Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Perfect Berry Sauce and a Lovely Outdoor Kitchen

This episode was filmed in Catskills, upstate NY. I love to skip from the city every once in a while, it's good to slow down my pace and to reconnect with what really matters, nature! 
I enjoy cooking outdoors, it can be challenging sometimes specially for desserts because of the lack of equipment but if you keep it simple and keep it fresh it will all work well in an outdoorsy way ;) 

This berry sauce is my ultimate recipe for any toppings I might need for my desserts: Cheesecakes, crepes, cakes, pancakes, even as a sauce with chocolate desserts, really, anything that requires (or not) a topping. The secret to this sauce is the wine, it adds complexity to something essentially simple and the orange zest and vanilla also plays an important role here. Everything is balanced out very well, so well that the sauce can be served by itself as the main dessert just by boiling it down for a little bit longer and it becomes a Berry Soup! Served with a dollop of whipped cream, ice-cream or creme fraiche is really everything you need in a hot summer day in the woods. 

450g (1lb) mixed berries - I used cherries, strawberries and blueberries but any berry is welcome.
150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar - if you don't add cherries lower this amount to 100g- 1/2 cup .
150ml dry red wine - use a wine that you'd drink- always! (or you can omit if you prefer) 
1 large stripe of orange zest - no white pith 
1/2 vanilla bean and seeds 
to serve
1 cup heavy cream 
2 tbsp confectioner's sugar 

In a heavy bottomed pan add fruits and sugar and stir. Bring to medium heat and once the pan is hot add the wine, orange zest and vanilla. Let the mixture boil until the sugar is dissolved (around 10 minutes) and the sauce is ready. If you want to serve it 'Soupy' style, let it boil for longer until the sauce is very thick and rich. In this case some of the fruits will lose its shape and everything will gain a dark purple color (just like in the photos here).
for the whipped cream:
In a bowl add cold heavy cream with the confectioner's sugar and whisk it by hand until the cream is thickened. The right consistency is when a peak forms when the whisk is lifted. 

Remove the zest and vanilla bean from the sauce before serving. Add a dollop of whipped cream on top if serving as a soup.  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ombre Birthday Cake! Moist Chocolate Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting

All of us at some point of our lives wished we knew how to make a celebration cake, not only for us but for all the special moments we get invited to by friends and family. There is always that wedding, that baby shower, that birthday party... Making a cake for a special event also comes with a lot of pressure - is it going to look good? Taste good? blah blah blah... 
Cakes don't have to be overly decorated to impress, in fact, the over decorated ones are the cheesiest. A celebration cake only needs to look classy and delicious and I think this is exactly what this one here is all about.

I don't know why but I don't like cakes very much. I rarely eat them and rarely make them but at least once a year I save an afternoon just to bake the most amazing and decadent chocolate cake that anyone can possibly eat- my birthday cake!

Yes, it's my birthday and in this episode you are going to learn how to make the cake that i'm going to serve to my guests at my birthday party in my house: An ombre cake with fresh flowers - the moistest chocolate cake on earth with milk chocolate frosting. This cake is not complicated at all to make, it doesn't even require a mixer and all the ingredients are very simple to find. The trick to achieve a really moist texture is to make the batter release carbon dioxide as it bakes and this is achieved by mixing an alkaline ingredient such as baking soda with an acid such as sour cream. This secret will keep you safe for the rest of your life and all the other tricks on how to decorate the cake and make it look "festive" you can learn by watching this video.

My birthday is my favorite day of the year and I not even once not celebrated this date. Happy Birthday to all the Gemini(s) out there! 

This recipe will make two 9" round cakes enough to create a two layer cake like mine. 
for frosting:
1 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
2 tbsp honey
280g dark chocolate - 60% cacao or more
280g milk chocolate
1 cup confectioners' sugar
200g cold butter (1 cup)
for cake:
2 cups sour cream  (450g) - or unsweetened yogurt or creme fraiche
340g dark chocolate - minimum 60% cacao
1 cup unsalted butter (200g) - room temperature 
1/4 cup cocoa powder dissolved in:
3 tbsp boiling water
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar 
2 cups flour (preferable cake flour but regular flour is ok) 
3 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder 
pinch of salt 
Preheat oven at 350F. Butter and flour your baking pans. 
In a saucepan add the heavy cream, salt and honey. Bring it to a simmer. In a food processor add the chocolates. With the blades running add the hot heavy cream through the tube; process it for 1 minute. Add the confectioners' sugar and process it again. With the machine running add the cold butter little by little and process until all the butter is incorporated and dissolved. Pour it in a bowl and let it rest at room temperature (in a cool area of your house) to gain consistency. About 2 hrs.

