Thursday, August 28, 2014

Praline Caramel Mousse Cake

In collaboration with Canadian Living, I was recently sent a Kenwood Chef Kitchen Machine and gave it a test drive by making a praline caramel mousse cake. What exactly is a "kitchen machine" you might be wondering? It's basically an all-in-one machine for your kitchen. A mixer, whisker, kneader, chopper, slicer, and blender. Yup, it does pretty much everything and you don't need to buy separate appliances such as a hand mixers, food processors, and blenders. Once you have the Chef Kitchen Machine, you can get additional attachments to make pasta or ice cream. But don't let me ramble on as you can find out more information at kenwoodworld.ca. You're here to see how the cake turned out!

There are four components to this Praline Caramel Mousse Cake and I would highly recommend that you work on it over two days. It helps if some of the ingredients get time to cool and chill. Having the right temperatures for everything will keep your cake-making process easier. This is also one of those recipes that go smoothly when you're prepared. Read the instructions a few time and have your Kenwood Chef Kitchen Machine, saucepans, and containers ready. I suggest making the caramel mousse and pralines first and then the genoise cake and whipped cream icing on after.
To make the caramel mousse, you'll need to pour the gelatin and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until it dissolves. Set aside to cool. In a separate saucepan over medium heat, bring the sugar and water to boil until it is amber in colour and smells like amazing caramel. Carefully pour in half a cup of the cream, butter, vanilla, and salt. Stir until it's smooth and thick. Pour ½ cup of the sauce (for decorating the cake) in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Stir in the gelatin mixture into the remaining caramel sauce until it is combined. Let it cool (preferably in the refrigerator) until it's at room temperature.
Using the whisk tool on the Kenwood Chef Kitchen Machine, beat the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. You can tell when the cream is able to hold its shape (see photo above).
Gently fold the cream with the cooled caramel sauce. See above to look at how lovely the caramel gently folds in using the new Kenwood fold tool! If the caramel is too hot, it won't fold into the cream and will even cause the peaks to separate. Cover and refrigerate until firm. Remember, if you ever need tips or guidance, you can turn to Canadian Living's Cooking School. I know it's not every day that we're melting sugar to make caramel!
Next up, let's make the praline. Arrange pecans on a lined rimmed baking sheet. Give them a quick toast in the oven. In the meantime, bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Always keep careful watch for it can change to amber to black very quickly. Once it is ready, drizzle over toasted pecans.

Let it cool until it hardens and break into small pieces. Attach the food processor to the Kenwood Chef Kitchen Machine and pulse the praline into chunks. Store in airtight container in the fridge.
The genoise cake was the easiest and quickest for me to prep. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool. Using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture triples in volume. Then bean in the vanilla. Sift the flour and salt in three parts and fold into the egg batter. Be gentle and don't over mix or the batter will deflate. Fold in the melted butter until combined and divide among your cake pans.

Bake at 350°F (180°C) for about 25 to 30 minutes and let it cool for 10 minutes before taking the cakes out of the pan. Let the cakes cool to room temperature (also important because if you try to frost it when the cakes are warm, the icing will just melt right off).
To make the whipped cream icing, pour the gelatin and water in a small saucepan and dissolve it over medium heat. Set aside to cool.

The whisk is getting a great workout, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Then beat in the icing sugar and gelatin mixture until stiff peaks form. Set aside to firm up in the fridge.
To assemble the cake, take your first layer and place it on your serving platter, plate, or rotating cake stand. Take the caramel mousse out of the fridge and give it a quick stir. Spread the caramel mousse over the top and sprinkle with some of the praline. Repeat with the remaining cake layers, leaving the top layer bare. Spread the whipped cream icing on top and over the sides of the cake. Sprinkle pralines on top and drizzle with the reserved caramel sauce.

Refrigerate the cake until firm. Then cut, serve, and enjoy!

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post by Canadian Living and Kenwood. I received compensation for it. There was no requirement to produce a positive review of this recipe. All opinions are our own.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bacchanal Buffet

Caesar's Palace
3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 731-7928

When in Vegas . . . go to a buffet! Two years ago, Howard and I tried the buffet at Wynn and Paris Hotel, but there are new contenders now. They're bigger and more extravagant and pricier. We debated between Bacchanal and Wicked Spoon, the most talked about buffets in this city. Not wanting to expand our waistline and deplete our wallet too soon, we decided to pick one. Since Bacchanal is voted as #1, we went with it.
One of the specialties in Vegas buffets now are plated dishes. There are still platters and hot plates, but now, if you want presentation, you get it. Because everything is a tasting or sampling, I loved looking for the dishes in mini cocottes, cast iron pans, and little deep fryer baskets. It's a miniature wonderland!

