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Monday, May 21, 2012

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

I've been wanting to make this cake for a long time now- ever since I saw it featured in one of ATK's episodes last year. It was worth the wait! Not only is this cake beautiful, but its delicious. Each layer tastes amazing alone, and outstanding together. It looks like a lot of steps, but it came together pretty quickly!

Bottom Layer
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs, separated
pinch table salt
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

Middle Layer
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
5 tablespoons hot water
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt

Top Layer
3/4 teaspoon powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon water
6 ounces white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream

Directions for the Bottom Layer. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and butter the bottom and sides of a 9 1/2 inch springform pan. Melt the butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in a double boiler, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla and egg yolks and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed about 30 seconds, add half the brown sugar, beat to combine, add the rest of the sugar and beat at high speed until soft peaks form. Using a whisk, fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Then, using a rubber spatula, fold in remaining egg whites until no white streaks remain. Transfer mixture into springform pan, smoothing top with spatula. Bake until cake has risen and center is just set and still soft (13-18 minutes). Let cool completely, about 1 hour. Do not remove cake from pan.

Directions for the Middle Layer. Once cake is cool, combine cocoa powder and hot water in small bowl and set aside. Melt chocolate in a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Remove and cool 2-5 minutes. Whisk the cocoa powder mixture into the melted chocolate until smooth.

Using an electric mixer, with a whisk attachment, whip the cream, sugar, and salt at medium speed for 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form. Using a whisk, fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, then using a spatula, fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Spoon mousse into springform pan over the cooled cake and gently tap pan on counter to remove any large air bubbles. Gently smooth top with spatula. Refrigerate cake at least 15 minutes while preparing the last layer.

Directions for the Top Layer. In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand at least 5 minutes. Place white chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring 1/2 cup cream to simmer; take off heat and add gelatin and stir until fully dissolved. Pour hot cream mixture over white chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted and smooth. Cool to room temperature (will only take 5-10 minutes).

Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whip remaining cup of cream on medium speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form. Using whisk, fold 1/3 of whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold remaining whipped cream into chocolate mixture until no white streaks remain. Spoon on top of the middle layer, smoothing with a spatula. Return cake to refrigerator and chill until set- at least 2 1/2 hours.

To serve. Use a very sharp (non-serrated) knife that has just been run under hot water to cut each slice. Decorate with shaved or curled chocolate.

    Tuesday, May 15, 2012

    Moroccan Eggplant Bisque w/ Mint Yogurt

    About 10-days ago my favorite restaurant in Durham, NC, Magnolia Grill, announced they were closing their doors after 26 years. Luckily, both Ben and Karen (co-chefs) have released cookbooks over the years with some of their, and their customers', most favorite recipes; whereas my family will no longer be able to eat at MG, we'll be able to cook their recipes forever.

    Ben explains that this soup is the favorite of the waitstaff due to its complexity of flavors. He's right- its dynamite. It is the best soup I have ever made. And it has nothing to do with my cooking skills. THIS RECIPE IS PERFECTION. Warning: its a lot of ingredients, but its really really worth it. Serves 6-8 as a main course and freezes well.

    2 large eggplants (~2 pounds)
    1/2 cup olive oil
    2 large onions, chopped
    2 jalepenos, stemmed, seeded, diced
    8 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
    2 tablespoons Moroccan spice blend (see recipe below)
    generous pinch of saffron
    1 cinnamon stick
    1 bay leaf
    2 cups canned tomatoes, seeded & chopped, juices strained & reserved
    6 cups chicken stock
    zest of 1 lemon
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    1/4 cup chopped cilantro

    1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
    2 tablespoons Moroccan spice blend
    olive oil
    6 ounces plain yogurt
    1 tablespoon slivered fresh mint
    1/3 cup cilantro leaves

    2 tablespoons paprika
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon anise seed
    1 teaspoon ground cloves
    4 inches of a cinnamon stick

    Making the Moroccan Spice Blend....
    Pour the ingredients into a spice grinder and grinding until all a fine powder. Cover tightly and reserve.

    Making the Bisque...
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, prick the eggplants all over with a fork, and roast the eggplants whole, for about 35-45 minutes, or until soft and partially collapsed. Remove from oven, cut in half, scrape some of the seeds out and remove the skin. Reserve the roasted flesh.

    Heat the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the garlic cloves, jalepenos, Moroccan spice, saffron, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, then add the tomatoes, with their juices, the roasted eggplant, and the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf and puree the soup in batches in the food processor (or with an immersion blender). Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.

