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The BloggerAid Cookbook

Rich Moist Brownie

Brownie has always been my favourite dessert for a long long time... since I was a teenager. That was until I baked my very first brownie in 1999. I remember being so elated when I saw a TV program showing the viewers how to make it. It was so simple that I couldn't believe it. Immediately the next day, I went out and bought the necessarily ingredients. Happily and excitedly I measured and stirred the batter. All the while thinking to myself : 'Gosh, my very first brownie. I can eat as much as I want without having to pay a bomb for it.' Everything was going smoothly until it suddenly sank hard in my brain how much sugar, not to mention butter was in the batter. Well, that's basically it. It literally killed every desire or craving I have for brownie from that day onwards. Honestly, I didn't even took a bite of my brownie. My family loved it although they find it a bit overly sweet. I swore off brownie, really.

Even to this day, I don't crave for it. But what do you know? Life is funny. A few years later, I met my brownie match... in Pierre. He loves brownie to bits. Well, I think cheese cake takes 1st place. And now, our Little One loves brownie too. Over the years I have made a few brownies but none tasted as good as this recipe. Yes, I broke my brownie swear and tasted it for all of you - it was awesome! So good that I even forgot it was calorie loaded and ate more than I should. It's very addicitive.

Rich Moist Brownie

Adapted from 'Je veux du chocolate!' by Trish Deseine

Ingredients
  • 100 g dark brown sugar
  • 125 g sugar
  • 120 g dark chocolate
  • 90 g butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 90 g plain flour
  • 50 g walnuts, roughly chopped
Rich Moist BrownieRich Moist Brownie
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (375°F - gas mark 4).
  2. Grease a square baking pan - about 20 cm in diameter. Set aside.
  3. Melt the dark chocolate in microwave oven or bain-marie. I melt mine over a steamer. Let it cool a little.
  4. Stir in the beaten eggs, then the sugar and lastly the plain flour.
  5. Add in the roughly chopped walnuts.
  6. Pour the batter in the greased pan.
  7. Bake it for about 30 minutes. It should be crispy on top but moist on the inside.
  8. Let cool a bit before savouring it slightly warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
The Verdict

Crispy on top, rich & moist inside... sinfully delicious. Full of chocolatey flavour with a bit of crunchy nuts in the mix. Top it with a layer of chocolate icing ... sends you to chocolate heaven. One can never get chocolate intoxication, can we?

Rich Moist Brownie
Notes

The original recipe uses 225 g of white sugar - it might be a wee bit too sweet for non-sweet tooth people. Instead of walnuts, use other type of nuts, especially hazelnuts.

Rich Moist Brownie
6 comments on this post.

Chocolate Velvet Pound Cake

A new year a new beginning... so the saying goes. Seems like it is ringing true for us right now.

When we left France for our summer holidays in Singapore, little did we know we will be staying here for good. You see, Pierre's application for his Employment Pass (EP) to work in Singapore has been dragging on for nearly a year without any fruitful outcome. Would you believe that even on the day we went to collect his precious EP, the lady officer scrutinized the approval documents from top to bottom again, letter to letter, as if trying to hunt for another potential flaw that would make the EP null and void. Now collecting that little green credit size card stating Pierre is now a legal alien at another counter took less than 30 seconds (I kid you not). Needless to say, Pierre could hardly believe his eyes, kept saying 'pinch me, please. This is not a dream right. This card is not going to disappear over night right.' Slap him I did.

So what have we been so busy next? Well, last minute rushing here and there, getting documents done to enrol Little One into the French school. Why not a local school? you might ask since Singapore education system is one of the best in Asia. We would dearly love to (and it would cost a lot less) but sadly we couldn't as within 2 months here, Little One had already partially lost the ability to converse in French with her grandparents on the phone and she couldn't even remember simple words like "bird", "I love you", etc. in French. In the event that we had to move back to France in a year or two, getting her back into the French system would be a real issue. So French school it is for her, no matter if it costs us an arm and leg!

And now we are busy house hunting for our nest. So far it is either the apartment/house isn't to our liking or the asking rental price is way too high - classic. Tomorrow we have another viewing of an apartment. Let's hope we will find a place that fits us soon!

To celebrate this beautiful new beginning of our life here in Singapore, I present you this delicious chocolaty cake with chocolate ganache. I learnt to how to make this cake from Kim Cabe of our little ateliers culinaires group in Clermont-Ferrand.

Chocolate Velvet Pound Cake

(Adapted from The All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

prep: 15 minutes
cook: 1 hr, 5 min
other: 15 minutes
serves: 12

Ingredients
  • 1½ cup (200g) semisweet chocolate or dark chocolate bars, 54% cocoa
  • 1/2 cup (113g) butter, softened
  • 1½ cup package light brown sugar or ¾ cup light brown sugar, ¾ dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs (I used 3 medium eggs)
  • 2 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup (8 oz) container sour cream or Bridélice, crème légère, 15% or crème fraîche)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache

  • 12 oz (200g) package semisweet chocolate (dark chocolate, 54%)
  • 1/2 c. whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp butter
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F - gas mark 4).
  2. Melt chocolate in a bain-marie ie. using a bowl and pan/pot. (Make sure the bowl fits snugly over the pan) Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl on top of the pan/pot containing hot water. The hot water mustn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Bring the pot of water to a simmer. Stir gently as it melts with a wooden spoon or spatula. Remove from heat once all chocolate pieces are melted. Gently stir until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Whisk butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer for 5 minutes or until well blended.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition.
  5. Stir in melted chocolate, whisking just until combined.
  6. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Beating at low speed, add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, alternating with sour cream (or crème fraîche) - beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until blended after each addition.
  7. Gradually add 1 cup hot water in a slow and steady stream, beating at low speed until just blended. Then stir in vanilla.
  8. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 180°C (350°F - gas mark 4) for 60-65 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  9. Cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely on wire rack.
  10. Just before serving, garnish it by dripping small spoonfuls of choclate ganache around edge of cake.
  11. Enjoy!

