Clafir

It’s not lazy, it’s French.
Clafou-what?  
Clafoutis is derived from the Occitan word clafir, to fill.
And yes, there is an s, even for the singular version of the word.
 
(L’Occitane, anyone?  L’Occitane means “a woman from Occitania.”  
Occitania spans Southern France, Monaco, the Val d’Aran, which is the only part of Catelonia north of the Pyrenees, and the Occitan Valleys of Italy.)
 
According to Wikipedia, Occitan is comprised of 6 dialects, 2 of which are definitely endangered and 4 of which are severely endangered.
 
When I first discovered the UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages, I thought it was a little ludicrous.
However, the more I thought about the real meaning of an endangered language, and the implications of such, the more saddened I became.
The fact that a language, something so deep rooted in history and culture, can disappear within a few generations thanks to globalization and modernization, not to mention lazy teenagers/future generations, is upsetting to me.
 
I spent more time than I probably should have exploring UNESCO’s map of endangered languages (here).
The number of languages, ranging from vulnerable to extinct, is mind-boggling.
2471.
231 fully extinct.  And that’s just in recent memory.
Cleopatra spoke 9 languages.
Nowadays, many are lucky to speak two, let alone three.
The broad scope of what we are losing is arresting, but not surprising.
We disregard our history and heritage, both intellectual and physical.
We are letting our environment fall to pieces and our culture, too.
My!  I guess I’ve been feeling a little disconnected after discovering trash strewn all over a state forest.
After hiking down a long and winding path to discover that it ended in a dumpster.
Poignant or repugnant?
I don’t know.
Back to your regularly scheduled program.  (…L’album Noir; The Black Album…)
 
This is my take on a classic French (hailing from Limousin, within Occitania) pastry, the clafoutis.  It consists of an eggy custard surrounding sweet, juicy cherries.
I added a rye crust because I love rye pastry crusts.
And because I felt that the nutty richness of rye complemented the sweet stone fruits well.
 
Traditionally, the pits are left in this dessert, for two reasons.
One, it preserves the beautiful shape of the cherries, and prevents much of the juice from escaping, ensuring a lovely pop of flavor from each little fruit.
Two, the centers of the pits of the cherries, the noyaux, give a wonderful almond perfume to the whole tart.
The kernels in the pits of any stone fruit have a flavor reminiscent of almonds, and are indeed related to the nut.
(And third, albeit not traditional: I was lazy.)
I already had to pick through the cherries to ensure that none were past their prime, let alone try to remove their stubborn little pits with a paper clip.
 
These tarts are delicious, and despite the pits, they were all gone by the next day.
This clafoutis is ridiculously easy to make, gorgeous, delicious, and can be served at any temperature: warm, room temp, or chilled.
AKA fresh out of the oven, for an afternoon snack, and dessert.
Parfait!

Rye and Cherry Clafoutis
ingredients:
for the crust:
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cup AP flour
3/4 cup coarse rye flour
for the filling:
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup half and half 
1 tablespoons sugar
2 or so cups of fresh sweet cherries, picked over and cleaned
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Make the crust: beat butter and sugar together until shiny, fluffy, and smooth, about 4 minutes.
Scrape the bowl, add in the salt and flours, and mix on low until a ball forms.
Roll the dough out on a well-floured surface and transfer it as best you can into your pans. (I used a 9-inch, a 41/2 inch, and two 3 inch cake rings.  I think that you could use a 10 or 11 inch pan and fit everything in one, but I wanted to have some smaller tarts on the side.)
Do not worry if it rips; it is extremely forgiving.  
Just press and patch the dough into the pans as evenly as possible.
Prick all over with a fork and freeze for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, pull the shells out of the freezer and place the cherries in the bottom. (Put as many as you can humanly fit.)
Bake for 10 minutes, until you can just hear the cherries sizzling.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg, egg yolk, half and half, and sugar together.
After 10 minutes, pull the tarts halfway out of the oven and pour the custard into the shells, until it comes up the sides nearly to the top; you probably won’t use all of the custard, especially if you filled your crusts up with cherries.)
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the custard is set and the edges of the pastry are browned and fragrant.
Allow to cool (or don’t!) and serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Zaftig

 Zaftig blueberries, people.  Get your minds out of the gutter.
 
I think zaftig is the perfect adjective to describe blueberries, especially those which have been blanketed in delicious crumbles and baked until just about ready to burst.
Pleasantly plump.
Outrageously juicy.
This is a vegan, gluten-free, refined-sugar-free, white-tee-staining, antioxidant-bursting, blueberry crisp.
(Well, vegan until I added a dollop of cold and creamy Greek yogurt.  Sue me.)

This crisp is sweet enough, even without any refined sugar, to serve with unsweetened plain Greek yogurt.
Forget the crisps and crumbles served with ice cream.  
 
This one is healthy enough to eat for breakfast, 
satisfying enough to eat for lunch (ahem), 
moreish enough to eat for a snack during a movie, and 
tempting enough to still call you back for an evening sweet.
 
