Jun 19, 2012

Black Joe Cake with Salted Caramel Filling & Mocha Mascarpone Frosting

I'd like to give you two pieces of advice.

First, never go grocery shopping when you are hungry.  This is just doomsday for your diet.  You will purchase things that you'd never even think about on a contented tummy.

Caramel in jars, for example.

I was weak and hungry...I couldn't help it.  I mean look at that cute little jar with its pretty little lid.  And it's French, so it MUST be good, right?

Second piece of advice.  Never, ever take a fussy child into Carrefour.  This is like walking into the lion's den with a hot dog necklace.  You are just asking for it.  Once you are inside you will give your child ANYTHING to keep quiet.  Never in my life have I pulled something off the shelf in a grocery store and ate it.  Never.  That is until I had a one year old.  Lord, cookies go flying when we shop.  I never had the balls to do something like this.  But when he's screaming and pulling at my shirt for something, anything I just become desperate.  I grab the first thing that looks halfway edible and choke-hazard free and say 'here take it, please let me finish my discount shopping!'

So we're walking and screaming in Carrefour.  I'm hungry.  He's irritated.  I start grabbing at things that I don't need.  I am in a state of panic and just need inventory in my cart.  I'm tossing in needless items just to have some sort of accomplishment for the day...the caramel, some kind of sea-weed crackers (ick by the way) facial scrub (yes from Carrefour, I mean really?) I'm positive if you have kids you know what I'm talking about.

We finally reach the finish line (check-out) and the little man is all smiles for the girl at the counter.  Guess his blood sugar sorted itself out with the biscuits.  I have a thin line of sweat around my forehead and proceed to run over my toe with the cart.  Yeh, mission accomplished.

We get home and I'm starting at this jar of caramel feeling defeated.  The whole point of this blog was to make EVERYTHING from scratch.  I am equally irritated because I know how to make caramel!  Remember the Dark Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Salted Caramel Filling?!  I opened the jar to taste and wow, it's pretty darn good.  Also, there were only about 4 or 5 ingredients, no poly-dextrose-number 5 color-extract-dehydrated soybean phosphate.  Nope none of that weird stuff. 

Feeling a bit better about the caramel debacle I figured the best thing I can do is doctor up some frosting with it.  And add some fleur de sel, of course.  Because nothing goes better with caramel than salt.

This recipe is originally from Bon Appetit, although they didn't name the cake Black Joe...that's too urban for them I'd say.  They labeled it 'Coffee-Chocolate Layer Cake'.  Well there was coffee in the cake ingredients, but for sure you can't taste it.  This is fine though, and intentional!  When adding coffee to any chocolate recipe, the coffee taste is usually hidden beneath the cocoa.  Coffee is added to accentuate the chocolate flavor and intensify it.

Traditional Black Joe Cake is any chocolate cake recipe that includes about a cup or so of black, strong coffee.  I'm not quite sure how coffee became labeled as 'Joe' but it doesn't matter.  You can call it a Purple Unicorn with Popcorn Farts and I'd still drink it.

Black Joe Cake with Salted Caramel Filling & Mocha Mascarpone Frosting
Makes one 9-inch 2-layer cake
Serves 8 (or 10 skinny people)


For the cake:
2 cups cake flour (you can substitute all-purpose flour per the following: 1 cup cake flour = 1 cup all purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (6 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
2cups (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk (to substitute, measure 2 tablespoons of vinegar in a measuring cup.  Add enough full-fat milk to measure one cup.  Stir and let sit for 5 minutes)
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 3/4 cup hot water (not instant coffee!)

For the salted caramel filling:
3/4 cup (6 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/2 cup caramel
3 cups sifted powdered sugar

For the Mocha Mascarpone Frosting:
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (not instant coffee!)
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
1 1/3 cups sugar
28 ounces chilled mascarpone cheese


Preheat to 325 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with 2-inch-high sides.  I use a sandwich baggie as a glove which makes clean up so much easier.   

Add about two tablespoons of flour to the greased pan to coat, tapping out any excess.  Repeat with second cake pan. 

Line bottom of pans with parchment paper.  I find the easiest way to do this is to place some waxed paper underneath the pan and trace with a marker.

Cut out your circle and place inside the bottom of the cake pan.  If you find that you've cut the circle too big (this happens to me ALL the time) fold in half, then fold again so your circle looks like this:

Then just trim around the top edge.  Folding into quarters like this makes things so much easier rather than sitting in the kitchen cutting around a circle...who has time for that?!

Sift 2 cups cake flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl.  Never forget to sift your dry ingredients.  Sifting guarantees that no lumps will find their way into your bowl.  Sifting also adds air in between the particles which allows for a lighter, fluffier cake.

Be sure to whisk the dry ingredients after you've sifted.  This step ensures a thoroughly combined mixture. 

