Chocolate Ginger Cake w/ Bourbon Butter Caramel Sauce

Back in October we went to my favorite restaurant for dinner and the dessert of the week was a chocolate ginger cake. One bite and I had to try to replicate it, it tasted like Christmas. Yes, I realize this is late for a Christmas cake, but it’s also an ideal winter cake.  The cake has a thick, fudgy texture that feels sinful to eat. What really makes this cake sing though is the bourbon caramel sauce. Serve it warm with some toasted pecans and crème fraîche and you have a highly complex, impressive dessert that is decadent and leaves you wanting more (usually because the person next to you kept stealing bites). This dessert will ruin your New Years diet resolution, so I am sorry.

The great thing about this recipe is it’s a one pot wonder. The bundt pan I used was a gift for my birthday, and gave an amazing look to the cake. I have mentioned before about the trick to use dark pans vs light pans is to turn down the oven slightly by with a darker pan to avoid an over cooked outside with a undercooked interior. So keep that in mind when making this cake the temperature will go down 25°F if you will be using a dark aluminum pan.

The caramel is a basic butter caramel I have made before with some adjustments to make it dark and rich with the amazing flavor of the added bourbon. The leftover caramel sauce can (should) be saved in a sealed container in the refrigerator, because it is simply amazing on ice cream. Give this a try for your next party, or just to warm and spice up a cold winter dinner, you will not be disappointed.

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Coconut and Lime Macarons

A crack of the knuckles, a light breath to blow dust off the keyboard, and sitting down at my computer with purpose again. Remember to enjoy the little things. Oh blog, how I missed you. I want to apologize to you friends for the lack of updates since holidays began. Interestingly enough it is when most blogs show the highest number of post but when you work two jobs in retail, then take a vacation to visit family your time for cooking gets shorter. Many days I would get home at 11pm, go to bed and start the day over at 8am – 11pm again. I know, I did it to myself so only I am to blame, but it was nice to have the extra money, and work at a job that I cannot even express how much I enjoy it compared to the other.  Okay, enough about me and my weirdness enjoying a busy holiday season at the country’s biggest shopping mall.

On to the real matter at hand, food. Well with me it’s more sweets and desserts, but you know that by now. I have had this combination on my list since my first batch of macarons came out all lovely and puffy. At the local market I seen these lims that were the size of a large lemon and they smelled fantastic. Then what is in a basket on the end cap? A bag of organic shredded coconut which was on sale. I knew it had to be so I picked up both and went home on a mission.

It took mostly visual tweaks to get what I was looking for from these cookies. The first batch I used just the green color and it looked like the color teal from a bad prom dress in the 90’s. They tasted amazing but when the look doesn’t match the flavor it throws the mind off a bit. In that first batch I also learned that if you are going to put anything on the top of the macaron to decorate, make sure the cap is set. Meaning, it isn’t tacky to the touch.  When baked it will help form the dome but it also helps anything added to the top of the cookie from sinking into it. I am here to make the mistakes for you and trust me, many are made.

The green shells were finally achieved by following the basic shell recipe from an earlier post. Then adding to whipped egg whites;  3 drops of the forest green food coloring gel and one drop of chocolate brown food coloring gel, both from from AmeriColor. It got me the perfect green color I was looking for to represent a lime. After matching up the shells to as close as possible matching sizes. On one side I piped a ring of the Swiss buttercream frosting just around the inside edge leaving a hole in the middle. Once all the pairs had one side with the ring of buttercream, time to fill in the hole with lime curd.

You can have the curd in a squeeze bottle or a piping bag, I used both and they worked well, just add a little bit of the lime curd to the center hole of each cookie half inside the buttercream ring. Gently place on the matching half and refrigerate in a sealed container for up to two weeks. Just let them sit for 5 minutes before eating to come up in temperature. The shells will stay firm but soft and not dry and crumbly, like you might find in a late afternoon visit to the local pastry shop.

These coconut and lime macarons were shared at a dinner party with some friends as an after dinner treat. The host is not a fan of sweets that don’t involve chocolate, but for him to make a comment about how just amazing these were in the complexity of textures and flavors had me blushing. The light and not overly sweet Swiss buttercream with the tang of the lime curd balanced out with the sweet crunchy shells perfectly into an almost addicting combination. So of course I had to share it with you my friends. I hope you all had a lovely holiday season and I wish you the best this coming new year. You will see more of me in 2012, with new recipes and of course more macarons!

