Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Mini Dark Chocolate Lava Cakes

This was my first attempt at making a molten chocolate lava cake. The recipe came from the cookbook Rose's Heavenly Cakes, the bible on cake baking. The result was delicious but the lava didn't flow quite as much as I had hoped. The recipe calls for a souffle cake, with a molten dark chocolate ganache center. I think the key to getting the chocolate in the center to flow is using 60-62% cacao dark chocolate for the center. However, I had some fabulous 72% dark chocolate from my visit to the Mast Brothers' chocolate factory in Williamsburg, so I went with that. The result was delicious, but I'd like it to flow a bit more next time.

Rose's Molten Chocolate Souffle and Lava Cakes
Ganache Center
2 oz dark chocolate (60-62% cacao)
1/4 cup plus 2T (3oz) heavy cream

1.5 oz dark chocolate (60-62%)
1/4 cup plus 1/2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
3T unsalted butter
3 large eggs, separated, plus one large egg white
3 T creme fraiche or heavy cream
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3 1/2 T granulated sugar

First, make the ganache centers. Melt the chocolate using a double boiler, stirring frequently with a silicon spatula. Do this over simmering water and do not let the bottom of the container with the chocolate actually touch the water.

Heat the cream until warm and gradually stir the chocolate into the cream. Line an egg create with plastic wrap and press into the cavities of the egg create. Pour a spoonful of the ganache into nine cavities. Cover with a second piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours until firm enough to mold into balls. Refrigerate balls until ready to bake the cakes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees before preparing the cake batter. Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate, cocoa and butter for the batter. Whisk together the yolks and creme fraiche. Lightly whisk 1/2 cup of the egg whites for easier pouring. Measure out 2 T of the egg whites an stir these into the chocolate mixture.

Beat the remaining egg whites in your mixer using a whisk attachment until foamy on medium speed. Add the cream of tartar and raise the speed to high. Continue beating until soft peaks form and gradually beat in the sugar, continuing beating until stiff peaks form. Using a wire whisk, stir in the chocolate mixture into the egg whites and fold in the remainder.

Using nine 3 oz silicon molds or 4 7 oz silicon cupcake containers, fill each three quarters fill with the chocolate souffle batter. Gently place the cold ganache balls in the center of each, but avoid pushing them down.  Bake the cakes for 10 minutes in the 3 oz containers or 14 minutes in the 4 oz containers.

Cool the cakes for 20-30 minutes until they have pulled away slightly from the edges. Carefully invert and gently un-mold each. When ready to serve, reheat each cake for 10-15 seconds on high power in the microwave.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Strawberry Balsamic Pie

I was inspired to make a strawberry balsamic pie after tasting the delicious one at Four and Twenty Blackbirds, New York's best spot for delicious pies. I couldn't find their recipe, but I think I created a pretty good one myself, and am happy to share the recipe here. I love fresh, local strawberries this time of year, and this is certainly a good use for them.  You really don't need a lot of sugar for this one due to the natural sweetness of the fruit, but a half a cup seems to do the trick.

Sasha's Strawberry Balsamic Pie
Pie Crust (works for any fruit pie)
2 1/4 cups flour
hefty pinch of granulated kosher salt
pinch of sugar
1 cup (two sticks) of cold butter
1/4 cup ice water (can adjust slightly as needed - I added another 2T)

Strawberry balsamic filling
4 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 T cornstarch
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice

To make the crust, you can follow my instructions here for my apple pie or here for my strawberry rhubarb pie, because they are identical. Once you prepare the crust bottom, mix the ingredients for the filling, and fill the pie. Prepare a lattice top using the second ball of dough and glaze with an egg yolk. Bake at 425 for thirty minutes. Then reduce to 350 for 35-40 minutes. 


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Summer Vegetable Risotto

I can't exactly take all the credit for this dish. I had planned on making a summer vegetable risotto, after the spring vegetable risotto I made a while back was so good. I bought some great locally grown vegetables for the summer dish, but asked my mom and my husband to execute the actual recipe, since Brad is a skilled risotto maker and my mom was visiting. The end result was absolutely spectacular, and luckily we have great notes on each person's contributions to this dish. The vegetables were prepared perfectly, a lovely al dente, and this might just be the best risotto yet at our house - a true feast!

Garden Fresh Summer Vegetable Risotto
2 cups arborio risotto rice
6 cups low sodium chicken stock
4 carrots, chopped
2 ears of corn, shucked
1 cup of fresh english peas
5 scallions, thinly diced
2 yellow zucchini, thinly sliced
zest of two lemons
1 cup of white wine
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 onion, diced
1 heaping tablespoon of diced garlic
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme

Saute the garlic and onions in about three tablespoons of olive oil. Cook for several minutes until the onions are translucent. Then add the arborio rice in three tablespoons of olive oil. Then add the wine and cook over medium heat until half of the white wine is gone and dissipated. Add one cup of chicken stock and allow to reduce before adding the next cup of chicken stock. Keep adding and reducing the chicken stock, one cup at a time until fully reduced and the risotto is fully cooked. In total you will add about six cups of chicken stock. 

The carrots were sliced and steamed in a steamer until almost tender. The peas were separately then steamed in the steamer, also until almost tender. Then, briefly saute the corn kernels in a scant tablespoon of olive oil. Saute the zucchini lightly, separately, in a tablespoon of olive oil. 

Add the vegetables to the risotto. Then mix in the thinly sliced scallions, thyme and lemon zest and a half of cup of grated parmesan cheese, and serve hot.

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