It’s hot here…really hot. Leave it to South Carolina to skip spring and go right into summer!
We are starting to crave ice cream…bad! I am impatiently awaiting David’s new cookbook, the ice cream maker is all polished and shiny but we need something to cool us down…now! Yes, we could go and buy some but what fun would that be when I can whip this little cuties out?!
The day I made the Banana-Chocolate Bonbons I doubled on the recipe since it was pretty tasty. Turned out that half of the chocolate pudding stayed in the fridge while I tended to other creations. To top things off, we did not really feel like eating it "like that", so I came up with these.
Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Pops:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate
2 Tb cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
In a heavy saucepan whisk together sugar, cornstarch. Add chocolate and cocoa powder to sugar mixture. In a bowl whisk together milk and egg yolk and gradually whisk into chocolate mixture. Bring mixture just to a boil over moderate heat, whisking constantly, and boil 1 minute, whisking. Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.Divide pudding between two 8-ounce ramekins. Chill puddings in freezer, surfaces covered with plastic wrap, until cooled, about 30 minutes.
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks.
For the pops: once the pudding has cooled, gently fold the whipped cream into it. Pour the batter into 4 ice cram pops, or 4 glasses like I did. Put a wooden ice cream stick on the middle, and freeze until firm.
Easy to make on a hot day and easier to eat on a hotter day!
Don’t be fooled by how cute these look…I am almost 100% convinced I will not make them again…at least not like this…
These three chocolate crepe cakes were actually part of a bigger group of 10, and shamelessly served to my dinner guests so I could complete my April Daring Baker challenge and tell you all about it. Remember the croissants or red velvet cakes? Yep, it is that time of the month again and our group grew even bigger this time so if you see 29 other Chocolate Crepe Cakes in various sizes and flavors, do not reset your computer. We decided to go big, go high…except with my never ending love of individual desserts I went small but high. But fear not, from all our discussions it appears that all of us have had very different experiences with the same recipe, so I urge you to read all the other Daring Bakers’ posts to have a idea and in some cases a good laugh.
Don’t get me wrong, the guests were delighted with the presentation, all those caramel dipped hazelnuts and mini caramel corkscrews. Yes, I could have gone another road and make it exactly asand I love crepes. For crying out loud, I come from the country of crepes, I make them every February for the Chandeleur, I even once made over 100 for our Girl Scout troups meeting! Yet, I hated these!
I had no major trouble making the crepes, except that the batter was thicker than what I like to work with and the chocolate flavor did not really come through despite the 70% Lindt chocolate that I used. I like crepes on the lighter side, the ones I can swirl easily in a hot sauté pan with a slight and graceful wrist movement (or so I like to think!); the ones that have tiny microscopic holes in them once cooled thanks to a little added beer to bring some air into them. In my case, Martha’s crepes were on the heavy side, kind of gummy, took longer to cook and required much patience while being flipped and handled. I ended up with about 30 crepes. To make the mini cakes, I took out 3 inch metal rings, cut out rounds in the crepes and began alternating filling and crepes until I had used all the crepes.
The icing was the part that I liked the least. It was a thin ganache, which made it easy to spoon on top of the cakes but it slid down the sides way too fast to cover them nicely. Looking at Martha’s picture I understand that it was to show the essence of the cake, kind of like “rustic ingredient (crepe) goes to the ball (caramel work)”, but that did not do it for me…I like smooth when it comes to chocolate icing….
Now the filling was another story! “Awesome” pretty much describes it. When Brilynn chose the recipe (Martha Stewart’s) this month, she was kind enough to let us play with the original and some of us decided t go another route. I originally made a blood orange cream, inspired by a lemon one from Pierre Herme , but it was so good we ended up spooning it on toasts, brioches, scones, anything but the crepes…shame on us, but that cream is so good it deserves its own post, so I went for the filling given in the recipe but made my own hazelnut paste (see end of post) because unlike Martha I did not find any “hazelnut cream” anywhere…that was too vague for my taste. I could eat this filling simply with a spoon and it would be fantastic in a macaron or sandwiched in 2 thin shortbread cookies.
