cherry chocolate granola


cherry and chocolate granola
Summer is the one time of the year that I get super excited and obsessed with every fresh and colorful ingredient that I can get my hands on. It goes without saying that cherries are never spared, they get devoured in this house and sometimes they don't make it home from the market. 


sweet red cherries

Granola is one of those things, I refuse to waste money on. For one, it is really easy to make and the ingredients are cheap, and secondly, I find the pre-made versions to be a bit too sweet and/or expensive. This granola recipe has a fresh cherry puree that's cooked into the oats with a heaving dosing of chocolate flavors. This granola is just like a black forest cake but with a tasty dose of toasted sliced almonds. There's a whole lotta crunch with every chocolatey bite you take combined with a hint of sweet and tart cherry flavor. Maybe I should have called this the "black forest granola" ?


cherry baked granola

I used a fresh cherry puree to flavor the granola versus actual cherry fruit bits because I wanted the cherry flavors to be absorbed by the oatmeal and coat every bit. I've used ghee here but you can also substitute coconut oil in the same amount. I've made it both ways and it works great, ghee gives it a much more aromatic and nutty flavor.




fresh chocolate cherry granola
cherry chocolate granola

cherry + chocolate granola

yields: about 3 cups

ingredients

2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons ghee (or coconut oil)  + 1 tablespoon to grease the baking pan
1 cup (2 3/4 ounces) raw sliced almonds
1/4 cup (1 1/8 ounces) cacao nibs
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1 cup pureed sweet red cherries, fresh (simply puree 2 cups of sweet red cherries and use as needed)

1. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 250F. In the mean time, toast the oats in medium saucepan with a thick bottom on a medium-high flame. Cook with constant stirring until the oats begin to brown. This will take about 4-5 minutes.  Reduce the flame  to low and stir in the 3 tablespoons of coconut oil, cook for 1 minute. Remove the saucepan from the stove.
2. Add the almonds, cacao nibs, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, sea salt and cherry puree to the toasted oats. 
3. Pour the oat mixture onto a baking pan that's been lightly greased with the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil. Spread the mixture in a flat layer with a silicone spatula and bake for about 45-50 minutes. Check occasionally during baking to make sure the granola does not burn. Once the granola is cooked, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container (I store mine in the refrigerator, it stays fresh for a longer time). 

sriracha buckwheat molten lava cakes

sriracha buckwheat molten lava cakes

This is probably the craziest yet happiest batch of little things I've baked in a while. My not-so-secret obsession with all things chocolate and Sriracha hit it's peak this week when I decided to travel down the path of mixing them together. Maybe they might get married someday and make a happy couple, one could only hope! 

chocolate and whisk

Until now, I had never baked a lava cake, so I scrounged around for several recipes in my stack of baking cookbooks (that are unpacked yet literally piled against the wall of the living room like the entrance to a some ancient monument.....I'll eventually deal with this soon, hopefully), unfortunately I didn't have a recipe in any of my books (could also be an excuse to get more cookbooks)! I went online and found one that looked pretty easy to prepare and decided to take the plunge down the hole that looked dark and messy yet held a promise of sweet peppery goodness.  

lava cake prep

Buckwheat is by far one of my favorite whole grain flours to work with because it has such a lovely color and flavor. Indian cooking uses a lot of whole grain flours but buckwheat is a flour that I came across after I moved to the US and I love, love it! I've adapted the original lava cake recipe from one of my trusted cooking magazines, 

Saveur

 and substituted the flour with buckwheat among a few other ingredients. 

sriracha buckwheat molten lava cake
sriracha molten lava cakes

Here are a few notes that I made during baking and I wanted to share with you; 

  • I had no heavy cream at home but I did have full fat coconut milk and that worked just fine in preparing the truffles.You can make the truffles ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator, just stick them into the cake batter they day you are ready to bake the cakes. 
  • The cakes will rise during baking and you should remove them while they are still hot after the initial 2 minute cooling process. I removed them from the ramekins even though we didn't eat all of them the same day. The cakes might sink slightly once they are too cool which is why I really like serving them as soon as they are baked straight out of the oven.
  • To store, I ended up wrapping the rest of the cakes (after removing them from the ramekins) with cling film and freezing them for long term storage in an an airtight ziploc bag. Before eating the cakes, instead of thawing, I unwrapped the cling film and microwaved them covered with a microwave-safe lid. It worked great and now I have Sriracha lava cakes on demand. 

Also, if you don't like Sriracha you can leave it out from the cakes and make yourself a whole grain buckwheat lava cake. 

buckwheat sriracha molten lava cakes

sriracha buckwheat molten lava cakes

(

adapted from Saveur

)

yields:

6 cakes

ingredients

2 oz semisweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons full fat coconut milk or heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon sriracha sauce 

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped + additional butter for greasing

1 1/4 ounces buckwheat flour + additional for dusting

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1/2 cup (2 ounces) raw brown sugar

1 teaspoon madgascar bourbon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

3 large eggs

confectioners sugar for dusting (optional, I did not do this)

1. Heat the coconut milk (or heavy cream) in a medium sized saucepan over medium high heat until it just begins to simmer. Remove from the stove and pour it into a heat proof bowl containing the chocolate chips. Whisk until the chocolate melts into a smooth paste. If the chocolate doesn't melt completely, microwave carefully for 10 seconds, just be careful not to burn the chocolate.  Once the chocolate forms a smooth silky sauce, whisk in the sriracha. Over the bowl with cling film and allow it to chill completely for at least 30 minutes. 

2. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator once the chocolate is chilled. Divide into 6 equal parts and mold into small truffles/balls. Place each truffle onto a sheet of parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450F. Take 6, six ounce ramekin bowls and grease them with butter and then dust them generously with flour. Place the bowls on a baking sheet/tray and refrigerate until ready to use.

4. Melt the butter and chocolate in a medium sized saucepan, stir until combined. The mixture will resemble a smooth silky sauce. Remove from stove, once completely combined and then cool for about 10 minutes. While the chocolate is cooling, whisk the sugar, vanilla, salt and eggs in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until the batter turns pale yellow and fluffy. This will take about 4-5 minutes. Finally, beat in the melted chocolate mixture followed by the flour. Divide half of the batter between the ramekin bowls, then place a truffle in each bowl and cover each bowl with the rest of the remainder batter. Even out the surfaces of each bowl with an offset spatula and bake them for 15 minutes until the cakes are just set (they will rise a little). Remove from oven and allow to cool for 2 minutes.

5. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the ramekin bowl and immediately invert onto an individual serving plate. Tap gently to release the cake. Dust with confectioner's sugar. Repeat with the rest of the cakes. Serve immediately.

dark chocolate chip hazelnut cookies

hazelnut dark chocolate chip cookies

I have a not-so-secret love for the delicious fragrance of hazelnuts. My obsession with hazelnuts starts early in the morning when I need to have a cup of freshly ground hazelnut scented coffee beans brewing away, otherwise my coffee just doesn't taste or smell as good. I once tried searching for hazelnut wood furniture in the hope that purchasing such furniture would make my house smell perfect, needless to say that didn't work out. So clearly, why wouldn't I make a hazelnut cookie to go with my hazelnut flavored coffee, it just made perfect sense (in my world).

dry ingredients

Everything about these cookies says dark, dark, dark! I used a very dark cocoa (if you want to go lighter in color then use the same amount of a regular unsweetened cocoa) with dark chocolate chips and a hint of browned butter all come together with the hazelnut flour to form a delicious crispy cookie. These cookies are also gluten-free so those of you with related allergies will enjoy them. I added a little hint of browned butter to bring out the nutty flavors of the hazelnuts, it gives them that extra little edge of flavor. 

cookie prep

Baking with nut flours is very different from using recipes that use grain flours as nuts are rich in fats, so you need to adjust the amounts of fats depending on the type of cookie you want. Since, I wanted a crispy cookie, I refrigerated the dough overnight. Here's another tip, when it comes to storing nut flours and keep it fresh, keep them in an airtight bag refrigerated or frozen, bring it to room temperature before use so it won't be clumpy. 

The wonderful folks at

Bob's Red Mill

were extremely kind to send me some of their hazelnut meal to use in this recipe and they are also sponsoring a giveaway. I'm a huge fan of their products and use a lot of their grain and nut flours in my baking, their quality is fantastic and this hazelnut flour is no exception to their product line. You can smell the delicious fragrance of hazelnuts as soon as you open the bag, needless to say,  I fell in love with it immediately! Now you can try it out too, 

Bob's Red Mill

is giving away a bag of their delicious Hazelnut Meal and a $20 gift card to their store. To enter the contest, all you need to do is follow the instructions on the widget at the end of this post. This contest will run from March 5th through March 12, 2014. Good luck! 

