Tag Archives: recipe

Secret Ingredient to chocolate truffles

This holiday season I tried making chocolates for the first time ever. I know, it’s even hard for me to admit that it took me THIS LONG to give it a shot!

I dug up a recipe online, going for french rather than english.

*As a side note, I often use francophone websites for dessert recipes rather than anglosaxon ones. Why? Because in this humble gourmande’s opinion, the Americans especially have a tendency to use waaaay tooooo muuuuuuch SUGAR! Especially when baking with chocolate, sugar has a tendency to dilute all kinds of lovely intense flavors in the cacao.*

But I digress, yet again. I tripped over this website which had a nice, simple looking recipe for chocolate truffles. Filled with enthusiasm blinding me to the task ahead, and thinking only of how great it would be to give these as gifts on a visit to my partner’s friends abroad, I dove into making these chocolate nuggets head on. I grabbed whatever ingredients I could find at the Migros, in a rush (Cailler brand chocolate at 70% if memory serves). I even got creative and decided to embellish the chocolate truffles with a homemade caramelized pistachio center, for a little salty sweet crunch. The recipes came together nicely, and although I didn’t try one, I just knew they would be good. I excitedly and proudly passed them out to our friends and hosts and it seemed they went down pretty well: their freshness especially enhanced the rich and unctuous dark chocolate ganache. It felt so good to get it right the first time ’round!

Second verse, different from the first

Trufflicious

I had to make more. As soon as possible. And it’s the holidays so there is no shortage of opportunities to give out homemade chocolate truffles. I made one batch the last couple of days, although it turned out I was not really in the mood to do it. This time, I tried a different chocolate combo, using 64% dark chocolate instead of 70%, trying to get rid of some excessive bitterness I sensed in the first batch. I rolled the chocolate ganache around the caramelized nuts, this time adding a bit more in the center to get the crunch-to-unctuous ratio right. When a nice little one was done, I popped it into my mouth to try it. Not bad – but somehow, not the same WOW I felt after the first time.

Tonight, I tried it again, still in a heavy mood and not feeling like making chocolates, but thinking ahead to a dinner party we’ll soon be hosting – these would make perfect take away treats! I heated up the cream and… perhaps I left it on too long? Perhaps too much? Or too little? I had been careless in measuring. I had been careless in assessing the heat. It simmered and a layer of skin formed on top of the cream. I quickly pulled it off the heat and poured it over the chocolate. Today I was using Lindt brand chocolate, 70% again, with just a little Cailler milk chocolate. I started stirring, my favorite part of the ganache making process. Something was amiss again, and it seemed like the chocolate wasn’t shaping up as smoothly as it has in the past. I tossed in the butter and sure enough, the mix seemed to separate lightly, and the butter wasn’t really melting. But WHY? Why, when I had done everything exactly like the previous times?

Stubbornly I pushed on, pouring the ganache into the tray in which it would sit over night in the fridge. I checked on it not too long ago, and indeed, the fat has separated and congealed. Well, it’s official, we can safely call that a bust.

This is what separation looks like

This is what separation looks like

Was it worth prepping the pistachios? Or should I just put an end to the curse and call it quits for the night? Of course I decided to push through, yet again. I pulled out the pistachios, which I had bought at the Coop this time, and in my haste, I had grabbed a pack of unsalted ones. The previous ones being salted, I hesitated again about giving the recipe a new shot. Sure, I am exhausted and just want to go to bed or watch a dumb TV show, but why not just salt them myself I thought? So I tossed them in a pan with a touch of sunflower oil and toasted and salted them up. They smelled good, great even! There was hope! But they were greasy…No matter, I would just need to pat them well enough dry and maybe put them in the oven before adding them to the caramel.

