Monday, January 23, 2012

Fireside S'mores

It isn't much of a secret. I love fire. Bonfires and a roaring fireplace fire, either work for me. I love nothing more than sitting out under a moon lit sky with a slight chill in the air surrounded by friends and family at a bonfire. I also love sitting next to a fireplace with a wood burning fire. Gas fireplace, forget it. I need the smoke and the crackle. Admittedly my favorite part is the smoke. I like getting up the next morning after a good long bonfire and putting on my dirty smoky clothes from the night before!

I also love s'mores! The combination of toasted marshmallow, chocolate and graham crackers is sublime in my opinion. I recently made home made marshmallows and I have to say, they are much much better than the jet puffed store bought kind, hands down worth the effort! Some of my fondest memories are of gatherings around a bonfire and making s'mores.

During a recent trip to the Ritz in Naples Florida Tina planned a special surprise for our 12th anniversary that involved my favorite desert. As always, the Ritz took the task of finding gluten-free graham crackers to heart. They were the very best I'd ever had and this post comes with a strong endorsement for The Grainless Baker! They make a number of gluten-free products including these delicious and fancy looking graham crackers that are the perfect size for a single marshmallow and three bites of a hershey chocolate bar, just the right size.

I was delighted to find them locally but you can order them as well as their other GF products off the website. Tonight I am making my very first stuffed roasted chicken with The Grainless Baker's idea of stovetop stuffing. You can imagine what my next post will be.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Utterly Sinful

This is a special occasion desert. Nothing short of sinful. Completely decadent. Rich beyond measure. Need I say more. I love the combination of chocolate and orange! This Chocolate Orange Mousse is perfect. It was a great deal of work, tedious and time consuming. All said and done, a half day, nothing short of that. I did take over an hour peeling and trimming the Mandarin oranges so that they were pristine. Was it worth it, yes! the Mandarin pieces were stunning! Tina was so impressed she now wants "these in her lunches".

Chocolate Orange Mousse

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup Grand Marnier liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
12 tablespoons butter, room temp
8 extra large eggs, separated and at room temp
1/4 plus 2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup cold cream, plus more for whipping to garnish
Mandarin oranges, peeled and trimmed for garnish

Combine the chocolate, Grand Marnier, 1/4 cup water and vanilla in a double boiler over simmering water, stir until the chocolate melts. Whisk in the orange zest and butter until combined. Cool completely.

Place egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high for 4 minutes, or until thick and pale yellow. With the mixer on low, add the chocolate mixture. Transfer to a large bowl.

Place 1 cup of egg whites, the salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high until firm. Whisk half the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, the fold the rest in carefully with a rubber spatula.

Without cleaning the bowl or the whisk, whip the cream and remaining tablespoon of sugar until firm. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Pout eh mouse into individual dishes or an 8 cup serving bowl. Chill and garnish with additional whipped cream, orange zest and Mandarin Orange slices. Drizzle with blood orange syrup if you are lucky enough to have some.

Tips: I might skip the adding the orange zest directly into the mousse, it didn't add much and it interfered with the smooth texture of the mousse. I served 3/4 cup servings and it was way too much for people. While everyone ate most of their serving it was simply too much! You could get away with a scant half cup or even less. Next time I am going to try an cut the recipe in half. Eggs are easier to separate if they are cold. I have blood orange syrup from Olive Pond Vineyard in California but it would be easy to make with juice from a blood orange and sugar, a thick simple syrup.