Spiced Pumpkin Mascarpone Cupcakes And A Housewarming Party

55

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Let me start this by a little clarification. On my previous post about the Daring Bakers' Potato Bread challenge, I said that Tartelette was anti-carb....followed by a big "Yeah right..."! Obviously my sense of humor does not translate very well in writing because I am 100% "Pro-Carb". Trust me!! This said...

This week is just flying by....started slow for, about two hours and then I got bombarded with training requests and baking orders. Small things taking a long time and I was started to wonder if I was going to post these on time for the party. What party? My baking pal, Peabody is hosting a virtual housewarming party at her new and gorgeous abode next week.

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to bring. Needs to travel easily (which can be easily done with this), needs to feed a bunch of people because from the look of things we are going in numbers, but most importantly I wanted to make something for her. Although she never fails to surprise me, I think pumpkin and mascarpone are sure values with this lady. Since we also seem to share a love for all things small, cupcakes seemed like a good way to combine both in one sweet treat.

I wish I could say I went and bought a fresh pumpkin, gutted it out and used the flesh in the cupcakes...that would be like telling you I went and milked my own cow and waited patiently on the milk creaming process to make mascarpone...that would be a lie. If one Mrs.L is cool enough to put that pumpkin in the can, then I am cool enough to use it. The week is flying by remember...and I still need my four-five hours of sleep! If, on the other hand you are opposed to the idea, by all means, go ahead and use fresh. Sara, from I Like To Cook has great instructions for it here. If you can't find or don't like (crazy you!) mascarpone, by all means substitute cream cheese in the frosting. Feel free to decorate the cupcakes any way you like. I used hard candy pebbles for these for a more winter look but feel free to use other sprinkles or candies, or keep them plain. The recipe is a combination of several I have tried over the years and I am now finally happy with all the ratios, fat, pumpkin, spices, flour, etc....



Spiced Pumpkin Mascarpone Cupcakes:
Makes 24
3/4 cup butter softened (1 1/2 sticks)
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1 cup milk
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place baking cups in muffin pan.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine pumpkin, vanilla extract and milk in a separate bowl. Mix flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Add to butter/sugar mixture alternately with pumpkin/milk batter, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
Divide evenly among the cupcake liners and bake 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.

Mascarpone Cheese Frosting:
16 oz mascarpone cheese (1 pound), at room temperature
1 stick butter, at room temperature
4-5 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
In an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Add 4 cups of the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until combined. Add more sugar, little by little until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like. If the frosting gets too stiff, add some milk, one teaspoon at a time.

A New Bready Bunch: The Daring Bakers' Tender Potato Bread

133

Monday, November 26, 2007


Braid or Couronne

What if I were to tell you I am anti-carbs?....Ahahahahah!!! Well, you reacted the way I expected: a big loud laugh instead of throwing me a stone. Yeah, because let’s face it, telling you that Tartelette is a blog sans carb would be telling you it never snows in Ohio. Where am I going with this? To the latest Daring Bakers’ Challenge, Tender Potato Bread, chosen by this month host, Tanna from My Kitchen In Half Cups.

Bread….Oh there is home made bread here at the house, surprise, surprise! We love bread and are always looking for the next best loaf and now we want Tanna to live on our street too. (gosh, there is a whole lot of bloggers I want as neighbors I just realized!!) Not only can the woman bake but she also knows to pick a very fun challenge. I know for some I am the weirdo down the street who likes to get hand deep in dough and make bread, 4-5 loaves a week...and there are just 2 of us (oh yeah, B. adapted the bread – cheese - salad dinner of the Mrs. without a complaint!) : dried fruit bread, brioche for our breakfasts and a couple of other breads like multigrain, rustic, artisan or European breads. There are a couple of starters in the fridge, in marked containers : Gertie is purple lidded, Bob is green. Gertie, my potato sourdough starter gives me the best bread ever so I was really thrilled to be able to play with another potato bread recipe this month.


Fougasse

Play is the word: sticky dough up to my elbows for about 15 minutes….now talk about some spa treatment!! The recipe calls for 8 to 16 oz of potatoes, the more potato the stickier the dough and mine was about 12 oz raw. I ended up using 7 cups of flour (6-8 cups were suggested) and boy was B. in for a treat of severe looks and mild curses. I know I appear all cool collected and calm on my blog but Lisa will tell you that when I get aggravated well, all that Southern cool goes out the window. When the boy asked if dinner was ready, I think the look I gave him was enough to sent him back to his garage to play or organize or bang on something because I was in the middle of pure sticky heaven. Don’t get me wrong, that was not challenging in itself. The challenging part was to keep everything I touched free of bread goo….I started to wonder how the dough would behave upon shaping.

Tanna gave us a lot of playroom with the shapes and flavors we could give our breads. I decided to go for a French shape first, a fougasse, filled with fresh oregano, a braid, and a fig and feta boule. The epis I made got eaten before I could take pictures so we’ll just have to imagine that one or wait until I do the challenge once again. The beauty of such a sticky dough is that if you mess up while shaping there does not seem to be a problem of over kneading. I think I played with the braid shape three or four times before I was happy and it still turned out tender. The only drawback we had with this recipe was that the bread turned a little tough after it was frozen for a week or so. Ah, what am I saying? It made great toasts, so I guess there isn’t anything bad with this bread.

