Jul 11, 2013

Kiwi, Lime, & Mint Sorbet with Raspberry Sauce in a Cookie Cup

I recently received another oh-so-amazing and damn-I’m-lucky shipment of Zespri Kiwi.  However, this time I was sent a box of Zespri Gold Kiwifruit:
You may recall a few weeks back they sent me a shipment of their green kiwis which I used to make the Malibu Rum Glazed Kiwi & Coconut Cake:
And seriously not trying to brag but check out the goodies they sent along with the gold kiwi...I didn't even want to share with my kid. Horrible mother I am. 

The Zespri Gold Kiwifruit is a totally unique and one-of-a-kind type of kiwi.  It was bred from one seedling planted in 1992!  From that single vine grew 4,000 hectares of Zespri Gold Kiwi worldwide.

And this may look like a kiwi, but the taste is nothing what you would expect.  First they are much softer and sweeter than your average green kiwi (and I found easier to peel).  But the tastiest surprise was they have a tropical undertone; a sweetness almost like a pineapple.  Total Bahama-Mama party for taste buds.

Kiwi’s are one of my top favorite Super Foods.  They are LOADED with Vitamin C (almost twice as much as an orange, who knew?!) and 3 more times than a lemon!  They are also filled to the brim with antioxidants (your skin with thank you) and are rich in fiber too (think more fiber than 4 stalks of celery…and who wants to eat celery?!?)  And if you’re looking to add more potassium to your diet, kiwis have almost as much as one banana.  All that goodness in one cute, fuzzy lil kiwi, amazing.
The idea for this recipe actually came from my husband.  Shocking, since you can label him as Mr. 'I-would-only-eat-from-cans-if-it-wasn’t-for-my-wife.’  I sliced him up a gold kiwi shortly after they were delivered and he said ‘wow this is the best kiwi ever’ (promise I’m not just saying that to be nice) and then goes on to say, ‘but they would be even better frozen, like in a cocktail.’  Well, yeh I agree but I’m 5 months pregnant so that wasn’t going to work.  So the next best thing to happy hour is sorbet.  And with the gold kiwi’s being so sweet, a sorbet would for sure be a hit.
And if you’re a reader of my blog, you know I either go big or go home, so I wasn’t going to stop at a cute little scoop of sorbet, that’s a bit too dainty even for me.  I also knew the sorbet would need a brightly contrasting sauce since the color of the kiwi’s are a pale yellow.   Then, why not finish it off with an edible bowl, since you know cones are soooo last season.
Kiwi, Lime, & Mint Sorbet with Raspberry Sauce in a Cookie Cup
makes 8 servings

For the Sorbet:
12 Zespri Gold Kiwifruit, peeled and coarsely chopped
2-3 tablespoons lime juice (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons mint (or more if you prefer), coarsely chopped
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar 
For the Raspberry Sauce:
One (15 ounce) package frozen or fresh raspberries *a slightly larger package is okay, it won’t impact the flavor and you can always add more sugar to taste
1/3 cup granulated sugar
For the Cookie Cups:
1/4 cup Butter flavored Crisco*
1/4 cup butter, room temperature*
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1½ cups all purpose flour
¼ cup crushed McVitie's HobNob cookies (or anything similar…you can also leave it out all together)
*no substitutions for the Butter flavored Crisco or the butter.  You can't sub one for the other; the recipe requires both.  If you use all butter, the cups will spread too much during baking.  If you use all Crisco, that won't taste good either, plus it helps make the cups easier to form.  I am not a fan of Crisco but for this recipe it works AND tastes good, promise.

Before starting the sorbet, prepare a simple syrup using the water and sugar.  Mix together in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Boil for about 5 minutes or until it thickens and no granules of sugar are left.
Transfer to a measuring cup with a spout and refrigerate to take the heat off.  It doesn't have to be very cold, but don't use it hot.
Add the kiwi, lime juice, and mint to the bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth and no chunks of kiwi remain (I think a blender would work great too).

Slowly pour the simple syrup down the tube of your food processor and blend until combined, about 5-10 seconds.
Transfer mixture to a loaf pan.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and freeze for about 1 hour.
Remove pan from freezer.  At this point the sorbet will be semi-solid.  Give it a good stir and place back in the freezer until firm, about 2-3 hours.
Meanwhile, to prepare the cookie cups, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.   Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand up mixer and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Add the egg and vanilla and mix to combine.
Place a sieve over the mixer bowl and sift in the flour, salt, and baking powder.
Place a kitchen towel over your mixer (to help avoid flour flying everywhere) and mix in the dry ingredients until just combined.  Do not over-mix.