Coconut and Lime Curd Macarons
Makes 20-25 Macarons

Lime Curd

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • juice of one lime, large (or two small)
  • zest of one lime, large (or two small)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 egg yolks (save the whites for your macaron shell recipe)

In a small sauce pan over medium heat combine the butter, sugar, lime zest, lime juice, and salt, whisk to combine.  Add in one yolk at a time until combined. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes until thick like a heavy sauce.  Pour into a bowl and place cling film over the top resting on the curd to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate over night to 1 week.

Basic Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Freeze any unused buttercream in individual containers with 1-1.5 cups in each container. This way you have buttercream at the ready for your next macaron or cupcake craving.

Macaron Shells

Following the recipe from a previous post, after the shells are not tacky to the touch sprinkle generously with flaked coconut and bake as normal. The coconut will toast lightly and add lovely flavor and texture to the cookies.

Amazing Brown Butter Brownies

I made these again this weekend and they turned out so good I thought I should give this recipe a bump and a new picture. I didn’t change anything with the recipe and they turned out better than ever. So read on and enjoy!

(Originally posted March 11th, 2011)

It’s friday, the weekend is here. I got a lovely dozen white roses yesterday from my husband to cheer me up after the past quite stressful and emotional two weeks. It worked, they look amazing. So, to do something equally nice I decided to make him brownies. I know they are his favorite and bring back memories of the very first thing I ever made for him. When we first moved in together 9 years ago, he was working nights, and I knew when he got home in the early morning he would go to his computer to play a few turns on a game and stay up for a few hours. To surprise him I made a batch of brownies and left them on his desk. Of course, they were received with much delight. Until that day I had never made brownies from scratch – they were always from a box. Since that day I refuse to make brownies from a box again.

I have never made brownies using this technique but I am sure they will be received with just as much joy and welcome as the first time I made him brownies. Browning the butter adds a nutty toffee element to the brownies, and adding in the espresso powder just enhances the chocolate flavor. The crunchy top, and fudge like center make this by far the best damn brownie I have had in my life, and that is not an exaggeration. My suggestion, make them when you will not be alone with them for hours. This recipe does require quite a bit of arm strength and at a few points things might not look right but trust me, in the end the work for these is worth it! Chocoholics beware.. this will take a lot of will power to resist consuming the entire pan.

Brown Butter Brownies

  • 10 tbsp Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/4 c Sugar
  • 3/4 c Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp Espresso Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 2 tbsp Water
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Paste or Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/3 c + 1 tbsp Unbleached Flour
  • 1 c Walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Using a Flour Baking spray, lightly spray a 8x8x2 Square Pan. Set aside.  In a small bowl combine, sugar, cocoa, salt, espresso powder and whisk to combine and set aside. In a small cup or bowl combine the eggs, water, and vanilla.  Whisk together to combine and set egg mixture aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat melt the butter.  When it starts to foam, stir it slowly for 2-4 min until you see the little brown bits of butter forming in the bottom of the pan.  Remove pan from heat.

Add in the cocoa and sugar mixture and stir till combined, it will look and appear gritty, this is ok. Let mixture cool for 5 min.

After you have let the mixture cool for the 5 min add in half of the egg mixture. Quickly mixing until well combined.   Add in the remaining egg mixture and stir till well combined, it will get thick and may look a bit smoother now.

Once the egg mixture is well combined add in the flour.  Stir vigorously stir for 20 strokes, scraping down the sides of the pan after the 20 strokes to combine into the rest of the batter.  The mixture will be thick and slowly become smoother.  Stir vigorously stir for another 20 strokes, scraping down the sides of the pan afterward to combine into the rest of the batter.  Your mixture should now become glossy and smooth. Stir vigorously for another 20 strokes (totaling 60), again scraping down the sides of the pan afterward like you have been doing.  Do not mix any more than this.  At this point you can stir in the nuts in no more than 5 strokes, or just turn the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25-30 min until a toothpick inserted into center comes out nearly clean.  It should still have some crumbs and look slightly like fudge,  but it should not look runny like batter.  If you see batter cook for 3 more min and test again.

Cool completely before cutting/serving. Due to soft fudge nature of the cake it must cool completely, about 2-3 hours.

Adapted: Bon Appetit

Blackberry Macarons

The macaron madness continues.  I adore how they fit any flavor combination you can possibly think of.  I already have two pages in my notebook filled with combinations to try.  This round I went with a basic macaron with a blackberry buttercream.  I had some blackberry compote in the freezer left over from the orange blossom cheesecake.  This filling fits macarons perfectly, it isn’t overly sweet and has the perfect ratio of acidity vs sweetness.  Did I say they taste amazing yet?  This is so far my favoriate combination, but I am sure I will say that again soon.

I hope you get a chance to give macarons a try in your kitchen. If you do, my previous post has some of my own tips that helped me. I hope they will help you as well, so good luck!

