Monday, May 23, 2016

Flourless Crustless Chocolate & Apricot Fudge Tart

Oh man. Long weekends just make me realize how much more fun life is when you're not working.

Long bike rides, a mild sun burn, wind in my hair, late nights, friends, fizzy drinks, lots of ice cubes, movie reviewing (do not EVER watch The Human Centipede - ew), foodie conversations, slow cooking and fast baking. Brunch! I love when there's time for brunch...

How. HOW are we all supposed to go back to work after a long weekend? Chocolate. That's how.

Totally flourless and totally fudgy - this dessert is one meant to be served at the table and on a board. Plates are optional.

This delicate hybrid of a brownie and chocolate cake and fudge is sticky, moist and crumbly all at the same time.

It's the technique that makes it crumbly, but that's what gives it charm.

At first it appears like a brownie recipe with melted chocolate and butter - always an excellent start to something delicious. But then it all goes wacko.

Put that melted chocolate mixture aside and start making meringue! Whip egg whites with sugar until thick and glossy. The trick to making a stable meringue is beating in the sugar at an early stage (once the whites get foamy) to give it time to dissolve thoroughly and stabilize the foam. As the sugar dissolves, it thickens the egg whites making it more difficult for air to be incorporated. That sounds like a bad thing, but what it really means is that the air that does get in will be in the form of very small bubbles.

Basically, many small bubbles = fine foam = stable.
Fewer large bubbles = open foam = unstable.

The lack of flour means that these will be rich but light.

This dessert has a brittle texture, giving you a clean slice if you are careful, but its better just broken up in shards and served with cream on top and a cup of tea on the side.

It comes together quick, requires few ingredients, bakes in just 20 minutes and uses 200g of chocolate. More than enough reasons to make this on your Tuesday.

I hope your week is great.
Great, great, GREAT!


Flourless Crustless Chocolate & Apricot Fudge Tart 

¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter
7oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped
2 large eggs, separated
¼ tsp salt
4 tbsp (50g) sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
10 dried apricots

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Generously butter an 8-inch round fluted tart pan with removable bottom.

Place the butter and chocolate in a large bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside while you whip the egg whites.

Combine egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on medium speed until very foamy. Gradually add the sugar and whisk until the meringue is thick and glossy.

Stir egg yolks and vanilla into the chocolate mixture. In 3 batches, gently fold in the beaten egg whites until just combined. Pour the mixture into your prepared pan and spread out evenly. Peel apricots apart to form two halves and arrange on top of mixture, skin side up.

Bake for 5 minutes, reduce to 325°F and bake 15-18 minutes or until puffed and edges are cooked through and the center is just set. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for 2  hours before slicing.

Tip: If you’re refrigerating the cake for longer than 3 hours, remove it from the fridge 1 hour before serving to allow it to come to room temperature.
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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Peanut Chocolate Mud Cake

Mud cakes are not something we're so familiar with over on this continent. Us North Americans love our layer cakes, mostly because it gives room for more frosting. Amen to that!

Something I learned about while living in Australia was the popularity of really simple, one-bowl, one-bake desserts.

Cookies aren't so popular because they need to be portioned, but slices that can be spread as a sheet or a slab and baked in one go are a hoot!

Layer cakes are considered too fussy, but big tall single layer cakes are what's in style there. They rarely frost the sides too. A missed opportunity? Maybe.

A lot has to do with the sort-of slack baking culture due to the hot climate. Who wants to run the oven for hours when it's smokin' hot outside, humid as whaaaaaat and air conditioning comes at a premium? Plus there's way better things to do than washing dishes, like going to the beach or having a picnic.
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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Stracciatella Cheesecake Brownie Cups

One of the first recipes I got stuck on when I discovered my passion for baking many years ago was a cheesecake brownie. I couldn't get enough. Two of the most delicious and decadent things mashed into one bite.

I still love this combo to this day and today I took it to the extreme in terms of fudginess. This is practically candy.

I'm sticking to my stracciatella theme from last week, putting chocolate chips through the cheesecake batter. It's chocolate everything in Christina's world right now (and always) since I'm wrapping up recipes for a second cookbook dedicated to everything chocolatey and sweet and salty.
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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Strawberry Apple Stracciatella Pie

 I refuse to wait for you, Spring. Fine. You can rain all you want and barely push 12 degrees C. Go ahead.

My strawberries are coming from USA and Mexico and I just don't care. I can't stand it any longer and I want my berries now! But I promise when June finally comes around and Spring weather finally sticks, then I'll be all up in those farmlands picking more berries than my soon-to-be stained fingers can handle. 

