Friends and Family: Rose Levy's Deep Chocolate Passion Layer Cake

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Today is a very special post. I like to call it "Miro Bakes- Friends and Family." I want to share some of my favorite recipes by my dear friends and family, recipes that I've personally tested, used and loved. The first recipe in our Friends and Family section didn't really need my testing, considering it's written (and tested probably hundreds of times!) by the one and only Rose Levy Beranbaum, a dear friend.

Yes, THE Rose Levy, "“the most meticulous cook who ever lived”, writer of such legendary books as  "The Cake Bible" generously shared with me her recipe for a spectacularly rich, decadent and irresistible Deep Chocolate Passion Layer Cake. This same recipe, but in larger, tiered form was published in one of my personal favorite's of Rose's books, "Rose's Heavenly Cakes" 

Rose is an inspiration to me and so many. I've read and baked from her books for years before I got a chance to meet her while she was having lunch at Gramercy Tavern with a mutual friend of ours. I was startled for a second as no one warned me she was at the table. I felt like a fan meeting my idol, I was speechless. From there on we became good friends and Rose continued to mentor and inspire me with her vast knowledge. And when I say vast I mean VAST! She is a living, breathing encyclopedia of everything sweet. If you've ever grabbed one of her many books or read her amazing blog Real Baking with Rose you know what I'm talking about. The way she writes her recipes and the extensive testing she puts in, means even a first time baker can be successful. 

Rose is also our regular judge for Gramercy Tavern's Annual Pie Contest, an event that celebrates our creative staff. In the weeks before Thanksgiving, everyone working at Gramercy Tavern is invited to makes a delicious pie of their choice, that is then judged by a select committee. The winner gets an excellent price from one of our partners, Vitamix or KitchenAid, and the winning pie is featured on our dessert menu. Rose has been a huge supporter of this event and I'm always thankful for that.

Rose is also a force of nature, constantly working on new books. This September her 12th book "Rose's Baking Basics: 100 Essential Recipes, with More Than 600 Step-by-Step Photos" will be coming out. You can currently pre-order on Amazon. 

I made this chocolate cake for Shilpa when she returned from her long business trip to India. She was away working on fun new things for her company, Extra Helpings . She visited almost 20 artisans to partner with over the next few months and needless to say, she was exhausted when she returned. Nothing a slice of this delicious cake couldn't make right. 

Miro  

Deep Chocolate Passion Layer Cake

Plan Ahead Start the cake at least 1 day before serving. Bake the cakes, and apply the syrup and the ganache undercoat, at least 1 day before composing and glazing the cake. This gives the syrup a chance to moisten the cake evenly and the crumb to become firm enough to make moving the layers easier. Make the ganache undercoat at least 4 hours ahead. Make the lacquer glaze 8 hours or up to 1 week ahead.

Special Equipment Two 9 by 2-inch round cake pans, encircled with cake strips, bottoms coated with shortening, topped with parchment rounds. Spray top of parchment before putting in pan but leave the sides uncoated to prevent the tops of the cakes from shrinking inward.) One 9-inch cardboard round

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Cake Batter:

66 grams unsweetened (alkalized) cocoa powder

118 grams boiling water

75 grams cake flour *

75 grams bleached all-purpose flour

300 grams superfine sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

108 grams canola or safflower oil, at room temperature

4 large eggs, separated, plus 2 whites, at room temperature

pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the Oven Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/175ºC.

Make the Cocoa Mixture In the bowl of a stand mixer, by hand, whisk the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. To speed cooling, place it in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before proceeding.

Mix the Dry Ingredients In a medium bowl, whisk the cake flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Sift the flour mixture onto a large piece of parchment. 

Make the Batter. Add the oil and egg yolks to the stand mixer bowl. Attach the whisk beater. Starting on low speed, gradually raise the speed to medium and beat for about 1 minute, or until smooth and shiny, and resembling a buttercream. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla for a few seconds.

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Add half of the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture and beat on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. The mixture will be very thick. On low speed, add the egg whites. Gradually raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes. The batter will now be like a thick soup. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pans. Each will be about one-quarter full (17.5 ounces/495 grams). 

