Chocolate Chesnut Vanilla Yule Log or Raspberry Vanilla Meyer Lemon?

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Milk Chocolate And Chestnut Yule Log

Now say that twelve times real fast after after one too many glasses of Champagne!! These Yule Logs are the desserts I served the family on Christmas dinner and between the 12 of us there were barely enough left for a midnight snack! I did not intend to double the work and make two "just" for fun but between the ubber chocolate fans and the "I ate too much but I still want dessert" peeps, and for my sake of a stress free meal where everybody was happy, I knew that making two was a necessity. Interesting how I belong to both groups...Let's face it, it's dessert, it's mousse, it's chocolate and it was delicious!

It was also the dessert chosen by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux for the December Daring Bakers' Challenge: a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand. I loved the traditional cake Yule Log we made last year but this entremet version suits me perfectly...if there is mousse and creme brulee and anything contrasting in texture such as a layer of crisp or feuillantine....I am coming running!!

I loved that even with the rules laid out to make a log filled with 6 different components, we still had plenty of room to use our favorite combos and flavors. Each log had to include a dacquoise layer, a feuillantine insert, a creme brulee insert, a ganache insert, a mousse and an icing. Yes...both my logs have 7 components...Again, not trying to be special....just playing with aesthetics and visuals by splitting the mousse component in two and flavoring differently.

The dark chocolate Yule Log had hazelnut dacquoise layer, a milk chocolate feuillantine, a milk chocolate and chesnut mousse, a vanilla mousse, a chestnut creme brulee, a dark chocolate ganache and a dark chocolate icing.
The white chocolate Yule Log had an almond dacquoise, a white chocolate feuillantine, a raspberry mousse, a a vanilla mousse, a Meyer Lemon creme brulee, a white chocolate ganache and a white chocolate icing.

Milk Chocolate And Chestnut Yule Log

Because I was working with two logs at the same time, (and getting Christmas together) it was easier for each log to make the vanilla mousse recipe, divide it in half and add milk chocolate and chesnut puree to one part and do the same for the other log adding pureed raspberries to half the mousse. I used the traditional French gavottes for the feuillantine part in the chocolate log as the recipe stated but I ate too many (!) to have enough for the other one so I subbed with cereals like I had done in the Poire D'Eve cake last month. The chesnut puree was from a can sent by mom in one of her care packages and the Meyer lemon addition to the creme brulee in the second log was a last minute addition after a neighbor gave us a couple....but I can't ever turn those down!

I also went very DIY with the inserts and molds (just ask Lisa, she's got pixel proofs!). The rounded vanilla insert in the chocolate log was creating by pushing a foil covered pvc pipe down the chocolate-chestnut mousse, freezing that part and then taking the insert out, brushing the ganache on and then filling it with the vanilla mousse. The mold was a traditional French loaf pan I brought with me when I moved here...a girl's gotta have her necessities, right?!!
The rounded mold for the white chocolate log was made by cutting an aluminium foil pan and molding it around a wine bottle and setting it in the bottom of another loaf pan. The mousse set up was created by using another foil wrapped pvc pipe but a foil wrapped paper towel insert-roll thingie works the same. Since I did not have the right size of rhodoids sheets used to line up the loaf pans I cut sheet protectors (you know the ones used to protect your important documents during presentations) and used them the same way...but plastic wrap works just as well.

For the sake of keeping this post to less than a mile and not losing your attention too long, I am only writing down the instructions for the chocolate log with the changes I made in italics for the raspberry one.

Milk Chocolate And Chestnut Yule Log

Chocolate Chesnut Yule Log:

Note: You can use the Dacquoise for the bottom of your Yule Log only, or as bottom and top layers, or if using a Yule log mold (half-pipe) to line your entire mold with the biscuit. Take care to spread the Dacquoise accordingly.

2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) ground hazelnuts
1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp (15g) all-purpose flour
3.5oz (100g / ~100ml) about 3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar

Finely mix the hazelnuts and the confectioner's sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds)
Sift the flour into the mix. Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff. Pour the hazelnut mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.
Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it. Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc...) and to a height of 1/3 inches (8mm).
Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.
For the raspberry log I used almonds instead.

