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Martha’s Chocolate Pavlova

3 Apr

And when I say “Martha’s,” we all know I mean “Something one of Martha’s minions in the test kitchen came up with,” since I’m pretty sure Martha’s not up to her elbows in egg whites day in and day out. I, on the other hand, have no minions, and thus must make my own pavlova. Don’t feel bad for me. It’s a good life. I eat ganache right off the spoon.

Last Saturday’s spousal date included a trip to Q Fanatic, a barbecue joint up the street that’s enjoyed a helping of fame (and customers) via an appearance on a Food Network show. We had some vague warning about wait time, which the husband and I swept past and ignored. This is the part where you try to make sense of barbecue and pavlova, not an easy combination. Be patient, young frog. It’s coming. Alas, the wait was an hour, so we left jilted. Instead we swung north a block or two to Truffles and Tortes in Anoka. (Have you been there? You should go! And take me!) I entered empty-handed, left roughly ten dollars poorer but one large raspberry macaroon, one slice of Strawberry Chantilly cake, and one slice of bread pudding richer (I was sharing, remember–judge not). When we got home, we played Sequence, said “Macarooner!” over and over, and it wasn’t at all annoying. Then the next day, the husband could not stop thinking about the macaroon. It was an unconventional macaroon. Ganache in the middle, fresh raspberries marching around the outside, both between two crisp-chewy, bright-pink disks. We needed a macaroon. We needed texture, chewiness, ganache. Thus: the pavlova.

Making a pavlova has been on my to-do list for several years, ever since my friend Julianne described making one with her family at home, meringue topped with whipped cream and berries. Try not to want that. Finally I got around to it, via Martha, with a few adjustments. We even made it together, proving that pavlova can create miracles, since it is actually easier to mow my lawn under the Minnesota snow than to get my beloved psyched about baking with me.

I altered Martha’s recipe a little bit; I made this for book group, so I wanted individual desserts rather than one big one (kind of hard to cut). The original yielded one beautiful, giant, creamy cloud. I adjusted the amounts and got ten dessert-plate-sized pavlovas. Also, the original called for a “chocolate cream,” but I just made ganache. And I use good ol’ Hershey’s cocoa powder, ’cause it comes in a giant container at Costco and it’s a great price and I’m thrifty like that. It’s not Dutch-process. It’s Pennsylvania-processed. Hershey, Pennsylvania.

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Chocolate Pavlova

adapted from the one at Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

FOR THE MERINGUE
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1/3 C dark-brown sugar
1 C superfine sugar
Pinch of salt
1 t pure vanilla extract
3 T unsweetened cocoa powder

TO ASSEMBLE
Dark-Chocolate Cream *I simply made ganache–recipe found here
1 2/3 cups heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks, sweetened to taste
dark-chocolate shavings, for garnish

Make the meringue: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Draw ten small circles on parchment, then flip the parchment paper over. (I used the bowl of a martini glass–it’s about the right size for individual servings.) Pavlovas will spread as they’re baking–so give them a few inches between circles.

Mix whites, sugars, and salt in a mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugars dissolve and mixture is warm, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and whisk on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
Sift cocoa powder over meringue, and fold until barely any streaks remain. Using an offset spatula or a large spoon, spread meringue into rounds, using your drawn circles as guides. (Be careful not to spread out too much; meringue will spread more during baking). Form a well in center, being careful not to spread meringue too thin–or you’ll have a crunchy, more-fragile pavlova instead of chewy one.

Bake meringues until dry to the touch, about 1 hour. Let cool on sheet. Carefully peel off the disks. Meringue will keep, covered, for up to 1 day. Martha, Martha. I happen to know that it’ll keep pretty well for more like 4 or 5.  They’ll look like this:

To assemble pavlova: Spread ganache evenly in center of meringue, leaving a 1/2-inch border from edge.

Spread whipped cream over chocolate cream.

Garnish with chocolate shavings. (I used a 75% Lindt bar here.) I like to use a Microplane for this–I’ve only recently acquired this, but I’ve found plenty of uses for it. It’s perfect for lightly grating something hard.

