Daring Bakers' Nut and Chocolate Gateau
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Our host this month was wild red headed Chris from Mele Cotte who chose a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream from "Great Cakes" by Carol Walter. I had the pleasure of meeting Chris in the flesh this month after many months of chatting over the phone, so you could say we are "friends". That did not stop me from telling her last night that I approached this challenge not as enthusiastically as I usually do. It's been around 100F (no kidding) and over almost everyday here, and very humid with thunderstorms almost every afternoons so making a cake while in the middle of another baking project did not make me jump up and down. Filberts (hazelnuts) are quite pricey here and the baking budget is pretty much well spent already. In July, I crave ice creams and fruits and I would probably not tackle a multi part "gateau' unless asked to. Oh wait! I was asked to, by Chris and B. needed a proper birthday cake too! The fact that Chris came to visit with a tote full of nuts (yeehaw) and other goodies also gave me another reason to roll up my sleeve and get down and dirty with this cake.
I am glad I did. The genoise part was light and flavorful, the praline buttercream perfectly balanced in sweetness and nuts and the chocolate ganache rich and delicious. I chose to go with cashews instead of hazelnuts in the cake, (although I prefer hazelnuts in all nutty things) did a cashew praline for the buttercream. One requisite was to use a layer of apricot glaze underneath the chocolate ganache but I am a very peculiar bird who does not like fruit messing with my chocolate (no dipped candied orange segments for me or chocolate-raspberry anything...can't stand it, there I said it), so I did a salted butter caramel sauce instead. I was going to use mango jam I had just made but change my mind at the last minute.
Since I was essentially making it for B's birthday and it was a small gathering, I baked and filled a 6 inch round cake and I still have a 8 inch cashew gateau ready to be used in the freezer (ah the possibilities!). I am glad Chris gave us many options to play around with because I used to the max to make a cake that everyone at the dinner table would enjoy. I left the liqueur out of the buttercream and used half a vanilla bean instead of extract. The soaking syrup for the cake was made with rum (per the recipe) with the addition of lime zest and lime juice. The chocolate glaze required corn syrup and I substituted honey instead to give a little flavor while I removed the alcohol part of it.
We did have to keep the cake round but decorations were left up to us as long as some of the buttercream made it "on" the cake. I almost read through that line without registering. As I was putting the decorations up on the cake, I stopped, "what was it again about the buttercream?" Gah...got to find its way on top somehow....Oh good, I just needed some "glue" to anchor the shards white chocolate bubble wrap! I dipped some cashews in caramel (dry sugar method) and played around with caramel strands too. I think everything "required" ended up in the cake, albeit modified since we could play around. Well, maybe not, I did skip the "clarified butter" and used just plain melted butter without an issue in my cake rising or changing in texture. Oh, oh...almost forgot, since we had the option of using of a layer of whipped cream with the buttercream, I prefered to opt out. There was just something rubbing me funny with whipped cream on buttercream on cake. I "love" buttercream you see so masking it with whipped cream would have been a shame in my opinion, especially with a praline buttercream.
This cake was like a little Christmas in July and I am glad there were outside forces helping me wrap my mind and time around making it. That's what I like about being a Daring Baker, that "may the making force be with you" attitude that make us dive in into big pools of butter, flour, sugar and/or chocolate at any given month! Thank you Chris for choosing a tasty cake and thank you Ivonne and Lisa for all the tremendous work done to keep it organised and civilised. Bake on!
With the heat and humidity the caramel strands lasted about 2 minutes. See...there is buttercream sneaking its way on the gateau!
Cashew Gateau with Praline Buttercream, adapted from Great Cakes by Carol Walter
1 ½ cups cashew, toasted/skinned
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
5 lg. egg whites
¼ cup melted butter, cooled
Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan. Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside. Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.
Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute. Fold the yolk mixture to the whites. Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate. With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon.
Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.
1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum
zest and juice of one lime
In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur,lime zest and juice. Cool slightly before using on the cake.
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup praline paste
Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine.
4 lg. egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1/2 vanilla bean, cut open and grated
Place the egg whites in a large bowl of a electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows. Remove from pan and with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. Set aside. Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. Keep the butter around 65F. On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the vanilla bean seeds and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.
1 cup (4 ½ oz.) cashews, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter. Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.
Salted Butter Caramel Sauce
See here (I used about 2/3 of a cup)
6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
6 oz. (¾ cup) heavy cream
1 tbsp honey
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ - 1 tsp. hot water, if needed
Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside. Heat the cream and honey in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Add the vanilla. If the surface seems oily, add ½ - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!
Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.
Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes. Brush the top and sides of the cake with cooled caramel sauce, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.
Hellooooo there little slice :)
Berry Pavlovas: Crunchy Colorful Sweet Birthday Bites
Sunday, July 27, 2008
He is very instrumental to my being here doing the things I do and sharing things with you. He happily ventures his spoon in dishes and desserts I set out in front of him. He knows to always take his cell phone with him while running an errand for me at the grocery store. He has quickly come up with associations to remember who is so and so that I keep talking about, and stopped asking me if I have the hiccups when I giggle at the screen chatting online at night. He looks forward to other bloggers' visits as he has an excuse to use all the attachments on the vacuum cleaner (he is so going to yell at me for telling you this!). But more importantly he has more than accepted my bizarre schedule as of late and for that he deserves extra kudos and a public "I Love You - You Rock - Happy Birthday!"
There will be cake for him and a few guests for dinner tonight but this morning he will have some pavlovas filled with fresh blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. Boy do I love summer lately! I can't get enough of the gorgeous fruits at the market lately and berries have been either my breakfast or my lunch a
I made the shells when Chris was here and kept them in an airtight container at room temperature so they would still be crunchy today. There were just a touch softer in the middle but with the heat and humidity of South Carolina, that was to be expected. To fix that, I turned the oven on to 350F last night before going to bed, put the meringue shells in it and turned the oven off. It helps give them some of that crisp back so I can still hear him say "so-crunch-what is-crunch-for dinner-crunch-tonight- crunch crunch ?"...I love that sound!