I want to thank Tanna for choosing such a high quality recipe and being such an awesome host, responding promptly to all Daring Bakers’ inquiries, issues and troubles. Hats off to you!! You make the group proud! Check out the other 300 other Daring Bakers by visiting our blogroll. Thank you Ivonne and Lisa for making it as much fun for me every month!

Fig and Feta Boule

Tender Potato Bread, From Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

4 medium to large floury (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks variety of potatoes you might want to use would include Idaho, Russet & Yukon gold (8 to 16 oz)
4 cups water (See Note)
1 tablespoon plus
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 ½ cups to 8 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup whole wheat flour

Put the potatoes and 4 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook, half covered, until the potatoes are very tender. Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well. Measure out 3 cups of the reserved potato water (add extra water if needed to make 3 cups). Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread in – directions will be for by hand. Let cool to lukewarm – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.
Mix & stir yeast into cooled water and mashed potatoes & water and let stand 5 minutes.
Then mix in 2 cups of all-purpose flour and mix. Allow to rest several minutes.
Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes & water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes. Sprinkle on the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1 cup whole wheat flour, stir briefly.
Add 2 cups of the unbleached all-purpose flour and stir until all the flour has been incorporated. At this point you have used 4 cups of the possible 8 ½ cups suggested by the recipe. Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle; use a dough scraper to keep your surface clean. The kneaded dough will still be very soft.

As a beginner, you may be tempted to add more flour than needed. Most/many bread recipes give a range of flour needed. This is going to be a soft dough. At this point, add flour to the counter slowly, say a ¼ cup at a time. Do not feel you must use all of the suggested flour. When the dough is soft and smooth and not too sticky, it’s probably ready.

Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky.
The dough is now ready for you to shape your breads in many different ways:

Divide the dough into 2 unequal pieces in a proportion of one-third and two-thirds (one will be twice as large as the other). Place the smaller piece to one side and cover loosely.
To shape a large loaf: Butter a 9X5 inch loaf/bread pan. Flatten the larger piece of dough on the floured surface to an approximate 12 x 8 inch oval, then roll it up from a narrow end to form a loaf. Pinch the seam closed and gently place seam side down in the buttered pan. The dough should come about three-quarters of the way up the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 35 to 45 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled in volume.
To make a small loaf with the remainder:Butter an 8 x 4 inch bread pan. Shape and proof the loaf the same way as the large loaf.
To make rolls:Butter a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake pan or a shallow cake pan. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball under the palm of your floured hand and place on the baking sheet, leaving 1/2 inch between the balls. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 35 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled.
To make focaccia:Flatten out the dough to a rectangle about 10 x 15 inches with your palms and fingertips. Tear off a piece of parchment paper or wax paper a little longer than the dough and dust it generously with flour. Transfer the focaccia to the paper. Brush the top of the dough generously with olive oil, sprinkle on a little coarse sea salt, as well as some rosemary leaves, if you wish and then finally dimple all over with your fingertips. Cover with plastic and let rise for 20 minutes.Place a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, if you have them, if not use a baking/sheet (no edge – you want to be able to slide the shaped dough on the parchment paper onto the stone or baking sheet and an edge complicates things). Place the stone or cookie sheet on a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450°F/230°C. Bake the flat-bread before you bake the loaf; bake the rolls at the same time as the loaf.If making foccacia, just before baking, dimple the bread all over again with your fingertips. Leaving it on the paper, transfer to the hot baking stone, tiles or baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack (remove paper) and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
Dust risen loaves and rolls with a little all-purpose flour or lightly brush the tops with a little melted butter or olive oil (the butter will give a golden/browned crust). Slash loaves crosswise two or three times with a razor blade or very sharp knife and immediately place on the stone, tiles or baking sheet in the oven.
Place the rolls next to the loaf in the oven.
Bake rolls until golden, about 30 minutes. Bake the small loaf for about 40 minutes. Bake the large loaf for about 50 minutes. Transfer the rolls to a rack when done to cool. When the loaf or loaves have baked for the specified time, remove from the pans and place back on the stone, tiles or baking sheet for another 5 to 10 minutes. The corners should be firm when pinched and the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Let breads cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Rolls can be served warm or at room temperature.

Cinnabons - A Tasty Knock Off - Priceless Friends

39

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I will be the first one to say that one can never have too many cinnamon rolls! When a sweet somebody suggested after the September Daring Bakers' challenge that we make a go at a recipe for Cinnabons, guess who answered the call of more butter, yeast, dough and cream cheese...and more butter? Yes, your truly as well as Marce, Kelly, Mary, Sara, Laura Rebecca and Chris.

