A Daring Bakers' Flourless Chocolate Cake....Oh The Possibilities!

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cakes

I can't believe today is the last day of February! This month has flown by! Tomorrow, my parents will be here. March will be filled with more deadlines, assignments and anticipation of things to come. End of the month? Well, that must mean another Daring Bakers' challenge. Yes indeed! A Flourless Chocolate Cake to be precise. And ice cream...hmmhmmm.


As I do with many of the challenges, I read the recipe and walked away. I like to look at the structure of recipes and think about how I could play with them. This one was perfect for some afternoon fun in the kitchen. I like to take out molds and baking pans and ponder about how to make a recipe work with what I have on hand but I really had little time lately to play as much as I would have wanted to (manuscript due in about a month!). Once the cake batter was made, I divided it up in different ways: square silicone molds, round cake rings and a half sheet pan. For the ice cream, my MO these days is "one recipe-several applications" so I made a vanilla bean ice cream base and divide it to be flavored in a couple of other ways.

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The square flourless cakes have an indent on top which was perfect to fill with some fresh berries and top with a quenelle of vanilla cinnamon ice cream. I split the round cakes and layered them with coffee ice cream with almond brittle bits and wrapped them around sheets of tempered dark chocolate. That's when B. entered the kitchen and exclaimed "Yum! Ice cream sandwiches!"...."Ugh no...these are layered ice cream cakes". He then asked what I was going to do with the half sheet pan leftover and since he really seemed to want ice cream sandwiches, I went ahead and used a nifty little gadget that Mary sent me for my birthday and made him some simple vanilla bean ice cream sandwiches.

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The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. They have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Chocolate Valentino Cake Recipe, adapted from Chef Wan.16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

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Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Recipe:

6 egg yolks
1 cup (100gr)
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split open and seeded

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar until pale and thick. In a saucepan set over medium heat, bring the milk, cream and vanilla bean to a simmer, without letting it come to a full boil. Slowly pour the hot cream over the egg yolks mixture while whisking to temper the egg yolks. Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the cream coats the back of spoon. It should register 170F on a candy thermometer. At this point you have made a custard sauce, also known as "creme anglaise". Let cool completely, strain and refrigerate until cold, preferably overnight.
Once and the custard is cold, process according to your ice cream maker manufacturer's instructions.
Divide the ice cream in three equal portions.

Cinnamon Ice Cream Recipe: place a cinnamon stick in the soft ice cream and let it freeze 2 hours or overnight to get all the flavor from the spice without the brown color. Remove the stick before using.

Coffee-Almond Brittle Ice Cream Recipe:
Almond brittle:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for baking sheet
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/3 of vanilla ice cream mixed with 1 teaspoon intant espresso powder. Freeze until almost set.

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a half sheet pan or an 8x8 baking pan and set aside.
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar and honey. Bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until mixture is golden brown and registers 280°on a candy thermometer, about 6 minutes. Stir in the almonds. Cook until mixture reaches 300°, about 2 minutes. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet. Let cool completely. Break into pieces.

Add the broken brittle to the coffe ice cream and freeze.

Flourless Chocolate Cake...

Savory Tartelettes: In The Kitchen At Design*Sponge

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Friday, February 27, 2009

quiche4 (1 of 1)b

I live for the little things in life, the simple and little things that are enough to make us happy and brighten our day. Being contacted by Kristina, one of the editors of Design*Sponge was definitely one of them. I think I read her email about four times saying out loud "You would like to do a "In The Kitchen" feature with me?", "vraiment?", really? I love Design*Sponge, I love the articles, the features, the styles. I have discovered so many great talents and artists that I felt a little very nervous participating.



Kristina asked if I could create something savory for the feature, to give their readers a bit of a change. Hmmmm....even if you are new here, it won't take long to notice that there is not one bit of savory on this blog...It's pastry, pastry and more pastry. It took about five seconds for me to decide I was going to make: savory tartelettes! After the initial nervousness disappeared, I did start to look forward to baking and photographing a savory item. I know, I know...I made tartelettes....What can I say? Can't help it!! These bacon, green onions and parsley tarts filled the house with the wonderful aromas of my childhood and my home back in France.

