Monday, October 31, 2011

Turkey and Black Bean Chili with Chipotle & Chocolate



Oh Hallows Eve.  The night of ghouls and goblins; princesses and pirates; the tricksters and the treaters. The Jack O' Lanterns are all aglow on my porch and as I'm writing this I'm also jumping up to hand out some Jolly Ranchers into the kids' various candy receptacles.  So far my favourite was this little fire fighter, complete with black smudge on his face.  He got an extra package for creativity and good manners.  My candy stash is running low, and I swear I never even tucked into them beforehand.  I prefer my candy to be of the chocolate variety, though that's not much of a shocker, is it?




Thinking of Halloweens past, I remember some years, trudging through what felt like knee deep snow to get the sweet stuff.  We had to wear our snowsuits over our costumes, but we didn't care.  There was candy to be had at the end of our snowy trek.  When we were lucky enough to get whole chocolate bars placed in our pillowcases  I made a mental note to return to that address the following year.  Bless those most generous people!  Then of course we'd get the homemade popcorn ball people, and no one ever ate the popcorn balls, did they?  Me and my siblings would do the whole candy swapping thing:  my Double Bubble for your Molasses Kisses (am I the only one who adored those?!) and my bag of chips for your Crispy Crunch.  Ah the bartering of young sugar fiends.  I was never one of those kids, like my older brother, who could hold onto their loot until Easter.  Self control - an admirable quality, that.   Happy someone in my family got it!




Most years, after we'd tricked and treated our little hearts out, I remember coming into a warm house and Mom having a pot of chili on the stove. We may have already had a belly full of sugar, but still we sat down together, tucking into bowls of chili and dishing on whose house gave the best/most/worst candy, and who made us sing for it.  The chili was pretty standard ground beef and beans type, nothing too wild and crazy, but comforting and delicious all the same.  Somehow I don't think Mom put chipotle or chocolate in hers though...




So you're probably wondering about the chocolate in the chili.  For real?  Yes, for real.  And it's just a couple of tablespoons of cocoa, and it adds an earthy richness that plays off the subtle smokiness of the chipotle so well.  It kind of makes the chili smolder.  Have you ever seen Like Water for Chocolate, or read the book?  There's a scene where turkey mole is being prepared, with all kinds of spices and toasted almonds and sesame seeds being ground up then added to chunks of turkey along with chopped dark chocolate.  It's probably one of my favourite movies about food, and that scene alone is memorable.  I remember being in a dark theatre, watching all of this beauty unfold on screen and it was unforgettable.  And that was almost 20 (gasp!) years ago.  If you like movies about food, do watch it, okay?




Spicy/sweet/salty is one of my favourite flavour combos, and it rocks this chili.  I used organic ground turkey (but you can use beef if you like) and threw some roasted corn and black beans in for fun.  The chipotle pepper I used was ground, but you could use some canned in adobo sauce too.  Or in a pinch, just use good old chili powder, but the flavour won't be the same.  Chili needs toppings and I adore cilantro on mine, along with sour cream and shredded cheese.  And hello!  Avocado!  When you get a bite of the spicy sweet with the buttery avocado, it really is a bowl full of awesome.  Sometimes I scoop the chili up with tortilla chips...chili heaven.  Besides being super flavourful, it's also high in protein, and not super fatty.  I love making a big batch of this chili and freezing it for evenings when I don't want to cook - yes, that does happen!




The vampires and dragons have come and gone; my Jack O' Lanterns have faded to black.  I did run out of candy and had to dip into my emergency stash of Lindt truffles.  One lucky little giraffe scored big time!  Maybe I'll be on her list as the house to hit up next year - though I saw how big the Mom's eyes got when I put a few of those babies in the giraffe's pillowcase.  There's going to be some candy snitching tonight!

Some Happy News!  I'm super flattered to be this week's featured blog on the Food Bloggers of Canada website.  This recognition has left me pretty much beaming and I'm truly honoured by their kind words.  Thank you FBC! 

