Melt-In-Your-Mouth Easy Chocolate Terrine

terrineI hope that your Thanksgiving was a meaningful holiday experience! This year, rather than braving the airport rush to get home to our families, we chose to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with some of our Dallas closest friends. As it was a chocolate-loving crowd with gluten-free eaters, and considering I have already baked my quota of holiday pies for the decade, I chose to make something extremely different: a no-bake, decadent chocolate terrine.
This recipe had just 3 ingredients, dirtied a minimal number of bowls, and gave the appearance that I had spent all day in the kitchen crafting it. Plus, it’s gluten free and dairy free. Don’t tell, but it took me about 30 minutes from start to finish, including pasteurizing the eggs. Continue reading


Honey Ricotta Wrap with Fresh Fruit

I love this time of year. Well, the sudden availability of fresh and local summer fruits and veggies, not the oppressive TX heat. Just to be clear.

A few springs ago my husband and I visited his Aunt Sylvia, who made us some fabulous breakfast “burros”: comforting and warm overstuffed wraps filled with fresh sautéed veggies and maybe some eggs and cheese. Since then I have been hooked on tortilla-filled creations, usually with savory fillings. However, this morning I managed to wrangle a sizable amount of blackberries from the critters that like to share my garden’s efforts and decided to shape a filling combination around these juicy tart fruits.

Blackberry BowlThe Honey Ricotta Wraps were extremely quick and easy to assemble. After warming a whole wheat tortilla, I spread on some local whipped honey from the farmer’s market, followed by several sizable dollops of homemade ricotta cheese (for a creamier and even richer texture, whip it with a beater first). Then I added some sliced blackberries and peaches and topped it all with barely a pinch of sea salt to contrast some of the overall sweetness. You could use any type of fresh fruit in this wrap. I bet mangoes, strawberries, and bananas would be delicious. The finished wrap was warm and comforting, and very light but substantial enough for a meal.

I hope you enjoy!

Yellow Cake with Raspberry Lemon Curd and Almond Buttercream


Photo © 2012, Chandra Brooks Photography

When I think of spring, I think of fresh berries and citrus fruits. So what better way to celebrate a friend’s April birthday than with a spring-inspired cake?

full viewThis from-scratch yellow cake is filled with tangy raspberry lemon curd and iced with fluffy almond Swiss meringue buttercream. I topped the cake with an arrangement of fresh raspberries.

Sephardic Style Passover Menu

Sephardic Charoset

Sephardic Charoset

Happy Passover!

Last night was the first night of Passover, and my husband and I hosted several of our friends to a laid-back Seder. During the Seder we retell the story of Passover, which essentially goes something like this, in a very brief nutshell: The Hebrews migrated to Egypt during a time of famine in search of food, and when the Pharoah died, the new Pharoah enslaved them all out of fear. He ordered that all male babies be murdered, but Moses’ family ensured that he survived and eventually floated him down the river in a basket and into the arms of the Pharoah’s daughter, who raised him as her own in the palace. Moses knew he was a Hebrew, and each time he saw an enslaved fellow Hebrew maltreated he grew increasingly upset. Eventually the Lord, under the cover of the burning bush, told Moses he would be the one to stand up to the Pharoah and demand the Israelites be freed. Moses, despite vast reservations, brought his brother Aaron with him first to the Hebrews to garner their support and convince them that he had been chosen to free them, and then to stand before the Pharoah. Ten times before the Pharoah Moses demanded, “Let my people go!” Each time, the Pharoah refused, unleashing a new plague onto the Egyptian people: darkness spread over Egypt, waters turned to blood, frogs overran the land, bugs took to the fields and then locusts ate the crops, cattle became ill, hail and fire fell from the sky, Egyptians’ bodies were covered first with lice and then in boils, and eventually death of the first born, including flock animals. Except for the Israelites: They were prepared, smearing sacrificial blood over their doorposts so that the Angel of Death “passed over” their houses. This last plague convinced the Pharoah that he no longer had a choice in freeing the Israelites, and so as soon as he had declared them free the Hebrews left immediately, quickly baking their bread dough and taking very little else with them. (In their haste the bread had to be baked without fermentation, causing it to be cracker-like, and so we eat matzoh, an unleavened bread.) They made it as far as the Red Sea when they found themselves being chased by the Pharoah’s army; evidently he had changed his mind after all. The Sea miraculously parted, allowing for the Hebrews to cross while drowning the Pharoah and his army. Moses and the Israelites then found their way to the desert, where they wandered for 40 years. Eventually Moses received the 10 commandments and the people made it out of the dessert.

Passover is a holiday filled with the celebrations of freedom and springtime, while also making time to think about more global social issues: What does it mean to be free? Where does slavery still exist? What do we take for granted?

Continue reading

Amaretti Cookie-Chocolate Fudge Torte

Amaretti Fudge CakeI am a third generation newspaper and magazine recipe clipper. My grandmother has decades worth of these withered yellow gems stuffed into old cartons in spare bedrooms while my mother’s collection is shoved into kitchen drawers and old cookbooks. (Mine are in a massive folder above my cookbooks.) Despite our questionable filing system, when I needed a decadent and chocolate-y she knew just the recipe: Rich chocolate fudge baked into an amaretti cookie crust and topped with whipped cream. The recipe was originally featured in a 1989 issue of Gourmet Magazine as “Chocolate Fudge Pie,” provided by the Millbrook Inn.

