Thursday, June 21, 2012

Frozen Chocolate Mousse Bombe

I had made this cake for the first time almost 10 years ago as a birthday present for a family friend. I had boxed it up, put a chocolate butterfly or two on top - in those days I put chocolate butterflies on everything -  and sent it over with my parents. One thing led to another, one conversation flowed into the next, and between toasts (we're Russian, so most occasions call for a LOT of toasts), between shared stories, and between more toasts, the cake was left in the freezer untasted. A few days later I received a thank you note and a phone call telling me how amazing the cake was. My father got a similar call, which prompted him to remember that he never got a chance to even try the pretty cake! How horrible! How unfair! He had the cake in his very hands and he literally let it slip through his fingers. My father can be very dramatic about cake.

Chocolate Frozen Mousse Bomb 2

For 10 years whenever we'd talk about the cakes I'd made for different occasions and my refusal to make a cake twice when there are so many new recipes to try, he never forgot that chocolate dome he never got to see the inside of...see with a spoon of course. Every couple of months he'd turn to me with a pout and remind me how there was that one cake he never got to try. So this year for his birthday I'd decided that he had waited long enough. This was an important birthday, one of those with a zero at the end and a growing number in the beginning and there were people gathering. Lots of people. This cake is rich and while the original says that it makes 8 servings, I think it can comfortably feed 12 chocoholics if not more. But I got nervous that there wouldn't be enough so I scoured the house for proper shaped bowls and made 3. Two of them were demolished. We sliced a generous piece for each guest and despite the fact that there was a ton of food and no one was hungry by the time dessert came, all my sisters had to do was whisper "Anna made that, you have to try it" and everyone grabbed a spoon. The few people that couldn't finish their slices were saved by their neighbor's spoons and all plates came back clean. And most importantly, even though the cake paled in comparison to the joy of having all his family and friends near, my dad was happy. Especially since he got a whole cake all to himself at the end of the night. No way was this one going to slip through again!

Chocolate Frozen Mousse Bomb

Frozen Chocolate Mousse Bombe
adapted very slightly from Marcel Desaulniers' Celebrate with Chocolate: Totally Over-the-Top Recipes. Really though, you should get this book. It's full of some really amazing recipes and even though it was published 10 years ago, they're just as current as anything else you can find on the web these days. 

1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus an extra tsp for greasing the pan
8 oz good quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 eggs
1 egg yolk (don't dump the white, you'll need it)
1 Tbsp sugar

8 oz good quality dark chocolate (divided), coarsely chopped
1/4 cup freshly brewed coffee
1/4 cup honey
4 Tbsp sugar
3 egg whites (you can use one of the ones left over from the cake)
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted. Pick out about half cup of pretty ones and chop the rest.

8 oz good quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped*
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Cake: 1. Preheat the oven to 300F.
2. Line a 9" springform pan with parchment and grease the bottom and sides with a bit of butter. Set aside.
3. Melt the chocolate and the butter in a glass bowl in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring at each break until everything is smooth. Set aside.
4. Place the eggs, yolk and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a balloon whip and whisk on high until light in color and slightly thickened (about 5 min). Using a rubber spatula fold in the chocolate and butter mixture just until it's incorporated. Try not to mix too much or you'll lose the volume you just whipped into it.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spread evenly and bake for about 25 min, or until a toothpick stuck into the middle comes up with a few crumbs but definitely not covered in raw batter. Cool completely at room temp before removing from the pan. Set aside.

1. Melt 5 oz of the chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave at 20 second intervals , stirring at each stop until it's smooth. Set aside.
2. Combine coffee, honey, and 2 Tbsps of the sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil it, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 240F (about 5 min).
3. While the syrup is cooking combine the egg whites and the remaining 2 Tbsps sugar in a bowl of a mixer and when the syrup is almost ready, start whipping the egg whites on high and whip until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Your syrup should be ready now, so lower the speed to low and slowly add it to the egg whites. Once it's all in there turn up the speed to high and whip until very thick (about 4 min).
4. Carefully fold in the melted chocolate.
5. In a separate bowl whisk the heavy cream on medium-high until stiff peaks form, then fold that into the chocolate meringue until it's uniform. Keep in the fridge until needed.
6. Melt the remaining 3 oz chocolate the same way as before, let it cool a bit and transfer to a large bowl. Add 2 cups of the chocolate mousse and the chopped pecans. Fold with a rubber spatula until combined and keep in the fridge until needed.

Assembly 1:
1. Lightly spray the inside of a large bowl, which should be about 9" in diameter at the top, with Pam, or some other vegetable oil spray, and line with plastic wrap, making sure to leave lots of it hanging over the sides.
2. Spoon the chocolate honey mousse into the bowl and use an offset spatula to make sure it's spread evenly and that there are no air bubbles. Pour the chocolate pecan mixture over the top and smooth that as well. Top with the cake and press down a bit to make sure there are no air bubbles or gaps trapped in between. Cover the top with the ends of the plastic wrap, adding more if needed and put in the freezer. It will need to chill at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

1. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.
2. Heat the heavy cream, honey, and butter in a small saucepan over medium high heat and stir to combine. DO NOT WALK AWAY or the milk will boil over. As soon as you see little bubbles at the edges take it off the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let it stand for a minute and then stir with a whisk until smooth.

