Sunday, June 27, 2010

Jun 27, 2010: DB Chocolate Pavlovas

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard

Dawn Nyman from Doable and Delicious owns and operates a recreational cooking school in St. Petersburg, Florida. This is a dessert she made in a French Chocolate class which was very well received by all in attendance.

The challenge is primarily based on a recipe from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard and is called Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse.

Recipe Source: Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard

Mandatory items: The recipe is comprised of three parts, four if you include the crème anglaise. You must make the chocolate pavlovas, the mascarpone mousse and the mascarpone cream using the recipes provided.

[My comments in red: I've tried making meringues cookies in the past and they've never dried out as I wanted.]  

Recipe 1: Chocolate Meringue (for the chocolate Pavlova):
3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar [I used superfine sugar]
¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.

2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)

[Egg whites whipped to soft peaks. Time to add the superfine sugar.]

3. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)

[Sifting in the powdered sugar and cocoa powder.]

[Egg whites ready for piping.]

4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon. (Class made rounds, hearts, diamonds and an attempt at a clover was made!)

[Piped different shapes - circles, hearts, squares, clovers, dots and a daisy.]

5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

[Actually backed 4 hours. I went shopping which took longer than expected. The meringues came out nice and dry.]

Recipe 2: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse (for the top of the Pavlova base):
1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)

1. Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.

[Making the ganache/melting the chocolate.]

2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)

[Lightening the mascarpone with the heavy cream.]

3. Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

[Combining the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate ganache.]

[The finished mousse.]

Recipe 3: Crème Anglaise (a component of the Mascarpone Cream below):
1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar

1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.

2. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat.

3. Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK.

4. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.

Recipe 4: Mascarpone Cream (for drizzling):
1 recipe crème anglaise
½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional) [I used rum instead of Sambucca]
½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream

1. Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.

[Combining the heavy cream and the creme anglaise.]


Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and fresh fruit if desired.

[I wanted to keep the shape of the daisy visible so I poured a layer of mascarpone cream on the bottom of the plate and piped on the chocolate mousse.]

[Added a little mascarpone cream into the center of the daisy and topped with a blackberry.]

[Another plate - with a heart.]

Considering all the heavy cream, sugar and chocolate, this dessert turned out to be lighter than I expected and not overly sweet.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Jan 21, 2010: LOP Dan Dan Noodles

My journey into Sichuanese cooking was brought to you via Fuchsia Dunlop's book, Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking.

In the USA, Sichuan cooking has a reputation of being mind-blowing fiery. However, based upon the recipes I've made so far I would say the recipes are comfortably spicy, but I'm a chile-head. I was half expecting more layers of flavor - salty, sweet, sour and spicy, garlicy... etc, but the recipes I tried seemed to rely on savory and spicy.

Overall, I enjoyed the dishes I tried immensely.

My final dish I plan to make is Dan Dan Noodles. Two recipes are provided in the book, the second recipe appealed to me for the use of sesame paste. I have a lot of Tahini in the fridge from a previous Daring Kitchen challenge.

That's Dan Dan noodles, not to be confused with Bam Bam Rubble, Tom Tom Club (Genius of Love) and not to be confused with Gene Gene the Dancing Machine.

However, cooking, sharing and eating is just as fun where you just want to get up and dance!

Xie Laoban's Dan Dan Noodles

1 lb Fresh Chinese Noodles or 12 oz Dried Chinese Noodles
1 T peanut oil
3 Sichuanese Dried Chiles, snipped in half, seeds discarded
1/2 t whole Sichuan peppercorn
2 T Sichuanese ya cai or Tianjin preserved vegetable
4 oz ground beef
2 t light soy sauce
Salt to taste

For the sauce:
1.2 - 1 t Ground roasted Sichuan pepper
1/4 t salt
4 t sesame paste
1 T light soy sauce
1 T dark soy sauce
2 T dark chili oil with chile flakes

The new ingredients added to my pantry - salted, garlicky preserved vegetable greens and chili oil. I couldn't believe how difficult finding chili oil would be. There is a recipe included in the book, but since I picked this recipe at the spur of the moment I didn't feel like making my own.

This is the preserved vegetables. The main aroma was garlic. A good thing!

Making the sauce - combining the Tanini (sesame paste) and ground peppercorns.

Combining the rest of the ingredients... the resulting sauce was pretty thick, like a chocolate ganache.

Rest of the ingredients are pretty simple.
Whole peppercorn, seeded dried chilies, ground chicken mixed with the rest of the ingredients.

Fry the chilies and peppercorns in 1T of oil until fragrant.
Add the preserved vegetables to fry about a minute
Add the ground meat and cook.
Set aside for later.

When the noodles are cooked - I used fettuccine pasta.
Mix in the sauce and top with the meat filling.

