Dark Chocolate, Passion Fruit, and Hazelnut Layer Cake


It's my birthday!!!

It is 3:30 in the morning and I am getting ready for work, which will probably be a 12 hour day because we're in Christmas production mode and that shit is crazy. If you're a long term reader of this blog, that sentence may sound awfully familiar to you because I said almost exactly the same thing when I posted this chocolate cake for my birthday last year. Except last year, it was 6:30 am instead of 3:30 am. Not much has changed.


(Photos above by Mat)

I made my own birthday cake. Is that sad? No. Because I had a deliciously wonderful cake that was exactly what I wanted. I don't really trust anyone else to make cakes for me because I don't actually like most layer cakes. They're almost always dry and too sweet and the buttercream tastes like, well, butter and not much else. That's why I make my own cake and it's like an episode of Pimp My Ride, but more like Pimp My Birthday Cake.

Yo, we heard you like chocolate and passion fruit so we put chocolate in your cake and chocolate in your buttercream and passion fruit in your curd and passion fruit in your buttercream so you can eat chocolate and passion fruit while you eat chocolate and passion fruit.

If you don't get that reference, well, you clearly don't browse the internet as much as I do. If you do, I hope you let a little burst of air out of your nose and smiled reluctantly. Because that's what I did when I wrote that. 

I hope I'm making sense to at least some of you out there. It's 3:30 am after all, give me a break.


(Photos above by Mat)

Anyways, apart from this cake, I'm not doing anything crazy for my birthday, just like last year. I actually requested a chill day with my boyfriend for tomorrow (my weekend), completely with breakfast in bed, watching movies, maybe a nap, and indian takeout for dinner. I'll probably spend the whole day in my pyjamas. And that is exactly what I want to do on my birthday. 

I mean, I kind of want to dress up and have a nice meal at a nice restaurant. But then there's getting ready and putting on makeup and bussing downtown and the rain and the loud drunk young people in the streets and then bussing home when you're all full and sleepy and then taking off the makeup. Such a hassle.

I'm turning 23, not 83, but I don't blame you for thinking it's 83.


Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to go to work for 12 hours and then come home and sleep. I'm a wild party animal, I know.




Dark Chocolate, Passion Fruit, and Hazelnut Layer Cake

Devils Food Cake

202 g all-purpose flour
62 g unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
5 g baking soda
1 g baking powder
2 g kosher salt
112 g eggs
252 g granulated sugar
4 g vanilla paste
172 g mayonnaise
210 g water, at room temperature


Passion Fruit Curd
Recipe from The Modern Cafe

79 g passion fruit purée
8 g lemon juice
100 g granulated sugar
105 g egg yolks
132 g unsalted butter, at room temperature


Praline Paste

190 g hazelnuts
70 g granulated sugar
22 g water


Hazelnut French Buttercream
Recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery

38 g granulated sugar
38 g granulated sugar
63 g egg yolks
75 g whole milk
250 g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, at room temperature
20 g praline paste


Chocolate Passion Fruit Buttercream

57 g egg whites
86 g granulated sugar
170 g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, at room temperature
75 g dark chocolate, melted
6 g passion fruit powder


Chocolate Ganache

100 g dark chocolate, chopped finely
50 g heavy cream
10 g light corn syrup


For the cake, preheat the oven to 325 F. Spray two 6 inch cake rings with non stick spray and place on a silpat lined baking sheet.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder into a medium bowl. Add the salt and stir to combine.

Place the eggs, sugar, and vanilla paste in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix on medium-low speed for about 1 minute to combine. Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then whip on medium-high speed for another 5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened. When the whisk is lifted, the mixture should form a slowly dissolving ribbon.

Add the mayonnaise and whip to combine. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and fold in the dry ingredients and water in 2 additions each.

Portion the batter evenly between the two rings. Bake until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Remove from the rings and place in the fridge to make splitting the cakes easier.

For the passion fruit curd, combine the passion fruit purée and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl. Pour about one-third of the hot purée into the yolks, whisking constantly. Add the remaining hot purée. Place the mixture in a bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water. Cook the curd, whisking constantly, until thickened and the temperature is about 82 C. 

Remove from the hot water bath and whisk for a minute to cool it down. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer. 

Using a Vitamix or an immersion blender, blend on low speed for a few seconds, then add the butter 2 to 3 pieces at a time, blending until incorporated. Let the curd cool to room temperature.

The curd can be used at this point or transferred to a covered container. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Now, start on the nuts for the praline paste. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the hazelnut on a parchment lined sheet pan and roast until golden brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes. The hazelnuts need to be warm and de-skinned when they are added to the caramel.

While the hazelnuts are roasting, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and place over low heat to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat to high and cook the syrup to 116 C. Add the warm hazelnuts now and stir to coat them evenly. Continue cooking the hazelnuts and syrup until they are a deep amber colour and no sandy white bits remain. Spread onto a silpat lined baking sheet to cool completely. Roughly chop around 150 g of hazelnuts into pieces the size of sunflower seeds. Reserve in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use. You can save some hazelnuts for garnishing the cake.

For the praline paste, the caramelized hazelnuts in a small food processor or vitamix. Blend until a smooth and liquidy paste forms, about 8 to 12 minutes. This will make quite a bit of extra praline paste, so use it in hot chocolate, porridge, yogurt, smoothies, ice creams, etc.!


