Saturday, 27 August 2011

Le Snick Snack - A Homemade Snickers Dessert





Every meal has to end with a dessert and to finish off my dinner for eight series of posts is this dessert.

When deciding what to make for dessert, The Lovely Wife suggested I go down the route of a tried and tested. After all, she advised that I wouldn't want to make something that might not turnout well. In her infinite wisdom (and good looks too!) The Lovely Wife suggested that I should make my version of Le Kit Cat that I had made some time ago for her friends. That is one seriously lovely dessert.

The Lovely Wife made a lot of sense. However, I realised that there is a serious problem with having a food blog. It's really difficult keeping it 'alive' as that means knew recipes and posts have to be added in all the time! The upside to having a food blog though is that I keep challenging myself to come up with new recipes and this means that not only do I keep broadening my horizons, it also means that the kids and The Lovely Wife get to keep trying out new foods.

So with that in mind, I decided that I would HAVE to make something new. Sometimes the best new thing to do is to combine a few elements made from other recipes and come up with a completely knew when. That's what I did and I came up with Le Snick Snack - my own take on a Snickers Bar but made as a dessert!







Snickers is probably one of our favourite chocolate bars. Whenever we are feeling like a chocolate fix and pop in to the nearby petrol station or supermarket, we always end up getting either a Snickers Bar or a Kit Kat. So, since I already know how to make a Kit Kat dessert, it was time to make a Snickers Dessert.




Base:

3 Eggs whites
150 g castor sugar
150 g ground almonds
Make the base. Line a 9" Springform pan with baking paper. Whisk eggs whites till foamy and then add in sugar and whisk till stiff. Fold in ground almonds. Spread meringue mixture into springform and bake in preheated 170C oven for about 40 minutes or till meringue is cooked. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Remove springform and greaseproof paper from meringue. Allow to fully cool then replace into springform.

Caramel Layer
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (250 g) whipping cream
¼ cup (50 g) butter
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2 ½ tablespoons (15 g) flour

In a saucepan, caramelize 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar using the dry method until it turns a golden caramel color. Incorporate the whipping cream and then add butter. Mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool.
4. In a mixing bowl, beat the whole eggs with the extra egg yolk, then incorporate the flour.
5. Pour this into the cream-caramel mixture and mix thoroughly.
6. Spread it out in the tart shell and bake at 160C for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Top Layer:
400 ml whipping cream
200g good quality dark chocolate
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Crème de Cacao
100g Peanuts

For the top layer, melt the chocolate over a double boiler on low heat. While chocolate is melting, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and quickly add into the melted chocolate. Remove from heat and continue whisking till smooth. If chocolate becomes clumpy, add in a little warm cream. Add in the Creme de Cacao. Whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Fold a little of the whipped cream into the chocolate, then fold in the remaining cream.

Sprinkle the peanuts over the caramel layer then spoon over the Chocolate mousse and smoothen the top. Chill for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.


It all sounds rather cumbersome and complicated but if you break it down into it's individual elements it really isn't all that bad. There were a few lessons that were learnt along the way that I will attempt to improve when I make this again.



Firstly, the caramel layer leaked a little down the sides of the meringue so the caramel layer wasn't quite thick enough or well defined. I suppose maybe I should keep the pan lined until after the caramel has been baked. Or maybe make a casing of meringue so the caramel cant leak down the sides. Another thing I would do differently is to add the peanuts into the caramel mixture rather than sprinkling it on top. You can see all the layers above. The almond meringue base, the caramel centre with peanuts and the choc mousse on top. Kind of looks like a Snickers Bar doesn't it!!


Having said all that however, the dessert was absolutely delicious and tasted quite like a snickers bar - only more luxurious and fancy schmancy like a great dessert should! All our guests had two servings each and my son was delighted that he got home in time for dessert!

I'll probably make this again some time and when I do, I"ll incorporate the changes and see how that works out.

So...with Kit Kat and now a Snickers Bar converted into desserts, I wonder what other Chocolate Bars I can convert to desserts. Any ideas or suggestions??


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Karniyarik - Turkish Style Eggplant with Lamb




Still keeping on with the theme of what I served for the dinner for eight the other night, when a few friends came over for dinner, this is the Main Course.

I really wasn't sure what I wanted to serve as the main meal. I wanted something a little different yet something that would be satisfying. Some years ago, we visited Turkey and about 4 years ago, I posted my variation of a dish we had enjoyed in Turkey that I called Turkish Style Lamb Sausages.

I learnt since then that what we actually had in Turkey and really enjoyed was Karniyarik - Turkish Stuffed Eggplant. For my version, I didn't really stuff the eggplant but rather cooked it with loads of minced lamb in a tomato based sauce.





