Month: August 2011

Chocolate Truffles Cake

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This is inspired from one of Martha’s wedding cakes.  I’m not sure what her recipe is, but I just love the concept of it — it’s a cake encased in truffles!  That has got to be good!  Now this is for that birthday party that I was talking about a while ago; it went with the raspberry cupcakes.  And since I made extra raspberry buttercream for the cupcakes, I used that to fill the cake.  So because it was for a party, I couldn’t cut it open to take a picture of a cross-section.  You could just use more ganache for a filling, or whatever buttercream you like.  Maybe a nice orange curd would be good.  Might be a good Halloween cake with the colors.

Like I mentioned before, this party was supposed to be pink and purple.  So I rolled some of the truffles in some purple dragées to keep in the theme.  This made 2 tall 6″ cakes.  I split the cakes in half so there’s four layers to it.  They did rise in the middle, but they settled after cooling.  Be aware that this is one of my more involved cakes.  Not that it’s difficult; it just has a lot of steps.  Here’s what you need:

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. Dutch process cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. warm water

1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray two 6 inch cake pans with cooking spray.  Line with parchment rounds; spray the rounds as well.  Sift together the dry ingredients twice (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt).  Set aside.  Sift the cocoa powder into a small bowl and set aside.

2.  In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter for about 1 – 2 minutes.  Gradually adding the sugar, mix for about 3 – 5 minutes until fluffy.  Add the cocoa powder and mix for another minute.

3.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition (scrape down the sides, too!).  Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

4.  On low, gradually add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions of the water.  Scrape the sides and mix evenly.

5.  Pour half the mixture into each pan.  Bake for about 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool the cakes in the pans for about 15 minutes before turning them out onto cooling racks.

For the ganache frosting:

  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 c. confectioners sugar
  • 2 t. vanilla

1.  Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt over a double boiler.  You could just put it in the microwave for 20 seconds at a time since tempering the chocolate is not as important.  After completely melted, set aside.

2.  In another bowl, beat the butter until creamy for about a minute or so.  Gradually add in the sugar, mixing well to combine.  Beat in the vanilla and the melted chocolate.  Mix until smooth and well combined.  Set aside.

For the truffles:

  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 lb. dark chocolate, chopped
  • cocoa powder
  • dutch process cocoa powder
  • purple dragée

1.  Place chocolate in medium-sized heat-proof bowl.  In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.  Once the cream starts to boil, pour the cream over the chocolate.  Let sit for about 5-7 minutes and stir to combine.  Cool in the refrigerator for around 30 minutes, until set.

2.  Using a small ice cream scoop, form balls around 1 1/2 in. wide.  Roll the truffles in either of the cocoa powders or the dragée.  Place in the refrigerator to harden for about 10 minutes.  Cut each truffle in half, and place back in the refrigerator until needed.

Assemble the cake:

1.  After cooling, cut out a small notch or sliver out of the sides of the cakes to act as a marker.  That way you can match up the marks when assembling the cake.  Split the cakes in half lengthwise so that you will have four even layers.

2.  Place a small dab of frosting on top of a cake round (or a serving dish) and place the bottom layer of one of the cakes.  Line the edges of the round with strips of parchment that are tucked underneath the edges of the cake.

3.  Spread about 1/2 c. of the frosting on the bottom layer and smooth out almost to the edge.  Top with the top layer of that cake, lining up the notches on the side.  Smooth out another 1/2 c. of the frosting on top.  Repeat with the other two layers.

4.  Frost the sides of the cake starting with the top and bringing the frosting down to smooth out the sides.  Smooth out the top.

5.  With a small palette knife or the back of a small spoon, place a dab of frosting on the back of a truffle half and attach it to the cake.  Repeat until the sides of the cake are covered in truffles.  You could try to make a fancy pattern here, but I just stuck with columns of the different truffles in random order.

Notes — As I mentioned earlier, the filling for the cake that I made was a raspberry buttercream, so if you just use the ganache frosting, you’ll probably need a double batch, depending on how much you use in between the layers. . . you could just make things easier on your self and use store-bought truffles, or maybe some Baci chocolates. . . I did (begrudgingly) eventually put some purple sugar flowers on top of the cake since those were part of the party theme.  I prefer to just have a smooth top of the cake. . . although I prefer the more irregular shapes of truffles, you could make perfectly round truffles for this.  That might be appropriate for a more formal event.  But they are called truffles because, after you roll them around in the cocoa, they look like those things that you pull out of the ground!