Disclaimer:

I did not receive any financial compensation from Bob's Red Mill for this post and all opinions are my own unless stated otherwise.

dark chocolate chip hazelnut cookies

dark chocolate chip hazelnut cookies

yields:

12 cookies

ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups (4 3/4 ounces) hazelnut meal(Bob's Red Mill), at room temperature

1 cup (7 5/8 ounces) brown sugar 

1/4 cup (3 ounces) unsweetened dark cocoa (I used the extra dark cocoa from Hershey's)

1/2 teaspoon dark roast instant coffee (optional)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon madagascar vanilla bourbon extract

1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet dark chocolate chips

1. Place the unsalted butter in a small saucepan and heat on a medium-high flame for about 2-3 minutes or until the milk solids begin to turn reddish brown. Remove from stove and keep aside.

2. Whisk the hazelnut flour, sugar, cocoa, coffee, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt together in a large mixing bowl and keep aside.

3. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, vanilla extract and browned butter. Make a well in the center of the  dry ingredients in the large mixing bowl and stir the whisked liquid into the whisked dry ingredients with a silicone spatula. Bring the ingredients together to form a ball of dough, wrap with cling film and refrigerate overnight. 

4. Preheat the oven to 350F and place a wire rack in the center of the oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts and roll each of them into balls. Flatten each ball with the palms of your hands into approximately 2 inch discs. Space 6 cookies on each sheet about 1-2 inches apart from each other. Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Bake one sheet at a time in the oven for about 8-10 minutes until the edges of the cookies start to get crisp, the center will be slightly soft to touch. Rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking. Do not over bake the cookies as the chocolate will burn. Repeat with second sheet of cookies. Allow the baked cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve the cookies warm. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

triple chocolate raspberry oat bran muffins

triple chocolate raspberry oat bran muffins

I can't believe that January is over and we've been told that spring is "only" six weeks away. As excited as I am about getting closer to spring, I am also a little worried about the little buds that are beginning to stick their heads out in my garden. And while I write this, I see snowflakes falling outside (another snow day). I'm hoping these guys make it through to summer or my garden is going to be flowerless! 

white and dark chocolate chips

I have so many kitchen goals for this warm season, that I've made a spreadsheet of what I need to do and when based on our local seasonal produce availability. Over the past few months, we've eaten up several jars of stuff that I canned last year and my empty jars are now looking very sad and lonely. It's time to fill them up!

raspberries

I baked a lot over the weekend and I made these triple chocolate muffins. Yes, triple chocolate! Dark cocoa, with a double dosing of dark and white chocolate chips, it's a decadent enough option for breakfast. They are not overly sweet or too moist or heavy to start your morning off, which is why these are my new favorites. Raspberries and chocolate are a fantastic combination and they taste delicious in these muffins. Since, I'm sticking with the theme of breakfast, I dosed these muffins with a little bit of oat bran. I modified and adapted this recipe from The Cook's Illustrated Baking Book.

triple chocolate and raspberry oat bran muffins

triple chocolate raspberry oat bran muffins

yields: 12-16 muffins

ingredients

1/2 cup (1 5/8 ounces) unsweetened dark cocoa
1/2 cup (2  7/8 ounces) oat bran
2 cups ( 8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used a madagascar bourbon extract)
1 teaspoon raspberry extract (optional)
1 1/2 cups plain low-fat greek yogurt
1/2 cup semisweet dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup semisweet white chocolate chips
1/2 cup fresh raspberries 

1. Preheat the oven to 375F and place a wire rack in the center of the oven. Place and line the paper muffin cups in a muffin pan. If you don't have paper muffins cups spray the cups in the pan with a neutral vegetable cooking oil.
2. Sift the cocoa, oat bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt twice in a large mixing bowl and keep aside.
3. Place the butter and sugar in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment cream for 4 minutes on medium high speed until light and fluffy.
4. Add one egg at a time to creamed butter and sugar mixture and beat each egg into the mixture at medium high speed for one minute. Mix in the vanilla and raspberry extracts for 30 seconds.
5. At medium-high speed, mix in the sifted dry ingredients in three installments, adding half of the yogurt between each installment. You may need to occasionally scrape down the bowl from the sides with a silicone spatula to ensure even mixing. Once the batter is completely mixed, remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips and the raspberries. 
6. Using an ice cream scooper, scoop out the dough into the lined muffin pan and bake them for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted through the center of the muffin. Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool for another 5 minutes. Serve warm. 
Note: Muffins are best when eaten the day they are prepared but if you want to store them, I recommend freezing the muffins in an airtight ziploc bag. 

chocolate chili frozen yogurt

frozen chocolate chili yogurt

I did a bunch of crazy things last weekend that included attending a "Winter Tops and Summer Shorts" theme party. That's right sweaters and shorts during the season of the polar vortex, it was an absolutely insane idea by my friend Alex but also one of the funnest parties, I've been to in a while.

frozen chocolate with chili yogurt

I figured if that can happen, frozen sweet foods can happen too and should. So here I am with a delicious rich and creamy chocolate yogurt recipe that has chili in it to keep you warm. I used a dried ancho chili powder which is basically a dried up poblano pepper. The dash of chili adds a hint of smoky sweetness to the dark chocolate which really enhanced the flavors. 

serving frozen chocolate chili yogurt

I adapted and modified the basic frozen yogurt recipe from my all time favorite frozen dessert cookbook, 

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home

frozen chili chocolate yogurt

chocolate and chili frozen yogurt

yields:

1 generous quart

ingredients 

1 quart (32 ounces) plain low-fat greek yogurt

2 tablespoons + 1 1/2 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons cornstarch (cornflour)

2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/4 cup heavy cream

6 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa 

1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder

1/4 cup light corn syrup (I use fructose free light corn syrup which is a glucose solution and does not contain fructose but you could use glucose as well)

2/3 cup (5 1/4 ounces) raw brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place the yogurt in a sieve lined with two layers of clean cheese cloth or muslin. Allow the yogurt to drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator. You will get about 3/4 cup of liquid. Discard the liquid and  keep the yogurt aside (or you can add to baked goods for a little extra nutrition).

2. Whisk the two tablespoons of milk with the cornstarch to form a slurry and keep aside.

3. Place the cream cheese in a large glass mixing bowl.

4. In a thick bottomed saucepan, whisk the 1 1/2 cups of milk, heavy cream, cocoa, chili, corn syrup and sugar. Bring the contents to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and quickly whisk in the cornstarch-milk slurry.

5. Place the saucepan on the stove and bring it back to a boil on medium-high heat and cook for 1 minute until slightly thickened. 

6. Gradually add a little bit of the hot liquid from the saucepan into the glass mixing bowl containing the cream cheese. Whisk until completely smooth. Add the rest of the hot liquid and vanilla and whisk until the contents are completely blended. Mix in the strained yogurt from step 1. (You can also pass this liquid through a sieve to make sure any clumps or lumps are removed). 

7. Transfer the yogurt mixture to a gallon ziploc freezer bag. Seal the bag and place in an ice water bath and cool for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is 40F. 

8. Pour the liquid into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker and churn until the liquid becomes thick and creamy. (Alternatively, follow the instructions written in the manual of your ice cream maker for brand specific instructions). 

9. Pack the frozen yogurt into a freezer-safe storage container with an airtight lid. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and press gently to remove any trapped air. Seal the container with the lid and freeze the yogurt for 4 hours or until firm before serving.

coffee chocolate hazelnut pound cake

chocolate coffee hazelnut pound cake #food #foodphotography #foodstyling #cake #dessert #chocolate

Polar vortex and snow, that is what we came back to from warm and sunny, Charleston! In my opinion, snow has two sides to it a good side and a dark side, just like THE FORCE in Star Wars, seriously! Here, let me explain,

Positives

  • The landscape becomes one big white gigantic frosted cake. 
  • You get a day off from work, if the snowfall is crazy heavy. At least a "delayed arrival" if traveling is bad.
  • You can make flavored ices with fresh snow, though I don't recommend picking up snow from the side walk due to hygienic reasons. 
  • Most dogs love snow! Snoopy for one, loves to run and play in it and eat it. 

