Showing posts with label chocolate shavings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chocolate shavings. Show all posts

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Berries, Chocolate Bark and a Balsamic Glaze


It's hard for me to be anything else but pleased at the prospect of trying a new chocolate dessert. Even a little piece of bittersweet, dark, velvety chocolate can do wonders to one's mood and is an easy pick-me up on those days when everything is going wrong.

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. They chose a flourless chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan. The cake was very fast to make and gave me the chance to make two accompanying garnishes. I reduced some balsamic vinegar with a little sugar to obtain a thick glaze which works wonders with berries. I also made a paper thin chocolate bark by spreading a thin layer of melted chocolate on a plastic wrapped- baking sheet. I sprinkled the top with some chopped pistachios and let it harden in the freezer. You can then break the pieces into shards and decorate different dessert plates. So chocolate lovers beware, this combo may lead to a little too much indulgence!

Chocolate Valentino Cake
, adapted from Chef Wan
16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.
Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Orange and White Chocolate Mousse with Cocoa and Pistachio Tuiles


I hadn't made tuiles since I was at Culinary School, so I couldn't be happier about this month's Daring Bakers challenge! Tuiles can be a little tricky to make and they're all about timing. Once you take them out of the oven, you really have to act quickly as they will become too rigid to mold in a matter of seconds. I decided to make mine with a hint of cocoa (mostly for color) and sprinkled the sides of each circle of batter with chopped pistachios. I then rolled them into little cigars and served them alongside a orange white chocolate mousse.

This month’s challenge was brought to us by Karen at Bake My Day! and Zorra aka Kochtopf at 1x umr├╝hren bitteRecipe

Cocoa and Pistachio Tuiles
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces all purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons of cocoa powder
A handful of pistachios, chopped

Cream the butter and powdered sugar together in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the egg whites and vanilla and beat until just coming together. Add the flour and cocoa to the butter mixture and mix until incorporated. Do not overmix. Use right away or store in the refrigerator, taking it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it.
Cut out two 4 inch round stencils in a piece of card stock paper and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread a little of the batter over the stencils, carefully lift the card stock paper, and bake 5-8 minutes at 350F until the edges are just starting to get crispy.
Shape the tuiles as soon as they come out of the over. Roll them and leave to set, sealed side down.

Orange and White Chocolate Mousse
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
2 cups unsweetened whipped cream
1/2 cup melted white chocolate

Melt the white chocolate and set aside. In a stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water, combine the egg yolks, Grand Marnier, sugar, and orange zest, and whisk to incorporate. Whisking constantly and removing from the heat from time to time, cook until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon into a sabayon, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.
Fold the whipped cream into the cooled sabayon, then fold in the melted chocolate.
Leave to set in the fridge for at least 4 hours and serve. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Brownies with Caramel Creme Fraiche


I remember trying to make brownies as a child with my mom and it being a total disaster. Well, that might be a bit of an over-statement... it's hard for baked chocolate and sugar to turn out horribly wrong, but they were dry, overly rich and just not very good. Maybe it was the French in me at the time.. I really didn't grow up on brownies and didn't really know what to look for when I was making them. When I bought the Baked Cookbook a couple months ago and saw their recipe for what they say are the best brownies in the world, I knew it was time to give these beauties another try. I'm glad I did because they were absolutely delicious and are now high on my list of best brownies out there. I served them warm with caramel creme fraiche and they were a wonderful treat.

Recipe (makes 24 brownies)
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces of dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon of instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-by-13 inch glass or light colored metal baking pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder.
Put the chocolate, butter, instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan and let the mixture come back to room temperature.
Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or the brownies will become cakey.
Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk) fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve.
Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies kept at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Caramel Creme Fraiche:
A good dollop of creme fraiche
A couple teaspoons of liquid caramel sauce
Mix the caramel sauce to the creme fraiche and serve over the warm brownies. Enjoy!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Chocolate and Pistachio Yule Log


The traditional Christmas yule log has been our dessert of choice for years during the holidays - and this year I finally made my own. The versatility of this dessert is great. You can flavor the filling however you choose and add flavoring to the genoise cake too. You can also make a simple whipped cream to cover the cake instead of the more traditional Christmassy buttercream. I loved the green color of the cake - it made it look wonderfully festive for a night of family gathering around a plethora of food.

