Sunday, May 31, 2015

Chocolate Raspberry Trifle

A few days ago my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary and the day after that he celebrated his birthday.  There's no big celebration--we're not party people-- other than going to a dinner with my parents last weekend; in fact, they've also had their wedding anniversary this month.  May is such a celebration month for our families, and the fact that it's when flowers are blooming makes it even better.  I'm such a flower person nowadays, an affection that I don't know where it comes from since I was quite a tomboy growing up.  It might have grown from the time I picked a camera and started shooting.

In the midst of work, chores and school stuff, I managed to make a trifle for us to enjoy this week.  Trifle is a great way to use cake, fruits and mousse together in a relaxed arrangement.  This chocolate and raspberry trifle called my name even if making it took more steps than I wanted too.  First it was the cake, then it's the mousse, then it's the whipped cream.  Between making those components, I also sneaked in strawberry jam making.  I was exhausted! :)  But once it's done, it's worth the time and effort of making it.  The chocolate cake is tender and in need of creamy daub which the mousse comes in place; that mousse is so good and custardy that eating it alone would not considered a sin.  Tart raspberries and soft whipped cream finish off the dessert to a perfection.

A slight modification is as follow:  the chocolate cake recipe is from King Arthur Flour website while the mousse and whipped cream recipe is from original Family Circle magazine.  I added freeze-dried raspberry crumbles for extra oomph and cocoa powder dusting at the end.  And I made several mini version of it for my husband's lunch box, those little jars make it easy to transport.

Chocolate Raspberry Trifle

Makes 24 servings

1 box (16.25 oz.) chocolate cake mix, or try this Self-Rising Chocolate Cake from King Arthur Flour, baked in the same size of pan
2 large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
4 large egg yolks
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut up
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ½ cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 packages (6 oz each) fresh raspberries
Chocolate curls or cocoa powder, for garnish

Heat oven to 350F.  Coat a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Line bottom with wax paper; coat paper with spray.  Prepare cake mix as per package directions with eggs, oil and 1 ¼ cups water.  Bake at 350F for 35 minutes or until cake springs back when pressed.  Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; invert directly onto rack, remove paper and cool completely.

While cake cools, in a large metal bowl, combine egg yolks, ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup water and butter.  Place bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is pale and thickened and registers 160F on an instant-read thermometer, about 7 minutes.  Remove bowl from saucepan and whisk in chocolate until smooth.  In a separate bowl, beat 1 cup of the cream with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the vanilla until medium-firm peaks form.  Fold whipped cream into chocolate mixture until no white remains.  Cover surface directly with plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Once cake has cooled, cut into 1 ½-inch cubes.  Whip remaining 1 ½ cups cream with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar to medium-firm peaks.  Begin layering trifle:  Spoon half the cake cubes into a 4-quart glass bowl or dish.  Compress slightly.  Spread half the chocolate mousse (about 1 ½ cups) over cake cubes.  Top mousse with 1 pkg of the raspberries and half the whipped cream (about 1 ½ cups).  Repeat layering and garnish with chocolate curls or cocoa powder.  Serve immediately or refrigerate up to overnight until serving.

Source:  adapted from Family Circle magazine, February 2015

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Strawberry Genoise with Whipped Cream

Seeing strawberries in the market made me wanting to eat strawberry shortcake with lots of whipped cream.  But I like my cake to be the one that's soft and light, which I found the answer in this genoise.    Airy genoise is made by warming the egg and sugar and then it's whipped into a billowing mixture.  Flour and melted butter are folded in quickly as to not lose the air, pop it in the oven for 20 minutes and voila, the cake is done.  Next, prepare lots of strawberries, slices and whole.  Dry them well after washing because you don't want too much moisture in the cake.

The last thing to do is eating it--it's more fun than making the cake! Ha!  Sliced strawberries are sandwiched in between the layers--with whipped cream--and more whipped cream on the outside.  I'm so in love!

Strawberry Genoise with Whipped Cream

Makes 1 9-inch cake, serves 8 to 10

For the genoise:
4 eggs
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup cake flour, sifted
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling and finish:
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon kirsch
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons confectioners' sugar
3 cups strawberries, hulled and cut into ½-inch slices, plus more 10-12 strawberries, for garnish

To make the genoise:  Preheat oven to 375F.  Line the bottom of a 9-by-3-inch round cake pan with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar by hand until combined.  Place the bowl over but not touching simmering water in a saucepan.  Gently whisk until the mixture registers 140F on an instant-read thermometer, about 3 minutes.  Put the bowl on the mixer and beat with the whisk on high speed until the mixture is pale and almost tripled in volume, 5 to 8 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the mixer.  Sift the flour over the egg mixture in 2 additions and carefully fold in with a large rubber spatula.  Fold a large dollop into the melted butter, then fold back into the egg mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until the top of the cake is browned, about 20 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Run a table knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a work surface.  Turn the cake right side up, leaving the parchment paper in place.  Cut the cake into 2 equal layers.  Put the top layer, cut side up, on a serving plate.

