Archive for January, 2011

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

If you like chocolate, then you will love this decadent dessert.  The cake is comprised of three distinct layers of chocolate, each one progressively lighter in color and flavor, all topped with a sprinkling of delicate dark chocolate curls.  To elaborate, the bottom layer is a rich, flourless dark chocolate cake.  This is topped with a rich and creamy dark chocolate mousse, and the top layer is a sweet and silky white chocolate mousse.

I first saw this recipe featured on an episode of America’s Test Kitchen, and I was totally smitten with it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to making it until last weekend (about a year after seeing the episode.)  Do not make the same mistake I did and set this recipe aside only to be forgotten – I highly recommend making this cake as soon as possible.  In fact, I’m already planning to make it again very soon!

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

(print recipe)

Ingredients:

For the bottom layer:

  • 6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ¾ tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • Pinch of table salt
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar (2 ½ ounces), crumbled with your fingers to remove lumps

For the middle layer:

  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
  • 5 tbsp. hot water
  • 7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1½ cups cold heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt

For the top layer:

  • ¾ tsp. powdered gelatin
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped (or white chocolate chips)
  • 1½ cups cold heavy cream

For the garnish: shaved chocolate curls or cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. For the bottom layer: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 ½ -inch springform pan (the sides of the pan should be at least 3 inches high).  Melt the butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until the mixture is smooth.  Remove the mixture from the heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in the vanilla extract and egg yolks; set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy, about 30 seconds.  Add half of the brown sugar into the mixing bowl and beat until combined, about 15 seconds.  Add the remaining brown sugar and continue to beat at high speed until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, about 1 minute longer.  Using a whisk, mix one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites until no white streaks remain.  Carefully pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and gently smooth the top with an offset spatula.
  3. Bake until the cake has risen, is firm around the edges, and the center has just set but is still soft (the center of the cake should spring back after pressing gently with a finger), about 13-18 minutes.  Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.  Do not remove the cake from the pan.
  4. For the middle layer:  Combine the cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl and set aside.  Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Once the chocolate has melted, remove it from the heat and cool slightly, about 2-5 minutes.  (Alternatively you can melt the chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl in the microwave.)
  5. In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream, granulated sugar and salt at medium speed until the mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds.  Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, about 15-60 seconds.
  6. Whisk the cocoa powder mixture into the melted chocolate until smooth.  Using a whisk, fold one-third of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten it.  With a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain.  Pour the mousse into the springform pan over the cooled cake and gently tap the pan on the counter 3 times to remove any air bubbles.  Then carefully smooth the top with a spatula and wipe the inside edge of the pan with a damp paper towel to remove any drips.  Refrigerate the cake for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the top layer.
  7. For the top layer:  In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it stand at least 5 minutes.  Place the white chocolate in a medium bowl.  Bring ½ cup of the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Remove the pan from the heat, add the gelatin mixture, and stir until dissolved.  Pour the cream mixture over the white chocolate and whisk until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.  Cool the mixture to room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 5-8 minutes.  (The mixture should thicken slightly).
  8. In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining one cup of cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken, approximately 30 seconds.  Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 15-60 seconds.  Using a whisk, fold one-third of the whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture to lighten it.  With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain.  Spoon the white chocolate mousse into the pan over the middle layer, and then smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Return the cake to the refrigerator and chill until set, at least 2½ hours.
  9. To serve:  Garnish the top of the cake with chocolate curls or dust the cake with cocoa powder.  Carefully remove the sides of the springform pan from the cake.  Cut the cake into slices and serve.

Serves: 12-16

Note:  I don’t have a 9 ½ inch springform pan.  Instead I used my 7-inch springform pan and halved the above recipe.  This worked perfectly, and yielded a smaller cake that serves 6-8 people.

Source: Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated magazine, November & December 2009 issue

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

The name of these cookies says it all – they are chocolaty, chewy and thick.  Even though they are large cookies, it’s still hard to eat just one!  My sister gave me this recipe, and it’s originally from the Baking Illustrated cookbook.  She said these are the best chocolate chip cookies she’s ever made, and I definitely have to agree with her!

