Dark chocolate truffles with whiskey and sunflower seed brittle

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This holiday season I was determined to create foodie gifts for my loved ones. For some I made braided bread, which will come in a later post, however for one specific person I created this truffle recipe.

Crunchy, creamy, sweet, and salty (with a subtle kick from the whiskey), this truffle is a great show stopping dessert for those who are hitting holiday gifting late. The key to keeping this recipe simple would be a silicone mold so that the cleanup process is as easy as possible. Also, for those who are hesitant about making brittle, you can instead top the truffle with roasted sunflower seeds to cut out the extra steps.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 shot of whiskey
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tbs. water
  • 1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
  • Pinch sea salt

Step 1: For the brittle: Sprinkle the sunflower seeds over a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. In a heavy-bottomed pan, stir the sugar and water together until combined. Put the pan on the heat on medium high until the sugar melts. Do not stir at all once the pan hits the heat, only swirl the pan to ensure the sugar mixture heats evenly. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until the sugar mixture turns a light golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the molten sugar over the nuts. The sugar should be a clear, thick liquid. Sprinkle sea salt over the molten sugar. Let the brittle sit to cool and harden. Once fully set, break into small pieces.

(You can entirely skip this step if you want and simply sprinkle nuts on top if you are wary of making the brittle.)

Step 2: Heat the cream until it is steaming. You can do this over the stove or in the microwave. Add 1 1/2 cups of chocolate and let sit to let the chocolate melt. After a few minutes, stir until the mixture is homogenous – this will be the truffle filling. Add a shot of whiskey and the honey, stir to combine.

Step 3: Heat 3/4 cups of the chocolate in a glass bowl resting over a pot of steaming hot water. Melt fully. Take the bowl off of the heat and then add the last 1/4 cup of chocolate. Let the remaining chocolate melt. Gently fold the chocolate together to combine.

Step 4: Take your silicone mold and spoon a teaspoon of chocolate into each opening. Use the back of the spoon to push the chocolate all the way up to the edge. Tap the bottom of the mold against the work surface to ensure there are no bubbles. Let sit for 20 minutes to let the chocolate set.

Step 5: Spoon the ganache into the molds until they are 3/4 of the way full. Let sit for another 20 minutes to let the top set. Top with more melted chocolate (you can return the bowl to the hot water bath to re-melt) and tap the silicone molds against the work surface again to eliminate air bubbles. Let sit to fully cool and set.

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My take on the French chouquette

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After a month-long break, I am back with one of the prettiest posts I have shot in a long time. Let me introduce you to the chouquette, a light, airy pastry that can be decorated any way you wish.

These pastry bites use the same dough as the cream puff, only instead of filling the pastry with cream, you top them with pearl sugar or chocolate to add sweetness and texture. In this post, I wanted to treat them like doughnut holes so that I could offer you guys a healthier alternative to the breakfast staple.

These pastries are a one pot wonder – and they bake up in a flash for those who are impatient bakers. For those starting to look for handmade gift options this holiday season, this is a great option as chouquettes are easy to make and can be decorated quite lavishly. In this post I have created four options for you: the traditional version that is topped with a crunchy homemade pearl sugar, a chouquette topped with chocolate chunks, a cinnamon sugar dusted version, and my personal favorite: a green tea chouquette topped with black sesame.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 eggs

Toppings:

  • Cinnamon sugar (about 1/4 cup should work)
  • Pearl sugar – you can make this by mixing a cup of sugar with a teaspoon of water and then pressing it into a heated saucepan. Leave it to cook on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring and re-pressing a couple times while waiting. It will harden into lumps as it cools.
  • Green tea icing: 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons water, 1 teaspoon matcha powder
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Dark chocolate chunks

Step 1: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt the butter in a pot with the water until it is entirely liquified. Bring the butter/water mixture to a boil.

Step 2: Add the flour, nutmeg and salt. Stir until the mix forms into a lump. Keep the pot on the heat and stir the dough vigorously for a minute to evaporate any excess water. You want to create a very thick paste.

