Adapting Herme's Sensation Satine

58

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My mother is a very playful woman, always up for a joke a prank or a trick, not a bad student in her younger days but definetely the one I would describe to a salesperson when I'd be lost in a department store as the "short woman laughing". So when she arrived from France on Monday for a mini vacation without my father, I wanted to accomodate her playful nature. I put one of these "verrines" (can be translated as dessert in a glass) in front of her that evening and waited for her reaction. I was not waiting for a "wow" but for a giggle and this is exactly what I got! She looked at it, picked it up, turned it around and then said like a kid who just found a Rubix cube "Come on! Tell me, tell me...!" Well, mom it's really not complicated and I owe it all to Pierre Herme, the mad pastry scientist/creator we all worship! I had originally worked on it for a tasting for an event that never happened so I had three of them left for us.

You probably know by now that every Sunday I tutor Veronica in French and that we start and end our sessions by talking pastries and desserts. We always talk about Herme, and we often end up emailing each other about pastry suppliers, books, discoveries and others. One afternoon I was reading emails when Herme's newsletter came through and within 10 seconds I was forwarding it to Veronica with a simple "I am So making THIS during the week!" I had not even looked at the ingredients yet, I just loved the play on the layer.

In the newsletter, there was a link to the recipe and I thought "And he is generous...I love that!" I read it, I liked it but I found the actual making a little bit tedious due to the ingredients. His original version contains a bottom layer of orange marmelade then a layer of yogurt panna cotta and the top layer is passion fruit gelee. I thought that orange marmelade would be cloyingly sweet and although I found passion fruits at the store, they were $1.99 a piece...and I needed 20 if I were to follow his recipe. Ah yes, the man is generous but he is not sponsoring my site...so I had to change course and come up with my own Sensation Satine, keeping the fun look of the different layers.

Think about an upscale jello that is a cinch to make. I am sure that if Herme knew what jello was, he would kill me for the comparison but this is the closest I could get! There is not a whole lot of gelatin in each layer, just enough to old everything together and leave an extreme velvety texture to each bite...like satin. I went for grapefruit at the bottom, honey Greek yogurt in the middle, and mango lime for the top. To garnish I macerated kumquats in simple syrup overnight and the little extra is a raspberry chip on top. The chips are so easy to make that you are going to start using other fruits. Mangoes, bananas, strawberries, etc... They are addictive!

It was time to tell mom how Herme did it and how I shamelessly copied him! All you need is a few glasses and an empty egg carton...Yes! An egg carton! Everytime you layer an element, set it at an angle in one empty egg slot, refrigerate until set. Layer the other element and set this one on an opposite angle, the top layer goes flat. When I read it I thought "and there you have why he is among the Masters in the world...duh!!" And my mom to exclaim in her usual fashion: "How cool! Let's do it again!" I see her point, once you have the concept, the possibilities are endless! Granted the process takes a long time because of the setting periods of each layer but you can spread it over one cleaning and laundry day....or one lazy rainy afternoon.


Sensation Satine (concept adapted from The Sugar Daddy):

Makes 3 large servings (we split)

Mango Lime Gelee:
1 1/2 tsp gelatin
2 Tb water
1 cup mango nectar
1/4 cup sugar
zest and juice from 1 lime

Pour the water into a small container, sprinkle the gelatin over it and set aside. In small saucepan set over medium high, heat together the mango juice, the sugar and the zest and juice from the lime until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the stove, add the gelatin and stir until it is completely melted. Let cool to room temperature. Divide evenly among the glasses and position them at an angle in the egg carton. Let set a couple of hours in the fridge.

Honey Yogurt Gelee:
1 1/2 tsp gelatin
2 Tb water
1 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey

Pour the water into a small container, sprinkle the gelatin over it and set aside. In a small bowl, heat half the yogurt in the microwave for one minute. Microwave the gelatin for 15 seconds. Quickly mix the two together, add the rest of the yogurt and the honey. No need to let it cool, layer it on top of the mango layer and position it at the opposite angle in the egg carton. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Grapefruit Gelee:
1 1/2 tsp gelatin
2 Tb water
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup grapefruit juice

Same exact process as the mango layer. Let it cool to room temperature before using. Remove the glasses from the egg carton and divide evenly on the top of each glass. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Macerated Kumquats:
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
3 cardamom pods, crushed
1 cup kumquats, sliced

In a large saucepan heat to boiling the water, sugar and 3 crushed cardamom pods. Remove from the heat, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Strain the syrup into a bowl to remove the cardamom and add the sliced kumquats, leave to macerate for couple of hours or overnight.

Raspberry chips:
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries, (thawed and drained a little if you use frozen)
1/2 cup sugar

In a food processor puree the raspberries with the sugar until smooth. Line a baking sheet with parchement paper and with a spoon or a spatula, spoon small petals or chips.
Bake at 200F until dried and firm to the touch. They will firm up while cooling but get soft if refrigerated.

Last but not least: the winners from the Canneles drawing held this past weekend. I would like Megan from Megan's Cooking and Paula who signed "anonymous" to email me their snail mail address at marinette1ATcomcastDOTnet so I can get these puppies out to them. Congratulations!!

Lemon Meringue Pie

141

Monday, January 28, 2008

Or in my case Lemon Meringue Tartelettes...yep, can't escape that nickname but to my defense Jen from The Canadian Baker and hostess for this month Daring Bakers' challenge had given us the option to make several tartelettes instead of one large pie. Be prepared to bathe in deliciously tart lemon curd and come out all sticky of meringue as 450 Daring Bakers got all sticky gooey once more just for you....and to overcome their fears, baking issues or just to have some fun!

Although this was not my first lemon meringue pie, it was fun to use someone else's recipe for crust and curd and compare them with the ones I constantly use. No big challenge but I was so tired the day I made it that I really did not pay close attention and followed the recipe blindly. Hint to those DB who have to use violent threats to themselves to follow a recipe to a "t"...do it when you can barely stand on your feet from exhaustion, physical or mental. Mine was mental so I went ahead and dove in.