It’s good.  Real good.
The only sweetener in this crumble is maple syrup, a few good glugs of it.
I was just in Vermont/New Hampshire and bought some maple syrup.  I promptly came home and put it to good use in this crisp.  
JK I used my already opened quart of syrup that was in the fridge.  Let’s just say it was inspired by my trip.
 
(Note: I still haven’t found/bought/even tried any Grade B… Who knows where I can get my sticky, grubby paws on some?)
While in New Hampshire/Vermont, I went on a long hike in the pouring rain.
Pouring as in so wet that you throw out your socks after the hike.
Pouring as in so wet that your baseball hat had its own rain cloud directed straight in between your eyes.
Pouring as in so wet that everything in your waterproof backpack is soaked.
I wrapped my camera up in two plastic bags and braved the cold, bone-soaking rain.
I loved it!  I love the rain; I figure, once you’re wet, you’re wet.
My camera… not so much.  Although the body didn’t get wet at all, there were a lot of raindrops that I ended up having to edit out of my photos.  Some were too impossible for even the clone tool to fix.  Sigh.
 
(I was right along the Connecticut River, and was in both states multiple times.  I don’t know whether to say VT or NH.  Both seem misleading.  I’ll go with NHVT.  Nahv-t.  Then I’ll sound really intelligent.)
 
The photos you see here (photovomit, sorry!) were taken in the Quechee State Park, which has a breathtaking gorge.
Unfortunately, later in the day, just as I was driving out of Vermont, the sun came out and the lighting was perfect, unlike earlier, when it was raining buckets.
That’s life for you.
The park is gorgeous- I found a large swath of dead forest, which seems to have been burned out.
It was hauntingly beautiful in all the mist.
I also found a lot of discarded garbage from disrespectful campers.
Seriously?!  Take out what you bring in.
I was immensely saddened by all the rubbish lying about.
How could such a pristine place be downgraded like this?
Pick up after yourself.  Nature doesn’t appreciate slobs.
Dietary-Restriction-Friendly Blueberry Crisp
ingredients:
2+ pounds (900 grams) fresh blueberries, picked over (enough to fill/heap up in your baking dish)
drizzle of maple syrup (depends how sweet your berries are)
100 grams hazelnut flour
100 grams oats (make sure they’re certified gluten-free if you intend on serving this to gluten-free guests/friends)
80 grams cornmeal
120 grams maple syrup
80 grams coconut oil
pinch kosher salt
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the blueberries in a 10×6 inch pan.
Drizzle maple syrup over them, if desired (I used 2 tablespoons or so).
Stir the hazelnut flour, oat, cornmeal, and salt together.
Add the maple syrup and coconut oil and stir until combined.
Sprinkle the crisp topping over the berries.
Bake for 25 minutes, until the top begins to brown deeply.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 more minutes.
Allow to cool slightly.
Serve with plain Greek yogurt.

Love’s Light Wings

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
by any name would smell as sweet…”
Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene II
 
Yesterday, I ran a marathon.  
 
Which is my excuse for not having a WISE blog post in more than a week.
It’s also my excuse for being late to all my classes today.
Stairs are just a wee bit difficult today.
 
Here’s a Super Sad True Love Story super short true summary of the super long (26.2 mile) race:
(I break long runs into chunks… I like to pretend that it makes it less mentally exhausting.  
It doesn’t.  But hey.)
 
Miles 1-8 are terrifying.  In the beginning, I’m stiff and aching and tired, which makes me very nervous for what’s ahead, seeing as I’m huffing and puffing and I’ve only run 2 miles.  
Luckily, by mile 6, I’m locked and loaded on cruise control.
At which point, I look at my Garmin and realize, 
I have 20 miles to go.  Jésus Marià.
 
Miles 8-13 are spent surreptitiously looking at my fellow runners’ shoes, to see which of them have the bright orange D tags which were only given to marathon runners to record times.  I have the sinking realization that there aren’t many runners around me with tags.
 
Miles 13-20 are my fastest.  I spend time listening to “I Don’t Care” by Iconapop.  As in, on repeat for about 50 minutes.  No shame.
I pick out runners to pass and do so by powering through all of the water stations- I keep the word “slingshot” in my head and will myself not to stop or slow down, and in doing so, spill about 4 brimming cupfuls of bright orange Gatorade down my white shirt.  Good looks.
 
Miles 20-25 are grueling.  The stations ran out of power gels around mile 18, and my own supply has also been completely diminished.  My glycogen is running on red and I am not a happy camper.
I keep thinking why the hell Pheidippides didn’t take a damn horse.
Seriously, what in god’s name was wrong with him?  
 
25-26.2 are like running another 12 miles.  Where was the finish line again?
Why do I still see people running?  
Are we done yet?
My intended mile split was a 10:25.  I ended up finishing 23 seconds ahead of that, with a 10:02 average mile split.  I’m not the fastest, that’s fo’ sho.  Honestly I’m just glad to have crossed the finish line!!!
 
(Turns out, I finished first in my division, female 15-19 year olds.  That was a surprise!)
Back to our regularly scheduled program: WISE jabber.
 