Step 3: Remove the pot from the heat. Stir the dough vigorously for a few minutes to help cool the dough down. You want it to be cool enough that you can touch it and not be burned. (If it is too hot or your arm gets tired, you can let it sit for a few minutes to cool off.)

Step 4: Add the eggs one at a time. The dough will become lumpy at first, so you will not want to add all the eggs at once. Beat the egg into the paste until it becomes homogenous before adding the next. When all of the eggs are mixed in, transfer the batter to a plastic bag. (You can easily do this by inserting the bag into a mug, and inverting the mouth of the bag over the rim of the cup.)

Step 5: Cut a centimeter sized opening into the corner of your plastic bag – this will be a makeshift pastry bag. Pipe 1 inch-sized mounds onto the sheet, leaving an inch of space between each. Using a dampened finger, lightly tap on the top of the batter to even out any pointed tips. For those making the sugar or chocolate versions, press the sugar or chocolate chunks into the tops of the dough. Bake for 15 minutes.

Step 6: For those making the cinnamon sugar version, while the pastry is fresh out of the oven and steaming hot, dump the pastry puffs into a bag filled with cinnamon sugar. Close it, and shake to coat evenly. For those making the green tea version, mix the powdered sugar, matcha and water until you have a thick paste. Dip the tops of the pastry into the icing and then top with black sesame seeds.

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Chocolate raspberry tart with almond filling

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Here is the first post in my French food series! A few months ago, I returned to Paris to visit my host family and see my old haunts. While there, I had a few posts that showed you what I visited and ate. (Which you can see here, here and here.) I also hinted to launching a French food series where I show you how to make my take on French food. This will be my first post on the topic.

After landing in France, one of the first things I ate was an almond pear tart. These tarts are commonly found in neighborhood bakeries and are one of the more approachable French desserts that someone could make. (Though, if I am completely honest, any French dessert will be a bit tedious in order for it to be pretty and pristine.)

For this recipe, I wanted to use fresh raspberries and dark chocolate to give the otherwise light tart a deeper flavor. Here, I mix melted dark chocolate in the batter to give the almond filling a gooey, creamy texture.

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Ingredients

Crust

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (just so I can pretend this is slightly healthy – but it also gives good texture)
  • 2 tbs cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup cold butter, cut into centimeter-sized cubes
  • 1/8 cup cold water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Filling

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 3 tbs dark chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs orange liqueur
  • pinch salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Step1: We will start with the crust. Mix all of the crust’s dry ingredients in a bowl, and then massage the butter into the flour with your fingers. It will become mealy, almost like wet sand. Slowly incorporate the cold water into the dough until it comes together. (If by any chance you choose to use an entirely all-purpose flour crust, you will need to double the amount of water.) Knead the dough ball a few times to ensure everything is well mixed, and then shape it into a flattened rectangle. (If you make a round tart, keep the circle shape) Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Step 2: When the dough is fully cooled ( you do this to re-solidify the butter and make the dough easy to roll), roll the dough into a thin sheet big enough to fill your tart pan. In the end, my dough was about half a centimeter thick. Press the dough into a greased tart pan and then prick the bottom of the dough with a fork to prevent air pockets. Cover the dough with parchment paper or foil, and then fill the tart with dry beans. This will ensure the crust stays flat and even.

Step 3: Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or until the edges have hardened and slightly shrunk away from the pan. Remove the beans and foil, and return the crust back to the oven to brown the surface of the bottom of the crust. This will be another 5 minutes.

Step 4: While the crust is baking, make the filling. Heat the butter in a saucepan on high and cook it until it browns slightly. Then add the chocolate into the hot butter to melt. Mix until homogenous. Mix in the almond flour, sugar, vanilla, liqueur and salt. When fully combined, and the mix is not overly hot, add the eggs. Stir to combine.

