Chocolate-Almond Coconut Cake

As usual I was perusing recipes on the web as well as thumbing through the numerous cookbooks I own looking for a dessert to end a Spring dinner with friends. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to bake a coconut cream tart or a chocolate cake. I ended up combining two of my loves; coconut and chocolate.

The following recipe is inspired by a cake from Cooks Illustrated. They used marshmallow fluff for the filling. I on the otherhand made an Italian meringue because in the end, it’s just a toasted coconut buttercream. Makes one 8-inch, three-layer cake.

Coconut Cake
1 large egg, room temperature
5 (5 1/2 oz / 150) large whites, room temperature
3/4 cup cream of coconut 
1/4 cup whole milk 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2 1/4 cups (9 oz / 255 g) cake flour (not self-rising)
1 cup (7 oz / 200 g) granulated sugar 
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
12 tablespoons (6 oz / 168 g) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened

FOR THE COCONUT CAKE: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease three 8 x 1-inch round cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper rounds.

In a 4-cup liquid measuring cup whisk together whole egg, egg whites, cream of coconut, milk, vanilla, and coconut extracts. Set aside.

Set a sieve over the bowl of a stand mixer and sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using the paddle attachment and mixing low speed adding butter, 1 piece at a time, mixing until pea-size or smaller pieces remain, about 1 minute.

Re-whisk the egg mixture. With the mixer running on low pour in half the egg mixture. Increase speed to medium-high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low, add remaining egg mixture, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, give batter final stir by hand.

Divide batter evenly among prepared pans and smooth tops with rubber spatula. Bake until tops are light golden, and toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 22 to 24 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Let cakes cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and let cool completely on rack, about 2 hours.

Coconut Buttercream
1 cup (7 oz / 200 g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
6 tablespoons water
4 egg whites (4 oz), room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar 
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 1/3 cups (4 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM: In a small saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Set over low heat. Swirl the pan to dissolve the sugar completely.  Once the sugar has dissolved, stop swirling. Increase the heat and boil to 240 degrees F (check it using a candy thermometer).  Wash down the inside wall of the pan with a wet pastry brush. This helps prevent sugar crystals from forming around the sides and falling into the sugar mixture, causing an undesirable chain reaction.

While the sugar is coming up to temperature, in the impeccably clean bowl of an electric mixer, whip the eggs whites on low speed until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium and beat until soft peaks form. Once the eggs are at soft peaks turn down the mixer so as not to overbeat the egg whites while the sugar mixture is come up to temperature.

Once the sugar has reached 240 degrees F, with the mixer running, pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream down the side of the bowl of soft-peaked egg whites. Beat on medium-high speed until the egg whites are stiff and glossy, about 4 – 5 minutes.

Add the butter one tablespoon at a time and beat until each piece in incorporated when whip for about 30 seconds. Whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and extract and beat until light and fluffy.

Remove and reserve about 1 cup or so (to be used to crumb coat the cake). Add the toasted coconut to the remaining butter cream and mix to combine.

Chocolate Glaze and Decoration
½ cup (1 1/2 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
½ cup sliced almond, toasted
1 cup heavy cream 
¼ cup light corn syrup 
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

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Smoked Duck Rillettes

IMG_0305Makes Twelve – 3 ounce ramekins

2 1/2 pounds duck tenderloins, tendons removed
1 1/2 cups duck fat, divided
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 1/2 cups chopped shallots
2 teaspoons kosher salt or to taste
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper or to taste

optional ingredients according to personal taste
3 tablespoons armagnac or brandy
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
a few grindings of nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For serving: Toast points, for serving with, jam or marmalade, cornichons, pickled carrots, onions, radishes.

Using a stove-top smoker place a tablespoon of cherry wood or oak chips in the center of the pan.  Set the drip pan over the wood chips. Spray the grate with food release spray and place on top of the drip pan. Line half of the tenderloins on the diagonal across the grate. Secure the lid leaving about a half-inch gap. Place the pan on a medium fire and watch for the smoke to appear.  When it does, close the lid completely, turn the heat to medium low and allow to smoke for about 8 – 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and check to ensure the duck is cooked.  If so, remove with tongs and set aside to cool. Pour off any accumulated juices and reserve. Clean out the burnt wood chips and repeat the process.

While the second pan of duck is smoking. Place a skillet over medium heat and add about a cup of duck fat. After the fat begins to sizzle add the black pepper and cook swirling the pan to allow the pepper to bloom. Next add the shallots and sauté until translucent about 8 minutes; add the garlic. Continue cooking for another 2 – 3 minutes, watching carefully so as not to burn the garlic. After the garlic is tender stir in the herbs, remove from heat and pour into a bowl to cool. Return the pan to the fire and pour in the reserved juice (from both batches of duck); reduce liquid by half. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Once the tenderloins are cool, cut into thirds and place half of them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal “S” blade.  Pour in half the shallot mixture and pulse until roughly chopped.  Place in a bowl to reserve and repeat with the remaining duck and shallot mixture. Combine the second batch with the first, pour in the reduced liquid and stir to incorporate.  Heat a quarter cup or so of duck fat just until melted. Pour enough fat over the chopped duck and stir to combine to allow the rillettes to become moist but not wet. Reserve any remaining duck fat.