Basic Macaron Shells
Makes 30 Cookies

Shells

  • 115g Blanched Slivered Almonds or Almond Meal/Flour
  • 200g Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 100g Aged Egg Whites (3 egg whites), room temperature
  • 20g Sugar
  • 2 drops Violet Gel Food Coloring

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.  If you only have two cookie sheets, place one on a wire rack to create a flat surface.  This is so you can double up the cookie sheets for baking the shells.  If using parchment paper a great trick for if you’re new to macarons is to draw out circles using the base of the piping tip to create a guide for me while piping.  With a pencil and the Adeco #804 tip create circles in a 5×8 pattern on one side of each sheet of parchment.   When you have made your circle guide on one side, flip it over so you don’t accidentally pipe the mixture onto the pencil drawings.

Grind the almonds and confectioner’s sugar in a food processor.  Grind for 2-3 minutes until fine and like sand in texture.  Sift 2-3 times to lighten the dry mixture. Reprocess as needed to get out all of the big pieces of almonds ground down, and lumps out of the sugar.  You are looking for the consistency of sand.

In a bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl with a hand mixer (I found a hand mixer more successful).  Whisk the egg whites until a foam tarts to foam, it should have a slight tinge of the color of the egg whites in the folds of the ribbons.  Slowly add in the sugar while mixing and whisk until a medium stiff peak forms. Add in two drops of food coloring gel. Continue to whisk, as soon as you can hold the bowl upside down over your head with out it falling out, the eggs are done.

Sift half of the dry mixture onto the egg whites, and mix in to lighten.  Sift in the remaining dry mixture, and begin to gently fold in.  Once mostly combined, tip the bowl at a 45° angle.  Spread the mixture out on 1/3 of the side surface of the bowl, sweep under and fold it over on it self.  Repeat this process 10-12 times.  When you reach the 10th time, stop and lift up a spatula full of the mixture if it forms thick ribbons, watch the mixture and count to 10.  It should absorb into the rest of the mixture with only slight indication of edges, your mixture it done.  It should just very slowly settle on itself.

Pour mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round tip.  I used Adeco #804.  Pipe out following your guide pattern (make sure the side with the pencil lead is facing down onto your prepared cookie sheet). Gently tap the bottom of your sheet twice to remove air bubbles, and let it set out to dry to form a shell.  What you’re looking for is it to not feel tacky.  This can be 15 minutes to an hour depending on the heat and humidity in your kitchen.

Bake at 300°F for 18 minutes.

Once finished baking if you are using parchment let cool for 10 minutes then transfer the top tray to refrigerator to cool.  When they are completely cool it will turn off of the parchment quiet easily.  If you are using a silpat you can let sit out to cool until you can easily remove from the silpat.

Once the shells turn over easily without sticking transfer to a wire rack, and prepare your next batch with the two cookie sheets by doubling them up and sliding the parchment or silpat with shells onto the top sheet.  Follow the same baking temperature and time, repeating the cooling process as well to remove the shells from the parchment.

Pair up the shells of the same size and flip bottom up to let cool completely before adding in filling.

Refrigerate in a sealed container for a week.  Let come up in temperature slightly before eating for best texture / taste.

Blackberry Buttercream

  • 3 Egg Yolks
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Water
  • 3 sticks Butter (24 tbsp), room temperature
  • 1/4c Blackberry Compote

In the bowl of your stand mixer whip the egg yolks with a pinch of salt.  Whisk until tripled in volume, and a pale yellow in color.  Meanwhile, place a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat with the sugar and water.  Bring it up to 245°F

While whisking the eggs on medium speed, slowly pour in the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream. Once all the sugar is incorporated, whisk on high until cool, about 10 minutes.

Once the egg and sugar mixture is cool, still at medium speed, add in the butter in small chunks of 2 tbsp.  Once all the butter is incorporated slowly add in the blackberry compote, and whisk until smooth. Add more confectioner’s sugar if you want more sweetness, then whisk until smooth.

Place into a piping bag fitted with a round tip.  I used an Adeco #809 tip.  Pipe the frosting onto half the paired macaron shells.  Once you have completed piping all the halves, place on the tops.  Store in the refrigerator sealed 7-10 days, bring close to room temperature before eating.

Macarons very slightly modified: Tartelette // Buttercream inspired by: MasterChef Australia


Chocolate Macarons with Coffee Buttercream

I now understand the term macaron madness.  I cannot believe how much fun I am having making these things!  Honestly, I don’t need this many macarons in the house and I wish all of you could show up just to take some away.  They are just too hard to resist eating.

