Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee

Dark chocolate is my favorite kind of chocolate. I like milk chocolate alright, I suppose, but when I get a chocolate craving, it is almost always for dark chocolate.  I often use dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate in baking and in fondues, so I decided that it was time to experiment with a dark chocolate creme brluee, since I have tried just about every other kind of creme brulee since investing in my mini kitchen torch.  Creme brulee is quite easy to make and if you are craving chocolate and brulee, this actually isn't as hard to make as it might sound. I'm planning on working on a new chocolate recipe tomorrow, before venturing to New Hampshire for the long weekend - chocolate peanut butter mascarpone brownies, so stay tuned for that recipe, sometime next week.

Sasha's Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz dark chocolate (start with small pellets)
4 egg yolks
1 T sugar

To prepare this recipe, heat the cream over medium heat and dissolve the chocolate.  It should not boil, but should simmer until the chocolate is dissolved, as you stir constantly.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and vanilla and add to the cream mixture.

In the meantime, bring a pot of water to boil.  Place four creme brulee dishes in a roasting pan and add the brulee mixture to each dish, filling to the top.  Then, very carefully, add the hot water to the pan filling it to the middle of the outside of each brulee dish.  This is easier than it sounds - be careful not to get any water in the brulees themselves, or they will be ruined.  Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes until firm.  Then chill for two hours.  Sprinkle the top of each brluee with an even coat of sugar and use your creme brluee torch to caramelize the sugar.  This was decadent and delicious!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Emily's Kitchen in Seattle: A New Twist on Coconut Cream Pie

I feel bad having not contributed a blog entry in about a month. I started a "cleanse" that allowed me some fun foods, but nothing worth writing about. Then I sort of fell of the recipe wagon and made all sorts of things without recorded measurements, which I also didn't feel comfortable sharing with those less adventurous cooks, lest one of my beloved meals turn into someone else's disaster.

I think I can share this creation in good faith. It's a "creamy coconut pie" recipe from a vegan cookbook that I adapted. I was struggling between wanting to make a cheesecake for a lunch gathering and my values, which are intuitively opposed to the entire idea of cheesecake. But would a vegan tofu pie really impress the people I was invited to eat with? These are really good cooks. How could I risk possibly showing up with a bland, watery pie?

The solution: Replace one cup of tofu with one cup of cream cheese. Bonus: replace the graham cracker crust with a nut crust for the gluten-free people popping up all over the place. I have to say, the result is pretty darn divine.

No-heart-failure-and-even-less-guilt Coconut Cream Pie

1 cup soft tofu (I believe soft or firm tofu is best - silken can be too squishy)
1 cup cream cheese - or tofutti to keep it dairy free
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 c. plus 1/4 c. unsweetened shredded coconut

Pie crust:
Use a graham cracker crust
1 c. pecans or walnuts
1 c. pitted dates
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
a smattering of sugar for that graham cracker touch, optional

Preheat oven to 350

For the nut crust:
Combine all ingredients in the food processor and process until blended.
Press contents evenly into a spring form pan (or a pie pan).

For the pie:
Combine all ingredients, except for the 1/4 c. coconut, in the food processor. Mix until smooth.
Pour into the crust and bake for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, sprinkle remaining 1/4 c. coconut on top of the pie.
Bake for 10 more minutes.
Refrigerate until it's time to serve.

If you have leftover filling, you can use it like cream cheese frosting or just eat it with a spoon!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Michelle's Kitchen in Toronto - Issy and Michelle's Roasted Corned Beef and Cabbage

Many Americans do not realize with all the Memorial Day hustle and bustle, but the third Monday in May is a major Canadian holiday; Victoria Day. No matter the date it falls on, Canadians everywhere call it "May 2-4" which I suspect is due to our love of beer (You can buy a 24 pack of beer cans in the Liquor Store, or a 2-4) and finding any excuse to drink and have fun. For many Canadians, Victoria Day is synonymous with going to the cottage to barbeque, set off fireworks, take out the boat and drink with friends (hopefully not all at the same time!)

This year, I decided that some time away from the city was in order and headed out to my parents' in Guelph; just under an hour south west of Toronto. In my family, the cooking roles are not the traditional ones; my father has been the main cook in their home for the last fifteen years. This weekend he told me that he has decided to start his own cooking blog "Cook-Issy" and try to cook something he had never tried before; corned beef. The beautiful thing about my father's cooking style is that he's never been formally trained as a chef like me and as such he has no limits in the kitchen. He freely combines cooking techniques and ingredients coming up with many winning combinations and this time decided to roast the corned beef. My mother happened on a fluke to have some cabbage in the house so I decided to do my part to come up with a classic combination for the corned beef. Please see my Dad's blog for his lovely Roasted Corned Beef.

1/2 shredded cabbage (I shredded it with a chefs knife, but feel free to use a food processor)
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar but please feel free to use more if you feel it needs it
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp all spice
1/2 cup of the corned beef run-off

Mix everything together in a large bowl and taste for seasoning. Be careful about adding any salt given the saltiness of the beef. Add to the corned beef about 3 1/2 hours through the cooking at 200 F; cook for an additional 2 1/2 hours.

Though this cooks for a long time, this is a great recipe that requires little monitoring throughout the day. Once the beef was out, we carved it like a roast and ate it with the cabbage on the side but it would be amazing on a sandwich with the cabbage as a form of sauerkraut.

Serves 6-8 people

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Prettiest Coconut Cupcakes

I made some coconut cupcakes a few weeks ago, and this recipe (a Barefoot Contessa recipe) was just perfect.  I've made coconut cupcakes in the past, but they usually had coconut on top and were flavored with coconut extract.  These were so much better in that they contained actual shredded coconut in the cupcake.  I was very happy with this recipe - these were among the best tasting cupcakes I've ever made and were a treat for my husband's birthday.  I cut the recipe in half, which made 15 cupcakes, so I suggest that you do the same.

These cupcakes are so pretty and really it's all about the frosting and the food coloring.  I used gel food coloring to get the lovely shade of blue, but really they could be any color.  I used a frosting bag to pipe the cupcake frosting and topped it off with a little bit of shredded coconut.

Prettiest Coconut Cupcakes (adapted from Barefoot Contessa)
1 1/2 sticks of butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
7 oz shredded coconut (sweetened)

8 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 stick of butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
4 cups confectioner's sugar
extra shredded coconut (sweetened for topping the cupcakes)
drop of gel food coloring (I used blue)

Preheat the oven to 325.  First, mix the dry ingredients for the cupcakes in a bowl.  Add the shredded coconut, and set aside.  Beat the butter and sugar in the basin of your mixer on high speed for several minutes (about 5) until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time.  Mix in the extracts.

Next, alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, mixing on medium speed for a few minutes until well combined, and there are no lumps.  Fill silicon cupcake molds that are lined with paper or foil liners to the top.  Bake the cupcakes for about 20 to 25 minutes at 325 until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow the cupcakes to cool.  Make the frosting by beating the cream cheese, confectioner's sugar and butter at high speed.  Beat in the food coloring.  Pipe the frosting using a frosting bag, and top with some of the shredded coconut.

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