Tag Archives: Chocolate

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 Red Wine Cake


Chocolate Red Wine Cake

 Chocolate. Red wine.  What else do you need?

James celebrated his first Wine and Unwind with the cast of Cymbelinecombining the Wine and the Unwind in one cake.  (I’m sure, however, that there was some wine served separately, but the efficiency of this appeals to the stage manager in me.)

He tells me “This a not too sweet cake that goes great with vanilla ice cream or gelato, based on a recipe from Anne Willan’s 2001 book Cooking with Wine. There is just enough wine to give it a wonderful flavor!”

I know I like chocolate, and I like red wine, and I like both together.  So how can this cake go wrong?

Chocolate Red Wine Cake

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)* plus some for dusting.
1 1/4 teaspoons  baking soda
1/2 teaspoon  salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups  sugar
2  large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons  pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups  dry red wine
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Whipped cream or ice cream for serving

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and dust a 12-cup Bundt pan with powdered cocoa. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

2.  In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat for 2 minutes longer. Working in two batches, alternately fold in the dry ingredients and the wine, until just incorporated.

3.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack; let cool completely. Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Kate Burton Queen and Belarius
Kate Burton, who plays the Queen and Belarius, unwinding

Patrick Page who plays the title role Cymbeline and Raul Esparza who play Iachimo

Patrick Page, who plays Cymbeline, and Raul Esparza, who plays Iachimo, taking their wining and unwinding very seriously.

*What is Dutch process cocoa?  What is non-Dutch process cocoa?  And why does it matter? 

Non-Dutch process is simply natural cocoa powder:  the dry, solid remains of fermented, dried and roasted cacao beans that have been ground into a fine powder.  It is slightly acidic with, if you’re a complete nerd, a PH between 5-6.

Dutch process, on the other hand, is natural cocoa powder that has been washed with a potassium carbonate solution to alkalize it slightly.

Who cares, right?  And what difference does it make to my cake?

Well, successful baking is more than a little bit of a science.  In order for cakes to rise properly, you need the proper balance of acid and alkaline in your batter.  If, as in this recipe, you’re only using baking soda to make your cake rise, then you want the slightly acidic natural cocoa because baking soda is alkalizing (it’s why you take a teaspoonful in water if you suffer from acid indigestion.)

Anyway, long story short, you really can use either kind of cocoa no matter what, but to make the ideal version of whatever you’re baking, stick to what the recipe says.  

Chocolate Macaroon Tart

IMG_2326

It’s Wine and Unwind time!  Now that “Hamilton” is up and running and only rehearsing 12 hours a week (in addition to an eight-show a week performance schedule) James has time to bake again.  Ahem.

Anyway, this tart was so popular that I barely had time to snap a few pictures before it was gone gone gone.  (I did manage to score a tiny slice and it was velvety smooth and delectable.  Good thing everyone else devoured it too, or else.)

It’s also gluten-free, so you can serve it to just about anyone.  A useful recipe to have in your repertoire in this day and age, no?

Chocolate Macaroon Tart

Ingredients:
10  ounce(s) (soft ) coconut macaroon cookies
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
1  navel orange, for garnish

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Using a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom, spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2.  In food processor with knife blade attached, pulse macaroons until fine crumbs form. Pour crumbs into prepared pan and press crumbs onto bottom and up side of pan. Bake crust 10 minutes or until golden-brown; cool completely on wire rack (about 30 minutes).

3.  In 1-quart saucepan, heat 3/4 cup cream to boiling on medium. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; with wire whisk, whisk until melted and smooth. Stir in liqueur and vanilla. Pour chocolate mixture into tart shell. Refrigerate 2 hours or until set.

4.  When ready to serve, in small bowl, combine sugar and remaining cream. With electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream until soft peaks form.

For extra credit:
With vegetable peeler, from orange, remove strips of peel measuring approximately 3″ by 1/2″. With paring knife, scrape off and discard white pith from peel; very thinly slice peel lengthwise. One at a time, wrap each strip around chopstick or pencil and hold 10 to 15 seconds or until curled. Garnish tart with whipped cream and citrus curls.

IMG_2328Lin-Manuel Miranda taking his tart very seriously.

