Foodiva's Kitchen: October 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Your Best Recipe - My Sweet, Purple Amore

Let me reveal a side of myself you probably wouldn't know - I am a Recipe Narcissist. I get a real high when these hands (and this unfathomable mind) can come up with something original, beautiful and delicious to boot. Unfortunately, I only have one blog to showcase these recipes. Fortunately though, there are many talented, creative food bloggers out there who graciously host great "events" or round-ups where we can link our posts to. I am so grateful to them, these unknowing enablers (in a nice way, truly) of my recipe-narcissistic tendencies.

An initiative that begins today is Your Best Recipe (YBR), hosted by the amazing Nancy of Spicie Foodie blog. To me, she is a photographer extraordinaire who portrays her spicy-laden dishes in photos that often make me gasp. Yes, she's THAT good! By hosting these monthly YBR roundups, Nancy is actually sharing her limelight (in the best lighting possible ;-)) with fellow bloggers who wish to draw the blogosphere's attention to their best recipes posted within the month. This is the start of what I believe is a great resource and I'm encouraging you to head over to Spicie Foodie right now to read the various bloggers' best (BEST!) recipes for October.

So what's my best recipe this October? It's a dainty dessert, topped with some crazy purple mousse noodles (preview below).
If it's killing you to find out what our best recipes are for October, go and check out Your Best Recipe now. Hope you all had a terrifyingly happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Poetry Thursday #8: Green Tea Rolls With Purple Sweet Potato Filling

Poetry Thursday #8:
My life, so wonderful,
So toilsome; stressful.

Nothing to look forward to,
At least for the moment.
Reoccuring irritants,
Constant lies; deception.

Pleasure, not as pleasing,
Tastes are going bland,
The spice of life fading,
Regressing; retreating.

I ponder these things,
While sitting at the edge,
The edge of my sanity,
This foothold; ledge.

I entered this world,
To someone screaming,
Now I say the same word,
I'm begging; pleading.

Any last words?
Just fucking push already.

Push... by David Robichaux Jr. 

I might as well declare this week Purple Sweet Potato Celebration Week. For the past several days, I had carefreely indulged my obsession for purple-colored food, namely (you guessed it), purple sweet potatoes (PSPs). It all began when I'd spotted some freshly dug (still coated in soil) PSPs at the market over the weekend. Against my better judgement, I grabbed a few of the tubers, all the while scheming up something beautiful and delicious with them in my head.

Today is only Thursday, but I've already rustled up five - yes, FIVE - new recipes using my favorite purple vegetables! I suppose I'll stop only when they run out (just hoping there are no Withdrawal Symptoms!). I'm not going to extol the nutritional virtues and versatility of PSPs again, but if you're new to these lovelies and are pretty curious, click on the links below for my previous posts on these purplies:

Purple Sweet Potato Pie with Easy Oats Crust
Rockin' Pink and Purple Scones
Mont Blanc-Inspired Purple Sweet Potato Cakelets

For today's recipe, I attempted a pairing of matcha (green tea) and PSP flavors in a bunch of sweet rolls, and the outcome was unexpectedly delicious. The potatoes went very well with the green tea, the two very distinct earthy notes blended brilliantly to striptease the palate. Yes, very naughty! The success of this recipe surpassed even my expectations. And the colors, OH... So drop-dead gorgeous. Like a well-matched outfit, on a good hair day.

The three layers: green tea (roll), brown sugar and purple sweet potatoes (filling)

Experience the luscious feeli...err, filling.

Maybe these vibrant rolls will stir up some excitement on Yeastspotting @Wild Yeast and Recipe Swap Thursday @Prairie Story, where I'm sending it to!
Green Tea Rolls With Purple Sweet Potato Filling
Makes: 12 rolls
1 teaspoon dry, instant yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup margarine (or butter), melted and cooled
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
4 1/2 cups bread flour
3-4 tablespoons matcha powder

