Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cool Confetti Faux-Fudge

There's a lot of sadness plastered all over the TV screen these days.

Seems like all news is bad news.

It's easy to lose sight of happiness in these times and I find myself wanting to stay informed but exhausted from feeling so ruined by it.

Scientifically Sweet is mainly about butter & chocolate, a little life talk and plenty of FUN. Today, I'll dig a bit deeper.

I've been reading things that are not recipes lately. My down-time reading normally doesn't extend past cookbooks and food magazines. Right now I'm onto three Jamie Oliver books (trying to catch-up), a couple of Donna Hay issues and Caramel.

In my reading, what I've learned (aside from how to make a paella in 20 minutes) is that YOU can actually control how happy YOU are?

Happiness and well-being is mostly driven by our own thoughts and behaviours. In these not-so-joyous times it is important to find joyful and positive points and focus on them. I don't mean to just think everything is always hunky dory - that's just ignorant, and people might want to punch you. But, recognize the unfortunate and then focus on the positive. It's important to constantly recover and move forward or the only direction you will go is back.

These are some of things that will contribute to our happiness:
Positive emotions.
Meaningful relationships.

It's easy for me to draw up happy thoughts. Like Nonno Sam slowly slicing up his home-grown cucumbers for a Summer salad - I loved watching him.
Chocolate (mosty I eat rather than just think about it).
My wedding day - what a party!

Say "thank you" as much as you can. It's amazing what a little thank you can do.

Help out, reach out. Give directions to someone who looks lost, help someone carry a suitcase up the stairs off the subway train, bring brownies to your neighbour, call your mother(!).

Linger, don't dwell. It's easy to dwell on the bad things that happen and analyse how you could've done things different. Well, until we develop time machines, this is just a pure waste of time! It's nice to learn from our experiences but keep moving forward and trust your intuition.

Do linger on the happy moments - take time to take it in. Savour a warm chocolate chip cookie, pull over to just stare at that beautiful sunset, cuddle your husband, don't underestimate a hug!

I linger any time I eat. Here's some truth - I don't like going out to dinner with people because I can't eat and talk. When I eat, I want everyone to shut up so that I can taste my food. I'm super weird. I've accepted it. It's one part Italian blood, one part passion and one part obsession.

Here's a reason to linger... Cool Confetti Fudge! Most of you are approaching the end of Summer in the beautiful month of August. It's hot, it's humid, it's gorgeous. I know the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven - if you could bake a cake on the BBQ (and I'm sure someone has), then you would. Here's a recipe that needs no oven. It's cool, it's creamy, it's made with chocolate, toasted oats, fruit and nuts.

Consider this: fudge that doesn't require a candy thermometer and uses far less sugar. I love fudge, but sometimes it can be totally high maintenance, and don't even dare make it on a humid day unless you feel like being disappointed.

You can make them into individual cups or make a big slab and slice it into squares.

The addition of egg (thanks to it's impressive protein content) gives this faux-fudge a chewy texture similar to the real deal. The key is to be patient when cooking the mixture over very low heat once the egg has been added, and don't leave the stove - you need to stir constantly so that it does not burn or curdle. Cooking the egg like this will help tighten up the mixture and create a chewy texture.

The best part? It's cold when outside is hot.

A sprinkle of sea salt on top enhances the chocolate flavour and replenishes electrolytes.

Sit out on the porch, put your feet up and linger on a piece of cool fudge. Heck, linger two, three or four times because it tastes too good! Say thank you to Mexico for discovering chocolate and then share whatever you have left with the neighbours. You'll feel great about it. Promise.


Cool Confetti Faux-Fudge
Makes about 20 pieces

½ cup (50 g) large flake rolled oats
1 cup (80 g) unsweetened shredded coconut
3 tbsp (18 g) cocoa powder
½ cup chopped raw hazelnuts
½ cup chopped dried apricots
7 tbsp (100 g) unsalted butter
150 g (5 1/4 oz) bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
½ cup (100 g) sugar
pinch of salt
1 tbsp golden syrup or honey
1 large egg

Lightly grease a 24-cup mini muffin tray or line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

Spread oats in a single layer in a frying pan over medium heat and cook until lightly toasted and they smell nutty. Transfer oats to a medium mixing bowl and then repeat with coconut until just lightly golden and nutty. Place coconut into the bowl with the oats and add cocoa, chopped hazelnuts and chopped dried apricots. Toss to coat everything evenly with the cocoa.

