2.25.2011

Chocolate Coffee Truffle Cake with Chocolate Ganache




My husband and I don't go out for Valentine's Day.  We don't exchange ooey-gooey cards, either.  I hate crowds and lines and overpriced grub.  Our tradition is to stay at home, put the kids to bed early, light some candles, and create a restaurant-worthy meal for cheap.  The Hubs is not a big fan of desserts (unlike me) so I made something I wanted.

My first experience with a cake like this was in France.  I was walking to my local butcher in Paris and glanced in the shiny window of a pâtisserie I had passed by a million times before.  The sweets are on display like diamonds in a jewelry store. They are beautifully wrapped, ribboned, nestled, and drizzled.  I saw a cake - a gorgeous ebony disc with glossy liquid chocolate atop.  I had to have it. NOW.  My first bite was heaven.

This is technically called a cake, but that gives one the impression of fluffy, airy... well... cake. Not the case here, friends.  This cake is thick and very chocolatey with some powerful coffee undertones.  However, if you're not a coffee fan, not to worry. This can be made without the coffee and it is just as delicious.  Oh, and did I mention it's flourless?  That's right!  So you gluten-free fans can rejoice!

You'll notice the ganache is drippy.  I prefer mine a bit runny but feel free to cut back on the amount of cream used to make a thicker glaze for your cake.  The cake is has a bittersweet chocolate flavor so the ganache cuts the bitterness, but feel free to omit.

Chocolate Coffee Truffle Cake with Chocolate Ganache

1/2 c. brewed coffee or water                        
1/4 t. salt                                                             
3/4 c. sugar                                                       
18 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 c. butter, cut into chunks
6 eggs 
cocoa powder, for dusting
Ganache:
1 c. heavy cream
16 oz. milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300*.  Grease one 10-inch springform pan.  Lightly dust with cocoa powder.   Wrap the springform pan exterior in a double layer of heavy duty wide aluminum foil.

In a small saucepan, combine the coffee, salt, and sugar over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Microwave the bittersweet chocolate at 15-second intervals, stirring in between, until melted.  Pour into the bowl of an electric mixer.  With the mixer running at medium-low speed, add the butter to the chocolate, one piece at a time.  Once fully incorporated, add the coffee mixture and mix.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time until completely mixed together.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the springform pan.  Place in a roasting pan and fill roasting pan with boiling water to reach half-way up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake for 45 minutes.  Allow to cool on a wire rack until room temperature then chill in the refrigerator.

When ready to serve, heat cream in small saucepan until tiny bubbles form around the edges.  Pour hot cream over the milk chocolate chips in a bowl.  Allow to sit for 2 minutes, then gently stir to melt the chocolate.  Remove springform pan ring and place cake on a serving platter.  Pour ganache over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip over the edges.

2.24.2011

Petunias, Petunias

If you're anything like me, you've gone to your local nursery or home-improvement store and been astonished at the prices of Wave Petunias. These beautiful, eye-catching plants full of colorful blooms look amazing in flower beds and containers. They are easy to grow (no pruning or deadheading necessary!) and pretty drought tolerant.  However, the hefty price tag isn't so easy on the eyes.  I'm not talking about the regular petunias; we are focusing on Wave Petunias.
There are five sorts to chose from:

  • Double  (double blooms)
    • Spreading   6"- 8" x 18" x 24"
  • Shock 
    • Mounded, Spreading   7" -10" x 30" x 36"
  • Tidal 
    • Spreading, Upright   16" - 22" x 30" - 60"
  • Wave   (groundcover)
    • Spreading   5" - 7" x 36" - 48"
  • Easy Wave
    • Mounded, Spreading 6" - 12" x 30" - 39"

So what to do about the lovely yet super-expensive Wave Petunias you want to pepper your flower beds and pots with?  Grow your own!  Yes, I'm serious.  Don't worry - it's easier than you think.
I will be planting mine in pots on the deck so I chose Easy Wave for a little height and some girth.  I ordered them from Jung Seed Co. for about $5 for 15 pelleted seeds, which is about the cost of one plant in the pretty pink pots at the garden center.  See, friends?  Saving money already!



For the faint of heart - these seeds are small.  Like, really tiny.  But they will produce a killer set of healthy Wave Petunia plants.
Petunias require a surface sow (basically it means don't bury your teeny tiny seed under soil - leave them exposed on the surface of your planting medium) because light, either sunlight or artificial light, is needed for germination.  


Once you get over your inital shock at the size of the seeds (and really, the actual seeds are pelleted so the seed itself is even smaller!), we can move on to planting them.  I use peat pots and organic seed starting mix.  Some gardeners sow 2-3 seeds per pot and then thin them out to leave the strongest remaining.  I prefer to sow one per pot, only becuase I want to be able to plant all 15 plants. 


I realize you can barely see the Wave Petunia seed.  It's there, I promise.  It's the little yellow speck in the middle of the peat pot.  Included in the seed packet were 16 seeds, which evened out nicely my pots.


After placing the seed on the top of the starter mix in each pot, I lightly misted them with warm water.  You may see the pellet disintegrate as it gets wet.  That's totally fine, just don't mist them so hard that they blow away or get covered with soil.




The packet says germination in 10-21 days but my little sprouts popped up after only 5 days.  More updated Petunia photos to come as they grow.