Tag Archives: dessert

Recipe: Coffee Ricotta Mousse with Gianduia (Chocolate Hazelnut Spread)

19 Feb

PHOTO2
Since moving to Italy, I have become obsessed with fresh, soft ricotta. Ricotta is made from the whey left over from making other cheese (so, the second cooking–and hence the name ricotta, which means twice cooked). It can be made from cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, or buffalo’s milk. Cow’s milk ricotta is more common, but I love the taste and texture of sheep’s milk ricotta (ricotta di pecora), which has a very high fat content and is a bit softer than the cow milk version.

Cow's milk ricotta  Sheep milk ricotta
Despite this slight preference, I have yet to meet a ricotta I do not like. I love it in pastas and in any savory incarnation–but I really, really love it sweet: in the ricotta cakes here in Rome, in Sicilian cannoli, in the Neopolitan sfogliatelle…the list goes on. Basically, I love sweet ricotta here, there, and everywhere. So for the past few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with making a ricotta dessert at home: mousse. It has been tough work.

This version is currently my husband’s favorite: coffee-flavored with ripples of gianduia, a dark chocolate-hazelnut spread that is a sleek, grown-up version of Nutella. The recipe is for two servings (based on 1/2 c. ricotta per person)–and can easily be multiplied. It yields a subtly flavored mousse that is not overly sweet, but the ingredients can easily be adjusted to your taste. Note: delicious as this is, it has one other thing going for it–it is a very quick dessert that can be made ahead and put in the refrigerator until later.

Coffee Ricotta Mousse with Gianduia
Two servings

Mousse
1 tsp. instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. fresh, soft ricotta (preferably sheep’s milk ricotta–but use whatever is the best ricotta you can find)
2 rounded tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. whole milk

Filling
2 heaping tbsp. gianduia (chocolate-hazelnut spread)

Garnish
2 or more whole hazelnuts
chocolate-coated cookie sticks

Pernigotti  Mikado
Preparation
1. Dissolve the instant espresso powder (or instant coffee granules) in the vanilla.
2. Place the remaining mousse ingredients in a bowl and mash with a fork until soft and mousse-like; add the coffee/vanilla mixture and whisk to combine, eliminating as many lumps as possible.
3. Leave with a few lumps for a more rustic mousse, or, for a finer texture, use an electric whisk (such as a whisk attachment on an immersion blender) or a hand mixer and whisk until velvety smooth.
4. Place 2 heaping tbsp. mousse in the bottom of each mousse cup, dot with about 1 heaping tsp. gianduia, and swirl slightly. Repeat, for three layers total, using up all remaining ingredients in the final layer.
5. If preparing in advance, cover each mousse cup with aluminum foil and refrigerate.
6. Just before serving, garnish each mousse with a whole hazelnut and chocolate-coated cookie stick.

Mousse1
mousse2

Recipe: Mousse de Mango

10 Sep

I love mangoes in any way, shape, or form–and so do my children, who used to line up for a chance to get the pit after I was done slicing the rest of the fruit. For years, I vowed to make mango mousse–but I always let myself be lured by the siren call of the chocolate version instead. Until recently, when I was making a Latin American dinner and wanted a Latin American dessert to go with it. And now I’ve been asking myself, why didn’t I try this sooner? This recipe, very slightly adapted from The South American Table by Maria Baez Kijac, calls for fresh mangoes, and like many other mousses, includes raw egg whites (so use the freshest eggs possible). It serves 8 regular dessert lovers, or 6 serious mango lovers. Note: the original recipe suggests serving the mousse with a raspberry coulis, but I am a purist who prefers an unadulterated mango flavor.

Mango Mousse

Mousse de Mango

1/4 c. fresh orange juice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2 large, ripe but firm mangoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (2 c.)
3/4 c. sugar
2 tbsp. orange liqueur or rum
1 c. whipping cream
2 large egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Preparation
1. Place the orange juice in a small heat-proof bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over top, and let soften for 5 minutes. Set the bowl in a small saucepan with 1 inch of simmering water and heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Remove the bowl containing the gelatin mixture from the saucepan.
2. Place the mangoes in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add the sugar, liqueur/rum, and dissolved gelatin, and process again until smooth. Place the mango puree into a large bowl.
3. Whip the cream in a medium-size mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar in another medium-sized bowl until soft peaks form.
4. Very gently fold half the whipped cream into the mango puree, followed by half the egg whites. Repeat, and mix gently until all the cream and egg whites have been incorporated.
5. Distribute the mousse among 6-8 dessert cups, cover, and refrigerate until thickened–about 30 minutes.
6. Enjoy!

