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Marco Polo at the Court of Kublai Khan

I really only took advantage of today’s blog as an excuse to buy popsicle molds.  Yes, I made cherry popsicles. But you can count on the fact that I’ll soon be experimenting with much more exhilarating flavours (I’m looking at you, Irish Cream!)

Actually, buying the molds was harder than I thought it would be.  I looked high and low before heading to Ming Wo as a last resort.  Of course they had a spectacular selection, and of course most of the models rung in at ~$20.  Fortunately they had one set for 5 bucks that suited me just fine.

Rumour has it that popsicles were invented by an 11 year old in the winter of 1905.  He was mixing lemonade pop from a powder out on his porch.  He left a glass out overnight (with stir-stick still in place) and awoke to find a tasty ice treat stuck inside his glass.  A little hot water loosened it and the rest is history… or so the story goes.  The story seems a little unlikely to me, and further digging does reveal conflicting stories.  Some say Frank Epperson, the ingenious 11 year old, is only credited for the invention due to his successful patenting and marketing of the “Popsicle” in 1924.

Apparently icy treats on sticks were already sold from street vendors in the late 1800’s.  They had evolved from a long tradition of frozen deserts.  As early as the 1200’s there are records of SnowCone-like confections in China, India, Iran and Rome.  Supposedly Marco Polo was served such a desert in the courts of Kublai Khan.

So I propose a new game.  It’s kind of like Simon Says for popsicles.  Split a double popsicle with a friend.  Make a rule:  when you say “MARCO” they get to lick or nibble their popsicle.  When they say “POLO” you get to taste yours.  Whoever samples their popsicle without hearing the call first gets punished however you see fit…

Of the estimated 3 million popsicles sold very year the vast majority are cherry, grape or orange flavoured.  So, if you really want a cherry popsicle you can easily buy one.  If, on the other hand, you want a cherry-rootbeer-almond popsicle, come see me.

Roof top pop

I used:

8 oz. black cherry juice

8 oz. organic rootbeer

1 tsp. almond extract

(This made four pops with some to spare)

The resulting syrup was a bit sweet for my taste, but the flavour mellowed a lot after freezing.  The carbonation from the rootbeer gave them a pleasant texture that was less dense than regular ice pops.

Refreshing!

Just don't get it on your shirt...

Gratuitous scenic photo

Nice place to eat a popsicle

It’s almost September, our summer is waning, but there are still plenty of popsicle-worthy days ahead.  Google popsicle recipes and I guarantee you’ll find some inspiration among the kajillion recipes online.  Most of them are even healthy!

Happy August Days to you,

~Sage

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A chocolate soufflé is one of those desserts that can inspire both fear and wonder.  You are warned of a lengthy wait if you order one in a restaurant, though the warning is accompanied with an implicit promise that your patients will be rewarded.   And, everyone has heard of the inevitable collapse caused by a slamming door or dropped pot.  Soufflés are finicky and temperamental, only to be attempted by the culinary expert or adventurer, at least that is what some would have you believe.  But the reality is quite the opposite.  I am here to tell you my friends that if you have an oven and a whisk, you can make a chocolate soufflé.

Melting the Chocolate and Butter

I have cooked chocolate soufflés for virtually everyone I know.  I have taken them to dinner parties and made them at a beach house.  My little red ramekins have been around and will continue to see a lot of action.  Chocolate soufflés are such a standby that I have to remind myself that I need to expand my horizons if only for the sake of my guests who quite likely believe I don’t know how to cook anything else.   That said I have never been disappointed by the result.  I’m no baker but these little chocolate treasures are close to perfect and as fool-proof a recipe as there is.

Chocolate Soufflés

Yields 6

  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 6 tbps unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 6 tbps flour

Melt butter and chocolate together in a double boiler.  Remove from heat and let cool to luke warm.

With electric mixer whip eggs, egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla until they are pale yellow and form ribbons.  It will take 5 to 6 minutes or more longer with a whisk.

Sift flour over eggs and fold in.  Gently fold in chocolate.

Fold in the Chocolate

Pour batter into buttered ramekins.  Cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Little red ramekins ready for the oven

Bake at 400o for 18 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Shhh... be very still and quiet... just kidding

You can serve your soufflé with whipped cream or ice cream or dress them up with a dusting of icing sugar.   I prefer mine served with a spoon.

