The Sinfulness of Chocolate 

Chocolate is a veg, right?  I mean it starts as a plant so it should count as part of our five a day.  Just like wine is fruit because it comes from grapes.  Hands up from those that are with me on this.  Anyone?

Because I completely forgot to do a birthday cake for our daughter earlier in the year I decided to make up for it when we celebrated a bunch of family birthdays a few weeks ago.  You know, she never said a word.  Once the lightbulb went off I felt really guilty.  A familiar feeling, I’m sure, for many parents.  Our daughter is a massive fan of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate I decided to go for a chocolate cake with ganache and raspberries.  Unsurprisingly, she was on board with this idea.

After doing a bit of research online and realising the recipes are pretty basic, making me wonder why I haven’t made it before, I used this guide from Add a Pinch to create my dessert.  I also made a chocolate cake as a base for this.  The difference between the glaze and the filling are the ratio between the cream and chocolate.  This is not a low calorie treat!


I did the filling first.  In a saucepan, gently heat a 1 cup/8oz of heavy or double cream with 2 tablespoons/1oz of butter.  Don’t boil or scald but heat until the butter is melted.


In a large bowl add 2 cups/11oz of white chocolate.  Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted and everything has blended together.  If you would like you can also add a couple of tablespoons of flavouring, I didn’t to this stage because of the other flavours that I was putting together.  


Chill until it has a thick spreadable consistency.  Spread on the first layer of the cake and add a layer of fresh raspberries.


For the glaze, redo the cream and butter.  Pour it over a cup/6oz of dark chocolate along with 2 tablespoons/1-2oz of spiced rum and a pinch of salt.  Mix well.  This will be very liquid so it will need to be chilled a bit so it doesn’t completely run off the cake when you pour it on.  


Top with more fresh raspberries and serve.  I have to say this was a hit.  This will definitely be made again!

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Raspberry Meringue Nests Ooh La La

Yesterday I was really in the mood to create in the kitchen.  Part of it was I’ve been watching cooking shows this week plus we went to see Hundred Foot Journey this past weekend.  What a great movie!  Our son really wanted to see it and I’m so glad he suggested it.  Aside from the fact Helen Mirren is a fabulous actress the scenery and food was just glorious.

I wanted to make a special dessert for my husband just because.  A get us through Wednesday treat.  This called for more than Bird’s custard, it was time for crème pâtissière. And because I love meringue this had to be the other main component.

I was faced with the whole hot dog/bun dilemma.  You know how they put 12 hot dogs in a package and 8 buns in a package so you are doomed to never match it up?  The meringue recipe calls for 3 egg whites and the crème pâtissière calls for 5 egg yolks.  Sigh.

Because I needed a smaller recipe for the meringue then I usually use for the pavlova I found this recipe to use.

For the meringue you will need:

3 egg whites

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

1/4 tsp of cream of tartar

3/4 cup white sugar

In an electric mixer with a whisk start beating the egg whites.

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On medium speed add the vanilla and cream of tartar.  Beat until soft peaks form.  Then gradually add the sugar while beating on high until the meringue forms and is stiff.

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Because I was making nests I spooned in the meringue into a pastry bag with a star tip and piped it onto parchment paper in the shape of nests.  I do recommend working quickly so the meringue stays firm.

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Bake at 275F/135C for 45 minutes then turn off the oven.  Leave the meringue in the oven with the door closed for an hour before removing.

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I turned to Julia Child for the crème pâtissière and you will need:

1 cup granulated sugar

5 egg yolks

1/2 cup flour

2 cups boiling milk (careful you don’t scald it)

1T butter

1 1/2 T vanilla extract

Place the yolks into the mixer with the whisk and beat on medium.

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Gradually add the sugar as you beat the yolks.  The colour will be pale yellow and once the sugar is added continue to beat 2-3 minutes.  What you are looking for is it to “form the ribbon”  This happens when the eggs lose the granular texture. This bit is tricky as if you beat to long it will turn back to being granular.

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Then beat in the flour.

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Once the flour is incorporated carefully and slowly add the boiling milk in a thin stream to the egg mixture while you are beating at medium speed.

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Add the mixture to a saucepan and bring to a boil.  This is where the the elbow grease comes in. You need to keep whisking as it comes to a boil.  It will get lumpy then it smooths out as it boils.  It will be really thick.

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Once it comes to a boil cook it for 2-3 minutes so the flour is cooked.  Then remove from the heat and add the butter.

