Saturday, February 28, 2009

Decadent "Chocolate Valentino" Cake

It's Daring Bakers time again!!!
The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

This was the PERFECT dessert to make for Valentine's Day. I actually baked it in a heart-shaped pan. I've never made a cake with fewer only 3 items long, the ingredients list made me do a double-take. I had heard of flourless cakes, and I've been wanting to try one. It's super simple to make, and the results are down-right decadent! It's more dense than a normal won't have the spongy texture that you might be used to with a regular layer cake. However, nothing beats a warm piece of cake with vanilla ice cream melting down the sides!

How was your Valentine's Day this year? I hope it was fabulous!!! Brad cooked his traditional Valentine's Day dinner for me...his Famous Spaghetti. It was SO good!

Chocolate Valentino
(a.k.a. Flourless Chocolate Cake)
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.

3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.

4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).

5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.

6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}

8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C

9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C. Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.

10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Dharm's Ice Cream Recipe
Classic Vanilla Ice Cream
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Recipe comes from "The Ice Cream Book" by Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis (tested modifications and notes in parentheses by Dharm)

1 Vanilla Pod (or substitute with vanilla extract)
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Semi Skimmed Milk – in the U.S. this is 2% fat (or use fresh full fat milk that is pasteurised and homogenised {as opposed to canned or powdered}). Dharm used whole milk.
4 large egg yolks
75g / 3oz / 6 tbsp caster sugar {superfine sugar can be achieved in a food processor or use regular granulated sugar}
5ml / 1 tsp corn flour {cornstarch}
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Double Cream (48% butter fat) {in the U.S. heavy cream is 37% fat){you can easily increase your cream's fat content by heating 1/4 cup of heavy cream with 3 Tbs of butter until melted - cool to room temperature and add to the heavy cream as soon as whisk marks appear in the cream, in a slow steady stream, with the mixer on low speed. Raise speed and continue whipping the cream) or use heavy cream the difference will be in the creaminess of the ice cream.

1. Using a small knife slit the vanilla pod lengthways. Pour the milk into a heavy based saucepan, add the vanilla pod and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and leave for 15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuseLift the vanilla pod up. Holding it over the pan, scrape the black seeds out of the pod with a small knife so that they fall back into the milk. SET the vanilla pod aside and bring the milk back to the boil.
2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and corn-flour in a bowl until the mixture is thick and foamy.

3. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a gentle hear, stirring all the time

4. When the custard thickens and is smooth, pour it back into the bowl. Cool it then chill.

5. By Hand: Whip the cream until it has thickened but still falls from a spoon. Fold it into the custard and pour into a plastic tub or similar freeze-proof container. Freeze for 6 hours or until firm enough to scoop, beating it twice (during the freezing process – to get smoother ice cream or else the ice cream will be icy and coarse)By Using and Ice Cream Maker: Stir the cream into the custard and churn the mixture until thick (follow instructions on your ice cream maker)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Yummy Date/Nut Cookies

***This is another wonderful recipe from my GrannyRene. She told me about these cookies, and I immediately started begging for the recipe! They were so delicious...not too sweet, but just right! They sort of remind me of pecan pie for some reason. I made a batch and took some to work with me this morning to share with everyone. By the end of the day, they were ALL gone! Be batch makes A LOT of cookies...And in my opinion, that's a really good thing!***

Cookie Dough:
1 cup shortening
2 cups light brown sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Filling for Cookies:
1 lb. (16 oz) chopped dates
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
1 cup chopped pecans

Bring dates, sugar and water to a boil for 10 minutes, or until creamy. Add chopped pecans and let cool before spreading on cookie dough.

Cream shortening and brown sugar together. Add eggs one at a time and beat until smooth.

Add flour with salt and soda, a small amount at a time, until all flour has been added. Add vanilla. When mixture is finished, divide the dough into four equal portions.

Roll each portion in flour and make a square about seven by eight inches. Spread the date mixture on each square and roll up like a jelly roll.

After you have made the rolls, pat and stretch each roll until it is about twelve inches long. Roll each roll in wax paper and chill overnight in refrigerator. Cut roll into cookie slices, placing them on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 14 minutes.

Each roll should make about two dozen cookies when cut.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Joel Rubuchon's "Chicken with Lemons"

***If you love lemony chicken recipes, then you will love this dish! This one comes from Joel Rubuchon himself. It's simplicity is one of the things that makes it so scrumptious. With only a few ingredients, you'll have a deliciously flavorful dinner that tastes like perfection.
I only made a few minor changes...First, I had to use parsley instead of marjoram. Second, I changed the cooking method slightly. Instead of browning the chicken pieces first on the stove over high heat, I baked it in the oven the entire time, basting with the juices. I only did this to make it a little healthier. I also topped the chicken pieces with a few slices of lemon. It was wonderful!

Bon Appetit!!!***

Chicken with Lemons
Source: "The Complete Rubuchon" by Joel Rubuchon

3 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup olive oil
1 chicken, about 3 1/2 lbs., free-range if possible, quartered
2 organic lemons, washed and thinly sliced
1 tbsp. minced fresh sweet marjoram

Spread the onion slices in a baking dish large enough to hold the chicken and drizzle with 3 tbsp. olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper and lay them in the baking dish. Scatter the lemon slices over the chicken and sprinkle with marjoram. Drizzle with the rest of the oil and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 410 degrees F/210 degrees C.