A little too toasted at this point

A little too toasted at this point

Speaking of caramel, there was the water/sugar/salt mixture seating on the flame, going clear first, and slowly turning yellow. Now I got excited again, but it was slow, so slow! I turned the heat up a notch… and before I knew it, the caramel was speedingly turning an amber colour. I scrambled to pull the pistachios out of the oven and toss them in the caramel mix before it browned too much… the pistachios were darker than I expected. Not burnt I hope? No matter, I tossed them into the caramel, stirred a bit, and just before the caramel burnt (I hope!) managed to get the mix off the heat and onto the foil to cool. When it did, I tried one of the caramelized nuts. It was good! After all this stress it was good! Or was it… bitter? Yes, it had a bitter after taste. Well that’s what you get for improvising, isn’t it?

dark pistachios + dark caramel = not such a sweet deal

dark pistachios + dark caramel = not such a sweet deal

So. The verdict? I probably won’t bother rolling any truffles with either the chocolate ganache or the caramelized nuts tonight. And it’s apparent to me that the better mood you’re in when you’re cooking, the more likely your product is likely to be delicious. Beginners luck don’t mean a thing if you can’t make the magic happen consistently. And to make delicious chocolate truffles each time, you’ve gotta have the secret ingredient: a whole lotta love.

Second verse, different from the first

Second verse, different from the first

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Eating Cheap, Eating Well: Lentil Salad and BLT Salad

Well, after a week of my Eating Cheap, Eating Well personal challenge, there is still some food left in the fridge, believe it or not. Some of it is getting a little um, mature, shall we say, but I am among those who believe that food is good enough to eat as long as it smells right and tastes right.

So I pressed on with the challenge, pushing my 42chf grocery spree from last Monday to today.

Lentil Salad a la Alice Waters

You’ll recall last week I skipped a night of cooking to eat some leftover chili con carne. That night I had been planning to make a lentil salad, since we’ve had this bag of lentils in the cupboard forEVER. In case of war or crisis or, say, temporary poverty. So I picked up on that idea and decided to try this Alice Waters recipe, originally from her recipe book The Art of Simple Food, but which I found on this website right here.  (And if you like this blog but don’t yet know who Alice Waters is, you MUST check her out, as she is none other than the inventor and overlord of refined foods made of products grown locally and sustainably).

Now, lentils may not get the love they deserve, but they seriously deserve kudos: 1) they are easy to cook 2) they are packed with proteins, carbs and all the nutrients you need (and regulate your blood sugar, and give you energy, and and and, read more here) 3) they are actually a locally grown product!

Bio lentils from the Coop. Fascinating.

Bio lentils from the Coop. Fascinating.

The recipe is exceedingly simple, which is fantastic for a Monday when you get home and just want to stop at a restaurant for pizza. I put a 1/2 cup of lentils in a pot of water to boil and then simmer until they were cooked through. During that time I chopped up some shallots and parsley and feta, and when the lentils were done, tossed it all together with just a little red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. See? SO SIMPLE! And really, just the red wine vinegar and the lentils go together like peas and carrots (although, having said that, I hate carrots…)  Anyway, you’d be surprised at the flavor I got from just these simple ingredients. Alice Waters, your mission has been accomplished!

Funky shallot - though for this recipe, I'd stick to scallions next time.

Funky shallot – though for this recipe, I’d stick to scallions next time.

The ingredients assembled...

The ingredients assembled…

And together formed a lean, green, lentil salad machine!

And together formed a lean, green, lentil salad machine!

BLT Salad

Day 9 of the 42chf grocery batch. I admit, when I left work I heaved at the notion of having to pick through the remnants in my fridge to compile some kind of dinner. I cracked the fridge open and discovered a small block of pancetta left from a trip to Milano a few weeks back. Dry, but so damn salty there’s no way it could be off! Plus I was craving meat, so that was definitely going into dinner. Other than that, a slightly sad looking lettuce head. Ok, let’s put it out of its misery. Hiding beneath the lettuce were also some perky little tomatoes… and what’s this? Half an avocado with the pit still in it! Score! We have ourselves the makings of a BLT with avocado (a BLAT? ahem). And without the bread. And I was too lazy to make rice to go with it. Still, put together, and combined with a leftover piece of brioche bread held over from Sunday brunch, I was full and happy.

BLT. How creative..... but it's got bacon it. Win!

BLT. How creative….. but it’s got bacon it. Win!

These 9 days have had a huge impact, mostly on just how EXPENSIVE everything in this town can be – and especially dinners out. I’ve also noticed with surprise that I have not thrown out any food since I went shopping last week, which is a reward I had underestimated.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, day 10, when I’ll be having DINNER OUT! I’m about ready for some fries…

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Eating Cheap, Eating Well: Easy as 1-2-Quiche

From experimental plays to busking for beers at the fete de la musique, to hearing chill funky tunes spun at baby plage’s tropical outpost, this weekend has seriously brought out the best in Geneva.

