Cherry chocolate Gruyere galette

I’ve been hanging on this recipe for a while and couldn’t think of something to say about it.

I mean, it’s just a galette with a touch of bitterness from the super-dark chocolate, an unexpected salty bite from the Gruyere cheese, a rich and flaky crust, all capped off with sweet and juicy in-season cherries.

chocolate cherry Gruyere galetteDo I really need to say anything else?

Cherry Chocolate Gruyere Galette
Crust from Sweet Galette Dough by David Lebovitz for Fine Cooking

Serves 6-8

11 1/4 oz. (2-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
5 oz. (about 2/3 cup) ice water

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 ounce Gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 ounce dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and sliced in half
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Stir flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add chilled butter and pulse until crumbly, but distinct chunks of butter remain — really, big chunks are good!Add ice water, then process just until dough comes together, no more than 30 seconds. Turn dough onto work surface and gather and knead together just slightly. If is fine if you see streaks of butter on the surface, as this is what will give you delightful flakiness. Divide into two equal pieces and shape into discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. (This galette only requires one disc of dough. Wrap the other very well and freeze for later use, thawing in the fridge for one day before using. [I used a leftover disc for this one.])

While dough is chilling, mix grated Gruyere and chopped dark chocolate into the cream cheese. Set aside.

Preheat oven with baking sheet or pizza pan in it to 400 degrees.

On a floured surface, roll one disc of chilled dough out into an approximate circle about 13 inches in diameter. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper.

Spread cream cheese mixture on the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Starting in the middle, place the cherry halves in a single layer, face down, over all of the cream cheese mixture. Fold the excess dough over the edge of the filling, pleating as you go. Brush the melted butter along the exposed crust with a pastry brush.

Slide the galette, parchment paper and all, onto preheated baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. When edges are browned, remove pan from oven. Slide the parchment paper and galette onto a wire cooling rack to prevent it from getting soggy while it cools.

Enjoy while slightly warm or at room temperature. Or, store covered in the fridge for up to 4 days and let come to room temperature before serving. If desired, garnish with curls of dark chocolate once cooled.

A mouthful in more ways than one: Thai-incense smoked chocolate cheesecake cupcakes with coconut cream frosting

So, it’s been a really long time since I’ve posted. There’s not a real good reason, just a lot of little, shitty reasons. At least I’ve got something amazing to come back with. May I present to you:

Some marginally complicated but incredibly delicious cupcakes!

A major component of these cupcakes is the Thai incense candle, which you may be able to find locally if you’re lucky. I had to order mine online. I first read about these little guys in a recipe from Saveur — in fact, the flavor profile inspired these cupcakes. These candles are used to smoke sweets, usually cookies, with  an essence of  “various aromatic ingredients” such as ylang-ylang and frankincense. It’s kind of spicy, kind of smoky, kind of floral… it’s hard to explain without tasting it. But Saveur’s move of smoking a cheesecake with it was absolute genius.

Because I’m into the portability of cupcakes, I decided to see if I could transfer the experience of the cheesecake to something I could easily cart along to a board game night. And you know what? It worked. It really, really worked.

Thai-incense smoked black bottom cupcakes with coconut cream frosting

The chocolate cupcake was far more satisfying than the slip of a cookie crumb base in the cheesecake version. The smokiness of the cheesecake is still there, but not overwhelmingly so. When I made the cheesecake, I got some complaints of “too smoky” (not that I agreed with them). The cupcakes? No complaints whatsoever.

And the coconut frosting I devised is a little more aggressive than the coconut cream used on top of the cheesecake. I personally like to pipe just a little squirt of frosting on each cupcake instead of doing sky-scraping swirls — too much and it overwhelms the smokiness of the cheesecake into nothing. (This recipe will have a bit left-over if you also go the less-is-more route — the leftovers are great to add to an Oreo or Joe-Joe, for those times when eating a sandwich cookie isn’t unhealthy enough.)

After I made these cupcakes, my friend told her trainer that she ate two cupcakes which prompted her trainer to say, “I hope it was worth it.” Her response? “Oh god, yes. I cannot explain to you how worth it it was.”

I can’t think of a better endorsement.