Assembly 2:
1. Place a cooling rack on a baking sheet.
2. Remove the bowl from the freezer, unfold the plastic wrap from the bottom and flip onto a 9" cake circle placed on top of the cooling rack. If the dome doesn't pop right out of the bowl, soak a towel in hot water, wrap it around the bottom and sides of the bowl and hold it there for a few seconds, then try to unmold again. It should pop right out, but you may need to tug gently at the plastic wrap to help it along.
3. Pour the glaze over the bombe, letting excess drip down onto the baking sheet. Transfer to a plate or a bigger cake circle and stick it back in the freezer to set for 20 min. In the mean time scrape up the glaze that dripped onto the baking sheet into a bowl and let it chill in the fridge for 20 min.
4. Transfer the chilled extra glaze to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, pull out the bombe from the freezer and pipe a border around the bottom, alternating with the reserved pretty pecan halves.
5. Store the bombe in the freezer, but take it out 20 min or so before serving to let it soften a bit, otherwise it will be really hard to cut. Enjoy!

* Yes, there is a pound and a half of chocolate in this cake. So what?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Raspberry, Fig and Port Jam - Chicago Food Exchange

Last week I made the first jam of this season. It was a raspberry, fig and port jam that I read about in this tiny kit that my sister gave me for New Year's a few years back. The kit had cute little tags, stickers, fabric lids, etc. All the things one would need to make a jar of jam adorable beyond words. The kit has been used up a long time ago, but in my recent cleaning crusade I'd located the small recipe book that came with it and this was the very first recipe. I happened to have everything but the figs already on hand (what home is complete without at least one bottle of port stashed away?), so I picked that up on the way home and whipped up a batch to bring to with me to a foodie exchange, along with several packages of my French Granola.

Raspberry Fig and Port Jam Jar

There is this wonderful event that has started in Chicago a few months ago called Chicago Food Swap, and this past weekend I was able to make it to their third meeting, graciously hosted by the kind folks at the Savory Spice Shop. The idea behind this event, the brain child of Emily and Vanessa, is to bring together a group of people and provide them with an environment in which to trade/barter their homemade goods with each other. There is no money being exchanged and no one is obligated to trade with anyone else, but of course that's the point of coming in the first place, and the actual trades are the best part.


The turnout was great, I think there were almost 30 people that came and brought goodies. We were given some time to mingle, walk around to see and taste the goodies, and to write down suggested bids on bits of paper next to the items. After everyone had a chance to circle everything several times, the bidding was opened and when the dust settled I had traded all my jars and packages and had a great big bag of loot to take home with me, including two of those little Sherry Poppyseed cakes in the picture above.


I also got a box of these whoopie pies, which were amazing...and didn't survive the day. One was carrot cake with cream cheese filing and the other was chocolate with marshmallow filling. I can't believe I've never had whoopie pies before this, it's like taking two of the best parts of a cupcake (the tops, naturally) with frosting inside. Yum!


The green chutney and the tangy vinaigrette were fantastic.


An entire table was chock full of amazing baked goodies. I'd snagged one of those beautiful pretzel bread buns on top there and had it for lunch the next day.


One day I will learn what chutney is and decide on whether or not I like it, but there were several jars of it up for trade, along with a precious few bottles of rose syrup. I think I'll need to raid my sister's rose garden and make some for myself.


Someone else made a table full of fudge and caramel candies.


Someone even brought heirloom tomato plants! I didn't get any since I have nowhere to plant them and even if I did, I have a notoriously bad habit of killing plants, so they went to better homes than mine. I did snag one of those jars up front in the picture above. They were mildly spicy pickled carrots and they were amazing! They were still crunchy and perfectly pickled and had a very nice garlicky spice to them. Once the carrots were gone I marinated some chicken in the brine and roasted the little piece of garlic right along with it. Nothing went to waste.


There was an entire table full of jalapeno spiked jams, but since my own jam pantry is still practically overflowing, I decided to pass on those. Don't those fabric tops look adorable though?


There were jars of cola syrups, lemon salts, lemon sugars and spicy honey mustard (one of which went home with me too). There were cookies and cakes and pickles and even some jars of pre-cooked oatmeal. I also snagged a beautiful mini-loaf of freshly baked challah, half of a whiskey cake, a jar of cinnamon spiced plums, and a jar of apricot peach butter. All in all, a really successful haul and I'm really looking forward to the next exchange at the end of August, though now that I saw what people bring, I think I'll need to step up my own game quite a bit to get more awesome trades next time. I mean, what do you bring when everyone makes their own jam? I have a few weeks to come up with the answer.

Raspberry Fig and Port Jam

Raspberry, Fig and Port Jam
Pretty Pantry Gifts by Tara Duggan

1 cup dried black mission figs
1 cup port
4 cups raspberries
3 cups sugar
2 Tbsps fresh lemon juice

1. Chop figs finely and soak in port for about 30 minutes.
2. Combine the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice in a large heavy bottom pot and crush the berries with a spoon or a potato masher. Add the figs and the port.
3. Bring the pot to a rolling boil and cook until reduced by half and the jam thickens. Stop cooking when it's still a tiny bit runny since the figs cook into paste and end up thickening the end product by quite a bit. Unless you like your jams thicker, like I do, in which case do whatever you want.
4. Pour the jam into sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Enjoy!