Monday, January 20, 2014

Red Velvet Beet Cake

If you were to take a peek into someone's root cellar this time of year, you would most likely find, as the name implies, roots. Root vegetables in a variety of shapes and sizes are our savior this time of year. As the snow piles grow taller and taller, we resort to those heartier roots that can deliver us a taste of fresh garden and earth, in a landscape buried in months of accumulation.

I've been thinking a lot about making red velvet cake. Except I think that red velvet cake is nothing more than a basic white cake heavily laced with artificial red coloring, with a hint of cocoa. That doesn't get me excited. But I've been thinking about lacing the cake with beets, to add a natural red hue, and lend a subtle sweet earthy flavor. Beets are a plentiful storage vegetable this time of year. My friends thought it sounded too weird, so I dropped the idea. That is until my latest issue of Food and Wine arrived, and there lies a recipe for Red Velvet Beet Cake. Get outta town!! I couldn't resist! I will show those friends of mine that beets + cake = delicious!

The recipe calls for roasting the beets, and pureeing them. This creates a wonderful beet puree that blends evenly throughout the cake, adding exactly what I wanted; a natural red hue, and a subtle sweet earthly flavor. The cake has a bit more cocoa than traditional Red Velvet Cakes, and the recipe has no leavening. Do not fear! Eggs combined with sugar, slightly heated, and whisked until quadrupled in volume does the trick! It's amazing actually, and when I made the cake at work, the kitchen staff and I stood by, being amazed as the fluffy eggs teetered at the brim of the bowl. Can we whisk them anymore? I whisked on high speed until the egg and sugar mixture was cooled and the volume was AMAZING! Gently folding the remaining ingredients into this wonderful egg fluff is key to keeping the volume of the egg mixture. The cake bakes up wonderfully with a moist and tender crumb, and a great flavor! Don't let the beets intimidate you. It's delicious!

We should talk about the frosting.....the recipe has a Crème Fraiche Icing. Since Crème Fraiche isn't readily available, I substituted sour cream. It was VERY great. The original recipe from Food and Wine is for making a layered cake, and I have modified the recipe to a single 9x13 baking pan. With this modification, you only need half of the original frosting recipe. The frosting is VERY great, so if you want to make the bigger batch and have some on hand, there is nothing wrong with that. Sour cream icing slathered on a warm toasted blueberry bagel? Yes please!


1 pound medium beets
1/2 cup plus 2 TBLS whole milk
6 TBLS unsalted butter
2 cups plus 2 TBLS all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp. salt
10 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 3 TBLS granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 3 TBLS light brown sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups crème fraiche, or sour cream
2 pounds confectioners sugar (8 cups), sifted
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into tablespoons

1. MAKE THE CAKE: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the beets in foil and bake for about 1 hour, until tender. Let cool slightly.

2. Peel the roasted beets and cut them into chunks. Transfer to a food processor and let cool completely (I had better luck pureeing the beets while they were still warm). Puree until smooth. Measure out 1 1/3 cups of the puree, reserve any remaining beet puree for another use.

3. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk just to a boil with the butter. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the 1 1/3 cups of beet puree. In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the cocoa powder and salt.

4. Prepare a 9x13 pan by spraying it with pan spray and setting aside. Add the eggs and the granulated and brown sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer. Set the bowl 2 inches above a saucepan of simmering water and beat until smooth and the sugars dissolve and the mixture is slightly warmed, about 4 minutes.

5. Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk. Beat the warm egg mixture at high speed until thickened and cooled, about 5 minutes. Scrape into a large bowl and ,using a rubber spatula. gently fold in the dry ingredients just until no streaks remain. Fold one-third of the batter into the beet mixture in three additions.

6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan in an even layer. Bake for 20- 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the baking pan to a rack to cool completely.

