Saturday, June 29, 2013

Potato Salad with Bleu Cheese and Crispy Prosciutto

On the drive from North Dakota back to Colorado a few weeks ago, I was craving a hot dog for lunch.  But with lunch options on that quiet stretch of highway being fairly limited, I never did get a hot dog, so we grilled hot dogs for dinner one weekend after we got back.  We topped them with stone-ground mustard and banana peppers, and red onions that Jamie pickled.

A summery meal like grilled hot dogs isn't complete without a side of potato salad, and I love potato salad.  Jamie, not so much.  So I'm always trying to come up with potato salad recipes that I think he'll enjoy, unlike the typical mayonnaise slathered potato salad with hard boiled eggs that he hates.

So for this summer's recipe, I added crispy pieces of prosciutto and diced red onion for a little crunch and bleu cheese crumbles for a nice tang.  I had intended to add diced celery, also, but we didn't have any on hand, so instead I sliced up some raw asparagus stalks.

For the dressing, a combination of just a little sour cream, mayonnaise, olive oil and mustard, with salt, pepper and white vinegar was simple but yummy.  And potato salad is one of those dishes that just seems to get better as it refrigerates, so the leftovers are just as good as the first bite.

Potato Salad with Blue Cheese and Crispy Prosciutto
printable recipe

·         2 pounds small red and/or white potatoes, unpeeled
·         1 teaspoon olive oil
·         4 pieces prosciutto
·         1 stalk celery, finely diced
·         ¼ cup finely diced red onion
·         4 ounces blue cheese crumbles

·         2 tablespoons sour cream
·         2 tablespoons olive oil mayonnaise
·         1 tablespoon olive oil
·         1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
·         1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
·         Coarse salt and pepper, to taste

Quarter the potatoes; place in a stock pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook just until tender, but not so soft that they fall apart.  Drain and cool to room temperature.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the prosciutto and cook until crisp.  Set aside to cool and crumble into pieces.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, prosciutto, celery, red onion and blue cheese.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients then drizzle over the salad and toss to coat.  Refrigerate for several hours to chill before serving.

Yields about 6-8 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Friday, June 28, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam and Banana Pecan Muffins

I came home from North Dakota with a bag full of rhubarb, freshly cut from Jamie's parents' garden, and I knew that the first thing I was going to make with it would be jam.

His mom had made a couple of strawberry rhubarb pies which we enjoyed while we were there, the tart-sweet combination of the fruit always one of my favorites.  I will have to make Jamie a rhubarb pie soon...

For the past few summers I've made jam, with whatever fruit is available.  Last summer I made a batch of Apricot Peach Preserves with nutmeg and ginger, with the stone fruit we'd brought back from Palisade, CO.  Over the winter I made Cranberry Orange Preserves, one of my dad's favorites.  Other summers, Cranberry Blueberry Jam, Strawberry Apricot Jam, Red Currant Blackberry Jelly, Sweet Black Cherry Jam...  And in the fall, slowly-simmered Apple Butter with lots of spices.  I love, love, love jam on toast.  I even love it on crackers, and if you've never spooned jam onto a cracker with a piece of cheese, you really should.  The other night as I was making dinner, I nibbled on a few crackers with goat gouda cheese and little spoonfuls of this jam, and it was so yummy.

My dad loves my homemade jam, too, and I decided to send him a jar for Father's Day.  So after we arrived home from the long drive back from North Dakota to Colorado, I spent the following evening making a big batch of Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, so that it would be ready to get a package in the mail the next day.

Everything was covered with sticky jammy goodness - the kitchen counters, my stock pot, my favorite wooden spoon, my hands, my apron...  But after standing over a boiling pot of jam, trying not to get burned from the splatters, filling the jars and processing them in their water bath and getting all that stickiness wiped up, I tasted a spoonful of the jam and it was all worth the effort to taste that fresh flavor of summer.

