Friday, December 30, 2011

Tiramisu Italiano

I remember falling in love with this heavenly dessert called Tiramisu somewhere in my early 20s. That first bite I took of this soft, creamy goodness sealed the deal in bumping this dessert up to my top favorites. Ever since, I've ordered Tiramisu's at as many restaurants as I possibly could and to be honest, not many impressed. This one place in Singapore, The Coffee Connoisseur, stood out to me as the restaurant with the best Tiramisu. It had the perfect light, fluffy and creamy mascarpone texture with the best blend of rum/coffee liquor. I have tried Tiramisu's after that but loved none as much.

Now, I'm not a Tiramisu expert so I wouldn't know if that was the authentic flavor but imagine my delight when the recipe I picked from Food Network's Tyler Florence gave me the same heavenly taste as the one from The Coffee Connoisseur. My eyes literally had hearts dancing in them, much like the cartoons we see.

I loved the recipe even more because it didn't have any raw egg whites to make it fluffy. It may have been lighter with the egg whites, but I don't care. I have a pet peeve in the kitchen - I don't like working with raw eggs. I like my eggs processed in some way or the other. Yes, I know the Tiramisu's I've eaten at restaurants most likely contained raw egg whites but, as long as I'm oblivious, I'm fine.

One thing I would change about this recipe next time is making my own ladyfingers. The ones I got from the store were not really good but, I didn't have the patience to go hunting for good, authentic ladyfingers. In the end, it was scrumptious nevertheless, after sitting in the refrigerator for more than a day and soaking up moisture from the mascarpone cream. The fact that the hubby and I finished a big bowl in two days is testament to that.

Bon Appetit!

Tiramisu Italiano (adapted from Tyler Florence/Food Network)

Ingredients and instructions

  • 7 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup Kahlua, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 8 ounces mascarpone, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup brewed espresso coffee
  • 1 ounce dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup rum (you can reduce this amount if you like it milder)
  • 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
  • 48 ladyfingers
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Cream together egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Add 1/3 cup of the Kahlua and continue to whisk until mixture is thick and doubled in volume. This is basically a zabaglione. Remove from heat. Stir in the mascarpone until completely blended.

In a chilled bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture, to lighten.

In a small saucepan, combine espresso, chocolate, rum, vanilla, and remaining 2 tablespoons Kahlua. Heat gently, and stir to dissolve the chocolate. Then, chill the mixture to cool it down, about 15 minutes. Dip each ladyfinger in the chilled coffee mixture for about 5 seconds and arrange in a single layer on a 9 by 13-inch glass baking pan. If you have really good ladyfingers, a quick dunk will do. Do not oversoak the cookies or they will become too moist. Spread 1/2 the mascarpone cream evenly with a spatula on top of the dipped ladyfingers. Repeat with a second layer of dipped ladyfingers and remaining mascarpone cream. Sprinkle top with cocoa powder. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. You can add shaved dark chocolate on top right before serving, as an option.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chocolate Peppermint French Macarons

I've been meaning to make these macarons for a while now and was doing my research on the best recipe to follow. Lots of people raved about David Lebovitz and how great his macaron-making skills are. I also gathered how tricky macaron making is and that the glorious 'feet' of the macaron are extremely elusive. It takes a lot of precision technique to get those 'feet'.

For the uninitiated (I certainly was before my adventure), a macaron's 'foot' is the bubbly layer just below the bulbous top. I read many stories of how people had failed batch after batch with flat macarons and I wondered how hard it could be. I learnt my lesson when I got the near-perfect batch only on my third attempt. I still don't think they're perfect because I didn't get a great dome but, I at least got the ever-elusive 'feet'!

I made a few changes to David Lebovitz's recipe because I felt a few things were off (following his recipe to the T made the macarons extremely sweet - that's what I thought even though my tolerance for sweetness is very high), but I got the basics from him.

I also found this amazing tutorial on Youtube by someone called Chefnini, on how to fold the batter which made a world of difference to the success of my third batch.

Hope these help if you decide to try your hand at macarons. And if you're a veteran at them, I hope you think I did them justice. Either way, Bon Appetit!

Chocolate Macarons (adapted from David Lebovitz)

Ingredients and instructions

  • 4/5 cup powdered sugar (basically just a little less than a cup)
  • 1/2 cup powdered almonds (you can either get store-bought almond powder or make your own powder with blanched, well-dried almonds, which is what I did)
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 325 deg F (160 deg C).

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready. Since I had neither, I used regular aluminum baking sheet to bake and a ziploc bag with the tip cut to pipe the icing. It worked like a charm, no harm done. Sometimes you can't substitute ingredients or equipment but this is tested, so don't sweat it.

Grind together the powdered sugar with the almond powder and cocoa so there are no lumps; use a blender or food processor. This also smooths down any lumpy almond pieces if any.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer or an electric beater, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, gradually add (extremely important to add gradually because your macaron will go flat if you just dump all the sugar in one go) in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm, about 2 minutes.

Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in about 5-6 batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag (standing the bag in a tall glass helps if you’re alone).

Pipe the batter on your prepared baking sheets in 1-inch (3 cm) circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch (3 cm) apart.

Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons - you can omit this if you want because I didn't really see any visible difference. Let the macarons stand for at least 20-30 minutes so the top of the macarons dry a bit, essential to always get the 'feet' at the bottom. Bake them for 10 minutes, then turn the oven heat down to 300 deg F (or 140 deg C) and continue baking for 3-5 minutes. Let cool completely, then remove from baking sheet.

Peppermint Buttercream Frosting (adapted from ABC's Good Morning America)

Ingredients and instructions
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup peppermint candy (about 7 peppermint sticks), finely crushed
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the peppermint candy, confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons milk and 1 teaspoon peppermint extract.

Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is well incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the frosting lightens and is fluffy, 1 minute more. Blend up to 1 tablespoon milk if the frosting seems to be stiff.

Frost the bottom of a macaron and fuse another to it. Let them sit for a couple of hours so the flavors fuse together. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Curried Chicken Pasta

When it comes to quick dinners, I love dishing out pasta and experimenting with the sauce or the meat that goes in it. I was a bit bored of the regular white sauce or meat sauce and wanted something different. I remember watching this short ad segment on Food Network where Aarti Sequeira demonstrates a quick and easy butter chicken where she'd first marinated chicken in yoghurt, ginger and garlic pastes before frying and adding it in a readymade mix.

I thought I'd incorporate that style and come up with my own marinade, making my pasta sauce with that as the base. I'd run out of yoghurt and had to look for substitutes. By the time I fiddled around the kitchen and threw stuff in my marinade, it turned out to be a curry-based chicken. It was so yummy! The final dish didn't taste completely like curry but, the hints of it added a beautiful touch. Bon Appetit!

Ingredients and directions:

For the marinade

  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • pinch of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Season with salt

Mix all the ingredients together. Cut about 3/4 pound boneless chicken into small cubes and toss in the marinade and refrigerate for half an hour. 

For the sauce
  • 400 ml chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onions
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cream

Heat pan. Put the chicken and the marinade in the pan directly and let it cook for a while. That's right, you don't need oil in the pan since the marinade already has olive oil, you can add a little bit of olive oil later on when you mix the pasta and it feels too dry. 

Saute the chicken till they brown slightly on all sides. Add the chicken stock, minced onions, dried basil, tomato sauce and cream. Once the mixture comes to a boil, simmer and let the chicken cook completely, for about 15-20 minutes. 

If the sauce is still very watery, turn the heat up to high and let the liquid thicken. I added some frozen broccoli and mushroom mix 5 minutes before it was done.

Toss with your favorite pasta and enjoy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Almond Cherry Souffle with Warm Chocolate Sauce

The past couple of weeks have been extremely quiet in Beetle's Kitchen. I've been down with different kinds of the flu, plaguing me one after the other. So, for a little over two weeks, my taste buds abandoned me and even the sight of the kitchen made me want to throw up. It of course goes without saying that I haven't been inspired to try anything new and hence, there hasn't been anything worthy of sharing here. 

But, a couple of days back I was watching an episode of The Next Ironchef - Superchefs and a couple of the chefs made souffles with the ingredients given to them. The guru himself, and my favorite, Jeffrey Zacharian Geoffrey Zakarian (I'm ashamed to have gotten his name wrong earlier :S), blew the judges off their seats with his finesse and perfect technique in the kitchen generally and also his perfect souffle. He'd made a blueberry souffle with a sauce whose name I've forgotten. As with any Food Network cooking show, I thought I'd check the website to see if any of the chefs recipes were online. Believe it or not, every chef, cook, ironchef has recipes on the site except, you guessed it, Jeffrey. His dishes really are his best kept secrets.

I decided to hunt for souffle recipes on other sites and wanted something that would use cherries. I had a bag of them and thought I'd try them in a recipe instead of wolfing them down fresh. That's when I came across this german site with a recipe for Almond Cherry Souffle. Bingo! That was it. I made a couple of changes to the original recipe and the result was delightful! I'd forgotten what a lovely combination cherries and almond essence made. The warm chocolate sauce is absolutely to die for. I licked the leftover chocolate sauce clean.

The only regret I have is not taking any pictures of the souffle fresh from the oven. They had risen like beauties and had fallen by the time I finally got some pictures of them. So please excuse the fallen souffle pictures. They still tasted heavenly! Bon Appetit!


  • Butter for preparing ramekins
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted fresh cherries
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 5 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 recipe warm chocolate sauce (recipe below)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 6 8-ounce ramekins, place on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Combine cherries, lemon juice and almond extract in a blender and puree until very smooth and almost fluffy. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large, clean, metal bowl, beat egg whites on medium speed until very soft peaks form. Continue to beat while slowly adding sugar in a steady stream. Beat until peaks are stiff but not dry. Use a rubber spatula to beat one-third of egg whites into cherry puree. Gently fold puree into remaining egg whites. Divide this mixture among ramekins and smooth the tops. Bake just until well-risen and beginning to brown, 12 to 14 minutes.

Serve the souffles immediately. Top with chocolate sauce, if desired.

Warm Chocolate Sauce:

Heat 2 or 3 inches of water in a small saucepan to a low simmer. Combine 5 ounces coarsely chopped German milk chocolate with 3 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup heavy cream in a heatproof bowl that fits over saucepan — bowl should not touch water. Stir until chocolate melts. Remove from heat and stir well until smooth; serve immediately. (Sauce may be reheated by setting it over simmering water as in preparation.)

Please excuse the dents on the souffle, made by a clumsy baker :)

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