chocolate

Foodstyling : chocolate + mint green + peach + I'm sorry Mum

I don't know about you but I LOVE the colour combo of mint green and peach. Maybe I've been looking at too many pins on Pinterest, but really, it goes much deeper than that.

When I was 12, my parents decided to sell the house I grew up in and build a new one. I was crushed - so much so that the night before we moved, I can remember crying in the top bunk of the bunk bed I shared with my sister - 'I don't want to go', I kept moaning through my tears.

But you see, it didn't matter what I wanted. That's a pretty hard lesson to learn but it's a good one.

Sometimes it just doesn't matter what you want.

The next day, the trucks came and our life was packed into trucks, to be driven across town, to a beautiful, brand new house that was EASILY twice the size of our old one. We had a huge backyard, a gorgeous brand new bright and airy kitchen and I GOT MY OWN ROOM. 

That last part was heavenly for me. My very own room to decorate any way I liked. And I did. I plastered my walls with headshots of New Kids On The Block, Brutus the Barber Beefcake (weird, I know) and baby animals. I rocked out at night, with the door shut, dancing along to the Top 9 at 9 on 680 CHNS. My parents pretty much left me to it because they had their own stuff on the go. My dad was constantly doing stuff around the house and my mum had discovered interior decorating

That's where the mint green and peach come in.

My Mum fell in LOVE with this colour combo. For our new house she chose carpet that was peach-toned, had custom peach curtains made, and bought lamps, table covers, furniture and cushions in various shades of peach/mint green/aqua.

I thought it was disgusting.

'Ugh, Mum, THAT IS SO UGLY!'.

Looking back, I see that my Mum was actually a pretty stylish lady with really good taste. And who was I to judge with my Joey McIntyre wallpaper?!?

So when James (www.jivephotographic.com) and I talked about doing a stylized stills shoot, I came up with the concept of 'the winning cake at a county fair' in my Mum's (still) favourite colours. I used my beautiful green jadeite cake stand as a starting point. I scouted for pretty peach fabrics, made the little flag banner in the background out of mint green cardstock (hung on clear fishing line), and chose peach carnations to accompany the cake (I love carnations! They're so ruffly and pretty, plus, they're relatively inexpensive and they last forever as long as you change the water).

I doubled the classic Hershey's Chocolate Cake recipe, which is my absolute go to. It's easy to make, is super chocolatey and stays moist for days. I used three layers for the cake and gave the fourth layer to friends topped with some extra frosting. For the frosting, I made Nanny Burke's Buttercream and added 1/4C cocoa powder. I swirled the frosting on the top of the cake into a spiral by resting my frosting spreader lightly in the middle top and spinning my revolving cake stand in one direction until the frosting spreader reached the outside perimeter. Then I used my spreader to expose the layers around the sides of the cake. I love how when I actually cut the cake, the light and dark layers of the cake alongside the slice look like a negative. James shot the cake with one continuous light, a diffuser and some white reflectors and then captured it on his digital Hasselblad. I honestly think with his skill and that Hasselblad, James could make a pile of cow turd look good.

We do a lot of work for clients but sometimes, you just need to shoot for fun, for yourself, to be creative, and to say, 'Mum, I'm sorry I made fun of you. You were right all along'.

photography : James Ingram  ---  food / prop styling : Kelly Neil

Monthly Miettes : Tomboy Cake

My friend Aimee over at Food Je t'Aimee came up with nifty idea to start a monthly baking challenge using the lovely Miette bakebook by Meg Ray. Aimme says, 'The book, in a word, is darling. The pages, scalloped and glossy. The photos, stunning. The recipes, challenging, but enticing. The instant I laid my eyes on it, I knew I had to try and create beautiful cakes like the ones in Miette.'

