Friday, May 27, 2011

Daring Baker's May Challenge: Chocolate Marquise on Meringue

The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

I was excited to try this challenge because of the different textures involved. I decided to do my own twist on this, Chocolate marquise with candied cashews and torched meringue with lime zest. It was refreshing and really easy to make, It looks intimidating with all the steps but it will take you about 1 and a half hours total to put it together!  Enjoy!

Chocolate Base
Servings: n/a - this is an ingredient for the chocolate marquise, not meant to be used separately

12 oz (340 grams/ 1½ cups) bittersweet chocolate (about 70% cocoa)
12 oz (355 ml/ 1½ cups) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup (60 ml/ 2 fluid oz.) tequila
1/4 cup (60 ml/ 2 fluid oz.) light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons/ less than an ounce) cocoa powder (we used extra brut, like Hershey's Special Dark, but any Dutch-processed cocoa would be fine. Do not substitute natural cocoa powder.)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 oz unsalted butter (2 tbsps./30 grams), softened

  1. Place the chocolate in a small mixing bowl.
  2. In a double-boiler, warm the cream until it is hot to the touch (but is not boiling). Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.
  3. Allow it to sit for a minute or two before stirring. Stir until the chocolate is melted completely and is smooth throughout.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Set aside until cooled to room temperature. Do not refrigerate, as the base needs to be soft when added to the marquise mixture. If you make it the day before, you may need to warm it slightly. Whisk it until it is smooth again before using it in the marquise recipe.

Chocolate Marquise

Servings: 18 2.5"x2.5" cubes
11 large egg yolks at room temperature
4 large whole eggs
2/3 cup (150 grams/ 5.3 oz) sugar
1/3 cup (2⅔ fluid oz/ 80 ml.) water
Chocolate Base, barely warm (recipe follows)
2 cups (16 fluid oz./ 500 ml.) heavy cream
2 cups Dutch process cocoa powder (for rolling) (Note: We used extra brut, like Hershey's Special Dark. Make sure it's a Dutch processed cocoa, not a natural cocoa powder.)


Before you begin, prepare your mould, weather a pan or a tube like mold. Cover it with plastic wrap and spray with pam so that the chocolate mixture will slide off easily.

I made tubes and a circle. If you want you can even use a tupperware covered in saran wrap.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg yolks and whole eggs. Whip on high speed until very thick and pale, about 10 - 15 minutes.

When the eggs are getting close to finishing, make a sugar syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring the syrup to a boil and then cook to softball stage (235F/115C).

With the mixer running on low speed, drizzle the sugar syrup into the fluffy eggs, trying to hit that magic spot between the mixing bowl and the whisk.
When all of the syrup has been added (do it fairly quickly), turn the mixer back on high and whip until the bowl is cool to the touch. This will take at least 10 minutes.
In a separate mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Set aside.

When the egg mixture has cooled, add the chocolate base to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Try to get it as consistent as possible without losing all of the air you've whipped into the eggs.
Fold 1/3 of the reserved whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, and then fold in the remaining whipped cream.

Pour or pipe chocolate into the prepared moulds and freeze.

When frozen, cut  your marquise into cubes or desired shape and roll them in cocoa powder. These will start to melt almost immediately, so don't do this step until all of your other plating components (meringue) are ready. The cubes need to sit in the fridge to slowly thaw so plating components can be done during that time. They don’t need to be ready before the cubes are rolled in the cocoa powder.

Torched Meringue

Servings: Makes about 2 – 2½ cups of meringue. If you aren't planning on serving *all* of the marquise at once, you might want to scale this recipe back a bit.
6 large egg whites
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (210 ml) (7 oz or 200 gms) sugar
Splash of apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Candied Cashews

Ingredients1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp water
1 cup cashews
1 pinch Cayenne pepper
1 cup powdered chocolate

Toast the cashews with the Cayenne pepper until browned.
Meanwhile make a caramel with the sugar and water until soft ball stage.
When the caramel is ready, take off the heat and stir in cashews. Stir immediately
Pour into the cocoa powder and let it coat.

Sift the excess off with a sieve.


Place the meringue on the plate and torch it.
Put the marquise on the plate and all the other components. I also added some lime zest. It was really refreshing with the meringue. A little goes a long way!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stardust on TV

I was asked by Linda Kaye's Partymakers to help out with their TV segment on TV Land's best night in.
Check it out!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Daring Cook's May Challenge: Gumbo

Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.