One thing I like about this recipe is that it is so quick to make.  It literally took me less than 20 minutes to mix up the dough and put the cookie dough on the cookie sheets.  A few things  that speed up this process for me are to use a kitchen scale to measure the flour and sugars.  Then you don’t have to fumble around with different sized measuring cups, and it’s also more accurate.  Another trick is to use a ¼ cup cookie scoop to measure the dough balls before baking.  This is so much faster than “guessing” the amount of dough for each cookie, and the squeeze handle on the cookie scoop makes it so easy to release the dough onto the pans.  It also ensures that all of the cookies will be exactly the same size.

I first made these cookies last summer for a BBQ (they were devoured so quickly!), and I made them again this past weekend to have on hand for whenever I get a cookie craving!  If you have extra cookies, I recommend storing them in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag to keep them fresh.  Eric likes to eat them crunchy and cold straight from the freezer, but I prefer to warm them in the microwave for 30 seconds – this makes them soft and gooey, just like they are when they come out of the oven.  Whether you prefer to eat them cold or warm, they are delicious!  And, truth be told, there are only 2 cookies left in my freezer… and I only made these 4 days ago.  Maybe having cookies on hand tempting me from the freezer is not such a good idea after all! :)

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
  • 1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended.  Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined.  Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips to taste.
  4. Roll a scant ¼ cup of the dough into a ball (a ¼ cup cookie scoop works great for this).  Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 ½ inches apart.
  5. Bake until the cookies are light golden brown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time.  Cool the cookies on the sheets.  Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a wide metal spatula.

Yield: about 18 large cookies

Source: slightly adapted from Baking Illustrated

Using a cookie scoop makes measuring out the dough so easy!

See how thick these cookies are?

Since Valentine's Day is coming up, I added a few M&Ms to these cookies to make them look a little more festive!

Chicken with Mushrooms and Green Beans

Chicken with mushrooms and green beans is one of my favorite things to make when I want a delicious dinner that can be prepared in less than 30 minutes.  This recipe is perfect for a weeknight meal – it’s well-balanced, low-calorie and so tasty.  This dish is seasoned with salt & pepper, butter, olive oil, lemon juice and parsley – simple, fresh-tasting flavors.  The recipe comes from one of my favorite cooking magazines, Everyday Food, by Martha Stewart.  In my opinion, you can never go wrong when you make one of Martha’s recipes, and this one is no exception!  I recommend serving this with a simple green salad, crusty bread, or over white or brown rice.  Enjoy!

Chicken with Mushrooms and Green Beans

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to a half-inch thick & sliced in half
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • 10 ounces white (or cremini) mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Directions

  1. Set a steamer basket in a large saucepan and fill with enough water to come just below the basket.  Bring the water to a boil, add the green beans, cover the pot with a lid, and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Working in batches, cook the chicken until opaque throughout, about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate, and loosely tent with aluminum foil (reserve skillet).
  3. Place the mushrooms and 1 tablespoon of butter in the skillet.  Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender, about 7 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, lemon juice, and parsley.  Top the chicken with the mushroom mixture, and serve it alongside the green beans (alternatively, you can mix the green beans in with the mushrooms).

Serves: 4

Source: slightly adapted from Everyday Food Magazine, November 2008 (Martha Stewart)

All-American Chili

I’ve tried several chili recipes over the years and this one is definitely my favorite.  It’s flavorful, spicy, and hearty.  The recipe comes from the January 2003 issue of Cooking Light, and not only is this chili delicious, it’s also fairly low calorie.  It’s easy to make, and it’s the perfect thing to have on a cold day.  I like to serve this chili with homemade cornbread or crusty French bread.  Like most chilis, the leftovers are excellent and the flavors only improve over time.  And if you are looking for a recipe for vegetarian chili, try this one – it’s also from Cooking Light and it’s another one of my favorites!

All-American Chili

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • 6  ounces  hot (or mild- depending on how much spice you like!) turkey Italian sausage
  • 2  cups  chopped onion
  • 1  cup  chopped green bell pepper
  • 8  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  pound  ground sirloin
  • 1  jalapeño pepper, chopped (optional – I always omit this… the chili is spicy enough for me without it)
  • 2  tablespoons  chili powder
  • 2  tablespoons  brown sugar
  • 1  tablespoon  ground cumin
  • 3  tablespoons  tomato paste
  • 1  teaspoon  dried oregano
  • ½  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼  teaspoon  salt
  • 2  bay leaves
  • 1 ¼  cups  Merlot or other fruity red wine (beef broth can be substituted)
  • 2  (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, un drained and coarsely chopped
  • 2  (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained
  • ½  cup  (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Remove the casings from the sausage. Add the sausage, onion, and the next 4 ingredients (onion through jalapeño (if using)) to the pan; cook 8 minutes or until the sausage and beef are browned, stirring to crumble.
  2. Add the chili powder and the next 7 ingredients (chili powder through bay leaves), and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in the wine, tomatoes, and kidney beans; bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  3. Uncover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Discard the bay leaves.  Sprinkle each serving with cheddar cheese.