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One thing that we love to make in my family as an easy and casual meal is a savory tart or quiche with a side salad or soup. It was our Saturday night dinner growing up and still is, even though I am miles away from my family. The crust and the egg filling are simply a springboard for all your favorite ingredients and spices. We enjoy variations like salmon, dill and leeks, chicken, oregano and fresh tomatoes, sausage, rosemary and spinach….the possibilities are quite endless once you let your taste buds allow the ingredients to come together.

The tarts were so good that I am making another batch for Sunday night as my parents arrive from France and will be with us through March! I am so excited I can't hardly contain myself!! Maybe I can coax my mom into guest blogging, what do you think?

You can check out the rest of the feature by following this link. A big "Thank you!" to Kristina and Design*Sponge for this wonderful opportunity. I had a great time!

Savory Tartelettes


Bacon, Onion and Parsley Tartelettes Recipe:

Makes six 3-inch tartlets or one 9-inch tart

Crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
5 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into small slices
3 to 4 tablespoons ice cold water
Mix together the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or a fork until the mixture forms pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of water over the flour mixture and toss with fork until moistened. Repeat with the remaining water, one tablespoon at a time and gather the dough into a ball with your hand. Do not handle the dough too long. Wrap into a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This will allow the dough to relax and make it easier to roll, keeping it from becoming tough. Roll dough on a lightly floured surface, applying pressure from the center to the edges until it is about 12 inches in diameter. Cut out six 4 inch circles onto the dough and press them into the tartlet pans (or one 9 inch pan if making a larger tart). Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

Filling:
6 slices bacon
4 stalks green onion, sliced, white and green parts included
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 ½ cups milk
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a medium sauté pan set over medium heat, cook the bacon slices until crispy brown. Drain them on a paper towel. Crumble them and set aside. Wipe the pan of the bacon dripping with a paper towel and place it back over medium heat and cook the green onion for a couple of minutes, just to take the raw edge off. Divide the bacon, onion and parsley evenly among the tartlets and place them on a baking sheet.
In a bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper until combined and slowly pour the mixture over the tartlets. Divide the cheese evenly in between the tarts and bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Individual sizes bake faster than a whole pie so keep an eye on them after 20 minutes. Let cool before unmolding and serving.
These are best at room temperature with a salad and a simple vinaigrette.

Strawberry Vanilla Ice Cream & Strawberry Thyme Shortbreads

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Strawberry Vanilla Ice Cream

We have a winner! Beside the winning combination of Strawberry Ice Cream and Strawberry Thyme Shortbreads Cookies, I am happy to announce that Maryann from Finding La Dolce Vita is the winner of The Baker's Odyssey! Congrats Maryann! Shoot me an email with your address and the book is on it way!

I realized last evening when someone called to hire B's band at the last minute for today that it was Mardi Gras! Ah! As a kid it was one of my favorite celebration in the year because I'd get to dress up and I loved to play dress up...ask my mother. I think I just about drove her crazy most years but she knew how much I loved becoming someone completely different even for just a day. So "Bon Mardis Gras" to anybody celebrating!


This past weekend I had the opportunity to play dress up. A different kind though. I played the adult, hardcore. I held the hand of a person in pain and massaged her back. I read her stories and cooked dinner. I did someone else's laundry and folded someone else's socks and underwear. For a weekend, I was mother, sister, friend and everything in between. I was the cold cloth girl, the cook, the story teller. We spent the weekend with friends who needed us for one last round of chemo aftermath. Hear that...last one...Hooray! Go life!!

Making Strawberry Vanilla Ice Cream

M. was not up to much fun but she was a trooper and when she saw me unpack the groceries for the weekend, she got that little twinkle in her eyes. "Did you bring dessert? I wonder if I'll have enough of an appetite for it...". Yes, I had brought dessert, a freshly made batch of strawberry and vanilla bean ice cream and planned to bake some cookies at their house. Yes, one more strawberry post but when they are this fresh and this gorgeous in their shiny red coat, I can't help it...I am weak. What better combination than fresh vanilla, cream and strawberry?

