Daring Bakers, Caramel Cake and Soft Grand Marnier Caramels

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

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I can hardly believe that the Daring Bakers are already two years old and that next month will be my own two year anniversary with the group. I can hardly believe that it went from Lisa emailing me with "hey there are four of us making biscotti, are you interested?" to "hey should we have a name?" to a full blown multi national group of bakers of all ages and all levels. We may all see the challenges differently but it does not matter as long there is a good dose of butter, sugar, flour! I am learning so much about others, the way they approach recipes and ideas as well as their cultures. Cheers to two years Daring Bakers and to many more!

I love when things come full circle or half circle or when there is a little something somewhere, a little detail that makes sense to me or/and others. It did this month in the sweetest way (pun completely intended), when Dolores from Culinary Curiosity , along with Alex from Blondie and Brownie and Jenny of Foray into Food chose Shuna's Caramel Cake as our November Challenge. When I first started reading food blogs, I tuned in to Shuna's Eggbeater almost everyday. It took me forever and a day to leave a comment as every time I finished her last sentence I felt so inadequate posting a simple "Wonderful post". She has right the words to describe our industry, about being a chef, a woman, a human being wearing her heart upon her sleeve. I laugh, I cry, I shake my head "yes" and when she announced she was moving to London I was so thrilled for her...following what's next and embracing all the unknowns that go with it.

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So yes...making Shuna's Caramel Cake on the Daring Bakers' two year anniversary was one of those little details that mean a lot to me...like paying it forward in some way. And if you have been reading this blog for a little while you know how much I like playing with hot sugar (...blue caramel plate anyone?). Yep, I liked the idea from the get go, especially with a frosting that starts with browned butter. The smell in the house was enough to make you want someone would bottle it up in a perfume! The cake was easy to make and we all (us and the neighbors) loved its texture, and at first the frosting was a little too sweet to me but I did add some fleur de sel which really enhanced its flavor on the second day. Ah! The pleasure of biting into little salt crystals at the same time as biting into that sweet caramel frosting...hmmhmmhmm.

Given that we were given a lot of leeway in the making of the cake, I went ahead and made 4 small cakes instead of one. Granted I love caramel and salt but I also love caramel and citrus so I did add some grated lemon zest to the cake batter and as previously mentionned some fleur de sel to the frosting. I thought I would not have time to make the extra recipe for caramels but I needed to stand and move around after Thanksgiving dinner last night and I went ahead and did Grand Marnier caramels (citrus again) that I wrapped in waxed paper and boxed up in little Christmas tins for gift giving (except half of them are already gone...oops!). From turkey low to sugar high, I think we have all the compenents of a perfect holiday season!
For the decoration, there was a bunch of kids eating with us so I kept it simple but did sneak in some "bubble caramel", a caramel technique that makes me giggle everytime I use it, (and the kids too) although be careful as you "play" with pouring hot sugar syrup over alcohol to create the bubble effect.

Thank you Lisa and Ivonne once more and our wonderful hostesses! Check out the rest of the Daring Bakers and their fantabulastic creations here.

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Caramel Cake With Caramelized Butter Frosting, courtesy of Shuna:

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
Sift flour and baking powder. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}
Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan. Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

Caramel Syrup:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)

In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.
When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.
Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Caramelized Butter Frosting:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.
Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.
Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light.

Bubble Caramel:
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
3 tablespoon (45 ml water)
1 tablespoon (15 gr) corn syrup
rubbing alcohol (I use a spray bottle)

Combine all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and bring them to a boil. Monitor the temperature with a candy thermometer and bring the mixture to 300F. While the caramel is reaching its desired temperature, take a sheet of parchment paper and crinkle it between your hands then flatten it out a bit. This will help with the forming of the bubbles. Spray rubbing alcohol on the parchement paper right before the caramel reach its temperature (don't do it ahead of time or it will be dry when you are ready to pour). When the caramel is ready, slowly pour it over the parchment paper and watch the bubble form. You can lift the paper carefully to spread it around the surface if needed but watch out! I do this over a large sheetpan so all is required for clean up is hot water. Let cool completely before breaking into shards. This is more a deco than an edible piece of caramel given the alcohol used. I guess one could use a high percentage clear alcohol (maybe my uncle's moonshine that cleans the bottoms of coffee cups!) but I haven't tried it that way yet.

Homemade Grand Marnier Caramels

Grand Marnier Caramels, adapted from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert.

Makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels
Note: the original recipe calls for Golden Syrup but I wanted to finish the corn syrup I had so I subsituted one invert sugar for another one without a problem.

1 cup corn syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the corn syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, heat the cream in a small saucepan until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Grand Marnier extract. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.

Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chocolate Cupcakes - Happy Thanksgiving!

Thankful that my 5 year old nephew asked me to make him chocolate cupcakes with "snow frosting" for Thanksgiving dinner...even if that's all he'll eat. How can I say "no"?!!

Fall Sprinkle

Thankful for little things like sprinkles and having this space to tell you about my passion for all things sweet. Thankful to have you read and leave your thoughts post after post.

Around The House

Thankful for friends who know how much I miss Fall and bring me a bouquet of leaves from a trip to the mountains! Thank you C&H!!

Thankful For The Important Stuff

Thankful to my wonderful husband for his constant gift of love, friendships and laughter and for always "expecting the unexpected"....Thank you to my families both here and home. When I keep wavering like a feather you are always the rocks I rely on.

Thankful For The Little Things

Thankful to the little things in life like ribbons and polka dots, for putting a smile on my face at the oddest time of the day.

Thankful For Christmas Ornaments

Thankful that Christmas is here soon: care packages after cookie boxes after macarons after... shipped to friends and family.
Thankful that B's family agreed to come here for Christmas dinner and letting me be their host.

Just wanted to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving and give a few thanks of my own.

Pumpkin Meringue Tartelettes

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pumpkin Meringue Tartelettes

With the holidays just upon us, I hope you won't mind a little pre-Thanksgiving dessert and have to let you in on a little secret: I won't be cooking or baking this Thanksgiving. Argh!!! Horror!!! Truth is, I never cook or bake that day as I am reminded each year that it is not "my" holiday. Well yes, French people did not have Pilmgrims and Native Americans (we had Romans and Vikings but that's another story), but Thanksgiving is important to my American. I know that Thanksgiving is more than that, the viking-pilgrim thing is just a joke between us when people ask me what the French do for T-Day. What is important to B. is important to me. In his family dynamics however, I get to sit this one out.

