Chocolate Eclair....Oh Pierre!!

183

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chocolate Eclairs

Eclairs With Chocolate Pastry Cream and Chocolate Glaze. Sprinkle of crushed Chikki (Indian Praline)

I wanted to write this post for our Daring Bakers challenge last night and started doing other stuff instead and I have just now gotten home from working a small party with Old Chef. I am exhausted and what happens when I am tired and need to focus is that I tend to make phrases and rhymes out of everything, like for our challenge this month, Pierre Herme's Chocolate Eclairs: "Pierre, your eclairs, c'est du tonnerre. Soyons clairs, j'en suis fiere..." (does not sound that great translated but it basically reads that the eclairs were great!). I made the eclairs as written by our hosts but then played around a bit witht the eclairs and kept some of the pate a choux to make religieuses and cream puffs for a later post (without rhymes then, promise).

Indeed, Meeta and Tony made a great choice by going with Pierre Herme's Chocolate Eclairs. Does PH really needs an introduction? I think not...He is pretty darn remarkable, not only by his creations but by his excellent timing and the excellence of the teams he puts together. I even But you see I have what the French call "un coeur d'artichaud", a heart like an artichoke...with many leaves for many people. So yes I like to look at and read Herme, but also Michalak, Aoki Bau, Glacier, Felder, and of course our favorite Zen Chef...And yes, B. knows and he is ok with it, except that PH had some serious shoes to fill regarding eclairs. Me? Never met an eclair I did not like so I was pretty happy to try a new recipe.

Eclairs Mise En Place
Pate a Choux for the eclairs - Chocolate sauce used in the chocolate glaze


Eclairs Mise En Place
It often starts with the egg....and ends with chocolate... giving the American icon Baker's chocolate a go and the result was surprisingly very good and smooth.

A little story there...real short this time (humhum): a couple of years ago when we went home to France to see my family for Christmas, we left the chaos of family fun for a little two-day escapade in downtown Paris. On our way back we stopped at La Maison Du Chocolat and selected some delicious pastries to share with my parents. B. could not wait for after dinner and bought one single dark chocolate eclairs to have on the train ride back. When we split that one eclair, the world around us magically evaporated. No noise, no rocking from the train against the tracks, no little lady telling her grandchild to please sit down 5 times every 2 minutes, no brouhaha from kids playing with their little Christmas toys. We looked at each other and exclaimed at the same time with our mouths full "oh my god...this is incredible..." We did not even feel the stares of the people on the train. When we noticed them, we looked as guilty as if we had been caught up in a passionate moment of affection!

I often promised B. I'd try to make them as good as that one from La Maison du Chocolat but I never did. I knew that no matter how close I'd come or even if I were to succeed, there would always be something missing: Christmas, Paris and a train ride.... However, Pierre Herme's eclairs got pretty darn close...very close if you kept the recipe given by our hosts as written: eclair shells, bittersweet pastry cream and bitter sweet chocolate glaze. That is a lot of chocolate, eggs, sugar, cream, butter heavens all spread throughout the Daring Bakers world!

White Fondant Eclairs & Chocolate Rose Filling
Rose pastry cream, poured fondant and raspberry....add a lychee and it is a PH's Ispahan eclair...

I did the full batch of doug but divided the pastry cream: half the pastry cream was chocolate trying to re-capture that elusive eclair described above. I did top some of the chocolate eclairs with some crushed Chikki (Hi Bina!). Inspired by PH's Ispahan creations, I added rose water to the other half and made a poured fondant for the glaze. A poured fondant starts with a sugar syrup brought to high temperature then cooled dwon then whipped to a firm consistency. Once you have that block of fondant, you add some simple syrup and warm it up to pouring consistency. Why not do powdered sugar and water and call it a day? First, knowing your hot syrups is always a good thing...kidding (well, almost) but essentially this poured fondant is not as sweet as a simple glaze, goes on smooth and dries well, allowing you to stack, pack and transport those eclairs and pastries with ease....yes even if they only make it to your mouth! I borrowed The decoration for the second batch is inspired by Michalak and his book "C'est du gateau!" I love the picture in it and the smarts that went into it.

Allright...you need a recipe and I need sleep...

Chocolate Eclairs
Most mornings I only have coffee for breakfasts except last week! Eclairs instead!

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough. All recipes below from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 eclairs)
½ cup (125g) whole milk
½ cup (125g) water
1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature

In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to theboil.Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to mediumand start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth. Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time youhave added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted itshould fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.
Notes: Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately. You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined bakingsheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
2 cups (500g) whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75g) sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.
Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.
Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.
Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.
Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.
Notes:The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
(makes 1 cup or 300g)
1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.
Notes: If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.
It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)
4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 g) water
½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.
It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.
Notes: You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

For a great poured fondant recipe with step by step pictures, check out this post.

The End.....

Redcurrant Sorbet And Faisselle Ice Cream With Fried Strawberries

82

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Redcurrant Sorbet and Faisselle Ice Cream With Fried Strawberries

Sounds complicated right? Well, really it's not...trust me. If I have so little time these days that I forget to take my apron off before heading out of the house, then you can trust me when I say that this is nothing short of delicious but not intricate. I like multi layered, multi component desserts because they allow my brain to relax and my stress level to go down since I know I can plan and assemble them over several days.

Did I just say that I went out with my apron on? Yep...I really laughed because I had mentioned to some of you that it might happen and it did. I did walk the dogs and went to the grocery store with my apron still tied around my waist. The funny part is that the neighbors did not act surprised nor did the personnel at the store! That grocery store around the corner from our house sees me just about everyday. The cashiers know my name, my habits, the produce guy even offered me a job on more than one occasion. I had to fess up and explain that no, one person did not eat that much food in a week and that I had a job at hand, but yes I would probably the one customer with the odd requests.

