Chocolate Zucchini Cake

626-52_choco_zucchini_cake_300This cake has become a favorite this season, after Henry, my son, grew his first zucchini (in our neighbor’s garden, I should add. Our patch did not do so well). He wanted to eat the zucchini, but frankly hates the vegetable, so I made this for him instead. He loved the cake, but suggested we just call it “Chocolate Cake,” because calling it “Zucchini Chocolate Cake” freaks him out. This recipe comes from May 2004 Saveur. It’s not a difficult recipe, even though the first step is a bit unusual (but makes for a great cake), just make sure to allow for quite a long baking time. 

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

2 medium zucchini, trimmed and
grated on large holes of box grater
9 T. butter, at room temperature
2 3/4 c. flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. corn oil
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. confectioners’ sugar

1. Working in batches, put a small mound of zucchini in center of large square of double-layer cheesecloth. Gather corners together and squeeze out as much water as possible. Transfer zucchini to a bowl and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 325º. Butter a deep 9″ cake pan with 1 tbsp. of the butter. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together into a mixing bowl and set aside. Beat together remaining 8 tbsp. butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, 3-4 minutes.

3. Add oil, beating well. Beat in one egg at a time, add vanilla, reduce speed to low, and beat in flour mixture and buttermilk in 3 alternate batches. Stir in reserved zucchini.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to let cool. Invert onto a plate and dust with sugar.


Honeyed Rosemary Goat Cheese + Whole Grain Crackers

In Lisbon this summer, we had this divine appetizer: bubbling goat cheese straight from the oven, with honey poured over the top and rosemary sprinkled over the honey. So divine. Since I’ve been home, it’s my new favorite appetizer. I’ve also found a cracker that I really like to make (yes, I have tried a few, and they are usually disappointing). The pairing of the cheese and these crackers is quite nice, but the cheese is by far the star. Great for holiday entertaining. I got the cracker recipe from Sally Pasley Vargas’ blog, and her pictures are gorgeous.

Honeyed Rosemary Goat Cheese

1 8 oz. log good-quality goat cheese
1/4 c. honey (this is really to taste, you might prefer more if placing under the broiler)
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed from stem and chopped

You can make this appetizer two ways. 1) Place the goat cheese in an oven proof dish, pour the honey and top, and place 4″ away from the broiler for about five minutes (make sure your dish can handle the heat!). Remove from oven and sprinkle with rosemary and serve immediately.

Or, 2) you can heat the goat cheese (on the stove or microwave) until soft and melted, then stir in the honey and rosemary and serve more like a dip (this seemed like a better way for a larger group–the former seems better for small dinner parties).

Whole Grain Buttermilk Crackers

1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. brown  rice flour, plus more for rolling (I grind this in my blender)
1 1/2 T. cane sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/3 c. olive oil, plus more for brushing on the dough
1 c. buttermilk
6 T. seeds such as poppy seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, celery seeds, etc.
Sea salt
1. Whisk the 3  flours, sugar, baking powder, and kosher salt in a bowl until combined. Make a well in the center and add the olive oil and buttermilk. Stir, gradually incorporating the flour into the olive oil mixture, until it forms a dough. It should be soft but not too sticky. Add additional buttermilk if it is dry.
2. Turn the dough out onto the countertop. Knead for about 20 seconds, until it is well mixed. Shape into a flat rectangle and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or as long as overnight.
3. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 half sheet pans (approx 18 X 13 inches) with parchment.
4. Divide the dough into thirds. Lightly flour the counter top with brown rice flour, and flour a rolling pin. Roll one piece of dough into a large sheet that is the same size as the sheet pan and approximately 1/16-inch thick (about the thickness of a quarter.) If necessary, lift the dough and sprinkle a sparing amount of flour underneath it to keep it from sticking. If the shape isn’t working, place the flat of your hands on top of the dough to stretch it into a rectangular shape. Transfer it to the paper. Slip both hands under the paper and lift it onto the baking sheet.
5. Brush the dough with about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle it with 2 tablespoons of the seeds and a little flaky salt. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top, and roll over the seeds with a rolling pin to embed them into the dough.  Peel off the plastic.
6. With a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into thirds the long way.  Rotate the baking sheet and cut into 4 equal pieces crossways to make 12 crackers.   Trim the uneven outside edges with the pizza cutter. Leave the edges on the baking sheet for tasting. (You can cut the crackers any size you want; this cut will make large squares.) Repeat with remaining dough.
7. Bake for 18 to 23 minutes, or until the crackers are golden brown and crisp all the way through. Let cool on the pan and store in an airtight tin.
Makes 3 dozen thin crackers

Homemade Hamburger Buns or Potato-Buttermilk Rolls

So, lest it appears that all my family eats is bread and dessert, I feel as though I should say that I am constantly trying to get fruits and veggies down us in any way, shape or form. It’s just that I get the most excited about making new breads and desserts, hence the high population on my blog. This week’s task was to find a good hamburger bun recipe. Last time I bought hamburger buns, I felt a little like we were eating soft-ish cardboard. Not pleasant. So, this was the first recipe I found that claimed it was a great bun. And it is. I made them two days ago, and we just finished the last of them for lunch today–they are very light and moist and made my mediocre burgers taste terrific (well, it was a combination of the buns and the raspberry chipotle barbeque sauce).

Hamburger Buns or Potato-Buttermilk Rolls
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Baking

1 c. mashed potato (peel and cook 1 large russet or use reconstituted potato flakes–the easier option!)
1 1/2 c. water
1 1/2 c. buttermilk (you can also squeeze 1 1/2 T. lemon juice into milk and let it sour for 5 minutes before using)
2 packages yeast (4 1/2 t.)
6 c. all-purpose flour (can substitute up to 2 c. with whole wheat flour)
2 T. sugar
1 T. salt
1/2 c. butter, softened or melted

Combine 1/2 c. water and yeast in a small bowl, stir, and let foam for 5 minutes.

If using a mixer: Combine mashed potato, buttermilk, remaining 1 c. water, sugar, salt, butter and 2 c. flour, attach the dough hook and mix for 1-2 minutes. Add the yeast mixture. Continue to add the remaining flour, 1/2 c. at a time, until the dough pulls from the sides of the bowl, but still sticks to the base. Knead with the hook for 5-7 minutes more.

If doing by hand: Combine mashed potato, buttermilk, remaining 1 c. water, sugar, salt, butter and 2 c. flour and stir until shaggy. Add the yeast, stir, and then continue to add the remaining flour, stirring as long as you are able, 1/2 c. at a time. Using your hands, add the rest of the flour, then flip the dough onto a counter, place the bowl on top of it, and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. Then, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, 5-7 minutes.

Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for one hour. Line two baking sheets with parchment or cooking spray. Turn out dough onto a counter, let deflate, then divide into 16 pieces (the recipe says to only make 12 hamburger buns, which I did, and they were huge! I would definitely divide the dough into 16 for rolls or buns, and I’m sure they will still be quite sizeable). Shape any way you want (for buns, pull the sides of the roll under and tuck into the bottom of the roll, creating a nice, taut dome), then place on baking sheets. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for another 30-40 minutes (the more rise time, the airier the roll). Preheat the oven to 375.

Before baking, dust the rolls with flour or brush with egg yolk+1 t. water and then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove to a rack and let cool slightly before serving.

Hooray for a good bun!