In fact, perhaps the most terrible thing about beautiful weekends like this is that I just cannot bring myself to stay home and chill – even if chilling means cooking. This week however, I was on my mission to stick to the ingredients I had bought on Day 1 and not eat a single bite out beyond that. To tide me over the weekend, while not spending much time in the kitchen, I could think of no better option than quiche: it may take a couple of hours to make, but once it’s done, it keeps, and should hold one average eater through the weekend.

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The final product – cause I just couldn’t wait til the end of the post to show it off

So, for those who are keeping track of my challenge to eat cheap this week, I covered Monday and Tuesday in a previous post. On Wednesday, though I had planned to make a lentil salad with veggies, I got lazy and took advantage of some leftover chili that was left in my freezer by a darling cooking fairy who was leaving for the week. Thursday I snacked copiously at a fundraiser for GenevaWise, an inspiring foundation that provides bursaries to young professionals or university graduates from developing countries to do internships at Geneva’s international organizations (check it out!!).  FRIDAY, I had a family dinner at one of my top favorite restaurants in the Geneva area, which I am still debating whether or not to reveal to this audience (however small it may be!)

And that brings me to Saturday morning, when I woke up to another gorgeous day and hit the kitchen immediately, to get the quiche made, and head out to the sun.

I relied on Martha Stewart, the queen of all things domestic for a recipe. Trying to match a recipe to the ingredients I had left in the fridge, I settled for this Broccoli-Cheddar Quiche. AND, since I naturally didn’t have any store bought pie crust, I also went ahead and made that from scratch using this recipe right here.

In the kitchen with Martha!

The quiche mix itself was easy peezy. I followed the recipe exactly, except I only had a little broccoli left, so I tossed in some green beans I had left in the fridge, steaming them together with the broccoli to save time.

Onions about to get golden, greens gettin a steam bath

Onions about to get golden, greens gettin a steam bath

All together now: eggs, cream, veggies, onions, and cheddar cheese, getting all cozied up

All together now: eggs, cream, veggies, onions, and cheddar cheese, getting all cozied up

The pastry dough was a bit trickier. It all started when I noticed I only had one cup of white flour left, when in fact I needed 1 1/4. I supplemented it with whole wheat flour, which actually turned out to be really delicious, and way more flavorful than a regular white flour dough. Talk about a blessing in disguise.

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Raw

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The flour with a dash of salt, dash of sugar, and the diced butter already cut into the flour mix. Ice water up next!

The other issue I had with the dough is that it didn’t seem to want to become a mass. The recipe called for two tablespoons of ice water, and I just assume that it in fact needed quite a bit more to turn it into a user-friendly, rollable dough. After a couple of trials though, I finally got it rolled out thinly and evenly enough to get it into the pie dish, and off to the fires it went.

The dough in a disk, ready to hit the fridge to set for an hour.

The dough in a disk, ready to hit the fridge to set for an hour.

Once rolled out, the dough gets baked alone, under a bed of dried beans to keep it from bubbling up

Once rolled out, the dough gets baked alone, under a bed of dried beans to keep it from bubbling up

Once the pie crust was getting golden around the edges, I filled it with the quiche filling and popped it back in. 45 minutes later, I peaked into the oven to find this golden beauty waiting for me:

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Rough around the edges, but yummy at the core. Next step: making it pretty!

You have no idea how psyched I was that it turned out ok. In fact, it exceeded my expectations in both quality and quantity: Not only did it tide me over the weekend, there was enough to share with friends after a sailing session on the lake on Saturday, and to contribute to a most welcomed “imprévu” brunch on Sunday.

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Eating cheap, Eating well Days 1 & 2: magret de canard, rigatoni with pine nuts and broccoli

Got all my ingredients yesterday according to a meal plan that should keep me going through the week. I mean where’s the fun in being broke if you can’t be strategic and competitive about it?

To kick start my week of restraint, I thought I would go big. Ease into it and all that. So what better splurge than duck? I kept it “healthy” by siding it with green beans and just a handful of rice.