There were a lot of events and gathering around the house that particular weekend and I had to start my dough at the ungodly hour of 5am just to make sure I'd have a chance to get it done that day. Add to the equation a sick dog and a sick Tartelette, and you have me passing out on the couch around 9am while everybody else is gearing up and meeting on Yahoo Instant Messenger to share the fun. When I finally woke up Marce kept trying to invite me to a conference chat and I kept clicking to no avail....I was stuck on my southern side of the world....hate being left out. I IMed my tech guru, while at the same time conversing with Kelly and trying to get her set up.

Now if you know me at all, you probably figure that I can juggle 3-4 desserts going on , at once in the kitchen while entertaining the neighbor's twins. And if you know me just an ounce, you probably realise that at that point my coughing and sneezing self had 3 Yahoo windows open, emails just in case and everybody typing faster than me. I had the biggest laugh of my life when Lisa asked me to take Kelly through a Yahoo IM set up...me?!!! ahahah!!! Thank god for cutting and pasting her instructions!!

Not to lose her beautiful sweet cool, Kelly had the smart move to quit trying and set up her UStream show, which was a blast by the way. I have a laptop on the kitchen table , you know for when I see a recipe and I have to try it right then and there.... I had Kelly keeping me company while I was baking and decorating cookie trays for a party.

Now that you get a feeling for the ambiance of the day, let's talk about the real issue here: how did the Cinnabons do compared to Peter Reinhart's? Both doughs were a pleasure to work with and although Reinhart's was much softer than this one, they both had a good rise and were easy to roll out. We liked the flavor of Reinhart's buns over the Cinnabons, something to do with the lemon extract in the dough I am sure. We preferred the texture of the Cinnabons though. The dough remained very tender, a little gooey in the center which I like, a lot. And that filling...hmmm butter/cinnamon/butter/cinnamon...oh yeah and sugar with that butter!

The icing on the Cinnabons really put it over the top, but that had to be expected since I don't think anything can beat cream cheese frosting. Do you? Then stop reading because you are about to read about a sweet fattening snafu. Since my head was not totally there (cold) I think I got cross eyed for a split second while reading the instructions and instead of 1/2 a stick of butter, I used a whole one! Paula and Lisa would be so proud of me!!!
Since I realized my error before frosting the second pan, I quickly rectified my shot and made the "proper" one. Guess which rolls got devoured first? We are so butter easy !!

Which recipe will I make again? I am pretty sure it will be the Cinnabons but with a little lemon extract in the dough.


Cinnabon™ Knock-off Cinnamon Rolls

Rolls:

1 pkg. active dry yeast (1/4 oz. size or 2 1/4 tsp.)
1 c. warm milk (105º to 110º F.)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. margarine, melted (used butter)
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
4 c. all-purpose flour

Filling:

1 c. packed brown sugar
2 1/2 TBS. cinnamon
1/3 c. margarine, softened (used butter)

Icing:
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) margarine, softened (used butter)
1/4 c. (2 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 TBS. whole milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. lemon extract

For the rolls, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl
Mix together the sugar, butter, salt & eggs. Add flour and mix well
Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands lightly dusted with flour. Put in a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough flat until it is approximately 21 inches long and 16 inches wide. It should be about ¼ inch thick.
Preheat oven to 400º F.
For the filling, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Spread the softened butter evenly over the surface of the dough, and then sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar evenly over the surface.
Working carefully from the top (a 21 inch side), roll the dough down to the bottom edge.
Cut the rolled dough into 1 ¾ inch slices and place 6 at a time, evenly spaced, in a lightly greased baking pan. Let the rolls rise again until doubled in size (about 30 min.). Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden on top.

While the rolls bake, make the icing by mixing the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, then add the milk and flavorings. Mix on high speed again until the icing is smooth and fluffy.
When the rolls come out of the oven, let them cool for about 10 minutes, then coat generously with the icing.



Cranberry Nut Caramel Tarts

29

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Instead of pumpkin or pecan pie this Thanksgiving, we are going to have these little beauties: Cranberry Nut Caramel Tarts....Oh Yeah!!! Cranberries, pistachios, almonds all stirred in a creamy caramel and baked in little shortbread tart shells. Not that we do not like a little pumpkin or a little pecan here and there, but these we could have over and over and more...
Not only are we going to enjoy warm out of the oven, but I am also bringing them to Jeanne, who is hosting this month Waiter There Is Something In My....Tart!

I made these for the first time years ago at the restaurant a few days before Thanksgiving. I had to make the usual required pies for T-Day but I was really itching for a change. Everybody was getting in the holiday mood and I thought a little cranberry dessert would be a good idea. For some reason, our produce guy had misunderstood our order and we got twice the amount of cranberries we needed. The chefs dropped off a box by my pastry kitchen with a little "Have Fun!" sticky note on it. Their idea of a good time...ahahah!!! Same guys who loaded me with two crates of pears one day and I ended up re-writing the book on pear dessert! I digress, sorry.