Using an electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add brown sugar and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes.

Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions, beating just until blended after each addition. Gradually add hot espresso-water mixture, beating just until smooth.

Divide batter between pans; smooth tops.  I used a digital scale to ensure the pans were equal. 

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on rack 15 minutes.

Run small knife around sides of pans to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto racks; lift pans off cakes and remove parchment (don't ever forget this step...you'd see people chewing real funny when they're eating your cake if you leave that waxed paper in place). Place wire rack atop each cake; invert again so top side is up. Cool completely.

To prepare the Salted Caramel Filling:

Beat the butter and salt in the bowl of a stand-up mixer until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Reduce speed to low and add sugar.  ALWAYS sift your powdered sugar before adding to the bowl.  See all the lumps here?  These can make your frosting look pretty lump-o-licious so always take the time to do this very important step.  If the lumps are soft enough, just break them up with your fingers and push through the sieve.  If they're too hard, just toss in the trash.

Beat until just incorporated.  Turn off your mixer, scrape down the sides and add the caramel.

Turn on mixer and beat until light and fluffy.

To prepare the Mocha Mascarpone Frosting:

Sift cocoa powder into large bowl; add espresso powder.  Additionally ALWAYS sift your cocoa as well.

Bring 1 cup cream to boil in small saucepan. Slowly pour cream over cocoa mixture, whisking until cocoa is completely dissolved, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup cream and sugar; stir until sugar dissolves. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours.

Add mascarpone to chilled cocoa mixture. Using electric mixer, beat on low speed until blended and smooth. Increase speed to medium-high; beat until mixture is thick and medium-firm peaks form when beaters are lifted, about 2 minutes (do not over beat or mixture will curdle).

Using pastry brush, brush off crumbs from cakes. Place 1 cake layer, top side up on a cake platter. 

Typically I buy disposable cake boards which make the cake easier to move, especially if you will be frosting on a revolving cake stand and then moving to a cake saver.  This time around I forgot to buy one so instead I used the removable bottom from my tart pan.  Worked great, just doesn't look as pretty. 

Spoon the Salted Caramel Filling in dollops over top of cake (I used the entire bowl of the salted caramel, was A LOT but it was gooood). Using offset spatula, spread frosting to edges.

Top with second cake layer, top side up, pressing to adhere. Spread thin layer of frosting over top and sides of cake. Chill 10 minutes. Using offset spatula, spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake, swirling decoratively.

Garnish with chocolate curls or sprinkles, or simply leave as is.  This cake is so good it doesn't need accessories!  I'd let the cake chill in the fridge for at least an hour prior to cutting so the frosting firms up.  This allows for a cleaner cut through the cake and removal.

Cake and Mocha Mascarpone Frosting recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit

Jun 13, 2012

Mango & Cherry Galette

I know, what's a Galette, right?  I never heard of it either.  Galette is fancy-pants-French for a free-form, rustic type tart/pie.  It's made from the same dough you'd use to make any pie or tart, pate sucree for example.  The term is used to describe the way in which the pie is formed.

We recently traveled to Lebanon to visit my husbands family and fortunately this is cherry-pickin' season.  And I literally mean that.  His family has two cherry trees in their front yard which we picked the cherries straight from and ate right there and then, a first for me.  We hauled back almost 4kg of cherries to Dubai.  Now cherries are great and all, but no one can eat 4 kg of cherries, really you'd blow up like Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka...and turn red not blue.  And that is just not a good look for anyone.

Since we had enough cherries for the Lebanese army, I decided it was best to try and bake with them.  And as much as I consider myself the all-American girl, I have to say this is the first time I've ate cherry pie.  I know, crazy!  And just a word to the wise...fresh cherries become REALLY tart when you bake them, like wowza tart.  So if you are not a huge fan of tangy sweets, maybe try a different berry like blueberry or blackberry.  I Think either would go great with the mango.  And if you don't like mango (really? who doesn't like mango) you can swap them out for peaches or nectarines.

Since I'm a fan of seemingly useless kitchen gadgets, I wanted to show you my olive/cherry pitter. Finally, finally I got to use this damn thing that takes up so much space in my someday-I-will-use-these-contraptions-drawer.

All you do it place the cherry in the little slot and squeeze the handle. The pit shoots out the bottom without too much damage to the cherry. Pretty easy and painless. This might be something fun for the kiddos to help you with so long as you can trust them to not eat the pits...or feed them to the dog.

