Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Dark Chocolate Mousse Tart

Intense. That's one word that perfectly describes this dark chocolate mousse tart. Intense colour, intense flavour and intensely ... satisfying too. If you've visited this blog lately, you'll know full well how I've been consumed with making pastry off late. Pies, tarts, puffs ... that's about all I've been making for the last couple of weeks. And so, when I watched Mindy, a contestant on Masterchef Australia (season 4) make a chocolate mousse tart with a chocolate shortcrust pastry shell, I knew I had to give it a go. A chocolate crust: wow! (Mindy went on to win the challenge and her tart was featured on the cover of the Masterchef magazine — didn't know there was such a mag. But you can check it our here).

So anyway, I decided to follow her recipe for two reasons: first, it looked bloody good — chocolate on chocolate? I mean who can resist, right? Second, while I love watching episodes of Masterchef (the Australian one, not the American version),  I am always curious about how good the dishes really are. I mean, the ones that the judges rave on about. The abilities of the home cooks are without a doubt gasp-worthy but I just wonder how the dishes actually taste. So, by trying out Mindy's recipe, I'd be able to satisfy my curiosity.

I followed her recipe with minimal changes: she poured a caramel orange syrup over her tart, I chose to drizzle a spiced orange syrup instead. Also, she used 3 egg yolks on top of 2 whole eggs, I just used 2 yolks as I had just four eggs left at home.

The instructions in Mindy's recipe were easy enough to follow. The crust used a fair amount of cocoa powder which was combined with flour, icing sugar and ground almonds. It's a shortcrust pastry: chilled butter is rubbed into the dry ingredients and then a liquid (in this case an egg) is added to bind the dough together. The pastry was rich and very chocolaty. It was also a little more wet than your regular shortcrust shell. I liked the taste: it wasn't too sweet ... in fact it wasn't sweet at all, allowing the chocolate to be the star ingredient and flavour. I might try using ground hazelnuts instead of almonds the next time as I think hazelnuts go so well with chocolate. (I did try using hazelnuts and it was brilliant. I think I'd go with hazelnuts in future. It also combines well with the cocoa and flour and you don't see specks of beige as with the almonds). But, yeah it turned out to be a really nice crust.

The end product was a deeply satisfying chocolate treat. Rich, warm and comforting and "super yum", as the judges on the show eloquently described it. Super yum indeed.

Chocolate Mousse Tart
(Adapted from Mindy Woods recipe from Masterchef)

For the pastry
100g plain flour
70g cocoa powder
pinch of salt
60g icing sugar
20g ground almonds
90g butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg

For the mousse
275g dark chocolate
140g butter
2 eggs
2 egg yolks (the original had 3 egg yolks)
110g castor sugar
zest of one orange

Orange syrup (not from the original recipe)
3 tbsp castor sugar
3 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp orange zest
3 tbsp water
1 star anise

For the pastry, whisk the flour, sugar, ground almond and cocoa together in a bowl. Add the cold butter and rub into the flour mixture with fingertips until you get what resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg and bring the crumbs together to form a dough. It will be slightly (just slightly) wet. Shape into a disc and chill for at least 30 mins.

Once chilled, place the disc in between two sheets of non grease paper and roll till about 4 mm thick. transfer onto the tart pan (10-inch) and gently mould to fit the pan.

Prick the base of the pastry case with a fork and chill for 15 mins. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180C. Pre-bake the crust for 15 mins, until the base of the pastry has dried and hardened a little.

For the filling, add he chocolate and butter in a bowl and place the bowl above a pot of simmering water. Stir until both the butter and chocolate melts and becomes a shiny ganache. Remove and let cool.

Turn the heat off the water but keep the pan on the stove. Add the eggs, yolks and sugar in a bowl and place the bowl above the steaming water. Whisk with an electric hand held mixer or a balloon whisk till the mixture almost tripled in volume and you can form ribbons with the mixture. Stir in the zest.

Add to the cooled chocolate ganache (in three installments) and fold in gently.

Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust and bake for 18 mins. Remove and cool.

Make the syrup: add all the ingredients in a saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves and the syrup thickens. Drizzle over tart.

Bruschetta Burger Recipe


  • 1 pound lean Ground Beef
  • 3 teaspoons Montreal Steak Spice
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 cup Oatmeal
  • 6 Focaccia Bread
  • 1 tablespoon Mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Basil Pesto
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • 6 -12 tablespoons Tomato Bruschetta Topping (See recipe below)


  1. Combine ground beef,steak spice, egg and oatmeal.
  2. Form into patties.
  3. Grill patties over medium heat turning frequently for approximately 5 minutes per side.
  4. On one half of the Focaccia bread spread the mayonnaise and top with mozzarella cheese.
  5. Heat bun until cheese is melted.
  6. Place the cooked burger patty atop the side of the bun with the mozzarella cheese on it.
  7. Top the burger patty with basil pesto followed by Tomato Bruschetta Topping - 1-2 tablespoons to taste.

