Monday, December 28, 2009

Lemon Poppyseed Cake with Toasted Almonds

(the inside looked pretty good at least!)

I know better than to frost a cake without chilling it long enough, especially when I plan to frost it with cream cheese frosting... especially when that frosting hasn't chilled long enough... but life gets in the way, and I do things that I shouldn't.  In the grand scheme of things, frosting a cake too early isn't really so bad on the list of things that I could do but should not, right?  It does, however, result in a leaning tower of cake which makes me panic and scramble to see what I can do to make it look a little better.  I made this cake right before Thanksgiving, and thought seriously about not sharing it with you since it's not the prettiest cake on the block, but it's so yummy that not sharing the recipe would just add to the list of things I did wrong here.

Seriously, cream cheese frosting is slippery!  These cake layers are rather large.  Not a good combination unless both cake and frosting are nice and chill(ed).

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Winner

And the winner is.... Topher, who's inspired to cook for his family at the holidays.  Happy baking Topher, I'll send you an email to get your address.  Meanwhile, I really encourage everyone to read My Life in France, and if that's not enough Julia for you, the Julie and Julia dvd is out now too!

Happy holiday baking!!

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Buche de Noel (Holiday Yule Log) and Meringue Mushrooms

These meringue mushrooms might just be the cutest little treat I've ever made!  I'll be making them again and again - they were definitely easier than I'd anticipated.

If you don't have time for the full Buche de Noel, make just the meringue mushrooms (the kids will love them), or just the cake without all the fixin's (you can do just the roulade without shaping it into a yule log and without mushrooms or other decorations; it still looks elegant).

There are some great videos on the Food Network site of Malgieri rolling up the cake and making the marzipan decorations (I ran out of time for the marzipan).  I strongly recommend watching them, at least the one where he rolls up the cake!

And remember, leave a post by tomorrow night on the Chocolate Bombes post for a chance to win Julia Child's book, My Life in France.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Chocolate Meringue Kisses

I love the holidays!  Carols and trees and parties and holiday cartoon specials (does anyone remember The Night Before Christmas, where the smart kid mouse writes Santa an angry letter and Santa decides not to visit their town until the clock maker builds a great big clock to sing a song to Santa on Christmas Eve, except that the smart kid mouse investigates the clock, and breaks something, and the whole things goes kaput.... kapluey!  Love that one, but almost no one knows it.)  Last weekend I got the most beautiful Christmas tree, during the first snow of the season... it was definitely one of those magical holiday moments.

The only thing I don't love about the holidays is the overwhelming amount of rich unhealthy food staring me down and the lack of extra time I have to spend at the gym.  I do have a major sweet tooth, but this time of year when there are truffles and toffee and cakes and cheesecakes around every corner, I start to crave fresh fruit and vegetables - even more than normal.  Now, broccoli doesn't make the best choice for your holiday cookie platter, but these chocolate meringue kisses do provide a lighter option (as long as you don't down 10-20 at a pop).  They're yummy with just a dusting of powdered sugar or cocoa powder, but the chocolate sauce definitely dresses them up a little.

And don't forget:  enter the giveaway for a free copy of Julia Child's My Life in France by leaving a comment on the Chocolate Bombes post by Monday night, December 21st.

My first real tree! (not at my mom's house)

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chocolate Bombes and A Giveaway

 Ed wanted chocolate bombes for his birthday, and this is what we came up with.  I'm warning you, this is an intense dessert.  One hemisphere is plenty, and the whipped cream really helps to cut the heavy chocolate.  It's a chocolate meringue hemispherical shell, filled with dark chocolate mousse, sealed with a chocolate meringue disk, enrobed in a milk chocolate glaze.  I think next time I'd do a milk chocolate mousse with a semisweet chocolate glaze to cut down the intensity just a bit.