Step 5: Pull the tart shell from the oven, and reduce the oven’s temperature to 375. Pour the almond mixture into the shell and then press the raspberries into the filling. Return the tart to the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes. When done, the top of the almond filling should look similar to the top of a brownie, and it should not jiggle when agitated. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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No-churn pumpkin pie ice cream

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Finally, it’s fall! Even if it doesn’t feel like it here in Texas. To cope with the remaining heat until the weather catches up with the season change, I have created an easy pumpkin pie ice cream recipe that will hold you over. Sweet, creamy, spicy and salty; this recipe incorporates a graham cracker crust into the pumpkin base to add some texture.

Also, this ice cream is a no-churn recipe, so anyone could make it at home without hassle. In a rush? You can simplify this recipe even more – I have included some alternate steps to shorten the process.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups whipped cream, whipped into stiff peaks
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice (or 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp each of ground nutmeg and ground cloves)
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (or 4 whole graham crackers broken into bite-sized chunks if you follow the alternate steps)
  • 3 tbs melted butter
  • 1 tbs sugar (for the crust)

Step 1: If you choose to make the accelerated recipe, skip this step. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a bowl. Pour and press the mix into a greased baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until the mix solidifies. It will still be soft, but should hold together. Once it is cooled down, break the crust into small chunks.

Step 2: Fill a large saucepan with about 2-3 inches of water. Heat it on high until it is boiling. In a separate heat-safe bowl, mix the egg yolks, cup of sugar and spices. Whip the egg mix with a whisk until frothy. Stir in the pumpkin purée. Place the bowl over the boiling pan – you are going to use the steam to gently cook the egg mixture. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. After cooking, rest the bowl in an ice bath to cool down.

Step 3: Take the bowl of whipped cream, cooked egg mixture, molasses and graham cracker crust (or graham cracker chunks if you skipped the first step). Fold together the ice cream base in long, gentle swoops until the mixture is homogenous. Pour it into a container and freeze overnight.

*If the mixture is hard after initially taking it out of the freezer, let it sit out for 10 minutes, and use an ice cream scoop heated in boiling water.

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Crispy chive pancakes

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Here is the chive pancake recipe I hinted to last time! Like I said in my last France post, I will launch a series of French inspired recipes, so I know this Asian-inspired post may come as a surprise. However, when I got home, I was a bit tired of all the French food I had enjoyed while traveling. So, my next few posts will not touch on that French-themed series at all.

In fact, after this, I have a pumpkin pie ice cream post already shot for you, followed by a sweet potato mochi recipe.

That being said, I am currently developing recipes for the French food series, so if there is anything I should try out, tell me and leave a comment below!

As for today’s post, this is a great appetizer or snack that comes together in about 30 minutes. Subtle in flavor, this recipe takes traditional asian ingredients and creates a crispy pancake that satisfies any junk food cravings.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp roasted sesame seeds
  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh chive
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (for cooking)

Step 1: Mix all above ingredients until you achieve a uniform ball. Separate the ball into 4 – 6 pieces. (You can make them bigger or smaller depending on your preference) Roll the individual pieces into balls.

Step 2: Take two sheets of wax paper, and put one of the dough balls in between. Using a rolling pin, or a long cup if you do not have one on hand, roll the ball into a thin disc. You want it to be about 1/3 of a centimeter thick. Repeat the process for each of the pancakes. Set the pancake aside, and use extra wax paper in between the pancakes to keep the dough from sticking as you roll the rest of the recipe.

Step 3: Heat up a tablespoon or two of cooking oil in a pan. Use a paper towel to evenly distribute the oil in a thin layer. Add a bit more oil to the pan to make up for what may have been absorbed. The key to crisping up the dough in this recipe is not holding back on the cooking oil here. When the oil is well heated, you can throw a little clump of dough in the pan to see if it sizzles to check this, place the disk in the pan. Be careful to not tear the dough when you separate it from the wax paper.

Step 4: Let the pancake cook off on one side, let the bottom crisp up and turn a spotted golden brown. The dough may puff up a little. When the bottom is done, flip over and repeat the process for the other side. Repeat for the rest of the pancakes.

