Cardamom Pound Cake

There are some baking books that gather dust on your shelves, and then there are others with missing covers, pages stuck together, and unraveling spines. The number of chocolate finger prints in the margins can tell you just how important a recipe is, and if there is one book in my collection that is in rough shape, it is The Cake Bible.

Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe for “Perfect Pound Cake” produces exactly that; a buttery, dense crumb that slices like a dream and stays moist for days. The addition of cardamom, a warm and smooth spice, elevates the melting texture and richness of the cake.

If you do not own a 6 cup bundt pan, an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan will work equally as well. Increase the baking time to 55-65 minutes for a loaf, and use a foil tent after 30 minutes to prevent overbrowning.

Cardamom Pound Cake
adapted from “Perfect Pound Cake”, Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bilble

Special Equipment:
Stand mixer, 6 cup mini bundt pan – or a 4 x 8 inch loaf pan

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons milk (not skim), room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
Seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups cake and pastry flour (150g)
3/4 cup white granulated sugar (150g)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom*
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (6.5 oz)

*if you decide to make the chocolate glaze, increase the cardamom to 1 teaspoon

Tips for Success: 

  1. Ensure that the eggs, milk, and butter are all at room temperature so that they emulsify properly. For the purposes of baking, room temperature butter measures between 65° and 68° F. If you do not have a digital candy thermometer, use your finger to test the temperature by pushing on a cube of butter. When the butter is ready, it will be pliable but still cool to the touch and your finger will leave a smooth indent with no cracks. If the butter is too warm it will feel very soft and offer no resistance to pressure, and it must be returned to the fridge.
  2. Eggs can be quickly brought to temperature by submerging them in warm water for 10-15 minutes.
  3. When using the reverse creaming method, the speed and length of the beating process is crucial. You want to whip the batter sufficiently in order to incorporate air and create structure, but overbeating can result in a dense and dry cake. Large holes throughout the crumb are also a sure sign of overbeating. Speed 3 on my Kitchen Aid mixer is ideal, but consider setting a less powerful machine to medium speed.

Method: 

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Cut the butter into cubes and allow it to come to temperature (65°-68° F) while you prepare the other ingredients. Thoroughly grease and flour a 6 cup mini bundt pan. If you are using a loaf pan, grease it and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cardamom into the bowl of the stand mixer. Whisk to combine the ingredients, then attach the paddle beater.

In a small bowl combine the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract or seeds. Whisk lightly with a fork to separate the eggs and combine the ingredients.

When the butter is the correct consistency, place it in the bowl with the dry ingredients and add half of the egg mixture. Stir on the lowest speed just until the dry ingredients are moistened, including the flour at the very bottom of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium (speed 3 on a Kitchen Aid) and beat for 1 minute to aerate the batter and develop structure. Stop the mixer and add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating at medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. At each pause, scrape the bowl to ensure that all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.

Use a large spoon to dollop the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes (55-65 for a loaf), until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The top of the cake should be peaked and cracked, and only begin to pull away from the sides of the pan upon removal from the oven.

The cake will keep well for 4-5 days, wrapped tightly and stored at room temperature. Pound cake is delicious when glazed, iced, or served with fresh berries and whipped cream.

 Quick Chocolate Glaze
adapted from The Cake Bible

Ingredients: 

3 oz dark chocolate, slivered and finely chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream

Method:

Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Set the cream over medium heat just until it begins to simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate and cover the bowl with a plate or lid and wait 5 minutes. Stir the mixture gently until it is completely smooth. Use immediately.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Here is a great recipe for someone who already knows how to make Swiss meringue buttercream, and is looking to branch out with a bold new flavour. If you have discovered the perfect method for your kitchen, skip the steps and just reference the ingredients for a silky, luxurious batch of dark chocolate frosting.

This icing is my go-to for chocolate celebration cakes because it is incredibly smooth, not too sweet, pipes beautifully, and freezes well. I developed this recipe using chocolate with 72% cocoa for a decisively dark taste with just the right amount of bitter-sweetness. The process begins with a brown sugar meringue, into which two cups of butter is emulsified. To finish, 300 grams of chocolate is melted, cooled to room temperature, and stirred into the caramel flavoured buttercream. The result is rich and creamy, yet light and fluffy, and perfect for smothering over layers of cake.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Special Equipment: Stand mixer, digital candy thermometer.

