Friday, November 04, 2005

Comfort Baking

W travels frequently for work. As such, homecoming meals have become something of a ritual for us. And sweetening the deal, par on course. Understandably, he doesn't want to be greeted by some exotic result of a far-flung flight of fancy - a trip I am not unknown to take on occasion, which he otherwise indulges in the ordinary scheme of things. Devil's food cake, brownies, chocolate chip cookies and other such like - the comfort of the familiar is what he wants to come home to.

My taste in recipes is thus divided between two extremes. There's the thrill of the new - be it an unusual featured ingredient or technique or flavour combination. And there's the constant rediscovery of old faithfuls. Just when you think you may have finally baked the Holy Grail of brownie recipes say, along comes another that teaches you how to do it even better. A little less of this, a little more of that. A little extra something, skip it altogether. Temperature makes all the difference, baking time is key. The permutations and the possibilities they present ensure the quest for refinement alone will keep one plenty occupied.

To this end - a particularly compelling number in my litany of cookbook purchasing excuses - two recent additions, both of which are exemplary recipe collections of the sort of all-American sweet treats W enjoys, who is returning after a long week away - what better reason for a bout of comfort baking?

Devil's Food Cake

All too often, devil's food cake fails to live up to its wicked name. Bake through enough recipes and you'll know the pale (in colour and flavour) pretenders from the cardinally sinful with a quick glance at the instructions. Nancy Baggett's recipe in The All-American Dessert Book is a fine example of a devil's food cake with all the right attributes - richly rounded chocolate flavour, moist tender crumb, dramatically dark good looks. The requisite hue comes from combining baking soda with non-alkalized cocoa powder (as opposed to Dutch-process, which has had its acid neutralized) - bicarbonate of soda reacts with the natural acid present in untreated cocoa to intensify the colour and lend it a reddish tint. The icing on the cake? A fabulously fudgy frosting that spreads like a dream.

Chocolate Chip Butter Balls

Chocolate chip cookie-meets-snowball in this delicate hybrid from Lisa Yockelson's ChocolateChocolate that delivers on its promise to melt in the warmth of your mouth. Once baked, the plump buttery pillows dappled with chocolate chips receive a thick powdering of confectioner's sugar.

34 Comments:

Blogger Nic said...

I just got Nancy Baggett's book and I like it already. I'm glad to see your gorgeous photo, J!
I do think that Greg Patent's book is worth having. The recipes are good and he puts some little twists on things, like a bit of unusual spice or some wheat germ, which I like.

4:25 am, November 04, 2005  
Blogger michelle said...

OK - Are you a food stylist? Amazing as always...and I really enjoyed the explanation of the science behind the color. So many times I wonder why things turn out the way they do and how to alter them. Thanks!

7:56 am, November 04, 2005  
Blogger Cathy said...

Jocelyn - your beautiful photography and prose continue to tempt me to buy cookbooks I don't have room for!! I have other cookbooks by both these women (who are, incidentally, both local writers!) and have really enjoyed them.

9:45 am, November 04, 2005  
Anonymous cath said...

Jocelyn, what a treat to read and view your post whilst on vacation! The devil's food cake looks amazing -- but I think I could easily eat a box of those chocolate chip butter balls with a mug of tea right now! And your photographs, as always, are extraordinary...

9:58 am, November 04, 2005  
Blogger bajan_chic said...

your photos are amazing, I just discovered your blog today...i also have a blog but i think i may have to brush up on the photography after seeing yours. I also noticed you are based in Singapore...I am in Beijing and it is sometimes very difficult to find the correct ingredients (i can't really see this being a problem in singapore tho:)I am also a blogger so drop by and let me know what you think of my ramblings. all the best, the chef's madam. http://the-chefs-madam.blogspot.com/

12:31 pm, November 04, 2005  
Anonymous Amber Amethryne said...

Your choc cake looks sinfully good!

12:44 pm, November 04, 2005  
Anonymous augustusgloop said...

Stunning pics as always J. Your attention to detail and food styling is always breathtaking. And I bet that cake tastes wicked as well.

2:16 pm, November 04, 2005  
Blogger cin said...

