Top 100 Cake Blog

Top 100 Cake Blog

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

French Silk Chocolate Pie

Last week, when my mother fell ill, I unexpectedly found myself in Akron. While I spent most of my time with her, I did attend one estate sale and purchased a c. 1987 dessert cookbook published by the PTA of my elementary school, Fairlawn.  (Its name has since been changed to the Judith A. Resnick School; the Challenger astronaut was a former student.)

The Fairlawn PTA, I read in the cookbook, received national recognition in 1957 when it began sponsoring French classes for grades one to six. I am forever grateful for those classes, as I still remember the French I learned as a young child. (It stayed with me more than the high school French I studied.)

Anyway, I wanted to bake something chocolate for my mother, for there's little she loves above chocolate, but was daunted by the limited baking tools in her kitchen. Then I discovered this French Silk Chocolate Pie recipe -- easy and perfect! The only tools required are a bowl and beater (and a pan or microwave to melt the chocolate).

The recipe says it's "very rich and chocolaty" and it is. French silk pie is basically a chocolate mousse in a pie crust.

I began with some supermarket Baker's semi-sweet chocolate.

After melting the chocolate (and setting it aside to cool), beat the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs, beating well after each addition.

Stir in the melted chocolate...

and pour into a pre-baked pie crust. Refrigerate for several hours.

Production notes: I cheated and used a store bought crust (not recommended unless you're as desperate as I was). Make sure the butter is really soft and beat the sugar in for a long time, or better yet, use superfine sugar. (I didn't do either, and there were still some sugar crystals in the finished product.)
To serve, whip some heavy cream and place a dollop on each slice. With a knife, grate some of the chocolate on top for a nice presentation.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Brownies (for Valentine's Day and Every Day)

Is it too early for Valentine's Day baking? I think not, considering that many retail establishments display Christmas decorations right after Labor Day (or so it seems).

Brownies are one of the easiest baked goods to prepare, and are one of the most beloved for good reason. Simple, delicious, and chocolate -- what's not to love? There are probably millions of recipes for brownies, and this c. 1950s vintage recipe is pretty darn good. Using a cookie cutter, I made them February 14th-appropriate by stamping out heart shapes.

Start by chopping some unsweetened chocolate. Because chocolate is the star in these bar cookies, it's worth investing in a premium brand. I used Scharffen Berger, which has a very fruity taste, but there are many other excellent brands out there, like Valrhona and Callebaut.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, then mix up the rest of the batter.

This recipe creates a very stiff batter. Be sure to grease the pan, or line it with parchment paper.

Use a spatula to smooth it to the edges of the pan.

Because there is no salt in the recipe, I decided to sprinkle the batter with sea salt before baking.

Cut into squares or whatever shape your heart desires.

A light dusting of confectioner's sugar makes for a nicer presentation.

The negative space created by the cut-outs are a special treat for the baker.

Production notes: I followed this exactly, but wrote out the recipe below for ease of preparation. I also sprinkled sea salt over the batter before baking. These brownies are not overly chocolate-y, which is typical of mid-20th century recipes. I used one 9 x 12 inch pan. If you plan on cutting out shapes, you might leave out the nuts (I didn't) and consider investing in a very high quality cookie cutter. I swear by those made of copper; they are strong, have a good cutting edge and retain their shape.



Preheat oven to 350 F
Grease a 9 x 12 inch pan (or line with parchment paper)

3 squares (ounces) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 stick unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. vanilla
1 c. chopped walnuts

In a double boiler (or a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water), melt the butter and chocolate. Set aside to cool slightly.
Beat three eggs.
Add sugar gradually.
Add the flour and baking powder (which you've mixed together)
Add the vanilla.
Stir in nuts.
Place batter in pan and smooth until it reaches the edges.
Optional: Sprinkle some sea salt on top.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes.
Let cool slightly and cut into squares. Or hearts.