It's been a while since I've made muffins, so I baked a batch of Banana Pecan Muffins on Sunday, one of the first Sundays we've had at home in a while with summer starting off pretty busy.  It was one of those mornings I wanted to last all day, with the warm soft banana muffins, and the jam with its sweet strawberries and hint of tart rhubarb, pajamas and movies on the couch...

One Year Ago:    Strawberry Rhubarb Spiced Chai Tea Bread, in Honor of my Grandma
Two Years AgoCrockpot BBQ Chicken with Bacon

Banana Pecan Muffins
printable recipe

  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 small bananas)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350.  To toast the pecans, spread them on a baking sheet to toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, while the oven is preheating.  Place 12 paper liners in a muffin pan.

In a large bowl, combine the mashed banana, brown sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring just until moistened.  Stir in 3/4 cup of the pecans.

Fill the cups 3/4 full with the batter.  Crush the remaining 1/4 cup of pecans and sprinkle over the top of the batter.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks for a few minutes, then serve warm with jam or honey.

Yields 12 muffins.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
printable recipe
  • 2 pounds sliced strawberries (hulled and wiped clean)
  • 1 pound chopped rhubarb
  • juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons classic pectin
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


~For my previous post on tips for making and canning jam, please click here and read first, before getting started.

~This makes a large batch, and can easily be cut in half or fourths for a smaller batch.

  1. In a large stock pot, combine the strawberries, rhubarb, lemon zest and juice, and cinnamon.  Bring to a simmer over medium low heat until very juicy; simmer for 15-20 minutes until the rhubarb is soft.  Mash the fruit slightly or leave it chunky, whichever you like.
  2. Gradually stir in the pectin.  Increase heat to high (be sure you are wearing oven mitts to protect your hands and arms from boiling jam splatters, or you will get burned) and stir constantly to bring to a rapid boil.
  3. Dump all the sugar in at once.  Continue stirring constantly to return to a vigorous boil that can't be stirred down.  Boil hard for one minute.
  4. Remove from the heat.  Stir in the butter (to reduce any foaminess) and the vanilla.
  5. Ladle into your hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch "headspace" at the top, to allow for expansion.
  6. Wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth, center the lids on the jars, and screw on the rings "fingertip tight".
  7.  Process in a water bath according to standard canning procedures (about 10 minutes in boiling water at sea level and 20 minutes in boiling water for high altitude).
  8. Carefully remove from the water bath (using a jar lifter) and set on the counter to cool overnight.  The next day, check the lids - if they are indented, then the jars sealed properly and you can store the jam in your pantry until ready to use.  If the centers of the lids are popped up, then they didn't seal properly, and will need to be stored in your refrigerator and eaten in the next 3 months or so.

Yields about 10-11 half-pint jars.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Chocolate Avocado Smoothie

You all know by now how I love my smoothies, and I have a new one for you that's a little surprising...  with avocado in it!

Over the years, I've been leery of chocolate dessert recipes that call for avocado and claim to be the best chocolate pie, cake, pudding, etc... they've ever tasted.  And I haven't gone so far as to put avocado in a chocolate pie yet, because, well, I like my chocolate pie traditional.  Who knows, though, I may try it one of these days.

However, I decided it could be worth trying in a smoothie.  I love Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder, because it's extra dark and chocolatey, and if I hadn't told you that there was avocado in this smoothie, I don't think you'd even suspect when you tasted it.

I used coffee ice cubes in mine, and between the coffee and the extra dark chocolate, it was a tiny bit too dark and bitter, so I added two strawberries for sweetness, which was just the right amount for my tastes.

This is so smooth and creamy, very rich and chocolatey tasting, like a thick chocolate milkshake, but so, so good for you with lots of protein and healthy fat, and very little sugar.  It's one of my new favorites!

Chocolate Avocado Smoothie
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 scoop protein powder (I used Muscle Milk Light, Chocolate Peanut Butter)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Hershey's Special Dark)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 ice cubes
Note: If you find cocoa powder too bitter, you can add a non-calorie sweetener to the smoothie.  I used coffee ice cubes, and added two strawberries for sweetness to counteract the bitterness of the coffee and dark cocoa.

