Given my love for fancy, multi-component desserts, it’s not surprising that someone gifted me a silicone mold perfect for making mirror-glazed mousse cakes. What’s surprising is that the mold has been sitting in my cabinet for months without ever having been used!
With all this extra time at home lately, I decided that it was time to take the plunge. Since we’re coming up on strawberry season I figured that I could use them as my base flavor, and when I found myself with a half-drunk bottle of prosecco I knew that I had a winning combination. After that it was just a matter of browsing recipes online to find components that I thought would work well together.
So what we have here is a strawberry-champagne mousse, encasing layers of white chocolate panna cotta, strawberry gelée, and genoise cake. It’s all topped off with a mirror glaze. The panna cotta turned out a bit bland on its own, but the mousse was delicious– the champagne flavor really came through– and the gelée was nice and fruity, providing a good contrast. While I was initially dubious about the sponge cake (it was a bit tough the first day), it softened up well and I’ve come to realize that a sturdy cake is necessary to keep its shape in a moisture-heavy dessert like this.
It takes a little time, since you have to let it cool down naturally to avoid graininess (or so I’ve been told, I’ve never tested a faster chilling method), and it does require an immersion blender to get that nice, silky texture, but it’s worth it.
It’s fall, which in baking terms means pumpkin and spices and all things warm and cozy! That being said, while I’m perfectly happy to bake standard pumpkin muffins at home, when it comes to parties I always have to try something more interesting. That’s why, for a recent potluck, I came up with this recipe, which combines pumpkin and ginger and all those other spicy fall flavors with chocolate– and it was a great combination!
That being said, while I increased the original cake recipe by 50% to make a taller cake (big crowd expected), in retrospect I think this was a mistake– the cake-to-frosting ratio was off. I’ve reduced the cake amounts back down for this post, so your cake will not turn out as tall as the one in the photo– this will be a good thing! I’m kind of tempted to try to make this into cupcakes next time so I can really pile on the frosting– you should try it!
So, having found a new chocolate cake recipe, I decided to try a new chocolate frosting recipe! I’d previously decided on this one as my go-to, but I think it may have been beaten (heh, baking joke) by this new one!
This recipe, from Serious Eats, starts off with a basic cocoa buttercream, but then adds a healthy dose of bittersweet chocolate ganache to really amp up the chocolate flavor. The reviews were excellent, and boy, did it deliver! This is officially my new favorite chocolate frosting, and you’ll see how I use it in my next post!
Sure, it takes a little extra time to make and cool the ganache, but the results are amazing. Smooth, creamy, and a nicely deep, dark, chocolate-y flavor. It does whip up just a little bit loose at first, but some time in the fridge will fix that if you stir it periodically to keep the chilling even.
You know, despite having used choux pastry to make cream puffs (a LOT), breakfast pastry, and fancy French praline desserts, I’d never used it to make éclairs before now. I wonder why? Perhaps because I tend to like my desserts either tiny and adorable (like, bite-sized), or big and easy to serve to a crowd. In any event, I was recently invited to a last-minute dinner party and needed something light, summery, and capable of being ready to transport in 90 minutes or less.
A quick scan of the kitchen showed that I had no fruit to bake into a crumble or cake, no thawed butter I could use to make frosting (even if I’d had time to bake and cool a cake enough to be frosted), and no leftover cake scraps or cookies that I’d ordinarily be able to use as the base for something interesting and maybe ice cream-based. And then I thought of choux– made of pantry staples, it would bake up quickly and could be filled with any number of things; plus, it would be best filled on-site, which would give me a little more time to acquire fruit or something else tasty for a filling on the way to the party.
Recently, I was trying to figure out what dessert to bring to a Lunar New Year party. More specifically, I was trying to figure out what dessert to bring that was not red bean cream puffs, because I didn’t want to go to the trouble of making the craquelin topping and I still needed something bite-sized and tasty. I was going through my old recipes when I came across my post about honey-cornflake crunchies and it occurred to me that they might make a neat base for a different kind of dessert combining honey with some other flavor components.