You're also presented with a tiny silicone clip when you enter the buffet. Helps you grasp all the hot plates and dishes being served!
Of course, there's still some hits and misses. We found the sushi lacking, the platters looking like a mess and loose rice falling off the rolls. Some stations had better service than others. With all of the accolades, we also suspected that the dinner buffet had much grander food.
Just some more photos of the dishes that day.
Large seafood selection.
Shooters of all kind!
Egh, the mini sliders were a no-go for us.
Comfort food.


Tacos! Better than the restaurant we tried in the Linq. Made to order!
Ice cream and gelato. Found this very runny and half melted by the time you reach your table. I don't think their display case is cold enough. Or perhaps all the opening and closing of the lid.
Cute little chocolate cones topped with popcorn.
Cake pops.
Cakes and crumbles.
Carrot cake.

Whoopie pie!
Cupcakes!

To my surprise, I loved this green tea cookie. Soft on the inside with gooey matcha filling. I would love to know the recipe for this.

Overall, an incredibly filling lunch. If there still there, go for the sweet potato spheres. They were absolutely amazing with a crunchy outer shell!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gordon Ramsay Steak

3655 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(877) 346-4642

To celebrate the end of the conference, a bunch of colleagues and us went to have dinner at Gordon Ramsay Steak. (A few of us were also adding on a few extra days in Vegas since we didn't have that much time to explore the city during work hours.)

The hostess pointed items out in the restaurant as she led us to our table upstairs. The room upstairs was quite different from the main dining room on the main floor. It was quiet, dark, and conversations at a hushed tone in the wood-paneled room.
Since we were at a steakhouse, we were introduced to all the different cuts of meat they carried. Yup, a steak trolley.
Bread platter, probably the most excited shared dish we had!
Howard and I shared the fried Blue Point oysters in herb breadcrumbs, served with a crème fraîche tartar sauce. Sadly, nothing to be impressed by as the breaded portion overpowered everything, so it was pretty one note in flavor.
We had our steak with spinach sautéed with parmesan cream and fingerling potatoes with parmesan and truffle. This was delicious, so we recommend that you stick to the entrées and avoid the fried oyster appetizers.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Lotus of Siam

953 East Sahara Avenue, Suite A5
Las Vegas, NV 89104
(702) 735-3033

We've heard such good things about this place that we knew that it had to be one of our destinations this trip. Commonly listed as one of the best restaurants in Vegas and best Thai restaurants in the United States, Lotus of Siam is a popular spot. We went after work and as the taxi was dropping us off, my heart sank a little. There was a line about 30 customers long. How many tables were inside? How big is this place? How long will the wait be? Fortunately, we were all here for the first seating as dinner service wasn't open yet. So once the doors opened, we waited about five minutes for the hostess to seat us. Not too bad!

The menu is quite extensive and for our first time here, we had our waitress recommend dishes to us. We wanted to know what the favourites and popular plates were. First up, we had the Nam Kao Tod. A crispy rice mixed with sour minced pork sausages, green onions, fresh chilies, ginger, peanuts, and lime juice.

Oh my goodness this was so delicious! Flavours everywhere and yet so refreshing despite the heat it gave. I've been trying to find a version of this in Toronto lately, but nothing compares.
Next up, the crispy duck with drunken noodles (pan fried flat rice noodles) topped with fresh homemade chili and Thai basils.
The braised short rib with panang, a Thai style red cream curry sauce with cognac.
Howard was still feeling hungry so our waitress recommended this last dish for us. Sadly, we didn't catch the name of it, but it was delicious just the same.

I wish I could have eaten more, I wasn't feeling in tip top shape that night, but couldn't deny how great the food was. I was so jealous seeing the large tables around us because they got to sample so many more bites.

We can unanimously agree that this was our favourite meal of our trip. We highly recommend you visit Lotus of Siam!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Chayo: Mexican Kitchen + Tequila Bar

Mexican Kitchen + Tequila Bar
3545 Las Vegas Blvd South, Suite 4,
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
(702) 691-3773
 
There's a new little strip in Vegas known as the Linq. There's shops, bars, restaurants and an observation wheel! This was our new favourite place to explore and we wandered in looking for lunch. Chayo caught my eye because I can always eat tacos. The space is pretty neat, the bar closest to the patio and indoor seating around a mechanical bull.

We ordered the avocado corn chopped salad with romaine lettuce, hearts of palm, cactus, avocado, corn, pomegranate, and spicy pumpkin seeds tossed in a citrus vinaigrette. Can you tell we're trying to stay healthy on vacation? Salad! This rarely happens. Must be the desert heat, we were constantly thirsty there. With all those ingredients, we just thought the salad would be tastier. But it wasn't. :(
The tacos didn't fare better. The beer battered fish tacos with red cabbage and cilantro mayo in flour tortillas were pretty basic and bland. Howard commented that we made better fish tacos at home.
A little bit better, the slow roasted rib eye with spring onions, radish, lettuce, and cascabel sauce in corn tortillas.

We would recommend eating elsewhere in the Linq or even venturing further for better tacos.
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