Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I know I said that the Mint Oreo Ice Cream was my most bestest, favoritest flavor yet, but I think I’ve changed my mind or at least this brown sugar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream may be a close second.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

While I was making regular vanilla bean ice cream using my old-standby recipe, I thought, “hmmm, I wonder how this would taste with brown sugar instead of white sugar…”, and it was a great decision! I don’t think I can go back to the old standby anymore; it was THAT good!

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I’ve made it this way two times already – once for a Friendsgiving party and the last time was for Thanksgiving at my stepmother’s house. On both occasions this Vanilla Bean Ice Cream remained with other people so I could only dream about having another bite. I can’t make it at home because I’ll just eat the whole thing in one or two days haha.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

When you start making this Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, initially the amount will seem like a paltry amount because you add the cream later. Also, the ice cream maker creates more air into the custard, so there will be enough for everyone (or just yourself!).

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Please try out this amazingly, rich Vanilla Bean Ice Cream! If you don’t have vanilla beans, you can use vanilla bean paste or add more extract when you add the heavy cream. It is so rich that you’ll need only a scoop or two at a time.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
After taking one bite of this ice cream, my friend/colleague said that it reminded her of cookie dough ice cream without the bits of cookie dough. Because of the brown sugar, I would agree that it does seem a bit like the cold base of a chocolate chip cookie dough. You could add in chocolate chips, nuts, or whatever add-ins you like; however, try this recipe out without add-ins the first time around! You won’t regret it!
Don’t forget to check cout a plethora of other ice cream flavors such as traditional vanilla bean (twice), espresso, milk chocolate, Mexican chocolate, gelato al limone, chocolate chip cookie dough, coffee, double chocolate, mint chocolate chip (w/extract), and Mint Oreo Ice Cream!

Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

adapted from Ice Cream!; it is my go-to recipe for vanilla-based ice cream

1 1/4 (300ml) whole milk
1 vanilla bean (if none, add 1 more tsp of vanilla extract to below amount when you add the cream)
4 large egg yolks (save egg whites for macarons, meringues, or omelettes!)
1/2 cup (100g) BROWN sugar (I used light brown sugar)
1 1/4 (300ml) heavy cream
1-2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean

Put the milk, vanilla seeds, and vanilla bean (if using) in a medium saucepan, and heat gently to near-boiling point. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and allow the vanilla to infuse for 15 minutes.

In a separate, heatproof bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar, using a whisk or electric beater, until thick and pale. Gradually beat the milk into the egg mixture.

Slower method: Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and continue stirring until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. (book’s instructions)
OR
Quicker method: Pour the milk/egg mixture back into the saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, and stir the mixture until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. (this is what I did). This took about 5-10 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Transfer the hot mixture into a bowl (you can put the bowl over a bowl of ice to cool it down quickly); stir in the cream and vanilla extract or paste.

Cover the surface directly with plastic wrap or waxed paper to prevent a skin from forming. Allow the custard to cool completely by refrigerating mixture for 4 hours to overnight.

After the custard has chilled, churn it in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately as a soft serve, or transfer to a freezer container; cover the surface directly with waxed paper or foil, and put in the freezer.

Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangioeviaggiodasola.com

Pan de muerto Revisited

This weekend (el primero y 2 de noviembre), the day after Halloween, a very sacred holiday will take place – El día de los muertos. Although I am not Mexican, I celebrate and respect this holiday even more than Halloween. Why? Because I am comforted by the idea of honoring loved ones who have passed on and “bringing them back” into the present world via a multitude of tangible symbols such as altars showcasing loved ones’ photos and momentos, skullface paintings, sugar skulls. I especially enjoy the culinary dishes that are usually present around these two days, such as mole and pan de muerto.
In 2009 (whoa!), I made pan de muerto for the first time. I enjoyed forming the “bones” on top of the round domes of dough. The bread was delicious as well :o). This year, however, I decided to make pan de muerto using a different recipe that has now overshadowed the previous pan de muerto.

The inside of this bread is dense yet soft; the texture reminds one of the inside of panettone. It is best to eat warm and with leche, atole, champurrado, café, or chocolate caliente, but the bread is good cold as well (my students can attest to that!). I also preferred this recipe over the previous one for another reason: the simplicity of ingredients. In the old recipe, I remember driving everywhere for special ingredients that I never used again. With the current pan de muertorecipe, however, the only non-everyday ingredient, for some, is anise seeds, and many of you probably already have this ingredient sitting in your pantry and waiting to be used by you in such a recipe as this one ;o)!

Even if you’re not Mexican, try out this lovely bread and dedicate it to a loved one who is no longer physically present on this earth. You two can enjoy eating it together. 🙂 In the meantime, watch this video I show to my students every year around this time. It is a cute way to express the importance of this 2-day holiday of remembrance. Then come back here and make this bread! 😀

I am submitting this post to Yeastspotting!

