Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!


Hello bloggers! Happy Easter! I hope you are all having a nice holiday weekend. Matt's dad and Karen invited us over for dinner for Easter and as luck would have it, I found this amazing cake on My Little Expat Kitchen, a great blog by a Greek woman named Magda who lives in the Netherlands. I won't even dare compare my cake to hers because hers was about 500 times more beautiful than mine...


However, I didn't let my inexperience stop me from trying! I started with her recipe but changed it a lot as well. She had the eggs made of ganache, while I used the recipe for the Buckeyes I made awhile back, and substituted white chocolate for dark chocolate (NOTE: I could have used way more white chocolate, as I only really was able to coat about half of the buckeyes...the white chocolate was much more difficult to manage than the dark chocolate--thicker and stickier! so I ended up wasting a lot of it trying to figure out the best way to coat the eggs).

In addition, I did not make the cake from scratch *cue gasp*!  I know, I know, I should have done it from scratch but it's finals and I have been dying to try this "all natural" cake mix that they sell at Fresh Market by "Naturally Nora." However, the eggs, their coating, the ganache, the icing, and the nest were all made by moi!

Okay so here is how I will break it down for you...I used cake mix, but you can use any recipe for any chocolate cake you wish, I'm pretty sure any chocolate cake would taste incredible with this. I will give you her recipe for the ganache eggs, if you would prefer to make ganache eggs instead of peanut butter.  Note: her ingredients are provided in grams, milliliters etc.  If you wish to do them with peanut butter the way I did, make the buckeyes and instead of shaping them into 1 Tbsp balls, make them more oval shape (and slightly bigger, like a heaping tablespoon) and use white chocolate instead of dark chocolate.

Ingredients
For the ganache frosting
1/2 cup good quality dark 55% chocolate, roughly chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream

For the chocolate glaze
1/2 cup good quality dark 55% chocolate, roughly chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp mild-flavored runny honey** (I substituted agave nectar for the honey because I already had agave nectar and honey was like $5 at Fresh Market and I'm on a budget)

For decorating the cake
1 1/2 cup good quality milk chocolate
Chocolate truffle or peanut butter eggs (see recipe below)
First step: make your cake (whichever cake recipe you are using...or if you are short on time, a simple boxed cake)

Make the ganache frosting:
While the cake is cooling, make your ganache.

Place dark chocolate and cream in a pan over barely simmering water. Do not let the bottom of the pan touch the water. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth.

Transfer the ganache into a mixing bowl and place it in the fridge for 40 minutes, taking it out every 10 minutes to stir with a rubber spatula. Take ganache out of the fridge and whisk vigorously until smooth and fluffy (totally missed this step when doing this...I was watching Julie & Julia at the same time...sorry I'm not sorry, it still turned out delicious...but yes, this probably would have made the consistency better).

Coat the cake layers with the whipped ganache:
Level the cake layers so that they are flat. If the cake layers are not flat, they will crack and break (although will undoubtedly still be yummy).

Use a good serrated blade to level the cake
Place one cake cut side up and measure ½ cup of the whipped ganache frosting and spread it over the top of the cake, smoothing it out with an offset spatula (if you don't have one, they are like $10 and will change your life). Place the second cake on top of the first, lining it up as well as possible (cut side down). Pour the rest of the ganache on top and then smooth it on the top and sides using the offset spatula.

Place cake in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

Make the chocolate glaze:
Place dark chocolate, cream and honey (or agave nectar) in a pan over barely simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the pan does not touch the water. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove the pan and let cool for 5 minutes. 

Let the glaze drip down the sides before spreading
Take the cake out of the fridge and pour the glaze over it. Use the offset spatula to spread the glaze around and let it drip down the sides of the cake. I did this in parts: pouring a little bit of the glaze on at a time and letting the glaze kind of slide in whatever direction it wanted. Smooth it out and put cake back in the fridge so the glaze can set, for about 20 minutes. At this point I took a small paper towel and wiped the glaze from around the plate so that the chocolate wasn't all over the serving dish.

Decorate and serve the cake:
In the meantime, make milk chocolate shavings or curls by using a knife and scrapping the back side of the chocolate bar. You will need approximately 1 ½ cups of chocolate curls and shavings to make the nest on top of the cake. Place curls in the fridge until ready to use. This was so hard for me. I did this in shifts, whenever I wasn't busy...like when the ganache was chilling or the cake was chilling. The problem was that the kitchen and probably my hands as well were too warm, so the chocolate would get soft and difficult to "shave" so I would basically just keep putting it back in the fridge to try to let it harden again and then try again. My shavings ended up being quite small compared to Magda's but that's okay...different birds make different nests :)

Take the cake out of the fridge and form a nest using the chocolate shavings (not all the way out to the edge of the cake and not in the middle). Place 3-4 small eggs in the middle (I did 4 because I wanted a bunch of different colors but I think 3 probably looks better from a food photography standpoint).

