Friday, April 05, 2013

Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting and Pecan Praline

I recently offered to make a birthday cake for a friend. A quick poll of his favourite things steered me towards chocolate, salted caramel, pecans. This is sweet, rich and decadent, so if you aren't a dessert person, I would steer clear - I managed half a slice before giving up while my husband ate two slices at a time.

The base for this cake is the Silver Palate Cookbook Chocolate Decadence Cake

1 cup boiling water
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
½ cup butter (1 stick)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cup granulated white sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups less 2 Tbsp. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350°.
Spray 3 -  9 inch cake pans with no-stick spray, then flour. Knock out the excess flour and set aside.
In a large heatproof bowl, pour the boiling water over the chocolate and butter. Let the mixture stand until melted.
Stir in the vanilla and sugar, then whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, until blended.
Mix the baking soda and the sour cream in a small bowl, and then whisk into the chocolate mixture.
Whisk the flour and baking powder in a small bowl, and then add to the chocolate mixture, mixing thoroughly.
Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Stir a quarter of the egg whites into the batter.
Scoop the remaining egg whites on top of the batter and gently fold them in until the batter is almost uniform in color.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the edges have pulled away from the pan and the cake tester inserted comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes; unmold and cool completely before frosting.

The Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting recipe came from the blog Baked Bree.
 I used Maldon salt because I like the crunch on the cake.

The pecan praline recipe was super simple and pretty much taken from - made slight modifications for my purposes


2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 cups pecan pieces and halves
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons chilled butter, cut in pieces
1 teaspoon coarse salt


Combine sugar and milk in a 2-quart saucepan; heat to boiling stirring constantly. Cook until mixture reaches soft ball consistency (235°).Remove from heat; stir in pecans, vanilla, and butter. Immediately pour onto a non stick surface (I used a cookie sheet lined with foil and sprayed with nonstick). Sprinkle with salt and allow to cool.

I am not sure if pecan praline is supposed to turn out this way. but mine was a creamy, slightly crumbly texture. I loved it!

I also made candied pecans for coating the outside of the cake - I don't really have a recipe, its just sugar brought to caramel stage, nuts stirred in, spread on a nonstick surface and salted. Once cooled and crunchy, I chopped them fine.

Okay, all the components are accounted for - assembly time!

I used a springform pan to help build the structure of the cake - one that is the exact size of my cake rounds. I cut any domed sections off the cake rounds so that I had 3 perfectly flat discs. After I popped the first round in the pan, I spread a thin layer of frosting, then topped it off with a good handful of crumbled praline. I then added more cream cheese frosting to level out the layer. I repeated this step with the next layer and finished with the final cake round. It went into the fridge to chill overnight.
The next day, I released the cake from the springform pan and transferred it to a good solid cake board. After slathering it with cream cheese frosting, I carefully pressed chopped candied pecans into the side of the cake.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

"Egg" Nog - Vegan Style Taste-Off

I have been lightening up my intake of meat and meat related products the last couple months. No, I am not going completely meat free - a girl's got to have her bacon once in a while - but I am feeling fabulous thanks to the lifestyle change.

I have a festive weak spot for eggnog and I thought it would be fun to create a a vegan version. Luckily, I am not the first person to think of this, so all the recipe development has been done. I just had to try a couple recipes to see which is my favourite.

Recipe 1 is from a website called Choosing Raw

I made my own almond milk for this recipe, and doubled the alcohol. Also, I reduced the agave syrup by half because I don't like things too sweet.

Five Minute High Raw, Vegan Eggnog

Recipe 2 is from Post Punk Kitchen

Again, I made my own almond milk.

Matrioshka Eggnog


Recipe 1 was a lighter texture and I really loved the flavour. My husband said it wasn't quite creamy enough for his tastes, but that it was delicious "for a vegan drink". I liked it because it wasn't as creamy as full fat eggnog.

Recipe 2 was the best replication of eggnog texture-wise. It was also Rob's favourite. I did enjoy it, but it was a one-drink kind of beverage (too rich for more than one.) I'll probably keep this recipe and may tweak a little here or there for personal taste.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Acorn Squash stuffed with Saag Paneer and Quinoa

I recently stuffed acorn squash with mushrooms and quinoa and I wanted something similar but different for dinner. I also had a truckload of greens to work through and a hankering for curry.
 These make a great one dish meal, but not a great picture...

Saag Paneer meet Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa. Now go forth and multiply....

 Acorn Squash stuffed with Saag Paneer and Quinoa 

 2 small acorn squash, cut in half, seeds scooped out
1 onion, minced
2 chili peppers, chopped
1 tsp garlic pureed
1 tsp ginger, pureed
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 bunches greens (I used rapini), finely chopped
3/4 cup quinoa
3 cups water
1/2 lb paneer. cut into small cubes (tofu would work okay, but wouldn't be the same)
turmeric and salt for dusting.

 Preheat oven to 350F
 Place squash cut side down on a bake sheet and roast until almost tender.