I love entertaining, holiday cooking and baking, having a bunch of friends and dear ones around. Planning, making the menus...I miss this greatly being so far away from my family most holidays. Comes Thanksgiving and my head is spinning with recipes, both sweet and savory and I get to relax. Horror!! I am serious here, I know a lot of you super master entertainers and foodies can relate!! By Christmas I am so terribly homesick that we elope to the mountains and regroup while B. lets me reminisce about my Christmases by home.

If anything, I live for my family dinners as his family is way smaller and calmer. There are no less than 20-30 people at my parents' house gathering around the table for Christmas Eve and just about the same number on Christmas day. There are kids everywhere, toys all over the place, bottles behind curtains (remind me to tell you about that when we get closer to Christmas). There is virtually no room to move around, the garage is the same temperature as the refrigerator so my parents' car is transformed into a cheese and dessert shelf. There is noise, loud noise, jokes, laughters, discussions, disagreements. We eat and chat for hours. B. will say that he needs to train a couple of weeks in advance to match the 6 hour festivities of eating and drinking two days in a row. We do take our time and talk a lot in between courses. One year we tried to rush so that my grandparents would get to bed at a decent hour but they got mad and stayed up with us until 2am....we did not tell them we kept at it until 4am!

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One of the things I learned early on about my husband is his love for two Thanksgiving classics: pecan and pumpkin pies. Pecan pie was an easy one to get used to when I moved to the US as it was very close to our "tarte aux noix" that we have in the North. The concept of pumpkin pie was new to me yet completely fascinating. When I exclaimed "pumpkin? In a pie?", he was quick to say "you guys preserve all chestnuts in sugar syrup and then glaze them with more sugar syrup...and you eat them...just like that!!" Ah yes, the Marron Glace! I could see his point, it's an acquired taste. However, a taste for a cold slice of pumpkin pie is ve-ry easy to acquire!!

Even if we don't get to have the family over on that special Thursday, we created our own tradition years ago by hosting a pre-Thanksgiving dinner the week before with a few of our close friends. We gather early around in the kitchen and dining area and we cook and bake together wile chatting and sipping wine. Each person has his or her favorite thing to make and eat and early on I started combining my heritage and B's by combining ingredients I'd find here in dishes I would make back home.

One thing I love in the world of sweet things is meringue. I can eat meringue all day and never reach the bottom of the cookie jar. When time came bring dessert to our gatherings the first thing that came to my mind was to make a Pumpkin Meringue Pie, combining two of our childhood favorites. I like to use a sable base instead of the traditional pate brisee crust and once the filling is baked, I pipe rosettes of Italian meringue on top and use the blow torch to finish it off. We have had this way for the past ten years so I guess you could say we now have our own tradition for Thanksgiving albeit a week early!!

Pumpkin Meringue Tartelettes

Pumpkin Meringue Tartelettes:

Makes 8 small tartelettes (3 inches diameter) or one 9 inch round pie

Sable Dough:
1 stick (115 gr) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (93 gr) powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 1 /2 cups (188gr) flour
2 tablespoons (20 gr) cornstarch (makes for a lighter crumb)pinch of salt

In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the flour, cornstarch and salt and mix briefly to incorporate. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Do not work the dough while in the mixer or it will toughen up. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between the sheets of plastic. You will have extra dough that you can save for another use in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen, well wrapped for up to 3 months. Cut out 8 rounds two inches larger than your pastry rings. Fit the dough inside the rings with your fingertips and trim the edges with a sharp knife. Line the rings with small squares of parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Let cool.

For the Pumpkin Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup canned pumpkin (not the whole can but 8 oz)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
2/3 cup whole milk

In a large bowl, beat the egg and sugar until pale. Add the pumpkin, spices and salt and mix until just incorporated. Add the milk and slowly and mix well. Divide the batter among the cooled tart rings and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350F until the batter looks like it is just set, don't overcook or it will crack on you. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before proceeding with the meringue topping.

For the Italian Meringue:
2 egg whites (60 grams)
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2 tablespoons water

In a heavy bottom saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil and cook the mixture until it reaches 245-248F on a candy thermometer. In the meantime, start beating the egg whites firm peaks but not stiff or dry. When the sugar syrup has reached the proper temperature, slowly add it to the egg whites with the mixer on low-medium speed. Once all the sugar has been poured in, turn the speed to high and beat until the meringue has cooled. Place it in a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe rosettes of meringue on top of the tartelettes. Use a blowtorch to slightly caramelize the tops or place them under the broiler in your oven but make sure to keep a close eye on them.

Pumpkin Meringue Tartelettes

Black Tie Macarons And A Calendar Girl

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Black Tie Macarons

These are not the Frenchie version of Oreos but rather Black Tie Macarons that I made for a party, not that I don't like love Oreos mind you! You see, I don't usually mingle with B's music jobs unless they are at a restaurant or some gig for the city. They are jobs, fun and full of passion for music but they are jobs nonetheless. It's not "Take your spouse to work" kind of day. He's focused, he's playing, he needs to mingle and talk to the guests. Then once in a while they are the jobs that I find myself completely intertwined with. It can be a client of mine marrying her daughter and having his band play, a restaurant we both love is having the band that night, etc... And then there are the jobs where I am supplying desserts or favors and his band is playing that night. Usually we are pretty good at keeping track of our schedules and I know where and when he plays and he can keep track of where I am by following the crumbs I leave behind me (not that far from the truth, really)! There are weeks however where we would not even see a giant pink neon post-it with our "where to be/what to wear" list even if it stared us in the face. It seems that the week before I headed to Lisa, I did not register as well a lot of info thrown at me and B. remembered two music jobs at the last minute, rushing in the house in shorts and tee shirt and running out in black pants, crisp white shirt in less than 2 minutes.