The crust turned out ok, not my favorite but very good. I like mine flaky with good ole Crisco. Since my mother in law gave me her recipe, I just think this is the best (and not too many worries for my arteries I use the non trans-fat one that came out a couple of years ago). This one did the trick, except that being on auto-drive that evening I added the whole measurement of cold water to the flour mixture instead of my usual a few tablespoons at a time until it comes together. Oopps...dough was wet...Wrapped it up, parked it in the fridge for an hour, with the absolutely faith (that means all digits crossed here) that the flour and butter would work their magic and tame their thirst with the extra moisture. Worked! People, never fondle your dough too much no matter how soft and shiny it is or you will pay the price of tough and too elastic a piece to work with! After that a familiar scene happened: roll the dough, cut rounds, fill tartelettes molds, cover with parchment paper, fill with dry beans, blind bake and let cool. Oven on, tired Tartelette...I almost forgot they were in when the neighbors gathering for drinks started to wonder what I was baking! I had forgotten we had planned a game of Scrabble.

On to the curd....now I had an audience...ahahahah!!!! Most likely they will be too invested in the game to notice if I mess up! It wa the first time I used a curd recipe that involved water and which method was slightly unsual (see the recipe below). I have been spoiled by the lemon curd in Alice Medrich's book on low fat dessert and the fantabulous full fat lemon cream from Pierre Herme. But eh! I am always willing to try something new for my lovely Daring Bakers!! Everything went smoothly and the curd turned out smooth and tart, just like I love it. I remembered the good old advice from Harold McGee not to stir the cornstarch mixture too vigorously and not to cook it passed boiling or it will reverse its thickening properties...amazing given I was completely distracted by C. challenging B. about a word during our Scrabble game. Kids......!

The meringue part....delicious. Again, of where there is fluffy sugar topping there usually is a happy Tartelette. The recipe instructed us to use the oven for that part, but my oven was crowded with pizza when that part came up so I "had" to use the blowtorch (another excuse to play with fire) and for the kids to be convinced I had magical powers!! I first played with it on the tartelettes like I had done previously on lime meringue cupcakes and then I just used a plain tip and a large star tips and did the minis with them...and they kind of looked like cupcakes after all. I think I lost at Scrabble but I took the prize for eating the most of the mini lemon meringue pies in one sitting. What can I say...I love anything with lemons!

Will I make this particular lemon meringue pie again? Actually I did a couple of times for a friend and my mother in law and everybody enjoyed it. For us? Probably, not so much for the crust but the curd was really tart...which I love, so I will make sure to serve it to people who share the same fancy. The meringue was not overly, cloyingly sweet so it will be used again for other tarts.
Be sure to check my fellow Daring Bakers' posts popping out there everywhere and thanks Jen for a yummy recipe!


Lemon Meringue Pie: recipe courtesy of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver, 2002

Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie. I made four 3.5-inch ones and twelve 2-inch minis.

For the Crust:

¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
⅓ cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:

2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
¾ cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:

5 egg whites, room temperature
½ tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
½ tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
¾ cup (180 mL) granulated sugar


For the Crust:

Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.
Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about ½ inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

For the Filling:

Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.
Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

For the Meringue:

Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.


And remember that you have until 4pm today to get the chance to get yourself a box of canneles!

A Little Weekend Drawing

159

Saturday, January 26, 2008


I was going to post a completely different thing this weekend, a dessert inspired by sugar daddy Pierre Herme However, reading the comments from the canneles post on friday I realized that a lot of you had either never had such marvelous little morsels or had tried them a long time ago and were nostalgic about them....So, I came up with a little drawing idea:


I am offering two packages of a dozen each of fresh baked canneles to two gourmands out there. All you have to do is leave a comment to this post and I will draw your name completely at random and ship them to you during the week. To ensure freshness I can only ship within the US and Canada.


Drawing end Monday at 4pm, and the winners will be announced Tuesday or Wednesday. (My mom is coming in town and I might be drowning under chocolate and candy in the meantime)

Canneles - A favorite And Addicting Snack

56

Friday, January 25, 2008

A lot has been said about Canneles [kah-nuh-leh] : they taste like a fudgy bite of crepe, they are moist on the inside and crispy on the outside, they have a faint hint of rum, etc... I need to add that they are hands down good and truly addictive! I am on batch number 3 and the neighbors only got to try a dozen...Yes, my name is Tartelette and I am a canneles addict.

Actually, I am blaming Veronica for this week's thigh expansion! You see, every Sunday I tutor her in French for an hour and we usually start our lesson with a rundown of the recipes we tried the past week and we end it with a exchange of the recipes we plan on trying. This past Sunday we prolonged the hour by talking baking resources online, utensils and molds. It reminded me of the silicone canneles molds my parents brought me last September that had not been used yet. Tragedy!!! So you all can guess what I did right after we said goodbye...and again the next night!

I blogged about Canneles last year when I could not wait to get the proper molds and decided to use muffin tins. The experience was successful, after all, appearances are one thing, taste is what matters. However, I could not resist their dainty cute shape and decided to rework the first recipe I made. They are a specialty from the South West town of Bordeaux, but you can bet that good as they are they finally made their way to most bakeries in France, especially Paris. When we were home last year, we got half a dozen (come on people, that's three each! See, I can show restraint!!), from my favorite Patissier Gerard Mulot. I liked his a lot more than most I tried (and believe that for the sake of blogging I did try quite a many half dozen that time), because they retained their freshness the day after unlike most canneles out there. One characteristic of the canneles is that they crust while extremely buttery and crispy fresh from the oven will get moist and soft as the day goes by. Although I could eat an entire batch in one sitting, I was also attempting to share with the neighbors gathered on the patio! I suspected that a little bit more flour than usual would do the trick and I adapted the recipe accordingly. They were still best right out of the oven but even the next day, the moisture had not seeped out and the crust had remained beautifully crispy. Mission accomplished!

Most if not all pastry shops in France will coat the molds with beeswax as it does not burn at the high temperature they cook them in as fast as butter and sugar and gives the cakes a nice shiny crust. You can't taste the beeswax at all, but I make canneles when the craving strikes me and I do not usually keep beeswax on hand, plus I was using silicone molds and not copper molds so I figured that part would not work the same! I reduced the oven temperature to avoid burning and bitter caramelization of the butter and sugar and that did the trick. I like canneles on the lighter color side, just my preference versus feeling like I am about to pop a morsel of coal in my mouth, but feel free to push the cooking time a little longer if you are so inclined. One last thing I strongly recommend is to refrigerate the batter at least 4-6 hours or to make it the night before. I started it at noon and we had them to go with coffee and cordials that evening. Funny thing is that I ran out of rum and used Calvados for the second batch...and people around me failed to understand the irony of making a Southern French treat with an alcohol from Normandy. Yes, I know, I am easily amused!


