A True Yuletide Treat: Chocolate and Bourbon Pear Bûche de Noël

DSC_0342Chocolate, bourbon, vanilla, pear. How bad could that be? This holiday recipe, drawing inspiration from a variety of sources, arrives just in time to be included in your celebrations this year!

Bûche de Noël, translating into yule log, is a traditional dessert served all over France during the holidays. A light and airy sponge cake is wrapped around a custard filling and then coated in a rich butter cream. Often decorated with little toy ornaments on top, these “logs” are both a festive and fun way to bring yuletide cheer to bakery window-displays and parties alike.

Making a yule log is not difficult, but it does involve a preparing a couple different components and DSC_0324pulling out several mixing bowls. I used a recipe from pastry-god Dominique Ansel as a base, but played with the flavors a bit by swapping out cherries for pears and using bourbon because it pairs so well with chocolate. Showcasing French technique with a slight Southern American twist, this yule log is the wonderful way to say Happy Holidays to your loved ones this week.

DSC_0346Recipe: Chocolate and Bourbon Pear Bûche de Noël

Adapted from Food and Wine

Cake

  • 6 eggs yolks, room temperatureDSC_0315
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 5 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (recommend 100% or Special Dark varieties)

DSC_0328Bourbon Syrup

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon

Filling

  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Bourbon Pears

  • 2 pears, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Topping

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting

Method

Cake: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 9X13 inch bakingDSC_0303 sheet with parchment paper. Beat the egg yolks with six tablespoons of the sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy. In another bowl, beat the egg whites together with the remaining six tablespoons of sugar until the egg whites have formed stiff peaks. Fold the egg DSC_0311white mixture with the egg yolk mixture followed by the cocoa powder and salt. Spread the batter evenly on the baking sheet and bake until the cake is dry and springy, about 18-20 minutes.

Syrup: Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-heat heat. Boil the mixture for about a minute, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the bourbon. Allow the mixture to cool.

Filling: In a small bowl, soften the gelatin with the water. In a small saucepan,
combine the milk, vanilla bean and seeds, and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the sugar. Stream in the warm milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking rapidly until incorporated. Pour the combined mixture back into the saucepan and stir constantly over low heat until the custard has become thick enough to coat the back of spoon. Strain the custard into a bowl. Heat the gelatin in the microwave for about 15 seconds, until melted, and stir into the custard. Allow the custard to cool before whipping the cream and folding it in.

Pears: Combine the pear slices with the vanilla pod and seeds, sugar, and bourbon. Saute over high heat for about 5 minutes, until the pears have softened and the alcohol smell has mellowed out a bit. Discard the vanilla pod and allow the mixture to cool.

Assembly: Run a knife around the edges of cake to loosen it and invert it onto a DSC_0334new sheet of parchment paper. Soak the cake liberally in the bourbon syrup, making sure that it’s covered evenly. Then spread an even layer of the custard filing on top, followed by the pears. Roll the cake up to form a 13-inch log. Because the cake is stiff, it might break on you at this point. That is completely fine. Just use the parchment paper to squeeze the roll together and place it in the fridge to set overnight.

Topping: Beat the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar together until whipped and firm. Coat the cake evenly with the whipped cream followed by a dusting of cocoa powder on top. Cut into slices and serve.

Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!

Exercising Expertise: Green Tea Panna Cotta with Asian Pears

DSCN1384So I’m not trying to sound like a sassy masterchef or anything, but I feel like I can make better panna cotta than they do in Italy…

Now before we end up with an onslaught of hate here, I’m not trying to say that panna cottas in Italy are bad. (Dear me, it’s quite the opposite! I once had an exquisite buffalo milk variety in Bologna). They just tend to keep it simple there. The most common flavors are vanilla or caramel, and a popular topping is either chocolate or strawberry sauce. While there is absolutely not wrong with simplicity (heck, that’s probably what has made Italian Cuisine so lip-smacking good in the first place), sometimes a dessert as simple as “cooked cream” requires the need to dial up the flavor antics a bit, especially when you live in a household where panna cotta is a frequent request.