Make the hazelnut french buttercream. If you wish, the buttercream can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. Take the buttercream out of the fridge thirty minutes before you need to use it and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow it to soften and then mix on low speed until it is the proper consistency.

Whisk 38 grams sugar and the yolks together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine the milk and remaining 38 grams of sugar in a medium saucepan, set over 
medium heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar. When the milk is just below a simmer, remove 
the pan from the heat and, whisking constantly, pour it into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the pan and place over medium heat. Whisking constantly, bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for 1 minute, lowering the heat if necessary to prevent the mixture from curdling. It should be very thick.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with a whisk attachment, turn the mixture to medium, and whisk for about 8 minutes, until the mixture is completely cool.

Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, to the egg yolk mixture. If at any point the mixture looks broken, increase the speed to re-emulsify it, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter. Add the praline paste and beat until combined. Check the consistency: if the buttercream is too loose to hod its shape, it should be refrigerated for a few hours to harden, then beaten again to return it to the proper consistency.

For the chocolate passion fruit buttercream, whisk together the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and place over a double boiler. Whisking constantly, warm the egg whites until the mixture is no longer gritty. Immediately transfer to the stand mixer and whip on medium-high for 4 minutes, until glossy and no longer warm. 

Slowly add the butter, piece by piece, until the buttercream forms. The buttercream may look like it has split initially, but if you continue to whip, it should form a smooth, fluffy buttercream. 

With the mixer on lower speed, slowly pour in the melted chocolate, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Fold in the passion fruit powder until combined.

For the ganache, place the cream in a saucepan set over medium heat. Place the chocolate and corn syrup in a medium bowl. Once the cream has just come to a boil, pour over the chocolate. Stir with a rubber spatula until emulsified. Reserve warm until needed.

To assemble, once the cakes have cooled completely, split each one into 3 layers. (I messed up one layer and had to discard it, that's why my cake has 5 layers instead of 6!) Reserve each layer on a parchment lined baking sheet while you work on the cake.

Place one round on a cake turntable and spread an even layer of hazelnut buttercream. Top with a second cake round. Spread an even layer of passion fruit curd, then top with a third cake round. Repeat the process. Refrigerate until hardened, about 30 minutes.

Do a crumb coat of the cake with the chocolate passion fruit buttercream. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Mask the cake completely with the buttercream and refrigerate until hard, about 30 minutes.

Make sure your ganache is warm but not hot. Using a spoon or a small measuring cup, pour the ganache on the edge of the cake so it drips down the sides, then on the top. Garnish with caramelized hazelnuts if you want.

Serve at room temperature.


Chocolate Brioche Wreaths


I know that I sometimes post some pretty complicated and difficult desserts on this blog. I work as a pastry cook, so making a 4 component dessert at home is pretty straight forward for me. Things that can sometimes scare a home baker, like making caramel or tempering chocolate, are as easy as can be for me. I don't mean to brag, but I'm trying to say that I know the stuff I put on here is not always easy for everyone to make.

Except these. These are easy for everyone to make.




I mean, yeah, you need a stand mixer to mix the brioche so if you don't have a stand mixer then I don't think you can make this (sorry!) but them's the brakes. Other than that, it's super easy! You mix up the brioche, let it rise, chuck it in the fridge overnight, then roll them out, roll 'em up, cut 'em, proof 'em, bake 'em. 

Easy, right? I don't even know what's easy to other people anymore. Once you make 70 kg of almond cream, line 100 tart rings, or roll out 200 croissants on a daily basis, "easy" takes on a new meaning. 






These look complicated - with all the layers and the "braiding" and the dark/light contrast, but in reality they're just logs of rolled up dough that have been cut in half. There's no laminating or complicated braiding techniques here, I promise. But there's no need to tell that to everyone else. You can just let them think you're a dough whisperer, a master of all things kneaded and baked.



These brioche are best served the day they're made (preferably warm from the oven!), but they are also pretty good the next day. I like to tear off chunks and dip them in hot chocolate or warm milk, but that might be a bit too decadent for a normal person to handle. But I recommend it because it's delicious



Chocolate Brioche Wreaths

Brioche
Recipe from Bouchon Bakery Cookbook

372 g all-purpose flour
8 g instant yeast
44 g granulated sugar
9 g fine sea salt
186 g eggs
63 g whole milk
167 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/8th inch dice

Chocolate Filling

60 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
30 g granulated sugar
30 g alkalized cocoa powder
2 g vanilla powder
10 g honey


Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray.

For the brioche, place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix for about 15 seconds to distribute the yeast evenly. Add all of the remaining dough ingredients except for the butter and mix on low speed for 4 minutes. Add the butter a few pieces at a time, incorporating after each addition before adding the next. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and push the dough off the hook. Mix for a total of 30 minutes on low speed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Fold the left side over to the right, the right over to the left, then the top to the bottom and the bottom to the top so you have a "package" with the seam at the top. Place the dough seam-side down in the prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it ferment for 1 hour. 

Repeat the folding process, place it back in the bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

For the filling, cream the butter until pale and creamy. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the cocoa powder and vanilla powder and mix until incorporated, then add the honey and mix until incorporated.

