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The berry season has arrived to California!  Eager to part with everything citrus I’m presenting this simple berry creation.  The chocolate ribbon, even though a bit messy, is super easy to make. 

BerryCake_WM-8

/Chocolate cake recipe adopted from Martha Stewart’s Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake/

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CHOCOLATE BERRY CAKE

INGREDIENTS:

Cake

  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Topping

  • Assorted berries
  • 4 tbs powdered sugar

Chocolate ribbon

  • 200 g of your favorite chocolate, chopped into pea-size chips

 

Yields: 8 small cakes

DIRECTIONS:

Make cakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat eight 6-ounce (3.5 inch diameter) ramekins and place them on a rimmed baking sheet.

Stir flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix with a paddle attachment. Add egg, milk, oil, vanilla, and 1/4 cup water. Mix on medium speed until smooth and combined, about 2 minutes.

 

Divide batter evenly among prepared ramekins. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into a center of a cake comes out clean. Place the ramekins on a wire rack.  Let cool completely before unmolding.  To unmold run a knife around sides of the cakes.

Wrap cooled cakes in a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours to 1 day.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place cooled cakes on it.

Make chocolate ribbons.  Measure the circumference and height of the cakes.  Cut out 8 parchment paper ribbons, making sure, their length is about 7 mm (1/4 inch)  longer than the circumference and height is about 2 cm (3/4 inch) higher.

Line a table with a large sheet of parchment paper – this is your working surface.  Have a wet towel handy, as working with melted chocolate could be a messy ordeal.

Microwave the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl for about 2 minutes (or until the chocolate starts to melt).  Mix the chips with a spoon to a smooth consistency.  Working with each parchment paper ribbon individually: place a ribbon on your working surface and, using a large spoon, spread a thin layer of chocolate over it, completely covering the ribbon.

Let the chocolate cool to a jelly-like consistency (about 30 seconds). Carefully lift the ribbon, using a knife to help you separate it from the work surface, and wrap it around a prepared cake, chocolate side facing the cake, overlapping the ends.  Make sure the bottom of the ribbon is lined with the bottom of your cake, the ribbon should be taller than the cake (creating a cup for the berries).

Repeat with the rest of the cakes.  Immediately place them in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

Assemble: After the chocolate is hardened, carefully peel each paper ribbon off, gently breaking the piece of chocolate where the ribbon overlapped.

Fill the cups with seasonal fruit and sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

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Why did this Russian mom, whose only thoughts about baseball are that the outfits could be a bit sexier and that Tim Lincecum is kind of cute…, why did this mom goto watch the World Series? Well, because her lovely neighbor Amie was bringing an apple pie.  Amie’s pie is to die for, and it has an ability to make any game a hundred times more exciting! Since I first tried one of her masterpieces, I was hooked!

My friend Kusum just brought beautiful red gold sea salt from Hawaii , and the idea of this slightly salted dessert was born.  Well, it wasn’t all that original – just google “salted apple pie” but I’m still very proud of the outcome!

So, our family drove to an apple orchard, picked some apples, and made this.

/Adopted from Martha Stewart Living and Cooking Channel

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SALTED APPLE PIE

INGREDIENTS:

CRUST

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pea-size pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup ice water

FILLING

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup fresh heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • juice from 4 lemons
  • 6 medium to large sour apples
  • 1/3 cup raw sugar (castor, unrefined, large granule sugar)
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

TOPPING

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • raw sugar to sprinkle
  • sea salt flakes to sprinkle

DIRECTIONS:

Make the crust. Place 3/4 of the butter in the freezer for about 30 min, and keep the rest in the fridge. In a food processor combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add refrigerated butter, pulse about 10 times.  Add frozen butter, pulse again till the mixture resembles coarse meal, with some blueberry-size crumbs.

Add ice water, and immediately pulse until water is incorporated, about 10 more times. lay out 2 pieces of plastic wrap, separate the dough in halves, and place each half on the plastic wraps.  Bring the edges of wraps together to gather dough.  Press into disks. Roll each disk (still in plastic) into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Refrigerate for at least 45 min.