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine butter, chocolate, sugar, salt and golden syrup or honey. Stir occasionally for 5-6 minutes, until completed melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool slightly (about 1 minute) before stirring in the egg. The mixture should still feel hot and the heat from the melted chocolate mixture should be enough to cook the egg safely without scrambling it. Then return the mixture to low heat and stir constantly over the heat until it just begins to bubble - careful not to burn it! 

Stir in the oat mixture and then either spoon the mixture into the wells of your prepared muffin tray, filling them to the top, or spread the mixture evenly into your prepared baking pan. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until set. Store little cups or squares in an airtight container divided between sheets of wax paper and keep refrigerated. 

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Peanut Butter Cobbler Brownies

There are only two thoughts going through my head right now...

1) I bet 4 sticks of celery balance out 4 pieces of brownie.

2) Hand-washing is the devil.

How can those two things occupy the same brain space?

I guess it's no surprise that thoughts of chocolate run through my head nine times out of ten.

But, you probably never guessed that thoughts of hand-washing regularly creep up in between to torment me. I hate hand-washing! But I have too many silky, lacy, beaded clothes that require a delicate touch. They end up piling up into Everest until I can no longer see the surface of my desk... they just sort of hang everywhere. Every night I say, "I'll do the hand-washing"... but I eat brownies instead.
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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Chocolate Olive Oil Granola Bars

One of the things I immediately stopped buying long ago after figuring out how awesomely easy and wonderfully delicious they are to make at home are granola bars.

I'm about to give store-bought bars a run for their money...

I'm giving you olive oil and dark chocolate today - a wildly unexpected combination that works outrageously well. It's the slight tang and fruitiness of olive oil that makes it marry so well with chocolate - DARK chocolate that is. Milk chocolate doesn't hold a candle here.

Chocolate is so distracting and a total attention hog, but let's not disregard the almonds and seeds. Sesame seeds in particular provide a nice savoury note.
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Sunday, July 27, 2014

3-Minute Hot Fudge Sauce (the real deal!)

It's all those little things...

...those little things that can really affect people.

I have a story to share with you that really means a lot to me. A reader of this overly chocolatey blog e-mailed me a while back asking for some guidance and advice around the study of Food Science and the best Universities with such programmes. I love when this happens because it means I've connected. It means that all of the foodie love I have spilled out from my heart and my brain (and my stomach) to the internet space of webpages, blurbs and far too many photos of Justin Bieber has actually found its way into someone else's heart, brain and stomach.

I love when I hear from any of you, period.

But, this was a special case. She told me how it was through reading my blog that she actually learned that the study of Food Science even existed, and the idea of becoming a Food Scientist really excited her. She contacted me in search of advice on where to apply. I told her my opinion and of course encouraged her to pursue the open world of food and science!

A few months later I receive another lovely email from her letting me know that she followed my advice and has ended up accepted into the Food Science programme at Cornell University starting this Fall. Knowing this makes all my 6 years of blogging worth it - aside from the fact that it gives me a very regular excuse to eat cake.
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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Chocolate Mousse Buttercake

Where is the "off" button for our brains?

Has anyone ever found that?

I need one.

I made this "OFF-switch" cake. A Homer-sized slice of this helps to slow things down. All I can think about is how creamy, velvety and delicious it is. But it's a bit of work that involves a reasonable dose of whisking, creaming, baking and waiting.

A button would be faster and more convenient. For now, this Chocolate Mousse Buttercake will more than suffice.

What we've got on the bottom is a soft biscuit-y base - somewhere between a biscuit and a butter cake. It is a thin layer that won't take long to bake, so keep an eye on it. Over-baked = dry = no thank you.