Remove the brioche from the refrigerator and divide it into four equal pieces. Work with one piece of dough at a time while keeping the rest in the refrigerator.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one piece of dough to 40 cm by 20 cm. If the dough becomes too warm at any point, gently place it on the back of a sheet pan lined with parchment and refrigerate for 10 minutes, then continue working.

Spread one quarter of the filling onto the brioche using an offset spatula, reaching all the way to the edges but leaving 2 cm of dough bare on one of the long sides. Brush the bare part with water. Starting from the other long side, roll up the dough tightly and evenly. Once the dough is rolled up, gently roll the log until it is 50 cm in length, being careful not to squish or deform the dough. Cut each 50 cm log into two 25 cm logs.

Using a large knife, make a cut in the dough log, leaving 3 cm at the top uncut. Place the right half of dough over the left, then repeat until you have a "braid" of dough. Gently brush a bit of water onto the ends of the dough and press them together, then place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining doughs. You should have 8 total wreaths.

Place a piece of plastic wrap lightly on the surface of the brioche and let it proof in a warmish place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Note: I turn the shower on in my bathroom, let it run for 5 minutes, then turn it off. This makes the bathroom a little warm and a little steamy, but not too hot. I place the brioche on the counter, then close the door. This provides the most ideal proofing conditions that I can find in my apartment. If you do this, check up on the dough every 30 minutes to make sure it's not too hot!)

Preheat the oven to 330 F. Brush the brioche with egg wash, being careful not to drag any of the filling onto the brioche when you do, and bake until golden brown, abut 20 to 25 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Enjoy!

Milk Chocolate and Passion Fruit Marshmallows


I love marshmallows, but only in hot chocolate. And only if they're homemade. Okay, sometimes I make hot chocolate with a mix that has tiny little marshmallows already in it, but they're really small so it doesn't count. 

But seriously, homemade marshmallows are infinitely better than store bought and they're easy and don't even require a whole lot of ingredients! And you can customize the flavour to almost aaaanything.




Don't have passion fruit powder? Use another fruit powder or even leave it out! Don't have milk chocolate? Use dark! Don't have any chocolate at all (do people like that exist?), just make regular marshmallows! Add lemon zest, orange zest, any zest, jam, spices, extracts! Basically anything that packs a lot of flavour but doesn't have a lot of liquid can be added. So please don't add orange juice or a cup of coffee, that would be a bad idea. But orange zest and coffee powder, go for it! The possibilities are endless.




If you happen to have a handheld torch, this is the time to whip it out. Toasted marshmallow in your hot chocolate. Toasted homemade milk chocolate and passion fruit marshmallows in your hot chocolate. !!!!! 




Milk Chocolate and Passion Fruit Marshmallow Eggs
Recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery

9.6 g silver leaf gelatin sheets
87 g egg whites
225 g granulated sugar
112 g water
50 g light corn syrup
12 g passion fruit powder
100 g milk chocolate, chopped finely

50 g cornstarch
50 g icing sugar


Spray a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with non stick spray and line with parchment paper. Combine the cornstarch and icing sugar in a small bowl. Using a sieve, dust the parchment-lined baking pan with an even layer of the icing sugar and cornstarch mixture.

To start, soften the gelatin leaf in ice water. Remove the gelatin from the water and squeeze out excess water. Place the gelatin in a small metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water and melt it (do not let it simmer), then reduce the heat and keep it warm.

Meanwhile, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Place the milk chocolate in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water and melt it, then remove from heat.

Combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and water in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then simmer for about 5 minutes, until the syrup reaches 121.1 C/ 250 F.

Letting the syrup continue to cook, turn the mixer to medium speed. The goal is to have the egg whites at medium peaks when the syrup reaches 138-140 C/ 281-284 F. Should the hits reach stiff peaks before the syrup reaches the proper temperature, reduce the mixer speed to the lowest setting.

When the syrup reaches 138-140 C/ 281-284 F, remove it from the heat. Turn the mixer to medium speed and slowly add the syrup to the egg whites, pouring it between the side of the bowl and the whisk. Pour in the gelatin, increase the speed to medium-high, and mix for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is thickened, glossy, and warm but not hot.

Add the passion fruit powder and whip for 30 seconds to distribute. Gently fold in the melted chocolate. You can make swirled marshmallows by folding in the chocolate only a little bit or you can fold it in completely for an even look.

Spread the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan. Spray a small offset spatula with non stick spray and use that to smooth the surface. If you want an even and flat surface, cut a 9 x 9 square of parchment and spray one side. Place the sprayed side down on the surface on the marshmallow and gently press down.

Let the marshmallows set at room temperature for 8 hours or preferably overnight. 

To cut up, remove the square of parchment off the top and lift out the marshmallow by using the parchment on the bottom. Using a sharp knife sprayed with non stick spray, trim the sides and then cut the marshmallows into your desired sizes/shapes. I find 1 x 1 inch works best. If you are storing them for more than a day, dust the cubes with the icing sugar-cornstarch mixture to prevent them from sticking to each other. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

S'mores Custard Cake


Every summer, I have to make a s'mores dessert. There's just something about the summer and the warm weather than makes me crave that graham cracker-chocolate-toasted marshmallow combo. Theres just no beating it. 