J, your photos are just breathtaking. Your devils food cake looks rich and chocolatey enough to be a Sacher Torte.

9:05 pm, November 04, 2005  
Blogger soycap said...

Those Chocolate Chip Butter Balls look delicious and very cute! Awesome post and thank you for waking my appetite this early morning :)

12:38 am, November 05, 2005  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Hey j,
Wow, I second what everyone said.
I really like your attention to detail, and how you frame your shots.
However, I am more interested in the baked goods. I really, really can use a slice of Devil's Food Cake right now.

12:54 am, November 05, 2005  
Anonymous Melissa said...

The most dangerous thing for me about coming by here is not the appetite-whetting (although of course that happens!), but the temptation to buy even MORE cookbooks based on your very flattering reviews of their contents... You're really putting my self-restraint to the test! :)

1:18 am, November 05, 2005  
Blogger humblewarrior said...

Wow...those Chocolate Chip Butter Balls must be very rich!

3:00 am, November 05, 2005  
Anonymous courtney said...

Whoa. Buttery pillows?
The description alone is *impossible* to ignore.

11:31 am, November 05, 2005  
Blogger Reid said...

Hi J,

I love a really good devil's food cake and just by looking at the photo, I can tell that I could probably eat half the cake in one sitting!

The chocolate chip butter balls sound interesting. They look just like the melting moments that I make.

I think you're going to make me spend more money on cookbooks this weekend. *sigh* Delightful photos as usual.

1:27 pm, November 05, 2005  
Blogger Shauna said...

J--

What a lovely job you always do. The photographs are stunning, as always. But I really enjoyed your writing on this one too. Chocolate chip butter balls? Now that's decadence.

12:38 am, November 06, 2005  
Blogger Lori said...

Hi J-
I just bought that book by Nancy Baggett and have also earmarked that devil's chocolate cake recipe. I'm glad to see that you think it's a success. :) Now I know it's a go.

9:49 am, November 06, 2005  
Blogger The UnProfessional Chef said...

Hi J

Yum!! More chocolatey deliciousness. I just bought Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme (which you probably already have :) ) from my recent visit to London's Books for Cooks and your chocolate desserts certainly inspire one to try making some myself!

Would it satisfy your curiosity if I mentioned Oxford (though I wasn't there, but our mutual friends were). :)

9:54 pm, November 06, 2005  
Anonymous spots said...

Yes, I do really enjoy reading your blog & looking at your pictures. What DO you do for a living? :)

11:38 am, November 07, 2005  
Blogger pseudo chef said...

J -

The pic of that cake is beautiful, and if only I had found that book instead of the one I just bought.

Next time!

5:55 pm, November 07, 2005  
Blogger Anthony said...

The requisite hue comes from combining baking soda with non-alkalized cocoa powder (as opposed to Dutch-process, which has had its acid neutralized) - bicarbonate of soda reacts with the natural acid present in untreated cocoa to intensify the colour and lend it a reddish tint.

Mmmmm dreamy food science.

7:05 pm, November 07, 2005  
Blogger Ruth said...

As usual, your site inspires... It's great to look at and has us all running out for new books and heading for the kitchen to try to replicate your talents.

Thanks for sharing.

11:02 pm, November 07, 2005  
Blogger JellyGirl said...

I do so love all your chocolate posts, they fulfil all my chocoholic dreams! If I may ask, what sort of frosting did you use for the devil's food cake? Did you make it yourself or did you buy it from somewhere?

11:16 am, November 08, 2005  
Blogger babe_kl said...

lovely lovely pics

11:30 am, November 08, 2005  
Blogger Amy said...

Okay, I must have the chocolate chip butter balls recipe and I don't own the book. Can I persuade you to email it?

Stunning, original photos--but then, that's why I come here!

9:27 pm, November 08, 2005  
Anonymous keiko said...

Hi Joycelyn - your devil's food cake looks sooo perfect and beautiful! I love the gorgeous silver stand as much as the cake too...

2:40 am, November 09, 2005  
Anonymous paz said...

I love both photos, especially the shot of the cake with the pitcher of milk in the background. Those two go together so well. ;-)

Paz

11:12 am, November 09, 2005  
Blogger Rachael said...