Bake the CakeBake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the centers comes out clean and the cakes spring back when pressed lightly in the centers. During baking, the batter will rise almost to the top of the pans and a little higher in the middle. They will start to lower just before the end of baking. To prevent collapse of the delicate foam structure while still hot, the cakes must be unmolded as soon as they have baked. Have ready a small metal spatula and three wire racks that have been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray.

Unmold and Cool the Cakes. Immediately run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pans and the cakes, pressing firmly against the pans, and invert the cakes onto the prepared wire racks. Remove the parchment and immediately reinvert them onto the racks so that the firm upper crusts keep them from sinking. Cool completely. (While still warm, invert again to loosen the cakes from the racks and reinvert to finish cooling.) When cool, remove the top crusts with a small, deeply serrated knife.

*Note Cake flour results in more tenderness, and the all-purpose flour offers more moist fudginess, so I like to use a combination of the two. Alternatively, use 1 cup/4 ounces/114 grams bleached all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup/2.5 ounces/72 grams cornstarch. Use 1/8 teaspoon more baking powder.

Milk Chocolate Ganache Syrup

6 ounces milk chocolate, 40% to 41% cacao, chopped (or 4 ounces lower % milk chocolate and 2 ounces bittersweet  chocolate 60% to 62%)

6.4 ounces milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make the Milk Chocolate Ganache Syrup. In a food processor, process the chocolate until very fine.

In a 1-cup microwavable measure with a spout (or in a small saucepan, stirring often) scald the milk (heat it to the boiling point; small bubbles will form around the periphery).

With the motor running, pour it through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process for a few seconds until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. (Alternatively, grate the chocolate, place it in a small bowl, and stir in the scalded milk until the mixture is uniform in color.) 

Transfer the chocolate syrup to a microwavable bowl and stir in the vanilla. Apply the hot syrup to the cake. It penetrates most readily when at least 110ºF/43˚C—almost hot to the touch. If it cools, reheat for a few seconds in the microwave (or saucepan), but do not boil as it will thicken and make it more difficult to brush into the cake.

Apply the Syrup. Set one of the cake layers on a sheet pan, top side up, and with a wooden skewer, poke holes all over the top. Brush one-quarter/3 ounces/85 grams of the syrup onto the cake. Apply more toward the edge and less toward the center.

Invert the cake layer, bottom side up, onto a 9-inch cardboard round. Poke holes all over and brush with one-quarter/3 ounces/85 grams of the remaining syrup, brushing a little onto the sides of the cake as well. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap.

Repeat with the second layer and then invert it, top side down, onto a flat surface, such as a cardboard round covered tightly with plastic wrap, coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray as you will need to slide the layer off onto the first layer, after it is topped with dark ganache filling. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap.

Allow the cake layers to sit for 1 or more hours to allow the syrup to penetrate more evenly and the cakes to become firmer before frosting.
 

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Dark Chocolate Ganache Undercoat

16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 60% to 62% cacao, chopped

18 ounces heavy cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

Make the Ganache Undercoat. Have ready a fine-mesh strainer suspended over a medium glass bowl.

In a food processor, process the chocolate until very fine. In a 4-cup microwavable cup with a spout (or in a medium saucepan, stirring often) scald the cream (heat it to the boiling point; small bubbles will form around the periphery).

With the motor running, pour the cream through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process for a few seconds until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Pulse in the vanilla. Press the ganache through the strainer into the glass bowl and let it sit for 1 hour. Cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to cool for about 3 to 4 hours, until the mixture reaches a soft frosting consistency (70˚ to 75˚F/21˚ to 24˚C).

The ganache keeps in an airtight container for 3 days at cool room temperature, 2 weeks refrigerated, and 6 months frozen. To restore to frosting consistency, defrost if frozen and reheat in a microwave with 3-second bursts, stirring gently to ensure that it does not overheat or incorporate any air, or in a double boiler set over hot, not simmering, water.

Sandwich the Cake Layers and Apply the Ganache UndercoatUse the ganache shortly after it has reached the proper consistency or reheat it very briefly (in a microwave with 3-second bursts, stirring gently to ensure that it does not lighten in color or heat unevenly) so that it goes on easily without compressing the cake layers.