For now, my imported strawberries find their way into a beautiful seasonal (sort of) tart that satisfies my cravings for creamy and fruity and flaky.
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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Peanut Butter Cream Cranberry Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies

I sometimes have trouble sleeping and it's usually caused by one of three things:

1) I ate a giant bowl of Moosetracks ice cream at 10:38pm,
2) I'm planning my grocery list for what I want to bake tomorrow and can't decide if it should involve chocolate or fruit (probably chocolate), or 3) I'm completely restless because I've convinced myself that sleeping is a waste of time.

Most people love sleeping for reasons which I completely understand. It rests the mind, rests your joints, helps to prevent nasty eye bags and makes you look a little more put together throughout the day. Because of my habit of feeling guilty for sleeping and not working on the second cookbook, e-mailing my friends overseas or ironing the pile of wrinkled everything at the foot of my bed, I end up tired, sore and with what looks like I put purple eye shadow on the wrong side of my eye.
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Sunday, April 17, 2016

How to make Marzipan

Last week I showed you how to avoid paying a premium for someone to take skins off your almonds. That is, do it yourself easily at home! Blanched almonds are useful for many things in baking, especially for decorating cakes, cookies and candy around the holidays.

One of their most useful uses is making almond meal for macarons and almond paste (also called marzipan) for making chocolate-covered confections, pastry fillings and even cakes.
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Sunday, April 10, 2016

How to make Blanched Almonds

Thank you for being patient. 

I know I haven't been posting as punctually or as interestingly as usual. There's been a lot going on around here and I'm just trying to get used to it all. Everything is new right now - new city, new home, new job and new recipes!

After three years living abroad, I'm back reunited with my baking equipment. I missed my coloured plates, my tart pans and my favourite spatula. I'm learning how the afternoon light comes through my windows and what angles make my cookies look their best. I'm also learning that I can still eat four cookies in one sitting. That kind of skill never wears off.

Now that all of my cupboards are full, my cake pans are stacked and the empty boxes are gone, I can settle back into comfort baking! I'm still working on stocking my pantry but I'm nearly there. One thing I do have is a giant bag of almonds not just because I love eating them, but because I love to bake with them too.
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Saturday, April 2, 2016

3-Layer Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Bars

Because you haven't had enough shuga after Easter...

Because you might need a solution to your overstock of chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs...

Because you've run out of candy dishes to fit all of that Easter candy in...

You can make these sweet AND salty layered peanut butter chocolate fudge bars.

Bars are easy to make. They are fast, satisfying and interesting because they can feature different layers with contrasting flavours and textures. They are not as Science-y as cake or pastry. They're more casual but still worthy.

The base for these irresistible bars is best described as a peanut butter shortbread cookie. Crispy, crunchy and not too sweet.

The middle layer is where your Easter chocolate gets reborn. If you are loved enough for people to know you like dark over milk (right!?) then you should have plenty of dark chocolate bunnies and eggs. You need 3 ounces of it to make a brownie-like fudgy filling. A bit of honey creates a more gooey texture but still firm enough to hold a slice.
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Monday, March 21, 2016

Coconut-Nut Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Monday is a better day than any to get organized. It starts with coffee and some cookies... and then definitely some will power.

It's that time again for me. I'm moving, again! That's about the fourth move in 6 years and it really doesn't get any less exhausting. You'd think that moving a lot would make you better at de-cluttering. Like, "Is this empty spice tin useful for anything? It looks like it would be good to hold more stuff in?" NO! It's garbage. Stop collecting small containers because they hold things. I think that counts as hoarding.

What I have realized is that my life fits into 23 boxes of stuff marked "Kitchen". It looks like I live in a kitchen. Nothing much for the living area, and the bedroom is pretty scarce... I proudly own plenty of cooking and baking tools and a ton of servingware. I might not be able to provide you with a plush hotel-style sleep if you stay the night, but I can certainly bake you a badass cake and cook you a brunch you won't forget. There might even be homemade chocolates on your mediocre pillow.
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Monday, March 14, 2016

Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

I'm not sure how wrong it is to be obsessed with food.

Is it any better than being an addicted to drugs, or alcohol, or hoarding? The answer is Yes, probably. BUT, I feel like I really could eat forever. There's no actual time where I could refuse an offer of food, unless it is a) after a hotel breakfast buffet, or b) if that food is the national dish of Iceland, Hakarl (once was enough).

