Month: February 2010

A Healthy Sweet Treat

Could it be? The words cake and healthy in the same sentence? While I’m usually quite indulgent when it comes to desserts (nothing beats the consistency created by creaming fresh butter and sugar), and I am often the first to dismiss “low-fat” recipes (never a fan of the spongey texture), this is one nutrition-packed loaf that’ll have you going back for seconds! Possibly one of the most flavorful cakes that I have ever baked, this sweet delight was a pleasure for the senses. Moist to the touch, with a sweet aroma that’ll warm up your winter blues… you must be wondering what this magical creation is made from. Well, the secret doesn’t lie in artificial sugar, nor does it involve butter substitutes. The secret is an ingredient that many of you may have laying in your pantries just itching to be used up: good old fashioned cream of wheat. When you mix this unusual ingredient with some yogurt, you get a fluffy cake that is low in calories, low in fat, high in calcium and multivitamin-enriched. Glaze it in a honey syrup and you’ve just added some sweet antioxidants. Sprinkle on some almonds and you’ll boost your protein intake and you’ll benefit from some heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Finish it all off with a touch of almond extract and a sprinkle of sweetened flaked coconut and your tastebuds will love you forever. But enough talk… let us eat cake and feel good about it too!

Almond Coconut Cake

what you’ll need
1 cup cream of wheat, uncooked
1 cup sugar
1 cup plain low-fat or fat-free yogourt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup coconut, shredded

for the topping:
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)

how to do it
Butter or grease an 8” loaf pan and preheat oven to 375F.
In a large bowl, stir the cream of wheat, sugar and baking powder until well combined, then add yogurt and vanilla and stir until thoroughly blended. Stir in coconut until just coated.
Pour into prepared cake pan and bake about 45 minutes, or until golden brown (oven times may vary).
While baking, heat the honey and water on the stovetop over medium heat. Remove from heat after it bubbles, then stir in the lemon juice, almond extract and almonds.
While cake is still warm, pour syrup over top.
Voila. Almond coconut delight!

Move Over, Martha!

I’ve had the most splendid week in the kitchen and I must tell you ALL about it! I began my cooking extravaganza by making my very first buttercream icing. Fun to work with, easy to make, lovely to look at, but unfortunately, not so lovely to eat. I just don’t see the appeal of eating something that tastes like a stick of butter. Deciding then to stick with familiar classics, I made the absolute best banana cake in the history of the world. Marie Antoinette, eat your heart out. My friend Lisa, an equally exuberant foodie, suggested that I pipe some butter down the centre of the cake to create a perfect “crack.” Simple trick, fabulous results. Not only did the cake look fantastic, it had an extra hint of buttery flavour throughout. Perfection. However, my ultimate kitchen success came last night when I stirred up a delightfully velvety vodka sauce – caramelized onions, crushed garlic, plum tomatoes, fresh basil and a splash of vodka to enhance all of the flavours. By special request, I served a baked brie wheel as an appetizer, smothered in a slow-cooked peppered cranberry sauce. But the ultimate show stopper was the dessert – a layered vanilla, chocolate and salted caramel mousse, as pleasing to the eyes as it was to the palate! Two things about this mousse were most exciting: the first was the creation of the caramel. As simple as you can get, this rich caramel was created by simmering sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water over HIGH heat. Yes, high heat surprised me, and scared me, as I do not own a “heavy bottom” saucepan, so I decided to put my lovely Lagostina’s life on the line. It worked like magic! As the sugar began to dissolve, a lovely cotton-candy aroma filled the air, and then, almost instantly, the colour morphed from a silvery white to an amber yellow. At this point, I poured in the heavy cream and WHISH! An unexpected bubbling and sizzling happened, and the amber yellow transformed to a deep perfect caramel colour. While I waited for that to cool, I prepared my mousse base, which consisted solely of egg yolk, vanilla, sugar and milk. Gently folding whipped cream into the base and slowly adding the flavourings created sweet toothed bliss.

Vanilla, Chocolate and Salted Caramel Mousse Cups
recipe adapted from Tartelette

What you’ll need:
for the caramel
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp water
½ tsp kosher or sea salt
¼ cup heavy/whipping cream (35%)
2 tsp unsalted butter

for the vanilla mousse base:
4 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
½ vanilla bean, or 2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp powdered gelatin dissolved in 3 tbsp water
1 cup heavy/whipping cream (35%)

for the chocolate:
¼  cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips

How to do it:
Prepare the caramel first, as it will need to cool to room temp.
Place the sugar and water in a small/medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to cook just until light amber color.  Watch it the entire time, the colour changing process happens VERY quickly and you must remove it from the heat immediately at this point. Once it it removed slowly stir in the heavy cream (watch it bubble!) and then add butter, stirring constantly.

Prepare the mousse base as the caramel is cooling:
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until very pale. In the meantime, in a large saucepan set over medium heat, bring the milk and the vanilla bean (split open and scraped over the milk) to a boil. Slowly pour the milk over the yolks, whisking constantly. Make sure you do not pour too quickly, as this will cook the eggs. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan over medium low heat and cook until the cream coats the back of a spoon. Add the softened gelatin and stir until melted completely into the cream. Let cool to room temperature.

Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks and fold it into the cooled cream base. Divide the base into three equal portions. One portion is the vanilla mousse.

For the caramel mousse: fold a little bit of one portion of the mousse base into the caramel. Slowly add the rest of the base, folding lightly. If you find the mousse is too watery (as mine was), whip a little more cream and fold it in until you reach your desired texture.
For the chocolate mousse: melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for one to two minutes on high. Add the allotted mousse base to the melted chocolate chips and fold.

Layer the three mousses into glass serving dishes as demonstrated in the photo. The caramel mousse should be on the top as it is the lightest. Garnish with a sprinkling of cocoa or chocolate shavings. Freeze for an hour, then serve, and succumb to heaven in your mouth. (Can also be frozen for future use, just remove from freezer and thaw for 15-20 minutes before you serve it.)