I know how much they like a good cookie with their ice cream and I had planned to make shortbread cookies but the idea was still in progress in my head though. Sometimes, if you leave me too think to long, it ends up in a little frenzy. This time however, everything came together in a very fun way, blending and talking, chopping and talking.

I just did not want they plain and that is when I decided to dry some strawberry slices and add them to the dough along with some fresh chopped thyme. Yep, thyme. If rosemary and plums can be so good together, why not thyme and strawberries? It was perfect with the tart bits of the strawberries and the crumbly, sweet dough and it was delicious with the ice cream. Makes me want to try them with some lemon thyme once I get my herbs growing again. Strawberry heaven....Now I think I am done for a while with them...or am I?

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Strawberry Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe:

Kitchen Notes: I made one batch with all the juices and the ice cream turned a very pretty pink but there were virtually no swirl left after trying to get the perfect scoop for a photo op!
I made another batch where I just used diced strawberries thrown in the vanilla ice cream base. Plenty of vanilla color to go around this time! (used in the pics here)


4 egg yolks
1/2 cup (100gr) + 2 tablespoons (25gr) sugar
2 cups half and half
1 vanilla bean, split open
1 cup strawberries, hulled and quartered

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and one cup of sugar until pale and thick. In a saucepan set over medium heat, bring the half and half and vanilla bean to a simmer, without letting it come to a full boil. Slowly pour the hot cream over the egg yolks mixture while whisking to temper the egg yolks. Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the cream coats the back of spoon. It should register 170F on a candy thermometer. At this point you have made a custard sauce, also known as "creme anglaise". Let cool completely, strain and refrigerate until cold.
While the custard cool, prepare the strawberries. Place the quartered strawberries and the remaining measurement of sugar into a small heavy saucepan over medium heat and cook just long enough for the strawberries to soften and to release some juice. Remove from the heat and let cool. Once both the fruit and the custard are cold, process the custard first according to your ice cream maker manufacturer's instructions and toward the end of the churning period, throw in the strawberries.

Dried Strawberries and Thyme Shortbread Cookies Recipe:

Makes about 2 dozen cookies, depending on the size of your cutters.

1 cup strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
1 stick butter (113gr) butter at room temperature
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups (188gr) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme
pinch of salt
1/2 tablespoon of milk

Preheat your oven to 250F.
Place the strawberry slices in one single layer on a parchment paper line baking sheet and let them dry in the oven for about one hour. Let them cool completely. Chop the dried slices in small pieces and set aside.
Turn the oven to 350F.
In a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour, thyme, dried strawberries, pinch of salt and the milk and beat until the ingredients are just started to come together. Stop the mixer and finish mixing the dough with yout hands on a work surface. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies with your desired cookie cutter and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before baking the cookies for 8-10 minutes or until just golden brown around the edges.

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Profiteroles With Chartreuse Ice Cream & A Book Giveaway

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Friday, February 20, 2009

(For the book giveaway, scroll down to the end of this post)

I am really excited to introduce you to Anita from Married With Dinner as my guest blogger this weekend. When I first started blogging, there weren't as many blogs to get lost into captivated by delicious recipes and lovely photos. One lucky day 3 years ago, I landed on Anita's blog and I could not stop reading, still can't. We virtually met around a box of macarons and I can't wait for the day I bake a batch with her. As their "about" page states, "Married …with dinner chronicles the continuing adventures of a couple of San Francisco food dorks. Cameron and Anita are both professional writers, amateur cooks, cocktail geeks, and avid diners." I am always in admiration of their mixology knowledge and creations, as well as their awareness of local artisans, food and produce. I can't wait for the day we meet when we can celebrate life and friendship around a good meal.

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When Tartelette asked me to take a turn at posting, I froze. See, I love to cook, I'm a pretty good bread-baker, and I've been known to crank out the occasional homespun cake or pie. But to create something worthy of Tartelette -- something as beautiful and impressive and drool-worthy as the sorts of things you're used to seeing here -- well, I wasn't quite sure I was the right girl for the job.