Add the cookie crumbles and mix to combine.
Form dough into disc and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least an hour to firm up. 
Take two standard sized cupcake pans and turn them upside down.  Cover every other one with foil.
*The original recipe said to roll out the dough and cut into circles to form the cups over the muffin tin.  I tried this but my dough was way too sticky.  In Dubai the temp has been almost 110F with 80% humidity, so this could have been a factor.  In any case, my cups still worked by taking a portion of dough a little larger than a golf ball and pressing/forming it around the muffin tin, smoothing the sides and top.  I think either method will work just fine.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until slightly golden brown.  Let the pans cool for 5 minutes.  Gently remove the cups from the pan.  If you find one of the sides is stuck, gently use a sharp knife to help remove.  

 You’ll see here that a portion of my aluminum foil baked into the cup…don’t worry if this happens it’s an easy fix!  Gently take a sharp knife and pull the foil out (it shouldn’t tear and will easily come out).  However you must do this asap, do not wait for the cups to cool!!!  They are still soft at this point and somewhat pliable.  If you wait to do this step after they cool the cups could break.  Gently remove all the foil. 
Leave the cups to finish cooling on a wire rack.
To prepare the raspberry sauce, place frozen raspberries in a medium sized fry pan over medium heat and cook until defrosted.  *If using fresh berries, you can add the sugar right away.

 Once the berries start to break down, add the sugar.

Cook until the mixture begins to thicken, about 3-4 minutes.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. 

Remove berries from heat.  Place a fine sieve over a bowl and transfer berries to sieve.  Using a small spoon or spatula, press the mixture through the sieve.  You want to remove all the seeds from the sauce.  Be sure to scrape the underneath of the sieve as sauce will accumulate there.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool.
To assemble, use an ice cream scoop to scrape out the sorbet from the pan.  About two scoops will fit inside the cookie cup.  Pour the raspberry sauce and top with fresh kiwi.



 Cookie Cup recipe adapted from Coleen's Recipes

Jul 7, 2013

Triple Chocolate Halawa Cookies


Halawa (also known as Halvah, Helva, or Heleweh – and a variety of other pronunciations depending on your region) translates to ‘sweetness’ in Arabic and has to be my favorite hidden gem here in the Middle East.  And I cannot understand why it is so underutilized.  If it’s an ingredient you’ve never tasted or seen before, you’d probably pass it in the grocery store without even giving it a second glance (you can find it usually next to the jams and peanut butter).  It’s pretty non-descript in appearance, but once you have a slice it’s a taste you truly won’t forget.
Halawa’s main ingredient tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, gives it a strong nutty, almost savory flavor.  However halawa is usually pumped with sugar, butter, chopped nuts, or like the version I’m using here today, chocolate. 
Traditionally halawa was sold in blocks by the kilogram, however today it can easily be bought in 500 grams tubs.  Although halawa is a solid mass, as soon as you scoop or slice it, it easily crumbles.  The texture can be compared to a dry version of feta cheese (texture however, not taste!) 
Many countries throughout the Middle East, Far East, and Europe have their own version of Halawa.  In India for example, Halva is prepared with semolina, cashew nuts, or chick peas and is normally served at weddings.  Israel’s Halvah is typically made with tahini and does not include any dairy products such as butter or milk and is most usually eaten with toast at breakfast. 
Lebanon is the largest exporter of Halawa throughout the Middle East (their version is also tahini based) and typically contains pistachios, almonds, and chocolate.
And since I am always up for using sweets in different ways, I was determined to find another purpose for halawa when baking.  You may recall the Chocolate Halawa Nut Bars I made last year.  For today’s recipe, I used halawa two ways in the cookie.  First I incorporated 2 cups of crumbled halawa into the batter.  This gave the overall taste of the cookie a somewhat nutty, salty under-tone, but definitely not over whelming.   But what I was surprised to find was how unbelievably soft the texture of the cookie was.  This is no crisp cookie.  It’s heavenly soft and melts in your mouth, but not at all in a greasy way.  Store-bought soft cookies (including the ones from the bakery counter) are usually loaded with shortening to provide a soft texture, thus giving you that greasy-roof-of-the-mouth feel.
I also crumbled the halawa on top of the cookie prior to baking.  It somewhat melted and gave the cookie a really interesting appearance.  This was an ‘ahh-ha!’ moment because I then realized you can easily crumble halawa on top of your brownies and cakes too, yet another use for the future. 
Lastly, if you’re in the US reading this, you might have to dig a bit deeper to find halawa in your area.  You best bet would be to check your neighborhood Jewish, Indian, or Middle Eastern grocery shop.  If they don’t carry it, surprise surprise Amazon has it too, click here.
Triple Chocolate Halawa Cookies
makes about 4 dozen large cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cocoa (I use Hershey’s Special Dark, I find it’s the best affordable quality cocoa on the market)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate halawa, crumbled
1 ½ cups chocolate chips 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 