The noodles were nutty, savory with a little punch from the Sichuan peppercorns. I probably undersauced the noodles, but overall I liked the results.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Jun 19, 2010: LOP Ants Climbing Tree

This is another recipe based upon Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty... However, I forget to write down the recipe before I returned the book. Looks like I'll have to cook this dish from memory (or I'll just update this post when I get a chance.) I'm glad I take lots of pictures to jog my memory.

Ants climbing a Tree is a weird name for a Chinese dish. I remember watching a film from the 70's where an actor was ordering food over the phone. One of the dishes he ordered was "Ants Climbing a Tree". I forgot the name of the film and the actor (vaguely remember Jack Klugman, but not sure), but I do remember the dish he ordered.

Who would eat ants? Who would eat a tree? What is so appealing about an ant climbing a tree?

I do know about ants and rubber tree plants. Well I have high hopes for this dish.

Ants Climbing a Tree (Approximate)
4 oz Vermicelli
Ground Meat (Chicken for this version)
1 t Chao Hsing Wine
1/2 Salt
1/2 t Dark Soy Sauce
(to taste) Light Soy Sauce
1 1/2 T Hot Bean Paste
2 C Stock
3 Green Onion, chopped

1. Soak the vermicelli noodles in water for about 15 minutes.
Marinade the ground meat with the wine and salt.

2. Fry the ground meat until partially cooked. Add the bean paste and stir in to mix and infuse flavors.

3. Add the stock and 1/2 t dark soy sauce.
Cover and simmer about 5 to 10 minutes.
Mix in the green onions before serving, reserve about 1 T per bowl as garnish.

4. Dish out into a serving bowl and garnish with more green onions.

The metaphorical ants (ground meat) climbing up a tree (the vermicelli noodles).

This is a straightforward dish that tasty too - slightly spicy, except for the chili bean paste, this is a familiar dish I've had growing up. I guess we've been eating "ants climbing a tree" without knowing it's "ants climbing a tree."

So far good recipes from Land of Plenty (LOP).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jun 17, 2010: LOP Kung Pao Chicken

So far I enjoyed the first dish I cooked from, Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking.

Another popular dish in the USA is Kung Pao Chicken.
Peanuts in a sweet, savory and spicy sauce cooked with Peanuts. Besides the restaurant version, The "authentic" version I'm familiar with was made by a classmate for a graduation party. She (Taiwanese, hence the air-quotes on "authentic") made the dish with chicken thigh meat. I on the other hand used chicken breast which was the best deal at the supermarket.

Kung Pao Chicken
(Ref: Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty - Gong Bao Ji Ding)
2 Chicken Breast(about 12 oz), cubed into even chunks
3 Cloves of garlic, minced
Same amount of Ginger, minced
5 Green Onions, White Parts Only, coarse diagonal slice
3 T Peanut Oil
8 - 10 Dried Red Chillies, split in half lengthwise and seeded
1 t Sichuan Peppercorns
75g (2/3 cup) Roasted Peanuts

For the marinade:
1/2 t Salt
2 t Light Soy Sauce
1 t Shaoxing wine
21/4 t Cornstarch
1 T Water

For the sauce:
3 t Sugar
1 t Cornstarch
1 t Dark Soy Sauce
1 t Light Soy Sauce
3 t Chinkiang Vinegar
1 t Sesame Oil
1 T Chicken Stock or Water



1.Pour a little peanut oil into the wok and heat until it smokes, swirling the oil around to cover the entire base of the wok. Pour off into a heatproof container. Add 3 tbsp fresh oil and heat over a high flame. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the chillies and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry for a few seconds until they are fragrant (take care not to burn them).

The peppers frying in 3 T of oil.

2.Add the chicken and continue to stir-fry. When the chicken cubes have separated, add the ginger, garlic and spring onions and stir-fry until they are fragrant and the meat is just cooked.

3.Give the sauce a stir and add to the wok, continuing to stir and toss. As soon as the sauce has become thick and lustrous, add the peanuts, mix them in, and serve immediately

Adding the sauce mixture...

Finally, adding the peanuts to coat with sauce

Dished out onto a serving plate...

Another tasty recipe. It's not as sweet as the Taiwanese version that I remember. Also, the vinegar didn't add the tartness I was expecting.

I'm going to sound like a judge on Iron Chef America and state the oil 3 Tablespoons seems a bit much. I could probably get away with using 1 to 11/2T of oil. This is called "making the recipe my own." lol!

I'm thinking of layers of flavor - spicy, tart, sweet and numbing (from the peppercorns). I may try adding distilled vinegar to bump up the tartness of the dish.

However, overall, the Kung Pao Chicken was very good.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Jun 15, 2010: Tofu Tuesday - LOP Mapo Tofu

I'm familiar with Cantonese cooking. I wanted to expand my Chinese cooking horizons. I found a book in the library Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop. I abbreviated the title of the book as, "LOP".