Pavlovas With Fresh Berries:
Makes 8-12 shells depending on size
3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
Preheat oven to 275F. In small bowl, mix the sugar and corn starch together and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the balloon whisk, start whipping the egg whites to soft peaks. Start with the machine on low speed to break them a bit and get them "shaking" then increase to speed to medium high. Slowly add the sugar mixture in a slow steady stream, or one tablespoon at a time. At this point you can either spoon the meringue, making 12 circles on 2 parchment paper lined baking sheets or fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe the shells onto them. Bake at 275 for 30 minutes and reduce your oven to 250F and continue baking them for another 30 minutes.
For the berries: I did not measure how much of each berry I was mixing in, I went with a couple of handfull of each, sprinkled some sugar on top and chopped fresh mint and let it macerate for a couple of hours.
Cracked Pepper, Mint and Strawberry Macarons - And Tartelette Goes To Japan
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Long title I know....for the macaron story stay right here and scroll down to see how I got to Japan without leaving my couch!
When Chris was preparing her weekend trip here she mentioned that she wanted me to teach her how to make macarons. You know me and the little sweet suckers, I already have the spatula in my hand before you can twist my arm. I also had about 2 cups worth of already separated egg whites (long story, does not involve the puppy), so I decided to get a head start and try to re-create one of my favorite restaurant desserts in a macaron form.
I have always been surprised that the small town my parents live in is surrounded by a handful of amazing small restaurants. Great creativity, impeccable service, freshest of freshest ingredients. There was one in particular that was highly recommended for special occasions because of its amazing location and "nouvelle cuisine" menu (mind you that was 20 years ago). My father decided to take us there one special day in the summer and I can't begin to describe how we were all looking forward to it after all the hype we had heard from friends and family. The setting was indeed gorgeous, and very "sunday best" but also very inviting. It's funny the details I remember about that meal, even today.
The menu was creative and all the dishes described perfectly so that all our senses awaken...ah the wait was going to be tough. In my selective memory bank I can't recall the appetizer part, surely because there was nothing that surprised us there. The waiter arrived with our silver dome covered plates..oh the anticipation was killing me ...or was it my stomach growling? One after the other he lifted the domes to reveal the chef's creations. All 6 hungry jaws fell to the table...all at once. Think about a big painting canvas with 3 little dots and a smudge...for 6 supposedly different paintings. We all tried hard but there were no more than 3 bites to each plate. I think it is a family trait but rather than being upset and uptight about it, we started cracking jokes about it until my grandfather started making up what our desserts could turn out to be.
Oh no! If there is one thing I will get upset about it is dessert, (surprise, surprise), and the thought of my promised Strawberry parfait on a cracked pepper and mint meringue disk also turning into 3 bites, 3 dots and a smudge, was making me a little fidgety on my seat. Desserts finally arrived and to our surprise we were served full portions no "nouveau-schmoozeau" version of sweet endings. Ah! Why didn't they say the chef really had a sweet tooth?! Knowing my family we would have started there!!
And there it was, all for me...a subtle and light pink frozen strawberry parfait, set on a fragile and crackly disk of meringue spiced up with fresh chopped mint had freshly cracked black pepper. We still got home hungry but I have been recreating those flavors under various forms and techniques and in different plated desserts and pastry ever since that day. Obsessed? Yes, maybe, but only if it's good...and the combination is just outstanding! I am a big fan of cracked pepper with fruit and sweets, after all it's not as crazier as balsamic vinegar with strawberries and it really enliven traditional flavors and scents.
For the macarons I simply added some freshly chopped mint and freshly cracked pepper to the shell, and added freshly pureed strawberries to buttercream, as well as a touch of mint extract. The result? Just like I remembered! The mint and strawberry are definitely the first flavors to hit your tongue and then the cracked pepper comes and tickle it at the least expected moment! Happy, happy! Thank you Chris for playing my assistant while shooting these, and adding that one little pepper ball to the mac set up.
Cracked Pepper, Mint And Strawberry Macarons:
Macarons Help available here (click)
For the Shells: (makes about 20-30 depending on size)
3 egg whites (I like to use 1-2 day old egg whites)
50 gr. granulated sugar
200 gr. powdered sugar
110 gr. almonds
2 tsp. chopped mint
3/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper
For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature in a covered container. If you want to use 48hrs (or more) egg whites, you can store them in the fridge. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry and your macarons won't work. Combine the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Pass through a sieve. Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 300F. Let the macarons sit out for an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Pipe or spoon some buttercream on one shell and sandwich with another one. One tip I read is that if you use fresh whites, zap them up in the microwave on medium high for 20 seconds to mimic the aging process.
Strawberry Mousseline Buttercream:
Half a recipe of vanilla mousseline buttercream to which you add 1/2 cup pureed strawberries and 1/2 tsp mint extract.
Allright...so what was that about my trip to Japan? Well, a couple of months ago, one of the editors' of the Japanese magazine Joshi Camera contacted me to see if I was interested in being interviewed and featured in their July issue. I think I about snorted my coffee, checked under the computer and decided that well since it was Christmas in my brain already, "Yes! Of course!"
You would have asked me last year if I knew Joshi Camera, a magazine dedicated to women digital photographers, I would have said no, but the fact that they featured talents like Beatrice or Sabra in previous editions made me all the more appreciative and thrilled. I hope I answered their questions without making a "derriere" out of myself! The magazine is filled with gorgeous photographs (not all food related), positive energy, and quality. And yes Mom, I did ask for another copy for you...
They did go for 2 of my favorites: the Swirly Macarons and the Frozen Rhubarb And Banana Charlottes.Thank you Naomi and dang! why didn't I take Japanese in school to be able to read the entire issue which you can order here. I hope you don't think I am being pedantic by telling you about it but as I said, it is Christmas in my brain lately and I also know I am here and there because of your support.
Cassata Alian Sicilian - Baking With Friends
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
From my end, the experience was even better since I had another Bakenista in the kitchen and Italian to boot...how fitting when making an Italian classic, isn't it?! I hope that Chris posts her step by step pictures of the cake making while I post the finished product. We started around 9am, a littler earlier than our scheduled Skype chat, but we were aligning ourselves on "puppy time" and Bailey was falling back asleep then. It was a wonderful morning of tag teaming making the cake and working the keyboard to chat with the others. I started with the cake batter, I think... not that I am getting old or anything but between lack of sleep, puppies, and a rum soaking syrup at 10 am, I somehow found myself scratching my head at 4pm that I was still in my jammies! Chris prepared the ricotta, pistachio, and chocolate filling and layered the cake with it while I was trying to pull Bailey away from Tippy's tail. When we looked at the clock, it was already noon...Wow...time does fly when you are having fun!!