Negatives

  • I learned that suede/leather etc. get destroyed by the salt.
  • You tend to feel like your enacting a scene from Swan Lake due to a lack of form and balance and you fall on your back more often than necessary when things are slippery or if your dog is pulling you across the street to catch a squirrel. 
  • The day after a heavy snow day is like a hangover, everything on the roads is messy. 
  • Cleaning the salt out of the dog's paws and off the floor of your house.
chocolate coffee hazelnut pound cake #food #foodphotography #foodstyling #cake #dessert #chocolate
chocolate coffee hazelnut pound cake #food #foodphotography #foodstyling #cake #dessert #chocolate
Snoopy snow collage Jan 2014

To balance all the snow related events that happened this week, I baked a pound cake that was full of warm flavors. This simple cake has everything I've been craving for, especially on on a cold and wintry snow day. There's dark roast coffee that's interspersed with swirls of a sweet dark chocolate and hazelnut paste. This pound cake goes great with tea or coffee and at any time of the day. I adapted and modified the basic pound cake recipe from

The Cook's Illustrated Baking Book

. By the way, this is a fantastic cookbook and a big thank you to Sarah of

The Vanilla Bean Blog

for the great recommendation. (I do need to work on my swirling technique here in this cake).

Note: I prefer to use raw hazelnuts with their skins for a fresher taste. However, if you have skinned pre-toasted hazelnuts, by all means use them, just skip the toasting part in Step 1 below and proceed directly to the food processor stage to prepare the chocolate-hazelnut paste.

chocolate coffee hazelnut pound cake #food #foodphotography #foodstyling #cake #dessert #chocolate

pound cake with coffee, chocolate and hazelnuts

yields:

8 servings

ingredients

1/2 cup (2 3/4 ounces) raw hazelnuts with skin 

1 cup (6 3/4 ounces) semi sweet dark chocolate chips

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract

3 large eggs + 3 large yolks, whisked lightly

1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) raw brown sugar

2 tablespoons instant coffee (the dark roast variety is good here)

1 3/4 cups (7 ounces) cake flour

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Spread the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in an oven for 15 minutes or until the nuts begin to brown. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and immediately transfer the hot nuts into a clean kitchen towel. Massage the nuts while they are still in the cloth to peel the skin off the hazelnuts. You can remove the skin off the hazelnuts that did not fall off. Place the warm nuts and chocolate chips in a food processor and pulse till you get a smooth paste. The heat of the hazelnuts will melt the chocolate. Keep this aside. 

2. Grease and flour a 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 inch loaf pan. 

3. In the mixing bowl of a food processor, add the butter and salt. Using the paddle attachment at medium high speed beat the butter and salt until soft and creamy. Reduce this speed to medium low and add the sugar in two additions. Once all the sugar is added, increase the speed to medium high and beat the ingredients for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. You might need to scrape the bowl down occasionally with a silicone/rubber spatula. Reduce the speed to medium and add the vanilla and the whisked eggs and yolks. Beat the ingredients for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer. 

4. Sift the coffee and flour twice and then sift half of the dry ingredients over the butter-egg mixture. in the mixing bowl. Fold gently using a silicone/rubber spatula until combined. Sift the rest of the flour mix over the batter,  repeat the folding process and scrape along the bottom of the container. There should be no visible flecks of flour at this point. 

5. Pour half of the batter into the greased loaf pan. Add half of the chocolate-hazelnut paste prepared earlier. Then layer with the rest of the cake batter, followed by the rest of the chocolate-hazelnut spread. Take a skewer or knife and swirl it throughout the cake batter in the pan a couple of times to create a swirl/marble pattern. Place the pan on a cookie sheet and bake it on the middle rack for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted through the center of the cake. Note, the skewer will be gooey from the chocolate-hazelnut mixture but it should have cake crumbs if the cake is done. Rotate the cake half way through the baking process. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the loaf pan and then run a knife through the edges of the cake. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and cool for about 1- 1 1/2 hours before serving. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

hot chocolate with cinnamon and whisky

cinnamon spiced hot chocolate with whisky

What would the winter holiday season be without a cup of rich hot chocolate! There's something comforting when you sip into a cup of steaming hot and sinfully indulgent rich chocolate merged into creamy milk. This hot chocolate is decadent and every bit indulgent with the goodness of dark chocolate, the warmth of freshly ground cinnamon and a dash of whisky.

Christmas tree

Whisky is another flavor that I love to use as an ingredient during the holidays. It infuses an extra level of warmth and richness to foods and I find it excellent when added to barbecues, desserts and sweet cocktails. So yes, I added some whisky in here! Chocolate and whisky with cinnamon, it's the perfect combination of rich, earthy rustic flavors. The whisky here is just the right amount to give it flavor without being boozy. If whisky isn't your thing, you can leave it out. 

hot chocolate with marshmallows

Have fun with the garnishes, it's the holidays treat yourself a little! 

peppermint hot chocolate with cinnamon and whisky

hot chocolate with cinnamon and whisky

yields : 4 servings

ingredients

4 cups whole milk
1 cup (5 3/4 ounces) dark chocolate chips, unsweetened
1 cup (6 1/8 ounces) milk chocolate chips, sweetened
1 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground + a little extra for dusting
1/4 cup whisky
a  few marshmallows for garnishing (optional)
4 peppermint sticks (optional)

1. Place the milk in a thick bottomed saucepan. Heat the mixture on medium-low flame until the milk begins to steam with constant stirring. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer.
2. Add the chocolate and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the hot milk and whisk constantly by hand until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove from the milk from the stove and mix in the whisky.
3. Pour the hot chocolate into serving mugs and top them off with a few marshmallows and dust with the extra ground cinnamon. Serve with the hot chocolate with the peppermint sticks and extra marshmallows on the side.

chocolate layer cake with swiss buttercream frosting

chocolate genoise layer cake with raspberry swiss buttercream frosting

Genoise cakes are one of my all time favorites when it comes to baking a fancy dessert cake especially those that get iced. They don't crack and rise evenly without any crazy issues and there is something magical about the sponge texture of these cakes. More than anything, it has taught me patience, something I always need help with. 

genoise cakes

This weekend we celebrated our friends' upcoming marriage with a stock-the-bar party. They both love chocolate, so I figured it might be fun to make them a chocolate cake with a hint of raspberry. The cake itself is light and the Swiss buttercream frosting is not too sweet making it a good choice for a brunch dessert. this way the possibility of food-induced coma is reduced.

frosting the cake

I prefer to make two separate cakes here rather than do it all in one sitting. It is easier to fold less flour into the egg mixture and the risk of deflating the eggs gets reduced. I topped the frosting with a few shavings of sweet dark chocolate to balance the flavor of the frosting and give it a little richer look. You can leave the food color out or adjust the amount you need to get the desired level of color you like.

chocolate genoise layer cake

Both the cake and buttercream frosting recipes have been modified and adapted from "Great Cakes" by Carole Walter. 

layer cake

Note: Prepare two genoise cakes separately. Instead of doubling the amount of ingredients required for the cakes, I find it easier to prepare two separate cakes especially when it comes to the folding of the dry ingredients into the batter.

chocolate genoise cake 

yields: 10 1/2" X 15 1/2' X 1" thick cake 

ingredients

3/4 cup ( 3 3/4 ounces) cake flour
1/3 cup (7/8 ounce) dutch-process cocoa
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
5 large whole eggs + 2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup+2 tablespoons (6 1/4 ounces) sugar 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup (1 7/8 ounces) butter, melted and warm

1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Line a baking pan with parchment paper. 
2. Sift the cake flour, cocoa and baking soda together 4 times and place aside.
3. Place the bowl of an electric mixer over a saucepan containing simmering water. The water must not touch the base of the bowl. Add the eggs and yolks with the sugar and whisk to blend completely. This will take about 4 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved and the color of the mixture becomes a dark gold. 
4. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and using the whisk attachment, whip the eggs for 5-6 minutes until tripled in volume and the mix becomes light and foamy. At this point, you should able to draw a ribbon that will hold its shape on the foam. 
5. Add the vanilla from the side of the bowl and whip for another 2 minutes. 
6. Remove the bowl from the mixer, sift 2-3 tablespoons of the pre-sifted flour mix over the whipped eggs and fold it in with a silicone spatula using a circular motion taking care to reach the bottom of the bowl. The foam will deflate a little and there is no need to try and incorporate all the flour at this stage,  it will be mixed in completely at the end.
7.  Just before the addition of the last bit of flour, drizzle the warm, melted butter over the batter and quickly sift the rest of the flour mix over the batter. Fold into the batter completely within 30 seconds. 
8. Using the rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared baking pan. Leave behind any residual flour or butter that might be stuck at the bottom of the bowl or this will prevent the cake from rising evenly. 
9. Gently tap the pan to remove any trapped air bubbles and bake it in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. The cake is completely baked when the center of the cake when pressed springs back. Remove the pan from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Spray a cooling wire rack with nonstick cooking spray oil, run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it and flip the cake over the wire rack. Allow to cool completely before icing.