Sichuanese cooking has a reputation of being loaded with peppers and spicy. Spicy food sounds good to me!

So for Tofu Tuesday, I made the classic dish, Mapo Tofu.

Mapo Tofu
1 block bean curd (around 16 oz), cut into 1 in cubes
2 Leeks, cut into thin diagonal slices
1/2 cup peanut oil [Yes, that's half a cup!]
6 ounces ground beef [I used chicken]
2.5 Tbsp chili bean paste
1 Tbsp fermented black beans
2 tsp ground Sichuanese chiles (optional) [I used Japanese Chiles]
1 cup stock
1 tsp white sugar
2 tsp light soy sauce
4 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 6 Tbsp cold water [I only used about 1 T of the slurry]
1/2 tsp roasted Sichuan peppercorn, ground

1) Soak the tofu cubes in salted boiling water. That's salted water brought to a boil... Soak time was about 20 minutes while I prepped the other ingredients.

2. The recipe called for beef, but chicken breast was at 1/3rd of the cost.
Chicken was cooked in the 1/2 C of oil at medium heat.

3. After the chicken has browned, add the chili paste, chili flakes, black beans. Cook until fragrant.

4. Add the drained tofu, stock and let simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes... to allow the flavors infuse into the tofu. Add the leeks and continue cooking another 5 minutes. Thicken with the cornstarch mixture.

5. Garnish with the ground peppercorn.

Restaurant Sichuan food is much more spicier. However, this version gives a nice tingle to the lips and the fermented black beans offers a nice complement.

The red oil bathing the dish seemed a bit much. Based upon the amount of oil left in the dish, I could probably cut the oil by 2/3rds. Would it effect the dish?

Overall, a good dish.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Jun 14, 2010: Daring Cooks - Pates

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

Valerie, from The Chocolate Bunny
Evelyne, from Cheap Ethnic Eatz

They decided that this month’s challenge would be: pâté. It’s incredibly versatile, it has the potential to be beautifully presented, and it’s perfect for summer (think picnics in the park.

Traditionally, pâté is meat-based, and often includes liver, or gizzards, or other potentially icky animal parts. But, because we realize that not everyone likes that kind of pâté, we have also included recipes for fish pâté, and vegetable pâté. However, if you know that you enjoy liver pâté, but are a little squeamish about cooking with liver, we urge you to give it a try: after making these, neither of us will ever buy meat-based pâté ever again! Having said that, the meatless pâtés are also very tasty.

Now, since pâté is rarely eaten alone, we are adding a second part to this challenge: you will have to make a bread, to go with your pâté. We’ve included a really good recipe for French baguette. However, because baguette is quite time-consuming to make, and because we know that the Daring Bakers have already made baguette a while ago, we’re also giving you a quicker recipe for a sandwich loaf, which you can also choose to make as little rolls, with white or whole wheat flour. But really, we’re giving you free range for the bread part of the challenge: if there’s a daring bread recipe you’ve been dying to try, and you think it would go well with your pâté, go for it!

-You must prepare one pâté recipe listed below and one bread recipe of your choice.
- Your pâté has to 1) be baked or refrigerated (or both) for a significant amount of time, so that 2) you have to be able to unmold it onto a serving dish. This is to avoid the possibility of someone puréeing a bunch of vegetables, putting the mixture in a jar, and calling it "vegetable pâté": that is not a pâté, that is a spread.

[My comments are in red: I've always wanted to try making a pate. Chicken livers is one of those underutilized foods we have. For this month's challenge, I decided to make a chicken liver pate and the tricolor vegetable pate (I like pesto.) For the bread portion of this challenge, I made the French Baguette recipe included in this challenge. For the pate recipes, I made half recipes.]

Chicken Liver Terrine
Yields one 25 by 12,5 cm (10 by 5 inch) terrine or loaf pan
1 tbsp duck fat, or butter
2 onions, coarsely chopped
300g (11 oz) chicken livers, trimmed
3 tbsp brandy, or any other liqueur (optional)
100g (3 1/2 oz, 1/2 cup) smoked bacon, diced
300g (11 oz) boneless pork belly, coarsely ground
200g (7 oz) boneless pork blade (shoulder), coarsely ground (or ground pork see note below)
2 shallots, chopped
1 tsp quatre-épices (or 1/4tsp each of ground pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger is close enough)
2 eggs
200 ml (7 fl oz, 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) heavy cream
2 fresh thyme sprigs, chopped
Salt and pepper

NOTE: If you cannot find ground pork belly or blade, buy it whole, cut it into chunks, and pulse in the food processor. You can also replace the pork blade with regular ground pork. [I used a food processor and ground up some pork loin.]

Preheat oven to 200ºC (400ºF, Gas Mark 6).

