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Archive for Valentine’s Day

RECIPE: Naked Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake

Naked Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

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Audra’s magnificent naked cake: chocolate and peanut butter. We’re about to eat the computer screen. Photo courtesy TheBakerChick.com.

 

Oh, how we love you Audra, The Baker Chick. Your emails with such beautiful photos of your recipes make the day better. Even if we don’t have time to make them, just looking at them is sheer satisfaction.

In time for Father’s Day, Audra created one of our favorite cakes*: a rich chocolate naked layer cake with peanut butter filling and a brush of frosting. Thank you, thank you!

A naked cake is related to a stack cake. Both are layer cakes, and are so newly trendy that the terms are used interchangeably. A stack cake has zero outside frosting; a naked cake can have a light swath of frosting on the outside with some naked cake showing through, like this one.

And now…to the kitchen!

RECIPE: NAKED CHOCOLATE-PEANUT BUTTER LAYER CAKE

Ingredients For 10-12 Servings
 
For The Cake

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder*
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 2¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 4½ tablespoons safflower or canola oil
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  •  
    For The Frosting

  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  •  
    For The Ganache

  • 4.5 oz dark chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Optional garnish: mini peanut butter cups, halved
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350F. Grease and flour two cake pans, lining with a circle of parchment paper. You can use 6-, 8- or 9- inch pans; of using 6-inch pans, make at least 3 layers.

    2. WHISK together in a large bowl the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir in the water, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and eggs, continue to stir until batter is smooth.

    3. DIVIDE the batter among the pans and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

    4. MAKE the ganache: Place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a simmer on the stove top and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Whisk until smooth. Allow to cool and thicken before using (you can pop it into the fridge or freezer).

    5. MAKE the frosting: Whip the cream to stiff peaks. Cream together the butter and peanut butter until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar until well combined. Fold in the whipped cream until the frosting is smooth and fluffy.

    6. ASSEMBLE: Using a serrated knife, level each cake layer, slicing off the “dome” to make the layers even. Place the bottom later on a piece of parchment paper, on a cake turntable (you can use a pedestal cake stand, but invest in an inexpensive turntable). Spread a layer of ganache over the first layer of cake, sticking it into the fridge or freezer as needed between each frosting layer, to firm it up.

    7. CONTINUE with a layer of frosting, then another layer of cake, more ganache, more frosting etc. Add some frosting to the outside of the cake, smoothing with a spatula. Top with chopped peanut butter cups.

     
    _____________________
    *She adapted the base cake recipe from a Martha Stewart cake.

      

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    RECIPE: Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

    Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

    Dutched Cocoa Powder

    Top: Sweet and salty, chocolate and caramel: How can you resist? A recipe and photo from The Baker Chick. Bottom: Dutch process, or Dutched cocoa, is processed with alkali to neutralize cocoa’s natural acidity. It is milder in flavor and lighter in color than non-Dutched cocoa powder. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.

     

    Thanks to The Baker Chick for helping us celebrate National Chocolate Caramel Day, March 19th. We made her wickedly good Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies.

     
    RECIPE: SALTED CARAMEL PRETZEL BROWNIES

     
    Ingredients For 24 Brownies

    For The Pretzel Crust

  • 4 cups small pretzels, crushed into small pieces
  • 6 tablespoons of butter, melted
  •  
    For The Brownies

  • 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  •  
    For The Toppings

  • 1 cup salted caramel sauce (purchased or homemade)
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Fit a 9×13 pan with foil or parchment paper. Overlap two sheets, including two tabs that hang over the sides, so you can easily lift the brownies out of the pan.

    2. ADD the crushed pretzels to the bottom of the pan and drizzle with the melted butter. Set aside while you make the brownie batter.

     
    3. WHISK together the cocoa powder and boiling water in a large bowl, whisking quickly until just combined. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted. Add the oil, melted butter, eggs, yolks and vanilla, whisking after each addition. Add the sugar, mix until well-combined. Sprinkle the flour and salt over the batter and then fold in, mixing until smooth and well incorporated while not over-mixing.

    4. POUR the caramel sauce over the batter in lines going vertically, then horizontally. Use the tip of a knife or skewer to swirl the batter back and forth.

    5. BAKE for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let brownies cool completely before cutting into squares.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Tricolor Jello Fingers For St. Pat’s, July 4th, Halloween, Christmas & More

    Green Jello Squares

    Jell-O Treats

    Tricolor Jello Mold

    Top: St. Patrick’s Day themed Jell-O from TheModernRoost.com used food color to create the darkest green layer. Center: The recipe for this Halloween Jell-O from SomethingNewForDinner.com. Bottom: Christmas Jell-O from Due Forni | Las Vegas.