Turkey and Black Bean Chili with Chipotle and Chocolate

650 grams ground turkey
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp ground chipotle pepper OR 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce OR 2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp oregano
1-2 tsp chili flakes, depending on how spicy you like your chili
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 tbsp honey
2 398 ml cans of crushed tomatoes
1 398 ml can of diced tomatoes
2 540ml cans of black beans, rinsed well
1 cup of corn frozen or roasted (place frozen corn on bake sheet, drizzle with olive oil and roast until golden)
salt and pepper to taste
cilantro, avocado, sour cream, shredded cheese, tortilla chips for garnish

In a large pot, cook the ground turkey.  If it seems too dry, add the oil.  When brown, add the diced onion and garlic.  Cook until the onion is softened, then add all of the spices and honey.  Cook this with the meat for a few minutes.  Add the canned tomatoes and bring up any browned bits from the bottom. (I always rinse the cans out with a little water and add this too.)  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.  Add the canned beans, and roasted corn.  Simmer 10 more minutes.  Adjust seasonings.  Spoon into bowls and garnish as you like...don't forget the avocado!  Serves about 6. 


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Spiced Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce



How many of you were lucky enough to trek to a nearby orchard and go apple picking?  The only picking I did was off the ground beneath my crabapple tree.  Gorgeous tree.  Love it.  But the apples are so tiny, and once you core them, there's really not that much apple left.  If I was not so lazy more industrious I guess I could have boiled a huge mess up and made applesauce or something.  But I said the same thing last year - that I'll do it this year - and my intentions are well meaning.  It's the follow-through that's a little lacking.




If only I had four more hours in the day. Two hours would go towards sleep, that's a given.  6:15 comes way too soon, and is highly unwelcome, and frankly makes me cranky.  One hour would go towards reading. There's a small stack of beautiful books on the bedside table, sadly collecting dust.  And the final hour would go towards all the stuff I say I'm going to do, but never get around to - like painting that spot in my bathroom, or refinishing that mirror, or knitting that rug I started a year ago.  Stuff like that. Yes, I need four more hours in my day.  Who do I talk to about that?




So the apples fell, and fell.  There was a two week stretch where my entire backyard smelled like some sort of rank apple liqueur.  Ah, rotting fruit.  I gathered up the fallen lot and dumped them into my vegetable garden, where I'm sure they are rotting away in all of their happy glory.  In the Spring they'll be churned up along with other compost material and their rotten glory will be mine!  (Insert evil cackle here.)




While I didn't pick the apples for this cake, I did buy them from the farmer's market, where the very kind vendor has an organic orchard not too far from here.  These are heirloom apples, and while I did write down the varieties, wouldn't you know I lost that slip of paper?  I'll have to get back to you on that one.  Delicious apples, these.  Not too sweet, with a perfect crispness that tastes like Fall as soon as you bite into one.




My Mom spotted this recipe in her House and Home Magazine, and she immediately thought I should make it.  The cake was baked in cast iron, and she knows I'm all crazy for anything baked in cast iron. Plus the cake looked simple and crazy delicious.  And really, it had me way back at salted caramel sauce.  That's probably why you've been reading this post, isn't it?  It's all about the salted caramel.  Two perfect words.

 

 
Whether you're planning a fancy dinner party, or having old friends over for tea, this cake is simple, straightforward and can easily be whipped up in 15 minutes.  The hardest part is peeling and chopping the apples, if that's any indicator of the skill level required.  Moist, and not too sweet, with lovely chunks of apple and the heavenly aromatics of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, this cake is delicious warm, with ice cream, and of course the salted caramel. (I should also say that it's almost better cold, after some of the caramel has soaked into it overnight.  That was a happy discovery!)  Don't be afraid of making the caramel - there's nothing to it, and the rewards are so, so good.  So good that you'll want to lick out the saucepan when no one is looking, and heck, even if anyone sees you they'll understand.  It's salted caramel after all.  It casts a spell; one I happily and willingly fall under. 




Spiced Apple Cake

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup butter, cubed at room temp
2 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups chopped, peeled apples, cut a few for slices for top of cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a 9 inch square cake pan, or go all rustic like I did and grease a cast iron skillet. Baked like a dream. 
In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and butter until light.  Beat in the eggs, until all fluffy.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Stir this into the batter along with chopped apples.  Spread into prepared pan.  Top cake with a few apples slices in centre.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, until cake springs back when lightly touched or when toothpick comes out clean.  Serve warm with salted caramel sauce, and ice cream, or whipped cream, if you like.  Serves 6.  Adapted from Trish Magwood's recipe in House and Home, October 2011.




Salted Caramel Sauce

1/4 cup butter, unsalted
1/2 cup  brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp kosher salt (if using salted butter, decrease this amount a smidge)
1/2 cup 35% cream

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat.  Add sugar. Bring to a boil, whisking occasionally.  Cook 3 min.  Stir in vanilla and salt until dissolved.  Remove from heat, let stand 1 min, then whisk in cream until smooth.  Makes one cup.  Adapted from Chatelaine, October 2011.

for Peter G. 


