Healthy-ish Chocolate Olive Oil Torte

This recipe all started with a mistake. Having used my heavy cream to make cultured butter, I decided I would try this healthier version of chocolate mousse made with chocolate and water. Turns out, the chocolate I had wasn’t quite right, which meant that I never did get it to hold the air I was so desperately beating into it. Having made a big bowl of chocolate-y water, I thought I might use it to make cake. After glancing through an old Betty Crocker cookbook (the same one my mom gave me when I moved away from home 11 years ago), I decided I would try my hand at chocolate torte. It’s much easier than I thought it would be!

I decided I would make a version that had the option to forgo added sugar, possibly making the recipe a bit healthier and more accesible to people who have to watch their sugar intake. Olive oil in/on chocolate desserts is something I’ve been seeing more of lately, and since I love the combination I used it here too. Adding olive oil in lieu of melted butter probably helps with the healthy-ish thing (although it’s still chocolate dessert, so it’s not as good for you as, say, a pile of veggies). It’s incredibly rich and decadent, probably more so because there is not much sugar in it to dampen the rich chocolate flavor. You can use whatever type of dark chocolate you would like (I used 60% cocoa).

Chocolate Olive Oil Torte

1 c water
1 c + 1 tbsp chocolate (either chips or a bar that’s been broken into small pieces)
4 eggs, separated
pinch sea salt
2 tbsp vanilla sugar (optional)
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil (use the good quality stuff here), plus extra for drizzling
vegetable oil (or olive oil), for the pan
3/4 c flour

-Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Oil a 9″ round pan, line the whole thing with a piece of parchment paper, and rub the parchment paper in oil.
-Pour water into a small saucepan over medium heat; add chocolate pieces.
-Stir until just melted.
-Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Add egg yolks, salt, sugar (if you want), olive oil, and flour.
-Mix until combined and smooth. Set aside.
-Add egg whites to another mixing bowl.
-Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
-Fold the egg whites into the batter until combined.
-Pour the batter into the lined pan.
-Bake for about 25 minutes or until cooked through. Since it’s a torte, a toothpick might not come out completely clean when you test it, but you do want to make sure there’s no liquid batter still in the middle.
-Let cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.
-Invert the pan onto a plate and remove.
-Sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar (if desired).
-To serve, drizzle with homemade chocolate syrup and olive oil, and sprinkle with a little sea salt.

Perfect Winter Treat: Maple Kumquat Marmalade

I’ve been fortunate enough to find friends who like to share food as much as I do. So when one friend gave me some incredible maple syrup for Christmas, and some other friends gave me a bag of kumquats from their tree, I knew what had to be done. I love Florida to little bits, but occasionally I miss living up North, so making something that brings together the delicious citrus from my new home with the maple-y goodness of my old home seemed perfect. Normally when I make marmalades I cut out the pith and soak the rinds to help with the bitterness. These kumquats, however, were the sweetest kumquats I’ve ever consumed, meaning that I didn’t have to mess with any of that and could just get away with slicing, seeding, and sprinkling them with a little sugar. No peeling or removing membranes or anything, just thinly sliced kumquats. As a result, the recipe I have here is based on those incredible kumquats. If you don’t have access to freshly-picked citrus and are relying on the supermarket, or if your citrus is a little bitter, you may have to use more sugar or remove the piths (some alternate recipes for you to try can be found here and here).

The steps were simple: thinly slice a few kumquats, toss in a (nonreactive) bowl, sprinkle with a spoonful of sugar, repeat. Top with a little pinch of salt (might as well add this important flavor-boosting step now), and wait. Because my kumquats are so very, very sweet, they didn’t require much sweetening to be edible, but they *do* need sugar to be preserved properly. I also didn’t have to rely on cups and cups of granulated sugar here since I was using maple syrup later on. (An important note here: in these early stages, many other marmalade recipes will require you to extract the pectin from the bits you discard. If you like your marmalades really thick or are making a giant batch, do it. If you don’t, then you’ll probably be alright, just expect your marmalade to be a little loose).

Kumquats

Kumquats in a bowl!

Once the waiting is over (~12 hours), throw everything into a pot, add the maple syrup, and voila. I didn’t boil it for long, just long enough to get everything to the consistency I wanted. Let it cool a little, then eat it up. They say these things keep in the fridge for a month or two, but this will probably be gone by next week.

Kumquat and Maple Marmalade
1 quart fresh kumquats
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 c water
3/4 c dark amber maple syrup (in most stores, this really rich syrup is sold as Grade B–the stuff I had purported to be Grade A but was the richest and most decadent Grade A syrup I’ve ever encountered).

-Thinly slice your kumquats into little rounds, removing the seeds as you go.
-After you’ve sliced 4 or 5, throw them in the bottom in a non-reactive bowl and sprinkle with a little sugar.
-Continue layering fruit and sugar until you’ve sliced all the kumquats.
-Top with the salt.
-Let sit (covered) for about 12 hours.
-Pour the whole thing into a non-reactive pot and add the maple syrup and water.
-Heat over medium until it comes to a strong boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
-Let it cook to the desired consistency (for me this was about 15 minutes), then remove from the heat and let cool.
-Pour into jars and store in the fridge.

This recipe is on Punk Domestics!

