Tuesday, March 29, 2011

triple chocolate mousse cakes

As soon as I saw this post, I knew that I wanted to make this dessert.  But, the recipe uses raw eggs that are not cooked all the way through (not recommended for kids).  Then I remembered an episode of America's Test Kitchen where they made a triple chocolate mousse cake, with no raw eggs!  So I used that recipe instead, and made them into individual cakes.  The perfect occasion arose when we went to visit the California Academy of Sciences Museum with my friends Sue and Cecila and our significant others and kids - I made these as snacks for us, but we ended up eating them after the museum, following a belated birthday dinner for Sue.

Since I didn't have a whole bunch ramekins of the same size, I used four 3.5-inch ramekins, two 3-inch ramekins, and then improvised with four additional 3-inch cake rings with which I lined the bottom with aluminum foil.  I buttered all of these and then dusted them with cocoa powder.

The bottom layer of the dessert was a moist chocolate cake.  The recipe from ATK uses a flourless chocolate cake, but I decided to use my favorite homemade chocolate chocolate recipe instead.  This may have been a bad decision, as the cake baked in the cake rings all fell apart when I unmolded them!  I suppose the flourless chocolate cake would have provided a more stable and dense cake, but in the end I was glad I went with the regular chocolate cake, since the resulting cake was very moist and not too heavy with the mousse. 

After trimming the cakes to be one-inch tall and then surrounding them with little parchment paper cuffs, I used a pastry bag to pipe and fill them with the middle layer - a rich bittersweet chocolate mousse - and then let them set in the fridge for about an hour.  Then I piped the top layer, which was a light white-chocolate mousse.  Normally I am not a big fan of white chocolate, but in this case it complimented the dessert well (and made for a nice color contrast).

And with the leftover pieces of cake trimmings and leftover mousse, I used drinking glasses to assemble little parfaits (can't let leftover cake and mousse go to waste!).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

coffee oreo ice cream

Two of my favorite ice cream flavors are coffee, and cookies and cream (followed by pistachio), so it only makes sense that my favorite ice cream to make is coffee oreo.  I've made this ice cream countless times - for house guests, parties, ice cream cakes ... and pretty much everyone loves the combination.

Most ice cream recipes call for egg yolks to make the ice cream base rich and creamy, but I tend to prefer making my ice cream without the egg yolks (less guilt!).  So my coffee oreo ice cream simply consists of milk, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, and espresso (followed by chopped oreos added during the last five minutes of churning).

In the future I plan on also trying different variations on this coffee ice cream  - coffee and chocolate chip cookies, coffee and candy bars, coffee and brownies ... any suggestions are welcome!

Update: Okay, I caved.  I started using egg yolks in my coffee oreo ice cream, incorporated by cooking them into the custard ice cream base.  It makes the ice cream that much richer and creamier, and now I can't go back!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

boston cream pie inspired birthday cake

When it was time to bake something for my best friend Sue's birthday, I couldn't decide what to make - something light, like chiffon cake?  Or some other kind of cake?  Then I remembered that she loves boston cream pie, so I decided to make her a boston cream pie cake!

I found this recipe on Everyday Food that I decided to use.  Except I wanted to make a small 6-inch version (the last birthday cake that I made for Sue was ice cream cake and it stayed in her freezer for like 3 months before she finished it!)  So instead of making one 9-inch cake and then cutting it in half horizontally like the recipe says, I made two 6-inch cake layers and tried to adjust the baking time accordingly.

Also I wanted to make it look more like a birthday cake than the traditional ganache-glazed boston cream pie, so I used this recipe for the chocolate ganache and whipped it so that I could pipe with it (I also added 1 cup of powdered sugar to sweeten it a bit and make it more like frosting).

In the end though, I wasn't satisfied with the cake.  Even though all the components for boston cream pie were there, it just tasted like a yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  I thought that it needed more pastry cream, and the cake was not as moist as I wanted it - I probably need to make more adjustments to my baking time for the 6-inch pans, as I only decreased the time by 5 minutes.