Canneles:

Makes 18 to 24 depending on your molds

750 milk (2 1/2 cups)
50 gr butter (2 TB)
3 eggs plus 3 egg yolks
200 gr granulated sugar (1 cup)
1 Tb vanilla extract
1/4 cup rum
155 gr flour (1 1/4 cups)

In a saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer, add the butter cut into dices. Mix well and let cool to lukewarm. In a bowl, mix the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla and whisk until foamy. Slowly add the rum and flour. Add the milk slowly and whisk until smooth. Pass it through a sieve if necessary. Let the batter rest in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. When the batter has rested, preheat the oven to 375F, position a rack in the center. Divide the batter evenly among the canneles molds, generously coated with cooking spray or well oiled if you use copper. Bake for 35-45 minutes. The will be scortching hot right out of the oven, so let them cool 20 minutes or so before enjoying them.

Note about the molds:
Last time they came my parents brought many of my favorite Demarle silicone pans (a bit pricey but so worth it) as well as a couple others they did not have on stock, called Moulflex, cheaper, bright red and a little bit lighter. I was skeptical but grateful at the same time as I did not want to pay for copper canneles molds...Oh trust me I could...they are so pretty and shiny...but I can't justify such an expense to my beloved! The Moulflex ones worked like a charm! The only copper thing I owned is the hot chocolate pot in the top picture that I found at an antique store.

Honey Panna Cotta and Raspberry Terrine

59

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Right around mid December, I had that feeling something somewhere was not right but I could not really put my finger on it. Something was missing every time I'd turn on the computer but I could say what. The filling lasted a few days more when suddenly it hit me, "WTSIM..." was missing! Peeps, that's bad when your body has become so trained to certain cycles that it knows when something is out of place. And that's even worse when it is in your "other" life, your blogging life that is. Unless they ask us to make stew or barbecue I am always there to go play with Johanna, Jeanne and Andrew. January's theme is "Terrine" and as I was reading Johanna's directions I almost sighed in disappointment when she said that sweet terrines were welcome. Oh good! Now what?!!

I thought about steamed puddings in terrine molds and about nice layered fruit gelatin layers. The former seemed a little heavier than I wanted to bring to our weekly gathering with the neighbors and the latter was going to be received as this weird jello-type dish no matter how sophisticated the layering and fruits would be. I was in the mood for layers of cream and fruits and decided to pair them with a light genoise and assemble the terrine that way. I got lucky at the farmers' market that Saturday and came home with some very ripe and fresh raspberries and homemade yogurt, thick and wholesome.

The yogurt is the base for a light and creamy panna cotta flavored with honey. I was inspired by a recipe from The Sweet Life by Kate Zucherman. I was intrigued by this recipe as the other element is a egg white custard. Like most of us out there I am used to egg yolks based custard so this was an interesting play on a basic. I have to say that on its own, it is very eggy tasting...not something I would want to eat by the spoonful like creme anglaise. However, once mixed in with the yogurt and honey, the strong egg flavor disappear completely and one is left with a very silky panna cotta. Something I can eat by the spoonful!!

The genoise is the same used in the December Daring Bakers' challenge as the cake is moist and fluffy and works perfectly cut up in log strips to layer the cream and the fruit. My little play on the cake is that I brushed each layer with some Saint Germain Elderflower liqueur that my sweet friend Anita sent me a few weeks ago. It took the whole terrine from "excellent" to "awesome". I have to hide the bottle from myself because it is truly addictive! You can skip the alcohol part or substitute with Kirsch or white rum. Feel free to use something else than raspberries like strawberries, peaches, etc...

Honey Panna Cotta and Raspberry Terrine:

For the Genoise (recipe from the Yule Log Daring Baker Challenge):
Note you will only need about half the sheet pan. I wrap the leftover really well and freeze it for other uses (layered cake and mousse or instant cake Napoleons, etc...)
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour
¼ cup cornstarch
one (1) 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again.

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).
Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.
While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.
Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake does not over bake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.
Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack. Remove the cake from the baking sheet and invert it on a larger piece of parchment paper. Peel of the parchment paper that was lining the baking sheet.

For the Panna Cotta (start the day before) (adapted from Kate Zuckerman)
16 oz plain whole milk yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
2 Tb honey
1/2 Tb unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
3 egg whites

8 to 24 hours ahead of time: line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth or coffee filter and place it over a bowl so that it is suspended. Scrape the yogurt in the lined strainer and let it drain, refrigerated.
After 8-24 hours (I strain mine overnight), combine the yogurt, sour cream and honey. Whisk well and set aside at room temperature.
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1 1/2 Tb water and set aside to bloom for 10 minutes.
Make the egg white custard: In a small saucepan, heat up the milk, cream and 2 Tb of the sugar, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is almost boiling.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites and the 1/4 cup of sugar. Slowly whisk in some of the hot milk to temper the eggs. Add the remaining milk, whisk well, and pour the whole thing back into the pot. Stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens like for a regular egg custard (should coat the back of a spoon).
Remove from the heat and stir in the gelatin. Stir well until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Strain the custard through a sieve if necessary. Let cool to room temperature. You can speed up this process by putting your bowl over an ice bath. Once the custard is cooled, stir in the yogurt mixture. Set aside a room temperature until ready to use.

Remaining ingredients:
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries.
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks with 1-2 Tb sugar.

To assemble:
Line a terrine mold with plastic wrap, making sure that it extends over the edges of the pan as it will give you a better grip when you unmold it. Cut one strip of genoise the same width as the bottom of your terrine. Mine gets wider as you reach the rim of the mold so my pieces are going to get a little wider each time.
Spoon about 1/4 cup of the honey panna cotta on top of the cake layer, carefully place raspberries the whole length of the mold, right on top of the panna cotta. Cover with another 1/4 cup of the cream. Cut another piece of the cake and repeat with the panna cotta and raspberries. Repeat the process until you reach the top. Make sure that your last layer ends with a piece of cake as it will be your base when you unmold the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 2 days before serving.

To serve:
Remove the terrine from the refrigerator as well as the plastic wrap on top. Invert the pan onto a serving plate and peel of the plastic wrap that was lining the inside of the mold. Cover the cake with the whipped cream and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
To make strips: cut out strips of paper the width you desire and lay them on top of the terrine while you spread the whipped cream. Go slow and steady or you will move them at the same time. Peel the strips off and voila!