Well, I looked around the kitchen, closed the door behind me in the walk-in cooler for a few minutes (my best thinking place), and took out the shortbread tart dough I had made that morning and figured I would make a tart with them. Question was: which one? Can I be trusted with cranberries? After all they were not part of my culture growing up and I had only had them in cranberry sauce with turkey. Mmmm...I emerged from the walk-in and found a book on my prep table with another sticky note, this one from Old Chef "It's in here and it's good". Got to love those guys! He knew I was starting to struggle with the "Tart of the Day" on the menu. I thought I had a brilliant idea with that one: using only fresh produce to come up with a different tart every time. Different doughs, fillings, fruits, toppings, but other time consuming desserts on the menu were taking my attention away from the tart. The book in question was appropriately named The Book Of Tarts by Maury Rubin, and I believe it saved me from boredom and a few of our regulars from another Pear or Banana tart! The book is a treasure trove of tarts, tartlets and other inspiring recipes.


The recipe in the book uses sliced almonds but I wanted little festive look and used half the amount in pistachios and the rest in slivered almonds (what I had in hand). Feel free to use your favorite nuts, I have tired several combinations over the years and they never turned out bad. The caramel part can be a little tricky for new bakers but if you watch your pot carefully there should not be a major need for firefighters. It starts with a dry method caramel in which you had cream and butter. Baby your sugar so that it does not burn and be careful of splatter and bubbles when you stir in the cream and butter. If the mixture does not appear smooth, put it back on the stove and stir slowly until it becomes smooth.

Cranberry Nut Caramel Tarts, adapted from Maury Rubin.

Makes 8-10 3 inch tarts or one 9 inch.

Shortbread Dough:

13 tablespoons (1 stick plus 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Let the butter sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, until malleable.
Place the powdered sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the pieces of butter and toss to coat. Using a paddle attachment with a standing mixer, combine the sugar and butter at medium speed, until the sugar is no longer visible.
Add the egg yolk and combine until no longer visible.
Scrape down the butter off the sides of the bowl. Add half of the flour, then begin mixing again until the dough is crumbly. Add the remaining flour and then the cream and mix until the dough forms a sticky mass.
Flatten the dough into a thick pancake, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours before preparing to roll out the dough.
Roll out the dough and cut out 8-10 6inch circles, fit into your 3 inch tart molds (or 9 inch tart pan), trim away the excess. Line with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights and bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Filling:

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into eight pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup coarsely chopped pistachios
1 cup slivered almonds

Measure the cream and butter into a saucepan and heat it over low heat. When the butter has melted completely, remove from heat.
To make the caramel, spread the sugar evenly in a perfectly dry, deep 10-inch skillet and place it over medium-low heat.
The sugar should turn straw-colored, then gold and then a nutty-brown caramel after about 10 minutes. If the sugar cooks unevenly, gently tilt or swirl the pan to evenly distribute the sugar. Remove from heat and slowly whisk the cream and butter into the sugar, which can splatter as the cream is added. If the caramel seizes, return it to the heat and continue to stir until it is smooth and creamy. Strain the caramel into a bowl and cool it for 30 minutes.
Stir the cranberries and the nuts into the caramel and mix until all the fruit and nuts are coated. Spoon the filling into the partially baked tart shells mounding toward the center.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the juices and the caramel are bubbling slowly around the edges. Remove from the oven and let stand for 1 hour.


Although Thanksgiving is not a holiday I grew up with, I wanted to write down a few things and people (you know who you are. I am probably IMing with you too) I am thankful for.
* I am thankful for my family, who often times closes their eyes on my silliness and loves me no matter what.
*I am thankful for love, the kind that gives your step a skip and makes your hiney tingle at the same time.
*I am thankful for my friends who accept me with all my sensitivity and dorkiness and have stopped correcting my pronunciation of certain English words ("iron" being one of them)
*I am thankful for my health (beside a tooth that needs fixing), which helps me push the envelope a little more each day and discovering that I can put my body through 2 hours of BootCamp training and still have enough energy to make a cake and dinner.
* I am thankful for my readers whose words are not received as praises but encouragement that I am writing in the right direction, that I am on the right track in telling them to get in the kitchen and bake! Thank you all for all your emails, questions, keep them coming eve if sometimes it takes me a long time to reply.

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!

Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake

45

Monday, November 19, 2007


I often post about the most important women in my life, my mother and grandmother but I rarely post about my dad. Why? Because if I did, I would not have many secret left to you...we are very much alike...very much. Sometimes, I find that disturbing because it's like looking at your personality in a mirror, with all your faults and cracks. See, my dad talks a lot but he never really reveals much about himself. He's private, he does not ask questions. He's discreet, he does not want to make you uncomfortable.

All these apply except when it comes to cheesecake....Oh he will be a true gentleman and wait patiently for dessert but then only two words will be uttered by this General: "cheesecake please!" and then I dare you to try to get a bite from his plate. If you have never been met with a cold grey stare, (yep, his eyes are grey, for real), wait until you try to sneak a nibble from his plate. You have guessed it, I am the same...

