Monday, July 8, 2013

Spiced Chocolate Torte Wrapped in Chocolate Ribbons

My sister Steph is a character.  She's a dreamer, a planner, a doer and the most adventurous free spirit I'm lucky enough to know.  She's one of those stubborn, loyal, gregarious sisters you are glad to have.  Steph definitely knows what she wants, and she demands grand cakes.  Last year I made her this chocolate cake, but this year I needed to up the anti.  I tried to roll in her twentieth birthday in style, with this over the top chocolate monstrosity.  It's a cake wrapped with a bow, could you make a better birthday gift?  Steph, I can report, loved the cake!  I received multiple pictures over the next few days of what meal the leftover cake was substituting for.  It's a show stopper for sure.

The cake was overwhelming, both in it's making and consuming.  I find with huge decadent cakes their denseness and sweetness always overdo it on my poor stomach, which makes them a better idea than reality.  I had a great time spending a day making this cake, each step was a project in it's own right. Although it's not perfect I'm very pleased with the results.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Angel Food Cake with Strawberry-Blueberry Sauce

This cake was wonderful in every way! To make because it was for my mother-in-law's birthday. To bake because it's a great recipe. To eat because well...ditto, it's a great recipe!  I made it in the few hours I was home that day (after a fantastic hike and before eating dinner out with the 'rents).  It was such a breeze to make and an excellent use of the accumulating egg whites in my freezer.  I think it wins as the nicest angel food cake I've eaten.  It was light and tender,  had a great flavour, light on the sugar and the perfect amount of almond. There isn't much more to say, it was brilliant!  And that sauce! I subbed out raspberries for strawberries since there is a surplus flowing through my kitchen right now.  The flavours are fresh and bright, and luckily for me, one of her favourite desserts!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Buttermilk Sorbet with Fresh Strawberries

Strawberry season is in full swing now.  We've been eating them like they're going out of style. Shortcakes, yogurt, drinks, jam, anything you can think of really, we're doing it.  We had this dessert with friends after what was supposed to be an outdoor BBQ, and was instead us huddled around on the couch with our plates on our laps while it poured down rain. Again.  Anyway, I churned the sorbet after dinner, so it would be as smooth as possible.  It was loud (again, we weren't supposed to be inside), and a tad bit embarrassing, not only that, but the ice cream bowl wasn't fully frozen, so it was more of a buttermilk soup.  Whoomp whooomp.  Another disappointing recipe.  I personally didn't care for the buttermilk sorbet.  I guess I don't love buttermilk enough to make it center stage.  The strawberries were fine, but why wouldn't they be, they're in their prime right now!  This recipe is very simple; five ingredients and about 20 minutes start to finish, I just wish it was better.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Strawberry Shortcakes with White Chocolate Mousse

It's a rare day that I can resist strawberry shortcake, which is why I was so excited to make this one.  It sounds terrific doesn't it? Shortcakes dotted with chocolate, a light and wonderful white chocolate mousse and macerated strawberries in their peak season.  What's not to love?  If you offered me that dessert tonight though, I would turn you down.  My experience was entirely unpleasant. My oven (or I, if you consider that denial) burned the shortcakes after only a few minutes in the oven (at decreased temperature).  The white chocolate mousse was grainy like a bowl of millet, and to top it off, it separated, with the whole underbelly of the bowl a liquid-y mess.  The best component of the dessert; the too-sweet strawberries.  Overall I was so disappointed! Burned, grainy, and over-sweetened to the point I had to stop. Whomp Whoomp!  This time last year I was also indulging in strawberry shortcake, but with far more favorable results.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sesame-Almond Macaroons

A funny thing happened as I brought those three bowls of cookies over to the table to take pictures of them, I dumped them all over the floor.  Stranger still was that I picked them all up and places them all back into the bowls, reasoning that you weren't going to eat them anyway.  But then I did! Because they were too good keep a little dog hair from me eating them (and Shane too evidently, since he stuffed about eight in his mouth as he got home).  They're simple to make, except for the almond paste flying in chunks all over my kitchen.  Sugar, almond paste, toasted sesame seeds and two egg whites, they're ready to go in no time at all.  I had a harder time with baking them.  One batch I baked for 10 minutes, the next 13, but I'm still not sure what I like better.  All I know is, 14, like the book asks, is too long.  I think 12 minutes would be perfect.