Sift together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda in a medium sized bowl.

Make sure your sous chef is nearby...

Whisk to combine.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter, sugars, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Gradually add the dry ingredients in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  

To avoid a mess in your kitchen from flour flying everywhere, place a towel over the top of your mixer before turning it on.This keeps the floury wonderland effect to your kitchen at a minimum.

Fold in the crumbled halawa and chocolate chips. Do not over mix. 

Keep the pieces of halawa somewhat chunky so they won’t disappear into the batter (the white contrasts nicely here with the dark cocoa).

Place large mounds of dough onto the cookie sheet (about 2 tablespoons for each).  Sprinkle crumbled halawa on top of cookie (optional).

Bake for 12 minutes or until the center is set.  Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.


Jul 2, 2013

Lemony Sour Cream Cake Mini Trifle’s with White Chocolate Mousse and Raspberry Coulis

I‘ve had more than my share of ‘oops’ and ‘what the ***k!’ moments in the kitchen.  But who hasn’t?  However what I’m starting to learn through my practice with the blog and pastry school is after time you can always find a way to fix things.  Pretty much anything can be salvaged when it comes to food.  Well, unless you burn something, then you just better order a cake and put it on your own dish.
My latest ‘oh god what did I do’ moment was this:
Yes I know isn’t it pretty?  It came out of the pan (without tearing; I still do a happy dance when that happens, especially with bundt cakes) nor was it burned, wasn’t dry, and didn’t collapse.  Nope, it was a textbook sour cream cake.  Except that it’s turquoise.  And I planned for blue.  4th of July blue.  And since we don’t have a smidgen of aqua on our flag, this really was a problem.
However, I cut a slice of the cake and was happy to at least see that at least the inside of the cake was blue, so not all hope was lost.
My brain then went into over-drive thinking how to sort out this dilemma.  No way was I going to start over, I used a cup of butter and almost 2 cups of sour cream.  Imported sour cream none the less…no this was not getting binned.  And since I’m a trifle lover at heart, I figured okay then, we layer.
And you know, I think ultimately what I ended up with was way better than what I originally intended anyway.  And look, it’s red, white, and blue - in that order!  It totally looks like I planned this dessert.  I shouldn’t have even told you.
But those flippin’ strawberries.  Oh ick that was another ‘oh I’m never doing that again’ moment.  I googled ‘how to coat strawberries with white chocolate’ before I even started.  I mean okay it’s not that hard but you know, I just wanted to watch it at least once before I got started.  And it’s pretty damn clear.  Wash.  Pat dry.  Melt.  Dip.  Harden.  Duh.
Until I dipped them in the sprinkles.  The  way in which I dipped the strawberries into the sprinkles cause the white chocolate to shimmy its way up to the top, basically looking like a collar of white chocolate.  I know that sounds pretty damn good but not for garnish.  So I thought maybe I should let the chocolate sit and harden slightly before I dipped, but it still did the same.  So please tell me if you’ve got a secret here.  I finally said ‘oh screw it’ and used my thinnest dusting sprinkles and just lightly coated them. 
THEN…geeze yes there is more, I dipped the strawberries a day ahead of time and when I pulled them from the fridge the next day to garnish, the strawberries were beaded with moisture causing the blue sprinkles to bleed creating a bluish puddle around the bottom of the strawberries.  Oh what fun I’m having now.
Ultimately I ended up just dunking them in the coulis and hid the blue tinted bottoms.  See, problem solved.  There is always a way.  And if not, close the kitchen door, leave the mess for later and go eat ice cream.
Lemony Sour Cream Cake Mini Trifle’s with White Chocolate Mousse and Raspberry Coulis
Makes 5 single serving trifles; glasses shown are approx. 6 inches tall *you will only need HALF of the baked cake for the 5 servings; I do not recommend scaling down the recipe as the texture of the cake may be affected...nothin' wrong with extra cake if you ask me!
For the Cake:
8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons lemon extract
Zest of one large lemon
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sour cream 

