ffwD: Michel Rostang’s Double Chocolate Mousse Cake

I really enjoyed this week’s recipe! Though, I have to admit I hit a couple of bumps along the way. First, I got ahead of myself in reading the directions and whisked in the seven tablespoons of butter into the chocolate-y mix before I had poured in the strong, hot coffee. I thought that the hot coffee would completely melt the softened butter. But, when I looked at the mix, it didn’t seem like anything was wrong, and I figured if it affected the cake, I’d find out in the baking process. (By the way, I used 1/4 pound of Ghirardelli’s bittersweet chocolate chips and instant coffee to reduce the prep time.)

Second, I need to give you a little background on my history with springform pans. I never owned a springform pan until I joined this cooking group and had to make Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake in an 8-inch springform pan. After looking in two different bakeware stores, I couldn’t find an 8-inch pan. Instead, I found a set of 3, each measuring 8.5/9/9.5 inches. I settled for this option and gave the 9.5 pan to Chunklet’s mom. Using the 8.5-inch pan, my apple cake ended up being a little flatter than the cookbook photo. This also occurred when I made Julia Child’s Reine de Saba cake. Experience told me that my double chocolate mousse cake would probably be on the flat side as well. Though, if you look closely, you can see a bit of a slope from the edge of the cake to the center.

On top of the springform ring being slightly larger than the recipe called for, all of my baking pans were slightly dented or uneven. I had a sinking feeling that my batter would leek out from underneath the springform ring during baking. In fact, this did occur. But, it only happened a little and the batter that oozed out baked quickly. Thus, my resulting cake base was even flatter, but the bits that oozed out actually tasted okay. I crumbled up those bits and sprinkled them on the serving dish.

My final issue with the springform ring was that for some reason, I hadn’t closed the ring! This made the cake even flatter and near impossible to unmold. After running a knife around the edges several times and trying to shake the cake free, I finally had to flip the cake over, which did unmold it, but part of the cake came apart! This is why you’re only seeing a slice in the photos!

I opted for serving the cake warm because my sister wanted to try a piece soon after it came out of the oven. I made some whipped cream with vanilla bean paste to serve alongside. However, I forgot that I had given my co-worker (Codename: Tasha) my leftover cocoa powder so she could make a chocolate cake for Thanksgiving. Instead, I dusted powdered sugar on top of each slice. I think next time I make this, I’ll make sure to have some fresh red berries and sprigs of mint to help with the plating.

Despite my mishaps, this cake was very chocolate-y and velvety, which I thoroughly enjoyed! I’ll definitely be making this again. It was also extremely rich, so I could only eat one piece this time around, and I needed milk to help with the task! But, really, is eating a piece of chocolate cake a task? Hardly…

You can see the slope, vanilla bean specks, and the richness of the cake a little better in this photo

Make sure to check out other bloggers’ thoughts on this dish at French Fridays with Dorie. As usual, the recipe for this dish can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

ffwD: Leek & Potato Soup

HAPPY NEW YEAR’S EVE!

With 2011 almost here, I have so much on my mind (as do most of you!) Things like where to go for the holiday, what to wear, and what to serve are all-consuming of my focus right now. Plus, I’m already organizing my thoughts for a proper attempt to stick with a New Year’s resolution this year, thanks to Steph at Bite by Bite!

As such, I felt like this week’s ffwD recipe, leek & potato soup, was being thrown together at the last second. I wasn’t giving it the proper attention it deserved. I hadn’t fully read the recipe beforehand. The ingredients were picked up haphazardly on Wednesday with a fleeting thought to skip this week’s submission altogether. Making this soup was, at best, an afterthought.

However, I’m pleased that I did make time for this soup. I left the soup chunky, despite my kneejerk reaction to seeing whole milk and thinking that the soup must be creamy and smooth. I threw in some leftover mixed veggies that consisted mainly of corn, which added nice dots of color throughout the bowl. And, I served the soup warm because the thought of cold potato soup bothered me. Overall, this soup was pretty satisfying. It reminded me of a tasty a chowder and had me sitting long enough to enjoy a bowl with some toasted French baguette slices slathered with shallot and garlic spread.