These soufflés have a light cakey exterior and a rich gooey centre.   The basic recipe is perfect in its simplicity but lends itself to embellishment.  A dash of almond or hazelnut extract is a great addition.  A tablespoon of rum or brandy is nice touch too.  I haven’t tried it, but my guess is a splash of Grand Marnier would be awesome.  The most important ingredient is your imagination.

Warm, creamy and chocolatey

This is the perfect make-ahead dessert.  You can mix them up the day before or even throw them in the freezer for a week.  Just add a minute to the cooking time if you’re starting with a frozen soufflé.  Like so many of the French classics the soufflé has been ascribed with almost mystical qualities.  But I want the moral of this story to be “don’t be afraid of the soufflé.”  They are not finicky or temperamental.  There is no magic and no secret society of soufflé chefs.  The only “secret” is the air you whip into the eggs.

Bon appétit.

Della

Ok, so the thing is, I’m no baker. I don’t follow instructions well, and I don’t do enough of it to really understand what’s going on in the mixing bowl. The only thing that I do bake very well is lemon meringue pie, and in that case I adhere slavishly to the recipe and actually do understand what’s going on chemically when the eggs are going from frothy to fluffy.

I had some smart suggestions from B. and Eva about fab sounding savory chocolate dishes for today’s offering (i.e. Mole, chocolate pasta, etc.)  But I decided to go with a more obvious choice for Bittersweet Chocolate and Almond Day—baking—than their haute cuisine suggestions. I’ve been eating a vegan+meat diet (i.e. no eggs or dairy) for about 6 weeks now and I wanted to try some vegan baking.

I read around on the internet and basically cobbled together this recipe. Taking a brief detour at the Yates Street Market, and stopping to turn on the CBC (I *heart* the Massey Lecture Series!) I got down to work. Almond bittersweet chocolate cookie bliss, here I come!

…but wait!…

I don’t follow directions well, and I don’t know what I’m doing! So what follows is the recipe, and my story of what I did… and didn’t do… or didn’t do well.

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Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Ingredients:

1 egg [or in my case, egg powder substitute]
1/4 cup butter
[vegan margarine… did you know lots of margarine has milk in it?)]
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup ground almonds
[*^%# … more on this later]
1.5 cups plain flour
Whole almonds to decorate (optional)

Bittersweet Chocolate

Cream together the sugar and butter [vegan margarine].

Maybe a bit more sugar. These will be dipped in bittersweet chocolate after all. What can it hurt?
Do I get out the beaters? Nah, I don’t want to wash them. I’ll just dig in with my hands.
Man, this is lumpy. Oh well, I’m sure the lumps will come out with the mixing.

Add the egg [eggish stuff] and mix well.

Hmmm. Still lumpy.

Add the baking powder, salt, and extracts stirring after each addition.

Yup, still lumpy.

Add the ground almonds.

Alright, I need to grind some almonds. Coffee grinder? Lets try that. Wizzzzzzz. Still lots of chunks. More *wiiiizzzzzz* Shoot—that’s almond butter. Huh. I’ll wash it out and start again.

This is taking forever. Maybe I can make them without the ground almonds? No wait!—they’re almond cookies.  *sigh* keep *wiiiiizzzzzzzzing*. Rinse. Repeat.

Add the flour by half cup increments stirring until you can’t stir easily. At this point, use your hands to kneed into a soft dough.

Well this is too floury. I need more liquid. I’ll just add the dregs of the eggish thing.

Cover with clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge. Roll out the dough to about 1/2 a centimeter thick and cut out cookies with a cookie cutter and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Bah. I’ll just flour the counter. I don’t have time for it to chill. It’ll be fine.

Um, whoa, this is really sticking. There’s too much liquid in this stupid recipe! Gah! Ok, maybe I’ll just scrape it back into a ball and roll it out between some parchment paper.Argh! Now it’s coming off in chunks.

So I’ll just slip that in the fridge then? That seems like the best plan.

Press an almond into each cookie and bake for 8 minutes for chewy cookies, 10 for crispy.

Ok, that was more like 12 minutes, because I got distracted watching FlashForward. I’m addicted.

Leave to cool for at least 5 minutes on the tray, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

….

What, not even I can mess that last bit up!

I finished these little guys off by melting some nice organic dairy free bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler, and gave them a little roll around in that.

The result? Meh. Doesn’t taste like butter to me.

choco almond