Learn how to make the French concoction known as Ganache. The ratios of chocolate and cream will determine what you can do with it. Chef Sokol will discuss the multiple uses for this incredibly, rich addition to any dessert. A simple recipe for ganache is given.
The One Stage Method of cake making is discussed. Learn how to make the fudgiest of all chocolate cakes using this simplest of mixing methods. Chef Sokol will show you how to recognize this method just by reading the recipe. An easy and delicious recipe is discussed in detail.
Fudgy Chocolate Cake
Makes 2 9-inch round layers
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
2 whole large eggs
1 cup buttermilk — well shaken
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1 cup boiling water
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease, parchment, and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
- Combine the sugar, brown sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix at low speed until blended.
- In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Slowly add the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients on low speed until just blended. Stop the machine and scrape around the bowl with a rubber spatula. Scrape the bottom and around the sides of the bowl to make sure that all the ingredients are blended thoroughly and there are no lumps.
- Mix the coffee powder into the boiling water and pour it into the batter. Blend well on low speed for 10 to 20 seconds.
- The batter will be thin. Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester placed into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool until lukewarm and remove the two round layers from the pans onto wire racks to cool completely.
Learn how to create one of the richest and most decadent of all buttercream frostings. Chef Sokol will walk you through a simple French buttercream frosting that you can use to frost any cake. You will feel as if she is right by your side guiding you all the way to success.
French Vanilla Buttercream
Makes approximately 4 cups
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
6 large egg yolks
1 pound unsalted butter — very soft (but not melted)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Spray a liquid heatproof measuring cup with nonstick cooking spray to ensure that all the sticky sugar syrup will slide out easily.
- In a saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water and bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring just until the sugar dissolves.
- While the sugar syrup is cooking, beat the egg yolks on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer using the whip attachment until the color lightens to a pale yellow.
- Immediately pour the syrup into the greased measuring cup.
- On high speed, slowly add the hot syrup to the egg yolks, pouring it down the sides of the mixing bowl and not directly onto the whip. Keep beating until the bowl feels cool to the touch.
- Gradually add the softened butter, a few tablespoonfuls at a time, until it is all incorporated, blending in each addition of butter thoroughly. The buttercream may appear curdled until all the butter has been incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and blend well. Use at once.
Note: If the mixture is too soft, it can be refrigerated for 1 to 2 hours or placed over an ice water bath, stirring frequently with a whisk until it mounds and is of a spreadable consistency.
The versatility of one great yellow cake recipe is priceless. How to create Chef Sokol’s favorite tender and moist yellow cake is discussed in detail. This recipe uses her favorite mixing method, the creaming method, to produce high quality results. Chef Sokol shares her own hilarious experience with a cake malfunction, and what she learned about the creaming method in particular.
Yellow Cake Layers
Makes 2 9-inch layers
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease, parchment, and flour two nine-inch round baking pans.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour baking powder and salt.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- On low speed, add the eggs, one at a time followed by the vanilla.
- Add one third of the dry ingredients followed by one half of the milk and blend well.
- Add another third of the dry ingredients followed by the remaining milk.
- Add the remaining dry ingredients and blend until just combined.
- Evenly divide the batter into the two cake pans.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
You don’t have to be Irish to love Irish soda bread. A typical definition of an Irish soda bread states that it is a free-form bread made with baking soda and buttermilk. Raisins or currants and even caraway seeds are commonly added as well. To me, soda bread looks like a giant scone, and it tastes like a barely, sweetened whole grain biscuit. I, especially, love a good whole grain soda bread full of dried currants. I have even seen some recipes with oats in them as well.
From what I have read on the subject of Irish soda breads, baking soda was more easily available than yeast. This is why a soda bread dough can be whipped up in short order, baked and served hot from the oven in no time at all! Soda breads are quick breads. Baking soda helps to leaven the loaf as long as there is an acidic ingredient in the dough. That acidic ingredient is buttermilk. Baking soda and buttermilk, together, create a neutralization reaction whose by-products include, carbon dioxide gas bubbles, salt and water. The gas bubbles get stuck in the dough. Once in the oven, these trapped gas bubbles are under pressure. They expand, pushing up and down against the dough, causing it to rise.
There are so many recipes for soda breads out there, and so many variations as well. Some recipes use just all purpose flour, while others use all whole wheat flour. I like to use a combo of flours, usually half all purpose and half whole wheat, which gives the bread some heft and a richer, nutty texture.
