October 15, 2009

Southern Comfort Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

Filed under: Desserts — by Carla


When contemplating dessert for a family celebration, chocolate, much like cream, rises to the top. Of course it makes the chocoholics happy and it’s a good idea to give them a  fix every now and then, but even non-dessert lovers can become enthused at the sight of a majestic, rich with butter and sour cream chocolate cake. So, for my husband Rick’s birthday last week, I decided to go for chocolate and adapt an already chocolatey rich cake recipe with enough chocolate to make even the most ardent dessert lovers cry uncle. To make matters even more interesting, I topped off the 8 ounces of unsweetened chocolate in this cake with a touch of “likker” in the form of Southern Comfort which makes this chocolate tower of a cake even more luscious.

The cake was a hit with an added bonus. The intense flames from the 55 burning candles melted the bittersweet chocolate garnish a bit…which wasn’t a bad thing at all.

Kitchen Counter Point: The next time you ice a cake, borrow a technique from the pros that will keep your cake stand clean and neat. Cut triangles of parchment paper and slide the long side of each piece under the bottom cake layer so that the cake stand is covered. Use an offset spatula to ice the cake. It is ever so much easier to use than a butter knife and you will love, love, love your new tool. Turn out a large blob of icing on top of the cake and smooth it to the edges, leaving a thick layer of icing extending over the perimeter of the cake. Smooth the excess icing down the sides adding more icing to cover. When finished, pull the parchment away from the cake, et voila, a picture perfect cake.

Makes 1 double layer 9-inch cake serving 12

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons Southern Comfort
2 teaspoons vanilla

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup unsalted butter
5 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Southern Comfort
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
One 4-ounce bar bittersweet chocolate, chopped for garnish

Preheat oven to 350ºF

Two 9-inch round metal cake pans greased and lined with greased and floured parchment paper

In a large bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and baking soda and whisk until combined.

In a medium heat proof bowl set over simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring until completely melted. Remove the bowl from the pan and set aside to cool.

In a mixer bowl, combine the sugar and sour cream and beat on medium until combined. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until blended. Add the milk, Southern Comfort, vanilla and melted chocolate mixture and blend.

Add the dry ingredients by the cupful and mix on low speed until incorporated. Turn the mixer to medium speed and mix for 2 minutes or until the batter is smooth.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean and the edges of the cake begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let cool on racks for about 5 minutes, then invert onto racks, peel off paper and let cool completely.

To prepare the frosting, melt the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl over simmering water, stirring until melted. Remove from the heat and add the confectioners sugar, sour cream, Southern Comfort, vanilla and salt. Beat on medium speed until glossy, adding more confectioner’s sugar if too thin or milk if too thick a spreading consistency.

To assemble, place one cake layer, flat side up on a cake stand and spread approximately 1 cup of the frosting over the top. Add the remaining cake layer, flat side up, and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle the chocolate over the top. The cake keeps covered at room temperature for 2 days.

October 8, 2009

Crispy Whole Wheat Penne with Roasted Vegetables, Feta Cheese and Pine Nuts

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Meredith


OK, I know summer is over and fall is upon us (making a winter a forgone conclusion), but even in my Minnesota markets there are a few local eggplants and zucchini to be had, and no better way to have them than in this dish.

If you’ve ever tried the crispy noodle cakes at your local Asian restaurant, you know how wonderful crispy pasta can be. With that in mind, we set about finding a way to use this technique in some of our other favorite pasta dishes. For this recipe, we sauté penne pasta until it’s browned and combine it with roasted eggplant, zucchini and cherry tomatoes for a delicious dish you’ll want to sneak back down for in the middle of the night. Just repeat after us “any food I eat in my nightgown by the light of my refrigerator doesn’t count”.

Kitchen Counter Point: This recipe works beautifully with almost any roasted vegetable. In late fall I like to substitute the summer vegetables with roasted leeks, mushrooms and butternut squash. Goat cheese and toasted walnuts are also lovely with the crispy pasta.

Serves 4

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups cherry tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 oz penne
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 450º F and start 6 quarts of water boiling in a large stockpot.

Drizzle the 1/4 cup of olive oil in equal amounts onto two large baking sheets.

Divide the vegetables between the two pans, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat with the oil. Place the pans in the oven and roast for about 15-20 minutes or until very tender and browned.

Meanwhile, when the water comes to a boil, stir in 2 tablespoons of salt. Cook the penne in the boiling water until it’s al dente. (Begin checking for doneness after 8 minutes of cooking. Bite down on the pasta and look for a tiny white dot in the center of the noodle. It should be firm, but not hard.) Drain the pasta into a colander, shaking assertively to remove as much of the water as possible.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add half of the pasta. Sauté the pasta, stirring frequently to ensure even browning, until the penne becomes a crispy, golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the pasta to a large, warm serving bowl and set aside. Repeat with the second half of the pasta.

In the serving bowl, add the remaining sautéed pasta, roasted vegetables, feta cheese and pine nuts. Toss together to combine.

Taste to correct the seasonings and serve.