I’ve never made Churros with Chocolate Sauce before today! There aren’t many desserts that I have enjoyed at a restaurant, that I didn’t immediately come home and make. How has it taken me this long to realize how easy and delicious they are to make at home. The Churros with Chocolate Sauce recipes from Husbands That Cook, the new book by Ryan Alvarez and Adam Merrin are fantastic and couldn’t be easier. They make a very simple pate a choux (same dough used for eclairs, profiteroles and croquembouche), which is then fried until crisp. The dough itself is not sweetened and they even suggest serving it with a savory soup, which is brilliant. Given my love affair with sweets, I dredged mine in cinnamon sugar and paired it with their lovely, thick, rich, decadent hot chocolate sauce and a bit of cajeta I had on hand.
This week I finished the second round of edits on my new book. That’s about halfway through the process, but it still felt like a reason to celebrate. I like to celebrate, even the small stuff. Why wait? Celebrate along the way, since the process is the whole reason I do this. Cake seemed the right way to mark the moment. A slightly-over-the-top cajeta cake at that. Piping icing into flowers is a zen moment for me, it’s how I relax and the results are so satisfying.
The inside of this cajeta cake is a collection of things I had stocked up in my freezer, because I always feel a little more secure knowing there is a cake just a thaw away. I typically bake extra cake layers and make more buttercream than I need for a single cake, then I freeze them. This may be a result of years in the catering world, when a rush order would come in and we’d have to create something in minutes, not hours. Cake and buttercream freeze like a dream.
The cake is chocolate, the buttercream I flavored with cinnamon and for the filling I made cajeta flavored mascarpone cream. Cajeta is often called “Mexican Caramel,” even though it’s not really caramel at all, but a reduction of goat milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and baking soda. You cook it low and slow for a couple of hours until it is both the color and consistency of caramel. The baking soda (an alkaline) reacts with the milk (slightly acidic) and it quickly darkens. Without the addition of baking soda the milk/sugar would have to actually caramelize (burn) to darken and that’s not what we want. You can watch me make the cajeta cake in my instagram stories.
Cajeta has an earthy flavor that I love, but it definitely tastes of goat milk. It is related to the dulce de leche and is made in the exact same way, so you can swap out the cajeta for the cow milk version if you’re not a fan of goat milk. Or, you can combine the two types of milk to mellow out the flavor a bit. You decide.
I made this dessert as an assignment for Target. The store where I buy everything from school supplies to Riedel wine glasses. My friend Betsy Nelson is a food stylist for Target and she asked me to do some of the baking for a photo shoot. As inspiration she brought over the book Bittersweet by Alice Medrich to show me the style of cake they were going for. The thing I love most about working with Betsy is that she’s a chef and insists the food not only be gorgeous for the photo, but delicious enough to eat after the shot is done. I made a large version of the chocolate mousse cake for Target, but couldn’t resist using the leftovers to create individual cakes for my own pleasure, pairing it with a rich cajeta and freshly grated nutmeg.
Fast forward a couple of days and I’m at the BlogherFood conference in San Francisco. I met so many people I admire and who have inspired me as a chef and a blogger. It was incredible to put faces, voices and laughter to the people I’ve known only virtually. I promise I will get back to the cake, but let me just spend a second introducing you to just a few of the fabulous folks I met. Helen from the exquisite site Tartelette, Diane and Todd from White on Rice Couple (who gave me a much needed photo lesson during the cocktail party), Shauna, Danny and Lucy from Gluten-Free Girl, Tea from Tea and Cookies, Elise from Simply Recipes, Ree from The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Jaden of The Steamy Kitchen, Heidi from 101 cookbooks, all generously willing to share their experiences and secrets to their success. The reason I brought up BlogherFood in this post is because I also met Alice Medrich, the “First Lady of Chocolate” at the after party hosted by Elise, Ree and Jaden. Alice is a true master of her craft and I have considered her one of my pastry mentors. Here are her wonderfully smooth and perfectly simple mousse recipes, the key to success is really fine chocolate.