Scrumtescent Gingerbread Stout Cake with Pumpkin Pie Chantille

I’m about to threaten to sanctitude of the January fasting trend.  When most post exclusively about oat bran, cottage cheese, steamed vegetables and fatless delights, I’m gonna go all merry on you and post a few pics of our humble home dinner and on top of that a cake.  Well….

This isn’t strictly an indulgence.  In fact, hidden in our sumptuous feast were a few healthy gems that warrant a shared recipe, c/o of my illustrious and culinarily talented roommates (namely, a food-hangover-curing cucumber salad that washed away the pain in the morning).  And so I’ll get to that next post, but before all that, I think what strikes me as most funny about our Christmas dinner (or rather, Skidsmess dinner) is that despite our newschool personalities and post-traditional decisions in life, our food on the other hand put our parents to shame in the category of classic holiday flavorgasmicing. And maybe that was our rebellion.  And foodie fist pump in the air, ’cause my parents haven’t gone through the effort to roast things since us kids became fully grown, and some of the “kids” at the table couldn’t go home for dinner at all.  So we cooked.  And cooked.  And cooked.

There were duck fat roast potatoes, two kinds of chili (hemp & sweet potato / chipotle and beef) with sour cream and coriander.  There was stuffing, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, a non-gravy made with kasserli cheese, edam cheese, apricot jam and cognac.  There was an expertly roasted and very juicy grain-fed chicken cooked with butter, thyme, and a whole boiled lemon pierced with zest-vents inside (bread stuffing added after roasting for artistic effect and more sanitary cooking ;).  There were piles of warm naan bread, a pomegranate-studded fennel and sprout salad, and a huge jar of sharp pickled cucumbers, and I’m probably forgetting something, too.

Oh yeah!  I made tourtiere!  Fortunate enough to get a surplus of ground beef recently, I added some fresh pork loin cut into nubbly squares to that, along with some heavy medieval spices, softened vegetables, red wine and fresh thyme, and packed it into an old-school superflaky lard-based crust that tasted ever so slightly of graham crackers, owing to a touch of brown sugar and a touch of spelt flour.  With loads of ketchup on top, it was comfort food perfection.

I seriously had not tasted old-school holiday dinner joy like this in years, made all the better for knowing that we scraped this together as a team, and with generousity in our hearts.  If one could not cook, one brought wine.  Or made Bloody Marys.  Or whatever, brought their smiling face.  And the wine, of course, flowed, as it always does around here when it’s cold, and despite packing our bellies to bursting, I couldn’t help but suggest just one more edible, and presented the meal finale with a flourish of table-side frosting application: a deeply spiced and impossibly moist gingerbread stout cake flooffed with fresh dollops of pumpkin-pie chantille and scattered with crushed ginger cookie crumbs.  The kind of angelic yet sinful cake that comes cut in huge artful slabs and somehow disappears in a few short, gigantic, happy bites.

Guinness Stout Gingerbread Cake

Nigella Lawson’s recipe and absolutely fab – the batter is liquid, it seems crazy, but that liquidiness makes it so MOIST it practically melts away as you eat it.  I used an Aphrodisiac stout from local microbrewery Au Dieu du Ciel, which has flavours of cocoa, vanilla, bourbon, and roasted malt.

  • 1 1/4 sticks 10 (tablespoons) butter, plus some for greasing
  • 1 cup golden syrup (such as Lyle’s)
  • 1 cup (packed) plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup stout beer (such as Guinness)
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups sour cream
  • 2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 13×9-inch cake pan with aluminium foil and grease it, or grease a 13×9-inch foil tray.

Put the butter, syrup, dark brown sugar, stout, ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves into a pan and melt gently over a low heat.

Take off the heat and whisk in the flour and baking soda. You will need to be patient and whisk thoroughly to get rid of any lumps.

Whisk the sour cream and eggs together in a measuring jug and then beat into the gingerbread mixture, whisking again to get a smooth batter.

Pour this into your cake/foil pan, and bake for about 45 minutes; when it’s ready it will be gleamingly risen at the centre, and coming away from the pan at the sides.

Let the gingerbread cool before cutting into slices or squares.

Pumpkin Pie Chantille

I concocted this magic fluff by way of using up a leftover 1/2 batch of pumpkin pie truffle filling.  The ganache is dense, but the cookies and cream cheese give it a melting softness, and once folded into freshly whipped cream, it attains a barely sweet height that tastes like the essence of pumpkin pie + whipped cream without all that distraction of having to eat two things.  It’s fabulous.

Truffle base heavily adapted from a Whole Foods recipe.

  • 200 grams white chocolate
  • 1/2 cup gingersnap or graham cookie crumbs
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin purée
  • 2 tsp confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of fine salt
  • 1 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 500 mls of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup crushed ginger cookie crumbs, for topping

Method

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium-low heat or in the microwave for about 1 minute. Stir often to keep the chocolate from burning. Transfer to a large bowl. Add gingersnap crumbs, pumpkin, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, zest, cinnamon, salt and cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer or wooden spoon until smooth. Transfer to a shallow bowl, cover and let rest on the counter until cool.  (You can store in in the fridge at this point, but let it come to room temperature before adding to the cream.  It shouldn’t set up very hard at all.)

Whip the cream to stiff peaks, add a splash of vanilla if you like, and fold the pumpkin ganache into it gently but bravely until just a few streaks of orange remain.  Store in fridge until ready to adorn the cake.  It’s best enjoyed the same day it’s made, or if there must be leftovers, wrapped carefully and refridgerated for one more day shouldn’t hurt.

