Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Healthy Sweet Treat

Could it be? The words cake and healthy in the same sentence? While I'm usually quite indulgent when it comes to desserts (nothing beats the consistency created by creaming fresh butter and sugar), and I am often the first to dismiss "low-fat" recipes (never a fan of the spongey texture), this is one nutrition-packed loaf that'll have you going back for seconds! Possibly one of the most flavorful cakes that I have ever baked, this sweet delight was a pleasure for the senses. Moist to the touch, with a sweet aroma that'll warm up your winter blues... you must be wondering what this magical creation is made from. Well, the secret doesn't lie in artificial sugar, nor does it involve butter substitutes. The secret is an ingredient that many of you may have laying in your pantries just itching to be used up: good old fashioned cream of wheat. When you mix this unusual ingredient with some yogurt, you get a fluffy cake that is low in calories, low in fat, high in calcium and multivitamin-enriched. Glaze it in a honey syrup and you've just added some sweet antioxidants. Sprinkle on some almonds and you'll boost your protein intake and you'll benefit from some heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Finish it all off with a touch of almond extract and a sprinkle of sweetened flaked coconut and your tastebuds will love you forever. But enough talk... let us eat cake and feel good about it too!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Move Over, Martha!

I've had the most splendid week in the kitchen and I must tell you ALL about it! I began my cooking extravaganza by making my very first buttercream icing. Fun to work with, easy to make, lovely to look at, but unfortunately, not so lovely to eat. I just don't see the appeal of eating something that tastes like a stick of butter. Deciding then to stick with familiar classics, I made the absolute best banana cake in the history of the world. Marie Antoinette, eat your heart out. My friend Lisa, an equally exuberant foodie, suggested that I pipe some butter down the centre of the cake to create a perfect “crack.” Simple trick, fabulous results. Not only did the cake look fantastic, it had an extra hint of buttery flavour throughout. Perfection. However, my ultimate kitchen success came last night when I stirred up a delightfully velvety vodka sauce - caramelized onions, crushed garlic, plum tomatoes, fresh basil and a splash of vodka to enhance all of the flavours. By special request, I served a baked brie wheel as an appetizer, smothered in a slow-cooked peppered cranberry sauce. But the ultimate show stopper was the dessert - a layered vanilla, chocolate and salted caramel mousse, as pleasing to the eyes as it was to the palate! Two things about this mousse were most exciting: the first was the creation of the caramel. As simple as you can get, this rich caramel was created by simmering sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water over HIGH heat. Yes, high heat surprised me, and scared me, as I do not own a "heavy bottom" saucepan, so I decided to put my lovely Lagostina's life on the line. It worked like magic! As the sugar began to dissolve, a lovely cotton-candy aroma filled the air, and then, almost instantly, the colour morphed from a silvery white to an amber yellow. At this point, I poured in the heavy cream and WHISH! An unexpected bubbling and sizzling happened, and the amber yellow transformed to a deep perfect caramel colour. While I waited for that to cool, I prepared my mousse base, which consisted solely of egg yolk, vanilla, sugar and milk. Gently folding whipped cream into the base and slowly adding the flavourings created sweet toothed bliss.