When you play music at the same restaurant for 20 something years, locals get to know you and you get to know them. When your spouse ends up working in the kitchen there, you widen the circle. Patrons start asking if you play for private parties and if your spouse can make a dessert table for said events and then you need more giant neon post-its...! Well last week we did not realize that we were working the same party and that our schedules were going to cross path. A dear to us couple was celebrating their 50th anniversary in an all out "Black Tie Affair" and while B. had the responsibility to toot his horn (literally), I had been asked to make macarons inspired by the event. Hmmm...It took me 2 seconds to decide I was going to make "Black Tie Macarons" filled with Swiss meringue buttercream.

Black Tie Macarons

Although I had seen black macarons before I had always thought that there was no way a tablespoon or two of powdered food coloring would be enough to make them deep dark. When I tried the experiment last year, they indeed turned out grey. After calling a couple of friends back home, I came to realize that the strength of the color was different from one country to the next. Different reasons later, I still had not tried them with another brand. The small bakery supply store where Lisa took Kelly and me to get the wedding cake pans had lots of stuff I would have loved to play with but my mission was to find the proper cake pans for the wedding cake. I was right on track until my eye caught a glimpse of their food coloring shelf...and there it was: one single bottle of black powdered food coloring. I looked at the label: one little goofy chef holding a whisk and the words "made in France". No brand. In a split second, it felt like the bottle was burning a hole in my hand, "my precious"....Then again, once back here after the wedding, life took over and I put the black macs aside until this couple called with their order. I am glad they trusted me with the idea and I was so pleased of how they turned out...but "my precious" is now empty again.

So yes, it was a good experiment, one I am willing to reproduce by working with the food colors I find here but I tend to like macarons on the natural to light color side and unless I am specifically asked for an unusual color, I don't think I would have done "bright blue" or deep black ( I did add some pearl dust and sesame seeds for the optical effect at the party). The color had almost purple hues at times and the guests loved them but let's face it...good thing it was dark and they did not show one another their tongues. It is a little too early in the season to be "eating coal"..eheheh!

Black Tie Macarons

Black Tie Macarons:

For the shells:
90 gr egg whites (about 3)
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds
black powdered food coloring (the end color will depend on how much you use)

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. Combine the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. 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 lined baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 280F. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 20-22 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. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer. To fill: pipe or spoon about 1 big tablespoon in the center of one shell and top with another one.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Put the sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like marshmallow cream. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat the meringue on medium speed until it cools and forms a thick shiny meringue, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. Add the vanilla and whip for another 10 seconds to incorporate it.
Tartelette Calendar - Customized calendar
Tartelette is now a calendar girl...!! Hmm, not in a red polka dot bikini but in the form of some favorite pictures of the past year. It all started when my mother asked me to make one so she could buy it for family and friends as stocking stuffers, then my aunt mentionned it to me again as in "your mom asked me to remind you to make that calendar this year"...and then I happily received email requests, so here it is! I hope you like it. The year has surely been a full and fast one!
You can purchase one by following this link, Tartelette Calendar on Zazzle or by clicking on the calendar icon on the sidebar.

Around The World In 100 Cookies: Field Guide To Cookie Book Tour

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Viennese Crescents

Here is another post in the series "When blogging become much more than just blogging". I am loving the extra dimentional relationships formed and cultivated through blogging and when Anita asked a few of us to take her first released book "Field Guide To Cookies" on a virtual tour, I literary smiled from ear to ear. Anita is a sweetheart, a terrific baker, a great friend, a fellow Daring Baker (we hosted the Saint Honore challenge together), and an extremely talented writer. Indeed, no one can describe flavors and textures as well as she does. Trust me. Head over to her blog, Dessert First and then tell me if you did not get lost in the fold of a sweet pie or the silkiness of an ice cream.

It just happened that Anita asked us to take her book on a tour at the same time that I was completing the Princess Torte assignment for Desserts Magazine and the editor mentionned that the next issue would be on cookies. Ha! "Well...I am just getting this nifty pocket book filled with 100 recipes of cookies from all over the world. I am sure I can come up with something!" And I sure did! Viennese Crescents, Indian Cookies, Algerian Almond Tarts, Dark Chocolate Crinkles (I won't post the recipe as you can see on another host's blog, Sara from Ms. Adventures In Italy), Pecan Sandies and Turtle Bars were made and devoured by the neighbors and us in a mere couple of weeks. They went so fast that I did not have the chance to take a picture of the Turtle Bars...they were going faster than I was cutting them!

“The Field Guide To” is a fun and informative series on how to master almost anything in the kitchen from meat to cocktails and now cookies. The whole format behind the series is to have a booklet full of information on how to achieve the perfect cookie, every time, whether you are a novice baker or a seasoned one. The book is divided into four chapters: drop cookies, bar cookies, molded cookies and rolled cookies. The notes on the perfect cookies and baking tools are perfect for beginners in the kitchen, giving them detailed explanation of what usually goes wrong in cookie making. The pocket size format makes it easy to have it around the kitchen and out on the counter top almost all the time. I like the fact that I can carry Anita’s recipes with me on weekend escapades, family gatherings or friends and have a delicious recipe to prepare for them!
Knowing her care for details and wonderful writing skills, this book went beyond all expectations I had. Each recipe is so much more than just a recipe. It starts with a general description that reads more like a history lesson then just a description of taste and texture. All the recipes have a nifty little coding system making it easy to know where you are in the recipe: prepping, mixing, baking, storing, etc… I was so happy to be able to test Anita’s recipes and have a copy of her book that I asked her if she'd be ok answering a few questions that popped in my head while I was baking. Here are a couple to get your appetite going. For the rest of the interview, check the next issue of Desserts Magazine coming out next week.

Dark Chocolate Crinckles

Dark Chocolate Crinkles - Before and After

Tartelette: As the introduction states it, this book is about more than just cookies, but also tea cakes and small bites. How did you decide which ones would make it into the book?
Anita: Even though 100 cookies sounds like a lot, it was tricky to decide which ones would make it and which ones would be cut. My editor and I wanted to cover as many styles of cookies as possible, and include ones that maybe many people had not heard of. On the other hand, since the book was primarily targeted for a North American audience, we needed to include many of the classics familar to most people and not scare them away with too many strange and unknown cookies. I hope I found a balance between many traditional favorites like chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin, but also the more exotic and international, like macarons and pizzelles.