Melt the fat or butter in a heavy frying pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the chicken livers and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until browned but still slightly pink on the inside.
Remove the pan from heat. Pour in the brandy, light a match and carefully ignite the alcohol to flambé. Wait for the flames to go out on their own, carefully tilting the pan to ensure even flavoring. Set aside.

[The exciting part of this challenge, lighting a fire! :-)]

Put the minced pork belly and blade in a food processor, then add the onion-liver mixture and the chopped shallots, and pulse until you obtain a homogenous mixture – make sure not to reduce it to a slurry.

Transfer to a bowl, and gradually stir in the chopped bacon, quatre-épices, cream, eggs, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Spoon the mixture into a terrine or loaf pan, and cover with the terrine lid or with aluminum foil.

Ready for the oven!

Prepare a water bath: place the loaf pan in a larger, deep ovenproof dish (such as a brownie pan or a baking dish). Bring some water to a simmer and carefully pour it in the larger dish. The water should reach approximately halfway up the loaf pan.

Put the water bath and the loaf pan in the oven, and bake for 2 hours. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes. The terrine should be cooked through, and you should be able to slice into it with a knife and leave a mark, but it shouldn’t be too dry. Refrigerate, as this pâté needs to be served cold. Unmold onto a serving platter, cut into slices, and serve with bread.

Right out of the oven two hours later!

NOTE: This pâté freezes well. Divide it into manageable portions, wrap tightly in plastic film, put in a freezer Ziploc bag, and freeze. Defrost overnight in the fridge before eating.

[I decided to the the vegetarian pate so people would have a choild and it looked live a very simple recipe.]
Tricolor Vegetable Pâté
Yields one 25 by 12,5 cm (10 by 5 inch) terrine or loaf pan
Line your pan with plastic wrap, overlapping sides.
White Bean Layer
2 x 15-ounce / 900 ml cans cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained thoroughly
1 tbsp / 15 ml fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil
1 tbsp / 15 ml minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2 garlic cloves, pressed

Mash beans in large bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and garlic and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread bean mixture evenly on bottom of prepared pan.

[First layer down in a plastic cling film lined container.]

Red Pepper Layer
7-ounce / 210 ml jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, chopped
3/4 cup / 180 ml crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces)
Combine peppers and feta in processor and blend until smooth. Spread pepper mixture evenly over bean layer in prepared dish.

Pesto Layer
2 garlic cloves
1 cup / 240 ml fresh basil leaves
1 cup / 240 ml fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup / 60 ml toasted pine nuts
3 tbsp / 45 ml olive oil
1/2 cup / 120 ml low-fat ricotta cheese
Mince garlic in processor. Add basil, parsley and pine nuts and mince. With machine running, gradually add oil through feed tube and process until smooth. Mix in ricotta. Spread pesto evenly over red pepper layer.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To unmold, invert pâté onto serving platter. Peel off plastic wrap from pâté. Garnish with herb sprigs and serve with sourdough bread slices.

French Baguette
yield: Three 16" baguettes
1/2 cup / 120 ml cool water
1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup / 240 ml flour
1 tsp / 5 ml active dry yeast
1 cup to 1 1/4 cups / 240 ml to 300 ml lukewarm water*
all of the starter
3 1/2 cups / 840 ml flour
1 1/2 tsp / 7 ml salt
*Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.

Make the starter by mixing the yeast with the water, then mixing in the flour to make a soft dough. Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 14 hours; overnight works well. The starter should have risen and become bubbly.

Mix active dry yeast with the water and then combine with the starter, flour, and salt. Mix and knead everything together—by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle—till you've made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface may still be a bit rough. Knead for about 5 minutes on speed 2 of a stand mixer.

Place the dough in a lightly greased medium-size bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into three equal pieces. Shape each piece into a rough, slightly flattened oval, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let them rest for 15 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel of your hand. Flatten it slightly, and fold and seal again. With the seam-side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a 15" log. Place the logs seam-side down onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet pan or pans.

Cover them with a cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise till they've become very puffy, about 1 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450ºF (240ºC).

Using a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three 8" vertical slashes in each baguette. Spritz the baguettes heavily with warm water; this will help them develop a crackly-crisp crust.
[Spritzing the dough with water]

Bake the baguettes until they're a very deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack. Or, for the very crispiest baguettes, turn off the oven, crack it open about 2", and allow the baguettes to cool in the oven.
[Fresh bread out of the oven!]

[Plating begins with unmolding the pates. These naked pates have a pale appearance. I guess they haven't been out in the sun that much! lol...]

[I decided to dress up the plate with chopped pistachios, feta, caramelized onion-apple-bacon jam, currants and fresh bread. I topped to pates just to give them some color... the equivalent of wearing Hawaiian shirts. :-) ]

Both pates turned out nicely!
Tricolor Veg Pate

Chicken liver pate