Recipe: Pavlova

27 Apr

We lived in Australia for four years and loved every minute of it, leaving behind dear friends and wonderful memories. One of those memories was of Pavlova, a beautifully light and sweet dessert named after the Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, who toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. There has been a long-standing debate based on primary and secondary sources and lots of national pride, as to whether the dessert was first created  in New Zealand or Australia. Though the scales may have now tipped toward New Zealand (with the Oxford English Dictionary crediting the first written record of the recipe to New Zealand), it is a question that may never be satisfactorily answered; in an elegant diplomatic maneuver, the OED also lists the origin of pavlova as “Austral. and N.Z.”

For our family, the answer is simple: since we first encountered Pavlova in Australia, it will for us forever remain as one of our favorite Australian desserts.

The version in the photo below is a double recipe, prepared in a rimmed 18 x 12-inch jelly roll pan–which was a mistake. There was no easy way to get the meringue out and onto a serving platter without shattering it into pieces–so we served the Pavlova straight from the pan, lifting each piece off the baking/parchment paper with a thin spatula. It was a bit messier than usual, but due to the amazing decorating job by three enthusiastic teenagers, and to the fantastic blend of flavors that has made this such a beloved recipe, no one minded. In the future, though, I’ll remember to use an unrimmed baking sheet….

pavlova

Pavlova
8 servings

6 large egg whites
pinch salt
1 1/2 c. + 1/8 c. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. white vinegar

1 1/2 c. cream
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

1 large punnet strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 small punnet blackberries
1 small punnet raspberries
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Draw a 9″ circle on baking/parchment paper and place it on a baking sheet. Spray the paper with baking spray.
3. Combine egg whites and the pinch of salt in a very clean and completely dry large bowl, and beat until stiff peaks form (you can also use a stand mixer). Gradually add sugar, a tablespoon or two at a time, beating constantly, until the mixture is very glossy and the bowl can be held upside down without the meringue falling out. Gently whisk in the cornstarch and vinegar.
4. Using a spatula, spread the mixture onto the paper circle on the baking sheet; smooth the top with the spatula.
5. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the meringue for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to 270 degrees and bake another 75 minutes, or until the outside of the meringue is crisp, but the inside is soft and chewy. Turn the oven off and leave the meringue in the oven, with the door ajar, for 15 minutes.
6. Slide the meringue, still on the baking paper, onto a rack and allow to cool completely. It will crack a bit when cooling; this is normal. Using two spatulas or a pizza peel, carefully lift the meringue off the baking paper and place on a serving platter.
7. Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Try to use as little sugar in the whipped cream as your palate will allow, to offset the very sweet meringue.
8. Spread the whipped cream on the meringue and add the fruit in a decorative pattern. (The great thing about pavlovas is you can decorate them any way you like, with whatever fruit you prefer.)

Recipe adapted from Australian Table magazine.

Recipe: Mexican Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze

8 Jan

There are some recipes you turn to again and again because they are deeply satisfying. This is one of them — a dark, rich chocolate Bundt cake heightened with hints of coffee and cinnamon. It is a frequently requested birthday cake at our house, made most recently for my son’s 21st birthday this week — with the addition of some Espresso Chip ice cream to complement the flavor.

Mexican Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Cake
3 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp.  cinnamon
1/2 c. cocoa powder
3 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 c. canola oil
2 tbsp. white distilled vinegar
2 c. coffee at room temperature  (or warm water mixed with 1-2 tbsp. instant espresso powder)
1-2 c. chocolate chips (preferably dark chocolate, if available)

Glaze
3/4 c. chocolate chips
3 tbsp. non-hydrogenated buttery spread such as Earth Balance/Smart Balance
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. vanilla

Preparation

Cake
1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Generously grease (with vegetable shortening) and lightly flour a Bundt pan.
2. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Make a well in the center, and add wet ingredients. Stir until just combined, and fold in chocolate chips.
3. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until skewer inserted into cake comes out clean; be careful not to overbake.
4. Cool for about 20 minutes, then turn out onto plate or serving platter. Cool completely and top with Chocolate Glaze.

Glaze
1. Melt first three ingredients on low power in microwave, stir until smooth, add vanilla, and drizzle over cake.

Adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Recipe: Dulce de Leche Pastry Cake (Torta Chilena)

26 Nov

When I was in college,  I sampled an exquisite confection that has forever remained seared on my memory: Torta Chilena. It was a cake with eight crispy layers filled with dulce de leche (caramelized sweet milk).  I immediately requested the recipe from the Costa Rican lady who made it, and it has since followed me across continents and years to be pulled out on special occasions.

Torta Chilena is a beloved Costa Rican dessert. So why, you may ask, is it called a “Chilean Cake”?  In Chile, a very similar dessert is called Torta Mil Hojas (“Thousand-Layer Cake”), which is itself a variation on the mille-feuille theme. But instead of being filled with custard, as the French versions are, the Latin American versions are filled with dulce de leche.  Latin Americans love dulce de leche, so it is a natural adaptation. I surmise that a Chilean with a fondness for sweets settled in Costa Rica, made the dessert to great acclaim, and helped start the national craze for Torta Chilena. However this cake originated, I am deeply grateful.

Note: One popular way to make dulce de leche is to cook unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk in boiling water for 2-3 hours. The problem with this method is that the occasional can explodes. So, I’ve always preferred making it in the oven in a bain-marie (water bath, also known as a baño maría in Spanish).

Torta Chilena
[Updated 12-15-12]

Pastry
2 c. flour
1 tbsp. sugar
½ lb. butter (2 sticks)
¼ + 1/8 c. white wine

Dulce de Leche Filling
2 cans  sweetened condensed milk

powdered sugar

Preparation
1. Dulce de Leche filling: Heat oven to 425º. Spray a glass casserole dish with cooking spray, pour both cans of condensed milk into it, cover the dish, and then set it in a deep roasting pan filled with enough water to rise slightly above the level of the condensed milk in the casserole dish. Bake covered for about 3 hours until golden brown (stirring vigorously 2-3 times during the latter part of the cooking process to avoid lumps). Set aside. This is the dulce de leche; you can make it ahead of time, but if you are not using immediately, refrigerate it and bring to room temperature before using.

 

2. Pastry:  Put flour and sugar in a large bowl, cut in butter, then add ¼ c. wine, mix thoroughly, then add remaining 1/8 c. wine. Mix thoroughly. Turn dough out onto well-floured surface, shape into a log and cut into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Draw 9-inch circles on baking/parchment paper (I used a  plate and traced around it). Turn sheets of paper over so dough doesn’t come into contact with pen/pencil marks, then place 1 ball of dough in center of the circle, and use fingers to spread out to edges. Dough will be very thin.

3. Preheat oven to 300º.  Bake pastry circles until slightly golden (exact time will depend on your oven; start checking at about 8-10 minutes–the circles should look “cooked,” but not brown). When cool, very carefully remove each pastry circle from paper; circles will be wafer-like and fragile. Place a small dab of dulce de leche on a round platter, then gently position the first pastry circle on top. Press carefully to stabilize the circle on the platter, then spread with roughly 1/7 of the dulce de leche (doing so as lightly as possible). Put the next cooked pastry circle on top, spread with dulce de leche, and repeat with all the layers except the top one – sift powdered sugar on top of that one. Some layers may crack; press the pieces onto the dulce de leche base, and try to reserve the best layer for the top.
4. Enjoy.

*For another cake that features dulce de leche, see this recipe.

Recipe: Persimmon Cranberry Crisp

18 Nov

In the past, the closest I have come to persimmons was drinking a cool, delicate dessert drink at Korean restaurants. Soo Jeung Gwa (many different spellings) is a sweet, jewel-colored palate refresher, and I was intrigued to learn that it is made from dried persimmons. But still,  I did not encounter any actual, fresh persimmons until recently, when I saw some  Fuyu persimmons at the grocery store and impulsively bought them because they were so pretty:

But what to do with them? At first, nothing, since they were not ripe and I had heard horror stories about people biting into unripe Hachiya persimmons. Even though this isn’t a problem with Fuyus, I decided to wait just to be safe–and also to think about what to make with them. I settled upon a Persimmon Cranberry crisp, since in the United States, November is a cranberry time of year. Plus, I thought the two colors–orange and red–would look nice together. And finally, who doesn’t like a nice warm crisp, with vanilla ice cream at the ready?