Thai-incense smoked black bottom cupcakes with coconut cream frosting

Incense-Smoked Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes
Adapted from Black-Bottom Cupcakes by David Lebovitz from The Great Book of Chocolate
Inspired by Smoked Coconut Cheesecake by Saveur

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature and cut into 1″ cubes
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
Thai fragrant incense candle

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil (chilled if needed to solidify)
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons coconut cream
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Put a small, heatproof bowl inside of the bowl of your stand mixer. Put the cream cheese cubes in the mixer bowl around the smaller bowl. Light the incense candle, then put in the smaller bowl. Cover the mixer bowl tightly with a piece of aluminum foil. Let cream cheese smoke for 30 to 40 minutes, then remove the small bowl with the incense candle.

With the paddle attachment, beat smoked cream cheese and sugar until combined. Add egg and beat again until smooth. Refrigerate until needed.

Line 2 muffin tins with 16 paper liners and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Add brown sugar and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients bowl and add the wet ingredients. Stir gently until just smooth — do not over mix.

Divide the batter evenly throughout the muffin tin — cups will be 2/3 full. Then divide the cheesecake filling among the cupcakes, about 2 tablespoons added to the center of each. (I used one of those cookie dough scoops with the spring loaded getter-outter part, which made things go a lot more smoothly.) You may have a little bit of cheesecake filling leftover.

Bake for about 25 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back if you lightly touch them. Set aside to cool completely before frosting — you can also refrigerate them for 2-3 days or freeze before frosting if desired.

To make the frosting:

Put butter and coconut oil in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip until fully combined.

Add powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time, beating to combine between each addition. Whip on medium speed until fully combined.

Add coconut cream and heavy cream, and whip again on high until frosting is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Spread or pipe frosting onto each cupcake. I prefer a little squirt so as not to overwhelm the cake, but you can pipe on more as desired.

Refrigerate in a tightly covered container until ready to serve.

Guinness-chocolate cupcakes with Baileys-whiskey buttercream, that we are not calling “Blankish blank blank cupcakes”

So y’all, I’m gonna be real. Those drinks with Guinness, Baileys and Irish whiskey? You know, the ones that taste like a chocolate milkshake when they go down as long as you chug it before it curdles? And all of the cutesy baked goods that are inspired by those flavors? You know what I’m talking about, right?

That name has got to go.

Naming a cocktail with a crass joke about terrorism? Not cute.

I’m not saying that nobody should ever be allowed to make crass jokes by way of cocktail names. You’re allowed to. But I think that if you’re going to order something like that, you should know you’re making a statement. The statement being, “I’m a bit of a dick.”

Maybe I’m being too generous, but I think a lot of people order this drink or make these cupcakes and don’t even think about what the name means. Someone who doesn’t know anything about the Troubles in Ireland might not realize that they are ordering what, in different circumstances, might be a “9/11 flaming Twin Towers”. Even if you like dark humor, it’s generally not something you inflict on (drunk) strangers.

I’m of the opinion that if someone tells you something is offensive to them, you should believe them and not think they’re just “being overly sensitive.” And plenty of people have said that the name of this cocktail is offensive.

I also think that you should make an effort to not say the offensive thing around them, and reconsider saying it at all, especially around people you don’t know. And the internet is full of people you don’t know.

Yeah, it’s a “bomb” style cocktail. Yeah, it’s made with ingredients from Ireland. But there really has to be something better to call it.

Now, I’m not so sure about the cocktail. But thanks to a commenter from this awesome thread about boozy desserts on The Hairpin, there’s definitely a better name for the cupcakes: Finnegans Cakes! Irish and filled with booze, just like the cupcakes.

Finnegans cakes

So make these for St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow. Both are ostensibly Irish, but actually an American construct entirely. Perfect!

Finnegans cakes

Finnegans Cakes
Adapted from Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes by Smitten Kitchen

Makes 24 cupcakes

1 cup Guinness
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

5-6 cups confections sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup Baileys
1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons Irish whiskey

Line 2 muffin pans with 24 paper liners and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium pot over medium heat, bring Guinness and butter to a simmer. Whisk in cocoa powder until lump-free. Set aside to cool briefly.

In a medium bowl, stir together brown sugar, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt until combined.

In the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together eggs and sour cream until combined. Add Guinness mixture and beat again briefly until combined. Then pour in dry ingredients and beat again briefly — there should still be some white streaks left. Fold together the rest of the way with a spatula until fully combined.

Divide evenly into muffin tins — each cavity should be 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full. Pop in the oven and bake for about 17 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. (Swap positions and rotate halfway through if your oven heats unevenly.)

Let cool briefly in tins. Once they are cool enough to handle, remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

The plain cupcakes can be refrigerated overnight or frozen for a couple of weeks, as long as they are in airtight containers. Or, once they’ve completely cooled… frost them!