Delivering in the flavor department is something I’ve always excelled at, and I feel that is the true joy of being able to recreate classic desserts at home, giving them your own spin. From mango-passionfruit to spicy chocolate, sweet corn, buttermilk, and my personal favorite, lemon with homemade marmalade, I’ve barely even scratched the tip of possible flavor combinations, and that’s why I’ll be making panna cotta for a lifetime.

With this being my umpteenth time doing a panna cotta in the past five years (sometimes it baffles me to realize that I’ve only been cooking for that long), I decided that I would proceed for the first time without a recipe. What I think I’ve made as a result, is the perfect mix that can serve as a base for a whole realm of flavors. I did a blend of equal parts whole milk and heavy cream, two spoons of powdered gelatin, a spoon of vanilla, and a moderate measure of sugar. It’s a simple, yet foolproof recipe for a plain panna cotta.

The flavor today has hardly anything to do with Italy at all. The inspiration came from a green tea pannaDSCN1364 cotta I saw on the menu of a Vietnamese restaurant during a recent visit to New York. Due to the fact that I had a plane to catch, I had to leave lunch early and miss the latter dessert festivities. Thankfully, I didn’t really miss out because I just made it for myself a couple of days later. Green tea matcha powder stirred into my base (no infusing or steeping needed) provided the boost of exotic flavor I needed. It’s hard to exactly describe the taste of green tea. A bit grassy and bitter with distant notes of mint, its complexities play well with the sweet creaminess of this treat.

DSCN1379Asian pears, in this instance, do not refer to the varietal of pear I used, but rather the way I prepared them. Wafer-thin slices are stewed with some water, the slightest bit of sugar, and a pod of star anise, a major component of the Chinese five-spice blend. With its licorice and fennel flavor, the notes of star anise intensify with time, so making this component the night before will provide you with the perfect snap of freshness on top of this already refreshing dessert.

Now if they could only make green tea lattes like this…

Recipe: Green Tea Panna Cotta with Asian PearsDSCN1372

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons gelatin powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons matcha powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Asian Pears:

  • 2 ripe pears, peeled and thinly sliced (use any variety of your liking)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • a splash of water
  • 1 star anise pod, lightly crushed

Method:

Dissolve the gelatin in the water and allow it to sit while you prepare the panna cotta.

In a small saucepan, combine the milk, cream, matcha powder, and sugar. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until warm and scalding, about 5-10 minutes. Be careful not to boil or burn the milk. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the gelatin-water mixture and vanilla extract. Portion off the mixture into six, six ounce-sized ramekins. Place the panna cottas in the fridge and allow for them to set, about 6-8 hours or overnight.

For the Asian pears, combine the pears, sugar, water and star anise in a pan and simmer for about 5-10 minutes, until softened and syrupy. Remove the pears and place them in the fridge to cool.

Serve the chilled panna cottas either in their ramekins or inverted on a dish, with a spoon or two of the pears on top.

Love (3rd edition): Sweet Potato and Chocolate Halwa

imageNormally, I try to make it a point to post some sort of romantic/cute/sexual/whatever you want to call it recipe around Valentine’s Day. Almost always, I’m late, as witnessed with the last two years’ posts, both variations on a baked ziti. This year I shall set an unprecedented delay of posting five days after the big event. Oh well, learn to deal with it because this recipe is equally delicious, and certainly deserves to be made, all winter long.

I have never been in love, don’t know much about it, and I am in no rush to find it either. It will come, if I must be cheesy, “when the time is right”, and that special someone is going to be hella lucky because I’ll be showering them with loads of food, causing them to subsequently gain a couple of pounds. Let’s hope they’re okay with that. Furthermore, my soulmate will know that my biggest infatuation will always remain around food because let’s get real, food will never betray you.

Sweet potatoes are bountiful in the fall and winter months and I do believe that they are very sexy indeed. I mean what DSCN1077food isn’t attractive when cooked down in butter and pureed into a velvety deliciousness? Just don’t do it all the time okay? I turned this lone, but fat sweet potato I had lying around into a halwa or eggless, Indian pudding using mostly ingredients I already had in my pantry, perfect for when an occasion, a sweetheart, or most importantly, yourself demands it.

