Archive for September, 2011

Baking Challenge: Crunchy-Topped Cocoa Cake

September 15, 2011

This week’s recipe is one I’ve made a few times before, so the only challenge involved was timing its preparation and baking to work around the prep and baking of a chicken pie in order to have both done early enough that my dinner guest would be able to eat before midnight.  I’m much better at baking than cooking.  Generally when I shoot to have a meal done at 6, we end up eating at 8.  Nevertheless, I did get both the chicken pie and the cake done and fed my guest in a semi-timely manner.  This recipe comes from a little book my best friend got me called Hershey’s Cocoa Easy Baking.  It’s pretty straightforward, it always turns out moist,  and between the rich chocolate cake and the caramelized topping, it is sinfully delicious, so it’s one of my standard go-to recipes when I need a great dessert to come together quickly.

Crunchy-Topped Cocoa Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I once used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder in this by accident, and it was a happy discovery.  It made the cake even more awesome, and I’ve used it ever since.  I highly recommend trying it with that variation.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Broiled Topping (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour an 8-inch square pan.  Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla; beat with a spoon or whisk just until the batter is smooth and well blended.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  I’ve never been a big fan of the toothpick test; it’s not the most reliable.  I judge whether a cake is done as my mother taught me.  I tap the surface of the cake lightly.  If it springs back into place, it’s done.  If it sinks a bit, it needs longer.  Meanwhile, prepare Broiled Topping; spread on warm cake.  Set oven to broil; place pan about 4 inches from heat.  Broil 3 minutes or until top is bubbly and golden brown.  Remove from oven.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Broiled Topping

Combine 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter or margarine, 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans are good), 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes and 3 tablespoons light cream or evaporated milk in a small bowl until well blended.

Voila!

What are you still doing here?  Go bake this.  🙂  Bis bald!

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Not-So-Challenging Baking: Drop Cookies

September 10, 2011

This has been a tired & lazy kind of week, so when it came time to bake, I wanted something quick and easy (and when it came time to blog, I procrastinated).  Easy baking generally means drop cookies.  This is the cookie group traditional chocolate chippers fall into.  Most cookie books have a section for them, or specify which ones they are.  Drop cookies are about the simplest thing you can make and still be baking from scratch.  You just mix them up and toss them on the pan; there is no rolling, cutting or filling involved.  The drop cookie du jour is a favorite of mine, though I’d never made them myself before:  macadamia nut & white chocolate cookies.  I get them from Subway all the time, and I figured it was high time I added them to my repertoire.  This recipe is a variation on the chocolate chip cookie recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  It turned out well, though the cookies didn’t keep for very long.  After a few days they got a bit dry & crunchy, though that may have been because I over-baked them just a bit.  They don’t really brown on top much, and if you take them out a minute or two before they’re totally done, they’ll probably have that moist, chewy texture suited to this type of cookie.

Macadamia Nut and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 12-ounce package (2 cups) white chocolate chips
1 3 1/2-ounce jar macadamia nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F.  In a large mixing bowl beat the shortening and butter or margarine with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and baking soda.  Beat mixture till combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla till combined.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer.  Stir in remaining flour.  Stir in chocolate pieces and nuts.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes or till edges are lightly browned.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.  Let them cool on the pan for at least a few seconds before you try to transfer them, or they’ll fall apart.

When it comes to cookies, do as Subway says:  “Eat fresh!”
See you next week!