Tomato Bruschetta Topping


  1. 2 Tomatoes, diced
  2. 4 tablespoons Parmesan Cheese, shredded
  3. 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  4. 1 Garlic Clove, minced
  5. 1/8 teaspoon Seasoning Salt
  6. 2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  7. 1 teaspoon Basil, chopped
  8. 1/8 teaspoon Oregano, chopped
  9. 1 tablespoon green onion, chopped


  1. Combine everything and mix well.

Peanut Butter-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes.


For the filling:
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the cake:

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 2 tbsp. milk

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs

For the peanut butter icing:
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two muffin tins with 12 cupcake liners.

To make the filling: Combine the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter and vanilla extract in a bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls (at least 24) and set aside on a baking sheet.

To make the cake batter: Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; whisk together and set aside. In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the sour cream, milk and vanilla extract. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I used a hand mixer), combine the butter and sugar, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed.  With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix just until incorporated.

Spoon a tablespoon or two of batter into the bottom of each cupcake liner.  Place a ball of the peanut butter filling in each cupcake well and top with the remaining batter so that all the cups are filled. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. When the cupcakes are completely cool, top with peanut butter icing.

To make the peanut butter icing:
Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (again, I used a hand mixer). Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Delicious Breakfast

My teenage daughter woke up at 5:30 this morning to throw up. Nice alarm clock for a Saturday morning - NOT. By 10 A.M., she had thrown up so many times, she lost count. Poor thing. The first thing I had her do was to take some Wild Mediterranean Oregano essential oil. I make an oil blend that is gentle enough to swallow by mouth, but so potent, that we use it as a natural antibiotic at our house. In fact, our daughter has never had to take prescription antibiotics - ever. It has kept me antibiotic-free for 20 to 25 years at least (I've lost track). It has saved us probably thousands of dollars in doctors visits alone. CAUTION: Don't take oregano oil strait or you may wish you were dead - it burns the mouth and throat so bad.

Tip: Whenever anyone in our home has gotten sick, I remind the rest of us to take a little oregano oil blend as a preventative measure. It works.

My daughter soon tells me that she can't even keep any water down. I know she is absorbing some of the wild oregano anyway, and I also know it is annihilating this bug she has, it will just take a short time to see the effects.

I have her rub a combination of virgin coconut oil and a mixture of sickness fighting essential oils on the soles of her feet. I instruct her to do this at least every hour. The oils make their way into the body to help fight off the sickness. Cool, right?

I proceed to make her a strong ginger tea. Ginger is one of the best things you can take for an upset stomach and nausea. Ginger is even effective for motion sickness and morning sickness. I sweeten it with about 4 drops of sugar-free stevia glycerite. See our recipe for stevia glycerite on this blog.

I let the ginger tea steep 10 minutes and then take it to my daughter. I tell her about ginger being a perfect remedy for her stomach. She asked me, will it help? I told her, "It certainly will." She's feeling pretty miserable, I want to give her some hope. Honestly, she has been sick so infrequently, that it is a shock to her. She hasn't had all the sickness that most kids have. I have to let her know that she will live. Don't laugh.

Next, I make a pot of hot rice porridge. Rice is very easy on the stomach. I have a special recipe I use, which I will share here. I use basmati rice (brown or white) and I add a little psyllium husk to it. Psyllium is a fiber that is also soothing and detoxifying to the digestive tract. It also gives a nice creamy texture to the hot cereal. We love it for it's blood sugar regulating effects. Psyllium slows the absorption of sugars and carbohydrates, which helps to even out your blood sugar levels. That's a good thing for maintaining health.

Another important tip is to salt all of your hot cereals as you are cooking them. It takes hot cereal from flat and boring to actually tasting good. It brings out the flavors nicely. Even salting to the point of the cereal being on the savory side is delicious, and is our family's favorite way to prepare mush. We have used BioSalt for this purpose for years. It is a balanced salt, that negates water retention in the body. See our BioSalt recipe on this blog.

For my daughter's situation, I sweeten the hot porridge with wild flower honey (preferably raw), as it is healing too. I sprinkled her cereal with ground ginger and cinnamon and topped it off with a little pad of butter. I then added a little organic whole milk.

Let's cross our fingers. Will the cereal stay down?

I made cereal fort the rest of the family too. This cereal is a delicious comfort food, plus it's cold outside and this is nice and warming. The basmati rice makes this cereal special. Try it!

