Easy Chocolate Mousse

December 30, 2010

This recipe comes from my friend Danuta at Pfeiffer Vineyards in Junction City, Oregon. If you clicked on that link, you can imagine why everything that comes out of that lovely villa is spectacular.

This mousse is pretty enough for a party when served in wine glasses topped with whipped cream and berries, or it can be used as a filling for things such as a chocolate cookie crust or these Puff Pastry Cream Horns. Her plain chocolate is yummy, but don’t hesitate to experiment with additions.

Danuta’s Easy Chocolate Mousse

  • 2 cups chocolate chips, blended until fine
  • 2 T light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups whipped cream

First, turn the chocolate chips into near powder. I tried blending these, and it worked okay, but after a minute or so, the chocolate on the bottom melted and prohibited the blade from spinning properly. I dumped the contents into my handy dandy food processor and it was ready in about 5 seconds.  If you don’t have a way of chopping these fine, you can make the recipe with whole chips, just keep the flame low on step two and stir constantly until they’re melted.

Second, boil the corn syrup and water for one minute and mix in the chips until smooth.

Third, while the chocolate is cooling to room temperature, whip a pint of light whipping cream. Mix and chill for 4 hours.

And that’s it. Yummy chocolate mousse in three easy steps!

  • As mentioned above, this is great just like it is and can be served right out of the bowl.
  • For fancier serving, divide into wine glasses before chilling. Top with whipped cream and berries.
  • Chill in a homemade or store-bought chocolate crust and top with whipped cream and grated dark chocolate.

Want to experiment with additions?

  • Add a shot (1 oz) of strong espresso to the chocolate and syrup mix before it cools.
  • Chop some dried cherries and mix in while combining with the whipped cream. (Note: my food processor was not so handy dandy with the cherries. The darn things were impaled on the blade within seconds, so I had to resort to old fashioned chopping with my Alaskan ulu knife (also a handy dandy tool!).
  • Almond flavoring ??
  • Orange zest ??
  • ??
  • ??
  • Don’t stop here — the possibilities are endless!

Enjoy~

Puff Pastry is my Friend

November 15, 2010

How about a quickie? Appetizer, that is…

With the holidays coming up, there’s a lot of eating to be done, and therefore a lot of cooking and sharing. One of my favorite and absolute easiest appetizers to make is whatever’s-in-the-fridge-on-puff-pastry. I usually have two or three cartons of frozen pastry on hand this time of year, ready to take out and load up with goodies. In less than an hour, I can have scrumptious appetizers ready to serve.  Anybody can.

Don’t always have an hour’s notice? Defrost some puff pastry sheets, lay them flat between parchment paper, and keep them in the fridge just waiting for those unannounced guests to drop by. I’m guessing they’d keep for at least a couple of weeks, but I’d bet they’ll never last that long.

Puff Pastry Appetizers

While you’re pastry’s defrosting, raid your refrigerator and pantry for goodies, such as:

  • goat or other yummy cheese
  • sauteed greens
  • onions to caramelize
  • artichoke hearts
  • cherry tomatoes
  • pesto
  • leftover pasta sauce
  • olives
  • capers
  • anchovies
  • Artichoke and Chili Dip
  • grilled veggies
  • pine nuts
  • smoked salmon
  • bacon marmalade

Need I go on? The list is limited only by your imagination and the contents of your refrigerator. Go ahead, experiment.

Got a sweet tooth instead?

  • cream cheese, dark chocolate and chopped dried cherries or cranberries
  • any flavor of jam that pleases your palate
  • powdered sugar for dusting (after baked)
  • Hmmm… what about peanut butter and chocolate chips in a Reese’s-like concoction? Topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream? Yep. I could do that… right now!

To Assemble the Appetizers

I used to just unfold the sheet of pastry dough on a floured board, cut it into 9 or so squares, plop some stuff on top and bake. Then my lovely friend Rosa taught me a little trick that kicks the presentation of these beauties — and their ability to hold a good amount of toppings — up a notch or two. It’s as easy as 1 2 3.

Folding Puff Pastry for Appetizers

  1. Cut the thawed, floured pastry sheet into squares — as many as you’d like, but smaller than 2″ x 2″ might be tricky to fold.
  2. Fold the square in half and cut along the two short sides — all the way down to the long end, and almost , but not quite meeting at the point.
  3. Unfold, and cross the cut-through points over to the other side.

Voila! You’ve just made a beautifully shaped appetizer, complete with a cavity to fill and even a handle to hold while eating!

Ready to Bake!

In this batch, I made two kinds:

I grated a bit of Parmigiano over the top, baked them in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, and wow! I would have no problem making a meal out of these. Maybe I’d add a side of soup for nutrition’s sake, but the smallest bowl I could find. Special thanks to my friend Helene who turned me onto the bacon marmalade!

Yum! Yum! Yum!

Serve warm, and don’t forget the wine!

Enjoy~

Rosemary Shortbread

July 25, 2010

When your computer dies, make more dessert!

I did not intend to write about yet another dessert, but due to a motherboard failure, my computer is imprisoned at a local repair shop waiting for warranty parts to arrive. So are all the food photos I finally downloaded from my phone. Chilled Pasta Primavera and Saged Chicken Stuffed with Sautéed Kale, Bacon, Caramelized Onions, and Goat Cheese will have to wait.