Gnocchi with Leeks and Crispy Basil

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It’s been one of those “what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks do I have in the refrigerator / pantry today” kind of days.  But this recipe started out as an inspiration; an “a-ha!” moment, if you will.  For whatever reason, I was inspired to try to make gnocchi today (and by “today” I mean the same day that I’m writing this).  No idea why. . . I’ve never made gnocchi before. . . I don’t have a wise old Italian grandmother who can teach the wonders of making my own dumplings.  But I did have a bunch of leeks and a bushel of basil from the farmer’s (or is it farmers) market.  And I had some leftover mashed potatoes from the night before, so it all made sense.  I could make a shepherd’s pie, but I have the day off so why not try something new?

Now I know that you’re not supposed to use mashed potatoes when making gnocchi, but how different can it be?  There’s just a little extra cream and butter, maybe some garlic. . . and there are probably some recipes out there that would add all that stuff in anyway.  The only problem that I had was my lack of a ricer or a food mill, which I totally recommend that you have if you make gnocchi a lot. . . or even a little, because I had to pass all this through a mesh strainer, which was a pain!

Being a novice at this is rather evident — I could not roll it out right, mainly because I was working with a too-big piece of dough (I altered the recipe to accommodate).  So that meant that the pieces I cut were huge, which also meant that I could not shape things right.  But with all those things incorrect, it still tasted pretty good.  Now I have gone to restaurants and had some bad gnocchi — too dense, too doughy, too bland.  Much to my surprise, these were pretty light, but probably could have used a little bit more salt — I thought the mashed potatoes were salty enough.

This is another one of those things that doesn’t have as exact measurements as I would like. I kept on adding flour to the dough since it was too wet (I assume from the mashed potatoes).  But something like that would probably happen if it’s too humid outside.  This is as close as I could get it.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 c. leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 1/2 c. flour, plus extra for the dough and rolling
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh basil
  • canola oil
  • zest of a lemon

1.  Into a large bowl, run the mashed potatoes through a ricer, food mill, or a sieve.  Make a well in the middle and add your eggs, salt, & pepper.  Mix the eggs with a fork, gradually adding some of the potatoes along the sides of the well.

2.  Sprinkle the flour over the top and using the fork mix to combine, being careful not to overmix.  The dough should be moist, but not wet or sticky.  If it is still wet, sprinkle flour over the top 1/4 c. at a time and work in gently.

3.  Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.  Roll out the dough into a thin log, about an inch wide.  Cut the dough into 3/4 in pieces and dust with flour.  Roll the pieces over the tines of a fork.  Place the rolled pieces onto a sheet pan.

4.  Bring some water to a boil in a large stock pot.  When it comes to a boil,  generously salt the water with about 1 T. salt.  Drop the gnocchi into the water and cook for about 5 minutes; when they are done, they will float to the surface.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.  Prepare the crispy basil.

5.  In a small pan, put about an inch of canola oil on medium-high.  Pinch off the individual basil leaves.  Working in small batches, fry the basil in the oil; it should only take a couple of seconds.  Remove the leaves and place on a wire rack lined with paper towel.

6.  Put a couple of tablespoons of the basil oil into the drained stock pot (I didn’t want to dirty another pan).  Place on medium high and sauté the leeks.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  When tender, add the gnocchi and heat through.  Toss with the lemon zest and serve.

Notes — Alright so here’s a little history for you, for which I know you’ve been chomping at the bit.  Gnocchi is probably one of the oldest recipes out there, with some documentation dating back to the 1300s.  There is debate on the origin of the word, but most agree that it has its roots in the Middle East. . . Traditionally, this is one of those meals that help extend your budget, since you can make it from simple ingredients. . . You can make these ahead of time and leave them in the refrigerator or maybe freeze them. . .

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

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So in all the hub-bub of National Mustard Day, folks may have forgotten that August 6th is also National Root Beer Float Day.  So how to celebrate?  Why not make a cake or some cupcakes?  Seems simple enough, right?  Sort of an obvious choice for me, but you stick with what you know.  But things get a little tricky — I don’t really know root beer floats.  Luckily I know a couple so I can get their take on it.