Friday, October 21, 2011

Ruby Red: Beet-Barley Risotto with Ricotta and Thyme



So this is it.  The last time I'll be cooking with anything fresh from the garden, for a long, long while. Sniff.  It's a little sad to think I have to start buying my vegetables from the market again.  I've been so spoiled for the past four months. Growing your own food rocks (and saves you money!!!)  I didn't have many beets left in the garden, just enough to impart some magnificent colour to the risotto I'd been planning.  If food were fireworks, this risotto would be high in the sky. 




Risotto, as you know, is usually made with arborio rice.  Nice, short grain, fat rice.  Remember that rice pudding I made, with the caramelized brown sugar crust?  That was made with arborio rice.  It's really the only rice I have in the house.  Well that, and it's healthier cousin, brown short grain rice.  I don't eat a lot of rice, really.  Can't remember when I had a pot of it on my stove, even.  My starch of choice comes from potato-land.  Then noodles.  Then fun, healthy stuff like quinoa and lentils.  I never crave a pot of steamed rice like I do garlic mashed.   My rice needs to be gussied up either in coconut milk (yum!) or in a creamy risotto, with butter and cheese.  How do you say Calorification?




When I spied with my little green eye, this beet-barley risotto, I thought I must make.  Don't get me wrong, I loves me some risotto the traditional way, but because it substituted barley, it just sounded so healthy.  And healthy is good, right?  It's hardly a secret I have one massive sweet tooth.  Take a look through the recipe index and see for yourself where my interests lie.  To compensate for all of that sweetness (and butter!) when preparing meals at home, I try to cut back a wee bit on the fat and increase my fibre where I can.  This risotto fits the bill perfectly.  Using the "pearl" barley creates a soft, chewy texture, and while it does have some of the bran removed, it's still loaded with nutrients and fibre.  Yay!




Risotto is not something you want to walk away from.  It requires your undivided attention, so don't go shopping for shoes online while trying to prepare this.  It's not complicated, at all.  Just picky.  First you melt a little butter in a saucepan, add some chopped garlic and onion, cook that a bit.  Add barley and glugs of white wine.  The most work you have to do is just stir in hot broth to the barley and stir, stir, stir until it's all incorporated.  And repeat.  And repeat.  That's all. Takes about 45 minutes from start to finish.  Keep the heat on medium low and you'll be fine.  While you're at it, keep a glass of white nearby for you, too.  I mean you have to have something to keep you company while you're busy stirring.  The original recipe called for canned beets, but I used about 1 cup of cooked, puréed beets.   Let me tell you, stirring them into the risotto at the end was glorious!  Look at that colour - and I didn't really muck around with any of it while editing the photos.  That's all beet's doing.




Can we talk about ricotta?  It really makes this risotto.  Yes, it's fine on it's own.  Has a lovely, chewy texture and is all aromatic with the fresh thyme and very, very fancy because it's, well, red.  But when you get a bite of the ricotta, with the beet-barley combo, it's just really, really good.  Ricotta kind of puts it over the top.  You need the ricotta.   Partner this risotto with any roasted meat - like bone-in chicken breasts, or some nice ribs, or lamb.  Mmmmm.  Lamb.  Now I'm really talking fancy talk.




Beet-Barley Risotto with Ricotta and Thyme

4 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup white wine
1 398ml. can beets, drained, patted dry and puréed OR 1 cup of cooked, puréed  fresh beets
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup ricotta (or more!)

Heat the broth in a large saucepan.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and keep warm.
Melt the butter in a large, wide saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 min.  Add barley and stir until glossy, about 1 min.  Add wine and stir until barley has absorbed it, about 3 min.  Add 1/2 cup of broth.  Stir often until barley has absorbed most of the liquid.  Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring, until barley is tender to the bite, keeping heat over medium low, so mixture is just simmering.  When all of broth is gone, your risotto should be done.  Stir in puréed beets and thyme and warm through.  The entire stirring and cooking process will be about 40-45 minutes.  Risotto should be slightly saucy but not soupy.  Remove from heat.  Serve right away, with a generous dollop of ricotta over each serving.  Makes enough for 4.  Adapted from Chatelaine, Oct. 2011.