Day 1. Magret de canard – mark the skin with a knife, salt and pepper the skin side. Heat up just a little bit of oil in a pan to medium (duck releases a lot of fat, so no need to go crazy with the grease). Let sizzle skin side down for about 6 minutes. Flip over and let sizzle for another 6 or so minutes (depends how cooked you like your meat). Pull it off the heat and wrap in foil to let it set (makes the meat more tender). If you’re feeling “saucy”, lower the heat on the now meatless pan and add in something sweet like orange juice, red wine, or a vinegar of your choice and “scrape the bottom of the pan like hell” as my brother says. You will get yourself a lovely sauce that ducks are just mad about. Serve with steamed green beans (lightly salted, squeeze of lemon juice) and white rice that will absorb the sauce like yuuuuuum.

Sorry y’all, no pic. This kind of dish goes down fast.

 

Day 2: Rigatoni with broccoli, pine nuts in an olive oil sauce
When I was in college, on a road trip with some friends, we stopped in Philly to have dinner with my friend’s parents. You see, he was Italian, and his parents ran a modest restaurant. They served us a dish I will never forget for its deceptive simplicity: rigatoni, broccoli, fresh croutons, parmesan, and olive oil. And possibly pine nuts. (College is a bit hazy by now).

TO THIS DAY I have been trying to figure out how they fit so much flavor into such dull ingredients. I will spare you the excitement, I still have not figured it out. I tried this recipe from Food & Wine magazine online, and although it’s easy to make, and it is a step in the right direction, it still doesn’t have the aroma I remember from that homey Italian restaurant in Philly. Still, good enough to want to eat, and I’ve got enough left for lunch tomorrow.

 

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Of Hearth and Home

We all lead completely manic lives. In Geneva in particular, as soon as the weekend hits, we flee to a constellation of great European towns around us: Madrid, Rome, Paris, London, Berlin, Oslo… We shop, have drinks, dine out, see friends, galleries, performances, monuments… then hop back on the plane on Sunday and crash back home exhausted. Another dinner at Da Paolo’s it is!

So it’s the privilege of our well-to-do generation. But Sundays weren’t always this way. As a kid, I’d get carted out to see the grandparents on Sundays for an afternoon playing petanque in the garden and an evening spent watching my grandmother creating three-course heavens in the kitchen.

Still today (especially today! Happy birthday pops :)), those Sunday memories come flooding back, but only when I’m at home! And this little one’s been running away from home every weekend since January it feels like. Whither the days of those home cooked Hungarian Sunday dinners!

Some time in March I started feeling the effects of my constant vagrancy. My plants dried up and died off. One sadly committed suicide, as if violently denouncing my rootless ways. Little families of dust bunnies took out long-term subleases on dark corners. My laundry machine went rusty. But saddest of all, my refrigerator got hot headed on me and relations with my stove have become frigid.

I think it was the suicidal house plant that finally did it. It was clearly time to sentence myself to two full days of house, home and self care.

As a side note, it’s been SO enriching! But I’ll spare you the dirty details of deep cleaning my drawers. Having polished most of the work off on Saturday, by noon today I had a sparkling kitchen. And like Mr. Clean swooping out of the sink, smile beaming and kitchen sparkling, I got my cooking inspiration back. On the menu? An ode to my culinary paternal grandparents: Hungarian veal porkolt, cucumber salad, pickles, spatzle, sour cream, a decent bottle of wine or two, and one of my grandfather’s many legendary desserts: mousse au chocolat.

MOUSSE AU CHOCOLAT (serves 4)

Ingredients: 150g dark chocolate (70% is best); 3 eggs, separated; 100g sugar; 125ml heavy (whipping) cream

Directions: 

1. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie

Melting chocolate: tip, make sure that water NEVER gets hotter than a simmer…

2. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until stiff. It can help to add up to a tablespoon of sugar to get it really stiff.

I hope for you that you have an electric mixer, in which case this takes about 5 minutes. If you don’t, then skip the gym and enjoy beating these the old fashioned way…

3. Also whip the cream

4. When the chocolate is melted, remove from heat, but leave the chocolate in the bain marie. You want the temperature to stay warm, but not too hot. You don’t want the remaining ingredients to cook!