Makes: 8 servings (each serving size is 1 ¼ cups)

Source: Cooking Light Magazine

5th Birthday Sugar Cookies

I made these sugar cookies for my nephew’s 5th birthday party.  I love the bright color palette and the simplicity of the polka dots.

I also made a few peppermint candy-shaped cookies.

For the sugar cookie and royal icing recipes, click here.  If you want to see photos of other sugar cookies I have made, head on over to my “Sugar Cookie Gallery”!

Roasted Carrots

Roasted carrots are one of my favorite basic side dishes.  They are incredibly easy to make, and they’re a nice alternative to steamed carrots.  These carrots are simply seasoned with some olive oil, salt and pepper.  If you have parsley handy, then you can add some of that too, but it’s not necessary.  These carrots are the perfect side dish for almost any dinner!

Roasted Carrots

Ingredients

  • 6 carrots
  • 1 ½ tablespoons good olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. If the carrots are thick, cut them in half lengthwise; if not, leave whole.  Slice the carrots diagonally in 1 ½-inch-thick slices. (The carrots will shrink while cooking so make the slices big.) Toss them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Transfer to a baking sheet in 1 layer and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, until browned and tender.
  3. If desired, toss the carrots with minced parsley.  Season to taste with salt & pepper, and serve.

Serves: 3

Source: Ina Garten, the Food Network

Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls

If you’ve been looking for the perfect dinner roll recipe, look no further!  I’ve made these cloverleaf rolls three times already, and they are delicious.  They’re buttery, fluffy, and the clover shape makes for a pretty presentation too.  Shaping these rolls is easy because you just separate the dough into little balls and then bake three balls in each well of a muffin tin.  They are also fun to eat, because you can pluck them apart.

Most recently, I made these rolls for Thanksgiving and they were a big hit with everyone.  I made them a few days ahead of time and stored them in the freezer, which worked well for such a busy holiday.  To thaw and re-warm individual rolls, just zap them in the microwave for 30-45 seconds.  Or, to reheat a whole batch of rolls, just place them on a cookie sheet and thaw them at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.  Then re-heat them in a preheated oven at 350 until they are warmed through.

Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup skim milk, heated to 110 degrees F
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 packet (2 ¼ teaspoons) rapid rise (or instant) yeast
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 3 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces and softened, plus 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.  When the oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off.  Grease a large bowl.
  2. Whisk the milk, sugar, and yeast in a liquid measuring cup until the yeast dissolves.  Then whisk in the egg and egg yolk.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the flour and salt until combined.  With the mixer on low speed, add the milk mixture in a steady stream and mix until the dough begins to form, about 1 minute.
  4. Increase the speed to medium and add the softened butter, 1 piece at a time, until incorporated.  Continue to mix until the dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to form a smooth, cohesive ball.  Transfer the dough to the prepared bowl and turn to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and place the bowl in the turned-off oven until the dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  6. To shape the rolls:  Brush a 12-cup muffin tin with 1 tablespoon of melted butter.  Punch down the dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Divide the dough into thirds.  Roll each third into an 18-inch long rope.  Then cut each rope into 12 equal pieces and cover the pieces with plastic (there will be 36 pieces of dough).
  7. On a clean, dry, un-floured work surface, roll each piece of dough into a smooth ball.  Place 3 balls, seam side down, in each muffin cup.  Cover the muffin tin loosely with plastic wrap and let rest in the turned-off oven until doubled in size, about 20 minutes.
  8. Remove the rolls from the oven and discard the plastic wrap.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake the rolls until golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.  Brush the rolls with the remaining butter.  Cool in the muffin tin for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack.  Serve warm.

To make ahead: The filled muffin tin can be refrigerated, covered, for 24 hours.  Let the dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.

Makes: 12 rolls

Source: Cook’s Country Magazine, October/November 2010


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