I've never really had Creole food so this was an exciting challenge. Gumbo.. it's so raved about by everyone that I was thrilled and eager to get my hands dirty! After a little research I found the definition of a gumbo to be a thick, dark soup containing a mixture of rice, vegetables, and meat or seafood. The vast majority of gumbos fall into one of three categories:  Seafood Gumbo, containing some combination of oysters, shrimp, crawfish, and/or crabs, and more often made with okra than filé; Poultry and Sausage gumbo, which uses either chicken or turkey in combination with pieces of andouille or other smoked sausage, and more often made with filé than okra; and the increasingly rare Gumbo Z’Herbes, a meatless soup created for Lent that incorporates a wide variety of greens.  The greens symbolize different things to different families.  Most often the number of greens a person uses represents the number of new friends he or she is supposed to make that year.
I decided to go for a seafood gumbo and throw as many veggies as I could find (I want to make a lot of new friends this year!)
 I also wanted to make the seafood stock myself but when I went to the supermarket and couldn't find any shrimp or fish heads, I decided to get the cheapest fish and use that to make the stock. So catfish bits were my make shift shrimp. Now for all those people who know me well, I hate hate HATE celery so none of my recipes will ever have that in them, so I will list the ingredient list and recipe as if the celery was in there for all of you celery lovers, but note I ommit this in all my recipes..

Shrimp Stock

¼ cup (120 ml) canola oil
Shells and heads (about 1 ½ pounds (700 gm)) from 4 pounds (2 kg) shrimp (prawns) ( I used catfish chunks instead)
1 tablespoon Basic Creole Spices (recipe below)
1 large onion coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped ( I ommited)
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
6 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (5 gm) black peppercorns
2 cups (480 ml) dry white wine (optional)
3 ½ quarts (3⅓ liters) water
1. Heat the canola oil in a large stockpot over moderate heat. When the oil begins to smoke slightly, add the shells and paprika. Stir continuously, for 2 minutes, until the shells crisp up and turn pink.

2. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.

3. Add the white wine (skip this step if not using wine) and bring to a boil. Allow the wine to reduce for an additional 5 minutes.
4. Add the water and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, skimming off any foam or oil that rises to the surface, for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
(This is my version with fish instead of shrimp)

5. Strain through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Discard all the solids. Allow the stock to cool, cover and refrigerate, then skim off the fat. Use immediately, or freeze for later use.

Seafood Gumbo

Minimally adapted from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
Servings: 10

1 cup (240 ml) canola oil
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) flour
2 large onions, diced
6 jumbo blue crabs, each cut into four pieces (if unavailable, omit, or substitute another type of crab)
1 pound (½ kilogram) spicy smoked sausage links, sliced ½ inch (15mm) thick (optional, but encouraged if you eat sausage)
1 stalk celery, diced ( I ommited)
1 green bell pepper (capsicum), seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (240 ml) (160 gm) (5½ oz) sliced fresh okra, ½ -inch (15mm) thick slices (or frozen, if fresh is not available). If fresh or frozen is unavailable, you can leave it out because the roux will provide enough of a thickener.
Leaves from sprig of fresh thyme
3 quarts (3 liters) shrimp (prawn) stock (recipe below)
2 bay leaves
1 pound (½ kilogram) peeled and deveined medium Louisiana or wild shrimp (prawn) (Note: If you are buying whole, head-on shrimp, which you will need in order to use the heads and peels for stock, you will then need approximately 4 pounds (2 kilograms) of shrimp to yield enough heads/shells for the stock. Although the recipe only calls for 1 pound (½ kilogram) of shrimp, you will end up with a little over 2 pounds of cleaned shrimp (1 kilogram), which I found was perfect for this size pot of gumbo)
1 pint (475 ml) (450 gm) (16 oz) shucked oysters
8 ounces (225 gm) lump crabmeat
1 cup (240 ml) (100 gm) (3½ oz) minced green onions (scallions, or spring onions)
Freshly ground black pepper
Basic Creole Spices, to taste (recipe below)
Worcestershire, to taste
Tabasco, to taste
4-6 cups (1 – 1½ liters) (650 gm – 950 gm) cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice (recipe follows)
1. Prepare shrimp stock, if using (recipe above).
2. Make sure all of your vegetables are cut, diced, chopped, minced and ready to go before beginning the roux. You must stand at the stove and stir the roux continuously to prevent it from burning.

4. In a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the canola oil over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil – it will start to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate, and continue whisking until the roux becomes deep brown in color, about 15 minutes.

5. Add the onions. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the onions into the roux. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue stirring until the roux becomes a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.

6. Add the blue crabs and smoked sausage and stir for a minute before adding the celery, bell peppers, garlic, and okra. Increase the heat to moderate and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes.

7. Add the thyme, shellfish stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally.
8. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, skimming off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.

9. Add the shrimp, oysters, crabmeat and green onions to the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Make sure everything is ready to serve before adding the shellfish to the gumbo. DO NOT OVERCOOK your shellfish.
10. Season with salt and pepper, Creole Spices, Worcestershire, and Tabasco.
11. Serve in bowls over rice. I placed mine in see through containers to give it a more elegant look, and garnished with some fresh parsley.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sara in Wonderland Birthday Party

Yes yes, it was my birthday and I had been planning this birthday party for at least 5 months! Nuts right? But I am so pleased with how it came out... I had to share with you. Recipes included of course!!