I decided to flavor my filling with cardamom, since it’s often paired with honey. I’d originally planned to make a simple stabilized whipped cream filling, but concluded that it would be too light in comparison to the crunchy base and opted instead to give it a richer mouthfeel by combining two concepts– stabilized whipped cream and cooked-flour frosting. Both involve beating a thickened pudding-like mixture into the dairy– it’s just that the frosting uses butter instead of liquid cream. My experimental recipe worked beautifully, and I’ll definitely be using it in the future.
Of course, once I’d settled on cream-filled tartlets, I felt that they needed something more, for texture, and flavor. After a false start (persimmons apparently just went out of season, boo!) I settled on pears and pistachios, both classic pairings with cardamom.
Another contribution to the annual ice cream social– nectarine ice cream!
I admit, I’d intended to make peach ice cream, but in browsing the internet I was informed that nectarines can be pureed into the cream without bothering to remove the skins, which I was all in favor of, since peeling peaches is a pain. Since the flavor is very similar, I decided to go with nectarines and also reap the benefit of the rosy hue imparted to the ice cream by the red-orange skins.
This recipe is pretty straightforward– fruit, cream, some honey to round things out and some sour cream for tang. What’s not to like? The finished ice cream is smooth and creamy, and I’ve been told that it tastes like summer. What more could you ask for as a recommendation?
I also decided at the last minute to add an extra swirl of a really basic nectarine (or in this case peach because I didn’t have any more nectarines) sauce to amp up the flavor even more. It’s optional, though, so you decide!
Taking a break from sewing for the moment (wow, I’ve been doing a LOT of that)…
My family recently hosted our annual ice cream social, which of course meant that I had to come up with some original flavors of homemade ice cream to serve! You’d think that it would get harder and harder every year to find something interesting and new to make, but there are just so many flavor combinations that I’ve never lacked for inspiration.
I really wanted to use chocolate-covered cornflakes as a mix-in this year, and was trying to decide on an ice cream base when I spied a jar of tahini in the fridge. Just like that, a new flavor was born!
This tahini ice cream is faintly reminiscent of peanut butter but with an added savory element, set off nicely by the dark chocolate-covered cornflakes and a swirl of caramel sauce. It churns up relatively quickly, perhaps aided by the added fat content of the tahini– like many homemade ice creams it freezes up pretty hard, but once it softens enough to scoop it doesn’t collapse into a melty puddle, so it has that going for it. As an added bonus, it pairs wonderfully with dark beer.
*By the way, did you notice my awesome skull-shaped spoons?
One of my enduring memories of childhood is sitting with my brother in our living room, watching old Donald Duck cartoons and eating Jello pudding pops. Only the chocolate ones, because the vanilla ones weren’t nearly as good. And when Jello stopped making them (sad!), I moved on to my next favorite frozen pudding-based treat, which involved freezing chocolate (never vanilla) pudding cups solid, then letting them thaw slightly on the counter for that signature slightly-chewy mouthfeel that you can only get from frozen pudding. It was always iffy, though, whether you’d end up with icy crystals or overly-thawed pudding, so that method was never fully satisfactory.
Well, I may not be able to get Jello-brand pudding pops anymore, but I’ve at last found the perfect replacement– homemade pudding pops. I got the recipe for the butterscotch pops from Smitten Kitchen (I swear, I should just rename this blog “Stuff from Smitten Kitchen”), and I’m going to start making these on a regular basis.
I admit to loving the idea of portable desserts in mason jars– it’s hopelessly hipster-ish, but they’re just so darned cute! Even better if they have distinct layers so they have extra flair from the outside. So when Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted a new “extra-luxe” recipe for butterscotch pudding the same week I had plans to bring dessert over to a friend’s house, it was as if the fates had spoken and decreed that I must make this pudding.
I assembled my mason jars and got to work– I ended up doubling the pudding recipe, which supposedly made six “petite” servings, and ended up with eight more generous servings, though the caramel sauce that accompanied it was enough for all eight without being doubled. The finished puddings were quite tasty– the sweet-saltiness of the caramel was a nice accent to the relatively mild butterscotch pudding (I used the recommended smaller amount of sugar you’ll see in Deb’s notes), and the texture was perfect.