Despite the flaws, hopefully she enjoyed the cake anyway.  Happy Birthday Sue!!!  We love you!!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

blueberry marbled mini cheesecakes

I recently made blueberry marbled mini cheesecakes for my coworker friend Kim's birthday.  I was initially going to make her something with matcha green tea since she loves green tea, but the same week of her birthday I had made a green tea chiffon cake for a baby shower at work.  So I decided on these individual cheesecakes instead, and that way she could take some home for her family too.

I found a recipe for raspberry marbled cheesecakes, and I just substituted the raspberries with blueberries instead.  The recipe tells you to bake the cheesecakes in a water bath, but I skipped that step, thinking they would be fine since they're mini cheesecakes!  I was wrong.  When I first took the cheesecakes out of the oven, they were beautiful and puffy, but after cooling they came out sunken in the middle.  So for the second tray of cheesecakes, I baked them in a water bath, and they came out much nicer!  After cooling they were flat and even, and not sunken at all.

Happy Birthday Kim!  Sorry there was no green tea this time, but maybe next time I'll try making these again with match green tea swirls!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

more green tea chiffon cake - two birthdays and a baby shower

We were in Tahoe for the past week so I didn't do any baking, but the weekend before we left was a busy baking weekend!  I had two cupcake orders, and two cakes to bake.  The first cake was to celebrate my mom and my brother's birthdays, both of which are in March.  And the second cake was for a coworker's baby shower.  I decided to make matcha green tea chiffon cake for both events, since it was still fresh in my head from my first attempt, and it was also a chance to improve on it.

My mom and brother's birthday cake came first.  I fell back on piping my usual basketweave sides and rope borders (since my experiments with the previous cake didn't go so well).  I'm still new to piping with whipped cream though, and I found that instead of the clean smooth lines I get with buttercream and cream cheese frosting, I get fuzzy wobbly lines with whipped cream.

To decorate the top, I arranged fresh strawberry halves in a flower pattern to keep it simple and clean, and to provide a pop of color.  To finish it off I piped a birthday message with melted chocolate.  Everyone seemed to like the cake, as it was light and airy, and not too filling nor too sweet.

For the second cake, I didn't start on it until 11pm the night before the baby shower!  This time I made sure to time myself, as I was curious to see how long it would take me.  I finished baking, cooling, and decorating the cake by 2:30am, from start to finish.

This time I felt much more comfortable piping with whipped cream, and my basketweave sides came out much more even.  And instead of piping a rope border on the top and bottom like I did with the birthday cake (which I felt made the cake look really short), I did a simple shell border only on the top, and left the bottom alone (to make the cake look taller).

My initial idea was to pipe a duckie or a onesie in the middle of the cake, but it had gotten really late and I was tired, and I didn't feel like mixing colors, so I just decorated the top with fresh strawberry halves once more, and piped the congratulations message in melted chocolate.

Hope everyone enjoyed the cake(s)!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

seven-layer rainbow jello

For Matthew's preschool parties, there is always a sign-up sheet for what goodies to bring.  But by the time I got to the sign-up sheet for the Valentine's Day party, the only things left open were "fruit" and "jello".  Not wanting to just bring fruit, I signed up for jello.

On the drive to work, I started to brainstorm of what I could make with jello.  Jello with sliced strawberries?  Jello with oranges?  What else could I put in it?  And then it hit me - I would make rainbow jello!  All kids love rainbows, and thinking about all the colorful layers in the jello immediately brought me back to my kid days.  I can't remember specifically what parties or who brought it, but I do remember always gravitating towards it - and eating lots of it.

I had initially envisioned cutting out the jello into heart shapes for Valentine's Day, but I ended up using a flower cutter since my heart cookie cutter was too big.  And even then I only did a few, as the jello was too tall for the cutter, so the shapes didn't come out nicely.  So I just sliced the rest into small squares.

I have to say, this jello is highly addictive.  The white layers are made with knox gelatin and sweetened condensed milk, which adds a nice creamy flavor to the overall jello.  And who can resist something so colorful and fun to eat?

*** Update: You can now find the recipe in my book, The Hello Kitty Baking Book!