Making Chocolate Ganache

  1. Melt chocolate pieces and whipping cream in bain-marie. Whisk until smooth, then stir in butter.
  2. Let stand for about 30 minutes. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes.
Chocolate Velvet Pound CakeChocolate Velvet Pound Cake
The Verdict

The cake on its own is very chocolaty and velvety - soft and moist like a dense sponge cake. Each bite of this cake with the chocolate ganache gives you an orgasmic chocolaty bliss! OK so maybe I'm pushing it a little, but it's really good:-)

I have made this cake twice and each time, it was a total winner with everyone young and old. The 1st cake was for home and it was quite massacred by me (I turned it out a wee bit too early when it was not cooled down yet) but nobody minded the ugly presentation. And the cake was devored in no time at all! The 2nd one was for Little One to celebrate her birthday in school with her teachers and classmates. I made 2 cakes and it was all polished up. The teachers loved it and asked me for the recipe.

Another idea is to make this into a layered cake with the chocolate ganache. It'll be the ultimate heavenly chocolate cake. Can one get enough of chocolate! Clearly NO.

Notes

If you don't have large eggs but have some egg whites sitting in your fridge, use 3 medium sized eggs and a few tablespoons of egg white for this cake and it will turn out marvellously good too.

I have baked once in a 10 inch tube pan and the other time, it was in 2 smaller heart-shaped baking pan. However with smaller pan, please adjust the baking time accordingly.

For the chocolate ganache, I didn't let it stand for 30 minutes. Once it is done, I spread it all over the cake. Alternatively I used a 64% or higher dark chocolates and add 1 tablespoon of icing sugar (powdered).

Chocolate Velvet Pound Cake
22 comments on this post.

Tofu Onde-Onde

What to do with my home-made tofu? That question that has been floating in my head for days - awake or in sleep mode (yes, that's how dedicated I am with my food). Don't worry, I'll spare you the juicy details of what I did with my tofu in my dreams. I did thought of making curry out of it but I have already made my tofu curry in my earlier post. So strike that out. How about stir-fried tofu? Nah...too plain and uninteresting. Now the idea of turning tofu into something sweet is actually quite appealing and challenging. So many sweet desserts started floating in my brain: 1) Tofu Cheesecake: now this is out because my mom's place doesn't have the necessary equipment. 2) Tofu Ice Cream: don't have any ice cream making machine. 3) Tofu cake or muffins: Too hot to bake in Singapore. What to make? What to bake? The pressing question with no answer. Oh dear, the 4 Velveteers' dateline is drawing very near like TODAY!...then out of the blue, my inner bulb just went 'blink!' - Tofu Onde-Onde! Tofu what??? Yes you heard me right - Onde-Onde made out of tofu. I'm not explaining myself clearly, am I for those of you who haven't the faintest idea what this is. But for those who had this before, I can see you rubbing your eyes with disbelief at the title of this post. Is that even possible? Well, you already know the answer to this question or else you wouldn't be reading this, would you?

Onde-Onde (pronounced ‘on-day') is a Peranakan dessert made up of glutinous rice flour with pandan leaves flavour, filled with palm sugar and coated with freshly grated coconut flesh. It can be eaten at any time of the day - be it for breakfast, tea time or as snacks. This is one of my favourite childhood dessert.

Tofu Onde-Onde
Ingredients
  • 100 g freshly grated coconut
  • a pinch of salt
  • 100 g Gula Melaka (Palm Sugar) (finely chopped)
  • 100 g silken or firm tofu (homemade tofu in my case)
  • 100 g glutinous rice flour
  • water (if necessary)
  • A few drops of pandan essence
Tofu Onde-Onde
Directions
  1. In a bowl, mix the freshly grated coconut with a pinch of salt together. Season it to your liking and set it aside.
  2. In a big bowl, mix the silken/firm tofu together with the glutinous rice flour well together with a few drops of pandan essence. Knead to form a dough.
  3. Add in a little bit of water if the dough is dry. If dough is too wet, add a little bit of glutinous rice flour. The dough should not be too wet nor dry.
  4. Pinch a small portion of dough and flatten it lightly on your palm.
  5. Fill the center of yourl dough with some palm sugar and close it by bring the edges together.
  6. Roll the dough in your palm to form a smooth ball. Set the little ball aside on a plate and continue to make small little balls like this with the rest of the dough.
  7. Bring a pot of water to boil. Drop these little balls into the boiling water.
  8. The tofu-rice balls are cooked when it floats to the surface. Remove them with a slotted spoon and shake off the water.
  9. Roll each ball in the coconut/salt mixture.
  10. They are now ready to be served and eaten.
  11. Enjoy!
Tofu Onde-OndeTofu Onde-OndeTofu Onde-Onde
The Verdict

It's very soft and slightly chewy like a mochi with the delicious oozing palm sugar in the middle. One definitely can't taste the tofu in them. My mom said it is as good as those made completely with glutinous rice (that is after I managed to convince her to try it. You should have seen my mom's doubtful look on it when she finally popped it in her mouth because I was standing right in front of her waiting for her verdict. LOL!). Pierre, who isn't a big fan of such Asian dessert, admitted that it was pretty good. As for me, I like this version very much and will definitely make it again.

