Birthday Cake…(one of) my guilty pleasures

Do you ever have a craving that just will not go away? Is there something that you crave and you eat, but after a few days or weeks there is that little voice in the back of your head screaming ever so lightly? For me, its chocolate cake (and chocolate chip cookies but that’s another story).

So a couple of weeks ago my whole family got together to celebrate my sister and mother’s birthdays (they are only born 2 days apart!). I got a text requesting a chocolate cake and my first thoughts were :HELL YEA.

Being a pastry chef I have to admit that most sweets don’t make me super excited, I am the type of person that adds extra salt to my cookie recipes or douse my carrots and cucumbers with soy sauce and lime (don’t judge its delicious).  But there is something about chocolate cake that just makes me crazy. Have you ever seen the movie Matilda? Remember the scene with the chocolate cake? Mouth-watering…..

Anyway, back to the birthday cake that I made, I spent a good amount of time looking through my recipe collections and finally decided on using David Lebovitz’s Devil’s Food Cake recipe. I love this cake; its moist, chocolatey and not too sweet. I gave it my own twist by adding a raspberry ganache (simply fold in about 1/4 to 1/2 raspberry jam into some of the ganache from the recipe) between the two layers. Yum! The result: A beautiful, juicy, heavenly cake…But now that its been a couple weeks, and the craving is slowly starting to return….

Chocolate-Sunflower Shortbread Cookies

Ok, so now that I have had my come-to Jesus moment with home baking, I am ready to start having some fun! This week I helped out a family friend with a Seed Freedom Awareness Lecture,I was asked to bring some baked treats for the working group meeting and decided what better to bring than something with seeds! I had some sunflower seeds lying around and decided to make some chocolate shortbread cookies with the toasted seeds.

I discovered the wonders of shortbread about 2 years ago when my chef at the time asked me to make her a batch of pistachio shortbread. I’ve had shortbread before, but never any that was worth writing home about. The recipe she gave me though, was so incredibly mouth-watering that I became a devout shortbread fan. What I love about shortbread is that you can really play around with flavors and textures. You can add nuts, fruits, seeds, chocolate, the list goes on. It also doesn’t contain any eggs, so the dough has a pretty long shelf life and actually freezes quite beautifully. I adapted her recipe for the cookies that I brought on Monday, by omitting the pistachio paste and nuts, and instead added  Valrhona Cocoa Powder, and of course the toasted sunflower seeds. Feel free to play around with this dough by adding whatever you are in the mood for!

Chocolate-Sunflower Shortbread Cookies:

210 grams flour

40 grams good quality cocoa powder

240  grams butter, very soft

4 grams sea salt

60 grams toasted sunflower seeds

75 grams powdered sugar

-In a standing mixer, cream the butter and the powdered sugar until just combined. Add flour, cocoa powder, salt, and seeds. Mix until just combined.

-Remove from mixer, cut 2 large squares of parchment paper. Using your hands divide the dough into two equal parts. Roll the dough into 2  uniform logs. Place the logs onto the parchment paper and carefully, but tightly, roll up the dough into the parchment. Refrigerate for twenty minutes. Preheat oven to 330 degrees farenheit.

-Remove dough from refrigerator. Cut uniform discs, and place onto baking tray. Bake for about 15 minutes or until they are firm to the touch. Chocolate dough can be tricky so this is a good way to practice telling doneness by touch and sight! Make sure your oven is accurate and you keep a close eye on the cookies.

Tcho: So Hot Right Now

I don’t know if any of you have had the pleasure of tasting Tcho Chocolate. Whatever you are doing, stop right now, go to the Tcho website, and do yourself a favor by ordering some chocolate.

Tcho is an American owned company located in San Fransisco who produce some of the most innovative chocolate products today. They are really focused on providing a clean and pure chocolate flavor by doing extensive research and development.

According to the website, “Extraordinary is re-imagining what it means to taste chocolate, as represented by our dark and milk Flavor Wheels. Because chocolate isn’t just one flavor, savoring chocolate is a journey for your intellect and emotions, as well as your senses.” (Tcho.Com)

One of the things I love about their chocolate is that you can taste the richness and the “terroir” of the cocoa beans that they use (all fair-trade of course). In the “fruity”, which is 68% chocolate, you can taste hints of cherries, or cranberries, without them adding flavorings to any of their chocolate. Similarly the “citrus”, which is 67%, has hints of lemon and orange, without being really in your face (again because the flavor comes from the bean itself) The milk chocolate , 39 %, melts in your mouth in such a glorious, delicate way that it almost makes you want to take a nap and dream about it.

The only down side is, if you want to bake with it, you have to make sure that it is a predominantly chocolate dessert, eg. flourless chocolate cake. Because this chocolate is so exquisite, it would be a shame for it to get lost in a dessert or pastry in which chocolate is hardly a side note, rather than the star.