Martha Mondays: Chocolate Beet Cake

October 31, 2011

This week’s project was chosen by yours truly: Chocolate Beet Cake (from November Living, not online yet). Wow! The gold standard for chocolate cake in my house is my grandmother’s Miracle Whip cake and this was just as good. It was incredibly moist and you would never know there were beets in it. It just tasted like a delicious, very moist chocolate cake – it looked just like a chocolate cake too.

I don’t know how often I would make this though, because beets are just a pain to work with! You have to peel them, then cut into pieces then boil then puree. I have an off-white Corian sink and was totally paranoid about it getting stained. I was able to find a pair of medical gloves to wear so I didn’t stain my hands. I peeled the beets on top of newspaper. I drained them out in the yard to avoid the sink issue entirely.

Other than the beets, the cake was easy to make and had an easy chocolate glaze, only one layer which I appreciated. It was so good I sent it away with Mr. MarthaAndMe this morning – can’t have that in the house AND the Halloween candy!

As you can see, I took it out of the oven a smidge too early – the very center didn’t quite cook all the way. I took it out with5 minutes remaining because it seemed done. I should have tested it with a cake tester.

I’m wondering if this would work with roasted beets (where you roast them whole, then just rub the skin off with a paper towel), or even canned beets so you wouldn’t have to cook them yourself at all.


Apple Dumplings

October 26, 2011

It’s been a while since I tried a recipe from Martha’s show. Recently she made apple dumplings with the author of The Apple Lovers’ Cookbook. I had to make this one.

For several years, we rented a cottage each summer in New York state’s Finger Lakes region, on Cayuga Lake. One of our favorite things to do was visit Sauder’s Store in Seneca Falls (the town that Bedford Falls in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” was modeled after). Sauder’s was smaller then than it is now (now they sell woodcrafted items and plants outside), but it had a huge bulk section and lots of Mennonite and Amish made baked goods. There were always Mennonites shopping in the store when we were there, which my kids were fascinated by.  There is a bookstore section that sells Mennonite and Amish cookbooks and other books. We always purchased birch beer (similar to root beer) here, a treat we always enjoyed at the fair each summer, but which you could not find in stores at that time. There was a meat case and I always bought Lebanon bologna, a cold cut that looks exactly like salami, but tastes like sweet bologna.

The baked goods were the highlight (whoopie pies, breads, pies, cookies) and apple dumplings were one of our favorites. I’ve never tried to make this and really forgot about it until I saw it again on Martha’s show!

I followed the instructions on this recipe to a “T”, but I think the problem was that my apples were too big. It’s really hard to find small apples here in NY state, where our apple crop is a big deal and sellers pride themselves on selling big, ripe, beautiful apples. I ended up cutting an inch or so off the tops of my apples, but they were still too big to fit in the dough squares. I ended up rolling the pieces of dough out to be larger and I still had to smush them to get them to cover most of the apples.

Other than, that it went well. The cider sauce is simple and it was all much easier than I imagined. This was really delicious. I think I might make regular pie crust next time instead of this dough recipe. I will definitely make this again. The entire family loved this.

Martha Mondays: Almon Blackberry Squares

August 8, 2011

Perfecting Pru chose this week’s project, Almond Blackberry Squares.  This recipe was easy (or it would have been if I hadn’t burned the almonds first time around — the phone rang and I couldn’t get back in time!). I made half a batch in an 8×8 pan. I am not a blackberry fan – I like the flavor but just hate all the seeds. Everyone else in the family likes them though. This got a thumbs up all around. It was easy to make. I didn’t have a single orange in the house, so I put a few drops of orange extract over the berries instead of zest which worked out quite well. This would be good with raspberries too I think, or even a combo of both.

We’re taking a break from Martha Mondays for the next couple of weeks.  I am hoping to get back to regular posting this fall!

Martha Mondays: Chocolate Tart

July 11, 2011

It was my turn to pick this week and I chose the section in July Living with the chocolate chip cookie desserts. I made the chocolate tart with the chocolate chip cookie crust. I knew going in that this was going to be a lot of work – first you have to make the cookies, then you use them to make the crust, then you make the filling and bake that. You could definitely just buy pre-made cookies to make this crust if you wanted to.