The idea isn’t all mine, I stole it from Manjula’s Kitchenan online cooking series featuring an adorable Indian grandma cooking up the best of what India’s numerous vegetarian cuisines have to offer. Do watch the video because she provides a good demonstration of the technique involved. It’s mostly a process of constant stirring and DSCN1080mashing, but the good news is that this pudding can go from stove to table in a matter of twenty minutes, and when you bite into the warm and creamy mash, accented with hints of cardamom, cinnamon, and a generous helping of chocolate (that addition made by me because we could all use some its charms during these dreadful months), you’ll be loving yourself endlessly for hours after.

Recipe: Sweet Potato and Chocolate HalwaDSCN1081

Adapted just the very slightest from Manjulas Kitchen

I scaled down the recipe a bit to serve either 3 obnoxious or 4 normal people

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mashed sweet potato (obtained from about 1 large sweet potato)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • a handful of bittersweet chocolate chips

Method

1. Cook the sweet potato by wrapping it in a moist paper towel and microwaving it for about 7-8 minutes, until soft and tender (a knife should be able to go through easily). Peel and mash the sweet potato. You should have about 1 cup of sweet potato puree.

2. Heat the butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium high heat. Add the mashed sweet potato, stirring constantly and pressing down frequently for about 10 minutes, until the sweet potato has darkened slightly in color.

3. Add the milk and sugar and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the halwa, stirring constantly for another 10 minutes.

DSCN10844. Add the ground cardamom and cinnamon and stir for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and fold in the chocolate chips. Serve the halwa hot, right out of the pot.

Cooking Notes

  • I could imagine this halwa being just as delicious with butternut squash, yams, or pumpkin in place of the sweet potato.
  • To maintain a desired level of richness, use at least 2% milk
  • For a more traditional Indian flavor, omit the chocolate chips and garnish with lightly chopped cashews instead.
  • For a Southern-Spin, omit the ground cardamom and add slightly more cinnamon and along with a pinch of ground ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Garnish with crushed walnuts, pecans, or graham crackers (or all three). Serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, or lightly sweetened marscapone cheese. Now you’ve got a fun twist on a sweet potato pie!
  • You may also serve the halwa with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup.

Flashback (hopefully the last one): Double Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Cookies

DSCN7991Here’s a truth; I love cookies. In fact, I’m borderline obsessed with them. The sad reality though, is that I don’t bake them very often. Maybe it has to do with the painstaking duty of having to portion out each little cookie by hand, and then baking them in several batches because they won’t all fit on one baking sheet (it’s time-consuming, y’all), but to be honest, I have not had loads of success with cookies, despite their relative ease. Many times, I’ve produced sheets of disks that while round, were crumbly and dry. Majorly disappointing when nobody in the house wants to eat the freshly baked two-dozen then.

Yet a triumph of hope arrived, several months ago when I was back in Denmark (okay, seriously, I promise that this will DSCN7979be the LAST post featuring my Danish rambles, but I can’t help the fact that I cooked my heart out over there). I baked my best batch of cookies ever. They were soft, incredibly rich, brimming with the complex tones of dark chocolate, and bursting with a powerful aroma that filled that little apartment with a happy smell, a homey smell, a smell that makes you want to dive in and gobble up that batch clean, hot off the tray, all the way to the very last crumb.

There’s not necessarily anything special about the recipe, other than the fact that it was incredibly costly to make (yay, Danish prices!). Here in the US though, chocolate is bountiful, which means I ought to take a stab at making these again, along with many other cookie recipes I need to try. Because I won’t stop until I’ve become a cookie expert.

Happy Flashback Friday Everyone!

