Posts Tagged 'Dessert'

Cookies Day 13: Orange-Almond Lace Cookies

Today was another easy cookie recipe, akin to the brownie thins I made yesterday. Remember how I said the brownie thins were like lace cookies? Well, today I made lace cookies. I guess they’re similar in the fact that they are both easy to make, expand A LOT when baked, utilize mostly butter, require dropping onto a baking sheet, and are very, very thin, but lace cookies have the brownie thins beat in their delicateness … and butteriness. When I took the cookies off of the baking sheet, Jay was like, “wow, you put a lot of oil on that sheet,” after which I informed him that what looked like oil was all residue from the cookies themselves.

Even despite all this butter, these lace cookies are so thin that I am shocked they do not crumble in my fingers when I pick them up. They’re surprisingly sturdy and pack a satisfying crunch around the edges, with a nice chewiness in the center. As for the flavor, the orange zest adds a nice citrus acidity that tempers the luscious heaviness of the butter.

These took just about as much time to make as the brownie thins, even though no microwave was involved. Spooning out the batter onto baking sheets can be a bit messy, so I suggest using a spatula to catch the drops.

I suppose these would make good gifts, packed snuggly in a decorative tin, but it’s hard not to crave the buttery crunch of these cookies all for yourself.

Orange-Almond Lace Cookies
(original recipe Bon Appetit December 1999)

Ingredients
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups finely chopped almonds
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten to blend

Preparation
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir 3/4 cup butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until melted. Remove from heat. Stir in nuts, sugar, flour, orange peel and salt; then stir in egg. Drop some batter by generous tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet, spacing 3 inches apart (cookies will spread).

Bake cookies until lacy and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Gently slide parchment paper with cookies onto rack; cool completely. Transfer cookies to paper towels. Repeat with remaining batter, lining cooled baking sheet with clean parchment for each batch. (Can be made ahead. Store between sheets of waxed paper in airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month.)

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Cookies Day 5: Chocolate Peanut Toffee

Every time I plan on going for a 10 mile run, something seems to come up. Rain, cold, hangovers. Today it was snow. Wet, heavy, mushy, yucky snow. It’s also cold, but that doesn’t bother me as much as being wet AND cold.

So I didn’t really feel obligated to get myself going early this morning, or do anything at all, really. As I type this, I’m mentally preparing myself to go to the gym, but it’s been a pretty lazy Saturday up to this point.

Flipping through recipes in my now daily quest to find a cookie to bake, I came upon this chocolate peanut toffee recipe. Other than cutting some things up and boiling some other things, there’s not much to this recipe. It also doesn’t require any baking, which means I got to keep my oven turned off for at least a day.

One of the best things about this toffee is the simplicity of the ingredients, allowing for a pure, sharp contrast between the deepness of the chocolate and the bite of the salt. It’s reminiscent of the now ubiquitous salted caramel, but with chocolate.

Chocolate Peanut Toffee
(original recipe Gourmet December 2007)

Ingredients
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups whole cocktail peanuts plus 1 cup chopped (1 pound 10 ounces)
7 to 8 ounces 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Equipment: a 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan; a candy thermometer; a metal offset spatula

Preparation
Butter baking pan and put on a heatproof surface.

Bring butter, sugar, and salt to a boil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat, whisking until smooth, then boil, stirring occasionally, until mixture is deep golden and registers 300°F (hard-crack stage; see Kitchen Notebook, page 240) on thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes.

Immediately stir in whole peanuts, then carefully pour hot toffee into center of baking pan. Spread with spatula, smoothing top, and let stand 1 minute, then immediately sprinkle chocolate on top. Let stand until chocolate is melted, 4 to 5 minutes, then spread over toffee with cleaned spatula. Sprinkle evenly with chopped peanuts, then freeze until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces.

Cookies Day 3: Pistachio and Cherry Mexican Wedding Cakes

Today was a big day today. Today, I got a job.

A job.

The only thing that would make it more perfect: if I was getting paid.

So yes, I have an unpaid internship, but it is a job. It gets me out of the apartment, gets my mind working again, AND it’s doing something I love. I get to rewrite books published for professionals and students, draft online magazine articles, possibly publish under my own name, and all in the tax field. Specifically, partnership tax, nonprofit and tax exempt organizations, and estate planning for wealthy individuals.