Blend all ingredients in the blender until smooth.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Monday, June 24, 2013

Lobster Anniversary Dinner

Yesterday I went to book club with my ladies, and after a few hours of catching up with everyone, I left to run a few errands, including grocery shopping for this week.  The sky was dark and overcast, and I could hear the distant rumble of thunder.  I love a good thunderstorm when I get to be warm and dry inside, but just as I found a parking spot at the grocery store, the rain started pouring down, and there was no avoiding getting wet as I hurried into the store.

When I got home, Jamie helped me carry the groceries upstairs, and we started dinner - grilled shrimp, bell peppers and onions.  And when I stepped out onto the balcony to turn on the grill, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he had cleaned up the mess left behind from those pesky pigeons that had nested and hatched their eggs in one of my flower pots this spring.  I had been planning to throw everything out, because I didn't want to deal with cleaning up pigeon poop, but he had scrubbed and scraped it all clean for me while I was out, flower pots, rocks, plant stands and all.  He's so sweet.

Besides the clean balcony, the laundry, dusting and vacuuming were all done, the kitchen was clean, the clutter put away, and a bottle of wine was chilling in the fridge, so we could just relax and enjoy dinner with the rain pouring down outside.  These thoughtful things he does for me, these little gestures, are just a few of the many things about him that I love and appreciate.

We just celebrated our Four Year Anniversary (the anniversary of our first date, and the first time we met), with dinner at Beatrice and Woodsley.  The bathrooms there are odd, but the wine was fantastic; I drank white, he drank red.  They bring the wine out in small bottles with a tag you can take with you to remember the wine and look it up later.

To start, we shared a savory apple tart with arugula salad, and hot crawfish beignets...  where have beignets been all my life?  The beignets came with a wonderful red pepper aioli we both loved.  For dinner, he ordered the duck breast (not bad, but not the best we've had) and I ordered the bison strip loin (very tender and succulent) with smoked potatoes.  And for dessert we shared the chocolate cake, with port for him and French press coffee for me.

Quite a decadent dinner for a Tuesday night.  And in spite of the late night coffee, I slept soundly, happy and full of thoughts of the past four amazing years together.

We also wanted to cook a special anniversary dinner together the following weekend, and our menu was ambitious, with a dish inspired by the beignets we ate that evening...

It's hard to pick a favorite dish from this dinner, because it was all so delicious together.  We started with a warm, roasted vegetable salad which tasted so good, I could have just eaten more of that and been perfectly satisfied.  Then Jamie fried a batch of light and crispy beignets, filled with a creamy crab filling.  The ones we ate at the restaurant had less filling and more batter, but this recipe by Bon Appetit was generous with the filling, which I loved.  Jamie recreated the spicy red pepper aioli, and it was fantastic with the beignets.

Then there was lobster...  We found a place that sells live lobsters, Cherry Crest Seafood Market, and Jamie brought two of them home in a cooler.  When it came time to do the dirty deed, though, I was too squeamish, so it was all up to him.  We steamed the lobsters until they were bright red and then brushed them with melted butter, and the meat was so sweet and tender.  I've never had a whole lobster to myself, and it was a really special treat.

It was the first time either of us had cooked lobster, and while it wasn't easy to look my dinner in the eye before ending its life, it was an interesting experience, not to mention much less expensive than ordering lobster in a restaurant.  So, would I do it again...?  Yes, definitely, but I still might need Jamie to do the hard part, because I'm not sure I can.

For dessert, I made a cake I knew he would adore - dark chocolate cake which I soaked with bourbon caramel, frosted with slightly salted chocolate buttercream, and garnished with crunchy toffee.  The cake was incredibly moist and rich, with just enough bourbon, and he couldn't say enough about it.  Usually I just get "it's really good!" - so I love when he goes into detail describing what he likes about something, the first being that I should sell this cake in a restaurant.

He loved it so much, in fact, that he had no inclination to take any of it to work, so he ate a piece of it every night that week until it was gone.  This cake really put all other cakes I've ever made to shame.