I poured over cookbooks, went through my archives, begged friends for ideas. Then, when I'd almost given up, I sat down to do my weekly meal planning... and inspiration struck. In the back of my "to-try-someday" recipe file was a dessert I'd been wanting to make, tucked away for an occasion when I needed something special: Ice cream flavored with the French herbal liqueur Chartreuse.

Chartreuse is one of my favorite liqueurs; its spicy complexity adds a layer of mystery to so many wonderful cocktails, and it's also a fabulous treat to sip on its own as a digestif. But until I read David Lebovitz's ice cream compendium, The Perfect Scoop, it had never occurred to me to use it in food. It only took me 18 months to actually find a suitable occasion!

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I spun a batch and set it in the freezer to firm up overnight. The next morning, I couldn't wait to taste a sample: Oh, what a heavenly thing it was, light and bright from the addition of sour cream, with a haunting herbal shadow of Chartreuse in the place where you'd expect to find vanilla. I'd only intended to sample a small spoonful, to check the result of my work. But I couldn't stop: I ended up eating a whole bowl of the stuff for breakfast!

When I confessed to David that his recipe was so good that I'd scarfed an entire serving before work, he wasn't surprised: "I love that recipe," he confided, and patiently assured me I shouldn't worry about its detrimental effects on my morning routine. "I actually developed it for a low-fat magazine -- It is healthy!"

Of course, I'm of the school of thought that even full-fat ice cream is good for you. After all, there's nothing wrong with eggs and dairy, in moderation. But David's lean-and-clean version is a worthy treat in its own right, not just as a healthy alternative. Without any eggs, you might expect it to be more like a gelato. But instead, it's almost sherbet-like, with a snowy lightness that sets off the richness of any accompaniments.

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Unfortunately, even the most delicious bowl of ice cream looks a little ho-hum in photos, and we needed a Tartelette-worthy masterpiece! So I decided to take the plunge and try my hand at a batch of profiteroles to fill with the ice cream. And here's a secret I wished I'd known years ago: As long as you have a pastry bag and a stand mixer, making pate a choux -- the basis for eclairs, cream puffs, and profiteroles -- is surprisingly simple.

But if, despite my assurances, the idea of whisking eggs into a hot dough seems a little too intimidating, you have my permission to sidestep the profiteroles, provided that you give this beautiful Chartreuse ice cream a little boost of richness with a drizzle of hot fudge. After all, as David told me, "Chocolate sauce is obligatory, even at breakfast."

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Chartreuse Ice Cream Recipe from The Perfect Scoop

The published recipe made a little too much base to fit comfortably in my Cuisinart ice-cream maker without overflowing, so I've scaled the measurements down 25% from David's original.

2 cups whole milk
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup + 1T sugar
2-1/2T green Chartreuse

Puree all the ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze according to your ice-cream maker's usual method.

Choux Pastry Puffs Recipe adapted from Tartelette's Choux a la Creme with modifications from Baking with Julia

85g all-purpose flour
75ml water
75ml whole milk
65g unsalted butter
2 eggs + 1 egg white
1T sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 425F. Set up a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.
Sift the flour and set aside. Heat the water, milk, butter, and salt to a full rolling boil. Stir the flour into the liquid with a heavy wooden spoon, adding it as fast as it can be absorbed, but not all at once or it will form clumps. Cook the paste, stirring constantly and breaking up lumps if necessary, until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer the dough to the mixer bowl and stir at low speed to cool the paste slightly, so that the eggs will not cook when added. On medium-low, mix in the eggs one at a time, then the egg white. The dough should have the consistency of thick mayonnaise.
While the dough is still warm, place it in a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe quarter-sized puffs about 1 inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, then use a moistened spoon (or finger) to smooth out the tails at the top.
Bake at for 15 minutes at 425F without opening the oven door, then reduce heat to 350F and continue to bake until done, about 7 to 12 minutes.
To check for doneness, remove one puff from the sheet and tap the underside with your fingers; it should feel firm and hollow. (If you undercook the puffs, they may deflate as they cool, so err on the side of golden brown rather than pale). When baked through, remove the puffs from the oven and let cool.

