked so endearing and delighted when he talked of it. So, in the spirit of compromise, I gave him the task of cooking the pork chops. He broiled them in the oven, flipped them over and put about a teaspoon of blackberry preserves on each and left them in the oven to glaze. This whole process took about ten minutes.

The Hoppin’ John was the side dish as well as leftovers for lunches for the week. Yum!

A Christmas Sponge: an Orange Upside Down Cake

This looked so fabulous and fancy in the magazine. And it uses candied oranges which is reminiscent of the candied orange peels my mother used to make. I made those a while back and you can read about that adventure here. The ingredients are simple enough. The time consuming part is poaching the orange slices in simple syrup to take away some of the bitterness. I have a lot of hopes while making this. And doubts.

I spent one evening preparing the orange slices. Scrub 4 navel oranges and then slice thin, 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Place these in a wide skillet or pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer one minute. If left too long the slices will start to break a little. Drain and set aside momentarily. Bring 3 cups water and 3 cups sugar to a boil in that pan and stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Then return orange slices to the pan. Slices must be put gently in the sugar water or they will break apart. Let this gently simmer for 2 1/2 hours, occasionally spooning the syrup over the oranges. Let cool in pan. At this point I stored these in the refrigerator covering the pan with its lid.

Two days later I am ready to make the cake. This is a sponge cake. I have only ever been successful at making a sponge cake once in my life! But I go for it anyway. Only afterward did it occur to me that I could have just made a butter cake which I have very much more success with.

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First, arrange the orange slices in a greased 9-inch round pan. I also added parchment paper to be sure it turned out of the pan okay. Additionally, the recipe said to drain the slices on paper towels and pat dry. Well…I forgot to do this. But I proceed.

  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, warmed in hot tap water for five minutes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest (about one orange’ worth)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar on low until blended and then on high 8-10 minutes until pale and thick and leaves a ribbon trail when the beater is lifted. I used the whisk attachment for this; not sure if that was the right thing to do. Where is Mom when you need her? I know she is up in heaven looking down and laughing at me! Merry Celestial Christmas Mom and Dad!

Then whisk in the orange zest and vanilla. Sift half the flour/salt mixture onto the batter and carefully fold this in. Repeat with the remaining flour. Then fold in the melted butter. So far, so good. Scrape this into the prepared pan and spread to edges to cover all the orange slices. Now bake this for 25-30 minutes until springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out of the center clean. My cake took 33 minutes. Run knife around edge of cake and let cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto cake plate.

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Very pretty!

First thing to notice is that they syrup from the orange slices has been absorbed into the cake. The second thing is after a few minutes on the cake plate the middle sank. Just a little bit, but still. Hmm? What is this about?

So now I am contemplating what to do. I could make a new cake and remove all these lovely orange slices and bake them upside down with a butter cake. I could spend 2 1/2 hours poaching more orange slices and make this again with a butter cake recipe. Or I could hope that there will be more than one dessert for Christmas Eve. And that this actually will be just fine, even though I cannot test it first. It is to be served with a chocolate orange sauce which might cover all ills. What to do?

Not content to leave well enough alone I decide to make a back-up cake! This one will have fresh orange slices in the manner of pineapple upside down cake. And will be a plain butter cake from my standard Betty Crocker Cookbook. I peel these oranges before slicing them. Melt 1/4 cup butter in the cake pan and sprinkle 1/3 cup brown sugar on the butter and then arrange orange slices. Make a batter for a single layer cake, 9-inches. Bake 45 minutes.

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I sprinkled it with red sugar to be festive!

I take both for the Christmas Eve feast. The pretty cake is pretty and smells quite orange-y. It is impossible to slice effectively. And there is virtually no cake under the center for at least a 3-inch diameter. The candied orange slices are sickly sweet, almost inedibly so. The cake that is there at the edges is okay, but this did not serve as a slice of cake. And was not worthy of the chocolate orange sauce I made to go with. An epic fail!

The back up cake was ugly. Especially ugly when displayed next to the first cake. The cake was nice, a moist ordinary butter cake. Orange slices because of their fibers do not make a good cake fruit. One should stick to apples, pineapple, pears, and the like.

Luckily a family member had made a nice apple pie and there were plenty of Christmas cookies for dessert…and bourbon…and wine. Did I mention there was bourbon? And everyone was full from the wonderful prime rib dinner.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! Happy Winter holidays to others! Hanukkah is past. Kwanzaa has just begun. And may we all have a blessed New Year in 2018!