Monday, July 21, 2014

Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake

Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake

If you've been looking for a decadently rich flourless chocolate cake to add to your repertoire, this chocolate almond cake is simply the best there is.  It is by far the most heavenly thing I've eaten all year. 

Almond flour and cocoa combined with butter, eggs and melted chocolate make a cake that is decadently dense and moist while still feeling light because of the fine crumb in the finished cake.  Almond spiked chocolate ganache crowns this masterpiece catapulting this one to new heights of luxury.   

And if you want your cake to look as spectacular as it tastes, be sure to check out my video tutorial below for decorating tips.

Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake
Prep time: 10 min
Bake time: 50-55 min
Servings: 12 Slices

Ingredients for the Cake      
  • 2 cups ground almonds  
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa 
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 6 eggs 
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ - ½ tsp almond extract (depending on how strong you want the almond flavor)
  • 2 tbsp strong black coffee
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick chopped)
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate
  • ½ cup of sliced almonds (for the border)

Ingredients for the Ganache
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate 
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 tsp of almond extract

Ingredients for the Writing Glaze
  • ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream

Video Tutorial

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (or 163 °C) and spray a 9 inch nonstick cake pan with cooking spray then add a circle of parchment to the bottom of the pan and spray it again.
  2. For the batter, sift together the almond flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, almond extract and coffee until the egg mixture is completely smooth and starts to get a little lighter in color and set aside. 
  4. In a microwave safe bowl combine the semisweet chocolate and butter then microwave at 80% power, in 30 second increments, stirring after each session until you've got them both melted nicely and well combined. 
  5. Pour the chocolate mixture into egg mixture and whisk until well combined.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula until well combine being sure to scrape down  the bottom and sides of the bowl as you go.  
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan then tap the pan a few times on the table to level  out the batter.  Bake it for 50- 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.   (I baked it 52 minutes)
  8. Allow the cake to rest in the pan for 5-10 minutes then loosen the edges all the way around with a paring knife. 
  9. Place a cake plate or serving dish on top of the pan and invert the cake.  Peel off the parchment and let it cool for at least a half hour before topping.
  10. To make the ganache, in a microwave safe bowl combine the semisweet chocolate, heavy cream, and almond extract then microwave it at 80% power in 30 second increments stirring after each session until you've got a smooth glossy ganache. 
  11. Let the ganache cool for a few minutes then pour it in the center of the cooled cake.  Slowly rotate the cake letting the ganache get just to the edges at first, then begin to let it run over the edges a little all the way around.  Once it looks pretty even along the whole perimeter clean up the edges of the cake plate with a damp paper towel.
  12. To decorate the cake sprinkle about a 2 inch border of sliced almonds around the edge. 
  13. To decorate it further you’ll need to make the writing glaze by stirring together about ¾ of confectioner’s sugar with about 2 tablespoons of heavy cream until you have a pretty thick smooth glaze.
  14. Load it into a piping bag and snip off a tiny corner. 
  15. To draw on the almond blossom I started by going around the edge of the almond border 2-3 times for a look similar to a grape vine wreath.  With each pass around the cake you can compensate if the initial circle was off a little bit. 
  16. To draw on the five petaled, almond blossom I started slightly off to one side, picked a center point for the blossom then drew in the five petals with the first 2 petals running straight off into the border.
  17. Next I tried to define the center of the blossom a little with the five tiny pointed things characteristic of an almond blossom (one coming in between each petal) and I added a little more glaze to the center to help define it more.  To help balance out the design I added a small bud off to one side and a row of dots along the other edge.  (be sure to check out the video tutorial)
  18. Chill the cake for a few hours to set the ganache and serve.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Caprese Pasta Salad

Gluten Free Caprese Pasta Salad

Just wait until you see how delicious this gluten free Caprese pasta salad is.  Gluten free pastas have certainly come a long way.  There are so many good ones on the market now.  Most of them are pretty tasty at least in warm dishes.  Cold pasta is another story.  Many gluten free pastas still have a tendency to get hard after being refrigerated. This fact is not very conducive to making a good pasta salad.

Barilla gluten free pasta is different.  It doesn’t get hard the way most of the other pastas do. I don’t know why it's different since I don't work for the company.  Who knows what their trade secrets might be but I do know that the pasta is good.

When I first discovered that my leftover refrigerated gluten free barilla had a much nicer texture than what I was used to, I thought … This might just work in a pasta salad. 