Blue gel food coloring

For the glaze:
¼ cup apricot preserves
1 tablespoon Cointreau

For the White Chocolate Mousse:
110 grams white chocolate, coarsely chopped
200 ml whipping cream, equally divided
1 egg, separated
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 sheet gelatin
½ teaspoon vinegar 

For the Raspberry Coulis:
18 ounces raspberries (I used fresh but frozen would be okay too)
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

*NOTE: If you want to make the mini trifle’s as shown in the photograph above, do not bake cake in a bundt pan.  Use two 9” round cake pans.  If the outside of your cake discolors as mine did, you can simply cut of the top and it will be ready to use (it will still be blue inside, only the exterior darkens).

Also, very important; the mousse recipe is enough to make about 5 single serving trifle’s.  You will have HALF of the cake left over.  If you want to make more than 5 servings, or plan to make a large standard size trifle, double the mousse and couils recipes.

To prepare the cake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9” round cake pans.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until well combined, about 5 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition.

Stir in the salt, baking powder, lemon extract, and lemon zest.

Add the flour alternately with the sour cream, starting with the flour. Add the flour about 1 cup at a time, the sour cream 1/2 cup at a time. Mix at medium speed between additions, until ingredients are thoroughly combined. The finished batter will be quite stiff.

Add food coloring if desired. 

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, leveling it with your wet fingers or a spatula.

Bake the cake for 60 to 75 minutes, until a cake tester, bamboo skewer, or long toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven, and gently loosen its edges.
After 15 minutes, carefully turn the cake out of the pans onto a rack to cool.

Once the cake has cooled, cut it into pieces that are small enough to fit into the bottom of the serving glasses.  Be sure to firmly press the cake into the bottom of the glass, filling about one third of the glass with cake.

After the glasses are filled with cake, prepare the apricot glaze.  Add the preserves to a medium saucepan and cook down until melted. 

Pour the sauce over a strainer to remove any pieces of fruit. Stir in the Cointreau.

Using a pastry brush, gently give each cake a wash of the glaze.  This ensures the cake won't dry out.

To prepare the mousse, soak the gelatin in cold ice water and set aside.

Boil HALF of the cream and remove from heat.  Add chocolate and mix well to form a ganache.

Squeeze excess water from the gelatin and mix into the ganache until it dissolves.

Lightly beat the egg yolk and pour into the ganache. 

 Return pot to range, insert candy thermometer. Heat mixture until it reaches 140 degrees F. This ensures any bacterium on the egg yolk is killed.

Whip remaining cream and sugar to a stiff peak and fold into the ganche mixture.

Whisk the egg white and vinegar until medium peaks form and fold into the mousse.

Pour mixture into a measuring cup with a spout and refrigerate for 5 minutes.

Remove mousse from fridge and evenly distribute over each cake serving.

Transfer glasses to refrigerator until mousse sets, about 4-6 hours.  I put mine in the freezer and it took about 2.
Once the mousse has set, prepare the coulis.  Add raspberries and sugar to a medium sized saucepan.  Cook on medium heat until the raspberries have completely cooked down and you are left with a thickened sauce, about 5 minutes.

 Strain the sauce through a fine sieve to remove seeds.

Transfer sauce to a measuring cup with a spout and refrigerate for 5 minutes. 

Remove from fridge and equally distribute over the mousse. 

Refrigerate for at least an hour and serve immediately.

Phew!  Lots of steps but truly worth it.  The fresh raspberries made for such an inviting tang paired with the sweet mousse, truly a great combo.  Hope you love it as much as we do! 

Happy 4th of July! 

Sour cream cake adapted from King Arthur Flour
Mousse recipe adapted from ICCA