Again, not the best pictures I’ve taken.  I am not a professional photographer.  Hell, I don’t even know what the symbols are on your regular point-and-shoot!  What does the “mountain” setting mean anyway?  Is it for high altitude pictures?  Which sounds dumb because it’s a digital camera.  But I digress. . . here’s what you need:

For the cake:

  • 2 sticks  butter, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 vegetable oil
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. light brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 1/2  c. root beer

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Line your pans with cupcake papers and set aside.  I ran out of some papers, so I just sprayed the pans with some cooking spray.  Put the root beer in a saucepan on medium and reduce by half.  Cool and set aside.

2.  Alright, no surprises here!  In the bowl of a mixer, cream the butter for about 5 minutes.  Gradually add the sugars and mix on medium for anther 5 minutes.  Add your eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Then add the oil and the vanilla.  Mix well.

2.  Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating with the root beer.

4.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Cool on racks before glazing.

For the glaze:

  • 1 c. confectioners sugar
  • 3 T. root beer
  • 1 T. bourbon (completely optional!  but I like booze!)

Sift the confectioners sugar if it is lumpy.  Otherwise just mix the ingredients until smooth.  Depending on the humidity, you may have to adjust the ratios to get the right consistency.  Drizzle the amount desired over your cupcakes.

Notes — I had some leftover Seven-Minute Frosting that I used to top off the cupcakes (if you don’t bake, you will probably never say this sentence in your entire life!).  I then put some of the glaze over the top of that.  Sure looks like a mini root beer float to me!. . . but the glaze does have a tendency to dissolve the frosting. . . of course, traditionally floats are done with vanilla ice cream, so by all means use that instead of the frosting. . . I really liked these cupcakes, but I was hoping for a more pronounced flavor, but if the cupcakes sit for a day, the root beer taste becomes more pronounced. . .

Champagne cocktails, part 2 — Peter Venkman, Camilla Parker Bowles, and a Tic-Tac

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Peter Venkman, Camilla Parker Bowles, and a Tic-Tac.  Sounds like the punchline to a bad joke.  It could be, but it’s not.  This is round 2 of my experimenting with my liquor cabinet and some sparkling wine.  By this time in the “trials”, I am starting to get tipsy, so the names of these drinks might be a little weird, but I swear they made sense at the time.  Now these names are not original, so hopefully they won’t cause any troubles.  I’m not making any money off these things, so I guess it should be okay.

For the Peter Venkman:

  • 5 oz. sparkling wine
  • 1 oz. Midori

Pour the Midori into a flute.  Top off with the sparkling or champers.  Now this one isn’t all that difficult to explain how we got to this name.  Originally, I was going to call it a Romulan Ale (and yes I’m a big Star Trek nerd).  Problem was that Romulan Ale is blue (if you follow any of the Trekkie lore).  There is another Star Trek drink that is green called Aldebaran Whiskey, but that didn’t seem to fit at all.  So what’s the next thing that popped into my head — Ghostbusters!  The color is definitely that of Slimer, but I couldn’t call it Slime, so Peter Venkman seemed like the next logical choice.

For Camilla Parker Bowles:

  • 5 oz. sparkling wine
  • 1 oz. raspberry liquor
  • dash of bitters

There was all that buzz about the royal wedding, I thought to myself that maybe I should make something that reflected all the hub-bub.  Plus there was all that rioting in London, I think over an increase in fees for students and they attacked the car that was carrying Prince Charles and Camilla.  Personally I don’t get the big deal over the hike in fees.  Maybe it’s because tuition in this country is redonk — I gots $50,000 in student loans after 2 years of school.  But I digress. . . the recipe is simple enough, but I added a dash of bitters. . . because I think Camilla has a dash of bitters herself.

For the Tic-Tac:

  • 4 oz. sparkling wine
  • 1 oz. mint syrup
  • 1 drop peppermint oil

This recipe packs a wallop.  All because of the oil.  I recommend closing your eyes when you drink this one.  Or try it with your eyes open, then you’ll know what I mean.

Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey

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This recipe has been making the rounds on the food blogs so I thought I’d give it a try.  For those who don’t know the story, a fellow food blogger (In Jennie’s Kitchen) experienced a recent tragedy with the unexpected death of her husband Mikey.  The two of them have two young girls, ages 8 and 3.  This recipe was one of his favorites and she had been meaning to make it for him, but sadly she never got the chance.

In his honor, I made this.  But I didn’t make it just for him, but for the folks that I love too.  So the next chance that you get, tell those special people in your life that you love them.  As Jennie writes in her blog, “. . . hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.