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An untimely, or very ahead-of-its-time post: Hot chocolate spoons for foodie friends

19 Jul

Oh my gosh, I found this in my drafts folder. Written last December. Sigh…can you tell how neglected my blog has been? I’m posting it anyway, just to show myself that my blog has an update, no matter if it refers to a time when the snow was frozen, while we experience hot, sponge-like weather here. I’m not even going to spell-check it, lest I continue not to post anything because I’m fretting over letter misplacement. (It’s a dark sin, so don’t tell my fellow editors.) Is it still the thought that counts?

Via Quick post today; Stumble Upon has brought me this gem from these European chocolate makers, Chocolate Company, which would be a great gift idea–I mean, when Christmas, or anything else, comes along. A gift for a foodie, or from a foodie. But doesn't this look like something you could make at home, given a few molds? Find some high-quality chocolate, some fun mix-ins (doesn't the strawberry and pink peppercorn sound interesting?), and a few sturdy wooden spoons. You could go all Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and cover it with toppings–nuts, pieces of solid chocolate, colored candies, etc. I can think of all sorts of applications for this: white chocolate (okay, I know, it's not really chocolate, but "white candy that's not chocolate but melts and people call it white chocolate" is kind of long) with pink or blue candies for a baby shower, dark chocolate with red-hot cinnamon candies to give to your love for Valentine's Day, milk chocolate with blanched almonds and almond extract for Easter, a few for host gifts…and so it goes. (Easter here does not equal spring; it equals snow, appropriate for hot chocolate.)Voila! Christmas gift for the neighbors. And is there anything better than a homemade gift? I submit that there is not! You might, of course, need to test these out before you give them away. Ahem.


The Pink Peppercorn one looks interesting to me today, but that could also be the strawberry buttercream frosting that I just ate doing the talking. Via Green Wedding Shoes.

Spring indeed

24 Mar
Everything is better in a heart-shaped bowl.
Everything is better in a heart-shaped bowl.

Wouldn’t it happen that as soon as I let my guard down and decide to be excited about spring, we’d have a gray day with four days of snow in the forecast? Well. Let me tell you one thing. It might not look like spring outside, but it can be spring in my heart…aww. In lieu of that, it can be spring in my bowl and in my mouth. Even better.

 

Not knowing whether D would be available to come to our church St. Patrick’s Day party the Saturday before last (and, well, because we have an absolutely impressive reputation for making and breaking our own plans), I signed up to bring the least committal thing I could: dessert. Normally, I love cooking and baking for people, especially in my own house. But in potluck-type settings, there’s a part of me who knows that the offerings will be full of casseroles, Miracle Whip, Jell-O, and rolls picked up from the bakery, and that’s what people want and expect. I’m inclined to think that it’s not worth the while to rack my brain for some never-before-seen creation from the oven when either someone will slurp without tasting or a very cute, well-meaning child sticks their finger in the middle of. I know. I need a little attention when it comes to the food I make.

 

Despite these crucial, shattering circumstances, I thought anyway. I pondered, I prayed, I aspired to make Jamie Oliver’s Sticky Toffee Pudding or bring a plate of homemade donuts or Chocolate Clafoutis. And thought some more, and then forgot promptly once church was over.

 

The Saturday of the St. Patrick’s Day party rolls around, and fifteen minutes before it, procrastination and forgetfulness catches up, sits on me until I cry for mercy, and pushes me in the direction of the fridge and cupboard. It also threatened me with a life of only canned green beans unless I bought several pints of strawberries (they were on sale). Obviously, I obliged. Forgetfulness is a hard master.

 

So with five minutes until takeoff for the party (hooray for living really close to the church!), I scrambled and searched for something to pair with the strawberries, and you’re looking (look! look!) at the results: a regular bowl ‘o cream with a few twists. Cardamom, strawberries, and orange are good friends, but a word of caution: cardamom can be a pretty strong friend. You know that one friend who’s always the center of attention at every party? Right. Cardamom. The funny friend, but still. Once in a while, a strawberry would like a chance.

 

I’ve tried this both with plain, slivered almonds and sugared ones, with the vote that plain is best—the sugared almonds provide a crunch that is great in some places, but is kind of the guy at the gym wearing jeans and flip-flops on the treadmill; a little awkward.

