White Russian Panna Cotta

This is a gelatinized version of my favorite drink. I drink it black when I’m on a diet and with cream when I don’t count calories (I don’t sip it everyday, don’t you think that :). I adjusted the proportion, since it didn’t quite appeal to me to eat mainly vodka-tasted gelée with a spoon. To make the dessert alcohol-free, simply substitute Kahlua/vodka mixture for lightly sweetened espresso (not quite the same effect though). To make it suitable for pregnant women and children, go with decaffeinated coffee. DO NOT offer the original version to kids; it’s seriously boozy. And for serving, I would suggest chocolate cigar-shaped tuiles, dipped into coffee-infused ganache, perhaps.

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Vanilla Cheesecake Mint White Chocolate Mousse and Strawberry Gelée Bites

This month’s Daring Bakers challenge, hosted by Jenny from JennyBakes, was Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake. My sincere thank you to Jenny not just for hosting, but also for not limiting us with rules and restrictions, for providing with an opportunity to create a dessert suiting everyone’s taste. We were free to choose any flavor combination as well as presentation options.

I didn’t change the original cheesecake recipe, except for omitting a graham crust (I’m not very fond of it, to be honest) and adding a tablespoon of flour to the batter (an old habit, couldn’t help myself). I scaled the recipe down, but baked the cheesecake in a required 9-inch pan, so the cake was not too tall and could be easily cut into small rounds. These cheesecake cut-outs were fit inside crispy caramelized phyllo tubes (cylinders) baked earlier. Sticky cheesecake bottoms were then dipped into coarsely ground pistachios creating some sort of a crust and preventing the dessert from adhering to a serving platter. The mint infused white chocolate mousse was piped over the cheesecake and, after the mousse was set, the strawberry gelée, cut into small cubes, was piled over the mousse layer. A little bit more of the pistachios and fresh mint leaves for garnish completed the picture.

They are easy to handle, small-portioned, one-bite (ok, maybe two-bites for some of us, always struggling with those huge sushi rolls as I am) dessert which I found satisfying enough and sufficient for serving one per person (after a good meal).

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Fig and Olive Tapenade with Pine Nut and Thyme-Coated Goat Cheese

It doesn’t involve any baking, and I don’t think it can be considered as a dessert. But the whole combo is so good I’d readily take a pass on any pastry and have more of this instead.
The goat cheese I used was a mild unripened cheese with added figs as well (quite sweet but nice). I customized it a bit by coating the cheese with finely chopped toasted pine nuts and thyme. Freshly baked (better yet – homemade) bread is a must here.

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Pissaladière

I could live on this… and some rosé. Famous French salty topping of sautéed onions, anchovies, and olives gets a little update with an addition of ripe cherry tomatoes. Their roasted sweetness balances perfectly such intensive saltiness of the gutsy fish and olives.

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Poppy Seed Raspberry Cake

Here’s an effortless, yet quite nice cake that doesn’t require any preliminary preparation. All can be done in one day. The filling and frosting in this cake is simply whipped cream with generous amount of seedless raspberry jam folded in. The original idea is from well-known Gayle’s bakery, although I have to admit I changed the recipe a bit. I couldn’t resist a temptation and added some sour cream to the whipped cream; it adds a pleasant tang and goes so well with berries. I have a tendency to overdo the sour cream. Well, I’m Russian, and it probably explains it. My kiddo recently brought a book about my motherland as well as a dozen of other books about different countries (he’s into geography now). Among very useful information such as demographic data and climate zoning there was a small chapter dedicated to Russian food. I found it very educational myself  –  for example, I learned that Russians eat everything with sour cream and bread, that they eat soup with every meal, and that porridge is their favorite food. Who writes this stuff..?

I hope you all had wonderful holidays!

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Chocolate Coconut Macaroons as Chocolate Latkes

Any recipe successfully utilizing egg whites is always a keeper. This recipe is adapted from Alice Medrich’s “Chocolate Holidays”. You can call these cookies macaroons and serve them for Passover, or name them latkes and include into your Hanukkah menu. But, in my opinion, these cookies deserve to be baked more often than just twice a year. They are good, crunchy outside, moist and almost fudgy inside.

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