Aimee writes, 'Having signed up for so many blogging events out there last fall, I decided it was high time that I begun my own. So I wrote to Meg and told her about my idea for a blogging challenge called Monthly Miettes. She wrote back saying that she dug the idea. I was elated! I wanted it to be easy to participate - the recipes themselves are challenging enough and Lord knows I don't have much time these days! - so the rules are quite straightforward. Buy the book. Make one cake per month along with me and then post about it. Link back to this post. Let me know you've posted by leaving me a comment, and I'll do a round up the following month. That's it!'

Aimee also writes, 'For the first month, I've chosen the cover recipe: Tomboy Cake. You have from now until March 25th, 2012 to submit your post. Wait - there's one more rule! When you make your cake, you must, must eat a slice for breakfast, along with a steaming mug of coffee (or whatever it is you drink to wake up!).' 

Mmmmmm... cake for breakfast. I'm in!!

From Miette.com - The Tomboy gets its name from the unfinished, but decidedly feminine, way that we decorate this cake. It starts with our double-chocolate cake and is layered with vanilla buttercream. Our buttercream is made the European way, starting with Italian meringue and adding pure Straus butter. The result is luxuriously smooth and not too sweet. The cake and frosting together are perfectly balanced and proportioned.

The cake was delicious - moist and super chocolatey. The Italian Meringue Buttercream was actually pretty easy to make and was lightly decadent however, the book is not well-edited and so confusing that I'm not sure how anxious I am to try another recipe.

For example, the recipe for Vanilla Buttercream has major continuity issues. A small paper insert is included inside the book that note's the corrections to be made which would be fine and dandy if the information on the card was correct. In one section you are told to heat the simple syrup for the buttercream to 248 degrees yet in another section it reads 238 degrees. That's a huge discrepancy when you are talking about stages of cooked sugar. Since the recipe calls for 6 sticks of butter I wanted to do some research before I possibly wasted good ingredients. I landed on this awesome video by CakeLove's Warren Brown to clarify how to correctly make the buttercream and it turned out beautifully.

The recipe for the Double Chocolate Cake was clear and straightforward. One of the steps involves straining the incredibly lumpy batter through a fine to medium mesh sieve. This took about 20 minutes and was, quite frankly, a pain in the ass, however, i feel it was worth it because the cake batter had the consistency of a silky chocolate pudding and baked into an incredibly moist and supple cake. The recipe is portioned to bake two six-inch round cakes, each cut into three layers. I couldn't find six-inch cake pans, so I used two eight-inch cake pans, cut each in half and made one four-layer cake.

One tip from the recipe that I thought was really great is to dust the inside of your greased cake pans with cocoa instead of flour - no white residue left on the outside of the baked cakes!

Despite the inconsistencies in the Buttercream recipe, I will most likely participate in next month's Miettes - everyone that tried this cake loved it and that really is the main thing isn't it?

Brown Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don't love chocolate. There. I said it. BUT - my friend Padde makes THE BEST chocolate chip cookies so I asked for his recipe (I'll be honest - I wasn't sure he would actually give it to me). You see, I believe, whether you love chocolate or not, you still need a wicked chocolate chip cookie recipe in your repertoire!! It turns out he uses the Magna Carta of chocolate chip cookie recipes - the almighty Nestle Tollhouse. He even stocks up on Tollhouse chocolate chips when he's in the States because you can't buy them here (that, my friends, is dedication). Now, if you're new to my blog then you probably don't know this about me but I LOVE a challenge, expecially when it involves taking a classic and much-loved recipe and messing with it to make something new.

Brown Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

1.5 C all-purpose flour

3/4 C cake flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp kosher salt

1 C butter

0.5 C minus 2 Tbsp white sugar

1 C dark brown sugar, packed tight

3 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

1 package (225 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 C nuts or Skor bits (optional)

Sea salt for sprinkling

  • Place the butter in a pan - melt on LOW until browned - will take about 10-15 minutes 

 

 

I recommend using a silver coloured pan so you can see when the butter has turned brown. The butter will melt slowly - then it will get foamy, bubbly and loud - it will even spit at you - but it's not quite ready yet!! Be patient because it will quiet down again. Soon after this it will start to develop golden patches of foam - swirl it around so you can see the golden brown transformation underneath - stick your nose over the pan and breathe in - is it a deep caramel brown colour? does it smell like toasted nutty goodness? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then you're good to go. Take the butter off the heat and cool 20 minutes.

