Month: December 2014

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The Impossible Chocoflan – and giving thanks to fellow-bloggers!

As another year draws to a close, I can’t help but recall my early blogging experiences which started around April of this year.  We had just returned from a vacation in Brazil, and at the time decided my very first post would feature Brazil.  I did not know what I was doing then or where I was going in the blogging world.  A few friends encouraged me to try it, and a good friend actually got me started on WordPress.  I knew I always wanted to document my thoughts, ideas, photos, recipes, travel adventures, gardening etc, and what better way, than to have it all assembled in one place?   Not only have I met so many interesting folks from around the world via this medium, but I’ve also learned so much along the way.  I feel like I’ve improved my photography skills; I’m now curious about aperture, shutter speed, ISO etc, words that meant nothing to me in the past.  I try to refine and boost my food styling skills for each post.  I attempt various recipes from other bloggers that I would not ordinarily have tried before.  I reach bloggers who write about gardening, travel and other subjects that interest me, all the while enhancing and enriching my very own site.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give thanks to a few bloggers who made all this possible, helping me along the way, sending encouragement, praise, motivation and inspiration.   When I first made contact with Selma @ Selma’s Table, she was only too willing to help out.  She provided me with sites, links, and other information to get me started on WordPress.  We struck up a bond right away, we both grew up in Kenya, had lived in Canada and also England and had oodles to talk about.  She’s still my go-to person whenever I am stuck with a technical question, or really any problem that arises with WP.  Her blog is brilliant, full of amazing tips and tricks from her kitchen.  Special thanks also to Nancy @ Feasting with Friends.  When Nancy and I co-hosted one of the Fiesta Friday parties, she took time to email me, instruct me on many areas and generally provided additional information on WP, her blog too is wonderful.  Angie @ The Novice Gardener hosts Fiesta Friday, it’s a virtual party where folks from near and far mingle, exchange recipes, and try out new ones.  Her posts are top-notch, her props so vibrant, her photography inspiring.  Angie is always welcoming and so willing to help.  Thanks also to each and everyone of the other bloggers out there who follow my posts, I do appreciate the warmth, friendship, and encouragement that you’ve poured, I truly am indebted.  I’m positively inspired by all your blogs.  Now, I don’t feel like an amateur anymore, I can help new bloggers and make them feel more welcome.  Best wishes to each and everyone of you for 2015, may we continue to meet via this medium.

Today, I’m posting a recipe that I tried from one of Angie’s posts called The Impossible Chocoflan.  I just knew when I first saw Angie’s post that I would be trying this heavenly dessert.  The pictures below will show you the magic and gorgeousness of this dessert, part chocolate cake and part flan, what’s not to love? But don’t take my word for it, just try it out for yourself.  It is fairly rich,  I’d definitely make it again, but only on special occasions.  It is almost magical how the layers get reversed – the cake and flan layers flip themselves in the baking process.  You pour the cake batter first into the ramekins, then the flan batter on top of it.  During the baking, somehow the cake will rise to the top and the flan will sink to the bottom – something to do with density I believe?  Watch the magic unfold when you flip it over, go on, give it a try.

The caramel layer –  servings 8-9

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar and the water.
  2. Heat on medium-high, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling.
  3. Stop stirring and allow syrup to continue boiling until it turns amber (about 6 minutes).
  4. Remove from heat immediately and pour about a tablespoon into a 4-oz. ramekins and roll around to coat the sides of the cups.

The cake layer

  • 2 oz. (1/3 cup) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tbsp (half a stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Combine flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.
  2. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate and butter and microwave for 30-second increments, stirring in between, until mixture is melted and smooth.
  3. Add sugar, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract and whisk until everything is well blended.
  4. Add flour mixture and stir until incorporated.
  5. 5. Pour into ramekins, on top of the caramel.

The flan layer

  • 4 oz. cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup 1% milk
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • You can either place all the flan ingredients in a blender and process until smooth or use a whisk or hand-held mixer.
  • Strain to avoid any lumps.
  • Pour slowly and carefully over the cake batter.

Place the ramekins in a large roasting pan.  Pour hot water around the cups to come halfway up their sides.  Bake in a 350deg F oven for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

IMG_2296Remove ramekins from the hot water bath and place them on a rack to cool.  When completely cool, cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  To unmold, run a small metal spatula around the sides of each cup.  Place a flat serving plate on top and invert Chocoflan onto the plate.  Lift off the ramekins.  The caramel sauce will flow down the sides of the Chocoflan, or drizzle more caramel before serving.  Decorate with candied nuts or fruits.  Makes 8-9 mini (4-oz) chocoflans.

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Oh sooooo good!

 

 

 

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Cranberry-Caramel Streusel Squares

I’m still in holiday baking mode here, (this was drafted the week before Christmas, so I had to post this).  To be honest, I’m detoxing for the month of January.  Just too many goodies were consumed by moi for the entire month.  But these delicious beauties with cranberries, oats, dates and pecans will have you reaching out for more than one square at a time.  They can really be made at any time, but adds a festive touch just around Christmas.  They freeze and refrigerate extremely well too.They are so easy to assemble, and I guarantee the results will not disappoint.  I find myself baking more over the holiday season than at any other time.  In years past, I’d assemble about half a dozen cookies and squares in pretty decorative boxes with snazzy ribbons and hand these out to neighbors and friends over Christmas.  It has been a wonderful holiday season, our girls were home for the holidays, we had some friends grace our Christmas table to celebrate good cheer and I cooked turkey and all the trimmings, as we were away for Thanksgiving.    A short and sweet introduction to these flavorful squares.  Happy New Year friends!