The recipe for this dish can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

ffwD: My Go-To Beef Daube

Fork-tender beef...mmm...

I wasn’t planning on making this dish when I did, but I made the mistake of asking my sister what she wanted for dinner. She replied, “Meat,” and that her carnivore-loving girlfriend would also be joining us, if that was okay.

Now those who’ve read my blog before know that I don’t have much experience with cuts of beef other than ground beef. I was so worried about getting the right cut of beef for this recipe that I called my other sister (Chunklet’s mom) for help while searching through the meat section at the grocery store and had the butcher help me pick out a good chuck roast. I specifically asked for a “beef chuck roast”, and for some reason he asked me, “Oh, have you been watching America’s Test Kitchen?” I said I hadn’t, and he told me that a recent episode featured beef stew, prompting many a customer to come in asking for this particular cut. He was very helpful, showed me two very nice looking slabs of roast to choose from, and chopped it into pieces for me. If you haven’t already taken full advantage of your butcher’s services, I highly recommend you start!

The prep for this dish took longer and required a bit more babysitting than the recipe indicates. I carefully browned the beef in two batches, but it was going so quickly that I was behind on cutting the parsnips and preparing the bouquet garni. Thank goodness I used pre-cut carrots. I had to turn off the heat before putting the veggies in for their turn in the oil.

In my quest for the proper cut of beef, I remembered the Central Coast syrah but forgot the brandy. Instead, I substituted in Grand Marnier. It seemed to be a small amount and didn’t think the flavor would be upset too much. So, I went with it. I also adjusted the herbage by using only thyme, oregano and rosemary, while leaving out the celery leaves.

This dish turned out extremely well. I really enjoyed how tender and flavorful the meat was, and I even liked the parsnips, having never eaten one before now. I left the garlic in by request because the half bulb was so tender.

My sister and I ate the daube over white rice:

Over write rice...the Filipino way!

My sister’s girlfriend ate it plain right out of a mini-crock pot dish. (See top photo). I attempted to get a good picture of an individual portion but someone kept stealing bites between photos!

See how there are two carrots?


Mysteriously only one carrot remains


And see how the beef is shredded like someone kept fishing pieces out?

The recipe for this dish can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. And, to see other creations for this week’s ffwD, click on the LYL December 17, 2010!

ffwD: Sweet & Spicy Cocktail Nuts

I go nuts for sweet & spicy cocktail nuts!

Okay, so maybe I went a little overboard with this recipe. I think I was feeling a bit of remorse from other recipes where I flatly stated, “I don’t care for this ingredient,” or “I don’t like that spice, so I’ll omit it.” This time, I made an effort to buy spices I’ve been meaning to try like cardamon and cayenne. I also bought celery salt, but that was for a different version of nuts that I’ll talk about later.

In her Bonne Idee, Dorie suggested several different flavor combinations. Altogether, I made the original chili powder version, one with curry powder, one with cardamon, and a variation with fresh rosemary and thyme.

As you can see from the photo, I have five ramekins of nuts. This is because I also made “Seasonally Spiced Nuts” from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Christmas cookbook. I thought it would be interesting to make a version of nuts that used different flavors and a different method, but ended up with the same great snack! The flavors that Nigella used were similar to a barbecue rub I made for a baked salmon recipe that used brown sugar, and I was curious to see how those flavors translated to nuts. Although Nigella’s recipe calls for garam masala, my grocery store didn’t carry it. (Anyone who’s seen Nigella’s shows can attest that her lackadaisical approach to cooking would forgive an edit here and there.) But I did buy celery salt for the first time! These nuts were made on the stove top with olive oil instead of being roasted in the oven, so they have a nice slick feeling to them. However, this method also makes the skins from the nuts come off.

