Creamy, Decadent Chocolate Mousse

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I guess I should have posted this yesterday, when it was National Chocolate Mousse Day. Who comes up with these days? And should we really care? I get Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Grandparents’ Day – I am all for showing appreciation to the special people in our lives. But does chocolate mousse really care if it has a day? And there isn’t a chocolate mousse council that needs to make sure people know about chocolate mousse so they can get their daily serving. Hmmm, I’d serve on that council if there were one. Heck, I’d serve on the dairy council. I like cream, butter and cheese.

I have been planning to blog about chocolate mousse since we had it a few weeks ago, to use up our cream supply. I had the post all ready to go and I wasn’t going to delay posting it just to avoid going along with the crowd on Chocolate Mousse Day.

I have always wanted to make chocolate mousse, but I never got around to it, until Rich suggested it as one way to use up some of our lovely cream surplus. Lots of recipes called for a ton of butter and others called for just chocolate and cream. I am all for a pure chocolate flavor, but I wanted something a little different than what is basically whipped chocolate ganache.

I found a recipe at Joy of Baking that was just what I was looking for: a nice balance of chocolate, butter, sugar and cream. It did call for eggs, which were not cooked, but I used pasteurized eggs to eliminate any possibility of salmonella. The recipe went together in no time, with just a bit of whipping and melting.

It was hard to wait for the mousse to chill, but it really made a difference in both the texture and flavor. The little (let’s get real: big) tastes we took were wonderfully creamy and rich, but the mousse was so much better after chilling for a few hours – creamy but still light and airy, with just the right amount of sweetness balanced with deep, dark chocolate. What more can you ask of a chocolate mousse?

Note: I am not posting the recipe here because I didn’t change it at all. I know some people post unchanged recipes, giving credit, but I am just not comfortable with that unless I have permission from the original authors.

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Homemade Eggnog

DSC_0030Note: This post is sponsored by Safest Choice Eggs and I received compensation as well as coupons for free Safest Choice Eggs. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

Eggnog has been one of my favorite holiday treats since I was a child. I could never get enough of the sweet creaminess, drinking as much as my parents would let me. As an adult I used to get a carton or a jug every year and drink most of it myself over a week or so.

Then I started wondering why I had never made eggnog myself. Well, I knew really. It was the raw eggs. I just couldn’t get past the possibility of salmonella. Who wants to serve up a glass of food poisoning to their families at the holidays? I gave up on the idea of making my own until I figured out how to get around the raw egg thing.

I discovered Davidson’s Safest Choice pasteurized eggs a few years ago, just about the time I was hunting for eggnog recipes again. They are pasteurized in the shell, so you can use them raw without fear of salmonella. And you can use them in recipes that call for beaten egg whites, like eggnog.

I made haste to the grocery store to get the eggs and the rest of the stuff to make a batch of eggnog. We were heading to my parents’ house for Christmas day that year and I figured we could have fun making and drinking the eggnog with the whole family.

We realized when we were pouring the finished eggnog into a pitcher that the recipe we were using was a little inaccurate. It was supposed to make six servings, but we filled two pitchers, and then some, with the eggy creaminess. Eight of us had a taste and hardly made a dent in the supply.

We all tried our darnedest, but by the time we were a few days out from Christmas, we were all sick of eggnog. We needed some way to preserve it, and Rich had the brilliant idea to make ice cream out of the leftovers. We poured the rest of the eggnog into the ice cream maker and hoped for the best.

We ended up with the most delicious eggnog ice cream that satisfied a craving we didn’t even know we had. It was rich, of course, with eggs, cream and whole milk. And it was dense, creamy and decadent. It also had the beautiful feature of staying fresh in its frozen form. We didn’t have to worry about it going sour before we could finish it, like we had when it was in its liquid form. We doled out that ice cream like it was gold.

That was probably five years ago, and we haven’t made eggnog, or eggnog ice cream since. Rich periodically waxes philosophic about that ice cream, but we never seem to find time to make it.

Fast forward a few years to this summer – I was surprised and pleased to see that Davidson’s Safest Choice Eggs were a sponsor of the St. Louis Food Media Forum I went to in August. Seeing the brand, and sampling a few of their egg based dishes at the conference reminded me of that eggnog I made. I have been thinking about the eggnog since August, and looking for an excuse to make it.

When I was offered the chance to participate in an eggnog blog party sponsored by  Safest Choice Eggs I jumped on it. Well, almost. I have never done a sponsored post before and I wondered if that was a direction I wanted to head in. But pasteurized eggs are a product I have used in the past, and I was happy with the results. And the blog party gives you, my readers, a chance to win a great prize pack. So I decided to participate.

You have the chance to win one of two prize packages that include a $200 Amex gift card, a 7-piece Sur La Table Platinum Professional bakeware set, a set of Sur La Table snowman spatulas, a copy of Better Homes and Gardens Baking and coupons for a year’s supply of Safest Choice eggs. The contest is open until midnight Eastern time this Friday, December 13.