When I am not at a luxurious breakfast buffet which is 99.8% of the time, I find I have an unlimited appetite mostly because I like to snack. I enjoy eating small portions many times a day, not because some celebrity nutritionist says it's healthier or whatever, but because it is fun for me and I like variety.

People say they have a "sweet tooth", but my teeth care for nothing. I have a sweet tongue and tummy - I love the taste of a touch of sweetness in my snacking and it really makes my stomach happy. If there are no cookies or bars in the house, I am just not myself.
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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Old School Walnut Brownies

Why another brownie recipe? Well why watch another sunset? Because it's a beautiful thing and a different experience every time.

I hope your weekend was blissfull. I hope you had a nice break from the morning commute. I hope you slept in and then scored every green light on your way to spin class. I hope you didn't have to wait in any painful cashier lines at the grocery store and you found a two for one deal on Ben & Jerry's. Because ice cream would really be great with these brownies...

I make brownies so often that I like knowing lots of ways to do them. The one thing they all have in common is that they are all moist and fudgy.
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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Chocolate Fudge "Peek Freans"

There were two spots in the kitchen that I frequented most growing up, aside from the obvious fridge and freezer (for ice cream, duh). There was the lower corner cupboard to the left of the sink - that's where we kept opened bags of Doritos. It's where we also stored a giant Costco-sized pack of chocolate chips, which I never nestled into my lap on the couch. Never.

I was also drawn to that upper cupboard above the microwave where we kept big blocks of chocolate for baking (and gnawing on), the occasional box of Pop Tarts and packs of cookies. Cookies weren't all equal in my books - I had my clear favourites. Fudgee-O's topped my list and Oreo's were OK. I remember fig newtons were always in stock and once in a while you'd find some brand of chocolate chip. But I stuck to Fudgee-O's, the others just weren't worth it for me. We also kept tea up there so I wasn't always going in only for cookies if you can believe that.

I can remember a time when my friends were raving about Peek Freans and I swear I had no idea what they were but I would pretend to know because, well why the heck did I not know about a cookie that caused this much talk?! Despite "Peek Freans" being the name of a biscuit company, people were almost always referring to the ones with the sugar coated fruit jelly center. Once I figured out what everyone was talking about, I realized why I didn't know of them... they were not chocolate.

As much as I did actually enjoy these fruit cream biscuits, I wished the center was chocolate.
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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake (Gluten-free)

For as long as I can remember my mom baked a chocolate cake on my birthday. It was always a $0.99 special on Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines, but the cakes she made were not any flavours you could find in stores. She pimped them way out.

Probably one of my favourites was when she went psycho with chocolate. First, she never followed the instructions on pack and being a developer of retail cake mixes myself, this is a big No No! Luckily for her Betty and Duncan use lots of emulsifiers and stabilizers that prevent any wreckage no matter how far you stray from the rules... I recall clearly that she always used one less egg and NO oil. None! How could she get away with it? Commercial cake mixes already contain oils blended in to coat the flour. They also contain emulsifiers that keep the cake soft even when you don't add fat. It's science.

Now for the egg... well mom may have been trying to be cost friendly or calorie wise, but really she was being a smart baker. Too much egg creates a firmer structure. Leaving one out left the cake extra moist. Clever lady.

As for the psycho bit, she would throw massive chunks of dark chocolate right into the batter. Not chips, chunks! When it baked, the chocolate melted just slightly into the batter so that it became a part of the cake yet still maintained its individuality. As it cooled the chocolate firmed up but never hardened since it took up moisture from the crumb. Think soft chewy pieces of chocolate fudge... genius!

She could've killed me with the frosting. It was always piled high! Her trick was cream cheese and cool whip. I would've liked whipped cream, but you know... maybe it was the calorie thing again...

She mixed cream cheese with melted chocolate and then folded in cool whip. It was rich and still light - an irresistible combination. She couldn't help but throw more chunks of chocolate right on top. You could say she knew me well. Thanks mom.

I will never turn down that birthday cake. But when I make cake, it's a different story. Still moist, still crazy chocolatey, but lighter, thinner and full of creaminess. This is my weekday cake. I pay little attention to appearances so I'll go right ahead and say it's a tad sloppy. But, this cake is for me. It's for breakfast when I really need some encouragement to get out of my pajamas in the morning, and it's for every hour after 7pm when all I can think about is chocolate.

The layers come together in a breeze and you don't even need sugar or butter or flour. All the sweetness comes from 200g of dark chocolate. All of the structure comes from 6 eggs.