Pack into clean jars or ramekins and set in the refrigerator to become firm. Once firm portion the remaining liquid fat equally over the portioned rillettes just to cover. Return to the refrigerator to allow the fat to firm then top with lids and rings.

The undisturbed rillettes will last in the refrigerator for about a week or jar can be placed in the freezer for up to 6 months. Allow to thaw in the refrigerator. When ready to serve remove from the refrigerator about a half hour prior to serving.

Photo by David Schmit Photography

Photo by David Schmit Photography

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Chocolate Buttermilk Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup wild flower honey
6 large egg yolks
Pinch Kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup crème fraîche

Have ready a bowl of ice water along with a sieve placed over a medium heat-proof bowl.

In a medium saucepan combine first 5 ingredients and place over medium-low heat. Whisk mixture constantly until an instant read thermometer reads 170 degrees F.

Remove from heat, add buttermilk and chocolate; whisking until chocolate has melted completely, then whisk in crème fraîche. Strain the mixture through the sieve and leave bowl of what is now called chocolate crème anglaise in the ice bath stirring until cold. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to proceed churn the crème anglaise in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a container and freeze until ready to serve.

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Quatre glaces au lait or Four Milk Ice Cream

Craving ice cream but you don’t have enough cream and milk? Tucked in your fridge though is crème fraîche and buttermilk from other recipes? Mix the four “milks” together, add some lemon zest and a bit of honey to make something new and delicious.

Zest from one lemon, preferably organic
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup crème fraîche
Pinch kosher salt
1/2 plump vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/4 cup (4 oz) wildflower or other mild honey
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar, divided
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Using a vegetable peeler, zest the lemon by removing 1-inch strips of the yellow rind leaving behind the white pith. Juice the lemon and set aside.

In a medium, heavy-bottom saucepan combine lemon zest, milk, cream, crème fraîche, salt, vanilla bean including seeds, honey, and 1/4 cup sugar; stirring to dissolve the honey and 1/4 cup sugar. Bring just to a simmer (any hotter and you risk separating the milk into curds and whey). Turn off heat and allow the mixture to steep for at least 1/2 hour or up to an hour.

When ready to proceed have ready a bowl of ice water along with a sieve placed over a medium heat-proof bowl.

In another medium bowl add the egg yolks and whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. If the milk mixture is still hot temper the eggs by pouring about a cup of the hot milk/cream into the eggs, whisking constantly. Then, pour the egg mixture back into the remaining milk/cream mixture. Otherwise, if the milk/cream is cool to the touch simply whisk the egg mixture back into it.

Return the pan to a medium-low heat and whisking constantly cook the mixture until an instant read thermometer ready 170 – 180 degrees F. Remove from heat and stir in the buttermilk. Pour the mixture through the sieve into the clean bowl.

Retrieve the vanilla bean from the sieve and add it back to what is now called crème anglaise. Set the bowl in the prepared ice bath and stir until the crème anglaise is cold. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day retrieve the vanilla bean from the crème anglaise, stir in the lemon juice and churn it in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a lidded container and freeze until ready to serve.

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Mousse au Chocolat

2 large eggs, separated
Pinch of Kosher or sea salt
6 ounces high-quality (60 – 65%) dark chocolate (such as Lindt or Valrhona)
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons + 1/2 cup chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream, whipped for topping

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water; stirring occasionally until just melted. Do not allow the bowl to touch the simmering water. Remove from heat and set a sieve over the bowl.

While the chocolate is melting; whisk yolks, water, 2 tablespoons cream, and sugar in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens enough to coat spoon, about 3 – 5 minutes (do not boil or the eggs will scramble). Remove from heat and pour the custard through the sieve into the chocolate, then stir until combined. Set aside.

Fold beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture in 2 additions. Set aside.

Beat ½ cup cream in another medium bowl until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into chocolate mixture. Divide into 4 or 6 oz ramekins or small bowls and place in the refrigerator. Once cold cover with lids or plastic wrap.

Can be made a day ahead but kept chilled. When ready to serve whip the 1/4 cup of remaining cream to soft peaks and place a dollop on each of the servings. Enjoy with a glass of champagne or port.

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Winter Salad with Oranges and Endive

This is the perfect time of year to enjoy citrus of all varieties. Oranges are what I crave the most, well those and grapefruit.  Maybe it’s because I grew up in the south and we could pick them off the trees in our yard. Oranges combined with the bitterness of endive and the peppery bite of arugula makes for a perfect winter salad.  