Make the filling. In a medium sauce pan mix sugar and water and heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Add butter and bring to a slow boil.  Continue cooking until the mixture turns golden brown.  Remove it from heat immediately and add cream, whisk the final mixture on low heat , sprinkle the sea salt, and let cool while preparing the apples.

Core, peel and cut apples using a mandoline.  Sprinkle with juice, sugar, and spices, and toss well. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.

Assemble the pie. Roll each piece of the dough into a disk that can fit a 9-inch pie-pan.  Line the pan with the first disk.  Lay 1/3 of the apple mixture on the bottom and pour a layer of 1/3 of prepared caramel.  Repeat the layering two more times.

Cover the pie with the second disk, cutting it through for the air to escape any way you like, or cut the second disk into strips and make a lattice top like mine, pinch the edges together.

Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar and salt flakes.

Bake. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 375°F/190°C.  Reduce the heat to 350°F/175°C and bake for another 45 minutes.

Serve warm or cold with ice cream.

 

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I may have my moments in the kitchen, but when it comes to being on the road – I am one of the contributors to the female driver stereotype. You know, San Francisco has lots of cars and lots of people, and a stop-light camera ticket would cost you $500!  They would also send you a letter with a photo of your car, license plate number, picture of you behind the wheel, and a picture of a to-go Starbucks cup in your hand… These roads can make anyone paranoid! 

So, every time I go by a speed limit signal, I have a strong feeling I must slow down, and I do… even when I’m passing a 45 mile/hr sign while jogging… barely making 12 minute miles… Better safe than sorry, you know…

After all this stress and “hard” work a little dessert is always welcome. This Russian torte has all the right ingredients – sugar, chocolate, nuts, sugar…, whipped cream, and a magic name.  It will easily impress your guests, and it tastes best when made a day or two before serving.

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TORTE “PHOENIX”

INGREDIENTS:

Batter:

  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 2/3 cup cake flour, sifted twice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Syrup:

  • 130 g sugar
  • 120 ml water
  • 1 tbs cognac

Filling:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1.5 cup whipping cream, chilled
  • 1.5 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 20 g gelatin

Topping:

  • ½ cup chocolate sauce /I used my favorite Fudge is my Life’s Dark Chocolate Sauce/
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350⁰F/180⁰C. Spray baking pan with removable borders with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.  Spray the paper with cooking spray.

Make the batter. Mix egg yolks and ½ cup of granulated sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment on high speed until the foam is 3 times its original volume and falls in thick ribbons when the whisk is lifted.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl, set aside.

Place egg whites in a clean bowl and beat them with a clean whisk attachment on medium speed until frothy.  Gradually add the remaining ¼ cup of granulated sugar and continue to whip until medium peaks form when the whisk is lifted.

Fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture with a rubber spatula in 2 or 3 additions. Scatter all flour, vanilla, and salt over the batter and fold it just long enough to blend the flour evenly.

Bake.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bakefor 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan. When finished baking, remove from the pan immediately, peel off the parchment paper, and let cool on a wire rack for 6-8 hours (otherwise the torte will not absorb the syrup properly and will become soggy).  Cut the cake lengthwise to separate it into two disks.

Prepare the syrup.  Pour water and sugar in a small sauce pan, bring to boil and turn off the heat immediately.  Whisk so that the sugar completely dissolves. Let the syrup chill to about 37⁰C/98⁰F.  Add the cognac and mix well. Apply the syrup evenly on each half of the cake.

Prepare the filling.  Mix gelatin with the milk and let rest for about 1 hr.  Bring the mixture to boil and immediately take off the heat.  Gelatin should be completely dissolved.  Chill the mixing bowl and whisk before making the cream.  Pour cream into the bowl and mix on medium speed of a stand mixer until thickened.  Gradually add confectioner’s sugar and whisk on high speed until the cream forms medium peaks. Pour the gelatin mixture over it to stabilize. Place one of the cake disks back into the baking pan, pour the filling over it, and cover with the second cake disk.  Cover and refrigerate for the filling to set for about 2 hours.

Prepare the sauce according to the container instructions. Spoon it over the cake and sprinkle with walnuts.  Keep the cake refrigerated before serving.

I wonder why my jogging isn’t paying off!?