 PAN DE MUERTO
translated and slightly adapted by All Recipes México (en español)
  • ¼ taza de mantequilla / ¼ cup of butter
  • ¼ taza de leche / ¼ cup of milk
  • ¼ taza de agua tibia (45°C/113°F) / ¼ cup of warm water (45°C/113°F)
  • 3 tazas harina / 3 cups all-purpose/plain flour
  • 1 ¼ cucharadita de levadura / 1 ¼ tsp yeast 
  • ½ cucharadita de sal / ½ tsp of salt
  • 2 cucharaditas de semillas de anís / 2 tsp anise seeds
  • ¼ taza de azúcar blanca / ¼ cup white sugar
  • 2 huevos batidos / 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cucharaditas de ralladura de naranja / 2 tsp of grated orange peel

 Para el barniz / For the glaze:

  • ¼ taza de azúcar blanca / ¼ cup white sugar
  • ¼ taza de jugo de naranja / ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 cucharadita de ralladura de naranja / 1 tsp grated orange peel
  • 2 cucharaditas de azúcar blanca / 2 tsp of white sugar
  • 2 cucharaditas de canela (opcional) / 2 tsp of cinnamon (optional)
1.     Calienta la leche y la mantequilla en una cacerola mediana, hasta que la mantequilla se derrita. Retira del fuego y agrega el agua tibia. La mezcla deberá tener una temperatura de 45 °C.
      Heat the milk and butter in a medium-sized pot until the butter has melted completely. Remove the pot from the burner. Add the warm water, and allow the mixture to cool to 45 °C/113 °F.
2.     Mezcla 1 taza de harina, levadura, sal, semillas de anís y ¼ de taza de azúcar en un tazón grande. Envuelve la mezcla de leche tibia, luego los huevos y 2 cucharaditas de ralladura de naranja, hasta que estén bien mezclados. Incorpora ½ taza de harina y sigue agregando más harina hasta que la masa esté suave.
      In a large mixing bowl, mix 1 cup of the flour, yeast, salt, anise seeds, and ¼ cup of sugar. Blend well before mixing in the room-temperature eggs and 2 tsp. of grated orange peel. Mix well. Next, incorporate ½ cup of flour and keep adding more flour (½ cup at a time) until the dough becomes soft and manageable.
3.     Coloca la masa en una superficie enharinada y amasa hasta que alcance una consistencia suave y elástica.
      If using a stand mixer, change to a dough hook and knead the dough for 6-8 minutes. If not using a stand mixer, place the dough on a floured-surface and knead the bread for 10 minutes or until the dough is soft and elastic and strong strands of gluten have formed.
The freshly kneaded dough before I placed it in the refrigerator for a few hours. Look at the specks of orange & anise seeds!
4.     Pon la masa en un recipiente ligeramente engrasado, cubre plástico adherente y deja reposar de 1 a 2 horas hasta que duplique su volumen. “Poncha” la masa con tu puño y forma una bola redonda con una bolita en el centro. Coloca la masa en una charola para hornear, cubre con plástico adherente y deja que repose de nuevo en un lugar tibio durante 1 hora o hasta que duplique su tamaño.
      [SUPPLEMENTARY INSTRUCTIONS] Once the dough has been well-kneaded, place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl (I use my stand mixer bowl) and cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel. Allow it to rest and rise for 1-2 hours (I left my dough in the refrigerator for about 5-6 hours, and it was fine. The dough is supposed to rise slower in the fridge. You could also leave it in the fridge overnight (check the dough level every few hours though!) and do the next steps on the following day. Allow the dough to come to room temperature first, which should take about 2 hours.).
      Once the dough has risen, deflate the dough and form 7 small dough balls or 4 large balls (I doubled this recipe, so I had seven large dough balls).
Pardon the bad lighting. I made these photos at night.
      BREAD AND BONES FORMATION: Divide dough in 7 small equal parts (or 4 large) (I weighed the dough and divided the total weight by 7 (222 grams/dough ball for me). 6 of those parts will become your loaves and the last one will be used to make the decorations. Form the 6 loaves (or 4 large), place them on a greased baking sheet and let them double in size, covered.
      To form the “bones”, take the extra ball of dough and separate it into 14 parts (I weighed the dough and divided the total weight by 14) roll 12 of the dough balls into a snake-like shape (2 per dough ball). Then roll the “snake” with your finger while applying pressure to form separations in the snake/dough. For the remaining two small balls of dough, divide them into 6 parts and roll them into a ball.
      The recipe doesn’t call for an egg wash, but I used one (one egg + 1 tsp heavy cream), but you can use just water, milk, or egg. The egg wash is needed not only for color, but also to attach the bones and ball to the bread ball.
      Once the dough ball has been brushed with the egg wash, place the bones on the bread in a crisscross fashion. Then place the ball of dough on top.
Shaped dough with “bones” and egg wash.
5.     Hornea a 180 °C durante de 35 a 45 minutos. Retira del horno, deja que se enfríe un poco y barniza la superficie.
      Bake the bread in a preheated oven of 180 °C/350 °F. Remove from oven and allow it to cool on a cooling rack. While it cools or near the end of the baking time, prepare the glaze . . .
Fresh from the oven w/o glaze. For the first 10 minutes, the loaves were too high in the oven! Don’t make my mistake!
6.     BARNIZ: Para preparar el barniz, mezcla ¼ de azúcar, jugo de naranja y 1 cucharadita de ralladura de naranja en una cacerola pequeña. Deja que hierva a fuego medio durante 2 minutos. Barniza el pan con una brocha mientras aún está tibio. Espolvorea el pan barnizado con el resto del azúcar blanca.
      GLAZE: To prepare the glaze, mix ¼ sugar, orange juice, and 1 tsp. of grated orange peel in a small pot. Allow the sugar mixture to boil on medium heat for 2 minutes. Brush the warm bread with this glaze and then roll the bread in sugar and cinnamon (if using).
Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com

Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies: A Comparison of Two Recipes

A comparison of Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies: adapted version of Everyday Food Magazine on the left/Cooking Channel on the right.

El día de los muertos

A Comparison of two Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies recipes. For El Día de Muertos (The Day of the Dead), I’ve made Pan de muerto (Bread of the Dead) in the past. This time, however, I decided to make Mexican Chocolate Cookies for my students because the cookies were portable and pleasant hybrids between Mexican and U.S. desserts. I tried out two recipes: 1) a heavily adapted version from Everyday Food Magazine on Martha Stewart’s website and 2) a recipe from the Cooking Channel website. While both recipes yielded delicious cookies, one was clearly better than the other. Before I reveal the winner, let’s talk about the pros and cons of each recipe and its end product.

Continue reading “Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies: A Comparison of Two Recipes”

Chocolate Truffles: The Alton Brown Way

I don’t know why I took so long to post about these truffles. I made these for Valentine’s Day! Since my Valentine/on-and-off girlfriend of more than 10 years lives in another state, I made these truffles for my two good friends/colleagues/neighbors.
We ate brunch at a Mexican restaurant, and then I gave them the truffles. They loved them! I made two kinds: one enrobed in cocoa powder dusted with powdered sugar and another with coconut flakes. I also poured a bit of espresso mixed with hot water into the ganache instead of using alcohol.
Many people say that making truffles is so easy. I agree that they require only very few ingredients and thus seem easy in theory, but when you have hot hands or reside in a hot area like I do, making truffles can be messy and hard to do.
So, this time around, I tried a recipe from Alton Brown because it is perfect for hot-handed folks like me. It takes a bit longer than most recipes, but it’s worth that extra refrigeration time. I’m so happy that I can make truffles now without melting the ganache while attempting to shape them into balls. These things are amazing and are much cheaper to make yourself than to buy them. Thanks, Alton Brown! hah!

Chocolate Truffles
adapted from Alton Brown on Food Network
PRINTABLE VERSION

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (I used Callebaut semi-sweet)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup brandy (I used mixture of 1 tsp espresso with 2 tsps hot water)

OPTIONAL TOPPINGS:
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder, finely chopped nuts, and/or toasted coconut, for coating truffles
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (for tempered coating)

Place the 10 ounces of chocolate and butter in a medium-sized glass mixing bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir, and repeat this process 1 more time. Set aside. (I did the bain-marie or water-bath-on-stove method to ensure I didn’t burn the chocolate.)

Heat the heavy cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the melted chocolate mixture; let stand for 2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, stir gently, starting in the middle of bowl and working in concentric circles until all chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth and creamy. Gently stir in the brandy or espresso mixture, if using. Pour the mixture into an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Using a melon baller, scoop chocolate onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Place the cocoa powder, nuts, and/or toasted coconut each in its own pie pan and set aside.

Remove the truffles from the refrigerator and shape into balls by rolling between the palms of your hands. Use powder-free vinyl or latex gloves, if desired.
Then place the truffle into the dish with either the cocoa powder, nuts or coconut. Move the truffle around to coat; leave truffle in the coating for 10 to 15 seconds before removing. In the meantime, continue placing the truffles in the cocoa or other coating. After 10 to 15 seconds, remove the truffle to a parchment lined sheet pan. Repeat until all truffles are coated. Allow to set in a cool dry place for at least 1 hour; or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Truffles are best when served at room temperature; however, they will melt in hot conditions.
IF USING TEMPERED CHOCOLATE:
In the meantime, place the 8 ounces of chocolate into a medium mixing bowl which is sitting on top of a heating pad lined bowl, with the heating pad set to medium. Depending on the heating pad, you may need to adjust the heat up or down. Stirring the chocolate occasionally, test the temperature of the chocolate and continue heating until it reaches 90 to 92 degrees F; do not allow the chocolate to go above 94 degrees F. If you do, the coating will not have a nice snap to it when you bite into the chocolate. Once you have reached the optimal temperature, adjust the heat to maintain it.