And guess where I get to work? The Watergate Complex. Personally, I think that’s pretty cool.

If you are just happening across this blog, you don’t know the immense struggle I have been facing since earlier this spring in trying to find a job. Tax attorneys seem to be a luxury item in a time of severe economic downturn, and I have been fighting to find a job since even before graduating with my tax masters from Georgetown. There have been some dark, deep, scary days where making it out of the apartment was reason enough to be happy, where laughing once in a while was a huge step. Now, even though I won’t be receiving a paycheck for my work, at least I will be living a normal-ish life, waking up in the morning instead of past noon, making myself go somewhere else to get a job done, and using my legal mind. Regardless of payment, the self-fulfillment is sustenance enough for now.

Ever ready to put myself into a celebretory mood these days, today I gave myself over to just that: celebrating. This generally means eating whatever I want, drinking however much I want, and working out as little as possible. I did a lot of eating, a good amount of drinking, and absolutely no working out (unless you count the walk back from the Watergate, which took about 45 minutes), so it was a pretty full day.

All this celebration and eating did not cause me to stop baking cookies, however. Oh no. Only something much greater and much more epic than an abnormally full tummy will be able to deter me from my cookie-baking quest. In fact, the reason for the celebration gave me inspiration to look for a cookie that was a little more special than the rest, one that stood out above the crowd. Sure, this is only day 3, but you can only change the cookie so much before you start to see common themes, and this becomes apparant just by looking through the recipes. One cookie that stood out and pronounced “celebration” more than the others, both in finished product and in name, was this one, the Mexican wedding cake.

So far, this has been my favorite cookie to make. Easy to prepare, short cooking time, and you get to use your hands to mould the cookies. Plus, it tastes really freakin awesome. The dough of the cookies never actually came together until I pressed it between my palm and fingers, creating a football shaped pillow out of loosely held-together crumbs. This gave the cookies a heavenly light texture that absolutely dissolves once it hits your tongue, a sensation further enhanced by the thick coating of powdered sugar. The lightness of the cookies is further bolstered by the salty pistachios and the chewy tart cherries, which work together to create a contrasting symphony of textures and flavors.

Paired with a bottle of bubbly I picked up on a celebretory whim today, these cookies were definitely worth celebrating with.

Pistachio and Cherry Mexican Wedding Cakes
(original recipe Bon Appetit December 2006)

Ingredients
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar plus more for coating
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shelled unsalted natural pistachios (about 4 ounces), chopped
1 cup dried tart cherries or dried cranberries
3 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 2/3 cups sifted all purpose flour

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 3 heavy large baking sheets. Using electric mixer, beat 2 cups butter and 1 cup powdered sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and salt, then pistachios and cherries. Using spatula, stir in all flour (do not overmix dough).

Shape dough by generous tablespoonfuls into football-shaped ovals. Place on prepared sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until bottoms just begin to color, about 16 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets 10 minutes before coating.

Pour generous amount of powdered sugar into medium bowl. Working with 5 or 6 warm cookies at a time, add cookies to bowl of sugar; gently turn to coat thickly. Transfer cookies to sheet of waxed paper. Repeat to coat cookies with sugar again; cool completely. do ahead Can be made 4 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Cookie Day 2: Peppermint Patties

For the second day of my Twenty-ish Days of Christmas Cookies, I went off the beaten path and chose a recipe that was not listed on epicurious.com’s 25 Days of Christmas Cookies. Digging through the old food magazines, I found an apparantly simple recipe for peppermint patties. Another appealing factor: the only additional ingredients I needed to purchase were peppermint extract and 10 oz. of bittersweet chocolate. Not too many ingredients, this should be easy and quick like the last cookie recipe, right?

The preparation started off simple enough, and maybe that simplicity led me into a false confidence. When I started to knead the filling of the cookies, I couldn’t help but notice that it was extremely brittle, barely sticking together and crumbling at the slightest pressure. I started to wonder, did I beat this too long? Did I make it too hard? Given that this was my first attempt of the recipe, I had no standard for comparison, so I pressed on, trying to quiet the doubts lingering at the back of my mind.