Tartelette: Which aspects of the writing experience did you like best? Baking, testing, researching?
Anita: I really enjoyed researching the cookies. Since this cookbook is a little different than most other cookbooks with the longer entries, I needed to do a lot more research than just looking up recipes: I needed to find out where the cookie had originated, who first made them, how it evolved through time. I definitely boned up on my world history doing research on this book! Of course, I also enjoyed testing the recipes - my one biggest wish is that I had more time to test the recipes, because you always think of something else to tweak that might turn the recipe from good to fantastic! I had a great team of recipe testers to help me out, although sometimes I wished I had their job and could just bake all day, forget about the research and writing parts!
To be continued...

Viennese Crescents

Viennese Almond Crescents, (reprinted with permission of the author)(first picture also)
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vanilla sugar (I used powdered sugar), for coating

Sift together the ground almonds and confectioners’ sugar in a bowl.
In a stand mixer, beat butter on medium speed for several minutes until smooth.
Add in the almond mixture and mix until combined. Add in the vanilla and almond extracts and mix until combined. Add in the flour and salt and mix on low just until combined and the dough starts clumping together.
Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap tightly, and chill for about 20 minutes.
When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a few cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Form dough into 1-inch balls. Roll into a log and curve the ends to make a crescent shape. Place on cookie sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through; the edges of the cookies should turn light brown but the tops should not get too dark. Cool sheets on wire racks for about 4 to 5 minutes. While they are still warm, roll cookies in the vanilla sugar to coat. Let them finish cooling on wire racks. They are best enjoyed the day they are made, but you can store them in an airtight container between sheets of wax paper for 2 weeks.

Algerian Tarts

Algerian Almond Tarts, (reprinted with permission of the author).
Yield: About 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Pastry:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
2 tablespoon rosewater or orange flower water
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Filling:
3 cups sliced almonds
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons rosewater or orange flower water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:
1/2 cup honey
Pine nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a few cookie sheets or line with silicone baking mats.
In a stand mixer, combine the flour and salt. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add butter, egg, vanilla, rosewater, and lemon juice. Mix for a few minutes until dough is smooth. Cover dough with a damp cloth and set aside while you make the filling.
Using a food processor, grind almonds and sugar to a fine meal. Add eggs, lemon zest, rosewater, and vanilla and process until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.
Roll out dough to about 1/16” on a lightly floured surface. Using a 2 to 3 inch cookie cutter to cut out circles from the dough.
Drop tablespoonfuls of filling into the center of each circle. Wet fingers with water and pinch the dough together into four corners, forming a cup around the filling. Or, if you have a mini muffin tin or other small molds, you can fit the dough circles into the molds and fill about 3/4 full with the filling.
Place tarts on sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through until filling begins to brown and the cookies are a light golden color.
Remove sheets from oven and place on wire racks. Drizzle honey over each of the tarts. Let tarts cool on sheets before serving. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Indian Cookies

Indian Almond Cookies, (reprinted with permission of the author).
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

2 cups blanched almonds
2 tablespoons milk (I did have to use 2 extra tablespoons because my dough was really dry)
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
Silver foil

In a food processor or blender, grind blanched almonds to a fine powder. Add milk and mix until a smooth paste is acquired.
In a heavy saucepan, combine the paste, sugar, and cardamom at medium-low heat, constantly stirring to avoid burning; stir 8 minutes or until a lump of dough is formed.
Spread the dough onto a lightly greased jelly roll pan or baking dish, flour or grease a rolling pin, and and gently roll the dough to approximately 1/4 inch thick. Apply silver foil and press slightly with the foil’s paper packaging or a paper towel so that the silver adheres to the dough.
As the dough cools, its texture resembles that of marzipan. Once it has completely cooled, cut it into 1–2 inch diamond shapes. They will keep up to 1 week if sealed in an airtight container.


Pecan Sandies, (reprinted with permission of the author) Perfect for Christmas!
Makes 2-3 dozen

1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 30 pecan halves for decorating

Kitchen Note: the day I made these we had 100% humdity so my dough never got firm enough to even roll into a log and I ended up doing drop cookies instead. Turned out perfect.

Grind pecans and sugars together in a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Add in the flour and salt and process until combined. Cut the butter into small pieces and scatter over the mixture in the food processor. Process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add egg and vanilla and process until the dough comes together.
Turn dough out onto a piece of parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Roll out to about 1/4 in thick. Sprinkle the dough with a little flour if it gets too sticky.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about 1 hour or until firm.
When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325°F. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Using a cookie cutter, cut out cookies from the chilled dough, about 2 inches in diameter. Place a pecan half in the center of each cookie.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the edges of the cookies turn golden brown, rotating cookie sheets halfway through. Cool cookie sheets on wire racks for a couple of minutes before transferring cookies directly onto wire racks with a spatula to finish cooling.Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Do not miss the entire tour which you can follow as the book travels around the world:
Nov. 11th - Jen of use real butter
Nov. 12th - Ari of Baking and Books
Nov. 13th - Sara of Ms. Adventures in Italy
Nov. 14th - Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice
Nov. 17th - Tartelette
Nov. 18th - Veronica of Veronica's Test Kitchen
Nov. 19th - Aran of Cannelle et Vanille
Nov. 20th - Bea of La Tartine Gourmande
Nov. 21st - Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

My Best Friend's Wedding

116

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Best Friend's Wedding

Never in my wildest thoughts would I have imagined forming such a strong relationship with somebody met online. Yet, over the past two and a half years, Lisa has become just that: my bestfriend. I would have done (almost) anything, even singing badly at the corner bar to pay for my fare. No way I was going to miss that. They had decided to cater their own wedding and we quickly started exchanging emails about the how's and what's of the project. She mentionned getting her wedding cake from a bakery she liked and my first thought was "Yeah! I get to be in the wedding instead of baking for it!". My second thought was "Geez! I could save them so much money if I did it myself!" It would be my wedding gift and yes, that's how it all got started.