To make the filling and finish:  In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the granulated sugar and water.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from the heat and let the sugar syrup cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, stir together the kirsch and sugar syrup.  Brush the cake with about half of the syrup. Whip the cream and confectioners' sugar to soft peaks.  Place the sliced strawberries in a bowl.  Fold about one-fourth of the cream into the berries.  Spread the mixture evenly on top of the cake.  Position the remaining cake layer, cut side down, on top.  Peel off the paper.  Brush with the remaining syrup.  Spread the top and sides of the cake with the remaining whipped cream.

Decorate the top of the cake with whole strawberries.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Source:  adapted from William-Sonoma Collection Series Cake, by Fran Gage

Saturday, May 16, 2015

PB&J Banana Bread

Look at that beauty, how enticing is it?  Banana bread is one of the easiest homemade treats one can make, anytime.  

I've these few ripe, soft bananas on my fruit bowl.  I asked my husband what kind of banana bread he would like to have and his answer was "with peanut butter."  I remembered seeing this recipe in my magazine collection so here it is.  The strawberry jam is homemade as well, in fact, very soon I have to make a batch of it again.  June is coming and strawberry season will be here.

Make sure that you watch the streusel topping while it's being baked.  I covered it loosely with foil about 20 minutes before baking time ends, just to make sure the peanuts aren't over baked and bitter.

I like to chase its morsels with a cup of cold chocolate milk and if you like peanut butter and jam with your banana bread, this is a recipe for you!

PB&J Banana Bread

Makes 16 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups mashed bananas (4 to 5 medium)
1 cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil or melted butter
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup chopped peanuts
⅓ cup strawberry preserves
1 recipe Streusel-Nut Topping, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease the bottom and ½ inch up the sides of a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan; set aside. In a large bowl stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and ginger.  Make a well in the center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, mashed bananas, sugar, oil, and peanut butter.  Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture.  Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy).  Fold in peanuts.  Spoon batter into the prepared loaf pan, spreading evenly.  Drizzle with ¼ cup of the strawberry preserves; swirl slightly to marble.  If desired, sprinkle with Streusel-Nut Topping.

Bake about 60-70 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  If necessary to prevent overbrowning, cover loosely with foil for the last 20 minutes of baking.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Wrap and store overnight.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, microwave the remaining strawberry preserves on 100 percent power (high) for 15 to 20 seconds or until melted, snipping any large pieces of fruit.  Drizzle melted preserves over the top of bread before slicing.

Streusel-Nut Topping:  In a small bowl stir together 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour.  Using a pastry blender, cut in 4 teaspoons butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in ¼ cup chopped peanuts.

Source:  adapted from Better Homes and Garden Fall Baking 2013

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Oreo Chocolate Cheesecake in a Jar

It's another chocolate post! After I've been absent for a while, I'm coming back with a special treat.  See how nice I am? :)

This chocolate cheesecake is super yummy with extra creamy and smooth texture.  The chocolate is accented with orange because it has a small amount of orange zest.  I'm a person who like chocolate and orange flavor together--that goes with chocolate and mint, another favorite combo.  The moment I hit a spoonful of this creamy treat, I know I hit a jackpot :)  I gave the jar to my husband and his eyes instantly lit up, and we hadn't had dinner yet!

And who doesn't love the idea of baking cheesecake in a jar?  It's really cute and not to mention, personalized.  Each of us can get a serving of this treat and we don't have to share.  I must say baking this is way easier than baking a whole cheesecake.  I'd like to try a regular cheesecake next time and perhaps top it with fresh fruits.  The recipe was printed in the Oregonians' Food Day section two years ago and I've been meaning to make it.  Yet it sat in my baking folder forgotten until recently when I browsed some recipes in the folder.  The original jar size is 4-ounce but I use 8-ounce jars which are perfectly fine.  Other than that, I made it exactly like the recipe said.

The Oreo cookie crumbs is optional, if you can resist it, ha!  Originally I wanted to also include whipped cream but sadly, I didn't have any in the fridge.  That would be very nice with whipped cream, wouldn't it?  With or without whipped cream, please make this, your loved ones will appreciate you so much!

Oreo Chocolate Cheesecake in a Jar

Makes about 5 (8-ounce) servings

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup sour cream
1 small pinch grated orange zest
3 eggs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Oreo cookies for decoration
Whipped cream, optional

Preheat oven to 325F degrees.

In a stand mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 6 minutes.  Beat in the sour cream, followed by the orange zest.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low after each just until blended and smooth.

In a double boiler over barely simmering water, melt chocolate chips and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.  Stir melted chocolate into batter.  Finish mixing with a hand whisk to ensure there are no lumps and the mixture has a uniform color and appearance.

Pour batter into 8-ounce canning jars, stopping ¼ inch below the rim.  Place jars in a 9-by-13-inch pan and add enough warm water to the pans to come halfway up the sides of the jars.  Bake 25 minutes or until centers are almost set.  Cool completely and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.

Place Oreo cookies in a plastic bag and pound them with rolling pin until crumbles.  Scoop crumbles onto cheesecake and add whipped cream is desired.

Source:  Chef Greg Priest, Albertina's Restaurant, Portland