When I arrived at the store with my apron on, no one looked surprised at all, I think they were betting on how long it would take for me to forget something like that! What they really wanted to know is why I had not brought them some goods and samples instead!! I regretfully told them that I had been working on ice creams lately and that it was not an easy item to bring them to try. Nor is it to take pictures of in this darn heat! After 5 minutes I had to stop and admit defeat the day I shot this dessert and that's why I only have a couple of pictures to show for it. I stood there looking at the plate with an ever growing pool of goodness with mixed feelings of anger and frustration!

I take pictures upstairs in the guest bedroom where the light is better throughout the day on a table set at the foot of the bed. After a minute of wondering if it was worth it to take another one of these ice creams out of the freezer, plate and shoot again, I figured I'd try one more shot of a spoon full of ice cream. I dug in, set in down, looked at it but never took the camera to shoot it. No....instead I took the spoon, the whole plate and sat on the bed and ate it. The whole thing, all by myself, something I rarely do. I instantly felt better! I felt bad for two seconds that I did not shoot more but the guilt melted away as fast as the ice cream in my mouth....

Mise En Place

With summer reaching its end I have been loading up on fresh berries as much and as fast as I could lately and I had enough redcurrants to turn them into a refreshing sorbet. I still had a good amount of faisselle left so I turned it into ice cream and spooned both inside rings (I use cut pvc pipe). Feel free to use any other soft and smooth dairy like fromage blanc, petit suisse, goat cheese, cream cheese, etc...The main concern here is to drain it thoroughly before adding it to the ice cream base so I recommend draining it overnight until it becomes fresh cheese or yogurt cheese if you want. Feel free to use any other soft and smooth dairy like fromage blanc, petit suisse (both drained overnight), goat cheese, cream cheese, etc...

I like contrasting textures and flavors a lot in desserts and I also like to contrast temperatures, hence the fried strawberries. I was a little worried that they would lose a lot of their quality in the frying process but they held up nicely. While the outside was hot and crunchy the strawberries just barely got warm and retained their texture. I used rice flour for the batter in order to be light and smooth but all purpose flour works too, I just found it a little overwhelming to fry fresh fruits. You can make the ice creams and pipe them into molds one day and take care of the strawberries just before serving, even if that time comes days later....ice cream will wait...if you can! Don't throw away your egg whites....you can always try your hand at macarons!
Redcurrant Sorbet and Faisselle Ice Cream with Fried Strawberries.

Redcurrant Sorbet:
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups redcurrants, picked over

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Make sure the sugar is dissolved and remove from the heat. Let the sugar syrup cool to room temperature.
Puree the redcurrant in a food processor with the cooled syrup. Strain the puree through a sieve into a bowl. Refrigerate the puree until thoroughly chilled and then freee in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Makes about 2 cups.

Faisselle Ice Cream:
2 cups whole milk (50o ml)
1/3 cup heavy cream (100 ml)
3/4 cup sugar (170 gr)
3 egg yolks
1 Tb vanilla bean paste or 1/2 vanilla bean, seeded
3 oz drained faisselle (90gr)

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar. In a saucepan set on medium heat, bring the milk and the cream to boiling point, slowly pour a small amount on the egg yolks to temper. Pour the remaining over the yolks and sugar. Stir well then pour back in the saucepan and cook over medium low heat until the cream thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and whisk in the faisselle until completely incorporated. Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Process in an ice cream maker according to your machine's manufacturer's instructions.

Once both ice creams are ready, pipe the faisselle into 4 rings lined with parchment paper (makes is easier to unmold) and freeze again until set. Proceed the same way with the redcurrant sorbet. Cover the tops with plastic wrap. Unmold just before serving and plate with the fried strawberries.

Fried Strawberries:
12 small strawberries, hulled and wiped clean with a paper towel
1 1/4 cups rice flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup water
vegetable oil for frying
powdered sugar for dusting

Heat the oil to 350F.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar,baking powder and lemon zest. Slowly add the water until the batter is smooth and without lumps. Dip the strawberries into the batter and then drop them into the oil until they are golden brown. Drain on paper towels and dust with powdered sugar. Serve hot or warm with the ice creams.

The Faisselle Experiments - Part Two...And Three

65

Monday, August 25, 2008

Faisselle and Maple Syrup

Allright, so let's start this off the right way before I lose my mind. We all gathered today and read all your suggestions for a name for the dessert in the previous post and it was not easy making a decision...ya'll are good!! But....the overall favorite was "Transatlantic" from Miss Lillas who said "Salted butter caramel from Normandy, American chocolate brownie. An elegant bringing together our 2 continents"....So Miss, please send me your mailing address so I can send this wonderful book your way! Congratulations!

A couple of weeks ago I took a long trip down memory and you were so kind to indulge me and read about my attempt to recreate a fresh cheese that my dad loves. The outcome was not "faisselle" like I remembered but something closer to fresh ricotta. The desire to recreate this unique product came from a conversation I was having with expat friend Aran from Cannelle Et Vanille after our first foray into re-creating desserts from our childhood and cultural heritage. She had a hankering for mamia and so did B. and I after we had a most delicious one on a trip back home at L'Ami Jean, a Basque restaurant in Paris. We started talking about making it right before she left on vacation so in the meantime that got me thinking about trying my hand at "faisselle" and when she came back we both agreed that it would be more logical and more fun to give you two experiments instead of one. Fast forward to last week, when my favorite Basque experimented with mamia and I with faisselle.

