Smoked Porter Chocolate Cake


Although everyone knows the only thing better than your dream job is no job (that is to say, bojon), I once had a dream job that lasted 16 months when a pair of fabulous sisters opened a tiny, organic bakery in my hood. The community of bakers that wound up at Petite Patisserie consisted of smart, fun, talented, compassionate, kick-ass women, and we were all dismayed when Rachel and Kirsten decided to sell the space in December of 2007.

Me and my co-worker, Yana inside the bakery, taken by our other co-worker, Alexis

Every ingredient we used at Petite Patisserie was one hundred percent organic, although sometimes that meant altering recipes, shipping ingredients from far away, or jumping through hoops to work with what we had. For example, no one makes blanched organic almonds, so we had to buy unblanched almonds, boil them for 30 seconds, let them cool, then spend hours slipping the skins off each almond, one by one. The almonds then got dried out in a low oven overnight, cooled, and ground finely to be made into pate sucree or frangipane. Also, though many baking recipes call for dutch-processed cocoa powder, no one makes the organic stuff. Dutch-processed cocoa gets processed with alkali to neutralize its acidity, making the color a richly deep reddish-brown, and smoothing out the flavor. Some recipes work with either kind of cocoa; others, not so much.

Anyway, one day I asked Rachel if she would order some Valrhona dutch-processed cocoa powder for me through our vendor. When I came to work the next day, she had. They’d sent us 10 pounds of it. It cost $40. We couldn’t send it back, and we couldn’t use it at the bakery. So I took my ten pounds of cocoa powder home and started looking for recipes that used it. I had never baked with it much, for whatever reason, and even sort of shunned it, thinking that any chocolaty baked good worth its salt had to be made with actual chocolate.

Somehow I finally used up the last of my cocoa a few months ago. And now that it’s gone, I miss it.

I made this cake while in the midst of a baking-with-beer phase, using an Alaskan Smoked Porter I picked up at Rainbow. The beer goes in the cake, and also gets whisked into powdered sugar to form a thin glaze which locks in the cake’s moisture while it’s still warm. The smokey flavor is subtle; you might enjoy it with a mug of milky lapsang souchang tea (like this organic one from Samovar). The recipe, adapted from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques, originally called for Guinness, but you could use any stout or porter. Some nice options would be Bison’s Organic Chocolate Stout, or their Gingerbread Ale.

This moist, springy, tender cake would make perfect cupcakes. Enjoy it with a cup of tea or coffee for an afternoon snack, or alongside a scoop of milk chocolate stout ice cream for a decadent dessert.

Related recipes:
Pumpkin chocolate chunk coffee cake
Chocolate Granola
Curried coconut sweet potato tea cake

Smoked Porter Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin

Makes one 8″ round cake, 8-10 servings

The cake:

5 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 ounces (6 tablespoons) dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup smoked porter (or other dark beer)
1/2 cup molasses
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil (such as sunflower)

Preheat the oven to 350º. Grease an 8″ pan and line it with a round of parchment paper.

Sift together the dry ingredients.

In a large saucepan, heat the beer and molasses to a boil. Whisk in the baking soda. It will foam up A LOT so don’t try using a smaller pan or you will be very unhappy. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and oil until combined. Add the beer mixture, whisking to combine. Add the dries and whisk until smooth. Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake in the center of the oven until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and springs back when pressed with your finger, 30-40 minutes. Cool ten minutes, then invert onto a plate, remove the parchment, and reinvert so that the cake is right side up.

The glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 – 2 tablespoons smoked porter

Whisk together to form a glaze. Spread over the top of the warm cake.

The cake will keep well for a few days, stored airtight at room temperature.

Satsuma, Ginger and Oat Scones


Until recently, I never really *got* citrus fruits. Where I often spent winter longing for sweet strawberries and succulent peaches (and frankly still do), I never gave oranges and grapefruits much thought. Sometimes they appeared in my lunch bag, sometimes not. It didn’t much matter either way.

Except for the aforementioned summer fruit, I never thought much about the seasonality of produce, either, until one June day when I asked for leeks at a Bolognese produce stand. ‘Non sono di stagione,’ the vendor brusquely notified me; they are not in season. Leeks don’t have a season, I thought indignantly. They were like potatoes, onions, garlic, and lemons: available in the states any time of year.