The final component of the cake was the caramel….and this is when I usually do a happy dance. I absolutely love working with caramel, but was not always the case but I had a great teacher in Old Chef and I am continuously learning from him. He is the same one who made me handle boiling hot sugar with my bare hands (burning them) almost 8 years ago so I “would get used to it”…(crazy old French man!) and yet I love him and love working with him. I disgress… To me caramel is as confusing, fun, tantrum-prone, and alive as yeast. There is always room for improvement and always thousands of way to handle it. At home, I use all kinds of weird contraptions to play with hot sugar. I duct tape 2 wooden spoon to my countertop above the dishwasher, open the door and spun my sugar in between the spoons. Once I am done, close the dishwasher door and turn it on…and voila…clean up done.
I thought about doing it nice little nest of spun sugar but I had already done that for the Chocolate Intensity challenge and I feared the mini cakes would get drowned under them, so I kept it pretty simple and clean. (Very Martha said B.) For the caramel hazelnuts I attached them to long skewers dipped them into the caramel, stuck the skewers into an apple and balanced the apple above the dishwasher. For the corkscrews, I lightly oiled a metal skewer and twirled the caramel around it. Let it dry a minute and let it slide off onto a lightly oiled parchment paper lined baking sheet. Make sure the caramel is thick enough to play with. One easy cooling method is to put your pan into a larger one filled with ice as soon as your caramel has taken on the right color on the stove. If it gets too thick, simply reheat on low for a minute. Oh, and have scissors near by in case those caramel strands start taking on a life of their own!
To sum up: it was kind of a mixed bag of feelings for me this month. Too much fuss for an okay cake. I can’t talk for the other gals just yet but I suspect that there were as many different experiences and opinion as they were Daring Bakers involved. The techniques employed are not difficult to master even for a novice ( ok-ok- I am the weirdo that thinks that practicing flipping crepe should be a Sunday activity!), but the batter consistency makes it a pain. Texture wise, I am guessing that unless you use good quality chocolate you won’t taste it much in the final product. Taste wise, it is a shame to say but the filling makes the cake.
To see what my fellow Daring Bakers have done, check out the drop down menu on the right side of this blog.
Hazelnut Paste, from Cook’s Thesaurus
Coarsely chop one pound roasted hazelnuts. In a food processor or blender, finely grind about 1/3 of the nuts at a time, until mealy. Add egg whites from 3 large eggs, 2 cups powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons hazelnut liqueur. Blend until paste forms. Wrap and store in a covered container, up to 2 weeks. Makes 2-3 cups
Update: per Lisa’s request here is my unprofessional technique to let my caramel dry…:
It 's not like I need a reason to make brownies, but Myriam's invitation to her Browniebabe of the Month event, prompted me to try my hand at a very much lusted after recipe: Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies.
The thing is that I make brownies every other day or so, if not they are definitely in th menu on sundays…why? They are easy to keep around of a friend stops by, if the neighbors' kids are outside playing , see me and run toward my shopping bags asking "are you baking us something?", and let’s be honest because B. and I have a huge sweet tooth when it comes to brownies.
After many years of brownie baking I have adapted and combined many different recipes to come up with one that turns plain chocolate into a square of deep dark fudge, and allows me to play with additions if flavors, liqueurs, nuts, dried fruits, etc….but to me the recipe is not original anymore as I make it so often. I will write it here someday but for the event I started dreaming about Ina’s brownies (allright, Lisa, get your mind out of the gutter…).
Why "revisited"? Well, for starters there was no way I was going to use 1 pound of butter! Why? There are ways to have outrageously good brownie without an artery blockage. But I still wanted an "outrageous" factor so I decided use diced salted butter chocolate caramels as an add-in and cut the recipe in half. If you don’t want to go through the troubles of making the caramels, you could use diced soft caramels or crushed hard ones.
Outrageous brownies with Salted Butter Caramels, adapted from Ina Garten:
Servings: depends on your gluttony
1/2 pound unsalted butter (8 oz)
8 oz plus 6 oz semisweet chocolate chips, divided
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 large eggs
1 tablespoons instant coffee powder
1 tablespoons real vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 Tbs sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs all-purpose flour, divided (1/2 cup for batter and 2 in the chips)
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups diced salted butter caramels
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x13 baking pan.
Melt together the butter, 8 oz semisweet chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate in a saucepan over low heat. Cool slightly.
Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.
Stir together 1/2 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the caramles and 6 ounces of chocolate chips with 2 Tbs. flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.
Want to know the truth? They are so good, they made me wish I had made the entire recipe…!
Fudgey, fudgey and again fudgey and they disappear faster then the neighbors' kids can "what did you bake today?"
