Saturday, March 21, 2009

Almond custard and mixed fruit gratins


There are three types of people in this world. Those who know how to appreciate what they already have, those who don't, and those who are seriously working on it. I proudly consider myself a member of group #3. But let's not go too deep here, I'm just talking about fruit. When at home, I tend to overlook them. If I want something sweet I just reach for some chocolaty concoction or a tall glass of fizzy apple lemongrass cordial on ice. Not even my shiny brand new fruit basket loaded with all sorts of tropical goodness and local apples and pears( always eat seasonal, right?) will make me throw a glance towards the healthy option. But all that is about to change. As I traveled a lot in the last few years, I realized that what I missed the most in my daily diet were fruits and soup. Not that you can't buy fruit anywhere, it's just that when I'm in a different country I want to eat as much local specialities as I can. These are usually cooked or baked, and that my friends means that there's no room for "boring" fruit like apples and oranges or chicken noodle soup for that matter. Now I try to eat all my fruit when they are still fresh, or use them in desserts, such as these delicious almond custard gratins. You can use any combination of fresh fruit. If you make this for guests, they will swoon first. Next they will ask weather they're easy to prepare. And immediately after your affirmative answer, they will ask for the recipe. I promise.


2 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
pinch of salt
1 large mango, peeled, cubed
2 kiwis, peeled, cubed
1 cup blueberries
3/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 stick unsalted butter, cubed
creme fraiche, for serving

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter 4 gratin dishes.
Mix all the fruit in a bowl, then divide among gratin dishes.
Whisk eggs, cream, sugar,almond meal, vanilla, almond extract and salt until combined. Pour custard over fruit. Sprinkle with almonds and dot with butter. Bake for 35 minutes.
Cool to room temperature. Serve with creme fraiche.
Recipe adapted from Gourmet magazine.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Xococava-Chocolate heaven

Picture 1

You are reading the mumblings of a very happy gal. What's with all that happiness you ask? Well, I have just discovered the best place to go for chocolate and ice-cream in Toronto. This magical place is called Xoxocava (pronounced Shococava). Located in the Yonge/St Claire area, this gem of a place is a cross between a dessert tapas bar, ice-cream parlour and espresso bar. It is small and charming, decorated with marble counters and a wall covered with broken dishes, this place had me from the get go. The very knowledgeable staff (they make the best cafe con leche and hot xocolata) will help you choose to your heart's desire between ice creams (hazelnut, meyer lemon, licorice caramel, espresso etc), sorbets ( pina colada, madagascar chocolate, texas ruby grapefruit), truffles, pastries or barista drinks. they have wonderful brownies and different types of croissant. Sinfully buttery, yet not greasy and flat like at most other patisseries in the Midtown area (you know who you are!).
The selection of truffles and candies would require a whole new post. With flavours like fennel and chorizo(just try it) truffles, quince jellies, candied orange peel and nougat you're sure to find something to your liking. I know I'll be a regular customer.
Hurry, check it out before word gets out and you'll have to queue up for hours to get some ice-cream to cool you down on those soon to be here hot summer days.
1560 Yonge Street
416 979-9916


Monday, March 2, 2009

Chocolate almond macaroons


I'm one of those people who thinks that food has an amazing ability to change one's bad mood to a cheerful disposition. This type of food would include chocolate, of course. This past week I met up with a friend who seemed a bit sad. Not too much, just a tad. Or maybe I was just looking for an excuse to make something sweet, something chocolatey. I had this great bittersweet Callebaut sitting in my cupboard that I'd had my eye on for a few days. So what is a girl to do with 100 grams of leftover quality dark chocolate? Macaroons of course. For the hundredth time. Somehow I always seem to think that the next batch will be even better than the previous one. This cookie is not the typical french version, but a denser, chewier one.
It has a delicious vanilla flavoured chocolate filling with just a pinch of sea salt. Salt just takes chocolate to the next level in my opinion. It has to be really good sea salt and just a pinch of it.
Over the years I have tested tons of macaroon recipes. Some of them great, some not so good. Chocolate, caramel and coffee
flavoured ones are favourites with my palate. The colourful ones, filled with butter cream tend too be a feast for the eyes rather than the taste buds. They're just sweet, and not much else. (This applies to all the" designer" macaroons that I had in Tokyo). That said I have never had Pierre Herme's world famous macaroons. I am heading to Paris soon, taking a taxi from the airport straight to the Pierre Herme store (no, just kidding:)). Will definitely let you know of any sudden change of heart that might occur during this ever so important visit.
Oh, almost forgot: it turns out my friend K. was not sad, or down or tired that day. I was all in my had:) But she loved the cookies and promised to be sad, down or tired a helluva lot more often from know on!


2 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp sifted cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/2 tsp almond extract
75 g dark chocolate
10 gm butter
13 ml heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 325F. Beat egg whites until stiff. Slowly add sugar, beating until egg whites are very thick. Mix in cocoa, almond meal and extract. Dampen hands and form about 1 teaspoonfuls of dough into balls. Pinch balls to form a teardrop shape. Place cookies on baking sheet (lined with parchment paper), bake for about 15 minutes until slightly cracked. Do not over bake, as they will end up very dry. Cool completely on a rack.
For filling, combine chocolate, butter and cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Add vanilla extract and sea salt. Cool to room temperature. Spread half teaspoon of filling on flat side of cookies, then sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing lightly to seal. Store in an airtight container.