A Marble to Behold

Chocolate Marble Banana Bread 4 arrA while ago, homey banana bread was made and devoured by yours truly – ‘moi,’ of course! The sweet memories of what once was – yester-bake – now leaves me with this thought: I do believe it’s time for a remake. Just as before, I’ve come across the very old yet same predicament – as past recipes would reveal – and, a very delicious answer for an almost forgotten bunch of ripened bananas. Some never learn, I suppose – or do they?

Chocolate Marble Banana Bread 1 arrSpeaking of myself, I’ve definitely love to salvage overripe fruit in baked goods. Without getting overly ‘mushy’ about the subject, I equally attest that banana bread is best made when this fruit does in fact start to brown and spot on its exterior but, remains soft and explosively flavourful.

Wasting no more time, let’s get baking! Starting with a trusted recipe, I decide on marbled banana bread. Like the original, this variety simply requires one to divide the dry ingredients initially suggested for the making of one loaf in multiple bowls. Taking things step-by-step, measure halved amount of the ‘necessities’ – flour , sugar, salt, and baking powder – into two different bowls where the chocolate variation takes less flour, thus being certain to replace the omitted amount of a.p.f. with cocoa powder. Chocolate Marble Banana Bread 2 arrFrom here, divide and pour the already mixed wet contents – butter, vanilla, bananas and eggs – into each ‘dry’ bowl. And for an even more decadent chocolatey twist, add dark or semi-sweet chocolate chunks to each bowl. Once both batters are well combined, introduce spoonfuls of each into a well-greased and parchment-lined loaf pan.

Vanilla and chocolate contents now acquainted, insert a knife or wooden skewer into the batter-filled pan and make swirl motions to create the classic marbled pattern. Finally, top your edible art with extra chocolate chunks – if your heart desires – and get that marbled slab into a preheated oven.

Chocolate Marble Banana Bread 3 arrSensing a banana-rich sweetness in the air, I know my marbled loaf is ready – about 50 minutes or so. Leaving this beauty to cool prior to slicing, getting my dose of potassium courtesy of this banana bread-ish ‘healthy’ cake is my kind of rescued dessert. Hoping you’ll show ripened fruit some TLC – via the kitchen – treating bruised fruit is not so ‘bananas’ after all. Clearly enjoying the fruits of my labour, reinvented banana bread is simply marvellous. Whether you enjoy it as a mid-day snack or for a quick breakfast on the go, this moist loaf satisfies in both its classic state, embedded with nuts or rippled with melted chocolate flavours – naturally, it’s a ‘marble’ to be behold!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved. 

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Pudding It Out There

Liquid sunshine, anyone? Once in a while, a baker will come across excess yolks – probably having whipped up a whites-based dessert like meringues, angel food cake and the sort. Finding myself in a similar predicament, a bowl of golden yolks and perfect timing leaves me with the ideal March-inspired treat. Celebrating with high spirits, Baileys Chocolate Pudding was made for St. Paddy’s Day festivities.Baileys Chocolate Pudding 3 arr

Combining my favourite ingredient – undoubtedly chocolate – with a very special Irish Cream, you really can’t go wrong with the complementary pairing of the aforementioned duo. Rich, chocolatey and infused with a hint of an old country export, homemade pudding is something else: it’s elevated nostalgia. Clearly, a must-indulge item in my books!

Baileys Chocolate Pudding 2 arrTo make your own holiday pudding, choose a scratch recipe of choice. Following the steps of the Barefoot Contessa – Ms. Ina Garten, of course – I really enjoyed following her simple instructions for a double chocolate pudding. Doing things my way, however, I take her very good recipe and tweak it to cater to my preferences. Specifically, I had nine yolks to start though the original recipe calls for six. Presented with three more than less of what’s required, I still count myself lucky. Glass bowl looking beyond half-full, circumstance is boding well and, so, I persist to do as any good baker would – I sharpen my math skills. In other words, I take note of the existing quantities and appropriately increase measured amounts for all remaining ingredients, including: sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, salt, milk, heavy cream, pure vanilla essence and fine quality chocolate. Though Ina’s original calls for butter and semisweet chocolate, I omit the butter altogether and use premium dark chocolate – minimum 70% cocoa.

