The Perfect Altitude Cake

After many failures.  After much crying and tears shed.  After near moments of sheer rage where I simply wanted to throw caution and my entire kitchen setup to the wind, I have FOUND it.  I have DONE it.  I have made the perfect Altitude Cake.  I have made an adapted chocolate cake for high altitude!

It is chocolaty.  It is delicious.  It is moist!  And it is NOT dense!  I made this cake once before, but it did not turn out as good as it did this time.  This won’t be something for which all of you get to joy and jump around the kitchen screaming praises to God, because all of you are not living at 12,000 ft above sea level, you lucky freaks.

For those of you who have to deal with falling cakes, well you will love me!

Alright, so I can’t take full credit for this cake recipe.  It is a tweaked recipe.  The original I found on All Recipes.  If you have never been to said site, you are missing out and need to head over there as soon as you are done reading this!   Dark Chocolate Cake is the name of the recipe that I found and tweaked.  If you live where altitude is no problem, then you can just click that link and make according to that recipe.  NOTE: I would highly suggest using the comments as a guide.  More often than not, you will find adjustments there that make all the difference.  

Here are my adjustments with notes provided with each ingredient as needed.

Dark Chocolate Perfect Altitude Cake

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour PLUS 2 tbsp
    Note: Don’t measure the flour exactly.  The goal is to measure out more than needed.  Spoon the flour out into the cup and instead of scrapping off the excess flour that piles on top of the measuring cup, just pour it in.  Then, add two tbsp more of flour.  This gives the mixture more structure.  
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    Note: When you are baking at high altitude, leavening products become a huge challenge.  The idea is for each tsp of leavening called for reduce to a 1/4 tsp.  So, 2 tsp was the original amount so we reduce it to 1/2 tsp.
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    Note: Again, more leavening.  Since there was so much, I cut this in half from the original amount which was 1/2 tsp.  
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, melted
    Note: Usually you would cream the butter and sugar together.  Instead, you are going to melt the butter and mix the sugar with it.  I’ll explain that later.    
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar MINUS 1-2 tbsp
    Note: Baking at high altitude, sugar also affects the outcome of a product.  It’s necessary to take out a certain quantity of sugar.  I left out about 1-2 tbsp of sugar.  
  • 5-6 eggs
    Note:  The original recipe called for 4 eggs.  You will want to add more, this also contributes to the amount of liquid in the mixture and the out-coming structure.  The eggs we get in Peru are various in size, some are extremely small, so I used 6 eggs in my mixture.  If you have all pretty well sized eggs just use 5.     
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
How It’s Done
Note:
explanations and more in-depth directions are all in italics.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  When baking at higher altitude, it’s necessary to increase the temperature of the oven.  It’s usually the basic rule of thumb to increase the temperature by 25 degrees.  You need the liquid in the batter to evaporate quicker so the overall structure will set before it can rise too much and then break and fall.  

Grease 3 – 9 inch round cake pans or one 9×13″ pan.  In a medium bowl, pour the boiling water over the cocoa, and whisk until smooth. Set aside and let cool.
In another bowl sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Basic note for baking at high altitude.  Mixing and beating the batter by hand will give you more control over how much air is incorporated into the mixture.  I will explain as we go along why the amount of air in a batter is so important.  

All seems nice and normal until this point.  Here I did something that I thought was going to ruin my cake.  I melted my butter over low heat on the stove and added the sugar to this, whisking until well incorporated.  Now, the first reason I did this was because the Handicap Kitchen mixer caught on fire and is out of commission.
 The second reason is my theory for why this is necessary.  When you cream your sugar and butter together you are essentially creating pockets of air in your fatty product (butter).  Butter is not the only thing that does this in a cake batter, eggs also do this.  But, while a cake is baking at high altitude it’s important to not have TOO many air bubbles.  The leavening products react with the air pockets and cause them to grow.  This is their job!  But, at high altitudes this process happens a lot quicker and if there are a lot of air pockets and a lot of leavening product in your cake batter it will break and fall.  You will cry.  So, the challenge is to beat air into the batter in moderation with a reduction of leavening.  Make sense?  So, by melting the butter, I basically removed one more constituent of the danger of getting too many air pockets.  

Once you’ve mixed your sugar and butter together beat in the eggs.  It’s important to not beat the eggs in all at once.  However, you do want to be careful of beating the mixture too much.  I beat in two eggs at a time twice and then the rest of the times one egg at a time.  Does that make sense?  If you beat the eggs too much you will have to problem of too many air pockets.  You need to beat in the eggs just until they are mixed into the batter.  This should be approximately beating ten times for each (or pair) of eggs.  

