24 February, 2008

no. 15: holy chocolate batman! I've been ganached!

So... one of the chain bakeries that has an outlet near my parents' house (Cobs) makes chocolate hot crossed buns. Hot crossed buns being my favourite lenten treat. Only, in recent years, I've found there's something about hot crossed buns that doesn't agree with my stomach, and in the interest of maintaining digestive peace, I've had to abstain. (Don't think that counts as giving up something for Lent though... since they're only available during Lent...) So, instead of indulging in that particular yeasty, chocolate and candied fruit treat, I've discovered the deliciousness of their chocolate scones. Well, really, triple chocolate scones... cocoa dough, chocolate chips and ganache drizzle. And they're entirely too tasty for words. Were it not for the cost of these indulgences, I'd probably consume them for breakfast, lunch and supper. Alas, on my student budget, I cannot justify the much-needed endorphin boost of this purchased chocolate breakky... so I started searching them out on the internet, looking for a home-made alternative. I can, however, justify the purchase of flour, cocoa, chocolate chips and the occasional small carton of heavy cream... because they're all good for so much more than chocolate scones. Enter this recipe from Orangette, and you have the makings of a divine Sunday breakfast. One that kept me sated until 1pm, actually, and I ate one scone with a bit of honey dew melon...

the 7 un-eaten scones still sitting in the baking tray... waiting for the ganache to set.

The recipe indicates that it makes 6 large scones. Little did I realise they would be THIS large. My poor tummy cannot handle such a generous size at breakfast every day (though, being sated until actual lunch time instead of hearing the digestive growls at 10am would be a good thing!). I cut it into 8, and I guess I'll save the monstrously huge ones for weekends or days when I opt to work from home, and then don't have to worry about waddling the 20 minutes to the office... Next time, I'll cut it into a good 10 or 12 more friendly-sized delights. And they ARE delightful: chocolate upon chocolate upon chocolate, and then (not so artfully) drenched in ganache - of which I still have a decent amount now stuffed in my freezer.

Surprisingly, though, this is not my only ganache adventure of late. I've been staring at the scone recipe in my moleskine weekly planner (best sale purchase ever, tiny enough to fit in my purse, big enough to hold all I need, and exceedingly affordable) for about two weeks now, and the ganache recipe kept calling out to me: "all I am is cream and chocolate..." "you know you wanna..." so once I'd bought the ONLY available size of cream carton at my grocery store (1 L), I knew I had to justify the purchase of that much extra dairy... and decided to toy with the chocolate I have lying around... and started to experiment with microwave ganache.

It is thus that I discovered the easiest and tastiest mid-week dessert ever:
Throw some chocolate chips in a bowl, sprinkle a scant dusting of cinnamon and clove powder over them, and then pour to immerse (without fully covering) with heavy cream. Throw the whole shebang in the microwave for, um, 45 seconds on high, and while that's bubbling away (make sure it doesn't boil over, what a mess!), wash and slice an apple into finger-friendly pieces. Take the bowl out of the microwave, stir until fully blended and enjoy your tasty treat! Best easy dessert ever, and it is truly up to your discretion just how much chocolate sauce you make this way.. and what fruit you dip in it... melon is also tasty, as I'm sure would be berries of any kind. The clove-cinnamon combo just adds an extra little something, my favourite cake of all time has the clove-cinnamon-chocolate mix, and so whenever I have that combo, I think of happy memories, family suppers and birthday cake.

mmm... yes... chocolate... the perfect start and end to any day.

Related to all my chocolate consumption, winter, at this point, is really pulling my spirits down. And I'm trying just about anything to avoid the nasty late-winter slump (perhaps to the detriment of my wasitline, but we'll see). As the sun continues to rise earlier and shine for longer, I AM picking up some cheer, but it is slow-coming, even after a brief sojourn to the beach. On a whim, the other week, wandering our leanly-stocked farmers' market (lots of crafts and dried goods, little in the freshness department, as one would expect), I found some not-exactly-inspiring cilantro, but I KNEW I had to have it. If there is a herb that can evoke memories of warmth, humidity and sunshine, it is cilantro. I'm not even sure why. I used to hate the stuff. Thankfully, I've changed my opinion. Cilantro and cumin, both of them pull me into their pungent embrace and I am suddenly thinking of rich greens, and beaming sunlight... maybe it's genetic... my Mediterranean ancestry calling out to me through my taste buds... maybe it's just the subtle imprinting of guacamole and hummus memories... who knows... but if ever there's a way to shake the winter blahs, it's through this stuff...

And, after throwing it in my chili leftovers, and a pot of tomato pasta sauce (yum, what a refreshing combo!), the flagging last bits were screaming out for attention; as was a can of chick peas at the store last night. Somehow chickpeas as an impulse buy rather perfectly describes my personality. haha! And it is thus that my rag-tag hummus was born.

hummus plate
yes, that's my lunch.

I didn't realise until I'd gotten home that a) I only had a lime, and no lemon, and that b) my roommate didn't have tahini, like I'd thought she did. So... improvisation! Come to think of it, I have never actually followed a recipe for hummus... maybe a combination of two recipes together at once, but never one all by itself, and never any of them to-the-word. The can of chickpeas was rinsed and thrown in a bowl with two chopped cloves of garlic, about a half-teaspoon of every relevant-seeming herb on hand: cumin, paprika, chili powder and coriander, a tiny pinch of salt, a very healthy spoonful of cashew butter (who needs tahini anyway?), and all the still-green cilantro, roughly chopped. Over it was drizzled the juice of half a lime, and some unquantified amount of olive oil. Then I pulsed it all with my roomie's stick blender. Stick blenders, it would seem, are not good friends with chickpeas. There's something too thick about their consistency (and I was NOT adding THAT much oil to the mix, as much as I love olive oil). But, after much fretting and pulsing, it was mostly mixed (I'm still finding the occasional chunk of garlic or a completely missed chickpea, but that's what food adventures are about!). And upon letting it sit, VERY aromatic. As a result, I am in love! This is one of the best hummus(es?) I've ever made, even if it's going to keep me from talking to people for fear of bowling them over with garlic breath. Served drizzled with a little extra olive oil, and lightly dusted in chili powder, or just as is, it makes a great topping for pita bread, and the little bit of pita-hummus-ham sandwich I made for lunch today.

If it weren't for the three gorgeous eggplants I bought yesterday waiting patiently on my counter for me to pay attention to them, I might just throw in the towel and stop cooking for a while... nothing is going to be as rewarding, fortuitous or fun as these adventures... though I AM craving ratatouille, so I guess it'll be okay.

I was going to blog my latest knitting projects, too, but I think I'll save that for some time later... food is enough for now.

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