Kumquat Maple Marmalade on Punk Domestics

Chai Spice Shortbread Cookies

We had planned to go to a housewarming party yesterday, and I thought I would like to bring over a snack for everyone. I was short on time, though, so it had to be something easy. Thankfully, few cookies are easier than shortbread and you can put whatever you want in them! I love warm spices this time of year (even though it’s not all that cold here in Florida), so decided I would make some spice cookies. I always have all the whole spices for making my own chai (I base it on this recipe), so I decided I would make a chai glaze and add some spices to the cookies themselves. They are delicious! When I made the glaze, I steeped the spices in milk, and made enough extra to have a glass of warm, spiced milk (normal people would add tea to have a chai tea, but I was feeling lazy). I’ve included that extra amount here, since it’s hard to get the spices really good and steeped if you’re only using the couple tablespoons needed for the glaze. If you’re adamantly opposed to drinking spiced milk or tea, you can try just using the small amount of milk, although be prepared to play around a little bit with the amount as some will evaporate.

Chai Spice Shortbread
For the cookies
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
pinch ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 c granulated sugar
about 2 1/2 c flour

-Preheat oven to 350.
-In a bowl, cream together the sugar, salt, spices, and butter.
-Add half the flour and mix. Begin drizzling in remaining flour until it’s the consistency of a stiff dough (the exact amount will depend on humidity and a host of other factors). If your dough gets crumbly, add the tiniest splash (about a tsp) of milk.
-To shape the cookies, you have two options:
-Option 1: Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll it out until it’s 1/2 inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out the cookies.
-Option 2: Lay 2 pieces plastic wrap down on the counter. You want it to be long and wide enough to roll your dough up. Put half the dough on each piece of plastic (2-3 inches from the top), and shape into a ‘snake’ by gently rolling or pressing the dough. Take the top edge of the plastic and fold it over the dough. Press the dough firmly in the plastic until it’s a uniform round shape. Wrap tightly, refrigerate for half an hour, then unwrap and slice into 1/2 inch thick circles.
-Bake the cookies for about 15-18 minutes or until set and slightly golden.

For the glaze
 8 green cardamom pods, halved
10 cloves
15 peppercorns
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp anise seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
pinch salt
1 1/2 c milk
powdered sugar (about 1 cup)

-In a skillet, toast the spices over medium heat until they are fragrant.
-Add milk and bring just to a simmer. Add salt.
-Turn off the heat and allow the  spices to steep for at least 15 minutes (the longer you let it steep, of course, the more flavorful your milk is).
-Strain the spices out of the milk, and pour the milk into a glass. Reserve 2 tbsp for your glaze.
-Add powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time.  Stir in with a fork after each addition. Keep adding sugar until it’s the consistency you want.
-Drizzle the glaze over cooled cookies.

Watermelon Mojito Sorbet

When going through my recipes, I found this one, which is one of my favorites for summer. It’s crisp and refreshing, and now that we’re in Florida I suspect we’ll be eating it often!

1 cup sugar
4 cups watermelon, seeded
1 cup water
½ tsp lime zest
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp fresh mint
pinch sea salt

-Combine salt, water, and sugar in a saucepan and heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool completely.
-Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
-Add to an ice cream maker as per manufacturer instructions.
-Alternately, you can put it in a rectangular pan about 1 inch deep. Place in freezer, and scrape with a fork every 2 hours until frozen entirely. This will make a granita, which has larger ice crystals with a texture more similar to a snow cone.

Chocolate and Grapefruit Mousse

Chocolate mousse with various add-ins has been a staple for me for some time. It’s easy to make, can be made ahead, and tastes pretty great. I started adding grapefruit after my grandma sent me a box of them a few years ago, and I did the same for our New Year’s dinner this year after picking some grapefruit from grandma’s tree. We ate it all up before I got a picture, but trust me, it’s delicious!

The zest of one grapefruit
1/2 pint whipping cream
2 tbsp half and half
2 ounces of dark or bittersweet chocolate (I used 2 squares of Baker’s chocolate)
pinch salt

-Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

-Make a double boiler by boiling several inches of water in a saucepan and topping with a glass or metal bowl.

-Add chocolate to the bowl, stirring frequently. After it first begins to melt, add half and half and a pinch of salt. Continue stirring until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in citrus zest.

-Carefully fold chocolate mixture into the whipped cream.

-Place the mousse into dessert dishes and chill for at least one hour.

Sweet and Savory Melon Balls

I love melon balls wrapped in prosciutto. However, since I have many vegetarian friends, I’ve adapted them to an equally delicious (and cheaper!) appetizer that is always a huge hit! Using arugula and some good cheese makes for a tasty snack. If you have vegan friends, you could try just doing arugula and maybe strands of another veggie (carrot?) and sprinkling with some salt. I imagine there are many ways to adapt this, so if anyone has ideas, please share!

Sweet and savory melon balls

1/2 a cantaloupe
16 oz arugula
One (small) block Parmeggiano Reggiano
One small box toothpicks

-Using a melon baller, carve out as much of the cantaloupe as you can.

-Shave off a thin slice of parmesan with a cheese shaver or a knife.

-Take one melon ball and set the cheese on it.

-Wrap with one or two arugula leaves so cheese is tightly wrapped, and secure with a toothpick.

-Repeat steps for all melon balls.