 

I can see this with a variety of fruits, though I definitely wanted to stay away from the typical fruit salad offering. Blueberries would be a great addition, as would be a swirl of maple syrup. Let me know what variations you come up with.

 

Welcome, spring! (Please stay! Please! I am not native to Minnesota and can only do snow so long.)

 

-Erin

 

Spring Strawberries and Cream Bowl

 

This recipe is best made a few hours ahead of time, though it was born in about five minutes. Making it ahead of time allows the cream to absorb the cardamom and orange flavors.

 

Kitchen tip: Cream whips best when you use a chilled bowl, preferably metal. (I don’t have a metal bowl, but I just refrigerate a glass or ceramic bowl at least half an hour.) If mixing by hand, choose a large, sturdy whisk to incorporate the maximum amount of air.

 

Lastly, though the cardamom might seem exotic, this recipe has been certified both kid- and adult-approved. Miracle.

 

Prep time: About 7 minutes

Difficulty level: Not even close

 

1 pt. strawberries, tops removed, sliced thinly

1/2 C heavy whipping cream

scant 1/4 C granulated sugar

1 1/2 C plain yogurt (fat-free varieties tend to be grainy; Old Home is slightly better)

2 dried cardamom pods, ground (or 1/8 t cardamom, to taste)

1/2 t dried orange peel (or zest of one medium orange)

handful slivered almonds, divided

 

Set aside strawberries.

 

*In a large serving bowl, whip cream to soft peaks (~3 minutes with an electric mixer). Fold in sugar gradually. Fold in yogurt, cardamom, and orange peel or zest. Fold in strawberries, reserving a handful. Fold in almonds, reserving a handful. Top bowl with reserved almonds and strawberries.

Post-Election Day Chocolate Clafoutis With Chewy-Crisp Ginger Apples

4 Nov

Because we're Americans. And we deserve a reward!
Because we’re Americans. And we deserve a reward.

Let’s be honest. Or I will, since I’m the one writing here. This was the longest presidential campaign in United States history. I think it started in 1990, when I was eight. In the end, whether or not the candidate I vote for won, I still have that to celebrate–the end. No more commercials! No more negative campaign ads, slogans, dull debates, and endless media coverage! I’m shouting for joy here, with several sentences in a row ending with exclamation marks!

We’re in a bit of a rough patch economically, so most of the past month or two’s news reports have broadcast doom, doom, and the occasional proclamation of the end of the world. In other words, we need a break and a little indulgence!

I originally started out trying to adapt this recipe from Jamie Oliver’s recipe, but sadly, I could not bring myself to google every metric measurement to convert it to my US cups and spoons. So the idea is Jamie’s, but I suspect that’s the end of the resemblance, much as I adore Jamie and his quirky ways.

Still having a few coveted apples left from our apple-picking adventure, I topped sauteed them in a bit of butter and candied ginger. It was an experiment, but oh, a delicious one.

Whether you’re nursing your wounds for your beaten candidate or celebrating the one you supported, you deserve this. Really.

Deviating from my normal emphasis on very nutrient-dense foods, I will make no comments about the nutritional content, except to beg you to remember that it is topped with fruit. And that even the healthiest people deserve dessert. Aren’t you proud to be an American? I am.

-Erin

Chocolate Clafoutis With Chewy-Crisp Ginger Apples

From “raw” to eating: 40 minutes (including prep time).

Makes: Two quite large servings, or four smaller ones.

This is a pretty rich dessert, so although some people may have eaten this in two servings (I’m not saying what people, but one of them has a food blog and the other is a Midwesterner), it’s probably a good bet that if you’re serving it to guests after a meal, it really serves four. Maybe more, if they’re pretty light dessert eaters. The blog owner and Midwesterner like dessert, I hear.

For the almond meal, I happened to have salted, roasted almonds around. I thought that they’d be way too salty, but they didn’t appear to harm the clafoutis at all. If you’re watching your sodium intake, feel free to skip the additional 1/8 t salt.

Also. This one is important: do not over-bake. The middle is meant to stay fudgy–if not, it’d be just another cake. And who wants that? No one, that’s who.