Much like her first batch of mamia, my first batch of faisselle for this post did not turn out as I hope for. After the batch I made last month, I decided to take away the added yogurt and to get straight for heating the milk, adding the rennet and letting it sit, until nice floppy large chunks of curd form and separate from the whey. Well, I got zippo zippeedee zip....I got liquid and tiny curds which once drained gave me about 1 cup of ricotta. For one gallon of milk you can expect that it did not cut it. I did not use raw milk this time and I don't think it was the local homogenized whole milk I used...nope...just could not put my finger on it. In one email she mentioned she was trying another batch of mamia adding cream and dry milk and I went back to the drawing board with mine. Then I had the "genius"(self sarcasm) idea to call my dad and have him read the ingredients on a jar of store bought faisselle...Guess what?....Yep, added cream and dry milk, a little ratio working and I was back in !


Faisselle and Lemon Thyme Lemon Curd

I heated the milk again, added the dry milk, cream and rennet. Let it sit for a couple of hour and the result was exactly what it was supposed to be: large floppy and soft curds slowly separating from the whey. The first spoonful made me think I was definitely on the right track but it needed to develop a little character and an overnight stay in the fridge fixed that. Traditionally, faisselles are drained in molds set in larger containers so that the whey pooling at the bottom keep the cheese moist. I just drained the cheese with a large slotted spoon and scooped the cheese in containers. It did continue to render a lot of whey but I was too happy to have succeeded to be bothered!! The texture is soft but firm enough to separate into curds as you dig your spoon in it and the flavor is really not comparable to any dairy found here, neither sour nor tart.

My dad likes his with chopped fresh chives and fresh cracked pepper, which I have come to like, but I also love it on the sweet side. I served some with some lemon thyme lemon curd and some with chopped pistachios, redcurrants and maple syrup. Deborah from Bonbon Oiseau sent me a bottle of a local Vermont maple syrup producer and it arrived the day I was finishing the faisselle. My bottle of "maple crack" as she refers to it could not have come at a better time! Thank you! I played around with the remaining faisselle and used in some other pastry applications. It's been a busy couple of weeks so I have not come around to sift through those pictures or even put them in a proper post yet...soon though.


Faisselle and Maple Syrup


Faisselle:

1 quart whole milk ( 4 cups - 946ml)
1/2 cup heavy cream (118ml)
1/4 cup dry milk powder (60 gr)
8 drops liquid rennet

In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk, heavy cream and milk powder and bring the mixture to 120F over medium heat. Let cool to room temperature and add the rennet. Stir once with a wooden spoon, transfer to a clean bowl (porcelain, glass or plastic), cover with a clean kitchen towel and let sit undisturbed for 2 to 4 hours. Place in the refrigerator and let sit overnight to develop more taste. Drain and used as desired the next day.

Lemon Thyme Lemon Curd:

3 large eggs
1/3 cup (80 ml) lemon juice
1 Tb freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon thyme
1/4 cup (60gr) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces

In a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon thyme, lmeon zest and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 160F. Remove from the heat and strain the mixture over a bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Cover with some plastic wrap directly in contact with the curd to prevent a skin from forming. You can refrigerate it for up to a week. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Note: I used liquid vegetarian rennet that I found at the health food store near me, but you can also find it here.


Faisselle And Lemon Thyme Lemon Curd

Two Chocolates, Some Salted Butter Caramel Mousse And A Smile On My Face!

145

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Two Chocolates and Salted Butter Caramel Mousse

As you know from my last post, Monday was a pretty rough day, ups and downs, high and lows, laughing at the most ridiculous things and crying over the simplest ones, but I have to thank you for cheering me up and on throughout the day with your words both here and privately. This little giant group of bloggers sure knows how to laugh, cry, send hugs and cheer up and cheer on. Thank you. I wish I could say that to each of you individually but I can't. Instead I am bringing you a little dessert that is sure to heal a bad case of the blues or just make you feel better after a bad day. Problem is....I could not come up with a name for it and I am hoping that you can. What's in it for you? Well, I have two copies of Tartine and only one being read so it is up for grabs...skip to the end of the post for details.

It was about 4 o'clock when I finally sat down on the front steps of C's house, after a day filled with tons of little errands. You know, the ones you keep putting off but suddenly on a bad day they are the perfect thing to do to keep your mind busy and thought free. We started chatting about the kids going back to school, philosophising about the summer and that it had been a pretty rough one for everybody around us for different reasons. Just to think that a couple of months ago they were thinking about moving...I don't think the neighborhood would be the same kindred one without them and the twins. We did not notice our husbands were doing the same thing but on our front steps until the wind started to carry their voices closer to us. We leaned over and asked what the heck they could be complaining about that we did not already know..."women, kids, pms, mortgages...what about you?", we pushed a united "same here, different gender!" and we all busted out laughing!!

I stood up and exclaimed "Well, I think the situation calls for chocolate and caramel...and a little grill-out with a good bottle of wine!" I asked the gentlemen to please tend to the grilling part that us women are so clueless about and that we would be back with dessert. I had an idea of what I wanted the final taste to be and a vague idea about the process and elements. That's kind of the way I work with pastry I have noticed. I think of tastes I like together, close my eyes and try to imagine the texture, what flavor comes through first, which one is the last I want to keep. Then I think of the building process, kind of like playing Tetris with ingredients and ratio...sometimes it all fits together, sometimes the Tetris-like pieces catch up with me before I get right and I have got to start over. If you play Tetris, do you still see the pieces go down when you close your eyes after a game? I do...makes me laugh....

I had rearranged the pantry a couple of days prior to this story and had found an unexpected bar of dark chocolate, one of milk chocolate and a bag of salted butter caramel from Normandy...I had a square of chocolate followed by salted butter caramel (I did drop the pms word earlier, remember?!) and thought to myself that these three fellas needed to end up together in a dessert somehow. By Monday evening I had a plan: a dark chocolate and walnut fudgy brownie, a milk chocolate and salted butter caramel mousse, topped with chocolate ganache. Yes, I know there is one more element in the pictures, the little cut out triangles and squares are actually coffee jelly pieces but they did not turn like I wanted so it will be re-worked and blogged another time. I could not resist making some hot chocolate to go with it and it turned out to be very fitting to the windy and rainy evening we ended up having.

