October was an exciting month, Season came out and my aunt and uncle came to visit from New Zealand. My aunt is an amazing cook and she taught me a couple of Goan dishes that I’ve been trying to get a better understanding of (more on that recipe soon - it’s going to be a December dish for the holidays).Read More
I do not want to turn my oven and when I do I run away to the cooler part of the house. Summer is here and I love warm weather but on some days even in the Bay Area it can get rather hot. I recently had a couple of friends over for dinner and the best thing I could do for them and for me, was serve them this affogato at the end. An affogato which translates to "drowned" in Italian, is perhaps one of the easiest ways to prepare a dessert. The concept is simple; ice cream and coffee. But you have the option to play around with the flavor; the coffee for one is a good place to start and then of course the ice cream.Read More
I'm officially another year older. I ate cake, macaroons and ice cream and took a break from cooking which is kinda nice when it's your birthday weekend. We've been working arduously on our backyard trying to create a relaxing edible garden. I'm hoping to all comes through before May ends so we can have some time to enjoy it while the weather remains warm.Read More
So far this year there have been a few books on pastry and desserts that blew me away, not just in terms of photography but also in the content the authors created and what I could learn from them. Stella Parks's BraveTart, the Ottolenghi Sweet and this book, that actually came out a year ago in Europe but just got released in the United States, The Artful Baker by Cenk Sönmezsoy.
The Artful Baker as I mentioned is a visual treat but it's a lot more than that, as soon as I got a copy of Cenk book, I sat down and flipped through the pages marking things that I wanted to make. I think I could best describe them as artistically indulgent and experimental. He's got a whole set of brownie recipes that go from classic to elegant, like this one. In this version, a chocolate brownie is first layered with a layer of Valhorona Dulcey then decorated with a chocolate lace pattern. I skipped his design and opted for a chocolate mehendi pattern that I stenciled out on butterpaper and then cooled. Once cooled, I flipped the design on to the white chocolate layer to transfer. But that's the thing with this book that I love, you can take his ideas and suggestions and make them your own.
Then there was a recipe for a raspberry jewel pluot galette (I wish this was next year and plum season), the Monte Bianco (which is a spectacular display of chestnuts cooked to create a spaghetti like shape),or the Devil Wears Chocolate Cake or the Pomegranate Jam. There's so much stuff to choose from, you'll be baking and cooking desserts year round from this book.
This week, I''m giving away one copy of Cenk's gorgeous book with an equally gorgeous plate (the one on the right below) created by his friend and artist, Tulya Madra.
All you need to do is leave a comment below and tell me what your favorite dessert book of 2017 has been. The giveaway is open to US residents only (due to shipping reasons) and will run till November 14, 2017. I will announce the winner on this page on the 15th and contact them by email (so please don't forget to use your email when you sign up to leave a comment). Good luck and happy cooking!
Note: For chocolate mehendi pattern
1. Stencil out the design on a sheet of paper and then stick a sheet of butterpaper cut to size.
2. Using a cornet/paper cone (Serious Eats has directions) fill it with melted chocolate as prepared in Cenk's recipe and then use that to trace out the design. Let this sit in a cold place to let the chocolate harden. You can also refrigerate this.
3. Once hardened carefully flip this on the white chocolate ganache layer and carefully peel so as not to break anything. If it does, if your design is intricate, it can be salvaged by moving the pieces together using a small parking knife or fork.
Classic Brownies (From The Artful Baker by Cenk Sonmezsoy, published by ABRAMS c 2017
makes one 8 X 8 - inch square pan of brownies
10 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (5.3 ounces; 150 grams) unsalted butter, cut into large pieces, plus more for pan
10.6 ounces (300 grams) bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), coarsely chopped
⅔ cup (93 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (13 grams) Dutch processed unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon (4 grams) fine sea salt
3 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) granulated sugar
Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch (20.5-cm) square baking pan. Line the pan with two overlapping strips of parchment paper that are the width of the pan bottom and long enough to cover the bottom and sides with 2 inches (5 cm) of overhang on each side. Butter the lower parchment to secure the top sheet.
In a medium heatproof bowl set over a medium saucepan filled with 2 inches (5 cm) of barely simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula. Remove the bowl from the pan and let cool completely, stirring occasionally.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar at medium-high speed until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is pale and thick, about 4 minutes. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and beat at medium speed until blended, about 30 seconds. Add the flour mixture and beat at the lowest speed just until incorporated.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape down the sides with a silicone spatula, reaching down to the bottom to incorporate any unmixed dry ingredients. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly with a small offset spatula.
