Flourless Chocolate Valentino Cake and Vanilla Ice Cream

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.

Chocolate Valentino
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.

I used a different pan (these really cute little bundt pans, actually, that my mother sent me for xmas) than a heart shaped pan. I'm also a little sure that I whipped the egg whites a bit too much but the cake was still tasty.

The ice cream was killer though. Oh man.

I don't have an ice cream maker, so I just used a bowl and my freezer. I briefly considered the old kick-the-can method of my Girl Scout days, but probably made the right choice as far as Chicago and weather goes. Also, since the challenge allowed us to choose our own ice cream recipe I used a Jamie Oliver custard recipe.

I love him. I really, really do.

- 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- six tablespoons sugar (Jamie suggests superfine, but I again ignored this)
- vanilla (honestly, I forget how much I used, but it was delicious. the book says to use a vanilla bean.)
- eight egg yolks

Mix the cream, milk, four tablespoons sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a pan. Bring to the boiling point and then remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Seperately, whisk the yolks with two tablespoons of sugar until pale. If you used the vanilla bean, take it out of the mixture. Slowly, you will pour the milk mixture into the egg yolk/sugar blend in bits. Whisk immediately, making sure that the first bit is mixed well before adding the next one. Pour the mixture back in the warm pan and cook gently for a few mins, constantly stirring. I used a wooden spoon and when the custard was thick and shiny, I made sure it could coat the back of my spoon.

I was really worried I was going to accidentally scramble it, but I snatched it off the heat and let it get cold. I then stuck it (in the bowl, not the pan) into the freezer. I mixed it every twenty minutes for a few hours, but mine started to set pretty quickly and from the living room, it was obvious how well I was doing as the more like ice cream it looked the more I cheered.

All in all, this was super fun and not too stressful. I love low stress levels.Delicious food for me, vanilla-less cake for my poor vanilla-challenged friend, and an excuse to do another Jamie Oliver recipe. (note: his ice cream/custard comes from Cook with Jamie and everyone. everyone. everyone. should buy this.)


Delicious Chocolate Cupcakes

Among my friends, I became the person who makes cupcakes. I make a lot of things and I am also celebrated for things like my pot stickers and everyone knows how much I love cooking and food and that sort of thing, but really? I became a cupcake girl. I bake them fairly often (usually) and always make batches for my friends on their birthday (they give me a flavor or an idea or something) and I even once supplied a massive amount of cupcakes for a fundraiser.

So. Yes. I make delicious cupcakes. I've got a vanilla cupcake recipe that I finally really nailed, but I've not got the photos so I'm not sharing it right now. Instead I will share the chocolate cupcake recipe from cupcakes I made.. They were so delicious that two days later, I had to make another batch (and this time, tried to take actual measurements! all for you guys! because there could be people reading this, who knows?) and those are ALSO already nearly gone. For those keeping score at home, that is twenty-seven cupcakes in not even five days.

In defense of my roommate and myself, I have to confess that other people have eaten these. And then those people? Came back for more.

So what makes this cupcake so delicious? You tell me.

- one cup flour

- 3/4 cup sugar (and then a little more, but not a whole cup)
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder (ish. i admit, i usually just shake it until it looks right. i used starbucks.)
- two eggs
- a pinch of baking powder
- one stick melted butter

- somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of milk
- quick dash of salt (i shook the shaker twice, but our shaker is smallish)

Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and baking powder, and salt together. Add melted butter an
d mix. Add eggs, mix some more, and finally mix in the milk. The batter is very light and almost fluffy. You can add in chocolate chips or some such if you'd really like to (and the first time, i did!)

Put the cupcake liners (cups? skins? i call them skins. i don't know.) in your pan and put large spoonfuls of batter in each one. Not all the way full, but more like 3/4 full. Cook them at 350 F in the oven for about twenty to twenty-five minutes. When a toothpick comes out clean, you'll know they are done even if they look a little
darker in the center. I thought some of them weren't finished, but they were. Go figure.

Now, some of my cupcakes fell a little and I'm not sure why exactly as many of them did not, but know it was entirely my fault in how I put batter in but regardless, all are delicious.

Note: you could add vanilla, I'm sure, or even something spicy. I left vanilla out when I made this because it was for a friend who is allergic to vanilla.

I feel so bad for this friend. She's allergic to basil, pine, sweet peppers, and ab
out a thousand other things as well. It's very hard. We once found a pound cake that neither of us were allergic to. I won't tell you how quickly we ate it because, honestly, you very likely do not want to know. We were just so happy! Happy and full.

Now! On to the frosting! I made a delicious vanilla (sorry, my friend did not get the same frosting
.) cream cheese frosting.

- a half stick of butter (softened)
- a packet of cream cheese
- 1 1/2 or 2 cups powdered sugar
- vanilla (one teaspoon, though maybe two)

I blended the butter and cream cheese together and then added powdered sugar, a little at a time, until I was pleased with the consistency. Add vanilla and mix, making sure it is smooth and delicious. I don't even think about what I am doing when I make this frosting, so, trying to remember measurements doesn't really go so well for me. But you know what looks and tastes like frosting.