When I was growing up in France, we did not know cheesecakes. I had vaguely heard of "gateau de fromage blanc" or "tarte au fromage blanc", there were not traditional of my family so it was not until I moved to the US that I had the pleasure of trying the cream cheese based cheesecakes (which can easily substituted with Kiri in France). When I became in charge of the pastry kitchen at the restaurant, I kept the cheesecake on the menu and gave myself a little playroom by changing it every time I had to make a new one which was probably every other day (creme brulee being the most popular, go figure...). I loved the traditional flavor of vanilla, chocolate and berries but I also loved to stray a little with Earl Grey cheesecake, Apple Tatin, and Pineapple Upside Down. It helped that I had an awesome waitstaff to tell me frankly if it was going to fly or not, but one that was sure to hit the spot in November - December was always the Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake. What was best is that I could use up all those giant cans/vats (Libby's multiplied by 20) of pumpkin puree....useful but not my favorite color at 4am! I could not turn enough of these and every time a friend would ask me to bring cheesecake for dessert, I would *always* bring something else...enough of that thing (and I am not the only pastry cook in this case!).


However, with the years going by, I am slowly making cheesecakes again for fun...and my father...and Sugar High Friday this month. Leslie, from Definitely Not Martha has chosen Beta Carotene as the theme this month and that includes "gourds and roots – pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, etc..." So there you have it, I decided to make a yummy cheesecake and pretend it was healthi-er because loaded with good for you pumpkin and topped with even better for you fresh pomegranate. For the crust I just crushed some locally made pecan pralines, and scattered them at the bottom. The recipe makes one large cheesecake but in traditional Tartelette fashion I made four small ones and eight two-bite ones. I wish I could send a couple to my father but he is just going to have to lick his screen...sorry dad!

Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake:

1 cup pecan pralines, crushed
1 1/2 cups solid pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
whipped cream and pomegranate seeds to decorate

Scatter the praline crumbs at the bottom of one 10 inch springform pan, lined with parchment paper and coated with cooking spray (or several pans if you decided to go minis).
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a bowl whisk together the pumpkin, the egg, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, the ginger, the salt, and the brown sugar. In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the cream cheese and the granulated sugar, beat in the cornstarch, the vanilla, and the pumpkin mixture, and beat the filling until it is smooth.
Pour the filling into the crust, bake the cheesecake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the center is just set. Let the cheesecake cool in the pan on a rack and chill it, covered, overnight.
When ready to serve, spoon some whipped cream and pomegranate seeds on top.

Cappuccino Creams And Chocolate Madeleines

62

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

For a mere couple of days last week, it did feel like Fall, cool and crisp, under a cloudless blue sky, and then "pouf" we were back to temperatures of 75F and higher....No wonder the leaves don't change colors and fall and winter fashion is always on sale around our parts! Well, as you may know, even after many years in South Carolina, I still long for the temperate climate of France, yes, even the rain and the grey winters. I envy people up north for their nippy cold mornings and their weekends shoveling snow... and feel free to smirk at me : "let's trade places for a few weeks and that might cure your problem Mrs. Tartelette"...I know, I know..."the grass is always greener on the other side". In the meantime, I am left to pretending it is finally chilly outside and one way to do that is by persevering in making fall inspired desserts even with the grill working overtime for dinner.

I was organizing (well, at least I was trying to) my pile(s) of "must-try" recipes, when I came across one called "Coffee Pots" from Alana from Kitchen Parade. I already loved her savory dishes and sides so I figured her desserts would be winners too... and the creams were heaven. I had a bunch of egg yolks left over from a macaron baking session for a bridal shower and the recipe came in very handy as it requires just those, a bit of sugar, coffee and some liqueur. For the coffee, I have the bad habit to leave the coffee machine on as I head out in the morning resulting in triple thick mud by the time I come home in between training sessions. If you don't have access to Tartelette's Mud-So-Thick-Your-Spoon-Stands-Straight-In-It (C's words, not mine), make a good cup of espresso or very strong coffee otherwise the coffee flavor will get lost in the baking process. Why did I name mine Cappuccino Creams? Simply because of the dollop of whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon on top...and because B. seemed to respond to the name better and that would help me in not being left to eat the entire thing by myself (darn skinny jeans!).

I love a little cookie or piece of cake with my cream desserts (another reason why I loved the Bostini Cream Pie last month!) and made some really easy but very flavorful dark chocolate madeleines from the Queen of Madeleines herself, Sophie Dudemaine, to go along with the cream. Think deep dark fudgy buttons with a fancy names (oh yeah I love that Glade commercial... "haven't you heard of Gladay?"!!) I wish they'd translate that book in English because it is demystifies the whole "madeleines are difficult cookies" idea that foreign cooks seem to have. The recipes are organized by season, relying on fresh and available produce, with sweet and savory madeleines. Some bakers will use some pretty intricate method to achieve that traditional madeleine bump, and I guess I never really paid attention to that fact, (much like when I made macarons for the first time), and I end up with bumps all over the place following her recipes. I know it may sound blazay or snotty what I just said, ( and believe me it is not my intention) but I firmly believe that a lot of mishaps in the kitchen are the results of unnecessary pressure that home bakers put on themselves. If you know the difficulty and think of it constantly, things won't work as well as if you are aware of it, but shrug it off with a simple "What is the worst that can happen? Fiddo will eat it..." Trust me, baking is not rocket science...or I would not be doing it for a living!!