Spread a 1/4-inch thick filling (about 1 cup/8.8 ounces/250 grams) onto the bottom layer, starting at the edge and working toward the center. Spread a thin crumb coating onto the sides and then chill the bottom layer for about 30 minutes, or until the filling is firm.

Spread a thin crumb coating of the ganache onto the top and sides of the top layer. Carefully slide the top layer on top of the bottom layer. Frost the entire cake. Start with the sides (going out to the edge of the cardboard round and coming up to a little above the sides of the cake). Then use the remaining ganache to frost the top.

The ganache undercoat for the top and sides of the cake needs to be as smooth and even as possible because the lacquer glaze, if using, will reveal every imperfection beneath it.

Use a heated straight edged knife to create a flat top and smooth sides with a slight bevel for the edge. To heat the knife, run it under hot water and shake off the excess droplets.

After frosting the cake with the ganache undercoat, refrigerate it until very firm, a minimum of 2 hours or overnight. Be sure that the refrigerator is odor free as chocolate absorbs aromas very readily. The undercoated cake can be stored for up to 5 days refrigerated and for up to 3 months frozen. If frozen, remove it to the refrigerator 12 to 24 hours before glazing.

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Dark Chocolate Lacquer Glaze

200 grams sugar

118 grams water

41 grams corn syrup

100 grams unsweetened (alkalized) cocoa powder

116 grams heavy cream

88 grams cold water

10 grams powdered gelatin

Make the Dark Chocolate Lacquer Glaze. Have ready a fine-mesh strainer suspended over a medium metal bowl.

In a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the sugar and the 1/2 cup of water. Stir constantly with the whisk until the sugar dissolves.

Remove the pan from the heat and, with the whisk, gently stir in the corn syrup and then the cocoa until smooth, making sure to reach into the corners of the pan. The mixture will be glossy. Using a silicone spatula, stir in the heavy cream.

Return the pan to medium heat and, stirring constantly, bring the mixture to the boiling point (190ºF/88˚C). Bubbles will just start to form around the edges . Remove the pan from the heat and strain the mixture into the metal bowl. Cool until an instant-read thermometer reads 122˚ to 140ºF/50˚ to 60˚C, about 30 minutes.

While the mixture is cooling, in a medium bowl, pour in the 6 tablespoons/89 ml of cold water and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Stir to moisten the gelatin and allow it to sit for a minimum of 5 minutes. If longer, cover tightly with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation.

With the silicone spatula, stir in the softened gelatin until it is dissolved completely and the mixture is no longer streaky.

Strain the glaze into a 1-quart or larger glass bowl. (Do not store in metal because it will impart an undesirable flavor.) Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours or up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 6 months.

Glaze the Cake. Lay a long double layer of wide heavy-duty aluminum foil on a work surface to catch the glaze. Turn up the edges about 1 inch to keep the glaze contained. Set a wire rack or an 8-inch cake pan on top of the foil.

Set the frosted cake on the wire rack. Make sure the cake is level and, if necessary, put a wedge or spatula underneath to level it.

Reheat the glaze in a double boiler set over hot, not simmering, water (or very carefully in a microwave with 3-second bursts, stirring gently to ensure that it doesn’t overheat or incorporate any air). The glaze coats best for this cake at 82˚ to 85˚F/27˚ to 29˚C.

Pour the glaze in a circular motion evenly on top of the cake, allowing it to cascade over the sides to coat them completely. Start pouring in the middle, and as the glaze starts going down the sides, pour it about 1 inch from the edge to help cover the sides evenly. Should they appear, any tiny air bubbles can be pierced with a sharp needle. If any spots on the side are uncoated, it is easy to touch them up using the glaze on the aluminum foil and a small metal spatula. Alternatively, allow some of the ganache undercoat to show through. Allow the cake to sit for about 30 minutes until the glaze stops dripping. Use your fingers to remove any excess glaze from the edge of the cardboard round and then move the cake to another part of the work surface. Use the original large foil as a funnel to pour the glaze into a storage container.

Allow the glaze to set for about 4 hours, or until just barely tacky when touched lightly with a fingertip. Use a small metal spatula to remove any chocolate glaze “legs” at the base. For a stunning “starry night” effect, sprinkle with gold leaf.

Store Airtight: room temperature, 2 days; refrigerated, 5 days. Do not freeze as the plastic wrap needed to make it airtight would mar the glaze. 