 Sweat the onion, garlic and ginger in cooking fat of your choice (I used a little grapeseed oil - ghee would be more authentic). Soft and sweet is the desired result. Add spices and greens stems, cook for a minute or two, then stir in tomato paste, finely chopped greens and quinoa. Make sure everything is well combine, add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil turn down the heat and let it simmer covered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
 Meanwhile, dust the cubed paneer with a little turmeric and salt and sear in a hot pan with a little oil to firm a crisp golden brown crust.
 Once stuffing is finished cooking, check seasoning and fold in paneer cubes. Spoon into cooked squash halves and bake, covered with foil for 15 minutes. Uncover, pop back in the oven for 10 minutes. Serve.

I had a little yogurt on the side to help cool the spiciness down and it was perfect.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Chocolate Cranberry Walnut Cookies

This is my favourite cookie recipe. I change up the filling all the time, but the bare bones remain essentially unchanged.
The original inspiration for this recipe comes from Anna Olson's Sugar. I first posted the original version of this recipe in 2005 - link here.
As you can see, it has changed a little since then.

 Just a note: there is so much good stuff in these cookies, they will *just* hold together as you scoop. Don't worry, once they are baked, they are fine. And, yes, I really do use 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.
Chocolate Chip Cranberry Walnut Cookies
Servings 24
 3/4 cup unsalted butter -- softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1.Preheat oven to 350 F (175C).
2.Cream together butter and sugars until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and blend in.
3.Stir in flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt.
4.Stir in chocolate chunks, walnuts and dried cranberries.
5. Scoop tablespoons of batter for each cookie(I actually use a portion scoop)onto a baking sheet, lightly press down and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. These really don't spread very much.
6.Let cool slightly and enjoy.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Kale with Peanuts, Coconut and Cilantro

What I know about Indian food would fit on the head of a pin. I know I love the flavours but when it comes to classic dishes I am at a loss.
Kale is one of my favorite greens and as a bonus, it's insanely good for you. Kale is loaded with fiber, calcium, iron and Vitamin C to name just a few of its magical properties.

This dish was inspired by peanut coconut chutney recipes that I found. My guest and my husband deemed it delicious. It was served with a Spicy Eggplant Curry, rice, roti and raita.

Kale with Peanuts, Coconut and Cilantro
Serves 6-8
1 cup toasted peanuts
1 cup young coconut*
1 bunch cilantro
1 green chili
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
6 cups chopped kale leaves

Purée peanuts, coconut, cilantro, salt and chili until smooth. Add water as needed.
Steam kale leaves until just cooked- I use a large non stick wok with a little splash of water and a lid. Once the kale is cooked, stir in the peanut sauce and any water needed to reach a good saucy consistency. Simmer for a few minutes to allow the flavours to develop.
* I found young coconut in the freezer at a local grocery store but I have successfully substituted regular coconut soaked in hot water for 15 minutes.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Ridiculous Chocolate Tart

My husband has an insane sweet tooth and is always pestering me to make him dessert.I finally relented last week - I figured we needed some chocolate solace after losing Aggie. I turned o one of the few cookbooks I have cooked more than 50% of the recipes. The cookbook is called Fresh and I was given it as a gift years ago by my old bosses. It was my cookbook before I went to culinary school and tackled many of the (simple) recipes in it while exploring new flavours and cooking techniques.

 This chocolate tart is so easy it almost feels illegal, but it is important to use really good chocolate for this - as the main ingredient, it will be all that you taste. As I was writing this, I Googled to see if the recipe is posted anywhere. It is.... on my blog. How embarrassing.... Oh well, five years later, it is still damn good.
 PS. Miss you Trevor!

Berry Chocolate Tart

4 teaspoons jam
1 prebaked chocolate tart case -- recipe follows
160 grams unsalted butter
200 grams dark chocolate
3 egg yolks
2 eggs
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spoon the jam into the base of the tart case and put it in the oven for 2 minutes. Remove the tart case and brush the jam over the base until it is glazed all over.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a saucepan over low heat. Beat the yolks, eggs and sugar until they are light and fluffy. Pour the melted chocolate and Grand Marnier into the eggs and continue to beat for a minute.

Pour the chocolate filling into the tart case and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Allow to sit for at least two hours before serving.

Chocolate Tart Case

160 grams unsalted butter
185 grams all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Put all ingredients in a food processor and whiz to form a paste.If the pastry doesn't ball add a dash of cold water (i used an eighth of a cup.). Cover in plastic wrap and chill for half an hour.

Roll the pastry out as thin as possible and use it to line a ten inch tart shell. Chill until ready to use.

To bake, preheat the oven to 350F. Cover the pastry with parchment paper weighted down with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove the paper and weights and bake for a further 5 minutes or until the base is dry.
recipe from Fresh, by Michele Cranston

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Goodbye Aggie

Aggie has been a constant presence on this blog over the years. Last Thursday, we unexpectedly had to say goodbye to our girl. I still cry thinking about it - purely for selfish reasons... I miss her so much. I wake up in the morning and realise she isn't crying for her breakfast. I come home from work and she isn't waiting by the door. I open the cheese and she doesn't come running. hoping for bits. You don't realise how much they are a presence in your life till they are gone.