Then stir in vanilla.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the cocoa mixture.  It’s important at this point that you stir instead of beat.  If you beat you may add too many air pockets.  Work carefully, folding the flour into the batter and mixing in the cocoa mixture.  

Spread batter evenly between the 3 prepared pans or into the 9×13″ pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool.  I find that at high altitudes it takes a bit longer to bake cakes all the way through.  You may need more like 30-45 minutes.  

Please, if you have any questions, leave a comment and ask, or send an email to thehandicappedkitchen at gmail dot com.

Have you ever baked at high altitude?  What were your experiences?
Also, find me on Facebook and like the page to get updates about what I’m making and when!  Find me here.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cake

There are plenty of things in life that are easy.  Those that are easier for some than others.  I find it easy to talk to strangers, learn languages, laugh, knit, cook and maybe some other domestic things.

But, there are also those things in life that are hard.  What may be easier for you may be harder for me and vice-versa.  I, for example, have a hard time with taxes, keeping my money in my pocket, not biting my cuticles (which I was just doing…) and saying good-bye.

Good-byes suck.  I hardly find it easy to say good-bye if I don’t know when I’ll see the person next.  And then there’s the awkward… do I hug, shake hands, kiss?!  And then you end up doing all three and you walk away thinking… what a great last impression.

Well, I’m pretty sure that a guarantee cure for good-bye sadness is a block of chocolate chip cookie dough!  So, that’s why for my friend’s going away party I made Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cake.  Have you never heard of it before?  Neither had I.  I made it up.

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I’m pretty sure this cake could cure anyone’s blues.  In particular, I have two good-byes coming up.  One, if my friend Micah who is leaving Puno to go live with his parents in Arequipa.  So, it will only be a 6 hour drive to see him, but it still is sad.  The other, is my dog Roxy.  She is 14 this year, I think, and she has just been diagnosed with congestive heart failure… my parents are giving her medicine hopefully so that she’ll hold on until I come home in July.  It will be hard loosing her.  She’s been a good dog.

So, really!  Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cake?  How could this not help?!  Or even this guy:

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Yea, Rocky… you pee in my house still, but I love you.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cake

Cookie Dough via Joy the Baker

2 sticks (1 cup or 8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 1/4 cups tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda (i know we’re not baking them, it’s for flavor)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup Greek yogurt or applesauce or peanut butter
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

I doubled this recipe from Joy’s original.  This is the base, as you can see from the picture above.  Put butter and the sugars in a mixing bowl and cream until fluffy.  Should take around three minutes with a machine.  Then, beat in your applesauce/yogurt/peanut butter along with the vanilla.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Once whisked together well, add to the butter mixture all at once and mix until well incorporated.  Then, fold in the chocolate chips.

Grease and flour a 9×13 pan and then spread the chocolate chip cookie dough into the bottom.  My dough turned out rather soft, but I also didn’t use real butter.  So, if you feel your dough is also on the runny side, put it in the freezer, if your dough is fine just put it in the fridge until your ready for the next step

Chocolate Mousse Layer
via Alton Brown

1 3/4 cups whipping cream
12 ounces quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 ounces espresso or strong coffee
1 tablespoon dark rum (if you do not want to use rum you can just leave it out)
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon flavorless, granulated gelatin

Chill 1 1/2 cups whipping cream in refrigerator. Chill metal mixing bowl and mixer beaters in freezer.

In top of a double boiler, combine chocolate chips, coffee, rum and butter. Melt over barely simmering water, stirring constantly. Remove from heat while a couple of chunks are still visible. Cool, stirring occasionally to just above body temperature.

Pour remaining 1/4 cup whipping cream into a metal measuring cup and sprinkle in the gelatin. Allow gelatin to “bloom” for 10 minutes. Then carefully heat by swirling the measuring cup over a low gas flame or candle. Do not boil or gelatin will be damaged. Stir mixture into the cooled chocolate and set aside.

In the chilled mixing bowl, beat cream to medium peaks. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining whipped cream in two doses. There may be streaks of whipped cream in the chocolate and that is fine. Do not over work the mousse.

