Monday, April 13, 2009

Oreo Torte

Happy Easter everyone! I made this torte for our Easter celebration. At first I suggested making Dorie's Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte, but Dan informed me that he does not like peanut butter in his desserts. According to him peanuts belong at the ballpark NOT in dessert. He said that the concept looked good and asked if I could make something similar. So after some searching I came across Alton Brown's Chocolate Mousse and decided to combine the two together and make some changes to better suite my family's taste. Be warned that this torte has an intense chocolate flavor that is best paired with a tall glass of cold milk. So for those who have seen this torte in the peanut butter version and thought that it looked good but were disappointed because you or a family member have a nut allergy I hope you enjoy my improvised version.

Oreo Torte:

Source: adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte & Alton Brown’s Chocolate Mousse. My changes are in bold.

For the crust:
32 Oreo cookies, finely processed into crumbs (I used an entire package)
5 1/3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled (I used an entire stick)
Small pinch of salt

For the crunch:
½ cup almonds, toasted & chopped (see notes below)
¼ c. cup mini chocolate chips
2 tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon (I might have used more, but I didn’t measure)
Dash of ground nutmeg
For the filling:
1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 c heavy cream (can be reduced to 1 ½ c.)
16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature (could easily reduce to 8oz to produce less filling, I made a 10 inch torte and had about a cup and a half of leftover mousse.)
Chocolate Mousse Recipe
10 Oreos roughly chopped

For the ganache:
½ cup heavy cream
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 10-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet. Combine the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in a small bowl. Toss with a fork to moisten all of the crumbs. Press into a thin layer covering the bottom and sides of the springform pan. Freeze the crust for 10 minutes. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before filling.

Chocolate Mousse:

1 ¾ cups whipping cream (reduce to 1 ¼ c.)
12 ounces quality semi-sweet chocolate chips (this can be reduced if you do not want an intense chocolate flavor)
3 ounces strong hot chocolate (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon dark rum (can be omitted if necessary, although not including it will change the flavor of the mousse.)
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon flavorless, granulated gelatin

Chill 1 ½ cups whipping cream in refrigerator. Chill metal mixing bowl and mixer beaters in freezer.
In top of a double boiler, combine chocolate chips, coffee, rum and butter. Melt over barely simmering water, stirring constantly. Remove from heat while a couple of chunks are still visible. Cool, stirring occasionally to just above body temperature.

Pour remaining ¼ cup whipping cream into a metal measuring cup and sprinkle in the gelatin. Allow gelatin to "bloom" for 10 minutes. Then carefully heat by swirling the measuring cup over a low gas flame or candle. Do not boil or gelatin will be damaged. Stir mixture into the cooled chocolate and set aside.

In the chilled mixing bowl, beat cream to medium peaks. Stir ¼ of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining whipped cream in two doses. There may be streaks of whipped cream in the chocolate and that is fine. Do not over work the mousse.
Hot chocolate:
½ c whole milk
2 tsp sugar
½ oz semi sweet chocolate, chopped
½ tsp vanilla

Heat milk, and add chocolate, sugar, and vanilla. Heat until chocolate is thoroughly melted.
To prepare the cream cheese filling, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip 2 cups of the cream until it holds medium peaks. Beat in 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar and whip until the cream holds medium-firm peaks. Scrape the cream into a separate bowl and refrigerate until needed.
Wipe out (do not wash) the mixer bowl, replace the whisk with the paddle attachment, and beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth.

Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about 1/4 of the whipped cream just to lighten the mousse. Still working with the spatula, carefully fold in the remaining whipped cream. Combine the cream cheese mixture and the chocolate mousse together, by gently folding them together. Continue working with a rubber spatula gently combine the chopped Oreos into the mousse. Scrape the mousse into the crust, mounding and smoothing the top. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight; cover with plastic wrap as soon as the mousse firms.

To finish the torte, put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Leave the bowl over the water just until the chocolate softens and starts to melt, about 3 minutes; remove the bowl from the saucepan. Bring the ½ cup of cream to a full boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and, working with a rubber spatula, very gently stir together until the ganache is completely blended and smooth.
Pour the ganache over the torte, smoothing with a metal icing spatula. Scatter the crunch topping over the top and chill to, at least 20 minutes. When the ganache is firm.

