Thursday, November 25, 2010


This is the torte I made for Thanksgiving. It's a chocolate raspberry torte - two thin, almost brownie-like layers of "flourless" chocolate cake (it does have a small amount of flour) sandwiched around mashed raspberries and raspberry jam. The batter is basically butter, chocolate, and eggs, held together with a little bit of ground almonds and flour. There's no leaven, the cake barely rises, and gets what little volume it has from the beaten eggs. I did the top with almonds and raspberries to make it look sort of like a wreath. One thing I have not mastered is doing that perfectly smooth ganache covering - mine still has spatula marks.

This is my favorite experimental recipe from this year - candy cane cupcakes. I love the combination of chocolate and mint, and after eating a candy cane Joe Joe (Trader Joe's version of Oreos, except dunked in awesome and wrapped in delicious) I wanted to recreate the chocolate + sinus clearing mint sensation in a cupcake. I can't post the original recipe, because it's from Cook's Illustrated and is copyright protected and my name in not Judith Griggs, worst editor in the world, BUT I can tell you how to take a basic chocolate cupcake recipe and turn it into mint. All you have to do is swap out about 2/3 of the chocolate for Andes mints. Just unwrap them and melt them like you would the bittersweet chocolate. Leave out any vanilla called for in the recipe and swap it for the same amount of mint extract. You could, if you wanted to go crazy, also stuff these with ganache made from Andes mints and cream prior to baking.

The icing is simply vanilla buttercream (butter, confectioner's sugar, and a bit of milk or cream) but I bought mint topping sprinkles - they're essentially smashed mints, and I don't know if it's a seasonal thing or not, but they've been in the cake topping section of every big grocery store I've gone to lately, and they are amazing - and threw them into the icing until it was crunchy and then added mint extract. I wanted the icing to mimic the crunchy filling of the candy cane Joe Joes, like you're crunching up a candy cane, instead of being smooth. And these are pretty damn awesome.
Raspberry almond cupcakes. Another favorite flavor combination of mine. I wanted to take The Washington Posts great raspberry frangipane cake recipe from a few months ago and make a cupcake version of it.

I took a vanilla cupcake base, added a few tablespoons of sweetened ground almond filling (the kind you get in a can for stuffing almond croissants) and then added a blob of jam in the center. I think the texture of these was off, the almonds made the cupcakes very moist and dense, like a muffin, which would be fine for a muffin (and I may make these again without the icing) but I prefer cupcakes to be cakey, not muffiny. That's the hard part with cupcakes that use fruit. Next time, I'll try swapping out the flour for some almond flour and use the lighter, dryer, and crumblier almond paste.

The icing is raspberry flavored, and since it's hard to make raspberry flavored things without them coming out with a metallic aftertaste, I was surprised at how bright and fruity these tasted. I took the raspberry juice from a frozen bag of raspberries (this is infinitely easier than food processoring/straining raspberries, although I don't think it's feasible to sacrifice a bag of frozen raspberries just to make the icing, so I'll have to work on this) and boiled it with a little sugar, than added a little bit of raspberry extract. The icing gets its beautiful pink color from the raspberry juice. Originally I was going to boil the frozen raspberries with some sugar and use them like blueberries in a blueberry muffin for the cupcakes, but raspberries are so much seedier than blueberries that I gave up and used raspberry jam instead. Next time I may try incorporating raspberry jam in the icing too instead of raspberry juice.

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