Notes When glazing, it helps to use a ladle to catch the excess glaze for reapplying it. (This works only when the cake is elevated onto an inverted cake pan.) The glazed cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature; when refrigerated, it will lose a little of the glossy shine. It is at its most shiny within 6 hours of pouring the glaze. To revive the shine, brush lightly with a soft brush, or briefly wave a hair dryer set on low heat over the cake.

Honeycakes (Medenjaci) and Bakers Ammonia

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Happy New Year! The last few weeks have been great. Gramercy Tavern was busier then ever this holiday season, especially the last couple weeks of 2017.  For New Year's I managed to escape for a few days to Lisbon, Portugal where I met my Serbian family for a little reunion. It was an amazing trip, fun seeing family, walking around the beautiful city, enjoying the fresh, plentiful seafood and scoffing dozens of Pasteis De Nata (commonly known as Egg Tart). I even got the tart molds back with me, so there will be some of those in the near future!

Todays recipe is Medenjaci, or when translated, Honeycakes (not to be confused with Russian Honey Cake). These are slightly cakey spicy cookies, covered in a thick sweet glaze with the slight tang of sour cream, perfect with your morning coffee or afternoon tea. 

These cookies are available all year long in Northern Balkan countries, but are particularly popular during Christmas time. Not surprising since they are snowy white and full of fragrant and warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. 

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What's interesting about this recipe is the use of an old fashioned leavener called baker's ammonia. I became particularly interested in this ingredient during my last trip to India, when I had some plain looking cookies with my tea. They were not particularly tasty but had a very interesting texture to them. They were thick and crispy, but not hard. Each bite of cookie practically dissolved in my mouth before I could even chew. I later learned it was baker's ammonia that gave the cookies this particular texture.

Baker's ammonia, also know as ammonium bicarbonate or ammonium carbonate, was the leavener of choice before baking soda and baking powder entered the scene. Though this leavening agent is fairly unknown in Western countries today, it is still widely used in many Eastern and Northern European countries as well as in the Middle East and India. It is always used in low moisture items like dry cookies and crackers. Ammonia needs to evaporate fully from baked goods due to its noxious smell and that wouldn't be possible in a high moisture environment like a cake, for example. 

When using baker's ammonia it's important to dissolve it in liquid for proper distribution.  Do not eat the raw dough, no matter how tempting, as it might give you a tummy ache. 

You might wonder why use this product when it sounds so scary? Well in cookies and crackers it really produces superior results that cannot be matched by substituting baking soda or baking powder. It creates a much lighter and crispier texture and when used correctly there is no metallic/soapy aftertaste that sometimes occurs with other leaveners.

At Gramercy Tavern we use baker's ammonia in several cookies throughout the year. Currently on our cookie plate we have two cookies using this leavener, these Honeycakes that I'm sharing recipe with you today, and a delicious pistachio and dried blueberry biscotti. 

SERBIAN HONEYCAKES (MEDENJACI)

Cookies:

  • 7oz/ 200g lard, room temp *
  • 10.5 oz/ 300g organic powder sugar, preferably Wholesome 
  • 1.5tsp/ 8g kosher salt
  • 1tsp/ 5g cinnamon powder 
  • 1/2tsp/ 3g ground cloves
  • 1/2tsp/ 2g ground nutmeg 
  • 1/2tsp/ 3g ginger powder 
  • 1/4tsp/ 1g cayenne pepper 
  • 7oz/ 200g buckwheat honey, local preferably*
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 7oz/ 200g whole milk
  • 2tsp/ 10g bakers ammonia
  • 18oz/ 510g all-purpose flour, preferably King Arthur 
  • 14oz/ 400g unbleached cake flour, preferably Bob's Red Mill Super-Fine

Sour Cream Glaze:

  • 17.5oz/ 500g organic powder sugar, preferably Wholesome Sweetners 
  • 5.5oz/ 155g sour cream, preferably Organic Valley  
  • 1 vanilla bean 
  • generous pinch of kosher salt 

Preparation: 

Combine lard, powder sugar, salt and spiced in the bowl of a stand mixer and cream with paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. See picture for texture of the creamed mixture. 