swiss buttercream frosting

yields: about 3 1/2 cups

ingredients

4 large egg whites
3/4 cup (4 1/4 ounces) confectioner's sugar
3 sticks(1 1/2 cups  or 12 1/8ounces) unsalted butter, soft but slightly firm to touch
2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 drops red food coloring (optional, you can adjust the amount to get the desired level of pink color you desire)

1. Whisk the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until the eggs get foamy. 
2. Place the bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. The water should not touch the base of the bowl. Add the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time to the eggs and continue to whisk for about 30 seconds for each addition. Continue whisking the egg whites for 3 minutes, the whites will begin to warm up and the entire mixture will become white and thick. 
3. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and place it under the electric mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, whisk the mixture for 8 minutes at medium-high speed to form a thick white meringue-like mixture. Set aside.
4. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the butter for 1 minute with an electric mixer. (I used a handheld mixer for this but if you have another mixing bowl for your stand mixer, you can use the paddle attachment at medium-low speed). The butter should be soft but not warm. Keep aside.
5. Using the whisk attachment of you stand mixer, beat in the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time into the egg mixture, about one minute for each addition.
6. Add the raspberry liqueur, the vanilla, and the food coloring and beat for 1 minute until thick and creamy. Cover the frosting with cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes before use. 

raspberry syrup

yields: about 3/4 cup

ingredients

1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup raspberry liqueur

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the mixture reduces to half its volume. 
2. Cool and refrigerate completely before use.

Assembling the cake

ingredients

1 cup dark chocolate shavings

1. Place the two cooled cakes over each other with the top side of each cake facing downwards on flat plate or cake board. This top crust creates a good support for the cake structure. With a sharp serrated knife trim the edges of the cakes. With the knife, make a small notch on one side of both cakes, this will help with aligning the cakes later.
2. Carefully remove the top cake layer and place aside.  
3. Start working with the lower cake layer. With a brush, spread half of the raspberry syrup over the cake. 
4. Layer the surface with a thin crumb coat of the frosting. Place the cake in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to harden the crumb coat.
5. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and spread 1 cup of frosting in an even layer using an offset spatula. Return the cake to the refrigerator and let it chill for 20 minutes. 
6. Place and align the second cake layer on top of the chilled frosted layer of the bottom cake layer, using the notches created earlier to correctly align the cakes. The bottom of the second cake layer should face the frosting of the first cake layer.
7. Brush the rest of the raspberry syrup over the upper layer. Refrigerate the cake for 15 minutes. Spread a thin crumb coat of frosting on top of the cake and refrigerate for another 15 minutes. Carefully spread out the rest of the frosting in an even layer on the top surface of the chilled cake with the offset spatula. 
8. Generously sprinkle the chocolate shavings over the cake and refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes before serving. To get clean even cake slices, place a sharp serrated knife under running hot tap water, wipe the blade with a clean towel and cut the slice. Repeat this for each cake slice, this will prevent any crumbs from sticking to the frosting and it will ensure a clean cut.

sea salt chocolate muffins

Sea salt chocolate muffin

On some mornings, all I want is a muffin, a deep and dark chocolate muffin with my coffee. Okay, perhaps more than one would be ideal and even perfect but either way I really like a good dose of cocoa in them. It's really the best way for me to double my daily am dose of caffeine with a whole lot of joy! Coffee with chocolate it can't get any better than that.

Brown sugar

I never ate a lot of muffins because most of the time they were either too sweet or too greasy and they also never had any interesting flavors that I would have wanted to try. Personally, I like my breakfast muffins to be multigrain or wholegrain based and I am a big fan of oat and oat bran in the mornings. So with the desire to keep things wholesome, I added a couple of different flours into the batter; oat bran, brown rice and whole-wheat give a delicious soft and grainy texture. 

Sea salt chocolate muffins

This is a very deep dark chocolatey muffin with a little bit of sea salt on the crust. When you take a bite into the muffin, the combination of the sea salt with the dark chocolate is simply amazing. The flavors intensify and every subsequent bite is even more exciting than the first, exactly the way I'd like to start my mornings. 

Muffin cocoa and salt

You only need to sprinkle a few salt crystals on top of each muffin, halfway through baking. If you put them on before they will start to sink which is why I recommend placing them once the muffins are slightly firm on the surface but not completely baked. I used a standard 12 cup muffin pan to bake these guys and you could use a smaller sized 24 cup pan as well, just make sure you divide the batter equally between the cups in the pan. You can eat these muffins warm or even at room temperature. Store them in an airtight container for up to 4 days. 

Whole grain sea salt chocolate muffin


sea salt chocolate muffins

yields: 12 muffins

ingredients 

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon dark roast instant coffee powder
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled
1 2/3 cups brown sugar
5 large eggs, chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used the madagascar bourbon variety)
1/2 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sea salt crystals

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and place the wire rack in the middle position. Line a standard muffin cake pan with baking cup liners. 
Mix and sift all the dry ingredients from the cocoa to the baking powder.  Transfer any grain bits back to the dry mix. Keep aside.
2. Cube the butter and transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar and fix the paddle attachment to the mixer. Cream the butter and sugar on medium low speed for 5 minutes. Add one egg at a time and beat until completely smooth.  Add the vanilla and mix for another 30 seconds on medium low speed. 
3. Add half of the sifted dry ingredients from step 1 to the creamed eggs. Mix on medium low speed until smooth and completely blended, approximately 3 minutes. Add the yogurt to the batter and beat for 1 minute. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and beat for another 3 minutes until completely mixed.
4. Divide the batter equally among the muffin pan cups. Bake the muffins for 12 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the salt crystals over the muffins. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes until the centers are firm to touch or skewer comes out clean from the center of the muffin. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool further.

chocolate almond and buckwheat tart

Chocolate almond buckwheat tart

If there is one ingredient you'd love to bake with, what would it be? I have several but I think if given a choice, it would be chocolate and cocoa. In my books, I don't think anything can beat that warm sweet scent in the kitchen that I find so addictively comforting. Granted, I invariably end up making a mess every time I work with cocoa or chocolate, my white kitchen table ends up looking like a war zone with dark brown splattered streaks and spots all over the place. I mentally prepare myself going in armed with the knowledge that I will end up making a huge mess. In the end it never really matters. Because of that final moment, when nothing else matters and my eyes eagerly wait for that hot dark brown dessert to pop out of the oven. I'll admit I've burned my mouth a few times when I've been impatient enough to try and taste it hot. This is not recommended one bit, speaking from personal experience!

Baking with eggs

Last weekend, I spent my time baking. I missed using my tart pan, I haven't used it in a long time and I felt it beckon me from the corner where it has stayed hidden for the past few months. A few minutes later, I had the pan in one hand and the other was busy shuffling through the pantry shelf, which is what we also refer to as my "Museum Collection and Assortment of Flours" (it's a whole shelf with several types of flours) which for some reason lacked any regular all-purpose flour. Thankfully, I still had a bit of buckwheat flour left to make my crust. I love buckwheat a lot for its characteristic nutty taste and gorgeous gray color. I made a very simple crust, buckwheat and ground almond meal with a little bit of butter to hold everything together. The resultant pastry reminded me of a graham cracker crust with a buttery and delicious nutty flavor. 

Sugar measuring

When it comes to preparing tarts and pies, I love my faithful trustworthy porcelain pie beads. But if you don't own any and can't find a store that sells them near you, use dried beans. I've had my beads for a few years now and they making blind baking a cinch. Adding the parchment sheet on top of the pastry surface helps to easily lift the beads off as soon as the tart comes out of the oven and there's a less chance of getting burned! 

Blind baking

Now for the fun part, the chocolate filling! Since it is autumn, I snuck in a little of bit cinnamon, not too much, just a little dab for a little bit of added warmth to the chocolate flavors. When this tart came out, it was every bit delicious, a thin fine crust outside with a moist gooey chocolatey inside. That against the buckwheat and almond crust made it simply enjoyable. And yes, I did my burn my mouth again while trying to taste this way too soon!