Purple Sweet Potato Filling
400g sweet potatoes, boiled and mashed
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl. Mix in the sugar, margarine, salt, and eggs. Add flour and matcha powder, mix well. Knead the dough into a large ball for about 5 minutes. Put in a bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
2. After the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
3. Roll dough into a 16x21 inch rectangle and after that prepare the filling.
4. Assembly: Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with brown sugar. Add the mashed, cooled purple sweet potatoes one spoonful at a time on top of the sugar. Flatten layer evenly with a spatula.
5. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls (cut side up) on a lightly greased rectangular baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200C/400F.
6. Bake rolls until matcha layer turns slightly brown, about 15 minutes. Leave to cool on a rack for 15 minutes before serving (careful, the filling will be very hot when it comes out of the oven!).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mont Blanc-Inspired Purple Sweet Potato Cakelets

Apart from macarons, the only other dessert that I have kept a considerable distance from (baking-wise) is Mont Blanc. On both counts, I'm so afraid to fail. Visions of flat, brick-like macarons and lumpy chestnut noodles haunt me everytime I peruse through fabulous recipes involving these two sweets. Other kitchen warriors have been there, done that, conquered their fears. I know I should be heading the same way and get past my discomfort zone (God knows I've cooked up more brain-twisting recipes!), but I also know I needed to be ready in my own time.

Today, as I was busting my chops climbing ten hills under the blazing heat of the morning, it finally hit me. There I was, a strong, fearless Indiana Jane-type who can traverse various degrees of rough terrain pretty effortlessly, and I was afraid of what? Two miniscule desserts that are popular in France (and Japan)? It was on the way home, still covered in dry dust, that I decided the time has come to rip off those training whisks and bring on the heavy artillery. I was going to finally attempt Mont Blanc. The most beautiful version I could muster.

Fits right in the palm of my hand.
Now, the traditional Mont Blanc topping is usually made with chestnut puree. To be honest, the combination of having to tediously produce chestnut puree from scratch plus its natural sepia color left me more than a little lustless. If I was going to do a Mont Blanc, it definitely would be far from Blanc. Mine would have a vibrancy that reflects who I am! Exit chestnuts, enter purple sweet potatoes. Both were equally comforting, at least that was my justification to stave off any iota of guilt about the switch.

I didn't really want to spend a huge amount of time making a cake base worthy of a thesis, so I stuck with a light butterless recipe I always use for thin bases most suited for mousse cakes. It was good for this purpose too, and more importantly, it was dead easy to rustle up. This was baked while waiting for the sweet potato mousse and chocolate ganache to firm up in the fridge. Oh, did I mention chocolate ganache? Yes, I substituted the traditional meringue filling for Mont Blanc with ganache balls, and guess what? Sometimes, it's worth breaking a few rules to get a completely different experience of happiness!

Okay, so it wasn't totally authentic Mont Blanc. But if I hadn't told you that, would you even have known?

Mont Blanc-Inspired Purple Sweet Potato Cakelets
Cakelet (base)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons hot water
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 170C. Beat eggs and hot water in a bowl until foamy (1 minute).
2. Add sugar and vanilla and beat further for 2 minutes.
3. Sieve flour, baking powder and salt together and add to the egg mixture. Mix quickly at the lowest speed.
4. Pour 1-2 tablespoons of batter (depending on the size of your mould) into the base of greased muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes until risen and golden.
5. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning the cakelets out. Leave to cool completely on a rack.

Sweet Potato Mousse
1 ½ cups purple sweet potato, boiled and mashed
1 ½ cups milk
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoon gelatine, softened in 2 teaspoons cold water
5 tablespoons of butter, softened

1. Place the mashed sweet potato, sugar, eggs, cornstarch and salt in a blender and puree until smooth.
2. Heat the milk in a large pan until it just comes to a boil, then remove from heat and pour quickly into the mixture in the blender. Blend ingredients for 1 minute, then return to the pan.
3. Let the sweet potato mixture boil for about 30 seconds, remove from the heat and stir in the softened gelatine until dissolved. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl to remove any lumps.
4. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Beat in the softened butter one tablespoon at a time until you get a glossy, creamy mixture.
5. Once it is cool enough, place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before piping onto a cooled cakelet.

Chocolate Ganache (recipe here)
You would need to cool this in the refrigerator for a few hours (preferably overnight) so that the ganache is firm when you scoop it with a spoon.