Recipe
For the genoise:
4 eggs
120 grams of sugar
60 grams of flour
60 grams of powdered pistachios
A pinch of salt
For the filling:
1 container of mascarpone
2 tablespoons of melted dark chocolate, cooled
For the buttercream:
2 eggs
100 grams of confectioner's sugar
250 grams of butter
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
A pinch of salt

For the genoise:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Separate the yolks from the whites. In a bowl, mix the yolks and sugar until the mixture whitens. Add the flour, and powdered pistachio gradually. In a separate bowl, add the pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Gently fold the whites in the yolk mixture until the mixture is homogeneous and smooth.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the batter to form a 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Even out the batter using a spatula. Bake for 12-15 minutes. The cake is done when you can gently press the cake with your thumb and the imprint disappears after a couple seconds.
Filling:
Mix the mascarpone and melted chocolate in a bowl while the cake is baking, and place in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
Lay a damp dish towel onto a flat surface and cover with a large piece of parchment paper. Once the cake is done, immediately invert it onto the parchment paper. Gently start rolling the cake (as you would sushi) until you form a log. This must be done while the cake is still warm in order for it not to crack. Leave the rolled cake to cool down.
Buttercream:
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk while progressively adding the sugar. Continue beating it over a bain-marie until the mixture thickens. Remove it from the heat and continue beating it until it cools completely. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and salt using an electric mixer until it ressembles whipped cream (5-10 minutes). Add the vanilla. Add the butter to the cooled egg mixture. The eggs must be cooled in order not to curdle. Mix until the buttercream is homogenous.
To assemble:
Unroll the cake and gently spread the mascarpone mixture on one side. Make sure the layer is even and not to close to the borders. Gently roll the cake up again. An additional, optional step is to wrap the entire cake in plastic wrap, twist it at the ends, and let sit in the fridge for 20 minutes to compress the layers together. Cover the cake with buttercream and decorate as you please. Enjoy!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ricotta and Lemon Cookies with Lemon Glaze


It seems that Christmas started even earlier than usual this year. The Christmas lights have been put up for weeks in downtown Montreal screaming for me to get into the kitchen and start baking. It took me a little while to get into the spirit, but I think I'm finally there. I had seen these little Giada de Laurentiis' cookies on Deborah's blog, and I immediately knew I wanted to try them. Ricotta and lemon are a true match made in heaven in my book, and ricotta is a great way to ensure that cookies and cakes stay moist and light. Light and moist they were. I am adding these to my holiday favorites.

Recipe (adapted from Giada de Laurentiis)
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 lemon, zested
Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cookies:
In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, vanilla extract and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Glaze:
Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Store in an air-tight container.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Classic Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies



I know, you've probably seen a zillion chocolate chip cookie posts on a zillion different food blogs, so why should you care? Well, maybe because I've tested a lot of them. Maybe because sometimes you want a moist and soft chocolate chip cookie and you end up with a hard crackling cookie and you just don't know where the recipe failed you! First, let me share a little secret. I have a newfound love for chocolate shards. I always used to use chocolate chips to make cookies until one day, I found myself out of them. I used a good quality chocolate bar instead, and coarsely chopped pieces of dark goodness that I then folded into my batter. I've been making cookies like this ever since. Sure it takes a couple extra minutes to chop the chocolate, but the end result is a cookie where some pieces are melted and gooey and others are just specks of dark chocolate seeping throughout the dough.

