Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tart au Chocolat Part 2

Bittersweet Chocolate Filling

For this part, the type of chocolate you buy is very important. Try to find the best quality of bittersweet chocolate and make sure it is at least 60% cacao. Since I had a little trouble finding bittersweet, I decided to improvise and combine a 6oz bar of unsweetened (100% cacao) with a 6oz bar of semisweet (59% cacao). I also added one tablespoon of sugar when I was melting it because it still tasted a little too bitter.

  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 12 oz bittersweet baking chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk

In a medium saucepan, bring heavy whipping cream and milk to a simmer. As soon as small bubbles begin to form, turn off the heat. Roughly chop the chocolate and add it to the simmered milk. Press down with a whisk and let sit for 4-5 minutes

Whisk the chocolate until fully combined

Next, you're going to temper the egg yolks. Add half a cup of the chocolate mixture to the eggs and whisk in a separate bowl. This incorporates the temperature of the eggs with that of the chocolate so the eggs don't "get surprised" and cook if you add them directly to warm chocolate. MAKE SURE you do this because you don't want to end up with scrambled eggs in your chocolate!

After mixing some chocolate with the eggs, add the entire thing back to the larger chocolate mixture and continue to whisk until smooth
Tip: If the chocolate doesn't smooth out the way you want, add a few splashes of milk and continue whisking

This part is totally optional, but you can fill the bottom of the blind-baked crust with something yummy for added flavor. I chose strawberries but to be honest the rich flavor of the chocolate masked their taste. Maybe another layer of strawberries would've helped...

Pour the chocolate filling into the crust and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until the rim of the chocolate is solid but the center is still a little jiggly

Cool and refrigerate at least two hours before serving. Or if you have no self control (like myself), just let it cool for 15-20 minutes so you don't burn yourself! Just remember that the flavors are much more prominent when the tart is cold


Whipped Cream Topping 

This part is also optional but it's so so incredibly delicious that you should definitely consider adding it. I HATE whipped cream but this is so good that I was eating it on its own.
Sorry for the lack of pictures here but it's super easy to make and I'll do my best to explain. Here are the ingredients:
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 2 teaspoons powdered sugar 
In a cold mixing bowl (I put my bowl and whisk in the fridge for 15 minutes)  whisk the heavy whipping cream and vanilla until soft peaks form. When you pick up the whisk and the peaks hold a lazy curve, you're done. Add the powdered sugar and whisk until everything is combined. The longer you whip, the fluffier it gets. That's all!!


Tart au Chocolat Part 1

I recently took a French cooking class at Sur la Table and it was amazing! Among all the delicious things I learned to make that day, the bittersweet chocolate tart stood out the most for me. I loved learning this recipe because there are so many cool techniques involved and it's overall not a difficult dessert to make. It's definitely chocolate-rich and every chocolate lover's dream!

There are two parts to this recipe and they're both quite simple. It might seem long but I'm going to try and break everything up as best as I can and split the entire thing into two separate posts. The first is the actual pastry dough (pate sucree, in French). This can be made the night before or even a week before! The great thing about this dough is its versatility. You can bake it and fill it with anything you like. You can add a chocolate gnache, fresh fruits and berries, mousse, etc. As long as you know how to make this simple dough, you can play with it as much as you like!

A little side note: This recipe calls for vanilla bean paste. Before this class I used vanilla extract for everything so I wasn't really familiar with the paste. But now that I've tried it, I don't think I ever want to go back to extract. I learned that since vanilla extract contains a lot of alcohol, the process of the alcohol burning off during baking takes away a lot of flavor with it. But with the vanilla bean paste, the flavor is locked in and it is just so much more powerful and delicious. I haven't seen it in grocery stores but you can find it at Sur la Table or online.

Let's begin!

Ingredients/Directions :

Pate Sucree (sweet pastry dough)
-Yields 9 inch tart or 6 4-inch tarts
  • 1 and a 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 and a 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 Tablespoons butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (butter must be COLD)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 and a 1/2 Tablespoons ice cold water

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, and salt

Using a mixture with the paddle attachment, mix the dry ingredients until they begin to become coarse

Slowly add the cold butter and continue to mix on medium speed. Then add the egg yolk, vanilla paste, and lemon juice and mix for 1-2 minutes. Finally, add ice cold water and mix just until the dough becomes sticky and stretchy
Tip: If you do not use cold butter and cold water, the dough will not be flaky

Remove dough from mixer and place on a lightly floured surface

With your clean hands, begin to knead the dough, adding more flour as needed, until you are able to form it into a ball
Tip: As soon as the dough comes together and is no longer sticky, STOP KNEADING! If you continue playing with the dough, you will overdevelop the gluten and the dough will become tough, stretchy and chewy. Nobody wants tough dough!
If you choose to freeze your dough for more than one day, thaw it by placing it in the fridge for a few hours before using.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour in refrigerator

Tip: If you don't have a mixer with a paddle attachment, don't worry! You can do all this by hand. It will take a little longer, but you will get the same results. The only difficult part will be incorporating the cold butter, but you can use a fork to crumble it into the mixture.