Way back in 2013, it was a s'mores tart. Last year, it was s'mores cream puffs. This year, I think I may have really outdone myself with this s'mores custard cake. I don't even know if I can make another s'mores dessert that isn't this cake because this is the pinnacle of s'mores reincarnations.




There's all kinds of s'mores things around the internet. I mean, s'mores might be one of the most popular flavour combos to exist based on all the different things you can do with chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows. Most are pretty straight forward and that's awesome because hey, original s'mores are as straight forward as it gets. There's nothing fancy about two graham crackers, a toasted marshmallow, and a square of chocolate. But that's the fun part about taking the flavours of something and making it into something different. You can take the flavours and the textures and kick it up a notch and turn it into something really extra special. It doesn't mean it's better than the original, it's just a different take on it. That's what I love about making desserts - the possibilities are endless.


As you can guess from the photos, this cake is a little more work than an original s'more but it's not that difficult. A little cake, some streusel, a custard, and a bit of meringue. You could make it in one day or stretch it out over a couple days. You could make these in glasses if you don't have ring molds (no freezing required if you do that) or you could even make this into one big cake (freezing times would be longer). But I love individual desserts because they feel so personal. Like someone made this little cake all for me, just me! Even I'm making it for myself, it still feels extra special. 



And once you've finished assembling all of the components, you've toasted your meringue, and are digging your spoon into that cake for the first bite, you'll see that all that hard work was so worth it. 

The light-as-air meringue, smooth and creamy custard, crunchy streusel, and dense chocolate cake all come together to make an unreal flavour and texture party in your mouth. The custard is my favourite part (custards are always my favourite part of anything) because it's basically a crème brûlée. I took a crème brûlée recipe and instead of cooking it in the oven, I continued cooking it on the stovetop, like a pastry cream. Once it cooled in the fridge, the texture was just like a crème brûlée! So silky smooth and velvety, plus all that chocolate makes it pretty rich. That richness is offset by the super light flavour and texture of the meringue, then the streusel comes in there with a kick of texture and the chocolate cake just rounds everything out. 

The biggest problem with this recipe is that it only makes three cakes (because I only have three ring molds). I ate one after I was done shooting (and during…), then took one to share with my boyfriend, and then took one to work. So while I still ate 1.5 cakes, it wasn't enough. I wanted mooooore. And apparently, other people wanted more as I got a call from my dad who had seen the teaser on instagram and was wondering where his cake was. It's a good thing I still have some of the components left over so I can make these again for every one else (but mostly for me).



S'mores Custard Cake
Makes three 3-inch cakes

Devils Food Cake

101 g all-purpose flour
31 g unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
2.5 g baking soda
0.5 g baking powder
1 g kosher salt
56 g eggs
126 g granulated sugar
2 g vanilla paste
86 g mayonnaise
105 g water, at room temperature

Graham Streusel
Recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery Cookbook

50 g almond flour
50 g graham crumbs
50 g light brown sugar
25 g all-purpose flour
1 g vanilla powder
60 g unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2 inch dice

Chocolate Crème Brûlée

233 g heavy cream
100 g whole milk
66 g granulated sugar
10 g unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
1 g salt
66 g egg yolks
125 g dark chocolate, melted

Meringue

50 g egg whites
75 g granulated sugar
1 g vanilla paste


To start, line three 3 inch diameter and 1.75 inch tall ring molds with acetate and place on a silpat lined baking sheet. Set aside.

For the cake, preheat the oven to 325 F. Line a half sheet pan with a silpat or spray lightly with nonstick spray, line with parchment paper, and spray the parchment.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder into a medium bowl. Add the salt and stir to combine.

Place the eggs, sugar, and vanilla paste in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix on medium-low speed for about 1 minute to combine. Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then whip on medium-high speed for another 5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened. When the whisk is lifted, the mixture should form a slowly dissolving ribbon.

Add the mayonnaise and whip to combine. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and fold in the dry ingredients and water in 2 additions each.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and, using an offset spatula, spread it in an even layer, making sure that it reaches into the corners. Bake for 10 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out sean and the cake springs back when lightly touched. Set on a cooling rack and cool completely.

Lay a piece of parchment on the back of a sheet pan. Run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it and invert it onto the parchment. Remove the silpat or parchment from the top of the cake. Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Cut out three 3-inch diameter rounds from the cake while it is still frozen and place in the ring molds. Wrap the remainder of the cake in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 weeks (this is extra).

For the streusel, preheat the oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the almond flour, graham crumbs, sugar, vanilla powder, and flour in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the butter and quickly break it up with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Spread the streusel on the baking sheet in an even layer and freeze for 10 minutes. 

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring the streusel every 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Spoon 40 g of streusel into each ring hold and gently press into the holds  Store the remainder in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 2 weeks.

For the custard, combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan set of medium-high heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cocoa powder until slightly paler in colour.

When the milk mixture has come to a boil, slowly pour a small amount into the yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Continue tempering the yolks with the milk mixture, then transfer all of back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring continuously with a rubber spatula, until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon and a thermometer reads 82 C. 

Remove from heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl set over an ice bath. While the mixture is still warm, add the melted chocolate and emulsify with an immersion blender. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

Fill a piping bag with the chocolate custard and pipe into the molds until it reaches the top of the molds. Smooth the top with an offset spatula and freeze for 4 hours, or overnight.