Now for a good, reliable recipe. This one really did the trick. It's a recipe from the Martha Stewart Cookie book and the batter is the best cookie batter I've had yet. It's fluffy, sweet, but not too sweet and absolutely delicious. Should I confess that a few of these cookies-to-be were eaten raw? The cookies were delicious - so good in fact that we had to give them away because the pile of them was mysteriously getting smaller during the course of the day.

Recipe (makes about 3 dozens)
2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of light brown sugar
1 teaspoon of coarse salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups of bittersweet chocolate shards (about 12 ounces)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Whisk together the flour and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and sugars. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy for 2-3 minutes. Reduce to low speed and add the salt, vanilla and eggs. Mix until just incorporated. Mix in the flour mixture. Fold in the chocolate.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Leave a 2 inch space between each. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until the edges turn golden but the centers are still soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Let them cool on cooling racks. The cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Potato and Leek Soup with Crumbled Blue Cheese



The inspiration for this soup came from a classic Vichyssoise, a potato and leek soup generally enjoyed chilled. During the unbearably hot days at culinary school in New York, my teammates and I had made a cold Vichyssoise as an amuse-bouche for the school's restaurant. It turned out that a shot of cold yet creamy soup was the perfect way to start off a copious meal. Chilled soup would, however, be difficult to want to make at this time of year, so I tweaked the recipe to make it desirable for much cooler days. And what better way to serve it than in little espresso cups?

Montreal is a cold and bitter city come winter, but also a city where people - who are used to the wintery temperatures - still go out, eat out and enjoy life. Any Montrealer's wardrobe includes an extra pair of legwarmers under your jeans, socks up to your knees and fleece wherever you can fit it. The upside is that once you beat the first couple of steps out of the door, your body, although oddly at first - think frozen eyelids, and steamy cold breath - gets used to the cold and resets what normal warmth is. All to say that a bowl of steamy soup is really a great way to welcome the cold months to come.

On a less formal note, I am off to Venice in a couple weeks. Oliver and I were thinking about a small getaway and since were are spending the holidays in France with my family, Venice seemed like the perfect place to go to. I am sure you food lovers and travel lovers can relate to this: when I start booking a vacation, sure I look at the great sights, museums, architecture I want to be sure not to miss, but let's face it, I want to know what kind of food I'm going to be able to sample. Traveling through food is one of the greatest way to really experience the culture of the place you are in, the customs, the traditions and the aura of a place. I've done quite a bit of research and it seems quite unanimous that Venice is not the Italian city where the food is the best. I hear that finding more remote restaurants is the way to go to avoid touristy places with touristy prices. Any advice from you food lovers out there would be more than welcome! I promise to bring back a myriad of photos, and hopefully at least a couple recipes too.

Recipe (for 6)
2 ounces of pancetta, roughly chopped
1/2 white onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 leeks, chopped (use white and light green parts only)
2 bay leaves
2 cups of chicken stock
Water
1 pound of diced Yukon Gold potatoes (about 8 small potatoes)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup of crumbled blue cheese of your choice
Chives, to garnish

In a stockpot, add the pancetta on medium heat and cook until some of fat renders (about 3 minutes). Add the onion and stir to coat the fat. Add a drizzle of oil if needed. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic.
Chop the leeks and add to the stockpot. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the diced potatoes and cook for another minute. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the chicken stock. The liquid should just cover the potatoes and leeks. Add water to cover if there isn't enough stock to do so. Add the bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaves and blend with an immersion blender until the soup is smooth. Add a touch of water if the soup is too thick for your taste. Strain the soup to remove any lumps and strands of leek. Serve warm with crumbled blue cheese and garnish with chives. Enjoy!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shrimp, Sugar Snap Pea and Baby Bok Choy Soup



Have I been in a bit of a soup-obsessed mood lately?... maybe. Or maybe it's just that when it's getting bitterly cold, the only way to fight back is to get in the kitchen and make a great big batch of soup! I was in the mood for something light, easy and heart-warming. I think this pretty much did the trick: a couple ladlefuls of chicken broth, a myriad of greens and some shrimp all simmering in the cradle of a wok. 10 minutes later... voila. Lunch is served my friends!