Bake until a paper-thin crinkly crust forms on the surface of the brownie, about 25 minutes. A wooden toothpick inserted into the center should come out with thick, gooey batter clinging to it. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely. As the brownie cools, the center will sink slightly.
Using the parchment overhang as handles, lift the brownie out of the pan and transfer it to a cutting board. Cut the brownie into 3 or 4 equal strips in each direction to make 9 or 16 squares.
5 ounces (140 grams) blond chocolate (preferably Valrhona Dulcey) or white chocolate, finely chopped
⅓ cup (80 grams) heavy cream
2.8 ounces (80 grams) bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), coarsely chopped
Using the parchment overhang as handles, lift the cooled brownie out of the pan and transfer it to a wire rack. Level the top of the brownie with a large serrated knife and return it to the pan.
To make the ganache, put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to just below a boil, stirring frequently. Take the pan off the heat and pour about half of the hot cream over the chocolate. Stir gently with a silicone spatula until blended. Add the rest of the hot cream, stirring gently until the chocolate melts completely.
Scrape the ganache over the brownie and spread it evenly with a small offset spatula. Refrigerate the brownie, uncovered, until the ganache is firm, about 2 hours.
Lift the brownie out of the pan, carefully peel away the parchment, and transfer it to a serving plate.
Press lightly on the ganache with a large knife to mark the brownie in 3 equal strips in each direction. These will provide your border guides for the chocolate lace decoration.
To make the chocolate lace, fit a small pastry bag with an extra small (1-mm) plain round tip (Ateco #261), twist the tip of the bag, place it in a small glass, and fold the top of the bag down over the edge of the glass.
My favorite type of chocolate as a kid was the one with mixed dried fruit and nut because their texture and taste cut through the richness of chocolate. Then, I later learned about how South Americans add chile to mole and other cacao based products and as much as the type of chocolate you use imparts a different taste experience each time, so does the type of chile powder. And though I do mention using reshampatti chile powder here, you could use any type of chile powder.
What's reshampatti chile ? - it's got a brighter red color than Kashmiri chile powder in color but is a bit hotter. If you can't find it at an Indian grocery store then use the same amount of ground guadjillo chile powder.
I've used Guittard's milk and dark chocolate here because the texture is smooth and the dark chocolate has interesting notes of fruit and red wine which works with the dried fruit and nut combination added to this bark.
chile, fruit and nut bark
makes one 9-inch circular bark
1/2 cup mixed dried fruit (craisins, raisins, dried blueberries, apricots, etc)
1/2 cup mixed nuts and seeds, chopped (walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds)
12 oz milk chocolate (I used Guittard's 38% cacao)
6 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate (I use Guittard's 74% cacao)
1/2 tsp reshampatti chile powder (see note above)1/2 Tbsp Maldon salt flakes
1. Take a 9-inch circular tart pan (or any pan that you like) with a removable bottom. Cut a sheet of parchment paper (or wax paper) that's at least 2-inches wider than pan and line the pan. Spread the dried fruit (if you use large fruit like apricot, chop them up) and nuts across the surface of the lined pan.
2. Set up a double boiler or bain marie, the water should barely touch the pan in which the chocolate will rest. Heat the water to medium-low heat and reduce the heat when it just starts to simmer. Add the milk chocolate and stir with a silicone spatula until completely melted. Pour this over the fruit and nuts in the pan and spread with a small offset spatula to coat evenly. Wipe the saucepan completely and return it to the double boiler and add melt the dark chocolate and stir in the reshampatti chile powder Pour the melted dark chocolate over the milk chocolate layer and then using the edge of your offset spatula, making circular "8" shape movements to create swirls of the dark and milk chocolate. Don't overdo it or you will lose the texture. Sprinkle the salt and leave the pan covered in a cool, dark corner of your kitchen and let it set overnight.
3. The next day after the chocolate has firmed up, pop the base of the pan to release the bark and then carefully peel the parchment paper from the bark and serve as needed. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 to 4 weeks.