And so the Caprese pasta salad was born.  You know it's summertime when the flavors of sweet fresh basil, perfectly ripe tomatoes, and succulent fresh mozzarella dance together on your fork.  

You can't beat the classics.   

What a winning combination.  

I’ll be making this one a lot.  

Caprese Pasta Salad
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 10 min
Servings: 8-10

  • 12 oz pkg. Barilla gluten free rotini
  • ½ cup olive oil divided (¼c & ¼c)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1lb fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • 1 jar of pitted gaeta or Kalamata olives
  • ½ cup fresh basil sliced into ribbons
  • 3-4 spring onions chopped
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Video Tutorial: 

  1. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, drain and add to a large bowl.
  2. Drizzle with ¼ cup of olive oil, then add some salt and pepper and using a micro-plane, grate in about ½ a clove of garlic then mix it all together to coat the pasta and set it aside. 
  3. Add the grape tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, scallions, olives, oregano, the other ¼ cup of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Mix it all together until everything is well combined then after checking to see if it needs additional seasonings, either serve immediately at room temperature or chill it for a few hours to allow all the flavors to marry and serve.    

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Black Bean Avocado Salad

Black Bean Avocado Salad

Black bean and avocado salad might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re dreaming up your summer side dishes.   For me it’s always pasta or potato salad that first pops into my head for a picnic or barbecue.  But when I saw my friend Karen over at the FoodJazz  channel create this delicious looking black bean and avocado salad with a cilantro lime dressing, I was intrigued.

Unfortunately I was also out of many of the ingredients she used.  Likewise I’ve reinvented her salad with a few simple pantry ingredients.  The result is a creamy spicy salad that’s off the beaten path. 

Let’s just say that mine never made it to the picnic.  Did I mention what a fantastic lunch this salad makes as the main course?  If you have time, you gotta check out the short video for Karen’s salad HERE.

Black Bean Avocado Salad
Prep time: 5 min
Servings: 4

  • 15 oz can black beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium avocado
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup salsa
  • 3 green onions, chopped

Video Tutorial: 

  1. Dice the avocado and toss it with the lemon juice to keep it from turning dark then add the black beans.
  2. For the dressing stir together the sour cream, salsa and spring onions then add it to the other ingredients.
  3. Stir to combine then transfer to a serving dish and garnish with a few more green onions a little paprika or cayenne.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Loaded Potato Skin Salad

Loaded Potato Skin Salad

This very flavorful loaded potato skin salad was actually created as I wondered what to do with my leftover baked potatoes. I had a bunch of guests over for dinner and as one of the side dishes I baked- off about 5 pounds of Idaho potatoes for people to top as they liked. 

When I bake my potatoes, I scrub the skins and while they’re still wet, I salt them so that they almost get a bit of a salty crust as they bake.  They’re delicious.  

Even so I still had about 2 pounds leftover when the guests went home. 

The next day as I spied said potatoes in the fridge along with some of the toppings I had served, I was hit with the idea of doing a loaded potato skin salad.  I worried a little because Idaho potatoes aren't normally used in potato salads since they'd normally fall apart.  Using chilled potatoes eliminates this problem but we are faced with another challenge.  

It’s hard to get flavor into a chilled potato.  But since these potatoes had been roasted with salt already on their skins I thought it might work.  And while this potato salad did work out well, the leftovers that were placed into a heat safe bowl then heated until warm and bubbly worked out even better. 

All I can say is thank God for leftover baked potatoes. 

Loaded Potato Skin Salad
Prep time: 15 min
Servings: (14) ½cup servings

  • 2 lbs salted baked potatoes (done the night before and refrigerated overnight)
  • 1 ½ cups sour cream
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked crisp & chopped
  • 1 ½ cups cheddar cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

Video Tutorial: 

  1. Chop the potatoes into small pieces, add them to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with a little.
  2. Add the sour cream, mayonnaise, green onions, bacon, and cheddar  with some salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Stir it all together until well combined, transfer it to your serving, garnish with additional cheddar green onions and bacon then refrigerate for a few hours so the flavors can blend.  (see note for warm side dish  suggestion)
  • To make the potato salad into a hot bubbly side dish bake in a preheated 350°F (or 175 °C) oven for 15-30 minutes (depending on whether or not the salad was chilled to start).
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