Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dark Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Cream and Chocolate Ganache

This year for the birthday of my Mother Dearest I decided to surprise her with a few of her favorite flavors: dark chocolate, fruit, and coffee.

Earlier that evening I won a bag of Sweetwater coffee at a Fair Trade event. Yeah! This cake is made with 1 cup of strong coffee (not including the espresso I added to the ganache). I made 6 cups. I like to be thoroughly caffeinated.

For the chocolate cake I adapted this recipe from Ina Garten by doubling it and adding a touch of Chambord and Godiva Liqueur.

Look at those layers!

I found that the easiest way to create the ganache layers evenly was to let each layer chill in the same sized pan I used for the cake. Easy peasy.

My basic formula for ganache is one pound of chocolate to one cup of heavy cream. Alter the amount of cream depending on how solid you want it to be at room temperature. For a decadently silky ganache, I add a small pat of butter after all of the chocolate has melted and become glossy. I used dark chocolate and added Chambord and espresso.

I added freshly pureed and strained raspberries to the raspberry cream, as well as a splash of Grand Marnier.

To make so many layers, I like to bake as many as the recipe recommends then slice as needed. I have tried making each layer individually, but find that cutting down larger rounds keeps the cake moist.

This slightly indented plate does the trick :)

After all the layers are assembled I applied a "crumb coat" to the cake. I wanted the contrast of simple white buttercream frosting to the intensely dark cake. Spread a small portion of frosting over the entire cake, then chill for 5-10 minutes.

Ugly! Once the crumb coat is chilled, apply the real coat.

Much better.

At this point of being intensely caffeinated, exhausted, and near diabetic coma, it was time for a snack. Mm.

I wanted to top the cake with a simple layer of smooth dark chocolate ganache. I wanted it to be silky but also somewhat firm; a bit of butter and touch of cream was just enough.

And now for some fresh raspberries and a bit of decoration...

Layers layers layers!

Happy birthday to the best mother I could ever imagine. Love you mom!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Homemade Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake Ice Cream

During a long weekend at the beach with my family earlier this year we visited an Amish creamery with an awesome selection of homemade ice cream. We all ordered different flavors to try, and while they were all delicious one in particular stood out: blueberry cheesecake.

I don't generally buy into the "strange" combinations (I love classic flavors, and I usually dislike cheesecake) but I was immediately drawn to the colorful, summery goodness. One taste and I was hooked; I wanted to visit the creamery again the next day, and months later I was still dreaming about this satisfying treat.

Naturally, I decided to make my own.

Graham Cracker Crust
1/3 c graham crumbs
1T sugar
1.5T butter

Press the mixture into a spring-form pan (I used these cute minis- thank you for the Christmas present 'Tanette!) and pre-bake at 325 for 7 minutes.

Cheesecake Filling
8oz whipped cream cheese
1/4c sugar
1/2tsp lemon juice
few drops vanilla
1 egg

Combine until smooth and spoon evenly into the pre-baked crusts. Continue to bake at 325 for roughly 25 minutes and allow to cool.

My favorite vanilla ice cream recipe is 2c heavy cream, 1c whole milk, 3/4c white sugar and 1T good vanilla extract. It requires no cooking, so it is very easy in a time crunch and tastes great; I love to make it when I have company for dessert because it is scoop-able directly from the freezer due to the high fat content. However, this staple recipe does not hold up as well as traditional custards when faced with mix-ins.

Custard Recipe
3 egg yolks
3/4c white sugar
1c whole milk
2c heavy cream
1T vanilla extract

Keep the heat very low while the custard thickens! If the mixture boils the egg will cook and separate... yuck. Patience :)

I tried to snap a photo of the thickened custard, but lighting wasn't quite right... It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and maintain form. Cool the custard and freeze according to your ice cream machine's instructions.

Blueberry Swirl
1c fresh blueberries
2T water
1T sugar

Cover and slowly cook the blueberries down into a thick syrup. Mash!

