Sunday, September 25, 2011

Coca-Cola Cupcakes

About a month ago, on a rainy Saturday afternoon, friend Katie and I went on a Katie Date to Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Red Hook is well known among New Yorkers because it is home to the water-taxi accessible IKEA. But it wasn't IKEA that motivated us to take the two hour, one-way trip there that day (not that we didn't take advantage of our vicinity and stop in for some Swedish meatballs. Obviously.)

It was the Baked bakery that called to us, which I had first heard about years ago on The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Some celebrity chef said that Baked's Sweet & Salty Brownie was the best brownie they'd ever had.

Naturally, the Sweet & Salty Brownie was the first thing I ordered. But Katie and I didn't stop there. Oh no. We had traveled by subway and bus to get there, after all. This trip was gonna be worth it.

Here's what we ordered:

Now, mind you, this photo doesn't do the size of these baked goods justice. That grasshopper bar is about the size of my palm (and probably contains half a pound of powdered sugar), and that slice of cake is as big as one of those giant blue IKEA bags. Seriously. (Okay, not seriously, but it was at least as big as the pile of meatballs I ate, and you know how I feel about meatballs).

So it's no surprise we didn't finish everything. But there was one thing we finished faster than I get lost in IKEA.

Can you guess what it was?


Hint #1: This is not a trick question.


Hint #2: Did you read the title of this post?


Hint #3: Really? You need a third hint?


Time's up! Did you guess the...

...Coca-Cola Cake?

Wow! You're so smart! Almost as smart as whoever invented Swedish meatballs! And this cake!

Man, was that Coca-Cola Cake GOOD. Mouth watering dark chocolate cake with frosting half an inch thick...

It was so good that I ran home and made a cupcake version for my co-worker's birthday the very next day.

I adapted the recipe from the first cookbook by Baked's creators, Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, which has a recipe for Root Beer Bundt Cake. I simply substituted Coca-Cola for the Root Beer. (I've made the Root Beer version before too - also very good.) You can't really taste the cola, but it does give the cake a certain "what is that flavor?" quality.

Also: this frosting is TO DIE FOR. If I had to choose between eating a tub of this frosting and eating a heaping pile of meatballs, I would toil over that decision, but in the end, I'd definitely choose this frosting. It's become a staple in our house - we use it on cupcakes, Chocolate Fudge Cake, and empty spoons.

Just the last week, the other Katie told me she couldn't stop thinking about the Coca-Cola Cake we ate at Baked. That makes two of us. If you're in the NYC area, head on over to Red Hook (via subway, bus, water taxi, or all three) and make sure to try it (either before or after your Swedish meatballs--we won't tell if you eat dessert first. We did). If you're not in the NYC area, I can't help with the meatballs, but the recipe for the cake is below.

-Katie (and Katie)

Coca-Cola Cupcakes
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking via Baked Perfection
Makes approximately 22 cupcakes.

For the cupcakes
2 cups Coca-Cola (do not use Diet Coke)
1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs

For the Coca-cola Fudge Frosting
2 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup Coca-cola
2/3 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Make the cupcakes
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 22 cups of a muffin tin with paper liners.

2. In a small saucepan, heat Coca-Cola, cocoa powder, and butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Add sugars and whisk until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

3. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together.

4. In a small bowl, whisk eggs until just beaten, then whisk them into the cooled cocoa mixture until combined. Gently fold flour mixture into cocoa mixture. The batter will be slightly lumpy—do not overbeat, as it could cause the cake to be tough.

5. Use an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour the batter into prepared baking pans. Bake cupcakes for 25 minutes or until a small knife (or toothpick) comes out clean.

6. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack. Let cool for 3 minutes, then gently flip cupcakes on their sides in muffin tins so they don't get soggy. 

Make the frosting
1. Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until the frosting is shiny and smooth. (Note: If you don't have a food processor, a hand mixer works just fine.)

2. Use a knife or offset spatula to spread the fudge frosting on the cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles if desired. Let frosting set before serving.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

World Peace Cookies

I'm not sure when I heard about these cookies for the first time, but they've been on my to-bake list for a while. It was the name that first caught my attention.

"What could possibly be in those cookies?" I wondered. "Good listening skills? Understanding? Courage? Not just mere tolerance of people and cultures different from our own, but arms and hearts that embrace and celebrate our many differences?"

That would be one complicated cookie.

As it turns out, these cookies are not complicated at all. They are simple (albeit unorthodox) sables--shortbread cookies with a chocoately, salty twist.

While the story behind their name comes from Dorie Greenspan's neighbor who was convinced that a daily dose of these cookies would ensure peace the world round, I think the name is appropriate based on flavor alone.

With a little sweetness and a little saltiness, these cookies remind us that peace is all about balance. It's about taking something someone says (and in this case, the cookies we eat), with a grain of salt. It's about standing up for what we believe this case, chocolate. And it's a reminder that sometimes in order to achieve peace, we must have courage to take something we're comfortable with (shortbread cookies), and turn it on its head (Sea salt? In my cookies?!).

As I sit here in New York amid remembrances of 9/11, I'm not entirely convinced that a daily dose of these cookies would achieve world peace.

But they would be a start.

My thoughts and prayers are with all who lost loved ones on 9/11. May your hearts find peace. To all our readers--may each of us find ways--cookie baking or otherwise--to be daily instruments of peace for our families, our communities, and our world.


World Peace Cookies
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan via Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 36 cookies

1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons total) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (I used 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Prepping the dough:
1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more. Turn off the mixer. 

3. Pour in the flour mixture, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours (I froze for 2 hours). (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

Getting ready to bake
5. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

6. Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about one inch between them.

7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Serving: The cookies can be eaten when they are warm or at room temperature — I prefer them at room temperature, when the textural difference between the crumbly cookie and the chocolate bits is greatest — and are best suited to cold milk or hot coffee.
Do ahead: Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; they can be frozen for up to 2 months. They can also be frozen in log form for months, and can be sliced and baked directly from the freezer, adding a couple minutes to the baking time.