Chocolate tart slice

chocolate buckwheat almond tart

yields: 6-8 servings

buckwheat almond tart crust

ingredients

yields: enough to cover one 9 inch ruffled tart pan

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup ground almond meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line the bottom of a 9 inch ruffled tart pan with parchment paper and spray the sides lightly with a neutral oil.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the dry ingredients to mix uniformly. Add the melted butter and mix with your hands to form a dough. If the mixture is too sticky allow it too cool a little, this will help it firm. Transfer the dough to the pan and with your fingers/ or using the bottom flat surface of a measuring cup press the dough up the bottom and sides of the pan to form a layer of even thickness. Cover the crust with clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 mins. 
3. Remove the cling film and prick the surface of the crust a few times with the prongs of a fork. Cover the top surface of the pastry with parchment paper and place some pie beads or dried beans. This will prevent uneven rising during the baking process. Bake the pastry for 20 minutes in the center rack of the oven (this is also called blind baking). The edges will be slightly golden brown at this point. Carefully remove the pie beads along with the parchment sheet paper on the top surface.
4. Pour the warm chocolate tart filling (recipe below) into the tart shell, even the surface with a flat offset spatula or a flat butter knife and bake the tart for another 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from the center of the tart filling. Transfer the tart from the oven and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes in the pan on a wire rack before removing and transferring it to a clean serving plate. The tart will have a delicate crust on top but a moist gooey texture inside. Slice the tart with a sharp serrated bread knife and serve warm or cold.

chocolate tart filling

yields: enough for filling for one 9 inch tart

ingredients

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips 
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 tablespoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract

1. Melt the chocolate, cream, and butter together in a thick bottomed saucepan over a boiling water bath. This should take about 2-3 minutes. Mix constantly till smooth to get a shiny silky smooth sauce. Keep warm. 
2. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla at high speed for 5 minutes until you get a pale yellow lemony color and a ribbon can be formed with the eggs, the eggs will have tripled in volume. 
3. Fold the chocolate mix into the whisked eggs carefully with a circular motion. There will be some deflation but avoid losing too much of the trapped air.  
4. Please refer to step 4 above, listed under the tart crust instructions to finish off the tart.  

whole-wheat chocolate cake with red currant jam

Whole wheat chocolate cake with red currant jam

The past few weeks have been filled with way too many farewells with two of my close friends moving away to warmer regions of the country which simultaneously makes me happy and envious. I made each one of them something different before they left, Javi got the

black peppercorn, cardamom and raspberry sauce ice cream

while Matt loves chocolate chips. Chocolate chip cookies kept cropping up in my head but I really didn't feel like sending him off with cookies, I wanted to give him something a little more special, something he might have never tried before but every bit as chocolatey as possible.

handful of currants

A short farewell boat ride trip on the Potomac with a little bit of champagne and this cake seemed fitting, since farewells like chocolate are bittersweet. Luck was on my side, I was fortunate to run into some fresh juicy red currants in my neighborhood grocery store and pairing the dark chocolate against the tartness of the currants, turned out to be a match made in heaven. The red currant jam is delicious by itself and would be perfect as an appetizer with cheese or at breakfast on buttered bread. 

baking scene

The base of this cake is whole-wheat, make sure to use whole-wheat pastry flour and not regular whole-wheat flour to prepare this cake. I was happy with this cake recipe because the surface of the cake did not crack during baking and because I finally got it right after  a couple of trials to get the  ingredients and ratios worked out. The dash of instant coffee in the batter intensifies the dark chocolate taste giving it a richer flavor without imparting a coffee taste. 

chocolate bar

Make sure the cake is cooled in the refrigerator before slicing it to get a clean cut through the ganache glaze. I like to wash my serrated knife in running hot water before cutting each wedge, it always gives me a clean cut and without making a mess with the cake crumbs. This cake is rich and decadent and in my opinion, a chocolate lover's dream. At the end of the trip, Matt was happy with his cake and so was everyone else on the boat judging by the visible look of the food-induced coma in our faces that was to hit us that evening. 

Sifting

whole-wheat chocolate layer cake with red currant jam

whole-wheat chocolate layer cake

yields:

one 9 inch diameter cake

ingredients

1 teaspoon melted butter or a non-stick oil spray (canola oil)

5 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon instant dark roast coffee powder

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, chopped at room temperature

1 3/4 cup sugar

1 1/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt

1 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract

4 large eggs + 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325F. Line the base of a round 9 inch circular baking pan with parchment paper and lightly grease the pan with a little butter or a non-stick neutral tasting oil spray (like canola oil). 

2. In a thick bottomed saucepan, add the dark chocolate, 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder,1/2 teaspoon of instant coffee, water, and butter. Place the saucepan on a boiling water bath and stir till the chocolate is melted and the mixture completely combined. Add and stir 1/2 cup sugar to this mixture until completely smooth. Remove the saucepan from the water bath and keep aside to cool. 

3. Sift the flour, baking soda, 2 teaspoons dark cocoa powder, and 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder three times onto a clean sheet of parchment paper. If any husk or grainparts are left behind the sieve add them back to the sifted dry ingredients. Keep aside.

4. Using the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and the rest of the sugar for 5 minutes on medium high speed until completely pale yellow and light and fluffy. Replace the whisk attachment with the paddle attachment and add half of the cooled chocolate mixture from step 2. Combine the batter completely at medium speed and then add the rest of the melted chocolate mixture. 

5. Add half of the sifted dry ingredients from step 3 to the batter and beat the batter on medium speed until combined. Add the yogurt and vanilla extract to the batter with the rest of the sifted dry ingredients and beat the batter until completely combined. 

6. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking tin and smoothen out the surface with an offset spatula. Place the tin in the preheated oven on the middle rack and bake for 45 minutes or until the center is firm to touch or a skewer comes out clean from the center. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the baking tin and then remove it from the pan by running a butter knife between the cake and the sides of the pan. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and cool to room temperature completely before use. At this point you can wrap the cake airtight with cling film and store it in the refrigerator or freeze it. Bring the cake to room temperature before frosting. 

red currant jam

yields:

approximately 1- 1 1/4 cup

ingredients

12 ounces red currants

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons pectin powder

1. Mix the red currants with the sugar and lime juice in a thick bottomed saucepan. Heat on a medium high flame and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring continuously. 

2. Stir in the pectin powder and cook for another 5-6 minutes until the jam begins to thicken. Remove the jam from the stove. 

3. Pass the hot jam through a sieve placed over a clean bowl. Press the pulp through the sieve to squeeze most of the fruit out. Discard the left over residue and seeds from the jam. Stir the jam in the bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature before using it to layer the cake. 

Note:

You can also can this jam by processing the jam in a sealed jar. Place the sealed filled jar in a water bath and bring the water to boil, allow the water to boil for 10 minutes, switch the flame off and let the jar sit in the water for 5 minutes before removing it out. Cool to room temperature completely. Adjust canning conditions as per local altitude. 

chocolate ganache glaze/icing

yields:

approximately 1 cup

ingredients

2 teaspoons light corn syrup

1/4 cup heavy cream

5 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate chips

1. On a medium high flame heat the corn syrup and cream in a thick bottomed saucepan and bring the contents to boil. Remove from the flame and immediately add the chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate is melted and silky smooth. 

2. Preferably, use immediately within the next 4-5 minutes while warm to glaze the cake.

assembling the cake

1. Slice the cooled cake in half on a turn table using a sharp serrated knife. Place the lower half of the sliced cake on a wire rack. 

2. Using an offset spatula, spread the red currant jam in a thick layer on the lower half of the cake. Carefully center the upper half of the cake on top of the jam layered cake. 

3. Pour the chocolate ganache glaze on top of the center of the upper layer of the cake and with the offset spatula push the excess chocolate glaze towards the outer edges of the cake and allow it to drip from the sides. Do not over do this step, you want to coat the upper layer of the cake in an even smooth layer with the chocolate glaze while allowing it to drip naturally from the sides. The glaze will begin to solidify immediately as it cools down against the cooled cake. Allow the cake to cool in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before serving. 

chocolate raspberry whole-wheat biscotti

Biscotti in a bowl

Instead of saying that I do this occasionally, I'll be honest and say that I do this often, more so than necessary. Whenever, I walk into the grocery store, I'll invariably stumble upon some ingredient that will pique my curiosity and of course, I'll end up picking it without really giving much thought to what I would/could do with it. This is exactly what happened when I saw a bag of these freeze-dried raspberries at the store last week, I just had to have them! 

freeze dried raspberries and biscotti

Eaten straight up, they can be quite tart! However, I still had a bag of dried berries to deal with. For a while, I've been wanting to try baking berry flavored biscotti. The problem was the liquid content, biscotti needs to be dry and crisp, and fresh berries would be too moist and they would reduce the shelf-life of the cookie. But these freeze-dried raspberries could avoid all of these complications! 