5. Stir in the egg yolks and the sugar. It will get thick and pasty.

Three little egg yolks, off for a swim in a chocolate jacuzzi.

6. Fold in half the egg whites into the bain marie. Must be done DELICATELY so that the egg whites keep their structure. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to gently fold the egg whites in from bottom to top.

7. Poor the mixture into the remaining egg whites in their bowl, and continue to fold in delicately.

8. Gently fold in the whipped cream until you get an even mixture.

All set for the big freeze!

9. Place in the fridge to cool for at least an hour or two.

10. SERVE! Could be nice with a dollop of fresh whipped cream, over a light biscuit, a digestive or fruit. I hear strawberries are in season….

A family classic from the pater familias cook book

Love discovering new places, but let’s face it… it can be so good to be home!

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Prepare Yourselves: Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Hi. This is Kate, Guest Blogger for the Green Gourmande. And I’m here because during an alarming percentage of my waking hours these past several weeks I’ve been pondering the fall of civilization. If it all suddenly collapsed tomorrow, or this afternoon even, could my friends and I rebuild society if we were among the only ones left alive? What skills, knowledge and psychological capacities do the members of my social circle possess? Can they tie knots? Administer emergency medical care? Identify hallucinogenic mushrooms? Build houses and tend gardens? Barbecue?

I’m conducting an ongoing survey and so far have found that all of these societal needs and then some are fulfilled (except for emergency medical care, so no one is allowed to break anything) but I’m at a loss as to where my own place will be in post-apocalyptic Geneva. I’ve finally settled on community griot, but still feel somewhat lacking. Although I will be a wealth of knowledge and information, much of it will come from interviewing other people about what they know, in a sense making me a secondary source. I want to be primary.

Thus begins my quest to be a useful, crafty do-it-yourselfer. As a first order of business, I borrowed this book off a friend:

For the moment I’m studying the chapter on patriotism and citizenship, as one can always use a refresher. Once summer hits I plan to start log cabin construction, but already I’m keen to sharpen my survival skills with something hands-on. Making ricotta cheese is not a sanctioned part of the boy scout curriculum, though it arguably should be as it has saved me from being a drain on the post-apocalyptic community living in my head.

You may be asking yourself, why bother making cheese when you can buy it? Well, it may cause some discomfort to consider the following, but consider it you must: There will be no ricotta in the Migros after the apocalypse. You will have to make it all by yourself, from scratch. In fact, you will have to make from scratch most things you once bought ready made: Bread. Vinegar. Butter. Yogurt. Alcohol. Chocolate.

Have no fear. In my multi-installment tutorial The Post-Apocalyptic Pantry, I will cover the how-tos of all these sundries and more, so that come judgement day you too will be useful.

RICOTTA CHEESE (recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen)

3 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Slowly heat the milk, cream and salt in a saucepan, stirring occasionally, until it reaches just under 90*C. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice, give it two or three gentle stirs and then leave it alone for five minutes. In the meantime line a colander with cheesecloth and stack it over a large bowl. Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the liquid drain. One hour of drainage will give you spreadable ricotta, while two hours will get you closer to a cream cheese consistency. The longer it drains, the thicker it gets. In the end you’ll be left with a hefty cup of cheese, which can be stored in the fridge for about a week.

– Kate

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Hungarian Stuffed Paprika

If you have been reading this blog at all, you will have caught on to the fact that I am one quarter hungarian… do I speak the language? No. Hell, I haven’t even been to Hungary before (fo shame, I know). BUT, one crucial aspect of hungarian culture was transmitted to my generation, and that is hungarian cooking.

The big debate in the family? Which is your favorite “granny” recipe?? Each of us has a signature dish, the irreplaceable, unbeatable favorite of a laundry list of hungarian dishes that my grandmother used to prepare for us. The icing on the cake (so to speak) was that each year on our birthday, we got to choose that one special dish.

I must say though, there is one particularly popular dish in the family, and that is stuffed paprika (or stuffed green peppers). Though it’s never particularly been my favorite, I do love it for its warm spice, and on a Sunday winter evening, it really hits the home-cooking sweet spot! So last weekend, at the occasion of the Hungarian specialist in the family coming to visit, I got my little training on how to make stuffed paprika….. and here’s the result!