While Chris was here, she asked me to give her a couple of lessons on basic pastry methods, like making macarons (her firsts and a success!), cream puffs (not her first but a little recap), dry sugar caramel (her fear), etc...Showing her the different consistency of things as we went along was a lot of fun. In spite of the humidity I made some caramel corkscrews to decorate the cake and to show her the right consistency to play easily with caramel and they lasted about the time of the photo shoot it was so humid. Later in the afternoon, I covered the cake with a stabilized whipped cream frosting and decorated it wishing she were still around to share a slice with us, not to mention that she was a fantastic and very patient photo assistant all weekend and somehow taking pictures of the cake without her felt kind of empty. Stay tuned for other installment of our baking fest!
The recipe for this Cassata Alian Sicilian comes from Dolce Italiano by Gina De Palma and originally includes orange zest and almond extract which we skipped as the filling was flavorful as is, spread on rum soaked cake trimmings so we figured it might be overkill. The icing called for is a basic powdered sugar icing but somehow that seemed super sweet to us so we decided to go for a simple whipped cream frosting stabilized with some gelatin...crucial in high humidity settings if you do not serve the cake right away so you avoid the risk of ending with a pool of water on your cake plate. It seems like a really long recipe but it is very detailed...granted it is not a cake you start at 5pm for dinner at 8pm, but it is extremely complicated and comes together quickly.
Cassata Alian Sicilian:
makes one 9-inch cake, 10 servings
Sponge Cake Layers:
2 cups bleached cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch
8 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Rum Soaking Syrup:
2 cups granulated sugary
3/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup rum
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup shelled whole unsalted pistachios
3 cups fresh, whole-milk ricotta
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting:
2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/4 tsp powdered gelatin dissolved in 3 Tb. cold water
Preheat the oven to 350°F and position a rack in the center. Lightly grease two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans with butter or nonstick cooking spray, line them with parchment paper, then grease the parchment.
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium speed until very light and pale yellow in color and doubled in volume. Beat in the vanilla extract, followed by the melted butter. Transfer the egg mixture to a large, clean mixing bowl. Fold in the dry ingredient-quickly and lightly, stopping just before they are fully incorporated. Clean the whisk attachment and mixing bowl.
Place the egg whites and the pinch of salt in the cleaned bowl of the electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment on medium-high speed, beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter quickly and lightly, incorporate any streaks of dry ingredients that remain.
Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans, rap the pans against the counter top to eliminate air bubbles. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until they are golden brown, a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cakes have begun to pull away from the sides of the pan. Allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then carefully unmold and set them out to cool on a a wire rack.
While the cakes are cooling, prepare the rum syrup: In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, water, and rum. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the contents to a boil. Lower the heat and allow the syrup to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool.
Filling: using a microplane or box grater, grate the chocolate into fine, feathery shreds. Using a sharp knife, finely chop the pistachios. Place the ricotta, confectioners' sugar, and cinnamon in the bowl of an electric mixer and, using the paddle attachment, beat until the ricotta is creamy and soft (it will remain slightly gritty due to its original consistency). Add the grated chocolate, chopped pistachios, and beat just until combined.
Assembling the cake: Have ready a 9-inch springform pan. Using a serrated knife, carefully split each cake layer in half horizontally to make four layers. Place one of the layers in the bottom of the pan and, using a pastry brush, moisten it generously and evenly with some of the rum syrup. Spread the cake layer evenly with one third of the ricotta mixture. Repeat twice with another cake layer, more of the rum syrup, and another third of the ricotta mixture. Place the final cake layer on top and generously brush with the rum syrup. Wrap the springform pan tightly in plastic wrap; this helps the layers fit snugly on top of each other. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Whipped Cream Frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream with the sugar until soft peaks. In the meantime, dissolve the gelatin in the microwave for 10 seconds. Mine broke so I set the cup where the gelatin was in a large saucepan filled with a couple of inches of water, brought the water to a simmer and waited for the gelatin to melt. Slowly pour the gelatin in one steady stream over the whipped cream and continue to whip until firm. If you add your gelatin a little cooled and before the whipped cream is still at soft peaks stage, it should not clump on you.
Decorate your cake with the whipped cream and return the cake to the refrigerator to chill until you are ready to serve it, at least 3 hours.
So, who else is left with a huge hunka chunka of Cassata? Well, that would be Lisa, John, Ivonne, Stephanie, Ben, Kelly, Marcela. Chris can only look at her work and my hips are not too happy about that! It can easily serves 12, needless to say that after we kept a couple of slices for a little afternoon break, I took the rest to the neighbors! It is a special occasion cake but having Chris around was special enough to make me turn the oven on in the morning on a very hot day!
Words about friendship, even ones formed over the internet never rang truer learning about the sudden passing of one Daring Bakers, Sher from What Did You Eat? I can't say I "knew" her but I was a fervent reader and loved her recipes and wit. You will be missed Sher and always remembered.
A Favorite From The Archives
Monday, July 21, 2008
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this favorite of mine : Lemon Rhubarb Mousse Cake.
Maple Cardamon Mousse And Strawberry Tartelettes
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Back in May, I told you about our friend M. who had just been diagnosed with cancer. She underwent surgery a couple of weeks ago and is now back home, tired but already restless. She is not out of the danger zone yet, but there is progress. She called me yesterday all upset because she was tired of roaming around the house, tired of resting and tired of being told to sit down when she wanted to go for a walk. "Want to slice strawberries for me then?" I asked her. "Pick me up in 20 minutes!" was her response. I knew that an afternoon of baking and chatting would cheer her spirits up, not to mention that I am starting to get worried about this trend I developed to talk to the custard while I stir it!!
I set her up a stool by the counter and while she hulled and sliced the berries, I prepared the tart dough. When I turn the oven on, she gave me that look of "oh no! It's already hot and humid...please!". I promised her it would not take more than 20 minutes to bake them and then we can cool down again. I did not mention that I would have to turn it on for another couple of hours after her departure because she would have given me that "crazy girl!" look and checked my pulse! It's not only that it is hot outside, it also ungodly humid so opening up the windows is out of the question. She wondered if I had burnt a fuse when I said, 20 minutes...but that's it really. Once the shells are baked, they are filled with a delicious mousse and topped with sliced strawberries.