 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bacon, Potato & Leek Soup with Rosemary Beer Bread



"To feel safe and warm on a cold, wet night, all you really need is soup."  Laurie Colwin

Soup (and sweater) weather has finally arrived here in Saskatoon. My boots have been smashing through fallen leaves - that is a most lovely sound, is it not?  Inside, the tea pot is constantly cozied; an extra blanket thrown on the bed.  While September leaves me maudlin, October re-kindles a little fire of optimism in the spirit, (or maybe it's just my post-Thanksgiving Tiramisu high).  I'd forgotten how good it feels to be all swaddled and cozy; to slip inside a warm house, with a runny nose and cold hands aching to be wrapped around a warm mug of tea. 




With the garden quietly put to bed, all that is left out there now are some droopy-headed sunflowers, left behind for the birds to munch on.  The last of the carrots, beets and Yukon Golds were dug up a few days ago, weeds creeping happily into their place. Outdoor chores are mostly done (I'm not fond of ladders or heights, so the eaves trough clean-out is one task I put off and off and with any luck snow will come then I really have no excuse honest but to do it next year oops!), focus turns to inside projects, like organizing cupboards, dusting behind the TV and reacquainting myself with this contraption called an iron.  My habits in the kitchen once again tend to produce good, comfort, soul-warming food - my favourite kind.



You may find it hard to believe that I haven't made a soup in my little green kitchen since this beauty...but it's true!  Summer here was so fantastically hot, the last thing I wanted to make or eat was soup.  All of that has changed now, of course, with the dipping temperatures and dark nights.  I wanted to use the last of the Yukon Golds in something triumphant - a real showstopper.  Paired with smokey bacon, fragrant leeks, and lotsa Gouda this soup is one of my go-to bowls of comfort. Omit the bacon and sub in vegetable stock if going the veggie route, and feel free to use whatever cheese you have.  Cumin Spiced Gouda was lingering in my fridge so that's what I used, but a nice old white cheddar, or Gruyere would be amazing too. Simple and easily made under 30 minutes, it's great for weeknights when all I really want to do is curl up with a blanket and a cat and watch my new favourite show - "Downton Abbey".  Have you seen it?  I'm a sucker for Upstairs/Downstairs type shows about behind the scenes servants in crazy rich households, with all of the drama and secret passages and stellar costumes. If you've seen and loved "Gosford Park" - you'll love Downton Abbey.  Plus, it's full of cute British boys. 




The first night I made this soup, I dunked hot, heavily buttered toast in it, and it was glorious.  Then I remembered this super, I mean, SUPER delicious beer bread recipe my friend Ashley gave me a few years ago.  It's a quick bread, and yes the beer imparts a wonderful earthiness to it, but the best part is the melted butter poured over the batter before it gets baked.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Imagine this buttery golden crust, completely surrounding a warm, rosemary scented loaf of goodness. I know.  It is just as good as it sounds. The first time I made it I was in awe of how something was so few ingredients could be so darn good, then I had to restrain myself from eating the entire thing in one day.  Perfect for dunking in stick-to-your-ribs stews, too - this is one bread where you'll fight over who gets to eat the end pieces.  Seriously.



A word of warning though:  I used a smaller loaf pan than usual (where is my good aluminum one I've had for years?!!!) and the butter runneth over, giving a whole new meaning to the term brown butter.   The smoke alarm went off (good to know it works!) and all of the windows and doors had to be opened.  There was a small fire small incident inside the oven, easily contained with a large stainless pot lid.  All the while I was thinking, maybe I should take the bread out?  Nah, it was all self contained, and the smoke dissipated soon after.  Besides, I know how good this bread is and I was bound and determined to see it through.  The lesson from this cautionary tale?  Use the largest loaf pan you can muster, or maybe a 8x8 square pan.  I've reduced the amount of melted butter, and maybe after you pour it over the batter, take your knife and run it around the edges of the pan just so the butter doesn't stay on top.  There.  I do hope you aren't scared off by my small fire kitchen excitement, the bread is well worth it.  For a fun side note - I don't have a self-cleaning oven and frankly have not peeked inside since I took the bread out.  Don't think my baking soda paste is going to cut it.  Any suggestions?



Soup and bread go hand in hand and these two are the perfect pair.  It's not a low carb feast, but what the hell.  It's a meal so good it might just get me up on that ladder, sooner, rather than later.  Oh, who am I kidding? I'm going to tuck into another piece of rosemary beer bread, snuggle in a little deeper and watch another episode of "Downton Abbey."  The cocooning has begun. 




