Saturday, March 15, 2014

Vikalinka: Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake)

This year my mom decided she wanted a different kind of chocolate cake.  Something more interesting.  Something like a cake that takes several hours and has three different parts.  ::sighs::  But I can't turn her down.  And I especially can't turn her down if it's Black Forest Cake.  Yes, it gets put in caps.

I found this recipe on the internet, where I joined the hordes of gawkers swooning over the beauty that is a boozy cake.  I had never gotten one to work in the past, mostly because the cherry filling starts to ooze out the sides through the whipped cream, making the cake look like it's bleeding to death.  Not appealing.  But this cake just uses boozy cherries in the middle with no cornstarchy syrup.

Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake)
Adapted from Vikalinka blog

For the cake:
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups granulated sugar
¾ cup cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
½ cup canola oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the filling:
2½ cups whipping cream
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brandy
1 vanilla bean
3 teaspoons powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water

2 (14½-ounce) cans tart cherries in water, drained, soaked in ¼ cup kirsch for an hour

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, sift flour and cocoa.  Add sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla, and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

In a 1-cup glass measuring cup, combine gelatin and cold water. Let stand for 2 minutes. Place the measuring cup in a microwave and heat for 15 seconds until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
Run a sharp knife along the length of a vanilla bean, open it, and with a blade of a dull knife, scrape out the seeds.  In a large mixing bowl, beat whipping cream, sugar, vanilla bean seeds, and brandy on medium speed while gradually drizzling gelatin mixture over cream mixture. Continue beating cream mixture until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight up). Adding gelatin to the filling gives it more stability.

Drain the cherries, reserving the kirsch.  Set aside 8 cherries for decoration, if desired.  Cut each cake layer in two to make four layers.  Brush each layer with the reserved kirsch, and then fill with the cream filling and cherries. Leave ¼ of the cream filling for the sides and the top.  Cover the sides and the top of the cake with the cream filling.

Decorate with reserved cherries.  Chill in the fridge for the cream filling to set. Keep refrigerated.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Cook's Illustrated: Blueberry Almond Streusel Muffins

I've been on an almond kick lately.  I think it started back around Christmas when I made almond bars and they practically melted in my mouth.  Now I want to put almonds on everything.  EVERYTHING.  Okay, maybe not everything, but anything that works.  And since I had a container of blueberries in my fridge, that anything was muffins.

I've never really gotten a recipe from Cook's Illustrated to turn out as fabulously as everyone claims they do.  They always seem just...meh.  This one was definitely different.  Probably the best blueberry muffin recipe I've ever made.  They come out tender with a crunchy top.  Note: Immediately shove some in the freezer so you don't end up making a pig of yourself.

Blueberry Almond Streusel Muffins
Loosely adapted from Bakeaway with Me blog and Cook’s Illustrated magazine, May/June 2009

6 ounces (½ pint) fresh blueberries, picked over
1⅛ cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup almond meal
2½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted, browned, and cooled slightly
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Streusel Topping
Sliced almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare standard muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray or liners.

Whisk flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl.

Whisk sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and well combined. Slowly mix in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour; do not over mix.)

Using a cookie scoop or large spoon, divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Sprinkle streusel and almonds evenly over muffins.

Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 15 muffins

Streusel Topping
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons melted butter

Combine ingredients until it is the size of peas and set aside. Add additional flour to achieve correct consistency, if needed.