Archive for the ‘Chocolate’ Category

mmmmmm….Baci di dama. These are one of my absolute favorite cookies! They are little hazelnut cookies sandwiched together with a layer of chocolate, in this case chocolate hazelnut spread made by Shawn Askinosie (a favorite chocolate maker of mine.) I had a jar of Shawn’s ‘Hey Hey Hazelnut’ spread that Margot, the ‘chocolate lady’ at Zingerman’s Delicatessen, gave me to play around with. I had been mulling over some ideas when, one of my friends mentioned that she had a recipe for baci di dama! That was all I needed to hear, I decided to make a batch to share with everyone on my last day at the deli.

The recipe that I used originally came from Massimiliano Campanari, now the head chef at Circo in the Bellagio. I left the butter out to soften, when I returned, it was quite soft. (The kitchen was particularly warm when I was making these cookies.) I creamed together the butter and sugar. The recipe had me sifting together flour and hazelnut flour together, I skipped this step because the bag of hazelnut meal/flour I used was a little to course so make it through the sieve. I also added a tiny pinch of sea salt.

I gently mixed the dry ingredients in with the butter and sugar and rolled them into little balls. Now, when I say rolled it was more like gently molded, the butter was too soft to hold the dough together when I tried to roll little balls. (Because of this, the balls were a little larger than I would have liked.)

I pressed them down a little on the cookie sheets and baked them for about 15 minutes, flipping them midway.

When the cookies had cooled, I spread a layer of the chocolate hazelnut spread on top using the back of a spoon, stacked them in a little box, and put them in the fridge overnight so they wouldn’t melt.

I pulled them out of the fridge about 20 minutes before serving them to take the chill off. They were really tasty! When I got back to Iowa on Monday and saw several jars of ‘Hey Hey’ on the shelf at my mom’s store I was thrilled! I can’t wait to make them again, maybe with a finer hazelnut flour?!

Baci di dama:

225g butter
250g sugar
250g 00 flour (I used pastry flour)
250g hazelnut flour

I added a pinch of salt

Cream butter & sugar. Add sifted dry ingredients, do not overmix.  Roll into small balls & plop them onto a silpat to flatten them slightly
Bake at 325F for 10 minutes, turning halfway through. When the cookies are cool, sandwich with hazelnut-chocolate spread.

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For the frosting, we made an Italian meringue. We had thought about making an Italian buttercream but, after a practice run, decided we liked the frosting better before we added the butter. An Italian meringue is really simple to make, though, on such a large-scale and with a hand mixer, it did take a while. I started by making a simple syrup that we heated until the soft ball stage. While the syrup was heating, I separated and beat the egg whites. When the whites were nice and frothy, I added some cream of tartar (to help stabilize the eggs.)

I continued beating the egg whites until they were pillowy.

At this point, I slowly added the hot simple syrup to the fluffy whites and continued beating them until they had cooled completely and they were nice and glossy.

Time to assemble the layers!

We placed the bottom half of the layers on their boards with bits of paper lining the edges for easy clean-up. We started with a layer of raspberry jam and a sprinkling of cocoa nibs (we didn’t put any nibs on the vanilla layer.)

Then a layer of the sour cream pastry cream…

Each layer was topped with rows of fresh raspberries.

The layers were then covered with their respective tops…

…and frosted with the chilled meringue.

After frosting all three layers, we measured dowels and placed several of them in the bottom and middle layers for support. Then we carefully stacked the cakes onto their posts and measured and sharpened one final dowel to act as the support for all three layers.

We put the cake in the fridge and made a little bit of colored frosting for decoration. There was a small gap between the layers so we hid it with meringue and raspberries. (We would have put the meringue and raspberries on for decoration anyways.)

We topped it off with a couple of daylilies.

Birds eye…

Rebekah and David, cutting the cake…

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Last September, Sarah and I picked a lot of red raspberries and made them into jam.

We saved a couple of jars to use for the wedding cake.

We made a simple vanilla pastry cream..

..the we lightened with some sour cream.

And since it was the beginning of raspberry season, we couldn’t leave out fresh raspberries.

With all of the fillings ready, we were ready for the frosting and the assembly.

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My good friend Sarah’s, little sister just got married. Sarah and I  were in charge of making the cake. We do a lot of baking but neither of us had ever made a tiered cake before, let alone one for 100 people. We planned on doing a lot of practice, and we did but it was more like a cake here, some frosting there, and a little filling on the side. No fully assembled mock-up cakes before the big day. We did  get all of our materials and ingredients in advance so we were ready when it was time to bake the layers. The wedding was Thursday evening so we baked the layers Wednesday night and made the fillings and assembled it on Thursday.

We started with the bottom layer, a 16 in square chocolate cake. The recipe that we were working off of was for 2, 9″ rounds so we doubled the recipe. It is always a good idea to start by preheating the oven and preparing the pans (grease and dust with flour for white cakes or cocoa powder for chocolate cake.)

Sarah mixed the wet ingredients together

while I mixed the dry ones.

Our lovely assistant and photographer, Monica, melted the chocolate. (We cooled the hot melted chocolate in a cold water bath so that it wouldn’t cook the eggs.)

We added the chocolate and a little lemon zest to the batter after we had combined the wet and dry ingredients.

We poured the batter into the pan and smoothed it out with an offset spatula, it was ready to go into the oven!

We opened the oven an slid the cake in only to discover that the oven wasn’t deep enough! Needless to say, Sarah and I freaked out! Luckily her sister had her head on straight and suggested we take it down the street to her grandparent’s and see if it fit in their over. We covered the cake in big sheets of butcher paper, to protect it from the rain, and took it down the street. With our fingers crossed, we slid it in the oven and it was just deep enough! While it was cooking we made the top-tier, which was also chocolate, though only an 8″ square, and then moved on to the middle tier which was a vanilla cake.

We finished baking the 3 layers and went to bed. When we woke up in the morning we decided to whip up one more layer to give the bottom tier some extra height. Then it was off to the event hall to make the fillings and get ready for the wedding.

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When I was in Modena a couple of years ago, Erika taught me how to make an amazing cake. It is called Torta agli Amaretti e Cioccolato, or Chocolate and Amaretti Cake. I haven’t been able to make it since because I can’t two very important ingredients, sassolino and amaretti (little crunchy cookies made with apricot pits.) Lucky for me, Erika brought me everything I needed so I made one!

The dry ingredients are measured by weight so I put a mixing bowl on my scale and added them one by one. Starting with crushed amaretti, followed by breadcrumbs, sugar, and shaved dark chocolate…

After mixing it together, I added some eggs, milk with baking powder in it and mixed it again.

The next and final addition is cocoa powder which is added until “it is as dark as you like” – I like my cake dark.

While it was baking, the aroma of melting chocolate, amaretti, and sassolino filled my apartment. I stepped outside for a moment and could smell it wafting out my kitchen window.

Here is a picture of the cake before it was devoured…

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