I also used some fresh basil to give it some added flavour and I think if I make this again, I might spice it up a little with some chilli flakes. This is what I did:

Ingredients
900g minced lamb or mutton
3 bay leaves
2 large onions - chopped
8 cloves garlic - chopped
3 tsp oregano
4 tomatoes - quartered
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 Tbsp Tomato paste
50g fresh basil
6 large brinjals / eggplants (the longish kind)
Salt
Black Pepper
Method

Halve the brinjals lenghtwise and then cut into pieces about 4-6 inches length. Sprinkle with salt to degorge. Meanwhile, sautee the onions, garlic and oregano. Then add in the mince and cook well. Add in the fresh tomatoes and canned tomatoes and allow to simmer.
While the meat is simmering, rinse the brinjals and then place in a baking tray. Lightly oil the brinjals and then make a small incision lengthwise followed by three diagonal incisions making sure you dont cut in too deep. Bake in a 170C oven till the eggplants are tender - about 30 mins.
Once the meat sauce is thick but still with enough liquid, season with salt and pepper. Add in the basil and mix well. Spoon a layer of the meat sauce into a baking pan then place the brinjals on the meat. Try to get the brinjals close to each other. Cover the eggplant with the remaining sauce and then cover with aluminium foil. Bake again in a 180C oven for another 30 mins to make sure brinjals are really tender and soak up some of the flavour from the meat sauce.


The brinjals turned out really well although there were some thicker parts that weren't as tender as they should have been. I had also thought of garnishing each brinjal with a slice of tomato and some sliced chilli but when the time came we were all too hungry and just wanted to get down to the business of eating!




I served this with rice and The Lovely Wife made a Greek Salad that went really well with this dish. I liked the mix of taste and textures and the mince tasted really good with the eggplant. My son had some the next day for lunch and he really enjoyed it. So all in all, a rather successful Karniyarik - although maybe not as authentic as it should or could have been!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Leek, Mushroom and Spinach Pies




Following on from my post on the dinner for eight the other night, this is another of the appetisers that I served that night. After serving the Bacon wrapped apricots and the chicken version of Nachos, these mini pies came out.

When planning the menu, The Lovely Wife was concerned that we were only serving one dish for the main meal. And the salad of course. She felt the table would be a little bare and that somehow our guests would not have enough food or enough choices. We decided to overcome that with lots of appetisers and these pies were to be the substantial appetisers that would not only taste good, but help in filling up out guests as well!



I was a bit apprehensive about making these mini pies as I felt that they may be a little time consuming. The Lovely Wife had originally suggested my Vol au Vents but I knew that although those would be well received, it would definitely be time consuming in cutting out the rounds, baking them, filling them and then baking them again.



Lining muffin pans with pastry seemed to be a simple solution and it turned out to be far easier, far faster and no less delicious. This is what I did.


Ingredients
3 cloves garlic - chopped
1 medium onion - chopped
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
400g Button Mushrooms - sliced thinly
3 leeks - sliced thinly
200g spinach
3 eggs
2 Tbsp Sour Cream
Black Pepper
Puff Pastry Sheets
Method
Blanche the spinach and then chop roughly. Set aside. Sautee onion, garlic, oregano and basil together until onions are tender. Add in the mushrooms and leek and cook till tender. Add in the spinach and toss well. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl. Beat the eggs and pour into the mixing bowl together with the sour cream. Mix well. Season with salt and black pepper.

Line a muffin tray with the puff pastry and then spoon the mixture evenly into the pastry, about 2/3 full. Bake in a preheated 200C oven till pastry puffs up nicely and the mixture has set.



In retrospect, the could probably have been a little bit more filling for the pastry but it was very tasty as it was. The puff pastry lent a nice flakiness to the filling and the eggs were not too overpowering or even noticeable.



A very tasty and satisfying appetiser indeed and even something that could be used as an accompaniment for the main meal. My little princess really enjoyed the pies and both my son and her wolfed down a couple over breakfast the next morning.

I have to admit that in terms of presentation and appearance, Vol au Vents would have been the much better choice but in terms of speed and ease of execution, these just cant be beat! Call them mini pies or call them quiche, fill them with whatever you like. This is something I will file for frequent use as the possibilities for these mini pies/quiches are really quite endless!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Bacon Wrapped Brandied Apricots



This is the first appetiser that I made for the dinner for eight the other night. I had wanted to serve an appetiser with bacon and tossed up a variety of options. Searching the web yielded a few recipes with ham wrapped fruits as well as bacon wrapped fruits. I found a few websites that featured apricots wrapped in bacon and that idea stuck in my head!

The recipe is really easy and the result is quite spectacular both in presentation and in taste as well. The saltiness and meatiness of the bacon contrasted really well with the apricots.





This is what I did:

Ingredients
30 dried Apricots
2 Tbsp Orange Juice
1 Tbsp Brandy
10 rashers back bacon
Method
Soak the Apricots in the mix of orange juice and brandy for at least 2 hours to rehydrate the apricots. Trim the fat off the bacon and cut into three strips (lenghtwise). Wrap the apricots in the bacon strips and secure with a toothpick. Place on a baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes till the bacon is cooked and the apricots are slightly tender.




Now how easy is that! My son sampled a few before he had to leave for his birthday party and declared it a success. The guests really enjoyed popping them into their mouths as appetisers with their drinks and it got polished off very, very quickly.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Dinner for Eight (plus one)

Last Saturday, we had a few friends over for dinner - 3 couples to be exact. 3 times two equals 6. Add in The Lovely Wife and myself and that makes Eight. The plus one is for my little princess. My son had a birthday party that night so he didn't partake of the food. He did help out with the tasting though and came back just in time for dessert!