Scatter the cake with cookie crumbs when ready to serve, and serve generously!

And don’t worry, it’s never too late for a good ginger cake, January or not.  Personally, I would still enjoy this in the spring, with a lemon curd perhaps, or some fresh flowers scattered on top instead of the cookies.  Ginger, as I’m wont to declare, never goes out of style.  Not to me, anyway.

Only one more holiday themed post, I swear!

Gingerbread Cake on Citeeze

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Love, Martinis & Marshmallows: “Cookies Unite” at Le Nouveau Palais

Blurry pictures swathed in darkness notwithstanding, Cloudy and I were all akimbo with the mystery menu offered last November at the monthly Cookies Unite event.  On the first monday of every month, the refurbished and newly hipsta-fied Nouveau Palais hosts one or two talented line cooks from the best restaurants in the city and offers them a professional kitchen, creative carte blanche, and a house that’s full of the rafters for one night and one night only.  “Serious” foodies (hehe) sit elbow to elbow your neighbour, her grand-mom, the kid, and a healthy dose of thickly spectactled mile-end twenty-sumthinsumthin, that night waiting for the imagination of Brian Verstraten of Bar & Boeuf and Cynthia Sitaras of Le Club Chasse et Pêche… and did we mention that the two of them are dating?  Hence the name of this event – “One Love.”  [insert “awwwwwwwww”]

A rare martini for yours truly was ordered before the eating started, perhaps in celebration of the event’s recent dropping of it’s BYOB status. Not a bad one either, and the pin-drop clarity of it set a good stage for the first bit of solid food – a trio of amuse bouches in flavours I may not be able to recount to you exactly owing to the vegetarian nature of the set menu that we received at the table (they gave us the veggie version on paper, and the carnal version in life).

So I had to go by what our server was telling us, and it was loud, and I wasn’t taking good notes, but here’s what I remember:  No. 1 was an arancini (battered fried risotto ball) made with mushrooms of some kind and cheese of some kind.  Oh, aren’t I just the most specific?  (NOTE TO SELF: NEVER WAIT 2 MONTHS TO WRITE THESE THINGSd’oh).   It was one of the better that I’ve had, actually – still hot from the kitchen, thin crisp shell and warm earthy flavour, herbs evident.  No. 2 was a pâté that suffered from a bit of dryness and that cat-food thing that pâté can sometimes do, but I’m not the world’s biggest fan of spreadable meat so… you know, to each their own.  No. 3 involved salmon and caviar of some kind and tasted … rather like salmon.  It was also good, and what I DO remember is the texture playing all dramatic with alternating creamy, flaky, buttery-crisp and the welcome oceanic pop of fish roe.  ANYway….

The most luscious savoury was yet to come.  Who cares that we had pizza in our belly already at this point? (pre-dinner snacking is what cool kids do, right?)  When someone sets an aroma-bomb of smoky-sweet pork belly in front of you, all covered with buttery brussels sprouts, sitting in liquid polenta and a madness good jus, well…. I make room in my stomach for these things.  This was late fall in a nutshell – nomzers, and walking in leaves, and swiping flaky bites from your neighbour’s plate, all at once – and my hat’s off to Brian for the gift of it.  (One of those rare times I was specifically grateful not to be vegan anymore.  ^_^;;;;;;;;;  ).

Dinner is good, but I’m a sugar girl, and the desserts landed with a vengeance.  I was floored, really, at Cynthia’s tangy adventurous playground that centered on a lightly salted and eminently spoonable milk chocolate tart slice.  Surrounding it were elements that lifted milk chocolate’s usual cloy to more bright places – very peachy gelato, fruit gelee (apricot, I think), salty crispy peanut crumb, and slices of ripe pear.  A dollop of soft lemon vanilla marshmallow fluff reminded one just enough of grade-school Fluffernutter sandwiches and made the overall reference to PB & J sandwiches just a bit less subtle.  In a good way.

We were fortunate that night to get the full (mini) monty and a spread of mignardises came shortly after to appease the rampaging sweet tooth that the previous dish had ignited.  Full as I was, I could have had more, and at least this trio I remember vividly:

1. a lemon vanilla marshmallow, solid this time.  Almost heady with both scents and melted away into a lightly acidic-sweet soft cream, just a bit of bubble.

2. Apricot and almond financier: still warm, rich and crisp at the edges and chewy all the way through.  Fruity and not too sweet, and felt almost like eating a big soft almond.

3. Chocolate covered caramel, topped with a shattered brittle-type candy, and bitterly awesome through and through.

Pastry like that fires my engine to be better, knowing that I’m not able to make things that perfectly, yet.  I’ve already scheduled a stage at Le Club Chasse et Pêche, with all likelihood resulting in at least some improved skills and dexterity at fun menial tasks like piping cookies and straining cream.  Hey, I go for what I like, and here’s to a new year of obsessive desserting.  Also – sorry about the long absence over Christmas, everyone!  I will be posting lots more now (lots of pictures backed up!) … and I really hope this new year is full of relentless optimism, high quality chocolate, playful kisses, and many more steps closer to whatever it is that you want most.  ^_^

And I guess that’s what Cookie’s Unite is really all about, you know?  Dreams, I mean.  It gives those who aren’t at the echelon of their career yet a chance to shine and be an artist for just one night, and I’m a huge fan of the concept.  It’s also affordable – 30$ a head – and the next one is scheduled for February 6th, featuring Vanessa Laberge from Olive & Gourmando and appears to be another tasteparty!  Soup au boudin noir?  Yes, please!

Cookies Unite: Website / Facebook event page