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 V.13 No.41 | October 7 - 13, 2004 

Tasteful Reads

Fight Hunger—Your Own and the Nation's—With Chocolate Cake

More than 50 famous bakers share recipes in a book to benefit hunger-fighting group Share Our Strength

Michael J. Rosen is an author, editor and illustrator who is also a member of the national board of Share Our Strength, a hunger-fighting agency that works closely with the food, restaurant and kitchen supply industries to raise funds for their efforts. Last year, Rosen released Cooking from the Heart, a volume of collected recipes from 100 high-profile chefs who contributed dishes that were closest to their hearts. Share Our Strength receives a portion of the proceeds from that book and this follow-up, Baking from the Heart (Broadway, hardcover, $29.95). Since the recipes in this book come from professional bakers, it could have easily become a pretty but rarely used volume that collected dust on a shelf. But Rosen managed to procure from these chefs recipes that are more likely to be familiar to your grandmother than they are to grace the cover of Modern Pastry Chef. There are gingerbread cupcakes, plum tarts and fudge brownies, recipes that are relatively simple but definitely show the benefit of a chef's tinkering. They may be brownies, but they'll be the best damn brownies you've ever had.

Quince empanadas
Quince empanadas

Homemade Oreos®

In Baking from the Heart, Boston bakery owner Joanne Chang writes about her childhood frustration at her mother's insistence on shopping in only Chinese grocery stores and refusing to buy American junk food. As a grownup, Chang was determined to make an Oreo-like cookie that would, “blow Nabisco out of the water.” These surely do.
Makes 50 sandwich cookies

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

10 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

14 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup light corn syrup

For the filling:

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter

5 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions:

1) In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa and baking soda.

2) In a small heavy saucepan, melt the chocolate over low heat, stirring the entire time. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

3) In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter with the sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and add the melted chocolate, egg and corn syrup; mix thoroughly. Pour the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well to blend all of the ingredients.

4) Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 9-inch log. Seal each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.

5) Preheat the oven to 350° F and line 2 or 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

6) Slice the cookies into 1/4-inch-thick disks and arrange them on the prepared pan, leaving 1 inch between each cookie. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are firm. (They won't be perceptibly darker or crispy.) Transfer the baked cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

7) To make the filling, put the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes or until creamy. Reduce the speed to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar and mix until creamy and smooth. Add the vanilla and mix briefly.

8) Divide the filling in half. Roll each half into a log just a bit smaller the the diameter of the finished cookies. Slice the logs into 1/3-inch disks and sandwich each between two of the baked cookies. Store the cookies in airtight containers.

Cola Cake with Broiled Peanut Butter Frosting

Jane and Michael Stern are themselves the authors of more than 20 books, most notably Road Food, which is also the name of their column for Gourmet magazine and their website. The couple discovered this recipe in a community cookbook bought on one of their travels through the Midwest.
Serves 10-12

Ingredients:

For the cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 cup cola (Coke, Pepsi, whatever, as long as it's not diet)

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

For the frosting:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 cup dark brown sugar (lightly packed)

2/3 cup smooth peanut butter

1/4 cup whole milk

2/3 cup chopped salted peanuts

Instructions:

1) Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour one 9x13-inch cake pan.

2) For the cake, in a large bowl, combine the flour and the sugar with a wooden spoon. In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, cocoa and cola; pour this into the dry mix. Stir until well blended. Add the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda and vanilla; mix until blended. Fold in the marshmallows.

3) Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. While the cake begins to cool, make the frosting, which you should apply while the cake is warm.

4) Preheat the oven to broil and place the top rack 4 to 5 inches from the heat source.

5) For the frosting, in a large bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar and peanut butter. Stir in the milk and fold in the nuts. Spread the frosting evenly over the surface of the cake. Place the cake in the oven and broil for about 20 to 30 seconds, or until the frosting starts to bubble, rotating the cake for even cooking. Watch carefully: You want the frosting to bubble and to caramelize slightly. Do not let it scorch.

Quince Empanadas

Claire Archibald's Portland restaurant, Café Azul, focuses on the traditional foods of the regions of Mexico. Membrillo is a traditional Spanish paste made from quince. Look for it in the international food section of your grocery store.
Makes 2 dozen

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

5 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

32 tablespoons (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 large egg

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar

For the filling:

2 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons heavy cream

12 ounces plain soft goat cheese

8 ounces membrillo (quince paste), cut into 24 pieces, 1/4 by 1/2 by 1 inch

Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling

Instructions:

1) For the pastry, in a large bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Using two knives or a pastry blender, cut in the butter so it forms pea-size pieces. Add the egg and vinegar to a 1-cup measuring cup; lightly beat together, then add enough cold water to fill the cup. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and work the pastry lightly until mixed.

2) Turn out the pastry onto a lightly floured work surface or pastry board. Flatten and fold the pastry three times. Cut the dough in half. Form each piece into a disk and seal it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

3) Roll one disk into a large circle that's 1/8-inch thick. Cut out 12 circles that are 4 inches in diameter. Set each one on its own small sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Stack the circles (interleaved with the paper or wrap) on top of one another and chill the stacks for 15 minutes.

4) For the filling, in a small bowl, make the egg wash by blending together the egg yolks and the cream. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

5) Arrange the circles of dough on a work surface and place 1 teaspoon of goat cheese and a piece of membrillo in the center of each disk. Brush half of each circle's border with the egg wash. Fold the unbrushed edge on to the brushed edge and form a half circle; crimp the edges with the tines of a fork. Transfer the pastries to the prepared pans and brush the top surface with the egg wash. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

6) Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the pastry turns golden brown. These empanadas can be made up to 6 hours ahead and reheated in an oven or toaster oven before serving.

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