Monday, December 5, 2011

Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache

  • 6 oz premium-quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 oz premium-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 C plus 3 Tbsp sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
1. Place the chocolates in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium power until glossy, 2 to 3 minutes; stir until smooth. Let cool; whisk in the sour cream, vanilla, and salt. Let stand until thick enough to spread.

Robyn's notes: there were many problems with this recipe. It's hard to give it a rating, because two of the problems were on my end, but overall I'm still rating it down because neither of them should have made that much difference. First, my microwave will not allow "medium power". If I press the button for power level, the display says "power level may not be changed at this time". I don't know why. However, I have melted chocolate in the microwave every year for at least 25 years. I always do it on high for a minute or less, stir, then another minute, stir, repeat if necessary until the chocolate is melted. Second problem that may have been on my end was that the semisweet chocolate I had in the house was a little on the old side. Not out of date, but close to it. That should not have made a difference, but I acknowledge it for what it's worth.
The chocolates would not melt properly. The semisweet chocolate would do nothing but solidify into clumps. I eventually gave up, because it is possible to over-melt chocolate, even in the microwave. As a result, the final product was not smooth, it was lumpy and unattractive. It tasted ok, but not exciting. The recipe says the yield is 1 Cup, but after I used it to frost two mini cakes I poured the leftover into a plastic storage container and still have more than a cup of frosting. Since I feel that the point of using a small-batch cookbook for frosting is to not have leftovers, that was the final straw.
I will probably try the recipe again sometime with fresher semisweet chocolate, just for fairness, and if it comes out better I'll remove the above notes.

** 2 Stars: Acceptable. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, if I make changes

Classic Chocolate Cakes

This recipe comes from Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers by Debby Maugans. She has a full page of instructions for cooking individually-sized cakes in clean cans (14.5 or 15 oz cans that once held diced tomatoes or beans or soup, for example). I am not including those instructions. More information about that is in the notes after the recipe.
  • unsalted butter for greasing cans
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp well-beaten egg
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 C plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 C plus 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter the insides of two clean 14.5oz cans and lightly dust them with flour, tapping out the excess. Line the bottoms of the cans with rounds of parchment paper and set them aside. Alternatively, line 4 regular-size muffin cups with paper liners.
2. Whisk the milk, egg, and vanilla in a small bowl.
3. Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a fine-mesh sieve placed over a small, deep mixing bowl. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl. Add the butter and half of the milk mixture; beat with a handheld electric mixer on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase the speed to medium, and beat until the batter has lightened and increased in volume, about 45 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining milk mixture, and beat until well blended, about 20 seconds.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared cans or muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean, about 20 minutes for cupcakes and 27 to 29 minutes for cakes. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Loosen the edges of the cakes from cans using a small sharp knife; invert the cans and remove the cakes. Cool completely. Cut in half crosswise with a sharp knife. Frost with the Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache, between layers and on the tops and sides of the cakes, or on the tops of the cupcakes.

Robyn's notes: this recipe is way too complicated for what you get. It comes out as two perfectly acceptable small chocolate cakes. Not great cakes, not special cakes, just fine. I cooked the cakes in the cans, to see how well it would work, and it wasn't worth the trouble. Yes, the final product came out looking like actual mini cakes instead of like cupcakes, but to have to remember to set aside empty cans, clean them, remove the labels, store them, then grease them, flour them, cut parchment paper rounds just the right size to sit inside the bottom of the cans...too much hassle. Cupcakes are fine.
In one of the Amazon reviews for the cookbook, someone complained strongly about the suggestion to use cans, because Maugans does not mention anything about the BPA that is in most cans. The reviewer felt this was very irresponsible, as they feel it's a health risk. I don't really care about that aspect, because I'm re-using cans that I've already eaten the contents of, which means I've already been exposed to the BPA of that can once. If I were seriously concerned about BPA, I wouldn't have commercially canned foods in the house and therefore wouldn't have cans to use for this recipe, thus would be using muffin tins.
In step 3 of the recipe, I didn't bother with any of that sifting through a fine-mesh sieve. Doing it the way she's described doesn't change the measurements (sifting dry ingredients through a sieve
before measuring them does, sifting them afterward does not), and the dry ingredients incorporated with each other just fine without sifting, so I didn't need to use yet another tool that I'd later have to clean (this recipe already uses a bowl for beating the egg, fork or whisk for beating the egg and whisking the wet ingredients, a bowl for the milk mixture, the main bowl, beaters, two measuring cups, four measuring spoons, a spatula, a muffin tin or cans, and that's before making the frosting).
The one thing I can't really speak to is the size of the finished cakes. My sweetheart prefers cake batter to cake, so he kept dipping a spoon into the bowl and then into the filled cans. When I finally got them away from him and into the oven, they came out different sizes, one about 2.5" tall, the other about 3.5" tall.

** 2 Stars: Acceptable. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, if I make changes