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REAL HOT CHOCOLATE

We seem to have quite a few chocolate bars. Not the crappy American ones, but decent ones we bought in Amsterdam at the grocery store for cheap- Swiss, Dutch, Belgian. Minimum 55% cacao. The good stuff.

Except even when you get to the better stuff, you get picky. The 70% cacao dark chocolate rules.

hot chocolate

I opened a bar of Frey from Switzerland and had a bite, then a bite of a Dutch chocolate bar from Ikea. The Frey – meh. What to do? Hot chocolate.  This really isn’t even a recipe. It’s just what I did. Kicks the ass of Swiss Miss.

REAL HOT CHOCOLATE

  • 2 cups whole milk, more or less
  • 2 ounces really good chocolate (about half of one of those good-sized bars, more or less)

Break up the chocolate. Mix with milk and heat in a pan over medium heat, stirring frequently.

Serves 2 or 3.

Try adding a little bit of espresso powder for a mocha chocolate, or a tot of whatever your particular poison is.

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REALLY SIMPLE CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE

I hate it when recipes have cutesey-poo names.  You know what I mean. Prune Whip Prunella. Wacky Cake. Flippin’ Flapjacks. Giddy-Up Gerbils. That sort of thing.  If I serve one of those concoctions, I rename it.

When my mother was young, there was a popular recipe for a cake called Booze Cake, which she said “smelled just like someone threw up on it,” but was really good, or so she said. Many years later the local Ladies’ Auxilary produced The World’s Worst Cookbook (in which the editor had an unhealthy obsession with semi-colons) and included the Booze Cake, only in deference to local tender sensibiilties renamed it Boose Cake. Maybe someday I’ll make it.

Anyway. Tonight I had a bad jones for chocolate layer cake. I found one in The Doubleday Cookbook (which is, by the way, a really good basic all-purpose cookbook) – Crazy Chocolate Cake. It turned out surprisingly well.  Here it is, slightly adapted and renamed.

SIMPLE CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE

Preheat over to 325. Grease two 9″ cake pans.

Take a large mixing bowl and put the following ingredients in it, in the order listed. Do not mix.

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour milk (if you don’t have any, substitute commercial buttermilk, or mix 1 tablespoon vinegar with 1 cup milk and let stand 5 minutes)
  • 3/4 cup cocoa (I use Ghirardelli’s)
  • 1 cup butter, softened (this is why God made microwave ovens – this should be quite soft but not melted)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups cake flour (regular all-purpose flour is OK)
  • 1 cup boiling strong coffee (add 1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee such as Medaglia D’Oro to brewed coffee)

When all ingredients are in the bowl, beat 1 minute with electric mixer (or 3 minutes by hand).

Pour batter equally into prepared pans and bake at 325 for 45 to 50 minutes, until cakes pull away from pan edges and are springy. Let cool on rack 5 minutes, then remove cakes from pans and cool completely on rack.

BUTTERCREAM CHOCOLATE FROSTING

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate (I use Baker’s)
  • 1 pound confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • cream or milk as needed
  • pinch salt

Soften butter in microwave.

Melt the chocolate, either in a double boiler or by microwaving in a cup for 2 minutes, stopping and stirring every 30 seconds, until chocolate melts.

Mix butter and chocolate together. Then slowly add powdered sugar, beating slowly and persistently until sugar is incorporated. You may wish to add a tablespoon or two of cream as needed to make a smooth, thick frosting. When sugar is incorporated, beat in vanilla and salt.

To frost a cake:

Place one layer top-side down on a sturdy dish. Brush away any crumbs. Using a butter knife or dog-leg spatula, evenly spread about 1/3 of the frosting on it nearly to the edges. Don’t fuss too much over it; it’ll all even out. Top with second layer (top side up) and spread 1/3 of the frosting on top of it. Then spread remaining frosting on edges, turning cake slowly so you get all the bald spots. If you want to decorate the cake with something like slivered almonds, put the almonds in one cupped palm and gently, quickly, push them onto the sides of the cake. Some will fall off and that’s to be expected. Just pick them up and repeat.

A nice variation is to spread frosting on the first layer, then top with a layer of jam, such as raspberry, blackberry, or lekvar (prune). Then set the second layer on top and frost as usual.

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