Baileys Chocolate Pudding 4 arrFortunately, the outcome of this cocoa-rich indulgence is nothing short of pure decadence. And, although I-rish I could stop at the making of double chocolate pudding, a must-indulge St. Paddy’s dessert must-have a little touch of Shamrock. As for the final touches, then, I keep with precision and happily exchange the plain heavy cream with an addition of Baileys Original Irish Cream. From here, the well-mixed pudding mixture is poured into individual dessert dishes and refrigerated. Ultra delicious and made for chocophiles, serving chilled portions of Baileys Chocolate Pudding on its own – as-is – or topped with sweetened whipped cream will surely yield happy hours to come. Ultimately ‘pudding’ a spin on a classic, this crowd-pleasing custard is meant to be shared and savoured responsibly – please, use a spoon! Happy Saint Patrick’s, everyone!!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Let’s Get Started!

prima-pavlova-2-arrNew year, new dessert? Right on – my sentiments exact! Paving 2017 with all that is light, sweet and timeless, I’m resolute in making a classic dessert that echoes effortless sophistication. And for this “must-indulge” endeavour, whipping up divine pavlova is nothing short of pav-u-lous.

Originally made to honour ballerina Anna Pavlova, this delicate meringue topped with heavy cream and fruit promises an impressionable display upon presentation. For my dessert stage, then, here’s two ovation-worthy variations to prepare: soft and chewy vanilla pavlova embellished with whipped cream and seasonal berries, in addition to a two-tier chocolate and raspberry layered pavlova cake.prima-pavlova-3-arr

Instructions abound, pursuing any pavlova recipe is a cinch. While I’m a Martha Stewart loyalist – surprise, surprise – be confident that ingredients and steps for the making of meringues are pleasingly similar. Tried, tested, and happily achieved – thanks to Ms. Stewart – here’s a sum of what you’ll need for the meringue base: egg whites, salt, sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla extract. For the chocolate alternative, omit vinegar and cornstarch but add premium quality unsweetened cocoa powder and brown sugar accordingly. Once the ingredients are mixed to a glossy stiff consistency, continue to bake and cool the meringue discs in the oven. Finally, proceed to add finishing touches to the domed base. prima-pavlova-4-arr

Generously topping my vanilla meringue with sweetened whipped cream, strawberries and blackberries, fear not if your baked structure slightly cracks or deflates, even post cooling. Instead, remember: this show-stopping beauty is not done until it’s fully dressed via flavourful cream, berries, other fruits – kiwi, banana, raspberry, blueberries, etc. – chocolate shavings, ganache, and even caramel sauce. Garnishes being optional, I brighten the already vibrant fruit pavlova with fresh sprigs of mint, and do so for extra colour and taste. prima-pavlova-1-arrEqually, and like the vanilla pav, the cocoa-rich-lo-va incorporates both fruit and sweetened whipped cream. To ensure even levels – between the first and second floors of cake – simply spoonful proportionate amounts of whipped cream onto the surface of each chocolate meringue. Getting the tiniest bit technical, carefully spread the filling from the center outward – an offset spatula works like a charm – and proceed by topping one cream-laden round with the other. Finding no swan song here, a bountiful shower of lush red raspberries and dusting of dark chocolate shavings is all you require for this adorned ‘prima’. So, there you have it! Dramatically ‘made-up’ and ready for a close reveal, wowing guests is as easy as gracing them with front-row standing to their very own slice of cloud cake – PAV-tastico!

© DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Three Times a ‘Bain-Marie’

chocolate-mint-pots-de-creme-1-arrChristmas is coming, and for pastry novices – like ‘moi’ – a dessert brainstorm session is a must. Contemplating recipes, I see delicious everywhere! Between cakes, cookies and candy confections – you name it – choices are plentiful and they’re all happily sweet!