When the cupcakes are cool, you should frost them and eat them. You should also hide some from your friends because if they are like mine, they will quietly take a few to go each time they see them.


Honestly, Padma!

You know what is really bothering me about Top Chef this season? I expected so much more. I'm not sure what the deal is, but really - I just expected more. I immediately loved Jamie (oh, Team Rainbow, you and your cute inked lesbian. 'sup chef crush.) but grew to actually really enjoy watching her process. And Fabio won me over as well and I really think they were some of the most talented.

(that said, i totally expect stefan to win, he isn't not talented but he just really sort of was a bit tooooo whatever about it tonight)

And then they booted Jamie off. And kicked Fabio to the curve. Emeril, this is why Anthony Bourdain dissed you so hard. Because you clearly do not get it. For those wondering, "it" is defined as by what I think "it" is in regards to Top Chef. I'm just saying. I just a not into how safe everyone seems to play it, especially when - simultaneously - remaining completely stupid. "Oh, I've never made this before..." and things like that.

But our Top Chef dinner was some mashed potato (with garlic, nom, and believe me I make really awesome mashed taters. "secret" ingredients and everything), french bread (never too many carbs), and this chicken/mushroom/courgettes with a light sauce. Pretty delicious, even though I added some different things to the sauce than usual, but all the flavours really worked well together. No pictures, sorry! I was starving and just wanted to eat food. But I have some things planned that mashed taters would be a welcome side dish too, so who knows!


Cream Cheese Coffee Cake.

Well, for starters, this isn't supposed to be blue. I'm not entirely certain what went wrong in the pictures but I've not quite nailed down my editing techniques and, well....they have sort of a blue tint. I blame the light. And the cold. Oh, Chicago. So very, very cold.

My mom always made this cream cheese coffee cake on Christmas (and other times, but that is neither here nor there) and I've had the recipe for ages but this year really wanted it. It's super easy and super delicious and, best of all, actually pretty cheap. I halved the recipe seeing as how I am not the army of maternal relatives or my younger brother who eats like any boy eats. This is the full recipe.

- two eight-oz packets of cream cheese
- 3/4 cup sugar
- one egg yolk
- one tsp orange juice
- one tsp vanilla
- two packets of crescent rolls

What you want to do is line the bottom of a pan with one of the packets of the rolls. Then, beat together the softened cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk, juice, and vanilla. Spread the mixture over the rolls and then cover with the second packet.

Cook in the oven at 350 degrees for thirty-five minutes, until the top is light brown. If you want, once it is cooled, sprinkle a little bit of powdered sugar over the top. Cut into squares and scarf down. Nom, nom, nom.


I may not have mentioned it, but I absolutely love Jamie Oliver. I like the way he describes food, the way his gives his recipes - I relate to "a handful of this" or "a glug of olive oil" and things of that nature. There's room to play with his recipes and it just makes sense. So, when I ordered a (super super discounted) copy of Cook with Jamie, I was beyond thrilled with what I got. And immediately wanted to make about a thousand things but have since only made one.

Meringues! I never made them before, happened to have the ingredients and was really just itching to do something from this book. Not to mention this was at Christmas and, well, it seemed to make logical sense. I was pleased with the final product as well! I liked the slightly chewier ones, but it's personal preference.

Jamie Oliver's Basic Meringue Recipe

- six egg whites
- one cup (plus five tbs) superfine sugar (note: while this makes sense, I used the regular sugar that I had on hand and it turned out fine.)
- a pinch of salt

Whisk the egg whites until they form firm peaks - Jamie says you know that it's thick enough if you can "hold the bowl upside down over your head". I was nervous, but tried it, and was pleased. Gradually, while still mixing, add the sugar and the salt. Whip on high for about seven or eight minutes (or until the mixture is super white and glossy); if you rub a little of the meringue between your thumb and finger it should feel smooth. Grainy? Mix more, but don't whisk it too long 'lest it collapse. (no idea how long too long is, but if I didn't make it collapse, I doubt you will)

Now, if you feel like adding a flavor, this is the point to fold it in. I turned my meringue into two batches and one of them, I added a drop or two of peppermint. The other got some cocoa powder (mocha powder? hm.). I then prepped a baking sheet with foil (Jamie suggests waxed paper, but I didn't have any).

Okay. I confess. I have one baking sheet and I had a lot of meringue, so, I also spread the foil on a cupcake pan and used that as a baking sheet. This, I suspect, helped make them chewier and that made me happier. So. It all worked out.

Regardless. Take your surface and your meringue and you want to make little blobs or big ones or, you know, whichever floats your boat. Chuck them in the oven (300 degrees) for about an hour and then giggle with delight when you realize what you've got.

These can be used for other things or nommed up as-is. I was pleased and gifted some to other people. My roommate was pretty delighted and that was that. Deliciousness in action!