There I was sifting flour and mixing a batch of biscotti batter. The batter got colorful while I folded in the crunchy raspberries with bits of dark chocolate and walnuts. Baking biscotti is fun, you get to do it twice! You can cut the loaves to any thickness you desire, I normally waiver between 3/8 to an inch, just make sure you use a sharp serrated knife to get a clean cut. This to me, is fateful perfection; chocolate, raspberries and walnuts wrapped in whole-wheat flour all of which would end up getting dunked in hot tea or coffee at some point over the next few days. 

baking biscotti chocolate discs

chocolate, raspberry and walnut whole-wheat biscotti

yields: about 40-46 cookies

ingredients

2 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup freeze-dried raspberries
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (58.5% cacao)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt and keep aside.
3. Using an electric mixer, whisk the sugar, eggs and vanilla on medium speed until light yellow. Add the sifted dry ingredients into the batter and combine until a sticky dough is formed. Fold the raspberries, chocolate and walnuts carefully into the dough. Take care to prevent the dried raspberries from crumbling by folding gently. 
4. Transfer the dough onto a clean floured surface and divide into two equal parts. Form each half into a rough log about 10 X 2 inches in length. (The dough is sticky and it is helpful if you flour your hands while working with it). Transfer each log onto the prepared cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes until they turn golden brown. Rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking to ensure even cooking. 
5. Remove the logs and let them cool for 12 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300F. Using a serrated knife, slice each log diagonally into 3/8 inch thick sections. (The thickness of the sections are entirely up to you, if you like them thicker you can even go up to an inch). Transfer the cut slices back onto the parchment paper and bake until golden and crisp on both sides for about 10 minutes on each side. Rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking. Once cooked, transfer the biscotti from the cookie sheet onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an air tight container. 

chocolate butter cookies

Chocolate Butter Cookies

This is that special time of the year when I carb load for a few days, no not for a race or marathon or any other sort of event that requires athletic prowess it's a simple way for me to celebrate my birthday. Each year, I make myself a different sweet treat/s, something that I've wanted to try/make all year round but avoided as a preventative measure to protect my waistline (The relationship between aging and waistline length is a direct proportion, at least for me). Ageing is an unwanted artifact of birthdays, as you cross a certain threshold (at least in my case), you have to learn some self-control. Taste and eat a little and occasionally indulge your tastebuds. Come birthday week and I will indulge every wicked dessert fantasy that has crossed my mind and make up for all those times I have been good. 

cooling cookies and forget me nots_1

One would assume that I might want a cake on my birthday, while I won't say no, this year I have a different opinion. Heck, I've made myself birthday cakes in the past but once in a while, I will crave for something other than a cake such as a pudding or a caramel flan. It all really depends on what my obsession was centered around. Images of freshly baked butter cookies have been circulating around my brain cells for a long time, just like those delicious Danish ones with that perfect nutty butter fragrance that melts in your mouth.

Strawberry flower and a lonely cookie

This recipe is based on the version I found in The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook. Browning a little bit of the butter, followed by a brief cooling period gives these cookies that extra heightened buttery nutty flavor that I absolutely love! To work with the dough, the refrigerator is your buddy. The dough is easy to work with when chilled and rolling it out between sheets of wax paper makes it even easier.

You can use any type of cookie cutter to shape your cookies, I used one of my Linzer cookie cutters. As my friend John says, they look like chocolate sprockets. Of course, depending on the size of the cookie you end up cutting, you will end up with either more or less cookies than I did. My cookie cutter measures around 2 inches and I got around 50-58 cookies. 

eating a cookie


chocolate butter cookies 
(adapted from The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook)

yields: approximately 52-58, 2 inch cookies

ingredients

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1. Melt 4 tablespoon of the butter in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir continuously until the milk solids turn orange brown. Remove the browned butter from the flame and stir in the cocoa to form a smooth silky paste. Keep aside to cool for 20 minutes.
2. Attach the paddle to a stand mixer, add the remaining butter, sugar, salt, and the cocoa-butter mixture. Mix completely on high speed, the mixture should appear light and fluffy. Add the yolks and vanilla and mix for about 40 seconds. Scrape the bowl down with a silicone spatula. 
3. Adjust the speed of the mixer to the low setting and add half of the flour mixture. Blend until completely incorporated. Scrape the bowl down with the spatula. Add the rest of the flour to the batter and repeat. Once the dough is formed into a ball, divide it into three flat discs. Transfer and wrap, each disc on to a large sheet of wax paper and refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut two large sheets of wax paper and sandwich a disc of the refrigerated dough between the sheets at the center. Roll out the disc into a rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Refrigerate the flattened dough for another 15-20 minutes. 
4. Preheat the oven to 375F and place the wire rack in the center. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, peel the top sheet of wax paper and cut out desired cookie shapes. Place the cut cookies onto a baking sheet or tray lined with parchment paper. Bake the cookies on the centered wire rack in the oven for 10 minutes (if the edges start to get dark, remove them immediately as the cookies are burning), rotating the baking sheet halfway during baking. Bake only one batch of cookies at a time. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. Any extra bits of dough can be pressed together and re-rolled and cut to make more cookies. Repeat with the rest of the refrigerated discs to make the rest of the cookies or refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days.

browned butter and red wine brownies

Brown buttered brownies

December is going to fly by so fast, I just know it! We have been out and about with all the holiday parties and celebrations that it seems like Christmas will be here tomorrow. Thankfully all my gift shopping is complete though I still have a few gifts to be wrapped and all my Christmas cards to write and mail and I hope to get to it sometime this week. December is also probably when the bulk of my baking and sweet preparations occur. 'Tis the season for sweet and savory foods, literally! My oven provides good evidence for this since it has been in daily commission since the past two or three weeks and I think it will stay like that until the end of the month. 

A spoonful of Cocoa and an empty bowl

Last weekend I hosted a birthday brunch and instead of baking a cake, I did something different. I baked the birthday boy some brownies. This is a very easy recipe that I've adapted from Alice Medrich's Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts. This is my new favorite holiday dessert that I plan to make for myself and gift. This is also one of those recipes that has several benefits. It will make you and everyone else happy when eaten and they also make your kitchen and house smell very, very wonderful. According to my olfactory senses there is almost something magical when vanilla and cocoa scents take over my kitchen. Just as I did, I am sure you will also enjoy getting a whiff of this sweet fragrance when you open the oven door every time you check on the baking status of your brownies. Ideally you should avoid doing this and probably just do it once or twice towards the end but I admit to breaking this rule more than once. 

Butter and Walnuts

What makes these brownies special are two things, the browned butter flavor and the delicious red wine. Each of these ingredients flavor the brownie and improve the taste of the cocoa. By browning the butter the brownies get a smooth and wonderful taste that I would describe as somewhere between a light butterscotch to nutty flavor, if that makes any sense. I used a Malbec for the red wine since it is a bit robust and intense in flavor, even a good quality Shiraz would be great here. To make your life easier and less messy, I recommend either buying pre-chopped walnuts or putting the shelled walnuts in a bag and then pounding them a little a rolling pin to coarsely chop them. Remember eventually most of the walnuts will get sliced into once you cut your baked brownies into squares. These thin brownies have a light and thin crust but also have a soft and creamy smooth interior.  Enjoy immediately or store them in airtight container until needed!