Since I was baking for a close friend, at her house, right there in the middle of 6 other women preparing all the food, I expected something to go wrong. And it did....to a small extent since nobody saw it, but it was staring me in the face everytime I was working on the layers. Hence my constant "spatulating"....to say that the cakes got enough "massage" time is an understatement. I remember Lisa's friend Kim stopping her work to stare at me with that look of "OMG, you're patience is without limit, you are kind of loopy though". Yes, I was loopy (wouldn't you be after a few nights with a 5am bed time?) and yes, I have endless patience.

It all started just fine really. We had trouble finding the right pan size but that is nothing that can't be fixed so instead of doing a 12 inch - 9inch - 6 inch tiered cake. We bought one 12 inch pan for the bottom, I used one of Lisa's 8 inch square for the middle and trimmed another 8 inch into a 6 inch for the top. I started at 4pm on thursday and I turned the oven off at 2am...10 hours of oven time. Yeehaaww! While the cakes were baking, I was doing other things like the fillings, the buttercream, getting the next batches ready, making sure they would all stack to the same height, etc.... I made all the buttercream I needed that same night to free some room in the kitchen for Friday's savory preps. Kelly, Lisa and I marveled how gorgeously silky and soft it was, pure white...I just wanted to kiss it!

By 10am the next day, I just wanted to kill it...well, not all of it....It got really humid and rainy that night and one batch of buttercream (and I am not talking 2 cups here...think industrial quantities!!!) was breaking, terribly, but I doctored it and moved on. Murphy's Law: out of time, out of room and as I went to apply it to the middle tier, it broke on the cake...not as bad as in the mixing bowl and everybody was saying it looked fine....but if you have been in charge of a project you cared for deeply, you will understand why all the imperfections of that middle tier just kept staring me in the face (and it's not like I don't know my way with Mrs. Buttercream!), I had no option but to keep going. I proceeding with the decorations with a pinch in my heart...I hated it. It was not until I took it to the reception hall and started putting the ribbon and flowers around it that I got excited again. W. was there helping out and when he saw it coming together, he got all tiery eyed. I let out a big sigh of relief. Lisa had seen the baking and building but I was keeping the final decorations out of her sight, for the real moment of surprise later. I think it worked, she said it did. Except for the ribbon that started to bubble because of the humidity in the walk-in refrigerator where the cake was waiting next to a small water leak. Murphy's Law....again!

Before I proceed with a little explanation of the picture below, let me recap the tiers for you and run down a fun list:
- bottom tier: carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
- middle tier: pumpkin cake with butterscoth filling
- top tier: dark chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream
- the whole cake was covered with the same buttercream.
- ten hours of oven time, 7 pounds of butter, 11 pounds of sugar, 43 eggs, 16 cups of grated carrots, 3 batches of carrot cake, 3 batches of pumpkin cake, 5 batches of chocolate cake (2 of those were used to make chocolate cupcakes), 2 batches of cream cheese filling, 2 batches of butterscoth filling.
- Sleep on the plane back home: priceless....

Sorry if the quality of the pictures is touch and go but I borrowed from three different people what I needed to illustrate the "making of" the cake. No set ups...almost real life feed. I had brought minimal equipment and lenses and left my flash gear at home (doh!). I did have to doctor the cake picture by brushing off a garbage can that was right behind it, one arm and a couple of wires. Hopefully you get a good feel of how interesting those 5 days were at Casa Lisa!!

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Once the layers are cut, the buttercream is applied in between each, then the cake is stacked and waiting for a little coating.

I am only showing you one tier and not all of them because it is just a matter of repeating the same steps for each layer.
Tip: To prevent your cake from forming a dome and having to level each layer, lower your oven temperature. I baked all the cakes at 340F instead of 350F and did not have to level any of them (I did however cut a small layer off for Lisa to sample!).
Tip: make sure to clean as you go and have plenty of cardboard to move your cakes around. Cut your cost like I did by recycling shipping boxes which work just as well as specialty made cake squares or rounds. I did however bought the final cake boards in the exact dimensions I needed as they are less thick and better looking for the finished product.

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The cake gets a first "crumb coat", a thin layer of buttercream is applied all over then the cake gets refrigerated until the buttercream is hard. This prevents cake crumbs from mixing into your final buttercream coat. Simple 5 petal "flowers" are randomly piped on each side.

I don't always crumb coat cakes but when it comes to wedding cakes or party cakes, I automatically do. It really traps all the crumbs from getting into your buttercream as you spread it on the cakes. Cover with a thin and relatively smooth layer but do not worry about it being even or perfect. It is going to get covered anyway.
Tip: apply large dots of buttercream to the sides and play a connect the dots game to spread the buttercream evenly as you run your spatula over the sides and top.
Tip: if you have uneven corners or edges, do not worry. Refrigerate the cake until the buttercream is hard and work with your spatula dipped in hot water and wiped dry to smooth things out.

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The cake is all decorated with piped flowers then refrigerated until the buttercream gets hard so it will be easy to paint on the flowers later on. I trimmed one layer of the cake for a visual of what the final layer would look like. Also gave Lisa an idea of where on earth I was headed!!

Before piping the flowers, I ran the ribbon around the cake to mark its height and I stopped piping the flowers right above that line. Saves you time and assures you that the ribbon will stay nice and flat...usually (read above).
Lisa made me happy by choosing a very simple piping design since I had told her how much I disliked buttercream flowers and roses. I don't dislike seeing them, I dislike making them...to each his/her own.

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White pearl dust is mixed with small amount of clear vanilla extract to make a semi liquid paste, then each flower gets painted over with it to add a little shimmer to the final cake.

I used the same shimmer dust from Wilton I used to paint on the Poire D'Eve cake, but in pearl white which came out slightly lighter than silver and added the perfect accent to the cake.
Tip: use clear vanilla or another clear alcohol (type vodka) to form a paint and add more as it dries as you paint..or talk.

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Each cake layer gets a trim with a purple ribbon (thinner at the top layer for optical effect), fresh mums and artificial frosted berries, twigs and leaves are applied at each corner. Finally the cake topper gets positionned on the cake and Helen lets out a deep breath.

