Scrumptious chocolate treats

February 1, 2008 6:45:28 PM PST
Author Greg Patent brings us scrumptious chocolate treats.

Greg Patent gave us an Australian chocolate treat! He is the author of A Baker's Odyssey: Celebrating Time-Honored Recipes From America's Rich Immigrant Heritage.

Greg's book is available at most book stores or at your favorite online book store. Wiley Publishing, $34.95.
www.amazon.com

About Greg Patent:
Greg Patent, a Master Baker and the 2002 James Beard Award winner for "Baking in America", is the child of immigrants, a Russian Father and Iraqi mother who met and married in Shanghai. He became an immigrant in his own right when his family moved from China to San Francisco in 1950. The recipes he shares are the ones he remembers his mother, Granny, and Baba making while growing up.

Recipe:

Lamingtons
(From Australia)
Makes 24 individual cakes

About this treat:
Lamingtons are to Australians what chocolate cupcakes are to Americans. They are squares of yellow butter cake dipped into a chocolate sauce and coated with unsweetened coconut.

Elizabeth Germaine's cooking students in Melbourne adored them, and she loved making them; she now makes Lamingtons regularly in the United States. "They're so simple, yet sophisticated in their own way, and so much fun to eat," she says. The success of a Lamington largely depends on the quality of the cake. It must be a firm-textured butter cake with a fine crumb, which is exactly what you'll get with the recipe below. For best results, it should be made a day ahead.

The dessert is named for Baroness Lamington, the wife of an early-twentieth-century political official in Australia. Lamingtons are a national favorite, sold at almost every bake sale in Australia and practically every bakery. Kids love eating them out of hand, but you can serve them at a tea party with knife and fork. A scoop of vanilla ice cream goes very well with a Lamington.

Shredded unsweetened coconut is available in many supermarkets and in health food stores or by mail order. If you prefer, make the variation using macadamia nuts instead of coconut.

    Cake
    1? cups bleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    12 tablespoons (1? sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
    1? cups granulated sugar
    1? teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    3 large eggs
    1 cup whole milk
    Chocolate sauce
    4 cups confectioners' sugar
    ? cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    4 tablespoons (? stick) salted butter, melted
    2/3 cup boiling water
    3 to 4 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

    Method:
    To make the cake, adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350?F. Grease a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan, dust it with flour, and knock out the excess flour.

    Whisk the flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl.

    Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add ? cup of the sugar and the vanilla and beat for 30 seconds. While beating, gradually add the remaining 1? cups sugar. Scrape the bowl and beater, then beat for 5 minutes on medium-high speed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and beating only until smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

    Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and pulls away slightly from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then cover the cake pan with a wire rack and invert the two. Remove the pan, cover the cake with another rack, and invert the cake again to cool completely right side up.

    Drape the cake loosely with a kitchen towel and leave at room temperature overnight.

    With a sharp serrated knife, trim the crusts from the sides of the cake. Cut the cake into 24 squares.

    To make the chocolate sauce, in a medium metal bowl whisk together the confectioners' sugar, cocoa, butter, and boiling water until smooth. Set the bowl into a pan of very hot water to keep the sauce fluid. Spread the coconut in a shallow dish or pie plate. Drop a piece of cake into the chocolate sauce and use two long-tined forks to turn the cake quickly in the sauce to coat all surfaces. Lift the cake out of the sauce, letting excess sauce drip back into the bowl, and transfer the cake to the bowl of coconut. Use your fingers to sprinkle the cake with coconut, rolling it around to coat all surfaces well. Remove the cake from the coconut and set it on a wire cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining cake. Leave the cakes on the wire racks to dry for 1 to 2 hours before serving.

    Storing: Lamingtons keep well for 3 to 4 days, stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

    Variation: For utter extravagance, and for Lamingtons with a completely different quality, you can substitute about 1 pound salted or unsalted macadamia nuts (which originated in Australia), finely chopped, for the coconut.

Roman Chocolate Cookies
(From Italy)
Makes 36 cookies

    About these cookies:
    These scrumptious not-too-sweet chocolate walnut balls, spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice, are an annual Christmas treat in Catherine Cavallaro Goodman's family. She learned how to make the cookies from her Aunt Marie, and over the years Catherine has modified the recipe slightly. The most recent change is the addition of chocolate chips to the dough, a tip of her hat to chocolate lovers in her family. Catherine says you could add chopped dried cherries (definitely American) or finely iced citron instead of the chocolate.

    Dough:
    2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    ? cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
    2? teaspoons baking powder
    ? teaspoon salt
    ? teaspoon ground cinnamon
    ? teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    ? teaspoon ground allspice
    2 large eggs
    ? cup granulated sugar
    ? cup extra-virgin olive oil
    ? cup whole milk
    2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    ? cup walnuts, chopped medium-fine
    1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

    Icing:
    1? cups confectioners' sugar
    1? tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2 tablespoons whole milk, plus more if needed
    ? teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    Colored or chocolate sprinkles

    Method:
    To Make The Dough: In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

    In Another Medium Bowl: beat the eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute, until frothy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until the eggs thicken slightly and become very pale in color, 2 to 3 minutes more. While beating, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. On low speed, beat in the milk and vanilla extract. With a wooden spoon, add the flour mixture in 2 installments, stirring until smooth after each. Stir in the walnuts and chocolate chips. The dough will be soft and slightly sticky. Cover the bowl loosely with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

    Adjust An Oven Rack: to the center position and preheat the oven to 350?F. Line two heavy 17 x 14-inch cookie sheets with silicone baking pan liners or cooking parchment.

    To Shape The Cookies: roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough between your palms into smooth balls measuring about 1 inch in diameter. (The oil in the dough will keep the dough from sticking to your hands.) Set the balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared sheets, 18 cookies to a sheet.

    Bake One Sheet At A Time: until the cookies smell fragrant and their tops feel dry and have numerous cracks, 10 to 12 minutes; they will almost double in size. Do not overbake-the cookies should be tender, not dry. Cool the cookies on the cookie sheets for 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer them with a wide metal spatula to wire cooling racks to cool completely.

    To Make The Icing: in a small bowl combine the confectioners' sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla extract and beat with a hand-held electric mixer until smooth and thick, the consistency of heavy cream. If necessary, beat in more milk by droplets.

    Set The Racks: of cooled cookies over waxed paper. One at a time, dip the tops of 5 or 6 cookies in the icing, then set them upright on the cooling rack and dust them immediately with colored sprinkles or chocolate jimmies. Repeat with the remaining cookies. (Reuse any sprinkles that fall on the waxed paper.)

    Storing: Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days. To freeze, place the cookies on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet and freeze until solid, then transfer to heavy-duty resealable plastic bags and freeze for up to 2 weeks. Thaw the cookies completely in their wrapping.


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