Vanilla Mousse: (divided in half before the end to add the chocolate and chesnut)
2/3 cup (160g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
2/3 cup (160g) whole milk
1 vanilla bean
4 medium-sized egg yolks
3 oz (6 Tbsp / 80g) granulated sugar
3 Tbsp (25g) cornstarch, sifted
4g / 2 tsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
1 cup (240g) whipping cream (35% fat content)

Pour the milk and 2/3 cup cream into a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean halves into milk and put the vanilla bean in as well. Heat to boiling, then turn the heat off, cover and let infuse for at least 30 minutes. Then remove the vanilla bean. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until white, thick and fluffy. Add the cornstarch, beating carefully to ensure that there are no lumps. While whisking vigorously, pour some of the milk into the yolk mixture to temper it. Put infused milk back on the stove on medium heat. Pour yolk mixture back into the milk while whisking vigorously. Keep whisking vigorously until mixture thickens considerably. As soon as the mixture starts to boil, leave on for only 2 more minutes. (The recipe says you should remove the vanilla bean at this time but in the interest of no one getting burned, that can be done after you take the pastry cream off the stove.) Add the gelatin and let it melt completely, stirring once or twice. Divide the batter in two equal parts.
For the milk chocolate-chesnut variation: add 1/4 cup melted milk chocolate and 1/4 cup chesnut puree to one half of the cream.
For the raspberry log: add 1/2 cup pureed raspberries to half the cream.
Whip the 1 cup whipping cream until stiff and add gradually to the pastry cream. Blend delicately with a spatula.

Dark Chocolate Ganache insert:
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream
5 oz (135g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).
While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.
Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth. Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.
For the white chocolate ganache insert: change the chocolate and skip the butter, proceed the same way.

Lemon White Chocolate Raspberry Yule Log

Feuillantine insert:
3.5 oz (100g) milk chocolate
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) butter
2 Tbsp (1 oz / 30g) praline (or bring 1/2 cup of sugar to an amber caramel and spread it on 1/2 cup almonds and ground until fine)
2.1oz (60g) lace crepes(gavottes) or rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K
Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.Add the praline and the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.
For the raspberry log: replace the milk chocolate with white.

Chestnut Creme Brulee:
1 cup (230g) heavy cream
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup chesnut puree

Heat the cream to just boiling. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white). Add the chestnut puree. Pour the cream over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well. Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 275°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.
For the raspberry log: replace the chestnut puree with 1 tablespoon of Meyer lemon juice and zest of a whole one.

Dark Chocolate Icing:
Note: I recommend doubling it to make eaiser to spread evenly.
4g / 2 tsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50g) water1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder

Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes. (if using powdered, use 2 tablespoons of water) Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling. Add gelatin to the chocolate mixture. Mix well. Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.
For the raspberry log: use 100 gr of white chocolate, milk instead of cream and no cocoa.

For the chocolate fans: everything is explained very well by Alice Medrich with Julia Child in this tutorial.

Lemon White Chocolate Raspberry Yule Log

Thank you ladies for another tasty challenge!

Merry Christmas!

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Mom Rocks!

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones! Joyeux Noel!

Christmas Eve was low key here, assembling filling boxes after boxes of baked goods and preparing for dinner with the family today.
Each year I put together a variety of treats and B. helps with the wrapping and of course tasting "reject" cookies. Pistachio and cocoa nibs cookies, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter fudge, key lime meltaways, brownies, sables cookies, homemade marshmallows, truffles and salted butter caramel popcorn.

Even though I would not mind starting with dessert, there is duck on the menu this year with a sausage and chestnut stuffing, sweet potato casserole, greens beans with pancetta, and wild rice. Dessert ? Well, I'll tell you more about this weekend...promise!

Finally...

We finished decorating the tree just the other night and I just love sitting in the dark looking at it. The magic of Christmas...a time for reflection and cheers, joy and remembrance...

Getting Ready...

...and also of a little fun....Looks like Santa had his clothes dry on time to visit everybody...down to his suspenders!

All the best to you!

Banana Tatin Verrines

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Banana Tatin Verrines

I never know "sur quel pied danser" (on which foot to dance) the last few days leading to Christmas. I have my feet in the starters' block but it is too soon to get going! The tree is up, the house is decorated, all the doughs for the cookies and treats are made and parked in the fridge waiting for Tuesday to be baked and Wednesday to be packaged. The menu is set, the food has been shopped for and is awaiting its own oven time. Today, there were moments of pure calm with a "yeah, I can have a cup of tea and a sit down" mixed with "Oh geez! Should I be panicking, should I, should I?"...