Image

So lets walk through this beauty:

Stuffed Paprika (for 8-10 people)

Ingredients:

– 12 green bell peppers

– 700g ground beef

– 700g ground pork

– 5 strips of smoked ham or bacon (minced)

– 1 cup of white rice (dry), + 50g rice per person

– 3 white onions (chopped and divided)

– 9 whole tomatoes

– 1 can whole peeled tomatoes

– 1 egg

– Tomato paste

– Paprika powder (by the bucket load)

– salt and pepper to taste

– Paprika paste and sour cream (for garnish)

Directions

1. For starters, cut off the tops of the green peppers and clean out the insides.

2. Cook the rice for the stuffing (one cup dry)

3. In the meantime, in a large mixing bowl, mix ground beef and pork, smoked ham or bacon, half the onions, and about 1 tablespoon of paprika powder.

4. On the stove in a small stock pot, bring water to a boil and drop the fresh tomatoes in for about 15 seconds. Retrieve with a slotted spoon and peel off the skins.

5. In the meantime, you can also start frying up the remaining onions, just until translucent, and keeping the heat on medium to preventing them from getting burnt.  Add about 2-3 tablespoons of paprika powder, or to taste. (don’t be scared, there’s no such thing as too much paprika..!) cooking gently. Be sure not to burn the paprika as this will give the dish an unpleasant bitter taste. Then add 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste.

6. Add boiled and peeled tomatoes as well as the canned whole peeled tomatoes into the pan with the onions.

7. When the rice is done cooking, mix in as much as desired into the meat mixture.

8. Once the rice in the mixture has cooled, add the egg and mix everything together.

9. Take each of the peppers and stuff it entirely with the meat mixture.

10. In a large dutch oven (cast iron is the best), place the stuffed peppers on their sides and pour the tomato mixture over the peppers. The sauce should come up half way up the peppers.

11. Cover and let simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the peppers are soft and the meat is cooked, turning the peppers onto their other side about half way through. Throughout the cooking, keep spooning the pool of tomato sauce over the peppers.

12. In the meantime, cook the rice so that it is ready to serve with the stuffed paprikas.

Aaaand that’s it! Serve one pepper per person with a scoop of rice and pour tomato sauce all over. Add a spoonful of sour cream and a dollop of sweet or spicy paprika paste and it just sends you to seventh heaven.

élvez! (that means enjoy – i think :p)

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Sweet Dreams of Chocolate and Cheese(cake): Part II – Devil’s Food Cake

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So, when I was a kid, I had a deep obsession with devil’s food cake. Maybe because I identified as an American living abroad, I felt it was my civic duty, as an American, to eat as much American candy and sweets as I possibly could. Whatever the reason, the crown of all things decadently american was devil’s food cake. But hang on, not that granma’s recipe kind of devil’s food cake, nooooooo. I LOVED Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker, cardboard box devil’s food cake. Mmmm mmmm mmm…. :/

So on my 12th birthday, I wanted the perfect devil’s food birthday cake. I wanted it round, with two layers, and covered in that completely overprocessed icing from a jar. I was going to have sprinkles and candles on it, bring it to school for all my friends to see, and it was going to be the best birthday ever!

See what a pain of a kid I must have been for my poor mother? If it’s not obvious yet, I’ll go ahead with the rest of the story. My dear mother, who was not naturally inclined to bake in the first place, slaved away putting this imaginary cake of mine together. She baked one big cake, sliced it down the middle, iced it, layered it, and iced it again. And despite all the TLC she put into it, I took one look at it and sobbed – because it was slanted.

Devil’s food indeed..! I know. I’m a horrible person. Or at least I was a horrible kid. My angelic mom took it in stride, piled icing up on the slanty bit, and voilà! We had some semblance of my dream cake.

Alright, let’s fastforward out of our childhood traumas and turn them into present treats! This year I decided I wanted to purge those demons, grow up, and make my own devil’s food cake. But like I said in the first installment of this three part series, I wanted to make it myself, from scratch, and way better than that Betty Crocker boxed stuff. I found the following recipe in a special “Holiday Baking” issue of Fine Cooking magazine Holiday something something magazine (ok, I’ll check the reference and place it here as sooooooon as I have the magazine back in hand…) and adapted it from there:

my very own, very first, and extremely moist and chocolaty Devil's Food Cake!

