The Never Ending Paella

Saffron
It serves me right for not using my usual Paella recipe. I figured that I’d wing it with no problem. Didn’t even look at the timing or the quantities, if only for reference purposes.

That is why we didn’t sit down to dinner tonight with Grandma and WG until 7:30. More than an hour after I’d started cooking. I thought for sure we’d be at the table by 7:00 at the latest.

The darn seafood just wouldn’t cook. I think there were a couple of problems. (1) Too much liquid and (2) too much seafood. It just didn’t get hot enough in the pan and by the time I thought to put the Paella in the oven, the oven had to pre-heat. Ugh.

Paella

It did finally get cooked (with the aide of a little last minute nuking of the clams and mussels – which worked remarkably well).

Not my best Paella, not my worst. And, while I missed those crusty brown crunchy bits of rice that are typical of a well cooked Paella, the lack of them meant that the pan was easier to clean. So, there’s a silver lining. I also made too much, which isn’t usually a problem. However, since it is the first night of spring break, and since we start our “stay-cation” tomorrow, we have plans for most of our meals for the next few days. Thus, Grandma and WG have a nice dinner (plus plenty of cake) for tomorrow or Sunday night. I’ll save the post of my Paella recipe until I make it according to what is written (and have success with that)!

Chocolate Cake

The cake, on the other hand, turned out much better than expected. I tried out a new recipe yesterday, when I was in full cooking mode (bake sale “healthy chocolate muffins” batch #2, matzo toffee crunch, and WG’s birthday cake). I was going to make a recipe from a 6 month old issue of Bon Appetit: Chocolate Cake with Fleur de Sel Caramel Filling. The picture of this cake was incredible and luscious. And, the sound of the title was so decadent. I had briefly read through the recipe, but hadn’t paid any attention to the ingredients or their quantities. When I did my second read-through to see if I had all the ingredients at home, I practically had a full blown coronary and diabetic shock just by glancing at the list. A whopping 3 1/2 cups heavy cream, 1 1/2 sticks butter, 1 1/2 pounds chocolate, and 3 cups sugar. That is for a cake that serves 12. I’m guessing that I won’t be making the cake for the next school bake sale, given the 35% max of calories from fat.

So, desperate, I pulled out my old “Hershey’s Make It Chocolate” cookbook, that someone gave me years ago and that has the recipe for “Deep Dark Chocolate Cake” (here is the link). But, I wanted to make a cake that used buttermilk, because I had some in the fridge. I also wanted a cake with a little less cocoa in it because I had the intention of making a dark chocolate ganache for the frosting.

Here is the recipe that I made. It was very rich, but not nearly as sugar coma inducing as the one from Bon Appetit. And, I only used one of the two layers that I made. The other is safely in the freezer for another time. This one layer cake would have served up to 12, with medium sized slices. We had 6 and ate 1/2 of the cake (o.k., a little more than half because S snuck an extra sliver).

Chocolate Cake Slice

WG’s Special Birthday Cake
Adapted from Chocolatetown Special Cake

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup boiling water
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/3 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup best quality raspberry jam

For ganache frosting:
8 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Fresh raspberries for decoration.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

In a small bowl, stir together the cocoa and the boiling water until smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and blend until well incorporated.

Sift together the remaining dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar/butter/egg/vanilla mixture, alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Fold in the cocoa mixture until there are no more pale streaks. Divide evenly between the two prepared pans and bake about 30-35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and then remove from the pans to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wrap one layer and freeze to use another day.

Make the ganache frosting: Heat heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute. Add chocolate to the bowl and stir until the chocolate has melted. If the chocolate doesn’t melt completely, put the bowl back in the microwave and heat for 15 seconds. Stir. If the mixture still contains lumps, heat for 15 seconds more. Stir until lump free.

To assemble the cake: Split the cake into two layers, horizontally. Spread raspberry jam on cut side of bottom layer. Put the top layer over that (cut side down). Spread the ganache on top and sides of the cake. Decorate with raspberries. Serve at room temperature. It is best to serve this cake before refrigerating so that the ganache does not lose its sheen.

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