Joyful indeed, “This ain’t my first rodeo!” Embracing the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, I’ve learned a thing or two during these festive times: prepare in advance, and don’t leave your baking until last minute. Options narrowed, I decide on a holiday treat that steadily wins over both crowds and one’s blood pressure. Seriously, baking over the busiest time of year need not be stressful. As such, my finalized select for a ‘sweet ending’ to a grand meal can be made up to two days prior to serving, gets a little spa treatment – in a ‘bain-marie’ a.k.a. hot water bath – and can be burnt. You read right! eggnog-creme-brulee-1arr

Explanation provided, if you haven’t guessed it by now, the French classic known as ‘crème brûlée’ is to be made and devoured. Containing a velvety rich and silken cream interior, this divine custard bears its burning trademark – ‘brûlée’ – thanks to a caramelized ‘burnt’ sugar crust topping. Simplicity promised, preparation of this custard only requires five primary ingredients: egg yolks, heavy cream, sugar, a pinch of salt and vanilla. Adhering to Martha Stewart’s instructions, I gladly follow the listed steps. At the same time, however, I’m thinking it’s the holidays and this classic needs to be revamped. Say it is so, eggnog ‘crème brûlée!’

eggnog-creme-brulee-2-arrStill very good, the basic custard recipe can be made ‘as-is’ – following tradition – or enhanced with orange zest or other additions for varying flavours. In the spirit of the season, I keep with putting an eggnog twist on my take. It’s quite simple, all I do is add a pinch of ground cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as the tiniest hint of ground cloves to the mix. Depending on taste, you can equally spike your custard with a splash – about a tablespoon – of your preferred rum or brandy.

Oh, what fun…” and the burner’s still on, so why not make more dessert? My thoughts exactly! Two more delectable recipes – white chocolate crème brûlée and peppermint dark chocolate ‘pots de crème’  are too tempting not to try. Welcoming more work, the aforementioned appetizing paired recipes require the main ‘five’ ingredients plus: premium quality white and dark chocolates – Lindt or Ghirardelli are ideal – and a quarter teaspoon of pure peppermint extract. Successfully breaking with a stress-free baking endeavour, setting my mind to prepare a dessert trio is now on the new menu. Feeling adventurous, this extended baking task is a sought-after challenge worth accepting. After all, all three desserts are made in similar fashion – just times three! And, in case you opt to pursue this route, you’ll equally need thrice of everything: bowls, ingredients, ramekins, and patience. On the bright side, the fruits of your labour will surely yield you three times the company – people or food. Clearly, the more the merrier! chocolate-mint-pots-de-creme-2-arr

Without further ado, here’s how to start: in a bowl, mix the egg yolks with sugar and a pinch of salt. In a saucepan, bring the combined dairy contents and the seeds from a split and scraped vanilla bean to a gentle simmer. No vanilla bean, no problem?! As a substitute, pure vanilla essence works fine though I would add the extract to the egg mixture versus the liquid. Either way, heat the cream but be cautious not to let it boil. Once a simmer is reached, pour the hot liquid into the egg mixture while whisking nonstop, and keep whisking or else – sweetened scrambled eggs, anyone? Whisking complete – or until your arm feels tired – pour the combined mixture over a sieve and into another clean bowl or very large heat-proof glass measuring cup. Oven already preheated and a hot kettle of water awaiting to be used, place ramekins onto a deep roasting pan and then pour equal amounts of custard into each dish. From here, place the pan into the oven and now pour boiled water into the pan, almost reaching half-way up to the ramekin dish. Bake at 300°F for about 30 minutes or until the custard wobbles, and cool at room temperature for another half an hour before refrigerating for at least two more hours.