Cheesy Bacon, Potato and Leek Soup

4 pieces of bacon, chopped small
3 leeks, white part only, washed thoroughly, then sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 medium potatoes, Yukon Golds, or other white
5 cups of chicken stock, or veggie stock
2 tsp Dijon mustard
dash of cayenne
salt and pepper
1 cup grated cheese, such as old cheddar or Gouda
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup milk

In a large soup pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy.  Remove crisp bacon from pot with a slotted spoon and set aside, keeping the fat in the pot. (If not using bacon, melt 2tbsp of butter in pot and proceed with recipe).  Add the leeks, and cook until a little bit soft, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, cook a minute longer.  Add the potatoes and stock, scraping up most of the brown bits from the bottom.  Stir in the Dijon mustard and cayenne.  You want the potatoes to be covered with about an inch or so of broth.  I used about 4 cups, but you may need a bit more.  Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are soft and falling apart, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.  Put back on low heat, stir in the cheese until melted.  Add crisp bacon back into pot and stir in milk and cream. Adjust seasonings with more salt, pepper, cheese and if too thick, thin out with more milk or stock.  Garnish with again, more cheese, chives and diced bacon.  Serves 4-6.

Rosemary Beer Bread

This is my friend Ashley's recipe - she wrote it out for me on a small recipe card before I left Edmonton.  Besides being a wonderful cook, she has two blogs: one where she knits and crochets like nobody's business, and another where she gives insights into her vegetarian world.  You have her to thank for this recipe!  And hey Ash!  Has your oven ever started on fire too?!

3 cups all purpose flour, sifted
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp coarse salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped, or 1 tsp dry
1 12oz. can of beer (I opened it about 30 minutes before baking)
1/3 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all dry ingredients together in large bowl.  Add beer and stir well to incorporate.  Batter is quite thick. Pour/press into greased LARGE loaf pan, or an 8x8 inch baking dish.  Pour melted butter over batter.  Run a knife around edges so the butter runs down sides. Place in the middle of your oven and bake for about 50 minutes if using loaf pan, and about 30 minutes if using 8 inch square.  If butter runs over, place aluminum foil on a cookie sheet and place this on the rack beneath your bread.  Put out any fires with baking soda and a large lid. :)   Let bread cool for about 15 minutes, then run knife around edges and remove from pan.  Serve warm. 


Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Thanksgiving: Pumpkin Tiramisu with Candied Pecans



Canadians are celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend.  Turkeys are being trussed as we speak!  It's one of my favourite holidays - the food is always fantastic; the weather still decent; and there's this beautiful amber light shimmering down. Preparing and sharing food with loved ones is one of life's most simplest pleasures.  Seeing all of my favourite people gathered round a table, tucking into plates piled high with turkey and stuffing is a beautiful thing.  I love when their eyes roll back in their head, because that gravy and mashed potato pool is just so good.  But while the turkey is digesting I take a good look around at all of the lovely, gravy stained faces, happy and thankful that I am where I am, and with who I'm with.




I'm a lucky girl -  living where I do, doing what I do, and not too many days go by where I'm not thankful for all of the wonders that makes my life that much better, such as:  butter; bacon; boys; brothers and sisters; belly laughs; bars of dark, dark, chocolate; the Beatles; books; beds with flannel sheets; babies; blue skies and butterflies; Bach; balls of grey and orange cat fur; birthdays; big dreams; Beautiful day(s); brand new jeans; blogs and bloggers; bare feet in the garden; breakfast for dinner; Better things; "Bridget Jones's Diary"; big hugs from little people; being anywhere with my Mom; black tea with honey; bowls of soup; bottles of wine on a Saturday night; a breath of fresh air; a blast from the past; a best friend's voice; brave hearts; and bright, bright stars.




Pumpkin pie seems to be the dessert of choice around Thanksgiving, and I'll let you in on a little secret:  I kind of hate dislike pumpkin pie.  I mean, I'll eat it if offered a slice, and I know it won't kill me, but there's no way in hell I'd go out of my way to make one.  It just seems so terribly bland and boring, and thank God for the invention of whipped cream to make it all slide down. And don't get me started on those supermarket pies, where the taste is not far from the cardboard they're packaged in.  Weird thing is I do like pumpkin and all of the delicious spices it parties so well with.  So whenever I can make a dessert with those flavours, just minus the pie crust, it's a good day.  Pumpkin cheesecake is fabulous, but time consuming and heavy.  Tiramisu is quick and won't make you feel like you have a giant alien in your belly.  I know which dessert I would eat!