Recipe: Double Chocolate, Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Originally written by Nigella Lawson

Ingredients

  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate (about 60-70% cocoa content)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick salted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (about 60-70% cocoa content)

DSCN7988Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt the 4 oz of bittersweet chocolate either in the microwave at 30 second intervals or in a double-boiler set over simmering water.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugars in a bowl or mixer. Then add the melted chocolate.
  3. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
  4. Mix in the dry ingredients and then fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Form 12, equal-size mounds and place them on a greased baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart from each other.
  6. Bake for about 18 minutes, till the cookies are just set and not wet.
  7. Allow to cool for a bit before munching.

Cooking Notes:

  • You could switch things up by swapping out some of the bittersweet chocolate chips for either mint or white chocolate chips. Peanuts would be great in here too, if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • The cookie dough itself makes for an excellent cookie dough truffle. Just omit the egg and coat the balls of cookie dough in melted chocolate, allowing them to cool in the fridge to set.

How Hyderabad Stole My Heart: Qubani ka Meetha (Dried Apricot Sweet)

Qubani ka Meetha with Vanilla Ice Cream

I spent the summer as a research intern working at a diagnostics lab in Hyderabad, a bustling metropolis in Southern India. I won’t bother sharing all the work-related details here because you can find them on another specially dedicated blog I wrote to document the experience, Andhra-Style: My Life in Hyderabad. Do give it a read if you want to know more about me! I think I was able to make some pretty gritty and introspective realizations about my life at the time. 

image
The cramped work area where I conducted my experiments

One thing worth sharing are the contradictory emotions. While I was in Hyderabad, I was faced with a culture that was familiar, yet so alien at the same time. There were many days were I felt lonely, bored, and just wanted to fly back home.

Is it weird though now, to say that I miss almost everything about Hyderabad? I miss those rain splattered walks through work along Abid Road, through the full blown sensory assault that would greet me everyday. The incessant sound of cars, trucks, busses, and motorcycles honking their horns, the endless flow of humanity spilling onto the streets, the smell of the frying oil wafting away in the mornings from little vada and dosa stalls, the uncomfortable splashes of mucky water, swept up from roadside puddles, seeping into my shoes. I miss the lab, all cramped up in that small and windowless space,  full of the incessant chitter-chatter of my coworkers in rapid Telugu. I miss my initially feeble, but eventually triumphant attempts at speaking Hindi and trying to be more “Indian”.

Hyderabad’s Finest: the Famed Chicken Biryani at Shadaab Restaurant

For obvious reasons, I miss the food the most: waking up to an arrangement of fried goodies and peppery hot masala chai, gulab jamuns and puffy-hot pooris every Tuesday at the workplace cafeteria, spending the weekends at Lakshmi Aunty’s house, where I was reacquainted with her simple, yet heavily satisfying cuisine after so many years, and the biryani, oh, oh, oh do I miss that biryani. Juicy chunks (or legs) of chicken or mutton (goat) layered between intensely aromatic basmati rice and served with a peanut and coconut gravy known as salan, I could probably go on for posts about its uniqueness and how I will never be able to replicate this true Hyderabadi delicacy in my home. That makes me sad because most biryanis found here in the States or really anywhere outside Hyderabad for that matter, just cannot compare. What’s Andhra stays Andhra.

Fortunately, there are some Hyderabadi treats which I can prepare within the confines of my small, apartment kitchen. Best of all, this little dish is chock full of one my all time favorite snack foods, dried apricots. Where my love affair with these bright orange gems began is not hard to trace. I would go through almost a bag a day back in Denmark, for they were both cheap and a good way to hold over the hunger until the next meal. When I learned that one of Hyderabad’s trademark sweets features dried apricots as the key ingredient, it became imperative that there was going to be no way that I would be leaving the city without having bowls aplenty, all to be licked down to the last bit of golden and sticky apricot goo.

Chowmalla Palace: Home to Hyderabad’s Nizams

Qubani ka Meetha, which translates to “apricot-sweet” in Urdu, the language of Hyderabad’s Muslim community, is a dessert straight out of the kitchens of the Nizams (old Muslim rulers) of Hyderabad, who would have most likely sourced the dried beauties from the eastern lands of Afghanistan and Iran. Today a staple at most Hyderabadi weddings, qubani ka meetha is enjoyed by all Indians alike, but if you want a truly authentic taste, you still have to venture into the old Muslim quarter of the city, across the dried up river bank, to grab a taste at famous eateries such as Shadaab, where I was able to grab a delicious mouthful.

