Saturday, October 30, 2010

Foray into morocco!

We've been regulars at Kous Kous Moroccan Bistro for a few years now, we love the delicious slow braised meats, and I love the tender shrimp brioche and the tasty harissa soup.
I've been on at Moumen for ages to try and expand his dessert menu, and it ended up culminating in me offering to help out with a chocolate dessert.

So here is my flourless ginger chocolate cake with a white chocolate cardamom sauce to accompany it.
Feel free to stop by and give it a try!
Kous Kous Moroccan Bistro
3940 4th Ave #110
San Diego

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gingerbread Pumpkin Muffins

I wanted to share this recipe despite my crummy picture on a gloomy day. These muffins were extremely satisfying yet very healthy. The lack of butter was made up for by pumpkin, lots of spices, molasses and dried fruit. I added in some pecans for a nutty crunch, and subbed some wholemeal flour for a healthier profile.

As you may see, there is an unusual off white countertop, yes, I've finally moved into the new house, and the kitchen is truly wonderful. It deserves its own post soon, once I have it shipshape, suffice to say, I'm delighted!

These muffins perfectly fit the fall drizzle and gloomy weather we've been having lately, and the ginger will give a kick to remind you of the tropics. You could even serve with a cider and caramel sauce or a bit of custard to serve as dessert. If you cant be bothered with measuring all those spices, 3 tsp of pumpkin pie spice could be substituted for most of them, add pepper and ginger though!

Ginger Pumpkin Muffins (recipe adapted from Cooking Light Magazine).
Makes 18 muffins
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
3 tbsps chopped candied ginger (adjust to taste)
2 tablespoons (or a litle more!) dark rum

1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground pepper

1 cup canned pumpkin
2/3 cup low fat buttermilk
4 tablespoons/2 oz butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350f or 325 convection

Combine the dried fruit and rum and soak for at least 30 minutes

Whisk together the eggs, sugar and molasses, keep whisking for a few minutes. Meanwhile, sieve together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Combine the pumpkin, buttermilk and melted butter. Add the flour and the buttermilk mixture in portions, alternating between the two, mix just until combined. Stir in the pecans and the soak fruit. Scoop into cupcake cases and bake for around 18-22 minutes(5 mins less for convection). Check with a toothpick after 15 minutes and if it comes out clean they are done!

Serve warm with caramel sauce or custard as dessert or eat for breakfast with a cup of tea!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Brummie Wedding Cake!

What a crazy and fun experience it was making and decorating a cake for my friend in my home country! It was a considerable risk, since I dont know the ingredients, wasnt exactly sure of the location that I would be working in, and I had serious doubts about my ability to pull it off.

Thankfully it all turned out well, my lovely patient long suffering Mum was my sous chef, she also found me a huge and wonderful kitchen, with tons of space, great ovens, a giant
mixer, and a very helpful manager who found us whatever we
We were actually working in the Masonic Lodge's kitchen. I dont know much about what goes on but I do know that they love their meat! The chef was preparing masses of devilled kidneys for a function the following day, and they also made some heavenly smelling steak and kidney pies. I guess that funny handshaking needs a lot of protein for fortification!

Mum was completely amazed by the amount of ingredients we needed as I swept a whole shelf of chocolate from the display at Asda. I normally use callebut chocolate but didnt come across any, so I used a combination of cadbury and green and blacks chocolate with a little galaxy mixed in there.

We got to work on the first day, baked all the cakes in sheets, wrapped them up and then prepared the ganaches. I made a mixture of white and milk chocolate ganaches. These were an excellent complement to a dark mud cake(the bottom tier) and a solid chocolate cake(the top two cakes). We also had to make gallons of chocolate ganache to use as a covering. I'd decided this was going to be the most elegant presentation, and I didnt want to work with new fondant, or worry about buttercream melting.

The next day we came back and cut the cakes to size, then stacked four layers of cake filled with three layers of filling. I carefully measured the cake to ensure it was completely straight, then cut to eliminate any high spots. This is extremely important to produce a neat uniform cake, with a square there are more angles to compare, so just a little bit of a wrong angle looks terrible.

I then crumb coated each cake with a layer of ganache. It was so cold that day that I needed to work very quickly, the ganache started setting almost as soon as I started working! I followed that with another two layers to try and get a smooth finish. This was the trickiest part. I used a bench scraper to get a nice clean line, not as clean as I'd have liked, since the ganache kept setting so quickly, but I had to remember the famous quote 'dont let the perfect be the enemy of the good' which is turning into my mantra.
I stacked all the cakes with plenty of support, then added a fondant ribbon. We heaved a heavy sigh of relief once the behemoth was in the fridge, and went home for a much needed rest!
There were plenty of offcuts of cake left, so I took some home with the chocolate ganache around to my friend's house for dessert and I could tell we'd made a good cake when complete silcence descended upon us until we'd cleared our plates!

The wedding was at the beautiful Highbury Hall, somewhere I'd probably been past a million times but never set foot in! We set the cake up on a dramatic pewter stand and it started to really take shape.

I added the characters and some flowers and it looked great, if a little odd! I'd made all the requested characters, robot, monkey, dinosaur, giraffe, cat and some ninjas, and I decided it would be fun to have two of them as the couple, so added a bow tie to the robot and a little veil to the giraffe.

I also took the other side of the cake as a different perspective and added some sugar flowers that I'd copied from some very blurry pictures of the brides dress.

Everyone was extremely excited by the cake, and it was really fun being able to be a part of my dear friend's day. I did have a little worry, the cake was placed in front of a giant radiator, and I think the insides were a little melty by the time it was served. Thankfully the ganache stood up well to the heat, I dont think buttercream would have survived.

I took the remainder of the ganache and diluted it with cream to make a delicious pouring sauce.

As always with these kind of events, I'll raise a glass (or a cup of tea) to the happy couple, Em and Daz. They were just glowing that day, and I'm so glad that they've found each other, they complement each other perfectly.

The speeches were wonderful, there was so much love in the room for them and support for their union it was really touching. As they return from their honeymoon, I hope they will look back on their day with as much happiness as I do.