Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween companions

Most people enjoy a good hair-raising scare.

Which is why Halloween is so popular, and heart-splitting horror movies get more freaky each year.

There are a few however, who like hanging out with humans more than with ghouls. Those who get chills when the window shutters flap about for no reason.

Like me.

So instead of disguising myself as Frozen's Anna or a sexy vamp bunny wannabe, and getting my wits scared out in a devil's mansion, I've rounded up a couple of desserts to snuggle up to on Halloween night, when the clock strikes 12.


Till Death Do Us Part


































Adios and Ciao Ciao, part of the cultishly popular Tokidoki series, are condemned to wander the earth after 500 years in hell. Could there be a more perfect Halloween dessert??
> Get the recipe for Martha Stewart's perfect chocolate cake.

More night-friendly cakes:


Darkside Chocolate

































Chocolate works really well for a night snack. Maybe cuz it's forbidden (says all the healthy folks!), or maybe it's the midnight darkness of the cacao that lures. Either way, this chocolate cupcake topped with dark chocolate ganache, is a definite walk on the dark side. 

Death by chocolate, anyone?

More darkside desserts:


Nighttime Ice-Cream


































I-C-E  C-R-E-A-M cravings. They hit at midnight, and they hit hard. If like me, you're not about to venture out into the darkness of Halloween night even for ice cream, you gotta do the next best thing - ice cream cake pops.

You could do ice-cream cone style, like Bakerella's. I had ice cream sticks lying around, so I did the popsicle version. Pretty much the same way you make all your other cake pops - just make sure the cake pop adheres well to the ice cream stick when inserting, press the pop around the base in a little if you need to.

> What are cake pops?
> Making basic cake pops
So-darn-good Rum Balls
> Ride away Bicycle Pops


Deep Dark Double Chocolate Trouble

































Wash them down with milk. Or good coffee. Or a smoothie. That's how you need to eat these little devils. This soft-baked cookie is so decadently good, you'll be fighting demons to stop at one. Their cracked tops erupt into soft chocolately chews, and these are made extra large - for double the evil indulgence. 

Get Martha Stewart's recipe here.

Not enough cookies?

Embrace your midnight companions and eat up, welcome to the dark side!


Monday, September 29, 2014

Sometimes YOLO is code for Granola

Ok that's probably quite a stretch... 
But what I'm saying is, we're hard-wired to seek comfort.

We do the whole YOLO / bucket list thing, searching for new thrills, loving new adventures. 

But when it comes down to happiness, it's often the dead-easy parts of life that do the trick.


Like a cup of good coffee.
A hot bowl of chicken soup.
Fried chicken that crunches.
Juicy steak.
And of course, brunch.

(I am all about food, I realize!)


All the in-built yearnings.
Nothing fancy.
Just a whole lot of comforting good.

The whole idea of brunch is a soothing indulgence.

A precious weekend treat of taking things slow. Not having to scramble, eyes half-closed, jostling with scores of fellow un-deads.

Brunch is wickedly set in the middle of breakfast and lunch, just to say - I get to eat at a weird time, and no one's gonna stop me.

I love a good hearty full brunch of eggs, bacon, toast, beans and sometimes - even fries.
Fries go with every meal. Truth.

But some brunches are stay-in days. When you're too lazy to get into decent clothes, or when it's raining outside.

Life's answer to stay-in brunch comfort: GRANOLA.


I'm a shameless granola hussy, for 3 simple reasons:

1) Crunch = good
It's a party in your mouth. There's crunch, there's flavor - I'm sold. I was born with a tooth for the crunchy (fried food, chips, nuts - you name it), and granola has awesome crispy texture with such amazing flavors folded into their tiny nuggets of crunch. This may be a sign - I need to start Granola Anonymous.


2) Sweet, salty, sour
Have I mentioned how versatile granola is? There's not a single flavor dimension that cannot work with these grains. I made some super fabulous sweet granola below - Deep Chocolate Crunch and Chai Spice Honey - look out for posts on some savory ones soon!



3) Trickery
And because I snack so much, granola is a fab way of tricking my brain into believing I'm eating my fave crunchy snack, but with the bonus of amazing nutrients and none of the evil trans-oils and salts.

I feel healthier already, just thinking about it!

Totally planning to granolarize the kitchen again, can't wait.


CHAI SPICE HONEY GRANOLA


A wonderfully fragrant mix from the Inquiring Chef, this is a granola that is subtle and strong at the same time. The spices impart a beautiful tang to the grains, and you could eat this on and on... and on without getting tired of it.



































Vary the spice mix as you like, I went with about 3/4 the quantities and found it to be quite the perfect balance.






































The granola itself is pretty much up to the grains and nuts you like. Almonds are great for adding a sharp crunch, either whole or slivered. The coconut oil is interchangeable with vegetable oil or any other light oils, and I made mine with rolled oats (instead of a mix with quick-cook oats), and it turned out just as delicious.