Baking Brownies

browned butter and red wine brownies

yields: 16 brownies

ingredients

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons red wine (I used a Malbec)
2 teaspoons Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper and spray with a neutral vegetable oil.
2. Add the cocoa, salt, sugar, wine, and vanilla in a large glass mixing bowl. There is no need to mix the ingredients at this stage (the only rising agent, the lecithin in the egg yolks are mixed in later in the form of whole eggs).
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir with a silicone spatula. As the butter melts it will foam and the milk solids will separate from the fat and begin to turn reddish brown. At this point remove the butter from the stove and quickly pour it into the mixing bowl with the cocoa. Stir it with a silicone spatula to blend. Let it cool for 3 minutes, it will still be hot.
4. Add one egg at a time, mixing it in vigorously with the silicone spatula until completely combined. At this point the chocolate mixture will be silky smooth.
5. Add the flour and again mix it into the chocolate batter vigorously until you see no more white flecks of flour. 
6. Roughly chop the walnuts and fold them into the brownie batter.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and allow spread it evenly with an offset spatula. Bake the brownie batter in the middle rack of the preheated oven. The brownies will be done after 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out almost clean from the center. The brownies can still be hot and gooey even if the toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the baking pan for 20 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack for another 20 minutes to cool. Once cool, transfer the brownies to a cutting board and cut them with a clean serrated knife into approximately 16 squares of equal size.

blueberry chocolate jam

blueberry chocolate jam

Summer has ended and here I am in the kitchen trying to seal every bit of my memories in glass jars that will remind me of the good and happy times. This past summer was etched with fun trips, great family visits, and new experiences. New recipes and tastes to be tried and savored and my blog completed its first year. This is also my first summer of canning and preserving and I will admit that it is very addictive. The summer harvest was as generous with its bounty as it was with its experiences and I took full advantage, especially the fruit. Yup, you might have noticed that I'm always leaning towards the sweeter end of things.

Chocolate chips

So here I am sharing a story of how I combined possibly two of the best ingredients that will remind me of a wonderful summer. Deep and dark chocolate with rich sweet blueberries all tucked away in a jar waiting to be opened and remind me of the warm sweet summer. I will admit, I was a little nervous about this jam, chocolate can be a bit overpowering when it comes to blueberries and a more concentrated flavor is needed to balance both the berries and the chocolate. The splash of citrus juices will help fortify the blueberries and they will hold their own against the chocolate. I added a little bit of pectin to quicken the jam process because chocolate gets scalded easily and you don't want to end up with a burned product. Burned chocolate is no fun. All in all, this is one jam that must be shared. Spread it on buttered bread slices for breakfast, drizzle it on pancakes, slap it on grilled pound cake, or anything else you could concoct at the moment. Gulping a spoonful always works too!

Note: Some cooks recommend dissolving the pectin first before adding it to the liquid. I added a teaspoon at a time and did not have a problem combining it into the jam. Also, I've made this jam a few times and stored it over a period of one year, it appears that the acidity is enough for it to be canned. You can also reduce the amount and make enough jam to store for a shorter period in the refrigerator.

This recipe was adapted from Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber.

blueberry and chocolate jam

blueberry chocolate jam

yields: 12 individual 4 ounce canning jars

ingredients


3 cups sugar
3 pints wild blueberries (I used frozen, fresh is perfectly fine too)
10 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate chips
juice of one lemon, fresh (no pulp)
juice of one lime, fresh (no pulp)
10 ml orange juice, fresh (no pulp)
5 teaspoons fruit pectin powder

1. Mix the sugar and blueberries in a large pot and cook on a medium flame. (If you use frozen blueberries then use the juices too.) Macerate the blueberries during this period with a masher and stir occasionally. Cook for about 10-12 minutes till the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour the entire mixture through a ricer or sieve and process to remove all the skins. You might have some tiny seeds that seep through the ricer/sieve, that is perfectly fine. Squeeze as much pulp and juice as you can. 
2. Add the pureed blueberry syrup into a pot and bring it a gentle simmer on a small flame. Stir in the chocolate chips. At this stage you need to stir the mixture continuously to ensure that the chocolate does not burn. 
3. Add the lemon, lime and orange juices to the mixture. Stir continuously for 15 minutes. Add the pectin to the mixture, a teaspoon at a time. Mix till it is completely combined. Perform the wrinkle test to make sure that the jam is ready to set. (Wrinkle test: Take a tablespoon of the hot mixture and smear it on a clean plate. Put the plate in the freezer for 5 minutes. When you remove it, run your finger through the center, the gel should wrinkle on the surface. This indicates that your jam is ready to gel). For some reason if your jam is not ready to gel, cook for another 5 minutes, take it off from the stove and repeat the wrinkle test. It took me two wrinkle tests to get the right consistency. Pour the jam into 12 clean 4 ounce canning jars and process for 10 minutes. 

Update: I recently designed some labels for my jars and thought I would share them with you. Do let me know what you think of them. Just note that each label is about 2 inches wide.

Disclaimer: These labels are for personal use only. If you do use them or credit them, please post a link back to the related original recipe and not the file. © A Brown Table                    




chocolate almond torte


So many things to celebrate!  Having my family here for the big commencement ceremony next Friday makes this achievement extra special and I am staying quite busy showing off the treasures of our Nation's capital.  Last week we had the opportunity to visit several places, but one topped our list--Arlington National Cemetery.  Having never visited this honorable and historic site, I was overwhelmed with the picturesque and breathtaking views. They also have a little museum that houses medals awarded to the U.S. from different countries which was a nice and interesting find.  Navigating D.C. has become quite easy for my family and they've been doing their own exploration during the day while I am at work, often coming back with interesting facts that I have missed. Besides me, Snoopy is loving having guests since he receives non-stop attention, gets to sit out in the garden and appears to have won my mother over since she is convinced he is always hungry and needs to eat more.


This is a funny story that I have to share with you. On the weekend while completing a couple of errands out in Virginia, we decided to grab lunch at a restaurant. Our order was not complicated, a couple of salads and drinks. For some reason, our order took forever so we asked the manager why everyone but us got their orders. The manager replied that it was taking some time but it would be there soon. Finally, we got our order and the assistant manager who brought our food out said "There's no cook". I was flabbergasted, it made no sense and is probably the most bizarre excuse I have heard in a while. Though we were annoyed, we were tired and hungry. We finished our lunch and got back on the road to finish the rest of our errands. Needless to say we will not be going back to that restaurant. 



I recently received a special request to bake a chocolate torte. Having never made one before, I was a bit apprehensive mainly because it is one of those desserts that requires a bit of patience and care during preparation. Since Alice Medrich is my go to for all things in the chocolate world, I was very lucky to find this recipe for her Italian Chocolate Almond Torte in her Pure Dessert cookbook. She has the knack of making the most complicated of desserts so simple and yet delicious. I added a chocolate drizzle to give the torte a richer texture and flavor. You can use blanched or unblanched almonds in this recipe. After having tasted a slice of this delicious torte, I have also come to the conclusion that it is way healthier than a rich chocolate cake since the yolks and flour are kicked out. So please do not feel guilty in indulging your cocoa needs and desires with this dessert. 



chocolate almond torte

ingredients

1 cup unblanched almonds
7 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
7 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9 inch circular springform pan and line the bottom with a sheet of baking paper. Keep aside. In a food processor, combine the almonds, salt, 1/2 of the sugar, and chocolate to get a coarse and crumbly mixture. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed to get soft white peaks. Add the rest of the sugar and continue to whisk at high speed for another 3 minutes. Gently fold in half of the almond cocoa mixture by moving from the outside to the inside, just like you would with genoise cake without destroying the structure of the foam that you made by whisking the egg whites.  Fold in the rest of the almond cocoa mixture. Pour the batter into the greased pan prepared earlier and bake for about 20 minutes in the oven. The torte is done baking when the top gets golden brown and the center is firm to touch. Let the torte cool in the pan and then remove to a serving plate. Drizzle with the chocolate drizzle (below).

dark chocolate drizzle
3/4 cup semisweet 75% dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
8 tablespoon powdered sugar
8 tablespoons hot water (90F)

To prepare the drizzle, melt the chocolate over a simmering water bath with the whipping cream. When completely melted and combined add the powdered sugar and keep mixing over the water bath. The mixture may form into a small ball. Add half of the hot water to the chocolate and keep mixing till incorporated. Add the rest of the water and combine till a smooth liquid is obtained. Remove the glaze from the water bath and allow to cool till it is lukewarm (rather does not feel too hot to your skin). Pour the glaze on the top of the torte. You can store any left over chocolate sauce and serve it on the side.

chocolate mint cake


I am in that final phase of thesis writing where I edit and re-edit, create tables and figures and transfer information from one program to another. Then I suddenly notice formatting errors due to that occasional software glitch where tabs and margins turn out to be more complicated than the actual research question or regressions that concern the paper. Software can definitely take a mind of their own and then there are those moments where I want to give it a piece of my mind. I really wish there was a command where I could type back "Whack Program Please"!


