When the Polar Vortex sweeps through town, this will temper the chill.
(adapted from A Simple Feast)
fills 4 mugs or 6 small cups
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra for garnish
pinch of salt (I used coffee flake salt from Jacobsen)
3 tablespoons sugar (I used vanilla sugar from Jones & Co.)
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder (preferably Medaglia d’Oro)
4 cups whole milk
¼ cup Nutella
½ teaspoon vanilla (I used pure vanilla from Jones & Co.)
optional: your favorite brandy and a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream
In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, salt, sugar, and instant espresso powder. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over low heat. Whisk in the Nutella until smooth, then slowly whisk in the cocoa mixture. Add the vanilla and serve the cocoa in appropriately festive cups or mugs. Adding a splash of brandy, a dollop of whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder certainly couldn’t hurt.
½ cup heavy cream, chilled
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
In a chilled bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer or a whisk, beat the cream with the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla just until soft peaks form. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
from Dorie Greenspan and Melissa Clark, with the slightest adjustments
makes one 9” loaf
3 tangelos, cara cara, or navel oranges
zest from three of the oranges
1 cup sugar
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup stone ground cornmeal
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
a little less than ½ cup plain yogurt (see below)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract, preferably from Jones and Company
¼ teaspoon pure orange extract, preferably Nielsen-Massey brand
3 large eggs, room temperature
⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9” x 5” x 3” glass loaf pan with olive oil. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper. (I know some consider this pan lining overkill, but I think it protects not only the bottom, but also the sides of the cake from getting too dark.) Lightly grease the parchment with olive oil and dust the pan with flour, knocking out the excess.
Use a microplane or fine grater to remove the zest from the three oranges. Place the zest into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar. Use your fingertips to rub the zest and sugar together. (It’s a small amount for a large bowl, but you will eventually mix the rest of the batter in this bowl.)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Now it’s time to supreme two of the oranges. (This is a bit of a time commitment, but a great life skill.) Slice off the top and bottom of two oranges. Stand one orange on a cutting board and using a sharp knife, follow the curve of the orange and slice away the peel and bitter white pith. Set the orange on its side and cutting towards the center, cut along a membrane. Then slice along the adjacent membrane until the cuts meet, releasing the segment. Cut the segments into pieces measuring about ¼.” Transfer the segments to a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl. Repeat until you have finished with the first orange. Hold the remnants of the orange over a small bowl and squeeze to release the juice. Repeat the steps with the second orange. Turn the orange pieces out onto a plate or a small baking sheet lined with a double thickness of paper towel to absorb some of the excess liquid.
Squeeze one half of the third orange and measure out ¼ cup of juice. (Any remaining juice can be combined with the little bit you reserved from straining the orange segments. You can add this to the candied oranges when you glaze the cake.)
Add just enough yogurt to the ¼ cup of juice so you end up with a total of ⅔ cup of liquid. (I measured slightly shy of ½ cup of yogurt.) Whisk together the juice and yogurt until they are combined. Add the vanilla and orange extracts, whisking once or twice to combine. Add the yogurt/juice/extract mixture into the bowl with the sugar and zest and whisk well. Then add the eggs, one at a time, and finally whisk in the olive oil. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in thirds, using a rubber scraper to gently combine the mixture. Fold the reserved orange segments into the batter.
Pour the batter into the parchment lined/buttered/floured loaf pan, and smooth the top with a small offset spatula. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake the pound cake on the middle rack of the pre-heated oven for 50-55 minutes. Keep an eye on things after 45 minutes, covering the cake with a piece of parchment paper to protect the cake if it is getting too dark. The cake should be golden and test clean when a small knife is inserted in the center. Remove the pound cake from the oven and set it on a cooling rack. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes before carefully turning the cake out of the pan, removing the parchment and letting it cool completely, right side up. (The flavors continue to develop as the cake sits, so if time allows, wrap the cooled cake in plastic wrap and let it sit one day before serving.)
Serve with whipped cream and candied orange slices, if you wish. If you are short on time, you can combine the reserved orange juice (from straining the orange pieces) with ½ cup of orange marmalade and heat the mixture on low until it melts. Spread the marmalade over the cooled cake and garnish with a few fresh orange slices.
For the Candied Oranges- (best to prepare these early in the day or the night before)
3 tangelos, cara cara, or navel oranges (mine weighed about 1 and 1/2 pounds)
1 and 1/2 cups water
1 and 1/2 cups honey
one half of a vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped with tip of a paring knife
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
4 cardamom pods, crushed
Thoroughly wash and dry the oranges then halve them and slice them, no thicker than 1/4.” Place the orange slices in a non-reactive saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer the orange slices for 8-10 minutes, just until tender. Drain the slices.
In a heavy bottomed, non-reactive pot, combine 1 and 1/2 cups of water with the honey, vanilla bean and seeds, cinnamon and cardamom. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the boiled peels and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Gently cook for 30 minutes, or until tender and translucent. Strain the oranges in a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl to catch the syrup. (If you have a little bit of orange juice left over from the orange segments used in the pound cake, add it to the syrup.) Use a fork to separate the oranges and spread them out on top of a cooling rack. Let the oranges and the syrup cool completely. (If you combine them while they are still hot, the fruit will continue to break down.) Combine the cooled orange slices with the cooled syrup in a container, cover and refrigerate, allowing the fruit to steep in the syrup overnight. When ready to serve the pound cake, brush some of the syrup over the cake and garnish with slices of candied oranges. (The syrup and oranges will keep refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.)
Chocolate Celebration Cake Frosting
… for Barbara…
Fills and frosts one 9” three layer cake
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, preferably 60%, coarsely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
2-3 tablespoons Cognac (depending on the type of celebration)
Place the chopped chocolate in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until the chocolate is finely chopped. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, scald the cream. Turn the food processor on and pour the scalded cream through the feed tube, processing until blended. (You can skip this step, but I like to pour the chocolate/cream mixture through a fine mesh sieve, just in case there are any chocolate stragglers.) Transfer the chocolate cream into a large bowl and let it cool slightly.
Whisk the butter and Cognac into the chocolate cream just until blended. Don’t go crazy here, because you want the frosting to be smooth. Let the frosting stand until it firms up. (If you make this ahead of time, you may need to warm it up slightly by setting it over a bowl of warm water before frosting your cake.)
In-Or-Out of Season Strawberry/Rhubarb Compote
makes a generous 2 cups
2½ cups rhubarb, (leafy stems removed!) preferably fresh (if frozen, let it sit for a bit so you can blot away any excess ice crystals) cut into ½” pieces
1 generous cup fresh strawberries (in a pinch you can use frozen)
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (I prefer my rhubarb on the tart side- you may wish to add another tablespoon of sugar)
1½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
scrapings from ½ of a vanilla bean or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
zest from one small orange
In a non-reactive saucepan, place all of the ingredients and cook over medium heat. Once the mixture begins to bubble, reduce the heat to low. Cook the mixture for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, being careful not to mash the fruit; the idea is for the rhubarb and berries to retain some of their shape. The compote should cook down and thicken slightly; it will continue to thicken as it cools. Test a piece of rhubarb to see if it is done to your liking. I prefer the slightest hint of texture, not a totally saucy mixture. Let the compote cool completely, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. The compote keeps, covered and refrigerated for one week.