I could have panicked this afternoon when B. asked me what were the plans for lunch. I opened the fridge, peeked in the drawers, closed the door and smiled "well, I know you wouldn't have a problem eating raw biscotti dough for dinner but it ain't Christmas yet child...so let's go get some fish and grill". I was telling Lisa last night that I was on my 4th batch of shortbread dough and not because I was packing them up but because B. was eating them faster than I was baking them!!

We took the long way home coming back from the store and walked around the neighborhood checking houses all decked up for the holidays. All of a sudden the wind picked up and the air got downright chilly, and tonight there is a 20 degrees difference from the same time yesterday. Absurd...Yet the perfect occasion for one of those dessert you tend to crave on chilly days....like a tarte tatin. I opted for Banana Tatin Verrines instead with caramelized bananas layered, creme fraiche and a ginger crumble topping. Comfort in a spoon...

Banana Tatin Verrine

Banana Tatins Verrines:

1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
(to make your own: mix one cup heavy cream with 1/4 cup sour cream and let sit overnight in the oven with the pilot light on, uncovered, refrigerate after that)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons butter
2 bananas, cut into thick slices
Crumble topping (recipe follows)

Divide the creme fraiche between two glasses or ramekins.
In a large skillet set over medium high heat, cook the sugar with the water until it caramelizes to a golden caramel. Turn the heat down to medium and add the butter. Let it melt before adding the bananas. Let them cook in the caramel for a couple of minutes until soft and caramelized. Remove from the heat and wait a couple of minutes before dividing the banana slices in between your glasses. Top with the crumble and serve.


For the crumble topping:
1/4 cup light brown sugar
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 tablespoons cold butter
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat your oven to 350F.
In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour. Add the butter cut in small pieces, the ginger and mix with your fingertips until you get a mixture that ressembles coarse crumbs. Spread the mixture on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

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Santa came a little early thanks to my dear friend Hannah from Bittersweet who sent me the cutest felt macarons that she made herself. Aren't these adorable? And calorie free!!

I might be able to post around Christmas day (maybe some pics of all the finally baked goodies and house decorations?) but I wanted to wish you all the Happiest Holidays and much love spent celebrating with family and friends!

Lavender And Espresso Truffles

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lavender And Espresso Truffles

Christmas is right around the corner isn't it?! I am fully in the holiday spirit, at least I think I am. No, I know I am once I get home, close the door and start baking and filling boxes with goodies to be shipped off to friends and given to the family on Christmas day. Indeed, it's been a little strange looking at snowmen and pine trees while we were in shorts today...no kidding. Well, B. was because I am a "frileuse" as we say back home; always chilly. I am currently living winter vicariously through my pal Jen in Colorado who keeps filling my head with pictures of snow, ice, skiing and delicious holiday treats while I am rolling truffles.

We all have our traditions comes Christmas and there are a couple that my family never miss. My grandmother was famous for her marzipan stuffed dates and walnuts while since I was old enough to hold a spatula, I have been the one making truffles. I flew home the first Christmas after my grandma died and without exchanging a word one night my mom went to the pantry, pulled out the dates, nuts and marzipan and we made the stuffed fruits. There was quite a bit of reminiscing, a lot of crying and raw feelings shared. It was one of the best moments of my life. Through my grandma's passing I discovered what it meant for my mom to continue with certain things just the way they were. It brings people together, it gives you a breakthrough or a headache but your heart is full and your soul growing.

While grandma was playing with marzipan, I was never more than a couple of feet away, strirring and scooping and rolling ganache for truffles. You can safely assume that once I moved here, this is the one thing I never miss doing during the holidays. The truffle batter I use is a basic ganache that I flavor differently depending on my mood or what people ask for. Depending on the time available I might hand dip them in tempered chocolate (Go Jen!) and decorate them but this year it is so not happening so I made them the way we do in my family, rolled in cocoa or nuts, etc...

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I have only made two kinds so far, lavender infused truffles and espresso truffles. Once the ganache was made, I let it harden in the fridge for a couple of hours and then scooped out little balls that I rolled and place on a parchment baking sheet and place them "naked" back in the fridge. The reason behind this little "curing" it is to help them develop a natural skin so that the cocoa powder won't seep in the truffles as they stand waiting for their delicious (for you!) fate. On the other hand I find it a lot easier to have the nuts adhere to the chocolate right after you have rolled them in between your hands and your body heat has softened the ganache a bit.