1. Take a heaped teaspoon of firm chocolate ganache and place it on top of a cakelet.
2. Spoon the sweet potato puree into a piping bag, and using a plain round tip (eg. No. 7 Wilton), pipe concentric circles around and on top of the ganache and cakelet until a small purple mound is formed.
3. Garnish the top with a sprinkle of roasted, chopped walnuts and/or sesame seeds and serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a day.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

IIP: Lavender-Black Sesame Éclairs with Dulce De Leche Crème Mousseline

When I read 'Lavender' as the theme of this month's International Incident Party, I thought, Uh-oh... I'm in royal trouble. Lavender falls into the 'exotic' category of ingredient to me, mainly because it is virtually impossible to get here in Brunei. I haven't even come across lavender tea being sold here, let alone the real deal! (We do have a variety of lavender soaps and toiletries to choose from, though. I guess we just like to smell fresh and flowery, just like grandma's pillows!).

Being as lavender-deprived as I am, the last time I'd come across this ingredient was when I was sipping a soothing cup of tea in Hong Kong, about six years ago. I brought home boxes of the stuff, and consequently friends and family had to endure a rather long period of being presented with lavender pound cakes and cookies - until the last of the purple flowers were used up. So when the need for lavender suddenly came up, my mind flashed back to Hong Kong. Luckily WL, my friend of nearly 2 decades - actually, she's my sister from another mother (and father) - lives in Hong Kong. She very generously DHL-ed me some lavender tea which arrived a few days ago, just in time for the party! In hindsight, the courier cost was much, much more than the actual price of the tea, so this gesture reminded me who my real friends are. Thank you, WL! If only it is possible to DHL these eclairs back to you, you know I will...

For this party, I had my mind set on making éclairs, sweet lavender-infused ones. Not lavender in the filling nor the topping but in the pastry itself. Lavender gives out that distinctly heady scent and flavor, so I wanted to be careful not to overdo it, otherwise my éclairs would taste a bit like my deodorant (not that I ever ate/licked my deodorant, mind you). Then, when I bought some black sesame powder (to use in a health drink), I thought, why not break the convention a little? Yes.... black sesame éclairs with a hint of lavender - nutty and floral in one bite.  Wait.... how about a dulce de leche crème mousseline as a filling? Dulce de leche in my book contains three of the so-called Seven Deadly Sins (greed, lust, gluttony), so whenever a recipe includes it, you know it's going to taste sinful! I also made my dulce de leche the lazy man's way. Who has 2-4 hours to wait? Popped the condensed milk in the microwave for about 24 minutes, and presto! That's sloth for you.

Black sesame powder ground with lavender (spot the lilac flowers that escaped the blade)
This was my first time making crème mousseline and my work area ended up looking like a disaster zone because of all the splattering that ensued. But oh, it was so worth it! The pastry filling turned out looking like a smooth, rich buttercream yet it was wonderfully light in texture and sweetness, with the dulce de leche providing the right amount of caramelly, smoky flavor. I had some leftover chocolate ganache in the fridge so I drizzled that on the top of the éclairs as a bonus. I took one bite and there I was, elevated to my own personal heaven, completely dizzy from the new tastes and sensory overload. Lavender + black sesame + dulce de leche + chocolate = Absolutely speechless.

Express dulce de leche
 Dulce de leche crème mousseline

Tried an éclair with dulce de leche topping too. It was too much, way too much!

Once you try these, you'll never go back... y'know what I mean!
Thank you for hosting this fab party once again, Penny @! For a peek at what the other lavender-inspired creations are, click on the participants' thumbnails below.

Lavender-Black Sesame Eclairs with Dulce De Leche Crème Mousseline
Lavender-Black Sesame Choux Pastry for Éclairs
1/2 cup black sesame powder
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (125g) unsalted butter

1. Blend the sesame powder with the lavender briefly or simply leave flowers whole. Mix sesame, lavender and flour together in a bowl until fully combined. Set aside.
2. In a heavy-bottomed pan, bring milk, water, condensed milk, salt and butter to a boil.
3. Add the flour mixture to the pan in one go. Stir like mad with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes, until the dough mass is dry and a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan.
4. Transfer to a large bowl and beat for 1 minute to release more steam. Add in about 2 eggs, one at a time and beating furiously after each addition, until the batter comes together and takes about 7 seconds to fall from the beaters.

Stir until you get Popeye-like arms!