So if you were ever tempted to make them , run to your kitchen and make a full batch! You won’t regret it.
This is the last call for you to get me your entry to HHDD 11 Mousse!
I know that a lot of us have had internet connection issues (me included) so I am extending the deadline to sunday…LAST DAY….after that get ready for a round up of the most intriguing, gorgeous, mouth watering mousses I have ever seen!
The recipe for the mousse in the picture is just a variation of this one. I added grated fresh ginger and a dash of nutmeg…delicious!
Or…"monkeying around instead of finishing my spring cleaning"… according to B.
Right then I lifted my eyebrows and replied "well then, if this is monkeying around I am sure you won’t care if I eat it all …"
I have never seen a man picking up a vacuum cleaner faster than he did when he saw what I had just pulled out of the oven! Up until know I had never seen the necessity to re-arrange our cleaning responsabilities so why do it now…"I feed you honey, give you clean clothes and love you, darling…Keep vacuuming"
A conversation on the state of the pantry and the fridge with my dear friend C. made me realize it was about time to organize my shelves again and use the (many) items i had bought for a particular recipe that I had never gotten around to make or that left me with extra "stuff" such spices, flours, extracts and in this case spring roll wrappers (scroll down to the bottom of the link) and plenty of fine chocolate needing to be used!
I had bananas getting tired of staring at us day after day, pistachios about to take a trip to the neighbors' because they were feeling abandoned, and wrappers about to get as wrinkly as prunes, and plenty of chocolate to share the love.
I decided to make little banana packets with the spring roll dough and I shaped them into candy wrappers, baked them and served with some form of chocolate… When I usually make them, I use vanilla beans cut in half lengthwise to tied the ends but I did not feel like using my precious loot on a casual weeknight dinner.
Instead of making my staple chocolate sauce of heavy cream, chocolate and spat of butter (which works great as an impromptu fondue), I decided to make B.’s childhood favorite: chocolate pudding. I grew up on mousse, he loves his mama’s pudding…except dear mother-in-law never seems to find the recipe…I got inspired by this one from Gourmet Magazine, and the serving amount was perfect for 2, no sharing…!
Banana and Pistachio Bonbons:
4 spring roll wrappers
1 Tb. lemon juice
1/4 cup toasted, chopped pistachios
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup of butter, melted
Peel the bananas and cut them into small cubes, add the lemon juice.
Lay a wrapper down on a clean cutting board, brush with some melted butter, sprinkle with 1 Tb of sugar, add 3 Tb or so of diced banana, add 1 Tb of pistachios. Roll the wrapper into a log and secure the ends with kitchen strings or vanilla bean (cut in half and soften if necessary), to form a candy wrapper type package.
Repeat with the remaining ingredients and bake for 10-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Let cool to room temperature.
In a heavy saucepan whisk together sugar, cornstarch. Add chocolate and cocoa powder to sugar mixture.
In a bowl whisk together milk and egg yolk and gradually whisk into chocolate mixture. Bring mixture just to a boil over moderate heat, whisking constantly, and boil 1 minute, whisking. Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.
Divide pudding between two 8-ounce ramekins. Chill puddings in freezer, surfaces covered with plastic wrap, until cooled, about 30 minutes.
I regret I did not make more for tonight…the wrappers are good any time of the day, cold-warm-hot. And the pudding….I scored major points with B. Good I have got a birthday coming up!
Place the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add egg yolks, one at a time, beating until well combined. Set aside.Place the cream in a bowl ans whip until soft peaks form. Set aside.
Place the egg whites in a bowl ans whisk until soft peaks form. Sift over the icing sugar and whisk until the mixture is thick and glossy.Gently fold the cream through the chocolate mixture, then fold the egg whites through.
Spoon into bowls and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
It was the first time (if my memories serves me right) that I saw a recipe including both egg whites and whipped cream as the lightening agent of the mousse and thought it would be overkill heavy with both egg yolks and heavy cream but it turned out rich but not "stick to your ribs my arteries are shrinking". I used 62% Lindt chocolate and topped it with an extra dollop of whipped cream and some cocoa nibs. Delicious!
Update: in an attempt to explain my mousse making thoughts, it seems that my English was not clear enough. I have always made mousse including egg yolks and whipped egg whites. I have sometimes gone the easier way by combining melted chocolate and whipped cream. What I meant is that I have never combined the three in one recipe.
