Saturday, January 28, 2012

Chocolate Almond Mousse with Bailey's Whipped Cream

Do you ever feel that you are so close to something utterly fantastic, but it's just on the other side of a wall that contains a completely different maze than the one you're winding through? Have you ever been so speckled with jealousy to the point that you've stoppered the possibility of inspiration? It's like once you start emulating you feel much worse than simply sitting back and admiring.

I'm not talking about blogging...well yes in part...but not completely. I'm talking about life. If we don't get what we were expecting we have to turn around and realize we shouldn't have been expecting that thing in the first place.

Our culture just loves those who have it all, doesn't it? We idolize them. We perfect them. We copycat. And when we do, we want to tell everyone what we're up to.

But what if we keep it special? Secret. Like my mother who's provided countless beautiful meals to my family without a single picture or blog post. Or my dad who with a quiet passion has carefully impregnated our farm's soil with multiple native trees. Or my sister who sees the beauty in things before anyone else does and knows how to showcase it just so. Or my brother who lent me his imagination and let me run wild with it when we were kids...and now runs circles around me with his intellect. Or my sweet husband who lives drenched in joy and befriends with wholehearted compassion. No recognition. And yet...complete. Why strive for acknowledgement? Why not

Just saying. It makes things simpler.

Let's see. How to transition? Simple? Yes...this recipe is simple.

Chocolate Almond Mousse with Bailey's Whipped Cream
adapted from The Novice Chef

1 cup warm water
2 tsp instant espresso powder
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
9.35 oz dark chocolate
6 tsp granulated sugar

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1-2 tbsp Bailey's or Ryan's

Make an ice bath with two large bowls. Fill the bottom of one bowl with ice and a little water. Set the second bowl inside.

In a sauce pan NOT on heat dissolve espresso powder in the warm water. Add extracts, chocolate, and sugar. Place over medium heat.

Stir until melted. Heat just until the chocolate is melted. Pour into the bowl over the ice bath. Whisk until you can't whisk anymore (took me about 20 minutes and it still wasn't as thick as I would've liked so I let it set up in the fridge after plating it). But don't over-whisk. You don't want grains.

Divide among four glasses. Refrigerate for about 12 hours. Before serving, beat the cream and Bailey's and top the mousse with the cream and some chocolate shavings.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Espresso Cookies

 For those of you who may not have realized by now, I am a dietetics student. As such I am required to be in an internship before I can sit for the RD (Registered Dietitian) exam. I attended orientation for said internship last week and have mixed feelings about my first day tomorrow. Yes, I suppose I am excited. But I know it will be a lot of work and a lot of time. Basically, I will be working full-time without pay while completing projects and assignments. Just glancing over my schedule gives me the chills...4:30 am shift coming up here in a couple weeks.

So I made these cookies for the potluck lunch at my orientation last week and they were a big hit. I've already had a couple requests for the recipe, so here 'tis!

Espresso Cookies
adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens Ultimate Cookie Book

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening (I know...disappointing...but it's only 1/4 cup)
1 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp + 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
1 tbsp hot water
1 egg
2 cups AP flour
Coffee or espresso beans

In a large bowl, beat butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1 cup sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.

In a small bowl, stir 2 tbsp espresso powder and hot water together until dissolved. Add to butter mixture with egg. Beat until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer, then stir in the rest.

Divide the dough into thirds. Shape them into 7" logs. Wrap each with plastic wrap. Chill about 2 hours or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 375. Using a sharp knife (you may have to clean it several times while slicing), cut logs into 3/8 inch slices. (No, put that ruler away. Just use your best judgment.) Place cookies about 2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet. (They WILL spread.) Combine 2 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp espresso powder and sprinkle over. Press 1-3 espresso beans into each cookie. Bake 9-10 minutes or until edges are light brown. Let stand for 1 minute on cookie sheet, then cool on wire rack.

The espresso beans make the cookie...please don't omit them.

I sprinkled the extra espresso sugar on my homemade Cappuccino.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bûche de Noël (Yule Log)

I have long desired to make one of these. There is something so captivating about creating a picture with food that doesn't look like food at all. And they are super fun to eat. Who wouldn't want to look like they were eating a slice of a tree trunk with mushrooms sprouting out of it?

So after being intimidated by the traditional Bûche de Noël for far too long, I decided to jump on it when we had my family and Ryan's family over for dinner during the Christmas season. To be honest, it wasn't that hard! It's just a lot of different components. The hardest part was rolling the cake, and even then, the cracks make it look more realistic. Just allow yourself lots of time and read the recipe a couple days ahead of time. This is a dessert that requires planning.