Notes

For the flavours, I didn't have pandan essence or leaves at home, so I used vanilla essence. The flavour didn't quite come out but it still tastes good all the same. You may also omit the flavours and make it plain. Or you can make it plain with out any fillings or flavour and serve it with some sauce on top of it.

If you don't like the palm sugar filling, you can experiment with other types of fillings to your liking like peanuts or coconut mixed with palm sugar, etc.

You can also turn the above recipe into soup dumplings by replacing the fillings with red bean paste or peanuts and serve it in a sweeten broth.

Tofu Onde-OndeTofu Onde-Onde
15 comments on this post.

Strawberry Sour Cream Cake

Everyone of us (yes, you included indeed!), at some point in our childhood been eager to grow up. Impatiently waiting with batted breathe for that birthday to come. Remember how excited we were, jumping with glee and joy, in a rush to blow those birthday candles and wishing our birthday would last forever. We were so proud that we couldn't wait to tell everyone we are a year older. Such forgotten fond memories of the yonder years! Many birthdays came and went, so did my enthusiasm about birthdays until Little One came along. Remembering how excited and determined I was to make her perfect 1st birthday - never mind that the only cake I could bake at that time was Quatre-Quart (French Pound Cake) and it was Pierre who taught me how to bake it. I didn't even know how to make a crème chantilly (Pierre had to teach me that too).

Well, Little One is no different. She was over excited and so desperately wanted to be 4 like her best friend, Lise, that she asked me this question almost every day since January: 'Am I 4 yet, mommy? Is today my birthday?' Each time I would say 'Not just yet, poppet. You'll be 4 in 5 months time.' And then came the same wailing scenario 'Mommy, I want to be 4 now like Lise. Why can't I be 4 now? No, mommy I'm not 3½ years old. I'm 4 today just like Lise because I say so.' I have since learnt to be creative in my reply 'Yes, you are almost 4. In x months or x weeks' to keep my little camper happy.

This year Little One celebrated her 4th birthday the big way - a big birthday party at home with her friends (8 kids including her). In France, the parents will drop off their kids with a birthday present at your doorstep and come to fetch them home at the end of the party. Each kid is then sent home with a little goodie bag of gifts & candies (a birthday party souvenir). I like this concept very much as the kids didn't leave home empty handed. So for the next 3 hours or so, you are in charge of X number of kids in your house.

Yes my house was really noisy with kids running here and there! We had everything planned right down to games, gifts, etc...but do the kids really care? NO! Their longest attention span with pinning-the-donkey-tail game (supposedly a game that kids love most) - lasted only like 5 minutes. They preferred to chase each other around the house, playing big-bad-wolf with some kids hiding under the fairy tent while others were upstairs playing in Little One's room. So why bother stressing up myself to baldness thinking up different types of games? One surprising thing that stumped us all was that the kids loved storytelling. They couldn't get enough of that. (Yes, beats me too) They also loved fishing for presents - patiently queuing for their turn. They had so much fun at the party that they didn't want to go home. Then a few weeks later, she celebrated her birthday again in school with her friends and teacher. And Yes! Little One goes around proudly telling everyone who cares (or not) to listen to her: 'I'm 4 years old today.' Never mind that she doesn't even know them at all. What about presents, you might be wondering? APLENTY from family & friends to a point that she now expects more presents to come every day since she is now 4 years old every day. This was her bestest birthday ever... for now.

Now for the birthday cake, as much as I love my chocolaty & moist chocolate cake that I baked for her every year, I felt it was time for a change. So I asked my in-house gourmet, Pierre, who voted for his favourite Sour Cream Cinnamon Coffee Cake from Life's a Feast. I have adapted the recipe into layered cake with crème patissère covered with chocolate ganache.

Strawberry Sour Cream Cake
Strawberry Sour Cream Cake (with crème patissère & chocolate ganache)
Ingredients

Sour Cream Cake

  • 1½ cups sour cream or crème fraîche
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups flour (spooned in and leveled)
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt (omit this if you are using salted butter)
  • 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter or semi-salted butter (soften, room temperature)
  • 1¾ cup superfine sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache

  • 200g (12 oz) semisweet dark chocolate (I used dark chocolate, 54%)
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp butter
Strawberry Sour Cream Cake
Directions

Make the French pastry cream(crème patissieère) first before making the cake. That way, the pastry cream can be chilled in the refrigerator and will be ready for laying.

Making Cake

  1. In a small bowl or container, stir the sour cream (or crème fraîche) and the baking soda together and let it stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F - gas mark 4).
  3. Butter two 8 inch heart-shaped baking pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the paper.
  4. Mix together the flour, baking powder & salt (omit it if you are using semi-salted butter) in a big bowl.
  5. In another big bowl, whisk the softened, room temperature butter (cut into cubes) until it is smooth and lightened in color.
  6. Add the sugar, 1 or 2 tbsp at a time, and beat it for 6 to 8 minutes until it is light and very fluffy.
  7. Add in the eggs, one at a time, whisking it for 1 minute after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the vanilla.
  8. Beating at low speed, add the flour mixture, alternating with sour cream (crème fraîche) - beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until it is just blended after each addition. Scrape down the side of the bowl as needed.
  9. Spoon the batter equally into two 8 inch heart-shaped baking pan and even the top out, leaving some room on top of pan for cake to rise during baking.
  10. Bake for about 40 - 50 minutes in the preheated oven. The cake is done when it is risen and the top is golden brown and springy to the touch or a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  11. Leave the cake to cool on racks for about 15 minutes before turning it out of the molds. Let the cakes cool completely before filling and covering it with chocolate ganache.
Strawberry Sour Cream Cake

Making Chocolate Ganache

  1. Melt chocolate pieces and whipping cream in bain-marie. Whisk until smooth, then stir in butter.
  2. Let stand for about 30 minutes. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes.