This tiramisu caught my eye years ago in the pages of Bon Appétit, and every time I make it I'm in awe of what a simple, spectacular dessert it is.  Assembly is quick and painless, and the best part is you do it ahead of time because the longer it sets up the better the flavours meld together.  So on the day of the big event, dessert is out of the way, which frees up more time for you to have a nap or catch a movie or rake the endless leaves or go for a long, long walk because this dessert packs quite the caloric punch, so some sort of physical activity post or pre-consumption is recommended.  Looks like tomorrow I'll be trading off my sexy new suede boots for the hikers and hitting the trails.  Damn you mascarpone!




This year I switched up some of the ingredients and I'm really happy with the result.  I brushed the lady fingers with a combo of rum and instant espresso.  You could easily use just coffee or your favourite liqueur, or even a spiced apple cider if lots of kiddies will be eating it.  I quite liked the espresso/rum combo myself.  Grating fresh nutmeg into the mix made it super aromatic and tasting of Fall.  The sprinkling of Skor bits and candied pecans was a spectacular finishing touch - and I have to say it's a wonder any of the pecans made it to the top of the cake because they are highly addictive - so watch out for that.




A final note of gratitude to you, dear reader, for stopping by my blog, if this is your first or 71st time.  Thank you, times a million, for reading my rambling, sometimes nonsensical words; for bookmarking a recipe, and heck even making it!  Thank you for every kind word left in the comments section - it's like Christmas morning when I read those.  If you are celebrating this weekend, I hope your plate is piled high and your heart so happy it just might burst.




Pumpkin Tiramisu with Candied Pecans

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup granulated sugar
475g tub of mascarpone cheese
15 ounces of canned pumpkin (not the pie filling)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 cup rum, or your favourite booze
1 1/2 tsp instant espresso, or strong coffee
2 large packages of  lady fingers (approx. 200 g each box)
1/2 cup Skor bits

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the whipping cream and sugar until stiff peaks form.  Remove to another bowl.  In the same bowl that you beat the cream (don't bother washing it), beat together the mascarpone, pumpkin and spices until all combined, scraping down sides.  Add the whipped cream and sugar mixture, and beat until thick and all combined.  Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the rum and espresso.  Set aside. 
Line the bottom and sides of a 9 or 10 inch spring form pan with parchment paper.  Layer lady fingers on the bottom. Using a pastry brush, paint the cookies with your rum/espresso mixture. Spread a third of the pumpkin mixture over top.  Layer in more fingers, brush with rum combo and spread pumpkin.  Do the same for the third layer, finishing with the pumpkin.  You may have some lady fingers left over.  Wrap tiramisu with plastic and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, but the longer the wait the better it is.  Sprinkle with Skor bits and a generous helping of Candied Pecans.  Serves 10-12.  Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit, November 2006. 

Candied Pecans
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp cinnamon
200g (1 cup) pecan halves
1 egg white
1 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix the sugars and spices together.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg white and water until frothy, not stiff.  Add nuts to the egg white, tossing to coat. Add the sugar mixture and toss again so evenly coated.  Spread on a parchment lined bake sheet and bake for 30 min, stirring occasionally.  Separate nuts as they cool.   Sprinkle on tiramisu, if you haven't eaten all of them! Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Best For Last: Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake



I know what you're thinking:  another zucchini recipe; is this girl nuts?  Well yes, and no, not really.  But I promise, this is the LAST zucchini recipe you'll see for another 10 months.  Cross my heart and hope to die.  This is it, and hold onto your hats, it's a doozy.




I had tea with my dear friend Tara last week, and she was like "Ren, have you made chocolate zucchini cake yet?  You must try the recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini, it's unbelievable."  Like most of my friends, Tara and I seem to read each others' minds when it comes to food.  Maybe it's because we worked side by side in the close, crazy quarters of a kitchen, and you get to know each other really well in such an intense environment.  There were some tasty secrets dished in the walk-in refrigerator, let me tell you.  Somewhere between making countless appetizers, de-boning turkeys and sneaking brownies from the freezer, Tara and I became really good friends, and when she gives me a heads up on a recipe, I pay attention.




