Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Excuse me.... is this where I get my chocolate fix?

CHOCOLATE.  Researchers have found that eating chocolate, the number one food craved by American Women, actually causes the brain to release endorphins ( this is the chemical in our brain that makes us feel good).  Beyond that, dark chocolate is actually one of your heart's "super foods" in that you should eat 1 oz. every day.  Dark Chocolate (no milk chocolate though...sorry!) is proven to lower blood pressure and is loaded with antioxidants which help to gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments.  When I saw this recipe for Jacques Torres' Mudslide Cookies, it had me salivating first and then, in a roundabout manner, thinking it could kind of be good for me too.  I love chocolate in any form, dark or milk, and in any combination (my favorite is with peanut butter!).  So, I decided that this cookie would be a great treat for my roommates and colleagues....and me, too.

The Jacques Torres 
Chocolate Mudslide Cookies

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and room temperature
2 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
5 eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon walnuts, chopped
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
fleur de sel or sea salt, for sprinkling
*parchment paper, for lining the baking sheets

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and line your first baking sheet with parchment paper (I usually spray a little cooking spray on the pan before I lay down the parchment paper to make it stay on easier). 
Blend together all of your dry ingredients and set aside (the flour, baking powder, and salt). Next, in a medium sauce pan, melt together the 6 ounces of unsweetened chocolate and the 16 ounces of bittersweet chocolate over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Set aside to cool.

Now, stir together the butter and sugar until it has the texture of wet sand. Add in the eggs, one at a time, using a mixer on low, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Next, add in the flour mixture, and mix until just mixed and then beat in the melted chocolate, until just combined. (Note: the dough will seem too wet at this point, but don’t worry! It’ll come together!)

Chop your walnuts and additional 16 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, and fold them into the batter.  Use a a tablespoon  to scoop up the dough and drop the dough onto the baking sheets , then sprinkle with a bit of sea salt (trust me.....do it!). Bake at 325 degrees F on a regular setting for 12-15 minutes (14 minutes in my oven did the trick). Allow to cool completely before removing from the sheets.

After eating way too much dough, I decided to try just one.  The verdict?  It's a very good, rich cookie (especially for any chocoholics out there) and tastes more on the dark chocolate side of things which I really liked.  But - yes, there is a but - I actually found it to be almost too rich.  Even sprinkling the little bit of salt over the cookie couldn't cut through the incredible decadence of this cookie.  So, eater beware!  I know while you are making this cookie you will want to eat all the dough you can and eat cookies in a manner that could rival the Cookie Monster, but take it from me, please refrain.  One is definitely enough (my stomach can prove it).  Plus, dark chocolate is good for you only in moderation, so take a page from Warren G's playbook (name drop!), and regulate yourself.  You'll thank me later.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Calling All Pumpkin Addicts: Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Most of us love pumpkin be it in pie form, a flavoring of coffee, a scented candle, or otherwise.  I am an avid Food Network and Paula Deen fan (what can I say...her sons are cute too!) and have enjoyed the majority of her recipes.  But, this one in particular is my all time favorite.  I’m not really a pumpkin pie fan (maybe it is something about the texture…who knows?), but I love just about everything else pumpkin.  I was first introduced to this recipe by my beautiful mother who made it for my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding rehearsal dinner when they got married in 2004.  This is a perfect fall dessert for any occasion.

Overall, I’d say this recipe is similar to a simple cheesecake with a delicious crust, and the best part is that it takes a fraction of the time to prepare it compared to cheesecake.  So, without further ado, here is the recipe for Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake!

1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15-ounce) can Pumpkin
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
As always, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Next, it’s time for the crust: combine the cake mix, egg (make sure all of your eggs have come to room temperature), and butter and mix well using your hands. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13”x 9” baking pan.
The filling is just as simple: in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until it is smooth (you may see some lumps, but that is completely fine). Next, add the eggs (remember: room temperature!), vanilla, and butter, and beat together for about one minute. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well until it is smooth. Take the pumpkin mixture and spread it over the crust that you have already pressed into the pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. (NOTE: Make sure not to overbake! The center should be a little gooey.)

My coworkers at my office came up to me all day long taking about how great they thought this cake was and even suggested I submit it to our agency’s newsletter (I did, of course!).  I love this recipe because it really does seem like it is complicated and you have to really know what you are doing, but in reality, you only have to mix things up and put it in a pan and try not to overbake it.  I think that this is a great substitute for those individuals who love pumpkin pie, so I challenge all of you to serve this at your Thanksgiving meals instead and watch the compliments roll in.