Roughly break up the cooled cheesecakes. Gently fold the pieces and cooled blueberry syrup into the frozen custard; freeze and enjoy!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Baby Quilt for Sava

My latest sewing project was quilt for a friend and her new baby, Sava. As with numerous projects before, I set somewhat unrealistic expectations for myself for the deadline. I decided to make the quilt about a week before I was supposed to meet the new baby; at the time, a week seemed sufficient for a simple hand-made quilt. I had not accounted for the numerous distractions that would put off my visit to the fabric store, and when I finally made it with only 3 days on the clock a minor case of baby quilt mania set in. I had to have this color... and this texture... this design is nice... oh, I should add some personalized embroidery... so many threads... which embroidery ring?... which hand-quilting thread should I use?!?

2 hours and a very large bag later, I was ready to roll. Or stitch.

I had noticed dragonflies decorating the baby's room, so I decided to go with a hand embroidered one in the center of the quilt. This is how it looked after 4 hours :)

2 days to go, and all I had was cut fabric and part of a dragonfly. Oh my.

By day 2, my living room was feeling the heat.

After work the next day, I was ready to go again! Beau helped me to choose these colors from the decorations in Sava's room.

Frozen yogurt surprise from Beau gave me the boost I needed! :)

Sewing these pinwheels was one of the worst experiences in my life. Under the fluorescent lights of luring fabric stores these shiny blends might seem a good idea, but I do not recommend using this delicate material for something so small. Each small triangle had a base of about 2 inches, and each time I used my machine to sew the pieces they would shred to bits. Full of coffee and tiny embroidery pinpricks, I was ready to figuratively shoot myself in the face. Proceed with caution.

Although I faced some difficulty with the decorative pinwheels, I learned to be happy with their whimsical lopsidedness :) Only a few more hours until we leave!
Beau is Sava's uncle, and he helped me to write out her name in Cyrillic to embroider.

I added in some reds and burnt orange to the center embroidery to spread color in layers through the quilt.

I don't have any photographs from the next several hours because, well, it was a rough night. I stayed awake through all of it eating homemade dal and drinking red bull while I finished the embroidery, assembled the layers, basted, binded, and began to quilt (I finished the hand quilting on the drive).
I used a patterned flannel backing (which doubles as the binding) and thin bamboo/cotton blend batting. I chose bamboo as it is a naturally antibacterial fiber, earth-friendly, has a low 2-3% shrinkage and can be quilted up to 8 inches. Tying is my quilting method of choice, and used a soft gold thread for the knots.

Although I was exhausted, every ounce of effort paid off when I got hours of new baby snuggles!

Congratulations to the happy family, and welcome to the world baby Sava!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Prazan Burek: Attempt One


I have recently been faced with a unique challenge: bake a foreign pastry for which I have no recipe and have never tasted. Burek comes in many varieties with a plethora of fillings, flavors, and techniques (plain, meat, cheese, layered, rolled). My goal is to make an acceptable Serbian burek; for my first real attempt, I chose prazan burek, or empty burek.

After trying (and failing) to find an acceptable recipe written in English, I decided to wing it and make my own. Here’s a video of the pro’s…


I made a basic homemade filo with

4c AP Flour
1c warm water
1.5tsp salt
1.5 c Butter (melted)

In order to make transparently-thin layers of dough, the dough has to be continually worked and stretched to form gluten. Mix all of the ingredients except the butter and knead.

While you get an extensive hand workout, melt the butter.

Knead in about 4 tablespoons of butter.

This whole process took a Really Long Time. I set up shop on my porch and listened to an audiobook for entertainment :)

Work the oiled dough into balls (I believe I ended up using 12?) and let the dough rest.

Brush the dough with more butter...

I couldn't photograph the next part- I was covered in flour and oil- but you can get the general idea from the video above :)

Make sure the work surface is well buttered and brush each layer with more butter throughout the process. (Don't be stingy with the butter- it is necessary! I only used about 1.5 of the 3 sticks, and the result was too dry)
How does it look?
Ah, I have never been so proud of transparency!

While this wasn't quite what I would imagine to find in Serbia, it was a tasty first attempt! We ate it in thick slices with kefir.

Excited for attempt two! I plan to use more liquid (my first burek was somewhat dry) and change the time in the oven. Doviđenja! :)