Remove the rings from the cakes, but keep the acetate on. Add a second layer of acetate 0.5 inches higher than the original acetate over top the original acetate. Place the rings back on.

For the meringue, combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Whisking constantly, bring the mixture to 60 C, then transfer to the stand mixer and whip on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Add the vanilla paste and whip for 1 minute to combine.

Pipe the meringue into the rings until it reaches the top of the second layer of acetate. Smooth the top with an offset spatula and freeze for 30 minutes. 

Place into the fridge 4 hours before serving but remove the rings and both layers of acetate while frozen. When ready to serve, use a handheld torch to toast the meringue while being careful not to scorch the custard.




Earl Grey and Dark Chocolate Cream Puffs


I love tea. I've always loved tea. I drink tea every single morning and have done since I was a little kid. Back then, I used to drink it out of brightly coloured plastic cups. Now I drink out of an actual mug, but everything else is basically the same. I like my routines, probably a bit too much, and my morning tea routine hasn't changed in about 12 years.


I wake up and before I do anything else, I put the kettle on. Then I get dressed and put in my contacts and give my hair a quick brush. By the time, the kettle has boiled, so I pop a teabag into my little teapot and in goes the water. While that steeps, I prepare my mug with sugar and milk. The sugar and milk always go in before the tea. Always. I prepare my little bowl of granola, too, but I just eat that so I'm not starving in a few hours. It's the tea that I need in the morning. The tea has steeped enough at that point, so I pour it in my mug and sit on the couch.


First, I eat my granola. I have to eat my granola first or else I won't eat it at all. It's like telling kids that they have to finish their veggies before they can have ice cream. I begrudgingly eat my granola, but it's really just so I can have my tea. I know, it's odd.
Then I spend about 25 minutes drinking my tea and browsing my phone, looking at photos, or reading news articles. I need that quiet time, both to drink my tea without being hurried and also to actually wake up. 


I have this routine down to the minute. I don't even try to, but it just ends up that every morning, I sit down on the couch with my granola and tea at the exact same time as the day before. It's 3:41 am, in case you're wondering. 

When I tell people about my routine and how I wake up an hour before I leave the apartment, even though it only takes me 15 minutes to actually get ready, they're confused. They don't get why I need that quiet time to get my thoughts in order before a hectic and busy day. Don't get me wrong, I love sleep. I need sleep. I cannot function properly on 5 hours of sleep. But I also can't function properly without my quiet time, so that's the reason for the routine. And I actually look forward to my quiet tea time when I wake up. As soon as my alarm goes off, I look forward to my tea and some days I really need that to get my butt out of bed.


Surprisingly, I'm also really picky particular about my tea. It's gotta be black tea, always. Sorry, herbal, mate, rooibus, white, green, pu'erh and oolong, but you just don't cut it. I have to have white sugar (or maybe honey if I'm feeling extravagant). That's just the way it's gotta be.

While I do not like other flavours in my tea, I love combining black tea with other flavours in desserts. One of my favourite desserts that I've ever made on this blog is the Charred Lemon Mousse with Earl Grey Cream. This is also not the first time I have combined earl grey and dark chocolate, these Earl Grey Infused Chocolate Pots de Crème were first.


While my tea drinking habits and preferences are borderline ridiculous, it means I take my tea seriously. So when I make a dessert with tea, I make sure that the tea isn't just some end note or an aftertaste. Even when paired with a rich and flavourful ingredient like dark chocolate, the light and airy earl grey chantilly cuts the richness in flavour and in texture and makes everything wonderfully balanced. Just like the perfect cup of tea.


Earl Grey and Dark Chocolate Cream Puffs

Chocolate Pâte Sucrée

150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
112 g icing sugar
2 g salt
5 g vanilla extract
50 g eggs
195 g all-purpose flour
55 g cocoa powder
20 g cornstarch


Pâte à Choux

125 g water
125 g whole milk
5 g superfine sugar
5 g fleur de sel
110 g unsalted butter
140 g all-purpose flour
250 g eggs

Earl Grey Chantilly

100 g heavy cream
5 g loose leaf Earl Grey Tea
200 g heavy cream
15 g icing sugar

Dark Chocolate Mousse
Recipe from Elements of Dessert

120 g eggs
50 g sugar
160 g good quality dark chocolate (70-73%), finely chopped
263 g heavy cream

Chocolate Decor

125 g dark chocolate, finely chopped


Prepare the pâte sucrée. In a stand mixer, cream the butter until creamy. Sift in the icing sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, salt, and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, and cornstarch and beat just until the dough forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Remove the tart dough and roll it out to a thickness of less than 1/16 inch (1 mm). Place on a baking sheet and freeze for 20 minutes.

Prepare the choux paste. In a saucepan, bring the water, milk, sugar, salt, and butter to a boy. With the saucepan still over the heat, add the flour all at once. Beat hard with a wooden spoon until the paste is smooth and shiny and continue being until the paste comes away from the sides of the pan. Transfer the paste to a bowl and incorporate the eggs one at a time, beating constantly. Transfer the finished paste to a piping bag fitted with a plain #14 pastry tip.

After 20 minutes in the freezer, remove the tart dough and cut out twelve to fourteen 2 1/2 inch (7 cm) rounds. 