Dip an ice cream scoop into the chocolate and turn upside down to remove excess chocolate. Place truffles 1 at time into the scoop and roll around until coated.Then place the truffle into the dish with either the cocoa powder, nuts or coconut. Move the truffle around to coat; leave truffle in the coating for 10 to 15 seconds before removing. In the meantime, continue placing the chocolate-coated truffles in the cocoa or other secondary coating. After 10 to 15 seconds, remove the truffle to a parchment lined sheet pan. Repeat until all truffles are coated. Allow to set in a cool dry place for at least 1 hour; or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Truffles are best when served at room temperature; however, they will melt in hot conditions.

Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com

Colcannon

Only a few of you guessed which statement was true about me for the Honest Scrap Award. I was waiting until today to tell you all what the truth is. So, let’s go through each one, shall we?

1. I speak 5 languages fluently.
I wish!! I speak about three languages fluently enough to have long conversations and even arguments haha: English, Spanish, and Portuguese. (My mom would tell you that I know 7 to 99 languages. Please don’t listen to her; she’s biased.) I can read, conjugate all verbs, and understand Italian, but I still have a long way to go with that language. I have a reading knowledge of French. Now, I’m learning Korean, and I love it!

2. I used to be a cosmetologist.
Almost true! For about 2 semesters, I took cosmetology courses to help pay for “real” school later on and realized I was wasting my time because I wasn’t good at doing any of the stuff except for the written tests. So, I was too much of a book nerd to be a cosmetologist. On top of that, I caused a lady to walk out of our school building with one barely-gone eyebrow! OOPS!

3. I am a member of the “Mile-High Club”.
NO WAY, JOSÉ! I have nothing else to add to that. LOL! (Shame on you, Jorge, for thinking this was true hahaha)

4. I have some Irish in my blood.
YEP! This is the truth! Also, it is the reason I made this yummy cabbage & potato dish today! I guess one of the only beneficial consequences of slavery in the United States was the blending of cultures and races that especially came about as a result of secretive, amorous or sexual relationships between slave masters and their subjects.

5. I love nuts and alcohol!
Well, I’m sure almost all of my readers know that this one is so NOT true. I do, however, like nuts in Snickers and Toblerone. I guess it is because I can’t taste the nuts; I like the crunchy texture mixed in with the soft nougat, chewy caramel, and smooth chocolate in Snickers.
Well, I know you’ve seen this dish EVERYWHERE on the blogosphere. I chose this popular dish because I don’t like corned beef, and I don’t know of many traditional, Irish dishes as I should. Whenever my mother and I make a trip to Ireland, I hope to remedy that.
This dish was easy to put together. It tasted insanely good for a vegetarian, healthy meal. You’ve probably noticed that not many veggies are showcased on my blog, so embrace this post!! I did add some thick, turkey ham to the dish, though. The carnivorous addition intensified the dish.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

Colcannon
reduced and adapted by Good Mood Blog (Donal, a true Irishman with lovely photos) and Tasty Traveller

2 med-large Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp butter or margarine
1/2 an onion, chopped into small or large pieces (your preference)
1/4th of a cabbage, chopped (Donal suggests savoy cabbage, but I couldn’t find it)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped (I used a few Tbsps of dried parsley)
1/4 cup milk (I used whole milk)
2 Tbsp butter

Chop the potatoes, onions, and cabbage before starting.

Place the prepared potatoes in a saucepan and fill with water to boil. Once the water has boiled, turn down the heat, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, until fork easily goes through the potatoes.
Meanwhile, place 1 Tbsp of butter in a hot skillet, and sauté onions until translucent, then set aside.
Drain the potatoes, reserving the water for the cabbage. Place the cooked potatoes in a big serving bowl or casserole dish. Pour the reserved water back in to the saucepan, and boil the water. Place the chopped cabbage into the water, and cook for 6-8 minutes.
Place the onions, salt, pepper, and parsley into the serving bowl or dish with the cooked potatoes. Then add the cooked cabbage, and stir with a wooden spoon. Place 1-2 Tbsp of butter on top, and salt and pepper to taste.
Serve, and enjoy!!

Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com

Valentine Lofthouse Cookies

Remember those Lofthouse Sugar Cookies I blogged about before? No? Well, here they are again in heart form. I am really really not a lover of all things pink with hearts. I tried to make the icing red, but it didn’t happen. I guess I needed to add the whole jar of dye to get that color. What I ended up with was hot pink! ugh!! This was my first time working with dye, so oh well…

Anyway, as everyone knows, the holiday of love is coming up. I might not have a Valentine this year, and I’m totally okay with that. Relationships bring on too much drama for my needs haha. I enjoy being single, especially while being a graduate student.
So, in honor of this holiday and for the people out there who actually like hearts and the color pink, you should try out this recipe. This is a soft, cakey, delicious cookie. These cookies are so good that I have to control myself from not eating the whole batch.
I made these cookies for my students (and made a few extra for me hehe). I’m trying my best to keep my hand out of their cookie jar. Because if I don’t control myself, only one student will end up with a cookie tomorrow LOL! They take some time to make, so make the dough the day before Valentine’s. I posted a few process photos below so that you can see how thick the dough is. You’ll need a bit of flour to handle the sticky dough, but it’s worth all the trouble.
Enjoy!