I made a firm ganache with semisweet chocolate (Callebaut) and since all chocolate vary, your ganache may set up differently so if it turns out too soft, add more chocolate in your next batch or if it was too firm add a little more cream. I used a ratio of 8 oz of chocolate for 1/2 cup of cream but if you want to use milk or white chocolate increase the ratio to 12 oz for the same amount of cream. Adding alcohol will soften the ganache unless you add the same amount of chocolate so for every ounce of liqueur (about 2 tablespoons) that you use, increase the chocolate by one ounce also. For milk or white ganaches, add 2 ounces of chocolate for every ounce of liqueur. If you want to know more about chocolate, I strongly recommend this wonderful book "The Art Of Chocolate" by Elaine Gonzales.

Lavender Truffles

Makes 30 to 35 truffles

1/2 cup (125ml) heavy cream
1 tablespoon (1gr) edible lavender buds
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
cocoa powder for rolling

In a small heavy saucepan placed over low heat, bring the cream to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let stand 30 minutes. Strain the lavender and bring the cream back to a simmer. Once hot, add the chocolate and let stand for a couple of minutes then stir until the ganache is completely smooth. Let cool to room temperature then refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. With a spoon or a melon baller, scoop out balls of ganache, roll them in between your palms fairly quickly and set them on a baking sheet. Refrigerate overnight. Roll them in the cocoa powder and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Espresso Truffles:

Makes 30-35

1/2 cup (125ml) heavy cream
2 teaspoons espresso powder
2 tablespoons (1 oz) coffee liqueur
9 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pistachios

In a small heavy saucepan, bring the cream and espresso powder to a simmer over low heat. Add the liqueur and remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and let stand a couple of minutes then stir the ganache until completely smooth.Let cool to room temperature then refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. With a spoon or a melon baller, scoop out balls of ganache, roll them in between your palms fairly quickly and roll them in the pistachios and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Lavender And Espresso Truffles

For more cookies and sweet treat ideas, check Susan's Eat Christmas Cookies, Season 2!

Gingerbread Men Macarons

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Gingerbread Men Macarons

I did not intend to post about macarons again this soon until Carol planted an idea in my head. I have come to accept and oh so happily surrender to her gentle "hey Tarty! Ever thought of doing xyz?" or "what about a little of this on a little of that, eh Tarty?!". Carol perfectly fits the Parisian shoe and a visit to her blog always makes me feel a little closer to home, not to mention nostalgic of all the pastries and atmospheres of home.

The Gingerbread Men Macarons came to life because of one innocent conversation between Carol and I. Although, how innocent can conversations be when foodies are involved, hmmm...?!
Carol : "Will you do anything as mundane as gingerbread persons?Gingerbread macarons probably doesn't work..."
Me: "Argghhhhhhhhhhhh !! YOU!!! Guess what I am scketching in my head right now?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You might have gingerbread macs before you know it!!"
Carol: "While you're sketching, can you put teeth on the mac upper and lower and place a mini gingerperson in between?
Crunch crunch :)"


Yes, phase one is complete...Gingerbread Men macarons. Phase two with mini gingerbread men escaping the clutching teeth (or feet) of macarons is going to required some logistics and lots of tiny little drawings...and time...a precious commodity to all of us this holiday season whether you are baking, wrapping, crafting, etc... I don't think the oven has had much of a break this weekend and I am looking forward to trying some new ice cream recipes! [Before I forget: I have taken into account those who so generously volunteered their time and feedback to test some recipes and you will find email requests soon in your mailboxes. I also want to thank those who have already started and gave me very valuable information.]

Gingerbread Men Macarons

I am still on the fence about those Gingerbread Men Macs. Aesthetics wise, I wish I'd taken a smaller tip to pipe the macaron batter to give them nicer feet and arms but I was afraid of it deflating too much if I did so. I drew templates with a cookie cutter and then filled in the space with a medium tip. After piping 10 gingerbread men, I wondered how well they would come out and decided to switch the batter to a bag fitted with a larger tip and pipe regular ones. In doing so I deflated the batter a little too much to get the proper "feet" on the shells while keeping the overall look intact.