If you would like to enter the contest, click here.

Recipe Notes
Based on my notes from the first time we made the eggnog, I have developed a new recipe that really lets the cream and the nutmeg shine. I reduced the sugar and increased both the nutmeg and the vanilla. If you aren’t a fan of nutmeg, use the smaller amount. I also adjusted the recipe so it makes a manageable amount of eggnog. If you are serving a big crowd, the recipe is easy to double.

Print the recipe here.

Simple Eggnog
From The Cook’s Life
Makes about 1 quart, 8-10 servings

For best flavor, start the recipe several hours before serving. If you prefer, you can make and serve this right away if you don’t want to take the extra time. It will still be fabulous. If want to skip the resting step, whip the whites before you whip the yolks. Fold the whites into the yolk and cream mixture and serve immediately.

3 pasteurized eggs (I used Safest Choice)
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼-½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Freshly grated nutmeg for topping

Separate the eggs. Refrigerate the whites until you need them.

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks until almost doubled in volume, thick and pale yellow. This should take about 3 minutes of beating. Beat in 3 tablespoons sugar until no longer grainy.

Stir in cream, milk, vanilla and nutmeg. Pour into a pitcher or container. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight.

When you are almost ready to serve the eggnog, remove the egg whites from the fridge and let them come to room temperature for about 15 minutes. Then beat the egg whites in a large bowl until just staring to thicken and turn white. Gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and beat until soft peaks form.

Gently fold beaten egg whites into cream and yolk mixture.

Serve immediately for optimal texture. Pour into small glasses or cups, top with extra ground nutmeg. When the eggnog sits a foamy layer will form on top. Stir the mixture gently to remix.

Store any leftovers in the fridge and use within a few days. The eggnog won’t be quite as thick and foamy later, but it will still be delicious. Whisk thoroughly to combine before serving any leftovers.

Eggnog Ice Cream

If you have any extra eggnog, you can make luscious, rich eggnog ice cream. Pour the chilled mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directions. Because of the high fat content, the ice cream freezes very hard. If you like, you can add 1-2 tablespoons of vodka during the last five minutes of churning. The alcohol will keep the ice cream from getting quite so hard in the freezer, making scooping much easier. If you prefer not to use alcohol, let the ice cream warm up for a few minutes before scooping.


Buttery Cream Wafers

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I first had these cookies several years ago. I was teaching a bread baking class to friends from church and their friends. While we were waiting for the bread to rise we snacked on some of the cookies one of the women had brought to share.

The cookies were rich and buttery, but not very sweet. Most of the sweetness came from the filling sandwiched between the shortbread-like cookies. I immediately asked for the recipe. And then I didn’t make them until now. That is how baking goes sometimes.

I did change the original directions just a bit. They were cut-out cookies, which I really don’t like making. I just don’t have the patience for the process. And the re-rolled scraps are never as good as the rest of the cookies. I prefer to make logs and slice off the cookies – faster and easier.

Just one note: if you follow my directions, the edges of the cookies aren’t quite as neat as  cut-out cookies would be. I’ll take a few ragged edges for the ease of slicing the logs. We sliced and baked the cookies in about twenty minutes. If you really want perfect edges, you can certainly roll out the dough.

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The original recipe has a simple butter and sugar combination for the filling. I added cinnamon to half the filling mixture. I liked the subtle spiciness next to the delicate buttery flavor of the cookies. I included the cinnamon variation in the recipe.

I also like the cookies unfilled. They are a nice contrast to sweeter cookies on a cookie platter. Sometimes butter and cream can do the job all by themselves.

Print the recipe here.

 Buttery Cream Wafers
From the Cook’s Life
Makes about 25 sandwich cookies

You can fill these your favorite icing if you prefer.

Dough:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
⅓ cup heavy cream
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar, approximately

Filling:
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, room temperature
¾ cup powdered sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Cinnamon Filling Variation:
Add ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon to the filling. Beat until it is uniformly mixed, with no streaks of cinnamon.

Don’t preheat the oven. The dough needs to chill before baking.

Beat the butter until creamy. Mix in cream and flour.

Divide the dough in half and place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap. The dough should be relatively easy to handle, though greasy. Shape each half into a log about 1 inch in diameter. You don’t have to be exact. Try to keep the logs uniform so your cookies will all be about the same size.

Wrap the dough logs in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours until dough is firm. You can refrigerate the dough for several days, or freeze for up to a month. If you are storing for the longer period of time, slip the plastic covered logs in a plastic bag or airtight container to keep them from drying out.

When ready to bake preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place granulated sugar on a large plate or piece of waxed paper or parchment. Slice the logs into ⅜ to ½-inch thick rounds. Press each flat side into the sugar and place on ungreased baking sheets. Prick the top of each with a fork a few times.