Two Chocolates and Salted Butter Caramel Mousse

And this is where I need you, I turned this in my head in every which way possible and I can't come up with one name that makes me say "that's it! I want it!"...and I really hope you can. All you have to do is leave a comment between Thursday August 21st and Saturday August 23rd at midnight eastern time and I will submit each title to the group who shared those with me and let them pick the one they like best. Think about it as playing Tetris with the chance to add a fantastic cookbook to your collection!

Something chocolate and caramel:

Makes 16 servings (you can even cut the bars tinier if you want)

Dark Chocolate Walnut Brownie base:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 9x13 inch baking dish with parchment paper or foil, leaving a 2 inch overhang on to sides (you pick). Coat with cooking spray or a dab of butter.
Melt together butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Remove the bowl from heat and stir until smooth. Let the chocolate mixture cool slightly.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Beat in the chocolate mixture. Add the flour mix and beat until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Fold in the walnuts with a spatula.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, and smooth top with an spatula. Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownie between edge and center comes out with a few crumbs, 30 to 35 minutes, depending on your oven (Do not overbake.) Let cool 15 minutes; lift out of pan, and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely. Line a 9x9 inch square pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Cut your brownie base to fit inside the square pan, and set it down as your first layering component. Munch on the leftover or cut in little bites and cover with ganache for instant petits fours. Proceed to the rest of the recipe.

Milk Chocolate and Salted Butter Caramel Mousse Layer:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tb water
2 Tb salted butter, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream, divided
6 oz (3/4 cup) milk chocolate

Measure 3/4 cup of cream and refrigerate, this portion will be used to make whipped cream so keep it well chilled. In a microwave or small saucepan, heat the 1/4 cup remaining until it is fairly hot. It will be added to the caramel and by being hot it will prevent the caramel from seizing on you and clumping up.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in an heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). Set aside.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the sugar to the water over medium high heat and cook, without stirring until you get a dark brown caramel. Take the pan off the heat and add the butter and 1/4 cream. It will bubble like mad but it will not run over....if the butter and cream are not cold the bubbling will be minimal and short lived. Stir with a wooden spoon to smooth the caramel if necessary. Let it cool to lukewarm. Add the caramel to the chocolate and stir until smooth.
Whip the remaining heavy cream to soft peaks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Fold 1/3 of the whipped cream to the chocolate/caramel to loosen it up and then add the remaining whipped cream. Spread over the brownie base and refrigerate until completely set.

Dark Chocolate Ganache:
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup dark chocolate

In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer, remove from the heat. Add the chocolate to the cream and let sit for 5 minutes. Slowly stir the heavy cream and chocolate until they come together and form a shiny ganache. Let cool. You want the ganache to still be pourable but not too warm that it will melt the mousse.
Spread it over the caramel mousse and refrigerate until set.

To serve: lift the dessert out of the pan and trim the sides with a sharp knife (heated under hot water and wiped dry works great too), cut into the desired number of servings and enjoy.

Hot Chocolate And Some Caramels

Honey Raspberry Semifreddo And An Open Letter

116

Monday, August 18, 2008

Honey And Raspberry Semifreddo

Foreword: I have tossed and turned words for the past couple of days writing this post. I know this is a food blog, but over the past few years that I have written here, I have also shared with you the joys and sorrows of life. It has become more than just desserts since I come every week with stories out the wazoo, so I hope you will allow me to make this post about one person whom I lost and love and celebrate his memory. One person whose passing changed me radically in every thing I do and every way I see things. This is an open letter to my belated brother, one that I start and rewrite every year around the same time, one that will never end being re-written. I also thought about not posting at all, but one of our best memories shared was around dessert and it made sense to me to write it today. If this is not your cup of tea, skip to the recipe part.

Dear Thierry,
There are many dates forever engraved in my mind. The day you gave me a tiny white watch and a bright fuchsia scarf for my 10th birthday. The day I was looking at my parents' wedding pictures and saw you in one of them, standing right there with them and I turned to my mom and asked "if babies are made after you get married, how come Thierry is already there?" and found out that how we came to share only one parent. Dad was our common denominator. The same father who called me one August 18th, 8 years ago to tell me you were gone, forever. That date, I hate with every fiber of my being. I hated you even more for the wrenching pain you were causing him, how I wanted to punch you and hurt you the same. I know now that your circle of life was not ending, we keep it alive in everything we do. You and I have the same sensibility and a sensitivity that makes people uncomfortable when not prepared and sometimes makes some like us a little bit more, or at least that's why B. says when I ask why he loves me.

Here is another date for you, that day in July when you met B. for the first time when he flew to visit for a couple of weeks. We had been dating just a couple of months and we met you at a cafe in Montmartre and shared a big plate of spaghetti. He spoke virtually no French and your English was just as bad and yet both of you started chatting away in your own made up language, hands and sounds included and I watched beaming. You told me that day that I was going to marry him and I added that I knew already but getting that same vibe from you reassured me that in spite of everything that separated us it would happen. You had never met this man and yet your generosity in showing him the kind of work you did was a big thing to do. Your work was your lifestyle and for a lot of people it was a rather bohemian one. Labeled as unreliable and different, I know it took a lot for you to just open up like that but you knew within a few hours spent with B. over lunch that he would never judge you or label you.

I remember B. getting antsy in his seat as if we were about to take him to some sort of secret society meeting, while we were trying to show him the beauty of the moment. "How many times are you going to share lunch with friends in a cafe in Montmartre if you live in SC, USA and work as a college professor?" Yep, my point. When the waiter came and asked us if we wanted dessert, B. said "I think I'll pass, I am full" and we both looked at him like he was from another planet and exclaimed in the same voice "There is always room for dessert!!" and as soon as the waiter said the words "raspberry semifreddo" we replied "three please!" I had almost forgotten about that dessert until the other day when B. and I were talking about you and he said "didn't we have creme brulee that day?". I was about to pop a few raspberries in my mouth and it all came back to me, not to mention that only dessert seem to stop us from talking!! So I stopped eating the raspberries that were in front of me and made semifreddo instead!!

