Chocolate Mousse Fraisier

Chocolate Mousse Fraisier

It’s been quite a while since I’ve added anything here.  As with most everyone now, I have been able to spend more time baking although I have had to be careful because there is also a lack of eaters.   I’ve been used to making huge batches to take to work and even though perfectly willing, husband and I alone shouldn’t try to keep up.  I most often see pictures of something that looks really good and can’t resist. Plus . . . chocolate!  It was delicious and really pretty.  It did take some time so you need to plan ahead, but isn’t difficult. 

I basically followed this recipe from King Arthur Flour but I was a little lazy and skipped the cream puffs.  I recommend the recipe as it was pretty easy to follow and I will definitely make it again, maybe with raspberries.  I suppose that would make it not a Fraisier but I’ve never been one to follow a recipe exactly.

I was surprised that the cake recipe had no eggs and wasn’t sure what to expect but it came out very moist and chocolaty. I’m going to remember that if I ever run out of eggs and want to make a cake.  It made more mousse than would fit in the pan but we were able to overcome that calamity with a couple of spoons.

Birthday Brownie Cake Pops on Glo Sticks

Birthday Brownie Cake Pops on Glo Sticks

Chocolate Brownie Cake Pops on Glo Sticks

The birthdays just keep coming.  This time my friend’s son who is fond of chocolate cake pops.  I tried sending over white chocolate/strawberry cake ones once and they just didn’t make the grade (a polite thanks but next time could you make all chocolate) so we’re back to chocolate.  I did give a little twist on this one and they may have changed my mind.  As I’ve mentioned before in the past I haven’t really understood the appeal of the cake pops, but these were pretty good!  Instead of the usual cake and icing for the filling, I made a really fudgy brownie and slightly underbaked it.  They didn’t even need the icing and the texture was perfect for rolling the balls.  Lot’s of good quality chocolate in the mix kept them firm enough to dip and the taste was wonderful.  To make them special, instead of using regular sticks, I found glo sticks that were just the right size and although I did manage to start a few prematurely glowing, the majority made it just fine and should provide some entertainment after the eating.
I’m not going to go through the whole process of making these but you can refer to my earlier posts on Easter Egg Cake Balls for step by step pictures.  Here is the Brownie Tart recipe I used from Ina Garten on the FoodNetwork website.  The only change is that I did underbake it by about 5 minutes and didn’t use the glaze.  I will definitely be making this one again!
Here’s how they looked after I rolled them.  Notice the neat reflections on the counter!

Chocolate Brownie Cake Pops rolled and ready to dip

Dipped and hardening


Recipe Test:  Cook's Illustrated Chicken Canzanese

Recipe Test: Cook's Illustrated Chicken Canzanese

Cook's Illustrated Chicken Canzanese

This weekend’s episode was Chicken Canzanese and it looked so good I had to give it a try.  I was not disappointed nor was the family!  The chicken skin was crisp, the interior was moist and the sauce was fantastic.    This is a chicken meal that you could definitely serve to company and was perfect for a nice Sunday dinner.  It isn’t really a mid-week meal as it took too long, but it was well worth it if you have the time.  Of course, since I could easily live on just mashed potatoes and gravy (well except for pizza and maybe some desserts) of course I had to make some mashed potatoes to go with it, and for the almost healthy vegetable, some brown sugar glazed carrots.  (Did I mention the sauce was phenomenal – potatoes and gravy for lunch anyone?)  The recipe for Cook’s Illustrated Chicken Canzanese is here.  It uses simple, fresh ingredients and instructions that were easy to follow.  I did make a double batch and used bacon because I didn’t have prosciutto but otherwise did exactly what the recipe called for.  I give it a full five stars and according to the family ratings – once a week, once a month, once a year and please, please never again – it rated a once a week!

A quinceanera, another birthday and Peanut Butter Cup Cake and Cupcakes

A quinceanera, another birthday and Peanut Butter Cup Cake and Cupcakes

Peanut Butter Cup filled Chocolate Cake and Cupcakes

More birthdays, they just keep coming (not mine this time).  I’ve just returned from my niece’s quinceanera, which was beautiful as was she!  There was a lovely ceremony held on the beach then a great reception.  Her aunt made the cakes and decorations and there were amazingly beautiful flowers and scenery so I took lots of pictures.