Now that I work in the food industry in San Francisco, it’s rather impossible to remain ignorant of what comes into season when. But it wasn’t until we started receiving a CSA box that the citrus thing really began making sense to me.

Looking at a meyer lemon or a clementine when the sky has been overcast for a week feels a little like looking at the sun. And a sip of sweet juice from a fresh satsuma or pomelo tastes bright and vibrant. How clever of citrus to come into season just when we feel a dearth of those qualities, and need a dose of vitamin C to ward off flues and colds. I now cherish the glowing orange and yellow orbs that grace our eyes and taste buds in the dark, cold, and short days of winter, and look forward to the parade of citrus that marches through our kitchen each winter.

These scones are an excellent way to utilize the precious, flavorful zest of mandarins or tangerines, which gets rubbed into the buttery dough. Some of the juice gets whisked into powdered sugar for a simple glaze, and minced, candied ginger creates another layer of flavor. These scones were nothing short of spectacular dolloped with sour cream and our last jar of vanilla-meyer lemon marmalade. Any marmalade would be delicious here, or, if you just can’t wait til next spring, a spot of strawberry jam.


Thanks to Heidi Swanson at 101cookbooks for posting Romney Steele of Nepenthe’s awesome and simple oat scone recipe! I’m already plotting more variations…


Satsuma, Ginger and Oat Scones

Makes 8 reasonably-sized scones
Time: about 1 hour

1 1/2 cups all purpose, whole wheat or spelt flour (or a combination)

1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of one or two satsuma mandarins (or four small clementines)
zest of one lemon (preferably meyer)
4 ounces (1/2 cup, 1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ dice
1 cup rolled oats
5 tablespoons minced, candied ginger (one set aside for the topping)
1/2 cup buttermilk
Glaze:
1/3 cup powdered sugar
pinch salt
1 or 2 tablespoons satsuma juice, as needed

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the dries and zests in a large bowl. Work in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse sand with some pea-sized butter bits remaining. Toss in the oats. Add the buttermilk little by little, tossing with a rubber spatula, until the dough just comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a 1′ high round, about 6″ in diameter. Cut the round into 8 wedges (they will look small, but will grow a lot as they bake). Place on the parchmented pan. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden, rotating once or twice. Let cool slightly.

Whisk together the powdered sugar, salt, and enough juice to make a thickly pourable glaze. Drizzle over scones. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon minced ginger.

These are best served warm. They will keep at room temperature for a few days.




Roasted Winter Squash and Sage Tart

Growing up in the porn capital of the world in the 80’s and 90’s, I inevitably developed a valley accent. One night I said to my dad over a dinner of Trader Joe’s quiche, ‘Is this crust, like, whole wheat?’ My dad smirkingly replied, ‘It’s not only like whole wheat, it is whole wheat.’
You thought you were pretty clever, huh, dad?
The nutty richness of this tart crust reminds me of those heady days spent shopping at the mall, seeing movies at the mall, and just hanging out… at the mall. Of course, it never got as cold in LA as it does here. A snap like this makes it virtually impossible not to make a savory roasted squash tart with gruyere, goat cheese and truffle oil.
I mixed up a sourdough pate brisee, let it chill, then rolled it out and fitted it into a ceramic tart pan, which I like to use when making custard based tarts. While living in Santa Cruz, transitioning from a valley girl into a dirty hippy of whom people would often say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe you’re from LA,’ I once had the traumatic experience of making a quiche with a quinoa flour crust. I know; I’m better now. Since quinoa contains no gluten, my parbaked crust ended up peppered with dozens of tiny cracks and holes. I thought, what the heck, and poured my custard filling into the crust, which had been baked in a tart pan with a removable bottom. No, I had not placed the pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Yes, the filling leaked all over the oven. Disaster. Now I fearlessly use a one piece ceramic dish when making custard-based tarts, and I also reserve the dough scraps so that if the crust bakes up with a tear or hole, I simply patch it up before pouring in the filling. If using a two-piece pan, though, for the love of god, set it on a rimmed baking sheet before you go putting it in the oven willy-nilly. Unless you like scraping up burnt egg from the oven floor, in which case, don’t listen to me.
For the filling, I sauteed some chopped leek in butter and olive oil (yes, everything needs some of both) then tossed it with some white truffle oil, a secret weapon that I keep hidden in the cupboard which gives any food you put it on what the French call a little ‘I don’t know what.’ Cauliflower velouté, potatoes dauphinoise, wild mushroom duxelles, you name it. I have yet to make truffle oil ice cream, but it’s only a matter of time.
The leek got layered in the shell along with grated gruyere, cubes of roasted winter squash, goat cheese, sage, and some eggs beaten with milk and cream. Baked for 40 minutes and voila. The squash cubes make a pretty mosaic when the tart is sliced, and the velvety pockets of warm goat cheese contrast the flakey, crisp tart shell. Just the sort of thing to eat on a frigid 40º San Francisco evening… or morning.
My ideal accompaniment to this tart would be a crisp salad of arugula and chicories and a glass of sauvignon blanc or cava. It would be, like, rilly good.
Roasted Winter Squash Tart with Gruyere, Truffle oil and Sage
Makes one 10″ tart

