Tag Archive: peppercorns


Red WineWow, that’s a mouthful! It’s been far too long since my last post and for that I apologize, but I do have something extra special to share this time. I’m not really a “dessert person” (let me rephrase that: I love dessert – just not making it myself) and furthermore baking has never been my strong suite, although I’ll admit my recent successes in making biscuits, popovers, & cupcakes has certainly helped my confidence a little 😛

This recipe is really a conglomerate – let’s call it a “combination” of two different flavors that I wanted to pair together: (1) cracked peppercorns (my all-time favorite ingredient ever); and (2) red wine. Now for baking, I’m talking cheap red wine, but dry – I suggest a Malbec, Grenache, or Cabernet Sauvignon.

I’ve realized that there are oodles of excellent cooks out there who make their own versions of chocolate cake, and quite regularly, but not me I’m afraid. In fact, I have never made a double-decker cake before (it just sounds cool, doesn’t it?!) and at 27 years old, this was an astonishing revelation. Needless to say, I found several reasons to make the particular recipe for this special cake because it seemed so wonderfully full of chocolate…and honestly, how can you mess up chocolate? My dear friend made the frosting in advance so it turned out to be a masterpiece of processes that got off to a helluva great start. I revamped the Mixed Peppercornsfrosting recipe here to reflect a lower-maintenance version that uses light cream cheese. I loved how the cake turned out and next time I will add more red wine 😉

My secret ingredient? Admittedly, the cracked pepper. I know I’ve said it before. No matter what these weirdly spicy little seed pods are crushed over, they always compliment the dish wonderfully and in this case, carried it. I’ve always thought cracked pepper was a taste with some pizazz and depth to it and when paired with frosting, pepper does not disappoint. Does it sound strange? It’s not, really. My friend used a blend of 5 different peppercorns, which also lent a lot of color to the otherwise white frosting 🙂 I encourage you to give this recipe a try, you might be surprised…

Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Cracked Peppercorn Frosting

IngredientsChocolate Cake

(for the cake)

6 Tbs. (85 grams) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (145 grams) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) white sugar
1 large egg & 1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup (177 ml) red wine, dry
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup (133 grams) flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup (41 grams) cocoa powderfrosting
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

(for the frosting)

8 Tbs. (115 grams) butter, softened
8 Tbs. (115 grams) low-fat cream cheese, softened
2 cups (475 grams) powdered sugar
3 Tbs. (15 grams) cream
cracked pepper, to taste
2 round cake pans

1. Preheat the oven to 165 degrees Celsius (325° Fahrenheit). Use butter or nonstick spray to grease the bottom (especially) and sides of two cake pans. 2. To make the cake, mix the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth & creamy, 3 minutes. 3. One at a time, mix in the egg & egg yolk, red wine, and vanilla and continue mixing another 3 minutes until a loose batter forms. 4. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together over the bowl of wet ingredients. Use the mixer until it is 3/4 combined, and then fold the rest together with a spatula. 5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans and put on the same rack in the middle of the oven. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until a fork inserted into the center comes out clean. 6. Let the cake cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then flip out and continue cooling on a wire rack for 45 minutes more, loosely covered. 7.  To make the frosting, bring the cream cheese and butter to room temperature first to soften. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar one cup at a time until the frosting is smooth and creamy. Next beat in the 3 tablespoons of cream. At the end, add cracked pepper as desired, folding in with a spatula. Chill the frosting until ready to use. 8. Once the cake has cooled completely, place one piece on a large round plate acakend spread with the prepared frosting. Place the second piece on top and use the remainder of the frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake until frosted  🙂 You can store the cake at room temperature or in the fridge covered for up to 1 week.

Serves 8 – 10

I wish I had more reasons (do I need a reason?!) to make cake, especially when it calls for chocolate AND red wine. -I’m just happy it wasn’t a disaster 😉

Now that the weather has gotten a chill to it, I think I’ll have to bake some other not-so-sugary things, like onion rolls and (yes, cracked pepper) biscuits. Oh, the choices…

My question: What was the best cake you ever remember eating? 

9.30.2014

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corn_poster_ThanksgivingHappy Thanksgiving! Wait, did I miss it?! It’s been a little while since my last post so I thought I’d do something fantastical, something fresh and flavorful in this frigid month of November. Entrer: the roasted chicken.

Chicken, you say — what about Turkey? Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE, miss, dream about turkey, but a cook should not underestimate the goodness & divine simplicity of a roasted chicken. My reasons? First of all, it’s cheap, ahem–cheaper. Secondly, it’s smaller. I WISH I had the time, a big enough oven, and actual guests to make a 20 pound turkey, but I don’t 😀 Third, a chicken cooks much faster because yeah, it’s smaller, and I can’t even begin to point out the delicious possibilities that emerge with all that the leftover chicken. Roasted/rotisserie chicken makes the best sandwiches…assuming there are leftovers. After mulling over my Thanksgiving plans I decided yes, a roasted chicken is just what was needed for our little celebration.