We made enough for eight tartelettes as test products since I'll have to make twice that amount on Thursday so they would be fresh, while chatting about her grand kids, the operation, the road ahead, the journey already accomplished. We each kept a couple and I went next door to my favorite neighbors to drop the remaining 4 (see Dad, I can count!), and then I got a big surprise from C's eight year-old twins. Remember they got a puppy a couple of weeks ago, Sully? Well, their attention span has already moved on to faster and bigger things so they decided that since I love the puppy and he seems to like me back, I should be his new "mom". So, tonight we brought the newly renamed Bailey home where a brand new crate and a new friend awaited him. I'd say four tartelettes for a puppy is a pretty good deal!
The idea of the mousse came when I was flipping through "The Sweet Life" by Kate Zuckerman, remembering how rich, creamy and delicate her caramel mousse was last time I made it. Her Maple and Star Anise is along the same process and although I love maple syrup, I am not a big star anise fan...so in went one of my favorites, cardamom. I also halved the recipe and used hand held beaters as such a small quantity of mousse is easy to ruin in a deep stand mixer bowl. I was so tempted to make the full batch though....it is so good that I could literally sit by myself and the bowl and be content, my thighs not that much however. You're warned! The small amount of mousse in each tart is perfect to offer a smooth and spiced contrast to the strawberries without being too sweet or overly rich.
Maple Cardamom Mousse and Strawberry Tartelettes:
Makes 6-8 depending on your tart shells, or on 10 inch round tart
For the tart shells:
1 stick butter, cut in small pieces
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
In a food processor, combine the flour and butter and pulse until you get a mixture that has the texture of cornmeal. Add the egg yolk and pulse until the mixture comes together in a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate while you prepare the filling. Roll between sheets of plastic wrap and cut out circles larger than your tart shells, fit the dough into the molds and cut out the excess. Prick with a fork, cover with a sheet of parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes, or until baked through.
For the mousse:
3 egg yolks
1/2 tablespoon powdered gelatin
1/2 cup grade B maple syrup
4 crushed cardamom pods
1 cup heavy cream
Whisk the egg yolks to break them up in a deep large bowl with hand held beaters (my KA has a deeper bowl than the standard model so I don't know if that would work in a smaller capacity bowl).
Sprinkle the gelatin over 2 Tb of cold water in a small cup and let it bloom.
In a heavy saucepan, combine the maple syrup and cardamom. Bring the syrup to a boil over medium-high heat and let it reach 240 degrees F. Remove the pan from the stove and strain the cardamom seeds carefully into a cup with a spout (easier to pour) .
Dissolve the gelatin in the microwave for 10 seconds, or in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
While still whipping the yolks, slowly pour in the hot maple syrup, being careful to temper them and not cook them. Pour the gelatin over the egg/syrup, whip together until cooled to room temperature and has tripled in volume
In another bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks or if you are using a stand mixer, pour the mousse into a large bowl and clean the mixer bowl thoroughly, or use another mixer bowl if you have one. Gently fold the whipped cream into the mousse trying to deflate the whole thing as little as possible.
Divide about 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup (depending on how deep your tart shells are) of the mousse among the tart shells and let set in the fridge.
To finish the tarts, slice about 2 pints of strawberries and arrange on top of the mousse filled tarts. Serve chilled but not cold.
And because yummy things are better shared among friends, I am sending these to Susan from Food Blogga who is hosting Sugar High Friday Berries this month, event created by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess.
Berries And Cream - My Little Bastille Day
Monday, July 14, 2008
I have read and jotted down everybody's name with an appropriate number attached to it because there were a few duplicates in the comment box and I wanted to be absolutely fair. So.... "a." is the lucky recipient of the Brigitte-Keks cookie cutter and Kim from My Plate, My World will receive the cookbook. If you both can contact me with your mailing address, I can get these on to you a.s.a.p (my email address is in my profile page). Congratulation!
Last thing, I have received numerous emails on how to get the cookie cutter in the US and other parts of the world. I got mine through a lady in France organizing a group order and my mom advanced the Euros for me. The company that makes is Stadter . I am thinking that if we all send them an email maybe they will think about expanding their retail map. I also know that it is available through Amazon Germany and since Amazon France seems to deliver pretty easily to the US, it might be worth it to see if the German branch will do the same.
UPDATE: a reader just emailed me saying that the company will ship individually for about 15 euros a set or or they will ship a large order to one person and give a discount on the cost of the cookie imprinter as well as shipping. As much as I would love to help more, I cannot, at this time, become the person organizing such a thing and hope that another blogger will step forward and do that. The contact info is Christoph Reermann at info AT coolinarium DOT de
On to today's post.... All day long I thought about the many ways I could approach it so it is without fireworks or parade that I come to wish all my friends and family back home a Happy 14th of July. I still don't call it Bastille Day, not that I am a royalist but even French people don't call it Bastille Day. I had never hears that phrase until I moved to the US to tell you the truth! Just like the English Channel is not called that in France either...but that is a story for another time!
I know what my family is doing today, they are watching the parade on the television (don't miss the videos here and here ) and having a nice barbecue with a good glass of wine, just like these folks. To see the young culinary students preparing the Gala Dinner, click here. I come from a military family in France, all corps represented so we watch the parade and I have got to tell you....it is both rather impressive and beautiful even if you don't care for the military, a nice organized ballets of men, horses, even firefighters and policemen are included...basically if you were a uniform you're in! I miss that, I miss the fireworks on the lawn of the town hall, I miss holding my cousins' hands, scared of the noise and mesmerized by the lights. I miss meeting my friends behind the church to share the only bottle of very cheap wine we could afford before getting back to the family supper. I miss sitting out on the terrace and listening to my uncles tempers veering red as they start discussing politics.
That's all...I miss it...but I am not making a big deal about it because I had my fireworks last week with my friends here and my husband. There is a whole French contingent meeting tomorrow for dinner and celebrating in town but I won't be there. Main reason being that the group is not really my age so their idea of fun French music is little bit more antiquated than mine and too often I find that the conversations turn to how much they wish they were back home. I am not saying I don't but I am here now. Everybody is different and I am not criticizing how people deal with being far away from home. I find that I did better by immersing myself in the here and now. That's how I operate everyday to make the distance with my family easier. I am having a blast here and I know it will be hard to leave when/if we decide to go back to my native Provence. When I moved here I had no car, no debt, no bills, still studying for a job and everything I had fit in two suitcases, if I were to move now...Oh geez, I can't even start to think about it!!