Ingredients:

7 large egg whites, approximately 215 grams

350 grams golden yellow or light brown sugar

1 lb unsalted butter, cubed

1/8 teaspoon table salt

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

300 grams extra dark chocolate (72% cocoa)

Method:

The Butter:

Remove the cold butter from the fridge, and cut it into tablespoon-sized chunks. Let the butter sit on the counter while you prepare the other ingredients. When the butter warms to 65° F, at which point it reaches the “plastic” stage, it will be just the right temperature and consistency to incorporate into the meringue. The butter is ready when you can push on a piece with your finger and it resists briefly before making a smooth indent. If the butter cracks at the pressure, it is too cold. If the butter offers no resistance or is very soft and greasy, it has become too warm and will melt into the meringue. Refrigeration is your friend in this case, do not hesitate to put the butter back into the fridge if it becomes too warm.

The Meringue:

Separate the eggs, using clean bowls and making sure that no yolk or grease makes its way into the egg whites. It is a good idea to wipe all the bowls and tools that you plan to use clean with a paper towel and some fresh lemon juice, to eliminate any traces of grease which can prevent the meringue from reaching its full potential. Set up your mixer with a clean mixing bowl and the whisk attachment. 

In a large metal bowl, whisk together the egg whites and sugar to combine. Create a double boiler by filling a large saucepan with a few inches of water, placing it on a burner set to medium-low heat, and fitting the metal bowl on top of the pot. Whisk the mixture very gently, frequently at first but constantly as the heat increases, just until it reaches 160° F on a candy thermometer.

Immediately pour the hot liquid into the bowl of your stand mixer, using the whisk to scrape in as much as possible. Gradually turn the mixer up to high (speed 6 on a KitchenAid) and beat for 7 minutes, or until the meringue is very stiff. Turn the speed down to low and beat for approximately 8 more minutes, or until the bowl is neutral to the touch. The meringue must be cool when the butter is added or it will melt on contact.

Combining: 

Quickly switch over to the paddle attachment, and with the mixer on low speed add the butter one piece at a time, waiting 10 seconds in between additions to ensure that each piece is fully incorporated. If after adding 3/4 of the butter the mixture appears very loose or soupy, place the bowl in the fridge for 7 to 10 minutes to bring down the temperature, then continue beating and adding butter. If the mixture becomes too cold at any point it will appear curdled, but keep beating on low and the buttercream will eventually smooth itself out. Take any pause in the process as an opportunity to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure that all of the meringue is incorporated.

The frosting will come together and fluff up shortly after all of the butter is incorporated. When the buttercream is fluffy and smooth, beat in the salt and vanilla extract.

The Chocolate:

Melt the chocolate in a microwave or over a double-boiler, and let it cool to room temperature. The chocolate should be liquid, but if it is still warm when added to the bowl it will melt the butter.

Beat the buttercream for 30 seconds or until smooth, then unhook the bowl and add the melted chocolate. Fold in the chocolate with a rubber spatula for the darkest result. When the frosting is uniform in colour, it is ready for piping, swooshing, or swirling.

Image

Teaser: Chocolate Meringue Buttercream

Silky smooth and deliciously dark, while also being very stable and great for piping detailed designs, meringue-based buttercreams are a wonderful choice for celebration cakes. And nothing goes better with a chocolate cake than chocolate frosting. Extra dark chocolate takes this luxurious buttercream to a whole new level, and a special ingredient adds an extra depth of flavour. Stay tuned for the full recipe, and some tips that I’ve gathered along the way.

Making Chocolate-Hazelnut Rugelach

Rugelach is one of those transcendent desserts, not unlike madelines, that one has a hard time calling “cookies” and leaving it at that. These bite-sized pastries consist of a rich cream cheese laden dough, much akin to pie pastry, rolled with a filling of your choosing. Dried fruit, preserves, nuts and chocolate are all common additions, making rugelach the ideal vehicle for our dark chocolate-hazelnut paste.

Below you will find my recipe for the chocolate-nut filling, as well some hints on preparing the dough and assembling the cookies. The delicious and surprisingly simple cream cheese pastry recipe comes from leitesculinaria.com, and was written by Tracey Zabar for her book One Sweet Cookie.

I modeled my chocolate-hazelnut paste after a Taste of Home Magazine recipe for DIY chocolate-hazelnut spread, and after some experimentation I settled on several alterations.

The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar, but I prefer to use granulated sugar over ready-made icing sugar whenever possible because the latter contains a fair amount of cornstarch. To ensure that the sugar dissolved, I cooked the milk/sugar mixture on very low heat while stirring with a heat proof spatula until I could rub some of the liquid between my fingers without feeling any granules. I also substituted half (3 oz) of the milk chocolate for dark chocolate, and swapped the cows milk for fruity coconut milk.

giandujaspread

Recipe: Dark Chocolate-Hazelnut Paste

Adapted from: Taste of Home Magazine, DIY Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

Ingredients

Baker’s Note:

Most likely when you purchase hazelnuts, they will come with their thin, papery skin still attached. While some people do not bother to remove it, I find that I can sometimes detect the skin’s slight bitter taste and I prefer to rub as much off as possible before chopping or grinding the nuts. The quickest and most effective way of doing this is to preheat the oven to 350° F, and line a heatproof bowl with a clean dish cloth. Toast the hazelnuts on a tray for 5-8 minutes, or until the skin begins to crack and peel, then quickly toss them into the bowl and cover with the towel. Let the hazelnuts steam for 15 minutes, then briskly rub the towel together to remove the skin.