In class today, I had a revelation: in truth, I’ve been doing plenty of “research,” which is basically just utilizing different sources. 
What I haven’t been doing is keeping a proper log of said resources- different blogs and cookbooks etc.- which means that I have some serious back work to do.  Ahem.
Also, I received my time slot for my presentation!
June 10th from 3-4 PM.  More details later.
 
I chose the name of this post, and the intro, because a) it’s one of Shakespeare’s most classic, and one of my favorite, scenes and b) because the dessert I’m showing to you is a misnomer and should have a different name.
Right? Right.
 
This dessert is based on a deconstruction of the famous German chocolate cake.
Which, in truth, is not the slightest bit German.
It’s based off of a recipe that appeared in 1957 in a newspaper’s recipe of the day column, which used a type of chocolate that had been developed more than a century earlier, in 1852, by Sam German, a worker in the Baker’s chocolate factory; it was a sweeter dark baking chocolate, which was marketed as Baker’s German Sweet Chocolate.
Thus was the German chocolate cake born, a coconut and pecan and chocolate melange that is not the most attractive, but one of the more delicious.
German cake≠German.  Confusing, I know.
(This information is from The Baker Chocolate Company: A Sweet History by Anthony M. Sammarco, googlebook accessed via Wikipedia.)
 
This dessert has the added benefit of being completely vegan.  
 
I’m thinking of using a version of this for my presentation, because it would be incredibly easy to make gluten-free, thus making it almost entirely allergy-free (it does have coconut and pecan… those are kind of unavoidable) and a good dessert to share with many people who may have various allergies.
I plated it two ways because I couldn’t get a quenelle to smooth out the first go-round and I ended up disliking the chocolate flecks on the first few plates.
 
(P.S. remember how I was so pumped about my quenelles a few WISE posts back?  
Yeah, those darned footballs are coming back to bite me in the butt.  It took me a good 5 minutes to get the quenelle you see perfectly smooth.  My family keeps recycling the containers I use for my ice cream, so that’s not helping…)
 
*Note to my father:  Can you please, please, please stop recycling the date containers that I diligently wash out and save?  You’re making my quenelles ten times more difficult than they need to be.  Thank you.  Loveyameanit.*
German
chocolate cake
salted caramel
bittersweet ganache
candied pecans
coconut ice cream
Mile 12.5.  Eating a gu and feeling güd.
 Mile 20.  The longest uphill slog of the course; it was gradual, but felt never ending. 
 
Mile 25; back on the streets.
Don’t let the smile fool you; I could barely remain standing long enough to rip off my water belt and iPod in order to take this photo.
 
“German”
 
for the cake:
ingredients:
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons extra dark cocoa powder
rounded 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons coconut oil, measured then melted
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray a six inch cake pan with baking spray.
Stir the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together.
Add the coconut oil and vinegar, then the water, and stir it all together, gently.
Once it is just barely homogeneous, pour into the pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cake is springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean.
 
for the ganache:
ingredients:
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped finely
2 ounces sugar
2 ounces coconut milk, light or full-fat
1 tablespoon coconut oil
pinch kosher salt
directions:
Place the chocolate, oil, and salt in a bowl.
Heat the milk and sugar up together until boiling, then pour over the chocolate.
Allow to sit for 3 minutes, then stir together.
Blend with an immersion blender to emulsify.
 
for the caramel:
ingredients:
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons coconut milk, light or full-fat
1 tablespoon coconut oil
liberal pinch kosher salt
directions:
Heat the sugar up in a heavy saucepan with tall sides until deep amber, about 7 minutes.
Once the sugar reaches the proper color, remove from heat and add the milk and oil.  
Mixture will bubble and sizzle violently.
Whisk until smooth, then add in the salt.  
If caramel gets a skin before use, just gently heat and stir to return it to proper consistency.
 
for the candied pecans:
ingredients:
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
pinch kosher salt
1/4 cup (you could go up to almost 1/2 cup with this amount of glaze; you’ll have extra if you use 1/4 cup) pecan halves
directions:
Toast the pecans lightly in a skillet, about 2 minutes.
In another saucepan, heat the oil, vinegar, sugar, and salt until bubbling.
Remove from heat and stir in pecans.
Pour mixture onto a sheet pan lined with silpat.
Allow to cool until glaze sets.
 
for the ice cream:
ingredients:
1 can (14 ounces) light coconut milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil
pinch salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
directions:
Bring everything to a boil, whisking constantly.
Transfer to a blender canister and allow to sit for 4 minutes to cool.
Blend, being careful to vent the blender and cover with a towel to protect yourself from hot splashes, until frothy and homogeneous.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then freeze in your ice cream machine.
Store in freezer until use.
 
to assemble:
toasted coconut
directions:
Plate the caramel sauce and the ganache first; either smear them both across the plate or use a fork’s tines to splatter the chocolate onto the plate.
Arrange cake crumbles on one end of the smears; follow with candied pecans.
Carefully place coconut where desired.
Finish with a scoop or quenelle of coconut ice cream.

