Monday, January 31, 2011

cooking lesson! double-chocolate mousse cake

After seeing a picture of the double-chocolate mousse cake that I had from my post with ffwd, a couple of my friends wanted to learn how to make the cake too! One of them lives in a gluten-free zone, and the other... well, just likes anything decadent, and if there's chocolate, so much the better!!!

One of my "students" came prepared with much chocolate.. many varieties, including what I'd used when I made my original cake - Ghirardelli's 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate. AND some bittersweet chocolate flavored with chipotle.
What a selection! Of course, some of it had to be tasted as we waited around between steps.... particularly since we couldn't really use it all. Can I just say... Lindt Intense Orange Dark. That with a little Rombauer... pretty enjoyable waiting!

ready to go, including our fancy new cooking hats!

melty chocolatey goodness... seems familiar!
incorporating egg whites

more egg whites - kind of the "trick" of making the cake

the beautiful finished cakes
the one on the left, chipotle chocolate (more about the chocolate later)

and the "students" with their cakes
We had a great time as always, and it was fun to end up with something to show for their efforts. Both were taking their desserts home, so we didn't do any fancy individual serving pictures. BUT, I hear that one of them took the cake (after stenciling a fancy design on top) to a dinner party where people exclaimed "you didn't make this - you bought it!!!" of course, we have proof! and of course, they loved it!!!

So we also learned a couple of things. While a lot of times, people tell you not to use chocolate chips to melt and use in a dessert, I think they helped here. The cakes using chips worked out a bit better because once they were melted, and the other ingredients incorporated, they held the shape a bit better. The mousse was more mousse-like, important to the whole process. The cake made with the already-flavored chipotle chocolate, had more of a "batter" than mousse texture before cooking, and so it maybe wasn't as puffed up. As many of the ffwd folks mentioned, they ended up with "batter" - I'm thinking it was the chocolate.

So, after my guests left, I was so inspired that I just had to make a cake of my own. I decided that I'd do a riff on one of the ideas from earlier in the day. I used Vietnamese cinnamon (it's spicier), and my mom's friend Karyl's 4-pepper blend (equal parts black, white, cayenne and chipotle peppers). I have to say, it was amazingly good. Here's a picture of what I think the mousse is supposed to look like before baking.

If you think about the recipe, one version is to leave the 2nd layer of mousse uncooked, so it needs to be light and fluffy.

But I'll be honest, I'll likely make the cake again, but I probably won't ever make it the twice-baked version. There's not enough difference between layers to justify the extra steps and time (and I think it might just be lighter if it were baked once, rather than having the majority of the mousse sit in the refrigerator for an hour or two with the opportunity to deflate). That's just me. I'm sure that if you're at Dorie's, or at Michel Rostang's in Paris, it would turn out differently - but for me, at home, I think I'll just make it a single chocolate mousse cake.

When we were waiting for the cakes to bake, we talked about a number of flavor options - several mentioned above - but I think it would also be lovely with some grated orange zest, and a swap out of a little of the coffee with some Grand Marnier, or something. Of course you could do the same kind of swap with some Chambourd, and then serve with a little raspberry coulis (or raspberries themselves). There are lots of wonderful ways to change this dessert up.

My thanks to my friends for coming over and sharing part of their day. I hope they had as much fun as I did!! Now, to figure out the next recipe!

Friday, January 28, 2011

ffwd - chicken b'stilla

I'll admit it, I thought about skipping this one. Between the P&Q comments, and generally having a busy week - I was tempted to pass. Of course, my inner rule-follower prevailed. But I decided to split the recipe, and then the whole baking pan size business sent me in another direction as well ( what is it with the pan sizes...? I'm teaching some friends to make the double chocolate mousse cake this weekend, so stopped to see if I could find another 8" spingform pan. I actually have one that measures 8". But the ones at my local fancy kitchenware store said they were 8" (2 brands!), but were really 7"!!! what's up with that? Now I understand why there's been so much angst with the ffwd group and the pan sizes. Good grief! Can't manufacturers measure any more? Oh, and it makes me wonder which "8-inch" pan Dorie's been using?).