So, and you will understand this, dear brother...I am stopping my letter here, adding it to the pile I have already written. As you often said it "why be sad when there is dessert?" and I know you were referring to the fact that I would always have to wrestle you and Arnaud for a piece of cake. Thank you for filling my days with sweet tears of the wonderdul times we've had, and hope you won't get mad that I eat your semifreddo because really that would be waste to just stare at it and you hate waste (logic has never been our strong point)....right?!

Honey And Raspberry Semifreddo

There are as many semifreddo recipes are there cooks in this world, and the word itself refers more to a class of desserts more than just a particular one. Semi freddos are just that, semi frozen desserts not requiring an ice cream maker. The air comes and fluffly mouth feel comes from the amount of air you incorporate in your recipes, either with whipped cream, a "pate a bombe", an Italian or Swiss meringue. Here the dessert start with a pate a bombe base in which egg yolks are beaten with a sugar syrup and then whipped until airy and cooled. Whipped cream is also added here as a final touch of air before freezing. The honey gives more depth to the raspberry flavor and I advise you use a floral one such as wildflower, a stronger honey will be the dominant flavor, which is not what I was shooting for. For the decoration cookies, I made some tulip paste, filled a pastry bag with a small tip and piped squiggles on a silpat.

Honey And Raspberry Semifreddo

Serves 8

1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons honey (I like wildflower the best)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 Tb water
3 large egg yolks
2 cups fresh raspberries

In the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with the whisk attachment or hand held one with ballon whisks, beat the cream until it just holds soft peaks. Chill while you prepare the base of the ice cream. Wash your bowl and whisk attachment.
In a heavy saucepan, stir together the honey, sugar, and the water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Since you are not making caramel, it is ok to stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Let it boil and bring the mixture to 238°F on thermometer (soft-ball stage).

This second part is easier to do with a hand held mixer than a KA for example since the quantity of egg yolks is small and the bowl tends to be deep in some models. It works, have no fear...it's just easier with a hand held one.
In the clean bowl of your mixer, still using the whisk attachment, beat the yolks until they are thick and pale. Reduce speed to medium and pour hot honey mixture in a steady stream into yolks. Go fast enough to prevent the eggs from scrambling but not so fast that you end up with most of the syrup on the wall of the bowl or the whisk. Continue to whip until the mass is completely cold and airy.

Fold about one third of the chilled whipped cream into the semifreddo base to loosen it up and make it easier to incorporate homogeneously. Fold in the remaining whipped cream. Add the raspberries and give the batter one last quick fold.
Divide mixture evenly among dishes or silicone molds, cover with plastic wrap and freeze until frozen.

Cookie Decorations: (base recipe which makes a lot but you can freeze it or refrigerate the dough and use as needed)

4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup egg whites, at room temperature
4 ounces all purpose flour, sifted

Cream the butter and powdered sugar together in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the egg whites and beat until just coming together. Add the flour to the butter mixture and mix until incorporated. Do not overmix. Use right away or store in the refrigerator, taking it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it. Pour the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pipe away! Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

Honey And Raspberry Semifreddo

So what did my brother do for a living that was this strange? I could simplify by telling you that he had a stall at the Clignancourt flea market in Paris but that would be so unfair to him. He was an artist, he made jewelry, earring, bracelets, brooches, necklaces, hair pieces, rings. He used all that was available, beads, metal, wood... He loved to work with miniatures anything and tiny everything (see a DNA trait here?!!). He had gifted hands and a never ending creativity, one I can only aspire to. He was also a gifted photographer. The best picture of B. and I is one he took that very same day we had lunch and I see it every morning I turn the alarm clock off. He liked odd places and odd angles to be, live and photograph. He truly lived to the beat of his own drum and he inspires me. Below are three of my favorite pictures he took ( sorry for the quality, they were scanned).



Homework...Derailed

49

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fresh Figs

Another day busy with baking and writing and photo homework...until a huge thunderstorm hit the neighborhood and we lost power from 5.30pm or so until 10pm. Others in the neighborhood got their power back on around 7pm but no one can figure out why our street stayed that long without it. It's the summer, there's a creek, there's a dock, a couple of canoe, plenty of kids and animals, so plenty to do without power. We all gathered to grill out, share salads and juicy fruits as we usually do on saturdays so really it did not make that much difference. Except, I was working and had plenty in the oven and lost it all. There is pretty much nothing to do when you have macarons, cakes, tarts, etc...baking in the oven and power cuts off for almost 5 hours. I thought about using the grill but again, all were pretty much used already.

I called the electric company to inquire about the delay and the lady was real nice and really there was not much she could do. When she said at 7pm that most lines were fixed but it might take longer for ours here is the dialogue that ensued:
Me: "Oh no, that's impossible...I really need power!"
Her: "do you have a baby? Is it an emergency"
Me: "It's cake. It's an emergency."
Long pause from the lady at the electric company.
Me: "It's my work. Sorry if I sounded deranged"
Her (laughing): "That's ok honey, we all have issues."

So, back to the drawing board tomorrow...It made me realize that I am somewhat naively more worried about losing power for hours than my computer crashing....oops (knock on wood, Helen, fast!!). No food got spoiled during the power outage as I have the weird habit to crank the fridge and freezer on very cold right when I see a serious lightning storm. I started doing that after we lost power for two days a few years back and it did help a great deal.