The topping is one I have long used for fruit crisps: a very generous amount that is enough to top 6 c. of any type of fruit that you may fancy. It’s also vegan or omnivore friendly, depending on your preference. Note: I’m used to making big batches, but this recipe can easily be halved and made in an 8×8 or 9×9 pan.

Persimmon Cranberry Crisp
Serves 12-15

Orange-Wine Syrup
1/4 c. red wine (whatever is on hand)
1 tsp. orange zest
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
1 star anise
2/3 c. sugar

Fruit
4 c. fresh cranberries (float in a large bowl of cold water, carefully pick through and remove any that are soft, but make sure you end up with 4 c.)
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. fresh orange juice
5 Fuyu persimmons, diced (cut out leafy core at top, slice in half, peel, and then dice)

Topping
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. oats (can be old-fashioned or quick oats, or a mix)
1/3 c. chopped walnuts
1 c. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. non-hydrogenated margarine (or butter)
1/2 c. canola oil

Preparation
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, and lightly spray (or grease) a 9×13 baking pan.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine wine, zest, orange juice, star anise, and sugar. Stirring occasionally, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; discard the star anise.
3. Add the cranberries to the syrup in the saucepan. Combine the cornstarch with the 1 tbsp. orange juice, pour over cranberries, and mix well. Fold in diced persimmons, then pour fruit mixture into prepared pan.
4. For topping, combine first five ingredients in a large bowl. Mix in margarine/butter and canola oil until evenly distributed and topping becomes clumpy.
5. Using very clean hands, take a small handful of topping and squeeze it together. Break it into a couple pieces and begin placing strategically on top of fruit mixture in prepared pan. (The objective is to have some topping chunks, rather than just crumbs.) Repeat with all the topping, filling in gaps with more topping pieces/crumbs.
6. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until crisp looks golden and bubbly. Let cool for about 10-15 minutes, then serve with vanilla ice cream.

Recipe: Pumpkin Brownies

31 Oct

After an intense pumpkin-carving session, which requires mastering a new media–gourd–and imposing your artistic vision upon it, what better way to unwind than with something warm, sweet, comforting, and Halloween related: Pumpkin Brownies! While they cannot compete with a ghoulish jack-o-lantern on the fright-o-meter, they are a vision in their own right.  At our house, they absolutely must be served with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

Pumpkin Brownies
Makes 9 brownies

½ c. all-purpose (or unbleached) flour
½ c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1.5 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
1/8-1/4 tsp. ground cloves
½ c. butter, softened
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
¾ c. pumpkin puree
baking spray

vanilla ice cream
caramel sauce (home-made, or store bought)

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch-square baking pan with baking spray.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, salt, and spices.
3. In a large bowl, combine softened butter and brown sugar and beat on medium-high speed until sugar is completely incorporated. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and beat just to blend.
4. Add flour mixture and beat at low speed to combine. Beat in pumpkin puree.
5. Spread batter in prepared pan, and bake brownies until toothpick comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes.
6. Cut warm brownies into 9 squares, and serve with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

Recipe: Brownie Bites

6 Jul

Here is another way to have your cake and eat it, too. These brownie bites, adapted from what was originally an allrecipes.com cake recipe, have a secret ingredient that no one will ever notice: chickpeas.  In addition to being gluten-free, these are practically guilt-free, too, because they are full of protein. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. But I’m not alone in believing these are good for you; at a recent brunch, these flew off the plate. A handy little dessert to have in any cooking repertoire.

Brownie Bites
Makes about 30

12-oz bag chocolate chips (the darker the better)
2 tbsp. canola oil
2 c. cooked chickpeas/garbanzos (canned are fine; make sure to drain)
4 eggs (can substitute 4 egg whites for 2 of the eggs)
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray.
2. Combine chocolate chips and oil in a microwave-proof bowl, and microwave for one minute; stir until smooth. If any lumps remain, microwave a tiny bit longer and stir again. Set aside.
3. Put chickpeas and eggs in a blender and blend until very smooth, scraping down sides of blender as needed. [Note: If you are feeling adventurous and have the time, pop the “skins” off the chickpeas before blending for a smoother finish.] Add sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon, and blend again. Pour in chocolate mixture and blend until well combined. Pour batter straight from blender into prepared muffin tins, using a spoon to help fill each cup almost to the top.
4. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick (or knife or fork) comes out clean. Let cool in the tins for a few minutes, then place brownie bites into a container that has a lid. Cover the container after about 15 minutes to keep the bites moist. Before serving, dust with confectioner’s sugar.