When I read my emails early Sunday morning, April Fool’s Day nonetheless, I thought I was still vaguely dreaming when Peabody announced that I had won HHDD #10 “Cheesecakes”. I knew it was a close vote and I felt grateful and thrilled that this cheesecake came out to be a winner. Thank you Peabody for the very cool book that I received in the mail today!
Then a mild mix of panic and excitement set in, as it meant that I would be the one orchestrating this next round. Thank you Barbara, the creator of the event, for your guidance in the past couple of days. You are a true star in the world of bloggers!
I am loving this already as it gave me the opportunity to better get to know Donna Hay, and read more of her books (as if I needed another excuse to sit at the local coffee shop with a cookbook and a latte for hours).
I had a couple of ideas in mind but every minute of the day I was coming back to the same thing…Mousse! so there you have it. In this HHDD # 11, you may make a sweet or savory mousse, it can be layered or scooped, simple or fancy. The only requirement is that it be an attempt to be at the least “mousse-like”. So get out there and whip it up!
You must post your mousse recipe no later than April 20th. Once your post is up, email it to me at marinette1 AT Comcast Dot net, including your name, name of your blog and its URL, title of your recipe and URL to your post, a picture of your mousse.
The round up will be posted and voting will begin on April 24th, and the winner will be announced on May 1st.
The winner will receive this book by Trish Deseine and of course the chance to host HHDD #12!
To help you get started, here is a recipe from Donna Hay’s The Instant Cook, for the mousse you see in this post:
Blueberry and White Chocolate Mousse
3 Tb. water
2 tsp. gelatin powder
5 oz. white chocolate
2 cups single or pouring cream (18% fat)
1 cup blueberries
Extra blueberries for garnish
Place the water in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let stand until the gelatin absorbs the water.
Place the chocolate and cream in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until smooth and the chocolate is fully incorporated. Add the gelatin mixture and stir for 1 minute to dissolve. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture into a bowl. Whisk for 3 minutes or until cooled. Stir in the blueberries and pour into six 1-cup-capacity greased serving glasses. Refrigerate the desserts for 45 to 60 minutes to set. Serve with extra blueberries, if desired.
I really thought I would have to sit this one out…The theme for this month’s Sugar High Friday was "Raw Chocolate" …. where am I going to find raw chocolate in my neck of the woods? There were the obvious choices like homemade chocolate including cocoa butter in the ingredient list, or cocoa nibs that I had successfully located a couple months back. I was feeling less than inspired. I kept looking at my pantry, at the cocoa nibs, at the fridge, and then inspiration came late friday night with these:
Cocoa Nib Pavlovas, Avocado Cream, Honeyed Strawberry and Pineapple, Cocoa Nib and Pistachio Praline….
Yep….just that…Really, I can’t be left alone… and before you turn your heads away, let me tell you that sweet avocado rocks! I wanted to keep up with the raw theme throughout this dessert so beside the cocoa nibs everything else is in its original form. I thought at first of filling the meringue disks with a citrus curd or a chocolate cream, but I wanted something soft and light that would let your mouth taste the cocoa nibs as well as the crunch of the praline.
I am not going to lie, I was a bit skeptical about having avocados on the sweet side, but I found tons of recipes out there for avocado dessert so it gave me the confidence to break away from my savory conceptions and get whipping. And you know what…it is amazingly good!
All the components can be made up to one day ahead. These were assembled and served saturday night for a dinner party. I did not tell people about the avocado part, everybody assumed it was pistachio custard until one guest asked me for the recipe and everybody stopped eating, raised their heads, looked at their dessert funny for a minute and digged in again to the sound of :"crunch…crunch…crunch…this is so surprising…this is so good…"
3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup cocoa nibs
Preheat oven to 275.
Mix the sugar and corn starch and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the ballon whisk, start whipping the egg whites to soft peaks. Slowly add the sugar mixture in a slow steady stream, or one tablespoon at a time. Stop the mixer and with a spatula, fold in the cocoa nibs.
Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper, and with a large spoon, mounds 12 meringue rounds. Bake at 275 for 40 minutes. Reduce heat to 250 and bake for another 20 minutes. At this point you can remove them from the oven, or turn the oven off and let them cool in the oven for a few hours. I let mine sit there overnight.
