Summer In A Glass

I know it’s summer in WNY when…

My feet aren’t cold.

My fleecy is clean, folded and living in my drawer.

My kids are in and out of swimming pools so often  I forget to bathe them.

The Lemon Balm

The Mighty Lemon Balm

The neighbors wander by the house, hoping for one of these:

This drink has made us famous in the neighborhood. It is absolutely worth making a trip to your local gardening store to purchase lemon balm seeds! It’s summer in a glass.

The Lemon Balm

Fill a Mason jar with ice.

Pour in about:
1-2 shots of vodka
6 ounces lemonade

2 strawberries, quartered
7 lemon balm leaves

Lemon Balm

Warning! Lemon balm is very prolific! Plant it in a container unless you want it all over your garden.

and a sprig of mint.

Stir. Blur. Jubilate.

Also delicious with raspberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, or blueberries. Works without vodka, although not as well. Adaptable to other herbs with a slight name change: Basil Brew, Thyme Bomb, Lavender Lulu etc.

Drink responsibly, my people. Stay barefoot and within yelling distance of the children. Make sure you have a plan in place for dinner or you might forget to feed the troops. And put the car in the street before you start pouring, so the neighbors will have a straight shot up the driveway…

By the way, I’m blogging today on Four Strong Women. Their topic range from rants, laughs to all things peculiar. An opportunity to rant? I’m all over it! My title is “Summer Lovin’ is Tough,” the joys of summer motherhood. I don’t think the post is up yet, but I expect it will be soon. Let the hilarity ensue!

Super-Sexy Chocolate Mousse

Hey there! I am delighted to report that SoloPlay was well received and isSoloPlay getting some action. At the moment, it’s #3 on the Samhain site! Yip! Yip! It even got reviewed on the day it was released – whoa! The review was good and seemed to indicate that the book contained a lot of kinky sex. 😀 I’ll go ahead and link to it, just for fun, but warning – plot spoilers! Thank you Nix at Scorching Book Reviews for reading and reviewing SoloPlay!

SoloPlay’s around-the-block older sister Bottoms Up has been hanging out in the Top 100 paid contemporary romances in the Kindle store for quite a while now. I know numbers are meaningless but it takes a lot of work to get a book out there, so I’m going to allow myself to gleefully enjoy that external measure of success. A big thank you to my readers for putting it there. Umm… I love you.

And now, for the main attraction…

So I was over on the Dirty Birdies Blog the other day, chatting with my hilarious home girls, and I mentioned chocolate mousse. You would have thought I’d said “free French kisses from Alexander Skarsgard.” Everybody wanted some!

Well, anyone who knows me well knows I love to share, so here it is. I’ve been using this versatile, sliceable, sinfully rich and delicious chocolate mousse recipe for about fifteen years now. It’s good by itself in a parfait cup with some whipped cream and berries. It’s also great as a filling for cakes or pastries. My absolute favorite way to serve it is as a mousse cake. You can make a crumb crust in a springform pan, then make the mousse and pour it over the crust. Chill until firm. Pour warm chocolate ganache on top. Chill again. Slice with a hot, dry knife. (That means you dip your knife into hot water and dry the blade on a towel before EACH slice. It keeps the top edge of the slice looking pretty.) Serve with whipped cream and berries, if you so desire, but it’s pretty darn good all by itself. Feel free to riff on this recipe – adapt at will!

Let me know if you have any questions. As mousse recipes go, it is pretty simple, but my idea of simple is admittedly skewed. You do need a thermometer for this recipe. However, I believe you need a thermometer for your life! How else do you tell when your chicken breasts are done? (165 degrees.) How about when your roast is rare? (135-ish degrees.) A $10 investment in a Taylor thermometer will make your life simpler and impress your foodie friends.

Chocolate Mousse Cake with Bittersweet Ganache

Crumb Crust

1 ½ cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs

2 Tablespoons sugar

enough melted butter to make it stick together, about ½ stick

Line a 9” springform pan with parchment. Press crumbs to the bottom in an even layer.

Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Cool.

Chocolate Mousse

3 cups heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (12 ounces), melted in a microwave or over a double boiler and kept hot

3 egg yolks

¼ cup sugar

Whip your cream and reserve it in the fridge.

Melt your chocolate and keep it hot or be ready to re-warm it later.

Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in the bottom of a double boiler. (In my world, a double boiler is a metal bowl placed over a saucepan. Metal conducts heat!) When you are ready to make it happen, combine your egg yolks and the sugar in the top of the double boiler. Begin stirring immediately, and place it over the double boiler bottom. (See here’s the thing about sugar: it’s hygroscopic. That means it attracts water to itself. So… if you leave your egg yolks alone with sugar, the sugar will start pulling the moisture out of the yolks and leave you with unsightly yellow solids in your mousse. Keep your egg yolks and sugar separate until you are ready to whisk them or heat them to 165!)

Cook, stirring constantly, until a thermometer registers 165. Whip it cool with a whisk. It will get thick. Cool the bottom of your bowl with a wet towel if necessary. Add about a cup of whipped cream and whisk until combined. Add this mixture to the remaining whipped cream.

Now here’s the fun part. Add about 2 cups whipped cream/egg mixture to the hot, melted chocolate and whisk, whisk, whisk! If your chocolate isn’t hot enough, or you don’t whisk fast enough, you’ll get chocolate chip mousse (not a bad thing, but not what we’re going for).

Fold in the remaining whipped cream. Pour into the springform pan and refrigerate until set. Top with chocolate ganache. Chill. To unmold, briefly warm the sides with a hot, wet towel. Remove the sides of the pan, using a thin knife as encouragement, if necessary. Slide the cake off of the bottom plate and the parchment paper. Slice.

Chocolate Ganache

½ Cup Heavy Cream

1 Tablespoons Butter

1 Tablespoons Sugar

5 Ounces of Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

Place chocolate chips in a medium bowl.

Heat heavy cream, butter and sugar until it boils.

Pour cream mixture over the chocolate chips and stir until completely melted.

Store leftover ganache in the refrigerator until the expiration date on the heavy cream that you used to make it.

I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of this cake to share with you. People eat it faster than I can find my camera. 😉 Have a great week, everybody!

Chocolate Is Not Better Than Sex

It’s just different.

I love chocolate. Every kind – white, milk, semi-sweet, bittersweet, even unsweetened when I’m feeling hardcore. Although I do know quite a bit about the good stuff, I’m not a snob. Sure I like my exotic Vosges bars, but I won’t turn down a Hershey’s kiss either. Gimme.

I’ve tried a lot of different things with chocolate over the past fifteen years (get your mind out of the gutter), but there’s one recipe that never gets old – chocolate ganache.

Chocolate ganache (guh-NOSH) is one of the most versatile tools in the pastry kitchen. In it’s warm, liquid form, it can poured over cakes and pastries for a rich, smooth, shiny finish. At room temperature, it can be used as a filling or frosting. Chilled, it can be rolled into truffles. It can even be whipped! (Good chocolate! ;)) No, seriously, at room temperature or just slightly chilled, chocolate ganache can be whipped and used as a filling or frosting.

Chocolate Ganache

1 Cup Heavy Cream

2 Tablespoons Butter

2 Tablespoons Sugar

10 Ounces of Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

Place chocolate chips in a medium bowl.

Heat heavy cream, butter and sugar just to a boil.

Pour cream mixture over the chocolate chips and stir until completely melted. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

That’s it. So easy and so good. If you are a ganache virgin, start simple. Use room temperature ganache to frost cupcakes. Or have a chocolate fondue party. A spoon works too. If you have specific questions about how to incorporate ganache into your recipe world, I’m happy to help. In fact, I’d love to hear about your perfect chocolate experiences – I’m pervy that way. Call it professional curiosity. How do you like it?