Apparently, I was a little impatient, or it was just so dang hot that the cookies never really cooled, so when I whizzed them up in the Cuisinart with the melted butter, the whole thing turned chocolate since the chips were not set.

The tart filling was not hard to make and baked up nicely.

Here’s the recipe for the tart (I didn’t think there was anything special about the cookies):

16 choc chip cookies, finely ground, 2 cups

2 tbsp melted butter

for filling:

1 cup heavy cream

8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 egg

1/4 cup milk

1 tbsp butter

Mix cookie crumb and butter then press into a 9 1/2 inch tart shell with removable bottom.  Refrigerate 30 min. Then bake at 350 for 10-12 min. Make the filling by bringing cream to boil and pouring over chocolate. Stir in other ingredients after chocolate has melted. Pour into the shell and bake at 300 for 20-24 min until the edges are set.

This looked pretty and cut nicely. It was way too rich for me though, like eating candy. We cut one small slice, everyone had a taste, and off it went to Mr. MarthaAndMe’s office for others to enjoy. It was very good, but not something I could ever actually eat more than a couple little bites of.

Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce

April 29, 2011

Mr. MarthaAndMe just had a birthday and he always asks for gingerbread with lemon sauce for dessert. His mother used to make this from a box when he was a kid. I make my own. He is the only one in the house who really likes it, so he usually works his way through the pan after about a week! I served this once at a family Christmas party (minus the raisins) and everyone loved it.

For the gingerbread:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

2 eggs

1/3 cup molasses

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp dry ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup hot water

1/3 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 9″ square pan. Mix butter and sugar. Add eggs, then molasses.  Mix in all the dry ingredients, then the hot water. Stir in raisins. Pour into the pan and bake for 35 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool at least 20 min before serving.

Lemon Sauce:

1 cup sugar

4 tbsp cornstarch

dash of salt

2 cup water

4 tbsp lemon juice

4 tbsp butter

4 tsp grated lemon zest

Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in a pot. Stir in the water until it is mixed. Cook, stirring, on high until it boils. Reduce heat to medium and cook until slightly thickened and clear about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter, lemon juice and zest. Serve with gingerbread.

Chocolate Creme Brulee

February 15, 2011

I spent a lot of time in restaurants as a kid. My parents were major foodies back when it was called being a “gourmet.” Creme brulee is one of my dad’s favorite desserts, so I’ve had more than my share of it even though it’s just not a favorite on my own list. He orders it a lot in restaurants. It was everywhere back in the 70s and 80s and seems to be everywhere yet again. The textures are great – crunchy top with cool creamy pudding, but I am a chocolate girl through and through.

Martha to rescue. Martha recently whipped up chocolate creme brulee on her show (this is also in February Living) and I was hooked. Had to try it! And I rationalized, it could be my Valentine’s present to myself since Mr. MarthaAndMe and I don’t really go overboard for this holiday.

The pudding was easy to whip up and it cooked nicely in the water bath. So far so good. I was nervous about making the top though. I don’t have a torch, so I had to broil it. The sugar sort of melted and then hardened. It had the right texture, but not the right color. And a lot of the pudding itself got kind of warm – it only stayed cold down at the bottom.

Despite that, this was good and if you have a torch, it would really be a snap to make. I liked it, but I think I’ve just had too much creme brulee in my life maybe. I would rather just have chocolate pudding!

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Martha Mondays: Chocolate Cups

January 31, 2011

Have you ever bought an ingredient for a recipe then been simply unable to locate it anywhere in your house? That’s what happened to me with this. I needed mini size cupcake liners or candy wrappers for this recipe. I bought them. I brought them home. They sat on the kitchen table for a few days. Then I put them in the pantry. Then I moved them to a shelf in the pantry so that I would be able to easily find them. Then, when I went to make this, they were just gone. We looked everywhere. So I had to improvise, and I used full size cupcake liners.

