Three Dessert Inspirations

I must say that I rarely need inspiration when I am deciding on a dessert to make. But just in case you have dessert baker’s block, I am highlighting three of my favorite desserts that say Fall and Halloween to me. And no, none of them have anything to do with pumpkin. Today is all about chocolate, and maybe a little vanilla. What’ll it be – brownies, cookies or flourless chocolate cake?

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Spicy S’mores Brownies

DSC_1160Iced Sugar Cookies

2012-09-28 15.48.16Flourless Chocolate Cake

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Dessert Inspiration for Valentine’s Day

Just in case you aren’t up to making your own candy hearts for Valentine’s Day. Or if you would rather indulge in something of the chocolate (or vanilla) variety, I am highlighting a few of my favorite recipes from past posts. All of them are easy and make great celebration desserts, whether you make them for your honey, with your family or by yourself and for yourself.

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First off is the perennial favorite – flourless chocolate cake. Butter and chocolate make for a decadent dessert that is right for any occasion.

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Or you could make my favorite chocolate cake of all time – black devil’s food. This is a childhood recipe for me and I can’t sing its praises loud enough. It goes together in minutes, doesn’t require a mixer and always tastes good. You can take the time to make the easy fudge icing that goes with it, go all out with both fudge and cream cheese icings, or serve it plain with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and vanilla ice cream. If you are feeling crazy you can make the ice cream too.

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If you want an even easier dessert, that gives you more time with your main squeeze, or your family, try the microwave chocolate pudding. You can jazz it up with crushed Oreos, graham crackers or whipped cream, or eat it plain in all its deep chocolate deliciousness.

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If you aren’t in the mood for chocolate, try the vanilla cheesecake I made while we were on vacation last summer.

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day celebrations, no matter what they are. And if you are skipping it, make a dessert anyway. Because, as my brother said, according to family lore, “There’s always dessert.”

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I tend to forget to do things if I don’t write them down. I know it is a product of having too many things to do and thinking about too many things at once, but sometimes I wonder about my memory. I promised a post on the flourless chocolate cake we made for Rich’s birthday and I am writing it before I forget again. That is not to say that this is a forgettable cake. On the contrary, it is a cake we will be talking about (and making) for years to come.

I have had flourless chocolate cakes that weren’t really flourless, cakes that were more like a slice of a giant truffle, cakes that were too dark and bitter and cakes that weren’t worth the calories. This recipe from Chocablog is none of those. It was just dark enough, just sweet enough, fudgy without being too dense and deliciously worth every calorie.

The original measurements were metric. I converted them to cups and ounces to make the cake easier to make if you don’t have a scale. I skipped the part mentioned in Chocablog’s post about adding some of the batter at the end and barely baking it. I wanted to make it easy to control the portions, so I baked it in 12 ramekins so we would each have our own little round cake for a serving. I also added vanilla, which I almost always use in chocolate recipes – I think it adds a depth that can sometimes be missing in chocolate desserts.

I thought I would be able to turn the leftover cakes out of their cups for freezing, but they were too fudgy (which is a good thing), so I froze the leftovers right in their cups. We haven’t eaten any of those yet, but I’ll let you know how they are when we do (which might be tonight – writing about them makes me want one).

We served the cakes with barely sweetened cream whipped just until thick, but not anywhere near stiff. We could have skipped the cream totally and just let the cake stand on its own, which is exactly what I did after the cream was gone.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Chocablog
Serves 12

This makes a very fudgy, decadent cake. Plan to serve it in the ramekins if you use them. If you don’t have ramekins or a spring form pan, you can use a 2-inch deep 9-inch round pan, but grease and flour it and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, or plan to serve it right out of the pan and count on a few less-than-pretty slices (they still taste fabulous!).

2 sticks (1 cup) butter
8 ounces dark chocolate (I used Trader Joe’s Pound Plus, dark)
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla
7 eggs, separated
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease 12 1-cup ramekins or 1 9-inch spring form pan, or grease a 2-inch deep 9-inch round cake pan and cut a circle of parchment or waxed paper to place in the bottom. Grease the paper and flour the whole thing. If you are using ramekins, set them on a cookie sheet to make it easier to get them into and out of the oven. Set your prepared pans aside.

Melt the butter and the chocolate together in the microwave. Stir in the cocoa and the vanilla. Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat the egg whites with ¼ cup sugar and the salt until soft peaks form. Set aside.

Beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until very pale yellow and tripled in volume. This could take up to 10 minutes, depending on how powerful your mixer is.

Using low speed, mix the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Fold in the beaten egg whites by hand, to keep as much volume as possible.

Divide the mixture between the prepared ramekins or pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top of the batter.

Bake the ramekins for 20-25 minutes or the larger pan for 30-35 minutes. When cake is done, it will have risen and the tops will look baked. A toothpick inserted in the middle will come out with fudgy, but not raw, batter. Do not over bake, or you will lose the luscious texture.  Cool in pans on racks. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Download the recipe here.

Last of the Birthdays

Now that October is here, not only do we have cooler fall weather, but the birthday season is over at our house. We didn’t go quite as crazy as usual with the treats this year, but it was still a month full of way too much butter and sugar.

Rich was lucky to have a Friday birthday this year, and he took the day off to celebrate. He and I had a nice relaxing morning and then went out to lunch at Pastries of Denmark, a local bakery and restaurant. It was so nice to have a weekday to do whatever we wanted.

Dinner Friday night was a mini Thanksgiving dinner, complete with roasted turkey breast, gravy, dressing, mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole – Rich’s favorite meal. And I gave him a break on the dishes, since it was his birthday. I really do know how to do dishes; I just don’t get much chance with a gem of a husband like Rich.

Dessert was flourless chocolate cake with softly whipped cream (post coming soon). We decided to bake the cake in custard cups for individual servings, rather than baking a large cake. Half of those fudgy, dark chocolate cakes are in the freezer, waiting for us to feel ready to eat dessert again. I was going to turn them out of the cups to freeze them, but they were too soft and creamy. I can live with freezing them in the custard cups until we are ready to eat them, in return for such a decadent texture.

One of Rich’s presents was a promise to make him almond blueberry muffins. A few months ago we visited Pint Size Bakery and had absolutely sublime Frangipani Berry Muffins – moist, airy, fragrant with almond and speckled with blueberries and blackberries. Rich has been talking about them ever since. We had our version for breakfast on Saturday. I wasn’t able to recreate the bakery muffins exactly, but they were good anyway. They were richer than our usual muffins, and were moist even on Monday, when we ate the last ones. I’ll post on those sometime soon too. 

And so ends the birthday month in our household – it was a month of rich breakfasts, indulgent desserts and favorite dinners. We also had trips to the baseball game, family dinners and days when we did whatever we felt like. It is back to reality for October – healthy meals, fewer desserts and catching up on all the chores we let slide. Though we do still have those flourless chocolate cakes in the freezer. I wonder how long it will take for one to thaw?