Cappuccino Creams And Chocolate Madeleines, adapted from Alanna and Sophie Dudemaine:

Serves 5

1 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup triple-strength coffee
5 egg yolks
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Kahlua
whipped cream and cinnamon (optional)

Combine the milk, half and half and coffee into medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, but do not let it boil. Meanwhile, whisk yolks and sugar until they are pale yellow. Add liqueur and combine well.
A little bit at a time, add scalded milk to yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Arrange five ramekins in 9x13 baking pan and fill with milk mixture. Place pan in oven. Carefully pour very hot tap water (or boiling water) into pan until it reaches about halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake 30 – 45 minutes at 325F until just soft in center. Remove cups from pan, bring to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold and firm. To serve, add a dollop of whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon to the tops.

Chocolate Madeleines:

Makes 16 cookies

2 eggs
80 gr. all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps. baking powder
80 gr. sugar
80 gr. salted butter
15 gr. cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 425F.
Melt the butter in the microwave or over low heat. Let cool slightly.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and cocoa. Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Add the yolks to the flour/cocoa mixture and whisk with a spatula. Break the egg whites with a fork, without making them foam. Add them to the flour/cocoa/egg mixture. Add the melted butter and vanilla extract. Whisk vigorously to incorporate everything.
Butter madeleine molds (I use dark silicone ones), and pour about one tablespoon of batter in each.
Bake at 425F for 4 minutes, the turn the oven down to 375F and bake for another 4 minutes. Let cool slightly and unmold. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Good Looking Buns!

39

Monday, November 12, 2007


Not one to particularly toot my own horn, I am ecstatic that these little buns make my blog look good!
Yes, I know you have already seen these pistachio and cranberry sticky buns back in September for a Daring Bakers' Challenge. Well, these little sticky gooey goodness of buns won me the Edibility Category in the latest edition of Does My Blog Look Good In This, hosted by Jennifer from Bake or Break.
Thank you to the judges and of course to Marce for picking up the recipe in the first place.

Apple And Thyme: Pear Tart With Grandma And Mom

53

Saturday, November 10, 2007

It's interesting how life comes at you full force, sometimes from people you don't even know.
A few weeks ago one member of the Daring Bakers, Inge, posted an event she was hosting to honor the women, be it moms or grandmothers (or any person special to us) who influenced us in the kitchen. The event, Apple and Thyme, was somewhat prompted by the fact that a blogging friend of hers, Jeni from the Passionate Palate, had just lost her mother to a long battle with cancer.

Losing is the right term when it comes to loved ones, especially mothers. You lose a bit of your essence, a small part of your flesh is ripped and your heart is taken away from away from you. The hurt and the pain diminish with time but never really go away. I am sorry that Jeni had to experience such a tragedy. I often think about the pain my own mother must feel day in day out after losing her own mother and it just breaks my heart. I can't think about a day without my mom, even though we do not talk on the phone everyday or even when sometimes we don't really like each other (hey, we all have our moods!). Jeni, I offer you my deepest condolences and thank you for reminding me to hug my mom, even if only in my dreams.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know how deeply my grandmother has influenced my baking. She had that magical touch...you would come to visit and within half an hour the table was set with a wonderful spread of foods. It seemed almost effortless to her to come up with the most delicious foods. I used to believe my grandmother was this goddess of the kitchen, even when she was too frail from battling cancer. It's not that I thought less of my mother's cooking and baking, don't get me wrong, but I felt like my mother was showing me the ropes, the behind the scenes, while grandma was giving me the picture perfect, no mise-en-place necessary final product.

My mother is more of a cook than a baker but when she tackles the dough, man! She is good! Just as good as her own mother and I hope I am up to par with their talent. Most French house cooks and bakers do not make elaborate 5 courses meal or produce 3 layer mousse cakes every day of the week. We make yogurt cakes, chocolate mousses, clafoutis, flans, and tarts....lots of tarts!! I think the first item I ever baked was a tart, maybe a quiche, something with a crust, something with a filling, something with cream....and I got hooked, hence the blog name "Tartelette".... There is always a tart of some sort in the fridge...no lie. Well, except tonight because I finished the last slice of this one. I love the contrast between crust and filling, the endless possibilities of ingredients combination. If a tart had a cousin, it would be a salad: both can be as rustic or elaborate as you wish, both can make a meal (savory tart) or a side, both make use of seasonal produce or what is overripe in the fruit basket and both adapt to a myriad of cultures and cuisines.

