Chocolate Sorbet

Hello, friends,

I can't tell you  how a simple concoction, such as this,  turns into a creamy and decadent chocolate sorbet.  I simply cannot.

Obviously,  some sort of alchemy takes place when basic ingredients, e.g.,  chocolate, water, and sugar are combined,  resulting in the ultimate chocoholic's dream.

What I can tell you is, you need to experience it for yourself. Today. And when you do, please, explain it to me. Go ahead, I'll wait . . .

Chocolate  Sorbet

1 quart water
1¼ cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (I like Medaglia D'oro)
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
10 ounces bittersweet  chocolate, chopped 
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, bring water, sugar, espresso powder, and cocoa powder to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. 

Add the chocolate,  and whisk to combine and thoroughly melt the chocolate.  Then, stir in the vanilla.  Transfer mixture to a heatproof bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Freeze in an ice cream maker, according to  manufacturer's instructions.   Makes about 2 quarts.
Adapted from La Maison du Chocolat by Robert Linxe.



Spicy Fall Pavlova

Waiting for the other (pointe) shoe to drop? 
 I promised to post this a few weeks ago on Instagram, But, due to technical difficulties, the plan managed to pirouette out of control. My apologies.

    Fall  Pavlova 

    3/4 cup granulated sugar
    1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
    1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1  teaspoon pure vanilla paste
    1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
    3/4 cup egg whites (from 5 to 6 large eggs) at room temperature
    Pinch of salt
    7-8 Fresh Figs, halved*
    1/4 cup Pomegranate seeds, optional 
    Whipped Cream

Preheat oven to 250°F with rack in middle. Draw a 9-inch circle on parchment paper as a guide. Then, turn the paper over and place into baking sheet pan

Pulse granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch in a food processor until well combined.  Combine vanilla paste and white wine vinegar in a small bowl, set aside

Beat egg whites with pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Increase speed to medium-high and add sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat for about 1 minute after each addition. After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more. Add vinegar mixture, then beat at high speed until meringue holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.

With a spatula, place meringue (using drawn circle as a guide) onto prepared pan. Or experiment, as I did.  Set aside 1-1/2 cups of meringue to create a "basket."  With an offset spatula, or bench scraper, smooth the sides of the meringue (a turntable is a Godsend here). Then, fill pastry bag with remaining meringue. Using a basket weave icing tip, a star tip, or even a round tip, pipe a basket weave design all around.  Work quickly, as meringue tends to lose volume the longer it sits.

Immediately place meringue in the oven, and bake until it feels dry to the touch, about 1 hour.  Turn oven off and prop door open with the handle of a wooden spoon. Cool meringue in the oven 1 hour. 
Meringue will sink slightly while cooling. Also, keep in mind that  meringue will spread a bit while baking, so expect to lose some of the crisp, basket weave pattern in the process.

Carefully run a long offset spatula under the meringue to release from parchment paper, then gently transfer meringue onto serving plate.

 Halve fresh figs  and toss with sugar. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to use..
 Top meringue with whipped cream, figs and pomegranate seeds  just before serving.
Please note: This dessert could also be assembled several hours in advance. Once assembled, however,  keep refrigerated.

*Caramelized pears, in lieu of fresh figs, would also be delicious.

Here are just a few Pavlovas I've made over the years...

The meringue in this flower-shaped  Pavlova was flavored with finely-grated lemon zest (recipe below),  and filled with Lemon Curd. The 'flower' was topped with fresh berries.  Flower petals were piped with a large #125 rose petal tip.

If you can pipe an upside down U (see photo below) you can recreate this pretty dessert.

Basic Meringue for Flower Pavlova

4 large egg whites, room temperature
¼  teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup superfine  sugar
½  cup confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, optional
½  teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200°F. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until mixture gets frothy. Gradually start adding the sugar. Beat for a couple of minutes after each addition. Once it forms soft peaks, add the confectioner’s sugar, lemon zest (if using) and vanilla and beat another 2-3 minutes, until stiff peaks form.

Immediately put meringue in a large pastry bag, and  pipe  the base. Then, two layers of petals.  Bake  2 hours in a preheated 200°F oven. Turn off the oven and leave meringue to dry out 1 hour longer. Store  in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for about 6 months.