Red Currants

What did I end up doing instead for those terribly long hours (humor)? I played with the two crazy monkeys below and put together a little cheese and fruit tray with fresh figs and red currants and some cheese. Lucky us there was no need for electricity with the sun setting so late and all was not lost since the kids tried some new foods and basically had a heck of a free night before school starts!! Not too bad after all!

Hope you are enjoying the pictures because that's all I got :(
For more puppy pictures, you can always click here.


Cashew Gateau With Coffee Cardamom Mousse

95

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cashew Cake and Coffee Mousse

Thank you all for the very nice birthday wishes for my mother, she truly appreciated the thought. Funny story about birthdays in my family and birthdays phone calls especially: my grandmother had the habit to see whom of her children would call her first to wish her a happy birthday. When I called my mom on Tuesday, I immediately said "I know I am not the first but I am the furthest...that's got to count!".

Anyways, back to today's dessert... I can't plan..Let me rephrase this: I can't plan to have a distraction free day because we all know that concept never truly works. I had planned yesterday to be a writing day punctuated by a few walks with the dogs, a couple of play breaks with them and the neighbors' kids, no grocery shopping, no baking commitment, no visits, no errands...just me and my thoughts. Ha! I should have checked the weather channel because as soon as I woke up the rain had decided to fall hard and steady, which meant no walks with the dogs, no play time nextdoor. Thus I had two crazy monkeys on my hands who all of a sudden had decided to team up to tear the house apart when I was not looking. I am still laughing when I think about the tricks those two played on me!

It all started when I was sipping my coffee looking at the creek and the rain...and the high tide...tidal creek during high rain equals a big puddle in your yard and a creek boat (think small fishing tin there people....we're not the yacht type) that threatens to float away. B. went outside to tighten the rope, the dogs followed and found the yard, sorry puddle...and all hell broke lose. They played fetch with each other for thirty minutes and all we could do was watch. Watch them turn from beige to black really...Two bathes and numerous towels later and everybody settled down...a little. By then I had lost my writing mojo and decided to bake instead. At least it was easier to stop their shenanigans with a whisk in my hand than a thought up in the air.

Baking did take place but not in the case of this cake. How can I make a cake without turning the oven on? Recycling....When we did the last Daring Bakers challenge I did the whole batter but baked a 6 inch cake for the challenge and a 8 inch cake that I froze, not really sure of what I would use it for. I got a call from a friend Tuesday morning and told her to come by meet the puppy later that day over coffee and cake. I thawed the cashew gateau and started working on a filling when she called to cancel: her best laid plans got also derailed that day. We reset for the day after (gosh I have never written anything with that much timeline involved!), which turned out great given the way my rainy day was shaping up.

Stained Caramel Window

For the cake I used pastry rings to cut out 4 rounds into the cake and split those minis in half. I used one half at the bottom of each ring, topped them with a simple coffee and cardamom mousse, (you might have extra mousse in which case I recommend you divide it into glasses and eat as is. It is easier to make the full amount and have extra than the opposite. It is really good on its own), one more layer of cake and let them set in the fridge overnight. Wednesday morning I topped each mini cake with a dark chocolate ganache. The inspiration for the caramel stained "glass" panel comes from my grandmother (same one!) who used to say "I don't care if it rains as long as there is some sun and some colors somewhere". I feel the exact same way but since there was no sun in sight I decided there would be colors then! I go a lucky break of 20 minutes to take some pictures and walk the crazy monkeys. Not too bad a day after all.

Cashew Gateau With Coffee Cardamom Mousse:

Serves 4

For the gateau:
3/4 cups cashew, toasted/skinned
1/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, divided (2Tb & 6 Tb)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
2 lg. egg whites
2 Tb melted butter, cooled

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 8” X 4” inch round springform 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 8 Tb 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 2 Tb 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.

For the coffee cardamom mousse:
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup espresso or strong coffee
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp powdered unflavored gelatin, softened in 1 tablespoon cold water
1 cup heavy cream, cold

In a mediu saucepan, bring the coffee, sugar and cardamom to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the gelatin until it is completely dissolved. Let cool to room temperature. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with hand held beaters with balloon whisks, whipe the cream just until it holds stiff peaks, do not overbeat or it will become grainy and separate. Add a small amount first to the coffee mixture to loosen up the batter, slowly fold the rest of the whipped cream. Do not let it set completely before using it for the cake filling (have your cake baked, cooled, and cut before using)

For the chocolate ganache:
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup chopped chocolate or chocolate chips (about 6 oz or 180 gr)

In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer, remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Let it sit for 5 minutes so that the chocolate starts to melt then slowly stir the cream and chocolate until they come together to make the ganache. Let cool slightly before using it over the cakes.

To assemble:
Cut 4 rounds out of the 8 inch cake and cut each round in half. Using 4 3 inch round pastry rings, place a cake round at the bottom of each ring, top with about 1/4 cup of coffee mousse, top with another cake round and let sit overnight. In the morning, make the ganache. Line a sheet pan with a sheet of parchment paper, position a cooling rack or a grid over it, position your cake over the grid and slowly pour the ganache over all the cakes to cover the completely. Rap the sheet over the counter top (be gentle, no jumping cakes allowed!), to let the ganache fall evenly. Let them set in the fridge for a couple of hours. You can dust them with a good coat of cocoa powder if desired like I did here.

For the stained glass caramel windows:
250gr sugar (1 cup)
37.5 ml water (35 gr) (2 1/2 Tb)
various food colorings

Line a baking sheet with parchement paper. Drop a few drops of food coloring onto the paper. Do not touch them, sirl them or move them.
In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water, do not stir and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil until the caramel reaches the soft crack stage or 140C - 285F on a candy thermometer (do not let it turn color). Immediately pour over the parchment paper with the food coloring. Take the baking sheet with your hands and move it left to right, right to left to move and swirl the colors. Let set until completely cooled. Break pieces of your desired size to decorate the cakes with.