Cake Table

Pier at sunset

Sunset over the water

And now for the food:  a friend’s daughter recently had a birthday so I made this arrangement with a small cake, cupcakes and mini-cupcakes with peanut butter cup filling and peanut butter buttercream icing using The Barefoot Contessa’s Chocolate Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Icing recipe.  I’ve tested this recipe before and it is a great one but this time I added the peanut butter cup filling rolled into balls and placed in the batter which made them even better.
The filling recipe is:

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter, divided
  • 6 teaspoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a microwave safe bowl, warm the butter and peanut butter for about 30 seconds and mix until it is smooth and slightly melted.  Add the powdered sugar and mix until it is thick enough to roll.  You may need slightly more or less sugar.  Roll the mixture into small, medium and larger balls for the mini-cupcakes, cupcakes and cake.  I made a single batch which made a small 6 inch cake and a dozen regular and a dozen mini-cupcakes.

Birthday Peanut Butter Cake and Cupcakes

Just place the balls in a ring around the bottom of the cake, and one in each cupcake and pour the batter over them and bake according to the directions in the recipe piping with the peanut butter icing when they are cool.  I added some flower candies or if you had them you could use a mini peanut butter cup.


The Daring Baker’s Challenge:  Strawberry Vanilla and Maraschino Cherry Panna Cotta with Florentines

The Daring Baker’s Challenge: Strawberry Vanilla and Maraschino Cherry Panna Cotta with Florentines

Strawberry Vanilla Panna Cotta with Florentines

Maraschino Cherry Panna Cotta

Strawberry Panna Cotta

Florentine Cookies

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.  This one was perfect for me and my favorite so far – two of my favorites creamy and cookies!  I decided to make maraschino cherry layers because I had some maraschino cherry jelly that I made recently and thought it would be a great combination.  While at the store, I found the first really nice strawberries of the year, so I couldn’t resist them, nor could I decide between the two so I made both versions.

Washing the Berries

First, the Florentines I followed the Nestle recipe, however, I found that a Tablespoon of dough for each cookie spread way too much and ended up with one giant cookie  (so sad you know we had to eat the mistake).  With each batch I reduced the amount, then finally got it to 1/2 teaspoon per cookie which made the perfect size.   Also, instead of making a sandwich cookie, I just drizzled them with chocolate as I liked the look better and wanted to lighten them up a little to serve with the Panna Cotta.

Ingredients for Florentines

Following the recipe (with the addition of 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon) I mixed up the dough, which looks like this:

Florentine Cookie Dough

As I mentioned, the recipe calls for a Tablespoon of dough for each cookie, which was way to much so I reduced that down to 1/2 teaspoon as they really spread, and actually that’s what you want because it makes them nice and lacy.

Florentine Cookies

Next:  Strawberry/Vanilla Panna Cotta.  Never having made this before, I found it much easier than I had expected not much more complicated than making jello.

For the strawberry portion:

1 lb strawberries

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 packet unflavoreed gelatin

1/4 cup water

1/1/2 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

Few strawberries for garnish

First decide how you want to display – in a glass or in a mold.  If using a mold, spray it with vegetable spray.  I like using various glasses for the presentation as it eliminates the worry of getting them out of the mold and you still get to see how beautiful it is – plus it is a great excuse for using all the pretty glasses that at least at my house don’t get out very often.  I did try one in a mold, but unfortunately, I left it in the hot water too long so it pretty much lost the “mold” design and looked like a blob surrounded by melted pudding – not my best effort.  I’ll probably try again, but the ones in the glasses turned out much better.

1.  Puree the strawberries and sugar in a blender or food processor until very smooth and press through a sieve to remove the seeds. Remove 1 cup and reserve the rest.

Puree the strawberries

2.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small microwave safe bowl and let stand for 5 minutes to soften. Place in the microwave for 5 second intervals until it dissolves.

3.  In a medium size microwave safe bowl, bring the milk to a simmer, 1 1/2- to 2 minutes – don’t boil.

4.  Add the gelatin, strawberry puree and the cream and mix.

5.  Pour into the serving dishes and chill until firm. If you want to make layers as I did, fill the glasses partially and chill before adding another layer.