Here is a gorgeous recipe for you to try. I have modified the ingredients somewhat to create a bread that I especially like, but it is based on Mrs. O’Callaghan’s recipe from the Ballinalacken Castle Country House & Restaurant. I have even included a photo of the one I just made so that you can see what this version of soda bread looks like.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cover a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set it aside. In a large bowl, whisk together 3 cups all purpose flour, 3 cups white whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar(light or dark), and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Using a pastry blender or your fingers cut in 4 tablespoons, cold, unsalted butter that has been cut into small cubes, until the butter is the size of peas. Mix 1 cup dried currants into the mixture. Add 2 1/2 cups buttermilk, and blend until you can gather the dough into a ball. If the dough is still too dry add another couple of tablespoons of buttermilk.
Gather the dough into a large, rough, round shape and place it in the center of the parchment covered sheet pan. Using a large knife or straight razor, cut a large “X”, 1/2 inch deep, across the entire top of the dough.
Bake the dough for about 40 minutes or until the bread is a lovely dark brown color. Allow to cool until barely warm and cut the soda bread into slices. Serve slathered with Irish butter or any butter for that matter! Enjoy!
Valentine’s Day will be here before you know it. I, personally, get really excited about February 14th every year. There are two reasons for this: first, Valentine’s Day is my birthday, and second, I LOVE chocolate!
When I was a little girl I actually thought the world celebrated my birthday. Remember, I was a kid, and all I saw was that everywhere I looked businesses were pushing that special day. Why, even every school brought out all of their finest pink and red cards, posters, hearts and valentines and best of all- CHOCOLATE!! All sorts of chocolate. Hearts and candies in milk, bittersweet, semisweet and white chocolate was EVERYWHERE!
In school, we all had to create valentines for every child in the class. No one was ever left out. I thought this was a beautiful celebration of everyone loving each other, getting along and eating yummy candy together. What could be bad? Love and candy will always go together as far as I am concerned, even if the holiday was concocted by Hallmark, candy makers, and other savvy businesses.
For Valentine’s Day, I love to show those that I love how I feel about them. That means I make truffles. Rich, creamy, dark or white chocolate truffles. The best part is they are the easiest candy to make, and you can even make them ahead and freeze them before the big day. Truffles are just ganache with a little something extra added.
Here is a very easy recipe for truffles that you can make no matter what your skill level is as a baker or candy maker. Are you ready? Here goes.
In a medium saucepan, bring 1/2 cup heavy cream and 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter to a simmer on the stove. Once you see that the mixture is almost at a boil, remove the pan from the heat. Then gently whisk 2 cups of finely chopped, any type you want, chocolate into the hot cream. Be sure that the chocolate has mostly cocoa butter in it, and not vegetable shortening. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and everything is creamy and smooth.
At this point, you can add some flavorings if you want. Perhaps a tablespoon of cognac or liqueur of your choice, or even a teaspoon of pure vanilla or almond extract.
Now pour the mixture into a small bowl and place it in the freezer until it thickens and can really hold its shape. Line a sheet pan with foil and dust it with unsweetened cocoa powder. Take a small ice cream scoop and place small scoops of the truffle mixture onto the cocoa powder. Do not try to roll them into balls yet. They will be too soft at this stage. Place the sheet pan into the freezer until the truffles firm up enough so that you can roll them between your hands to create balls. Roll the balls in the cocoa powder keeping them coated so they do not stick. Place them back onto the sheet pan. Freeze them until they are hard. This will take several hours or overnight.
Once you have your truffles hardened, you can just give them another roll in the cocoa, box them up and give them as a gift, OR you can dip them into melted chocolate and let them harden in the refrigerator. To melt chocolate for dipping, heat a saucepan with about 1 inch of water to a boil, and fit a heat proof bowl into it, such that the bowl does not touch the water in the pan. Add about 2 cups of finely chopped chocolate to the small bowl and allow the chocolate to melt.
Once the chocolate has melted, using a fork, dip each frozen truffle into the chocolate until it is well coated and give the fork a light tap to allow any excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Set the truffle onto a clean, foil covered sheet pan. You can leave the truffles to harden as they are, or you can sprinkle them with chopped nuts or coconut or even drizzle them with a contrasting melted chocolate. My favorite combo is a dark chocolate truffle drizzled with melted white chocolate. Placed strategically in a pretty box they are not only delicious, but pretty stunning to look at too!
I suggest you keep all of your truffles in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They will keep for up to 2 weeks.
So make some truffles for your sweetheart! No one knows what might happen when you give someone homemade truffles on Valentine’s Day. At least you will be making someone VERY happy.
Happy Baking, Happy Truffle Making and Happy Valentine’s Day!!!