The brittleness of the filling only became more apparant when I started cutting it into small rounds. Although the thicker parts of the filling emerged from the cutting unharmed, the thinner-rolled parts cracked under the pressure of the cutter. I tried to meld the broken pieces back together and hoped that they would hold, but the broken pieces failed to hold together when dipped in the chocolate.

The chocolate. Oh, the chocolate. Although I had glanced at the recipe preparation before baking and knew that I would have to temper the chocolate, I didn’t anticipate how much time the tempering would actually take. After initially melting the chocolate, I waited, and waited, and waited for the temperature to reach 80 degrees, but it just felt like it would never get there. In impatient frustration, I threw the bowl of chocolate into the fridge for 5 minutes, something I knew I shouldn’t do but that I couldn’t help. The temp got down to exactly 80, but it now had a thin film, and I still had to re-boil the water. You can see where this is going. By the time the water was boiling, the temp of the chocolate was below 80, and I had to re-melt the film that had formed on the top of the chocolate.  After all that effort, I didn’t even have enough chocolate for all of the peppermint fillings. I had a couple of ounces left of one bar, so I just melted it quickly without tempering it and covered the rest of the fillings. In the end, everything was put together, but it was not without some frustration and missteps.

So how to the cookies taste? Amazing. Incredible. Melt in your mouth candy sweetness. Jay commented that the finished product was more like candy than a cookie, and it doesn’t take long for you to reach your limit. They taste exactly like the regular peppermint patties, but better, with the subtle added quality of good, fresh ingredients. Maybe the added taste comes from the love and effort required to pull off the finished product.

These cookies really do taste wonderful, but part of me wonders whether or not they are worth the effort. Before abandoning the recipe forever and swearing them off as not worth it, I think I will give this recipe another go, tweak my preparation style a little bit, and learn to be a little more patient.

Peppermint Patties
(original recipe Gourmet December 2007)
NOTE that the recipe calls them candies, not cookies!

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar (less than 1 pound), divided
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (preferably trans-fat-free)
10 ounces 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Equipment: a 1-inch round cookie cutter; a digital instant-read thermometer

Preparation
Make filling:
Beat 2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar with corn syrup, water, peppermint extract, shortening, and a pinch of salt using an electric mixer (with paddle attachment if using a stand mixer) at medium speed until just combined. Knead on a work surface dusted with remaining 1/4 cup confectioners sugar until smooth. Roll out between sheets of parchment paper on a large baking sheet into a 7- to 8-inch round (less than 1/4 inch thick). Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Remove top sheet of paper and sprinkle round with confectioners sugar. Replace top sheet, then flip round over and repeat sprinkling on other side.

Cut out as many rounds as possible with cutter, transferring to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm, at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, gather scraps, reroll, and freeze, then cut out more rounds, freezing them.

Temper chocolate and coat filling:
Melt three fourths of chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove bowl from pan and add remaining chocolate, stirring until smooth. Cool until thermometer inserted at least 1/2 inch into chocolate registers 80°F.

Return water in pan to a boil and remove from heat. Set bowl with cooled chocolate over pan and reheat, stirring, until thermometer registers 88 to 91°F. Remove bowl from pan.

Balance 1 peppermint round on a fork and submerge in melted chocolate, letting excess drip off and scraping back of fork against rim of bowl if necessary, then return patty to sheet (to make decorative ridges on patty, immediately set bottom of fork briefly on top of patty, then lift fork straight up). Coat remaining rounds, rewarming chocolate to 88 to 91°F as necessary. Let patties stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour.

The Twenty-ish Days of Christmas Cookies: Day 1, Molasses Crinkles

The other day I was looking through desserts online to try to find a Thanksgiving-type pie to bake for some friends. While I was searching, I stumbled across epicurious.com’s 25 Days of Christmas Cookies site, a collection of the website’s top-rated cookie recipes. As I started flipping through the slideshow, Jay said, “We can do this.”

“Don’t tempt me,” I responded, “I would totally bake one of these every day and blog about it, but it might be expensive.”

Jay: “Well isn’t it mostly flour and sugar and stuff?”