I am comfortable here, I love discovering this country, the people and everything that is crazy, insane or very cool about it. One thing I love about the US is that you can reinvent yourself fifty times over if you want to, much like the dessert I made us to celebrate the 14th of July, berries and cream. You can change the orders of the berries to suit your fancy or to celebrate both countries. B' glass will be red, white and blue and mine blue, white and red because in spite of having the same colors on our flags (I love that!) we nonetheless call them out differently...got to keep that little difference, you know?!! Mallory, this one is for you, to soothe your France withdrawals! Once you have the pastry cream done, it is more a method than a recipe depending on how big your glasses or dishes are, how much fruit you want in each, etc... There are many different recipes for pastry cream, I just happen to have the one given below ingrained in my brain from the restaurant so it is easy to make on a whim. I am working on combining two versions that I love and tonight I think I got it right...although I can't tell you about it yet, 3 words came to mind when I tasted it: bowl, spoon, alone!
Berries and Cream:
2 cups/ 500ml whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, cut open down the middle, seeded
1/4 tsp of salt
4 tablespoons of cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Heat the milk, vanilla seeds and salt in a pan and put over medium heat, and bring to a boil. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch and eggs until smooth. Slowly add 1/2 of the milk mixture into the egg and whisk constantly to temper them. Add the remaining milk and return the whole thing to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil or until you get a thick consistency, whisking non-stop. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, directly touching the cream, poke holes in the plastic with a knife or skewer, let cool completely.
3 cups diced strawberries
3 cups blueberries, fresh if possible
Layer the cream and the berries as you wish.....Et Voila!
I also need to tell you about the one of the Bastille Day presents I got over the weekend. A couple of weeks ago I started openly telling Fifi how much I love her painting style and with Carol they are my absolute must read blogs when I get up (beside food ones)...I close my eyes and I am in one of their fabulous paintings! Well, Fifi offered to create a Silhouette for Tartelette and all I had to do was give her some directions for colors and tools...bowl, whisk, hair wild to the wind, polka dots,...and today SassyTartey was born so she's right up there on the sidebar and in my profile page. Thank you so much Fifi! You made my day!
Prize Winning Shortbread Cookies - A Giveaway
Friday, July 11, 2008
One of my little pleasures is to read French blogs, for the recipes as much as keeping in touch with food trends there and more importantly what is the cool slang to use these days. One late (late) night I was reading away I stumbled on a post (can't remember where, sorry) about this ubber cool toy: the Brigitte-Keks, to imprint on Petit Beurre like cookies.
Allright I have lost you...all that French, English and German in one. Petit Beurre are the simplest most traditional all butter cookie you will find in France. The Brigitte -Keks is one smart cutter that not only will cut to almost the exact shape as a Petit Beurre but will also imprint words like these: WIN ME !!
So there I was....wishing away I could get my hands on one of those. A couple of days later, I was reading Autour De Ma Table where Cathy was organizing a group order to the manufacturer since they are not everywhere. Light Bulb! Call mom, put my name in the order and ask mom to write up the check in the proper Euro amount and tell her I will pay her back 10 times over in kisses, that was a joke because the gadget is really not expensive. Then it just dawned on me that one of you guys might also want to have fun with one of these, so I called mom again and she was happy to help as it meant that I shall pay her back 20 times over now!
You can imprint anything and everything, you can be silly or serious, creative or to the point. We have been having fun playing with it the other day, leaving love notes, to do lists, grocery lists...Imagine that, walking down the store aisles, munching away on your grocery list. I also added "Happy Anniversary" cookies to the loot as B. and I are celebrating 10 years together today! Woohoo! The cutter and imprint are a breeze to use after you separate the little letters apart from their grid. Maybe I should have done so with butter free hands, eh?!! So long story short...
I have one extra - brand spanking - new Brigitte-Keks cookie cutter/imprint for one lucky reader. All you have to do to take this little toy home is to leave a comment between today Friday July 11th and Sunday July 13th (and why not tell me about your favorite cookie while you are at it). You can enter from anywhere in the world, and I will ship anywhere. No rules, just a couple of requests:
- please, please, please, even if you register your comment under anonymous, leave me an initial, a pseudonym, an X...anything. It's nicer to announce if you win!
- try not to enter twice, it makes it easier for the random drawing
- Mom: you can't enter the drawing, I'll make you some cookies with your name on it.
Before I forget, I have tried many versions of Petits Beurre recipes but none that came close to the original so I am giving you my next favorite cookie recipe for Shortbread Cookies. They are not like the Irish shortbread cookies you might purchase at the grocery store, but more like "sables" from Brittany. Use orage flower water for a Provencal twist!
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
In a stand mixer or with hand held electric mixers beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the egg yolk and beat until well incorporated. Add the vanilla extract, flour, baking powder and salt and mix until the dough just starts to come together and form a ball. Stop the mixer and gather the dough with your hands. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a least 2 hours. Flour your work area lightly and start rolling.
To roll dough easily (works with pretty much all pastry dough) : start from the center and roll away from you, then close to you, repeat, lift the dough, flour your area, rotate the dough 1/4 turn and repeat the rolling process. Make sure to sprinkle the flour you work with, not dump it on. A little goes a long way. I usually sprinkle about one teaspoon and brush it away with my fingertips and repeat as a go along. If you try to roll the dough flat in the minimum of moves possible and you keep rolling away, you will warm up the butter too much and the dough will stick and you'll get mad and you'll swear off making dough forever.....
So I hope this helps because your homework when the book comes out is to make dough....! Ok, that's not true but there will be some dough to get rolled!
Anyways...Once your dough is rolled to about 1/2 inch thick, and cut squares or rectangles with a sharp knife or other shapes with the cookie cutter that you like. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.
Blueberry Swirl Vanilla Ice Cream
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
"Nothing! That's work!". He straighten out on the bed and gave me a huge smile "Oh! Then I love it when you go to work!"... Add the dog to the mix who does not miss an opportunity to lick whatever edible falls on his snout and you have a pretty good morning. Don't be fooled though, I usually hit the snooze button a couple of times, ok...maybe three. The day before, I had started to work on the ice creams recipes that were starting to create a big mess in my head when I decided to take a break. That break turned out in yet another custard ready to be churned but one I know by heart from the restaurant, vanilla bean ice cream. Plain, simple, so satisfying... so yes, I'll take that as a break.