Assembling the Cake

  1. Place 1 heart-shaped cake on a cake plate.
  2. Using the back of your spoon or spatula, spread a generous layer of pastry cream (crème patissière) on top of the cake.
  3. Delicately place the other heart-shaped cake on top of the filling.
  4. Spoon and spread the top of the cake generously with chocolate ganache, letting it spill naturally over the sides of the cake.
  5. Arrange the strawberries along the edge of the heart-shaped.
  6. Keep the cake in the refrigerator until it is ready to be served.
Strawberry Sour Cream CakeStrawberry Sour Cream CakeStrawberry Sour Cream Cake
The Verdict

In a classic layer sponge cake, it is usually all about the cream and other fillings, and the sponge cake is secondary (who eats plain sponge cake anyway). This cake however, stands on its own - moist, fluffy yet dense and lightly flavoured in taste complimenting the pastry cream, strawberries and chocolate ganache. Even with all the complimentary toppings and filling, this cake remains just nicely sweet. So if you have a real sweet tooth, please add more sugar to the above recipe.

This cake was so delicious that Pierre requested the same to be made for sister-in-law's birthday. Alternatively, you may also include a layer of sliced strawberries on top of the pastry cream as I originally intended to do but in my hurry to get the cake done, I forgot about until I had covered it with chocolate ganache.

Notes

If you don't have large eggs but have some egg whites sitting in your fridge, use 3 medium sized eggs and a few tablespoons of egg white for this cake and it will turn out marvellously good too.

The original recipe bakes in a 10 inch angel cake pan for about 1 hour and 10 minute. I usually roughly estimates the baking time when I bake this recipe in smaller cake pan. And whatever leftover batter I have, I made them into muffins.

For the chocolate ganache, I didn't let it stand for 30 minutes. Once it is done, I spread it all over the cake and then let it chill in the refrigerator.

Strawberry Sour Cream Cake
13 comments on this post.

Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)

For our June challenge, the 4 Velveteers (Aparna, Alessio, Asha & I) picked Mint and a seasonal fruit or vegetable (we settled on that because all 4 of us reside in different parts of the world so seasonal fruits/vegetables differs from continent to continent). For me, mint doesn't pose a lot of problem now as I have learnt to use it in some dishes ever since I live in France. Now if I was still living in Singapore, that would be a different story for mint is not very much used (or none at all) in Chinese cooking or dessert. At the start of this month challenge, I had in mind different ideas about what to do with mint and fruits or vegetable but in the end, somehow I got swayed to making Ichigo daifuku, a Japanese dessert. Ichigo what? I hear you. Don't worry, full explanation below. Don't ask me how that came about for I still have no idea. It just popped up in my head one day and refused to go away until I made this dessert. Ok, now let me introduce this infamous Japanese dessert, mochi.

Mochi is a Japanese dessert made of glutinous rice pounded into paste and molded into shape. Traditionally, it is made and eaten during Japanese New Year but these days it can be eaten all year-round. This dessert is very popular in Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Hongkong, Thailand etc. There are many different types of mochi sold, for example:

  • Daifukumochi or Daifuku (means "great luck"), is a small round mochi stuffed with sweet filling, like anko (sweet red bean paste). It exists in many varieties but the most common is white, pale green or pale pink colored mochi. It is also covered in a fine layer of cornflour to keep them from sticking to each other.
  • Ichigo daifuku is a variation of daifuku containing strawberry and sweet filling (usually sweet red bean paste). In my case, I gave it a little twist by adding green tea (matcha) and mint flavour to the mochi envelopping it with a strawberry dipped in chocolate (Nutella more precisely). Below is an adapted recipe from Little Corner of Mine who adapted the recipe from LeeLee.
Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (160 g) glutinous rice flour
  • 1/2 tsp green tea powder (for baking)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 180 ml hot water
  • a few mint leaves
  • a packet of strawberries
  • glorious, precious Nutella
  • Cornstarch for dusting (microwave cornstarch for 2 mins, let it cool completely before using - optional)
Directions
  1. Soak the mint leaves in the hot water for 5 - 10 minutes. Take out the leaves and let the water cool to room temperature.
  2. Combine flour, green tea powder and sugar together in a big bowl. Then add in the water and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Cover with a microwavable film wrap and microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds. Remove and stir well. Return to microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir-well and check if it is cooked (done). If not, put it back for another 30 seconds, be careful not to burn it.
  4. Flour a big plate with some cornstarch. Dip your spoon with a bit of cornflour, then scoop a ball of mochi and drop it on the plate. Cover it with some cornflour.
  5. Flatten it with your palms and spread it out into a big circle. If it sticks to your hands, flour your hands with a little cornflour.
  6. Put a drop of nutella in the middle of the mochi, top it with a small strawberry. Wrap the filling inside like a dumpling and shape into a ball. Continue to do the same with the rest of the mochi.
  7. Now it is ready to serve with tea or fresh beverages.
Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)
The Verdict

This is a surprising dessert for most westerners as the mochi is soft and chewy, a far cry from cakes found around Europe and North America. The combination of strawberry and Nutella is actually pretty nice with a minty green tea taste. I also made some with just Nutella filling. Little One loves both version. This mochi is so soft and melt in your mouth that it's quite addictive - I kept eating them while making my Ichigo daifuku.