Since the theme of the wedding was Fall Extravaganza, the hall and tables were decorated with fresh mums of the most beautiful shades and I had a lot to chose from the ones not used for the room. I accented the flowers with artificial frosted berries, twigs, etc...cut from a wreath bought at a craft store that I cut apart.Since the flowers were positioned just a couple of hours before serving I just soaked the stems in water to hydrate them well and clean them up.
Tip: if you use fresh flowers on a cake that remains at room temperature for a long time in the middle of summer, use specialty made tubes that you fill with water and stick in the cake.

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Homemade wedding cake topper: the bride dragging the groom was cute but plain, so Lisa had a friend glue on the "gone fishing" trunk, the beer cans and the fishes were just positionned on the buttercream. Fresh mum and berries details on the right.

The topper was flat so I just set it on the cake with a dab of buttercream on the bottom but that was not even necessary. Depending on what topper you chose, you can secure it with buttercream or toothpicks, extra flowers, etc... Do not be afraid to get crafty and make your own if you don't find excatly what you need, like Lisa did.

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As it is customary, the top layer was set aside for Lisa and Wayne's first anniversary. Double and tripled wrapped in their freezer. Display of macarons sent by Veronica. Love those distressed cake stands!!

So, taking the top tier off may not be the cleanest or easiest job to do but it came off without a hitch (Murphy had to much to drink and left us alone!).
Veronica from Veronica's Test Kitchen took time out of her busy baking and selling schedule (check out her online store!!) and sent Lisa 8 dozens macarons (I think, I lost track after the 5th box) to add to the dessert table and they were all gone (except for the bridal dozen) by the end of the evening. Who would not jump on passion fruit-milk chocolate, rose buttercream and salted butter caramel?!!!

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16 cups of freshly grated carrots went in the cake...See, it was healthy after all..hmmhmm. My bridesmaid bouquet.

Not much to add there except that all the flowers and bouquets were exquisite and perfectly arranged for a Fall wedding.


I turned the cake pictures into black and white ones with a color focal point to minimize the glare from the flashes as about 20 people were taking the same pictures at the same time.

Poire D'Eve

83

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Poire D'Eve

I know, I know...no pictures of Lisa's wedding cake yet, at least not today....One reason is that I have been saving this wonderful Poire D'Eve cake for a week now and another reason is that I have hundreds of pictures to go through from the wedding and a few other attendees have graciously allowed me to use their shots too so I am working on a little montage. I actually started writing about it yesterday and this morning tons of little details came rushing to my mind so I need to "sit" on it a couple more days to do it justice.

I can't tell you how much your visits and excitement over this past week have meant to me and I promise to tell you all about it. As ubber critical me, I did find faults until both Lisa and Wayne decided to smear some cake on their noses, but I guess that is normal when you bake for such a dear friend...under the watch of other foodies....Thank you Kelly and Lisa for staying up late, talking to me while I was "spatulating" (new word) the same corner over and over again. Thank you K. for not taking that same spatula and knocking me over the head with it although your look was screaming "put that thing down....Now!!"

Allright, I will give something away about this cake. It was a three tiered square cake which bottom layer was Lisa's mom favorite carrot cake filled with cream cheese frosting, the middle layer was Lisa's favorite pumpkin cake with butterscotch filling from Marcel Desaulniers, and the top layer that the two lovebirds have kept and froze was Lisa's Mothership Chocolate Cake adapted from Orangette. The whole cake was covered in her favorite Italian meringue buttercream from Jacques Torres. I don't know if it was the near freezing temperatures, the beverages flowing a plenty or just good appetites, but at the end of the night there was just about half the carrot cake left...and I had made the cake for more than the accounted number of guests....I like when people are not shy to eat cake :) Now that your teeth are shattering and your stomach growling, I hope you can wait until the weekend for the recap!!

Bavarian Mousse Ingredients

In the meantime, let's share a slice of this pear cake, shall we? I forgot to mention the other day that the Chai Persimmon Tatin was inspired by one of my pastry heroes, Hidemi Sugino from his The Dessert Book that Inne graciously sent me last year and even though the recipes are translated, I tend to get inspired by the pictures and the dominant flavors and then change it around. This Poire D'Eve is also inspired by one of his creations, the Pomme D'Eve cake in his other book. Now, this one was given to me by a Japanes exchange student I met a couple of months ago and when we started talking about Japan, I mentioned Sugino and she had her mom send it to me....in Japanese. Needless to say, I once again looked at the picture of his mousse apple cake sandwich between sheets of caramel mousse, apple mousse, vanilla and chocolate genoise and decided to develop a recipe for its cousin, the Poire D'Eve.

I know, Eve ate an apple, not a pear...but if she had had a Forelle pear poached in spices such as star anise, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and folded with a light bavarian cream, she might have changed her mind. I liked the original apple cake mixing apple, caramel, chocolate so I decided to use these flavors in different texture contrast and medium for this cake. Like Eve and her apple, Forelles are my guilty pleasure when it comes to pears. It is similar in size to a Seckel pear and grows mostly in the Pacific Northwest. When I saw them popping up at the grocery store, I immediately bought a case. They are the perfect snacking pear, both in size and flavor since they remain firm and not milly for a long time. They fit in your pocket, purse or pocket and have this absolute tantalizing fragrance. I bought the case right before my trip so I did poach a bunch of them and preserved them in their poaching syrup. For this recipe I used some I had poached that day so I wrote the recipe accordingly.

Spiced Poached Pears Diptych

The base is a milk chocolate feuillantine topped with a salted butter caramel mousse and a vanilla bavarian cream with diced spiced poached pears throughout. Before applying a glaze made with the poaching syrup I gave the cake some brush strokes with some yellow pearl dust mixed with a bit of water. The finished cake got the two thumbs up from B. who is not that big of a pear fan and commented that the caramel and chocolate complimented the fruits very well. Trust me, he does not only say that because I cook him dinner....he is really my most severe critique!!

