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.

 

Advertisements

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 . . .

Apples LeRoy

apples-leroy

The Backstage Baker made this apple sheet cake for the company of Plenty.    Cast member LeRoy McClain (who plays Mick) really, really liked it, so it was unanimously decided to name the dessert Apples LeRoy. (And that’s pronounced Apples LE-Roy, not Apples Leeroy!) The recipe originally came from the Better Homes & Gardens website, but our Backstage Baker did some fiddling with it to make it even tastier.

Here’s a very happy LeRoy with the (almost) empty pan.

leroy-with-whats-left-of-his-cake

I had the opportunity to chat with LeRoy who, it turns out, is quite an accomplished baker himself.  A native of Cambridgeshire, England, he shares a lot of the same holiday baking memories that I have — mincemeat pies, Christmas cake, lemon curd tart . . .   But he’s also mastered new delights, such as French Vanilla Pineapple Upside Down cake (“Oh, I bring this one to all the Thanksgiving dinners I get invited to — it’s obviously not a holiday I celebrated as a child.”  Hmm, what are you doing for Thanksgiving this year, LeRoy?)  He’s promised to share a recipe for the blog – -perhaps his Caramel Apple Candied Pecan cake or his Raspberry Streusel Crunch Cake.  So stay tuned!

Apples LeRoy

Ingredients:
2 medium baking apples
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 2/3 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup apple sauce
2 eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried apples, finely chopped

Maple Icing:
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside.

2. Peel, core, and coarsely shred one of the apples. Thinly slice remaining apple, removing seeds; cover and set apples aside.

3. In a large bowl whisk together the butter, brown sugar, apple butter, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; whisk until combined. Fold in dried and fresh shredded apple. Spread batter into prepared pan. Arrange apple slices over batter.

4. Bake about 40 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack. Spoon Maple Icing over hot cake; spread evenly, using a pastry brush if necessary. Cool completely. Dust with ground cinnamon.

for Maple Icing:

In a small bowl stir together 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 tablespoon milk until smooth.

Golden Syrup Cake

emily-bergl
Emily Bergl and her cake

Ah, Golden Syrup!  Also known as “light treacle,” it’s a British thing.  Thick, sweet and (duh!) syrupy, it has the same color and consistency as honey, but is made from cane sugar.  So it’s basically just melted sugar.  100% sugar. Sweet, pure, delicious sugar.  And doesn’t the name Golden Syrup sound delightful and kind of magical?

My mother is of British extraction — well, she’s from New Zealand, which was a British colony back in the day — so we always had a can of Lyle’s Golden Syrup slowly crusting up in the back of a cupboard.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-2-02-10-pm

I loved this stuff — I think my Mum grudgingly allowed me to use it as an oatmeal topping, but only on special occasions!  Because, you know, she grew up when sugar was rationed, so  . . .

This recipe below is from Emily Bergl, currently appearing in Plenty at the Public Theater.  (She found this recipe on a BBC site called Good Food.)  I’ve adapted it to American measurements.  (I hope I did the math right!)

golden-syrup-cake

Golden Syrup Cake
Ingredients:
1 cup butter (that’s two sticks)
1 cup sugar (light brown adds depth but white is fine
1 1/3 Golden Syrup
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 Large Eggs
1 1/4 cups milk *
4 tbsp Golden Syrup

Notes:
— You’ll need a 10″ springform pan for this cake.

*Emily substituted coconut milk

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 140C/fan (or 160/C – gas mark 3). Grease the tin and line the base with baking (parchment) paper, leaving a little to cover the bottom corners and sides. Press into place.
  2. Place butter, syrup and sugar into a large pan and heat gently until the ingredients are just melted together, stirring occassionally. Leave to cool for 10 minutes – it helps if you place the pan away from the hob during this time since it will remain warm.(Oh, the hob!! The hob!!  It’s like we’re sitting down to tea with Mr. Tumnis in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!)
  3. Beat the eggs with the milk. Add the flour and milk/egg mixture to the cooled syrup mixture in the pan and beat steadily with a wooden spoon until all the lumps have gone. This may take a few minutes, so you will need a little patience. Pour the mixture into the tin.
  4. Bake for around 50 minutes. The cake will be well-risen and springy, but still very moist. After a few minutes cooling time, pierce the cake all over with a skewer and spoon the extra golden syrup over the top. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
  5. This cake keeps for a week and only improves with time.  It’s a real treat and a cake you will be asked to make again and again.

Chicken with Apple-Vegetable Slaw Stir-Fry

Two posts in one day!  It’s unheard of in the history of the Backstage Baker blog.  But here’s a real food recipe the Backstage Baker made to carry him through a busy week of rehearsals.  So many people asked for the recipe that I just had to post it here right away (and make it myself!)  Please to enjoy.

Chicken with Apple-Vegetable Slaw Stir-Fry
Ingredients
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cups sliced fresh Cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup sliced shallots
3 cups coarsley shredded green cabbage
8 ounces fresh asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium tart apple, cored and thinly sliced
Snipped fresh cilantro

Method:

For the sauce, stir together the first eight ingredients (through salt) in a bowl. Set aside.

In a wok or very large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook and stir 4 to 6 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Transfer to a bowl.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in skillet. Add mushrooms and shallots; cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes. Add cabbage. asparagus, and apple; cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes more or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Push vegetables from center of wok. Stir sauce; pour into wok. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Return chicken to wok. Cook and stir 1 minute more. Sprinkle with cilantro.  It’s delicious the next day too!

 

Mini Raspberry Cheesecakes

The Backstage Baker’s new show is a revival of the award-winning David Hare play Plenty.  Check it out here.   It stars Rachel Weisz and I think is already completely sold out.

For their first Wine and Unwind, our BB outdid himself with these gorgeous looking mini cheesecakes.  I mean, can you stand them?  And can you eat just one???  (There’s a joke about plenty in here that I can’t quite find . . .)

mini-raspberry-cheesecakes

Before you start, you need to get a mini-cheesecake pan with removable bottom sections.  (OMG, more kitchenware??  Yet . . . these little darlings sure look worth it!) Here’s a link to the one the Backstage Baker uses.   

Mini Raspberry Cheesecakes

Ingredients

1 cup crushed Chocolate wafers or ginger snaps or whatever crisp cookie you are in the mood for
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
24 fresh raspberries
Chocolate chips (white or dark, depending your taste)
2 ounces dark chocolate, melted, for drizzling

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease mini-cheesecake pan.  Stuff 12 raspberries with dark or white chocolate chips.  (James tells me he was able to get two chips into each raspberry.)

Place a heaping teaspoon (more or less, depending on how much you like crust) in each cheesecake well. Tamp down with fingers or a teaspoon. Place in the oven for 3 minutes. Let cool.

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until well mixed. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla; beat until light and fluffy.

Fill cheesecake wells half-full, them place one raspberry stuffed with chocolate on top. Cover with the rest of the batter. Bake for 13-15 minutes. Cool completely.

Gently push each cheesecake out of its well from the bottom. With a thin spatula, remove each cheesecake from the bottom plate and place on parchment paper or lightly greased tinfoil. Drizzle with melted chocolate and place a raspberry in the center.  Heaven!

corey-stoll-who-plays-brock-jesca-prudencio-assistant-director-and-maria-goyanes-associate-producer
Corey Stoll who plays Brock, Jesca Prudencio – Assistant Director and Maria Goyanes – Associate Producer wining and unwinding

emily-bergl
Emily Bergl who plays Alice and her contribution a delicious Golden Syrup cake. (Notice the colorful pile of spike tape on the table in the back!!!) I’ll ask her is she will share the recipe.