Thursday, March 26, 2009

Easter Preview: Lemon Torte

So, this isn't really an Easter preview. It would no doubt be lovely for Easter and is springy and so lemony and light—but in my family, Easter is definitely a pie occasion. But I have been waiting and waiting for the first signs of spring to make this cake again so that I can share it with you all! (All two of you!)

I made this cake last April at a Sur La Table "Easy Italian Cooking Class" with my friend Margaret at Pentagon Row. The menu was so delicious: Crostini al Pomodoro; Onion, Chickpea, and Prosciutto Frittata; the surprisingly amazing Fennel, Arugula, and Orange Salad; Zucchini Ribbons; and finally, Lemon Torte. I recreated most of it last Mother's Day, but making my mom a lemon cake instead of a chocolate pie would be laughable!

What got me most excited is that in our usual morning-light-only kitchen, I got the first rays of all-day spring sunlight! These pictures are so much better than usual. Thanks, sunshine!

Lemon Torte
Easy Italian Brunch with Robyn Webb

1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks (save the wrapper to butter the pan!)
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
4 egg whites
1 c. nonfat lemon yogurt (you'll need slightly more than one container of yogurt)
grated zest and juice of one lemon
1 T. vanilla extract
2 1/4 c. cake flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1/4 c. powdered sugar

Butter and lightly flour a 9-inch round nonstick cake pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter to a cream and add the sugar, a little at a time, beating constantly. Add the eggs and egg whites, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the yogurt and beat it in; then beat the lemon zest and lemon juice and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture until no traces of white remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 1 hour (mine took 50 minutes).

Remove the cake from the oven and let cool completely. When cool, remove from pan* and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

*Tip: I've never really had much issue with getting cakes out of pans, but this one didn't cooperate. I found a great tip online that really helped. If, when completely cool, it still won't budge even after running a knife around the edge and gently shaking the pan upside down, heat a burner on your stovetop and put the cake pan over the flame for about 10 seconds. Turn upside down over your plate and repeat the gentle shaking. If this still doesn't work, flip the cake pan back over, and put the bottom of the cake pan on the heat for another 10 seconds. The cake should release (mine did!) after several rotations of this.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

St. Patty's Day: Triple Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

It seems like I can't make enough cupcakes these days, and I can't really explain it. But for St. Patty's this year, I wanted something green and minty and decided to browse my old, old 1001 Chocolate Treats cookbook. My friend David gave me this book for my 16th birthday, and I'm ashamed to admit that besides staring at picture after picture (I think every recipe has one), I haven't made ANYTHING in this cookbook! How absurd is that? But it proves that even at Sweet 16, my friends very much knew what I'd like for a birthday gift—even if David never did ask me to the Prom. *sigh* But I'm still that same chocolate girl. :)

So, old pal, I promise to do more than stare at your pictures from now on. Wouldn't you?

Triple Mint Chocolate Cupcakes
based on #129, Chocolate Mint Cake

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. vegetable shortening
1 egg
1 t. peppermint extract or peppermint schnapps
2/3 c. milk
Chocolate-covered mint candies

2 c. powdered sugar
2 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 t. peppermint extract or peppermint schnapps
2 to 3 T. milk
1 to 2 drops green food coloring (I needed more!)
Chocolate-covered mint candies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners.

For the cake:
Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the sugar and shortening until smooth. Beat in the egg and peppermint extract/schnapps. In three additions, mix in the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Divide evenly among prepared cupcake liners. Gently push one chocolate-covered mint candy into each filled cupcake liner, and gently cover with excess batter so that it is completely hidden.

Bake for about 20–22 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with moist crumbs attached. Cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the powdered sugar, butter, and peppermint extract/schnapps until combined. Mix in enough milk to make it spreadable. Beat in the food coloring. (Note: I needed to make a second batch of frosting for 24 cupcakes.) When cupcakes have cooled completely, frost each cupcake and place one chocolate-covered mint candy on top.

Green with envy?

St. Patty's Day: Chocolate Chip Irish Soda Bread

Soooo, the Irish would totally strike me down for this next one because (1) the original recipe calls for raisins and caraway seeds and (2) chocolate chips? Seriously? But this isn't a raisin blog and I don't know anyone who would drool over that. Also, I hear that a soda bread with stuff in it is actually Spotted Dog. Who knew?

I love Irish soda bread, and traditionally, it's just four ingredients: flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt. This recipe also has sugar and butter and a few other nontraditional elements. It was good, but really didn't taste like soda bread to me. Chocolate chip bread, yes. (Not that that's an entirely bad thing either.) Also contributing to this: swapping 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour for 1 regular because oh. my. gosh. it needs to vacate my cabinet! So if you follow the recipe, yours might taste more like Irish soda bread. Or, try one of these recipes next time. And add chocolate chips. ;)

Chocolate Chip Irish Soda Bread
4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
4 T. unsalted butter, cold
2 c. chocolate chips
1 1/2 scant cups buttermilk*
1 egg
1 t. baking soda

*No buttermilk on hand? For each cup of buttermilk, mix one tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar with enough milk to make one cup. Let it stand for 5 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat (hmmm, did the Irish use Silpats?); set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder until well combined.

Using a pastry cutter or two knives in scissor fashion, cut in butter until the mixture feels like coarse meal. Stir in chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, and baking soda until well combined. Pour buttermilk mixture into the flour-and-butter mixture all at once, and stir with a fork until all the liquid is absorbed and the mixture begins to hold together. It should resemble a rough biscuit dough. Using your hands, press the dough into a round, dome-shaped loaf about 8 inches in diameter. Lift the loaf from the bowl, and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet.

(If desired, brush with an egg wash to make it shiny on top.) With a sharp knife, cut a cross, about 1/2 inch deep into the top of the loaf. Transfer to the oven. Bake, rotating halfway through, until it is deep golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center, about 70 minutes (mine cooked in about 60). Remove from oven, and transfer bread from the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool.

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Related Posts with Thumbnails