So anyway, I too ended up making this over a couple of evenings. Admittedly, it wasn't difficult. I thought the combination of flavors might be good too. As usual, Dorie was correct - this is pretty good!

OK, I admit it, I forgot to take my first picture for a little bit.
chicken thighs, onions, garlic, spices
this all goes on the stove for a bit of a simmer in some chicken broth
after that step was complete, I refrigerated the chicken and broth separately

about to reduce the broth, with its added squeeze of lemon
admittedly, I will never become a "real" French cook, because I'm unwilling to do
some of the little things - yes, those are onions in there - no, I did not strain them out to add back later!

the reduced broth, ready to thicken with the whole egg
it was a really nice sauce at this point

after thickening with the egg, in go the chopped fresh herbs and shredded chicken

since I was doing bundles, instead of the cake - I just layered 4 sheets of filo, each brushed with butter
then put some of the filling, along with the sliced almonds into the center
maybe it was the bundles, but I used more than my fair share of butter, and the filo was not evenly covered

the filling "bundled-up", brushed with butter, and sprinkled with a little
cinnamon sugar, ready for the oven

looking delicious, just out of the oven

ready to eat, beautiful brown pastry, surrounding the chicken filling
I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. The Moroccan spices made for a very nice combination. If I made this again, I'd probably add a bit more of everything, and maybe a pinch of cayenne. I also might change how the sauce was thickened, but it was really quite tasty, and once it was in the pastry and baked, it didn't matter. And I have to say that I think the bundles were awfully cute! They were really easy to do, and made for a festive presentation. The only problem is that there's a fair bit of soft dough where the package comes together. But I didn't think that it detracted too much. Also, with the bundles, they actually re-heated perfectly! That was a nice surprise.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

ffwd - michel rostang's double chocolate mousse cake

I might as well just say it - this was delicious! I'll leave it for a bit to talk about which version/presentation I liked better, but honestly, this was a cake of seriously yummy, chocolately, goodness. At first I thought - oh, another flourless chocolate cake... that can't be bad. As I looked at the recipe...the versions...the fussiness steps...I was uncertain. One of the things I find about "Dorie" recipes is that sometimes there's an awful lot of waiting (think speculoos and all that time in the freezer, or the crust for the mustard tart). So there's really not that instant gratification that I'm occasionally looking for. But then... but then... often, things are well worth the wait. And that this was.

such simple ingredients: bittersweet chocolate, eggs, butter, sugar and a little coffee
stirring a bit of coffee into the melty chocolate
next the butter,
then some sugar,

egg whites ready to fold in (I have to admit, I was close to over-doing them, but they worked)

first dollop of whites, almost incorporated
then it's fast-forward to the twice-baked cake
I decided to do the twice baked, although I tasted the un-cooked mousse, and it was quite nice
this is where I used both the parchment to line the sheet, as well as a round parchment the size of the pan
I wanted to use the round one because I couldn't quite work out how I was going to get it to a serving plate!

and the finished cake!!
Unfortunately, I was in such a hurry to try it (I had grand plans of first tasting it after it was chilled per Dorie's favorite version, but no.... the aroma coming from the oven was too much for me!) I pretended that it was all in the pursuit of food science that I should first taste the cake warm, then chill it for the perfect cake. In my haste, I didn't really think about contrast on the plate - so anyone who's seen any other posts, might recall that I have a set of beautiful dark brown dishes... food science may have been served, but I'm not really much of a designer, I find.

oops on the plate design!
 All of that said, my impatience actually paid off. I loved, loved, loved the cake warm. In my instance, I could better realize the difference between the layers (which disappeared when it was chilled) - the bottom layer was slightly chewier, whereas the top stayed light and fluffy - just barely cooked through - obviously mousse.

I also had to resort to sharing. I couldn't trust myself to put the leftovers in the freezer to be judiciously meeted out one decadent biteful at a time... no, I really needed to share! Of course, the upside is that it tends to increase my popularity.
In the end... I will certainly make this again. I would likely serve it warm (knowing that any remainders would be terrific the next day!) - and I completely understand why they make this as tarts at Chez Rostang. Yet another good reason to search for those really cool rings that restaurants use! Besides, individual desserts are charming.