Bake 7-9 minutes, or until firm, but not browned. Cookies are fragile. Let them cool a few minutes on the pans before transferring them to wire racks.

While cookies are cooling, beat filling ingredients together until light and creamy. Spread filling in a thin layer on half of the cookies and top with the remaining cookies.

Store in an airtight container for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

Frozen Treats in January – Cinnamon Gelato

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Gelato is the hot ice cream lately. Or at least it seems to show up in articles in food magazines and on restaurant menus that we have seen lately. We have been thinking about making our own for quite awhile now, but have never managed to find the time. This weekend all the stars aligned and we made our first gelato.

Gelato, according to various sources, is Italian ice cream that is heavy on egg yolks and often uses whole milk as the base instead of cream. I found recipes online that ranged from a dozen egg yolks to none. I settled on one that had a modest amount of egg yolks and both cream and milk that I found on the blog Italian Food Forever. The original recipe was for vanilla, and called for a vanilla bean. We didn’t have any on hand, so I used vanilla extract and then decided to make cinnamon gelato, so we added two teaspoons of cinnamon.

We beat the egg yolks with sugar, heated the milk and cream, tempered the eggs with a little hot milk and then cooked the whole shebang until it thickened. Then we strained the mixture into a bowl to chill in an ice bath until it was cold. Then we churned it in the ice cream maker and put it in the freezer until it was firm enough to serve. After all that we expected perfection.

It was good, but nothing special. And I thought it tasted more like eggy custard than gelato. I prefer my own cinnamon ice cream, which is much less work and doesn’t make a mountain of dirty dishes. I think I am going to leave the gelato making to the professionals, which is not to say I won’t enjoy the rest of our batch. Maybe it just needs some caramel sauce

Cinnamon Chip Scones

 

I promised a recipe for cinnamon chip scones a couple of weeks ago, when I made cinnamon chips. I have finished my experiments (at least for now) and I think I have come up with a recipe that is worth sharing.

After much poking around the internet and my cookbooks, I still really have no firm definition of a scone. Some are really just biscuits with a little sugar, some have eggs, some have lots of cream and butter and others are just not worth making (dry, crumbly, too much flour, too much sugar – I won’t bore you with more details). I can’t say I am a fan of most scones in coffee shops – usually they have been sitting around for hours, drying out. But homemade scones are pretty much the bee’s knees.

After lots of experiments with different recipes ­– none of which really impressed me – I decided to start over. I began with my biscuit recipe, but used regular milk instead of buttermilk, and added a bit of sugar. I tried skim milk, whole milk, and on one memorable occasion, cream. The cream version was exquisite, but milk made perfectly delicious scones. The whole milk scones might have been slightly richer, but the difference from skim milk wasn’t huge. If you normally have only skim milk on hand, use that and your scones will be fabulous. You could add an additional tablespoon or two of butter if you want more richness.

I used my homemade cinnamon chips in these, but you could use commercial cinnamon chips, chocolate chips or raisins. I tried making some into rounds and made the rest into my usual triangles. I used both my muffin top pan, and a cake pan, trying to contain any cinnamon chip leaks (my scones were too small for this to make a difference). Really, a baking sheet is fine, as long as you make sure not to bake them too long, which will dry them out and burn the leaking cinnamon chips.

Skip the coffee shop scones that are just a way to make you buy more coffee. Make your own and pat yourself on the back while you scarf down your fluffy, anything-but-dry scones.

Cinnamon Chip Scones
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 8-10 large scones

If you are in the mood for a treat, use cream instead of milk as the liquid in these scones. You might need slightly more than ¾ of a cup – maybe a tablespoon or two. Use the larger amount of butter if you want a richer scone.

1 ¾ cups flour*
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
4-6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup homemade cinnamon chips or other mix-ins of choice
¾ cup milk (any kind you have on hand – see headnote)
1-2 tablespoons extra milk
2-3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar

*I used 1 cup white whole wheat and ¾ cup all-purpose flour. Feel free to use only all-purpose flour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment paper. Set aside.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs, with a few larger pieces of butter. Stir in cinnamon chips. Add milk, mixing gently until most of the flour is moistened and a shaggy dough forms. Add an extra tablespoon of milk if there is a large amount of dry flour left.

Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead a few times, no more than ten turns, adding sprinkles of flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Divide dough in half and pat each half into a circle about 1 inch tall. Cut each circle into 4-5 triangles and place on prepared baking sheet. If you want round scones, divide dough into 8-10 pieces. Gently form each piece into a ball and flatten to a 1-inch thick disk.

Brush tops lightly with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on size, until bottoms are lightly browned and tops are just starting to turn golden brown. Cool slightly. Serve warm.

Download the recipe here.