We didn’t talk about it much after that, but the idea had lodged itself in my brain. My unemployed days can get pretty boring, and baking the Texas State Fair Pecan Pie had reminded me about how much I enjoy cooking and baking, so it seemed like a fine plan to me. I didn’t mention it to Jay again until he was coming home Tuesday Dec. 1 and asked him to pick up a few things at the store. I purposefully chose the first cookie as one that we had most of the ingredients for already, so we wouldn’t have to break the bank to get a lot of exotic ingredients or spices. Thus, I came to make molasses crinklers.

I have no idea why they’re called crinklers. Maybe it has something to do with the large granulated sugar on top. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the cookies, when cool, can be a little firm, breaking like a crackler, although it probably has something to do with the way the tops of the cookies seem to crack when they cook. Regardless, these are some dense, savory cookies best enjoyed with (and dunked in) a glass of milk. When I started forming them, I misread the recipe and used a heaping TABLEspoon scoop, rather than a heaping teaspoon, but I think I like the bigger cookies better. I made a few in the recommended size, and they just seemed too small and dry to me. I like the larger size because they maintain a little chewiness in the center.

One great thing about these cookies is that they are rediculously easy to make and take almost no time at all. They were definitely fun to make and a good warm up to other Christmas cookies to come. I’m really looking forward to working with other recipes in this steady approach to Christmas.

Only one problem ….

…. who’s going to help me eat all these cookies?

Molasses Crinkles
(original recipe Gourmet 2004)

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening at room temperature
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses (not robust or blackstrap)
About 1/3 cup sanding or granulated sugar for tops of cookies

Preparation
Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and salt in a bowl until combined.

Beat together shortening, butter, and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer (preferably fitted with paddle attachment) or 6 minutes with a handheld. Add egg and molasses, beating until combined. Reduce speed to low, then mix in flour mixture until combined.

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 375°F.

Roll 1 heaping teaspoon of dough into a 1-inch ball with wet hands, then dip 1 end of ball in sanding sugar. Make more cookies in same manner, arranging them, sugared side up, 2 inches apart on 2 ungreased baking sheets.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until undersides are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes total, then cool on sheets 1 minute. Transfer to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies with remaining dough on cooled baking sheets.

Texas State Fair Pecan Pie

Not cooking anything for Thanksgiving didn’t really leave me satisfied. Sure, it was much more restful than it has been in previous years, but I felt like something was missing after the weekend started to roll on and I still had not made anything. After I was invited to have dinner with a few friends, I volunteered to make a pie because I just couldn’t take it anymore. Although I looked through recent years’ Thanksgiving food magazines, I had been craving pecan pie ever since I didn’t see it on Blue Duck Tavern’s Thanksgiving dessert menu, so my mind was pretty much made up on what to bake. The only question, which version? I found this one in a November 2007 Food & Wine, along with the description that sold me on it: “This extraordinarily rich and sweet dessert was the winner at the 1996 State Fair of Texas State pie competition, which Dean Fearing helped judge. “‘Out of 140 pies, this one was it,’ he says. “Her name was Bobby Lee; she never told me her last name.”‘

The recipe requires a 10 inch pie dish, and I think mine must have been a little smaller, because the filling seemed to just about overflow over the edge of the dish. I cooked the pie for a full hour as opposed to the recommended 45 minutes, and it still didn’t really set in the center. I guess I could have cooked it longer, but I was worried about the edges burning.

This pie is riiiiich, sweet, and really, really filling. Think super dense, super gooey, super nap-inspiring. The crust is also fantastically light and flakey, a good balance against the decadent filling.

Texas State Fair Pecan Pie
(original recipe Food & Wine November 2007)

Ingredients
Pie Shell
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water

Filling
1 1/2 cups pecan halves (51/2 ounces)
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs

Directions
Make the pie shell: In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas. Add the ice water and pulse until the pastry is evenly moistened. Turn it out onto a work surface and knead 2 or 3 times, just until it comes together. Form the pastry into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350°. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry 1/8 inch thick; transfer into a deep 10-inch glass pie plate and trim the overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold the edge of the pastry under and crimp the edges. Prick the bottom with a fork in a few places. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Line the pie shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edge. Remove the paper and weights and bake the shell for 15 minutes longer, or until it is lightly golden. Leave the oven on.