If you know me well enough and perhaps if you've visited my home, you will learn that I keep a very tiny stash of plain chocolate for emergencies. Emergencies that involve satisfying my sweet tooth when I realize there is absolutely no dessert in the house. When there is nothing in sight or for those moments when only cocoa can allay my fears. So you can only imagine, how excited I was when I got the opportunity to join a chocolate maker's immersion class by the Food Craft Institute and spend some time learning all about chocolate making, sourcing and the business from some of my favorite makers in the Bay Area. The Food Craft Institute is a local organization based in Oakland that is focussed on providing classes and courses to folk who are interested in entering the food business.
This photo essay will give you a taste of what I experienced and of course, tasted. We started with a chocolate immersion class with the kind folk at Barlovento and learned to make truffles and chocolate bars. Later at the TCHO factory, I got to sit in and nerd out on a very informative class on chocolate plant biology and got a tour of their facility. I picked up on a common thread that runs between each of these places, every owner has a deep and personal commitment to creating great chocolate products that they believe in but they also have a strong commitment to their suppliers. TCHO for example, is heavily involved in improving the lives of the farmers in South America and also protecting the environment that the bean is grown in while Barlovento makes sure they know where they source their products from. Thats what makes businesses like these so special!
Beware some of these photos are messy but I don't think it will deter you from the visual experience ;)
Disclaimer: This trip was sponsored by the Food Craft Institute. However, all opinions expressed are solely my own.
Things I've learned about myself with each birthday cycle that passes, a lot of these involve age issues and insecurities, so please bear with me;
- I now prefer ice cream to cakes on my birthday. I love cakes but for some odd reason, I've morphed into ice creams. Ice cream cakes are a good compromise.
- I prefer smaller intimate birthday celebrations to larger ones.
- I found my first white hair, it's a single strand on my weak excuse of a beard. It was frightening at first and made me realize I'm aging. I got over it pretty quickly. But balding is a whole different story.
- I wake up as early as my grandparents used to. As a kid, I'd wonder why and how they managed to wake up at 5 or 6am every day as I struggled to get to school by 9am. I also can't stay up beyond 9pm. Am I becoming my grandparents?
- I worry about having kids, when to have them etc. I hate sports, what if they like sports, what the heck will I do?
- There are too many "Life Alert" commercials on television. Does this mean my TV show choices are age related based on the commercials being targeted at me?
- I now love staycations and direct flights.
- On some days I find myself sounding like my mother and on some days like my dad.
Two weeks ago, another birthday came by and of course, there was ice cream. A milky chocolate ice cream made with cocoa rouge (Guittard's dutch cocoa version) and melted chocolate. Then came the drizzle, a warm bourbon infused chocolate fudge sauce, not too sweet and not too boozy. Get the recipe below!
As some of you know, we bought a home several months ago and I've been pretty heavily tied up with home renovations. You can get a sneak peek at my kitchen and see what else I've been up to in our house over at West Elm.
Here are a couple of kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this ice cream;
- Use the best quality chocolate and cocoa powder you can find and whose taste you love! It makes a huge difference in the flavor of the ice cream.
- I used a bain marie to melt the chocolate and prevent it from burning. It does this by evenly regulating heat that passes from a simmering water bath through a ceramic vessel in which the chocolate is kept. Use a silicon whisk/spatula to stir the chocolate when using ceramic or it will scratch the surface. To use a bain marie to melt chocolate, all you need to do is fill the lower stainless steel vessel with water and then place the ceramic vessel over it. The water should be filled up to the level marked in the staineless steel. As the water in the base vessel heats it melts the chocolate in the ceramic bowl.
- I have a new favorite ice cream container for the freezer, it has an layer of air between the double compartments that keeps the ice cream frozen for longer periods of time when kept out at room temperature. I've even mananaged to take ice cream in the sealed container to work and it happily surprised me. Nothing melted!
- I've adapted the basic ice cream recipe from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home
double chocolate ice cream with chocolate bourbon fudge sauce
yields : 1 generous pint
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 ounces milk chocolate (Guittard 31% cocoa)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup dutch cocoa powder (Guittard cocoa rouge)
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch powder
2 teaspoons water
3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1. Place the milk and sugar in a thick bottomed medium sized saucepan and heat on medium-high heat. Heat until the sugar dissolves, reduce heat to gentle simmer and keep warm.
2. While the milk is heating up, place the chocolate and heavy cream in the ceramic vessel of the bain marie. Stir the chocolate as it melts into the heavy cream using a silicone spatular or whisk. (see notes above on how to use a bain marie). Once the chocolate has melted and has mixed completely with the cream, fold in the cocoa powder. Whisk to combine.