Additionally this is the first time I've prepared pie dough using vegetable shortening.  Usually I've always used butter in the past.  Now that I've tried both types, here is what I can recommend to you about both:

Vegetable shortening pie dough: extremely easy and forgiving to work with.  In fact the recipe I tested here didn't even require the dough to be refrigerated prior to using.  You simply mix the ingredients and roll.  Nice and easy.  The dough had an elasticity to it that made it very easy to handle with not too much cracking at the edges.  When using butter-based dough you need to let the dough warm up a bit prior to rolling otherwise you end up with lots of cracks that can be difficult to fix.  The only drawback I see to using vegetable shortening was the over-all taste of the crust.  It kind of came together in your mouth and didn't go anywhere.  Major disappointment.  The crust was somewhat flaky, but no where near as light and crispy as a butter-based crust.

Butter-based pie dough:  Butter is king, butter is better, butter be still my heart.  Nothing compares to the taste of a butter-based pie crust.  Butter provides the ultimate flaky, yet tender crust that melts in your mouth and makes you utter 'gimmie another slice please.' 

The only drawback to using butter is you need to be patient and cautious with the temperature of all your ingredients.  Butter-based pie dough needs TLC.  You need to work fast and you need to work cold.  For more information on perfecting the pie crust please refer to my Gentleman's Apple Pie post.

If you are new to making pies, I 100% implore you to first try a vegetable shortening pie dough.  It's much easier to handle and won't make you sweat and curse in the kitchen.  I also suggest to first try an apple pie or another fruit that isn't too expensive.  If your pie turns out to be a flop (don't worry it won't, I'm just sayin') at least you won't have to trash expensive berries or chocolate.

Lastly, the recipe I tested also called for a custard to be poured into the pie once it's about half way baked.  You then continue baking until the custard is set.  It did mention that all the custard may not fit...well it was right, it didn't.  I poured very, very slowly and still some managed to seep out the sides.  Even if you can only fit half the custard, it's okay.  Some is better than none.

Mango & Chery Galette
Makes one 9" pie, serves 8

For the crust:
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup solid vegetable shortening
3/4 cup cool water (more or less) not cold

For the filling:
2-4 fresh, ripe mangos depending on the size, peeled and sliced
2 cups pitted cherries (more or less is okay)
2-4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons jam of choice (I used strawberry as it's what I had on hand)
1-2 tablespoon caster or coarse sugar for dusting
 For the custard (optional):
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
1/4 cup cream or half & half
To prepare the dough, sift flour and salt into a large bowl making a well in the middle.  Put shortening into the well.
Coat both hands with flour well. Taking a handful of flour, cover the shortening with the flour and begin to slowly incorporate the two ingredients. Be careful not to mush the entire lump of shortening with your hands.  Work slowly and delicately.  It's very important to not let the heat of your hands melt the shortening. The least amount of contact with the shortening the better.

With both hands, work the shortening into the flour using a circular, rubbing motion, always keeping contact with the flour, not the shortening, pick up more flour and shortening as you go. Always keep the shortening in the middle of the flour.

It should look like a small peas, with the shortening being totally incorporated into the flour.

Pour half the water in, gathering it into a ball. Continue adding the water until it comes together in a soft ball of dough. You may need more or less water depending on the humidity (I used about half). Do NOT knead the dough as in bread making.  Work the dough as little as you have to, just enough to keep it formed in a ball. 
Flatten the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  Dough can also be rolled immediately.

To assemble the Galette:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick silpat liner.
Place the peach slices in a bowl and toss with sugar, more or less, to taste.

On a floured surface, roll out pie crust to approximately 14" in diameter. Leave the edges ragged or trim them as desired.
Transfer pie crust to the prepared pan. The edges will fall over the sides, but it will be folded over the filling later on. 

As usual my Sous Chef is never too far in case I need help...

Using a 9" inverted bowl or pan lid, lightly mark the inside of the pastry crust. Be careful not to cut through the dough. This will be used a guide or template for the jam and or fruit filling.

Spread jam evenly over the pastry crust within the circle.

Layer sliced mangos inside and around the circle until it is full.

Layer the pitted cherries on top of the mango.

Moisten the edges with a small amount of water and carefully fold up, pressing and folding the edges up, slightly folding at the corners.  I crimped the edges with a fork only because it seemed like something you should do, especially where the sides meet.

Sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons of castor sugar for a rustic look.

If the galette is just fruit only with no custard filling, then bake it at 400 degrees for approximately 40-50 minutes or until the fruit is tender.

If the galette will be filled with custard, whisk together all custard ingredients in a small bowl. Remove the galette from the oven after 25 minutes and very gently pour the custard though the center and it will trickle down inside.  I used a measuring cup with a spout so the custard would be easier to pour.

Depending on the amount of fruit juice the galette has produced, some of it may need to be spooned out to make room for the custard. Don't worry if it doesn't all fit. Some is better than none. Bake for another 15-20 minutes or until custard is set.

Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. 

Serve with fresh whipped cream.  Slice and enjoy!

recipe adapted from Donna Diegel