Crusty bottom (the pan, not mine)
5. The number of eggs is variable (the original recipe says 4, but I had to adjust because the sesame powder makes the batter rather oily/moist and dense). You don't want a runny dough but neither do you want a dough that's too stiff because it won't rise well. That’s why you have to check your dough after the addition of each egg.
6. Transfer batter to a piping bag with a 2/3 inch plain tip and pipe out shapes to your parchment-lined baking sheet- about 4 inch rods for éclairs.
7. Bake in a preheated 400°F (205°C) oven for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to 350°F (177°C) and bake for at least 20 minutes more, until crispy. Don't open the oven door till at least the 30 minutes total cooking time has elapsed.
8. Once cool, they can be packed in ziploc bags and frozen for a month. Otherwise, keep at room temperature. However, once filled, they must be eaten immediately or they will be soggy.

Dulce De Leche Crème Mousseline Filling
1 2/3 cups whole milk
2/3 cup dulce de leche
4 large egg yolks
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons (5 leaves) gelatin, sprinkled over 2 teaspoons cold water
7 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1. In a large saucepan, bring the milk to a boil.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dulce de leche, egg yolks, and cornstarch until well-combined, then pour the boiled milk over this in a small stream while whisking constantly.
3. Pour this back into the saucepan and bring to a boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add the softened gelatin, stirring until dissolved.
4. Cool for 10 minutes or so, to about 45°C (115°F), whisking every now and again. Add the softened butter in bit by bit, whisking after each addition. The cream will be satiny and smooth. Place a sheet of cling film flush against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I wanted to use mine rather pronto so I cheated and placed this in the freezer for about 15 minutes until it firms up!

Dulce De Leche (the sloth’s way!)
1. Empty a 400g tin of sweetened condensed milk into a large microwave safe bowl.
2. Microwave on medium power for two minutes.
3. Remove from microwave and stir with a wire whisk. Be careful; the mixture and bowl will get very hot and remain that way throughout the process.
4. Microwave on medium power for another two minutes.
5. Remove and stir again.
6. Microwave on medium-low power for 16 to 24 minutes or until milk turns thick and caramel color, stirring every 4 minutes.
Caution: The condensed milk will bubble up ferociously, so make sure your bowl is deep and large.

Chocolate Ganache
150 (5oz) dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and diced
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
1/2 tablespoon sugar

1. Combine chocolate and butter in a bowl.
2. Separately, heat cream and sugar over medium heat until bubbly at the edge. Pour hot cream over the chocolate and mix until smooth.
3. Cool for about 15 minutes until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

To assemble the éclairs, match pairs of the baked and cooled eclair shells together. On one half, pipe the cream filling and top with the other half. Drizzle some chocolate ganache on top and serve immediately.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Poetry Thursday #7 and Eggless Chocolate Mousse

 Poetry Thursday #7:
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

i carry your heart with me by E. E. Cummings

Yes, it's so easy to drown yourself in a thick pool of chocolate as this one, isn't it? Except that it's a mousse, an eggless one. A wait-less one, I should say (although it won't make you weight-less, unfortunately). Who has the time to whip, whip, whip when you can just stir, stir, stir?

It's not vegetarian, but that's okay because neither am I. The marshmallows used in this recipe provide the gelatine to set the whole mixture rather instantly. Which means literally no waiting around for the mousse to set in the fridge and all that palava. Great for a quick, emergency dessert for when guests come around unannounced (hate that but love the fact that they'll be very impressed by this beautiful, glistening mousse!). Oh yes, I definitely carry this mousse in my heart, and my heart probably hates me for it. Physiologically speaking. 

This recipe is by Nigella Lawson from her site. If we can't totally be the Domestic Goddess that she is, maybe eating a healthy portion(s) of this instant chocolate wonder will reward us with her amazing figure. Well, one can only hope, no?