There are a few components for these chocolate bombes, but you can easily spread the work over a few days if necessary.  And they were great!  If you need a little pep talk first before attempting something a little more complicated, then I highly recommend Julia Child's book, My Life in France.  I read it a month or so ago, and it was truly inspirational.  Julia was in her late 30's when she began taking culinary classes at the Cordon Bleu in France; she was almost 50 when her masterpiece Mastering the Art of French Cooking was finally published after 10 years of hard work.  She was  meticulous in her research and with her recipes, really makes you believe that you can do anything with enough practice.

This book meant so much to me that I really want you to read it too (plus I really want to meet some of you, my stats counter keeps telling me you're really out there, now's your chance to prove it!).  So I'm giving away a brand new copy!  I hope that reading about her experiences inspires you too, or at least gets you in the kitchen.  Just leave a comment below between now and Monday December 21st at 11:59pm EST, and tell me what inspires you these days - in the kitchen, at work, or maybe just in your daydreams...  (sorry, only open to North American residents.)  Tweet about the giveaway and leave a link in the comments for a second entry.  Or leave a comment on a previous blog post for another entry.

You'll need hemisphere molds to make the bombes as pictured.  I have these.  If you don't have molds, you could try making meringue/mousse stacks or sandwiches (make the meringue disks as indicated, and pipe layers of mousse between meringue disks; glaze).

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Preview....

No time for a recipe yet, but here's a preview of what's to come - chocolate bombes for Ed's birthday... Check back in the next few days for a recipe and a giveaway!

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

It's good fashion sense to own a few quality pieces. You can put them together to create lots of great outfits.  I feel the same way about food.  This chocolate mousse and chocolate cake (almost closer to a brownie than a cake really) should be staples in your recipe box.  The possibilities are endless.  I use the same cake for the base of my Coffee Nutella Cheesecake, and my chocolate peanut butter stacks.
I've used this mousse in chocolate mousse pie, as a filling in a chocolate mousse cake, and as a filling for cupcakes.

This particular combination of mousse and cake is definitely a winner.  It can be made ahead of time, it's very elegant, and it is fantastically delicious.  I've made the 10" version shown here for a crowd.  I've made a 4" version several times for a very large individual birthday cake, and I've also made 2" individuals.  I don't have 4" or 2" spring form pans.  I use a 4" cake pan to make the cake (fill the batter up about half way).  Once the cake is cool, make a parchment paper collar, about 4" - 6" above the cake (tape the parchment paper securely so the parchment paper remains vertical.  Fill the collar with mousse layers as you would the spring form pan; after chilling, remove the parchment paper, and top with chocolate shavings.  This is a great dessert to impress.

10" Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake:  Serves 16-20

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Chocolate Swirl and Crust

I know, I know, what's with all the pumpkin recipes?  I don't know, I'm on a pumpkin kick apparently.  I didn't realize I was even that big a fan of pumpkin!  But this dessert will be great for any holiday parties in your future. It's delicious and elegant, and cheesecakes always impress people for some reason.

I always thought cheesecakes were hard to make - before I made one, that is.  Turns out, they're not!  Well, yeah, there's the whole cracking issue, but there are things you can do to avoid cracks, and the cheesecake still tastes great with the crack.  And other than that, a cheesecake is usually a lot quicker to make than, say, a layer cake or a complicated pastry.  The other great thing is that cheesecake is so rich, one cheesecake feeds a crowd.  And you can make them 1-2 days ahead of time.  I almost always include cheesecake at all my dessert parties.  And there are so many options for flavors, crusts, and toppings, it's a great opportunity to be creative!

In January, I'm teaching a baking course for winter study.  They're letting me use the college bakeshop!  I'm totally excited, but I've never baked with commercial equipment before, so I'll be doing a lot of practicing with all the equipment in the next month.  Did you know there was such a thing as a walk in oven??  Scary.  I baked this cheesecake in one of the convection ovens there, which I'd never used before, and I didn't lower the temperature enough to compensate, so there's a crack in this one.  I had planned on piping some chocolate ganache rosettes around the edge to hide it, but I ran out of time.  Hey, the chocolate swirl hides it a little anyway! 

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