Lofthouse Cookies
adapted from Recipezaar
For 4-inch cookies, you will end up with two dozen cookies. So, if you make 2 1/2 – 3-inch cookies, you should end up with about 3-4 dozen cookies.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar (in my halved version, I added 2 Tbsp (1/4 cup for full version) EXTRA of sugar to make the cake part a tad sweeter)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups sour cream
5-6 cups AP flour, until desired consistency for rolling (in my halved version, I used 2 1/2 cups in the dough and then added about half a cup more of flour while rolling out the dough. I needed more than a cup for the full version.)

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, sour cream, and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients.

Cover and refrigerate overnight (or 6-8 hours).


Preheat oven to 425ºF.
Roll out dough to a 1/4 to 3/8 inch thickness using a generous amount of flour (I used a combination of flour and powdered sugar for a non-stick surface and flavor). Cut out shapes, and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8 minutes.

Cool on wire rack.
Frost (recipe below), and decorate as desired.

Lofthouse Cookie Frosting
adapted from Recipezaar
Yields enough for 2 dozen cookies, so double the recipe, if you need more.

3 1/2 – 4 cups confectioners’ sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
1/2 cup shortening
5-8 Tbsp (or more) evaporated milk (or regular milk), until you reach the desired consistency
1 tsp vanilla extract
red food coloring (optional)

In a large bowl, cream together the confectioners’ sugar and shortening until smooth. Gradually mix in the evaporated milk and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth and stiff, about 5 minutes. Color with food coloring, if desired.

Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com

Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake

Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake BlogSunday, February 7th, was….*gulp*…my birthday. Whew! There. I said it. I know my mom’s proud and shocked. It has taken me years to admit my birthday publicly to friends, students, and strangers. Usually I don’t tell anyone and don’t even celebrate the day of my birth. I also turn off my cellphone to avoid well-intentioned phone calls from relatives and my ex-girlfriend. I really don’t like commemorating the 7th of February, but interestingly, food blogging is the catalyst behind my decision to slowly change my perspective.
For weeks, I have been planning out what type of cake I wanted to make for my birthday. Like I said, I don’t usually do anything for my birthday, but now that I have just started baking, I decided to make something special for it. (My friend guessed right that I made this cake for the blog more so than for my birthday haha)

I wrote down notes for my quintessential cake. I wanted it to be special. I wanted it to have layers. I wanted it to be beautiful – no, I wanted it to be stunning. I wanted it to have my go-to cheesecake in it and chocolate. From there, I put together what I’ll call a Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake made up of an Oreo crust, regular cheesecake filling (to contrast with the welcomed onslaught of chocolate), espresso mousse au chocolat, and espresso chocolate ganache on top.
Since I’m not very creative, I didn’t add any frills such as whipped cream decorations or pieces of fruit, and ultimately, I was happy with that decision. It was already more than enough. It was decadent. Smooth. Silky with a slight crunch from the crust. Delectable. Rich. PERFECTION.
I really, really, really don’t mean to brag, but every single layer was perfect. Every layer complimented each other brilliantly. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe I had made this cake…every single layer. I was proud of myself for planning it out and allowing my plans to come to fruition successfully.
I knew that I couldn’t keep this amazing creation in my house for long, so via text messaging and quick visits, I shared slices with my nearby colleagues/friends/neighbors (yes, they wear all three of those hats; I live in graduate housing, remember? :D). They all loved this cake. One person said I should sell it. Another person ate two slices in under 5 minutes. Another couldn’t focus on our non-gastronomic conversation even after finishing off the cake and scraping the plate b/c she would interject repeatedly about how delicious the cake was haha.

My mom’s birthday card in the background; she just couldn’t resist…

Leave a comment, if you like what you see! 😀

Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake
A creation compiled by me along with two giants in the cooking world.
NOTE
: to make things easier, make the cheesecake and crust on one day and the mousse and ganache on the next day. Cheesecake lasts longer than mousse. Keep this cake refrigerated and will last up to 2-3 days but is best eaten the day it’s made.

 

Layer 1: Oreo Cookie Crust

30-32 Oreo cookies (or chocolate sandwich cookies) for a high crust
4 Tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted
1-2 tsp espresso powder (optional)

Crush cookies in a food processor or in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin or mallet. In a bowl or food processor, pour melted butter on top of the crushed cookies and add the espresso powder (optional), and mix or pulse well. Place the oreo mixture at the bottom of a springform pan. Smooth out the mixture with the bottom of a measuring cup or glass. Wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil. Place the crust in the freezer while you make the cheesecake.

Layer 2: Tall & Creamy Cheesecake
HALVED & adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

For the cheesecake:
1 pound (two 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (I always use kosher salt)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup heavy cream (or sour cream or combination)

Put a kettle or pot of water on to boil. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Working in a stand mixer (or large bowl with hand mixer), preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft for about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt, and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition to yield a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and stir in the heavy cream or sour cream.

Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter should fill only half of the pan. Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour the the boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. (I pour half of the boiling water before putting in the pan to reduce my chances of dripping water in the cheesecake.)

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, at which point the top will be lightly browned and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat, and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.

After 1 hour, carefully pull the roast pan/springform pan setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there WILL be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.

When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours or overnight. Make the mousse once the cheesecake has cooled.

Quality chocolate courtesy of Callebaut Chocolate. YUM.


Layer 3: Mousse au chocolat/French Chocolate Mousse
adapted from Tyler Florence on Food Network

6 ounces semisweet baking chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut; use good chocolate)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp espresso powder (added to intensify chocolate flavor, optional)
3 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, cold (do not use half-frozen cream; the whipped cream will curdle)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, and place over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler). Melt the chocolate and butter together and stir with a whisk until smooth. Add in the espresso powder. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add the egg yolks to the chocolate, 1 by 1, beating with a whisk until incorporated. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and continue to beat. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup sugar, and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Beat heavy cream in a chilled bowl with chilled beaters until it begins to foam and thicken up. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and vanilla. Continue to whip the cream until it holds soft peaks.
Gradually and gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Then, delicately fold in the whipped cream. Take care not over work the mousse but make sure you blend in the cream well. Place the mousse on top of the cooled cheesecake while still in the springform pan.

Cover the mousse cheesecake with foil, being careful to not let it touch the mousse. (If your springform is too small for this, just use less mousse in the cheesecake and instead eat them in ramekins while you prepare the ganache!) If making the ganache immediately, place mousse-covered cheesecake in the freezer as you make the ganache (the cheesecake should NOT be in the freezer for more than 30 minutes). If making the ganache later, place the cheesecake in the refrigerator for a few hours. Either way, the ganache must be cool before you can pour it on top of the cheesecake.

Top layer: Espresso Ganache
HALVED and adapted from allrecipes.com

 

1/2 cup heavy cream
4.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut semi-sweet and milk chocolate)
1 tsp espresso powder (optional)
1 1/2 tsp dark rum (I used vanilla extract instead)Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Heat it up just BEFORE it boils. Place the chocolate in the cream, and remove from heat. Stir the mixture until smooth. Stir in the espresso powder and rum or vanilla extract. Allow the ganache to cool for about 15 minutes before pouring the mixture on top of the mousse cheesecake.

Release the springform pan. With an offset spatula, smooth the ganache while starting at the center of the cake and working outward. (I did a “crumb coating” by placing a thin layer of the warm, not hot, ganache on top, allowed it to cool in the freezer for 30 minutes, then I poured more on the cheesecake after releasing the springfrom pan so that it could pour down the cake.) Don’t do exactly what I did, though. Just pour ganache on top once it has cooled. Keep in mind that the cold temperature of the cake will cause the ganache to firm up quickly, and you may have to pour more on top.

Save the rest of the ganache for decorations (if you whip the ganache when it’s cold, you can pipe a beautiful decoration) or save it for something else.

—————————————————————— 
Here you can find my personalized search for:
——————————————————————
Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangiodasola.com

My Mom, Christmas Gifts, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Tartlets

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets

Recipe and Photos of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets below!

If you haven’t noticed already, my mom and I are very close. We have a very “Gilmore Girls” type of relationship in the sense that she is a single mother, and I’m an only child on my mother’s side. She is my best friend and my mother. I talk to her every single day, 5-10 times a day.

For many years, she and I had been graduate students at the same time. When she started working on her dissertation, I invited her to live with me in order to expedite the PhD process so she could graduate sooner. Only two semesters later, I was able to call her “Dr. Mom”, and she became a professor of English Literature. I am immensely proud of my mom. She is my inspiration and my role model.

For Christmas, she bought me a bunch of stuff for my somewhat new cooking/baking/photography addiction to make up for all the times she couldn’t give me everything I wanted while she was a struggling student. So, I thought I’d share all the kitchen-related gifts I received because the non-kitchen stuff like clothes and batteries (yes, she even wrapped up my batteries!) is just boring haha!

Canon EOS
A beautiful Canon EOS XSi with a 50mm lens! I love this camera!

 

Christmas Kitchen Gifts
Left to right: glass cake stand; steamer (used to make the tamales; was on sale for 30 dollars at Bed, Bath, & Beyond); mortar & pestle (yes!); in and near the Pyrex cup: pastry cutter, grater, candy thermometer, offset spatula, zester, egg separator; pastry mat; roast pan (no more foil pans anymore!)

 

Lodge Cast Iron
Ahh, a cast-iron dutch oven! My mom actually bought this a few years ago and never used it (GASP!) because well…she doesn’t cook much. After a bit of coaxing, she reluctantly let me have it! Yes!

