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Archive for February, 2013

Boca Negra

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I like a good rich chocolate cake as much as the next person. Faced with a dessert menu, I’ll choose the decadent chocolate option while everyone else orders sorbet. The Boca Negra is both rich and decadent with only a handful of ingredients: bittersweet chocolate, sugar, bourbon, butter, eggs, and a tiny bit of flour. It contains so much butter that it literally changes phases depending on its temperature, almost liquid straight from the oven, and most definitely solid after a night in the refrigerator.

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The recipe is from Baking With Julia, on pages 253-254, and can also be found on Cathy’s blog, A Frederick Food Garden. I wish that the recipe was more descriptive about baking time. It’s very specific – exactly 30 minutes – but oven temperatures vary, and I was using a slightly smaller diameter baking pan than the size specified. I removed mine after 35 minutes, and I think another 5-10 minutes wouldn’t have hurt. It was decidedly molten in the center, reminiscent of brownie batter, not very cake-like. That said, I served it warm after dinner, and it was delicious and indulgent.

The white chocolate cream topping, included with the recipe, pushed it over the top for me. I’d prefer this cake with something lighter, say a flavored whipped cream or even a very good ice cream. The photos of the slice of finished cake were taken after refrigerating the remaining cake overnight. After chilling it was quite solid, almost like fudge. I tried microwaving a slice for 30 seconds and then it was like a fresh-from-the-oven brownie.

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Focaccia

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I’m not a big fan of focaccia. I’ve had too many restaurant versions that were dry little squares, almost cakelike, saved only by a seasoned olive oil for dipping. But this focaccia, made from a recipe in Baking With Julia, was just fine with me. Like a cross between a very good bread and a very good pizza, it was crispy, chewy, and full of texture.

I want to include a few comments on the process. While straightforward and simple, it does require a 24-hour rest in the refrigerator after a second rise, so if you’re planning to make it, it’s best to plan ahead. The recipe makes three 10-inch square focaccia (what’s the plural?). I baked two after the 24 hours of chilling, and I baked the third the following day, so that one had a 48-hour rest. The first two baked up beautifully, with lots of irregular hole structure. The one that had the longer rest didn’t rise as much and was a little denser, but still very good. I used chopped fresh rosemary and flaked salt to top the first two.

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The recipe uses two Tablespoons of yeast for the three focaccia. That seems like a lot. It seems like cheating. And with the 24-hour rest, I would think that a smaller amount of yeast would have time to create plenty of air bubbles.

On the third day, I was making a Middle Eastern inspired dish for dinner (roasted butternut squash & red onion with tahini & za’atar) from the wonderful cookbook Jerusalem. I decided to top the focaccia with thyme, sesame seeds, and flaked salt to complement the Middle Eastern flavors.

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As a final note, the word focaccia comes from the Latin focus which means hearth. If you want to try this recipe you can find it on pages 143-145 of Baking With Julia, or on Sharmina’s blog Wandering Through…

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