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.

There's only 4 simple ingredients to it:

1. dark chocolate
2. eggs
3. whipped cream
4. sugar

First have your eggs separated. Then melt the chocolate gently in a double boiler - you really don't need an actual double boiler. My mamacita (mom) actually owned one and I can't recall a single time she ever used it! Just fill a medium saucepan with about 1 inch of water and bring it to a simmer. Place a metal bowl containing the chocolate on top of the pan and let the steam from the simmering water melt the chocolate in the bowl above it. This is indirect heat - it's gentle and it's insurance against burning your chocolate.

Once the chocolate is melted, set it aside to cool slightly before whisking in the yolks. You might notice that the chocolate will thicken up incredibly at this stage - don't worry. Add about one-third cup of whipped cream and whisk it in vigorously until smooth. This step is meant to loosen up the stiff chocolate mixture and make it easier to fold in the remaining ingredients.

Gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream followed by whipped egg whites. A spoonful of sugar beaten into the whites helps stablize them - the more sugar you add, the more stable they will be but obviously the sweeter your mousse will be. So, decide who you want to be today - semisweet or bittersweet?

This chocolate mousse cake affects the synapses, the nerve strings, the signals en route to my brain to say "calm down".

So, hello cake! Goodbye thoughts.

This time last year I was baking... Chocolate Chilli Cookies
This time two years ago I was baking... Fennel Oregano & Onion Focaccia

Chocolate Mousse Buttercake
Makes about 9 large servings

For the base:
6 tbsp (84g) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup (100g) sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
¾ cup (105g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (20g) unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking powder 
¼ tsp salt
3 tbsp (45ml) milk

For the mousse:
200g dark chocolate (60-65% cocoa solids)
2 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup 35% whipping cream
1 tbsp sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving about 2-inches of overhang at each side.

Cream butter and sugar in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Sift flour, cocoa baking powder and salt into a small bowl and mix well. 

Fold dry ingredients into the butter mixture in two parts, alternating with the milk. Spread mixture evenly into prepared pan and bake until just set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 10-14 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.

To make the mousse, place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan with 1 inch of simmering water and stir occasionally until completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, whip the cream to soft peaks and set aside.

Stir egg yolks into slightly cooled chocolate mixture. If the mixture stiffens up, you can fix it by whisking in some of the whipped cream vigorously until smooth. Fold the softly whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Combine egg whites and sugar in a small bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold this into the chocolate mixture and spread it evenly over the cooled cake base. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

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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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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Zippy Zesty Lemon Curd

After something cozy to help me ease into winter, I thought I'd offer something fresh and vibrant to help you ease into Spring (not that anyone really needs help with that!).

Spring is such a beautiful season. Just warm enough to wear short sleeves or a tank top, but still necessary to carry a cardigan at night. Perfect sleeping conditions. No need for air con or heat. Flowers galore. It's perfectly lovely. 

It is at this point that I begin to crave fresh berries, feel the urge to bake pies and paint my toe nails (not at the same time).
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Friday, April 18, 2014

Chocolate Espresso Snaps

Seems like I've just been going from one double chocolate recipe to another, and it might have to do with the weather. Or, it might have to do with my obvious addiction. Same thing...

It's starting to get cool around here.

By cool I mean days of 21 degrees C. Please don't hate me for saying that...

Autumn is in the air in Sydney, Australia and I'm finding that my lounge-around-the-house elastic tube top will no longer suffice. I know North America has not had the most forgiving winter ever, so this might come off almost arrogant. I don't mean it that way. And, if you feel like rolling your eyes and moving onto the next webpage, just remember there's a delicious recipe at the end of this!
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Double Chocolate Buttermilk Quakes

These are muffins.

But, really I have a hard time calling them muffins because they're so decadent.

Usually muffins are hearty, full of whole grains, fruit and maybe nuts.

These chocolate monsters don't have any of that. 

They are full of cocoa and huge dark chocolate chunks. They taste like dessert and I am OK with that. And if you choose to have this for breakfast, then we are probably meant to be friends.
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Monday, April 7, 2014

Date, Apricot & Pecan Seed Bread

Remember my Breakfast Cookies?

Well, this is my Breakfast Cake!

I can't get enough of this fruit-studded baby - for breakfast, morning tea, afternoon snack, dessert... it's a multi-purpose bake. You can rest assured that your time spent making this lovely loaf will certainly pay off.

The dried dates, apricots and mixed spice trigger thoughts of the Middle East and maybe even Morocco. If you swapped pecans for pistachios you'd be that much closer.

Bananas aren't the only fruit suited to a quick bread. Let's step out of that straight-edged box!
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