Smoky Bacon-Biscuit Dressing

One of my delicious solo Christmas foods was the stuffing that my friend Dana made for Thanksgiving. I love stuffing. I love bacon. I love biscuits. So many delicious things in one delicious dish! The recipe comes from Williams-Sonoma and while I did not use their recipe for cream biscuits, I recommend that you do because I think they are de-lish.

Of course, WS is too fancy to actually call this "stuffing" and instead this goes by the fancy name of "Smoky Bacon-Biscuit Dressing" and is, when I made it, chock-full of mushrooms and bacon. You can find the recipe on their website (click me for deliciousness!) and the page also has a link to their cream biscuits.

Seriously, I would probably eat this all the time if only I could.


Belated Daringness

(please, ignore how giant my hand is here. i swear i am not a beast.)

Ach, like I said, things have been insane and really - they just aren't totally getting better. Still, I've got my Jan DB challenge pictures and things that I would finally like to post. I know I'm terribly late, but I'm trying to get all of this sorted. That said!

The January challenge was from Karen at Bake My Day! and Zorra at 1x umruhren bitte - tuiles! They asked us to make these delightfully light (get it?) cookies from one of the offered recipes, shape it, and pair it with something light. I had all of the ingredients for the cookies and (even more pleasing) happened to have all of the things needed for what I wanted to pair these tasty little things with.

I chose the recipe from Angelique Schmeinck's The Chocolate Book, although I omitted the chocolate element and kept it vanilla. We (here, this means 'myself, after talking to my cat') decided that none of us (my roommate, myself, and any guests who would maybe be around) in a very "chocolate mood". I blame the fact that I had been od'ing of plenty of chocolate. That and, well, all the cocoa powder I had on hand was meant for things like hot chocolate. I don't know if any of you remember, but goodness gracious! Chicago was a frozen hell last month!

At any rate. The recipe was!

Yields: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies were just an example) Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch ¼ cup softened butter ½ cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
A dash of vanilla
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork) 1/2 cup sifted all purpose flour (1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice) Butter/spray to grease baking sheet
Now. Directly copied from the original recipe is the technique. It goes as follows:

"Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.
Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that).
Or: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.
If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones…."


See? That doesn't sound anything like me. At any rate. I did this and I think maybe my batter was a pinch thinner than it was meant to be? Or I did something a little off (very likely, it was leaving the cookie sheet on the oven as it pre-heated) but regardless, I was able to get most of the cookies pretty thin. It was simple to make and I used a few different sized cups (a POM glass, an espresso cup, etc) to help shape my cookies.

I also made a light cream cheese sort of "fruit dip"/frosting - and when I say light, I'm not talking calories. My roommate said it reminded her of a buttercream she loves from a bakery in Evanston, but since I've no idea where said bakery is - I can't answer to it. However. My recipie is as follows.

- half a packet of cream cheese
- a knob of butter
- a dash of vanilla
- not even a whole egg yolk, though maybe half.
- powdered sugar. maybe half a cup? I'm just not sure.

First I whipped the cream cheese and butter together, then the powedered sugar and some vanilla and continued to whip until I decided to add in a little yolk. I whipped it until it was smooth and delicious. You should be sure to taste it and make certain you like the taste - it may need more sugar. Maybe you listened to your parents when they told you not to eat uncooked egg? That's okay, you don't have to add any egg. I'm not going to judge you.

When the cookies are cooled, spread this onto them. I then topped it with cut up kiwi. See, I love kiwi. I meant to involve some banana as well...but I sort of ate the banana before I got a chance.

I'm not sorry. It was delicious. Potassium, man. It's awesome. And so is kiwi.

Don't like kiwi? You'll be pleased to know this is delicious with virtually any and every delicious fruit. Perhaps even non-delicious fruit.

It was pretty nice, to sit hide in my apartment on a frozen weekend and make this. And I'm sorry to have posted so late, but well. Such is the way.


Look what the cat dragged in!

So. It's been a while, right? But I am not dead, so hurrah!

I have a lot to catch up on, everything from stuffing to Daring Bakers challenges past to some fabulously simple and delicious meringues. And do not even get me started on what happened on Top Chef last night. Ugh.

Anyway. The past couple of months have been difficult and not only have I not had time to post, but I've also had little time to cook what with the personal issues and, well, when it rains it pours. Between some family situations and my computer deciding that "working" is not important and then getting laid off...well. It's been a rough time. Still. That which doesn't kill you inspires you in new and interesting ways and I'm glad to be in the position to get back into the swing of things.

That said, this is not the post that will explode with everything, but really this is the alert that yes, I am back and yes, I have things I've done to show off. I hope to start getting a few things posted tomorrow and to get totally caught up by next week. At the very least, I need to get my January Daring Bakers challenge up and the part of December's that I managed before, well, life stopped being okay. Still. The only way to get through anything is to just keep going.

And so, with that, I am pleased to return to world of food blogging after vanishing act. Time to really try and live up to the whole "cacophony" thing I seem to think I can do. :)