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“Journal, I’m on a sugar cleanse. I haven’t had any sugar in over three weeks. I think I’m experiencing withdrawal. Today I screamed at a plant. I don’t know why I decided to do this. It’s crazy. There’s sugar in everything. Did you know that? Everything. Even cupcakes. All right, I have to go, Journal. You’re being a jerk.”

/DeGeneres, Ellen (2011-10-04). Seriously…I’m Kidding (Kindle Locations 392-395). Hachette Book Group. Kindle Edition.  /
 

My neighbor let me borrow her Ellen DeGeneres book, and I couldn’t resist copying this passage as there is nothing that could describe my feelings better, and I’m not even on a cleanse!  Today’s Russian recipe doesn’t use any sugar for a change, though I’m sure the evil thing has snuck in there anyways!

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MUSHROOM SOUP WITH BARLEY

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups of barley, cooked
  • 12 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
  • 3 large potatoes, diced
  • 2 lb mushrooms
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sour cream and fresh chopped dill for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Pour vegetable broth in a large pot and bring it to boil.

While the broth is warming up, heat the olive oil on a large skillet.   Sauté onion till golden, add the carrots, garlic, and asparagus and sauté until soft.

Once the broth is boiling, add potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, add the sautéed mixture, and cook for another 5-7 minutes until potatoes are well cooked.

Collect about 1/3 of the vegetables and puree them in a food processor.  Return the puree into the soup pot.  Add mushrooms and bay leaves, and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add salt and pepper.

The soup tastes even better on the second day.

Serve hot with sour cream and freshly chopped dill.

Make ahead: this soup freezes well for up to 6 months.  Pour chilled soup (without sour cream and dill) into a large zip lock bag.  Lock it, squeezing the air out.  Lay flat in the freezer.

 

 

If you liked this recipe, you may enjoy:

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This week I learned that gentleman-like manners are rooted deep inside our little gentlemen, and should be encouraged not just for our (mothers’) unselfish reasons, but for the child’s benefits as well.   

Our 3 year old son has been going to the swimming pool since he was 6 months old and a few months ago started diving all by himself.  I thought the timing was good to start serious lessons.  We signed him up at this Limousine of swimming schools in SF, called La Petit Baleen, where little kids – just like my baby – learn how to work their fins off swimming, jumping, and diving.   

Naturally, as soon as I left Lil’ Jem with his group, the wailing started.  Separation anxiety. Fun!  Here I am, hiding in the dressing room, biting my nails, while my baby is screaming his lungs out (suddenly in English); and all the moms shooting “understanding” (yet somehow torturous) glances my way!  Oh, the joys of parenthood!

This continued for 2 more classes when one of the deck managers made a few suggestions on possible ways to resolve the situation. In a week (after a few practice runs with babushka), Lil’ Jem was proudly presenting a flower to his teacher.  Guess what? It totally worked!  I haven’t heard a peep from him since!  Ohm… 

Now, I wonder where the little gentleman disappears when it comes to sharing toys with his little sister!?

Obviously I thought the little swimmer deserved a treat.

Both of my guys are obsessed with dark chocolate.  Lately I started feeling that our pots and pans were becoming endangered as Endangered Species were taking over the kitchen.  I saw this recipe and AMAZING photos at Relishing it a while ago, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how this loveliness could use up some of our chocolate stashes. My bread didn’t turn out half as beautiful as Laurie’s, but it was absolutely crazy delicious!!!

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YEASTED CHOCOLATE COFFEE CAKE

INGREDIENTS:

BREAD

  • ¼ oz active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup warm milk (110⁰F/43⁰C)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 8 tbs butter, melted and slightly cooled

EGG WASH

  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 tbs milk

FILLING:

  • 8 oz bitter chocolate (2 bars)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tbs ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter
  • ¼ tsp salt

TOPPING:

  • ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

DIRECTIONS:

Make the bread.In a medium bowl mix the yeast and a pinch of sugar with the milk and let stand for about 5 minutes, or until foamy.  In another bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar and the egg.  Whisk into the yeast mixture.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough-hook attachment, combine the flour and kosher salt.  Add the egg mixture and mix on low speed until almost fully combined, add the butter.  Mix until smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 9-10 minutes.  Grease a large bowl.  Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.  Place in the greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, for about 1 – 1.5 hours.