We nicknamed this particular recipe "Fiji Rice Mush." Mom created it while living in Fiji. It gives a nice exotic twist to mush's name, don't you think?

Fiji Rice Mush Recipe:

2 c. uncooked Basmati rice (brown or white)
2 t. finely ground psyllium husk powder


Grind the rice kernels and psyllium in a high powered blender until it becomes a fine powder.

You may find it easier to grind in 3 batches.

Store what you won't be cooking in the freezer.

To Cook the Fiji Rice Mush:

In a large saucepan, mix 1/3 c. ground rice mixture and 2 cups water. Add 1/2 t. BioSalt or sea salt.
Stir and cook until thick on medium-high heat.
Reduce heat and cook on the lowest heat for at least 10 minutes. Add more water as needed.
Remove from heat, cover, and let sit 20 to 30 minutes.
To keep hot, cover with a folded terry cloth towel.
Check for salt, and adjust is desired.
Serve with coconut milk, organic milk, or nut milk.


The psyllium husk slows the absorption of the starch in the rice. Psyllium also extends the amount of porridge made because it absorbs a lot of water. It helps your blood sugar levels not to spike and then crash, helping with weight loss. Psyllium is also good for the digestive system and helps you feel full longer.

Milk Loaf Full of Corn

I've been in search of the perfect loaf of corn-flavoured bread for a long, long time. When I was a child, my parents used to buy loaves of fluffy corn bread from a bakery quite close to where we lived in Penang. It was the only thing I'd willingly eat for breakfast - I used to detest eating breakfast, particularly in the wee hours of the morning before leaving for school slightly before 7 in the morning. But for all the fuss I'd make over swallowing the half-boiled eggs my mum prepared,  I gladly ate a slice or even two of this deliciously soft bread. Selective eating, even back then I guess.

Since we moved away from Penang many, many years ago, I haven't sampled anything close to the bread I remembered, and not for the want of trying either. I even tried my hand at making the classic American cornbread hoping that it would be similar --  it turned out well but it wasn't the bread I loved from my younger days. I was beginning to think it was a figment of my wild imagination. You know, when you're a kid who makes up stories, the lines between what's real and what's not becomes very blur.

But when I discovered the Tangzhong method of baking bread a month or so ago, I saw a glimmer of hope. The light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. The Tangzhong bread is soft and fluffy and ever-so-slightly sweet, much like the texture and flavour of the corn bread I longed for. And, with the addition of custard powder in the water-roux (the roux is the hallmark of the method), it even has the same shade of yellow as the original corn bread. All I had to do, perhaps, was to add some corn into the dough. I had some frozen corn kernels in the freezer so I thought I'd give it a shot.

Prior to this, I'd only made buns using the tangzhong method, simply because soft rolls were nice and easy to binge on. This time, I decided to make a loaf.

Start by making the roux. I used custard powder in the rough as I wanted the corn flavour (a main element in custard powder is corn flour): 2 tbsp bread flour, 2 tbsp custard powder and 120 ml liquid (half milk, half water). Mix the ingredients and heat over a low fire until it thickens (to the consistency of mayonnaise, almost). Leave the roux to cool.

Next, mix the dry ingredients together: 350g bread flour, 2 tbsp milk powder, 4 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp instant yeast.

Once the roux has cooled to about room temperature, add about 120g or 80% of it to the dry ingredients, along with an egg. Using your fingers,  gently mix the ingredients together.

Next, add the liquid: 80ml warm milk + 40ml warm water and mix until you get  a rough dough. Cover the dough with a tea towel and let it rest for ten minutes.

Have the corn, defrosted and cooled to room temperature, standing by, along with about 30gm butter, softened.

After allowing the dough to sit for 10 mins, add the butter and the corn and gently knead both ingredients into the rough dough until you get a soft, smooth dough, about 2-3 mins. Leave the buttery dough to sit for yet another ten minutes, covered with the tea towel.

When the ten minutes is up, I knead the dough again for a couple of minutes before resting it a further 10 minutes. Repeat this another two more times before finally allowing the dough, now nice and pliable, to rest and rise till it doubles in size: about an hour. (See the rise in the pics above).

Once the dough has risen and doubled in bulk, gently knead it for a minute and then transfer it onto a lightly floured surface.

Divide the dough into three equal portions. One by one, gently stretched the dough into a rectangle, with the longer side facing you. Mentally divide the rectangle into thirds and then fold the left side towards the centre followed by the right. (See pic above). Repeat with the other two portions. Arrange the three "rolls" close together in a loaf pan/dish and let it rise yet again, about 30-40 mins.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Once the rolls have risen to almost the rim of the tin/dish, bake for about 30 mins.

I was really excited to taste the corn loaf. I kept peeping in as the loaf baked just because I couldn't wait for it to be ready.