Copacabana

I peer out at the sun,
slowly relenting to the day’s end,
approaching the horizon and dragging its feet, dropping inch by inch,
white in its brightness from behind an evening haze.
Sand gives way to my burrowing toes,
digging for hidden treasures deep
beneath the soft carpet.
Shadows form, stretch and elongate their necks,
casting blue light, then purple, over their minute footprint kingdoms.
A lizard tongue darts out from between my lips,
savoring the sharp tang of salt.
I am reeling in the wake of a good book,
drunk on sunshine and delirious from the soft breeze,
which caresses my hair and gently dries the last drops on my skin,
leaves me as briny as the unending cerulean sea at which I squint.
These cupcakes remind me of sunny summer days.
It’s because they’re redolent with coconut and banana, with a pinch of cinnamon to round it all out.
The carrots provide a lovely texture, with just enough chew, punctuated by crunchy nuts.
 
Or maybe it’s just because as I was trying to name them, I saw this video.  
Immediately, they became cocobanana cupcakes- like copacabana.
I don’t know.  It made sense at some point or another.
These cupcakes are pretty darn healthy for cake.
They’re ideal pre-test food.
 
Coconut oil is full of MCFA (medium chain fatty acids) which are quickly metabolized by the body, unlike many other fats.
Walnuts are a brain food.  They’ve got a ton of omega-3 fatty acids (1/4 cup of walnuts provides 94% of your daily recommended value), which are crucial for proper brain function, and which almost no one gets enough of.  You find them in other nuts and seeds like flax and hemp, and they help with cognition, memory, and problem-solving.
Bananas have potassium, as does the molasses left in the raw sugar, key to maintaining proper balance in your body.
The carotenoids (namely, beta-Carotene) in the carrots and carrot juice used in the marzipan 
Cinnamon can help with regulating blood sugar, so you don’t get any nasty sugar spikes and resulting crashes.
The tumeric that I used to dye the marzipan is full of anti-oxidants.
Practically health food.
Practically.
I’ll be back on Saturday with a new post.
Or maybe not.
I have two AP math finals (Calc BC and Stats) tomorrow and Friday.
If i’m not back, check in the exam rooms.
There is a great and terrifying possibility that I will have expired right in my chair.
Chain rule, chain rule, chain rule.

Cocobanana Carrot Cupcakes
makes 24 mini cupcakes + 8 regular, or 18 regular cupcakes

for the cakes:
ingredients:
2/3 cup raw sugar (sub brown sugar)
1 banana, mashed
2/3 cup coconut oil, melted then measured (you can sub canola)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch each cinnamon and salt
1/2 pound carrots, shredded (on a cheese grater or using a food processor)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line your cupcake tins with liners.
Stir the sugar, banana, oil, eggs, and vanilla together in a large bowl.
Dump all of the flour over top and sprinkle the baking soda, cinnamon, and salt over the flour.
Stir until just coming together, then add the carrots and walnuts and stir until thoroughly combined.
Evenly portion into cupcake liners, and bake for 11-12 minutes for minis, 15-16 for regular size.

for the frosting:
ingredients:
8 tablespoons butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Pinch salt
Splash vanilla extract
directions:
Beat everything together, with a paddle attachment, until smooth.
Pipe or spread onto cupcakes as desired.


I topped my cupcakes with some homemade marzipan that I made out of carrot juice, almond meal, and sugar.  I tinted it with some tumeric (I actually love the spicy, mustardy flavor of tumeric in sweets, I know, it’s weird.) and a little food coloring.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Short and sweet today, y’all.
(I have a nap penciled in in about 15 minutes.  I’m very busy.  Island time.  It happens.)
This is a cake I made a few months back, to celebrate (mourn?) the end of my basketball season.
Yes, it’s taken me that long to get around to writing this post.  I’m a little slow on the uptake.
  
It was pretty ridiculous, ridiculously indulgent, and indulgently delicious.  
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like the combination of chocolate and orange.
Seriously.  One of my favorite things in the entire world, ever, is those chocolate-orange things.  You know, the chocolates which look like oranges and have orange in them and separate into little orange wedges?
Chocolate and cheesecake, a match made in heaven, is only made better by the addition of orange.
But I didn’t stop there.  I have no self-control, remember?  
Nay, I kept going.  “What else can I add into this cake?”
Well, nutella… 
Ugh.  Dead.  I’m dead.  That’s it.  There’s no going back; my tastebuds will no longer accept anything but this.
Here’s a secret, just between you and me:
These photos were taken the night before our last practice, meaning that I cut a slice out of the cake just to take photos- not the most, erhm, proper behavior in the world.
How rude!  I do de-clay-uh.
So, I took the photos, and slid it back in place.
Spackled the frosting back together, strategically placed some chocolate curls over the evidence, and served it the next day.
No one noticed.  
Victory!
 
Can you tell how badly I want to be a southern belle?  
(The font I always use, for the record, is Georgia.)