Remove the dish from the refrigerator. Put the chicken pieces in a Dutch oven and put the baking dish in the hot oven. Brown the chicken over rather high heat for 5 minutes, turning the pieces with a wooden spoon or with tongs. Remove the dish from the oven and lay the chicken on top of the onions and lemons. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the chicken and baste it with cooking juices. Cook 20 minutes more. Serve in the baking dish.

"Gourmet's" Fried Mozzarella Balls

***Okay, so maybe these aren't the healthiest things in the world...I mean, it is fried cheese after all. However, every once in a while you just need to indulge! Haha. These are definitely worth it!! This recipe came from the same issue of Gourmet magazine as the lasagne below. The only thing that I did differently was use fresh mozzarella that came seasoned with italian herbs. It turned out even better with the herbs mixed in. Just look at that cheesy goodness in the photo!***

Fried Mozzarella Balls
Makes about 3 dozen
Active time: 25 min
Start to finish: 45 min
Gourmet Magazine
January 2009

From Gourmet:
"These bite-size mozzarella balls have a crisp outer shell and a perfectly gooey center. For an even creamier texture, make your own fresh mozzarella. View more of our favorite recipes from this issue."
About 5 cups vegetable oil
1 lb drained marinated bocconcini (small mozzarella balls), patted dry
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup plain fine dry bread crumbs
A deep-fat thermometer
warm homemade or bottled spicy tomato sauce

Heat about 1 1/2 inches oil to 360°F in a 3 1/2- to 4-qt heavy saucepan.

Meanwhile, double-coat bocconcini by dipping in eggs, then in bread crumbs, and repeating. Transfer to a sheet of wax paper.

Working in batches of 10, lower balls into oil with a slotted spoon and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 30 seconds per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt. (Return oil to 360°F between batches.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Gourmet's" Lasagne Bolognese with Spinach

***I just love Gourmet magazine. I'd love it even if the only great thing about it were the recipes, but you know what?'s always got great articles too. There are very few magazines that I read cover-to-cover. Gourmet has a permanent spot among those few.

When I was making my way through the recent January 2009 issue (fabulous, by the way!), I came across a beautiful picture of some amazing-looking lasagne. I present to you - Lasagne Bolognese with Spinach. Now, I must warn you...this is not your typically cheesy, meaty, heavier lasagne. This spinach-based recipe is a lighter, drier version. It's also definitely not a quick-and-easy took me quite a while from start to finish. However, it's worth the effort!!! You should give this one a least once. It's the perfect thing to cook on a lazy Sunday afternoon.***

Lasagne Bolognese with Spinach
Serves: 8
Active time: 1 hr
Start to finish: 3 1/4 hr
January 2009

From Gourmet magazine:
"In the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, lasagne bolognese is usually made with a besciamella sauce. Italian-American cooks often replace that time-consuming step with ricotta. In this wickedly good interpretation, food editor Melissa Roberts combines the two traditions by whisking milk into some of the ricotta, creating a billowy pseudo-besciamella (the remaining ricotta mixture is stirred together with spinach). We rarely call for specific brands, but we did find that widely available Barilla no-boil dried noodles produced an exemplary lasagne. An egg pasta, this one comes very close to the flavor and delicacy of homemade.Watch food editor Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez demonstrate how to make your own fresh ricotta, and learn the story behind this dish in our series The Recipe."

For bolognese sauce:
1/4 cup olive oil
3 oz sliced pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 lb ground beef chuck (not lean)
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme leaves
For ricotta filling:
2 (10-oz) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 (15-oz) containers whole-milk ricotta
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup whole milk, divided

For assembling lasagne:
12 Barilla no-boil dried lasagne noodles (from 1 box)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

a 13- by 9-inch baking pan (3 inches deep)
Make sauce:
Heat oil in a 12- to 14-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are golden and softened, 12 to 15 minutes. Add beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any lumps, until meat is no longer pink, 6 to 10 minutes. Stir in wine, milk, tomato paste, thyme, 1/4 tsp salt, and 3/4 tsp pepper. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid has evaporated but sauce is still moist, about 1 hour.
Make ricotta filling:
Put spinach in a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and twist to squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

Whisk together ricotta, eggs, parmesan, nutmeg, 1 1/4 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper. Transfer 1 1/2 cups ricotta mixture to another bowl and whisk in 1/4 cup milk; set aside. Whisk spinach into remaining filling with remaining 1/2 cup milk.
Assemble and bake lasagne:
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.
Soak noodles in a bowl of very warm water until pliable but not softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Place on a kitchen towel (it's not necessary to pat noodles dry).
Spread 1 1/2 cups bolognese sauce in baking pan and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp parmesan. Cover with 3 noodles, leaving space in between. Spread half of spinach filling on top, then 1 cup bolognese sauce, and top with 1 Tbsp parmesan and 3 noodles; repeat. Top with remaining bolognese sauce, 1 Tbsp parmesan, and remaining 3 noodles. Pour reserved ricotta mixture over top and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan.
Cover pan tightly with parchment paper and foil (or just buttered foil) and bake 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is browned in spots, about 15 minutes more. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes before cutting.
Cooks’ notes:
Bolognese sauce can be made 2 days ahead and chilled (covered once cool).
Lasagne can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Reheat in a 350°F oven, loosely covered with foil.