The next day, on Sunday, I simmered the lobster shells with onions, garlic and pink peppercorns to make lobster stock, and the aroma of sweet lobster filled the house again.

One Year Ago:    Savory Muffins with Bacon, Egg, Cheese and Potato
Two Years AgoGooey S'mores Brownies

Roasted Asparagus and Tomato Salad with Crispy Prosciutto and Goat Cheese
printable recipe
  • 20 asparagus spears
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 thick slices of baguette, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 slices prosciutto, torn into pieces
  • fresh basil leaves
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with foil.  Place the asparagus, tomatoes, shallots and bread in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for about 15 minutes, watching the bread to make sure it doesn't over-brown.

Meanwhile, crisp up the prosciutto in a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat (you may be able to crisp up the prosciutto in the oven along with the vegetables - I didn't think of that until after, but I don't see why it wouldn't work).

Divide the warm vegetables, bread and prosciutto between 4 serving bowls.  Top with fresh basil and goat cheese.  Serve immediately.

Yields 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from Burrata and Roasted Asparagus Salad by Foodie Crush

Crab Beignets by Bon Appetit

Spicy Red Pepper Aioli
printable recipe
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 small red fresno pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
Turn the broiler on to 400.  Place the peppers on a baking sheet and broil until the skin is charred, turning them as needed.  Let cool, then peel off the skins, and discard the seeds and stems.

In a food processor, combine the roasted peppers with the remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth and creamy, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

Chill until ready to serve.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Smashed Crispy Baby Potatoes
printable recipe

  • 12 baby potatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic
  • other toppings, such as cheese, sour cream and chives

Place the potatoes in a stock pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then boil over medium high heat for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are tender enough to pierce with a fork.  Drain and cool slightly (this step can also be done a day in advance, and the cooked potatoes stored in the refrigerator).

Preheat the oven to 450 and line a baking sheet with foil.  Using the back of a wooden spoon, gently press down on each potato to flatten it out and break it apart a little.  Place the smashed potatoes on the baking sheet.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper and garlic.  I think I added a little cayenne pepper, too.

Roast for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.  If desired, top with cheese, sour cream and chives, or just serve as is.

Yields 4 servings.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Bourbon Caramel Soaked Dark Chocolate Cake - coming in my next post...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Red Velvet Strawberry Cheesecake

This is Part II of my Red Velvet Cake post - the trial run for the birthday cake.  Because, you know, these things take practice after all, and I had a from-scratch recipe in my head for red velvet cake, but needed to be sure it would work in reality.  Having spent too many stressful hours trying to fix cake baking and decorating disasters at the last minute, I have resolved to do more preparation and practice in advance so that I know what to expect with every recipe.

The cake baked beautifully, and I was happy.  It was moist and tender, with a lovely soft texture and slightly tangyness from the buttermilk.  And with that gorgeous red color, it's hard not to be happy just looking at it.

With my practice cake finished and cooled, I debated frosting it, but decided against another buttercream-covered cake, so instead I thought it would be fantastic layered with cheesecake, especially since red velvet cake is usually paired with cream cheese frosting.

If you read my recent post for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake, then you might remember that I've recently made a few cheesecakes that don't require baking, which I love, since I'm not fond of baking cheesecakes.  So this is another version of that egg-less cheesecake filling, with a little gelatin to ensure it sets up.

After the cake had cooled, and I crumbled it up into a vivid pile of moist red crumbs, I made the cheesecake filling, simple, slightly sweet, with vanilla and fresh strawberries.  Then I layered the cake crumbs and the cheesecake filling in a spring-form pan and left it in the refrigerator to finish setting up before cutting a piece.

I love the beautiful, dramatic red and white layers, and the cake, already soft, absorbed more moisture from the cheesecake so every delicate bite was creamy and smooth.

