Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chocolate-Juniper Cake with Milk Jam Crème Fraîche

I made this a while ago because I thought spicing chocolate cake with juniper would make quite an interesting combination.
I found the recipe on "Bon Appetit"-blog, and yes, their photos are much nicer than mine, I know.

However, as predicted it tasted very unique (lots of gin/juniper flavor going on) and/but really good.

Original recipe found here!

Aside from the fact that I learned that chocolate and juniper are indeed a good match, this recipe also taught me something else, which is:


Just cut it up, throw it in the freezer. Then pull it out, roll it in sugar, place it in a hot frying pan and sear it from each side until the sugar has caramelized. 

Et voilá: dry cake turns into moist cake with a little bit of a crunch from the caramelized sugar.
It's fantastic!

I will definitely do this from now on!

Anyway, here is the recipe:

For the cake


  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 teaspoons (heaping) juniper berries
  • 225g or 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 335 or 1 2/3 cups sugar plus more for coating
  • 75g or 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 175ml or 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 165ml or 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs

Special equipment:
A spice mill - I just used mortar and pestel and crushed the juniper berries with some sugar


Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Coat a 33x23x6cm/13x9x2" glass baking dish with nonstick spray. Line bottom with parchment paper; spray parchment and set aside. Toast juniper berries in a small skillet over medium heat until aromatic, 2–3 minutes. Let cool. Finely grind in spice mill (or mortar and pestel)

Sift flour, 1 2/3 cups sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and ground juniper berries into a large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, oil, eggs, and 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. water in a medium bowl. 

Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Pour batter into prepared baking dish; smooth top.

Bake cake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35–40 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cover and chill in freezer until frozen, about 2 hours. 

DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 weeks ahead. Wrap in 2 layers of plastic; keep frozen.

Unwrap cake and invert onto a work surface; discard parchment. Using a long serrated knife, trim cake to form clean edges. Cut cake in half lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into 3-3,5cm/1 1/4-inch–wide bars.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour a layer of sugar onto a plate. Roll each bar in sugar, coating completely. Working in batches, caramelize cake in skillet, turning with tongs to brown evenly, about 30 seconds per side per batch (be careful; the sugar burns quickly). Serve warm, with Milk Jam Crème Fraîche.

For the Milk Jam Crème Fraîche


  • 475ml or 2 cups whole milk
  • 130g or 1 cup sugar
  • 240g or 1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream


Bring milk and sugar to a boil in a medium pot over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar (take care that milk doesn’t boil over). Reduce heat to low. Simmer gently, whisking occasionally, until milk is thick, turns light reddish-brown, and measures scant 1 cup, 40–45 minutes. Transfer jam to a heatproof jar; let cool. 

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover; chill. 

Or you could also simply use sweetened condensed milk.

Whisk together 1 Tbsp. milk jam and crème fraiche in a small bowl. Add more milk jam to taste to sweeten, if desired.


As mentioned earlier, the cake turned out a little dry. Don't know if it was my fault and I baked it too long, or that's just the way this one is supposed to be...maybe in order o not fall apart when searing (?). 
But, yeah, freezing it, rolling it in sugar and searing it certainly did the trick.

This can probably be done with any other cake that's too dry, and it even gives it a little bit of a wow-factor.
I mean...fried and caramelized cake...could be worse.

On an unrelated side-note:

Wil and I spent our Sunday in the garden today and prepared it for the upcoming growing season.
Our onions, garlic and chive bed is going to be quite impressive, and the rhubarb is on it's way, as well.

And we found our first violet. Looks a little rough...but hey.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rose Petal Chicken with Green Pistachio Arugula Couscous

Four weeks ago I started my new job at iStock, and I've been busy ever since. So far I like it a lot, given that I have been learning more than in the last five years (it feels like that anyway), and my coworkers are wonderful.
It's been a while since I had a full time job and two other jobs at the same time.
Actually I don't think I ever had that many jobs at the same time.
Aside from working at iStock I also work for the Cookbook Company once or twice a week and on a more irregular bases I contribute photos to the Calgary food and beverage magazine Culinaire.
My photo even made it onto the cover last month. Wohoo!

Both of my 'on-the-side' jobs help me get a great inside on the Calgary food scene (yes, Calgary has one too) and inspire and encourage me to be more willing to experiment in the kitchen.

The recipe I am posting today was prepared by one of the cooking school chefs at the Cookbook Company. As soon as I tried it I knew I had to try this myself at home.

It is soooooo good! And somewhat different.
A light middle eastern dish with lots of herbs and a subtle rose petal aroma that perfectly harmonises with all these beautiful spices.

Here is what you need for the green pistachio arugula couscous

1 cup couscous
3/4 cup boiling water
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp butter / goose, duck, pork fat ... or both

Herb paste

1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp chopped Tarragon
2 Tbsp chopped dill
2 Tbsp chopped mint
6 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup pistachios, lightly toasted and chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 fresh green chile finely sliced
1 cup arugula

Place the couscous in a large bowl and cover with the boiling water.
Cover and leave for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile fry the onion in olive oil and melted butter over medium heat until golden and soft.
Add the salt cumin, and mix well.

To make the herb paste, place all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth.

To assemble the salad, add the herb paste to the couscous, mix it in and then add the remaining ingredients and gently combine.

Here is what you need for the chicken

Two to three small chickens (backbones cut out with scissors and flattened so they look sort of like a butterfly) or 8-10 chicken legs.

For the marinade

1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt (using mortal and pestel)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
3 Tbsp rosewater
1Tbsp lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper

For the sauce

3 Tbsp rose petal jam
1 small garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp olive oil
A squeeze of lemon juice
salt and ground black pepper
Roughly chopped slightly
toasted pistachios
dried rose petals for decoration


Mix the marinade ingredients together and rub all over the chickens/chicken legs, place in a dish and marinade for 1-2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.

To make the sauce, mix the rose petal jam, garlic, cinnamon together in a bowl.

Add the olive oil and lemon juice and taste for seasoning.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C.
If stored in the fridge, take the chicken out 30-60 minutes before cooking, in order to get room temperature.
Cook the chicken for 30 (legs) to 45 (whole chicken) minutes.
10-15 minutes before the time is up, brush the chicken skin with the sauce.

In the last 3-5 minutes throw on the broiler brush the chicken with the sauce one last time and give that chicken skin a nice tan and crisp.
Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.


Place the couscous salad on a plate. Arrange the chicken on top of it, and sprinkle chopped pistachios and dried rose petals over it.


  • If you can't find rose petal jam, use quince jelly or something similar instead and mix in 1-1.5 Tbsp rosewater. That's what I did. Careful with the rosewater, though. You don't want your chicken to taste like a perfume store.
  • You could also throw the chicken on the barbecue. That adds some extra smoky charred flavors.