I wanted to give the ice cream maker the chance to stretch out its limb too that morning by starting with the vanilla but when I reached for another vanilla bean in the freezer the night before, I bumped into a jar of cooked blueberries. I have this habit of cooking or roasting fruit that is getting over ripe and freezing it so I can throw it into ice cream or cheesecake when I need to. And this is how my simple vanilla ice cream became Blueberry Swirl Ice Cream.
I prepared the vanilla bean custard the evening before, and let the blueberries thaw at the same time. In the morning, I let the custard churn for about 20 minutes, (soft serve consistency), poured the blueberries in and let it swirl for a couple of times before pouring the ice cream into a container and freezing. The vanilla base was smooth and soft mixed with the tartness and natural sweetness of the blueberry juice and fruit.
I admit, I love my ice cream maker...but it can take some space in my small freezer and some of you have complained they did not have one so they could not try ice cream recipes....Let's stop with the nonsense right now...I want you to have ice cream!! If you want ice cream, you will have ice cream! A stand mixer, handheld electric beaters or an immersion are ok substitute. When your custard is cold, pour it into a freezer safe container and freeze it for about one hour, take it out and give it a good whip with the Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment, your hand mixer with the paddle beaters (not the balloon whisks ones), or your immersion blander. Put the ice cream back into the container and back in the freezer and repeat two more time (freeze one hour, whip, freeze,...). It won't be as smooth as professionally churned ice cream but it is a great substitute. See.....you can do it!
Blueberry Swirl Vanilla Ice Cream:
4 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean or 1 Tb vanilla paste
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup sugar
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick. Run a knife through the center of the vanilla bean, not cutting all the way through, split it open and with the tip of a pairing knife, scrape the seeds. Place them in a saucepan over medium heat, add the milk and cream to boiling point but do not let it boil. Slowly pour the hot cream onto the egg yolks mixture and stir to combine (tempering). Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the cream coats the back of spoon. At this point you have a thick custard sauce. Remove from the heat and let cool completely, refrigerate until cold, or overnight.
In the meantime prepare the blueberries: in a small saucepan, combine the berries and the sugar and cook over medium low heat until the berries start to pop and release their natural juices. Let cool completely.
Process the custard according to your ice cream maker manufacturer's instructions and towards the last couple of minutes of churning time pour in the cooled blueberries and give it a couple of swirls. Pour the soft ice cream into a freezer safe container until it reaches your preferred consistency.
If you do not have an ice cream machine: take care of the vanilla ice cream first, during your last whipping, add the blueberries the same way and freeze.
The Petit Suisse - Fresh Yogurt Experiments
Sunday, July 06, 2008
One thing that every European expatriate residing in the States will tell you is that dairy products are different. Let's take France for example since it is my home country: cottage cheese? Ugh...no not that present. Sour cream? Ugh...no again, we have "creme fraiche" which no matter how hard you try to convince me it is "like" sour cream....it ain't. Yogurts are different too, some are even so creamy we call them "cremes bulgare". Finally you have my two favorites, fromage blanc and petit suisse. You can find fromage blanc and creme fraiche pretty easily nowadays at health food store like Whole Foods but they cost a pretty penny for what they are. I make my own creme fraiche if I really crave it (recipe below), not to mention that the odds were against me trying to take the easy route, the store was out of it, but I have not tried my hand at fromage blanc....yet!
When expats get together they start talking about everything and nothing and you guessed it, food. Dairy in particular and exchanging recipes on how to recreate them sharing the same recipes but going a little differently about it.
With friends, we finally put our heads together and came up with a base recipe: creme fraiche, milk, buttermilk and heavy cream. This first experiment we did on our journey to crack down the petit suisse code produced some tasty thick dairy, very close to thick yogurt bulgare. Still....not petit suisse. You will find the recipes for this "yaourt bulgare" below. I encourage you to try it out, very good on its own, but you know what two women with a craving do to satisfy it, right? They keep at it. Back to the drawing board.
Not Quite Petit Suisse: Yogurt Bulgare
1/2 cup creme fraiche (to make your own: mix one cup heavy cream with 1/4 cup sour cream and let sit overnight in the oven with the pilot light on, uncovered, refrigerate after that)
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream (40% fat)
1/4 cup buttermilk
In a thoroughly cleaned bowl, mix all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon and incubate in a yogurt maker (read the manufacturer's instructions).
If you do not have a yogurt maker, set the mixing bowl in the oven with the pilot light one, uncovered and let set overnight. Divide into containers and refrigerate.
Left: Petit Suisse with Xocomeli Chocolate Pearls (explanation below) and salted butter caramel sauce
Right: Petit Suisse, Strawberries and balsamic reduction
While working on a dessert one day, she found out that the taste was really close to what we remembered by adding heavy cream to fresh cheese. Further reading about the making of petit suisse, we realized that was the right track to follow. We had the taste figured out but what about the texture. We could not find any details on how drained the fresh cheese should be before adding the cream but it would not be problem to add whey back in if need be (whey being the liquid that drains out of curds or dairies, like the one in your big yogurt container right now).
Trying to make a long story short: on Monday last week I went and got my gallon of whole milk and my rennet to make fresh cheese. The fact that I chose vegetarian rennet is purely accidental since that was all that was available at the store the day I went.
1 gallon whole milk
5 drops vegetarian rennet
1 Tb water
1 cup heavy cream
Heat the milk to 112F in a large pot or Dutch oven. Remove from the heat. Mix the rennet into the water and add to the milk. Cover with a clean towel. Place the large pot in the oven with the pilot light on. Leave it alone overnight. You should have large big curd chunks after that time. Line a strainer with cheesecloth over another large bowl to save some whey just in case you drain your curds to much. Let the curds drain for about 40-45 minutes. I tie all four corners of my cheesecloth to the faucet for that part and take away the strainer. It just helps the manoeuvre at first. Pass the cheese through a strainer if you want ultra smooth petit suisse over a bowl and then slowly whisk in the heavy cream. Divide in between containers and let set for a few hours (2-4).