In return, I cooked and baked for her, including making chocolate peanut butter tartlets! Most importantly, I bought her a standing globe, which is something she’s wanted for years. She would always say, “Whenever I become a professor, I want to have a standing globe in my office.” I got to admit, out of all the presents I saw on Christmas Day, her present, not mine, was my favorite because I got to make her happy. She even cried happy tears, and she doesn’t cry very often. I love you, mom! Thanks for everything!

GlobeOkay, enough of the mushy stuff! I promised to post these Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets a long time ago but never got around to it because of the tamales and the rosca for Three Kings’ Day. I made these Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets for Christmas because I thought the crust looked very interesting and indulgent. It is comprised of melted chocolate and chocolate wafers (I used Oreos)!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets Unfortunately, the crust was really hard, and after discussing this problem with the blogger who posted the recipe originally, we figured that it may be hard because of the thickness of the crust. So, if you decide to make these Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets, make the crust thin around the edges.
Chocolate Peanut Butter TarletIn order to remedy the hardness factor, I placed the next Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets in a small pool of milk to soften the crust. That worked perfectly. Unfortunately, I’m not a great fan of peanut butter, and I’m getting tired of chocolate. Nevertheless, these Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets were good. If you’re craving chocolate and peanut butter make these Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets while keeping the abovementioned pointers in mind. Enjoy!!

Like peanut butter anc chocolate? Check out these Peanut Butter Brownies!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets
adapted from Once Upon a Chef (She made one large 10-inch tart)
Note the differences in how much each layer yields if you’re making small tarts! I would half the peanut butter layer for the small tarts.

Chocolate Crust (makes about 5 small tarts):
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (I use Ghirardelli)
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
8 ounces Nabisco chocolate wafer cookies (about 32 cookies from a 9-ounce package), finely ground in a food processor (2 cups)

Peanut Butter Filling (makes 8-10 small tarts):
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (1 small tub or box)
1 cup peanut butter (I used crunchy peanut butter)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup well-chilled heavy cream

Chocolate Topping (makes enough for 5 small tarts):
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli)
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup salted roasted peanuts, chopped (I didn’t use this; I’m not a nut lover)

Chocolate Crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium glass bowl, combine the chocolate and butter and microwave at high power in 20-second intervals until the chocolate is just melted. Stir well, then stir in the cookie crumbs. Press the cookie crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the rim of the tart pans (Be sure not to make the crust too thick in any one spot, especially around the rim. Keep it thin throughout, otherwise it will come out too hard.) Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then cool on rack.

Peanut Butter Filling: In a large bowl, using a hand-held electric or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese with the peanut butter, sugar and vanilla extract until blended. In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, whip the chilled cream until firm. Fold one-third of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture to loosen it, then fold in the remaining whipped cream. Spoon the filling into the crust, smoothing the surface. Refrigerate uncovered for about 1 hour.

Chocolate Topping: In a medium glass bowl, combine the chocolate with the heavy cream and microwave at high power in 20-second intervals until the chocolate is just melted and the cream is hot. Stir the chocolate topping until blended, then let cool to barely warm, stirring occasionally. Spread the chocolate topping over the chilled peanut butter filling and sprinkle the chopped peanuts around the edge of the pie. Chill uncovered in refrigerator for 3 more hours.

Carefully remove the rim from the pan by gently pressing upwards on the bottom while holding the rim in place. (If using a springform pan, run a thin knife around the crust to loosen it, then remove the springform ring.) Use a sharp knife to cut the pie into wedges. Run the knife under hot water and dry it between each cut. Serve chilled or slightly cooler than room temperature.

Can be made one day ahead of time.

P.S. Here is the red mixer I won on Pioneer Woman! The mixer my mom gave me last year is the black one.
kitchenaid mixers

Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangioeviaggiodasola.com

Rosca de Reyes

Rosca de reyes

¡FELIZ DÍA DE LOS REYES!

Have you ever heard of a Rosca de Reyes? In Mexico, many other Central and Southern American countries, Europe, and some parts of the U.S. (in Catholic-prevalent parts of the world), they celebrate el Día de los Reyes on the 6th of January, which is TODAY! Traditionally, (at least in Mexico) on the 5th of January, children leave their shoes out by a miniature nativity scene so that the three kings can place gifts in them. They also leave food, hay, and water for the kings and camels to express their gratitude for gifts. Later, everyone celebrates this day of epifanía or Epiphany by sitting around an oval-shaped, chewy, lightly sweetened Rosca de Reyes and Mexican hot chocolate or atole.

Rosca de reyes
The rosca de reyes is shaped this way to symbolize the crown of Jesus; the candied fruits represent the jewels on the crown. Traditionally, the rosca de reyes is filled with baby Jesus figurines. The people who get the slices of rosca with the baby Jesus figurines in them will have to make and serve tamales (or whatever else you want to serve) on the 2nd of February (I still owe a party or two…oops!)!

Not surprisingly, this bread tastes different than the Pan de muerto I made. After doing a bit of research on rosca de reyes recipes, I realized that there are many disparate versions out there depending on which region you follow. So, based on the knowledge I acquired, I created a “new” version. My goal with this version was to recreate the rosca I remembered eating while living in East L.A. There was no edible filling like raisins or cajeta, so I didn’t include that, but I did post it in the recipe below as an option add-in, along with directions on how to add it, for anyone who would like to include it.