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Blend it in and then cover the pot until ready to use.  You can refrigerate it or freeze it if you aren’t using it right away.

I found some Ghirardelli semi-dark chocolate that I thought would be a nice flavour for this dessert.

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I melted it and added a few pinches of sea salt. To assemble fill the nests with the crème pâtissière and top with fresh raspberries. Drizzle with the melted chocolate and add fresh mint leaves.

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I was very pleased with how this came out.  It was a great way to get through a Wednesday!

Another Snow Day – The Kids Rejoice

The adults have had enough.  The kids don’t want it to end.  Not sure what age marks the switch of loving the cold and deep snow to longing for spring and warmth.  Granted some adults are in their element with skiing and winter sports.  When they were talking about the current winter storm yesterday my son was cheering and applauding.  He’s nine.  We could get 8-14 inches today and tonight.  The kids are having a PJ day and just enjoying being kids.

I’m taking this day to try to catch up with everything.  I haven’t posted in nearly two weeks and I miss it.  It will probably be like this for another two months as I get through the tax season.  The first peak is almost done so I hope to have time to actually cook different things so there is something to post about!  That was the main issue.  I’ve relied on the old tried and true recipes.  The quick things that don’t take any effort.  I did find at the co-op some pork belly so I’ll be making some soon as well as trying my hand at homemade bacon.  That’s the plan anyway.

But I do love doing taxes.  I spend most of the year nurturing my creative side but this allows me to exercise the math side of my brain.  I love numbers.  But I also find the people fascinating.  You see the whole spectrum of life doing people’s taxes.  Young people starting out not having any idea how their decisions affect their taxes, where they will go for jobs, kids having kids, the newlyweds.  My favourite clients are the elderly couples that have been married forever.  I have a few that are still sweet on each other and it’s so much fun when these couples come in.  The tough ones are when they come in and they just lost their spouse.  I wish the IRS would give them a year’s grace period but they don’t.  You have to help them find their feet.  As they continue to come in year after year you start to see them find their strength again and the smiles come a little easier.  I hear so many fascinating stories.  None of which I can share but I understand why the Humans of New York is so popular.

Even though I am not doing taxes today I’m not cooking because our daughter just turned 13 and we will brave the storm to take her to dinner tonight. It’s funny the reactions when I mention we now have a teenager.  Those that currently have teenagers or who had them are wishing us luck and those that haven’t made it to the club yet are very excited for us.  Fortunately she’s a wonderful kid.  I know there will be bumps along the way but I’m sure we’ll come out the other side in one piece.  🙂

I did find the time to bake today.  My husband’s favourite cookies are oatmeal raisin cookies.  Since it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow I thought I’d make him some.  As long as he shares!

Pre-heat the oven to 375F/190C.  I used the recipe from the Pillsbury Complete Book of Baking.

In a mixture add 1/2 cup of softened butter, 3/4 cups sugar, and 1/4 cup of brown sugar packed.

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Mix together then add one large egg with a tsp of vanilla.

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Add 3/4 cup of flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of salt and mix well.  If you use 1/2 tsp of salt like I did by mistake it still comes out ok.

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Add 1 1/2 cup of quick oats, a little over 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, and a little over 1/2 cup of raisins.  The recipe calls for raisins and nuts but my husband doesn’t like nuts in his baked goods so I use chocolate instead.  So much better!

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Spoon the mixture onto the cookie sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes.  Let cool a minute or so before placing on the cooling rack.  Quality check immediately  of course.  It’s amazing the number of quality checkers that come out of the woodwork.  🙂

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Here is a view from our den window with the snow coming down.  The wind has started to pick up so it could be a wild night.

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Setting the Congo Bar High…

I love seeing traditions passed on to the next generation.  Especially when it comes to food.  As I mentioned in my post Birthday Girls my mum would make congo bars for us and mail them to me when I was away.  I’m pretty sure Grammy made them for her as well.  Of course mum would bake all sorts of things for us when we were little.  And she was generous with it.  The second she brought out home baked cookies and glasses of milk onto the carport kids would materialise out of nowhere and suddenly I was the most popular kid on the block!

Congo bars have become a favourite in our house as well.  Particularly with my 9 year old son.  It’s the one baked good he requests the most.  And I can’t let him down, now can I?  Of course since it wouldn’t be healthy for him to eat all the bars the rest of us step up to help.  It’s the least we can do.  🙂

The recipe we use is Millie Corbett’s Congo Bars.  The recipe has to be at least 60 years old.  It was originally published in her local church’s cookbooks.  Those types of cookbooks can be real gems.