Cranberry-Caramel Streusel Squares

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter, chilled and cut into chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 2 tbs granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 butter, melted
  • 1 bottle caramel sauce (12.25oz)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 10 oz. dates, pitted and sliced
  • 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Method

Preheat oven to 350 deg.  Grease a 9″x 13″ pan and set aside.  In a medium-size bowl, using a fork, stir the flour with the icing sugar until mixed.  Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.  Turn the mixture into the baking dish, press firmly and evenly over the bottom of the dish.  Bake in the center of the oven until the edges are golden, from 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven.  Meanwhile, for the streusel, stir 1/2 cup flour with the oats in a medium-size bowl with brown sugar, granulated sugar and baking soda.  Stir in the melted butter until mixture is crumbly, set aside.

Now in a large bowl, stir in the caramel sauce with 1/3 cup flour.  Stir in the cranberries, dates and pecans.

IMG_2271Spread the filling mixture over the top of the warm baked base, making sure the cranberries and dates are evenly distributed. (See below).

Sprinkle top with streusel mixture, return to the oven, bake until the top is light brown from 35-40 minutes.

Remove from the oven, cool at least 30 minutes.

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Cut into 24 squares, then cool completely in the baking dish.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week or freeze up to 3 months.

Off to our weekly Fiesta Friday #49 hosted by the gracious Angie.  Welcome and thanks for co-hosting  Mr. Fitz and Kaila.

 

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Christmas lunch and cookie exchange with friends!

I have a wonderful group of girlfriends that get together throughout the year.  We forged these friendships when our children were very young and now some of these same children are having babies of their own.  Our friendship all along has stayed connected in good times and in bad.  I guess I’m fortunate to have a group so loyal and steadfast in our commitment to each other.  We always like to add a special outing or get-together around the holidays and this year was no different.  One of the gals decided to host a lunch at her place, we also decided to indulge in a cookie exchange.  For those of you who do not know what this tradition might be, it is basically an exchange of cookies.  You bake a few dozen of your favorite cookies for each member participating, and you end up leaving with a few dozen of an assortment of cookies that others have baked.  The recipe below is a very quick pecan toffee recipe, I added a chocolate chip favorite too.

Ingredients for Toffee Recipe

  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate pieces

Method

  1. Butter a square 9″x9″x2″ pan.  Spread pecans in pan
  2. Heat sugar and butter to boiling, stirring constantly
  3. Boil over medium heat, stirring constantly for 7 minutes or more
  4. Immediately spread mixture evenly over nuts in buttered pan
  5. Sprinkle chocolate pieces over hot mixture and place baking sheet over pan so heat will melt chocolate
  6. Spread melted chocolate over candy
  7. While hot, cut into squares (mostly though they don’t really cut up into squares, but it sort of looks nice all chopped up in varying lengths.

A great festive luncheon and good cheer with an amazing group of gals!  Merry Christmas all!

 I’m presenting this at our weekly Friday Fiesta (# 48) hosted by the amazing Angie.  Her posts week after week are just sensational!  Take a peek at her blog, and you’ll be in for a treat!  

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Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart

Hiya blogger friends, I’m back!! I had taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging just before Thanksgiving. Well, it was all good, took a wonderful trip to a tropical paradise with the family for the week of Thanksgiving, and right after, visited with ma-in-law and relatives in the cold and frozen North called Canada.

I  love this time of year when there is just so much going on. Dinner parties, cookie exchanges, concerts, lunch with girlfriends, Christmas parties and a whole lot more. I don’t really get bogged down with shopping or gift-giving, but oh how I love to bake and entertain during the holiday season! Right now, I’ve got the Nutcracker music blaring, filling the room with the joy and excitement of Christmas. I’ve been baking up a storm lately, but I’ll have to be honest here, what I’m about to post was a bit of a flop! I was bringing dessert to a luncheon that we had been invited to.  I had used my tart pan with removable bottom before on a myriad of occasions, with absolutely no problems.  I had made this tart a couple of times before in a pie pan.  I wanted the rippled effect this time, and boy did I pay for it!  It was a HUGE flop!  In hindsight, perhaps the tarts I had prepared before, did not have as much liquid as this one did?  When I peeked into the oven half-way through, I noticed the liquid part seeping from the pan (thankfully I had laid it on a baking sheet), or I’d have a right royal mess in my oven.  There was nothing I could do except watch and wait till the end :(. There’s also the possibility that I had not placed the removable part the right way up. The good news? It did not look too bad, so I did end up taking the tart to the luncheon, minus the custardy bits :). It is a rich tart, so a little bit goes a long way. I served it up with a dollop of fresh cream.  Now for this very simple tart recipe.  Courtesy, Giada De Laurentiis.  WordPress have made several changes lately, and for whatever reasons, my font changed and with the free version, you don’t have too many options to change, so it looks like I may have to succumb and finally pay to get the better version :)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 3 eggs, beaten

  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, chopped, and toasted hazelnuts

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (about 1 cup)

  • 1 cup corn syrup (I used the lite version)

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 store bought frozen pie crust, defrosted or home-made

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees F.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and the flour

  3. Add the eggs, hazelnuts, chocolate chips

  4. Add corn syrup, butter, vanilla and salt.  Stir well

  5. Pour the mixture into the pie crust.  Bake for 1 hour

Cool the tart for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Serve plain, or with a dollop of fresh cream.

I’m bringing this tart to the fun and fiesty group at Angie’s.

There are bound to be throngs at the party waiting to show their holiday presentations.  I’ve seen some already, and they are just amazing!  Today, our co-hosts are Indu and Jhuls.