3 avocados, pitted, skin removed and cut into cubes
1/4 sugar, or to taste
1 cup heavy cream
juice of 1 lime
In a food processor, combine all the ingredients and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.
Cocoa Nib and Pistachio Praline:
100 gr. sugar, divided
1/4 cocoa nib
1/4 shelled raw pistachios
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, melt 50 gr. sugar until light golden brown. Add the remaining 50 gr. sugar and stir until the sugar melt and the caramel is dark golden. Remove from the heat, quickly add the nuts and the nibs. Pour it onto the sheet pan and let cool completely. Break into pieces to decorate the meringues.
For the fruit I just cut up some strawberries and pineapple and drizzled them with some honey to taste.
Assemble the Pavlovas:
Do this just before serving.
Set one meringue disk on a plate. Scoop about 1/4 cup of the avocado cream. Spoon some fruit over the cream and add piece of praline to decorate.
This was perfect last night, as it was still over 80 degrees at 8pm, and it finished our dinner al fresco with style, simplicity and a very light feeling both in the stomach and the mouth.
These are soft, chocolatey homemade butter caramels with a hint of salt linguering on my tongue…and I admit it without guilt or shame that I have been eating way too many of them..the ones in the picture were gone in one minute… oops…
I admit that I am a bit of a caramel, cooked sugar, freak and it is not uncommon that I play with it for fun or to enhance a dessert. I am particularly fond of salted butter caramel anything and I was in heaven when we visited Normandy and Brittany because caramels are everywhere (region’s specialty) Unfortunately, B. and I are out…we finished the last one a couple of weeks ago and we are starting to show some signs of "salted butter caramels deprivation"…and it got me thinking that there must be a tried and true recipe out there that I can cook up to save us.
I started searching familiar cooking sites and pondered on this one from Epicurious, but the 70/30 rate of success and disaster made me discard it (and there were some pretty awful reviews)… After some more research I found myself on Guillemette's blog again, staring at these several times a day.
Even if you are a novice baker/cook, I encourage you to try your hand at these, especially following the recipe below as it is simple and straightforward. Making homemade caramels is not complicated but some steps are important to follow:
– just like with any other confections or desserts, only use the best quality ingredients available
-always undercook your caramel, meaning do not let it get dark golden, because it will continue to cook once removed from the heat
– buy a candy thermometer, it is cheap and will make your life so much easier
-be patient. Depending on the humidity or heat in your house, your caramel might take longer to cook than what the recipe says…but always read your thermometer and don’t try to outsmart burning sugar…
Salted Butter and Chocolate Caramels, adapted from Guillemette:
100 gr. salted butter
3 gr. sea salt
50 gr. bitter sweet dark chocolate
20 ml. water
100 gr. light corn syrup
250 gr. sugar
200 ml. heavy cream
Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over hot water bath and set aside. Heat the cream to lukewarm in the microwave also, and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, set over medium heat, combine the water and corn syrup. Add the sugar and let it caramelize until it reaches a light golden brown.
Remove from the heat and slowly add the cream to the caramel. It will bubble like made but do not worry…it will not bubble over and things come down eventually.
Return the pan to the heat and add the butter and the salt. Let the mixture cook until a thermometer registers 118 C ( about 245 F). Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until completely smooth.
Pour into a parchment lined 8X8 inch baking dish. Let sit overnight.
Unmold and cut squares the next day. Wrap them in parchment paper or candy foil if they last long enough to be packed up for guests.
Here are the converted measurements, thanks to Lisa from La Mia Cucina:
½ c. salted butter
½ tsp. sea salt
2 oz. bitter sweet dark chocolate
2 Tb water
1/3 c. light corn syrup
1 ¼ c. sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
No, I am not talking about the current clock adjustment we are doing this weekend. I have been asked to make 1000 chocolates like these for a wedding reception tomorrow and everytime I get closer to the magic number, B. comes behind and begs for one….so it went from 500 to 499 to 502 to 501…until I had to chase him out of the kitchen : "Don’t you have papers to grade or something…?"
Hence, the reason why I have not been around much in the past few days….!
They are soft ganache centers dipped in tempered chocolate. The bride asked for flavors such as hazelnut praline, coconut, jasmine tea, Grand Marnier and plain with all three chocolates (milk, dark and white).
It was fun at first now I am dying to post about the Cream Cheese Brioche Braid I made this morning….will have to wait for tomorrow!
By the way, I onl have 25 left to dip and I can have a Martini!