Friday, October 22, 2010

Cake > Chili

**Photos coming soon**
So, remember how last month I said that I like cooking one thing, then eating it for several meals in a row?  I take that back.  At least for now.  Two and a half weeks ago I made a pot of vegetarian chili, and I have been eating it since then.  TWO AND A HALF WEEKS, PEOPLE!!!  Okay, well, I admit, I managed to eat out every night the entire week that I cooked it, so I didn't actually eat any for the first seven days.  But, I've been eating it since then, and enough is enough!  I thought it would be a bloggable recipe, but to be honest, I can't even tell you at this point if I even liked it or not.  So it's not making to blog cut.

What will make the cut are a few cakes that I kinda snuck in during those 2 weeks when I was supposed to be virtuously eating that pot of beans.  Yeah, a few of those nights I might have just had cake for dinner...probably another reason why that stupid chili lasted so long.

In honor of a couple of bourbon drinking friends who were leaving the island for the season, I made Orangette's Whiskey Soaked Chocolate Cake, which is a big winner in my book.  It's a dark chocolate cake, made doubly--no, triply--delicious because it has both espresso and booze (and lots and lots of it) to really amp up that chocolaty flavor.  I have been reading Ina Garten's cookbook Back To Basics this week, and in the introduction she talks about unlocking the flavors in ingredients to bring out their essence, about that extra "special element" that each recipe needs to elevate it from ordinary to extraordinary.  In one perfect example she writes: "Close your eyes the next time you teas a piece of chocolate cake; did it really taste like chocolate, or did the fudgey-looking icing just trick you into thinking it would taste like chocolate?  The best chocolate desserts have a depth of flavor that hits you in a few ways--both sweet and bitter, with a winey complexity."  Ahh, Ina.  So right.  Couldn't have put it better myself, even if I tried all day.  I have noticed that Ina often uses coffee and/or espresso and rum to make her chocolate desserts extra special, so I am sure that she would approve of this cake, with its espresso and whiskey (or bourbon).  The cake has a dense and fudgey texture that makes you just think "chocolate," but it also has enough booze to make your nostrils sting just a little, or at the very least, makes you open your eyes and say "wow."

The one question that I am still trying to figure out is what the best brand of booze to use?  Molly of Orangette says to use a brand that you would also drink, but not being a whiskey or bourbon drinker myself, that's sort of hard for me to pinpoint.  I can't remember what I used the first time I made the cake, the second time I used Old Grand Dad, because that's what my parents had around the house.  (Yes, this is an oft-repeated recipe.  That's how much I like it)  This time I used Jim Beam, because it's the only brand my local liquor store sells in smallish bottles, and I only had about $10 on me when I went to go buy it, thus, it was all I could afford.  And besides, I didn't want leftovers, because I wouldn't drink it if I had it.  Perhaps next time I make the cake I will split the batter in half and try two slightly higher end brands, and see what's best.  I mean, it's a rough job, but someone has to do it, right? 

Finally, it is important to note that this cake is even better after it's had at least 24 hours to sit around and let the flavors mellow and meld, so it's a perfect bake-ahead cake for a party.

Whiskey-Soaked Dark Chocolate Cake (From
Makes 1 Bundt cake or 2 loaf sized cakes

* 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan
* 2 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
* 5 ounces of unsweetened chocolate
* 2 Tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1 cup of your favorite whiskey or bourbon, plus more for soaking
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1/4 cup instant espresso granules
* 1 cup of boiling water
* 2 cups granulated sugar
* 3 large eggs at room temperature
* 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* Confectioners sugar for dusting, optional

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Butter and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan or two 8-or 9-inch loaf pans, and set aside.

2.  Set up a double boiler--place a heatproof bowl over, but not touching, a saucepan of simmering, not boiling, water.  Break up the chocolate and put it in the bowl.  Stir occasionally until it melts, then remove from heat and let cool.

3. Put espresso and cocoa powders in a 2 cup capacity glass measuring cup and add enough boiling water so it reaches the 1 cup line, stir to dissolve.  Add 1 cup of whiskey or bourbon and salt, and set aside to cool.

4. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.  Add sugar, continue beating until well combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla extract, baking soda and melted chocolate.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is well combined.

5. With the mixer on low speed, beat in a third of the whiskey mixture (2/3 of a cup). When liquid is absorbed, beat in 1 cup flour. Add another 2/3 cup of the whiskey mixture, beating until absorbed, then add the 2nd cup of flour, beat, then end with the remaining whiskey mixture.  The batter with be very liquidy; don't worry--this is normal.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes for a Bundt pan, or about 55 minutes for loaf pans.

6. Cool the cake, still in its pan, on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn out of its pan and sprinkle the warm cake with additional whiskey. (I did this by pouring a little bit into a teaspoon, and then shaking the teaspoon over the cake, using a few tablespoons in all.  If you wanted to be high-tech about it, a clean spray bottle would probably give nice, even results.  Next time...)  Cool completely before serving.  For bonus presentation points, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar before serving.  Also fresh whipped cream, sweetened with a tiny bit of confectioners' sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract is a perfect accompaniment.  '


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