These cookies are delicious.  The toasted sesame and almond is such a unique combination it keeps me coming back over and over again. The chewy macaroon is delectable, and if you have the ever elusive almond paste on hand, I suggest a batch of these. (I found mine at Ikea and snapped it up).

Baking notes:
-The almond and sugar are quite difficult to combine.  I've read that maybe heating the almond paste a little could help, but I don't have a microwave, so I couldn't test that theory.
-Be sure to avoid making the cookies too big, so they have a chance to cook evenly.  I used a heaping teaspoon and tried a few different baking lengths.
-I toasted the sesame seeds in a pan on the stove instead of the oven because my oven burns everything.  Keep a very close eye on them either way.

The recipe for Sesame-Almond Cookies can be found on the epicurious website.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Baklava Cheesecake

This cheesecake was a celebration.  A celebration with family, and of cheesecake (Shane's favourite) and baklava (my favourite).  We had our first entertaining barbecue of the season the other evening, on a gloriously hot day.  The candles twinkled, the sun set, the air was warm with laughter.  Our bellies were full, the dishes were done and I brought out this dessert in it's full cheesecake-y glory.  Technically this recipe was rated with four whisks (maximum difficulty) in the book, but I found it quite simple, as long as one could follow directions.  Now anything with a pie crust...automatic four whisks.

The dessert was a clever blend of cheesecake and baklava.  The cheesecake was wrapped inside layers of phyllo and then baked.  After a two day chill in the fridge it was topped with another layer of phyllo and nuts that was baked off separately.  Once that was in place the entire cheesecake got dumped with a honey syrup that was left to soak in.  Three days later, once it was all said and done it was gobbled up in no time at all.  The mark of a true dessert.

Baking notes:
-I followed the recipe to a T and everything was delicious.
-I thought personally that the cheesecake layer might have been a little grainy, but I used a lower quality cream cheese due to the price, which can often be grainer than I like.
-I didn't have enough phyllo sheets, so I folded them in half and made ten circles out of five sheets.  (Much less waste this way anyways).
-When I was baking the phyllo/nut layer I split the nuts into two layer rather than all in the middle layer.  It was a smart move.
-I also baked the phyllo circles for 15 minutes instead of 30 and they were already a little too toasty.

The recipe for Baklava Cheesecake can't be found online.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Coconut Pavlova with Chocolate Mousse and Bananas

I spent this morning tearing apart the house, certain that Shane had brought my passport with him to school.  I had plans to do some shopping in the states with my mom and sister, and for whatever reason the passports weren't in the place we always leave them.  I noticed Shane's passport on top of the fridge and just figured that he had taken mine by accident, which would place it in Burnaby during a government exam (because that's how he was spending his Friday morning).  After a few too many tears, a few choice words and a phone call to my mom that there was no way I could go along, and for them to have fun without me (oh, whoa is me), I hung up the phone and checked the one place left to check, the purse I had used last time we crossed the boarder.  A few sheepish "I'm sorry" texts and a quick "I feel so stupid" phone call later we were back on track, only an hour behind schedule.  Jeeze, do I ever feel dumb!  What better to do than wolf down a few bites of this feel good-smile in my tummy-angels in my mouth dessert, while the tears dried on my cheeks? Note to self, put passports away immediately.

This little pavlova was a serious slice of heaven.  It's light and crunchy, with soft squishy insides that melt in your mouth.  There is crunch from the shell, creaminess from the mousse, and a light airy finish from the whip cream.  This was an instant favourite at our place.  Some reviews I've read say that the pavlova is way too sweet, but I personally loved that!  It's a heart stopping, eye-widening dessert that I'll be happy to whip out at almost any dinner party.  (What's pictured here is a half recipe, I can't begin to imagine how big a full recipe is.)

Baking notes:
-I was sure to use parchment paper instead of the tin-foil called for in the baking of the pavlova.  It would stick like crazy otherwise.
-Be careful with toasted the coconut, my oven nearly burned it at 6 minutes, never mind 15.
-I used white vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar and everything turned out fine.
-When making the mousse, I didn't cook the egg mixture over simmering water for 6 minutes.  I kept whisking it until it was good and thick, but I couldn't be bothered to check the temperature (my thermometer seems to be way off anyways).
-As I said, I made a half batch which I cooked for half the time.  I think that I could have baked it a little longer and left it in the oven a little longer to dry it out more.  But not too much more because I wouldn't want it too much drier.

The recipe for Coconut Pavlova with Chocolate Mousse and Bananas can be found on the epicurious website.