Toffee Butterscotch & Tapioca Pudding

48

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Every month I get a little surprise in the mail, Cuisine at Home magazine, courtesy of my dearest Lisa who got me a subscription for my birthday last year. I am usually very bad with food magazines, letting them pile up on the bed stand until they become one with the floor...not good. This one is a no fuss-no muss kind of magazine and their dessert recipes are always so mouth watering...it is difficult to resist!!

I was wondering why the postman was taking a break by our mailbox and I went to check on things, he was reading my magazine and looked up at me with a big smile on his face. "You have got to make this" he said, pointing at the Toffee-Butterscotch Pudding in the latest edition. I had to agree that it looked mouth watering, and it had two of my favorites Heath Toffee Bar and tapioca. I am addicted to the toffee bar and crumble it up on top of everything lately such as cakes, cookies and my afternoon yogurt. Over the past year I have become quite fond of tapioca puddings, creams and bubble teas, nutritious and filling, it is as versatile as rice for puddings.

The recipe was very easy and straightforward, but if course I had to make it richer by adding a small handful of toffee bits inside the pudding. I used the same 8 ounce preserving jars that I used previously for chocolate pots de creme, that way I could take one down to the mailman the next time he came. It's like a sweet surprise as you dig your spoon into it! I don't eat candy that often so this is like a candy addiction to me which is a good thing actually because I am sending this off to Candy Recaper as my entry to Sugar High Friday.


Toffee Butterscotch Tapioca Pudding, adapted from Cuisine at Home:

Serves 4

1 can evaporated milk
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup whole milk
3 Tb instant tapioca
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tb. unsalted butter
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup tofffe bits (such as Heath)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. sugar
toffee bits for garnish

Warm the evaporated milk in a saucepan until it comes to boiling point. Reduce the heat to low and keep it warm. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, milk, tapioca and salt. Let stand 5 minutes.
Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat, add the brown sugar and cook until the sugar melts and starts to foam, about 4 minutes.
Slowly whisk in the warm evaporated milk, stirring until smooth. Be careful as it will bubble like mad.
Add the tapioca mixture and bring the pudding to a gentle boil. Cook, stirring constantly for an additional 3-4 minutes. Remove form the heat. Stir in the vanilla. Pour half the pudding among 4 serving dishes, divide the toffee bits evenly on top, pour the remaining half of pudding. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it to the surface as to prevent a ski from forming. Let stand or chill until serving time. Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks with the sugar and garnish the puddings with it. Garnish with more toffee bits.


Swedish Walnut Tea Ring

54

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hard to believe that in spite of the amount of bread I bake every week, from simple baguettes to brioche or my now well known love affair with cinnamon rolls, I have not participated in one single Bread Baking Day event, created by Zorra. Something had to change! When Eva announced this month's theme, I knew I could not pass on it: shaped bread. I love messing with decoratively shaped breads such as Sunflower rolls, Dulce de Leche Rolls, Apricot Couronne and others. There is one that I love to make on an almost weekly basis: the Tea Ring. Over the past years, I have tried so many different recipes that I have come up with a basic dough that is light and soft yet sturdy enough to accommodate many different spices, nuts and fillings.

This one has my beloved cardamom in the dough, as well as cinnamon and walnuts inside. The crumb is perfectly tight to hold it own dunked in coffee and yet soft enough to melt in your mouth. I make it using either instant dry yeast or rapid rise yeast and never had a problem either or. With the instant dry yeast, you will need to proof it first in the warm milk. If you are relatively new at bread making this can be easily messed up if your liquids are too hot. Using rapid rise yeast decrease this risk because you just mix it in with the rest of the ingredients, skipping that proofing step.

Which one do I use? Both, and I admit that I have come to love the rapid rise kindbecause I don't have to mess up with the liquid temperatures, if that gets me yelled at by the bread police, well then be it! My take on it is that if it sold and it works to produce lovely breakfast rings like this one, I am in! Since I use the instant yeast and proofing method for this one, I will write the recipe down as such, but know that is ok to be lazy busy and throw the yeast in with the rest of the ingredient if you use rapid rise.

Swedish Tea Ring:

Ring Dough:
1 package instant yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 Tb sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp. cardamom
zest of one lemon
2 1/2 - 3 cups all purpose flour

Filling:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 TB cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 Tb milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract


Heat the milk until tepid (105F-110F). In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve yeast in the warm milk until foamy, about 1o minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups flour, butter, salt, sugar, egg, lemon zest and mix using the dough hook until the dough comes together. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour if the dough is still too soft. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and satiny, about 5 minutes.
Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out to a 12x18 inch rectangle. Spread the softened butter all over the rectangle. In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon, sugar and walnuts. Spread this mixture evenly across the dough. Roll the dough into a long roll and press the seam closed. With the seam turned downward, seal the two ends together to make a ring.
Place the ring on a parchment paper lined baking pan. Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, make cuts every inch or so along the ring, cutting only three quarters of the way through. Twist each piece slightly so that the rolls fan out from the center of the ring. Cover the roll with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. Bake at 375F , 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the ring from the oven, place on a rack to cool.
When cooled, combine the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk and drizzle the glaze all over the ring.




Time To Make The Doughnuts!

49

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


What? A doughnut event? I am smiling thinking that while you were sleeping and dreaming away, Peabody and I were rubbing our hands together and scheming about an all doughnut fry fest. Oh yeah! Bring it on!! We love anything with butter, flour, eggs and sugar but more so when deep fried and maybe drenched in caramel or toffee sauce! We know you have been craving some doughnut goodness and looking at all the countries around us, we can tell that there are lots of local specialties involving fried dough. We also realize that some of you are paying attention to their waistline this time of year, so we are ok with baked doughnuts, don’t make it a habit though, that will break our hearts! You don’t have to own a deep fryer to participate either, any form of pan frying can do (don’t go justify to your better half your latest appliance purchase and blaming it on us!!).

Our only “requirements” are that your entry be a sweet one (plain, or fruit filled or other), and one you make especially for the event….because...well, that's just us!

To participate, make and post some doughnuts between now and February 12th send us your entry at mytarteletteATgmailDOTcom or luvbriereATgmailDOTcom with the following information:
* Name
* Blog name
* Blog URL
* Post title or Name of dish
* Post URL
* Picture

Round up on both our blogs on the 15th!