With your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the butter until very light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time, whipping well in between each addition. Once the frosting is very thick and no longer incorporating, add the Baileys and Irish whiskey and whip again until combined and fluffy. If needed, add a little more powdered sugar to bring to desired texture.

Put into a piping bag with a tip of your choice, or just spread the frosting on with a knife. (If you don’t pipe, you’ll probably have some frosting leftover.)

The obsession continues with s’mores cupcakes

s'mores cupcakes

My ongoing obsession with s’mores-flavored-things-that-aren’t-s’mores continues with these delightful cupcakes. I used this as an excuse to buy a culinary blowtorch, which was very fun to use. (Tip: that particular torch is used with butane canisters that are usually used with camping stoves, which can be found cheaply at hardware stores or, apparently, Asian markets.)

Toasting the marshmallow frosting is a really nice aesthetic touch, but I didn’t notice a whole lot of difference as far as the taste, so you’d be fine without if you’re not an impulse buyer like I am. If you decide to go for it, be careful when you’re toasting them — it’s easy to set those cupcake liners on fire. But I’m definitely not speaking from experience, no way, no how. I definitely did not ever-so-slightly singe the edges of any of those liners.

s'mores cupcakes

The plain cupcakes can be made ahead of time and stored in airtight containers overnight, and probably a little longer in the fridge. The ganache can also be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge.

However, from what I’ve read that this frosting doesn’t take well to being stored. It makes far more than is needed for these cupcakes, so I’ve had it in my fridge. I’ve been eating it on my failed attempt at the All the Colors of the Rainbow (Chip) Cake, and it seems to have stood up just fine. You can take your chances if you want, but it is fairly quick to whip up so you might want to do it when you need it.

A funny thing about this marshmallow frosting… it doesn’t actually contain any marshmallows, or even marshmallow fluff. My friend Emily loves the smell of a freshly opened container of marshmallow fluff (yeah, I know…), and she kept asking if she could come over and sniff when I was made this frosting. Smelling freshly cracked egg whites just isn’t the same, I suppose. Anyway, the lack of marshmallows means this recipe is vegetarian without having to drop mad dough on those yummy-but-pricey vegan ‘mallows.

S’mores Cupcakes
Chopped and screwed from Graham Cracker Cake from All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray and Fluffy White Icing-Marshmallow Frosting by Cake Duchess

Makes 24 cupcakes

25 graham crackers
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

8 ounces chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk according to preference)
1 cup heavy cream

1 cup sugar
4 egg whites, room temperature
1/3 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Position your rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners.

Turn your graham crackers into crumbs in your food processor. Add coconut and pulverize until everything is pulverized and integrated.

In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed until smooth. Add sugar gradually and beat until fully blended, scraping down the sides as needed.

Add two of the egg yolks, beat for one minute, add the other two, then beat for an additional minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla, then beat for one minute more.

Reduce the speed to low, and add graham cracker crumbs and milk in three batches, stirring to combine between each addition — about 1 heaping cup of crumbs and 1/3 cup of milk for each batch. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then stir again briefly to make sure the batter is fully blended.

If you only have one bowl for your stand mixer, transfer this batter to a large bowl and wash and dry your mixing bowl. If you have an extra, well bully for you.

Add egg whites to clean mixing bowl and attach your whisk attachment to the mixer. Beat on medium speed until frothy, then add cream of tartar. Increase speed to medium high and beat until the egg whites have firm peaks.

Add about a quarter of the egg whites to your bowl of graham batter, and fold in gently until combined. Then fold in the remaining egg whites.

Divide batter evenly among your 24 cupcake liners, and toss them in the oven. If your oven is not big enough to put them side by side, you’ll have to be extra careful about swapping them halfway through your cooking time.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in pans for ten minutes, then remove from pans and cool fully on a wire rack.

Then, ganache darnit (sorry), get that chocolate and cream out! Put the chocolate chips into a heatproof bowl. Add cream to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom, until it just starts to boil. You’ll just have the tiniest bubbles starting to form at the edges. Pour your hot cream over the chocolate chips and let sit for 2-3 minutes. Stir carefully until melted chocolate combines with the cream to create a dreamy creamy chocolate sauce. Cover and let chill in the fridge until it firms up to a consistency like soft fudge.

While your ganache is chilling, cut holes into the top of your cooled cupcakes — a bit bigger than an inch in diameter, and until you’re about a half inch away from the bottom of the cupcake. I use a small paring knife.