Now I just need to figure out when to make it next!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

ffwd - gnocchi a la parisienne

What an interesting recipe! Cream puff dough, poached, and then blanketed in bechamel and baked. Well, in my book, anything with bechamel has to be good. Seriously, such simple ingredients. But even as I looked at the recipe, I thought this can't be good for you!!!

I decided that I would take a couple of Dorie's suggestions, and throw in a twist of my own, since the night that I was going to be making this - there was going to be no sharing involved. When we made gougeres, I loved, loved the idea that I could freeze the unbaked dough, and then pop them into the oven whenever I wanted some. So when  read Dorie's storing suggestion, I vowed to do just that. I made my choux paste, and then plopped about 2/3 of the dough by teaspoonfuls on my lined baking sheet and froze them. I also wondered how the dough would turn out if I baked it. So, for another portion, I formed nice little puffs on another sheet that I could pop in the oven. Then on to making the actual gnocchi! The process was easy, and while there were a number of steps, nothing too terribly difficult. I decided to add a little truffle salt to my sauce, thinking - how can I go wrong?? Of course, it occurred to me that a drizzle of truffle oil on top wouldn't be a bad thing either.

I ended up with a bit more sauce than gnocchi, but that was ok. I thought it was fun to have both the puffs and the gnocchi at the same time, offering some nice contrast.

Let's face it though - this dish is rich!!!! at least mine was. But the gnocchi turned out light and fluffy (even without separating the last egg), and were really lovely. Decadant comfort food, for sure. But a guilty pleasure! I was pleased that my leftovers were still pretty tasty when re-heated - maybe not really perfect, but tastly nonetheless. (I wasn't willing to toss out a single bite!). Now I'm figuring out how I'll prepare the ones I have in the freezer. Hmmm... maybe with a side of sauteed mushrooms? or it really would be good with a nice short rib braised in red wine... I think I'd like to have a little something to offset the richness of the gnocchi and the sauce, but they were awfully good - and the ones in the freezer will be out soon enough! 

Friday, January 7, 2011

ffwd - paris mushroom soup

This is kind of tale of two recipes. There are two different steps involved in creating this soup. I'd made this recipe before - with three important differences: I used a combination of mushrooms - not sticking with the white mushrooms noted in the recipe; I used my beloved immersion-blender instead of a regular blender; and I didn't make the salad. With not the very best of results... funny color, not chunky, but not silky smooth, and no interesting texture elements. So with the new year, I resolved to correct my errors. I planned to make guinea pigs of some of my family members, so I organized to have them over (not too much of an effort) and went about planning our meal, and making the soup itself ahead, since this was going to be a "school night" dinner party. I ended up being happy that I'd done at least some of my prep early because I got home late. Everyone was still game for dinner though, even if it wasn't going to be too early. So much anticipation later - we started with Dorie's paris mushroom soup.

ingredients for the actual soup - white (!) mushrooms, onions, garlic, butter
parsley, rosemary, wine and chicken stock

after the garlic and mushrooms are sauteed, add the sliced mushrooms

the first part of the cooking is to have the mushrooms lose their liquid
then the heat is turned up to evaporate it
and then... add the wine, and let that evaporate too
after cooking with the stock, it's blended until very smooth

nest step - prep the salad
the description of the recipe talks about sliced mushrooms, the directions don't mention
that - but, seemed like it would be a little awkward to have whole mushrooms...

into each bowl went the sliced mushrooms, scallions and herbs

finished soup, with it's dollop of creme fraiche, how lovely is that?

anxiously awaiting digging in (or maybe not!)
 Everyone enjoyed the soup. We did go on to enjoy the tangerine-glazed chicken, finger potatoes and snap peas too. A great combination.

So - I have to say, I think it almost looks better than it tastes. The presentation was beautiful. But maybe it was the separation between cooking and serving, or maybe I've just eaten too many other mushroom soups, but this wasn't my favorite. Maybe a little cream in the actual soup? I don't know. I'll be interested in hearing what everyone else did/thought.

Happily though, it was tasty, and we had a fun time, and I'm super-excited to be back cooking with the New Year!