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Sunday, May 1, 2011

One week....and Loaf Cakes (Chocolate and White Chocolate Almond)

One week. One week left of school. I can't believe that I am almost done being a student for good. And my little film family is growing up! And I'm writing a feature! I'm backpacking through Europe in two weeks! Phew...that's a lot to ingest. But it's not so much that I can't also enjoy a piece of cake or two. One of the reasons I've had so many double-recipe blog entries is because my baking instincts are in overdrive. I cook a lot when I'm stressed, and at this point I've got enough sweets to turn my apartment into the new hip Williamsburg bakery. Luckily, you don't need a crazy baking fetish to enjoy either of these cakes. You just have to like tasty things and have minor league skills in the kitchen. And trust me, these two beauties are worth it. 

This chocolate cake is really wonderful, but you MUST use good cocoa. The intense flavor from really good cocoa powder just gives this cake such a chocolatey punch. I add some bittersweet chocolate chips just for a little extra choco-goodness, and because I think they add a nice bit of moisture. This recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen's, who names this (very aptly) an "everyday chocolate cake", which it really is. One bowl, great for a party or a boring Tuesday.

The one thing I should warn you about is that this is a crumblier, slightly drier cake. It's delicious, but don't expect one of those moisture explosions that comes with some chocolate cakes. This is actually perfect with some fresh whipped cream and a few berries. Or, if you're crazy (in a good way), a touch of thin chocolate ganache. Either way it's a great way to relieve a bit of stress in not too much time. Which is great when you've got a lot of writing to do.

Left a few pieces of cake for my roomies. Next to them are some (slightly) failed macarons w/ Meyer lemon mascarpone filling. 

Now, this white chocolate almond pound cake, this is something else entirely. Moist, sweet, buttery with a touch of tang and awesome depth of flavor, this is officially my favorite pound cake now. So much so, I made it twice within one week (for two different events, not for me to just eat in my room while watching Friday Night Lights).

The real trick to this cake is the cream cheese that replaces half the butter. It keeps the cake moist and gives it such depth. The white chocolate is really amazing as well. I'm not even a white chocolate fan, but in this form it really, REALLY works. That paired with the almond extract...mmm...maybe I should make this cake one more time....

I use a bit more almond extract than asked for in more recipes (or in this original recipe) but I really think it makes a difference. The best thing to do is to taste the batter after adding a conservative amount of both vanilla and almond extracts, and then adding more bit by bit till it's got a good, strong taste of almond. Don't worry if it's a little intense, remember you still need to add the flour which will dull the flavor a bit.

Ghirardelli has slowly become my go-to for chocolate chips, both white and brown. Their 62% bittersweet version is great for several applications. I even use it for ganache. It's the same chocolate the company uses in their blocks of bittersweet. I think one reason they tend to be better is that it doesn't have that awful, waxy texture so many chocolate chips come with. Plus they're usually the only kind of chip that my fancy pants Williamsburg grocers carry.

So, another reason I'm baking so much is that I'm in training. For the biggest event in NYU's Grad Film Program. That would be...drumroll please...the official 3rd Year Bake-Off!!! At first I didn't feel too much pressure, but after having every one of my classmates pass me in the halls and claim they are going to take me down, now I'm in it to win it. I've got to make something(s) that are pretty spectacular. More details on what I'm planning will come.

Everyday Chocolate Cake (based on Smitten Kitchen -
Note: Since SK keeps this cake a one-bowl creation I figure my lazy method of making most cakes is acceptable. Just make sure you add the flour last, as after that is when over mixing becomes an issue. And try to use really good cocoa. No Hershey’s crap.
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup canola oil
1 cup light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup room temperature water
4 tbsp dried buttermilk
¾ cup Dutch processed cocoa powder (I used Guittard, Valrhona is good too)
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup and 5 tbsp flour
couple handfuls of chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl combine butter, oil and sugars. Beat until fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg and beat until completely combined. Add water and vanilla and mix. Batter will look somewhat curdled, that’s fine. Add cocoa powder, baking soda and powder, and salt. Mix thoroughly with a spatula. Add flour and mix till almost completely combined. Add chips and fold in until batter is just combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top over. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes till toothpick inserted in center comes out with several crumbs attached, but no wet batter. Cool in pan for ten minutes, then flip out and cool till room temperature. Serve with whipped cream and fresh berries, or just pull chunks right off the loaf. That’s more my style.  

White Chocolate Almond Cream Cheese Pound Cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen -
1 ½ sticks butter, softened
2/3 package (5-6 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 cup plus 5 tbsp sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
¾ - 1 tsp almond extract
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ cup flour
3 handfuls of white chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a standard loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Place the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar and increase speed to high and beat until light and airy, at least five minutes (very important). Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, along with salt and baking powder. Add half the flour and fold into batter with spatula. Add half the white chocolate chips. Add the rest of the flour and fold till almost combined, add the rest of the chips and mix till just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out top with spatula. Bake cake four about 30 minutes, till golden brown, then cover with foil and bake an extra 25 minutes, till a toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs.
Allow cake to cool in pan for about 10 to 15 minutes, then can be removed to cool completely, about another half hour. Slice and serve at room temperature.