You can also find notification of this even on Is My Blog Burning, graciously maintained by Andrew.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cake and Caramel Corkscrews

47

Saturday, January 12, 2008


I call this cake "revisited" although it is not entirely exact, but I could not think of a better way to say it. I made this cake for the first time last year, posted this pretty picture and promised to write down the recipe on this blog and never did. I have received many requests for it over the past few weeks months so I finally got my act together and wrote it down. Sorry for those who emailed about it six months ago...I keep being distracted by more pastries and desserts every day! The cake is adapted from Marcel Desnaulniers, sinfully rich and absolutely decadent.

I have also received many requests to post the how-to's of making the caramel corkscrews I used for the Espresso Chocolate Trios and the Chocolate Crepe Cake. I hope the explanations and drawing at the end of this post will unleash the caramel playing gene in you. Just take your time, be patient and the good thing is that even if you mess up, you can still it it!


Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cake, adapted from Marcel Desnaulniers

Cake:
2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp.salt
3-4 medium ripe banana,peeled and diced
1 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup dark rum
1 cup unsalted peanuts for the garnish (optional)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing:
1 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 oz semisweet chocolate, melted

Chocolate Ganache:
12 oz. semisweet chocolate
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 cups heavy cream
2 Tb. sugar

Preheat the oven to 325F. Lightly butter 3 9 inch round pans and line them with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the banana pieces at medium speed, until just incorporated. Add the sifted dry ingredients, mix well. Add the boiling water on low speed. Once incorporated, add the rum, also on low speed. Run a rubber spatula around the side and bottom of the mixer to make sure that all the ingredients are well incorporated.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake 25-30minutes, rotating the pans if necessary. Let them cool to room temperature. Invert the cakes and peel of the parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the peanut butter and powdered sugar together,and beat for about 4 minutes at high speed until very smooth. Add the melted chocolate and beat on medium high for about 1 minute. Leave at room temperature.

Spread 1/2 cup of the icing over one of the cake layers. Top with another cake layer ad another 1/2cup icing. Place the final cake layer on top. Spread the remaining icing on top of that last layer and down the side of the entire cake. Refrigerate for several hours or until the icing is firm to the touch.

Meanwhile,prepare the ganache: place both chocolates in a large bowl.Heat the cream with the sugar until boiling.Pour it over the chocolates,let stand for 2-5minutes, then stir with a whisk until completely smooth.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator,place the cake on a grid over a parchment paper line baking sheet. Ladle the ganache over the top of the iced cake. Use a cake spatula to spread a smooth coating of ganache over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake 20-30minutes until the ganache is firm. Scrape the ganache that has fallen on the parchment paper and fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with it.
If you wish to decorated the cake with the peanuts, save about a dozen for the top of the cake, chop the rest coarsely and press them on the sides of the cake. Use the reserved ganache to pipe swirlies on top of the cake.


Caramel Corkscrews:
Picture taken from Bo Friberg, The Professional Pastry Chef

Start with a basic 2 step dry-method caramel:
Over medium high heat, melt 1/2 cup of sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan until golden brown. Immediately add another 1/2 cup of sugar and stir untill all the sugar mixes and melt and becomes dark golden brown. In this particular method,it is ok to stir the sugar,but with a wooden spoon and very slowly. It goes from a semi-liquid golden to a dark brown caramel. It will coagulate but becomes smoother as it melts. This method is very convenient for reheating as you need when your working caramel becomes too stiff, without adding any more color. Remove from the heat and let it cool to a consistency of thick glue. Too thin and it will make pretty strands, too thick and you can play with pulled sugar.

For the corkscrews, I lightly oiled a metal skewer, held it in my left hand (I am right handed),I dipped a wooden spoon into the hot caramel with the other hand and twirled the caramel around the metal skewer, starting from part closer to my wrist and twirled my way up the skewer. Let it dry a minute and let it slide off onto a lightly oiled parchment paper lined baking sheet. Make sure the caramel is thick enough to play with. One easy cooling method is to put your pan into a larger one filled with ice as soon as your caramel has taken on the right color on the stove. If it gets too thick, simply reheat on low for a minute. Oh, and have scissors near by in case those caramel strands start taking on a life of their own!


Last but not least, I want to share with you a cool event that Kristen from Dine and Dish started about a month ago. She asked for volunteers veteran bloggers to adopt new bloggers. I remembered how strange and weird it was to start blogging. Finding your voice, your style, deciding on how much of your privacy to give, getting comfortable. I needed help with the basic styling, the basic editing, the basic everything (but now I have a computer Guru!).
I read and read "blogging 101", scratched my forehead and pulled my hair....not really but close. I really found my groove last year and I thought that Kristen's event was a great way to help new bloggers find their skin or to simply give them a virtual high five for pursuing their dreams.

So, after this long paragraph, let me introduce you to Dana who writes Proof Of The Pudding and Evelin who is the voice behind Bounteous Bites, and I could not be happier to adopt them.
I "met" Dana in November when I stumbled upon her wonderful pear cake that I have made so many times since then, changing the fruits, extracts,.... everybody should have a base cake like this one!
I discovered Evelin through her 2007 blogging recap and started reading through her archives days before Kristen mentioned not having enough veterans for a few bloggers. I volunteered to take adopt another one (what I would do for cake?!!) and when I read it was Evelin, I was tickled pink. Karma/Fate is pretty powerful wouldn't you say?!...or Kristen has psychic powers to have matched me with Dana and Evelin!

Tonight I am actually wondering how to dunk Dana's bagels into Evelin pear and fennel soup...

Apple and Cider Beignets

62

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I know...I am evil to make apple and cider beignets, to take their pictures and put them here while some of you have made food related New Year's resolutions. I guess now you know that I don't make any...! No, seriously, I do make "adjustments", not resolutions. Just the word puts too much pressure so I make a list of bad habits that I need to correct. Back to the beignets though. If you think about it, I am not really evil if you are tempted by these. Don't they say "an apple a day keeps the doctor away"? And that if you fry things at a high enough temperature, you don't get as much oil in the food? So you see....no evil.

Alright, I might be trying to justify the fact that I enjoyed one too many of them tonight but sometimes life is too short to worry about two or three Apple And Cider Beignets. I am not pushing you to throw caution away to the wind but let's face it between two of these and two store bought ones, I know which one I am going for. First, they are made with fresh ingredients that I can pronounce without scratching my head, and second of all who knows what tomorrow holds?