7. Meanwhile, make the icing. In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter at medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the cream fraiche or sour cream just until incorporated. Add the confectioner's sugar in two batches and beat at low speed just until blended. Beat in the vanilla. With the machine at high speed, gradually add the cream cheese by tablespoons until the icing is smooth.

8. Frost the cake using half of the frosting recipe. Reserve the other half for a later use. Refrigerate the cake until well chilled, at least two hours or overnight. Slice into 12 very generous portions. Belly up!!

Red Velvet Beet Cake is available in the grab and go case at the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op along with a variety of tasty treats and eats!!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Addie's Fabulous Brownies

When the weather outside is frightful, and I do mean frightful, we retreat to the indoors. That is satisfying for my five year old and myself, for about 5 minutes. Then we start bouncing off of the walls. We have dance parties, picnics by the woodstove, and we play dress. We read, we doodle, we chit chat. We discuss current events, like what would Scooby do? I start to loose my mind and break out into song whenever it feels right. My daughter starts to doubt my sanity. That's when I turn to my best friend. Her name is Butter. Butter helps get us through even the toughest cold snaps. I am pretty sure without it, mankind could not exist. Just a thought.

Addie and I lounging on a collection of "icebergs" which washed up along the shore.

Addie decided it was time for brownies. Wise choice! She's a smart one, and I revel at her kitchen skills. It must have been all of that practice with the Easy Bake Oven. Or being stuck in the kitchen with me since birth. Either way, it's a win, win. Addie chose a new recipe from a new cookbook I received for Christmas. It's called, Choclatique by Ed Engoron. The cover photo is a whisk dripping with chocolate. I fell in love at first sight. We made Double Chocolate Brownies.

 The recipe has you first making a dark chocolate ganache. Ganache is a sacred word. Not really, but it sounds like it. Ganache (gah-NOSH) was created when a chocolatier discovered that when hot cream is poured over chopped chocolate, and the mixture is stirred until velvety smooth, an ingredient is created that can be used in a tempting and mouthwatering variety of desserts, pastries, and confections. It's a thing of beauty. When ganache is warm and liquid, it can be poured over a cake or torte for a smooth, seamless, shiny glaze. If cooled to room temperature, ganache becomes a spreadable filling or topping for cakes, cookies, and bars. You see, ganache is your best friend too. Together with butter, you are in for a good day!

chocolate fingers. chocolate face. mmmmm chocolate!

Once you've made the dark chocolate ganache, the brownies are nothing more than melting our friend butter over a double boiler (a bowl placed over a pan of barely simmering water), beating eggs and sugar, and folding in a bit of flour. You've got this! You will have left over ganache, which Addie dipped things in, like bananas and also all ten of her fingers. The ganache keeps covered in the fridge for months. It's a good thing to have on hand when the temperatures drop and you need a confidence builder. A spoonful does wonders!

Double Chocolate Brownies

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup Dark Chocolate Ganache (recipe to follow)
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour, (I substituted almond flour with great results)
1 cup coarsely chopped milk chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 13x9 inch baking pan.

Combine the butter and Dark Chocolate Ganache in a double boiler set over barely simmering water and stir until melted. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on high speed until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes.

With the mixer on low speed, beat in the salt and melted ganache, followed by the vanilla. Gradually beat in the flour just until no white streaks remain in the batter. Stir in the chopped milk chocolate.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with a spatula. Bake for 25- 30 minutes, or until the brownies are set in the middle and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out slightly moist with batter. Cool in the pan, then refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Cut into 24 brownies.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

1 1/4 cups water
2/3 cup honey, maple syrup, or corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 pound bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

In a large, heavy saucepan, bring the water, honey cocoa powder, and salt to a boil over medium heat. Whisk until blended. Remove the pan from the heat.

Immediately add the chocolate and vanilla to the pan and whisk until smooth. Set aside for about an hour to cool completely, whisking every 15 minutes or so to keep the ganache emulsified.

When cool, transfer the ganache to a rigid plastic or glass container, cover, date, and refrigerate for up to three months.