lindt-white-chococlate-creme-brulee-arrIt’s all in the way it’s – supposed to be – made, and these very good custards are no exception. Missing no step, ‘crème brûlée’ is merely custard without its signature amber gold topping. Going for the ‘pièce de résistance,’ then, the burnt sugar crusted finale needs two things: a tablespoon or so of castor sugar for each baked and chilled custard and – most importantly – a torch. If you don’t have a torch, use your oven’s broiler setting but be sure to keep a watchful eye on your ‘beauties.’ Remember: ‘burnt’ cream is the aim, not scorched. As for the peppermint dark chocolate ‘pots de crème,’ food of the gods truly need no masking. Embellishment via more dark chocolate, on the other hand, sounds like my kind of fancy finish to a highly pure cocoa indulgence. So, there you have it! Once, twice, three times a Merry Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebration, and holiday eats! Blessings to all, and BON APPÉTIT!! :)

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

French Souvenir

Madeleines 1 arrMad for Madeleine? More than a name, madeleines are synonymous with ‘la nostalgie.’  Remembrance of past moments, this distinctive French cake brings back a flood of memories for me, and perhaps others.  Courtesy of Marcel Proust’s work, Swann’s Way, my first introduction to this light buttery treat is found in the timeless pages of the aforementioned classic.  Clearly reminiscing of days spent reading French literature ─ food scenes, in particular ─ breaking into some “petites madeleines” of my own seems pretty ideal, right about now.  Only dilemma is:  there are no small cakes or a local pâtisserie in sight.  Fortunately, there is a ‘way’ to go from here and that’s to the kitchen ─ where the creation of nouveau memories commence.

Madeleines 3 arrReliving a wrinkle in time ─ à la baking ─ I gather the necessities for the remaking of this molded plump sweet. First thing’s first, you need the right pan ─ molded madeleine cake tin ─ and the right ingredients.  Similar to butter or yellow cake recipes, you’ll need all the basics:  flour, sugar, eggs, butter, baking powder, salt, honey, lemon zest and vanilla extract.  Following Martha Stewart’s instructions specified for ‘madeleines,’ I prepare two separate zesty batches:  one to include grated lemon rind ─ like Martha’s original ─ and a second batter that solely consists of orange citrus.

Madeleines 5 arrWhile I found this madeleine recipe easy to prepare, the process involved is quite time-consuming. In brief, you must chill the batter for an hour prior to pouring it into the hollows of the buttered and floured cake pan.  And, from here, you must set the cake batter-filled pan in the fridge ─ that’s right, there’s a second chilling time ─ and, not straight into a preheated oven just yet.  There are plenty of recipes available, so you can definitely stick with your preferred “go-to” recipe.

On the plus side, I did like the simplicity of the ingredients required, and did not mind the multi-step procedure involved with the making of Martha’s recipe. Madeleines 4 arrThe beauty of this recipe also lies in the delicate yet sponge-like texture of these cakes.  Undeniably fine in quality, I brush the ridged surface of the finished and cooled lemon madeleines with lemon glaze for some added zing.  For an alternate citrus twist, I primarily adhere to the original recipe but replace lemon zest with grated orange peel.  Madeleines 6 arrOnce baked and inverted onto a cooling rack, I lightly dab the little cakes with edible perfume ─ a.k.a. fragrant orange blossom water ─ and, as a last touch, give these perfectly individual tea time indulgences a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.  ‘Et voilà,’ resurrecting the senses is as achievable as getting lost in time via the delighting of one’s very own afternoon snack.

© DISHFUL, 2016.  All Rights Reserved.

An Éclairation of Dependence

Persian Profiteroles 1 arrRevelling in the dual arrival of spring and Persian New Year, I must declare: I love ‘choux’ ─ choux pastry, of course.  And given my affinity for all French ‘pâtisseries,’ this blossoming time beckons good eats to fuel an upcoming two week marathon of ancient-rich festivities.  Making an appearance on my Persian dessert table, then, I forecast a sweet year ahead with plentiful ‘choux’-inspired delights.

Baffled, by the correlation? You’re probably wondering how French pastry and Persian ‘shirini’ ─ sweets, desserts ─ relate, and rightfully so.  Persian Profiteroles 5 arrThe answer’s quite simple.  In one word:  PROFITEROLES!  Not news to Persians, we absolutely L-O-V-E heavenly clouds of light and airy cream puffs.  Clearly a highly favoured treat, profiteroles are to be seen in the display case of many Persian bakeries.  This year, however, shortcuts are not the way to go.  Instead, the baker-in-me calls for the making of homemade “Persianified” cream-filled pastries ─ I’ll tell you how ─ that’s easy to make, and even easier to enhance to suit varying tastes.

