Category Archives: Chocolate

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

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Sweet Potato Frosting

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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 . . .

Ancho Chile Brownie Cookies

The Backstage Baker is still in San Diego at the Old Globe Theater.  But now that tech and previews for Rain are over, he’s had time to bake again.  As he told me, “Inspired by the tastes and flavors of being so close to Mexico I made some Ancho Chili Brownie Cookies.”

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Ancho-Chile Brownie Cookies on the tech table.  (Headset, God mic and Altoids to the right.)

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 healthy teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 -3/4  teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper (depending how much heat you like)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups semisweet chocolate pieces
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl stir together flour, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon, and ground chile pepper. Set aside.

In a large bowl beat butter and margarine. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, and baking soda. Stir until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Add the flour mixture. Stir in chocolate pieces and almonds.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons about 3 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm.

Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool.

Makes about 4 dozen

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Cast members Betsy Morgan, Marie-France Arcilla, Jeremy Davis, Rusty Ross, Mike Sears, Eden Espinosa the final day in the rehearsal room. Rehearsal set in the background.

 

Sadie Thompson Brownies (now with more cherry!)

The Backstage Baker has gone Hollywood!  Well, sort of.  He’s in San Diego at the Old Globe Theater stage managing a new musical called Rain.  (Read more about it here.)

It seems only fitting, and just a little bit naughty, to share this recipe for Cherry Brownies, herewith renamed “Sadie Thompson Brownies,” that James served at his first Wine and Unwind for the cast and creatives of Rain at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.

Now Rain has had a long and storied history both onstage and on film.  Based on a scandalous 1921 short story written by Somerset Maugham about a prostitute named Sadie Thompson and the missionary who rapes her (okay, I’m taking gigantic liberties with the intricate plot)  it first premiered as a Broadway show in 1923 with Jeanne Eagels starring as Sadie Thompson. (Lee Strasberg called her Sadie “One of the great performances of my theater-going experience . . .  An inner, almost mystic flame engulfed Eagels and it seemed as if she had been brought up to some new dimension of being.”  This from the man known as the Father of Method Acting!)  In 1928, Gloria Swanson produced and starred in the silent picture version called Sadie Thompson.  Joan Crawford and Rita Hayworth also starred in later iterations of this story.

It’s a plum, er, a cherry of a role!

(For those of you who want to know, the wine was a Sangiovese with a hint of cherry.)

Sadie Thompson Brownies

Ingredients:

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees . Grease a 9 x13 inch pan and then dust with cocoa powder for extra chocolatey-ness. (You can use flour instead if you prefer.)

In a large bowl, stir together the cocoa and baking soda. Add 1/3 cup vegetable oil and boiling water. Mix until well blended and thickened. IT will get thick!  Stir in the sugar, eggs, and remaining 1/3 cup oil. Finally, add the flour, vanilla and salt; mix just until all of the flour is absorbed. Add the cherries. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Cherry Brownies1
The actor Tally Sessions who plays Alec MacPhail. Costume research in the background.

CherryBrownies2
The director Barry Edelstein

CherryBrownies3
The actress Betsy Morgan who plays Louisa MacPhail and the pan of disappearing brownies. She was recently in Michael John LaChiusa’s FIRST DAUGHTER SUITE at The Public.

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Associate Music Director Tim Splain, Actor Jeremy Davis who plays Jo, and book writer Sybille Pearson. Scenic ground plans on the back wall.

 

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Chai-spiced Zucchini Muffins

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Mmm!  James just started rehearsal for Cymbeline, the second show at the Delacorte Theater this summer.  You know, the Delacorte in Central Park where Joe Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park has put on outdoor summer shows for decades.   The Delacorte, where you can’t possibly get a ticket unless you win the lottery, hire someone to sleep online for you overnight, know someone, or donate a pile of dough to the Public.  But outdoor Shakespeare for the people is a lovely ideal . . .

Anyway, rehearsals just started and James fueled everyone up with the following healthy (ahem, zucchini, right?) chocolatey muffins.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Chai-spiced Zucchini Muffins

Ingredients:
3 eggs
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease or line two 12 cup muffin tins with paper liners.

2.  In a large bowl beat the eggs. Beat in the sugar and oil. Add the cocoa, vanilla, zucchini, chocolate cups and stir well.