Step 5: Enjoy! This dish is good with a side of soy/vinegar sauce.

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30 minute Kheer, an easy summer refresher

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So I will start this post off with the fact that Texas is at it’s peak heat (at least in my opinion). Now, it’s pretty well known that Texas is hot in the summer. However, now we are hitting triple digit temperatures.

To combat that, I plan on using this recipe that I developed. Kheer – or Indian rice pudding, is an easy, cheap and utterly refreshing dessert. Unlike traditional puddings, kheer is on the liquidy side, so it leaves you feeling cooled when you are done eating it. Also, one of the key ingredients of this pudding is cardamom. A sweet and citrusy spice, cardamom lends this dessert an exotic kick that blends perfectly with the milk. Just to add a little texture, I mixed in some sliced almonds to cut through the soft, almost mushy rice.

On one last note, in this recipe, I used a special type of rice that has already been pressed and flattened into a thin flake. You can use any type of rice for this, but in my case I had this on hand and thought it would break down nicely in this dish.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup flattened rice, or 1/4 cup of any other type of rice
  • 1/4 cup sugar, you can add more if you wish after this dessert is chilled
  • 1 tbs ground cardamom powder (Try to find this at a Indian grocery store as this spice can be heavily overpriced in non-specialty stores.)
  • A few tbs to taste of sliced almonds or crushed pistachios

Step 1: Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil while constantly stirring. It is essential to keep the milk moving over the heat or the fat in the liquid will burn.

Step 2: When the milk is at a heavy boil, reduce the heat to medium, stirring occasionally. Cook 15 to 20 minutes until the rice is fully cooked and starting to fall apart. You want the rice to be pretty soft and mushy as that will help thicken the milk slightly.

Step 3: When the kheer is fully cooked and has a texture similar to thin oatmeal, pull the pan from the heat. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Then, store the kheer in the fridge to cool fully. You want this ice cold.

Step 4: Serve with more nuts sprinkled on top.

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Apple tart with oil based, vegan crust

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I’m back guys! Sorry for the minor delay. In this post, I am going to show you guys a simple, but beautiful apple tart that uses an oil-based crust.

I made this tart with the idea that it would be similar to a French alternative, the tarte aux pommes. In the French version, there is a layer of apple compote that glues the apple slices to the crust. However I didn’t like how mushy it could be. So I mixed the French and American style pies to make this result. Similar in appearance to a tarte aux pommes, this recipe has the texture of traditional apple pie. Crunchy, chewy and juicy, this is a pretty dessert to make if you have a few spare apples on hand.

Also, in case you guys have never used an oil-based crust, it is very similar to the traditional alternative. Only this one is more on the crumbly side. If you want an easier crust recipe – this is a good option since you just press it into the mold. (Original crust recipe from King Arthur flour.)

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I threw a little whole wheat flour in too)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 to 4 tbs water

Filling

3-4 apples, sliced thinly with the skin on (the skin helps give visual interest/texture)
3 tbs sugar
2 tbs butter, cubed (optional)
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Glaze

1 tbs orange marmalade or apricot preserves
1 tsp lemon juice, orange liqeur or water

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Mix all of the crust ingredients in a large bowl until you achieve a large ball. Press into an ungreased pie dish or tart pan. Prick the bottom of the pan with a fork to create vent holes.

Step 2: Mix the sugar, apple slices and cinnamon in a bowl. The apple slices should be a couple millimeters thick. Layer them in a flat, even spiral around the base of the tart pan. Place a few cubes of butter on top of the apple slices. Bake around 40 minutes until the crust is flakey and the apples start to shrivel up and soften. If the crust browns too fast, cover it with a layer of foil.

Step 3: When the tart is fresh out of the oven, rest it on a cooling rack. While it is cooling, microwave the orange marmalade so it liquifies, then add the juice/liqueur/water to thin it out. Using a pastry brush, dab the marmalade mixture over the surface of the apples. This will keep the tart from drying out.

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