My secret ingredient? The dry rub. Okay, so this is like 6 ingredients, but it’s pure magic. I saw this particular dry rub recipe in this month’s Bon Appetit (see the photo below, that’s what caught my attention FIRST). It’s probably one of the more colorful rubs I’ve ever seen (thank you pink peppercorns) — and emphasis on easy! One of my favorite spices in the world is coriander so any recipe that uses coriander seeds tends to seize One-Hour-Roasted-Chickenme by the taste buds 😛 It takes only 7 hours to cure a chicken covered in dry rub (vs. 2-3 days to brine one), so I was sold from the start. The apartment still smells like roasting peppercorns and oranges..

Since posting just one Thanksgiving recipe seems absurd, I posted the menu that I ended up making on our rainy, foggy evening. It includes a tomato-basil risotto that has corn, white wine, and lots of garlic & onions. Mmm, so glad I found another excuse to make risotto! This risotto recipe is from Fine Cooking; coming across it, I initially thought “wow, all my favorite ingredients in one risotto recipe..” I took it as a sign 🙂

Peppered Citrus Dry Rub

IngredientsPink_Peppercorns

1 whole chicken (or turkey, or duck..)

2 Tbs. black peppercorns

2 Tbs. pink peppercorns

2 Tbs. coriander seeds

1 tsp. white peppercorns

6 bay leaves

3 lemons, zested

1 orange, zesteddry-brine

1 dl (or 1/4 cup) coarse sea salt

2 Tbs. brown sugar

cooking twine

foil

(1) In a small saucepan, combine all of the peppercorns, coriander, and bay leaves. Toast on medium heat until fragrant, less than 5 minutes. Remove from heat & let cool. Put these spices in a spice grinder or blender (…or a plastic bag that you seal & beat with a rolling pin:-)) and grind until the peppercorns & seeds are coarsely broken up. Add the salt, lemon & orange zest, and brown sugar; mix. Tada! Dry rub. (2) Wash the bird and dry with paper towels. Place with the breast facing up on a large plate or dish. Cross & tie the legs together with kitchen twine. When the bird is dry, massage the dry rub into the skin and everywhere else it sticks until you’ve used all of the dry rub. Chill the chicken, uncovered in the fridge to brine, approx. 6 hours. (3) Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius (430 degrees Fahrenheit). Remove the chicken from fridge and drain any liquid. Rinse off the dry rub and pat dry. Transfer to an oven pan lined with foil and put on the top rack in oven. Let the skin crisp 10-15 minutes. (4) Turn the heat down to 180 degrees Celsius (360 degrees Fahrenheit) and cook the bird about 20 minutes per pound of poultry (or 1/2 kg). (5) Remove bird from oven and loosely cover with foil. Check temperature with a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, should register at least 85 degrees Celsius (185 degrees Fahrenheit). Let sit 10 minutes before carving. Serve sliced or in pieces with warm buttered rolls.

Serves 4

Tomato-Basil Risotto with White Wine, Sweet Corn, & Garlic

Ingredientsbasil

2 cups arborio rice

2 onions, peeled & chopped

7 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped

5-6 cups broth or reconstituted bullion

4 tomatoes, chopped

1 cup white wine (like chardonnay)

1 bunch of fresh Basil, chopped

1/2 cup (just over 1 dl) of shredded cheese, pref. Parmesan

3 Tbs. butterrisotto cooking

olive oil

sea salt

cracked pepper

(1) In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. When hot, add onions & garlic; let cook, stirring, until translucent, about 10 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix together tomatoes, basil, and 2 Tbs. olive oil. Set aside. (2) Add the rice to the pot and, stirring often, let it crisp slightly. Next add the wine and corn and cook until liquid has absorbed. (3) Continue cooking the risotto over medium heat, adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring often to prevent sticking, until liquid absorbs. This means you should be adding more wine/broth to the pot every 5-7 minutes or so. (4) Taste test the risotto after you’ve used up all the broth; cooked risotto rice should have slight texture to bite, but not be crunchy. (5) Add the tomato basil mixture and turn off heat. Let the risotto stand covered 3-4 minutes. Fold in the shredded cheese, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Serves 4

chicken_horrorI know risotto is not the traditional dish to serve during this delicious holiday, but it beats trying to concoct stuffing without breadcrumbs, pecans, or cranberries 😦 My next post will be on the lighter side of things as I travel to Indonesia and get to try Bali cuisine. I have a feeling it’s going to blow my mind.. 😀

My question: What is one (non traditional) dish you’ve made for Thanksgiving and really loved?

11.29.13