I brought all the nuts to the office and passed out samples. The votes were all over the place, with the only constant being that the Nigella nuts were the least favored. I wonder if that has anything to do with the recipe or lack of garam masala. Oh, well. I’ll just chalk it up to Dorie Greenspan’s recipe being superior overall!

Clockwise from top left: Cardamon-flavored, Nigella's Seasonally Spiced Nuts, Rosemary & Thyme-flavored, Original Chili Powder, Curry-flavored (middle)

Seasonally Spiced Nuts from Nigella’s Christmas
4 c. mixed nuts
1&1/2 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. celery salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. soft light brown sugar
3 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped to make about 3 tsp., plus 2 sprigs for garnish
Sprinkle of kosher salt or pinch of table salt

Put a large skillet on medium heat.

Line a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and put at a handy proximity to the stove.

Tip the nuts into the now-warm skillet and toss or push about with a spatula for 3 minutes or so until they are lightly roasted.

Add the garam masala and celery salt and push the nuts about in the pan again so that they are evenly coated.

Add the oil, sugar and rosemary and stir about again to mix. When the nuts have darkened a little and are slicked with the sugary spice mix, tip them out briskly (before they burn) onto your prepared, lined sheet, and sprinkle with salt to taste.

Preferably when still warm, arrange in small bowls, and tuck in a sprig of rosemary on top for a seasonal fir-tree flourish!

The recipe for sweet and spicy cocktail nuts can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

ffwD: Speculoos

Anyone experiencing a lack of food interest this week? Maybe it’s just me. Maybe the big hoopla surrounding Thanksgiving LAST THURSDAY made this week’s meals lackluster in comparison. Maybe having leftovers again, and again, and again ruined the idea of making anything that would leave uneaten food behind. Maybe coming back to work from a long weekend would make this week feel so draining. Maybe…

But then, in my state of blah, I found a light in the tunnel: French Fridays with Dorie! However, I noticed this on Wednesday night! So, after a quick perusal of the five recipes for this month, speculoos was the winner by default. Mainly because I only lacked one ingredient called for in the recipe. That ingredient? Ginger. Omitting ginger is not a problem for me. You see, I’m not really a fan of ginger. I’ve made many attempts and failed many times to “like” ginger. So if it hasn’t happened yet, it’s probably not going to happen. Surprisingly enough, I love ginger root in soups, but not ginger in baked goods.

Anyway, speculoos sound eerily like gingerbread cookies, which are probably my least favorite cookie. Therefore, I unapologetically omitted the ginger and doubled the cloves. As a crazy side note, all my brown sugar had dried out! So, I placed a few apple slices in the sugar, and an hour later, soft brown sugar! Oooh…soft brown sugar…

I let my dough settle in the refrigerator overnight, which I hope is okay considering that Dorie said the dough would be very soft. An overnight chill was probably better for my dough anyway because my apartment tends to get very warm very quickly. I just eyeballed the dough’s thickness when I rolled it out. The first cookies I punched out ended up slightly thicker than the last ones.

The end result? These cookies were pretty tasty! I made sandwich cookies from the thinner ones with Nutella in the middle per the bonne idee.

Speculoo Nutella sandwich cookie!

As for the thicker cookies, I left some plain and decorated some with a schmear of Nutella. I used a star cookie cutter for the “pretty” photos, like the one up top. But, for fun, I also made bone shaped cookies

Speculoo bones!

and a doggie shaped cookie for my toddler nieces!

Doggie speculoo!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. While you’re at it, take a look at the other French Fridays with Dorie posts for this week!

ffwD–Caramel-topped Semolina Cake

Yum...caramel...

HAPPY BLACK FRIDAY! If you’re reading this, then you must be on your way to a sale, coming back from a sale or waiting in line to pay for your sale items! Or, you could be like me and you’re doing your Black Friday shopping online/having others get things for you while they’re out. Yeah, I’m that girl.