1/4 cup walnut halves
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 navel oranges, preferably organic
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 – 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small head purple or white Belgian endive
1 small head of romaine, leaves torn or chopped
2 ounces baby arugula (optional)
1/4 cup parsley tender parsley leaves
2 ounces French Roquefort cheese, crumbled
1/2 sweet red apple, unpeeled, cored and medium-diced
2 ounces baby arugula

Toast the walnuts in a dry sauté pan over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove to a plate or bowl to cool; then roughly chop and set aside.

Using a microplane zest one of the oranges; then using a sharp knife, supreme the oranges by removing the rind and pith. Cut out each orange section between the membranes. Squeeze the membrane, reserving the juice, and discard the membrane. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the orange zest, orange juice, vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; then whisk in olive oil. Set aside.

Cut the head of endive in half lengthwise, remove the triangle of core at the base of each half so the leaves separate, and cut the leaves in half again lengthwise and then chop.

In a medium bowl add the endive and romaine. Drizzle leaves with vinaigrette and add the walnuts, Roquefort and apple. Add the arugula (if using) and toss again. Serve as soon as possible.

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This classic Dutch snack is two thin dough waffles filled with decadent caramel. One is often served on top of a mug of steaming, hot coffee.

For the dough:
1/4 cup (2.25 oz / 65 ml) warm milk (or water)
2 1/4 cups (10.50 oz / 300g) unbleached all-purpose flour 
4 1/2 tablespoons (2.25 oz / 65g) unsalted butter 
7g fast-action dried yeast 
1/2 Scant ½ cup (3 oz /70 g) granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
Pinch of kosher salt
Clarified butter (for brushing electric cookie iron)

For the caramel:
1 cup (7 oz / 200 g) granulated sugar
5 tablespoons (100 g) golden syrup
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat milk to about 105 degrees F. Set aside.

For the dough, rub flour and butter together in a large bowl until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add yeast, cinnamon and sugar; mix together.

Slowly pour in warm milk and stir with a Swedish dough hook, large fork or wooden spoon until the dough starts coming together, add the egg and salt and continue stirring until the dough comes together. Knead the dough for 1–2 minutes into a soft ball. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Combine sugar, golden syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan. Stir just enough to get the sugar wet. Cook  swirling the melted sugar carefully and brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush if needed until dark amber in color, about 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and slowly add cream, stirring with a heat-proof spatula until combined. Add vanilla seeds, butter, and salt; stir until is smooth. Keep warm.

Divide the dough into 12 – 14 equal pieces. Roll into small balls and cover with a damp cloth to prevent them drying out. 

Heat a waffle cone machine and brush top and bottom of each side with clarified butter. Press the ball of dough into a disk, brush with clarified butter and place in the middle, press down the top lid and bake for 1–2 minutes until just golden brown.

Remove from the machine and place onto a cutting board.

Working quickly, while the waffle is still hot slice it horizontally in half and if desired, for a perfectly round biscuit, cut with a round cookie cutter just slighly smaller in diameter than the waffle biscuit/cookie.

Place a generous tablespoon of caramel on the bottom waffle half. Top with the other waffle half and gently push down, until the caramel spreads to the edges. Place on a wire rack to cool, then repeat until you have used up all the dough balls. Store any remaining caramel in the refrigerator until you make another batch.

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Roasted Persimmion – Rosemary Ice Cream

Since we are in the throes of persimmon season what better why to use this delicious yet fleeting autumn fruit than in ice cream. If rosemary is not to your liking by all means omit it, then you’ll have roasted persimmon ice cream.

1 1/2 pounds fuju persimmons, about 7 – 8 medium
1 tablespoon melted butter
Pinch kosher salt or to taste
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
5 large egg yolks (freeze egg whites for another use)
1/2 cup (minus 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla bean sugar
1/4 cup mild honey

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Have an ice bath ready.

Peel, core and slice persimmons into wedges. Toss the wedges with the melted butter and a pinch of salt. Arrange in a single layer on the lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 – 25 minutes, or until golden and tender. When persimmons can easily be pierced with a knife allow them to cool and and refrigerate overnight.

Meanwhile, place heavy cream, whole milk, rosemary sprig, bay leaf, if using and peppercorns, in a saucepan. Heat until bubbles form around the parameter of the pan, but do not boil. Turn off heat and allow to steep for about ½ hour and allow to cool. Once cool, whisk in the eggs, sugar, and honey.

Return the custard to a saucepan over medium-low heat and whisk constantly until it coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes or until an instant read thermometer registers 175° F. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and place in an ice water-bath, stirring frequently until cool. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the custard surface and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to churn, strain out the aromatics from the custard. Add 2 cups of the custard to a blender along with the persimmon wedges. Purée until very smooth, then stir back into the remaining custard. Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.

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