Preheat the oven to 350F/177C and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Add 3/4 cups of soft butter and 1 3/4 cups of brown sugar to the mixer and cream together.

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Add 3 eggs one at a time and blend well.  Once blended add 2 cups flour, 2 tsps baking powder, and a pinch of salt.

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The recipe calls for 12oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  No problem, right?  Well that’s what I thought until I opened the cupboard.  We had a small handful, too many chocolate chip pancakes have been made, I say!  Fortunately we had small chocolate discs that are great for melting like a fondue.  As I didn’t want large blobs of melted chocolate, well I’m ok with that but it would be messy, I chopped up the chocolate and mixed that in.

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Spread evenly in the baking pan.

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Now the recipe said to bake 20-25 minutes but I find that it needs to be about 30-35 minutes to completely bake and still be moist.

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Now you are supposed to wait until it cools to eat.  Good luck with that…

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My son was so excited when I picked him up from school and I told him what was waiting for him at home.  🙂

Boston Cream Cupcakes

I was doing a craft night with some members of our PTA for teacher appreciation week and I wanted to make a treat to get us through the crafts and I came upon this recipe for Boston Cream Cupcakes.  It looked fabulous and as my favourite donut is Boston Cream I thought it would be perfect.

I didn’t have time to do a proper pastry cream so I used Bird’s Custard.  It is one of my major guilty pleasures.  🙂

I made the cupcakes the day before in the interest of time, what with organizing the kids, work, and everything else!  To begin pre-heat the oven to 350F/176C.  In a small bowl measure out 8 3/4oz (very specific!) of flour and 7 oz of sugar.

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Place in the mixer bowl and add 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 3/4 tsp salt.  Mix it well.  Next take 12 tablespoons of butter and slice it up.  Add a piece at a time to the flour while mixing until well blended.

 

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Add 3 eggs and blend well.  Lastly add 3/4 cup milk ( I used 2%) and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.  Again blend well.

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Spoon into the cupcake cups.  Bake for about 18-20 minutes until the toothpick comes out clean.

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Once they are cooled or it’s the next day it is time to add the custard.  I did the custard on the thick side for this.  To make the well cut out a cone then cut off the top half of the cone so you have plenty of space for the custard.  Fill the wells.

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Place the tops back on and prepare the chocolate glaze.  This was very easy to make.  All you need is a bowl or pyrex measuring pitcher and a microwave.  Take 80z of chocolate of your choice, 2/3 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup light corn syrup, and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.  Heat until melted and the consistency you would like.  I found doing a couple of coats worked well.  Just drizzle over.  It’s a bit messy!

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These were delicious!  Sticky and messy but lovely.  🙂

 

 

 

Chocolate cupcakes

My son was having his first ever sleepover so I wanted to make it special.  I decided to surprise him with chocolate cupcakes.  I’ll post tomorrow the decoration part of it.  The recipe I used this time was Basic Chocolate Cake from the Pillsbury Complete Book of Baking.  This book is getting worn out!  It is falling apart at the seams.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

The recipe calls for 4 oz of unsweetened chocolate to be melted.  Now I use whatever we have on hand.  This time I had chocolate chips.  In the past I’ve used Belgium chocolate.  Which is outstanding!

I melt my chocolate in the microwave, 20 seconds at a time until melted.  It is important to stir each time to keep the heat even.  Otherwise you risk burning the chocolate.  Smoking hot is not a good thing here.

In the mixing bowl add 1/2 cup butter softened and 1 1/2 cups sugar.

Mix until creamed and blended.

Next add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Mix well.

At this point the chocolate should be melted.

Add to the mixture and blend well.

In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients.  2 cups of flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons of bake soda, 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  At this point you will also need 1 cup milk.  This need to be mixed into the chocolate mixture a bit at a time alternating between the flour mixture and the milk.  Mix after each addition.

Couldn’t resist an action shot.  🙂

If you are just doing straight cakes then grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch cake pans.  As I was doing cupcakes I set up 12 cupcakes and one cake pan.  For some reason there was a battle between myself and the cupcake paper cups.  It was a massive struggle for me to get the batter in.  I won in the end.  But geez.

Bake for 27 to 35 minutes.  You want the toothpick to come out clean.  Then let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.  I froze the cake for another time and set aside the cupcakes for decoration.

Decoration will be shown next time.  🙂