Luckily, I recently inherited my husband’s old laptop. I also have an insatiable sweet tooth and will gladly suffer through a spontaneous batch of Rosemary Shortbread for the sake of this blog. No kicking. No screaming. It actually works out quite well – these cookies are light and a tad savory, are complimented by a glass of hearty red wine, and will be the perfect contribution to the barbecue we’re attending tomorrow.

Minced Rosemary

I was introduced to Rosemary Shortbread by Ruby, Eugene’s bottle-cap artist extraordinaire. True to my tendencies, I tweaked the recipe to fit my taste. With this one, it was the simple addition of salt, which I think enhances the flavor of both the rosemary and the butter. Try it both ways if you’re inclined – figure out which suits your fancy.

If at all possible, harvest the rosemary just before making these cookies, and use only the soft tips of each branch. This time of year, that means 2-3 inch fronds on my plant, and it takes close to 20 to make 4 finely-chopped tablespoons. Don’t have your own rosemary bush? Perhaps a neighbor or a friend does. They’ll likely trade all the rosemary you want for a plate of these gems.

Ingredients:

1 cup chilled butter

2 ½ + ½ cup flour

¾ cup sugar (if on hand, I prefer fine baker’s sugar for shortbread)

½ tsp salt

3 – 4 Tbs. finely-chopped fresh rosemary

Sift sugar, salt and 2 ½ cups of the flour into a mixing bowl. Add the finely chopped rosemary. Cut the chilled butter into cubes and blend with a pastry blender or two forks. The point is to cut as much of the butter into your dry ingredients before using your hands, which will warm the dough. Then use your hands to gently work the butter in until the dough resembles coarse meal. Once mixed, it should clump in your fist but easily break apart.

Rosemary-Flecked Shortbread Dough

 

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and have an ungreased cookie sheet ready.

Dust your work surface with a few tablespoons of the remaining flour. Form ¼ or so of the dough into a firm ball and press into the work surface. Sprinkle flour on as needed, making sure you keep a layer of flour under your dough or you’ll be scraping up cookies with a spatula. Now you need to get the dough to about ¼” to 3/8” thick. This dough would much rather break into a hundred pieces, so I use the heel of one hand to flatten it while using the fingers of the other to keep if from breaking apart.

Forming and Flattening

 

Almost Ready to Bake

Once flattened, finish it off with a rolling pin. Flour a cookie cutter or the lip of a small glass, cut as many cookies as you can, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Add the scraps left on your work surface to another batch of fresh dough and repeat the process. Makes approximately 3 dozen 2″ cookies.

Kitchen Tip: My husband and I can polish off an entire batch of these in a couple of days. If I’m not making them to share, I force myself to freeze a cookie sheet of unbaked cookies, pack them in a Ziplock once they’re frozen hard. When it’s time for fresh-baked cookies, I put them back on a cookie sheet, defrost at room temperature for a couple of hours, and bake as usual.

The cookies will take from 25 – 40 minutes to bake depending on how thick they are and how accurately your oven keeps its 300 degree temperature. They should be firm to the touch in the center and have a hint of golden brown on the edges. In my own oven, they take about 35 minutes. I had the brilliant idea of baking this batch in an unfamiliar oven. After only 30 minutes, they were well on they’re way to nut brown. Stefano and I were forced to test one or two (okay, three!) just to make sure they were barbecue worthy. Seems like they’re going to be fine, but I may have to test another one or two to be sure. ; )

Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

As I mentioned earlier in the post, they go very well with red wine and make a nice finish to a hearty Italian meal. Friends of ours who generally don’t like dessert love these cookies. Enjoy, and, as always, I’d love to hear how they turn out.

P.S. The Great Crème Brulee Experiment

After last week’s Lavender Brulee, I was anxious to see how other herbed brulees would turn out. Made up a batch and divided into two parts, infusing one with rosemary and the other with lemon thyme. Divided each of those infusions into three parts to make six unique brulees:

Plain Rosemary

Sweetened Rosemary

Rosemary and Goat Cheese

Plain Thyme

Sweetened Thyme

Thyme and Goat Cheese

Then I forced Stefano,  our house guests, and my dear mother to taste each one. As you can see from the picture,

The Great Brulee Experiment

our preferences were nearly unanimous. Sweetened Rosemary was the favorite with the Rosemary Goat a close second. Even though I left the thyme infusing for twice as long as the rosemary, no one could pinpoint what flavor it was, and no one really liked it. (Stefano spit it directly into the trash.)  Dividing thickened eggs into 6 exact fraction-of-tablespoons portions is not so easy, and my proportions were not 100% accurate, making some taste a little eggier then others. Nonetheless, the Sweetened Rosemary Brulee was the hands-down favorite for dessert and the Rosemary Goat Cheese Brulee seemed like it would work well either as an appetizer or in place of a cheese course at the end of a meal, perhaps with apples or crisp pears… More experimentation is in order, and I hope to share the recipe with you soon.

If my computer finds its way home this week, then I’ll get busy on that Chilled Pasta Primavera recipe – perfect on such a hot summer’s day. If not… perhaps it’s time for a chewy loaf of Italian bread. Happy baking —

Ciao ciao ~