Qubani ka Meetha in its original splendor, how I enjoyed it in Hyderabad

Simplicity is the essence of this dish for the simplest recipes only require a boiling down of dried apricots, water, and sugar, finished with apricot kernels and a spoon of malai (clotted cream). Thus the quality and more so type of product, specifically the apricot, really factors into the final taste of this dish. In India most, if not all dried apricots, are unsulphured, meaning that they are not treated with sulfur dioxide to give them that bright orange color. They have a different taste, one that is often sweeter and more earthy. Furthermore, the pits are left in, and the utilization of the kernels within, little seeds that resemble almonds, both in terms of taste and appearance, provide the element of crunch. As sweets in India are usually only reserved for special occasions, Indian cooks typically show no restraint with the sugar, so during both instances in which I had Qubani in Hyderabad, they were cloyingly sweet, a taste that was only tempered by stirring in some of the malai. 

While I loved the Qubani ka Meetha with all its realness at Shadaab, this became one of the few dishes were I felt that I could actually make it, dare I say better, with the usage of American ingredients back home. There were naturally some big changes I had to make. Firstly, that the dried apricots we get in the US are the more familiar brightly orange-tinted Turkish varieties, which for me, have oddly enough always bursted with a fruity reminiscence of the fresh fruit. Secondly, as these apricots come without the pits, I decided to substitute this textural element by stirring in some toasted almonds. Also, as making malai usually requires long hours spent over the stove, boiling milk down and  stirring it continuously, I opted for serving with vanilla ice cream instead because as a busy and overworked college student, I ain’t got time to replicate all of my ancestral ways. The change I am the most proud of though, is the addition of crushed cardamom seeds. 

A key flavor in almost all Indian desserts, cardamom is used as often in India as vanilla is in the US, but the two don’t taste anything the same, save for their floral aromas. Lusty, jammy, and full of the warm aromas of an Indian childhood (thanks to my buddy cardamom), the flavors of Qubani ka Meetha will have you missing it as soon as you finish your first bowl. Good thing, I made it again last weekend.

Recipe: Qubani ka Meetha

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried apricots, packed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, adjust to taste
  • 6 crushed cardamom pods, optional
  • 1/4 cup whole almonds, toasted
  • vanilla ice cream, for serving

Method:

  1. Soak the apricots in warm water overnight, till they have plumped up fully.
  2. Pour the apricots with the water (it should have a nice orange color) into a heavy bottom sauce pan with the crushed cardamom pods. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Simmer the mixture for 20-25 minutes, mashing intermittently, until the apricots are softened and falling apart.
  4. Stir in the sugar and toasted almonds, cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or dollop of whipped cream.

Cooking Notes:

  • If you want your Qubani to mimic both the taste and appearance of the Hyderabadi original, try using unsulphured apricots instead of the conventional Turkish kind. Also there are a good deal of Indian grocery stores that carry Indian apricots as well. These may be complete with the pits and will naturally lend you the most authentic flavor.
  • Qubani ka Meehta can also be served with a vanilla custard, creme anglaise, unsweetened whipped cream, or Greek yogurt.
  • My new favorite way to use Qubani ka Meetha is by featuring it as a cake filling. Use your favorite yellow cake recipe, place a thick layer of the Qubani between the layers, and frost with a cardamom whipped cream. It is guaranteed to blow the minds of your guests. It sure did for mine :)!

Divine Deadliness: Dark Chocolate Cake with Forest Berry Ganache

DSCN0108We all need a good cake recipe in our lives. One that will please the pickiest of eaters and moodiest party guests. With all those rotten cake mixes and trashy grocery store cakes sitting around, it’s easy to forget what real cake actually tastes like, and I think that is something which should never be forgotten.