Chocolate and Zucchini was one of the first blogs I starting following. If you haven't been there yet, check it out.  The fact that Clotilde named her blog after this odd pairing, meant that her recipe for this cake should be something special.   Ever since Shelley, over at Franish Nonspeaker, made this exact same recipe back in July, I knew this would be my zucchini finale for 2011.  Tara mentioned how delicious the cake was with just a simple dusting of icing sugar.  Like the-whole-family-eating-the-whole-thing-in-one-sitting good.  When I told her I was going to spread it with a dark chocolate ganache, her mouth fell open.  I took that to be a good sign that I must do it. And I did. And it's pretty unbelievable.




I grew up eating chocolate zucchini cake, so it's never weird for me to add zucchini to sweet things, because you just don't taste it.  The zucchini disappears as it bakes and adds moisture and texture, so don't be afraid of any crazy squash taste, because it's not there.  The cake isn't overly sweet, and has the perfect texture and weight, with a deep, dark chocolate taste thanks to both cocoa AND chocolate chunks in the batter. I know, it already sounds crazy good, right?  So imagine biting through a layer of dark chocolate ganache and into a perfectly moist and tender chocolate cake.  I mean, honestly.  The ganache part is easy, just heat whipping cream and pour it over chocolate.  Let it stand for about an hour or so, then pour over the cake.  I thought this initial layer would be satisfactory.  I even put the toasted pecans on top and everything, then cut myself a slice.  It was good.  Real good.  Then I saw the other half of the ganache just sitting in the bowl all by its lonesome, and I thought, well, I must not let good ganache go to waste.  So I picked off the pecans, and spread the rest of the ganache, which had gotten nice and thick now, allover the cake.  Toasted pecans resumed their position in the centre.  I mean, really.  Who was I kidding that one layer would be enough?  This is me we are talking about!




As it stands, I still have two zucchini left, and now that I know how awesome this cake is, I think I might just whip up a few more and freeze them.  (I used to grate zucchini and freeze it, but I found it too watery and sad.  Better off freezing the actual product, I think.)  These frozen beauties could come in handy during the holidays:  just defrost and spread with ganache.  Box it up with a bow and you're good to go.  I mean, who wouldn't want to receive cake for Christmas?




Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Ganache

1/2 cup butter, room temperature, plus 1/2 tbsp for greasing pan (use unsalted butter if you have it, or just reduce the salt amount by 1/4 tsp if using salted butter)
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp instant espresso granules, or 2 tsp instant coffee or 2 tbsp cooled, strong coffee
3 large eggs
2 cups grated zucchini, packed
1 cup good quality chocolate chips

8 ounces (1 cup) heavy whipping cream
8 ounces (1 cup) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup toasted pecan or walnut pieces

Line the bottom of a spring form pan with parchment paper.  Spread butter on the parchment and the sides of the pan.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Scoop out 1 cup of this mix and set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer (or by hand) cream the 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup brown sugar until light.  Stir in the vanilla and espresso granules.  Beat some more.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition.  Add the large amount of flour mixture and beat until incorporated.  Batter will be thick.  Scrape sides.  To the remaining 1 cup of flour mixture, add the chocolate chips and zucchini, toss to coat.  Add the zucchini mixture into the bowl and beat just until combined.  Spread the batter into your prepared spring form pan.  I used a 10 inch pan, and baked the cake for about 45 minutes, or when tested with a toothpick, it comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it, but not wet. The top of the cake should be shiny and set, like a brownie. If using a smaller pan, bake a little longer, like 50-60 minutes. If using a 9x13 pan, bake for about 30 minutes. Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes, then remove the sides from the spring form.  Let the cake cool completely, then remove from the cake bottom and parchment.  Transfer cake to a same sized cake round, or make your own by tracing your pan on clean cardboard and cut accordingly.  This will give the cake some foundation while you ice it. 

While the cake is cooling, heat the cream to almost boiling.  Place the chopped chocolate into a small bowl.  Pour the hot cream over chocolate and let stand for about 2 minutes, then stir until smooth.  It will need to set for about 30 minutes - one hour until it is thick enough to pour. Once it's ready, pour some ganache over the cooled cake. (I left the cake on the cooling rack and placed it inside a parchment lined bake sheet to catch the drips.)  Let stand until set, then spread a thicker layer, if you like. Sprinkle with toasted nuts.  Let stand again.  Once cake is set, cut into slices.  Keep covered at room temperature for a few days.  Serves 8-10.  Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini and Franish Nonspeaker.


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