Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Easter Chocolate Egg Cookies

In previous posts , I shared with you my love for decorated cookies.  It became a hobby of mine since I discovered the wonderful work of experts in the field who generously share their work online.  

The downside of cookies decoration is the time it takes to finish just one, let alone a batch. That's why, I mostly do cookies like that during special occasions and holidays when I have more time on my hands. 

There are hundreds of cookie dough recipes out there and I personally experimented with several of them. For this special holiday, which is Easter, I worked on different recipes, but I will share with you in this post the chocolate sugar cookie.
 The motives I used for the decoration are inspired by Easter and spring, two occasions that celebrate birth and rejuvenation. I often get ideas from a wonderful and inspirational blogger: Amber Spiegel. I recommend that you check out her work.

For the cookie dough you need (you can get many cookies from this amount, depending on the shape):
  • 1 small egg (room temperature)
  • 220 g flour
  • 60 g cocoa powder
  • 70 brown sugar cane (ground the sugar, I use the coffee grinder to do so)
  • 120 g soft unsalted butter 
  • 10 g hazelnut praliné paste (optional)
  • 1tsp zest of orange
  • the seeds of one vanilla pod
  • dash of salt

First sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt and set aside. With a paddle attachement (if you don´t have one use whisks) beat the butter for a minute, add the sugar and the praliné paste (if you used it), the orange zest and the vanilla seeds and also beat for 2 or 3 min until combined. Add the egg and beat again for just a few minutes.
Add the flour mixture, and mix just a little bit and stop even if not all the flour is combined. Drop the dough over a clean working surface and gently knead it for few minutes.

Form your well combined dough into a 2 cm thick rectangle  and wrap it with plastic film or put in a ziplock bag and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours or over night.

Divide your dough in 2, keep one half in the fridge and roll the other into 6 mm (1/4 of an inch) thick layer. I use an adjustable rolling pin to get an even surface!

If your dough maintained its coldness you can start cutting the shapes, if not place the dough again in the fridge for about an hour.
After cutting the shapes, again you need to place the baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, and the cookies into the fridge for about 15 min.

Bake your cookies in a pre-heated oven at 180 C, for about 10 to 15 min. The baking time will depend on the size of the cookies.
Keeping  your dough chilled while working with it and before baking will make sure you have a neat and even surface with no air bubbles and the cookies will not expand or loose their shape during baking.

I decorated the cookies with royal icing using several techniques. Though the decoration  I made is a bit time consuming, you can use much simpler patterns and decorate to your liking. Even without decoration, the cookies taste great.

At the end, I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter, hoping that  you will try out this recipe to add more fun to your holiday.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spicy chocolate soufflé with orange caramel sauce!

Soufflé, another creation of the French cuisine, the word means puffed-up, both savoury and sweet versions of soufflé go back to the 18 century.

I think many feel that soufflés are very hard to make, however, it is not true. Their preparation is technical and requires being exact with your measurements but the process is relatively straightforward and the rewards is worth while. 

One of my favorites is chocolate soufflé, which is the recipe I´m sharing today, but will be making other recipes, savory and sweet.

Chocolate is a wonderful ingredient, it is so versatile that you can even find it in savory recipes. Each and everyone of us loves chocolate one way or another, whether it is bitter, semi-sweet, white, with fruits, with nuts, with spices...the choices are endless. 

One of may favorite pairings with chocolate is both sweet, fruity and spicy. In fact, I love the combination of chocolate with chillies and oranges. This recipe combines all these flavors in a wonderful way.

For the soufflé you need: (enough for 4 tall ramequins or 5 short ones, mine are 7 x 7 cm)
  • 75 g dark chocolate (55%)
  • 10 g  corn starch
  • teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 50 g vanilla infused sugar (or normal sugar)
  • 1 tsp coffee liquer or vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs separated while cold then brought to room temperature
  • 100 ml of milk
  • 10 g unsalted butter
  • Red chili pepper (1 or 2)
  • 1 tsp zest of orange

The first thing you want to do is to prepare your ramequins. With a soft brush coat the ramequins with softened butter brushing the sides starting from the bottom to reach the top. Coat the brushed ramequins with sugar, making sure the sugar adheres well to all the sides of the ramequins. The ramequins should be placed in the fridge while you go through the remaining steps of the recipe.
Combine the flour and cocoa powder, add the milk and mix. Heat the mixture on a gentle flame, add half the sugar and mix well, in few minutes you will have a smooth silky and thick mixture.
When you reach this texture add the butter, chopped chocolate, the orange zest and the fine chopped chile, mix well add the egg yolks and whish vigorously, last add the liquer. Leave it to cool a bit.

The base of the soufflé is now ready, you need to prepare the ingredient that will give it the lightness and allow it to rise while baking: the egg whites. To do so, add a pinch of salt to the eggs whites and start slowly to beat them, when they become foamy, slowly increase the speed while you sprinkle the sugar, beat until soft peaks form, don´t over-mix, you don´t want to have firm peaks. The soft peaks will allow the trapped airbubbles to expand more  in the oven!

Now you need to combine the whites to the base. The first step requires that you lighten the base with some of the egg whites and mix until well combined. Then gently fold the remaining egg whites. Be careful when you fold the whites into the lightened base mix, as you don't want to be aggressive and lose the fluffy and aerated texture you worked hard to achieve.
You want your egg whites to form a beak or a hook!

Now you just need to fill the ramequin. You can fill them to the top or  just leave 2 or 3 cm empty, and bake in a preheated oven (180C) for 15 to 20 min until the top is no longer shiny.

You can serve the shoufflé as it is with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and whipped cream. I made orange caramel sauce to go with it: zesty tangy caramel to complement the spicy and intense chocolate flavor, just something to die for!

For the sauce you need:
  • 70 g orange juice
  • The zest of half an orange or the skin cut into julienne
  • 30 g sugar

In a pan put the sugar and on a low heat let it caramelize, it will take about 5 min, when the sugar has dissolved and gained an amber color it is the time to add the orange followed by the zest. Let it simmer for just few minutes and you're done!

You want to serve these as soon as you take them out of the oven, in 5 minutes they will start collapsing, but they will taste great also when just warm or even cold!

I hope you try this soufflé recipe and I am sure you will enjoy it just as much as I did. This is a great recipe for a dinner with friends, especially if you want to impress them with your culinary skills.
Another great news is thatyou can freeze the soufflé, I made a try and you just need to take the ramequins out from the freezer, 4 to 5 hours before baking them, and you´ll get perfect results!!!