     

    You’re never to old to enjoy a fancy Jell-O dish. Call it retro, call it Jell-O art; just call it to the table.

    Multi-layer jello finger food (no fork or spoon required), called finger Jell-O, ribbon Jell-O or Jell-O squares, is the type of food fun that the family can look forward to with each holiday. Simply match the colors to the occasion.

    You can make as many layers, and as many colors, as you like. The Pioneer Woman makes an even snazzier version. So does the Brown-Eyed Baker.

    You can slice this into what is known as “finger Jello,” because you can pick it up and eat it with your fingers. Extra gelatin is added to the Jell-O to create a firm texture.

    You can make it in any colors; for example:

  • Green and white for St. Patrick’s Day (one layer of Lime Jell-O, one layer of Melon Jell-O)
  • Red white and blue for Memorial Day and Independence Day
  • Blue and white for Chanukah
  • Orange and Peach or Black Cherry for Halloween
  • Black Cherry red and Raspberry red for Valentine’s Day
  • Team colors for the Super Bowl (use food color to tint as needed)
  •  
    Check out the different flavors and colors of Jell-O.
     
    You can make a diet version with sugar-free Jell-O, and swap the sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk that you sweeten with a non-caloric sweetener.

    RECIPE: JELL-O SQUARES

    In this recipe, adapted from Taste Of Home, the Jell-O is firmed into “finger Jell-O” or “Jell-O squares” with the addition of extra gelatin. Prep time is 30 minutes, plus 90 minutes chilling/firming time.

    Make the recipe on a day when you can let each mixture come to room temperature at its own pace, and firm up each layer in the fridge for more than 30 minutes. Don’t skimp on the cooling and firming times, or you won’t be pleased with the results.
     
    Ingredients For 32 Pieces

  • 1 box (6 ounces) Lime Jell-O
  • 1 box (6 ounces) Melon Fusion Jell-O
  • 4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • Boiling water, cold water
  • Preparation

    1. SPRAY a 9×13-inch baking pan (ideally Pyrex) with nonstick spray.

    2. MAKE the bottom layer: In a medium bowl, mix the green Jell-O with 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin. Add 2 cups boiling water and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature and pour into the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    3. MAKE the center layer: In a clean bowl, mix the sweetened condensed milk with 1 cup boiling water. In a separate small bowl, sprinkle 2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin over ½ cup cold water. Let the gelatin stand for 4 minutes and then add ½ cup boiling water to dissolve it. Add to the condensed milk mixture and stir to combine. Cool to room temperature and pour over the bottom layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    5. MAKE the top layer. In a medium bowl, mix the red Jell-O with 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin. Add 2 cups boiling water and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature and pour over the middle layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    6. SLICE into individual pieces, plate and serve.

     

    THE HISTORY OF JELL-O

    Gelatin (also spelled gelatine) has been made since ancient times by boiling animal and fish bones. Aspic, a savory, gelatin-like food made from meat or fish stock, was a French specialty centuries before the dawn of commercial gelatin. It was very difficult to prepare, relying only on the natural gelatin found in the meat to make the aspic set.

    Powdered gelatin was invented in 1682 by Denis Papin. But the concept of cooking it with sugar to make dessert dates to 1845 and an American inventor named Peter Cooper. Cooper patented a dessert product that was set with gelatin, but it didn’t take off.

    In 1897, Pearle Wait, a carpenter in Le Roy, New York (Genesee County), experimented with gelatin and developed a fruit flavored dessert which his wife May named Jell-O. The first four flavors were orange, lemon, strawberry and raspberry.

    Wait tried to market his product but lacked the capital and experience. In 1899 he sold his formula to a townsman and manufacturer of proprietary medicines, Orator Frank Woodward, for $450. The Jell-O itself was manufactured by Andrew Samuel Nico of Lyons, New York.

    Alas, sales were slow and one day, Wait sold Sam Nico the business for $35. In 1900, the Genesee Pure Food Company promoted Jell-O in a successful advertising campaign, and by 1902 sales were $250,000. In 1923 the owners created the Jell-O Company, Inc., which replaced the Genesee Pure Foods Company. The purpose was to protect the Jell-O trade name and to keep it from becoming a generic term.

    That same year, the Jell-O Company was sold to the Postum Cereal Company, the first subsidiary of a large merger that would eventually become General Foods Corporation. Lime Jell-O was introduced in 1930.

     

    Old Strawberry Jello Box

    Strawberry Jello Box

    Top: A box of strawberry Jell-O from the 1890s, courtesy eBaumsWorld.com. Bottom: Strawberry Jell-O today. Photo courtesy Kraft Foods.