Anyway, for my final November ffwD recipe, I chose the caramel-topped semolina cake. End with the sweet stuff, right? This recipe piqued my interest because I’m not too familiar with Cream of Wheat. I admit I’ve never actually tasted it. I was an oatmeal girl growing up. Still am.

So, of course when I went to the store to buy semolina or Cream of Wheat, there were nothing but “family-size” boxes for entire families. Seeing as I’m a single gal and was unsure whether I’d like Cream of Wheat, I thought the best option would be to buy the smallest box of single-serving packets I could find.

This posed another dilemma: to purchase original or flavored Cream of Wheat. Since I didn’t know how Cream of Wheat would taste, I was on the fence. Unflavored is just that, unflavored and thus, no motivation for me to eat it later. Brown sugar flavor would possibly entice me to make a bowl for breakfast, but how would this affect the cake, which is the primary purpose for the purchase. In the end, I decided to get the brown sugar flavored variety so I could at least try and eat it for breakfast. Plus, I’ve seen pictures of plain Cream of Wheat with butter on it, and it kind of made me gag a little.

Preparing the batter was a bit perplexing because I had many things on my mind. While I was waiting for the Cream of Wheat to thicken, I was puzzled as to how thick it was supposed to be. I was distracted by the warm brown sugar smell being emitted. I was worried about whether this cake would flip out of the pan as my metal cake pans have all seemed to go yucky on me all at the same time and I was reduced to using a glass 9-inch pie plate.

To be honest, I was probably over-thinking this cake. (Hey! I’m an attorney! I get paid to over-think!) However, I’ll chalk it up to the unfamiliarity of the main ingredient instead. I think the cake ended up a little flatter that supposed to be, but it was delicious and pretty similar to the picture! My sister tasted it and said she could do without the fruit. In addition to my concern over the Cream of Wheat, I had purchased a bag of dried mixed fruit, so I painstakingly took out all the dark raisins and left the golden raisins, pineapple, apple and apricots. Not wanting to waste the rest of the bag, I gave the leftover dried fruit to my sister’s girlfriend. She liked the cake. But, our consensus was that I should just make flan next time.

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

See the fruit?

This is probably easier to see

ffwD–Roast chicken for les parresseux

See the golden crispy skin?

My choice for this week’s French Fridays with Dorie is Roast Chicken for Les Parresseux, or Lazy People! This roast chicken was delicious! The bird itself turned out extremely moist while the roast veggies were tender with just a bit of bite. As for the baguette base, I was able to salvage a couple of solid pieces, but I think I may have used too much olive oil because the other pieces came out mushy and mixed in with the veggies. Oh, well.

My sister, her girlfriend and I devoured this chicken! It’s on its way to becoming a Friday night staple! The only other roast chicken recipe that might rival this one is by Jaime Oliver where he instructs you to carefully separate the skin from the bird without tearing it. Then, you shove butter and chopped herbs in between the two, creating a self-basting chicken while still crisping up the skin. But, I’m seeing that many of the ffwD-ers did that to their chickens already. Did I skip an instruction?

On a side note, I’m not entirely sure if my chicken was supposed to be this golden. The top photo you see was the only one that accurately represents how my chicken turned out. I looked at several other posts, and the other chickens were much lighter in color than mine. Was I supposed to cover the chicken while it roasted? Because I left my bird uncovered. Did I skip another instruction? Maybe I shouldn’t try to make three of the four month’s recipes all in one meal…

In any case, the photos at the bottom turned out lighter. I think there could be one of several issues (or a combination thereof):
1. My camera, while I love it, is behind the times. I received it as a gift upon graduating law school in 2004.
2. I prepared the chicken at night, so natural light is out of the question, especially now with daylight savings time no longer in effect. Anyone else waking up in total darkness and then going home in total darkness?
3. Despite reading the manual a couple of times, I’m still not entirely sure which settings work the best for nighttime, indoor, close-up pictures. (I find that setting the camera to “P” for program then pressing another button till a picture of a dot in a rectangle and a flower appear on the screen work well. Also, I can “sense” that the picture might turn out well if the millisecond before the shutter snaps, I can see a sharper, more defined image on my screen.)