IMG_2327Sidney Harcourt, a member of the Hamilton ensemble, digging in.

IMG_2325The glamor of theater!  Thanks Anna Wintour for the Veuve Cliquot!!

 

Valentine’s Day Cookies — Reprise

vday cookies

First, a Hamilton update:

They’ve extended the run at the Public a third time (or is the fourth?) to May 3, and even before it’s opened, the show is the talk of the town.  Check out last Sunday’s NY Times article in the Arts and Leisure section.  If you still remember hard copy newspapers, this article was on the first page of the section and above the fold, which is a big deal in theater press agent land:

Above the fold

And since I’m on the topic, check out this New Yorker cartoon  (you know you’ve made it when the New Yorker mentions you in a cartoon!!):

 

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But now for the cookies:  I blogged this recipe back in February of 2013, and I’ve been making these treats for years, ever since James shared the recipe with me.  James tells me he too is making a batch of these for Valentine’s Day this year, so I figured I might as well re-blog it for the holiday.  (James, I must mention, has these nifty little cookie presses that put the words in his cookies.  No idea where he got them from (Sur la Table?  Broadway Panhandler?) and I have never seen them anywhere, but I love them!)

With a recipe this simple, using the best quality ingredients you can find/afford really makes a difference.  For example, I like to use Kerrygold Irish Butter, 100% pure vanilla extract, Ghirardelli baking cocoa, and Nestle’s chips.  But don’t let this list deter you from making these cookies — it’s always better to choose to bake no matter what ingredients you have on hand!  (And, full disclosure, I never have all those ingredients on hand anyway.  Someday, though, I will.  And the cookie presses!)

Valentine’s Day Cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup butter softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1 cup vanilla chips
2 Tablespoons shortening
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Method:

1.            Cream butter and sugar, beat in vanilla.  Combine flour and cocoa in a separate bowl and gradually add to creamed mixture.

2.            On lightly floured surface roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with heart cookie cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

3.            For icing, melt vanilla chips and 1 tablespoon of shortening.  (I do this in the microwave in short, 10 second bursts, stirring between each zap.)  Dip both end of cookies into melted mixture. Heat chocolate chips and remaining shortening and drizzle over dipped cookies.  (I find the best way to drizzle is to scrape the slightly cooled, melted chocolate into a zip top bag, seal it, snip off a tiny corner and squeeze.)

Breakaways — Not (Breaking) Bad at All!

breakaways1

“All the Way” is almost two weeks into the preview part of putting together a Broadway show, having begun its previews on February 11. James always says that previews are often harder than technical rehearsals.  During tech, the hours are long but you go through the show in order from beginning to end. During previews, you are onstage with sets and lights, and these rehearsals jump throughout the show to focus on the problem parts, so cast and crew are kept on their toes.   They are in for almost-daily rehearsals from 12:30pm – 5:30pm, then crew and stage managers are called at 6:30pm for an 8:00pm show,  then the production staff and stage managers finish the evening with a production meeting. Stage managers are in for more than 12 hours a day.

It rather goes without saying that James did not have the luxury of baking something too elaborate or time-consuming for their first Wine and Unwind at the theater.   So, he turned to a tried and true PTA bake sale recipe I’d sent him a while ago, adding his own distinctive fillip with chopped almonds and flaked sea salt on top of the chocolate. They were a hit with the wine. (James also thought they were appropriate since “All the Way” stars Bryan Cranston,  star of the TV series “BREAKING BAD”!)

Salty Chocolate Breakaways

Ingredients:
1 sleeve Saltine crackers
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 bag Nestle’s chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon Flaked Sea Salk
1/4 finely chopped almonds

Method:
1.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, then place Saltine crackers on foil.
Melt butter in microwave, then add sugar to butter and stir. Evenly spread the butter and sugar mixture on crackers and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 20 minutes.

2.  Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over entire cookie sheet. Return it to the oven just long enough to melt the morsels.

3.  Remove from oven and spread chocolate evenly. Sprinkle on salt and almonds and then place in refrigerator to cool. When cool, peel back the foil and break into pieces.

breakaways5

Who knew that a Cotes du Ventoux would pair so beautifully with saltines, butter, sugar and chocolate?

breakaways3

Production Stage Manager Matthew Farrell, Production Assistant Sarah Perlin, Cast Member Robert Petkoff, Follow Spot Operator John Kelly.