I have been craving fruit beignets like these for months but beside the four days we had of cold-er weather, there has never been a "proper"occasion. I can't say "cold" for those of you under really bone chilling conditions or you would laugh at me! Anyway, if I wait for another drop in the temperatures I might have to move up north before the right moment comes along. And really, when is the right moment? My philosophy is that if it is not hurting anybody and not breaking any law, (college days are definitely over), well, now is as good a time as ever!

I was going to use one of my mom's recipes until I noticed Kate Zuckerman had a pretty mouth watering one also. She uses light beer in her recipe but I had just opened a bottle of "cidre brut" so I went with that instead. Since one of my New Year's "adjustments" is to try more than one recipe from cookbooks I receive, I went along with hers not knowing that I was in for a surprise. I don't know where she gets her apples but after the four called for in the recipes were all dipped and fried, I still had enough batter for four more! So there I was cleaning and slicing a pineapple as quickly as I could before the oil would turn smokey black. No time to roast the pineapple slices as she does the apples but they still turned out alright. Given more time though, I would have proceeded as she does in the recipe just to avoid too much of a bitey feel from the raw fruit. Consider yourself warned and either pick mammoth sized apples, double on the quantity or prepare other fruits. If you go with canned or jarred ones, make sure to pat them real dry with paper towels as we all have discovered at some point that oil and water don't really like each other, especially at frying temperatures.


Apple And Cider Beignets, adapted from Kate Zuckerman:

For the apples:
4 large apples
3 Tb butter
2 Tb sugar

For the batter:
4 eggs
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup melted butter (she uses oil)
3/4 cup hard cider or light beer
11/2 cups flour
2 tsp sugar

Oil for frying (1 to 2 cups)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350F. Peel and core the apples. Slice them into four even doughnut shaped sections, crosswise. Lay the apples on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Dot them with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until the apples are brown and tender but not completely done. Let them cool to room temperature.

While the apples are baking, prepare the batter to fry them. Separate the eggs, reserving the whites. Whisk 3 egg yolks (discard the 4th one or use for something else) with the salt, butter and cider. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until foamy, add the sugar slowly until you get stiff glossy peaks. Carefully fold the whites into the egg yolk batter.

Note about frying: do not overcrowd your pan as it will drop the temperature of the oil and you will have a soggy oily beignet instead of a crispy one. To test if the oil is ready, dip the end of a wooden spoon or dowel in the oil and if you see bubbles at the base touching the oil, it is ready.

Heat one cup of oil in a frying pan to 325F. While it is heating up to temperature, mix the last measurement of sugar with the cinnamon in a plate and keep it close as you will dip the beignets in this once they are fried and cooled a bit.
Dip each roasted apple slice in the batter, coating both sides and gently lay them down in the oil. Cook 4-6 apple slices depend on the size of your pan, until they start to brown around the edges ( I used an 8inch cast iron one and 4 slices at a time). Using a slotted spoon or spatula, flip the apple over and cook until golden brown. Drain them on paper towels for a minute and dredge them in the cinnamon sugar. Serve as soon as possible or reheat briefly in a pan the day after (if they last that long).


P.S: I have read your comments and your emails about the caramel corkscrews and I will make a proper post about those this weekend. I also got emails about a cake I posted moons ago without writing the recipe down for you, so I will upload that too!

Espresso - Chocolate Trio

62

Monday, January 07, 2008


...more specifically Eclairs with Dark Chocolate-Espresso Mousse, Espresso-Dark Chocolate Pots de Creme and Frozen Mascarpone-Espresso Parfait on Deep Dark Chocolate Cake. Although this was work related, this is how I spend my Saturday. I am not getting fancy on you all of a sudden but it was either this post or more puddings, creams and mousses. Yes, I seem to veer away from cakes lately as there are not one that strikes me, although I did find a couple to try today.

Friday afternoon I got a call from K., one of the chefs I used to work with at the restaurant asking me if I'd make the desserts for a fancy dinner of wine representatives next weekend because he did not have time and the Executive Chef in his usual fashion was throwing fits about everything regarding this event. I agreed and he finished our conversation by saying "ok, well you bake tomorrow and I'll be at your house on Sunday, I trust you"....Why oh why, tell me that...he was going to jinx me! I had the list of wines and descriptions and samples to be served next weekend and for the most part of the afternoon I tried to come up with desserts made with them or complimenting them. I wrote, scratched, sketched, scratched...never happy. Finally I completely changed my course: there would be appetizers and entrees cooked with the wines, sauces and reductions, emulsions and stocks, and then desserts with more wine? Crazy! These people might appreciate a break, a true one: a coffee break. After spending my Friday evening (oh my life is fun!) working ideas on paper, I finally had a plan for Saturday.

I baked all day, tweaked the flavors after many a sip of wine..dang my job is tough!! At 9pm, I sat down with a good omelette and a chunk of bread, tired but happy...Oh boy! Do I miss those days when my restaurant kitchen was my lab, when K. and I used to have our lunch breaks upstairs bitching about Big. Exec. Chef, dreaming about our "dream orders" me wanting quinces in July and him exotic Chinese mushrooms for pennies. And then, we were always called back to the dirty grind of reality by the voice of Big Exec. through the intercom "Helen, we are 86 lemon tarts and brulees, get to work! K., the veal shanks ain't gonna braise themselves!" It's good to know that some time after I left the restaurant, K. still relies on my opinion and just frankly told Big Exec.to f$#& off when he told him I was their dessert consult this time around! I was cracking up hearing their conversations...ah sweet revenge!!

Anyways, back to the desserts, largely inspired by my boyfriend Richard Leach (maybe I should tell him I "really" like him!), but tweaked to serve the guests in questions (read very tipsy after all that wine) and the logistics of the kitchen I would be baking and plating in: tight, busy, orchestrated like an assembly line that night so no time for me to come up with super fancy stuff. I am still working on a fruit based item, we just can't make up our minds on what we like best, so that post will probably for next week. My initial "final" Saturday afternoon had mousse, an espresso shot and a parfait. I did not like the look of the mousse molded and plated, the espresso shot I had in mind was topped by a milk foam and that step only would require me to cross the whole kitchen with the hot line on one side and the dishwashers on the other side just to get to the frother on the other side of the waitstaff station..yeah right! The parfait was the only thing that stayed from my original thought, I just added the caramel corkscrew because I just can't leave sugar alone! When K. came over Sunday, he was happy and relieved that I had taken that thorn out of his schedule. We drank and I fixed us spaghetti a la Lisa and we drank again...Not too shabby a weekend if I may say!


