Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14th, 2011

Vdaycake

Happy Valentine's Day to all! If you're just here for cake, at the end of this post you'll find a recipe for an absolutely addictive gianduja mousse cake. A rendition of flourless chocolate cake made even more irresistable by the addition of fresh toasted hazelnut paste to the batter. This is defnitely a one-slice-is-all-you-need dessert; the cake, which is surprisingly light and delicate out of the oven, firms into a more decadent, trufflelike texture in the refrigerator. Either way, it's a perfect combination of two of my favorite flavors.

If you're here for some Hong Kong photos, scroll on!

Chochazelnuts

I was going to make this a super double post because I didn't get to post what I made for Chinese New Year, but since it's Valentine's Day, I figured it more fitting to share a few photos from my third, and last wedding reception. I'm very, very glad to be done and I don't have to worry about fitting in that dress anymore! At the same time, I'm very blessed to have so many chance to celebrate with friends and family from, literally, around the world. By the time Hong Kong rolled around, the festivities entirely arranged by my mom, (you know, in Chinese weddings the couple is virtually incidental; we were just props to be moved around to the appropriate locations), there was no longer any crazy pressure for the "perfect" day to occur. We just let the day roll over us and had fun. Hence, some of the sillier comments below.

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All dressed up and ready to go in our room at the Island Shangri-La. See how we're pros at posing by now? By the way, the makeup and hair artist my mother found turned out to be some sort of hardcore wedding drill sergeant. She was horrified that I only had two dress changes (many brides have six to seven), and insisted that my hair and makeup be redone each time I changed outfits during dinner. My mother had to come in the dressing room and tell the artist to hurry up because they couldn't serve the next course without me. Yes, I was the bride who made guests wait for their food because I was getting my face done. Believe me, I would have rather been eating.
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Yup, they love posing couples dramatically over there too.
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They also like cheesy poses like this. We tried our best to oblige.

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For some reason everybody wanted to get a photo with the wedding cake: there are about ten similar photos of us standing with various family members. I'm not sure I got to eat a slice, or maybe the night was a such a blur I forgot what it tasted like. Eating didn't really seem to be a priority on the schedule for the wedding couple, I'm afraid to say. I was told it was tasty, though.

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In the banquet room. We're all applauding Mike because he actually memorized some lines in Cantonese and spoke them to the entire assembly. Composed entirely of Chinese people. That took major guts, and we were all so proud of him!
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Doing the obligatory rounds of all the tables for wedding toasts. Don't get too excited, that's tea, not cognac, in our glasses. In fact, I don't think I had a drop of wine all night until after the entire banquet was over! Sorry, apparently the photographer didn't take any photos of the food. Chinese wedding banquets have pretty traditional courses so I guess everyone knows what to expect and no one really needs photos to remember them by. I was too busy being hustled back and forth from the changing room to get more than a few bites. The Shangri La is classy, though: they know the bride and groom don't get to eat much so they packed up all the courses for us to take home and eat the next day!
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"Wait, didn't we just go through this six months ago? Punch drunk and barely able to stand after eight hours?"
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Wait, you have to say goodbye to all the guests as they're leaving - kind of a reverse receiving line at the end of the night. Also, the photographer had to take photos of us saying goodbye to everyone, I guess as proof that they attended and that we actually interacted with them. There's a lot of obligatory photos in Chinese weddings.

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Six months, gone by so fast. Six more months, only as far off as spring. It'll be a year before we know it! Thanks to my mom and dad for throwing us a lovely celebration in Hong Kong, thanks to Mike's parents for the celebration in his hometown, and thanks to all of you for sharing in this part of my life. Moving on to more adventures in 2011!

Gianduja Mousse Cake

makes one 9 1/2 cake
  • adapted from Carole Bloom's Intensely Chocolate
  • 16 oz hazelnuts
  • 9 oz bittersweet (70%-72%) chocolate
  • 7 oz dark milk chocolate (38%-42%)
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes until the skins are split and they are golden brown.
  • Pour out hazelnuts onto a clean kitchen towel. Wrap the towel around the hazelnuts and rub briskly to remove most of the skins. It is difficult to remove the skins completely but you should be able to get most of of them off.
  • Place hazelnuts in a food processor. Process until nuts are in small pieces. Add 1/3 cup canola oil and process until mixture is a smooth paste (there will still be very fine bits of nuts, which is ok).
  • Spray the inside of a 9 1/2" springform pan with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pan with a parchment circle and spray circle.
  • Combine both chocolates in a metal bowl and set over a saucepan of simmering water. Melt the chocolates, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove chocolate from heat when melted. Stir in 1 3/4 cups of the hazelnut paste and mix until fully combined.
  • Place eggs in bowl of stand mixer and whip with whip attachment until frothy. Add sugar and whip until mixture is very thick and pale yellow, about 5 minutes.
  • Add a little of the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture and stir to lighten. Add the rest of the egg mixture and blend together completely.
  • In a clean stand mixer bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form. Fold gently into the batter until fully incorporated.
  • Pour batter into prepared springform pan and smooth out top.
  • Wrap a piece of aluminum foil around the bottom of the pan, making it sure it comes halfway up all around.
  • Place pan in a larger cake pan or roasting pan big enough to contain it. Fill the larger pan with boiling water until it comes halfway up the sides - the foil is to prevent water from seeping into the cake so make sure it is not submerged.
  • Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Turn off oven and let cake stand in oven for 30 more minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let cool on cooling rack. Remove foil and ring, and dust with powdered sugar before serving.

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