Mouthful (Chocolate-Nutella-Orange-Cheesecake) Cake
For the cheesecake layer:
(from Piece of Cake via RecipeGirl)
ingredients:
16 ounces of cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 
Place a large roasting pan on the lower third rack of the oven. 
Place a kettle of water on the stove to boil. 
Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. 
Wrap a double layer of foil around the bottom and up the sides of the pan (you want to seal it so the water from the water bath doesn’t seep into the pan). 
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to mix the cream cheese- blend until it is nice and smooth and creamy. 
Mix in sugar and salt and blend for 2 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. 
Add eggs, one at a time, blending after each addition. 
Finally, mix in sour cream, whipping cream and vanilla. 
Mix until smooth. 
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. 
Set the pan into the roasting pan in the pre-heated oven. 
Carefully pour the hot water from your kettle into the roasting pan (it will fill the pan surrounding the cheesecake). 
Pour enough water so that there is about an inch of water coming up the foil along the sides of the cheesecake pan. 
Bake the cheesecake for 45 minutes. 
It should be set to the touch and not jiggly. 
Remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan and let it cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. 
When it has cooled, place the pan into the freezer and let the cheesecake freeze completely. 

For the cake layers:
adapted from Gourmet via epicurious
ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch (you can also use 2 3/4 cups cake flour, omitting the cornstarch and AP flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large whole eggs
zest of one entire orange
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
1/3 cup sour cream or buttermilk
1/3 cup milk
handful of mini chocolate chips; enough for a healthy sprinkling on two 9 inch layers
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
Rub the sugar and zest together with your fingers until very fragrant.
Beat the butter until softened, then add in the orange sugar.
Cream together until very fluffy and light, about 3 minutes.
Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping after each addition, then add in the vanilla.
Stir the sour cream, juice, and milk together.
Stir the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt together.
Either alternate adding the wet and dry or slowly dump them in at the same time (my preferred method… Just go slow so the flour doesn’t go all over).
Mix just until homogeneous, then pour into prepared pans.
Sprinkle the mini chocolate chips over the batter, and bake until golden and springy to the touch, about 20-25 minutes.  A cake tester should come out nearly clean, with perhaps just a few crumbs sticking on.
Allow to cool completely before assembling the cake.
For the frosting:
ingredients:
2 sticks butter
1 3/4- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
big pinch salt
3/4 cup Ovaltine
1/2 cup nutella
splash vanilla extract
splash cream, if needed
directions:
Beat butter until soft, about 2 minutes.
Add in the ovaltine, nutella, salt, and vanilla, and beat to combine.
Slowly add in the powdered sugar, tasting to check the sweetness. (If you need more powdered sugar to thicken the consistency, be sure to add in a pinch more salt; you can also add in some more ovaltine for thickening.)
Play with the amount of powdered sugar to thicken the frosting; environments differ and really affect the thickness/pipeability.  If you need it to really thicken, don’t add too much more sugar or ovaltine, instead, stick it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up.
If your frosting is too thick, add a splash of cream, about 2 teaspoons at a time, to thin it out a bit.  Don’t add too much, and wait between additions, because if it becomes soupy, there’s no going back.
To assemble:
Apply a thin layer of icing on the chocolate chip side of the first layer.
Place the frozen cheesecake layer on top, and spread another thin layer on top of that.
Place the second cake layer, chocolate chip side up, on top of the cheesecake.
Crumb-coat the whole cake in a thin layer of frosting, then chill it, either in the freezer or fridge, for 10-15 minutes in the freezer or 15-20 in the fridge.
Take the cake out and generously frost it with the remaining icing.
To smooth out the sides, dip an offset spatula in hot water, wipe it off, and gently run it on the outside of the cake.

Top with chocolate curls, if desired.

Asisium

Somehow, coming round in a full circle can be both comforting and disconcerting.
 
One encounters things familiar, even soothing, yes, but with this familiarity often comes a sense of stagnation, of dejà-vu.
 
Il faut qu’on se demande pourquoi on y est arrivé encore une fois: par mégarde ou délibérément?
One must ask oneself why one has arrived there yet again: by accident or on purpose?
As I breezed through these photos, tweaking the too-bright exposure and blue tints that were the result of reflections off of the snow the day that I shot them, I had a strange sense of already having edited them.
The coloring, and, in truth, the plating, of this dessert were similar to those of the first one I ever attempted.
I was struck by it.  
I asked myself, is your project becoming prosaic?  Are your desserts becoming less and less distinctive?
(Sounds like I’m doubting myself a lot in these WISE posts, don’t it?)
I realize that the desserts are different; in fact, I cringe looking back on my first dessert.  
Nowadays I can (usually) bear to look through the photos.
 
I say usually because there are times when I look down at a plate and hate it.
 There are times where I redo said plate, look down, and hate it even more.
There are plates that are messy, cluttered, ugly.
There are ice creams that become soup in the time it takes me to lift up my camera.
There are mousses that don’t set and there are mealy caviar.
There are desserts that are contrived from their very conception.
Before I made the dessert that you see here, I had a failed experiment which involved nearly all of those situations.
The flavors (olive oil, orange, almond, and dark chocolate) paired beautifully, but the ways I chose to present them just didn’t click.
The burnt-orange ice cream recipe, which I got from Gourmet, was quite tasty, but didn’t set when I spun it in my ice cream maker.
It didn’t set when I tried to freeze it solid.
So, I whipped some cream and folded it into the base to make a mousse.
And hey! look! it froze!
And hey! look! it melted upon first contact with ambient temperature!
And hey! look! I made soup!
Needless to say, that dessert was a messy, soupy disaster.
I was unhappy with the photographs and unhappy with the presentation.
I felt I used too many components and didn’t put enough thought into the plating beforehand.
(I had a meltdown… Get it?!)
 