Meanwhile, make the filling: In a pie plate, toast the pecans for 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, corn syrup, milk, flour, vanilla seeds and salt. Cook over moderate heat just until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

In a heatproof bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Gradually whisk in the hot sugar mixture until thoroughly blended. Spread the toasted pecans in the bottom of the pie shell and pour the filling on top. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the center is just barely set and the crust is golden brown. Transfer the pie to a rack to cool completely. Serve with unsweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Twelve-Layer Mocha Cake

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“We’re just outside of Knoxville right now, so we won’t be home for another 8 hours probably. Like 2am?”

I was crammed into the passenger seat of my small car, sharing the space with magazines, one of my coats, my laptop and lawschool books under my legs, and dog treats shoved in between me and the door. We were making the long drive from DC to Arkansas for Christmas.

“Oh well we’ll probably be asleep by then. Is it ok if you make dessert for Christmas?”

Since junior highschool, I’ve been the unofficially designated dessert maker for all family gatherings. Traditionally I try to find creative and interesting desserts, things with kind of a “wow” factor. The year of a terrible ice storm I made snowmen out of ice cream. At one point I came across two different pumpkin bread pudding recipes, and not being pleased with either one, I combined both of the recipes into my own version, and the resulting dessert was a staple that showed up at both Thanksgiving and Christmas for years.

My mom didn’t really need to ask me to make dessert–the magazines in the car were all food magazines from which I was trying to chose this year’s Christmas dessert–because I already knew I had the job, but she just wanted to make sure, in case, for some reason, I would forget.

For some reason this year’s new dessert offerings left me a little disappointed. Nevertheless, when I first laid eyes on the twelve-layer mocha cake from Gormet, I knew I had found a winner. All those layers, all those different flavors, all those different textures. It sounded right up my alley.

Mom did not have three 15×10 cake pans, so Jay and I went in search of some extras. In a rush, I forgot to look at the exact pan measurements, so when we returned home with three 17×12 cake pans, I was a little concerned. Rather than take away from the flavor, the larger cake pans made every layer thinner, at times a little crisper. The cake layer was not as spongy is I would have wanted, the soufle layer didn’t have a chance to rise in order to have a chance to fall (as the recipe dictates), and the meringue layer was a little chewy. All these minor faults aside, I think the total combination was better than a sum of its parts, and it still won praise from around the table.

Despite the multitude of layers, this cake was pretty easy to make, and each layer required only a short amount of cooking time. The hardest element was the buttercream frosting, which required 30 minutes of beating time. Given the fact that I had left my standing mixer at home, this required a lot of arm strength and a couple of substitutions of pastry chefs in order to beat the mixture for the allotted time using a hand mixer. Even still, the buttercream managed to curdle, which required placing the bowl within another bowl of ice to finish it off.

This dessert is incredibly rich, and after eating the small rectangular slice at Christmas dinner, I honestly wasn’t ever in the mood for another piece. Luckily, my husband loves desserts like this, and he did an excellent job of finishing it off over the next couple of weeks.

All of the flavors in the cake play well off of each other and compliment each other, and you can really taste each layer separately with each bite. Not only did I note the difference in the layers, but everyone at the table mentioned that you could really taste all of the different components, one after the other. This kind of flavor waterfall is always a treat, a fun little theater for your tongue. The textures of each layer are also noticeable, with the meringue haveing a springy sort of chewiness.

Oh, and it looks pretty cool too.

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Twelve-Layer Mocha Cake
( Gourmet December 2008 )

Ingredients:
For cake layers:
4 large egg yolks at room temperature 30 minutes
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes

For soufflélayers:
6 ounces fine-quality 60%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup water
5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

For meringue layers:
2/3 cup hazelnuts (3 1/2 ounces)
3 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar

For syrup:
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon instant-espresso powder

For filling:
Coffee and mocha buttercreams (recipe follows)

Equipment: 3 (15-by 10-inch) 4-sided sheet pans (1/2 inch deep)

Preparation:

Make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter 1 sheet pan and line bottom with parchment paper, then butter parchment. Dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Whisk together yolks, milk, vanilla, and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl until combined well, then whisk in flour and salt until smooth. (Batter will be thick.)

Beat whites with an electric mixer until they just hold soft peaks. Beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks.

Fold one third of whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remainder gently but thoroughly.