This project is from February Living and was chosen by Sassy Suppers. All you do is melt bittersweet chocolate (which I do in the microwave) and then brush into the inside of the cups. Let it dry and do it again. Simple, right?

It actually was pretty simple. The only hard part was getting the paper to peel off. I had to call in Mr. MarthaAndMe for that. He popped them in the freezer for a minute then was able to get it to peel off.

You can add anything you want to the cups – fruit, mousse, ice cream, etc. Martha suggested peanut butter but I didn’t want to eat that much peanut butter. So I did fruit and ice cream. This is super cute and would really be a great way to serve dessert for a dinner party.

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Yule Log

December 27, 2010

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrated. I thought I would share a photo from ours. My dad made this yule log for Christmas dinner. He says he made it once 30 years ago, but I don’t remember it. I think it looks gorgeous. The cake was very moist, but he used a prune filling that had some liqueur in it and I didn’t care for that. The mushrooms were light and yummy though.

John Barricelli and Me (and Choc Pie)

September 17, 2010

John Barricelli has been on Martha’s show many times and he’s also appeared in the magazines and is a host of Everyday Food. He’s one of her cast of characters. He kind of fascinates me because there’s something weird about him. Is he nervous around Martha? Uncomfortable? Annoyed? I don’t know what it is but I keep watching. He always seems so very confident about his baking and Martha always raves about his bakery cafe. He’s got a new cookbook out called The Sono Baking Company Cookbook, which I just got. So far I’m in love.

My first try from it was the chocolate cream pie. Now this is something I love, but never, never have. No one serves that anymore, but they should.

This pie was to die for. Major OMG moment. The crust is incredible. I know it sounds simple (graham cracker with chocolate) but it ends up having this fabulous nutty flavor and crunchy texture. And the filling. Well. It was stupendous. I put whipped cream on top of mine as instructed, but next time I wouldn’t bother. It doesn’t need it.


1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

3 tbsp sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1  2/3 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely grated on large holes of a grater (about 1/2 cup)


6 large egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch

3 cups milk

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

4 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp vanilla

4 tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 inch pie pan.

To make the crust, mix the crumbs, melted butter, sugar and salt. Add the chocolate. Press into the pan. Chill for 30 min, then bake for 18-20 min.

To make the filling: whisk egg yolks, half the sugar, cornstarch, and 1/2 cup of milk.

In a saucepan, mix the rest of the sugar, the rest of the milk and the cocoa, chocolate and salt. Bring to a simmer, whisking. Gradually pour the milk mix into the egg mix, tempering it.

Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan then boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Boil for 10 seconds, whisking, making sure it boils in the center of the pan, not just on the sides. It will thicken to a pudding like consistency.

Pour into a bowl and use a mixer for 2-3 minutes to cool it. Add vanilla. With the mixer running, add butter in small pieces, a little at a time. Pour it into the pie crust and chill for 2-3 hours.

If you want whipped cream on top, whisk 3/4 cup heavy cream with 2 tbsp powdered sugar until soft peaks form then spread on top of chilled pie.

Now for my notes! I goofed and dumped the cocoa into the eggs instead of the saucepan. I was not about to dump it out so I left it and everything turned out just fine.

I used a deep dish pie pan and I can’t imagine how you could use anything else since it was filled to the rim. Make sure you get that crust all the way up the sides. Next time, I think I am going to double the crust because I had trouble getting it to completely cover my pan.

I think it needs to chill longer than 2-3 hours. It wasn’t cold enough at that point in my opinion. Give it a good 5-6 hours.

This was fabulous. I’m going to try it with dark chocolate next time I think.

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Cooking School: Genoise/Jellyroll

December 6, 2008

On the latest cooking school, Martha and Sarah made a jellyroll, also called a genoise. I’ve heard of both of these terms, but didn’t really know what they meant. This is, essentially, a very thin cake that is rolled with filling inside it.

Now, before we dive in here, if I could take a moment to vent. Are there not more important skills one needs to know as a cook? I’m not sure this cake that no one has heard of would go to the top of my list. My other vent: It’s DECEMBER. Everyone is inundated with holiday cookies and candy. Who on earth wants to focus on learning a dessert that is not holiday related right now? Maybe a lesson on gravy or seafood would be helpful right now.