I set out to make a new dessert, with ideas of clean, simple plating floating around my brain.
In light of the new Argentinian pope, I decided to utilize a very popular Latin American flavor combination: chocolate and passion fruit.  (Also happens to be one of my personal favorite flavor combinations).
 
(Don’t ask me where these weird ideas come from. There is a small, wizened, and mostly blind old man somewhere in a dusty control room in the back of my brain pushing and prodding on the decidedly wrong buttons and these are the thoughts that result.)
 
Ah.  Anyways.  Latin American.  Yes.
I decided I wanted to bring some Italian influence into the dessert.
(The pope chose an Italian saint’s name… It all makes sense.)
I had just bought a gigantic bulk bag of hazelnuts, so hazelnuts it was going to be.
(Apparently hazelnuts equate Italian.  I don’t know.)
 
In using this so-called “Italian” influence, I now get to use fancy names for things… 
Nocciola gelato?  Hazelnut ice cream (with a lower fat content but, whatever, get over it.  Gelato and ice cream are just short of identical when homemade.)
Gianduja? Nutella.
 
Vive le pape!
Asisium:
gianduja ganache
passion fruit crème
roasted milk and white chocolate mousse
dark chocolate and passion fruit bonbons
nocciola gelato
Why Asisium?  It’s Italian for Assisi, as in St. Francis of Assisi, as in Pope Francis’ namesake. Plus, it sounds grand.  Can’t you just hear Pavarotti singing it in the background?


Asisium:
for the roasted milk and white chocolate mousse:
ingredients:
100 g milk and white chocolate; I went almost exactly halfsies
1 egg yolk
110 g cream
12 g sugar
1/8 tsp gelatin bloomed in 1 teaspoon cream

directions:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Place chopped chocolate in a baking pan and bake, stirring vigorously with a spatula every 15 minutes, until extremely fragrant, about 40 minutes.
The chocolate will have caramelized; you won’t see much of a color change because there is milk chocolate in addition to the white chocolate, but if you taste it, you will notice a distinctly more complex flavor.
Pour into a bowl; you should have about 85 g of chocolate. If you have more, eat it!
Heat cream, yolk, sugar until 175 d F.
Strain over chocolate.
Allow to sit until chocolate is melted.
Stir in bloomed gelatin and pour into molds.
Freeze until use; place on plate to temper at least 5 minutes before service.


for the nocciola gelato:
ingredients:
1/2 cup milk
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch salt
1/4 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts
directions:
Heat the milk until simmering. Pour in hazelnuts and steep for at least 2 hours and up to a few days, in the fridge.
Strain and discard the hazelnuts.
Blend all ingredients together with an immersion or regular blender, then pour into a pot and heat gently, stirring constantly, until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
Let cool completely, then spin in an ice cream maker.


for the dark chocolate bonbons:
adapted from Elizabeth LaBau

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, tempered
1 tablespoon cream
1 teaspoon glucose
1/3 cup passion fruit pulp (find it in the frozen section with other Goya products)
4.5 ounces white chocolate, chopped
directions:
Bring passion fruit purée, glucose, and cream to a boil.  
Place the white chocolate in a heat-safe bowl and pour the cream mixture over.  
Allow to sit for 2 minutes without touching, then stir gently until the ganache is smooth and homogeneous.  
Allow to cool.
Coat your molds with the tempered chocolate, then pipe in a little of the ganache.  
Seal with more chocolate and allow to harden.

for the passion fruit crème:
adapted from Milk Bar
ingredients:
65 g passion fruit puree
35 g sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon gelatin
6 tablespoons butter, cold
1 g kosher salt
directions:
Blend the puree and the sugar and egg together until the sugar granules have dissolved and the mixture is smooth.  
Pour into a pan; clean the blender.
Bloom the gelatin in 1 tablespoon cold water.
Heat the passion fruit curd over low heat, whisking constantly, until it comes to a boil.  
Remove from heat and add it to the cleaned blender.  
Add the gelatin, butter, and salt, and blend until the mixture is “thick, shiny, and super-smooth.”
Allow to cool completely.

for the gianduja:
ingredients:
roughly 1 2/3 cups hazelnuts
scant 1 1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
big pinch salt
1/3 cup milk powder (or more, to taste)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
directions:
Prepare a baking sheet with a silpat.
Bring the sugar to a boil in a dry saucepan, and allow to cook until it reaches a golden-amber color.  
Immediately stir in the hazelnuts, working quickly.
Spread out the brittle onto the silpat as thinly and evenly as possible.
Allow to cool completely, then break into chunks.
Pulverize the praline with the grapeseed oil until liquidy and almost entirely smooth.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix to combine.
Taste and adjust for your preferences; I wanted this spread to be a deep, dark, chocolate, so I didn’t add much sugar, but I did add a nice big pinch of salt.
Can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks (But it won’t last that long…)

to assemble:
Plate the gianduja first; use a chilled plate.
Pipe a few dots of passion fruit cream around the plate.
Place the bonbons where you would like, then follow with the mousse.
As soon as the mousse is out of the freezer/mold, work quickly, as it will melt.
Next, quenelle a scoop of the gelato and place in the center of the plate.