I remember my mother and grandmother teaching me the A,B,Cs of tart doughs, "pate sablee, pate brisee, pate feuilletee" (shortbread, basic, puff pastry), and I grew up making my doughs from scratch every time. Even when the times brought packages of ready made tart dough at the grocery store, they were still making them from scratch most of the time. It always seemed funny to me to buy them only to have them remain in the fridge drawer. "Juste au cas ou" ...just in case. But again, "just in case" never usually happens in France...because nobody drops in "just like that"...we are a nation of planners you see, so there is always plenty of time to make dough...but that aspect of French culture is for another post. I have one of those pre-made dough in my fridge actually...and you know what? I think I ought to throw it away...it's been there for a while and probably will never get used...why? In my mind, there is nothing like homemade: it is neither labor nor time consuming and if you are really lazy, you can turn a dough in your food processor in less than 5 minutes. A little resting time, a little rolling and "hop" you're there...

For this particular tart to pay tribute to both my mother and grandmother I have chosen one of our favorite combination: pears and almonds. I miss you grandma and mom, and hope I make you proud everytime I step in and out of the kitchen.


Pear And Almond Tart

Makes one 10 inch tart.

Crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbs sugar
1/2 cup chilled (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in pieces
2 Tbs ice water
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

Place flour and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and process for a few seconds. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the ice water then the egg yolk, processing just until the dough holds together. Do not process for more than 30 seconds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Place on a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten, and form into a disc. Wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before using.
Preheat oven to 350F and blind bake the tart shells: roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, lay into tart shell, cover with parchment paper or foil, pour dry beans or pie weights on top and bake fro 15 minutes. Let cool before proceeding.

Filling:
2 large pears, peeled and cored, thinly sliced (I chose Comice for this tart)
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup slivered almonds

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar until pale. Whisk in the ground almonds, milk and cream. Pour into the cooled pie shell, leaving about a 1 inch border so that the batter does not overflow when you arrange the ears on top. Arrange the pear slices over the top and sprinkle with the slivered almonds. Bake at 350 until golden brown, do not worry if it still wiggles a bit in the middle, the custard will keep on setting once removed from the oven. Serve warm or at room temperature...oh heck! Eat it anyway you want, it is darn good even cold!!

Deconstructed Coconut Cream Pie For A Special Friend

47

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I wanted to post this yesterday but somehow I kept starting over and over again, never satisfied with the angle I chose to tell you the story behind this dessert....the post itself is as deconstructed as the dish itself, much like the great story that goes along with it. So forgive me if this post has "ni queue ni tete" (literally "no tail nor head").

How did this dessert come about? If you have been following this little blog of mine this summer, you have read me say that the house was constantly filled with guests, good times, laughter, good eating and of course good drinking. The hotel Tartelette is now empty and it feels somewhat strange to have an evening by myself, starring at the dog who has been spoiled with so much petting! Our last guest was my very bestest friend Tim, aka Trouble coming to enjoy the last bit of sunshine before he'd have to face the cold weather of Cincinnati. We met while working at the same restaurant downtown. As the pastry chef, I always had the waiters try the special dessert of the day or refresh their memory with an item from the current menu. The rest of the kitchen crew used to love to butthead with them and I figured I could bring a little TLC with a bite of chocolate cake. Well, under Tim's lead, there were a few of them endlessly coming back for seconds, which always resulted in getting me in trouble with the rest of the kitchen crew, hence his nickname. They were worse than a group of women on Midol with their sweet tooth, but what was I to do in front of killer smiles and batting eyelashes?!! We became instant friends, that was over 7 years ago and we have remained thick as thieves ever since. He's seen me happy, in love, upset and has always lifted my spirits up. The first time I met him, I found him rather...hmm..how can I say?..."deconstructed"? He thinks a million thoughts a minute, has many interests in completely unrelated fields, he's been all over the place, and it seems that between the two of us, we are making a point at trying every job under the sun!! I have to add that it seems that we are both growing up lately and "deconstructed", although never a derogative term for him, is less of a personality trait these days.

As a "thank you" for putting him up for the weekend, he took us out to a renowned restaurant in town, Tristan. It was late Sunday evening so we were the only table in the dining room and enjoyed the spa treatment given by our waiter and hostess(es). Upon perusing the extensive food and wine menus we opted to have a table covered with appetizers as they sounded far more interesting and researched than the entrees and enjoyed a selection of 8-10, plus wine (both bottles made my hiney tingle...it was that good!). Hickory smoked lamb ribs with barbecue chocolate sauce, foie gras with pear and brie panini, Point Reyes cheese and huckleberries preserve, veal sweetbreads in perigueux sauce and truffle crust were among my favorites. But you know by now that I was really dying to sample the desserts! I was really dying to try the Spiced Beignets with coconut emulsion, Chinese five spice and passion fruit curd, but they were sold out...hmmmhmm. We combined our penchant for sweets and ordered the Warm Black Forest Cake with Kirsch spiked chocolate sauce and sour cherry chutney and a giant Citrus Panna Cotta on top of lemon curd and drenched in fragrant lemon-basil oil. I think this one never left my sight and I left the two boys with the chocolate. I am telling you...give me lemon and cream and I am happy!! Best panna cotta ever....