Tell the truth now...you're a food stylist, arent you! I just cannot get over how perfect your pictures are! If you arent, and you are looking for work...it pays well, and you certainly are qualified! My goodness, are you ever! Outstanding. Mind numbingly amazing.

8:34 am, November 10, 2005  
Blogger boo_licious said...

J - I'm going to try and make those choc chip balls, Lisa Yockelson has the recipe in her other book (it's called pillows though, so I hope it is the same one) Thanks for inspiring as always with the great pixs and write ups.

6:43 pm, November 10, 2005  
Blogger Steffles said...

J - nothing is more comforting than an old-fashion chocolate cake. Your cake looks majestically rich and delicious!

Your chocolate chip butter rolls makes me yearn for those decadent melt in your month moments now!!!

12:07 pm, November 12, 2005  
Blogger tara said...

I have come back (again) to look at your gorgeous creation! I'm in love with that first photo, how very definitively classic that cake looks. I also adore the cake stand, the styling is perfect.

2:09 am, November 16, 2005  
Blogger latifa said...

Hi J, good job. I 've tried her cocoa chocolate chip pillow recipe in her "baking by flavor" book. but theu look completly diffrenent.?

10:49 pm, November 19, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi nic, look forward to seeing you post about it...with your vote of confidence, i am now convinced i need to have the patent book...

hi michelle, thanks! baking really is art-meets-science isn't it?

hi cathy, hmm, it must be something about the water in your parts ;) i have baking by flavour and the all-american cookie book, both of which i like too

hi cath, i find it hard to stop at one wherever chocolate is concerned ;)

hi bajanchic, thanks for dropping by, and allowing me to discover your lovely blog!

hi amber, thanks!

hi ag, thanks for your kind words...it was no angel ;)

hi cin, thanks. rich, it was, but a very different animal from sachertorte...

hi soycap, why thank you, anytime ;)

hi nicholas, thanks! glad to hear you are a devil's food cake fan too...

hi melissa, this past month has been terrible for my financial health - i have been unable to resist many of the new pre-christmas releases ...

hi humblewarrior, thanks!

hi courtney, :D diet food, they are not...

hi reid, devil's food cake is certainly the stuff of midnight fridge raids, isn't it? i am a firm believer that one can never have too many cookbooks ;)

hi shauna, thanks! rich and over the top, those butterballs were...

hi lori, can't wait to see you post about it!

hi the unprofessional chef, pierre herme's book is fabulous...am sure whatever you care to make from it will turn out great...

hi spots, thanks, glad you like the pictures

hi pc, thanks; there is always next time, like you say...

hi anthony, no molecular gastronomy here; just good old domestic science ;)

hi ruth, thanks for your generous praise; i like to think of baking/cooking as justifying my book buying habit (or is it vice versa?)

hi jelly girl, thanks! the frosting recipe comes from lisa yockelson's book as well

hi babekl, thanks!

hi amy, will be in touch shortly...

hi keiko, thank you very much for your kind words; the pewter stand was a piece i had been lusting after for ages...

hi paz, milk and chocolate cake and inseparable in my mind ;)

hi rachael, thanks but you are much too kind...

hi boolicious, good luck and happy baking!

hi steffles, thanks for your kind words; glad you like what you see!

hi tara, thanks! the cake stand is a pewter piece inspired by a william and mary paten design from the V&A's archives.

hi latifa, i took a look at both recipes and they are highly similar except the recipe in baking by flavour features cocoa and uses both baking powder and cream of tartar (the chocolatechocolate recipe only uses baking powder). i found that chilling the cookie batter prior to shaping and baking helped in shape retention; hope this helps...

12:07 pm, November 20, 2005  
Blogger Fanny said...

That devil chocolate cake looks just so attractive to me. I wish i could have a piece of it.
By th way, i love love love your vintage cakestand, it's so beautiful.
xoxo
Fanny

7:12 am, November 23, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PHT Said
The chocolate butter cookie looks irresistable. Could you pleeeeeease send the recipe via e-mail. I don't own that book. I would greatly appreciate. Happy thanksgiving
PHT

10:32 am, November 10, 2007  

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