Notes

The original recipe said to microwave the mixture for 2 minutes at 800 watts but mine was cooked by 2 minutes. It could be that my microwave oven is higher than 800 watts (I thought). So I would suggest to try it at 1 minute 30 seconds first and proceed another 30 seconds until it is cooked.

I don't know if it is true or not but it is said that the green tea for baking is more fragrant and green in colour than the drinking matcha type. I didn't have any of the baking type in my pantry and I just used the normal matcha I have on hand. And I didn't use spoon, just pinch a bit off and roll it into a ball. It's a bit sticky so make sure your coat your fingers/hands with some cornflour.

As for the filling, you can put any filling you wish - it can be ice cream, ground peanuts, jams, fruits, palm sugar, sweet shredded coconut etc. If you want just plain mochi flavour, just omit mint and matcha (green tea).

Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)

The 4 Velveteers

The 4 Velveteers (as we called ourselves) host a monthly event that explores food/cuisine and share our recipes, experiences and verdicts on our blogs. Every month will be a surprise - we never know what we'll make next. So if you're interested in joining the Velveteers, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment and we will get back to you.

Do check out what the other Velveteers have come up with:

* Aparna created Apple Tomato & Grilled Paneer Salad
* Asha created Potato Frittata with Garlic Scape and Mint
* Alessio created Flat Chinese peach salad with cherries, mint and a sesame butterscotch sauce

17 comments on this post.

Strawberry Tart (with crème patissière)

Last Sunday, all mothers and mothers-to-be celebrated Mother's Day in France. This year, Little One's class, together with their teacher, made a lovely heart-shaped card with a poem and a hanging mirror with crystals all around it. What a lovely surprise gifts! Little One had been so excited about it and couldn't wait for Mother's Day to give it to me. The poem says 'There are millions of bees in hives, there are millions of birds in trees but there's only only 1 mommy.' Although it's not written by her, still I can't help being all weepy about it. Yes, us women and our hormones...

To celebrate this special day, we decided to make a lovely strawberry tart with crème patissière as strawberries season has just began. They are still kind of expensive but heck, why not indulge ourselves?

This is a very simple yet tantalisingly delicious tart to put together. Definitely an all time family favourite.

Strawberry Tart (with crème patissière)
Ingredients

Pâte Sablée (Sweet Shortcrust Pastry)

  • 250 g Plain Flour
  • 125 g Chilled Butter (cut into cubes)
  • 80 g Sugar
  • 1 egg
  • A little water (ice cold)
Directions

Pie Crust

  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour and sugar together and put in the diced up butter.
  2. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until it is crumbly (like sand). To make sure that all butter are rubbed in and there is no big lumps left, scoop some mixture into your hands and rub it in a rubbing motion.
  3. Make a small well in the middle, crack in the egg and just a little bit of ice cold water. Mix the dough mixture with your hands until it forms a ball of dough. It will be a little bit sticky but the dough should hold together and comes off the bowl easily. Do not work the dough too much.
  4. Wrap the ball of dough with a plastic wrapper and refrigerated it for 1 hour.
  5. After 1 hour: Roll out a clean piece of cloth on the table; sprinkle generously some flour on it.
  6. Flatten the dough slightly with your hands and dust the dough lightly with flour before rolling the dough out with a rolling pin. Start rolling at the centre of the dough and work outwards. Roll the dough into a circle and larger than the size of your pie dish.
  7. Put your pie dish face down to the centre of dough. Put your hand underneath the cloth (centre of the dough) and gently flip the dough over.
  8. Without stretching the dough, press the pastry firmly into the pan and trim any excess dough from the edge.
  9. Prick all over the pastry bottom with a fork and put a smaller pie dish on top of it and bake it at 200°C (400°F - gas mark 6) for about 20 minutes or until it is golden brown. However if you don't have a smaller pie dish, cover the top with either baking paper weigh the pastry down with either beans or uncooked rice.
  10. Remove pie crust from the oven and allow it to cool totally.

Making Crème Patissière

  1. While pie crust dough is resting in the fridge or baking, make your crème patissière (French Pastry Cream) and set it aside to cool.
  2. Keep your crème patissière chill in the fridge until it is ready to use.

Assembling Strawberry Tart

  1. Rinse your strawberries and pat dry them with a towel.
  2. Cut them into half and remove the stem. Set them aside.
  3. Place the pie crust on a big plate, spread a layer of crème patissière on it (even it out smoothly).
  4. Carefully place the half strawberries on top of it starting from the outer circle working your way to the centre of the tart.
  5. Serve it immediately or keep it chill in the refrigerator until it is ready to be served.
Strawberry Tart (with crème patissière)
The Verdict

This is one of Pierre's favorite dessert: it is sweet and provided you put it in the fridge before serving, very refreshing as the water and crème stay cool. All those components (crust, crème patissière and of course strawberries) actually can be eaten on their own, but together they also form an amazing combination!

Strawberry Tart (with crème patissière)
Notes

If you have a food processor, to save time, process the dough ingredient with it. And if you can't bake your dough on the same day, wrap the raw dough pasty in a cling film and put it in the refrigerator - it can stay there for 2 or 3 days. It can also be kept frozen for up to 3 months. When required, simply defrost it slowly in the refrigerator.

Strawberries are very perishable, so only purchase them a few days prior to use. Choose those that are firm and have shiny deep red colour with attached green caps. When buying prepackaged strawberries, make sure they are not packed tightly and the container looks clean (no sign of stain or moisture). Before storing it in the refrigerator, check for any strawberries that are mouldy or damaged. Remove them from the the good ones or they will not contaminate others. Store them unwash in its container in the fridge.