That being said, I geared up to make my first jellyroll. The key to this cake, says Martha, is the eggs. There is no other leavening, so you have to rely on the eggs to puff your cake.

Beaten eggs

Beaten eggs

The first step is to cook the eggs and sugar over hot water until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm. I whisked it and it quickly came up to temperature. Next step, you beat the heck out of the eggs. It takes a few minutes but they turn almost white and increase in volume. They get very thick, like cake batter. It was actually an interesting transformation to watch.

After you’ve got your eggs ready, you sift in the dry ingredients. This cake

Dry ingredients sifted in

Dry ingredients sifted in

actually has almost nothing in it – eggs, sugar, flour, butter,  and cocoa powder (I was making the chocolate).  Once they’re in the bowl, you fold them in carefully. The trick is to keep your eggs inflated. I was a little worried here – my batter did deflate significantly once I

Completely folded

Completely folded

had it all folded in.  Once you’ve got it folded, you drizzle your melted butter down the sides of the bowl and fold that in too.

Then you pour your batter into a baking sheet that has parchment paper (sprinkled with cocoa powder) in it. I had some trouble getting the batter to spread. It was rubbery and didn’t want to smooth out. Finally I had it ready for the oven. this cooks

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

very, very quickly – 6 minutes in a 450 degree oven.

Once it’s done, you let it cool slightly in the pan.  While it’s still warm, you upend it onto a towel that is coated with cocoa powder. This seemed very, very weird to do (put a cake on a towel), but I did it.

My towel at the ready

My towel at the ready

Once you’ve got it on the towel, you cover it with parchment and roll it up. Martha says this will give the cake some memory of the rolling, so it will be easier to roll with the filling. You let it sit, rolled up, until it is cool. I was afraid rolling it was going to be hard, but it wasn’t.

The rolled jellyroll

The rolled jellyroll

The next step is to unroll it once it’s cool. I did this and discovered the end of my jellyroll had broken right off. Eek!

Jellyroll SOS

Jellyroll SOS

I forged ahead though. First I put strawberry jam on the roll. Martha says to put a rum mixture on the chocolate jellyroll, but I’m not into rum.  The recipe for the white jellyroll uses jam, so that’s what I did.  My jam had big hunks of strawberry in it. I think I would pick those out next time – the lumps didn’t work out so well. Next I made whipped cream and smoothed that on.

Sarah Carey cautions to keep your filling 1/4 of an inch away from the sides. Good advice, I think. Otherwise it will all smoosh out the sides.

The filling

The filling

The next step is to roll it back up. I tucked the broken edge into the inside. It rolled up pretty easily. Some whipped cream did smoosh out at the very end. Martha says to wrap it back up in your towel and clip it so it will stay tight. You refrigerate this for half an hour to three hours. I recommend going closer to three hours to really get it set nicely. I was afraid it was all going to unroll when I took it out, but it didn’t.

I really recommend you trim the ends of the roll before serving. As you can see in the photo, it looks a little messy and not so pretty on the ends.

I was worried that it would be hard to slice – that it would smoosh all over when you cut it. No problems there either. The slices came off very nicely. The roll is very firm and simple to slice.

Plate o' happiness

Plate o' happiness

What a pretty dessert this is! I loved the pink jam next to the white cream. It looked like a Ho-Ho. How’d it taste? Yummy! I thought it was going to be dry – the cake did seem a little dry when I was rolling it. The jam and cream really soak in and soften it. You get a wonderful mouthful of chocolate, cream and jam and my, oh, my it was heavenly. It feels very light, so you don’t feel like you just ate a big, heavy piece of cake.

Martha – I am sorry I doubted you on this! Why don’t more people make this dessert? It’s wonderful. It wasn’t really all that hard to make at all. Getting the eggs right was intimidating, but I really think anyone can do it.

If Martha had provided instructions on how to make this into a buche de noel, I would have done that (and that would have been seasonal), but she didn’t. It’s just as well – fooling with meringue would have sent me over the top.

The finished roll

The finished roll

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