Espresso Trio:

Eclairs With Dark Chocolate Espresso Mousse: (serves 4)

Eclairs:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
4 eggs

Heat oven to 375F. Heat water, sugar and butter in 3-quart saucepan to a rolling boil. Stir in flour. Stir vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a ball, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and let cool a few minutes. Beat in eggs, one at time making sure the eggs are well incorporated each time. The dough should have the consistency of thick mayonnaise. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip with the batter and pipe fingers of dough about 3-4 inches long on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until puffed and darker brown on top, 20 minutes, let cool completely before filling with the mousse. You'll have more than just for 4 servings but you can freeze the shells for up to 3 months.

Dark Chocolate Espresso Mousse:

3/4 cups bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup espresso
2 egg yolk
1 Tb sugar
1 cup heavy cream

Combine the chocolate, butter and espresso in a small saucepan over low heat until the chocolate melts and stir until combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolk and sugar until pale. Fold the chocolate into the egg mixture. Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold it into the chocolate base. Refrigerate one hour before using. Fill the eclairs with the mousse. Dip them into the chocolate glaze. Let set in the fridge

Chocolate Glaze:
1/2 cup dark chocolate
1 Tb butter
2 Tb cream

Melt the chocolate in the microwave, add the butter and cream and stir until combined

Chocolate Espresso Pots de Creme:

2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup espresso beans, crushed
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate
5 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 300F. Heat the milk with the sugar and beans until it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and let it steep for 20 minutes. Strain the beans and reheat briefly, add the chocolate and stir until well combined.
Whisk the egg yolks, and slowly add the hot chocolate milk,whisking until well combined. Strain and divide among 4 heat resistant glasses or dishes. Set them in a roasting pan and fill with water (limit depends on the height of your pan and your glasses but the higher the better for even baking). Bake until the custard is barely set, about 30 minutes. Remove from the pan, let cool to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to use. When ready to be plated, whip the cream to soft peaks and divide evenly among the glasses or dishes, sprinkle with cinnamon.

Mascarpone-Espresso Parfait:

1/2cup mascarpone cheese,at room temperature
1/4 cup strong espresso
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1 cup heavy cream

In a small bowl, combine the mascarpone cheese the espresso and 2 Tb sugar and whisk until smooth. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites adding the remaining sugar one tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks are formed. Fold into the mascarpone mixture.Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold into the egg-mascarpone base. Pipe or spoon into molds of your choice (I chose Flexipan Cannele molds). Freeze until ready to use.

Dark Chocolate Cake:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder (like Hershey's special dark)
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 Tb salt (really, not a typo, but it does wonder with the parfait above)
1 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs
1 cup warm water

Preheat the oven to 325F.
Cream the butter, cocoa and sugar together until smooth. Add the baking powder,baking soda, salt and flour. Mix until smooth and add the eggs, then the water very slowly. Pour the batter into a 8x8 inch pan lined with buttered foil or parchment paper. Bake 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Refrigerate overnight. When ready to plate, cut out circles a little larger than the diameter of the parfait base and set the parfaits on top.

For the decorations, I made a simple chocolate sauce and espresso flavored creme anglaise as well as caramel corkscrew but feel free to skip or use other things. Same with the trio: make one, two or all and have fun! All the components work together, but also separately for lighter bites and they can be made over several days, and kept refrigerated or frozen (the parfaits).

Pear White Chocolate Bavarian Charlotte

52

Friday, January 04, 2008

This Charlotte would be great for Spring or Summer but it just happened that I made it for our New Year's Day dinner with my parents-in-law. Really, I could not be a luckier girl having Bill and Ruth as my in-laws. I will always remember the first time we broke bread and sat together over dinner. I had known B. a little over a week and already I was taken in by his family as if I had always belonged. They were offering a place at their table but also a place in their hearts, completely trusting their son that this young woman of 19 years his junior and potential wife number 2 was the one who would stick around. Oh, we had our moments Ruth and I, but mostly due to misunderstandings, differences in traditions and cultures, but nothing that could not get solved around a batch of cookies and a big hug. My father in law is the looser one of the couple, a free spirit, a joker, and a talented drummer. Both in their eighties, they never miss a bit, are always on the go and exercise religiously. They are also true Southerners.

Although I try to cook items from my country and from Bill's childhood, I know better than to attempt his mom's squash casserole, her tomatoes and okra and her spinach souffle. Mom Ruth is also the one gathering up the troops for New Year's Day every year, so I was really surprised not to hear from her right after Christmas to tell us what time lunch would be on January 1st. Hmmm, strange...While grocery shopping, I could not helped being sidetracked by all the people shopping for the different things traditionally cooked that day: pork, hoppin' Johns and collard greens. I called Ruth and told them that I would love to have them over for New Year's Day if they did not have other plans. Invitation accepted...now what have I thrown myself into? I know how to cook, (thank you mom) but "Southern cooking served to your Southern mother in-law" is a whole different ball game!!! That's when Beverly came to my rescue and put all the necessary items in my cart, with all the necessary how-to's and off I went! Once home, B. told me I was brave to venture into his mom's territory and I quickly replied "don't worry! she is bringing the rice with tomatoes and okra". Sigh of relief from my husband...

So, with everything in pots Monday afternoon, ham hocks included, my biggest preoccupation was of course what dessert to serve to the in-laws. I know they like creamy things, fruits chocolate and mousses. How can I turn that into something that would bring both our cultures and continents together as we celebrate the New Year? I immediately thought about a Charlotte filled with a light white chocolate Bavarian cream and topped with pears. The cake base is a layer of ladyfingers at the bottom and surrounding the mousse. To make the cookies more manageable to handle, you need to dip them quickly in some liquid. I usually do water and Grand Marnier but you can use another liqueur or do water and orange juice if you wish. I used jarred pears for the top because the ones I found at the markets were either rock solid or mush, and the stove was already too crowded to start poaching fruit. The Charlotte has to be started the day before to allow the Bavarian cream to set, which gives you less things to think about as you're getting the house ready for company. Choose the best white chocolate you can find, not only will it make a difference in the final product but you will also avoid little bits and lumps in the mousse.