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pipe out 12 to 14 choux balls about 2 1/2 inches (6.5 cm) in diameter and 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) tall, arranging them on the lined baking sheet about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. (Note: I use a 1 inch diameter demi sphere mold for my choux, freeze, then unmold onto the baking sheet). On each choux, place a disc of sweet tart dough. Place them in the oven and turn the oven off. Keep the oven off for ten minutes. Turn the oven back on to 350 F and continue baking the choux, After ten minutes, slide a wooden cooking spoon between the oven and its door to keep it partly open. Bake for another ten minutes. Transfer the choux to a wire rack to cool.

Split each choux crosswise three-quarters of the way up the side, keeping the tops with the bottom so you can match them back up after.

For the earl grey chantilly, heat the 100 g of heavy cream in a sauce until it just comes to a boil. Add the earl grey tea, cover with a lid, and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain and cool completely in the fridge.

Once the earl grey cream has chilled, whip the 200 g of heavy cream and icing sugar to stiff peaks. Slowly add the earl grey cream while whipping. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star tip and reserve in the fridge.

For the chocolate mousse, whip the heavy cream to medium peaks and set aside in the fridge.

Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and place over a hot water bath while whisking constantly until it reaches 60 C/ 140 F.

Remove the mixture from the heat and place it in the stand mixer. Whip on high speed until it cools to about 35 C/ 95 F and creates ribbons, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate over the hot water bath. Let it cool to 35 C/ 95 F.

Once both the egg mixture and the chocolate are at the correct temperatures, whisk the egg into the chocolate until evenly combined. Fold half of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remaining half. 

Pipe the chocolate mousse into the bottom of the cream puffs, stopping when it reaches the top. Pipe the earl grey chantilly on, then top with the top of the cream puff. Pipe a small dot of earl grey cream on the top.

For the chocolate decor, place a sheet of acetate on your work surface and prepare a parchment cone place. Place 100 g of the chocolate in a boil set over a pot of barely simmering water. Melt the chocolate to 43 C, but do not heat it further. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 25 g of chocolate. Stir continuously until the chocolate reaches 27 C. 

To test to see if it is properly tempered, smear a small amount of chocolate on the acetate. If after a few minutes, the chocolate has hardened, has a shine to it, and snaps when you break it, it is tempered. Bring the chocolate up to 31 C, being careful not to heat it any further or you will bring it out of temper. Transfer the chocolate to the parchment cone and pipe overlapping circles of different sizes onto the parchment. Let the chocolate set.

Heat a small circular cookie cutter about 1/2 inch in diameter with a blowtorch. Cut out circles from the chocolate lace and set aside.

To finish, place a circle of chocolate lace into the dot of earl grey chantilly. Garnish with dried flowers (found in some loose leaf earl grey teas) and serve immediately.


Mint Chocolate Tart with Caramelized Cocoa Nibs


Only a few more days until Christmas!!! I have to admit, it really snuck up on me. I know, I know, I was getting ready for Christmas months ago and have been going gung-ho on Christmas recipes since December 1st, but suddenly it's right here! Right in my face, saying "Hey, are you ready? Here I come, ready or not!".

Despite all my Christmas recipes, my decorations, and my tree, I don't know if I'm actually ready for Christmas...


There's a very good reason for why I'm not ready and I've mentioned in a few times in previous posts and I hope I'm not sounding too whiny - but I'm working like cah-raaazy. Every day is a 12 hour work day. Well, sometimes it's not - yesterday was 14 hours. 

So please forgive me because I barely have enough time to microwave leftover mac and cheese and get 6 hours of sleep before I'm off to work again. It's hard to work in Christmas cheer when I'm eating leftovers in a tupperware container over the sink. So glamourous. 


 But Christmas is coming whether Im ready for it or not, so I better get my head in the game. 

If you're feeling a little bit like me or maybe it just doesn't feel like Christmas yet, try out these tarts. They might help. A crisp and buttery crust, a silky dark chocolate custard, topped with a cute little dome of peppermint white chocolate crémeux, and sprinkled with crunchy caramelized cocoa nibs to give a little hint of bitterness to contrast all that sweet. I think I checked all the boxes with this dessert... creamy, crunchy, sweet, bitter, chocolatey. 



Mint Chocolate Tart with Caramelized Cocoa Nibs

Sablé Dough 
Recipe adapted from Elements of Dessert

145 g all-purpose flour
350 g cake flour
240 g butter, at room temperature
1/2 vanilla bean
3.5 g salt
180 g icing sugar
35 g almond flour
100 g eggs


Dark Chocolate Custard
Recipe from Cook with Jamie

242 g heavy cream
106 g whole milk
20 g sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
177 g good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten

White Chocolate Peppermint Crémeux

40 g egg yolks
166 g heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean
73 g white chocolate, finely chopped
2 g peppermint extract
1 gelatin sheet, bloomed


Caramelized Cocoa Nibs

35 g sugar
10 g water
100 g cocoa nibs


For the sablé, sift the all-purpose and cake flour together.

Cream the butter, salt, icing sugar, and almond flour together on medium speed in an electric mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the mix. Mix until a homogenous mass is obtained, about 2 minutes.

Stop the mixer, add the eggs and mix for a few seconds on low speed until the eggs are completely incorporated.

Stop the mixer, add the sifted flours, and mix for a few seconds, pulsing the mixer at first to keep the flour in the bowl. Mix just to obtain a homogenous mixture. 