Sourdough pate brisee:

You can substitute any pie dough for the crust, such as a half batch of Martha’s pate brisee. I prefer the following recipe as I always have an abundance of sourdough starter to use up. The starter gives the crust a little extra flavor and flake.

1 1/4 cups flour (all purpose, whole wheat or spelt, or a combination)
1/2 cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2″ dice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup liquid sourdough starter, cold or room temperature
Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter and work with your fingertips or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some larger, pea-sized chunks remaining. Gradually add the starter tossing the mixture with a rubber spatula or your hands, pressing it against the sides of the bowl, until the dough barely holds together when squeezed. You may not need all the starter, or you may need to add more. Gather the dough into a ball, put it in a plastic bag, and squash it into a 6″ disc. Chill at least 1/2 hour.
Place a rack in the lowest position of the oven and place a baking stone on it if you have one. Remove the other racks. Preheat the oven to 400º.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12″ round. Fit into a 10″ tart pan, double over the sides and press to even them out. They should be flush with the top of the pan. Chill at least 1/2 hour.
Line the crust with parchment paper and pie weights, dry garbanzos or cleaned pennies (I keep mine in a cheesecloth bag and put the whole thing atop a round of parchment placed in the crust). Press the weights so they snuggle into the corners, and bake on the stone until the bottom is mostly dry, about 10 minutes. Carefully remove the weights and parchment and continue baking until the bottom is dry and firm, another 10 minutes or so. Lower the oven to 375º.
Tart filling:
1 large leek, sliced, washed thoroughly and drained
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon white truffle oil
2 oz. gruyere cheese, grated
1 1/2 – 2 cups roasted winter squash cubes (roast squash, cool, peel and cut into 1″ cubes)
2 oz. fresh goat cheese
2 tablespoons slivered fresh sage leaves
2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
salt

Melt together the butter and olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Saute the leek with 1/4 teaspoon salt until very tender and beginning to brown in places, 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from heat and toss in the truffle oil. Set aside.
Sprinkle the gruyere evenly over the bottom of the parbaked tart shell. Sprinkle the leeks over the cheese, then the squash chunks and the goat cheese in marble-sized bits, and finally the sliced sage. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt over the squash. Beat together the eggs with 1/2 teaspoon salt until very smooth, then beat in the milk and cream.
Place the tart on the baking stone and carefully pour in the milk/egg mixture until the tart is as full as possible without overflowing. (A tip from the Tartine cookbook: when the custard has barely set, make a small hole in the center of the tart with a knife, and pour in any extra custard.) Bake at 375º until slightly puffed, set, and browned in places, about 40 minutes. Remove and cool slightly before slicing into wedges and serving.

Brown Butter-Glazed Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Coffeecake

There are two kinds of people in the world: chocolate dessert people and fruit dessert people. (People who don’t like dessert: not people.) I used to place myself firmly in the former camp, and freely admit to being a devout chocophile. But I don’t often get a chance to bake with it, since there always seems to be some pesky fruit (or vegetable, as the case may be) to use up, or take advantage of before the season ends. And though I nibble on chocolate almost every day, I can’t even recall the last time I ordered a chocolate dessert at a restaurant.

So the other night I thought to myself, aha! I’ll bake something chocolaty. Perhaps something classic, like brownies or oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. But as I opened the fridge to pull out the butter, a jar of butternut squash puree stared back at me.