Praline Paris Crest arrStarting with the basics, I follow Martha Stewart’s dependable recipe for ‘choux’ pastry. Once the ‘choux’ is made, you can pipe classic domed rounds, rings or rectangular strips for the making of éclairs.  You can stick with one shape or the other, or both ─ the beauty with this recipe lies in that it’s your creation, and ultimately your choice.  Once my ‘choux’ pastries are baked, I set them aside to cool and begin with the fillings.

‘Choux’ shopping in mind, appetizing possibilities are endless. Envisioning dessert trays abound, my decision is made:  I must-indulge in a baking session that allows me to experiment and create everything.  Seriously settling on handfuls, I deduce the following selects will ─ for now ─ pleasingly suffice:  individual mini praline Paris-Brest, sea salted dulce de leche éclairs, and a flavourful trio of cream-filled profiteroles.  Dulce de Leche Eclairs arrUnique in both shapes and palatable accompaniments, an array of different sized ‘choux’ pastry shells and a range of luxurious cream fillings ─ almond praline pastry cream, Chantilly, raspberry and “Persianified” whipped creams ─ are a tall order to fill.  But, then again, these hollow pastry shells are designed to be packed with an assortment of divine filling.  Word to the wise:  advanced preparation of Martha’s vanilla pastry cream is recommended that leaves ample time for it to chill in the fridge, and later use either as is or to blend with almond praline.

Persian Profiteroles 3 arrAs for Chantilly cream, what is it exactly? Essentially, it’s heavy cream that is whipped with confectioner’s sugar and pure vanilla essence.  Wanting vanilla-infused Chantilly cream in addition to raspberry whipped cream and a distinct “Persianified” flavour profile, I obviously want it all.  And for this dedicated foodie, the response is clear:  all is possible, and so it shall be done!  Heeding to Martha’s directions, I measure precise amounts of specified icing sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla extract to ensure consistency, and whip the aforementioned contents using an electric mixer.  Chantilly complete, I remove half of the mixture into a separate clean bowl and blend it with raspberry purée for a berry wonderful alternative.

Persian Profiteroles 6 arrSaving the crowd-pleaser for last, the “Persianified” cream filling is as follows: start with a plain canvas of sweetened whipped cream ─ first whip 1 ½ cups of heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar ─ and then proceed to add ½ teaspoon of rosewater and a generous pinch of ground cardamom.  Being careful not to over mix the whipped cream, delicately blend the perfumed addition and spice into the already whipped mixture.  Purely rich and intoxicating, a little goes a long way with these aromatics that make for a fragrant cream puff.  Also unlike other desserts, taking my sweet time to decorate these time-sensitive cream-filled pastries does not apply.  Persian Profiteroles 7 arrWorking in a meltdown-free zone, I hasten to pipe as many profiteroles as possible and quickly enrobe some with finely chopped pistachios.  Last pastry filled and third tray set into the fridge to chill, the end result is this:  I’m triumphantly tired!  Rejoicing in a successful mission complete, witnessing family and friends delighting in the fruits of a laborious baking endeavour is reward enough.  Starting another Persian New Year with sweet tidings, Happy New Year to all!!  P.S., you don’t have to be Persian to celebrate a new start ─ or to enjoy “Persianified” profiteroles, cheers!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2016.  All Rights Reserved.

C’est Si Bon

Bailey's & Hazelnut Truffles 2 arrOnce upon a reverie, a dessert table befitting of all celebrations ─ Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa ─ prepared itself.  Wishful thinking, of course, planning for the upcoming holidays need not be stressful.  Joyful, joyful ─ still ─ seasonal eats may require some elbow grease but, are very manageable.  So yes, you can do it all ─ parades, shopping, dinner parties and homemade desserts ─ but, just remember:  pace yourself.

