chile spiked chocolate mousse

How about a little spice in your life?

Thought I’d best get a post up before I lose the last of my faithful readers. I’ve been busy working on a submission for a quilt exhibition and it’s taken all of my attention for the last couple of weeks. Or so it seems. I was able to take a little time to try a new dessert recipe that I’d like to share. It was a little fiddly to put together, but very tasty so I hope you’ll give it a try.  I found the recipe on the Eating Well website. I wanted to try it because I like chocolate mousse (which it is sort of like chocolate pudding), and I have chile powder from New Mexico in my cupboard. The bite from the chile is subtle but oh so interesting.

chile spiked chocolate mousse

Red Chile Pepper Spiked Chocolate Mousse

INGREDIENTS

    • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
    • 4 tablespoons water, divided
    • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 teaspoons mild-to-medium New Mexican red chile powder, plus more for garnish
    • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1 large egg
    • 3/4 cup milk
    • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 4 egg whites
    • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

INSTRUCTIONS

    1. Sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl; set aside.
    2. Combine cocoa, granulated sugar, chile powder, espresso powder and salt in a large saucepan. Whisk in egg, then milk. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until steaming and just beginning to thicken, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately whisk in the softened gelatin, chocolate and vanilla. Stir until the chocolate is melted and fully incorporated.
    3. Beat egg whites, brown sugar and cream of tartar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high speed just until firm peaks form.
    4. Stir one-fourth of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until smooth. Fold in the remaining egg whites until fully incorporated. Spoon the mousse into 8 dessert glasses or cups.
    5. Chill the mousse until set, at least 2 hours. Sprinkle with chile powder, if desired.

Simply Delicious Chocolate Caramel Finale!

Yumm! That’s what you will say when you taste this outstanding recipe that I found on the Martha Stewart website. I’ve made it a couple of times and it has always been a scrumptious finish to a meal. If you have any leftovers, this tastes like a giant chocolate truffle when it is cold out of the fridge. You can make the caramel sauce a day or two ahead if you’re entertaining.  Store it in a covered container in the fridge, but bring to room temperature to serve. You will have more caramel sauce than you need for this cake recipe, but it shouldn’t be a problem. You can believe me when I tell you that this is excellent, and I’m a bit of an expert with regards to caramel so take my word for it. The cake can be done early in the day and refrigerated and baked while you eat dinner. My photos show a double batch as there were 6 people for dinner. 2 desserts leftover. Drat! The sacrifices I’ll make for my friends…

ready to serve

Warm Chocolate Pudding Cakes with Caramel Sauce

6 tablespoons (3 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cubed, plus more, room temperature, for ramekins

1/3 cup sugar, plus more for ramekins

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

whipped cream for serving

Caramel Sauce (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter four 6-ounce ramekins, then coat lightly with sugar, tapping out excess. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine butter and chocolate. Microwave until melted, about 1 minute; stir until smooth. (Or melt mixture in a heatproof bowl set over, not in, a pan of simmering water.)

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, yolks, flour, and salt; add chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Fill each ramekin three-quarters full with batter; place on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate 15 minutes.

cookies to go

I love to bake, and Christmas is the perfect excuse for me to go crazy. The Christmas cakes are baked and soaking and the Christmas cookie production is well under way. I love to make baking a social occasion, and baking with friends is an important part of holiday preparation. For this post I want to focus on a little “off schedule” baking that I’ve just done. My youngest daughter, Christine, is living in Milan now. I’ve had two opportunities to send her some baking recently. My eldest daughter, Devon, went to Italy for a competition, and she took some goodies with her. Christine’s friend, Sione, is going for a visit, so of course I’m sending things with him. The problem I’ve had is that all my baking isn’t ready yet, Devon left from Montreal last week, and Sione is leaving from Toronto later this week. To make sure that Christine gets her treats, I had to bake some extra cookies, pack them and get them to the other side of the county in a hurry. Simple, right? Oh don’t I wish!

cookie assortment

I want to share a cookie recipe that is not part of my usual Christmas repertoire, but I think it is so delicious that I baked a couple of batches (actually 4 but who’s counting?). This is the Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookie from Martha Stewart. In fact it is the cookie on the cover of her Cookie Cookbook. It’s the reason I bought the book. (Of course I have since learned that you can get it online, but in my defence I didn’t know about the recipe before I perused the book.) I’m going out on a limb to say that I think this is one of the tastiest cookies I have ever eaten.

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

  • 7 ounces best-quality semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment. Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.
  • In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking-soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.
  • Heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2- inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

I made my cookies a bit smaller than the recipe suggested, and rolled them in sugar before they went into the fridge for the second chilling. Here are a few shots of the baking process.

starting the dough

adding molasses

adding some of flour mixture

dough mixed

dough wrapped to chill

scooping dough

ready for the oven

chewy chocolate gingerbread cookiesI like to think that I’m getting pretty good at packing cookies for shipping. I believe the trick is to pack them snugly so that there is no movement when you shake the loaded container. I use cupcake baking papers to nest the cookies and wedge any remaining gaps with shredded paper. Here you can see the first layer of cookies packed, and then the second layer with the plastic wrap holding everything in place – before the lid is even put on.  When you pack a container this full, it should then be packed in a bigger box with packing material to cushion against impact. The other thing necessary is a willingness of the recipient to eat broken cookies if things don’t go well. That isn’t usually a problem. This is not a quick process so be sure to allow yourself enough time to do a good job. If you’ve already spent hours baking it is worth it.

packing cookies

wrapped and readyNow the only thing I feel badly about is that I forgot to include a Christmas gift that was sitting upstairs… Hopefully I’ll be forgiven.

my best banana bread

This is my favorite banana bread recipe. It is based on the Best-Ever Banana Bread recipe from the Best of Bridge, with a couple of changes and additions. It is moist, flavorful and delicious – like banana bread should be. The success of this recipe depends upon using really ripe bananas. You know the ones that are soft enough to be almost too disgusting to peel and handle. Those are the ones. If they’re ready to eat, or just a day or so past that, put them back in the fruit bowl and wait. You will be rewarded for you patience I promise you.

Banana Bread

1 cup butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 eggs, well beaten

2 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas

1 tsp. instant espresso dissolved in

1 tsp. hot water

2 1/2 cups cake flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add bananas, beaten eggs and instant espresso (dissolved in water) and mix well. Whisk together dry ingredients, and mix into butter/banana mixture. Do not over mix. Put into 2 lightly greased 9″ loaf pans. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 55 – 60 minutes. Tester inserted in center should come out clean. I bake in a convection oven at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes. Optional taste treat – stir in about a cup of chocolate chips before baking.

banana bread

I love the way this cake looks photo shopped on to the plate, which is funny because I couldn’t do that if I wanted to. No photo shop skills. None. If I had any way to alter my photos, I’d make this cake look better. I was a little disappointed with the appearance, but fortunately it did not affect the taste. I also prefer this recipe in the loaf pans that are suggested, but my good loaf pans are busy doing Christmas cake duty now.

top view of cake

piece of banana breadFor those not familiar with instant espresso, it is available at Italian grocery stores or in the import food aisle. If you don’t have any, feel free to substitute instant coffee.

instant espresso