For this batch of macarons, I wanted to come up with a filling that would require egg yolks.  I was left with three for every batch of macarons and would rather not waste them.  So, I took some inspiration from my favorite cooking show,  Masterchef Australia (link at the bottom). This version of buttercream uses egg yolks – yay no waste! – and it’s very smooth which complements the cocoa shells wonderfully.  I decided to add half of the espresso powder in the buttercream near the end give an almost crunchy texture to the cream with tiny bursts of coffee flavor to wash away the sweetness of the macaron. I don’t think it could have turned out any better.

Macarons are the bane and bliss of many food bloggers.  I have been semi-successful before but that was nearly a year ago.  I wanted to make them again as an alternative to my birthday cake. The problem was, my old recipe wasn’t working for me.  I wasn’t getting any pied or feet, I blame the new oven I got in the spring.   I gave up for a while until I read Tartelettes ebook, Demystifying Macarons.  When you want to make macarons, Tartelette is a pretty reliable go-to.  I had multiple success now with her recipe and technique by mixing it with some other little tips and tricks that worked for me.

Remember when you were told as a kid, “practice makes perfect”?  Well, Parisian macarons fall along those lines.  I cannot explain well enough in words what the mixture should be like.  Where to be gentle, where to just stir with some vigor, and the exact texture.  I will tell you I have found that adding cocoa powder produces a chewier cookie, and takes less folds than the basic macaron recipe does.  So, it’s just working with the basic recipe enough times to gain a feel for it, to know when you are at the right constancy.  If you decide to go down this road of trial and error, I promise to send you happy pastry thoughts.

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Pumpkin Scones

Oh yes my friends it is that time of year when the spicy warmth of pumpkin is everywhere.   Like a large portion of the population I love Starbucks, what I don’t always love is the prices of baked goods. For the price of two you can buy enough ingredients to make a weeks worth for two people. This is where my search began.

Trolling around the internet like I do, I wanted to find a recipe similar to Starbucks Pumpkin Scones. I found one that had rave reviews and from a tried and trusted blogger  Sweet Pea’s Kitchen.  The recipes we have tried from her before were a great success.  I knew these scones would be too.  It was a complete success with just very slight changes, due to spices I had on hand.

My husband is the scone maker in our home, but I wanted to surprise him with these.  I knew from the little tips he has told me how to make them turn out successful.  It really is just as simple as not touching the mixture with your hands, and making sure you combine the wet/dry ingredients until just barely combined.  If you over work the mixture the scones come out too cake like, and not brittle like a true scone.

It comes together quickly, and this recipe takes including cooking time less then 30 minutes.  The hardest part is waiting for them to cool before you dive in.  My husband was taunted by the smell of them cooking and picked a hot one off the tray when it came out.  Good sign of a successful recipe.

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Orange Blossom Cheesecake with Pomegranate & Blackberry Compote

I got inspired to make this when I saw it while browsing on a food app on my iPhone.  I have been looking for reasons to use my orange blossom water. I know that I could have just used some orange juice or zest and got an orange flavor, but I love the light floral notes in orange blossom water. It is easily found at any Middle Eastern market store, and it lasts forever if refrigerated. Pomegranate fruit is just fun and messy as can be, but it’s worth the work for that crunchy tart flavor. Blackberries remind me of my childhood home.  We had wild blackberry bushes all over the property that we used to just stop and eat when we got hungry while playing outside. With three of some of my favorite ingredients in this one dessert, I could not wait to make it.

You can take a typical cheesecake to a new level by adding in the orange blossom water. The flavor is amazing and subtle.  You can even substitute the orange blossom water for lemon juice and you could have a great basic cheesecake recipe.  The compote is tart and flavorful.  The leftovers are fantastic as a syrup over waffles or pancakes.  Maybe even ice cream?  The possibilities are up to you.

Seeding a pomegranate is not as troublesome as you might think. It is as simple as filling a bowl with cold water, cutting your fruit into quarters, and working it in the water prevents the juice from squirting everywhere, also easily sorts out the seeds from the skin.  The seeds sink to the bottom of your water bowl, and the skin floats.  Here is a great video on how to seed a pomegranate the way I am trying to describe.   Much easier than you might think, over all it produces a flavor that the bottle juice cannot match.

There are a few tips I have picked up to help prevent large cracks in your cheesecakes.  Watch the temperature of the cake is a big one, but to me not as big as greasing the sides of the spring-form pan before you add in the filling.  Also can always add a bit of cornstarch to the recipe to help stabilize the egg proteins.  I like to use all three methods with this specific cheesecake recipe, which is my favorite to go to.

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