One Year Ago:    Root Beer Chocolate Cake with Root Beer Float Ice Cream
Two Years AgoGrilled Peach and Veggie Skewers

Red Velvet Strawberry Cheesecake
printable recipe

Red Velvet Layers:
  • 1 Red Velvet Cake, baked and completely cooled - cake only, no frosting (Since you'll just be crumbling the cake, there's no need to bake it in 3 pans for a layer cake; I baked mine in a 9x13 pan, for about 30-35 minutes until done.)
Strawberry Cheesecake Filling:
  • 2 cups diced fresh strawberries (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (increase as desired for a sweeter filling)
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

Note: Instead of baking the cake in a 9x13 pan and crumbling it for the cake layers (like I did), you could also bake it in two 10-inch round pans, and then follow the instructions for assembly below, just using the whole cake layers instead of cake crumbs to layer between the cream cheese filling.  Either method will work, it's just a matter of if you prefer the cake layers to be crumbled or not.

Red Velvet Layers:
Working in batches, crumble the cake into crumbs in your food processor and transfer to a bowl.  The crumbs should be moist enough to hold together when you press them between your fingers.  Cover the bowl of crumbs with plastic wrap to keep them moist while you make the filling.

Strawberry Cheesecake Filling:
In a bowl, toss the strawberries with the granulated sugar.  Set aside to macerate (let the juices flow) for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small microwaveable bowl, combine 1/2 cup cream with the gelatin.  Let sit for 5 minutes, then microwave on high for 15-30 seconds to dissolve the gelatin.  Set aside.

Pour the remaining 1 cup cream, vanilla and powdered sugar into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip for several minutes just until soft peaks form.  Add the cream cheese and whip for several more minutes, scraping the bowl as needed, until very smooth and creamy (if you over-whip the cream and you think it's too thick, add a small amount of milk to loosen it up).  Add the gelatin mixture and beat for another minute until well combined.  Fold in the strawberries.

Scoop half the cake crumbs into a 10-inch spring form pan with removable sides.  Press the crumbs firmly against the bottom of the pan.  Spread half the cheesecake filling over the crumbs.  Scoop the other half of the crumbs (reserving a few tablespoons) over the filling and gently press into an even layer.  Spread the rest of the cheesecake filling over the crumbs.  Sprinkle the reserved crumbs over the top of the filling to decorate; if you like, you could pipe whipped cream, or even cream cheese frosting over the top, but I kept it simple.

Refrigerate until set, about 3-4 hours, or overnight.

To serve, run a sharp knife around the sides of the pan, then remove the sides and set the cake on a serving plate.

Yields 15-20 servings.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Red Velvet Cake

This is the first red velvet cake recipe I'm sharing on my blog, and although I do like red velvet, I suppose it's not a distinctive flavor in my opinion or one that I crave, unlike rich dark chocolate cake.  And red velvet cannot in any way be considered chocolate, with such an inconsequential amount of cocoa powder added to the batter.  Red velvet is, essentially, simply a very moist buttermilk cake with a beautiful, signature red color and a nice tang from the buttermilk.

Before there was food coloring, the red color was actually achieved by the combination of the buttermilk, vinegar and cocoa powder, with an acidic reaction between the buttermilk and vinegar bringing out the natural red hues in the cocoa powder.  With that chemical reaction alone, I'm not sure just how vibrant the resulting red color would be, so I did add a good dose of food coloring to ensure dramatically red results.

I baked this cake for a birthday party, and as it was for a man's birthday, I kept the decorating simple, clean and classic, with no girly ruffles or polka dots, tempting as it would be on such a pretty cake.  I've heard back that he loves his cake so much, he's been standing in the kitchen, eating it straight from the box for breakfast.

A few days before baking the cake, I thought a trial run would be a good idea, to make sure my from-scratch recipe yielded good results, and I think you'll like what I did with that cake.  But you'll have to wait until my next post to find out...

One Year Ago:    Rosemary Parmesan Wheat Crackers with Herbed Ricotta
Two Years Ago:   Lemon Cream Cheese Tart

Red Velvet Cake
printable recipe

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 2/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • red gel food coloring
Cream Cheese Buttercream:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 1/2 - 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • milk, if needed

Baker's Note:  I have experimented with swapping out some of the oil for more buttermilk (1 cup oil with 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk), which works just as well, if you don't want to use quite that much oil.