Once out of the oven, I had to let it cool before I could cut into it. This was pure torture. I wanted to know if I'd finally gotten it right. It smelt nice and corny. It looked nice and corny? Did it taste nice and corny too?

The verdict: Delicious! It was nice and corny. But, it wasn't exactly the loaf I ate as a child. Hrmmph. The corn kernels that dotted the loaf were a nice addition and they definitely added to the corn flavour of the bread. But they weren't infused into the dough. But, I was a step closer and perhaps next time I will use creamed corn instead and adjust the liquid in the recipe.

Until then, this delicious loaf will have to do! It's not bad, really. My hubby loved it and he doesn't even really like eating corn.

Orange Poppyseed Cupcakes

And the orange binge continues.

These orange poppyseed mini cupcakes are officially my all-time favourite cupcakes and my all-time favourite orange cake too. I make them ALL the time. Anytime anyone asks me for a recipe for a light, delicious cake, I give them this one. It's that good. Trust me.

I've posted the original recipe for this orange poppyseed cake on this blog before. But that was a long time ago... about two years ago actually and I really feel the time has come for a revisit. The recipe is from Moroccan-born cook Nadine Abensur from her book Enjoy (a review of which is also posted on this blog).

Abensur's recipe is for a cake but I preferred to make mini cupcakes from the batter this time instead of a whole cake. Mini cupcakes are awesome.  You can just pop the whole thing in your mouth. It's that simple. And this one — with the orange and the poppyseed — literally pops in your mouth.

Pop. There goes another one in my mouth. Pop. And another.

Abensur's cake isn't sweet. It's delicious but it isn't sweet. But the cake comes with a spiced syrup which is drizzled over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. The syrup not only adds the necessary sweetness to the cake, it also keeps the cake nice and moist. And the spice adds another dimension to a basic orange cake.

Also, the original cake isn't frosted but I topped these mini cupcakes with a light cream cheese frosting which I feel goes well with the cake. Plus, frosting makes a cake looks so festive, right? (Oh ok, I'll come out and admit it. I am also practicing my skills at frosting and I am taking every opportunity I can get to master the art of frosting. Still it does add to the cake!)

Alright. Enough talk already. I hope I have convinced you to make this cake. The recipe follows.

Orange Poppyseed Cake
(adapted from Nadine Abensur's Enjoy)

For the cake
50g poppy seed
60ml milk
185g butter
200g Castor sugar
2 tbsp orange zest
3 eggs
175g self-raising flour, sifted
50g plain flour, sifted
50g ground almond
100ml orange juice

Soak the poppy seed in the milk for about 10 mins. (The poppy seeds need to absorb moisture from the milk or they may be too hard).

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Cream the butter, zest and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. Lower the speed of your mixer and add the eggs (one at a time) and mix till incorporated.

Add the flour, orange juice and milk with the poppy seeds — alternating between the three — until everything is combined.

Fill the cupcake liners with batter.

Bake for 15-18 mins or till a toothpick comes out clean.

For the Syrup
3 tbsp Castor sugar
3 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp orange zest
3 tbsp water
1 star anise

Mix the ingredients in a small saucepan and heat till sugar dissolves and a thick syrup emerges.
Drizzle on the cakes once they're hot out of the oven.

For the Frosting
170g cream cheese
170g butter
11/2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Cream on high speed until light and very fluffy.

Tangerine-Almond Tart with Chocolate Drizzle


  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp grated tangerine or orange zest
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 tbs unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
  • 1 large egg yolk (save the white for the filling!)


  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup tangerine juice (about 3 tangerines) or orange juice
  • zest of 3 tangerines (about 3 tsp)
  • 3 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 400. Butter the bottom of a 9.5-in two piece tart pan. In a food processor, process the flour 1/3 cup sugar, zest, and salt for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk (don't forget to save the white for the filling) and process just until it comes together in a ball. Pat the dough into the tart pan, prick the bottom all over with a fork, and then bake for 18-20 minutes. Set aside.

2. Turn oven down to 375. Clean out your food processor. Place almonds on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Let cool for a few minutes.

3. Place the almonds and 1/3 cup sugar into the food processor and process until almonds are ground. Add eggs, egg white, tangerine juice, and zest to the processor, and process until well blended. Scatter half of your chocolate chips over the crust. Pour the tangerine filling into the crust.

4. Bake the tart at 375 for about 25-30 minutes. The filling should be set. Melt your remaining chocolate chips in a double boiler (I used a small metal bowl placed over a pot of boiling water -- the bowl should be above and not touching the water), or you can use a microwave if you have one of those newfangled gadgets. Drizzle the chocolate decoratively over the tart (see my tip in the paragraph preceding the recipe!)
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