 

I made a lot of mistakes on this rosca de reyes, so bear with me through this post. I’m glad that it looks pretty well, though. I’ll do better next year!

Rosca de reyesI made the bread a bit sweeter by adding sugar to the baño (literally means “bath”, but is the glaze, in this case) that goes on top of the bread. The pasta (sugar/flour paste) browned a lot because I didn’t realize that I was supposed to put it on until after it was done baking! DOH!

Also, I candied the pineapples myself from a fresh pineapple. I also candied the cherries. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t find fresh papaya, so I bought the candied papaya. The candied papaya was dry and kept poking and popping out of my rosca. The fruits I candied, however, looked shiny and beautiful and were sticky enough that I didn’t have to worry about them popping up.

 

Candying sugar is a lot easier than I thought it would be. If you ever make this rosca de reyes, I highly suggest you candy your own fruit instead of buying it. If you can’t find fresh papaya (I couldn’t around this time of year), try dipping the store-bought kind in the leftover sugar syrup from the other fruits so that they adhere to the rosca de reyes. I followed this recipe to candy the fruits.

I am submitting this bread to yeastspotting!!

Rosca de reyes

Rosca de Reyes

adapted from various sources

 

Dough:
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1/4 c warm water (105-110°F)
1/4 c warm milk (can put both milk and water in one measuring cup and microwave mixture for 30-45 seconds. Check the temperature!)
1 Tbsp sugar
4 – 4 1/2 c AP flour (I needed 4 1/4 cups. You could also use half wheat and half white flour. Be prepared to make adjustments with the liquid, though!)
1-2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 c butter, softened
1/2 c milk (I used whole)
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
Zest of one orange (optional)
Zest of one lemon (optional) (I used orange zest only)
1/4 c leche condensada
1 tsp vanilla extract (I forgot to add this!!)

Baño:
1 egg whites (use the white from the pasta below)
2 Tbsp powdered sugar (I accidentally used granulated sugar. Don’t make my mistake.)

 

After baking, add the pasta:
Pasta
(I halved this part of the recipe from What’s Cooking and still had more left):
1/2 c sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 c flour
1/3 c butter, softened

Add-ins:
3-5 Baby Jesus figurines (I used 4)

Raisins

Cajeta or dulce de leche

Melted chocolate

Proof yeast in 1/4 cup of water and milk (105-110°F) and 1 Tbsp of sugar. While yeast mixture is proofing, mix the flour and cinnamon together in a large bowl or on a table, and form a well (alternatively, you can use a stand mixer). In the middle of the well, put in the yeast mixture, butter, egg yolks, whole eggs, condensed milk, and vanilla. Mix the wet ingredients together and then gradually blend in the flour until you form a ball. Knead the dough or use a stand mixer for about 8-10 minutes. Cover the dough with a clean towel, and allow the dough to sit in a warm place in a greased bowl for one hour or until its doubled in size.

Once the dough has doubled, take out the dough and knead the dough for a few seconds to remove the air out of them. Roll the dough back into a ball, place a dough scraper or knife in the middle of the ball to create the rosca, which should be oval-shaped with a large hole in the center. Make sure the hole is larger than you would think it should be since the hole will close up after the second rising. Allow the shaped dough to rise for about 45 minutes.

If adding cajeta, dulce de leche, or melted chocolate:

Once the dough has doubled, take out the dough and knead the dough for a few seconds to remove the air out of them. Roll the dough back into a ball, and then roll out the dough to form a long rectangle. With the long part of the rolled-out dough in front of you, pipe or spread the filling on one side of dough. Add raisins on top, if desired. Brush egg wash on the side facing you. Fold the opposite side of the dough on top of the egg-washed side. Then, roll the dough into a thick, snake-like shape, pinching the ends together really well so that they don’t come apart (the dough should now look like in the photo above).

Mix the baño mixture with beaters or in a mixer, and brush it on top of the shaped, risen dough. This mixture will also help the dried fruit adhere to the rosca (it didn’t help at all for me).

Rosca de reyes
I actually allowed the rosca de reyes to rise with the decorations on them. Don’t make my mistake. The dried candy from the store kept lifting up after baking.

Bake the rosca de reyes for 25-30 minutes in a 350°F oven. Next, spread the pasta in 6-8 sections on top of the rosca, leaving enough space in between them for the fruits. Cut the fruits and place them on the rosca to the left and right of the pasta.

 

Allow rosca de reyes to cool for 5-10 mins, and add in the figurines, if using, underneath the rosca by punching a hole at the bottom with the figurine itself. Tuck the figurines in the rosca well so that they don’t fall out.

Rosca de reyes
Reclining on top of the rosca; awww, can you see his little feet poking out?
Eat the rosca de reyes with your family and friends.
Copyright – Memoria James – http://www.mangioeviaggiodasola.com