Sunday, January 14, 2007

A spicy, mid-winter meal...

I'm afraid that I don't have an exciting "what I made for dinner last night" report to share with you today. (Why do people suggest that that is the worst kind of blog entry, anyway? I love to hear about what folks are making, especially everyday foods, because I like to steal ideas for my own dinners! I don't get it.) Anyway, I have no real dinner recipe to share, but I will offer an unpaid product endorsement. We finally got around to trying some of the Rossi pasta that my friend, Kurt, gave me for Christmas, along with the jar of vodka sauce that came with the gift assortment. So I browned up some garlic and cheese sausage that I unearthed from the freezer, added the jar of vodka sauce and some heavy cream, and served it over Rossi Italian spice linguini. It was FANTASTIC! It was the best pasta dish either one of us has had in a long time--we both kept commenting on it through dinner. It was really excellent. Check them out at The website also has lots of recipes.

Now I may not have had an entree recipe for you, but I have one for dessert! Sadly, I'm getting down to the wire on my leisure baking time. But yesterday, Cyd and I decided that we needed something chocolatey, and I have had this recipe in the hopper of things to try for quite some time. Instead of making a whole cake, I made mini-bundts instead. And though the recipe called for covering the whole cake with a pecan glaze, the cakes came out so delightfully crispy on the outside (like a brownie!), that I decided to just fill the little depression in the mini-bundts and let it go a little bit over the sides, but not all over. Topped with a good dollop of whipped cream, and we were in spicy chocolate heaven! I'm sure that these would make excellent cupcakes as well.

Mexican Chocolate Mini-Bundts
(Source: adapted from, Gourmet April 2004)

For cakes:
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup coffee or espresso
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 (up to 1/4) teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt

For glaze:
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
5 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Special equipment: a 9-inch tube pan or 12-cup bundt pan or 10-12 mini-bundt pans

Make cake:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter cake pan well and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
Melt butter (2 sticks) in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in cocoa. Add water and whisk until smooth, then remove from heat. Whisk in separately sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cayenne and salt into a bowl, then sift again into cocoa mixture and whisk until just combined (don't worry if there are lumps).

Pour batter into cake pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 40 to 55 minutes (the mini-bundts took just 25 minutes).

Cool cake in pan on a rack 20 minutes (15 minutes is plenty for mini-bundts, until pans are no longer to hot to touch), then loosen edges with a thin knife and invert onto a plate.

Make glaze:
Spread pecans in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan (1 inch deep) and bake until fragrant and a shade darker, 6 to 8 minutes. Cool pecans slightly in pan on a rack, about 5 minutes.

Melt butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, then stir in half-and-half and confectioners sugar. Add chocolate and cook, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in pecans, vanilla, and salt. Cool glaze until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Spoon glaze over top and sides of cake (cake will still be warm) and spread with a small offset spatula or knife.

Cooks' note:
Cake (with glaze) can be made 2 days ahead and kept at room temperature in a cake keeper or covered with an inverted bowl.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

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