3/4 cup whole hazelnuts (filberts), lightly toasted and skin removed
3 oz dark chocolate
3 oz good quality milk chocolate
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon mild honey
1/4 cup well stirred coconut milk
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon flavorless oil

Method

Finely chop both chocolates and place in a large microwave safe bowl.

Combine the coconut milk, sugar, honey, and salt in a small saucepan and heat on low until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture just up to a simmer, then remove the pot from the heat.

Immediately poor the milk mixture over the chopped chocolate and let sit 5 minutes. Stir gently until smooth.
Note: If not all of the chocolate completely melts, microwave the bowl for 15 seconds and stir again until smooth.

Place the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts begin to form a paste. Add the oil and process until a paste forms.

Scrape the chocolate mixture into the bowl with the nuts, and process briefly, just until the paste clings together and forms a ball.

Store in the refrigerator for up to one week. Bring to room temperature before use.

Note: If your food processor is like mine, and not quite capable of producing a smooth nut paste, do not fret. Simply process the hazelnuts as much as possible and continue on with the recipe. The result will be a rich chocolate and nut paste rather then a smooth spread, and it will be excellent when paired with pastry, sandwiched between cookies, or layered in tarts or pies.

Dough & Assembly: Cream Cheese Rugelach

Source: Tracey Zabar, One Sweet Cookie
Link: http://leitesculinaria.com/78021/recipes-cream-cheese-rugelach.html

Baker’s Notes:

  1. I followed the recipe for the pastry as written, but found that after my processor had cut in the cream cheese, I had a damp but sandy bowl of tiny crumbs rather than a cohesive dough. To adjust, I dumped the mixture into a large mixing bowl and used my hands to form the crumbs into 4 equal balls, which was quite easy considering the cold dough quickly clung together.
  2. After rolling the dough and trimming the edges, I chilled the rectangles in the fridge until they were firm so that the filling would spread more easily across the pastry. I also discovered that the best way to evenly distribute the filling was to use my fingertips to quickly and gently smooth it over the dough. When had I finished rolling the logs, I placed them in the freezer for about an hour to chill them, then I cut the logs into 1 ½ inch pieces as directed, and froze the fully assembled cookies overnight.
  3. In the morning, I made an egg wash by whisking together 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of water, and brushed each cookie lightly but thoroughly with the wash before pressing them into some vanilla sugar.
  4. I baked the rugelach at 375° for 30-35 minutes on a large metal tray lined with a silicone mat. The silicone barrier helped to ensure that the bottom of the pastries did not burn before the center of the roll had cooked through.
  5. After removing them from the oven, I quickly transferred the cookies to a cooling rack so they did not sit in the moisture that had formed on the tray during baking (I suspect this was mostly oil from the chocolate filling).

The rugelach are best eaten on the first or second day, but they will keep for several days more refrigerated in an airtight container.

Dark & Bold Gianduja Spread (Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread)

Gianduja: a sweet chocolate spread containing about 30% hazelnut paste, invented in Italy during the reign of Napoléon.

February thus far has brought a whirlwind of activity to the Dough House, beginning with preparations for a romantic Valentine’s Day wedding cake and ending this past weekend with its unveiling. As much as we love making silky smooth lemon curd and eating cake scraps, it is exciting to refocus on baking, well, whatever we feel like.

Keeping in tune with this months featured ingredients, I chose to begin a project that I had been itching to work on since the fall: homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread. The condiment itself is quite simple to put together, but once made it can be used in a myriad of other dessert recipes, some of which Taste of Home has already compiled for me. I was drawn to this version of “DIY Nutella” in particular because it includes honey as well as nuts and chocolate, all of which I would consider end-of-winter pantry staples.

I was after a deeper, darker chocolate experience than the grocery store variety has to offer, so I substituted the milk chocolate for dark chocolate and added an extra tablespoon of both honey and sugar. Instead of cows milk, I used sweet, creamy coconut milk for its richness and flavour. The result was a bold and earthy chocolate spread with subtle fruity hints, and plenty of toasted and ground hazelnuts visible throughout. My first instinct is to make gianduja-filled pastries, perhaps using the opportunity to try a new recipe, and also to use the spread within a sweet yeast bun.

So bust out the pastry blender, because we’re making dough and getting our gianduja on.