Taste wise, we fell head over heels for those and B. declared them his favorites ever and got a little upset when I admitted finishing them up earlier today. I added the spices found in gingerbread men cookies to both the shells and the buttercream and sprinkled some crushed gingersnaps on top of the round shells. The smell in the house was absolutely wonderful! Wish I had a way to bottle that up into "Eau de Gingerbread Macarons".

Gingerbread Men Macarons:

For the shells:
90 gr egg whites (about 3)
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds
1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

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, powdered sugar and spices 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.

For the spiced mousseline buttercream:
3 sticks butter at room temperature
5 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

In the bowl of stand mixer, whip 5 egg whites until they have soft peaks. In the meantime, combine 1/4 cup water with the sugar to a boil in a heavy saucepan and bring the syrup to 250F. Slowly add the sugar syrup to the egg whites. If you use hand beaters, this is even easier and there is less hot syrup splatter on the side of your bowl and in the whisk attachment of the stand mixer. Continue to whip until the meringue is completely cooled. Slowly add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. The mass might curddle but no panic, continue to whip until it all comes together. Add the spices and fold them in with a spatula.

Gingerbread Men Macarons

Poached Quince And Red Fruit Cake

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Poached Quince Cake

This is going to be a short post I fear today. I can't shake this cold and can somebody tell me why it is 70F after midnight....talk about throwing a migraine into the loop!! It's December for crying out loud!! Time for mulled wine, sweaters, fireplaces, clementines, hot cocoa, pomegranates, and quinces. Instead the fall/winter produce stalls have to share their space with berries and juicy melons. Upside down, inside out...completely out of the box, which is kind of where I went with this cake. Innocent looking cake, filled with poached quinces, topped with berries, baked and served in a box used for Brie or Camembert instead.

The idea came to me over lunch the other day as we were finishing the last of the Brie and while we were planning our friend J.'s birthday party for Friday. J. is a prankster. A good one for sure but it's pretty much non stop with him. A get together with him and his wife is never just that. On the ride to their house, we are always wondering what he's got in store, who will be involved and how long we are going to talk about it on the way back home. They're nice pranks but after so many years, we are all scheming on how and when to get him back. All in good fun. Well, except for a couple of us like F. who is ready for pay back since the day he found his motorcycle on the roof of his house...long story...

Poached Quince Cake In Brie Box

I figured that handing him a cheese box at dessert time was still a little obvious so I topped the cake with different fruits, strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate, grapes and glazed them all with some apple jelly. That way, he would still be unsure about what was underneath. I got B. fooled so I am hoping that will work too. Can't take credit for the look novelty as I inspired by the look of one of my pastry bad boy, Michalak. I had already decided to use my tried and true cake recipe but I could not pass on his cute presentation. And no, the cake did not smell of stinky cheese...

Ever tried to apply fruit glaze or jelly to fruits over tart shells or cakes and they keep moving, rolling around and never staying put? Imagine applying glaze to a beautiful lemon curd tart topped with a gazillion rolling blueberries. Not that easy! Here is my trick for stress free glazing: warm up your glaze so that it is very liquid in consistency, fill a travel size spray bottle with it and spray your tart or cake with the glaze as quickly as possible.

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Poached Quince And Red Fruit Cake:

Makes 2 cakes, 4 inches round

For the poached quince:
1 quince, peeled, cored and sliced
2 cups water
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
3 cloves
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon lemon zest

In a large saucepan set over medium high heat, place the quince and the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook the quince for about 45 minutes, until soft and pink. Remove the quince from the liquid and let cool to room temperature.

For the cake:
3 eggs
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
1/2 cup (115gr) sour cream
1 cup (135gr) cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons (60 gr) butter, melted and cooled

About one cup of mixed berries or any fruit of your liking
About 1/2 cup apple jelly to glaze the fruits

Preheat oven to 350F. Line the top and bottom part of a Brie or Camember box with parchment paper or aluminium foil. Coat with cooking spray and set aside.
In a mixer, whip the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the sour cream and mix until incorporated. Add the flour, baking powder and melted butter and mix on medium high speed until all the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth. Stop the mixer and by hand fold in the poached quince. Divide the batter among the cake "pans" and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let cool completely. Top the cakes with the fruits and apply the apple jelly, previously warmed up until spreadable.