I kept the cake in the fridge until we were ready to leave for dinner.

Truffled Eggs:
According to Magda, the secret to making thumbprint-free truffle eggs is to use toothpicks or small wooden skewers to hold the truffles and dip them into the melted chocolate.
Again, if you wish to make the peanut butter eggs, use this recipe.
Ingredients:
230 g good quality dark 55% chocolate, roughly chopped
90 ml heavy cream
115 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
700 g good quality white chocolate, roughly chopped
Food coloring

Special equipment: 1 packet strong toothpicks

Preparation
Melt the dark chocolate using the same method as above, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove the bowl from over the pan and add the butter. Stir until it melts.

Empty the ganache in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is very cold and set but still pliable, for about 2 hours.

Peanut butter eggs
Using a tablespoon as a measure, scoop balls of ganache, placing each one on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Put them in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up. 
chopped white chocolate
Meanwhile, melt white chocolate using the same method as above.

To color the white chocolate, divide it among bowls and then use food coloring to make different shades. To make the speckled blue eggs, don't stir the coloring in with a spoon but rather, just swirl it around with a toothpick.

Take the eggs out of the freezer and stick a toothpick in one end of each egg. Holding the eggs by the toothpicks, dip them one by one into the colored chocolate. Coat the eggs well and let the excess chocolate drip off back into the bowl. Place eggs back on the parchment paper and once you're done with all of them, place them in the fridge to set. Remove toothpicks from eggs.
Use the eggs to decorate the cake. Decorate the rest however you wish! Sprinkles, chocolate gems, the works!
Keep the rest of the eggs in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.  You will inevitably have duds...you can just make them into cute little chicks or something...trust me, they will still get eaten...and if not, send them to our place because Matt loves anything containing peanut butter.



Friday, April 22, 2011

Sun-dried Tomato Stuffed Chicken Recipe

This recipe is easy, delicious, juicy and healthy!  I made this tonight with a friend and it was a huge success.  It was so good I didn't even get a chance to take a picture!

Ingredients:

-2 large chicken breasts - halved into 4 oz portions.  First, take a fork and stab a bunch of holes into the chicken.  This is a trick I just learned - it helps the chicken soak in the juices and keeps chicken breast moist.  Cut a horizontal pocket into each breast.
-1 cup white wine
-1/4 cup of scallions (this is what I had in my fridge - you can use any vegetables you have in your fridge)
-1 tbsp tomato paste
-2 oz goat cheese
-1 tbsp corn starch
-1 cup chicken broth
-2 tbsp sun-dried tomato 
-1/2 cup flour


Step 1:  In a small bowl: Add goat cheese, sun-dried tomato and spinach.  Use your hands to really get in the mixture and combine all the ingredients.

Step 2:  Take the mixture and stuff it into the little horizontal pockets you made in each breast.

Step 3: Take the stuffed chicken and drudge it in the flour.

Step 4: Heat a saute pan on medium-high heat with a couple sprays of PAM.  Brown the chicken then remove from saute pan. While the chicken is browning combine the corn starch and chicken stock - whisk it.

Step 5:  Add the white wine to the hot pan.  Add the corn starch and chicken stock.  Add the tomato paste.  Stir.  Add chicken.  Cover.

Step 6: Let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes until cooked.  Occasionally open the lid and turn the chicken and put sauce on top of each breast.

You can serve this dish with anything - I made wild rice and a side salad to accompany this dish.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

what to do with leftover zucchini?? Zucchini Bread!

Well, last post I made a zucchini galette and I had already made the zucchini pizza earlier in the week...so now, what was I to do with the leftover zucchini in my fridge?? I had two left and something needed to be done... I could think of nothing I would like more than Zucchini Bread.  I've been a little sick for a couple of days and so I thought this easy, hassle-free recipe would give me something to do for a 10 minute break from studying.  I knew I couldn't do anything too difficult because I wasn't feeling too hot but as my life has seemed to get more stressful...(hello, we are law students...most of you know what I mean!)...the more I have grown to become obsessed with cooking, baking, and stalking cooking blogs.
As you may remember, about a month ago, Juli gave me "Joy of Cooking" and I was utterly thrilled.  She ALSO gave me The New York Times Cookbook (published in 1981, originally published in 1961).  I made a delicious cod recipe out of it a couple of nights ago that I will share with you when I get a little bit more time.  This cookbook is a delight. While there are no pictures of the food, it breaks the recipes down in a very organized way and makes it easy to find what you are looking for (an index also helps with this).  This cookbook, along with the Joy of Cooking, has been described as a "Kitchen Bible" and these two are considered necessary staples in every kitchen...lucky me to acquire them both on the same day!
Zucchini shreds on top of batter before being mixed together

So, here is the simple Zucchini and Nut Bread, adapted slightly from The NYTimes Cookbook!