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Add honey to creamed butter and mix just to come together. As you see in the picture, the mixture will start to curdle once the honey is added. This is due to the acidic nature of honey. Not to worry. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time and cream to combine. 

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Combine milk and baker's ammonia in a small bowl and mix well to dissolve. Sift together the flours (an important step to insure lightness of final product). Add the milk-ammonia mix to creamed mixture and paddle to combine. Your mix will look even more curdled at this point, but don't worry, once you add flour it will all come together. Add the flour and mix just enough to be fully combined. Transfer cookie batter to an airtight container, cover and refrigerate overnight. 

The following day, scoop cookie batter using 1.25 oz cookie scoop. Roll between your palms until smooth and glossy looking. At this point you can freeze cookies for future use, or bake immediately.

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Preheat oven to 325°F. Place cookies on a parchment lined sheet tray, with at least 3 inches of space between each as the cookies puff handsomely when baked. Bake for 18-22 minutes, depending on your oven. The cookies should be golden brown and fully baked in the middle. When under-baked, it tends to be raw/wet on the very top of the cookie. When cookies are done, remove from oven, let it cool for a few minutes on the tray, then transfer to a wire rack to fully cool down. 

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While the cookies are cooling, make the glaze. Combine sugar, sour cream, scraped seeds from the vanilla bean and salt and mix vigorously with a whisk until thick, shiny and lump-free.

When cookies are fully cool, use a fork to dip them in the sour cream glaze. The cookies should be fully submerged in the glaze. Fish it out with the fork and tap to remove excess glaze. Place on a wire rack and let it sit for at least an hour so the glaze can crystallize and be dry to the touch.

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Notes:

  • Lard is traditionally used in these cookies, as butter was considered an expensive item and was rarely used in former Yugoslavian countries. It was almost impossible to lay your hands on some butter after World War II as most communist countries including Yugoslavia considered butter a "luxury, elitist" ingredient. So people used lard that was commonly available, especially in Northern Serbia, which was and still is a big farming community. Later on as the health craze raged on, unknowing customers replaced lard with margarine. Thankfully, people are now realizing the folly of eating fake fats like margarine and shortening and are turning to butter and lard once more. When sourcing lard, make sure it's NOT HYDROGENATED and preferably get it from a local source like your farmer's market where there's a greater chance that it came from animals with a better quality of life. 
  • I like to use buckwheat honey in this cookie for its strong taste. After all the cookie is called Honeycakes, so it has to live up to its name! You can most definitely use other types of honey, but don't forget all honey is not equal. Some honeys are not always 100% honey, especially imported ones (see the groundbreaking documentary series Rotten on Netflix!). Wildflower and linden honey's tend to be milder and the flavor will be more subdued in these cookies. Chestnut is another good choice in this preparation, due to it's bold and rich flavor. 

Banana Bundt Cake

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This banana bread is what we always turn to at Gramercy Tavern for special occasion giveaways. We bake it in small paper bundt cake liners that serve two and box it up with a jar of house made chocolate hazelnut spread. We give this away to guests on special holidays like New Years Eve or Valentines Day. And during the Christmas holidays, this cake is often snuggled into a box and shipped cross-country to our friends in the restaurant industry.

Recently I was doing an event with the legendary pastry chef Michael Laiskonis. We were talking, of course, about chocolate when he suddenly asks me would I share the recipe for this cake with him. One of the world's smartest and most talented pastry chefs was asking ME for a banana cake recipe?! It took me a couple seconds to digest that. What a great compliment that was! So, this one's for you, Michael.

I made this cake many times in many forms. With and without the chocolate chunks. Pecans instead of walnuts and sometimes I've left them out altogether. I've baked it in loaf pans, muffin tins and sheet trays. Oftentimes I top it with a buttery streusel, or a plain vanilla glaze and even thick dark chocolate ganache. But my very favorite is this simple version, studded with walnuts and chocolate and lightly dusted with powdered sugar.  It makes for a perfect breakfast or afternoon snack. 

