Grossman Family Mocha Brownies

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This week one of the INDECENT Co-Producers hosted the Wine and Unwind. Let’s welcome Sarahbeth Grossman and her family recipe for Mocha Brownies into the Backstage Baker Club!!! Sarahbeth was also one of the producers on AN AMERICAN IN PARIS and on ANN.

Grossman Family Mocha Brownies

Ingredients:

2/3 cups butter
2 teaspoons instant coffee
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Method:

Melt butter, coffee and chocolate in a double boiler.  Remove from heat.  Stir in ingredients in the order listed.  Beat at high speed for 30 seconds (batter will turn lighter brown in color.) Pour into greased 9×11 pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 min.

Butter Cream Frosting:
Melt and heat 4 tablespoons of butter until light brown and frothy (do not burn).  Beat in 3 cups of confectioners sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla and 3 Tablespoons of cream or milk.  Stir til smooth then spread over cooled brownies.  Cut into squares after frosting sets.


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From left to right: musician Matt Darriau, actor Tom Nelis, Baker, co-Producer Sarahbeth Grossman and her Mocha Brownies, actor Max Gordon Moore

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Actor Rich Topol who plays Lemml and a Wine and Unwind guest

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Tom Nelis, special guest Vivienne Benesch, Producing Artistic Director of PlayMakers Repertory Company in North Carolina and Max Gordon Moore

Cheesecake-stuffed Strawberry Bites

Strawberries

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, our Backstage Baker offers up this scrumptious recipe.  In fact, it’s so easy, it’s almost hard to call it a recipe!

But first, don’t forget to watch the Tony Awards on Sunday, June 11, 2017 — Indecent is nominated for Best Play, Best Director (Rebecca Taichman) and Best Lighting (Christopher Akerlind.)  Just for fun, here’s a link to a post on The Skriker, a show that Chris lit at the Public many moons ago.

Also, don’t forget that James’ previous show Jitney is also nominated for several Tony Awards this season!  You have to wonder if he sprinkles magic dust on his shows, right?  Maybe it’s just all the baking . . .

But back to these cheesecake-stuffed strawberry bites!  This is a super easy dessert to throw together. Great for parties and week end celebrations. And now strawberries are in season, it’s the perfect time to make them.

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberry Bites

Ingredients:

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint fresh strawberries, washed, then hulled and cored
Almond cookies crushed (or for a more traditional taste use crushed graham crackers)
Half cup dark chocolate pieces melted

Method:

Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract together in a bowl until smooth; spoon into a piping bag or a resealabe bag with a corner snipped.
Fill cavities of cored strawberries with the cream cheese mixture. Dip filled side of strawberries in the crushed graham crackers to coat. Drizzle with dark chocolate.

KAtrina LenkKatrina Lenk and Adina Verson try the Stuffed Strawberries (Katrina will also star in next season’s THE BAND’S VISIT)

Tom Nelis
Tom Nelis (left) enjoying the wine while discussing his role with understudy Ben Cherry (center) as understudy Eleanor Reissa looks on.

Indecent Lemony Almond Macaroons

Lemony ALmond Macaroons

Okay, so macaroons can’t really be indecent as they are thoroughly inanimate objects, but James made these for the pre-opening Wine and Unwind of Indecent last Sunday, so I thought the title was apt.  (FYI, Indecent, Paula Vogel’s play, opens at the Cort Theater on Tuesday, April 18.  Check it out here.)  These are also suitable for Passover.  I think.

Indecent Lemony Almond Macaroons

Ingredients:

1- 14-ounce package sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large egg whites
3-4 ounces dark chocolate

Method:

Heat oven to 325 F. In a large bowl, combine the coconut, almonds, sugar, lemon zest, and salt. Mix in the egg whites.

Drop mounds of the mixture (each equal to 2 tablespoons) onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart.

Bake, switching the baking sheets halfway through, until the edges begin to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Or bake one pan at a time. Cool slightly on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Melt chocolate by boiling water in a pot and then putting chocolate in a stainless steel bowl and placing the bowl over the boiling water.  Stir frequently until almost completely melted, then remove pot from water and stir until smooth.

Dip cooled macaroons in the chocolate and place on waxed paper (Or be green and place them on the parchment paper they were baked on!!!) Drizzle remaining chocolate over the tops of the macaroons.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Vegan Chocolate Cake

VEgan chocolate cake

When you need a vegan dessert this one is easy, moist and delicious. Jitney’s associate director, Awoye Timpo, is vegan, so the Backstage Baker baked this for her birthday.

It’s amazing.  And super easy to make.  In fact, I think I’ll go bake one now.

Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup cold water

Method

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Measure flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt into a sifter, sift twice. Sift all into and ungreased 9 inch square pan.

3.  Make three holes in the mixture. Pour oil into one hole, vinegar in the second, vanilla in the third. Pour water over all. Mix with fork until smooth and blended. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (no more).

This cake is so moist it doesn’t need frosting.  Make like the Backstage Baker and top it with fresh raspberries tossed in powdered sugar and shave some chocolate on top.  Mmmm, delicious!