I don't know if my in-laws were giddy from the Champagne or the wine or the meal, but we had a great time, just the four of us. It reminded us of the 15 months we went to live with them while we were building our house. No casualties, and we were a little sad to leave them as they can be a hoot! Youwee! Mission accomplished...I passed that test! Mama Ruth complimented me on the savories (and that is a big deal!) while Papa Bill had seconds of the cake. I made Kalyn's wonderful soup the day after with the leftover peas,hams and greens, and I am enjoying a bowl right now as I type this.

Pear White Chocolate Bavarian Charlotte:

2 packs ladyfingers cookies
1 jar of pear halves (16 oz)
2 cups heavy cream
3 (1/4-ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/3 cups cold water
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
6 oz (3/4 cup) white chocolate
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup Grand Marnier

In a shallow dish, mix the water and Grand Marnier. Dip the ladyfingers in the liquid and quickly set them around the inside of an eight inch spring form pan lined with plastic wrap. Layer about 12 in a flower like patter at the bottom of the pan. Set aside in the refrigerator.

For the Bavarian:
Sprinkle the gelatin over the 1/3 cup of water and set aside. Whip the cream to soft peaks and refrigerate until ready to use.
Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until thickened and a pale yellow color. Slowly but steadily add the hot milk, stirring constantly to temper the yolks. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened (much like creme anglaise). Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, let it sit for a minute and whisk until incorporated.
Heat the gelatin 10 seconds in the microwave, add it to the white chocolate batter whisking constantly. Strain if necessary to make sure there are no chocolate lumps. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Remove the whipped cream from the refrigerator and fold it into the white chocolate cream.
Carefully pour it into the spring form pan. Put the cake back into the refrigerator and allow to set overnight.
The day you plan to serve the cake, carefully unlock the spring form pan and slide the cake out. Put a plate on top, invert, remove the spring form bottom, the plastic wrap. Put a plate on top of what will be your cake bottom and invert again. Proceed with a steady hand, but do not worry, the mousse is set so you won't smoosh it down.
Cut the pear halves into thin slices and fan them out on the top of the cake. Leave it in the refrigerator until ready to serve.





Caramel Cardamom Mousse

50

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, good times and laughter. We did, kind of mellow some days, kind of crazy some others...waiting for that cold weather to come our way so we could cozy up in front of the fireplace. Well, after temperatures in the 60s and the 70s, we finally have some cold weather. Of course it occurs on January 2nd, Mother Nature scoffing at us now that Santa is long gone and New Year's Eve is simply but a page turned. But you know what? It does not really matter anymore as I did not need the fireplace to make me feel cosy this Christmas season. Nope. I had the warmth of looking at cards every morning upon waking up, looking at my really weird looking Norfolk pine tree. Some were too kind to tell me it looked good....I did not care for it, but it was a gift and it got "prettified" as one of neighbors kids said.

Anyways, I was also blessed one Christmas Eve morning when I received a box full of cookies and gifts for the house, (look Lisa! the stars are giving my dessert some spice), a cookbook, The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman (see Veronica! already put to good use), and the softest fleece robe courtesy of my mother in law. The correlation with Cardamom Caramel Mousse? Well, that Christmas morning I felt really blessed that I could eat one of my friend's cookies, while reading the other friend's cookbook, and all wrapped up in my surrogate mom's gift....Really, it just dawned on me that very minute: "gosh, this is pretty special"...and as I was lost in all things metaphysical (ya'll know I am kidding, right?!), my hand stopped the pages of the book from turning by pushing on page 106, where Kate Zuckerman wrote the Caramel Mousse.

I can see why her recipe is at the backbone of so many of her desserts and the applications and variations on it are almost endless. A hot caramel syrup is whipped into egg yolks to create a safe cream to which some gelatin and whipped cream is added. The end result sets rather quickly but the taste is out of this world and the texture...well...soft as a pillow...really. In her original recipe Kate uses cinnamon to spice up the taste, and although I have nothing against cinnamon, I will go for cardamom first if given the choice. I thought about infusing the caramel syrup for the mousse with some barely crushed open pods. I started looking at the variations given when I noticed that she had a cardamom one, but used just the pods in their original form. Granted they are fragrant on their own, but I feared that the flavor would get lost in the boiling syrup, (even with the 10 pods she uses) so I went for a tiny bit more complication (one day I might play with caramel in a simple way, maybe!). I opened the pods, let them boil with in the caramel, strained the caramel over a bowl and quickly added it to the egg mixture for the mousse. It won't cool the caramel syrup long enough to weaken its emulsifying power for the mousse part.

Will I make the mousse again? You bet! The cardamom was such a good match for the caramel that it makes me want to experiment. The texture makes you believe it is light as air but if you're here reading this you know better: cream, sugar, eggs...And tomorrow? Butter, flour, sugar and cream....My New Year resolutions: small quantities of lip smacking desserts because life is too short to have less than the best! I am not saying I never use a box or a can of anything once in a while, I'd be lying and non-human, but there is nothing like the real thing! The pictures in the book are so crisp and drool-inducing that I'll probably feed off her concepts and try some other great associations she came up with. Now, how can see why Veronica and Anita kept pushing me to give it a look. If only we could share a Kate Z. baking session now!!!! Allright, on to the recipe:

Cardamom Caramel Mousse, adapted from the Sweet Life, by Kate Zuckerman:

Yields 5 cups

6 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 packet unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup water, divided
1 cup sugar
5 cardamom pods, cracked open
2 cups heavy cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg yolks and the salt. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup water, and let it sit while you make the caramel.

Combine the sugar, cardamom pods and 1/4cup water in a heavy saucepan. Cover and bring to a rapid boil over medium high heat (prevents crystallization of the sugar on the side of the pan). Once boiling, uncover and cook the sugar until deep golden brown. Turn off the heat and carefully pour 1/4 cup water into the hot caramel. The syrup will bubble and spurt, so stand back.Make sure the water incorporates fully to the syrup. Return to the heat if you get caramel bits and stir until it is one smooth liquid.

Strain the pods and seeds in a container with a spout, it will be easier to add the to the yolks. Pour the caramel slowly and into a steady stream into the egg yolks with the machine running on medium high. Melt the gelatin in the microwave for 10 seconds or into the (now empty) saucepan until dissolved. Add it to the yolk mixture and continue to whisk on medium high until it triples in volume and cools to room temperature.

In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Add it to the mousse base and fold the two gently together. Divide the mousse into cups, ramequins, dishes, etc...and let it set, covered in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

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