If you were a member of the Gardenweb's  Cooking forum, about 10 years ago,  then you'll probably remember this pink Pavlova. I. tinted the meringue a pale pink and piped it with a large star tip in a petal shape.  My idea was to create a four-layer 'tutu,' if you will.
Full on frou frou, am I right?

And finally,  I made this little watercolor in  honor of Anna Pavlova and all my ballerina friends who chassé their way into my heart, and made it look so damn easy.


Cantaloupe Soup

Waiter, there's a fish in my soup!

This is similar to a Mimosa . . . but in a bowl.  Because even tiny goldfish need their personal space.

I recently posted this on Instagram (Yes, I'm late to the I.G. party)  and  even though the goldfish were simple to create, I thought it best to add a photo to quickly demonstrate how they were constructed, I hope the pictures help clear things up, without a lengthy, boring explanation.

Btw, I could not find any instructions regarding carving strawberries into goldfish online. So, I came up with something simple that anyone can do.

 Serve this light, fruity,  fizzy 'soup' for brunch, in a bowl, or in a fancy champagne flute, minus the fish. Either way, your friends won't mind. But it they do,  let'em go 😁

You will need a good, sharp knife and steady hands.  Whole Cloves were used for the eyes. If your strawberry 'fish' sink to the bottom, halve another strawberry and place it (flat side up) under your  goldfish for support.

Cantaloupe Soup

3 ripe cantaloupes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
one 750-milliliter bottle of dry Champagne
Fresh mint and berries, for garnish

Purée cantaloupe flesh in a blender, in batches. Add enough champagne to each batch to reach a creamy consistency. Chill well before serving.
Garnish with mint and berries. Serves 6 to 8.

Sorry this post was as fleeting as summer. I hope you're all well. 


Happy New Year, Everybody!

Well, my friends, even my horoscope warned me that 2016 would be bumpier than a ride on 'Space Mountain.' 
 Regardless, I'm looking forward to the new year, while Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" plays in my head.

It's been a while since my last gingerbread piece. This 'tree' was very simple. Made by baking gingerbread cookie dough in small brioche molds. Then, stacked and glued together with royal icing. So there's that.

Btw, have you guys set New Year's  resolutions yet?  I have, for once.

At the top of my list you'll find: "Avoid chocolate."
Wait. That should read: "Avoid CHECKLISTS." You know, because checklists are stupid, and only lead to breaking said resolutions. Phew.

Best wishes to you my friends, for a happy and healthy 2017! 💖


Frangipane Cake

While in Elementary School, Mr. Man-Pants fell in love with a lady, named 'Britney.' He spoke of her incessantly. And even professed his love for her in a quixotic, and beautifully-illustrated love letter. A letter I have treasured for many years. And now, the time has come, to share it with you, my friends, this Valentine's Day.

 Be forewarned. The innocence and cute factor will make your heart go BOOM!
Enjoy his artwork, and grammar.

Before publishing this, I asked the boy:

'Would it be okay to post your love letter to Britney?'


. . . And fare thee well, my only Love,
And fare thee well a while!

May Cupid aim in your direction this Valentine's Day. But if he misses, whate'er. There's always cake!

Frangipane Cake

This cake is delicious on its own. I gave it a light dusting of confectioner's sugar, and served it with poached fresh figs. I made the sugar rose, but, fresh flowers would look just as pretty in this heart Bundt cake.

1 pound almond paste, broken into small pieces
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup AP flour
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla paste, or vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup coarsely chopped figs, pears, peaches or whole mixed berries

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper.

2.In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine almond paste, granulated sugar and flour. Mix until mixture resembles cornmeal. Add butter, vanilla paste, almond extract and salt, and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until smooth.

3. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place fruit on top (if using). Bake 40 to 45 minutes, until a light golden brown. Cool cake in the pan on wire rack. Remove from pan and cool completely.

4. Dust with confectioner's sugar. Adapted from Intermezzo magazine.

I have been away far too long. Please, forgive my disappearing act.  Sam was married last year. And we got a little preoccupied with the wedding. As well as helping the newlyweds (and their dog) move back home. Not complaining, but a Calm Down button would sure be nice.