You might have noticed that I've been busy. I've been working on designing a new logo and also this special birthday cake. My friend John turned 30 this week and since this is a big one, I thought I would bake him his birthday cake as a special gift. I checked to see if he had anything special in mind for a cake and he said chocolate but it does not have to be as elaborate as the chocolate raspberry cake that I made for the chili cook-off. Still I wanted the cake to be fun, after all it was his big 3-0! Chocolate cakes are great but why not make it something even more decadent. A little bit of inspiration came my way, when I heard that he had stuffed his gym bag with some boxes of girl scout cookies. It was then that I said to myself, why not make a cake inspired by a thin mint cookie. I did not add too much creme de menthe in the buttercream, for one I needed to keep the ratios of liquid to fat constant so I did not end up with a very green buttercream but if you do want to add a little food color to it you could achieve the desired shade/color of green.


I went back to the basic recipe for the genoise cake and baked two separate genoise cakes. The cake is then layered with a layer of mint flavored creme fraiche icing and two separate layers of dark chocolate creme fraiche icing. The entire cake is then coated and sealed with a simple buttercream icing infused with creme de menthe and then drizzled with a dark chocolate glaze which is again infused with creme de menthe. The edible silver pearls are just for a little decoration and can be found anywhere.


This cake was also featured at the Huffington Post on June, 26th 2012
chocolate mint cake


ingredients 


for the cake: 


Chocolate Genoise Sponge Cake Recipe


mint creme fraiche filling
4 tablespoon creme de menthe
1 cup creme fraiche
2 tablespoon sugar


chocolate creme fraiche filling
1/4 cup semisweet dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

1 cup creme fraiche
2 tablespoon sugar


mint buttercream frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 tablespoon creme fraiche
5 tablespoon powdered sugar
3 tablespoon creme de menthe


dark chocolate glaze
3/4 cup semisweet 75% dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
8 tablespoon powdered sugar
8 tablespoons hot water (90F)
2 tablespoon creme de menthe 


mint syrup
1 cup creme de menthe 
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup water


edible silver pearls for decorating the cake


After the two genoise cakes are prepared, cool and wrap them up (they can be made a day or two ahead and stored in the refrigerator or frozen for a month before use).

Heat the creme de menthe, 4 tablespoons of sugar  and 1/4 cup water in a pot and bring to a simmer. Allow to cool to room temperature before use. 
To prepare the mint creme fraiche filling, beat the creme fraiche with a whisk at high speed till it forms stiff peaks. Add the sugar and the creme de menthe and whisk till combined and fluffy. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before use.
To prepare the chocolate creme fraiche filling, beat the creme fraiche with a whisk at high speed till it forms stiff peaks. Beat in the sugar and combine. In the mean time, melt the chocolate with the heavy cream on a simmering water bath and then pour it into the creme fraiche and whisk on high speed till smooth and stiff. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before use.
To prepare the buttercream frosting, beat the butter and the sugar till it becomes light and fluffy. This will take about 7-10 minutes at high speed. Add the creme fraiche and creme de menthe and continue beating till  completely combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before use.
Slice each genoise cake through the center to get two separate discs of equal thickness using a serrated knife and a turn table. Place one cake on a foil covered cardboard disc of equal size. Place the cake with the foil covered cardboard disc on top of a sheet of parchment paper on a turn table/cake stand or plate (This will help you to decorate the cake and reduce any clean up). Brush the surface of the cake with the prepared mint syrup, you will use about 2 tablespoons of syrup per cake slice. Then spread the mint creme fraiche filling with an offset spatula. Add the second cake layer on top of the mint creme fraiche and brush about two tablespoons of the mint syrup. Spread 1/2 of the chocolate creme fraiche filling. Similarly, place the third cake layer and brush with the mint syrup and then spread the remaining chocolate creme fraiche filling. Add the final fourth layer of cake on top and brush gently with the mint syrup. Cover the cake with cling film. At this point the cake can be refrigerated for at least 2 hours before coating with the buttercream or kept overnight. Layer the buttercream frosting with an offset spatula by coating the sides gently and slowly. You can wet the spatula by running it under warm tap water to get a smooth finish on the frosting. Allow for about 2cm of buttercream frosting on each side of the cake. Start with the center and then move to the sides. Cool the cake in the refrigerator for another 1 to 2 hours before pour the chocolate glaze. The cake should be cool enough to allow the glaze to drizzle and spread. 
To prepare the drizzle, melt the chocolate over a simmering water bath with the whipping cream. When completely melted and combined add the powdered sugar and keep mixing over the water bath. The mixture may form into a small ball. Add half of the hot water to the chocolate and keep mixing till incorporated. Add the rest of the water and creme de menthe and combine till a smooth liquid is obtained. Remove the glaze from the water bath and allow to cool till it is lukewarm (rather does not feel too hot to your skin). Pour the glaze on the top of the cake at the center and then with an offset spatula push the glaze to the ends to allow it to drizzle and drip from the sides. It helps to use a wet offset spatula to move the chocolate glaze. Sprinkle a few of the edible pearls and allow the cake to set in the refrigerator for at least two hours before serving. Remove the sheets of parchment paper from the bottom of the cake before serving.

almond and pear chocolate flan


This was a week packed with punches and kicks! It included my foray into the world of kickboxing, I've been in desperate need of a more spelled-out and defined workout schedule and I hope this new athletic venture of mine filling that gap. It feels more like winter than fall in Washington, the sudden drop in the 50s and the relentless rain is making me moody. What does get me through this kind of weather, is the smell of the warm oven while I bake and hot tea at any time of the day! The oven seemed to beckon, to make this cold and wet weekend enjoyable and warmer. Having recently purchased several autumn Bartlett pears,  the urge to bake a pear flan with an almond and chocolate filling seemed hard to ignore this weekend. I modified a tart recipe from my copy of the The Essential Baking Cookbook.


Halloween is officially around the corner and I still do not have a costume or even an inkling of what to wear. It keeps getting harder each year. This weekend is also the Taste of D.C. which will be an exciting and delicious walk through Penn. Ave.


I had chopped almonds in the pantry but if you can find pre-ground almonds, that will work as good. This pear flan is best served chilled after at least 2 hours of baking. I used my food processor to save time on making the dough. I have also found that making pastry dough with frozen versus chilled butter produces a much lighter and flakier crust. Rolling out the pastry dough between cling wrap or parchment paper makes it easier to handle the dough, without having to flour the surface that could make the pastry dry.


almond and pear chocolate flan

yield: 6-8 servings (9" inch tart)

ingredients

For the Pastry
1 1/4 cup flour
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and frozen
1/4 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
a little extra butter for greasing the tin

For the Filling
1 stick unsalted butter or 150 ml vegetable oil
2/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2/3 cup melted unsweetened dark chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup ground raw almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons flour 
3 ripe peeled, cored and sliced (length-wise) Bartlett Pears

1. Attach the dough blade to the food processor and pour in the flour and cubed butter. Pulse till the flour resembles a crumbly mixture. 
2. Pulse in the sugar, followed by the addition of the egg yolks, one at a time. Remove the dough ball from the processor and wrap it in cling wrap and leave it to rest for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator. 
3. Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly grease a fluted tart tin with a little butter. Cut a circle of baking/parchment paper equal to the size of the base of the tart tin and line the bottom of the tin with it. Remove the dough and roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper to form a 14 inch circle. Now, remove the top layer of the parchment paper from the rolled out dough and line the tin with the dough. Remove the other layer of parchment paper and using the rolling pin trim off any excess dough from the edges of the pan. Lightly proof the pastry surface with a fork to let any trapped air exit during the baking process. Cover the surface of the pastry in the tin with dry uncooked beans or pie weights. Bake the pastry shell for about 10 minutes. Remove the beads and then bake the pastry for an additional 5 minutes. Let the pastry shell cool for about 15 minutes in the refrigerator. 
4. To prepare the filling, cream the  butter and sugar by beating in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs individually. Pour the melted chocolate and mix it  in the filling mixture. Now fold in the ground almonds and flour. To the cooled pastry shell, gently pour in the pie filling in an even layer. Arrange the pear slices on the surface of the filling and bake the tart for about 30 minutes or till the center is firm. The pears will caramelize a little during the baking process. Allow the tart to cool to room temperature in the tin and then transfer it to the refrigerator to cool for another hour or till firm before it can be served. Using a sieve, dust the surface lightly with sweetened cocoa powder and icing sugar.