Red Wine Brownies

Red Wine Brownie1Yup, you read that right — RED WINE in your Brownies.  How’s that for multi-tasking??

Sadly, the Time to Kill cast needed a lot of red wine last Sunday as their closing notice went up the following Tuesday.  So, if you haven’t had a chance to see the show, hurry on down because their last performance will be Sunday, November 17.

Anyone who’s in theater knows full well that it’s call “Show Business”, not “Show Art”  or “Show The Audiences Love it.”  Nope, it’s a business, pure and simple, and if the people aren’t buying tickets, the show can’t be sustained.  Sigh.  It’s always such a shame to see all that hard work end so abruptly but those are the breaks, folks.  No doubt everyone, our Backstage Baker included, will be quickly moving on to other projects.  Let’s send them all our very best mojo!

Now, on to the red wine brownie recipe:

Red Wine Brownies

Ingredients:

5 oz. unsweetened chocolate , melted
(or 1 cup cocoa + 4 tbs oil)
1-1/2 stick butter (3/4 cup)
1 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. superfine sugar
2 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 bottle (23.5 oz) dark red wine (zin/syrah/merlot/etc)
1/4 cup brandy

Method:

1.  In a saucepan, combine wine and 1/2 cup sugar. Stir to dissolve and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup. Let cool.

2.  Preheat oven to 350.  Combine cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl. 

3.  Stir together chocolate and butter. When chocolate mixture is smooth, whisk in remaining sugar, then eggs one at a time. Fold into flour mixture until loosely combined.

4.  Fold in wine syrup and stir until most lumps have disappeared.

5.  Pour into 9×13″ greased and floured brownie pan.

6.  Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Better undercooked than overcooked.)  When cool, combine superfine sugar with brandy and brush over brownies. 

7.  I then drizzled melted white chocolate over the top for a dramatic effect.  (Of course you did, James!  Because red wine and chocolate simply wasn’t enough!!)

IN A HURRY? Cheat. Use Brownie Mix, but add a cup of good dark chocolate chips or chunks or shavings, replace the water with the red wine syrup, and replace the vegetable oil with good old fashioned butter.

Wine and Unwind: Chocolate Walnut Tart

5.26 W&UW3James’ Chocolate Walnut Tart — only one left!

The Master Builder only has a few more performances at BAM (it closes on June 9, so get your tickets NOW!)  It’s gotten great reviews, so try not to miss this one.

At last Sunday’s Wine and Unwind, James treated the cast to his legendary Chocolate Walnut Tart.  It’s delicious and actually pretty easy to make.  Eddie, the house prop man, supplied a delicious Brunella to share, and more bottles just showed up as well.  Everyone unwound just fine!

Next week, James moves on to PSM the workshop of Spongebob Squarepants:  The Musical.  Can’t wait to see what he makes for THAT Wine and Unwind!

James Latus’ Chocolate Walnut Tart

Ingredients:

Pastry for single pie crust (see recipe below)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 eggs
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Press pastry dough into bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom.

2.  Sprinkle walnuts and chocolate chips over crust

3.  In small bowl combine, eggs, corn syrup, brown sugar, butter and vanilla. Pour into crust.

4.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until top is bubbly and crust is golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Refrigerate leftovers.

James’ French Pastry Crust recipe
(makes two pie crusts)

Ingredients:

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons white sugar
1 cup shortening
1 egg
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
5 Tablespoons ice water

Method:

1.  Combine flour, salt and sugar, cut in shortening until it resembles course meal

2.  Combine egg, vinegar and 4 Tablespoons of water. Whisk together, add to flour stirring with fork until it forms a ball. Add additional Tablespoon of water only if needed

3.  Allow dough to rest 10 minutes in refrigerator before rolling out.

James notes that because Wine and Unwind has gotten so popular with this cast, he had to make TWO tarts!!  Hence the double pastry crust recipe.  

5.26 W&UW

James hosting the event

5.25 W&UW6

John Tuturro and Andrei Belgrader

5.26 W&UW8

Cast members Max Gordon Moore and Julian Gamble