So after your dough chills for at least one hour, it's time to assemble it into the tart pan with a removable bottom. I bought my tart pan from Target and it worked perfectly. Just be sure the pan is lightly buttered and floured so nothing sticks.

Preheat your oven to 325F and place the rack in the center of the oven

Place chilled dough on a lightly flowered surface and give it a few smacks with your rolling pin to break it up and soften it. After the dough is a little softer, begin rolling it out large enough to fit over your tart pan. Continue adding flour to the dough and rolling pin as needed

Carefully place the dough onto the tart pan. Press down with your hands to shape the dough. Roll off the excess and fill any gaps with extra scraps of dough. Use a fork to poke holes all over to help air escape

Next, you're going to "blind bake" the dough. This means you will bake the crust alone without the filling. This prepares the crust for when you bake again with the filling.  If you don't do this and just decide to bake everything together after you add your fillings, the fillings will cook (and burn) before your crust bakes. Also, the bottom of the crust won't bake all the way and you'll just be left with a hot mess!

After placing the dough onto the tart pan, line the crust with parchment paper and add weights. The weights can be in the form of dry rice, beans, etc. Some stores even sell pie weights but there's no need to waste your money since this works just as well. These wights are going to keep the bottom of the crust down and prevent it from turning into a dome

Bake the crusts with the weights for 20 minutes then place on a cooling rack to cool completely without removing from the pan. During this time, make the chocolate filling. See part 2 for directions!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Coconut Macaroons

A few weeks ago I was searching for the perfect recipe to make French macarons. You know, those colorful little meringue cookies that have been getting so much hype lately? I did actually find some recipes, and let me tell you, they are one of the most challenging things I've ever attempted to make.
To be honest, I was a little stressed out after finding out how complicated they are. But at the same time, I was happy that my search lead me to a recipe for coconut macaroons. To my delight, these were the complete opposite of their French counterpart. I love these little things and when I found out how SUPER EASY they are to make at home, I decided to make them that night! After a few minutes of prep and baking, I was snacking on these yummy treats and still researching away for my next big baking adventure. I'm happy to report that I did end up coming up with perfect French macaron recipe and actually tried them out! I'll upload the step by steps soon but for now, enjoy these!

Let's begin!

  • 2/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 bag (14oz) sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2.5 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate, melted (optional) 
Tip: Almond extract is really easy to find in grocery stores but if you can't get any for whatever reason, vanilla extract should work fine too. In my opinion though, the almond flavor is what makes these taste so special so I would suggest sticking to it.


In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, coconut, and salt

Add in condensed milk and almond extract

Stir together until fully incorporated. Cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour

Preheat oven to 325F and scoop spoonfuls of the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until macaroons begin to look brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely

Melt the chocolate right before you're ready to dip. Microwave chocolate chips for 30 seconds. Remove and stir. Microwave for 20 seconds. Remove and stir. Microwave for 10 seconds. Remove and stir. Then continue microwaving in 10 second intervals until fully melted

Use chocolate to dip the bottoms of the macaroons, drizzle the tops, or eat them just the way they are!
Tip: If these are way too sweet for your liking, substitute the sweetened coconut with the unsweetened version.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Greek Turkey Burgers

Isn't it interesting how certain holidays and celebrations are always paired with certain foods?  Although  you can have an array of foods ready to be devoured during a celebration, there are certain dishes that must be present no matter what. For example, birthdays get cakes, Thanksgiving gets turkey, and Cinco de Mayo gets beer. Let's face it, rules are rules, and traditions are traditions.
So you'll agree that it's not too surprising to go to a 4th a July party and be greeted with a grill filled with burgers and hot dogs. In fact, it would be quite surprising not to see those staples. Burgers are great, but who doesn't appreciate slight variations here and there?
These turkey burgers are a great variation to the old 4th of July burger. They're fresh, different, and delicious! Give them a try and start your own traditions!

Let's begin!!


Burgers (makes 6-8)
  • 1.25 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onioin
  • 2 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cucumber
  • red onion, sliced
  • cheddar cheese (optional)
  • sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
  • hamburger buns/pita bread/French bread...your choice!
Tip: If you buy sun-dried tomatoes that are packed in oil, lay them on a paper towel before chopping


In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the sauce. Mix well and leave in the fridge while preparing theburgers

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the burgers

Wash your hands and start mixing!