Melted chocolate mixes with 3 whole eggs and 3 yolks. Just a touch of cornstarch gives some insurance.

After folding through some whipped egg whites, the batter is complete. Divide it evenly among three pans and bake them off for 3 thin, even layers. They are ready for stacking!

While they cool you can move on to making the moussey white chocolate filling which is a simple combination of white chocolate, vanilla and whipped cream. An elegantly thin layer of shiny chocolate coats the top and despite the slightly messy construction, it still makes me feel like every Monday through Thursday is an occasion.

Some people live for sports, some live for theater. I guess I live for layers and layers of chocolate. For real.

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

For the sponges:
200g dark chocolate
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp cornflour
3 large egg whites
1/8 tsp salt

For the mousse filling:
150g white chocolate, chopped
1 cup (237ml) 35% whipping cream, divided
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the glaze:
56g (2 oz) milk chocolate, chopped
42g (1.5 oz) bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped
¼ cup (60ml) whole milk
2 tbsp (12g) cocoa powder
1 tbsp (15ml) glucose syrup
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper.

Gently melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat. Stir whole eggs and yolks together in a bowl then whisk into melted chocolate with cornflour. Whisk egg whites to soft peaks and then gently fold into chocolate mixture, trying not to deflate them too much.

Divide mixture between prepared pans (it will be a very thin layer) and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 

To make the filling, melt white chocolate with 1/4 cup of cream in a small saucepan over low heat until smooth. Transfer to a clean bowl, stir in vanilla extract and refrigerate until chilled but not completely firm. Lightly whip remaining cream to soft peaks. Gently fold whipped cream into chilled white chocolate ganache. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the glaze, very gently start to melt chocolates in a small saucepan and then begin stirring in the milk gradually until blended. Remove from heat, sift in cocoa and whisk until well blended. Return to low heat and whisk until thickened and cocoa is well absorbed. Do not boil. Stir in glucose and salt. 

To assemble: spread white chocolate filling between cake layers and then pour the slightly warm glaze over top.
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Monday, February 15, 2016

Moist Chocolate & Vanilla Marble Cake

Ohhhh I admit I'm a sucker for classics. In a world that breathes constant innovation, sometimes I only crave comfort. It's hard not to feel obligated to try the NEW thing. Gotta check out that new flavour that probably sounds better than it tastes. How many iPhone versions are there now? I don't even have one.

Every week I stand in front of a grocery aisle (it's probably (most definitely) the ice cream aisle) and stare at the racks for 25 minutes. Pinapple cherry explosion, birthday cake extravaganza, rainbow confetti blast, mango tango chili, nutty butter bonkers... whaaaa? New flavous, new combinations and new products... sometimes it's my job, and sometimes I just give in to the pressure of the lady giving me the stink eye as I reach for French Vanilla Bean. What? I like the specks. Every product in her cart has at least 3 adjectives in the title. Flavour shaming hurts ya'll!

Every now and then I put aside the whisky, the limes, the lemons, the chili pepper and the sweet spices and I seek comfort in baking with pure chocolate and vanilla.

Like mama's lasagna, Nonna's skillet fried potatoes and anyone's apple pie... it hits the spot everytime, anytime.
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Monday, February 8, 2016

Gooey S'mores Cookies

We didn't exactly vacation a whole lot growing up. We rarely went on big trips but we did do a lot of small ones.

One thing that was a constant was our Summer camping trips, usually in a different park every year. It was only a 3-day deal but we packed like we were planning for the apocalypse. There was so much food! I remember the 4am wake up call to start loading our diabolical blue van. We must've carried more coolers than we had days to spend. There were some of the usuals like breakfast sausages, eggs, bacon, plenty of crunchy fried snacks and loads of beer. BUT we also brought bagels, strawberry cream cheese (which I never really liked), butter tarts, gummy bears and worms, corn on the cob, loads of fresh veggies, my Godfather's signature marinated shish kabob, way too many condiments, and about 7 varieties of salad dressing.

Of course we had a power campsite, which meant Dad had to bring the terribly embarrassing and humongous electric fan to keep us well conditioned in our tent through the night. That thing could propel an airplane... Maybe we were not the most rustic campers...

There are so many things I miss about these Summertimes... endless days at the beach, 24-hour BBQing, definitely the gummy worms... But the Sa-mores! I love S'mores. My godparents are from the USA and they were always sure to bring Hershey's milk chocolate - one of the only times I eat Hershey's chocolate.
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