Once your ganache is chilled, add it to a piping bag with a large round tip (or a zip top bag and snip the corner off until you have a large tip). Put the tip all the way to the bottom of the hole in each cupcake. Squeeze and slowly raise to fill the hole completely with ganache. I like to fill them until each cupcake starts to bulge a little bit. It’s fine if your ganache is not completely level with the top of the cupcake.

Once you’ve filled all the cupcakes, it’s frosting time!

Put your egg whites in the bowl of the stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Stir on medium low speed until your whites become frothy and thick and form soft peaks.

While your egg whites are whipping, combine sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat without stirring. Boil until the temperature on a candy thermometer reads 245 degrees — you’ll have a thick clear syrup that is covered with bubbles. Do not let it turn brown! Remove from heat.

Try to time your egg whites so they are are ready when the sugar comes off. Turn the mixer to high speed, set a timer for 7 minutes, then very carefully pour the sugar syrup into the mixer in a very thin stream. Once you’ve poured all of the sugar syrup in, sit back and don’t touch!

In the last minute of stirring, add the vanilla.

Now you have a fluffy white frosting. Taste it. Doesn’t it taste just like marshmallows??

Add to a piping bag with a large round tip. Be gentle with it so you don’t deflate it. Starting in the middle of each cupcake, right on top of the ganache, squeeze a blob of frosting out that is about the size of a mini marshmallow (maybe a big mini marshmallow…). Now squeeze out little matching blobs all around the one in the middle until you’ve covered the top of the cupcake.

Now for the fun part! With a small flame, gently torch the top of each cupcake until the frosting is browned to your liking. For some people this means golden brown, but for those of you who are in the “char it to hell” camp, go nuts.

If you’re making these to bring somewhere but still want to taste them before you go, add some of those cake cores to a bowl. Heat up the leftover ganache for 15 seconds or so in the microwave, and drizzle over the cake. Then glop a big spoonful of frosting on top. Yum. You might want to eat it with a fork, though.

S’moresy Snack Mix

S’mores are a perfect food. Chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows. You can’t go wrong.

Except for one thing: they’re messy.

I’m not real big on messy foods; s’mores definitely fall in that category. For this reason, I have a bit of an obsession with making s’mores inspired desserts that are a little bit easier to eat. S’mores brownies, s’mores cookies, s’mores cakes… I’ve made them all.

But when I saw a recipe for s’mores puppy chow (aka muddy buddies), I knew I’d hit gold. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for… I didn’t want melted marshmallows, and I didn’t want to abandon the Chex. But it got the gears turning.

Luckily, I’m going to the beach this weekend with for my friend’s birthday. We’re going to have fifteen people crammed in her tiny condo. What better way to make sure people don’t kill each other than making sure they’re too full to do so?

This recipe feeds a crowd, so you might want to halve it for more modest snacking.

s'moresy snack mix

S’moresy Snack Mix
Inspired by S’mores Puppy Chow by Sally’s Baking Addiction
Adapted from Muddy Buddies by Betty Crocker

9 cups Chex cereal
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips*
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter or Earth Balance vegan buttery spread
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
6 cups Golden Grahams*
1 bag Dandies vegan marshmallows

Measure Chex cereal into a big ole bowl. Really big. Biggest one you have.

Then prepare a zip top freezer bag with your powdered sugar.

In a microwavable bowl, combine chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter/Earth Balance. Microwave uncovered on high for one minute, then stir to combine. Microwave in 30 second intervals if needed to fully melt chocolate chips. Add vanilla, and stir to combine.

Pour chocolate mixture over Chex, and fold with a spatula until all the cereal is covered. This might take a while. Especially if the bowl you put it in is just an teensy bit too small and you keep having to rescue Chex into your mouth.

Once all the Chex is coated, dump it into the freezer bag and shakeshakeshake until all the pieces are coated. Add more powdered sugar if needed.

Dump onto a parchment lined baking sheet or two and spread out. Let cool.

Once coated Chex is cool, add to a bowl with Golden Grahams and marshmallows. Toss until beautifully intermingled.

Stuff in your face by the fistful.

*A note about the vegan status of this recipe: As far as I can tell, there are two different varieties of Golden Grahams cereal — original, and Golden Grahams Honey Grahams. For obvious reasons, the Honey Grahams are not vegan. But the original recipe appears to be — it’s sweetened with brown sugar syrup. Read your ingredient list carefully to be sure. Same with the chocolate chips — some are vegan, some aren’t.