Make the filling.  In the food processor with large blade attachment grind chocolate and butter.  Add salt, cinnamon, and sugar to the mixture.

“Once the dough has doubled in size, place it on a flour work surface.  Let rest for 5 minutes and then roll it out into an 18-inch square.  Sprinkle all but ½ cup of the filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border.  Brush the edges with the egg wash.  Tightly roll the dough from one end to the other.  Pinch the seams to seal.  Fold in half and form a “U” shape.  Twist 2 or 3 into a braid.  Make sure to pinch the ends of braid together.  Grease a 5-by-10-inch loaf pan, line with parchment, leaving 1-inch overhangs; then grease the parchment paper.  Place the dough in the pan and brush with egg wash.”

Make the topping. In a small bowl combine the confectioners’ sugar, flour, butter, and the reserved filling.  Sprinkle it over the bread.  It’s ok, if the filling falls down the edges.

Preheat the oven to 350⁰F/175⁰C. Cover the bread with plastic wrap and let rise for about 30 minutes.

Please bread pan on a sheet and position it on the center rack in the oven.  Bake for about 55 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 325⁰F/160⁰C, and bake for another 15 minutes till golden brown.

Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack before removing it.

Make ahead: the bread could be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Thank you for sharing the recipe, Laurie!

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Ladies, happy International Women’s Day!  I know it’s not much here, but back in Russia you get showered with flowers, presents, dinners, songs, poems, romantic movies, and whatever else you can possibly imagine.  The rules are simple: every female gets to be admired on this one day, and every male gets to participate in accomplishing the task.

Early in the relationship I managed to train my husband to deliver on this holiday.  It started beautifully with a home-made cake (from a box) broken in half by an accident and drowned in chocolate pudding (also from a box) – the most romantic dessert I’ve ever had! It continued with shampooed carpets in our apartment in Houston.  It migrated to dates at our favorite restaurants.  And it finally arrived to “I’ll be home early for the holiday dinner”.

Ah, the honeymoon stage, where art thou?

Well, to remind myself of home, and the good times everyone is having there, I’m simply baking bread.  It doesn’t quite look as the black bricks we used to buy, but it surely smells and tastes like them. 

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SOURDOUGH RYE BREAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 200 g leaven
  • 760 g water (75⁰ F/ 25⁰ C)
  • 40 g dark molasses
  • 170 g whole-rye flour
  • 830 g unbleached bread flour
  • 20 g salt

Yields 2 loafs

DIRECTIONS:

Day 1: make leaven – combine 200 g water, 1 tbs of sourdough starter and 200 g unbleached all-purpose flour.  Mix well, loosely cover the tope of the container with a plastic wrap, and let ferment overnight.  Discard the rest of the starter.

Day 2: Test the leaven: it’s ready if a tsp of it dropped in the water floats.

Once the leaven passes the floating test, combine all ingredients but salt and mix very well.

Cover the mixing bowl with plastic and let rest for 25-30 minutes.

Save leftover leaven – it’s now your starter.

After the first rest, add the salt, and mix it well into the dough.  Let rest for about 3 hours, turning the dough upside down with wet hands twice during the first two hours.

After about 3 hours, when the dough has increased in size, dump it onto a floured surface and separate into two balls.

Working with one half at a time: with a bread scraper fold the dough edges in to form a ball.  Let rest on a floured surface for about 25-30 minutes, covered by plastic or a floured towel.

Next, working with one half at a time, place it face down on a floured surface.  Fold the edges with your hands slightly pressing them into the remaining dough: starting by carefully stretching the bottom edge and folding it to meet the opposite end; repeating with left, right, and finishing with the top edge. Form a loaf.  Place a loaf in a proofing basket, lightly sprinkled with rice flour, lined with a floured tile, face down, seam up.

Put the baskets in plastic bags and refrigerate for 8-12 hours.

To bake: place an iron pot in the oven and preheat the oven to 500⁰ F/ 260⁰ C.  Dump the loaf into the preheated pot, seam side down.Cover the iron pot, and bake the bread in it for 20 minutes at 475 ⁰ F/ 245 ⁰ C.

After 20 minutes remove the lid and let bake for 25 more minutes.

Let chill on a wire rack or eat while it’s hot.

If you liked this recipe, you may enjoy:

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