Eggless Chocolate Mousse
Serves 4-6 persons
150g mini marshmallows
50g soft butter
250g good dark chocolate (min 70% cocoa solids), chopped into small pieces
60ml hot water from a recently boiled kettle
1 x 284ml tub double cream (heck, I just used 300ml)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Put the marshmallows, butter, chocolate and water in a heavy-based saucepan.
2. Put the saucepan on the stove, over heat, though keep it fairly gentle, to melt the contents, stirring every now and again. Remove from the heat.
3. Meanwhile, whip the cream with the vanilla extract until thick, and then fold into the cooling chocolate mixture until you have a smooth, cohesive mixture.
4. Pour or scrape into 4 glasses or ramekins, about 175ml each in capacity, or 6 smaller (125ml) ones, and serve or chill until you want to eat. Do not make it too far in advanced before eating to enjoy the smooth consistency.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Russian Chip Cake and Blog Despair Therapy

I think I need to undergo some Blog Despair Therapy. Every day last week, I had looked at this blog, started to type up something, looked at it again and felt.... utter despair. Couldn't write another word, didn't want to, more like it. Oh, there were no lack of recipes because there's something cooking in this house everyday (well, the kids had to eat, even though I could quite happily go on a diet when I'm in that 'urrrgh' state of mind). I just didn't feel like posting anything. Seeing the prolificness and discipline of other bloggers didn't help any. In my heavy heart I thought, am I the only one suffering from this?

Until one day I came across this post by Sara of Caffe Ina, who was also having a bad day (but still managed to write something!). She was suffering from her so-called blog depression and the symptoms she described were exactly what I was feeling! All of a sudden, I didn't feel so bad knowing that someone else (many other bloggers, in fact) would come to this stage at some point. Call it Blogger's Block, that was precisely what I had.

Oh yes, amongst the comments to Sara's post was one by the very talented Cristina of From Buenos Aires To Paris. I feel this deserved mentioning because as amazing a food blogger as Cristina is, she too apparently has her down days when it comes to blogging. Welllllll.... at least I was in good company! Funnily, she also coined the term "Group Blog Despair Therapy" (GBDT) and reckoned somebody should go ahead and start this group. Forget about Food Bloggers Anonymous, the GBDT sounds much better and so support-groupish - and we all need each other to continually feed this fire inside, don't we?

So here I am. Totally undespairing and wanting to share with you one of my all-time favorite recipes - Russian Chip Cake. Ironically, I learnt this recipe not in Russia (where I'd frequently travelled to for work) but in Germany. It's a favorite because it was the first cake I had baked that drew compliments, I mean, genuine ones. It's ridiculously easy, too, adding more points to its already high score on my nepotism scale. And Germany was also the place where I'd learnt to really bake so naturally, many of the desserts I'd put my hand to while there became my favorites. You could say my Baking A-ha Moment! was peppered in Deutsch, as were most of my recipe books from those days. Being back home for good now, my spoken German is not so much rusty as it is extinct - but I swear, I can still decipher those Deutsch culinary instructions to a T.

Presumably, the origin of this dessert is from Russia although Google couldn't come up with anything conclusive on this point (so let's just keep assuming until someone reading this can point out otherwise). Why Chip Cake, though? Well, the same dough for the base is torn by hand or chopped roughly to make flat 'chips' which are then arranged on top of the cream cheese-custard filling. Not only is the overall look of the cake pretty striking, the rich flavors and textural combinations of cocoa, butter and creamy custard make this a sensational winner each time. Give it a try it if you don't believe me.

Russian Chip Cake
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2t baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1t vanilla extract
125g (1 stick) butter. softened
1 egg

250g (1 packet) Philadelphia cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1t vanilla extract
2 eggs
4T custard powder
125g (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled

1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Line the base of an 8-inch round baking tin with non-stick baking paper and grease the sides with butter.
2. Make the dough for base and chips first: Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Add sugar, vanilla, egg and butter. Use the kneading hook on the food mixer at low speed, and then increase to high speed as the dough firms up.
3. Dust the work surface with flour and knead the dough to a smooth texture.
4. Divide the dough into two portions. Take one and roll the dough to cover the base of the baking tin. Press up the sides and cut off the excess with a knife.
5. For the filling: Blend the softened cheese, sugar, vanilla, eggs, custard powder and melted cooled butter until a smooth mixture is formed. Spoon filling into the tin and level off the surface with a spatula.
6. Tear out 1-inch pieces of the remaining dough, or chop into think chunks with a knife. These are the 'chips' to be arranged carefully on top of the filling until it is almost completely covered.
7. Bake for 60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool completely in the tin before turning out and serving.

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