So what did I make? As usual, The Lovely Wife and I tossed up the menu. She suggested going down the trail of tried and tested but as usual, I wanted to push myself. I also wanted to have something that I could update on this blog!

We decided we would make a few starters. That way, we could chat and munch and munch and chat and throw in a few drinks at the same time! The Lovely Wife decided she wanted to throw together a delightful Sangria and I must say that it was very well received.

So, for appetisers, I decided on Bacon Wrapped Apricots. This was followed by Nachos although I used chicken instead of beef. Leek, Spinach and Mushroom Quiche followed up before we moved to the Dining Table for the main meal.

For the Main, I whipped up my version of a Karniyarik - a Turkish based recipe with Eggplant and Minced Lamb. The Lovely Wife tossed together a lovely Greek Salad and we served the main with Rice as well as loads of bread.

Finally, the dessert. I made an original dessert that I'd like to call Le Snick Snack. Its basically a dessert based on a Snickers bar - chocolate, caramel and peanuts.

I'll post the recipes in due course together with the photos. It's always difficult to take photos while guests are around so I apologise in advance if the photos arent quite as detailed as I would like!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

TLW gets her Birthday Dessert




The Lovely Wife celebrated her birthday on Wednesday, 10th August 2011. As usual, I was going to bake her a cake but this time, she asked if rather than making her a cake, if I could just make her my Tiramisu. She reckons that Tiramisu is her most favourite dessert and she wanted it for her birthday. Who am I to refuse a woman, a woman so gorgeous and especially when she is The Lovely Wife!!

So Tiramisu it was.


Actually, making a dessert was far easier than baking a cake and far quicker too. This time, I jazzed up my usual Tiramisu recipe by adding chopped chocolate in between the layers. A simply small bar of 45g of Dark Chocolate was enough.

For the topping, I made some caramel almonds and chopped them up before sprinkling it on top. Unlike last year where I was in such a rush that I messed up the caramel almonds, this time they turned out truly beautifully.

For her birthday, the kids and I woke her up early to give her her cards and presents. Then it was off to school and work. Later in the evening, we went out for dinner, where sadly the food was rather disappointing. No dessert was ordered of course as the Tiramisu was waiting in the fridge! We came home to 'cut the cake' and everyone had a huge serving. The kids enjoyed stuffing their faces with the Tiramisu and The Lovely Wife was very, very happy indeed.




As for me, as long as The Lovely wife is happy with her Birthday cake, or dessert as the case may be, I am a happy camper!

Happy, Happy Birthday to The Lovely Wife!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Fudge gone awry transforms to Truffles!



For the longest time, I've wanted to make fudge. Chocolate Fudge that is. My Aunt Julie makes a great toffee fudge and she tells me that the secret is in the quality of Condensed Milk. In looking for a recipe for Chocolate Fudge, most of them either required a sugar syrup boiled to soft ball stage or the use of Condensed Milk.

What I dont like about condensed milk is that in Malaysia, is is now almost impossible to find Condensed Milk. Real Condensed milk that is. What is sold here is sold as Sweetened Thickened Creamer. The Reason? Whereas Condensed Milk is sweetened milk where the water has been removed, the Sweetened Thickend Creamer is actually mixed with Palm Oil and other additives so it's not really 100% milk anymore.

So when I found a recipe that used Evaporated Milk instead of Condensed Milk, I was rather pleased. I modified the recipe a little and started to make the Fudge. First mistake though was that I cut down on the sugar. Not a very bright thing to do in retrospect as the sugar would be what thickens the milk. Next, I didn't watch the boiling mass and it overboiled and spilled all over my stove top. To cut a long story short, the mixture didn't set. It just refused to harden up sufficiently to fudge consistency even after I placed it in the freezer.

It tasted bloody good though! So, in order to salvage the 'disaster', I decided I'd roll up the mixture in cocoa and produce truffles. And what truffles they were! I still had to keep them in the freezer as they melted really quickly but that was part of the magic. The chocolate truffles were really rich and chocolatey and were what you would expect from an expensive store or hotel. Simply delicious.



This is the recipe for really simple but stunning Chocolate Truffles.


Ingredients
2 cups sugar
400g tin evaporated milk
4oz butter
300g good quality chocolate
2Tbsp Cocoa
100g roasted almonds
1 Tbsp vanilla
Method
Combine sugar and milk in a saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil and then cook for 12 minutes, stirring to make sure mixture doesn't boil over. Allow to cool slightly and then add in butter, chocolate and vanilla. Mix well till nicely combined then beat until mixture starts to lose its gloss. Add in nuts and chill for a while. Roll into balls with cocoa dusted hands.





I doubt I would make these again as I'm sure there are easier ways to make truffles which would probably taste just as good if not better. I really have to try and make a fudge again some day but what I am most happy about this attempt is that nothing went to waste and quick thinking saved the day for all that chocolate that went into this. Most importantly, the kids really enjoyed this although they both looked at me and asked:

"But Dads, I thought you were making Fudge?"

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