Making cake from scratch may take a little more effort, but it’s well worth the labor. It doesn’t even require much skill. As long as you can mix things together, there ain’t a batter that could be too difficult for you to tackle. Not to mention, there is such a wonderful feeling of accomplishment that comes with seeing your own creation emerge out of the oven. The smiles it puts on people’s faces when they take their first bites are enough to fill me up with warmth and joy. It’s a way of showing your affection for others without being verbal.DSCN0087

Ever since I started getting into cooking, I have always enjoyed the blog 17 and Baking. Breathtaking photography and mouth-watering recipes drew me in, but the fact that these wonders were being made by another teenager inspired me.  If a young seventeen year old could do it, why couldn’t I, and so not only did this blog motivate me to keep baking it, but it pushed me into staring my own blog. It’s been a bumpy two and a half years. I’ll admit that my writing was quite miserable when I began, but now as a wiser (kind of) 20-year-old looking back, I hope that I’ve been able to develop a more entertaining and informative voice by now.

DSCN0094I have recreated quite a few 17 and Baking recipes in my own home, but perhaps the most beautiful of them all would have to be the Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake. The first time I made it, I was a mere 16-year-old trying to bake up something amazing for a friend’s birthday. Making it again two weeks ago for my brother’s graduation, the cake has changed little from the original recipe save for swapping the raspberries for a mixed berry blend and using chocolate with a higher cocoa content. I couldn’t be happier with the results. Darkly colored, moist to the point of disbelief, and brimming with textural and flavor contrasts from the rich cake center, tart and chunky berries, and bitter and slightly savory ganache, this cake is my heaven, my ecstasy, and my ultimate joy. Ms. Elissa Bernstein, the amazing blogger behind 17 and Baking, I offer my uttermost thanks to you for first making this delicacy. I know that the chances of you coming across my blog are slim, but you have inspired me to keep writing for a lifetime.

Here’s to five million more blog posts!

Recipe: Dark Chocolate Cake with Forest Berry GanacheDSCN0121

Adapted from 17 and Baking

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened 100% cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water, mixed with about a teaspoon of instant coffee granules
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup mixed berry jam

Mixed Berry Ganache

  • 8 oz bittersweet chocolate with a 60% cocoa content
  • 8 oz bittersweet chocolate with a 70% cocoa content
  • 1 2/3 cups frozen mixed berry blend
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) salted butter, at room temperature

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans and cover with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer, combine the oil and sour cream and then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until the mixture is well incorporated. Add the vinegar, vanilla extract, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Make sure the ingredients have been mixed well together.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa powder. Add these dry ingredients in about three or four batches to the wet ingredients, stirring slowly after each addition. Then add the boiling water. Be careful not to over mix the batter. Finish stirring with a rubber spatula if needed.

Pour the batter into the cake pans. It will be very runny. Bake the cakes for about 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely before proceeding to the frosting process.

While the cakes are cooling, prepare the ganache. Start by placing a large bowl over a pot filled with about an inch of simmering water. This is called a double-bath. Microwave the frozen berries at 30 second intervals until they have softened and become mushy. Strain out the seeds and pulp, reserving the juice. You will have about 1/3 cup juice. Melt together the butter and chocolate in the double bath until smooth and well combined. Then take the bowl off of the pot and stir in the berry juice. Allow the ganache to cool until it spreadable. You can speed up this process by beating the ganache after an hour of cooling in a stand mixer till it has begun to resemble the consistency of frosting.

DSCN0118When frosting the cake, start by inverting one of the cake layers on a cake dish. Spread about 1/3 of the mixed berry jam on top and then cover with a thin layer of ganache. Invert the second cake layer on top of this and again spread 1/3 cup of the mixed berry jam followed with a thin layer of ganache. Then proceed to frost the entire cake with a thick layer of the ganache. Allow the cake to sit for an hour or two before cutting into slices and serving. Enjoy this cake folks, it is divine, decadent, and deadly, but in a good way of course.