Gently perched on top is a smooth, thick & creamy yet airy shmear of classic chocolate mousse. Chocolate mousse is so wonderfully easy to make and a sure-fire winner with friends every time.
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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Honey Quinoa Clusters of Oats

Someone once told me one day I will turn into a muesli. I'm still trying to figure out what that looks like...

I eat a lot of the stuff. It's something about oats that's so satisfying and comforting.

There was this one "Swiss-style" muesli that I was addicted to when I lived in Dublin. I bought it from my local Tesco shop. There was milk powder blended right in so I didn't even need to add milk! I would eat it with a spoon dry from a bowl and the milk powder would dissolve in my mouth. It was like making instant milk - really, really concentrated milk. That's weird... I shouldn't tell you these things.

I haven't been able to find it anywhere since then. If you know where to get this stuff, shout!

I also love granola, and in Australia they call granola "toasted muesli". Granola bars are also "muesli bars".

They're perfectly correct because granola is a mixture of oats, nuts and seeds (basically muesli) that is baked until crisp. It's full of long-lasting energy and super easy to make at home. The best part is that you can control how much oil and sugar is added.
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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Remember that episode on Friends where Ross calls Monica "uncooked batter eater!". I can entirely relate to that.

This cake rightfully should be taller since I ate about one-sixth of the batter. It tastes like ice cream and I have no self control....

This cake comes at the request of my mamacita (aka. mom) and her friend who are looking for a good recipe for pound cake. Apparently Martha Stewart's recipe is no good.

Pound cake was named after the fact that the original recipe used 1 pound each of butter, sugar, eggs and flour. This makes one heck of a lot of batter! So if you can ignore the literalness, it really refers to a recipe with an equal weight (or 1:1:1:1 ratio) of all four ingredients. The texture is firm, dense and not as moist as your typical buttercake despite all that butter because there is little liquid. As the batter bakes, starch in the flour absorbs what liquid there is from the eggs leaving the finished baked cake with not much free moisture. This is how it was intended.
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Monday, June 30, 2014

Baked Fruit & Nut Toffee Chews

I'm sitting here and all I can think about is how much I want the weekend to last a little bit longer.

Two days is not enough and so NOT proportional to 5 days of work.

A 3-day weekend to a 4-day work week would be so much smarter and make me way more productive. Come on guys, let's figure out how to make this happen!

Who do I have to call? Who should I write a letter to? Who do I need to send (persuasive) cookies to?
Just don't let the Lindt factory workers know because I still need my chocolate fix 7 days a week.

There's this thing that happens to me on Sunday evenings that completely cuts my weekend down by half a day. Suddenly it hits and all of the things I need to do and want to get done just tumble through my head. Let's be real guys, I develop dessert mix recipes for a living and love it. But, there's lots of important stuff that comes with it to make sure that the food I make arrives to your supermarket shelf safely and at the finest quality. At the end of the day... it's work!
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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Chocolate & Cream Butter Bars

If I were a food, I'd be butter.

I'd be butter more than I'd want to be chocolate.

Butter simply makes life taste better, and would probably never have issues fitting into leather pants if it wanted to. Fans of Friends would know that 'paste pants' are not a good scene.

In little bits or large pads, it's just good. A couple teaspoons mixed in with your olive oil to start the sofrito base of bolognese sauce or any risotto will take it to that next level. Or, how about a bowl full of beurre blanc with that seafood dinner?

A little goes a long way and a lot goes even longer...

A tablespoon or two stirred into fresh lemon curd adds body, sheen and richness. Then a generous cup marks the beginning of irresistible shortbread.

That's where we are heading today - straight into shortbread city with a few dark alleyways and a cheeky detour.
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Sunday, June 15, 2014

After Eight Cookies

It took a while for the combination of mint and chocolate to win me over.

When all the kids were swooning over mint chocolate chip ice cream cones, I was happy with my double chocolate choice or probably went for a hot fudge sundae - I prided myself as a purist.

