Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chocolate Nut Loaf

Towering Goodness

My cousin Mel's Birthday was coming up and she wanted chocolate cake. Lo & behold, I had just the thing in my arsenal of great recipes. PH's Chocolate Nut Loaf.

Usual Suspects...

Being a simple loaf cake at heart, the regular actors are featured, with 1 rather unique addition to the cast.

...Plus One

Marzipan! The recipe actually called for almond paste, but this was in itself an uncommon ingredient and hence could not be found on the shelves of any supermarkets I searched in.

Short of making almond paste from scratch, I made the approved substitution as noted in the appendix and swapped it for marzipan. Softer and sweeter than its pasty cousin, I made the necessary compromise in the sugar department below.

Sugar Cubes & Sand

The instruction was to beat the marzipan into the sugar until sand results. With marzipan being softer than the paste, I was expecting this to be a breeze, but the marzipan held their own and would not cave.

I then resorted to use a rice scoop (pic on the above right) to smash and smear the marzipan against the grains of the sugar and the sides of the bowl, a rather intuitive approach, you would agree, if it only worked.

Plan B from thereon, was the rubbing in method, and after a good 15 minutes, I made sand.

Chicken & Cow

Aka eggs and milk go in next. The mix was supposed to resemble mayonnaise, but I think I made soup instead. No matter, at this point the fragrance of the marzipan was emerging and perfuming the mix with its floral aroma. No harm no foul.

Powders For The Party

Sifted powders was next, and the cocoa powder brought a deep, dark, rich earthen brown tone to the ensemble. A beautiful cake was emerging.

Nuts & Chocs

The walnuts were toasted to bring out their mild flavor and added crunch, and ooh-la-la dark chocolate chips tossed in with the nuts and gently stirred in.

Dark Beauty

The cake developed a peck towards the end of its baking time, a by now characteristic feature of PH's cake.

Taste Test: I did not pick up any strong almond flavor from the marzipan, instead it added a well balanced moisture to every bite, and the good quality cocoa powder was the defining touch to this rich and light cake. Well worth the try.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Coconut Tuiles

Tuiles Galore

The Coconut Tuiles uses the same ingredients as the Domes, sans 1 variation: melted butter in place of the warm milk, as these were to be flattened and baked, and the larger surface area in contact with the baking parchment meant extra lube required.

Mixed & Ready To Go

Once again, melt the butter, pour it into the mix to melt the sugar, and place in a bowl to chill overnight. At this point, the fragrance of the coconut fills the air, and the kitchen is a happy place once more.

Sized & Shaped For The Oven

This time, I used a teaspoon instead of the tablespoon for the Domes, and flattened the little balls of coconutty goodness into little discs. The butter in the mix helps prevent it from sticking to my fingers, a good thing, as it prevented me from licking off more of the mix then I already did.
Festive Coconut Party

Ah butter glorious butter. It browns the discs to an alluring sunset gold and keeps it from sticking to the parchment. The still warm discs were quickly and deftly folded over to create the tuiles shape of their namesake, and as you can see I also took some liberty with the shapes and made petals of them, which I found simply made them more irresistible then they already are.

Taste Test: Light, crispy, warm and nutty, another keeper, this one.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Coconut Domes

Crowning Glories

Fresh from my early victories I proceeded to attempt not 1 but 2 desserts this week, both full of coconutty goodness. First up, Coconut Domes.

As you can see from said picture above, these are not domes, but rather classy, oblong shaped torpedoes. Because domes are boring, and my teaspoon came in such a shape that made measuring the mix out possible only when pushed along the groove. But what fantastic looking domes it created in the process.

Humble Ingredients

If you live on a chicken and cow farm, you can easily gather the above 4, count them, 4 ingredients for this dessert, with the exception of the desiccated coconut, for that you would need a well stocked supermarket near your chicken and cow farm. Oh and sugar. You will require the presence of a sugar plantation as your next door neighbor for that one.

Little Coconut Boats

This is a fairly standard cook by numbers dessert. Warm the milk until simmering, pour it into a bowl with the others, stir to combine and dissolve the sugar, cool and chill overnight.

The fragrance that emits from the bowl when the warm milk hits the coconut is tropically divine. I'm not nuts about coconuts, but the smell is soul warmingly yummy, reminding me of the Chinese New Year cookies that are due just around the corner.

Why the rest, I do not know, but this makes an easy prep ahead dessert, handy to have in your repertoire for those rude, uninvited and unexpected house guests. So be grateful.

Baked Beauties

Out of the freezer and straight into the oven for a quick flash, and the domes are ready to go.

Taste Test: As promised, the coconut flakes browned nicely to provide a warm, festive crust and the insides stayed chewy, moist and coconutty yummy. A breeze, this one.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Breton Sand Cookies

Ingots of Breton Delights

Some friends from Down Under were in town to spend Christmas, and that meant holding their traditional Christmas dinner here, which in turn meant a great deal of festive feasting. On the long list of dinner goodies was shortbread, and as luck would have it, PH has a recipe just for the occassion, his Breton Sand Cookies, or what he referes to as French shortbread.

Mise En Place

Butter & Sugar, Heavenly Pairing

Cream the butter to soft and creamy submission, toss in the sugar and salt, and continue beatingthe trio until light, pale and fluffy.

In Goes The Yolk and Sifted Flour

Yolks go in first for a good whipping, of course, but I forgot and poured the sifted powders instead. The cookies in PH's book shone a rich golden yellow, while my batter was lifelessly pale. That's when I realised I something was amiss: the yolks!

Out goes the powders, hastily scooped up, and in went the yolks in their rightful place, as the batter was whipped to the glorious yellow hue it was meant to be.

Wet Ingredients All In

Last but not least, the sifted powders, carefully folded in, until pliable dough comes together.

Cookie Sausages

The dough gets divided and plonked onto cling wrap, and put into the deep freeze until ready to be baked and devoured.

Taste Test: These little ingots went down a treat with my cousins M and J. Picky little eaters as they are, they can always be counted on for their honest opinions, and they gave the shortbread their 4 thumbs up. That's a good to go by my books.