A True Red Gem: Rødgrød med Fløde

DSCN9560After a lot of waiting and crying over blisteringly cold days, springtime has finally come to Denmark. The sun is out almost everyday, the weather is brisk, yet pleasant enough to walk around without a jacket, and Copenhageners have finally stepped out to reclaim their streets. Perhaps the best part of this new season would have to be the large amounts of Danish-grown produce that is slowly arriving in the markets. Just last week, while strolling though the city center, I saw little cartons of ruby-red strawberries, the packaging proudly proclaiming, “dansk jordbær” (Danish strawberries). Excited to say the least, I immediately caved in and shelled out 25 kroner (about 4.50 dollars) for the little half-pound box. Yes, they may have only been like 12 DSCN9563little strawberries in total, but each of them was full of magnificent and richly concentrated strawberry flavor that balanced perfectly between the dimensions of sweet and sour. It got me thinking ahead far into the Danish summertime. Unfortunately I will be gone from Denmark before then (my program ends in 3 weeks, aghhh!!), but I have heard many stories of how beautiful it is supposed to be.

Because the summertime is so short in Scandinavia, people all over the region, including Denmark, savor it to the fullest. Festivals are built around the climate and the sun, particularly in the northernmost reaches of Sweden of Norway, where special parties are thrown to celebrate “midnight sun”, a phenomenon where the sun shines for almost the entire day. Even here in Copenhagen, the sun only sets around 9 pm now, it’s crazy!

DSCN9573It has been built into the mentality of Danish cuisine to only savor certain ingredients when they are at their best, and actually, I think that the same can be said for almost every cuisine. Rødgrød med Fløde is a celebration of the Danish summertime harvest. Translating to “red porridge with cream”, Rødgrød med Fløde traditionally consists of a mixture of red and black currants, strawberries, and raspberries that are simmered down with sugar and water and then thickened with a couple of spoons of potato flour. The resulting “pudding” is then served chilled with a splashing of ice-cold DSCN9617cream on top. That’s right, just pure, unsweetened, unwhipped, and unadulterated cream. The simplicity of everything is   beautiful. The milky cream puts to sleep the tangy chattering of the berries. The contrast is utterly refreshing while still maintaining a measure of substance in your stomach due to the starch in the recipe.

Because currants are not available at all in Denmark until June/July, I used a mixture of strawberries, raspberries, andDSCN9571 rhubarb in this recipe. Even though it it’s not a berry, rhubarb is often a traditional ingredient in many rødgrød med fløde recipes. Furthermore, it kind of also has become one of my favorite fruits at the moment, and the pairing of strawberries and rhubarb is not only symbolic and eternal, it’s a match made in heaven.

So, when summer finally hits your homes, take to the kitchens with some Danish inspiration and try cooking up some Rødgrød med Fløde. Sure, it may be a workout to pronounce, but it certainly isn’t a workout to make.

DSCN9625Recipe: Rødgrød med Fløde

Adapted slightly from this recipe found on the blog,  My Danish Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped in half
  • 2 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 pound raspberries
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons potato flour or cornstarch
  • heavy cream, for serving

Method:

Wash all the fruit and then cut up the rhubarb and strawberries. Place the fruit in a large pot with the sugar and water. DSCN9583Simmer over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, until the fruit has fallen apart and is tender. Pass the fruit through a sieve to separate out the seeds, but keep the pulp! Return the juices and pulp to the pot. Stir the potato flour with some water to dissolve and make a slurry mixture. Bring the fruit juices and pulp back to a simmer and then stir in the dissolved potato flour in increments. Keep letting the mixture simmer until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, similar to what would DSCN9590happen if you were to be making a custard or a pudding.

Pour the rødgrød into a bowl and allow it to cool in the fridge until completely chilled, about 4 hours to overnight. Serve in shallow plates or bowls with a splashing of ice cold cream on top.

Cooking Notes:

  • There is not a ton of sugar in this recipe, but the idea is that you will be using ripe fruit, and rødgrød is not supposed to be that sweet anyway.
  • If you are not into cream, you can also serve Rødgrød med Fløde with milk or even a spoon of greek yoghurt or cottage cheese.
  • For people with a massive sweet tooth, rødgrød can also be used as a topping over vanilla ice cream.