Satsuma Pistachio Dacquoise And Buttercream

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Monday, December 08, 2008


Pistachio Dacquoise & Pistachio Citrus Buttercream

I just love December so much I could just wrap my arms around it and hug it so tight it would burst! What gets me so excited in December? Well, Christmas light, Christmas decorations, roasted chestnuts, cranberries, get-togethers, oyster roasts...Oh! I don't know...a gazillion things. My heart burst, my head spins and my heart swells a little bigger comes December. Time to take a hand, lend a hand, bake a little, bake a lot, send a hug, write a card...ok,ok...you get it..sorry I tend to not filter my emotions come December.

Indeed, I ride high and I ride low...especially if I don't get to go home for Christmas. B. knows when and how to get the arsenal of chocolate and tissues ready for when I hit my lows and I give him ample warning of long Christmas stories from my childhood are about to leave my lips the moment I start decorating the tree. The creche and the santons, the 13 desserts of Provence, our long dinners and lingering lunches, taking the young ones to a Disney movie on Christmas day, I just start and never stop (like now, oops!)

Like a lot of people away from home during holidays and important celebrations, I like to recreate atmospheres that make me feel closer to the ones I love and like most people they tend to revolve around food or the dinner table. Making homemade cards while having some cake and a cup of tea, making truffles and madeleine as was my "duty" for Christmas Eve as soon as I was able to reach the the counter top perched on my stool. One particular thing I do is make a giant fresh fruit, nuts and dried fruit bowl like my mom has on the dining room table, available at all times. Unshelled almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, dates, dried apricots and prunes, fresh apples, lychees and satsuma oranges. The bowl empties out fast with all the people around, dropping by or simply grazing.

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The other day I realized that even with friends visiting, it was mostly the two of us partaking in my mother's tradition and the fruits would end up ripening too fast before we'd get to them. I wanted to bring something a little festive to our weekly gathering with the neighbors, a little green, a little red, a little citrus. Pistachios, pomegranate, and a little satsuma orange, (zest and juice) one of my favorite scents, thrown together, somehow...At first I thought about making macarons with those flavors and then I decided to take the same batter and turn it into dacquoise petits fours instead.

The ingredients are the same for either macarons or dacquoise only your touch in folding will make a difference. Work the batter into a shiny mass and you get macarons. Gently fold your meringue into the nuts and you get a dacquoise. Bake it into disks and you get the base of a yummy cake or pipe into long shapes and you get the perfect two bite dessert to end a meal or to go with a cup of tea. Top with fresh fruits to keep it on the light side, or buttercream for a richer approach as I did here, keep them as one, or like macarons, sandwich two together...the possibilities in flavors and topping are as endless as you want them to be.


Satsuma Pistachio Dacquoise & Satsuma Pistachio Buttercream :
Kitchen Note: feel free to substitute any orange, clementine, mandarin that you find for the satsuma orange used here. Same for the nuts, if you don't like pistachios, replace the amount with any other nut of your liking but as with macarons, keep a certain ratio of almonds to prevent the batter from being too oily. Unlike with macarons, the egg whites do not need to be aged.

For the dacquoise "fingers":
3 egg whites (about 90gr)
50gr sugar
70 gr almonds
30 gr pistachios
70 gr powdered sugar
1 tsp powdered green food coloring
2 tsp satsuma orange zest

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, pistachios and powdered sugar in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the coloring and orange zest. Sprinkle the nut mixture over the meringue add carefully fold the two batters together placing your spatula in the center of the bowl, scrape the bottom and bring it over the top. Rotate the bowl 45 degrees and repeat the same motion until both mixtures are fully incorporated. Make sure not to deflate the meringue as you do so. Pipe 3 to 4 inches strips on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes at 300F.

For the satsuma pistachio buttercream:

3 egg whites
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 sticks (170 gr) butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons satsuma orange juice
1 teaspoon satsuma orange zest
1/4 cup finely ground pistachios
1/2 tsp powdered green food coloring

In the bowl of stand mixer, whip the egg whites until they have soft peaks. In the meantime, combine the water with the sugar and bring them to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Bring the syrup to 250F. Slowly add the sugar syrup to the egg whites. If you use hand beaters, this is even easier and there is less hot syrup splatter on the side of your bowl and in the whisk attachment of the stand mixer. Continue to whip until the meringue is completely cooled. Slowly add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. The mass might curdle but no panic, continue to whip until it all comes together. Add the juice and zest from the orange, the pistachios and food coloring.