Lover, Lover

Allow me to officially welcome you into National Peanut Month!
Today, the first, is National Peanut Butter Lovers Day!
(Fun fact: National Peanut Butter Day is January 24th, and National Peanut Lovers Day is March 15th.  
Also, National Peanut Butter Lovers Month is November.  
There are also peanut -brittle, -cluster, -and Jelly Sandwich, -butter cookie, -festival, -butter fudge, and chocolate-covered peanuts days.
Apparently there are distinctions between them all… Let the PB lovers live their lives.)
 
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My dad loves peanut butter.
I’m talking PB&J every day for lunch for the rest of his life without ever getting tired of it.
Which is pretty much what he does.
The man loves PB&J… Genes that were not passed down to yours truly.
(And he prefers grape jelly… Yuck.)
He might be the greatest peanut butter lover on the planet.
(Although, to be honest, he could give two clucks about national whosamawhatsitpeanutbutter day.)
 
The only person being threatening his title is my pup, Ginger.  (Nyawww mon bébé!)
SHE could eat a scraped out peanut butter jar every ten minutes for the rest of her life and never get tired of it.
Sometimes, when she’s lucky, after my dad makes a peanut butter sandwich, she gets to lick the knife.  And even better, once we reach the end of a jar, she gets to lick the inside clean.
 
Ain’t she dainty?
Anyways, I like peanut butter alright.  I mean, it’s fatty, salty, nutty, slightly sweet; it hits me in all the right places and everything, but I just don’t lalalalove it.
However, I will use any excuse to write up an impromptu blog post/bake something stupidly decadent, and thus was born this cheesecake.
 
Peanut butter, creamy and sweet, buttery, caramelized Ritz crackers, and a deeply bittersweet ganache (with some peanut butter thrown in, for good measure).
There is a wonderfully decadent interplay of flavors going on in my belly here.
 
It’s kind of like a Reese’s cup, but creamier, chocolatier, crunchier, fresher, and, most importantly, you can have more of it, not two wimpy little nuggets in a orange coat.
Hmph.
Make it for the peanut butter lover in your life.
You will thank me after they sell you their soul.
 
(A note: follow the general instructions to get perfect cheesecakes every time, no cracks, no splits, no canyons.  Not guaranteed, but I pretty much promise kinda mostly.)
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So, I had to shoot these photos twice.  My camera misfired while importing or something, and none were transferred to my computer, but all were erased from my memory card.  
Not a happy camper.
Actually, a really angry camper.
 
*kicks tent down and walks away*
 
 
Peanut Butter Cheesecake

cheesecake, crust, and ganache adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, Milk Bar, and Sky High, respectively

ingredients:
24 ounces cream cheese
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
 
165 g Ritz Crackers (~1 1/2 sleeves)
150 g sugar (~3/4 cup)
30 g milk powder (~3/8 of a cup=6 tablespoons)
150 g (14 tablespoons) butter, melted
 
8 ounces chocolate (I used about 7 ounces bittersweet and 1 ounce milk chocolate)
3 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons glucose (or light corn syrup)
1/2 cup half-and-half
 
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Crush the Ritz crackers into cornflake-sized bits.  
Stir in the milk powder and sugar, then stir in the butter.  
Press into a greased 9-inch springform pan wrapped with two layers of aluminum foil to prevent leakage.
Bake for 12 minutes, until fragrant.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling.  First, put a kettle on to boil.
While beating the cream cheese at medium high speed, slowly add in the sugar.  Beat for at least 2 full minutes, until fluffy and completely smooth- no grit.
Scrape the sides of the bowl, then beat in the peanut butter, vanilla, and salt.
Scrape the bowl again, thoroughly, then, while beating at medium low speed, add in the eggs one at a time, beating between eggs.
Pour over the crust, and smooth the top with the back of a spoon.
Place into a roasting pan, then pour the boiling water around it (careful!) until it reaches about 3/4 of an inch of the way up the sides.
Bake for about 1 hour, until the cheesecake is mostly set, but still jiggles in the center.
As soon as it gets out of the oven, run a sharp knife around the edges to unmold them from the pan; this will prevent most cracks.
Now either let it cool to room temperature and then chill, or chill it right away.  It’s about 30 degrees out right now, and I just stick my cheesecakes straight out into my sun room.
For the ganache, put the chopped chocolate, peanut butter, and glucose in a bowl, and heat the half-and-half up until simmering.
Pour over the chopped chocolate, and let sit for 2 minutes, undisturbed.  
Whisk until the ganache comes together, shiny and smooth. 
(Can be made ahead, just reheat gently in the microwave until flowing before use.)
Unmold the cheesecake from the pan, place on a serving plate, and pour the ganache over top.  Allow to cool and set before serving.