For the clafoutis:

½ C flour

2 t baking powder

1/8 t (a pinch) salt

1/3 C sugar

¼ C half-and-half

1/3 C chocolate bar chocolate (or the best stuff you have around)

½ C almond meal (almonds ground to the consistency of cornmeal, etc.)

Apple-ginger topping:

2 T butter

1 Cortland apple, sliced thinly into rounds

3 half-inch-cube pieces candied ginger (or the equivalent), chopped roughly

Make the clafoutis:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix flour, baking power, sugar, and almond meal together. Set aside.

In a double boiler on low or on a microwave at half power (I use the first method), gently melt chocolate and butter. Remove from heat and slowly add the half-and-half, whisking to combine.

Add chocolate-butter mixture to dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Pour into a buttered earthenware dish (I used a small bowl) and bake for 25-35 minutes or until it’s set on the edges but fudgy in the middle. That means it’s done!

Make the ginger-apple topping:

While the clafoutis cooks, make the topping. Make more than you think you need. Then sample it. Offer samples to anyone nearby.

In a frying pan or other non-pot-type pan (I am known for very technical directions), melt the butter over low heat. Do not let the butter brown. Add the chopped ginger candies and sauté for another 1-2 minutes. Finally, add the apples. Raise temperature to medium-high. Cook until apples are nearly translucent and skins are chewy-crisp. Spoon over entire clafoutis or individual pieces.

Quick & slick dessert list for little and big kids

22 May

Seeing that I have a great dearth of posts in any kind of a sweet category, I thought I’d put out some of my quick, classic treats out there. These can be made with a blindfold and just a few components and some common cookware, and most can be made when you find out at the last minute that you have guests coming. Sweets on this list have also been approved by people who know who Calliou is and who might speak with a lisp. And children.

This list is also great for budgets and big groups; the ease and the cheapalicity factors make them winners.

Approved by children and adults

  1. Pudding cups with animal swimers: scoop of chocolate instant pudding, animal (or graham) crackers stuck in, and small candy sprinkles on top. (Sprinkles upgrade everything.)
  2. Sneaky chocolate chip cookies: Make them with white whole wheat flour. I buy this brand, because it’s so available in grocery stores. It’s also relatively inexpensive (though we could talk about the rise in the price of wheat…). White whole wheat flour is easy to use anywhere you’d use regular, refined, white flour, and no one will know that you’re upping the nutritional density of your treat. High in fiber, without any additives and preservatives, I am a big fan of this flour. Give it a try. Oh–and don’t forget the milk, for bonus nutritional points (skip the juice!).
  3. Homemade ice cream with fruit. Yes, it’s still cream, but with chunks (or pureed) fruit, you’ve got a serving of dairy and a serving of fruit. I’ve also found success making nearly cream-less ice cream, even with skim milk. Either make it with the fruit, or top it; stew the fruit if it’s a harder fruit (like apple), or top it straight up if it’s a softer fruit (banana, strawberry). It takes a little longer, but I like the interactivity of my ice cream “maker.” It lets everyone help; but it is very heavy!
  4. Jamie’s cheat’s dessert. I am a sucker for anything ginger; I even eat the very, very strong ginger candies that most Americans can’t stomach. So this dessert made with gingersnaps drew me in. It’s sophisticated enough for adults, but a strong flavor for kids. Switch out the ginger snaps for cookies with a milder, more familiar taste for the little ones. Try chocolate cookies with caramel topping. Add some simmered, sweetened fruit to top it. (Sorry, a lot of top-it-with-fruit preaching here! Can you tell it’s spring? And that I love m plant food?)
  5. Toffee with apples and strawberries. Take a can of sweetened condensed milk, put it bottom- or top-side up in a pan big enough to fit it plus a couple of inches, and cover it with water. Do not open the can. Boil it for about an hour and-a-half, turning with tongs (hot!) every once in a while so it all cooks evenly. Let the can cool, and open it–you will have your own toffee! Cook a little longer if you like it thick like frosting, less if you like it runny like thick caramel. Dip apples, strawberries, or bananas into it. Excellent.

Happy desserting!