Shape the dough into a flat square and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven 325 F.

Roll out the dough to 3mm, then chill again until slightly firm. Line your tart shell by placing a piece of dough on top of each mold. Gently push the dough in with your fingertips until it conforms to the shape of the mold. Make sure that the dough is lined up with the mold. There will be some that protrudes from the rim of the mold. Do not cut it yet. Freeze the tart(s) until the dough hardens.

Once the dough is hard, use a paring knife to trim the excess off the top of the molds. 

Dock the dough with a fork and line with parchment paper and baking weights/dried beans/rice. If the dough is still frozen, bake it; otherwise re-freeze it. Bake until dry, but has not developed colour yet, about 10 minutes. Remove the parchment and baking weights form the tart and bake for a further 5 to 7 minutes, until the tarts are very lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.

For the filling, combine the heavy cream, milk, sugar, and orange zest in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the pot and heat over medium heat.

Scald the milk mixture, remove from heat, and add the chopped chocolate. Whisk the mixture until the chocolate has melted and cooled slightly. Add the egg and whisk again to incorporated. Transfer to a pitcher or similar vessel.

Place your tart shells in the oven and pull the rack out slightly. Carefully pour the chocolate mixture into your shells and slide the rack back in place, making sure not to spill the filling. 

Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, until there is a slight jiggle in the middle of the custard. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

For the white chocolate crémeux, place the heavy cream in a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Place the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until slightly paler in colour. Place the white chocolate in a large bowl.

Once the cream mixture has just come to a boil, pour a small amount into the egg yolks while whisking constantly. Pour the remaining cream into the yolks, then return to the saucepan. Over medium-low heat and stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, cook the anglaise until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. 

Strain with a fine mesh sieve into the bowl with the white chocolate. Let it sit for 30 seconds, then slowly stir to melt the chocolate and emulsify. Add the peppermint extract. Squeeze the excess water from the gelatin and add to the mixture, stirring to dissolve. Place over an ice bath and cool to room temperature.

Place a 2.75 inch diameter demi sphere silicone mold on a baking sheet. Pour 40 g of white chocolate cremeux into the silicone molds (they will not be full) and freeze until completely frozen.

For the caramelized cocoa nibs, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan. Dissolve the sugar over low heat, then increase the heat to high. Once the mixture has reached 116 C, add the cocoa nibs and stir with a heatproof rubber spatula. Continue to cook until the sugar caramelizes, about 4 minutes. Spread the cocoa nibs into a baking sheet lined with a silpat and let cool completely. Break up any large clumps of cocoa nibs and reserve in an airtight container.

To assemble, unmold a demi sphere and place it on the chocolate tart. Let the demi sphere thaw in fridge for about 30 minutes. In the space between the edge of the demi sphere and the tart shell, sprinkle caramelized cocoa nibs.


Cranberry & White Chocolate Macarons

I love Christmas. This is nothing new and I'm sure you've already come to that conclusion based on the many Christmas recipes that I've put up since the beginning of December. I love the decorations and the twinkling lights and even the music. But I love it for reasons more meaningful than shiny baubles. 

My boyfriend is not so much into Christmas (poor guy). It's pretty understandable seeing that his whole family is in another continent and he hasn't spent a Christmas with them in about a decade. He's turned a little bitter about a holiday that most people get to spend with their family when he doesn't get to. Like a modern day Grinch. I told him this, but he doesn't know who or what the Grinch is (?!?!). If I wasn't working 12 hours a day right now, I'd sit him down and make him watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. 

The other day, I was talking about how much I loved Christmas. He asked me why.

I gave him the usual answer - pretty lights, cute decorations, happy music. But he didn't really get my excitement. I started to really think about what exactly it is about Christmas that I love so much.

I love giving gifts. I love searching out the perfect gift for someone. I look forward to seeing their reaction upon opening their gift more than I look forward to getting any gifts. I get such delight in thinking of something that someone would just love - and not just "Oh, he likes food so I'll get him this random cookbook that I think I would like." You have to put more thought into it than that. It shows when you do. 

I explained that to my boyfriend and he started to understand it a little more. Truthfully, the more I explained it, the more I realized it. 

When I give a really thoughtful and heartfelt gift to someone, they smile. They smile a genuine smile of love and appreciation and gratitude. That's what I love - seeing that person realize that someone really cares about them, that they are someone very special to me.

Christmas isn't about buying useless crap and spending tons of money. It's hard to realize that because everywhere you look, you're bombarded with ads and commercials telling you that

if you really care about the one you love

, you'll buy them this necklace/gaming system/sweater/whatever. 

It's really hard to resist that because you think to yourself, "Well, I really do love them. If I don't get that, does that mean I don't really love them? Will they think that I don't love them?". We're led to believe that the more money we spend on someone, the more we love them. That's totally not true. 

The best gifts I've ever received have cost nothing. Gifts like a handmade card or a heartfelt poem - the ones that take effort and thought and feeling, not just money.

One Christmas several years ago, I was tight on money, so I wrote my parents each a letter for Christmas. My brother made fun of me for being so cheap. My dad shed a little tear when he read his. To this day, he still has that letter that I wrote him. I doubt that any of the books that I've given him made the same impact.