While the butter is cooling -

  • Whisk all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking soda, baking powder and kosher salt in a large bowl to mix - set aside
  • Measure white sugar, dark brown sugar (pack as much as you can into your measuring cup!!), and vanilla into the bowl of your stand mixer - add cooled brown butter and beat on speed 6 for 2 minutes

  • add an egg - beat one minute - add the other egg - beat one minute
  • turn mixer to low speed or even speed 2 - add flour mixture gradually until mixed well - when all flour mixture is in, scrape down sides of bowl and beat on speed 4 or 6 for one minute
  • add your chips (I used 75% Tanzanian chocolate that I was given as a gift - I just weighed out 225g on my kitchen scale) and mix them in by hand

  • put your mixing bowl in the fridge for 45 minutes to an hour to firm up the dough
  • roll the dough into balls a little smaller than a golf ball - you should get about 36 balls (depends on how much dough you eat) - put the balls back in the fridge to chill for 2-4 hours
  • When the balls are chilled, preheat the oven to 375 - line a cookie sheet with parchment - when the oven is ready, take 12 chilled balls out of the fridge and space them out on the cookie sheet - sprinkle them liberally with sea salt and bake for 11-12 minutes - cool them on the sheet 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack (If you're using the same cookie sheet to bake the second batch, make sure it is COOL before you put the new balls on)
  • eat one - eat another - then another - try to stop yourself - consider sharing (this may be impossible)

 

Ode to Baskin Robbins

As teenagers, my sister Cindy and I loved going to Mic Mac Mall - but not for the reasons you may think. Yes the mall was a haven of clothing, make-up and boys, but what we truly went for was Baskin Robbins' Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream. Decadent chocolate ice cream laden with ribbons of smooth, creamy REAL peanut butter - it was SO DELICIOUS!! However, they say all good things must come to an end - the shop closed suddenly and our favourite ice cream was gone.

Over the last 15 years, if you were to ask Cindy or I what we thought was the best ice cream flavour of all time, I KNOW we both would have given the same answer even though it had been years since that pure bliss had passed our lips. Enter the glorious hunk of grey metal sitting next to our tree this past Christmas, otherwise known as the Kitchenaid 600 series Professional Mixer.

Somewhat intimidated by the Kitchenaid, Sean and I didn't really start to use it until a couple of weeks ago. Our love affair began with the 3-pack of pasta roller attachments. Next came the food grinder, and finally, the crowning glory - the ice cream maker attachment!! When I brought it home last week and set it on the kitchen table Sean and I spent a few moments staring at it with quiet reverence.

The main jist of this recipe came from the Dinner and Dessert blog - they have credited David Lebovitz's book 'The Perfect Scoop' for their version.

It begins so simply, as most good things do. Cream, sugar, cocoa and salt.

Baskin Robbin's-Style Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

2 Cups Heavy Cream

1/2 Cup Sugar

1/4 Cup Cocoa

pinch of Salt

1/2 Cup Smooth Peanut Butter

1-2 Tbsp Icing Sugar

~ Whisk cream, coca, sugar and salt in a saucepan to a full roiling boil (should be foamy) - chill

~ mix PB and icing sugar together (adjust amount of icing sugar to taste - I used 2 Tbsp)

~ Churn chocolate batter in an ice cream maker

~ In a container, layer churned batter with dollops of PB - freeze

~ Eat!!

Baskin Robbins has officially made a comeback - well, in MY house anyway. I think I had better tell my sister...