I started with a recipe from Alice Medrich's A Year in Chocolate (need I sing her praises again?). She provided the Chocolate Hazelnut Roulade and Coffee Meringue Mushrooms. But I also wanted bark.

So here we go.


3 egg whites, at room temp
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar, preferably superfine (just blend regular sugar in a food processor)
1.5 tsp instant espresso powder
about 2 tsps unsweetened cocoa, for dusting
2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces

4 oz chocolate

1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and cooled, skins rubbed off
2 tbsp AP flour
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
2-3 tbsp unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder* (see end of post)

1 cup heavy cream, cold
2 tsps instant espresso powder (A staple in my house! Never used it for straight up drinking, though. Instant coffee powder can be substituted if need be.)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1.5-2 tbsps sugar

Special Equipment
Pastry bag
Plain pastry tip with 1/2 inch opening
16x12 or 17x11" jelly roll pan, lined with parchment paper

I would recommend making the mushrooms the day before.


Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 200 degrees.

In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form with the beaters are lifted. On high speed, gradually add half of the sugar with all of the espresso powder, about 1 tbsp at a time. The mixture should stand in stiff glossy peaks when the beaters are lifted. Using a spatula, fold in the remaining sugar. Scrape the meringue into a pastry bag. Pipe pointed kisses about 1 inch high to make stems on a parchment lined baking sheet. Don't freak out if the tips bend or sag. Pipe domes to make caps. (don't stress over this me...they will turn out alright) Sieve a light dusting of cocoa over top and fan or blow on them to blur it and make them look authentic. Bake until crisp and dry, about 2 hours.

To assemble, place the chocolate in a small bowl set in a skillet of barely simmering water. Immediately turn off the heat and stir the chocolate until melted and smooth. Use a sharp knife to cut 1/4 to 1/2 inch off the tip of each stem (remember those points on your kisses?) to create a flat surface. Spread a good amount of chocolate on the flat side of the mushroom caps. Allow the chocolate to set a little before attaching the cut surface of the stems. Set aside until hardened and glued together!


Preheat the oven to 350.

In a clean, dry food processor, combine the nuts and flour and pulse until finely ground. Set aside. (You can do this the night before.)

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler (same technique as melting the chocolate above), stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. Remove and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar until pale and thick. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture. Set aside.

In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with a mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating at high speed until stiff but not dry. Using a spatula, fold in about 1/4 egg whites and all of the hazelnut mixture into the chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining whites. Turn the batter into the prepared jelly roll pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs, 10-15 minutes. (I set it for 12 initially and it was almost too done, so I recommend checking at 10.) Cool COMPLETELY in the pan on a rack.

I would recommend making your bark now. Tape two large sheets of parchment paper to the counter and spray with cooking spray. Melt the 4 oz chocolate as described above. Spread thinly on one of the parchment sheets. Sandwich with the other sheet, cooking sprayed side down. Roll it up and place in the freezer for several hours. When you are ready to decorate, just remove from the freezer and unroll. It should crack naturally.

Sieve a light dusting of cocoa over a sheet of foil a little bigger than the jelly roll pan, reserving the remaining cocoa. Invert the cooled cake on the foil (scary part!) and peel off the parchment liner.

To make the filling, whip the cream with the espresso powder and vanilla until it begins to thicken. Sprinkle in the sugar and beat until the cream holds a soft shape. Spread over the cake.

Starting at a short edge, roll the cake using the foil to help. If you've ever made sushi, those skills will come in very handy right about now. At first the cake will crack a lot. Don't worry too cracks less as it gets fatter. Plus, as I said before, it looks like bark anyway. Wrap it all up in the foil and refrigerate until you decorate it just before serving.

Alright, now I decided to decorate mine about 2 hours before serving. I mean, who really takes the time to mess with that sort of thing when guests are over.

Unwrap the roulade and transfer to a platter.

Top creatively with the bark and mushrooms. You can sieve cocoa or powdered sugar over it for effect if you would like. Refrigerate until you serve!

*Alright, about that Dutch process cocoa powder. I can't find it anywhere in Lexington! It's not at Kroger or Fresh Market and I don't want to waste my time going to every grocery store. Any suggestions?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Meyer Lemon Sweet Rolls

I just realized to my chagrin that most of my previous (and upcoming!) posts are sweet. Eek! After I finish these up I will do my best to get back in touch with my healthificating tendencies. Although, I must add that there is a time for sweet indulgences in every diet. The important thing is that they are small portions and are not eaten on a regular basis.