3.  Stir in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom. Mix until just moist.

4.  Pour batter into prepared muffin tins filling 2/3 of the way full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack. Store loosely covered.

Brownie Batter-Stuffed Cupcakes with Fluffy Peanut Butter Icing

Brownie Stuffed Cupcakes 2
These were served at the Easter Sunday Wine and Unwind, hence the pink bunny rabbit.

These are so impossibly decadent that I will let the recipe speak for itself:

Brownie Batter-Stuffed Cupcakes

Ingredients:

For the brownie batter portion (to keep it simple, you can also use a boxed brownie mix):

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, stir together the cocoa and baking soda. Add vegetable oil and boiling water. Mix until well blended and thickened. Stir in the sugar, eggs, and remaining 1/3 cup oil. Finally, add the flour, vanilla and salt; mix just until all of the flour is absorbed.

Set aside (DO NOT BAKE YET!!)

For the cupcake portion:

1 (18.25 ounce) package chocolate cake mix (you could also use white or yellow)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/3 cups water
3 egg whites

Method:

1.  Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.  Using mini-muffin pans, line 48 muffin cups with paper liners.

2.  Mix the cake mix, 2 tablespoons canola oil, 1 1/3 cup water, and 3 egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Now there are two ways to proceed:

3.  For a chewier brownie interior, spoon the brownie batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each cup 1/3 full. Spoon the cake batter over the brownie batter, until muffin cups are each 2/3 full.

4.  For a more molten brownie interior, start by adding 1 tablespoon of cake batter to each paper lined cup, then your brownie batter then top with cake batter. This will make them easier to remove from the liner too.  (This was James’ preferred method.)

5.  Bake in the preheated oven until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 20 minutes.

Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons milk, or as needed
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Method:

Place the butter and peanut butter into a medium bowl, and beat with an electric mixer. Gradually mix in the sugar, and when it starts to get thick, incorporate milk one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is mixed in and the frosting is thick and spreadable. Beat for at least 3 minutes so it is nice and fluffy. James piped the icing on to the cooled cupcakes using his trusty pastry bag and a flower tip, and topped that with jellybeans.

Needless to say, they were a big hit with the Hamilton cast.

Stuffed cupcakes
I mean, really, what else is there to say?

Chocolate Swirl Mini-cheesecakes

Mini cheesecakes

I’m behind on my Wine and Unwind posts — this recipe is actually from two weeks ago.  But, oh my, was this ever a popular one!  Nothing hits the spot better after a five show weekend than cheesecake and champagne (thanks again, Anna Wintour, for the case of bubbly.)

I was only able to get a couple of pictures because JULIA ROBERTS was in the house that night and came backstage afterwards.  To say the green room was crowded was an understatement.  Oh, wait, is it tacky to name drop on a baking blog?

Chocolate Swirl Mini-Cheesecakes

(Based on a recipe from the King Arthur Flour website)

Ingredients:

Crust:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ice water
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, cold

Cheesecake filling:
8 ounces block-style cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream OR sour cream
1 large egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted

Method:

1) For the crust: Preheat oven to 425°F.  Add flour, almond flour, sugar, and salt to a food processor. Pulse twice. Pulse in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Do not over process. Sprinkle in the vanilla and a teaspoon or two of water if the dough is too crumbly to hold together when squeezed.

2) Divide the crumbs among the 12 cups of a bite-size cheesecake pan. Press them firmly to the bottoms and about 1/2″ up the sides. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until set and just beginning to color. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

3) For the batter: In a medium-sized bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the cream, egg and almond extract, mix well. Spoon the batter into the cooled crusts, using about 2 tablespoons in each. Top with a scant half teaspoon of melted chocolate. Use a toothpick to swirl it into the batter.

4) Bake the cheesecakes for 18 to 20 minutes, until just set. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes — the tops will sink slightly. Use a knife to gently loosen the edges, then carefully invert the pan and push the cheesecakes out. Immediately turn the cheesecakes right-side up and chill them. To remove the metal plates before serving, run the blade of a table knife under hot water to warm it, then run the knife between the crust and the metal disk to free up the cheesecake.

5) Serve with whipped cream if desired.

mini cheesecakes 2

 

Yield: 12 mini cheesecakes.