Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chocolate Mousse

I think my palate has become slightly more sophisticated as I have gotten older. I am a creature of habit and normally like to eat things that have texture and crunch so whipped desserts and soufflé were never my thing. But I am venturing out and trying new things. Life is short!

I am all about simple because my time is very limited. That being said, this mousse is easy and inexpensive to make. And it is a good dessert for two. I definitely don't have time to stay in the house and slave over a stove is a warm 60 degree day out and I am so looking forward to spring (or at least more spring-like weather). So here goes...

Chocolate Mousse

4 large egg yolks
1 tbsp espresso
1/4 c sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream

Whisk yolks, espresso, sugar, and salt in a double boiler until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in chopped chocolate and cocoa. Cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form. Whisk half of whipped cream into chocolate mixture. Gently fold in remaining whipped cream with a spatula. Divide mousse among serving dishes. Chill at least 2 hours.

Garnish with shaved chocolate and serve.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Crème Brulee for Two

Looking for something really fast and simple to make your sweetheart for Valentine's Day? This crème brulee is simple and decadent and will make it look like you spent hours in the kitchen!

I tried crème brulee for the first time last year after having one of the best cheesecakes of my life, a crème brulee cheesecake at a restaurant called The Grape. I originally went to the restaurant to hear a jazz/neo soul band play but the cheesecake ended up being the star of the show.

The custard is good and can be flavored with coffee, brandy, lemon, orange...the possibilities are endless. But what does it for me is the crunchy top, which is usually achieved by using a culinary torch to brown the sugar. I happened to be out of butane today so the oven broiler had to do. Sometimes it does not turn out quite as pretty with the oven broiler but the taste is the same.

I highly recommend you making the topping right before you plan on serving and then popping the custard back in the freezer for about twenty minutes before devouring this dessert. Just don't let the custard sit for too long as the sugared topping may melt back into the custard.

Crème Brulee

1 c heavy cream
1/4 c sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp Grand Marnier liqueur
½ tbsp sugar (turbinado sugar, recommended)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Heat heavy cream and 1/4 cup sugar over high heat until little bubbles form around the edges. Remove from heat.

Whisk egg yolks and vanilla in a bowl, then add a tiny bit of cream mixture while whisking. Continue to incorporate the cream mixture slowly until gone. Be careful not to add the hot cream mixture all at once because it'll cook the yolks and you'll have scrambled eggs.

Pour mixture into ramekins. Place ramekins in a baking dish with edges taller than the ramekins. Heat up some water to the boiling point. Very carefully pour enough water into the baking dish to halfway cover the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 40 minutes. Allow custard to cool on cooling rack. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours.

When ready to serve, sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of sugar evenly over each ramekin, and torch in slow, steady circles until sugar caramelizes. OR if you do not have a culinary torch, you can put the custard on the uppermost rack in the oven and broil for 3 minutes, watching carefully to keep from burning.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chocolate Almond Torte

I have taken a break from baking because I have been forced to cut back on sweets for health reasons. What a bummer! But I wanted to do some blogging this week, particularly with folks looking for dessert ideas for Valentine's Day. Since many people consume chocolate for the holiday, I decided to start off with a chocolate torte.

I am trying to sneak in some healthier recipes, where I can, because I am becoming more conscious about what sugar and refined foods do to our bodies. So I am not planning to annoy you with why you should not eat sweets with every post just because I can't eat any...after all, this IS a dessert blog. But, why not be informed? And why not attempt to eat healthier when you can? So this recipe made the cut because it is flourless.

The reason you hear so many people talk about "no sugar, no flour" diets is because refined flours have been milled so much that nearly all of the nutritional value has been lost. They are very fine in texture and enter the blood stream as rapidly as refined sugars, causing spikes and drops in energy levels. Refined flours include white flour as well as products created with white flour, such as cookies, cakes, pastries...uhmmmm, practically everything on the blog! Lol. So, this is a healthier dessert option.

I am watching one of my favorite movies, National Lampoon's Vacation, while the smell of chocolate and almonds is wafting through the house...This is pure torture!

Chocolate Almond Torte (adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 1/2 c blanched slivered almonds
1 c sugar
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
5 large eggs, separated
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp grated orange peel
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter 10-inch springform pan. Combine almonds and 1/3 cup sugar in processor. Blend until almonds are very finely ground. Transfer almond mixture to medium bowl. Add chocolate and 1/3 cup sugar to processor. Blend until chocolate is finely ground, about 45 seconds; stir into almond mixture. Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in large bowl for about 5 minutes. Beat in extracts and orange peel. Fold in chocolate-almond mixture, then butter.

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites and salt in another large bowl until stiff. Fold whites into chocolate batter in three additions. Transfer batter to springform pan.

Bake torte for about 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on rack. Cut around pan sides to loosen; release sides. Serve with fresh fruit or whipped topping.

Grand Marnier Whipped Cream

1 c heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp Grand Marnier
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract

Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, beat all ingredients until soft peaks form.

 All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Relax, Relate, Release

I have been doing a detox for the last two weeks and am about to cut a cartwheel because I only have a few more days before I am done with it. Who-hoo!!! My meals have been consisting of no sweets, of course, and lots of proteins, greens, fresh fruits and vegetables. Of course this is what we should be eating anyway but everyone wants a little treat every now and then, right?

One of my girlfriends is doing a detox as well, so we are trying to encourage one another as we are both craving things not on our meal plans. She is sending me photos of her 3 oz. chicken breast and I am sending her photos of my 4 oz. piece of salmon and healthy greens. I know…sad.

There is a lot of debate about whether a detox is really necessary. Many doctors will tell you that you don’t need to do anything special to detoxify, as our bodies cleanse themselves on a daily basis. But the truth of the matter is that are bodies are overwhelmed with the amount of toxins we take in every day. In addition, many of us are under a lot of stress, eat processed foods, grab a lot of fast food, and have sedentary lifestyles. So we don’t have the tools to eliminate toxins as we should. In my case, I have taken tons of antibiotics over the years which, over time, has caused my health to severely decline.

Some signs/symptoms that may indicate that a detox is in order are:

- Frequent headaches
- Joint pains
- Frequent colds
- Trouble concentrating
- Digestive problems
- Night sweats
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Poor dexterity
- Dark circles under your eyes
- Memory loss
- Shallow breathing
- Bruises that take a long time to heal
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Sensitivity to odors
- Psoriasis
- Depression

So while I am in no way qualified to tell you to run out and start a detox regimen, from my experience, I can certainly tell a huge difference when I finish the process. I have so much more energy, I digest foods better, my skin is clearer, and I just feel better.

So, never fear...I will get back to baking in time for Valentine’s Day! Unfortunately, I just won’t be enjoying any desserts quite yet. Argh!

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.