Ok, still nothing that relates to the Deconstructed Coconut Cream Pie of this post...well...Now I am getting to it. Between the appetizers and desserts, our waiter brought us a little palate cleanser: a tiny scoop of strawberry-kiwi sorbet....plated in the same cups you see in the pictures. All our dishes were brought forward in the most beautiful, so-great-for-blog-posts dishes that I wanted to keep several. I hung on tight to my little sorbet dish (per Trouble suggestion) thinking the waiter would forget about it but alas he removed it when I reached for my wine (darn French me!)....B. suggested we asked if we could purchase a couple for my blog, pictures, etc...brilliant! I asked how much they would charge me for one set and when I heard "5 bucks a piece", I exclaimed "Pack me up 3 please!!". Since Tim almost got me in trouble (I am telling you) for keeping one, he bought these for me as a hostess gift and a pack of Haribo strawberries for B. for almost putting his lovely Tartelette in jail!!

To properly thank Mr. Trouble for making my blog look good, I wanted to make one of his favorite desserts, coconut cream pie using my new dishes and I thought a deconstructed version would work best in this case. I did not have the chance to do it before he left, so it is a virtual taste for him, sorry! The recipe makes more than my three little dishes, so I assembled a larger one and took it over to the neighbours. If you know me a little from this blog, you have read me mention that B. can't stand coconut, the shreds, not the flavor....so guess who was left to enjoy these....me, once again getting me in trouble with my skinny jeans and my love/hate relationship with the treadmill. Sheeesh...!

So after what is the longest post in the history of Tartelette, I give you Tim's Deconstructed Coconut Pie...Enjoy!!

Deconstructed Coconut Cream Pie, inspired by this one:

Serves 8

3 cups half-and-half
2 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flaked coconut, toasted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 portion of Martha Stewart Pate Brisee ( I make the whole thing and refrigerate the other portion for other tarts or quiches)
2 Tb. sugar

In a medium saucepan, combine half-and-half, eggs, sugar, flour and salt. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in 3/4 cup of the coconut and the vanilla extract. Pour into serving dishes and chill 2 to 4 hours, or until firm.
In the meantime roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick, with cookie cutters , cut out different shape. Lay them flat on a parchment lined baking sheets, sprinkle with the sugar and bake at 350 F. until golden brown (10 minutes). When ready to serve, sprinkle the remaining coconut over the dishes and stick a couple of dough shapes in them.

White Chocolate Pots De Creme And Hibiscus Flowers

59

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Nothing much going on in the kitchen right now as my work life as taken a somewhat unexpected turn. Well, ok, I knew changes were coming, I was not sure of the timing so it's been a pretty stressful week to say the least. I did fulfill the orders I had for cakes and other desserts but that's about it. What I did find time to do was those little ramequins of white chocolate pots de creme (cream pots, literally) adorned with dried hibiscus flowers.

When I visited Lisa a couple of weeks ago, I asked her (ok, begged) to take me back to Sur La Table and Trader Joe's to get the few things I had noticed from my previous trip there. Among the items I was coveting were those little ramequins (about 3 inches long and 1.5 inch wide) and dried sweetened hibiscus flowers. Why? Because both were pretty ad would photograph well, and I was curious to the taste of the dried fruit. B, brought back a large supply of the dried buds to make tea from a previous trip to Egypt and I fell in love with the deep red/pink color as well as its slight tart taste. Turns out the flowers taste just like dried cranberries....yum!
For more elaborated posts (and because no one tells a story like Lisa) about Mary's and my trip, go to Lisa's blog where you will get the full report of our adventures.

One evening last weekend, while we had company over ( and boy, did we have fun), I was craving the comfort of white chocolate. Yes, I admit it, and chocolate purists can throw a stone at me, I like white chocolate. Can't stand to eat it on its own, but I love incorporating it into desserts. The guys had plenty to munch on, brownies, cake....but I needed white chocolate...I needed soft and creamy and I needed a perk of flavor and tartness. So while the boys were grilling, I started the creams and by the time we were getting cozy on the patio with coffee, the creams were ready! While a little on the rich side, the ramequins are small enough to provide the perfect 4 bites serving. Wait until serving time to set the dried hibiscus flowers on top or they will start to bleed after a couple of days in the fridge. The verdict? Well, we fought over the last one...that should tell you something!


White Chocolate Pots de Creme, adapted from Death by Chocolate, by Marcel Desaulniers:
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
12 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
6 egg yolks

Combine the cream and milk in a heavy bottom, 2 quart saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Bring the water in a double boiler to a simmer. Place the chocolate in the top half and stir with a rubber spatula until melted. Whisk the egg yolks into the melted chocolate. Slowly pour the boiling cream mixture into the chocolate, whisking constantly. Bring to a temperature of 160 degrees, about 3 1/2 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a stainless steel bowl. Cool in an ice bath, stirring constantly with a wire whisk to a temperature of 90 degrees F., about 4 to 5 minutes. Evenly divide the mixture into 8 small pot de creme forms or glass custard cups. Cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours to set before serving.

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