Thick and creamy at the same time. A spoon would stand straight in it but so creamy it melts in your mouth. After that....I did have a little fun with the toppings for my newly made petit suisses as you can see from the pictures. Will I do another batch? I am as we speak, eheheh...It may not be the exact original and while many consider that children's food, I consider it one of those wonderful little things in life. Digging into one is like putting your head on a soft pillow, savouring is bite is like the first sip of a cold cold beer on a hot day...heaven!
Plain Petit Suisse and Petit Suisse with Praline Sauce
I was working on a few sweet sauces for recipes in the book and thought I'd try them out with the petit suisse. I am evil to tempt you with them right now and not being able to write them out for you....arghhhh! Really it's hard but I got to keep them hidden for a little while longer.
What I can talk about is the "Xocomeli" that I grated on top of one petit suisse. They were sent to me by a French blogger friend of mine, Mercotte, one of the French authorities on macarons and product tester extraordinaire. She had the chance to try out two of Valhrona's newest chocolate releases: Xocopili and Xocomeli created by one of my favorites chefs, Frederic Bau. Xocopili is Venezuelan chocolate with 72% cocoa, with different spices such as curry and chili pepper while the Xocomeli is 57% cocoa with spices such as cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, etc... While I had an item she was looking for (package leaving tomorrow), I was really intrigued by the Xocomeli and once in my possession, very eager to grate on of those little pearls on my petit suisse. It brought a taste subtle taste of chocolate but gave the salted butter caramel sauce to a complete different level of intensity.
For the Cantaloupe Sensation Satine, I revisited this post and changed the mango jelly to cantaloupe and left the petit suisse in its original form (no gelatin necessary since it was thick enough). The diagonal layers are explained in that post.
Left: it all started with milk
Right: Revisiting the Sensation Satine: Petit Suisse and Cantaloupe, Fresh Berries.
Coconut Cake And Cream Cheese Buttercream
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Now, I hope you all had a great 4th of July with fireworks a plenty and good times with family and friends. We decided to gather the neighborhood at the dock and make a day of it. We caught crabs, grilled, took rides on the boat, and throughout the day we came and went as we pleased, refilling on sunscreen or beverages. I got to tell you, finishing with the fireworks over the water was quite a snapshot to engrave in one's memory! B. made the joke that I should savour the moment since I won't be having any of that next week for Bastille Day...ah yes...well, I am here now. And happy. And licking my fingers off the last piece of coconut cake I brought back from our little get together.
As often goes on the weekends here, I did not know until this morning how the day would unravel, I only knew that I was supposed to bring cake. They asked for an all American dessert, possibly cake, and please none of that Opera thing or Saint Honore wheel....Sheesh....Okay, okay...I get it already! I have been craving this good old American staple, Coconut Cake for ages but since B. hates the texture of coconut I always made a pass. Hmmm....since there will be a large group, I now had a reason and he could have brownies instead.
Now here are the funny parts of this story, well at least to me. Early in the afternoon his mom called needing his help in the yard, she asked about our plans and inquired about my dessert. I could taste the coconut on my lips as I was telling her about the cake only to hear her reply "But B. doesn't like coconut!". I told her what I wrote above"he'll have brownies instead". He got home couple of hours later with a freshly baked apple pie! His mom had also written "B.'s Pie" on it and he proudly carried it to the dock with that "Look what my mama made me" kind of step. Everytime someone asked for pie, I would hear "may I have some B.'s Pie?" "is there any of B.'s Pie left?"....and the man cannot bake!!
What seemed rather comical to everybody but me as I seem to have misplaced some of my head lately (if you find it, let me know) is that I intended to make a 4 layer cake only to realise when we cut into it that the 4th layer was still on the countertop back at the house...Oops! The worst being that I first walked all the way to the dock without the cake. Bigger oops! My excuse is that I was being distracted by this adorable creature.
Allright...the cake. It is a pretty straightforward but super moist sponge cake flavored with coconut milk and the layers get a good dousing of coconut liqueur (I am giving you to conservative amount, feel free to add). For the buttercream, I could not decide between a plain buttercream or a cream cheese frosting so I changed things around and mixed softened cream cheese to an Italian meringue buttercream. And.Oh.My! Turned out deliciously smooth and rich without being cloyingly sweet. Loved it!
I need to mention that the pink topping is not sanding sugar but rather pink and white fairy floss that a reader, Sadiya, sent me all the way from Bahrain a few weeks ago, along with some wonderful local pastries and chocolate. With the heat and humidity here, the poor floss has become a big chunk of sugar so I took the mortar and pestle and crushed some up to top the cake with.
For the cake:
6 large eggs, separated
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup coconut liqueur such as Malibu for soaking in the layers
Separate the egg whites from the yolks in 2 different (well cleaned) bowls.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl or over a piece of parchment paper that you can easily pick up when the time comes to add the flour to the batter in progress.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream 1 cup of the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
In a small bowl, or a measuring bowl with a spout (easier to pour), combine the buttermilk and the coconut milk. Set aside.
Turn the mixer to low speed and alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture to the butter, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.
If you have only one KA bowl, pour this mixture into a large mixing bowl while you whip the egg whites.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until you get nice stiff peaks. Stop before the meringue becomes dry.
Gently fold the egg whites into the flour/butter mixture.
Pour the cake batter into 2 separate 9X9 square inch pans and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes at 350F or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Place the cakes on a wire rack to cool, in their pans, for about 10 minutes. Invert onto a greased cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Buttercream:
3 sticks butter at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, softened
5 egg whites
1 cup sugar divided
1/4 cup water
2 tsp. coconut extract
1 cup coconut flakes
In the bowl of stand mixer, whip 5 egg whites until they have soft peaks. Slowly add 1/4 cup of sugar until you get a glossy meringue. In the meantime, combine 1/4 cup water with 3/4 cup sugar to a boil in a heavy saucepan and bring the syrup to 250F. Slowly add the sugar syrup to the egg whites. If you use hand beaters, this is even easier and there is less hot syrup splatter on the side of your bowl and in the whisk attachment of the stand mixer. Continue to whip until the meringue is completely cooled. Slowly add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. The mass might curdle but no panic, continue to whip until it all comes together. Add the cream cheese, the same way, a little at a time until everything is smooth. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
Slice each cake square into 2 pieces horizontally. Brush the bottom layer with some coconut liqueur, spread 1/3 cup of the buttercream over and add another layer of cake and repeat the soaking and layering. Finish by frosting the entire surface of the cake and sprinkle coconut flakes all over.....and eat!