At this point you can refrigerate the buttercream for a later use up to 4 days or freeze for up to three months. To assemble the dacquoise petit fours, make sure the buttercream is of spreadable consistency and fit a piping bag with a large star tip (or the nuts might clog the flow as you pipe) and pipe on the meringue. Decorate with pomegranate seeds if desired.

Pistachio Dacquoise & Pistachio Citrus Buttercream

Pomegranate Hibiscus Tea & Honey Ginger Yogurt Verrines - A Virtual Hug

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Pomegranate Hibiscus Tea & Ginger Yogurt Verrine

I play well with food. We get along nicely.
I can twirl it around, bake it, cut it, stretch it, play it up, play it down.
We spend many hours together everyday. Swishing sounds of the whisk play with the silence of my thoughts.
We do get along well. Sometimes though I wish I weren't alone in the kitchen.
Peeling fruit, brewing tea. Impatiently waiting for that drop of honey to fall from the spoon. Sometimes I wish I had Barbara with me in the kitchen.
I know she would sit on the vintage stool by the counter. For about 5 minutes before heading in there with me.
I know she would pour us a glass of wine while helping me pick the buttercream from my cheek
Like she virtually wiped the tears from my heart last year when I lost someone I had never met but already loved.
She would remind me to dance even if only in my head.
In fact I believe she'd turn the radio louder and we'd dance right in the middle of spun sugar and flour clouds.
Then we would fall loudly on the sofa and laugh...and hug.

Barbara needs and deserves all the hugs she can get right now as she is undergoing yet another round of chemo and being the Lady that she is, she remains quiet and private about it. However Bron and Ilva started thinking that it was about time we got vocal about this wonderful woman and tell her how much we care, love and want to be there, right next to her fighthing that nasty disease. A secret email for a special person and you know me....when there is some cancer butt kicking...I am there!

I don't have to touch to know. I don't have to see to understand. Barbara is around. She has worked her magic in so many of us. Time to say "thank you" and "we love you".....

Pomegranate Jewelry

You can imagine that if I am calling her attention here while she is on chemo, it would be difficult to stomach seeing buttercream ladden cakes (nothing wrong with that usually) or sticky sweet creations (nothing wrong with that usually either). Keeping that in mind I decided to concentrate "good for you" flavors in a glass, also called verrine and have a little fun with the presentation. Since recreating Pierre Herme's Sensation Satine last year, I admit that I have a fondness of geometrically challenged mousses or jelly set in glass. Seriously, doesn't that look like fun?

I know that Barbara loves pink and has a fondness for travels and exotic locales so I wanted to make her travel a bit without much effort right now. I made some hibiscus tea that B. had brought back from Egypt and mixed it with some pomegranate juice, turned the mixture into a jelly and once set I topped it off with some Greek yogurt flavored with some honey and ginger. The yogurt mixture is turned into a jelly also for the sole purpose of consistency continuity. I tried it just spooned on top of the jelly and also as made here and it worked much better as a jelly for spooning and eating with the tea part but feel free to experiment to your own liking.

Did you see those macarons sneaking up next to that dessert? Couldn't help it! The pomegranate seeds look like little jewel gems to me and I couldn't help pairing them with macaron (eye) candy so I when I was making some to take as a hostess gift, I also colored some of the batter and filled them with buttercream and added a seed in the middle and a seed on top. Macarons are indeed perfect little hugs of sweetness.

Love you Barbara!

Tea Jelly Verrines & Macarons

Pomegranate Hibiscus Tea and Honey Ginger Yogurt Verrines:

Makes 6 servings

For the tea jelly:
1 1/2 cups brewed hibiscus tea
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon lemon zest

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

Honey Ginger Yogurt Gelee:
1 1/2 tsp gelatin
2 Tb water
2 cups Greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

Pour the water into a small container, sprinkle the gelatin over it and set aside. In a small bowl, heat half the yogurt in the microwave for one minute. Microwave the gelatin for 12 seconds. Quickly mix the two together, add the rest of the yogurt, ginger and the honey. No need to let it cool, layer it on top of the tea layer and position it at the opposite angle in the egg carton. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.

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