Start making the cake. In a large bowl add the sour cream, chocolate and butter. Melt this mixture over a water bath (pan with boiling water). In a separate bowl combine the cocoa powder with the 3 tbsp of boiling water and add it to the melted chocolate mixture; stir to combine. Remove from the water bath and reserve.
In a separate bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar. Reserve.
In a third bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. 
Pour the melted chocolate mixture over the egg mixture and stir to combine. Add the dry ingredients little by little and stir to incorporate everything. 

Pour this cake batter in a pan coated with butter and flour and bake it for approximately 35 minutes in the middle rack or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

How to make Real Vanilla Extract

In my new series named "Don't be fooled, Know your food" I'll teach you how to make an ingredient that you never thought it would be possible to make at home and you will learn all the dirty secrets behind the fabrication of this ingredient when made in massive scale.

Our generation (anybody born after the 50's actually) have a tendency to think that ingredients magically appear on shelfs of supermarkets and grocery stores. Here, every other week I'll show you how something is done from scratch and the result will be much superior and much cheaper than the industrialized versions you can find  out there.

Our regular episodes continues and this series are only going to substitute my old "Le Techniquê" episodes because it has a similar approach but are much better with me on camera- yey!

Let me know what you think and I will take your suggestions for next episodes. What do you usually buy at your grocery store that you'd love to learn how to make at home?



Friday, May 30, 2014

Tart au Chocolat with Crunchy Crust

There are some recipes that you need to make before you convince yourself that they are good. Some others you just know immediately that you will love them. This Tart au Chocolat is one of those you know it's good even before making it. It uses only the simplest of the simplest ingredients, it contrasts textures and it's super chocolaty. You already know it's good, right?

My parents were visiting me this month of May and my dad has a really big sweet tooth but I rarely make him desserts when he's here because there's an amazing french patisserie close to my house where my dad visits daily and comes back home with 2 éclairs, 1 french baguette and 2 croissants. I'd make them dinner everyday but I never saw the need to actually make something sweet for them.  Few days before they left my dad said "my friends won't believe when I tell them that you never made me a dessert during my stay". Well.... I think I got his message. He wanted me to make one of my scrumptious desserts and you know what? I did it. I did it so well that my dad almost had an indigestion from eating too much chocolate.

Even though no sugar is added to the creamy filling and the chocolate used here is 70% this dessert is still sweet enough, mostly because of the crunchy crust that is a mixture between almond brittle and hazelnut paste. I have already taught you how to make almond brittle here and caramelized hazelnuts here but just in case I'll teach you all over again in this episode.
This tart is not baked and the chocolate, eggs and heavy cream are enough to harden it and to create a super smooth creamy texture. If you are in a hurry and you don't want to prepare the ingredients for the crust yourself you just have to buy a nice almond brittle and some hazelnut paste. That's it!

My dad has always played the acoustic guitar for fun (only at home). Mostly rock classics and brazilian music like bossa nova. Because of the complicated chords those songs requires- specially in brazilian songs- he'd never memorize the lyrics and since the age of 3 I was the one who sang along with him while he concentrated in all those crazy chords. To me, using my dad as part of this episode by playing live music just felt very natural. He is awesome and my best friend. I could say we are the perfect duo for music and life!

if you don't want to make the brittle I'd recommend using the 'English Toffee' sold at Trader Joe's. You will need 1 1/2 cups
 for almond brittle:
100g cup granulated sugar - 1/2 cup
85g light corn syrup - 1/4 cup
40ml water - 2 tbsp
pinch os salt
50g unsalted butter - 1/2 stick
1 tsp baking soda
70g chopped almonds - 1/2 cup
for hazelnut paste:
you can use store bought hazelnut paste or even hazelnut spread such as Nutella if you prefer. You will need 1/2 cup
200g granulated sugar - 1 cup
100g toasted hazelnuts - 3/4 cup 
for filing: 
2 eggs
460ml heavy cream - 1 1/2 cups
340g dark chocolate (minimum 60% I used 70%)
for caramelized hazelnut:
50g granulated sugar - 1/4 cup
10 hazelnuts

Utensils: Tart pan (I used a 12"x 5"), food processor or mixer, toothpick and parchment paper or silpat. 

Directions: To make the almond brittle add the sugar, light corn syrup, water and salt to a pan. Stir to combine and cook it over medium heat until it boils. As soon as it boils add the butter and let it cook until it caramelizes and gains a dark amber color. Turn off the heat, add the almonds and baking soda. Stir. Pour the mixture over a silpat or parchment paper and spread it evenly. Let it cool and break it in smaller pieces. 