Put it all together

Take the chocolate chip layer out of the fridge or freezer or wherever you put it and pour the mousse over and spread evenly into all the corners.  Then, you can make your own whipped cream, or you can use Cool-Whip.  I had to use Chantilly that comes in a powder form and I beat that with milk.  That’s also what I had to replace the heavy whipping cream with that you put in the mousse as well.  Oh my kitchen…

But, voila!  Mira!  Look at this piece of heaven.  I’m so happy my food creation worked.  Whew.

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What do you eat when you are down and out?  Do you fetch a bowl of ice cream?  Or even the whole pint?  Or do you dive into your jar of pickles… hmm for me that ties with the cookie dough!

Chocolate Dipped Banana Cake Balls (C.D.B.C.B.)

When you fall your supposed to pull yourself up and try again, right?  And the advice goes that even if you fall again you pull yourself up again.  One, I don’t like failing.  Two, if I fail I hate repeating something I feel should’ve worked the first time.  Baking at high altitudes is a great exercise for me in this department. 

A week ago I tried making Carrot Cake Rolls.  M-mmm.  It sounds good, right?  My inspiration was the classic Pumpkin Roll.  So, I found a Carrot Cake recipe and a Pumpkin Roll recipe and combined the two.  What happened?  I got a cookie sheet full of goop that didn’t set until an hour of baking (it should have only been 15 minutes). 

“What did you want to do, Trevor?” you ask.  I wanted to take the cookie sheet and chuck it out the front door hoping to catch a passing taxi in my baking-gone-wrong rage and bust out his window.  But, instead I slopped on the cream cheese frosting (which at this point I was feeling was a waste of good cream cheese) and rolled it up.  Later, everyone told me it wasn’t very pretty but it was the best thing I had made so far.  Can you imagine how upset I was?  Argh!

So, I decided to try it again, except this time instead of using carrot I would do a banana variation.  Mashed banana is similar to pumpkin puree, so I thought it might turn out better… nope.  It was practically identical the result.  This time I even adjusted the amount of flour, sugar, and leavening crap.  It got me nowhere.  So, looking at my kitchen towel with my sad excuse of a Banana Cake Roll with cream cheese oozing out everywhere, instead of getting upset and wishing doom on the 12,000 foot high city of Puno and all it’s residents, I threw it all in a bowl and mashed it together.  This is what it became. 

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I was really happy to have them turn out and actually hand them to somebody feeling proud of what I was giving them.  Cracked and brittle Carrot or Banana Cake Rolls are just not acceptable. 

Banana Ball Base

3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup mashed banana

The Binder

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese (room temp)
1 cup powdered sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter (softened)
1 tsp vanilla extract
———
1/2 cup oatmeal (if needed)

Chocolate … about 175 grams (or 6 oz) of bittersweet chocolate. 

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and grease a pan… I think you could use a 9×9 pan just fine.  I used a cookie sheet, but that was when I was making a Banana Cake Roll… now you’re making C.D.B.C.B. 

Make the flour mixture by whisking together in a bowl all the dry ingredients except the sugar.  In your mixing bowl mix the eggs and sugar until thick then beat in the mashed banana.  Then stir in the flour mixture.  It’s fine if it’s still lumpy.  Then, pour into the pre-greased pan and put in the over for 15-20 minutes or until when pressed slightly with your finger the cake springs back. 

While baking prepare the cream cheese frosting.  In a mixing bowl blend together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add the vanilla extract and then gradually add the powdered sugar. 

When the cake is cooked turn out, scoop out, or whatever, just get it out of the pan into a bowl and mix it together with the cream cheese frosting and also, at this point, dump in the 1/2 cup oatmeal as a further bonding agent.  If you feel the cake and cream cheese frosting will bind together fine without the oatmeal then leave it out.

Melt the 6 oz of chocolate over simmering water.  Here’s a link that can give you further advice on how to melt your chocolate correctly.  Melting Chocolate.     

Once your chocolate is ready spoon out some of the “dough” you now have and roll it into a ball with your hands.  Stick it on the end of a fork and dip it into the chocolate only covering the bottom part… if you want to cover the whole thing with chocolate you’ll just need more chocolate.  Then place on a baking sheet covered with plastic wrap.  Once you’ve got your pan full place in the freezer for a couple hours and voila!  You’ve got my mistake made delicious.

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Moravian Sugar Cake… but it’s really bread

When I moved out into my own apartment, the very first opportunity I got, I went to the Humane Society and adopted a cat.  He was perfect.  He was black and white, the classic tuxedo kitty look.  I named him Chopin after my favorite piano genius.  And I loved him very much.