Strawberry Tart (with crème patissière)
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Chocolate-Pear Cupcakes

What do you know - it's the time of the month again - the Velveteers' Challenge (Aparna, Alessio, Asha & I). This month we decided to go nutty fruity to lift up our spirit to welcome summer after a long spell of rain and gloomy weather in Europe. At the beginning, I had in mind to make something with cheese, nuts & fruits but I got seduced by Aparna & Shellyfish chatting about their moist, oh so heavenly tasting cupcakes. So curious was I to know if their cupcakes are that good that I started dreaming of it. Soon, my imagination took a different angle - imagining all sort of ways to improvise over the Velveteers' project. Et voilà ! An adapted recipe was born.

I made these cupcakes earlier but didn't have time to post it as I was in the rush to put the house in order, before I left with Little One for a long weekend trip to visit friends and attend a little boy's (Noah) birthday party in Nantes. This time, I was able to meet Jamie of Life's a feast for lunch, had our dessert at her place, met her shy Man & handsome (very French) son, Clément, and of course her adorable but very shy Marty (ooh, I so love Marty). After dessert, we went for a "walk" (I mean shopping spree). I had in mind to shop for a few things for Little One's birthday party but in the end, I bought some tops and a dress for her instead. Jamie got herself a great bargain - a Curnonsky's cookbook for 10 €!! I'm so dying of jealousy! Little One & I had a wonderful time in Nantes and wish that we could stay longer than just over a long weekend. I would also like to thank my wonderful mother-in-law Michèle & sister-in-law Irène for driving us to Nantes and back to Clermont-Ferrand and for taking care of Little One the whole Saturday so that I could spent the day alone with my girlfriends.

Chocolate-Pear Velvet Cupcakes

(Adapted from Aparna's Cinnamon Cupcakes)

Makes: 8 - 10 cupcakes

Ingredients
  • 1½ cups cake flour (sifted and then measured)
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • 2 - 3 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 100 gm butter (softened)
  • 3/4 cup demerara (or light brown) sugar, packed
  • 1 egg (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups milk (room temperature)
  • 1 pear (peeled & cut into 4 or 8 parts)
  • walnuts (roughly broken up)

Caramel Sauce

  • sugar
  • water
  • about 2 tbsp salted butter
  • about 2 tbsp cream or crème fraîche
Directions
  1. Sift together the flour, cacao powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.
  4. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with milk. Starting and ending with flour. Beat just enough to combine the ingredients and do not overmix. After all the ingredients are in, beat it for just one minute.
  5. Divide the batter equally between 8 to 10 paper lined cupcake tins (depending on the size of your tins) so that each one is 2/3rds full.
  6. Lightly insert a slice of pear in the middle of the cupcake.
  7. Bake the cupcakes at 180°C (350°F - gas mark 4) for 20 to 25 minutes till done or a skewer inserted in them comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and then turn out and cool completely.
  8. Spoon some caramel sauce on top of the cupcakes. Sprinkle some walnuts on top of the caramel sauce. Then drip some caramel sauce all over the walnuts.
Chocolate Pear CupcakesChocolate Pear Cupcakes

Making the caramel sauce

  1. While your cupcakes cool, you can start preparing your caramel sauce.
  2. Put some sugar and enough water to wet the sugar in a small pot and heat it up on medium heat.
  3. Sugar will dissolves and when it turned into bubbling brown and golden, turn off the heat.
  4. Quickly stir in the salted butter until combined.
  5. Put the pot back on stove under very low heat and stir in the cream.
  6. Continue stirring until you get a thick consistency like crème patissière.
  7. Voilà, your caramel sauce is ready for your cupcakes.
Chocolate Pear Cupcakes
The Verdict

The cupcake is very soft & moist like a sponge cake with a light touch of chocolate flavour. The pear compliments the chocolate cake very well. Everyone loves the cupcakes and the caramel sauce with walnuts topping. I'll make it more chocolaty next time.

Chocolate Pear CupcakesChocolate Pear Cupcakes

The 4 Velveteers

The 4 Velveteers (as we called ourselves) are hosting a monthly event that explores food & cuisine and share our recipes, experiences and verdicts on our blogs. Every month will be a surprise - we never know what we'll make next. So if you're interested in joining the Velveteers, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment and we will get back to you.

Do check out what the other Velveteers have come up with:

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Tiramisu (made from scratch)

For February, Daring Bakers' host Deeba of Passionate About Baking & Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen chose Tiramisu as the challenge of the month based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obession.

Et bien sûr, nothing is ever simple with Daring Bakers' (hence the name sake), this time around, we aren't taking the easy road like I did with my first Tiramisu in 2007 where everything was store bought and put together. The challenge is to make our own mascarpone cheese and our sponge fingers/ladyfinger biscuits, pastry cream and zabaglione (a cooked one) and piece it all together to make this pick me up dessert.

So what is this famous Tiramisu? As mentioned in my older post, it means "pick-me-up" (metaphorically, "make me happy") made of mascarpone cheese, sponge fingers or savoiardi & zabaglione.

When I first read what is needed to be done for this challenge, I nearly fainted on the spot. I assure you would too when you read the following list. But fear not, it's not as complicated and difficult as it looks. Once I got started, I got into the swing of things very fast and all jazzed up... all too soon, the fun ended and I felt a bit bereaved that it ended so fast.

Making pastry cream was a breeze since I have made it before for a Blueberry Tart last year. However I was unsure how a zabaglione should look like after it is done so I just relied on my ninja chef instinct.