    Make the Soup Garnish...
    While the soup is simmering, rub the chicken thighs with the spice blend and olive oil to coat. Season with salt and bake on a rack in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool slightly and cut or shred into 1/2-inch chunks. Reserve.

    Next, combine the yogurt and slivered mint and set aside/refrigerate if not using immediately.

    Make sure the soup is hot and adjust the seasonings as needed (if its too thick, add more chicken broth; if it doesn't have enough flavor, try more salt; add more lemon juice if you want more of an acidic kick). Divide the chicken between 6 bowls (or reserve some of the chicken if you aren't serving that many people), and ladle hot soup into the bowls, with a dollop of the mint yogurt on top. Sprinkle with extra cilantro and serve. I did not even make it to the table when I ate it- I stood over the counter and inhaled it.

    Tuesday, May 8, 2012

    Broccoli Cheese Soup

    I'm an idea stealer. I overheard my friends talking about a broccoli cheese soup they were planning on making some time this week and it sounded so good that I ran to the grocery store and made it that evening. Its embarrassing, really, the way that food runs my life. But this soup. THIS SOUP. Its amazing. I topped it with homemade garlic croutons and fried pancetta. Drool.

    2 tablespoons butter
    2 pounds broccoli, florets and stems
    1 onion, chopped
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
    2 pinches of cayenne
    3 cups water
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    2 cups chicken broth
    2 cups fresh spinach
    3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
    1 1/2 ounces parmesan
    salt & pepper

    2 tablespoons butter
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 cup of 1-inch cubed ciabatta or french bread
    1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

    Chop the broccoli florets into 1-inch pieces, and trim and peel the stems and slice them in 1/4-inch slices. Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat and add the chopped broccoli, onion, garlic, mustard, cayenne and about 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring frequently for about 6 minutes. Add 1 cup of water and the baking soda, cover and reduce the heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes- stirring once halfway through the cooking time. You'll know that the veggies are cooked when they are very soft.

    Once finished, add the remaining 2 cups of water and 2 cups of chicken broth and return the heat to medium-high heat. When mixture begins to simmer again, add the spinach and cook for about 1 minute. Meanwhile, grate the cheeses and add them to the soup and process using a hand blender. Or, process in a stand blender in batches. Return to pot, taste for salt & pepper, and serve in bowls.

    To make the croutons: melt butter and olive oil in a pan and add the garlic powder. Add the cubed bread and toss to coat. Spread onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, tossing the cubes halfway in between.

    Monday, May 7, 2012

    Chocolate Brigadeiros

    Brigadeiros are sweet Brazilian truffles that are made from only 3 ingredients then rolled in sprinkles before eating. They are really tasty, incredibly easy to make, and quite cute. They'd be great as a gift for a co-worker or friend, to bring to a party, or even for kids to make and eat. This recipe adds significantly more chocolate than traditional recipes, but you're probably not surprised that I believe that more is better when it comes to chocolate.

    2 tablespoons butter
    1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
    1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

    Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and slowly add the cocoa, stirring constantly until incorporated. Add the can of sweetened condensed milk and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon, basically non-stop for about 20-30 minutes, or until thickened. You will know that its done when you can use a spatula to create a clean 2-inch clean line at the bottom of the pan for a few seconds before the chocolate mixture fills it in. Make sure to keep stirring and scraping the corners of the pan so the mixture doesn't burn.

    When thickened pour into a greased 8x8 glass dish and refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.

    Using a tablespoon, scoop the chocolate mixture, roll into balls (you may want to grease your hands) and roll in sprinkles or toppings of your choice. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Makes ~2 dozen truffles.

    Thursday, May 3, 2012

    Best Blondies in the World

    The first time I had these blondies was a few weeks ago at a friend's house and they served them for dessert, warm out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. I was in heaven. They were rich in flavor and buttery and I knew I needed to make them myself. Fast forward 2 weeks: a girlfriend of mine was over and we made the same blondies, exactly as our friend had, and watched an awesomely terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Hallmark original movie. It was a perfect night. This is now my go-to blondie recipe. Out with the old, in with the new!

    1 cup (4 oz) pecans
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
    1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
    2 large eggs, beaten
    4 teaspoons vanilla extract
    3 oz white chocolate chips
    3 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the nuts on a baking shit and bake until golden brown (~10 minutes, give or take). Cool nuts and chop coarsely. Set aside.

    Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, in a medium bowl and set aside.

    In a large bowl whisk together the butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients; do not overmix. Fold in the chocolate and nuts and pour batter into an aluminum foil-line (and lightly greased) 9x13 pan. Smooth the top with a spatula and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Do not overbake. These are so delicious and buttery, and you want them gooey. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Cut into squares are eat!