To make the crunch, in another small bowl combine the almonds, mini chocolate chips, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss with a fork to mix and sprinkle over the top of the torte. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove the sides of the spring form pan before serving.
Toasting the almonds: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, prepare cookie sheets by lining it with parchment paper and lightly spraying it with Pam. Evenly distribute the chopped almonds (I chopped mine in a food processor) and bake for 7 minutes. Allow to cool completely before using, this allows the almonds to restore their crunch.
Store leftovers in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Healthier White Bread

So I stuck to my promise of making another loaf of bread using the bread machine. I served this bread with the creamy tomato basil soup, it's the bread I used for the grilled cheese sandwich pictured with the soup. If you are not able to use the bread within a few days, slice it and seal in zip lock bag in the freezer. I think the next time I make this I will add more Italian seasoning and basil to give it more flavor.

Healthier White Bread:

Source: Bread Machine: How to prepare and bake the perfect loaf. By: Jennie Shapter

generous 1 1/2 c. water
4 1/2 c. white bread flour (I used 2 c. wheat flour & 2 1/2 c. white flour)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 T sugar
2 T butter
1 tsp. rapid rise active dry yeast
2 tsp. basil (I added)
1 T. Italian seasoning (I added)

Follow directions based on the directions of your bread machine.
I choose: basic bread with a medium colored crust.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

This was oh so good, very comforting. This soup keeps for a week in the fridge, and reheats well. Perfect alone or with a grilled cheese sandwich. I will definitely being making this again, and I'm a bit sad that I'm out of leftovers. Also, I highly recommend using fresh tomatoes instead of canned, yes it's more work but very well worth it.

Cream of Tomato Soup:

Food Network: Sara Moulton

2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and finely diced (I used 2 small carrots)
2 tablespoons flour
2 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, juices reserved (I used fresh)
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 cup light cream or milk (I used 1/2 c. heavy cream & 2/3 c. milk-2%)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large non-reactive saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
2. Add onion and carrot and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes without allowing to color.
4. Add tomatoes with their juices, broth, tomato paste, basil, thyme and bay leaf.
6. Bring to a boil.
7. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer stirring frequently, 15 minutes.
8. Remove and discard bay leaf.
9. Puree soup until smooth using an immersion blender.
10. Return to pan and stir in cream.
11. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
12. Simmer until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes, and serve.

Banana Muffins

These muffins are not only good but also guilt free with less than 1 gram of fat per muffin. Even though they are on the healthy side I still didn't want 22 muffins in the house, so I sent a dozen of them to work with Dan were they gobbled them up. These have a great flavor when following my additions and pretty dense.
Banana Muffins:
Source: Joy of Baking
My changes are in bold.

1 3/4 cups (245 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
(I added an additional ½ tsp)
¼ tsp nutmeg

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 ripe large bananas, mashed well, I used 4 medium bananas
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I added an additional ½ tsp.)
Optional: 1 cup (115 grams) walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place oven rack to middle position. Butter and flour (or spray with a non stick vegetable/flour spray) the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nuts (optional). Set aside.
3. In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas (I mashed mine in my kitchen aid), eggs, melted butter, and vanilla.
4. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, lightly fold the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients just until combined and the batter is thick and chunky. (The important thing is not to over mix the batter. You do not want it smooth. Over mixing the batter will yield tough, rubbery bread.)
5. Use a cookie scoop to evenly distribute the batter into the lined muffin pan.
6. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the muffins from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. These muffins can be frozen.
Yield: 1 - 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf or 22 muffins

Curry Lentil Soup

I promise, this soup taste much better than it looks in this picture. This recipe is a first for two reasons, I've never made anything with lentils or eaten anything with curry in it. I'm happy to report that preparing lentils was very easy. This soup was very filling, I would even say hearty. I was surprised that the soup had a texture similar to a stew and it was thick as though it had meat in it. I served this soup with tomato basil bread, it also makes great leftovers.

Curry Lentil Soup:

3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp curry powder (I used 2 tsp.)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper (I added more)
1 tsp chili (or cayenne) powder
1 qt, vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup lentils
1 large carrot, chopped (I used 2 large carrots)

1. In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.
2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.
3. Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.
4. Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky. Reheat soup if necessary.

Optional: stir in 1/2 a lemon's worth of juice and 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted lightly with chili powder if desired.