*[Nerdy] Update on the photos: 
Was shooting in RAW mode, not RAW plus jpg like I normally do.  
Forgot that Windows Live doesn’t automatically download .CR2 files; instead, for God knows what reason, they were automatically routed to the recycle bin (that’s the misfire part).  
Found all photos in said bin.  
Kicked myself repeatedly.  
Downloaded Canon software.  
Spent 30 minutes converting all .CR2 files to jpegs for editing.  
Then spent 30 more minutes editing due to noise due to the necessary high ISO used while shooting due to the fact that I decided to shoot at 10:00 pm.
Long story short, I hate .CR2s.  
Also, sorry for the grain, especially on that second gif.  
Woof.

Superman

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…

Sorry.  It’s just me.  Nothing special.

But often I am asked (yes, boring old me), with slight suspicion and narrowed eyes, “What are you?”

And when I answer that question, it is immediately followed with, “So what do you eat?”
Um, so, here goes: I am a nutritarian, which is a term I use loosely.  I like to think that I follow a diet led by my principles, rather than solely my stomach.  I am conscientious of my body and of the environment.  I make choices that I hope will benefit them both.  Technically, I am a strict lacto-ovo-vegetarian (I eat dairy (generally only cheese and yogurt) and eggs), a part-time vegan, and a lot of times, a raw foodist.  I guess I’m also a locavore because I do my best to eat locally and sustainably.

One very full, very sleepy little kitty

I hate these labels.  They’re restrictions that I don’t particularly care to have.  I’m not one or the other one hundred percent of the time.  (Except the no meat or bones deal.  I’m not trying to proselytize, but if you are looking for more information, read up with some of the great books out there, like Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals (my favorite book), Hal Herzog’s Some We Love, Some We Hate, and Some We Eat, and Michael Pollen’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. )

I believe the real truth about food and how we should view it finds its roots in the simplest fact of it all.


Food is, in and of itself, love.  Cooking is an act of love.  It represents the need and desire to feed and nurture those who you care about, including yourself.  Live to eat, not eat to live. The act of eating is hugely important; feeding yourself and others represents an innate desire to nourish those whom you love.  Most importantly, food is not just fuel; it is a vital social connection between all of us. It shouldn’t be used just to get by, nor should it be all about the labels.  
There are so many fads going on nowadays that everyone feels pressured to define their way of life and way of eating with names.  What’s the point?  It doesn’t help you enjoy a fresh piece of fruit any more knowing that you are “raw” and “vegan.”  You’re not really happy when you deny your body a treat because you’re on a diet, and your body sure isn’t happy either.  If you’ve been drooling over chocolate for weeks and weeks, have a piece of cake.  You’ll be happier and healthier for it.  Treats are treats, and we all deserve them once in a while.

Our society has got it all twisted.  Left and right, I see people going gluten-free, raw, vegan, paleo, vegetarian, dairy-free, nut-free, fat-free, low-fat, high-protein: doing the Atkins or the South Beach or Weight-Watchers or whatever.  In my opinion, we could learn a lot about eating from Europeans and Asians, who take time to have a meal and enjoy what is put in front of them.  Instead, we leap like lemmings off a cliff, plummeting towards “health” by following all sorts of wacky diets.  A lot of times, we convince ourselves that we are doing or feeling better without gluten or dairy or carbs, but most times, it’s the placebo effect taking hold.

Give your body the nutrients it craves; don’t hold back on the foods you really desire because of a restrictive diet; feed your body, love your body, love yourself.  Simple as that.

Phew.  Anyways… I made this raw cheesecake a few weeks ago, because I had been longing after many of them online.  I’m glad I did.  It most certainly isn’t low calorie or fat-free, but it is damn delicious.


Raw Blueberry and Raspberry Cheesecake
adapted from a few places, namely Green Kitchen Stories
Makes 2 4.5 inch cakes, or (possibly, I haven’t tried it) one 8 inch cake
For the crust:
ingredients:
1 cup mixed nuts; I used walnuts, almonds, pecans, and a few bits and bobs I found in the pantry
6 Medjool dates, pitted
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
pinch sea salt
directions:
Pulse the nuts in a food processor until they are relatively finely chopped.  Add in the rest of the ingredients and pulse until they begin to come together.  Press into the bottom of your springform pan and place in freezer.
For the middle (cheese) layer:
ingredients:
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 and up to 8 hours
zest and juice of one large lemon
pinch cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cardamom
seeds of one vanilla bean
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons agave nectar
directions:
Gently heat agave and coconut oil together until liquid and uniform.  Place everything in a food processor and puree until very smooth and thick.  Pour over crust and place in freezer.
For the top (berry) layer:
ingredients:
about 3/4 cup mixed berries (I used raspberries and blueberries)
juice of 1/2 a lime
directions:
Puree until smooth, pour over chilled cakes, and freeze until set.