I’ve always loved everything whimsical, and although Alice in Wonderland isn’t my favorite Disney Movie, it had the most creative and colorful ideas! I wanted my very own mad hatter tea party. I even asked the guests to come dressed up in their best mad tea party costumes. They all complied, and even agreed to wear the oversized accordion hats that I found online at Oriental Trading

I wanted the table spread to be colorful and somewhat cluttered like the movie. I didn’t want the table to look prim and proper, I wanted it to miss match and call out for attention. I used an assortment of cake and cupcake stands to create height and different levels for the food items. 

I also baked all of the food myself (some recipes at bottom of the page), the bread for sandwiches, the scones, the quiche, chocolate macarons, the birthday cake, and I even dipped the dainty little strawberries in white and pink chocolate. I wanted the food to be very much what you would eat at a tea party, all finger food.

I also used food coloring to paint phrases such as ‘eat me’, ‘bite me’, ‘try me’, and ‘drink me’ which the guests found quite irresistible.

When it came to the signature drink of the party, I didn’t do tea because most of my friends aren’t tea drinkers, so my I made my dad’s signature drink, his ‘Sandia’ which means watermelon in Spanish. It is a drink made with watermelon juice, quite a few different mixtures of liqueur, and served inside the watermelon itself. 

I carved the watermelon to look like the Cheshire cat, since it already had stripes of its own. The drink was a hit! When the drink was finished my friends asked me to break open the watermelon so they could eat the flesh! Although this drink has a lot of alcohol, you can always make it kid friendly by making a mocktail mixture and serving it inside the watermelon.

The only real tea at the party was the jasmine blooming tea displayed inside a clear apothecary jar that sat in the centre of the table. It was more decorative than functional, but it looked beautiful through the clear glass.

There was also a multitude of tea cups of all sizes laid out on the table. I bought a few teacup shaped flower planters and painted them with bright colors, and some with themes from the movie such as the Cheshire cat’s smile and the suits from a deck of cards. The largest planter I found at a supermarket in the gardening isle of Shop Rite. It was quite a find! It was so large that I could fit a regular bowl in it, so I decided to serve the salad inside it. Most of the guests didn’t realize it was a large teacup until the bowl was almost empty. The middle sized teacup planter I used to put the silverware inside so that the guests could find them more easily.
I am also raving about the newly popular teacupcakes. They are made out of silicone and you can bake cupcakes right inside them. They come with a saucer too so that you get that perfect teacup look. Unfortunately the molds only come in white as of now, but you can always use an edible airbrush paint to color them after they’ve been baked! I loved this look and even used one of the tea cupcakes  to top off the birthday cake

The birthday cake is one of our Stardust favorites, it’s the black forest cake. I wouldn’t typically place a black forest cake underneath a fondant layer, as many Pastry Chefs will tell you, whipped cream under fondant is a very dangerous and risky venture, but since it was my favorite cake I decided to alter it a bit to make it work. It wasn’t a very elaborate cake since there was so much on the table that would detract from it, but it had a nice height with the rest of the items.


The place settings were just as bright as the rest of the food. The bright blue table cloth contrasted with the bright pink plates, and the black hexagonal cake plates. I also used bright yellow napkins with a large fake gerbera daisy on top to top off the setting. And instead of teacups to serve beverages, I used neon colored margarita glasses. They worked really nicely by adding that different height effect I was trying to achieve.

To achieve the party setting in the room I had to add a lot of color without destroying my walls, so I bought a set of balloon wallies from the online Wallies store. They are great because they stick nicely to the wall without damaging it and come off very easily and don’t peel the paint.
I also loved Martha Stewart’s poms and the effect they added to the room. They are very fun and festive, and are so easy to assemble. They have a multitude of colors and sizes too.

And no party is complete without balloons. I ordered a few helium balloons to decorate around the room and on the side of the chairs. My husband Todd had a great idea for the back of our white chairs. We made them look like decks of cards by adding the suits to each opposing corner. I also added some ribbon to enhance the color effect. It was perfect!

Even the bathroom didn't get missed, we picked the queen's favorite quote 'Off with your head' and turned it into 'Off to the head.'

It was really quite a party, and with the Alice in Wonderland movie playing in the background, even those who had never watched the movie became familiar with some aspect of the movie. An amazing birthday party it was!

Macaron Recipe

2 3/4 cups almond flour
2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup egg whites
pinch salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Gel paste color

1. Sift the first 2 ingredients together. (this is super important!)
2. Whip the whites with salt to soft peaks.
3. Add granulated sugar and gel color (any color) and whip to stiff peaks.
4. Fold the dry with the whites till well incorporated.

Using a large/ wide tip, pipe dollops onto a piece of parchment. (Make sure the tip is wide, a small tip will deflate the whites.)

Let them rest for 30 minutes or until they feel dry when you touch them. Or at least make sure they don't stick to your fingers! This way you will be guaranteed lovely 'feet.'

When you bake them at 300F make sure they are well spread out. Bake for 15 minutes. After the first 5 minutes let the steam out of the oven for a few seconds.

Allow them to cool on a rack before pulling them off the parchment!

Fill them with any desired filling (it must be creamy or you can't spread it on)

 You can decorate them any way you like.