Do not be afraid at the term "feuillantine". It is a entremets or cake base usually made with crushed "crepes dentelle" cookies but I was out (ate too many with ice cream) so I substituted crushed corn flakes and added a bit of chopped hazelnuts to enhance the mousses and it worked like a charm. I used the same caramel mousse as the one used in The Translatique, minus the chocolate. The bavarian cream is as easy as 1-2-3 if you have a little patience since you start by making a creme anglaise, adding some gelatin and once cooled, folding in some whipped cream and the poached pears. The spices and strokes of gold dust were the touches that have me in full blown holiday mood right now!! As always, be reassured that you can prepare this step over a couple of days (my head is more scattered than ever these days so any "time" help is welcome)

Poire D'Eve

Poire D'Eve

Serves 8-10

For the poached pears:
4 small pears, Forelles or Seckels, skinned, cored and left whole
3 cups of water
1/2 cup sugar
4 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
one whole nutmeg
1/2 vanilla bean
4 cloves

Over high heat bring the pears, water, sugar and all the spices to a boil (leave the nutmeg whole). Reduce the heat to medium low heat and let the fruit simmer for 30 minutes or until just about fork tender. Remove the pears and put the liquid back on stove and let it reduce down to half its volume. Remove from the heat and strain all the spices. Reserve the liquid for the cake glaze.

For the Feuillantine:
5 oz (150 gr) milk chocolate
4 Tablespoons (55 gr) butter
1 cup (30 gr) corn flakes
2 oz (60 gr) toasted and skinned hazelnuts

Line a 8x8 square pan with aluminium foil and set aside (use a square pastry frame if you have one). Put the cornflakes and hazelnuts in a small freezer bag, close the seam and roll your rolling pin over it until finely crushed (do not run the mixture in the food processor, you want to keep some rough pieces). On top of a double boiler set over medium heat, melt together the chocolate and butter until they come together. Remove from the heat and stir in the cornflakes mixture. Immediately pat the mixture with your fingertips or the back of the spoon at the bottom of the line pan. Set aside while you prepare the mousses.

For the caramel mousse:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tb water
2 Tb salted butter, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream, divided

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. 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 room temperature 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 caramel to loosen it up and then add the remaining whipped cream. Spread over the feuillantine base and refrigerate until completely set.

For the Vanilla Pear Bavarian Cream:
4 poached pears (see above), chopped in small dices
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 gr) sugar
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean
1 Tb powdered gelatin, sprinkled over 3 Tb water
1 cup heavy cream

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until very pale. In the meantime, in a large saucepan set over medium heat, bring the milk and the vanilla bean (split open and scraped over the milk) to a boil. Slowly pour the milk over the yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan over medium low heat and cook until the cream coats the back of a spoon (as if making creme anglaise). Add the softened gelatin and stir until melted completely into the cream. Let cool to room temperature.
Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks and fold it into the cooled cream base. Fold in the pear dices. Pour the mixture over the caramel mousse until set.

At this point you can skip the painting and glaze but it makes it all the more festive.
For the paint, mix some gold dust with water to make a "paint" and brush in small strokes over the cake. Freeze the cake before applying the warm glaze, do so even if you skip the painting so your mousse won't melt.

Pear Syrup Glaze:
1/2 cup reserved poaching syrup
1 1/2 teaspoon gelatin, sprinkled over 1 Tablespoon water

Bring the poaching syrup to a boil, add the gelatin and stir until completely dissolved. Let cool to room temperature (if the mixture gels, warm up over low heat until barely melted again). Pour it over the frozen cake and let set in the fridge.
Cut through the cake with a knife dipped in hot water to prevent breaking the glaze instead of slicing through it.


Note: I have terrible manners as I keep forgetting to thank Cenk from Cafe Fernando and the DMBLGIT judges for awarding the Toasted Coconut and Berries Charlottes the overall first place in last month event. I am truly honored and thrilled!

A Buttercream Weekend - In Need Of Fruit!

66

Monday, November 10, 2008

Honey And Lavender Opera

Update 1: for a first account of the weekend, read John's post here.

Update 2: Sorry for the confusion but this was not the wedding cake, I was just dipping into the archives to illustrate the buttercream.

As you can see I am using a little trip in the archives to sum up the last 5 days spent at Lisa's for her wedding. There was a lot of buttercream indeed, a little over 6 pounds of it actually for her wedding cake. I am still at her house and won't be back until later tonight but I will run some funny-interesting numbers for you later in the week. The food was beyond good, the people and friends I met were absolutely fantastic and even though there were quite a few nights that led to a 5am bed time, when we finally sat down this afternoon there was a huge smile on everybody's face a couple of miles long. I have so many stories and memories that it is all a big happy blur in my head right now and as soon as I download and go through all the pictures tomorrow, I will make sure to give you an idea of what an incredible trip it was.

I thought that a little trip into Opera land with a previous Daring Bakers challenge that I loved will give you a tasty tease of more creamy pictures to come...not to mention that the legs in the picture above look nothing like mine after prepping and dancing all night long (was it the vodka or the shoes...who knows?!!). I missed B. and the pupps and now that the festivities are over, my body tired and my heart filled, I am seriously craving a little detox. I know exactly what to make on Tuesday morning to fix this: Apricot And Lavender Panna Cottas! I froze a bunch of apricots over the summer but I guess good quality preserved ones can do in a pinch.

Lavender and Apricot Panna Cotta

Why I am still awake you might ask? Overdrive...pure and simple and so happy about it at the same time!! The topper? Meeting John and R. who came from Pittsburg to be at Lisa's party and spending 5 awesome days with Kelly who flew back to San Diego Sunday afternoon. More on all of this later...

Persimmons Chai Tartes Tatin

82

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Persimon Chai Tarte Tatin With

I finally made it to Lisa's house today and after many hours of chatting with her and Kelly, I find myself thinking about B. back home and how sick with a bad cold he is and how I am not there to help him feel better. Hmmm, maybe that's not such a bad thing considering he is a terrible a "sickie". Well, I did feel bad leaving him at the worse of bouts of coughing and sneezing and figured that I'd make us a nice pot of soup and a flavorful and comforting dessert before I left. You know, so he'd miss me terribly and not feel like I left him cold for five days while I was having a grand time with the girls. To say that we have already started is an understatement!!

I have always find tartes tatin to be comforting with their soft apples and caramel goodness all blanketed by a soft pillow of dough. Since B. is on a heavy tea drinking regimen, I wanted to infuse the apples with the soft and soothing scent of Chai tea. Since I was in the middle of packing I did not really have much time to put the proper chai spices quantities together, but I did focus on the main ones such as nutmeg, cardamom and ginger. For a proper chai spice mix, you can find one here at the bottom of the page.