More desserts like this:
> Summer cakes & shakes
> Sesame match cupcakes, Zingy ginger crunch


DEEP CHOCOLATE CRUNCHY GRANOLA



I call this an indulgent granola because it's not something you can eat everyday, even if you declare every day Brunch Day. It's got a deep earthy chocolate crunch that is such a treat, but keep reminding yourself - step away from the bowl




















And I'm saying this as a friendly baker-warning, and a recovering sore throat victim - you SHOULD NOT be finishing this all in one sitting. It's a dangerously addictive granola that needs to be paced out.

Take my word for it.


































Here's the recipe from Peaceful Cooking, I've adapted parts of it to make a blend I like:

Halved the amount of brown sugar, reduced the honey slightly, omitted raisins (I find the blend sweet enough as is). The chocolate chips melt when I stir them in, giving the grains a nice chocolately coat that I love. If you like them whole, stir them in after baking instead. Both instant and regular oats work for this recipe, you just need to vary the baking time a little to the crunchiness you like.

More chocolate desserts:
> Death by chocolate cake
> Guinness chocolate cake
> Chocolately love
> 10 years young

Monday, September 15, 2014

Give in and indulge, give me chocolate!

After a heady few weeks of continuous cholesteral-busting mooncakes celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival's full moon, a detox is in order.

> More summer treats    
- A summer carousel
Awesome ways to use beer
- Desserts for a hot day
- Color me happy, it's 2014!
- Ombre swirl cookies
- Sweet, sweet strawberries
- Summer day out on the golf course

But because I'm greedy and itching for some good chocolate, I decide to ditch good sense and take the path of indulgence instead.


'Indulgence' (noun): Liberal or tolerant treatment

Yep, that about sums it up.

So gingerly (guiltily... same thing) edging my gym shoes under the shoe cabinet, I reach for my valrhona chocolate and stealthily cart my Kitchenaid onto the kitchen table.

Let the indulgence begin!
> Another indulgent treat: Rich red velvet cake


This is truly a freeform cake. 

Embellish as much or as little as you like, go all out or cut back like a good girl.

All up to you.
All depending on how indulgent you want to be.


Start off by building the layers. 

Bake up some good chocolate cake (Martha Stewart's amazing recipe here), and while it's cooling off, get the frosting going.

> More chocolate goodness

I've been on the hunt for a good buttercream recipe for a while, and I think I may have finally found THE ONE from the amazing I Am Baker.


My issue with most buttercream recipes is the cloying sweetness it usually involves. 
I treasure my teeth - that's all I'm sayin.

But this recipe has the right balance of stiffness (for piping), and tastes absolutely heavenly. 
I mean, serious pillowy silken-ess.

The very first buttercream recipe that I actually enjoy eating by the spoonfuls, on its own. 

I'm in love.

Spend some time whipping up the egg whites (5-6 min) till they reach a fluffy almost-whipped-cream firmness. That's key.

I also prefer using the double broiler method for melting the chocolate, gives a more uniform heating and no lumps in your mixture. The microwave method works better when you're working with very small amounts, like in cake pops.

After that, freeform as you like assembling the cake.

I'm on an indulgence spree, so I nestle chocolate chips between chocolate frosting layers.


Time to ramp things up.

Enter stage left: Chocolate ganache. 

Any and everything tastes good with ganache. It's a synch to make, and you need just  3 basic ingredients which you'll probably have in the kitchen anyways. 

Let it cool to the right pouring consistency (just a couple of minutes after taking it off the stove), and work fairly quickly drizzling it down the sides of the cake before it starts solidifying. 

I find the best way to do this is to start pouring onto the middle of the cake and slowly edge your way out. 

Use a spatula to guide the ganache down the sides, tilt the cake as needed to encourage 'lava flow'. Just make sure you hold on tight to the cake, I've had a couple of butterfinger slip ups and the cake came crashing down arghhh.

Heart-breaking.


And because we're on a rampage, we need more chocolate.

Enter stage right: Gold chocolate rocks that go round the cake border, chocolate buttercream from earlier that gets piped onto the top.

Each buttercream rosette is crowned with a chocolate malt ball, and I could have stopped right there and we'd have a perfectly scrumptious cake.

But we're in the mood for indulgence, right?

No room for unadorned cake real estate. 

More rosettes go on, more malt balls. 

Think our job here is done. 

I present 'Death by Chocolate': Chocolate cake with velvety chocolate buttercream and chocolate chips, covered with chocolate buttercream, sprinkled with gold chocolate rocks, drenched with dark chocolate ganache, topped with chocolate rosettes and malt balls.

Who says you ever need to stop?

*dust hands*