Of course, in a more perfect world, I might have taken the time to enrich my stock with added chicken bones and aromatics. I might have added some chicken or sliced pork too. But as time was of the essence, I came up with this easy enough concoction and the result was quick and perfect.

Recipe (for 4)
4 baby bok choy
12 sugar snap peas
12 shrimp, peeled
1/2 teaspoon of grated ginger
1 tablespoon of peanut (or canola) oil
A pinch of dried chillies
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
2 teaspoons of light soy sauce
2 spring onions, sliced
4 cups of chicken stock
Toasted sesame seeds
300 grams of dried udon noodles


Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Run them under cold water once cooked, and reserve.

In the meantime, add the bok choy (cut in half lengthwise) and the sugar snap peas to a pot of boiling water. Boil for 2 minutes. Shock the vegetables by placing them in ice cold water. This stops the cooking process and helps the vegetables maintain a nice green color. Once the vegetables are cold, drain and remove excess water with paper towels.

Heat your wok to medium low heat. Add the peanut oil, ginger, garlic and dried chili. Stirfry for 2 minutes. Add the peeled shrimp. Once the shrimp starts to turn pink, add the vegetables stirring constantly. Once the shrimp is entirely pink in color add the noodles. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Once the broth has come to a boil, add the soy sauce, sesame oil and spring onions and cook for another minute. Serve topped with toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy!



Friday, November 14, 2008

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Crispy Sage and Parmesan Grilled Bread


Butternut squash is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with in the Fall. There's just something comforting about roasting its orange flesh until it becomes soft and sweet - and the wonderful color gets me every time. Apple and squash must have been high school sweethearts of sorts as their flavors meld wonderfully but also manage to stand up to one another. The great thing about these kinds of soups is that they fill your kitchen (and whole living space when your apartment is not very spacious!) with a wonderful earthy smell - and while they take a little while to simmer, the end result is grand amounts of luscious soup that can be frozen to enjoy at a later time if desired.

So, grab your favorite fleece blanket, some crusty bread and a bowl of steaming soup and just enjoy being inside and warm on a cold day.

Recipe (for 6)
1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-size cubes
3 apples, peeled and cored into bite-size cubes
1/2 white onion
1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons of light brown sugar
2 celery stalks
2 carrots
6 sage leaves, and one extra per soup bowl
3 cloves of garlic, diced
3 shallots, diced
1 1/2 qt of chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil

Parmesan Bread
One loaf of sourdough bread
Olive oil
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 F. Place the butternut squash and apple cubes on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, the apple cider vinegar and season generously with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Use your hands to mix the seasoning in. Cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the cubes are soft. Check on the apples after 20 minutes as they should be be ready before the butternut squash.

In the meantime, dice the onion, celery and carrots into similar size bite-size chunks. In a pot, heat a good drizzle of olive oil. Add the vegetables and stir. Cook on medium low heat for 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the chopped garlic and shallots and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the cooked apples and butternut squash. Add the 6 sage leaves (minced) and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer and cover. Cook for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Blend (preferably with an immersion blender) until the soup is smooth. If the soup seems a little too chunky, add some water, one tablespoon at a time into you reach your desired texture. Keep warm on low heat.

Heat a good drizzle of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) in a pan on high heat. Add the extra sage leaves. Turn them after 1 minute and fry on the other side for another minute. In the meantime, cut some sourdough bread into slices. Drizzle with olive oil and grated Parmesan. Grill for about 2 minutes on each side.

Serve the warm soup with a drizzle of olive oil, some cracked black pepper, a fried sage leaf and a couple pieces of bread. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Portobello Mushroom, Spring Onion and Pine Nut Pasta


To tell you the truth I wasn't planning on posting this recipe. I was making a quick lunch yesterday, was in a hurry to head out the door and then realized that this was exactly what I needed to write about... the fact that sometimes we have very little time to make ourselves a quick meal, but that with a few simple guidelines it can be a wonderful, heart-warming dish that keeps you going for hours.

I very often turn to pasta dishes when I'm in no shape to cook a lengthy meal. As I have mentioned before, I am not a big fan of pasta with a lot of sauce, especially for everyday lunches. Here are the few guidelines I have been living by: firstly, don't underestimate the power of mixing your pasta in the pan where you cooked the vegetables, meat or whatever else you are using as a garnish. Mixing the pasta in that pan melds in a few seconds all of the flavors together and makes the pasta actually taste flavorful.. because, let's face it, pasta on its own has very little flavor. And, secondly, any pasta can use a little bit of crunch! Whether it's pine nuts like here, toasted breadcrumbs, crispy pancetta or al dente peas - a little crunch adds wonderful texture to any pasta.

All to say, that I ended up spending some time taking a picture of my lunch, ate it cold, and was late!

Recipe (for one!)
100 grams of spaghetti
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large portobello mushroom, sliced
2 spring onions, diced
2 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan, and more for the table
1 small handful of pine nuts, toasted
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cook the pasta. In the meantime, drizzle some olive oil in a pan on medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the mushrooms in a single layer. Don't move them for 2 minutes. Turn the mushrooms and cook for another minute. Turn the heat to medium low, add the spring onions, garlic and stir with a wooden spoon. Once the pasta is al dente add a teaspoon of pasta water to the pan. Add the drained pasta and stir vigorously. Add the Parmesan and the pine nuts and stir. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and extra Parmesan cheese. Serve with crusty bread. Enjoy!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Double Chocolate Banana Espresso Muffins


I just fell in love with a new cookbook. I'm quite frivolous when it comes to cookbooks, and have yet to be able to name a month where I haven't taken a new one home. True, I am not loyal to each and every one of them at all times, but I find myself remembering an old flame a couple months down the road and browsing its pages with immense pleasure. While I have not tried nearly as many recipes as I would want from each and every book, just flipping through the pages is a constant source of inspiration. This new cookbook is a real keeper. It's the Baked Cookbook, from a bakery in Brooklyn and I fell in love with it as soon as I saw the cover. Yes... I do judge on appearances!

These muffins were the first recipe I tried from the book. They worked out wonderfully because I had been saving a couple bananas for weeks. The thing with bananas is that they really get sweeter as they ripen. When the skin gets really dark brown and the banana really soft, you know it will give you the most delicious base for banana bread or in this case.. banana chocolate muffins! I also chopped the chocolates into coarse pieces instead of using chocolate chips which added a nice rustic look to the final product.

Recipe, for 12 muffins, adapted from the Baked Cookbook

1 1/2 cups of mashed ripe bananas (about 4 medium-sized bananas)
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup of whole milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon of strong espresso
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
3 ounces of milk chocolate, cut in small pieces
3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, cut in small pieces

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, stir in the banana, sugars, butter, espresso, milk and egg.
In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and gently add in the banana mixture. Stir into just combined. Gently fold in the chocolates.

Fill each muffin tin about three quarters full and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Once cooked, move muffins to a cooking rack. The muffins can be stored in an air tight container for up to two days. Enjoy!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Milk Chocolate Pot de Creme



First, a little word of advice: this is not for light eaters, so consider yourself warned!

I had made these pot de creme a while back with bittersweet chocolate, but had always wanted to jazz them up a little. Yesterday seemed like the perfect day: it was cold outside and an ideal day to watch chocolate slowly melt. I had bought really good quality milk chocolate, you know the kind that you get in big uneven chunks from specialty stores? The kind that come by weight without any fancy packaging but that tastes like an intense version of chocolate.. and smells like it too? Still in my fleur de sel mood, I added a tad of saltiness to the mix and it added a nice hint of caramel-y flavor.

This really is a rich dessert though - and it can't be eaten in very large quantities. Although, the one I made for Oliver yesterday was eaten at a steady rate throughout the evening...and the once full little ramekin was found empty by midnight.

Recipe: (for 4)
4 oz good quality milk chocolate, chopped in small pieces
2 egg yolks, beaten lightly with 2 teaspoons of light brown sugar
3/4 cup of whipping cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of Grand Marnier
1/4 teaspoon of Fleur de Sel
Whipped cream
Chocolate Shavings

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Once it has fully melted, add the cream and whisk so that the mixture become a uniform color of brown. Add a small ladle of the chocolate mixture to the beaten eggs and stir to temper the eggs. This ensures that the egg slowly heats up before being added to the heat so it doesn't curdle. Slowly add the egg mixture to the chocolate and cream mixture and stir with a whisk. Add the vanilla, salt and Grand Marnier. Cook on the double boiler for 3-4 minutes, whisking gently. Once the mixture has thickened, remove from the heat and stain to remove any egg lumps. Transfer to small ramekins or espresso cups and leave to chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or until set. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and some chocolate shavings. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops



I've always loved entertaining, but especially love easy entertaining. I've learned from trial and error to always make something fresh and simple, and something you've made before! These bacon-wrapped scallops make for great finger food. you can make them ahead of time and reheat them at the last minute and switch the ingredients around. You can use pancetta in place of the bacon and dates or figues instead of the scallops. Any crispy and salty cured meat will pair wonderfully with, in this case tender scallops, or fruity and soft fruit.

The only thing about this recipe is that because it is simple, the ingredients have to be really good .. so try to get the bacon from a good deli, and the scallops as fresh as can be.

Recipe: (for 12 scallops)
12 scallops
12 thin slices of bacon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
12 wooden toothpicks, soaked in water for 20 minutes

Set your oven on broil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Tightly wrap them with a piece of bacon and seal by inserting a toothpick to hold the bacon together. Place on a bacon sheet and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 6-10 minutes, depending on the size of the scallops. Remove when cooked through. If the toothpicks burn a little while in the oven, gently remove them once out of the oven, and replace with new ones.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thick Mushroom and Herb Soup



I think I would have a lot of trouble cooking without herbs. Some things can be altered or replaced, but there is nothing like the nutty, fresh, at time lemony and peppery flavor of herbs. They can turn any meal into something special and I find it bland to cook without them.

Funny enough, I used to absolutely hate them as a child. Like most children, I had a few strong dislikes for certain foods, but none greater than the fear of herbs, or 'bouts verts', as I used to call them in French. I would drive my mom crazy and pick them out one by one in tomato sauces, salads or any other sauce where I knew my mom had probably tried to conceal them. I also used to be difficult with soup.. and would only accept to eat it if I was promised it was 'potage', and not soup. This makes me seem like quite the difficult child but those were the two things I really took issue with. This herbed-filled mushroom soup is thus a little wink to my childhood years and to how things can change for the better.

Recipe (for 4), adapted from the Soup Bible
2 ounces of smoked bacon
1 onion, finely chopped
12 ounces of combined portobello and cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 cups of good meat stock
1 small wine glass of dry sherry wine
2 tablespoons of combined rosemary, thyme and marjoram - stems removed
1 teaspoon of dried italian seasoning
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A couple spoonfulls of thick yogurt or sour cream

Roughly chop the bacon and place in a large saucepan. Cook slowly until the fat renders from the bacon. Add the onions and saute gently until the onions become translucent and soft. Add the mushrooms to the pan. Cover and sweat until their liquid has run out and they have reduced in size. Add the sherry, stock, as well as the fresh and dry herbs. Lightly season with salt and pepper.

Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Process the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth but still a little chunky. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and transfer to the saucepan to heat through. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and garnish with a parsley leaf. Enjoy!
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