Ah, I'm getting all serious and sentimental here. The point I'm trying to get across is that you need to realize that Christmas isn't about

stuff

, it's about expressing love. The two are not the same. It's tough to stay afloat in the sea of "buy this!" and "buy that!", but it can be done and when you see that genuine smile from someone, you'll know what I'm talking about.

No one really needs more

stuff

in their life. But everyone could use a little more love in their life. 

"Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more..."

Cranberry and White Chocolate Macarons

White Chocolate French Buttercream

Recipe adapted from 

Bouchon Bakery

38 g granulated sugar #1

38 g granulated sugar #2

63 g egg yolks

75 g whole milk

250 g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, at room temperature

125 g white chocolate, chopped finely

Cranberry Puree

200 g fresh or frozen cranberries

75 g vanilla sugar

10 g maple syrup

1/2 vanilla bean

1 cinnamon stick

Vanilla Macarons

Recipe adapted from 

Bouchon Bakery

212 g almond flour/meal

212 g powdered sugar

82 g egg whites

90 g egg whites

1/2 vanilla bean

236 g granulated sugar

158 g water

First, make the 

buttercream

. If you wish, the buttercream can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. Take the buttercream out of the fridge thirty minutes before you need to use it and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow it to soften and then mix on low speed until it is the proper consistency.

Place the white chocolate in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk the sugar #1 and the yolks together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the milk and sugar #2 in a medium saucepan, set over medium heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar. When the milk is just below a simmer, remove 

the pan from the heat and, whisking constantly, pour it into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the pan and place over medium heat. Whisking constantly, bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for 1 minute, lowering the heat if necessary to prevent the mixture from curdling. It should be very thick.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer with the white chocolate in it. Let it sit for 30 seconds and then slowly stir with a rubber spatula until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is emulsified. Fit the mixer with a whisk attachment, turn the mixture to medium, and whisk for about 8 minutes, until the mixture is completely cool.

Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, to the egg yolk mixture. If at any point the mixture looks broken, increase the speed to re-emulsify it, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter. Check the consistency: if the buttercream is too loose to hod its shape, it should be refrigerated for a few hours to harden, then beaten again to return it to the proper consistency.

For the

cranberry puree

, combine the cranberries, sugar, maple syrup, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the saucepan along with the pod. Heat over medium-low heat until the cranberries pop, about 7 to 9 minutes. Let the  mixture cool completely. Remove the cinnamon stick and the vanilla bean pod. Puree the cranberries with an immersion blender or a regular blender until smooth. Transfer to a container and place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface to prevent it from drying out.

Start on the 

macarons

. The macarons need to be as close in size as possible and a template is the easiest way to ensure that. Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a work surface with the long side facing you. Using a glass or bowl, trace the desired size of your macaroons (I used a 1.5 inch diameter for these). Make sure to leave 1 inch of space between them. Turn the parchment over and lay it on a sheet pan. Lift up each corner of the parchment and spray with non-stick spray to keep it from blowing up while the cookies are baking. Repeat with a second sheet.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl and whisk together. Make a well in the center, leaving a layer of flour at the bottom. Pour in the 82 grams egg whites and combine with a spatula. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the mixture, stirring until evenly distributed. Set aside.

Place the remaining 90 grams egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Combine the 236 grams sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 203 F/110 C.

Letting the syrup continue to cook, add a pinch of sugar to the egg whites, turn the mixer to medium speed, and whip to soft peaks. If the whites reach soft peaks before the syrup reaches 248 F/120 C, reduce the speed to the lowest setting, just to keep them moving.

When the syrup reaches 248 F/120 C, remove the pan from the heat. Turn the mixer to medium-low speed and slowly add the syrup, pouring it between the side of the bowl and 

the whisk. The meringue will deflate. Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5 minutes, or until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Although the bowl will still be warm, the meringue should have cooled. If not, continue to whip until it is cool.

Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond mixture, then continue adding the whites a little at a time (you may not use them all) until when you fold a portion of the batter over on itself, the "ribbon" slowly moves. The mixture shouldn't be so stiff that it holds its shape without moving at all, but it shouldn't be so loose that it dissolves into itself and does not maintain the ribbon; it is better for the mixture to be sightly stiff than too loose.

Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip. Hold the bag upright 1/2 inch above the center of one of the traced circles and pipe out enough to fill in the circle. Lift away the pastry bag and fill the remaining circles on the first pan. Lift up the sheet pan and tap the bottom of the pan to spread the batter evenly and smooth any peaks left by the bag.

Place the sheet pan in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees again.

Pipe the remaining macaron mixture into the circles of the second sheet pan and bake as directed above. Let cool completely.

Transfer the buttercream to the pastry bag with the 3/8 inch tip. Transfer the cranberry puree to a pastry bag with the 3/8 inch tip. Remove the macarons from the parchment paper. Turn half of them over. Pipe a ring of buttercream, not quite reaching the edge of the macaron. Fill the hole with cranberry puree. Top with a second macaron and gently press to spread the buttercream to the edges. Repeat with remaining macarons and filling.

The macarons are best if wrapped individually in a few layers of plastic wrap and frozen for at least 24 hours or up to 2 weeks. Defrost in the refrigerator for 3 hours, then bring to room temperature before seving. They can be served the day they are made or stored in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 2 days.