January 13, 2013

Bacon cheese bread loaf (no-knead)

Lovely crackly crust

Jim Lahey's no-knead pancetta bread has become one of my tried-and-tested standbys for brunches, parties, and snacking. I usually make it as small bite-size crusty rolls (which I've written about before), but I also like making this recipe in larger loaves. 

While Jim Lahey's original recipe calls for baking it in a Dutch oven, I've found that if you split the dough into two medium-size loaves, you can do away with the Dutch oven, requiring less anxiety and less to clean up! It's a nice compromise between the smaller rolls and full-sized bread loaf, and you still get a beautifully-risen loaf with crackly crust and light crumb.

One of two loaves that I made yesterday

The loaf this time reminded me of the fat koi fish in my dad's pond. Perhaps it's because of the (cheese) moustache on the loaf? 

Loaves of bread and fish?

I made this bacon bread to go with the fromage fort I made with some leftover cheese from a holiday party. I don't have a food processor so I roughly mashed the cheese with chives, herbs, mashed garlic, heavy cream, and a generous splash of brandy. It ended up being like a very rustic Boursin :). Together, the bread and cheese went well with a beer tasting of Mikkeller craft beers that we recently got in from Denmark.

January 1, 2013

Dark chocolate craft beer cake with dark chocolate frosting

Birthday cake

An easy way to make sure that your cake is tender and not too dense - whip the egg whites separately to the egg yolks and fold them in at the end. While the extra step is a bit of a pain, the end results are TOTALLY WORTH IT (and worthy of the capitalized letters!). 

Being a shareholder in a start-up beer distributor means that we have a lot of great craft beer around. While I love to drink beer, I can only drink a glass before getting full. My preference is to cook with it. I find that using beer in cooking imparts a certain fullness of flavor to the food but is still subtle enough not to overpower it. I've made Irish beef stew with Tokyo black porter, salted caramel ice cream with Rogue Hazelnut Nectar brown ale. However, one of the recent standouts has been this decadent, rich dark chocolate cake made with Tokyo black porter, but would likely also work well with any other stout, porter or good dark beer. I plan to make it with Rogue Mocha Porter soon. 

This chocolate cake is extremely rich and dense, with a thick chocolate ganache frosting. A small slice would go very well with coffee (or ice cream). Top with your favorite fruit or candy - or leave plain. While you can splurge and use the best dark chocolate to make this cake, I find that the 100g bars of chocolate such as Lindt works fine. (I like to use the cheaper dark chocolate sold in Ikea food mart - it's half the price of Lindt and has a very good texture and taste. I've also used Green & Black chocolate too for special occasions.) I suppose you could also use baking/unsweetened chocolate too, though I can't guarantee the results. Chocolate is the star of this cake, so you want to use the top quality chocolate you're willing to pay for. 

The full amount for this recipe below makes one round 9-inch layer cake (using two 9-inch round pans), or you can halve the ingredients to make a 9-inch square cake. 

Bon App├ętit!


  • 3 oz (85g) dark chocolate (preferably min. 60% cacao)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour + 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (200 g flour + 50g cocoa powder)*
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200g (1 3/4 sticks) butter (room temperature)
  • 200g (1 cup) + 3 tablespoons caster/granulated white sugar
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup stout, porter or dark beer such as Rogue Mocha porter or Tokyo Black porter
  • 1/2 cup espresso or strong coffee (cooled)

* Cocoa powder is optional. If you don't have it, just make up the difference with the flour. 


  • 450g (1 lb) dark chocolate (50-60% cacao)
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream (I used UHT whipping cream because it's hard to find fresh cream in Hong Kong)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F or 180C. 
  2. Butter and use baking paper line your two round 9-inch cake pans (or one pan if using a half-recipe). Set aside. 
  3. Melt the chocolate for the cake in a bain-marie (put a metal bowl on top of a saucepan of barely simmering water), or microwave it. See here for a quick guide to melting chocolate. Set aside. 
  4. Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt). Set aside. 
  5. Using a mixer, beat the egg whites and 3 tablespoons sugar until stiff but not dry. In layman's terms, this means that the egg whites look like meringue and stay in the bowl (they don't slosh about or fall when you tip the bowl sideways or upside down). Here's a good Chowhound thread about beating egg whites. Set aside.
  6. Wipe clean your beaters and use another bowl for the butter and sugar. Using a mixer, cream (beat together) the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale yellow. Add egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in melted chocolate, then the beer and coffee. Add in flour in 2 additions until incorporated. (If you overmix the batter, your cake crumb may be coarse and tough.)
  7. Gently fold in your egg whites in 2 to 3 additions to the batter. Don't overmix the batter to avoid dissolving the egg whites - the air in the beaten egg whites helps to lighten the texture of the cake!
  8. Scrape the batter into pan, then bake in oven until cake tester comes out dry (about 30 minutes). 
  9. Remove from oven and transfer to cooling racks. 
The cake can be made ahead 1 day before frosting and assembly. (Cover and store and room temperature. Or, if you're really busy, make it ahead up to 1 week in advance and freeze the cake layers individually. Defrost it before adding frosting.)

  1. Placed chopped chocolate in a metal bowl.   
  2. Heat cream in a saucepan until simmering. 
  3. Pour hot cream over the chocolate. 
  4. Wait one minute, then whisk together until mixture is smooth.
  5. Chill in fridge until thickened and spreadable (2 hours in fridge or 30 minutes in freezer). 
The frosting can also be made ahead separately and stored in the fridge up to 3 days before assembling your cake. 

  1. Frost your cake, then top with your favorite toppings (white or other colorful toppings are a good contrast for the dark chocolate). For this winter birthday cake, I used white chocolate bark, white chocolate Maltesers, fresh pomegranate seeds, and diced fresh red pear.
  2. For layer cake, you may need to use a serrated knife to level off the top of the cake in order to get flat even layers. 
  3. For single-layer sheet cakes, you can stick the entire cake (wrapped/covered in plastic wrap) in the freezer for up to two weeks. I highly doubt it would last that long, though!

The last slice...