In my last post I was telling you about the tasty raspberries that fell out from the back of a truck, well not literally it was more a matter of don't ask, don't tell". The persimmons that I used for the tarts were also part of that loot. The guys know how much I love them and can't wait for the fall and winter to get my hands on them. It was such a nice surprise to find 4 gorgeous ones in my basket the other day that I could not resist using them in the tatins instead of apples. I love how their flavors cannot really be described, their texture and shape are so unusual and how well they behave in any kind of roasting or cooking. They sometimes taste like a bit of apples and pears mixed into them, sometimes with a hint of papaya. Simply delicious!

I usually make my tartes tatin with a basic pate brisee, like my grandma did but there are various recipes out there calling for puff pastry, so you are good either way. I had some leftover puff pastry from the Millefeuilles, I opted to be frugal (packing-time issue) and use that instead of trying to run around the house with my head running ten feet behind me. I cooked the persimmon slices with the chai spices in a little butter and honey and once they were nice and caramelized, spooned them in tart shells, topped them with the puff pastry and baked them until it was golden. Once out of the oven, we impatiently waited 5 minutes to flip them over and dig in. The persimmons together with the spices were "the perfect medication" according to B.

Persimmons

Persimmons Tarte Tatins:

serves 4

2 persimmons, peeled, cored and sliced in 8 pieces each
2 Tb butter
1/3 cup honey
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger
Puff pastry (you will need 1/4 of the recipe)
or pate brisee

In a large saute pan, melt the butter with the honey and bring to a simmer. Add the persimmon slices and the spices and cook until fork tender and caramelized, about 5 minutes. Divide the fruit slices evenly in 4 tart shells (mine are about 4 inches wide). Reserve the cooking liquid.
Roll out your dough and cut 4 circles the same circumference as your tart shells. Lay one piece over each tart shell and bake at 350F until golden brown (15 minutes).
Remove from the oven and let cool a few minutes before inverting onto your plates. Spoon any remaining juices from the pan over the fruits.

Raspberry Parfait Lollipops And The Little Big Things In Life

75

Monday, November 03, 2008

Raspberry Parfait Lollipops

The little big things in life...Let me start by a very little thing: fresh tasty raspberries in late October. I had stopped at the restaurant last week to say "hi" to the old crew when Crazy D and Nazi K (the appropriately nicknamed line chefs) emerged from the kitchen with a small crate of raspberries. "For you!" they exclaimed at the same time. I was quite surprised as we have spent 6 years in crammed quarters together, sweating, cursing (yes, I know how to!), loving and hating each other at the same time. To see them bearing gift, you can guess that I was expected a prank or something worse. To my surprise the berries were juicy, sweet and tasty. "Where did you get these? They are so good!". I got the usual "Fell off the back of a truck" answer. We would say that anytime we'd get something we were not supposed to. Hmmm the little things in life...don't ask, just do!

I contemplated for a day or two what I was going to do with this unexpected summer extension. In spite of a couple days when we wore long sleeves, it's been perfectly sunny and warm around here, the perfect backdrop to a little frozen treat. I opted for frozen parfaits, perfectly rich and at the same time light and creamy with whole raspberries in them. The base of the parfait is a simple mousse made with a pate a bombe, aerated with whipped cream. Pate a bombe is one of those kitchen techniques that make your life much easier when making mousses, not to mention incredibly creamier.

The yolks are beaten with a sugar syrup that has been brought to 238F. When it's just us, I use both whipped egg whites and whipped cream to finish the mousse, but in the process of calming raw egg worriers I am usually cooking for, I use only whipped cream and save the whites for meringue buttercreams or macarons. The result is of course a tad richer but I am far from being the last to turn one away. Come to mama, you little creamy thing!

Frozen Raspberry Parfait Lollipops

If Lisa lived here, I would absolutely serve these at her bridal shower but she does not and she already had it...so I am going to have to eat them all by myself. Why am I mentioning Lisa and her upcoming nuptials? Again, one of those little things in life that turns into a big thing. When I first started blogging, Lisa was one of the first to leave comments and support and one thing leading to the next we became virtual friends outside of the blog. Those friendship can become quite strong even through emails and online chats and there are a handfull of bloggers I communicate with on a daily basis. I had the chance to actually visit Lisa twice, sealing the bond that we formed online.

This coming Wednesday, I am boarding a plane for Lisa's house where for the next few days I will be, along with Kelly from Sass And Veracity, friends and family, helping her prepare her wedding party food, be one of her bridesmaids and last small thing, make her wedding cake. Now, I am getting nervous... Before I leave though, I have another macaron baking marathon with Kim today and Tuesday, so if you thought I was the ghost commenter before, visiting your blogs less and less regularly, I am afraid I will be most absent this week and I apologize for it. But I feel blessed that I'll be able to share this big adventure with Lisa and W. turning one early morning comment over two years ago into one of the most meaningful relationships of my life.

Yes, those little Frozen Raspberry Parfait Lollipops are perfect to wish them both "Congratulations!".

Raspberry Parfait Lollipops

Frozen Raspberry Parfait Lollipops:

Makes 8-10 depending on your molds.

Kitchen Note: I used disposable bath Dixie cups to pour the mousse into but you can use any small ramequins, glasses, silicone molds, etc...

1 1/4 cups (300 ml) heavy cream
6 egg yolks
5 Tablespoons (100gr water)
1/2 cup (100 gr) sugar
1 3/4 cups (220 gr) fresh raspberries

In the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with the whisk attachment or hand held one with balloon whisks, beat the cream until it just holds soft peaks. Chill while you prepare the base of the frozen parfait. Wash your bowl and whisk attachment.
In a heavy saucepan, stir together the water and sugar. 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).
In the clean bowl of your mixer, still using the whisk attachment, beat the yolks slightly to break them up. Increase the speed to medium high and slowly pour the hot syrup over the 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 pate a bombe base into the chilled whipped cream to loosen it up and make it easier to incorporate homogeneously. Fold in the remaining pate a bombe. Add the raspberries and give the batter one last quick fold. Divide mixture evenly among cups, glasses or silicone molds, place a lollipop stick in the middle and freeze until firm.

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