Recipes And Stories Unblogged
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Me, holding the papers and my pen: Are you in? Things are about to get a little weird-er.
Him, looking over the contract one last time: Yes, I am in.
Me: allright...there I sign...
Him: ugh...does this mean you are going to be baking even more desserts? Will I still get to eat them?
Me: yes, but now there might be a scoring card attached to them!!
The picture above sort of speaks for itself and I admit that I already told a hand full of you because 1/ I could not hold it anymore and 2/ if you write me the "what are you up to?" email, I can't possibly say "nothing" and post that a couple of weeks ago I signed my name at the bottom of a publishing contract for a cookbook.
Yep...100 recipes, 100 stories and 100 reasons to get you baking! 100 recipes (metric and US) never blogged about, well, except for a hand full that I have already posted but wanted to work on, specials created for work, desserts I came up with while working on others for the blog, wonderful recipes inherited from my grandmother,.etc...All are rooted in my French background but most had to be adapted to what I found when I settled in the States, whether it be ingredients, methods or traditions. I am baking, styling the food, taking the pictures and telling you a story along the way. I hope you understand if the updates here slow down here and there and why I might be commenting a little less then before, just know that I am reading, salivating, laughing and crying along with you.
How did this all come to be? Well, I did not wake up one morning to find a "we want to publish you" email. It was rather a combination of events and relationships formed that finally brought that "you are our priority" email in my mailbox one morning....I first started this blog as a place to write about my passion for desserts and to have my family and friends read to keep me accountable. To say that I never thought of what cool things could come out of writing Tartelette (another happening I'll share in a couple of weeks) would be insulting your intelligence. But writing my own cookbook? I would have probably checked my temperature first. Like a craft or a child, the blog grew, and all because of you. By your visits, your comments and your emails, you implicitly also said "I am in" and one of the results stands in front of you today. I owe a lot of this to your support and your readership. I also know that if you want something in life, you have got to make it happen. So before I become even more absent or the best ghost commenter out there, at least you know why. I am baking you a whole of good things!
When my friend Hannah was about to release her own book, her publisher emailed me wanting to know if I wanted an advance copy for review. I like Alisa from the very first emails we exchanged. I liked her tone, her sensibility and I was very very impressed with the way she was handling Hannah's book release. I thought "Wow! If I were writing a book, I sure would want her to be my publisher". Then I realised that I had tons of questions about book and recipe writing and we started to talk about them and a few weeks later, she encouraged me to write a proposal and she would look it over and if not their publishing house, at least she could give me a couple of pointers. Well, I guess I did an ok job because after many months (that's another thing folks....unless you hook up a typewriter to your brain, whisk away 24/7, and take pictures like a mad one, it takes a lot of time and energy), they did send that "We are in" email....and the next 8 months are going to be bu-sy, bu-sy!!
The book is strongly related to the pictures of my grandparents above. I grew up with a spatula in one hand and an egg in the other, sitting on the kitchen counter by my grandmother, whisking and folding under her guidance. She distilled her love for desserts one recipe at a time, always careful to make me smell and taste, never afraid to let me destroy a cake because I would learn something no matter what. A couple of years after her death, my grandfather handed me her recipe boxes, all our family favorites, right there. I picked one of my favorites, set a stool by the counter top for my niece Lea, and that afternoon we made Grandma's Madeleines. I repeated the steps she taught me with Lea, I let her stir and fold, I let her butter the molds and spill the batter. It filled me up with such sadness and love at the same time. We proudly served them to my grandfather who exclaimed "I always told her she should organize them in some sort of book....but she always did what she wanted anyways..."
I flew home with the boxes in my carry on. I read them over and over on the plane, closing my eyes at each one. I could hear her voice, I could see my mom sitting at the table with her tea while I would emerge from the kitchen carrying a freshly baked flourless cake or a batch of cream puffs. Grandma would make me wait, she'd set up the table with freshly cleaned linens, a pretty plate and then she would go pick a spoon from her collection and hand it to me "go on, go ahead, you can have it now". Baking does not end in the kitchen, it starts in your mind, carries down through your fingertips and passes on to your nose, your eyes and ends at the table....in your mouth.
Once home, I put them in the front of my other recipe binders and once or twice a week I would work through them, edit the quantities, the ingredients, to work with the time, the economy, what I had available here, enhance, reduce, balance. For me a recipe is never final , it always a work in progress. I don't pretend to reinvent the pastry wheel, I like to work with things that most everybody can find and that will make you head to the kitchen without thinking twice whether you can do it. Of course you can! It's not rocket science...otherwise I would not be here today! I am always trying to bring a little extra, to give you as many tips and tricks as possible (so far Tanna liked them!) so there is more than grandma's tried and true going in the book. Because of her teachings and passion for food, I ended up doing this as a profession, and a hobby, and a favor, and teaching others....so much so that as I grew into this craft the more I found myself coming up with other recipes. I dare not say they will turn your world upside down, but I think they will nudge novices into tying on that apron a little tighter and try and seasoned bakers to come relax with me with a recipe, a story and a cup of tea. Title?
C'est Sweet: A baked narrative...
Oh gosh...is somebody still reading? There will be cake this weekend...Promise!
DMBLGIT June 2008 - And The Winners Are....
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Before I give you the results of this June Edition I want to thank Andrew for trusting me with hosting DMBLGIT. When I started blogging I would have never thought I would win some of these coveted badges, let alone host this super cool and super popular event...but
Overall Winners: They have the highest scores in all three categories combined.
First Place: Wrightfood - Halibut, saffron-mussel liquor velouté, fava beans, watercress and fresh peas.
Second Place: Cookbook Catchall - Tapioca pudding
Third Place: 1x umruehren bitte aka kochtopf - Pain abricot pistache
Each picture was scored in three categories: edibility, originality, and aesthetics. The photo receiving the highest total score in each of those categories, excluding the three overall winners, is the specific category winner.
Winner Edibility Category: Gloubiblog - Bouchées Mogador
Winner Originality Category: Live, Love, and Eat desserts - Apple pie treat
Winner Aesthetics Category: Baking Obsession - White Chocolate and Grapefruit l'Opéra
Congratulations to all! July DMBLGIT will hosted by Scott from Real Epicurean.