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BANANA BUNDT CAKE 

  • 11.25oz/ 320g unbleached all purpose flour, such as King Arthur 
  • 1tsp/ 5g baking powder
  • 1tsp/ 5g baking soda 
  • 2.5tsp/ 2.5 kosher salt 
  • 9.75oz/ 270g very ripe bananas 
  • 7.5oz/ 215g real buttermilk, such as Kate's  
  • 11.25oz/ 320g organic sugar, such as Wholesome  
  • 2 eggs
  • 6.5oz/ 180oz butter, melted and cooled, such as Kerrygold 
  • 1tbsp/ 15g vanilla extract 
  • 3.5oz/ 100g dark chocolate chips, such as Guittard or Valrhona 
  • 3.5oz/ 100g walnuts, toasted and chopped* 

Preparation: 

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Sift flour with baking powder and soda and set aside. Mash the bananas with the salt. Add buttermilk, sugar and eggs to bananas and mix together. Slowly add melted butter in to the wet mixture while stirring. Add dry ingredients, chocolate and walnuts and fold with a spatula till it just comes together. 

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Spray a standard size bundt pan (10 inch, 12 cups) with non-stick cooking spray. Pour all of the batter into the pan and level it even. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean with a few crumbs attached. Remove cake from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack. When the cake is completely cool, dust with powdered sugar and grate extra walnuts on top with a Microplane. 

This cake will hold well in an airtight container or under a cake dome for 2-3 days. It's delicious on its own or with a cup of hot Earl Gray tea. My personal favorite is to eat it at breakfast with chocolate hazelnut spread and yogurt. 

Notes:

TOASTING NUTS: Spread nuts on a sheet tray in a single layer, and toast in a preheated 325°F oven for 5-7 minutes. Nuts should turn a couple shades darker and smell deliciously toasty. 

Apple and Cheddar Focaccia

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About two years ago, we made the decision to bake our own breads* at Gramercy Tavern.

The idea was born when local flours from companies like Farmer Ground and Maine Grains became widely available to the restaurant through Greenmarket.co.  We challenged ourselves to come up with delicious breads made with local flours that we could execute in our restaurant ovens(which were definitely not built for bread baking). What followed was countless recipe testing with many different flours, a re-organization of our kitchen to suit the new production needs, then re-organizing and re-organizing it again. We added more people to our team and more equipment to our kitchen. With more people in the limited space we had to totally restructure the way we work, and when. And, as luck would have it, for the majority of that year the air-conditioning in the pastry kitchen was failing. The song "Hot in Here" by Nelly, became our anthem. But don't worry, no one took of their clothes off 😊

There was also some restriction of what bread we could make from a service perspective. We knew we had to create a delicious bread that could be served at room temp and remain tasty and fresh. 

We turned to good old focaccia. Since we're not an Italian restaurant we had to 'Americanize" this classic bread. Inspired by the all the local flour we were using, we decided to go off on a very NY angle by including apples. And with apples, cheddar cheese can never be too far behind.

So we added some apples on top of our focaccia, and a slug of cider in the dough. Apples plus cheddar and little a bit of herbs and chilies made for one delicious tasting bread! We bake this bread twice a day and there is always this sweet aroma of freshly baked bread and gently caramelizing apples spreading through the restaurant. When it comes out of the oven I just cannot stop myself tearing off a corner of warm, cheesy, mildly sweet focaccia.  Trust me, you won't be able to either!

*Today, at Gramercy Tavern, we make all our breads except for the delicious m'semen that we source from  Hot Bread Kitchen The mission of this amazing non profit is to support low income immigrant women, something that is dear to my heart. We at GT remain committed to supporting HBK anytime and any way we can. 

 

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APPLE AND CHEDDAR FOCACCIA  

  • 24oz/ 680 g apple cider * 
  • 1oz/ 25 g organic sugar, such as Wholesome  
  • 1.5oz/ 40 g olive oil 
  • 2 tsp/ 15 g sea salt 
  • 1 tbsp/ 8 g Aleppo or other hot chilli peppers 
  • 1 tbsp/ 6 g chopped rosemary 
  • 1.5 tsp/ 10 g active dry yeast 
  • 27.5oz/ 780 g all purpose flour, such as King Arthur * 

For topping:

  • 2 large apples like Honeycrisp, Gala or Granny Smith
  • 7oz/ 200 g sharp cheddar cheese, grated, such as Cabot 
  • 1 large sprig of rosemary 
  • coarse sea salt 

Preparation:

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl of a stand mixer, and mix with hook attachment for 5 minutes, on low speed (if using Kitchen Aid mixer, don't go over speed 3). Transfer to a well oiled bowl and cover with clean cotton cloth. Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes you will fold the dough with a well oiled hand, by grabbing the dough from the side, stretching it and folding it in towards the the middle (see picture below). Keep stretching from the sides and folding into center, working your way around the bowl twice. Cover with the cloth and let it sit for 30 minutes. Repeat process of stretching/folding and resting 3 more times. This will build the structure of the bread, but be aware this is a looser dough. 