Using the reserved strawberry puree top the panna cotta and just before serving, add a Florentine cookie.

Strawberry Panna Cotta

Vanilla/Almond Panna Cotta

Remember if you are planning on layering the dessert, wait until the first layer firms up before making this layer.  I made a double batch of Giada’s Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries recipe , up to the last step but splitting it into two containers adding vanilla to one and almond extract to the other (for the maraschino cherry ones).  I noticed that this recipe was much smoother and creamier than the one with strawberries.

For the maraschino cherry layer I used the maraschino cherry jelly I made recently.  I warmed it slightly so it would pour into the glasses and put a layer on the bottom of the glass.  Poured the almond extract version over that, let it harden and then on some I put another thin layer of jelly on top.

Maraschino Cherry Panna Cotta with Florentine

For the strawberry version I used the already hardened layer of strawberry and added another layer of vanilla on top, then a layer of the reserved strawberry puree.

Valentines Day Recipe Test:  Cook’s Country Tunnel of Fudge Mini-Bundt Cakes

Valentines Day Recipe Test: Cook’s Country Tunnel of Fudge Mini-Bundt Cakes

Tunnel of Fudge Mini-Bundt Cake

Of course Valentines day requires chocolate, and lots of it.  Years ago (too many for me to want to remember) after a particularly disappointing Valentines Day meal out where it seemed that no place would take reservations and when we arrived around 6:00 there was a three-hour wait, the service was poor and they had a “special” meaning very expensive menu only.  After that, I decided that going out to dinner on Valentines Day (and most other holidays) is more trouble than it is worth.  Don’t get me wrong, I like a nice dinner out as much as anyone I just prefer to go a different day, when they take reservations and aren’t overwhelmed trying to serve the huge crowds.  Mostly, I really don’t like crowds or waiting I’d much rather make dinner and enjoy it at home.

This recipe is a test of the Cook’s Country Tunnel of Fudge recipe, which I cut in half and used in mini-bundt cake pans.  It can be made a day or two ahead.  It’s a perfect dessert for a small dinner party and even better for just two as there are leftovers!  I’m serving this with a meal to go with it simple and quick enough for a weeknight: chicken breasts baked in pastry crust, asparagus and pearl couscous in cream sauce.  If you don’t have the mini-bundt pans or prefer to make the full size, just use the whole recipe but these look so cute!


Ingredients I used:

1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon cocoa (Cook’s Country recommends Dutch processed but I didn’t have any so I just used regular Hershey’s Cocoa)

1/4 cup boiling water

1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips

1 cup flour

1 cup pecans chopped finely (which I forgot to show in the picture)

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1/2 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 1/4 cups butter softened

To make cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a mini Bundt pan and dust with cocoa powder.

Put the chocolate in a small bowl and add the boiling water, mixing until smooth, set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk 3/4 cup cocoa, flour, walnuts (or pecans), confectioners’ sugar and salt.

In another bowl or mixing cup, whisk eggs and vanilla.

In mixing bowl at medium speed beat granulated sugar, brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low, add egg mixture and mix until just combined. Add chocolate mixture and mix until just combined. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Put batter into prepared pans, smooth and bake 20-25 minutes until edges are beginning to pull away from pan; do not overbake (do not use a cake tester, toothpick or skewer to test the cake).

Remove to a wire rack and cool, upright, 1 1/2 hours. Invert cake onto serving plate and cool completely, at least 2 hours.

I followed the recipe instructions given by Cook’s Country, the only difference is because of the smaller pan I baked them for 25 minutes but that may have been just a little too long, start checking them at 20 minutes as mine didn’t have much of a fudgy center.  Even so it was very moist and almost brownie like with a good flavor from the nuts.   I would definitely make them again, they were very tasty.

Here are the progress photos:

Chocolate melted in boiling water and chopped pecans

Sprayed and cocoa in the pan

Ready to bake

Baked and cooling

Tunnel of Fudge Mini-Bundt Cake

I did some chocolate dipped strawberries from an earlier post and added a little strawberry syrup to a heart shaped plate to finish up.