3. Pour the melted chocolate mixture from step 2 into the warm milk. Stir to combine. Then increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a rolling boil. Whisk the cornstarch with the water in a small bowl to make a slurry. Quickly whisk the cornstarch slurry into the hot chocolate milk and continue to boil the milk until it begins to thicken. The mixture should resemble a thick custard and coat the back of a spoon. Remove the saucepan from the stove.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt. Add 1/2 cup of the hot thickened chocolate milk base from the saucepan and whisk until smooth and combined. Whisk in the remaining milk and whisk until combined. Transfer the ice cream base to a clean gallon ziplock bag and place in an ice cold water bath until chilled (or refrigerate until chilled). Follow the instructions in the manual of your ice cream maker to prepare the ice cream using the chilled base. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight freezer-proof container and freeze for at least 4 to 6 hours (preferably overnight) to firm up before serving.
chocolate bourbon fudge
yields: about 1 cup
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup (6 ounces) bittersweet chocolate chips (around 60-70% cacao)
1 tablespoon dutch cocoa powder (Guittard cocoa rouge)
3 tablespoons bourbon
1. Place the heavy cream in a thick bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from stove and fold in the chocolate chips and cocoa powder. Stir with a silicone spatula until combined. Fold in the bourbon. Transfer and store in an airtight container and refrigerate. Before serving, warm the fudge in the microwave for a few seconds.
First things first, the winner of the Wolf Gourmet giveaway is Angela Fields. Congratulations!!! Angela, please send me an email so I can have your shiny new cookware sent out to you.
When Tessa Huff (who is a cake maven) asked me to share a cake recipe from her new book Layered, I immediately went with her birthday cake. Tessa's blog, if you aren't familiar with it already, is full of delicious cakes and treats made with unique flavors and styles. There's a cake for every occasion to bake and plenty of tasty ones to choose from. From rhubarb, to zucchini to tea infused cakes, you will have a blast going through the book and cooking from it.
A yellow layer cake frosted with chocolate buttercream fudge frosting. It's simple yet decadent and delightful, everything a birthday cake should be! I've added a light sprinkling of maldon salt flakes for color and flavor. Make sure you use good quality chocolate and cocoa for the frosting, it makes a huge difference in flavor. Yellow layer cakes are made with egg yolks which give the cake it's color and name. The crumb is soft and delicate and a spoonful with a layer of chocolate fudge frosting, goes a deliciously long way!
Tessa is also giving away a copy of her book to one lucky reader (contest is open to US and Canadian readers only) from here. The giveaway is open for a week and ends on April 29th, 2016. I'll pick a random winner, all you need to do is leave a comment below and share the name of your favorite birthday cake. Please don't forget to leave your email address so I can contact you. Good luck and happy baking!
Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this cake;
- Note that I made a two layer cake instead of four.
- I used dark unsweetened cocoa powder for the frosting to give it a deeper chocolate flavor.
- When making a chocolate based fudge frosting you should end up with a frosting that is soft and smooth. This is important when you frost the cake or it will rip the cake as you move against the grain of the cake with the offset spatula. I usually add more heavy cream (1 tablespoon at a time) to the frosting until it feels smooth and silky. It should be thick enough to hold its shape yet soft enough to frost.
- Adding the salt flakes at the end is optional. Since salt is hygroscopic, it will absorb moisture from air so watch out for that. You could also sprinkle salt flakes on each slice just before serving.
yellow butter cake with fudge frosting (from the book Layered by Tessa Huff)
yields: makes 4-layer or two-layer 8 inch cake
butter/non-stick cooking spray for pans
3 1/4 cups (425gm) cake flour plus a little extra for dusting the pans
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (225gm) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (400gm) finegrain sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
6 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups (360mL) whole milk
for the fudge frosting
1 1/2 cups (340gm) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 1/2 cups (690gm) confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup (50g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon finegrain salt
1/4 cup (60mL) heavy cream
8 ounces (225gm) semisweet chocolate melted and cooled
1 teaspoon maldon salt flakes (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and butter two 8 inch cake pans and set aside.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar and mix on medium-high until the butter is light and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix on medium-high until the butter is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
4. Turn the mixer to medium-low and add the vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
5. Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds after the last streaks of the dry ingredients are combined.
6. Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 38 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let them cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
For the Fudge Frosting
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt. Pour in the cream and mix until incorporated. Turn the mixer to high and mix until the frosting is light and fluffy. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl. Add the chocolate and mix until smooth.
2. To assemble the cake: Once the cakes have completely cooled, carefully halve them horizontally (I didn't do this) to create four even layers of cake. Level the cakes and choose which layer will be at the bottom. Place it on a plate or serving dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the frosting with an offset spatula. Place the next layer of cake on the top and repeat. Frost with remaining fudge frosting. Sprinkle the top of the frosted cake with a little maldon salt flakes if desired.
The first time I heard of Girl Scout cookies was after I immigrated here, that might have been a long time ago but of course, I remember cookies. Because, I'm not the type of person who forgets a good cookie or a slice of cake, nope! I don't remember the exact story as to how I came across them at school but I do remember falling in love with two types: the Thin mints and the Samoa cookies. It's the chocolate, it sucks me in every time! Girl Scout Cookies as I've realized are an American tradition that a lot of folk love to indulge in every every year as soon as the "season" of cookies arrive.
Now, Aimee of Twigg Studios has a gorgeous new cookbook, Love, Aimee X out and yes, it includes a recipe for these equally attractive and delicious samoa brownies. Whether it's satisfies your craving for a Girl Scout cookie or adds some extra sweetness to your Valentine's Day, it's a delicious treat to bake at home. Aimee bakes from her heart and she's created some wonderful recipes in the book and true to her work, the book is accompanied by lovely photos of tasty and indulgent desserts! From Succulent shaped cupcakes, chocolate quail eggs to violent lemon éclairs...you get the picture.
Think about those layers, brownie, caramel, toasted coconut with a drizzle of chocolate.
aimee's samoa brownies (from Love, Aimee X)
yields: 9 brownies
for the brownies
90g (3 1/4 ounces) unsalted butter + a little butter to grease the sides
200g (7 ounces/ 1 1/3 cups) dark chocolate, chopped
4 large eggs
220g ( 7 3/4 ounces/1 cup) superfine sugar
110g (3 3/4 ounces/ 3/4 cup) plain all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
for the caramel
90g ( 3 1/4 ounces/ 1 cup) desiccated sweetened shredded coconut
60g (2 1/4 ounces) unsalted butter
110g (3 3/4 ounces/ 1/2 cup) superfine sugar
100g (3 1/2 ounces/ 1/2 cup) brown sugar, light packed
125mL (1/2 cup) golden syrup (light treacle)
125mL (1/2 cup) sweetened condensed milk
100g (3 1/2 ounces/ 2/3 cup) chocolate, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly grease a 9 inch square baking tin and line with parchment paper.
2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a microwave or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water, then set aside to cool. Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until pale and thick, then fold in the chocolate mixture. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder three times in a medium-sized dry bowl and then fold into the liquid ingredients until you have a consistent batter, but do not overmix. Pour into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes and then allow to cool.
3. Spread the desiccated coconut on a baking tray and bake for 5 minutes until toasted. Put the remaining ingredients for the caramel into a heatproof bowl and microwave for 6 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes.
4. Spread half of the caramel over the brownies. Mix the remaining caramel with half of the toasted coconut and spread this on op of the plain caramel. Sprinkle the remaining toasted coconut on top.
5. Melt the chocolate and pipe lines over the top. Allow the chocolate to solidify and then cut into 9 slices.
November has been a month of change. For one, we had some big weather changes, it finally cooled down and we had a nice big shower of rain (a much needed one at that and I hope we get several more). Second, I learned that I can spend a lot of time at hardware stores as much as I do at kitchen stores and at the cookbook aisles in bookstores. And I dread the thought of packing and unpacking when it's a move that's only a few miles away. But as time proceeds and I see my ideas actually materialize, I find the stress of renovating worth it and exciting. The kitchen is painted and the garden fence is finally up and the move date moves closer and closer.
By the way, I feel that the holidays are making their appearances even faster than usual, I was hoping to catch a few horror flicks last weekend during Halloween but I found myself flipping through four or five different tv channels that were filled Christmas movies! Way too soon...
Chocolate bark is one of my favorite sweets to look forward to during the holidays. It's perhaps one of the easiest things to make and to be honest, it's versatility is understated, you can adapt it to whatever season or festivity that you want to and this time, I'm making a holiday version. This bark is scented and spiced with a little cinnamon with a few dried cranberries, pistachios and maldon salt flakes embedded to add sweet, tangy, nutty and salty flavors to each and every bite of chocolate you eat.