Saturday, March 20, 2010

Birthday Baking With Chocolate and Coffee

My birthday was coming up in several days and my husband, Mark, asked how I wanted to celebrate. Among other things, I mentioned that I might want a birthday cake.

But then this baking enthusiast realized that Mark wouldn't want to make a cake - great grilling and awesome breakfast food are his favorite kinds of cooking - and I really didn't want him to buy a cake. So I decided to combine two of my favorite flavors - chocolate and coffee - while celebrating my birthday and my joy in baking.

I started with a Chocolate Buttermilk 'Sheet Cake' recipe from Better Homes and Gardens NEW COOK BOOK and the tweaking began, with substitution of whole wheat pastry flour for unbleached flour and olive oil for half of the butter, a little less sugar, the addition of coffee. Then I put the batter in round cake pans so that I could create a layered cake with loads of frosting. See what you think:

Lisa's Dark Chocolate Layer Cake
Makes 16-20 servings

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons strong coffee
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Then combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine butter, cocoa powder and water. Bring mixture just to boiling, stirring constantly. Add and incorporate olive oil. Add chocolate mixture to flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed, until thoroughly combined. Add eggs, coffee, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat for 1 minute - batter will be thin.

Pour batter into the prepared pans. Bake 25-30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean; do not overbake. Cool completely, remove from pans (VOE-be very patient as you remove the cakes, they're quite tender and may break easily) and allow to rest on parchment paper.

Put one layer on cake plate or tray and spread thick layer of frosting on top (see recipe below). Place second cake layer on top of frosting and then frost entire outside of cake. Keep refrigerated until 15-20 minutes before serving, allowing to reach room temperature. ENJOY!

Chocolate frosting

4 tablespoons butter, softened
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons strong coffee
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa
2  1/4-2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

milk as needed

Combine butter and cream cheese  until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla, coffee and cocoa and mix thoroughly.  Slowly add confectioners sugar, stirring to combine until all sugar is incorporated. Add milk by the tablespoon to thin, if needed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Winter Harvest at Seghesio Family Vineyards

Pete Seghesio (center) continues his family traditions with fellow wine growers.

For Pete Seghesio, nothing tastes better than freshly made sausage served atop a slice of crusty bread, with a glass of Zinfandel, at 10 o’clock in the morning. It’s a flavorful way to celebrate two family traditions – making wine and handcrafting Italian sausage.

Seghesio Family Vineyards, located in Sonoma County, has long been known for quality wines, including their 2007 Zinfandel, which appeared on Wine Spectator’s list of the top 100 wines. But when harvest season has ended each year, the family shares another tradition - making sausage amidst the wine barrels.

The Seghesio family creates 2,000 pounds of sausage every December. They use Boston butt with 10 percent fat blended back in, because pork is much leaner now than when Pete’s grandmother created this recipe. Once the meat has been spread across a long table, family members pour a mixture of Zinfandel and fresh garlic across every 100 pounds of meat. Healthy doses of salt, pepper, nutmeg, clove, and allspice follow. Then dozens of gloved hands knead the meat to incorporate the seasonings.
The sausage machine (circa 1859) that has been used by the family since the late 1800s

In the early days, the Seghesios used an 1859 sausage machine. Although their grinding machines are newer now, filling the casings still requires plenty of hands-on attention. Pete blows into a sheath of cow intestine before placing it on a spout and then holds it tightly as meat fills the long casing. Expert hands tie-off the casing in six-inch lengths and then hang dozens of sausages on clotheslines near the wine barrels.
                                                Pete Seghesio fills cow intestine with sausage

The Seghesio family also has turned this event into an annual party, attended by many members of their Centennial (wine) Club; some even help to make the sausage. As everyone works the wine flows, finished sausages sizzle in frying pans and neighbor, Frank Passalacqua, cooks risotto to accompany the freshly made meat. Pete shares samples of his own Sicilian-inspired sausage recipe with friends, full of fennel, fennel pollen, red pepper flakes, pepper, fresh garlic and secret ingredients.
         Ed Seghesio, Chef Jon Helquist, Will and Pete Seghesio taste testing in the winery kitchen.

If you’d like to learn more about this lovely winter tradition, see their YouTube video,

Lisa visited Seghesio Family Vineyards during a press trip, in February 2008

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Broadmoor Culinary Students Create Stellar Cuisine

Early each morning, during the school year for the Shawnee Mission School District, a fully-equipped professional kitchen springs to life as high school culinary students begin another day of hands-on learning. These Overland Park, Kansas kids have decided, early on, that they're passionate about cooking. And they receive an incomparable education at Broadmoor Technical Center and their professional restaurant - Broadmoor Bistro.
In fact, this program has been nationally recognized for the exceptional culinary education it provides, for nearly a decade, and recently became an affiliate of the James Beard Foundation. Under the direction of Chef Bob Brassard and Chef David Finn, who both have plenty of professional restaurant experience, students create original recipes, prepare food for the Bistro, and then run the restaurant on nights when it is opened to the public. And that's in addition to the basic food prep skills, which they learn and hone daily.
Fresh ingredients, inventive flavor combinations and meticulous preparation result in restaurant menus such as: Porcini Dusted Roasted Poussin; Shrimp Cocktail with Assorted Sauces; La Rosa Lettuces Tossed with Smoked Grape Tomatoes, Baby Fennel and Peppered  Goat Cheese; and Chocolate Flourless Cake, Raspberry Ganach or Mini Truffle. Students also sell freshly baked pies, tarts, cookies and cakes during designated Broadmoor Baking Fridays.
These students often win national culinary competitions and they also are highly sought after by professional, post high school culinary programs including Johnson and Wales. In fact, program graduates have already received upwards of $750,000 in culinary scholarships.

Experienced culinary instructors, world-class facilities, and passionate students make Broadmoor Technical Center's culinary arts and baking programs among the best in the nation; and Overland Park diners among the most privileged.


Lisa has previously worked with Broadmoor Bistro through the Kansas City Originals - a group of locally owned restaurants.