Spread batter evenly in pan and rap against counter to release any air bubbles. Bake until cake is dry to the touch and pale golden, 10 to 11 minutes. (Leave oven on.) Cool completely in pan on a rack.

Halve cake crosswise, cutting through parchment, to form 2 (10-by 7 1/2-inch) layers.

Prepare soufflé layers while cake bakes:
Line second sheet pan with parchment paper.

Melt chocolate with water [i.e. double boiler], then cool to lukewarm.

Beat yolks, salt, and 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes with a stand mixer or 8 minutes with a handheld. Fold in melted chocolate.

Beat whites with cleaned beaters until they hold soft peaks. Beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.

Fold one third of whites into chocolate mixture to lighten, then fold in remainder gently but thoroughly. Spread batter evenly in lined sheet pan.

Bake soufflé layers:
Bake until puffed and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack, then cover top of soufflé with 2 layers of damp paper towels. Let stand 5 minutes. Remove towels and cool soufflé completely in pan (soufflé will deflate as it cools). Sift cocoa over soufflé, then loosen edges with a sharp knife.

Halve soufflécrosswise, cutting through parchment, to form 2 (10-by 7 1/2-inch) layers.

Make meringue layers:
Toast hazelnuts, then cool, wrapped in a kitchen towel, and rub off any loose skins.

Reduce oven to 250°F.

Finely chop nuts.

Beat whites with salt and cream of tartar using electric mixer until they just hold soft peaks. Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until meringue is stiff but still glossy.

Line bottom of third sheet pan with parchment. Put small dabs of meringue under corners of parchment to secure to baking sheets.

Fold nuts into meringue and spread evenly in pan. Bake until set and pale golden, 25 to 30 minutes.

Halve meringue crosswise, cutting through parchment, to form 2 (10-by 7 1/2-inch) layers. Return to oven and bake until crisp, 45 minutes to 1 hour more. Cool in pan, then peel off parchment.

Make syrup and assemble cake:
Bring water, sugar, and espresso powder to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Cool.

Loosen edges of 1 cake layer with a knife and invert onto a flat platter. Carefully peel parchment from cake and brush with some of syrup. Spread with 1 1/4 cups mocha buttercream.

Top with 1 meringue layer and spread with 1 1/4 cups coffee buttercream.

Carefully invert 1 soufflé layer onto buttercream and peel off parchment, then gently spread with 1 1/4 cups coffee buttercream.

Repeat layering, ending with coffee buttercream (there will be some left over). Chill at least 1 hour (after that, wrap in plastic wrap). Trim all around cake with a long sharp knife to neaten edges. [Note: I didn’t do this last step.] Bring to room temperature (about 1 hour) before serving.

Coffee and Mocha Buttercreams
(Gourmet December 2008)

Ingredients:
2 cups sugar, divided
3/4 cup water
6 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
2 tablspoons plus 1 teaspoon instant-espresso powder
1 tablspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 sticks (1 1/2 pounds) unsalted butter, cut into tablspoon pieces and softened
6 ounces fine-quality 60%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to lukewarm

Equipment: a candy thermometer; a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment

Preparation:

Bring 1 3/4 cups sugar and water to a boil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals from side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil, without stirring, until it registers 220 to 225°F, 15 to 20 minutes.

At this point, while continuing to boil syrup, beat whites with espresso powder, vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt in mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating, and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks.

When syrup reaches soft-ball stage (238 to 242°F), immediately pour syrup in a slow stream down side of bowl into whites (avoid beaters) while beating at high speed. Beat until completely cool, 25 to 30 minutes. With mixer at medium speed, add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition (see cooks’ note, below) and until buttercream is smooth. (Mixture may look curdled before all butter is added but will come together at end.)

Transfer 2 cups buttercream to a small bowl and stir in chocolate. If buttercreams are too soft to spread, chill, stirring occasionally.

Cooks’ notes:
If buttercream looks soupy after some butter is added, meringue is too warm: Chill bottom of bowl in an ice bath for a few seconds before continuing to beat in remaining butter.
Buttercreams can be made 1 week ahead and chilled or 1 month ahead and frozen. Bring to room temperature (do not use a microwave), about 2 hours, and beat with an electric mixer until spreadable.
The egg whites in this recipe are not fully cooked.

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