Some notes on ingredients: Amaretti cookies are Italian meringue cookies made out of almond paste, or marzipan. They are small, about 2″ wide, and sold in bags in specialty grocery stores. I was feeling cheap and made my own in about the same amount of time it would have taken to go to the store, but it was not a great recipe (they came out chewy instead of dry and crispy), so once I get that sorted out I will post it as an option for this crust.

CookiesAmaretto liqueur is not a necessary ingredient; however, it will provide a nice underlying almond flavor. If you decide to omit the alcohol, replace with vanilla or coffee extract to enhance the flavor of the chocolate.

When baking with chocolate, be sure to use good-quality blocks of chocolate that you have to chop up and NOT chocolate chips. Chips have all kinds of added ingredients. You’ll get a better flavor with chocolate blocks.

A note on technique: To melt the chocolate, you can use a microwave or a double-boiler (AKA “bain marie”). I prefer the double-boiler, as there is minimal risk of burning the chocolate this way (you NEVER want to heat chocolate by itself above ~93˚F). To make your own double-boiler, you will need a small saucepan and a glass or stainless steel bowl that fits on top of the pot. Put about 1″ water in the pan, bring it to a boil, seat the bowl on top, and shut off the stove. Immediately add the chopped chocolate and walk away for about 5 minutes. Come back and stir the chocolate with a spoon or spatula. You’re using residual heat from the water to gently melt the chocolate and ensure it doesn’t burn. Just be careful — if any water from the steam below gets into the chocolate, it will seize up and be unusable. The bowl will also be hot — use mitts or a dry towel to remove it from the pot once the chocolate is melted.

Double boiler set upAnd now, without further ado, I bring you Amaretti Cookie-Chocolate Fudge Torte, adapted from the Millbrook Inn’s 1989 classic!

Torte Slice
Amaretti Cookie Crust
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ cups + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
30 amaretti cookies, finely crushed

Chocolate Fudge Torte Filling
3 ounce unsweetened chocolate
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs, room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
¼ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons Amaretto liqueur
1-3 tablespoon granulated sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)

Grated chocolate, as needed

For the crust:

1. Over a double-boiler, slowly melt the first amounts of chocolate and butter, stirring periodically with a spatula. It will look curdled at first from the butter; it will melt, and everything will mix together nicely. Once melted, remove from heat and allow to cool.
Melted Chocolate2. Line a 9″x3″ round springform cake pan with a disc of parchment.
3. In a medium bowl, mix crushed cookies, sugar, and cooled chocolate and butter mixture together until well-mixed.
4. Put some of the crust mixture into the springform pan and, using knuckles, pack the crumbs first around the corner of the pan (between the bottom and sides), then along the floor of the pan. Pack remaining crumbs around the walls of the pan, coming up about 1″ up the sides. Set aside.

Cookie CrustFor the chocolate fudge torte filling:
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
2. In a double boiler, melt the second amounts of chocolate and butter together. Allow to cool.
Double boiler 23. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whip attachment on medium speed, beat the eggs with the salt, then gradually add the second quantity of sugar. EggsScrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat the egg mixture until thick and pale. Decrease to medium-low speed. Beat in the corn syrup and scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Add the heavy cream, vanilla, amaretto, and reserved chocolate mixture, beating until blended.
Batter4. Pour the filling into the reserved crust.
Pouring Batter5. Bake torte about 45 minutes.
Panned TorteWhen done, it will barely jiggle in the center. Allow to cool. This can be done two days in advance. And don’t worry if your husband gouges a chunk out of the middle of the cake to taste it; you will hide it with whipped cream!
Baked CakeFor the whipped cream:
In the chilled bowl of the stand mixer with the whip attachment, beat the whipped cream, sugar, and amaretto on high speed until peaks can hold their shape, but not until the fat starts to separate out from the cream. Reserve in the refrigerator until ready for use.

To assemble:
1. Remove the cake from the pan: Release the hinge on the pan. Place a 10″ or 12″ cardboard cake circle over the top of the pan. Invert the pan and allow the cake and cake bottom to drop out onto the cake circle. Remove the pan bottom and the parchment paper. Center another cake circle on the bottom of the cake and flip back over so that the cake is right-side up.
2. Spread a thin layer of whipped cream over the top of the cake, being sure not to drip the whipped cream down the sides of the cake.

Iced Cake3. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings.
Finished Torte4. Optional: complete decorating with thin cookies made out of tuile paste.
5. Chill until ready to serve. Once the whipped cream is spread on the cake, it should be consumed the same day for freshness. (You can still enjoy it within the week, but the whipped cream won’t be fresh-tasting.) Serves 8-10, or more if you cut small slices. You might have to — it’s very rich!

Amarett Cookie-Chocolate Fudge Cake