Cashew Cake And Coffee Mousse

Roasted Apricot and Lavender Panna Cottas

80

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lavender and Apricot Panna Cotta

Tomorrow is my mom's birthday, my lovely sweet mom . Instead of baking her a cake I made her Roasted Apricot and Lavender Panna Cotta. It's not that I don't like cake, we all know better than that (!) it's just that every time I think about my mom I think of apricots and lavender. From as far as I can remember my mom seemed to smell of apricot and lavender. Maybe it is because we only had to walk to the front yard and get the fruits right off the tree back when we were still in Provence. Maybe it is because you can't open one single drawer at our house without finding a little lavender sachet to perfume our clothes. I always thought it was strange that I was the only lavender smelling child at school but guess what...I keep the tradition going even now (but that should not be a surprise either).

By the way what is your favorite birthday sweet?

I thought about this all day long the other day as I was preparing the panna cottas and I was not surprised to hear my dad say when I called earlier today that my mom could not come to the phone right then because she was stirring her jam. Apricot jam. Ha! I knew it! I wanted to be there in the kitchen with her, stirring the fruits in her giant copper pot, skimming the foam, watching the bubbles, letting the fruits get caramelized, watching her crack some apricot pits to collect some of the kernels inside (because they taste just like almonds) that she adds to the jam for flavor and that we all fight over.

Now you understand why when it came down to celebrate her birthday, I immediately thought of apricots and lavender. Yes, I am very much a mama's girl, my dad being a more private and guarded individual. My mother is not my friend or my best friend, she is my mom. My mom did not raise me for herself, she raised me with the same contradictions that she possesses: a spirit for personal interactions as well as a need for private time, patience and tolerance stirred with a dose of hot temper, a thirst for knowledge and personal improvement mixed with an interesting set of Old World values. I think my mother is the best....of course I do...and to think that she smells as good as roasted apricots and lavender....well that just tops it all!

Happy Birthday Mom! Joyeux Anniversaire Maman Cherie que j'aime tres fort de la vie entiere! I know I am early but I won't have blog access on Tuesday.

Apricots and Lavender-Copyright©Tartelette 2008
The panna cottas themselves come together very easily, the cream is infused with edible lavender buds, strained and poured over roasted apricots. The fruits are sprinkled with a little sugar and roasted on medium heat, then pureed and spooned at the bottom of glasses or jars. When you dig into the panna cottas it feels and smells like your spoon is walking along fields of lavender and when you finally reach the bottom, the apricot puree adds a little tartness and texture contrast. I realized that this is another apricot dessert this month and I am not sure it won't be the last since my old chef gave me a case of these the other week after I helped him out with a pastry dilemma: too many sweets to make, not enough hands, he called, I baked.

I must add that this dessert was also a team effort of some sort. In the past couple of weeks I had the tremendous joy of meeting two great ladies that I only had communicated through email and phone until now. You might remember the Cassata Cake made with Chris from Mele Cotte when she came to visit. We had never met and still, from the minute we both opened our mouths it was like we already had...and boy can we both talk! She spoiled me with tons of little things for cooking and baking, among which a big tub of lavender buds that I immediately put to use with the panna cottas.

The other lady is Bina. This past Thursday we (yes, Bailey too) drove to Atlanta for business and we stopped for lunch at Bina's house for lunch before heading back. Bina is a reader who does not have a blog but loves to bake and is an accomplished cook, not to mention an incredibly thoughtful host. She has been very generous both in her words and gifts which made me want to meet her in person to tell her a proper thank you. We had such a great time and she made us the most delicious Indian foods, breads, chutneys and samosas. I even got a quick lesson on samosa making, yippee!! Before I left she gave me a little packet of silver leaves used in Indian sweets and I thought they were perfect to adorn the panna cottas for mom's birthday. A little edible bling never hurt anyone!!

Lavender and Apricot Panna Cotta
Roasted Apricot and Lavender Panna Cottas:

Serves 4

For the roasted apricots:
6 apricots
1/4 cup of sugar

Preheat your oven to 350F. Cut the apricots in half, remove the pits and place them flesh side up in a large baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle the apricot halves with the sugar and roast them for about 30-40 minutes (check at 30 to prevent them from burning) until they have released their juices and become soft and caramelized. Let cool to room temperature before pureeing the fruits in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Divide evenly among 4 glasses or ramequins.

For the panna cottas:
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs edible lavender buds
2 teaspoons powdered gelatin bloomed in 2 Tb water (means to pour the water over the gelatin and let it sit while you prepare the panna cotta)

Combine all the ingredients, except the gelatin, in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let the cream to steep for 20 minutes. Pass the mixture through a sieve or a chinois, heat the gelatin in the microwave for 8 seconds and quickly stir it in the cream mixture. No microwave at our house so I set the cup with the gelatin in large saucepan with enough water to come up halfway up the sides of the gelatin bowl, on medium heat and let the gelatin melt that way. Let cool to lukewarm.
Slowly pour the cream over the apricot puree and let set in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
Decorate with apricot slices, chopped nuts, etc....

Homework...

38

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Homework
This is my homework almost everyday...in a very simplified sum up: baking, taking pictures, eating, and writing. Fortunately the state of my mind is not empty like a consumed cupcake wrapper but full of stories and giddy with excitement. I was having a conversation with Elizabeth the yoga instructor where I teach Pilates and she reminded me that I also needed to breathe. I can't "breathe" and relax in chaos and right now my picture files and documents are in shambles or at least overflowing in all directions....so much so that I forget what I have prepared to post on this blog. It made me happy to found them tonight for next week though!!

So I am going to take the next couple of days to organize my head, my files and figure out a way to prevent Bailey from nipping at my apron while I bake...or pull on the tablecloth while I take a picture!