For this challenge, I have split things into 3 posts for easy reference :

  1. Home-made Mascarpone Cheese (make this 1 day in advance)
  2. Home-made Spong Fingers, also known as Ladyfingers biscuits & savoiardi (can be made on the day itself or a few days in advance)
  3. Assembling Tiramisu (below)

As we are making all of it from scratch, it's easier and less stressful if you make the sponge fingers first and mascarpone cheese, zabaglione & pastry cream another day or vise versa. Then assemble the tiramisu the following day. The mascarpone cheese needs to be refrigerated overnight while the zabaglione & pastry cream need to be refrigerated for at least 4 hours. Are you still with me after reading the long list of things to be done? OK, whenever you are ready, I'm ready. Let's go!

Tiramisu (made from scratch)

(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007)

Serves: 6

Ingredients

For the zabaglione

  • 2 large egg yolks (I used 3 medium egg yolks)
  • 50 g sugar
  • 60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp grated lemon zest (finely)

For the vanilla pastry cream

  • 55 g sugar
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • ½ grated lemon zest (finely)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk (I used 1 medium egg)
  • 175 ml whole milk (I used partially skim milk)

For the whipped cream

  • 235ml chilled heavy cream (I used UHT 35% crème liquide)
  • 55gms sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu

  • 1 big cup brewed espresso, warmed
  • 1 tsp rum extract or (optional)
  • 110gms sugar (I left it out)
  • 75 g mascarpone cheese
  • 36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Directions

For the zabaglione

  1. Heat water in a double boiler or a bain-marie.
  2. In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or the bain-marie. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
  4. Let it cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.
zabaglione

For the pastry cream

  1. Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  2. Add in the egg yolk and pour in half of the milk slowly while whisking it. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
  4. Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don't worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
  5. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.
Pastry cream

For the whipped cream

  1. Place the bowl (in which cream is to be whipped) and the beaters of the hand held electric mixer in the fridge for about ½ to 1 hour before hand helps to whip up the cream whip very well.
  2. Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl.
  3. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu

  1. Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
  2. Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar (I left out this in mine) in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold.
  4. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined.
  5. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.
  6. Dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy.
  7. Line the ladyfinger on the dish, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered. (I sprinkle cocoa powder on top of every layer of spong fingers)
  8. Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
  9. Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer.
  10. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
  11. To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please on the surface of the tiramisu. Cut into individual portions and serve.
  12. The Tiramisu can be kept refrigerated for 2-3 days. Once assembled, it can be frozen till you need to serve it, in case you are not serving it immediately.
Tiramisu (made from scratch)Tiramisu (made from scratch)
The Verdict

It's great! Very creamy and sinful but surprisingly it didn't taste as sweet as I expected it to be. There's not an incredible difference with the one made with your off-the-shelf ingredients, but this one is a bit more subtle and flavourful.

The next time I make Tiramisu, I wouldn't hesitate to make my own sponge fingers (ladyfingers) and mascarpone at home, but assemble it using the simpler version ie. make it with raw egg yolks and whipped egg whites. However if you or one of your guests is pregnant or has aversion about eating raw eggs, I would recommend making tiramisu using above methods with zabaglione and whipped cream.

Update: We defrozed one of the tiramisu totally the other day and found that it indeed tasted a little bit sweeter than usual. I have also just realized that I added all the mascarpone (180 g) I made in my tiramisu instead of the 75 g as required in the recipe. So if you are making this version, please reduce the quantity of sugar indicated in zabaglione and pastry cream or else your tiramisu will turn out to be very sweet.

Notes

Placing the bowl (in which cream is to be whipped) and the beaters of the hand held electric mixer in the fridge for about ½ to 1 hour before hand helps to whip up the cream whip very well.

As there were already sugar in pastry cream and zabaglione, I omitted sugar in the coffee as I didn't want the tiramisu to be too sweet.

You can assemble the tiramisu in wine glass, cups or verrines as you wish. Leave it to creativity and imagination. Obviously a transparent container will show it's layered structure better;-)

Tiramisu (made from scratch)
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Red Velvet Cake (with beetroot juice)

Red Velvet Cake (RVC) is a mysterious cake to me. Why? Because lots of people crave and rave about it, not to mention even bake it and eat it. But not me.... why not? I don't really know but that bright blood red looking slice of layered cake simply doesn't turn me on. Quite the opposite: my immediate thought was that there must be a horendous amount of food colouring in it. So how come I'm making one today? Well, it all started one day while twittering: Davina, who loves RVC, upon hearing that Aparna & I have never made one before, urged us to try it. That got Aparna & I talking about it, how did RVC got it's red colour, it's origin etc. Little did we know that our curiosity would turn into adventure with Alessio & Asha on board (aptly named the " 4 Velveteers"), each of us trying to make au naturel RVC.

So what is Red Velvet Cake? It's apparently supposed to be a rich, moist layered chocolate cake with a dark red, bright red or red-brown colour with either cheese or buttercream frosting - very popular in Southern U.S. The red colour in question comes from either uses of food colouring to get the artificial bright red colour or chemistry reaction between ingredients to get the natural crimson colour - the acidic vinegar and buttermilk brings out the red anthocyanin in the cocoa. From what I understand, with the use of more alkaline « Dutch Processed' » cocoa, the red colour is more prominent. It is said that the natural tinting might have prompted the name 'Red Velvet' or 'Devil's Food' and other similar names for chocolate cakes.

My quest to make an au naturel RVC took me through a sea of recipes on the net - all demanding a lot, I mean really a HUGE, amount of food colouring like 6 tbsp to 4 bottles of food colouring. All the recipes are quite similar from one to another so I decided to ask Davina for her favourite recipe. And this is what I used and adapted from there.