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Creamy Peanut Butter Pie

Serves 10 to 12

8 ounces chocolate cookies
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 ounces finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs.  Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well.  Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.  Pour over bottom of cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula.  Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form.  Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use.  Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar.  Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream).  Fold in the remaining whipped cream.  Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan.  Drizzle the melted chocolate on top, if using, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.

Notes — I did follow an adaptation of this recipe that makes a 10″ pie.  I got that recipe from the blog The Shiksa in the Kitchen.

Peach Rhubarb Crostata

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So I just found out that this month is also National Peach Month or Peach Appreciation Month.  And there’s nothing wrong with enjoying some peaches in the summer (or any time of year for that matter).  Now this recipe is the most thrown-together one that I’ve done recently.  No real exact measurements, just some rhubarb, some peaches, sugar, cinnamon, and flour.  But it’s a crostata so it’s supposed to be all rustic and wholesome and quaint.  So this fits the bill.  But I did add some crystallized ginger to this one to give it some added bite.

But then I started wondering, “Waterlily, what’s the difference between a galette and a crostata?”  Honestly, I have no clue.  From what I can gather, one is French and the other one is Italian.  Both are rustic and free-form.  Both involve a pie crust with some type of filling.  Both are types of pie.  Both can be savory.  I guess, given the regional differences, the filling would give you the clue as to what term to use.  For example, something with apples and figs would probably be a crostata (boy, does that sound good — new recipe ideas!) and something with cherries and frangipane (that sounds good too!) would probably be a galette.  I guess that could count as our cultural nugget for the day!  Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2 pâte brisée recipe
  • 2 rhubarb stalks (mine were kinda small so I used three), cut into 1/2 in. pieces
  • 2 peaches, cut into slices (I cut them into quarters and then cut those pieces into thirds)
  • 2 T. crystallized ginger, chopped
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • egg wash
  • sanding sugar

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Roll your dough out into a round about 1/4 in. thick.  Pile the peaches and rhubarb in the middle, leaving a couple of inches around the edge for the crust.  Spread the ginger across the top.

2.  In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Sprinkle mixture over the top of the fruit.  Fold over and pleat the edges of the crust, pressing to seal.  Brush the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with the sanding sugar.

3.  Bake in the oven for about 30-45 minutes, until nicely browned and the fruit has softened.  Let cool for about 5-10 minutes, and serve.

Tuna Ceviche with Avocado and Watermelon

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It’s still summer (although the weather up here the past couple of days would make you think otherwise) and one of the things that I love on a hot summer’s day / night/ or whatever is Ceviche.  This is a different take than my usual recipe in that it’s a more on the sweet side of things.  I had some nice watermelon in the fridge so I thought it might be nice to incorporate everything together.  And I use some orange juice in the marinade in addition to the lime.  Plus there’s a new take on a traditional ceviche because I hate cilantro.  So I thought that I could maybe get around this by using some whole coriander seed.  Two completely different tastes, but at least they come from the same plant (in case you didn’t know that).  So I can kinda say that there’s cilantro in it, it just hasn’t grown yet.

You can use other kinds of seafood in this one.  Scallops work nice, squid is good too, haven’t used octopus though.  Since it is National Catfish Month, you could totally use that!  Here’s what you need:

  • 1 lb. Ahi Tuna, cut into 1/2 in. pieces
  • 1/2 t. whole coriander
  • 1/4 t. whole fennel
  • 6-8 limes, juiced & zested 4 of them
  • 1 1/2 c. orange juice
  • pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 -2 c. diced watermelon
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. sambal oelek (chili paste), or add however much you like
  • 1 T. toasted coconut
  • salt & pepper, to taste

1.  In a container, combine the tuna, coriander, fennel, zest, lime juice, orange juice, and pepper.  Marinate the mixture for about 2-3 hours, turning every half hour with a wooden spoon.

2.  Strain out the fish and transfer to a large serving dish.  Add the tomato, avocado, onion, garlic and olive oil.  Toss to combine and let sit for another 30 minutes.

3.  Spoon out a serving into a dish or martini glass.  Sprinkle with some of the toasted coconut and you’re ready to serve!

Notes — I’d probably replace all the tomato with watermelon next time, but I had to use up those romas quick. . . If you wanted to add some finely diced jalapeno instead of the sambal that would be fine.  You could just omit it completely. . . One thing to try is maybe toasting the coriander and fennel before adding to the marinade. . .  You can chop everything finer if you want to maybe serve this with some tortilla chips.  This recipe is more of a salad.