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After the final rest take an 18 X 13 in (46 X 33 cm) sheet tray and generously oil with olive oil. Place focaccia on oiled sheet tray and stretch with your fingers until it fits the tray. You might not be able to stretch it fully right away as the dough might contract. Just cover it, let it relax for 10 minutes and try again to stretch it till it fills the entire sheet tray.  Cover and let it rest while you cut the apples. 

Core and cut apples in half. Slice apples about 1/8 thick. Layer apples on top of the focaccia as in the picture below. Remove rosemary needles off the sprig, roughly chop and scatter on top of the apples. Sprinkle over all of the cheese in an even layer. Season generously with sea salt, cover with the towel and let it proof in a warm place for 20 minutes. It shouldn't quite double in volume. 

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Preheat oven at 375 degree F. When bread is ready place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes rotate tray and bake for 15 more minutes. The time is just a guideline. Not all ovens are made equally, so use your best judgment. Look for golden color, nice caramelized cheese top, and fully baked bread. Don't be afraid to carefully touch it. It should spring back, without signs of being doughy. 

When done remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes to slightly cool down. Loosen the bread from the sides, lift one short side with large spatula and slid the bread onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

As tempting as it is, please don't cut the bread while it is fresh out of the oven. Doing so will squish the bread and kill its light and fluffy structure. Slice after it cools down and reheat as needed. It's perfect on it's own, but goes will with fall and winter squash soups. 

 

Notes:

  • If you wish to use water in place of cider that's fine, but you will have to decrease the amount of water needed by 2oz/ 57g in order to get the proper dough consistency. 
  • In the interest of home cooks, I tested this recipe with commercial (but great!) King Arthur Flour. At the restaurant we use a 1-1 combination of King Arthur All Purpose flour and Farmers Ground local, organic All Purpose flour. Local flours or those from heritage grains are usually not as heavily processed, and tend to be a touch inconsistent in a sense. Bread made with these flours tends to be less fluffy, but more moist with more character and flavor, not to mention more nutrition. I encourage you to explore some great local or artisanal flours near you. Some of my favorite are:

 

Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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This cookie is the single biggest reason for creating this website. Since this cookie debuted on the menu at Untitled in the Whitney Museum, it created some serious buzz and numerous requests for the recipe. As a fairly busy chef, I try to be as prompt as I can in responding to my emails and recipe requests, but I realized there was a much better, faster way. Why not share my recipes on an online platform and refer people to it. So thank you Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookie for pushing me to start my website and "Miro Bakes"!

Before I share the recipe for this cookie that Sierra Tishgart of Grub Street called "New York's Finest New Chocolate-Chip Cookie" I want to tell you how it came to be. When I signed on to be the opening pastry chef of the Untitled at the new Whitney Museum, I was already the pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern for a couple of years. The beginning at Gramercy was very challenging. I was a 29 year old Serbian guy appointed to lead the pastry department of an iconic American restaurant, following in the  foot steps of such pastry giants as Claudia Fleming and Nancy Olsen. I pushed hard to change the menu. I pulled out all the stops, sometimes going a bit overboard with crazy combinations, little known ingredients and elaborate plating. While most of my colleagues enjoyed these desserts, let's just say that some others were a bit more reluctant. One day, I set out to redo our cookie plate offering. I put out 7 different kinds of cookies, served alongside a small glass jug of ice-cold Batenkill Valley milk with a red and white striped straw.  The effect was remarkable. Not a single person on either the kitchen or service team protested. Every one was on board and the cookie plate would soon became a permanent fixture on the menu.  