     

    Today Jell-O is manufactured by Kraft Foods, a subsidiary of Phillip Morris, which acquired both Kraft and General Foods in the 1980s and ultimately merged the two companies. There’s a Jell-O Gallery Museum in Le Roy, New York.

      

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    HOLIDAY RECIPE: Frozen Cherry Margarita

    February 22nd is National Margarita Day. It’s also the day George Washington was born (in 1732).

    Decades ago, it was established that George Washington never cut down his father’s beloved cherry tree.*

    But the tradition of cherry pie on his birthday existed for many years before scholars uncovered the reality. So this year’s contribution to our cherry recipe collection is a Cherry Margarita.

    While a cocktail made with puréed fresh cherries would be divine, we’re a few months away from cherry season. So let’s default to the next-best thing: frozen tart cherries.

    RECIPE: FROZEN CHERRY MARGARITA

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1/2 cup frozen pitted tart cherries
  • 1-1/2 ounces blanco tequila
  • 2 ounces cherry juice*
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce Cointreau or other orange liqueur
  • 2 cups ice
  • Optional: coarse salt for rim
  • Optional garnish: 1 stemmed maraschino cherry†, lime wheel, or both
  •  
    _________________________________
    *Our favorite is Knudsen’s, but any brand will do.

    †The absolute best maraschino cherries are the all-natural ones from Tillen Farms. They’re great for gifting, too.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE alt rim.

    2. COMBINE the tequila, cherry juice, lime juice and liqueur in a blender; then add the ice (the order is important so the ice doesn’t jam the blades).

    3. PURÉE until the drink is thick. If it’s too thick, add more ice to achieve the desired consistency.

    4. POUR into a glass, garnish and serve.

       

    Frozen Cherry Margarita

    Cherry-Margarita-createdbydiane-230s

    Top: A frozen Cherry Margarita from IngredientsInc.net. Bottom: A conventional-style Cherry Margarita from Made By Diane, who uses fresh cherries in season. Here’s the recipe for her Fresh Cherry Margarita.

     

    MORE

  • Margarita History
  • Different Types Of Orange Liqueurs
  •  
    __________________________
    *The legend of George Washington and the cherry tree was an invention of book agent Mason Locke Weems, in his 1800 biography, The Life of Washington (click to buy a copy). The cherry tree has been associated with Washington ever since. Washington’s Birthday was declared a federal holiday by Congress in 1880,* the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen.

    Initially the holiday was for government offices in the District of Columbia. It was expanded to include all federal offices in 1885. State government offices, including schools, followed suit, followed by banks and other businesses (in private businesses, the day off is not mandatory). The holiday was celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday, February 22, until 1971, when it was shifted to the third Monday in February and combined with the Lincoln’s Birthday celebration to allow federal employees a three-day weekend.

     

    Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

    Although it’s only a garnish, the cherry can
    turn a Manhattan cocktail into a
    Washington’s Birthday toast.

     

    NOT A TEQUILA PERSON? BELLY UP TO SOME BOURBON.

    Even though it’s America’s favorite cocktail, not everyone likes a tequila or the sweetness level of a Margarita.

    Instead, consider Basil Hayden’s Bourbon Presidential Manhattan, a twist on the classic Manhattan with a cherry for Washington’s birthday.

    Seeking something else? George Washington was a big fan of eggnog. He also brewed his own beer, including pumpkin ale.
     
    RECIPE: PRESIDENTIAL MANHATTAN

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1-1/2 parts Basil Hayden’s bourbon
  • 1/2 part sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 part dry vermouth
  • 1/2 part maple syrup
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • Garnish: maraschino cherry
  •  
    Preparation

    1. STIR together the bourbon, vermouth, maple syrup and bitters over ice in a rocks glass.

    2. GARNISH with a cherry and serve.
     
    MORE FUN RECIPES

  • Blue Cheese Salad With Dried Cherries
  • Cherry Home Fries
  • Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Cherry-Topped Brownies
  •   

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    HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

    Valentine Beet Soup

    Valentine soup. Photo courtesy Mowie Kay.

     

    HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY
    FROM THE NIBBLE

     
     
    If you’d like to celebrate with this Valentine soup, the recipe is at Mowielicious.com, a fine-food blog.

    The website has the most beautiful professional food photography, but no “About Us” information.

    So we did a quick search and found that the blogger is Mowie Kay, photographer and food stylist, which led us to find his professional website.

    Mowie, THE NIBBLE wishes you an especially delicious Valentine’s Day.

     

     
      

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