Monthly Archives: June 2014

Cooking with Julia: Chocolate and Almond Cake

Sometime over the last few years, I really started to enjoy cooking. It was no longer an intimidating task where I measured success by whether or not Chip was able to consume the meal, but became a de-stressor at the end of the day. I actually looked forward to meal planning each week and would proudly watch Chip serve himself seconds (hint: it helps if you serve small portions to anyone who wants this ego boost).

My mom has pretty much always enjoyed cooking, but apart from holidays at home, we really haven’t spent much time together in the kitchen. For Mother’s Day, I decided to change that. We had always talked about someday tackling Julia Child‘s recipes, so I gave her Julia’s book¬†Mastering the Art of French Cooking with the goal that we will do a couple of recipes whenever she’s in town. We’ve already done two main dishes and two desserts and they’ve been delicious. I thought it would be fun to share some of these recipes and see how long it takes us to get through this ginormous book. It definitely won’t be a year-long project like in the movie Julie and Julia; for one, we’re not in the same city enough to do that and secondly, having that much butter in such a short span of time goes straight to your hips.

Ready to take on Julia

Ready to take on Julia

The first time we cooked from this book, we made pork chops with mustard, cream, and tomato sauce as our main dish, did our own simple veggies, and had a chocolate and almond cake for dessert. We were inspired to choose this first dessert based on this scene from the movie¬†Julie and Julia. Y’all. I want to make that cake again right now just thinking about it. So. Good. If you’re looking for a rich, yummy dessert and don’t care about calories, look no further!

 

Chocolate and Almond Cake with Chocolate-Butter Icing:

Cake Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces/squares semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons of rum or coffee (we went with rum)
  • 1/4lb. or 1 stick of softened butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (in addition to sugar listed above)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup pulverized almonds (use a food processor or blender for this)
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup cake flour

Icing Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons rum or coffee (again, we went with rum)
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (way to go, Julia)

Cake Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan.
  • Set the 4 ounces of chocolate and 2 tablespoons rum/coffee in a small pan, cover, and place (off heat) in a larger pan of almost simmering water; let melt while you proceed with the recipe.
  • Cream 1/4lb butter and 2/3 cup sugar together for several minutes until they form a pale yellow, fluffy mixture. Beat in the three egg yolks until well blended.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the three egg whites and pinch of salt until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle on 1 tbsp of sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.
  • With a rubber spatula, blend the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture, then stir in the almonds and almond extract. Immediately stir in one fourth of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter. Delicately fold in a third of the remaining whites and when partially blended, sift on one third of the flour and continue folding. Alternate rapidly with more egg whites and more flour until all egg whites and flour are incorporated. Note: this was way easier to do with two people than it would have been on our own.
  • Turn the batter into the cake pan, pushing the batter up to its rim with a rubber spatula. Bake in middle level of preheated oven for about 25 minutes. Cake is done when it has puffed, and 2 1/2 to 3 inches around the circumference are set so that a cake tester plunged into that area comes out clean; the center should move slightly if the pan is shaken, and a cake tester comes out oily.
  • Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and reverse cake on a cooling rack. Allow it to cool for an hour or two; it must be thoroughly cold it if is to be iced.
To avoid getting a lovely grid on your cake like we did, consider laying a couple of paper towels down on your cooling rack

To avoid getting a lovely grid on your cake like we did, consider laying a couple of paper towels down on your cooling rack

Icing Directions:

  • Place the 2 ounces of chocolate and 2 tablespoons rum/coffee in a small pan, cover, and set in a larger pan of almost simmering water. Remove pans from heat and let chocolate melt for 5 minutes or so, until perfectly smooth. life chocolate pan out of the hot water, and beat in the butter a tablespoon at a time. Then beat over a bowl of ice and water until the chocolate mixture has cooled to spreading consistency (this took a while for us….). At once spread it over your cake with spatula or knife.
It isn't a Julia Child recipe without a ton of butter

It isn’t a Julia Child recipe without a ton of butter

Mom beating the chocolate icing in a bowl of ice. Fun fact: that beater was given to my parents for their wedding anniversary 28 years ago. It still works great, but whoa, does it overheat if you use it too long.

Mom beating the chocolate icing in a bowl of ice. Fun fact: that beater was given to my parents for their wedding anniversary 28 years ago. It still works great, but whoa, does it overheat if you use it too long.

My turn beating the icing while warning Wrigley to STAY AWAY from this cake

My turn beating the icing while warning Wrigley to STAY AWAY from this cake

Chocolate and Almond Cake

Chocolate and Almond Cake

Yum.

Yum.

Can't wait to make this again

Can’t wait to make this again

Summer Sangria

With the start of June, there’s no denying it. Summer is upon us. And with summer comes some intense humidity here in San Antonio that makes me and Wrigley consider buying a kiddie pool. Well, here’s a little something to make your summer more pleasant – a recipe for homemade sangria.

For those of you who know Chip and I well, you know that we love sangria. I should probably be ashamed that not only do we have a couple of small recipe books devoted to this Spanish beverage, we can also tell you which restaurants in town make the best version (La Fogata, if you’re curious). Over the last couple of years, we had tried out a bunch of different recipes, but none reminded us of the sangria we had on our honeymoon during our 24 hours in Barcelona. Some recipes were too fruity, or too carbonated, etc. While at La Fogata one evening, we finally figured out the missing ingredient for our ideal sangria: brandy (thanks to the kind waiter who gave us that tip!). So if you like a good, authentic, simple sangria – look no further. And if you make any here soon, feel free to invite us over for a glass.

Cheers to summer!

Ingredients: Note: it’s hard to specify just how many of each fruit to use, it all depends on how much juice they provide.

  • 1 bottle of red wine – We like using red blends, but any red wine should work fine. If you like a lighter sangria, go with a Pinot Noir. If you want it to be heavier, use a Cabernet.
  • 4 large oranges – Enough for 1 cup of fresh juice
  • 2-3 limes – enough for around 2 ounces of juice
  • 2-3 lemons – enough for around 2 ounces of juice
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 3-4 ounces of brandy – This is what solidified this recipe for us, we realized that a lot of our favorite restaurants used brandy in their sangria instead of triple sec.
  • 6 ounces club soda

Directions:

  • Pour bottle of red wine into a large pitcher
  • Pour the following into the same pitcher: 1 cup of fresh orange juice, juice from 2-3 limes, juice from 2-3 lemons. Feel free to adjust depending on how much citrus flavor you want in your sangria. We also typically strain the juice so it doesn’t get too pulp-y.
Sangria is a good source of Vitamin C, right?

Sangria is a good source of Vitamin C, right?

  • Stir in brandy and sugar.
  • Refrigerate for at least two hours (we try to refrigerate for around four hours)
  • Right before serving, pour in club soda.
  • Garnish with sliced fruit.
  • Sit back and enjoy!

A glass of sangria outside? Don't mind if I do.

A glass of sangria outside? Don’t mind if I do.