DEVIL’S FOOD CAKE

For the Ganache
Ingredients:
300g dark chocolate (I used Cailler 64%)
1 and 1/3 cups (about 320ml) heavy cream
19g of butter (softened)

Instructions:
1.    Chop the chocolate and place in a medium sized bowl.
2.    Bring the cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate.
3.    Do not stir – let it sit for 5 minutes. Then, using a whisk, stir in the center of the mixture in a small, tight motion until the chocolate is fully combined into the cream.
4.    Stir in the butter until smooth.
5.    Cover with plastic wrap (right over the surface of the ganache) and let it sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours (easiest to do this overnight).

For the Cake
Ingredients
170g butter (softened)
225g (about 1 ¾ cups) all-purpose flour
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs (at room temperature)
65g (3/4 cup) unsweetened dutch processed cocoa powder
1 ¼ tsp baking soda (in French: bicarbonate de soude)
1 tsp baking powder (in French: poudre a lever)
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk at room temperature
¼ cup mayonnaise

Equipment
Stand mixer or large bowl+electric hand mixer, or get ready to work those arms with a hand mixer.
2x 20x5cm round cake pans.

Instructions
1.    Preheat the oven to 180C
2.    Line both cake pans with a round of parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper (or the bottom of the pans if you choose to skip the parchment paper) very, very generously. Dust with flour and tap out the excess.
3.    Place butter, brown sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat together either with a rubber spatula, or ideally with an electric mixer on medium-high speed. Beat until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume (3-5 minutes).
4.    Lower the speed to medium and mix in the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Do NOT overmix.
5.    Over a piece of parchment paper, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and then add salt.
6.    Using the parchment as a slide, add about a quarter of the dry mixture to the batter. Mix (on low speed) until smooth.
7.    Add 1/3 of the buttermilk and mix until smooth.
8.    Alternate between the dry mixture and the remaining buttermilk until it is all incorporated and smooth.
9.    Last but not least, whisk the mayonnaise into the batter.
10.    Pour the batter evenly into both pans and bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean (the sides of the cake should begin to pull away from the sides of the pan slightly).
11.    Remove the pans from the oven and let them cool for 1 5 minutes at room temperature.
12.    Invert the cakes on a wire rack and remove the pans and the parchment.
13.    Let the cakes cool completely (can be made a day early, wrapped well and stored at room temperature).

Assembly
Place the first cake on a flat plate. With a wide knife, spread the ganache over the top of the cake (using about 1/3 of it). Place the second cake on top and spread the ganache over the top and the sides, covering the whole thing evenly. Place it in the fridge for 15 minutes to let the crumbs set. Spread the rest of the ganache over the top and sides. The cake and be refrigerated, covered for up to 2 days. Return it to room temperature before serving.

Ladie and Gentlemen, I give you… Devil’s Food Cake fit for a 12 year old (with veeeeery picky tastebuds)!

If this doesn't capture my childhood, I don't know what does...

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Sweet Dreams of Chocolate and Cheese(cake) – Part 1: Chocolate “Fondant” Brownies

Last night I fell asleep reading about whisks. And how to whisk the old fashioned way (look ma, no electricity!) And how to whisk egg whites. And how to whisk cream. And how to whisk…..zzzzz.

Never would I have thought I would be whisked to sleep by this new hobby. I woke up in a haze, thinking I had just dreamt it all. Doesn’t help that I spent the last 2 weeks indulging in all of my favorite chocolate desserts! I think my blood stream is still saturated with sugar….

Why stuff myself into a diabetic coma? Well, let’s just say there was reason to celebrate! And given this rapidly developing food interest of mine, I decided it was time to bake.

The authorities should consider making it illegal for sugar addicts/ chocoholics like myself to bake. To start with, I couldn’t make up my mind on which of my favorite cakes to make. So I tried to stick to my childhood favorites: Brownies. And devil’s food cake. As an American kid growing up abroad, I idolized these typical american treats! But at that time, we bought Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker straight outta the box (thanks mom!) Now my goal was to make them again, make them myself, make them from scratch, and most of all, make them EVEN BETTER!