So when I started making plans for the desserts at Untitled, I knew I had get a cookie out there.  Untitled is located in the Whitney Museum of American Art, and it only made sense that the food at this new restaurant should be very American. Of course, what could be more iconic than the one dessert the entire world thinks of as purely American- the Chocolate Chip Cookie.  I tried to create what I thought was the Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie. First, bye bye chocolate chips, and hello chocolate chunks. This move allows for larger chunks of chocolate, and the use of higher quality chocolate. And why stop at one kind of chocolate? We added milk and white chocolate to the mix. We played around with different ratios of ingredients and baking techniques, till we had a cookie that was crispy on the outside and gooey in the middle. Finally, we had a killer cookie that everyone liked. Then something clicked. What about all those people who are celiac, or have removed gluten from their diet? We wanted them to be able to enjoy this cookie as well. So, why not simply swap out the regular flour for a gluten free blend? The idea was to have a small batch of gluten free cookie dough scooped and frozen that we could quickly bake off as needed. Right before the restaurant opening, at the dessert tasting with Danny Meyer and Mike Anthony, we baked a small batch of these gluten free versions in addition to ones made with regular flour. They both loved the gluten free version so much that they requested we only go with that one. I wasn't surprised with their decision, as the gluten free one was my preferred choice as well. The substitution of GF flour (which is mainly starch) created a flatter cookie, which meant more crispy surface area, while the middle stayed somehow more gooey, almost molten, when warm.

TRIPLE CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIE

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  • 10oz/283g unsalted butter, such as Kerrygold 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 6.5oz/185g organic cane sugar, such as Wholesome*
  • 9.5oz/270g organic light brown cane sugar, such as Wholesome 
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 19oz/539g Gluten Free Flour, such as cup4cup Multipurpose Flour* 
  • 1 tsp baking soda 
  • 9oz/255g dark chocolate chunks, such as Guittard* 
  • 6.5oz/185g milk chocolate chunks, such as Guittard 
  • 4.5oz/128g white chocolate chunks, such as Guittard 
  • coarse sea salt for garnish 

HOW TO MAKE BROWN BUTTER: Melt the butter on a low heat. Let it cook, undisturbed, until all the milk solids separate and fall to the bottom. Continue to cook on a low flame till the milk solids caramelize to a deep amber color, and the butter smells toasty. This step turns plain butter into something altogether more magical and flavorful with caramel/nutty overtones. 

Combine the warm brown butter, vanilla extract, sugars and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and whip with the whisk attachment for a few seconds, to combine. Add the eggs and yolks and whip on medium speed until it looks like thick frosting. This should take about 5 minutes.

Combine gluten free flour and baking soda and whisk to aerate and mix well. Add flour to whipped butter mixture and combine. Add chocolate chunks and mix. Portion cookie dough using a 4oz cookie scoop. Transfer to an appropriate container, cover and refrigerate overnight. It is important that dough sits overnight so it properly hydrates, otherwise it will be too gritty and crack on top as it bakes. It's even better if you freeze the scooped dough for at least a week, as the texture continues to improve. 

When you're ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 375°F. Place the cookie dough balls on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. These cookies spread a lot, so be sure to leave substantial space between each, about 4 inches. Bake in the preheated oven for 9-10 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the entire cookie looks just set. These cookies will be much softer and gooier to the touch than those made with regular flour. Remove them from the oven and let it cool on the baking tray for about 10-15 minutes, till they firm up enough to be picked up without falling apart. 

NOTES:

  • I am committed to using organic sugars in my home and at work, but you could use conventional if that's your preference. I choose organic sugars as I believe they are a better option for us and for our enviroment. I played around with other alternative sugars like coconut palm which makes an excellent substitute for the brown sugar in this recipe. 
  • Not all gluten free flours are made equal. Even the brand we use, cup4cup, has two different blends, the one I suggest above, and another called Wholesome Flour. Both will give you different results in this recipe, so will any other different blend out there. This doesn't mean you can't use other blends, it just means that you cookies might look a bit different. The blend used in this recipe is very fine and soft, plus it contains milk powder which boosts the flavor, color and tender texture. 
  • I prefer to use Guittard or Valrhona chocolates in my home and at work, but you could use any other chocolate you wish. A good quality chocolate will make for a better tasting cookie than one made with palm oil and excess sugars.