Oh, well. I seemed to have rambled more than usual in this post. It could be the chicken haze I’m experiencing or the giddyness of Thanksgiving next week! Anyone know if this cooking technique would work on the Thanksgiving turkey?

As always, the recipe for roast chicken for les parresseux can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

The skin turned out darker than the photo shows

The roasted veggies for a side!

Mmm...

ffwD–Potato gratin (November 12th)

For all the readers who are having a bad day, especially if it is cold out: MAKE THIS DISH NOW. This potato gratin will comfort, console and make you whole again from whatever put you out of sorts. I know from experience!

Before making this dish, I went to the grocery store to get the Idaho russet potatoes. My annoying habit of following a recipe “to the letter” got the better of me because I had another “debate” over which bag of potatoes to buy.

YC: “Do I buy the 5-lb. bag of russet potatoes for $3.98 or the 10-lb. bag of Idaho potatoes for $2.97. Hmm…neither say “Idaho russet”. Does that matter? If I get the 5-lb. bag, it will be easier to carry home on the bus. I do have other things to carry home, including an awkward roasting pan. But, the 10-lb. bag will last longer and it’s cheaper. I’m sure I can find other potato recipes to make.”

I settled on the 10-lb. bag, which looking back, was my critical error. As I was leaving the office, the temperature had fallen rapidly to roughly 45 degrees and the sky was black in the distance. I clearly remembered seeing the weather report for that morning indicate that any bad weather would come much later in the evening. Boy, did they drop the ball on that prediction.

I moved as fast as I could with 2 bags of groceries in one hand and the dreaded 10-lb. bag of potatoes in the other. Half a block from my bus stop, the wind picked up and it started to rain. Hard. Now, I don’t mind getting wet. That was my fault for not bringing a coat or umbrella, though I’m not sure an umbrella would have done much good considering I don’t have a third arm.

Anyway, what proved problematic was how cold my hands were getting. The 2 plastic bags of groceries were light enough to carry in one hand but could have easily been held on my wrist if I were to put my hands in my pockets. But, I couldn’t really do that with the 10-lb. bag of potatoes. I had to grasp them with one hand, but that exposure made my hand get cold quickly and lose my grip. Therefore, I had to keep switching hands to hold the potatoes, which was now making my arms hurt because the bag seemed to get heavier and heavier with each switch. Walking that half block to the bus stop while constantly switching the potatoes and groceries from cold hand to cold hand put me in a pretty foul mood. (Cue pathetic-sounding music here). Needless to say, I said “screw it” to the bus and took the first available cab I saw.

When I got home, I was so frustrated with the events that I didn’t even feel like cooking. Luckily, my sister sliced the potatoes for me so I could take a shower. I told her to leave the skins on to save time and keep the nutrients in. The dish itself was easy to prepare and assemble. It just took a bit of time. I had to make another batch of garlic-infused cream because I ran out with about two layers to go. However, it ended up being too much cream because it kept oozing out whenever a spoonful of potato was dished out. Hence:

See the oozing cream?

However, when I tasted the first spoonful, it was completely worth all the trouble. I relished the bite for what seemed like five minutes. No joke, I stood in the kitchen with my eyes closed as I chewed, allowing the home-y feeling to wash over me. This dish is definitely going to be made again.

Side notes: My sister and her girlfriend REALLY loved this dish. My sister really liked the garlic, and her girlfriend kept exclaiming, “This is so yummy!” I added in chopped rosemary and oregano to complement the roast chicken we were eating. (Yes, it’s the roast chicken for les paresseux I’ll be posting next week!) Plus, I saved time by using pre-minced garlic in the cream, so the infusion happened pretty quickly. Also, the single serving photos were taken the next morning when the potatoes no longer slid away in a deconstructed pool of cheesy, gooey, creamy, potatoey goodness.