Red Velvet Cake
Ingredients
  • 207 g cake flour (not self-rising flour)
  • 113 g butter (melted)
  • 250 g sugar
  • 4 eggs (separate egg yolks and whites)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 9 tbsp beetroot juice
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 180 ml buttermilk

Cream Cheese-Mascarpone Frosting

  • 180 ml heavy whipping cream or crème fraîche
  • 114 g cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 114 g mascarpone cheese (room temperature)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • a few tablespoon beetroot juice
  • 55 g icing/powdered sugar
Directions
  1. Preheat oven at 175°C (350°F - gas mark 4 ).
  2. Lightly greased 2x 22 cm cake pan, lined the bottom with baking paper.
  3. In a small bowl, mix well the cake flour together with the cocoa powder. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks together with sugar, vanilla extract and buttermilk until it is light and double the volume.
  5. Slowly beat in the cooled melted butter and beetroot juice.
  6. Fold in the flour mixture into the batter until combined.
  7. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a dash of salt until the peaks are stiff.
  8. Gently fold it into the batter until all is combined.
  9. Divide the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  10. Let the cake cool on the wire rack for 10 minutes before inverting it.
  11. Once the cake is cooled completely, spread a layer of cream cheese-mascarpone frosting on top of the 1st cake. Gently placed the 2nd cake on top of the 1st cake, spread a layer of frosting on tope and the sides.

Cream Cheese-Mascarpone Frosting

  1. Process your cream cheese and mascarpone cheese either in a food processor or handheld mixer until smooth.
  2. Add beetroot juice, vanilla and icing sugar until smooth.
  3. Add in the whipped cream, whisk until stiff peaks form. Your frosting is ready to be used.
Red Velvet Cake
The Verdict

The cake came out surprisingly well. There is indeed a hint of red colour - not the chemical red kind. It's more of a earthly red tone - I kinda like it. Maybe it would be dark red if I had added beetroot puree instead of juice only.

The cake has a kinda spongy like texture which is quite nice, however it is lacking in the taste department. There was only an extremely light hint of chocolate taste in the cake but Pierre would beg to differ on that, finding it really bland. LOL! The frosting is OK but we aren't a big fan of rich creamy frosting like this either.

Do I want to make another attempt to experiment with it to get a better taste and colour? No, I don't believe it is even worth it. When I asked Pierre that question, his immediate reaction was: 'Oh, no. Please get over it and move on.' LOL! That sums up how much we love this cake. So we still don't understand why all the Red Velvet Cake lovers out there are willing to hand out their money for an artificially heightened Red Chocolate Cake. If it is chocolate cake you want, might as well get a real rich chocolately cake sans 4 bottles of food colouring in it, no?

Notes

To make your own cake flour: for every cup of plain flour, replace 2 tbsp of it with cornflour or cornstarch. Sieve it together at least 5 times or more to make sure it is well incorporated together.

To make beetroot juice: Cut your beetroot (cooked) into small pieces, process it in food process until it is a puree. Put the beetroot puree in a muslin cloth, twist it and press out the juice.

Red Velvet Cake

Now that you have seen mine RVC, let's check out the other 3 Red Velveteers: Aparna (her eggless RVC using beetroot puree), Alessio (using his genius brain to create his raspberry RVC) and Asha (tried her hands at chemistry) and see how their experiment turned out.

Psss... this is just the beginning of the adventures of us 4 Velveteers. Remember to keep a look out... you'll never know what we are up to next!;-)

19 comments on this post.

Nanaimo Bars

The 2nd part of Daring Bakers' January challenge hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen is making Nanaimo Bars.

The Nanaimo bar is a Canadian dessert made up of a base containing graham crackers, cocoa, coconut and nuts, a middle custard layer, and a topping of chocolate. This no bake dessert is named after the West-Coast city of Nanaimo, British Columbia and is popular across North America.

Nanaimo Bars
Ingredients

Bottom Layer

  • 115 g (¼ cup) unsalted Butter
  • 50 g (¼ cup) granulated Sugar
  • 5 tbsp unsweetened Cocoa powder
  • 1 large egg (beaten)
  • 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) graham crackers crumbs (home-made or store bought)
  • 55 g (½ cup) Almonds (finely chopped)
  • 130 g (1 cup) Coconut (Shredded)

Middle Layer

  • 115 g (½ cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp & 2 tsp (40 mL) heavy cream or crème frâiche
  • 2 tbsp vanilla custard powder (or vanilla pudding mix may be substituted)
  • ½ cups (127 g)Icing Sugar

Top Layer

  • 115 g Semi-sweet chocolate
  • 28 g (2 tbsp) Unsalted Butter
Nanaimo Bars
Directions
    For bottom Layer
    1. Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler.
    2. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken.
    3. Remove from heat. Stir in graham cracker crumbs, nuts and coconut.
    4. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.

    Middle Layer

    1. Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well.
    2. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.

    For Top Layer

    1. Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat.
    2. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.
    Nanaimo BarsNanaimo Bars
    The Verdict

    They are sinfully rich in taste and flavour. We like it but aren't so hot about it, as it is simply too rich and creamy for our taste. Pierre ate 2 slices and he doesn't want to touch it again. Poppet loves the rich creamy taste of it and would gladly eat more if I let her. As for me, I tried to eat more of it as I didn't want to see it go to waste but it is just too rich for my digestion. I'm glad that I have the hindesight to make only half of the above quantity stated. The rest of the bars are in the freezer.

    As it is extremely rich, it is probably best to make these bars in very small bite size.

    Notes

    These bars freeze very well, so don't be afraid to pop some into the freezer.

Nanaimo Bars
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