To make the hazelnut paste add the hazelnuts to a baking pan. Bake it at 350F for 10 minutes or until fragrant. Rub it with a clean dishcloth to remove some of the skin. Add it to a food processor or mixer and process it until fine. In a pan add the sugar. Over medium heat stir until the sugar caramelizes completely. With the food processor or mixer still running, pour this hot caramel over the hazelnuts to form a paste.  

In a bowl add 1 1/2 cup of finely chopped brittle and 1/2 cup of hazelnut paste (if the paste is too hard microwave it for 15 seconds). Mix it with your hands to combine. Spread it in the bottom of your pan and press it to flatten. Refrigerate until needed.  It is possible that you will have leftover brittle and hazelnut paste. Both can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 months. 

To make the filling whisk the eggs together. In a pan add the heavy cream and wait just until it reaches a full boil and rise to the top of the pan. Immediately remove from heat and pour it over the eggs whisking constantly. Add the chopped chocolate to the warm mixture and stir it until smooth. 

Pour the chocolate mixture over the crust and refrigerate it for 1 hour at the top of your fridge (coldest part). Meanwhile make the garnish by melting 50g of sugar in a small pan over medium heat. Once melted, let it cool for 1 minute to thicken a little bit. Insert the tip of a toothpick in a hazelnut and dip it into the caramel. Lift it and place them in a place where they can harden, preferably hanging upside-down at the edges of your cabinet's door. 

Before serving, heat the edges of the pan to help unmold it. Slice the tart and place one caramelized hazelnut over each slice. This recipe yields one 12" x 5" Chocolate Tart (approximately 10 slices).

Friday, April 18, 2014

Lê techniquê : How to Make Caramel Decorations

One of the biggest differences between a dessert from a pastry shop and your dessert made at home is probably the lack of decoration that yours has.  Usually when we casually bake at home we don't put too much effort to decorate it. But what if I told you that you could create amazing sugar decorations just like the ones used in a pastry shop in less than 15 minutes? Yes, the dry method used here to make caramel is a quick and easy technique to achieve that dark amber color fast and without all the hassle of brushing the sides of the pan and etc as the sugar melts.

With the caramel in the right consistency and a ladle it's possible to create a sugar cage. As this same caramel cools down a little bit it's possible to caramelize nuts and create an amazing "tear drop" effect from it. Just by pinching the sugar in the pan with the tips of your fingers and pulling it up it's possible to create an infinite thread of sugar that can be formed into a beautiful ball also known as sugar nest.

Sugar really is versatile and you don't always need a thermometer to work with it. Checking its consistency is really the best way to know when to re-heat it or to keep going as is. To pull threads of sugar for example it's necessary that the caramel has cooled down a little bit and testing it with a fork is always a good idea. If you pull the caramel and it leaves a thread behind it's time to start pulling this baby like crazy.

Things to keep in mind while working with caramel:

1. It burns fast so keep an eye at it at all times
2. The hotter it is the thinner and more liquid it will be. This stage is great to make caramel drawings and to create cages
3. The colder it is the harder (in consistency) it gets 
4. As it cools down too much it starts cracking and breaking easily so it gets harder to work with it.  Re-heat it as many times as you wish but always at a low heat to avoid continuing cooking
5. Caramel melts when in contact with liquids and when refrigerated. Keep it in a cool and dry place.
6. To clean up a pan with a hard rock caramel sitting in it, soak the pan in water overnight and by the morning the caramel should be completely dissolved.

Hope you enjoy this episode. To learn how to make homemade cotton candy click here. Keep in mind  that the sugar decoration will also add a great texture to your dessert! 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The True Red Velvet Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting

No cake is more overrated than the Red Velvet Cake. Red is color and won't taste like anything no matter how much you love this classic. 
I battled a lot with myself before I decided to make this episode for you because even though I've always knew I'd create a tastier healthier version of it for you I still thought that maybe the world didn't need another recipe on how to make a red cake. But guess what? The world didn't need another red cake recipe but it desperately needed an updated version of it! 

After perfecting a technique that I've always enjoyed (using veggies as dyes) i thought this would be the perfect opportunity for me to create this episode with an all natural batter and a twist on a classic frosting: Goat Cheese instead of Cream Cheese. 

My technique used here to reduce the beet juice leaves almost no taste at all in the cake batter. The juice brings an unusual (but very pleasant) sweetness to the cake and a very good texture as well. It's beautiful to see how betanin (natural pigment from the beets) are powerful and fabulous to play with.