Thank you to all of you who left a response to my question the other day. It might have sounded like this problem was happening a lot, rest assured that it was only on a couple of recipes that I was re-working from great great great grandma Rose who never owned a 9 inch square pan... While the more seasoned bakers said "I'll pour what's left in a cupcake tin or small dish and use it as my taste tester", the more novice ones brought a good point to my attention, "I would wonder if I have done something wrong". I had not really thought of it that way so I could kiss you for the feedback right now! And yes...recipe has been adjusted and if I can't ever make one fit in the proper pan, I will write a small note.

These flowers are my virtual thank you. You guys are the best!

Flowers-Copyright©Tartelette 2008

Apricot And Wattleseeds Tea Cakes

68

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Apricot and Wattleseeds Tea Cakes
I know I am not the only one in this case and it might come as no surprise to you if I say that my husband rarely reads my blog. It's not that he does not care but I talk about the post the moment I make the cake, dessert, pastry, etc...so by the time I take the said dessert out of the oven or off the stove, he already knows what I am going to write and talk about. You can imagine that the last post about the "faisselle" my father loves so much brought back a lot of memories and we spent a couple of evenings reminiscing about our childhood favorite summers.

It made me realize that I was a deeply nostalgic person, but not a sad nostalgic always wishing it were still the good old days. No, I am a content nostalgic. Memories appease me, wrap me up like a soft blanket and give me a sense of direction. It is hard to find the calm when words and events hurt you or saddened you and instead I try to find a way to let them in, to let them show me a missing key to that big puzzle that is life. August is a tough month for me, remembering my grandmother and my brother, missing granpa's 98th birthday and as he said himself "statistics start to look less and less optimistic at that age"...now that just about cracked me up! But I have found comfort in continuity as I was observing C's twins playing in the creek, fishing, riding their bikes through the neighborhood, perpetrating the same pranks and tricks we used to do with my cousins at the same age.

Some people need to touch things to feel connected, to visit places again...I can't do any of that. I did not bring "things" to the US, just two suitcases, I can't go home for a long weekend escapade. But I can remember and talk and with this grew my ever growing love for interactions with people. I am not one of those intruding neighbors always poking my head through the fence or stopping whomever and whatever on the street just to have a conversation. No, I am not saying I am shy either...I just think my brain is always turned on to the "outside/out there" mode. This may not be news for you, but after so many years, I feel actually quite wise (hmm, hmm!) that I have discovered one of my inner mechanisms: memories ground me in being and taking in the present.

Apricot Wattleseeds Tea Cakes-Copyright©Tartelette 2008When I wrote this post, one new(er) terrific blogger, Christy, emailed me with concerns and questions about moving far away from "home". We emailed back and forth and I tried to reassure her that it is looks more daunting that it actually is. With a good head on your shoulder, a sense of curiosity, an open mind and a good smile, (ok that is the condensed version of the expat "must haves"), it all goes pretty smoothly. She insisted on sending me something as a thank you for answering her questions and since she lives in Australia I thought about light stuff that would not cost her an arm and a leg to ship: the famous Tim Tam cookies, (check her generosity) and ground wattleseed.

Wattle - what? Ha! I blame my Aussie neighbor Liz down the street for that one since she was listing its origins, properties and many different uses. Wattleseed refers to the edible seeds from Australia Acacia (loose term because they are over 100 varieties), and ground acacia flour known as wattleseeds is not only use in baked goods, but also as a replacement for coffee or chocolate, nuts. Moreover it is completely gluten free, has a low glycemic index but a high nutritious content. I just wished they'd sell it by the bucket here because from the moment I took some tiny granules to my nose I was hooked. Nutty and toasty like hazelnuts with a texture similar to ground flax seeds. Guess after the tomatoes and ever growing wild lemongrass I will be growing acacia next!!

It did not take me long, once I tried tasted a tiny little bit, to figure out how I wanted to use them. That nutty aromas is perfect with juicy apricots and the flour aspect of wattleseeds made me think of tea cakes and substituting some of the all purpose flour with it. Next thought was about the kind of tea cakes I wanted. In my family, Sunday lunches often turned into tea times with my aunt Agnes famous yogurt cake. You can guess that tea breaks inevitably turned into light dinners before my grandparents would send everybody in their respective abodes...lucky us we lived next door! See...memories...So yogurt cake it was, with apricots, wattleseeds and the usual yogurt cake suspects (say that 3 times fast). The result was just the softest, nuttiest, apricot-est mini bites we had Sunday afternoon while the twins were playing fetch with Bailey who was too hot to be bothered!

Apricot and Wattleseeds Tea Cakes
Apricot And Wattleseeds Tea Cakes:



Makes about 12 (can be made in any dish/mold you have like regular muffin tins)

6 apricots
2 large eggs
6 oz (on standard US container) (about 180 gr) whole milk plain unsweetened yogurt
1/2 cup sugar (100g)
zest of one lemon
1/3 cup (80ml) vegetable or olive oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (115gr) ground wattleseeds
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 Tb lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 350° F, spray a muffin pan or 12 molds of your preference with cooking spray and set aside while you prepare the cake batter.

Cut the apricot in half and slice each half in thin slices, you will use about one half for each tea cake. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the eggs and sugar until pale. Add the yogurt, oil, vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Whip to combine and add the flour, wattleseeds and baking powder. Whip on medium speed for 30 seconds to make sure all the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth. Scrape the bottom of your bowl if necessary and give the batter another 10 seconds whirl. Do not overwork the batter or your cake will turn out gummy. Divide the batter into the prepared tins, arrange the apricot slices on top and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester (skewer or tip of your knife) inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for ten minutes, and transfer onto a rack to cool.

Apricot and Wattleseeds Tea Cakes

Tartelette All rights reserved © Blog Milk - Powered by Blogger