Holiday Entertaining Guide - Page 47 - A sweet start (2)

Holiday Entertaining Guide
- Page 47
A sweet start (2)
lighten the cake crumb. Gentle blending of flour and liquid makes a tender cake.

For the chocolate, use the sweetness level you like to eat out of hand. I like a dark, bittersweet chocolate and regularly bake with Trader Joe’s 72 percent Cacao Dark Pound Plus. A rich unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Ghirardelli adds another layer of chocolate flavor. Many bakers know that adding a bit of strong coffee underscores the dark flavors of chocolate. If you have it, add a spoonful of instant espresso powder to the cake batter.

Serve the cake simply sprinkled with powdered sugar and vanilla ice cream or crushed, thawed frozen berries. Or, make a super-rich, yet easy, double chocolate pecan and coconut frosting similar to that layered on the classic German chocolate cake. No decorating skills needed for this frosting — it gets boiled then cooled to spreading consistency. Stir in chopped pecans and coconut; I like Bob’s RedMill flaked coconut here for its nutty taste and texture.

For midnight, chocolate-covered grapes are the easiest sweets you can make. Here’s how:

Select 36 large seedless grapes free of bruises and soft spots. Rinse well, then remove the stems and pat thoroughly dry. Have a large bowl with 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder ready. Roughly chop 4 to 6 ounces semisweet or dark chocolate and place inmedium-size microwave-safe bowl. Microwave chocolate on medium (50 percent power), stirring every 30 seconds until nearly melted, about 2 minutes. Remove and stir well until all is melted. Drop one third of the grapes into the melted chocolate, and use a spoon to roll them around to coat with chocolate on all sides. Use a fork to transfer them to the cocoa and then roll them around to coat each grape with cocoa on all sides. Remove to a parchment-lined sheet to set. Repeat with remaining grapes. Serve within a few hours. Makes 36.

True, baking requires a dedication of time. I turn on music and enjoy the process, finding comfort inmeasuring and mixing. When the house fills with the aroma of chocolate, everyone thanks the cook. A small payoff I cherish deeply.

Double dark chocolate cake
Yield: Makes 10 servings
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes

• 11/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup whole milk
• 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder, optional
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 4 ounces semisweet or dark bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
• 2 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 10-inch springform pan.

2. For cake, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a small bowl. Mix milk, espresso powder and vanilla in small dish.

3. Put chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave onmedium (50 percent power), stirring once or twice, until barely melted, about 11/2 minutes. Stir, to be sure it’s all melted.

4. Beat egg whites in a small bowl with an electric mixer until foamy. Gradually beat in 1/2 cup of the sugar until whites come to stiff peaks.

5. Beat butter in a large bowl with the electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually beat in remaining 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks until well combined. Beat inmelted chocolate until smooth. Alternately beat in the dry ingredients and the milk mixture until smooth. Add the beaten egg whites and beat on low speed until incorporated into the batter.

6. Scrape batter into the prepared pan and spread it level. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cake cool in pan, 10 minutes. Remove the rim from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Nutrition information per serving: 600 calories, 36 g fat, 21 g saturated fat, 119 mg cholesterol, 68 g carbohydrates, 48 g sugar, 8 g protein, 297 mg sodium, 4 g fiber

Chocolate pecan coconut frosting
Yield: makes enough for a 10-inch, singlelayer cake
Prep: 15 minutes
Cool: 2 hours
Cook: 8 minutes

• 2/3 cup whole milk
• 4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
• 2 egg yolks
• Pinch of salt
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 51/2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
• 11/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
• 11/3 cups (3 ounces) unsweetened, shredded coconut
• 2/3 cup (21/2 ounces) coarsely chopped pecans
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Put milk, cocoa powder, egg yolks and salt into a medium saucepan; whisk smooth. Stir in sugar and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Stir in chopped chocolate until melted. Stir in coconut, pecans and vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl. Let cool until thickened to a thick spreading consistency, about 2 hours.

3. When cake has cooled, spread frosting over top.

White chocolate glaze: Put 2 ounces white chocolate, roughly chopped, and 1 teaspoon coconut oil into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave onmedium (50 percent power), stirring once or twice, until melted, about 30 seconds. Be careful, the mixture burns easily. Use a fork to drizzle the glaze over the frosted cake.