Mint chocolate chip was definitely a favourite flavour among kids when I worked at Baskin Robbins. 

Over time I learned to like it - especially with fresh mint. I make a brownie with fresh chopped mint in it and it is mind-blowing. I'll have to share it with you some day.

The key to this flavour combination working for me is using very dark bittersweet chocolate (not surprising here on this blog...). It has to contain at least 70% cocoa solids and the overall recipe shouldn't be too sweet. Since mint is already a rather "sweet" herb, it becomes over-whelming and nearly sickly when paired with too much sugar.
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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Italian Raspberry Crostata (Crostata Marmellata)

There's a cafe across the road from where I live.

I can see it from my living room window.

Every weekend morning the place is busy beyond the bees. Tables are full and the cue for coffee is pretty consistent. I'm close enough that I can actually read the menu on the board and avocado toast with eggs tops the list. Great, right? I love avocado and avocado on toast with a runny egg is probably as close to breakfast perfection as you can get. That is, when I'm not eating brownies or chocolate chip cookies.
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Sunday, June 1, 2014

4-Ingredient Chocolate Mousse Cake (gluten-free)

I had a major kitchen fail this week.

I made butterscotch pudding, (well, I sort of made butterscotch pudding) and then I introduced butterscotch pudding to the garbage.

I learned something really enlightening from this kitchen fail - there IS such thing as too much cream.

Every single bone in my body wishes I didn't have to admit that.

To sum it up, too much cream and butter in butterscotch pudding equals really tasty, really separated pudding.
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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Strawberry Coconut Macaroon Squares

Tea time took on a whole new meaning when I moved to Australia.

Tea time is not just time for tea, or even a biscuit.

Tea time is divided into several different occasions. There's morning tea, afternoon tea and high tea....

That's tea three times a day!!

What I learned is that tea is really just an excuse to eat dessert every day. I really like this custom. It's not far from my regular life (it is exactly my regular life).

These little Strawberry Coconut Macaroon squares are something that would probably be served during morning tea since it is a bit lighter and fruity. Something rich and decadent (CHOCOLATE) would be served in the afternoon, right before dinner. It's like everything your mom told you NOT to do.
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Monday, May 19, 2014

Sour Cream Truffle Cake

It's rather humbling how necessity can drive invention.

A great idea comes from not knowing all the facts.

Necessity can also force new learnings. That's how I invent most of my meals. 

My avocados are nearly black and there's cilantro in my crisper whose stems no longer stand up straight. I need to use avocado and cilantro. This screams Mexican. But, I don't have tortillas. Tortillas aren't that hard to make, are they? I attempted to make tortillas. Hey, it's easy! Who knew. I learned tortillas, because I had to. Taco night every Saturday at my place. Serious and delicious.

I've consumed all of 126 ml of my 2 L of milk and it expires tomorrow. Homemade ricotta cheese it is! This takes me 10 minutes and 2 ingredients. I'll teach you one day.
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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Simple Chocolate Hazelnut Spice Torte

I bet most people don't know that comic books are actually based on true stories.

Comics are totally relatable, really. We all know someone with superpowers.

She always puts others first - an incredible selfless power to make sure she's last. It's like she becomes invisible until everyone else is satisfied. The last to have a pick of the pizza and the last person still cleaning the kitchen after dinner. The last in line for a shower knowing that it will likely be a cold one after four people, and the last to be thanked when your paper mache puppet project is finished just in time for the school play. You never tried to be glamorous, you just wanted the family to be happy - could you see that we always thought you were beautiful anyway?

Superhuman speed:
She'll have given herself to a stressful day at work, have the laundry washed, dried and folded, school uniforms ironed, beds made, bathrooms sparkling, floors clean, plants watered, dinner ready, lunches made and still have time to go for a jog and braid your hair before bed... all in a 24 hour period.

Superhuman strength:
Strong - mentally and physically strong. She never complains, she deals with it. Why? To make sure her problems don't become our problems. Why? Not to burden anyone else. This is a superpower that stems from selflessness.
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