Bake the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray the bottoms only of three 8-inch cake pans with non-stick spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and spray the paper also.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and red food coloring.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk vigorously for several minutes until smooth and well blended.  Divide batter between the pans.

Bake on the middle rack for 25-28 minutes, until the centers spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean.  Set on wire racks, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and cool completely.

Make the Frosting:
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Gradually add the powdered sugar and meringue powder, mixing on low to combine.  Add the vanilla.  Increase speed to medium and beat for several minutes until smooth and creamy; add milk if needed to reach the desired consistency for spreading or piping.

Remove the cakes from the pans and discard the parchment paper; level the tops of the cakes, reserving the cake scraps.

Place one layer of cake on a serving plate or cake pedestal.  Frost with a thin layer of buttercream.  Repeat with the other layers of cake, then frost the cake all over with a thin "crumb coat" of buttercream.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes to set the crumb coat, then frost all over with a final coat of buttercream, reserving some of the buttercream for piping swirls on top.

Take the cake scraps from leveling the cake and break them up into fine crumbs, either with a fork or in the food processor.  Press the crumbs around the sides of the cake.  Pipe swirls of buttercream on top of the cake to finish, and sprinkle a few more crumbs on top.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Monday, June 17, 2013

Chocolate Raspberry Pots de Creme

Pots de Creme is a dessert that I've tried many variations of over the past couple of years - nutmeg, mocha, vanilla, caramel, even one with a Cadbury egg in the middle - but I always come back to chocolate as my personal favorite.  Chocolate Pots de Creme is a classic dessert, and one that will never fail to please.  Chocolate is fantastic, in particular, with the addition of a little espresso powder for a mocha pots de creme.

Last year for Valentine's, I spooned caramel sauce into the bottom of the ramekins, before pouring the chocolate custard over the caramel and baking them, and the result was incredible, rich and decadent.  The first spoonful will surprise your guests, when they dip their spoon into the custard and find a pool of sweet caramel at the bottom.

With that deliciousness in mind, I thought I would make chocolate pots de creme with a hint of spice to follow our dinner of Mexican food one weekend (Mexican-stuffed shells with Spanish rice, chips and guacamole and bruleed pineapple).  The spice from the cayenne pepper is, of course, entirely optional, but I recommend it.  I didn't add so much that it induced fits of coughing, but just enough to add an element of mystery and surprise to the otherwise predictable flavor of the chocolate custard.

To balance the spice, I added extra sweetness with a spoonful of seedless raspberry jam in the bottom of each ramekin, and then topped each custard with fresh raspberries and a dollop of fresh whipped cream.  With berries at their sweetest and best right now, they are the perfect summer garnish for chocolate desserts like these.

Chocolate Raspberry Pots de Creme
  • 4 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or a combination of whole milk, half 'n' half and cream, to reduce the fat and calories)
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 ounces unsweetened, good quality bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • tiny pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • raspberries and whipped cream, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 300.  Spoon the raspberry jam into the bottoms of 4 eight-ounce ramekins and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the cream and sugar.  Bring to a gentle simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, just until it bubbles around the edges.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate until smooth.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla.  Slowly stream a half cup of the cream mixture into the eggs, whisking them constantly to temper the eggs.  Pour the egg mixture back into the cream.  Whisk in the cayenne pepper, if using it, and taste the custard to check the heat level; the heat shouldn't really be noticeable, just enough to enhance the chocolate.

Pour the custard into the ramekins, on top of the raspberry jam.  Place the ramekins into a baking dish.  Pour boiling, or very hot tap water, into the baking dish, so that it comes halfway up the sides of the pan, taking care not to get any water into the custard.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are set but the centers are still jiggly.  Carefully, remove the ramekins from the water and cool on a wire rack for one hour.  Place in the refrigerator to chill for several hours, or overnight, before serving.

Top with fresh raspberries and whipped cream.

Yields 4 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen