balsamic raspberry sauce and chèvre cake

balsamic raspberry sauce and chevre cake

One of my favorite things to do when I work on my blog posts is to sit in the bedroom and have the curtains to the doors pulled back all the way, simply because I can glance outside and enjoy the view of my little garden. It's even more exciting when spring arrives, because I impatiently indulge in multiple glimpses of the little tips of green that are sprouting through the soil or budding off the branches. Not that the incessant staring will make them come any sooner but more so because it reminds me of what my garden looked like in previous year and what it might look this time.  I have a mid-shade of a green thumb, I can grow some plants with ease and others, well not so much. I keep getting a little better each year, learning what really works well with me and my garden. Mind you my garden is not huge, it's a tiny semicircle of open soil that I am super thankful for, especially when you live in a city, it's my little oasis.

raspberry cake prep

Spring time entertaining is one of my favorite things to do, there are so many fresh colors and tastes that start to show up everywhere that it's hard not to enjoy it. I haven't baked a cake in a while and I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to indulge a little. This cake is not too sweet and is "healthy-ish" but it definitely has personality (it might remind you of my cobbler recipe) but it's simple to make and will definitely impress. This is a saucy cake and a sassy one at that, perfect to serve at a spring lunch or dinner party. There are fresh raspberries that are bathed in a sweet concoction of honey and a balsamic vinegar from Calivirgin to make that sassy sauce. To brighten and balance the sweet and tart flavors of the sauce, I added a few dollops of lightly sweetened fresh chèvre cheese from Vermont Creamery. Serve this cake warm, then eat a lot of it and share it with your loved ones, if you must. A little cooking note, you can keep the raspberry seeds in the sauce or filter them out, either way it's delicious!

To give spring a much needed warm welcome, I've teamed up with a bunch of wonderful and talented bloggers in a fantastic giveaway organized by the very wonderful Katie Webster of Healthy Seasonal Recipes. There are several wonderful prizes that one lucky person will win. To enter the giveaway, simply follow the instructions in the widget at the bottom of the post. Good luck and do visit the other participating bloggers and check out their delicious recipes! The giveaway begins on April 11, 2013 and ends on April 16, 2014 at 9:00am PST.

Here's what's to be won in the goodie bag!

From Vermont Creamery: A Taste of Vermont Creamery Gift Package and In a Cheesemakers Kitchen Cookbook. 
From JK Adams: A set of Coupe Appetizer Plates (2 pieces.) 
From Calivirgin: 1 8.45 ounce bottle of roasted garlic olive oil, 1 8.45 ounce bottle of the rosemary infused olive oil and 1 8.45 ounce bottle balsamic vinegar. 
From Effie’s homemade: 10 packages of crackers (2 oat, 2 corn, 2 nut, 2 cocoa, 2 rye.) 

Disclaimer: I did not receive any financial compensation from the participating sponsors in this giveaway. All opinions stated are my own. I did receive free samples from Calivirgin and Vermont Creamery.

balsamic raspberry sauce chevre cake

balsamic raspberry sauce and chèvre cake

yields: 4-6 servings

ingredients

11 ounces raspberries, fresh
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (Calivirgin) 
1/4 cup honey+ 2 tablespoons
2 ounces fresh chèvre cheese, at room temperature (Vermont Creamery)
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk, full fat
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons coconut oil, melted + a little extra to grease the baking pan

1. Place half of the raspberries in a medium sized saucepan along with the balsamic vinegar and the 1/4 cup of honey. Heat the contents on medium-high flame and bring to a boil, immediately reduce and cook for 10-15 minutes. Mash the raspberries with a potato masher. At this point you can use the sauce as is or pass it through a sieve and press the pulp as much as you can to remove the seeds. Add the remaining raspberries to the sauce and keep aside.
2. Place the chèvre and remaining two tablespoons of honey in a small bowl and mix with fork.
3. Preheat the oven to 350F and place the wire rack at mid level in the oven. Lightly grease the baking pan with a little coconut oil. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt and keep aside. 
3. In another medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk the egg, coconut milk, sugar, vanilla, and coconut oil. Carefully fold the egg and coconut milk liquid into the whisked dry ingredients and mix until completely combined. Transfer the batter into the greased baking pan.
4. Randomly drizzle the raspberry mixture onto the cake batter and then using a silicone spatula or spoon create random swirls. Using a teaspoon drop small scoops of the sweetened chèvre on the surface of the cake. Bake the cake for at least 30 minutes or until the cake is completely cooked or until a knife comes out clean from the center of the cake.


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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.

black peppercorn, cardamom and raspberry sauce ice cream

Black peppercorn, cardamom and raspberry sauce ice cream

Ice cream evokes pleasant childhood memories for me. Blazing hot summery days meant a trip to the store to pick up ice cream where I would gawk at the different flavors displayed for several minutes before I could make up my mind on decide on a flavor. Ice cream cones were never for me, I'd savor every lick off the sweet creamy frozen milk while it ran down the ridges of the cone and drip off my fingers onto my clothes. By the time I was done eating, my hands were sticky and messy but that icky sweet escape was worth every delightful minute.

Golden and Red raspberries

Ever since I bought my ice cream maker, the canister occupies a permanent place in my heart and freezer. I've been using it at least a few times a month, testing and tasting (which really is the best part of making a frozen dessert) and experimenting with new flavors. Just like baking, ice cream making requires patience and chemistry, correct ratios of fat, sugar and water to create just the right texture in the freezer. It makes me feel like I am back at work in the lab, except I can eat what I am working on this time.

Raspberry sauce

Cardamom is probably one of the most prominent spices you will find Indian desserts. Indians love infusing it in almost everything from masalas (spice mixes) to warm and cold desserts. In this particular ice cream, it lends a cool fragrant flavor. I also infused a few black peppercorns into the milk and added a little extra ground black pepper (the extra amount is completely optional) to balance the coolness without making the ice cream spicy hot. I adapted the base of the ice cream and the raspberry sauce from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Bauer

Ice cream vanishing act

black peppercorn, cardamom, and raspberry sauce ice cream

servings:  approximately 1 generous quart

ingredients

2 cups raspberries (I used a mixture of golden and red raspberries)
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces whole fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
10 black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
10 green cardamom seeds

1. In a thick bottomed saucepan, heat the raspberries and brown sugar on a medium-high flame. Bring the contents to a boil and then reduce to a medium flame and stir constantly for 9-10 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the stove and filter the sauce through a sieve to remove the seeds. Press the mixture in the sieve to extract as much fruit pulp as possible. Chill the filter raspberry sauce in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before use. Alternatively place the raspberry sauce in ziploc freezer bag or glass bottle and chill in an ice water bath for 30 minutes.
2. Take two tablespoons of the milk and mix it with the cornstarch in a small bowl to form a slurry. Keep aside.
3. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a large glass mixing bowl and keep aside.
4. Bring the rest of the milk, heavy cream, sugar and corn syrup to a boil on a medium-high flame in a thick bottom saucepan. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and add the peppercorns, ground pepper, and cardamom, stir constantly with a silicone spatula and cook for 4 minutes. Whisk the cornstarch slurry into the hot milk and bring the milk back to a boil over medium-heat. Cook the milk until it begins to thicken slightly and covers the end of the spatula, about 1-1 1/2 minutes. Remove the milk from heat.
5. Carefully whisk the hot milk into the glass mixing bowl containing the cream cheese until smooth. Pass the hot milk through a sieve to remove the peppercorns and cardamom seeds. Transfer the milk into a gallon ziplock freezer bag and chill the sealed bag in an ice-water bath for 30 minutes, adding more ice if necessary. 
6. After chilling, pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister of your ice cream make. Churn until the ice cream no longer sticks to the sides of the canister and it does not freeze anymore, this should take about 30 minutes (Alternatively, follow the instructions on your ice cream maker).
7. Layer the frozen ice cream into a freezer safe storage container with an airtight lid and alternate with layers of the raspberry sauce. Do not mix the ice cream and sauce. Cover the surface with a sheet of parchment paper and press firmly against the surface to remove any trapped air bubbles.  Place the lid on the container and freeze until firm for at least 4 hours 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. 

cinnamon raspberry buttermilk shake


Random things are reminding me of the holidays, some more so than others. Beyond the decorated stores, the T.V. commercials and the fact that the advent of December is only a few days away, random things  around D.C. remind me that the holidays are here. Do you feel the same way ?



I find December to be the best part of the beginning of winter, after that it all appears depressing until Spring. Needless to say, Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year. If Christmas could be legally extended for a lengthy period of time, I would be thrilled. However, I doubt this dream will be fulfilled in this lifetime. Though, this does make me appreciate and long for the holidays a little more eagerly. I realize that this makes me sound a little crazy.


With finals coming up and the school semester ending, I have another reason to look forward to December. The good news is that my thesis is coming together and I have a complete data set with some good preliminary results. A month of no number crunching and regression analysis looks like a nice break right now.


I don't know if a shake is the appropriate recipe for the holidays but I am throwing tradition out of the window with this recipe. In my mind it has all the essential components except for the cold buttermilk and ice cream components but the red raspberries and cinnamon with a shot of the elderberry liquor,St.Germain bring this drink together.


I used less ice cream because I did not want the ice cream to dominate and overpower the taste of this shake but feel free to add some if you wish. Serve this ice-cold of course and if you keep it standing for too long as with all milk based drinks especially those that contain acidic components like buttermilk or yogurt, it can separate, so you might need to shake it a little before you drink it.


cinnamon raspberry buttermilk shake


ingredients


3 cups low fat buttermilk (1%)
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
1/4 cup low fat vanilla ice cream
5 tablespoon St. Germain
4 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
Extra raspberries and cinnamon sticks for garnishing


Blend all the ingredients together in a mixer till smooth. Pour into chilled glasses. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh whole raspberries and a stick of cinnamon in each glass.