After much deliberating, I came up with this coffee cake. The texture is moist and rich, and the chocolate really satisfies (but feel free to increase the chocolate factor if you like.) The brown butter glaze came out surprisingly well, and even a powdered sugar-avoider like myself couldn’t stop licking it off of spoons, spatulas and whatever other utensil I found handy (ahem – fingers). I did find myself missing the tang of cream cheese in this cake, so next time I plan to cool the vanilla-infused brown butter and whip it into a cream cheese frosting.
My friend and fellow dancer, Mike, who is about ten years my elder, blurted out the other day, ‘Will you be my grandma?!’ While that may be physically impossible, this cake did strike me as a rather grandmotherly thing to make. Not by my grandmothers, who were too busy cooking brisket, blintzes and rugelach, but perhaps someone’s.
I miss you, Grandmas!
Brown Butter-Glazed Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Coffeecake

Makes one 9″ cake, 8 – 12 servings
The cake:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup plain, whole milk yogurt (or try buttermilk, sour cream or creme fraiche)
1 cup winter squash puree
2 cups (8 oz.) cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
a few turns black pepper
1 cup (5 oz.) dark chocolate chips or chopped bittersweet chocolate
glaze, below
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped, for the topping
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350º. Lightly grease a 9″ cake pan and line it with a round of parchment paper (or use an unlined springform pan).
Combine the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium speed until fluffy and light, a few minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to combine after each and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Meanwhile, stir together the yogurt and squash in a measuring cup and sift the dries into a medium bowl. Alternate adding the dries and yogurt mixture to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the dries, in 3 additions. Mix on low until just combined after each addition, then mix in the chocolate pieces.
Spread into the pan and bake until a tester inserted comes out mostly clean (a few crumbs are ok), 45 minutes or so. Let cool. Invert onto a plate, remove the parchment, then flip onto another plate so it’s right side up. Spread with the glaze and sprinkle with pecans.
The glaze:
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
pinch salt
1-3 teaspoons water or milk
Combine the butter and vanilla pod and scrapings in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until it turns golden and smells nutty. Combine with the powdered sugar in a bowl, and whisk in enough water to make a pourable glaze (if the mixture ‘breaks’, don’t despair – keep whisking in small amounts of water or milk until it comes back together.)

Sourdough Deep Dish Pizza

If you think the food world is free from the chains of fashion, you probably live under a rock. Take chocolate. Having been the only thing available in this country for so many years, overly sweetened milk chocolate fell out of fashion when folks realized the wonders of bittersweet. Ever darker chocolates began appearing, and anyone who was anyone spoke authoritatively on the matter of darker equalling better. But milk chocolate (and even white chocolate) has been making a steady comeback with chocolatiers such as Charles, Valrhona, Recchiuti and Scharffenberger marketing dark, fruity bars with over 40% cocoa solids. Now when someone tells me disdainfully, ‘I don’t like milk chocolate; too sweet,’ I just shake my head mournfully at their naivete.
The same goes for pizza. Since cheap, American chains have marketed bready pies for so many years, the conoscenti began spurning them for Italian-style, wafer-thin crusts. Chic restaurants flaunting ever thinner dough have popped up everywhere, from Flour + Water in the city to Pizzaiolo in the East Bay. On my walk home from work down Valencia Street, I am fortunate (or unfortunate, depending) to pass by two stellar pizzerias that taunt me daily with wafts of wood fired bread and tomato sauce drifting into my tired and hungry nostrils. The first, Pauline’s, makes the skinny kind (bonus points for using local, seasonal ingredients!) The second, Little Star, which from the outside looks like a dingy dive bar, makes the deep dish variety.
Eating Little Star pizza was a revelation, much like my first nibble of Scharffenberger’s milk chocolate several years ago, in which I realized that thick crusts can be not only good, but ecstatic.
If you have yet to experience the virtues of deep dish pizza and are skeptical, consider these startling facts. Deep dish pizza is:
-tender
-soft
-crispy on the outside
-chewy on the inside
-moist with sauce and melty cheese
-rich and flavorful with olive oil
-really friggin’ good

Inspired by Little Star’s wheaty masterpieces (and a jar of tomato sauce left over from last week’s eggplant parmesean), I tried my hand at sourdough deep dish pizza. I used Cook’s recipe as a starting point, tweaking the ingredients as necessary. The resulting pizza surpassed my expectations with its flavorful, springy dough crisped in a generous amount of olive oil, accented by gooey, saucy cheese and bites of bitter olives, tangy chevre and fresh basil.