My idea to use goat cheese in the frosting was very simple: people love cream cheese frostings because of its tanginess and no cheese knows better about tanginess than goat cheese. Chèvre when mixed with sugar and extract is unrecognizable, all that there's left is a rich piquant flavor, lovely! 

Regarding the traditional method for making the Red Velvet Cake I can't say much otherwise I'll maybe hurt your feelings. I believe we always need to know what we are putting into our bodies and if a recipe gives more importance to the aesthetic created by an ingredient than for the ingredient itself this recipe is mediocre. That said has a lot to do with what a red velvet cake represents, a regular cake famous for being brightly red using chemicals to make the appearance of it appealing.  

The red color found in the traditional red velvet cake comes from an artificial food dye made in a lab with chemicals derived from petroleum. Sometimes a single recipe calls for an entire bottle of it. Independent studies have shown how each artificial color harms your body and the red color (specifically) can trigger hyperactive behavior, is highly allergenic and has shown to contribute to cancer , including brain , testicular tumors and colon cancer. I'd suggest you to read more about this matter and then maybe you will conclude that this recipe I made goes a little beyond the challenge of creating a bright color with only natural ingredients, it's a cake revolution! ;)

1 1/2 cup unbleached flour (it has to be unbleached)
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp natural cocoa powder (don't use dutch processed)
3/4 cup reduced beet juice (made from approximately 6 beets). Don't use beets from a can or industrialized beet juice because it doesn't contain enough betanin to color your cake.  
1 tsp rice vinegar (you can use other vinegars)
1 tbsp lemon juice
100g unsalted butter at room temperature (8 tablespoons)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk 
All ingredients must be at room temperature. 
110g cream cheese (4oz)
110 grams goat cheese (chèvre- 4oz)
5 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups confectioner's sugar 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
Mixed red fruits to decorate such as raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. (optional)

1- Preheat oven at 350F. 
2- Juice the beets in a juicer and pour it in a small saucepan. You can also use a food processor instead and puree it with 2 cups of water and sift it. Over medium heat reduce the beet juice to 3/4 of a cup. Let it cool and add vinegar and lemon. 
3- In a bowl add flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa powder. Reserve.
4- In a mixer or using a whisk cream the butter with sugar until pale yellow. Add eggs (one at a time), vanilla and buttermilk. As soon as the buttermilk goes on stop whisking it. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir well. 
5- Add the beet juice with the acids and stir it to combine.
6- Butter and flour a 9" baking pan or three 5" mini pans. 
7- Pour batter over it and bake it for approximately 35 minutes in the middle rack or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake. 
8- To make the frosting add all the ingredients together and whisk it for 5 minutes until very fluffy and combined (in a mixer or by hand).
9- Let the cake cool completely before frosting otherwise the cheeses will melt. Serve it with red fruits on top! 

Enjoy the tasty redness and don't forget your 3D glasses !

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Official Dulce Delight Trailer

Few days ago I had to comp some of my work into a short video for a presentation that I was doing. While going through new and old footages I decided to create the official video trailer for Dulce Delight because I have way too many cool shots not to share with you all ;) (ok, I sound pretentious here but I'm really proud of the work I've accomplished by myself with zero external help ). 

The problem was that I had to explain my whole work in little less than 2 minutes. That was hard! So hard! Not visually because that part I knew I could accomplish easily but the verbal part, the text, that 2 minutes I had to say everything that Dulce Delight is. My work is a mixture between my love for art, food and sustainability working together to achieve a better reputation for desserts. I also believe in a better world made by people with better intentions spreading more information. My road was long before I even got here so perhaps I had way too much to say. 

A good friend of mine told me the other day that if you can't explain a concept in one sentence (almost like a slogan) than your idea is probably not strong enough. I agree with him but when it comes to our lives the concept is way  deeper and complex (and Dulce Delight is my life, big part of it at least).

Anyways, I accepted the "challenge" (that was never really a challenge) and decided to legitimate what Dulce Delight represented to me in few sentences (c'mom, I couldn't do only one). I'm not sure if I accomplished that but the bottom line is that it was very rewarding to me to see the consistency of my work in every single take I've done in my videos. The colors , the information, the humor, everything. That was so me!

All of that thinking made me think of one more thing... I'm curious to know how would YOU describe Dulce Delight in only one sentence? Leave a comment here and my favorite ones will be posted on social media with credits, of course! Can't wait to hear that from you cause sometimes the way people pursuit you is not the same way you see yourself.