Bailey's & Hazelnut Truffles 1 arrWith the festive spirit in the air, I cast aside wintry blues ─ the best way I know how ─ and get the ball rolling with a recipe fit for success.  Even better, this task involves quality control in the form of taste testing, and includes none other than an all-time favourite ─ cho-co-la-te!  Clearly, happy times call for chocolaty measures.  Making no exceptions, then, here’s my idea of a must-indulge crowd-pleaser that’s easy to create, share and devour:  Bailey’s Chocolate Truffles.

Bailey's & Hazelnut Truffles 3 arrCourtesy of Martha Stewart’s recipe, the making of your very own cocoa rich confections are a few ingredients away.  For this highly achievable chocolate truffle, all you need is:  ½ cup heavy cream, 8 ounces of fine quality semi-sweet chocolate, liqueur, and cocoa.  Equally versatile, chocoholics rejoice!  Personalizing truffles to suit your palette is a cinch.  First follow basic instructions, then swap the Bailey’s Irish Cream for a preferred alternative, and finally enrobe the truffles with melted chocolate in place of cocoa.

Bailey's & Hazelnut Truffles 4 arrFinding this recipe too irresistible not to quantifiably double, two times the ingredients happily yields twice the amount of velvety rich morsels of creamy chocolate.  Just to recap, here’s a second take on what to do:  heat the cream, pour the liquid over the chocolate shavings or chips, add flavouring, mix contents until smooth, and chill the mixture in the fridge.  Once set, use a melon-baller to measure out even-sized rounds of ganache filling, and then work quickly to roll the truffles into your choice of possible coatings:  confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, toasted nuts, shredded coconut or chocolate sprinkles.  For my second batch, I replace Irish Cream with hazelnut syrup in addition to use of filberts for added texture.  Mindful that these decadent bites of heaven can be spoiled by a rancid nut, I recommend purchase of raw hazelnuts that can be pan-toasted or cooked in the oven.  In essence, use of fresh products will ensure premium truffles that will leave guests with a palatably sweet memory.  So good, in fact, these two-bite delights will get everyone caroling, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…” ─ bonbons!

© DISHFUL, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.

Silver and Gold

Gingerbread Cookie Steps arrIt’s that time of year again – Christmas – and, I love it!  The time of year where sweet things are made of these:  white sugar, brown sugar and molasses.  While mom’s red and green glistening sugar cookies can never be duplicated, I can’t think of a better way to get into the holiday spirit than to start a baking blitz.  After all, nothing spreads holiday cheer faster than filling a room with the essence of homemade cookies.

One part delicious and one part décor, I present to you my take on tradition with none other than the, “Oh – how sweet it is – Christmas tree!”  It all started with a ‘moment.’  That moment when I saw it, wanted it, but knew I didn’t need it.  Then, the dilemma – should I buy it or not?  Next question to ask, “Must I have it?”  Yes!  I absolutely must own a set of star-shaped cookie cutters.  And yes, I must create my very own cookie tree.  So, I did exactly that! Sugar Cookie Tree arr

Silver and gold or ‘au naturel,’ the best part of making your own edible centerpiece is its versatility; they can be embellished to fit any thematic scheme, and one’s personal preference.  Following a reliable sugar or gingerbread cookie recipe – I use Martha Stewart’s – I proceed to whip up and roll out a batch of cookie dough, and then pop my star cut-outs into the oven for the instructed time.  Once baked and cooled, let the tree trimming begin!

Decorated Cookie Tree 2013 arrMinimalists may choose to leave their towering 3-D spectacle as is – a pure display of subdue shining glory.  As for me, ‘tis the season and that means adding sparkle, royal icing, and metallic-tone dragées to capture much sought twinkling nostalgia.   With or without the addition of ‘toppers,’ this layered treat is a sight for the eyes, and is certain to please cookie monsters everywhere.  Word to the wise, taste trumps design.  So to yield deliciously festive results – worthy of the ‘nice’ list – heed a tried and tested recipe.  Happy baking!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.