Chocolate Covered Apricots Dusted with Ancho Chili

I’ve been meaning to post this for weeks . . . This is one of those super simple recipes that only has a few ingredients and doesn’t require baking!  Plus, it’s vegan and gluten-free.  What’s not to love?

From the Backstage Baker:  “We had so many cakes and cookies for Jitney’s opening, that I was trying to think of something else to do for WINE AND UNWIND. I took dried apricots and dipped them in dark chocolate, sprinkling the final product with ground Ancho Chile powder for a little heat. They were yummy and a big hit with the cast and crew. Try them for your next party.”

It almost seems silly to put this recipe format, but for those of you (me!) that are a little anal retentive, here it is:

Ingredients:
20 Turkish-style apricots
2 40z bar of dark chocolate (65% cacao and up)
Ancho chili powder

Method:

Place a sheet of wax paper on a cookie sheet.

Chop chocolate bars into small pieces, place in microwave-safe bowl.  Melt carefully in 30 second bursts, stirring between each burst.  When it is almost (but not quite!) all melted, remove from microwave and stir until smooth.

Dip apricots halfway into chocolate and put on wax paper.

When chocolate has hardened slightly, shake a bit of ancho chili powder on each apricot.

Pour yourself a glass of a bold red (the Jitney cast enjoyed a nice California Cabernet Sauvignon) and savor the flavors.

 

The First Cheesecake

<cheesecakeSimple, classic cheesecake.  From the first cheesecake recipe our Backstage Baker ever used!

Perhaps you recall James’s Cheesecake Bake-offs of past years (and posts!)  Well, here is the very first cheesecake recipe James ever used.  (Just imagine young James reading the New York Times, then toddling around his mother’s Milwaukee kitchen, surrounded by cheese curds, cream and cows, mixing up this luscious treat!  Okay, perhaps it didn’t go quite like that . . .)

In James’ own words:  “Here it is. First published in the New York Times as Jon’s Cheesecake. I did a few modifications, mostly making my own crust.”  I searched the Times’ archives for the original recipe, but came up empty. But who cares?  This recipe is delicious!  James served it up at a Jitney Wine and Unwind and it was gone in minutes!

Ingredients:

For Graham cracker crust:
1 cup Graham crumbs
¼ cup cocoa
2 tbsp sugar
¼ cup melted butter

For Filling:
2 packages (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

For Topping: (don’t skip this, it really makes the whole cake sing!)
1 pint sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

In a small bowl, mix together the graham crumbs, sugar, cocoa, and melted butter and press into a 9 inch springform pan.

Mix cream cheese and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix until well combined.

Spoon over graham crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until set. Let cool on a rack while you make the topping.

For topping combine sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Spread carefully over top of baked cake. Refrigerate overnight

Garnish with fresh fruit just before serving.

carra-patterson
Carra Patterson (Rena) enjoying a slice

harvy-and-ray
Harvy Blanks (Shealing) and Ray Anthony Thomas (Philmore) fighting over the last piece

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Sweet Potato Frosting

the-play-the-cake-the-wine

The Backstage Baker is back on Broadway with August Wilson’s Jitney! Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, it’s part of Wilson’s Pittsburgh/Century Cycle of plays (two of which won the Pulitzer Prize) and is the only one never produced on Broadway.  Until now.

James sent me this recipe several weeks ago, having baked this delicacy for the company’s first Wine and Unwind.  I’m only just getting around to posting it, while in the interim James and the company have rehearsed, teched and had their first preview on Broadway! (Oh, and they celebrated some holidays in there too.)  Opening night is January 19, 2017, so get your tickets now!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Sweet Potato Frosting
(with thanks to fellow stage manager Buzz Cohen)

1 pound (453 g) zucchini (about 4 small), trimmed
2½ cups (360 g) white whole wheat flour
½ cup (48 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups (312 g) sugar
1 cup (245 g) buttermilk, at room temperature
½ cup (112 g) grapeseed or other neutral oil
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (180 g) semisweet chocolate chips

Sweet Potato Frosting:
1 (15-ounce; 425-g) can pure sweet potato puree
10 ounces (283 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:
1. To make the cake: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Coat a 9 x 3 x 2-inch cake pan or dish with nonstick cooking spray. If you’re using a metal pan, line the bottom and sides with foil or parchment paper and spray again.

2.  Set a box grater on some paper towels and grate the zucchini on the large holes. Spread it out on the paper towels, top with more paper towels, and press gently to remove excess moisture.

3.  Sift the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk the sugar, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl until very smooth. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Whisk, gradually drawing in the dry ingredients, just until smooth. Fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips with a silicone spatula until evenly incorporated. Spread the batter in an even layer in the prepared pan.

4.  Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top springs back a little when lightly pressed with a fingertip, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

5.  While cake is cooling, make the frosting: Bring the sweet potato puree to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Cool, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is at room temperature and the consistency of canned frosting. It should hold soft peaks when you lift the spatula from the pan but not be stiff. Spread the frosting all over the top of the cake, creating swoops and swirls.

*Make ahead notes: The cake is best the day it’s made, when the chocolate chips are still a bit melty and the frosting is soft, but it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.*carra-patterson-and-andre-holland Carra Patterson and Andre Holland

brandon-dirdenBrandon Dirden in a sugar coma . . .