As always, this ffwD recipe can be found in Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

ffwD–Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flans (November 5th)

To be honest, I wanted to make the caramel-topped semolina cake first but I’m going to make that as part of a celebration dinner on Saturday along with the roast chicken for les paresseux. So, I was torn between this and the potato gratin as my first November recipe, with the runner-up being the side dish for this Saturday’s celebration dinner. (Yes, this will be a completely yummy and rich dinner!)

Anyway, I had to debate between the flans and the gratin. Seriously, this was my thought process:

Gorgonzola in a flan? But, flans are supposed to be sweet, right? A savory flan? Intriguing…I get to use pumpkin, too. And, I’ve been meaning to try more pumpkin. It is autumn. Plus, I’m not at Fox & Obel for the Gruyère. I hope the flans aren’t time-consuming to make. If I make the flans, will I have enough pans to make roast chicken and the gratin and the cake at the same time? But, do I really want to carry a bag of potatoes home right now? Maybe the chicken will taste better with the potatoes as a side.

All this while I’m standing in the grocery store in front of the dairy case and deciding whether to turn left to the canned pumpkin or right to the produce aisle for the potatoes. Yes, this is how my complicated mind works. To quote my niece, “Silly Auntie!”

I’m also on a quest for new and different Thanksgiving side dishes. I mean, the holiday is all about the sides, right? I’m somewhat on the fence about these flans though. Gourds aren’t really used in my family, except for the occasional yellow squash used in a Filipino chicken dish.

I used my sister and her girlfriend as guinea pigs. My sister did not care for them and said, “The ramekins tricked me. I thought it would be sweet.” My sister’s girlfriend ate the whole thing but discarded the walnuts because she doesn’t care for those. As for myself, the Gorgonzola is super-creamy while the walnuts add substance so I didn’t feel like I was slurping my dish. I will say this: the tip about placing a double layer of paper towels in the roasting pan under the ramekins really works! The ramekins did not slide at all! I’ll have to do this the next time I make crème brûlée.

This recipe and all the ffwD recipes can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

ffwD–Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake

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First let me say, this cake was so delicious that it deserved its own slide show! I made this apple cake for dessert when my surgical oncologist friend, Candelabra, was visiting earlier this month. I wanted to stay true to the recipe and use a variety of apples and had planned on buying four different types of large apples. However, I was told that certain apples were better for baking, so I ended up buying five medium apples, 2 Granny Smith and 3 Gala.

I was surprised at the small quantities called for in the recipe and was concerned about how little cake mix it made. I started to tell my friend to not peel and cut the fifth apple, but it was too late because she was already finishing the last apple. So I thought, “baked apples always taste good”, and we proceeded to fold in all five medium chopped apples into the cake mix. The mixture looked more apple-y than cake-y, but we kept going.

About twenty minutes into baking, the smell of this awesome cake started permeating through my apartment. When I pulled it out, I was impressed by how the um, abundance, of apples made a design on top. Later, I realized that I had also used a 9-inch springform pan instead of an 8-inch, so that probably contributed to the look of the cake as well. Although my cake did not turn out picture-perfect like in the cookbook, I was crestfallen for only a second because the taste of this cake was so yummy. All I could say was, “Oh my gosh. This cake? Oh my gosh.”

We cut into the cake as soon as we felt it had cooled enough, which was probably all of three minutes because the smell was so enticing. We didn’t bother with ice cream or whipped cream. The cake was plenty moist and every piece of apple was coated in cake. I was amazed!

Oh, I didn’t use rum in the cake and instead doubled the amount of vanilla because I had Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla extract on hand. The remaining cake, what little was left, tasted great the next morning for breakfast with some skim milk. Cake breakfast? Yes, please!

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