Eggs in the bowl waiting to be beaten!
Ingredients:
2 cups grated zucchini (NY Times suggested peeled but I chose not to peel them)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cups melted butter (other recipes use olive oil which is probably healthier but whatever I don't care...we don't have to be healthy all the time do we? ok good)
3 cups flour (I used 2 cups regular flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour because I ran out of regular)
1 1/2 tsps salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (my addition)
1 tbs pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup walnut chips (recipe called for 3/4 cup chopped walnut meats but I didn't have any)

Directions:
video
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Grate zucchini in food processor and leave in there until use (watch video to see how a food processor quickly shreds zucchini...this machine will change your life!)
3. Beat eggs and sugar until pale yellow and thick.  Add in butter.
4. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Mix this in to the egg mixture.  Stir in the vanilla and walnuts.  Add in the zucchini.
5. Put mixture in buttered loaf pan (make sure the pan is buttered/greased, so you can get the bread out!).
6. Bake for 1 hour.
7. Enjoy!

I ate this bite...yummy!!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Zucchini Goat Cheese Galette

So, the galette is my latest obsession.  They are so cute and look just so delicious.  I made an apple galette for Matt's dad and Karen and it was a huge hit.  So when I stumbled across a zucchini galette recipe on Smitten Kitchen, I decided to make it tonight with a few tweaks.  I made tonight's dinner as a sort of mixture between the lemony zucchini pizza and the zucchini ricotta galette.


Here's how it went:

Ingredients:
1/2 frozen whole wheat pizza dough from Fresh Market (thawed in the fridge overnight)
1/4 zucchini sliced thin
1/4 yellow squash sliced thin
1 1/2 tbs. olive oil
1 garlic clove finely chopped/minced/or diced
A couple spoonfuls of goat cheese (soft enough to spread)
Basil, salt and pepper for seasoning
1 egg yolk + water


Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400
2. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out with a rolling pin as thin as possible (I only used half of the package of dough because I wanted this to be personal size)-- Move the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet
3. Spread goat cheese on the dough leaving approximately 1-2 inches around the edge 
4. Place yellow squash slices around the edge of the goat cheese (so about 1-2 inches from edge of dough)
5. After making one ring of the yellow squash, then make another ring of zucchini.  Place one zucchini and one squash slice in the middle (if your pizza is larger, continue to make the rings in concentric circles)
6. Sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper
7. Mix olive oil with garlic pieces in a small bowl and then drizzle over the squash and zucchini
8. Fold dough over the edge of the squash and crimp at appropriate intervals (this will seem natural and you can see it in the picture)
9. Beat egg yolk and mix in a little water to thin it out
10. Brush egg yolk mixture over the dough 
11. Place in oven on middle rack
12. Cook until the crust is a golden brown and the zucchini has wilted: 20-30 minutes



Friday, April 1, 2011

Stuffed Crust Pizza with Guhan


This recipe is inspired by one on the cooking blog How Sweet It Is ( http://www.howsweeteats.com/). 

 I invited my good friend Guhan over to help me cook and eat a homemade stuffed crust pizza.  

What we used:
- Pizza Dough (you can buy it fresh at traders joe's. They offer whole weat and regular. I chose regular cause sometimes it's worth it to splurge)
- Tomatoes
- Cheese (mozzarella, asiago parmeseano, and honey goat cheese)
- Fresh basil
- Salt, pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Garlic
What we did:

 While I rolled out the pizza dough (using lots of flour and as thin as it would roll out without breaking), Guhan was in charge of cutting up the  tomatoes.  We decided not to use a traditional sauce and instead dice the tomatoes to make our own fresh pizza base.  He also cut up some nice fresh basil.


Which we mixed with the honey goat cheese.  The honey goat cheese is what we decided to stuff our crust with.


My pizza pan is being borrowed by a friend so I used the bottom of a square pan instead.  This resulted in a wonky shaped pizza, but it gave it character!  We made sure to have extra dough hang off the side which would be used to create the stuffed crust.  We folded the extra dough over and made a pocket which guhan filled with the goat cheese and basil.




We mixed the tomatoes with fresh basil, salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.  In the future, we decided we would also mix the garlic with the base.


Next we spread the tomato base on top of the dough.  Do not overload the pizza with the tomatoes or things might get soggy.


Next we placed the cheese on top.  We used both mozzarella and asiago.


Again, do not put TOO much cheese on top, remember that it will melt and spread.


In a stroke of genius guhan said we should mash some garlic with extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on top.  In the future I would have even enfused it (by simmering the garlic and probably some basil or rosemary with the olive oil over the stove) .. but this worked nice too.  We mshed the garlic, added some salt and pepper, and then thinned it out with a little water (wisk the water in).


We then drizzled it around the crush and on the pizza.


And then placed it in the oven (which was preheated to 375).










In about 30-35 minutes it was ready!


Perfect with a glass of red wine and a good friend!

Now that's a happy camper!