With that said, let's go on to the rolls! Meyer lemons were on sale and so I jumped at the chance to experiment! I made these for brunch with a couple friends and I think they turned out quite tasty. It's a very different take on the typical cinnamon roll...and I must mention that I DID reduce the butter and sugar and they were still very sweet and rich! I also made half the amount of frosting and it still covered the rolls completely with extra left over for the half batch I froze.

First off, I have to show you how I cook. Usually, this is what it looks like. Saving trees, but killing computers.

That yummy dough you see up there is about to be rolled and sliced.

Here's the recipe:

Meyer Lemon Sweet Rolls
adapted from Cheeky Kitchen

2 cups very warm water*
2 tbsp active dry yeast
2/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk*
1/2 cup + 9 tbsp sugar, separated
2 tsp salt
1 cup butter
1 egg
5-5.5 cups AP flour
zest of 6 Meyer lemons
juice of 3 Meyer lemons
4 oz reduced fat cream cheese
3 cups powdered sugar

*Alright, so if you're like me, you don't have nonfat dry milk laying around. So I combined 2/3 cup nonfat milk with 1 1/3 cup water and heated it up just a bit in the microwave. Worked like a charm!

In a large bowl, whisk together the warm water (or milk/water mixture) and yeast. Allow it to proof by setting aside for about 5 minutes. If a foam forms at the top, it's ready.

Whisk in the dry milk (or omit if you used liquid milk), 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Add 1/2 cup softened butter and egg. Slowly begin stirring in the flour, one cup at a time. Add just enough flour to create a soft, but not sticky, dough. (I ended up using about 6 cups) Knead the dough until elastic. Make into a ball, place in a large clean bowl, and drizzle a little olive on top. Cover lightly with a damp towel and let rise for one hour in a warm place.

Cut the risen dough into thirds. Use a rolling pin to spread it into a long, thin rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Melt 1/2 cup butter and use a basting brush to cover the surface of the dough, leaving enough butter for the other two dough sections. Sprinkle the zest of two lemons over the butter and then sprinkle 3 tbsp of sugar over that. Roll the dough up tightly. Now, the original recipe did not specify which way to roll it, so I just chose to roll it from one short side to the other, and that worked well for me. Slice into 1 1/2 inch rolls and put on a parchment lined baking sheet or a greased pyrex dish. Repeat until all the dough has been used.

I didn't realize how much this made, so I froze half of my batch.

Preheat the oven to 375 and let rolls rise again on top of the oven for 20-30 minutes. Bake for 16-20 minutes (less for baking sheet, more for pyrex dish), or until the tops are a light, golden brown.

While baking, make the icing. Beat together the lemon juice, cream cheese, and powdered sugar until very smooth. Frost the rolls right out of the oven with the icing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Roasted Banana Cake with Browned Butter and Pecan Frosting

Banana Bread is one of those recipes that has many different possible outcomes. The same person making the same recipe often has a hard time getting the same results. That's why when they do hit on something that works, they stick with it. And then after a while, that becomes their own recipe, because that's the only one they make and people make a connection between the bread and the individual.

So, having a mother and a mother-in-law who both have unique and mouthwateringly delicious Banana Bread recipes, I decided to take a slightly different route with this dessert. Now, all Banana Bread should really be called cake when you see the ingredients. The fact that it is in loaf form is no excuse to eat more! :)

So I called mine cake and made myself feel guilty eating it. Oh well. Nomenclature has always been important in my family.

I found this recipe in Cooking Light, of course.

Here is what I made:

Roasted Banana Cake with Browned Butter and Pecan Frosting

  • 2 cups sliced ripe banana (about 3 medium) 
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 9 ounces cake flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • large eggs
  • Baking spray with flour
  • Frosting:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup (3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

  • Preheat oven to 400°. Combine banana, brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon butter in an 8-inch square baking dish. Bake at 400° for 35 minutes, stirring after 17 minutes. Cool slightly.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 375°.
  • Weigh or lightly spoon cake flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 9 ounces (about 2 1/4 cups) flour, soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Combine banana mixture, buttermilk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in another medium bowl. Place 1/2 cup butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs to granulated sugar mixture; mix well. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternating with banana mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  • Pour batter into a 13 x 9–inch baking pan coated with baking spray. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
  • To prepare frosting, melt 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly. Combine browned butter, powdered sugar, cream cheese, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer until smooth. Spread frosting over cooled bars. Sprinkle with pecans.

*I can't mention Banana Bread without giving a thank-you to my mom for every time she has let me cut into the middle of a loaf when it is right out of the oven and eat that yummylicious slightly underbaked center.