Add olive oil to a pan and turn up to medium-low heat. Shape the patties between your hands and lay them flat in the pan
Turn heat to medium-low and cook covered for 5 minutes
Flip and cook another 5 minutes. Remove the lid and increase heat to medium
Cook until brown on both sides
If you choose to add cheese on top, place the slice on the burger and cover the lid, cooking on low for 1-2 more minutes or until the cheese is melted

Assemble burgers on any type of bread you choose and enjoy!

Tip: Individually wrap any leftover patties and freeze to enjoy later!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cheesy Garlic Bread

When I'm at a restaurant, I'm the type of person who gets more excited over appetizers than the main course itself. Especially at Italian restaurants, the appetizers are so delicious and flavorful, you can satisfy your entire appetite before you even get past the first page of the menu. One of my all time favorite appetizers is garlic bread! Most places have the right idea; Italian bread plus olive oil plus garlic. And other places...not so much. It's actually kind of fun to go to different restaurants and try their own unique twist on this classic.
This particular garlic bread recipe comes from Laura Vitale and it is the BEST I've ever had. It combines all the ingredients that make the perfect garlic bread and I don't think I will ever come across another version that tops this. Best of all, it's so easy to make at home! The only downside is that you really have to develop some sort of self control to stop yourself from having it 7 days a week.

Let's begin!!


  • 1 loaf of Italian Bread (I also like ciabbata)
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley (rinsed)
  • 5-7 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
In a small food processor, combine parsley, garlic, and olive oil. Puree until smooth

Slice the loaf of bread in half so that it opens up and lays flat. Lay the bread on a sheet of foil on a baking pan. Spread olive oil-parsley mixture equally on both halves

Put the two halves back on top of one another and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake at 400 degrees F for 12 minutes

Remove from oven, unwrap and sprinkle both sides with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Feel free to add as much or as little cheese as you desire! Place back in oven (leave them flat like this) and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown

Tip: As delicious as these are by themselves, you can also pair them with a side of marinara sauce


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Can someone answer a simple question for me? Why do die-hard sports fans get so offended when a less knowledgeable fan decides to root for their favorite team? Are people not allowed to change their mind about certain players or teams? Or does it not count if they haven't been a loyal fan since the start? I seriously don't get it, but it's obviously important enough for people to argue over nonstop. Even though I don't know much about sports, I do know one thing. You never want to be that guy (or girl) who gets called out for being on...dun dun dun...the bandwagon. From my observations, this is probably the biggest insult from one fan to another. It kind of reminds me of middle school when kids were called "posers" for liking certain bands or wearing certain clothes...lol does that term still exist these days??

But bandwagons don't end in sports. There has been a slew of bandwaggoning in the world of cupcakes lately. Ever since cupcakes started becoming popular a few years ago, there has been one flavor that always tops the charts and beats out the rest. RED. VELVET. This is my favorite cupcake flavor and it's always the one bakeries take most pride in.

If I'm not mistaken, red velvet cake is something that originated in the South during the Great Depression. Today, it's sold all across the country in cake, cupcake, and cookie form. It gets its "velvet" name from the texture and consistency of the cake itself. And the red only comes from the food coloring.  If done right, a red velvet cake should be extremely moist and fluffy because of the butter, creams, and buttermilk.

So if this is what bandwagons are like, then I guess they're are not such a bad thing after all. I'll proudly stay on the fluffy red velvet bandwagon until I find reason to jump onto a new one!

Let's begin!

Batter (yields 36 medium-sized cupcakes) 
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  •  1/2 cup buttermilk (or 2 Tablespoons dry buttermilk in 1/2 cup water)
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1oz red food coloring
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 8oz cream cheese, cold
  • 2 Tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside

Using a mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy

Beat in eggs, one at a time. Then add sour cream, buttermilk, and vanilla extract

After everything is combined, add the entire 1oz food coloring
Tip: The red food coloring will stain your hands and clothes so be very careful when adding

Add in the dry flour mixture, about a 1/2 cup at a time, and mix on low speed until everything is combined

Line a 12-cupcake pan with cupcake liners and scoop batter in, filling each cup about 2/3 of the way

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean

Cool in pans for 5 minutes and remove to cool completely on cooling racks (takes about an hour). In the meantime, prepare cream cheese frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting
Beat together butter, cream cheese, sour cream, and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.
Slowly add powdered sugar and mix until smooth

Tip: Do not frost cupcakes until they are COMPLETELY cool otherwise the frosting will melt off. What I like to do is put the frosting in the fridge for an hour (or until the cupcakes are cool) so it can become a little firm.

Frost cupcakes and enjoy!

Tip: You can easily frost and make swirls by adding frosting to a ziploc bag and cutting a tiny hole in one of the corners.