All you apartment renters out there know that pets+apartments don’t always mix.  There are extra fees and papers to sign and I’m thinking, I just want a friend!  So, I decided to hide him from my apartment manager.

At the Humane Society I had to fill out paper work… a ton of it.  I understand why, but at the same time I was looking around the small place and thinking, you have cats hanging off your ceiling fan is this really humane.  The paperwork asked for my apartment’s contact number and I faked it.  The lady behind the counter asked me if I had written permission from my apartment to have a cat.  “Yup,” I said, “The manager is really relaxed and told me he really didn’t care.”  Then, horror of horrors, she looked at my paperwork and saw the contact number and asked if she could call it.  I didn’t know who she was going to call or if she was going to get a hold of anybody!

My friend, Jordan, was there with me and when the lady turned her back she started freaking out.  She called the number and it rang and she left a message saying something like, “This is Sheryl from the K*** County Humane Society and I have Trevor here who wants to adopt a cat.  If you have any questions please call us back, bla bla bla.”  Then, she hung up and turned to me and said, “I’ll let you go with the cat, but if I find out anything funny about this, I’m coming for the cat.”

Out in the car Jordan and I busted up laughing thinking about the sap who would get to listen to that message!  Who’s Trevor and why do I care that he’s adopting a cat?!

*Sigh* I just love pets.  They are such great companions.  And I’m excited to say after much bloodshed and violent warfare the family has somewhat reluctantly agree to get a dog!  Have we gotten one yet?  Nope, but we’ve got our eyes peeled.

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This is a bread that my mom used to make when we were kids.  I asked her for the recipe about four months ago, but I never got a response.  Finally, with a death threat, I got her to respond concerning the bread to find out 1.) she doesn’t have the recipe for it anymore and 2.) it’s called a cake not a bread.  Fine, it’s a cake.  But, I still think of it as a bread.

I love this cake/bread because it’s made with potatoes.  Seriously.  It makes it a very moist cake/bread, which is ballin’.  It’s also moist because evaporated milk is poured over it before putting it in the oven.  M-mm.  This is a great dessert to eat with a cup of coffee.

Moravian Sugar Cake/Bread

The Dough
1 russet baking potatoe (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp warm water
1 packet or 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour

The Topping
6 tbsp unsalted butter (cut into bits)
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
A bit of evaporated milk

Making the Dough

Peel and cut up the potato into small 1 inch cubes and boil in a small pot with enough water to cover about an inch over the potatoes.  Boil that for about 10-15 minutes or until very tender.  Drain and mash those babies stirring in the 2 teaspoons of water.

In a separate small bowl proof the yeast in the 1/2 cups of water.  Let stand 5 minutes or until foamy.  In a large bowl combine the yeast mixture with the potatoes and then the butter, sugar, egg, salt, and 2 1/2 cups flour until well combined.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes adding the extra cup of flour to the dough as needed.  You will want the dough to come to a generally bread dough-ish texture, though it might still be sticky.  If you add too much flour you will have a dense cake/bread.

NOTE: I´ll tell you where I botched up, but the recipe still turned out fine!  The recipe I was reading from said 3/4 a stick of butter… which I (reading quickly) read as 3/4 cup!  I put in too much butter, but since I was at high elevation more liquid in a recipe is not a bad thing.  I had to add quite a bit more than just a 1/2 cup flour to get it to a bread dough-ish texture. So, I let it go and it was perfectly fine.  So, for your sake I changed that silliness and have plainly and easily to understand 6 tablespoons in the recipe.

Put the dough into a pre-greased bowl and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.  When doubled it´s size punch down and transfer it into a pre-greased 9/13 inch pan pressing it into all the corners with greased fingers so the dough doesn´t stick to you.  Once the dough is spread evenly cover and let rise another 30 minutes.

Then, use your finger or the handle of a wooden spoon (greased) to poke holes in the dough.  Push down to the bottom of the pan and wiggle your finger or spoon handle so the hole goes all the way through.  Place the butter bits all across the bread.  In a small bowl mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon an sprinkle evenly over the dough.  Then, pour the evaporated milk into each of the holes you poked in the dough until each hole is fuuuuuuuull.  That´s practically one of the most magical parts of this recipe.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until it is dark brown and cooked through.  When pressed the top crust will be very firm and crunchy, but the inside will give like a soft sponge.  Just check the bottom of the pan and if it is a medium brown it´s done.

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