Friday, January 30, 2015

Chocolate on chocolate on chocolate!!! (...and sprinkles)


Not only do Karla and I still work together (we also went to school together and were roommates for three years) and write this blog together, we also share a love for chocolate - which is apparent from the candy stocked at our desks and the “chocolate breaks” we take at work. So, when I asked Karla what kind of birthday cake she wanted, her answer was obvious. To make it as chocolate-y as possible, I made a chocolate cake frosted with chocolate buttercream and topped with dark chocolate ganache - and then added sprinkles. The birthday girl liked it and it surely was well received by our colleagues based on how quickly it was gone.

Chocolate cakeRecipe
Chocolate buttercream: Recipe
Once the cake is completely cooled, frost the top and sides with the buttercream.
Chocolate ganache:
On low-medium heat on the stove top, heat ½ cup of heavy cream and 4 oz dark chocolate chips. Keep stirring until chocolate is completely melted to form a smooth mixture. Take it off the heat and let it cool down to room temperature (otherwise it can melt the buttercream).
Once cooled, carefully pour the ganache starting at the center of the cake and spread it outward with a spatula if required. Use a clean knife or spatula (wipe it off often during the process) to smoothen out the ganache.
Just a few colorful sprinkles to add a trim-like decoration and the cake was ready for the birthday celebration :-)
If using ganache directly on the cake, you can pour it over when it is still warm.
The consistency of ganache can be adjusted to your liking by changing the ratio of cream and chocolate.
The ganache can be cooled and whipped to make a nice thick frosting to pipe on the cake as well.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Baked Tofu


Being a vegetarian, I am always looking for different proteins that can add taste and variety to a dish. One of my favorites is tofu. I know a lot of people don't like tofu either for its taste (or lack thereof) or its texture. Personally, I feel that the taste part is actually an advantage because it can soak up a lot of flavor and you can make it taste good! As for the texture, I am also not a fan of the soft texture of tofu; even extra firm tofu is not dense or firm enough for me - hence the baking!

This baked tofu has a texture similar to Indian paneer (firm farmers cheese made from cow/buffalo milk which can easily be cut into cubes). I like to make a big batch and use it in different recipes but it is great to just snack on as well. Additional bonus – it requires absolutely no oil or butter unlike fried tofu!

Extra firm tofu - 1 pack (14 oz)
For the marinade
3 tbsp Soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar (other vinegar will work too)
1 tsp mustard (I used honey mustard)
1 tsp honey (optional)
2 cloves crushed garlic
3 tbsp water (adjust so that there is enough marinade to coat the tofu and have about half of it still left in pan).

You can use any other marinade of your choice, just make sure it has enough liquid for the tofu to soak up.

Heat oven to 400 deg F.

Use a microwave safe and oven proof dish if possible (I generally use an 8x8 glass baking pan) to mix all the marinade ingredients in.

Drain the block of tofu and slice it at least 1/2 inch thick (~5-6 slices for a block of tofu). Using a paper towel gently press each slice between your palms to drain more liquid. Don't squish the tofu too much - you don't want it to crumble. Wring out the paper towel after every slice.

Cut each slice in half (optional), and place the tofu in the baking dish with the marinade. Let it sit for a few seconds and turn all the pieces over. Repeat a couple times to let the tofu soak the marinade.

Microwave on high, 2 minutes at a time, turning the pieces over each time until the marinade is almost completely soaked - but not all dry. I needed 4 minutes on each side.

At this point transfer to oven proof baking pan if you were not using one to begin with. Place in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes before flipping the tofu over. Let it bake for another 10 minutes. Check the texture of the tofu. If it is still too soft for your liking continue to bake a little longer. To finish it off, broil each side on the Low setting for about 2-3 minutes. You can let it crisp up if you like it that way.

Remove from oven and let it cool down a little before slicing further if required (otherwise it will fall apart easily). This goes really well with Asian flavored stir fries or even on top of a simple salad.

Notes: If you are not a fan of using microwave for cooking, you could skip that step and increase baking time. Another option is to reduce the liquid on stovetop on low heat, turning the tofu pieces every few minutes – then finish it off in the oven.

If you have leftovers, store them in the refrigerator. You could eat it cold or at room temperature, but if you want to reheat, microwave only for a few seconds - it can get chewy if you microwave for too long.