Once you taste it, you will no longer associate this caliber deep dish pizza with the cheap stuff you begged your parents to buy you (with pineapple and olives on top – yes, I was a weird one) when you were a kid. Promise. If you still turn your nose up at thick crust pizzas, you have my deepest sympathy.
Sourdough Deep Dish Pizza
Makes two 10″ pies; about 6 servings
Since this dough contains yeast, your starter doesn’t need to be perfectly lively. You can use starter that hasn’t been fed in a while, or starter that you’re just beginning to build up. Just make sure it smells and tastes pleasant.
You can bake two 10″ pies, or one 14 incher if you have a 14″ pan (who has that?) I used a 10″ ceramic tart pan, but a pie or cake pan would work, too. The dough keeps well in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for a month or two, if you want to make your pizzas in increments.
Total cooking time: 2 1/2 hours
Timeline:
cook the tater and make the dough: 30 minutes
first rise: 1 hour
second rise: 30 minutes
baking: 30 minutes
The dough:
1 medium russet potato (about 9 oz.)
8 oz. (about 1 cup) liquid sourdough starter
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more as needed (some or all of this can be whole wheat)
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast (or 2 teaspoons active dry, or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Peel and quarter the taters, put in a pot and cover with water. Boil until tender but not falling apart, 10 minutes or so. Drain and let cool until they are handleable, then put through a ricer if you are cool enough to have one (I’m not) or grate on the large holes of a box grater.
Combine all the ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or in a big bowl with a wooden spoon, you stud!) Mix on low until combined, then increase the speed to medium-low and knead for 5 minutes or so until smooth and elastic, adding more flour as necessary until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for a minute or two to adjust the consistency. The dough should be soft and moist, but not overly sticky. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap (or slide into a clean trash bag.) Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
The pizzas:

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups or so tomato sauce (bought, or homemade)
8 – 12 oz. mozzarella, sliced
2 – 4 oz. goat cheese
1/3 cup oil cured olives, pitted and halved
a few basil leaves, sliced
Position an oven rack in the lowest and highest positions. Place a baking stone or (heavy baking sheet) on the bottom rack. Preheat the oven to 500º.
Coat the bottoms of two 10″ cake or pie pans with 2 tablespoons olive oil each. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Pat each into 9″ rounds. Cover with plastic and let rest 10 minutes, then place in the pans and press them up the sides to make a 1″ lip. (Mine wouldn’t stay up the sides, but still turned out fine.) Cover with plastic and let rise until doubled, about 1/2 hour.
Remove the plastic and prick the crusts all over with a fork. Place in the oven on the stone and reduce the oven temperature to 425º. Bake 5 – 10 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove the pans and divide the toppings between the pies: sauce, mozzarella, then olives and goat cheese. Return to the stone and bake for 10 minutes more to melt the cheese. Put the pans on the upper rack and bake about 5 more minutes, til the cheese is brown and bubbly. Remove the pans, sprinkle with the basil, and let cool a few minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to slip them onto a board. Cut into slices.

Bake Sale!


Last night, my modern dance group, Gnosis, held our second annual show Dance for Another Day to help fund Lupus research. Highlights included cowboys in rhinestone-studded chaps, dancing dolls, pop n’ locks, ochos, singing into shoes, and yummy treats courtesy of the Bojon Gourmet, vended by my lovely sister, niece, and sister in spirit, Isaac the Girl. Apologies to anyone who did not get to sample the goods I made for the pre-show bakesale; here are some photos to make you drool/jealous. Recipes coming soon!

Gluten-free espresso brownies with salted butter caramel
(‘These are heaven in my face,’ said T.)

Cranberry-apple crumble bars with oats and pecans



Cheddar-Parmesan scones with fresh dill

I also baked these pumpkin cupcakes, but made up my own recipe for the cream cheese frosting. Sadly, I neglected to snap a photo before they got devoured.
Don’t despair *too* much if you missed the show (and the goods) this year; we’ll do another in 2010. I’ll keep you posted.