But that wasn’t enough of course. As an adult, I’ve become a huge fan of cheesecake, so when I bumped into this delicious sounding pumpkin cheesecake recipe, I could not resist. So why choose?? I set out to do all three in one night. (Ok fine, a night and a bit).

Here is Part I of III of the results:
BROWNIES “FONDANT” (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

Ingredients:
> 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
> ½ tsp salt
> ¾ tsp baking powder (in French: poudre a lever)
> 170 grams dark chocolate
> 170 grams butter (softened)
> 2 ¼ cups of sugar
> 1 tbsp vanilla extract
> 1 cup of chocolate chips or chunks

Directions:
> Preheat the oven to 170C
> 23cm x 33cm glass pan (more or less) – butter the bottom of the pan, or, even better, cut two pieces of aluminum foil  (one to cover the length, and the other to cover the width of the pan) and place them in the pan so that the ends hang over the edges. Delicately butter the bottom of the aluminum foil.
> In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder.
> Break up or cut the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bain marie with the butter. Don’t let the water boil, the chocolate should not overheat. Stir over the heat until melted and smooth.
> Remove the chocolate from heat – gradually mix in the sugar with a spoon or spatula.
> Whisk eggs into the chocolate/sugar mix one at a time. DO NOT OVERMIX – just whisk one in until smooth, then the next, and the next…
> Whisk in vanilla
> Using the spatula, fold in the flour mixture in three goes, to make sure the batter is mixed evenly – smooth.
> Fold in the chocolate chunks
> Pour the batter into the pan, using the spatula to spread into the corners.
> Bake four 35-40 minutes. Check on it with a toothpick inserted into the middle of the pan. It is done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. Do NOT OVERCOOK! Better to undercook it in fact, cause then you get the fondant part of it in the middle….

The result? I would add pictures, but we pretty much grabbed spoons and ate the whole thing right out of the oven!! I think we had concensus on these: you’ll basically bite into a gooey dark chocolate dream…..

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Hungarian Home Cookin’: Porkolt

For years now I have told myself I would practice my grandmother’s hungarian recipes. Best I’ve been able to pull off so far is to pull out the family recipe book on very rare occasions and practice my favorite dishes: turos csusza, veal paprika, stuffed paprika, rakott krumpli…. but when I say “recipe book” I really mean “dish descriptions” – in some cases the recipes don’t even have quantities on there! (Notice any pattern with my own half-baked recipes??)

Basically, hungarian food revolves around some key ingredients: paprika, sour cream, paprika, peppers, paprika, pork, paprika, cream, paprika, pickles, paprika, beef, paprika.. get the picture?  It’s heavy, creamy but with enough sour to cut through the heaviness, spiced warmly, and therefore perfect for cold weather.

So finally, after two years of threatening my friends, I finally prepared a hungarian dinner for them. I decided on pork porkolt, a paprika-based dish, served best with spatzle, cucumber salad, and sour cream and a pickle as garnishes. You can also make it with chicken, beef, veal.. your meat of choice basically.

PORK PORKOLT

Ingredients for 4: 800g of pork (thinly sliced like an émincé) –  one or two chopped onions – 1/2 or 1 whole green pepper (optional, to taste) – about a table spoon of tomato paste – tons and tons and tons of paprika – bouillon – a touch of heavy cream

The step by step:

As usual I failed to take pictures, but here’s how it went down:

1. brown the meat in a little oil

2. add chopped onions and peppers

3. cover it generously with paprika – I didn’t measure, but don’t be shy with this.

4. add in the tomato paste and stir

5. reduce heat and let it simmer until the meat’s juices run out

6. Let up with bouillon little by little, letting the sauce attach each time.

7. You can continue adding paprika, salt, pepper and tomato paste to taste until you get it to your liking.

8. Remove from heat and add a touch of heavy cream to desired creaminess.

9. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a pickle, along with cucumber salad and spatzle.

As you can see, it is very simple, and like any other recipe, it has its variations, probably at least one variation per family.

In fact, I am positive my own family has much more to say about this recipe than I do – did I miss anything? Do anything wrong? Any one care to share tips? Variations? Faux pas?

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