Easiest Chocolate Sauce Recipe

Confession time: I cheated and used a jar of Scharffen-Berger chocolate sauce I already had on hand. (It's delicious and locally made, so it's hard to feel too guilty.) But making your own chocolate sauce is dead simple with this recipe, which I've used in the past with great results.

6oz best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3T water
1/4 cup heavy cream

Set a a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Melt all ingredients in the bowl, stirring until the mixture is smooth.

To assemble the profiteroles:
Cut each puff in half through the equator; it's easiest if you use a serrated knife. Place three bottom layers on each plate; top each with a small scoop of chartreuse ice cream. Place the tops on the puffs, and drizzle with chocolate sauce.

You will have plenty of leftover ice cream for weeknight treats (or breakfast!).

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I also want to thank you for stopping here like you do by giving one lucky person a copy of The Baker's Odyssey, by Greg Patent, a whopping 400 pages dedicated to the recipes and culinary history of American immigrants from all over the world. I have already mentionned this gem of a book with the Princess Torte recipe and I would love to send the extra copy that I have to one of you.

All you have to do is leave a comment between today Friday February 20th and Monday February 23rd midnight (US Eastern time). A reader will be chosen at random and announced later that week (duplicate comments will be deleted and if you wish to remain anonymous, please at least sign Zorro or something)

Cold Strawberry Mint Soup and Apricot Tea Cakes

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sweet Shot - Strawberry Mint Soup

Some things are meant to be paired. You know, that cute mug and that lovely tea, cookies and milk, cupcakes and frosting, apple pie and vanilla ice cream, etc.. They are tasty on their own, and we can survive without one or the other, but they make sense together so why pass on the opportunity to have them both, at the same time, together, dunked, dipped, smeared, spooned, and scooped?....

This is what happened the other day with apricot teacakes and cold strawberry mint soup. I had a long night ahead of me and decided to make some tea cakes to help me through hours of file organizing instead of popping open a bag of chips and mindlessly muching my way through the entire bag. Withing 40 minutes or so I had about one dozen dried apricot tea cakes cooling down and we could not resist sampling one. Delicious and satisfying on its own.


Teacakes and Strawberries

That same day I also had become the instant parent of a 6 pound box of strawberries (they are in season right now in the Southern US) and after making ice cream, sorbet, strawberry scones, shortcakes and coulis, I still had about two cups left. That's when the idea of refreshing little shots of strawberry mint soup popped into my head. A mini detoxing shot in the morning to boost creative juices or a light way to end a rich meal. It was a breeze to put together, mixing mint simple syrup and strawberries in a food processor and a delight on its own.

B. said he'd keep me company for a little while and sat at the dining room table with a plate of teacakes and a couple of strawberry soup shots. I was my nose one inch from the screen looking for a file I kept passing when he asked if I was going to blog about these. I said "yes, sure, don't know when though". He added with his mouth full "well, when you do, make sure you blog about them together!". He is a dunker and a spooner. He'll spoon peanut butter or jam on just about anything and dunk just about anything ressembling a cookie or a cake into coffee, tea, or milk. Surprising combinations have taken place but some yummy discoveries have occured that way too so I tend to trust his musings in the kitchen. Hence, you get them both today! Have them as singe items, have them as a tandem, they are the perfect snack break!

Teacakes

Apricot Teacakes Recipe:

Makes about a dozen

1/3 cup (67g) sugar
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons (56.5gr) butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup (58gr) sour cream
1/2 cup (62.5gr) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (125gr) dried apricot halves, diced

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Whisk together the eggs and sugar until pale and thick, about 2-3 minutes. Add the butter and sour cream. Whisk well and add the flour. Add the dried apricots and mix until incorporated. Divide evenly between muffin tins (or other small molds) coated with cooking spray and cook for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on wire racks.

Cold Strawberry Mint Soup Recipe:

1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
1/3 cup (83ml) water
2 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
2 cups(290gr) fresh strawberries

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water and mint and bring to a simmer. Cook for about a minute, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool (it will give the mint time to infuse the syrup).
In the meantime, hull and halve the strawberries and place them in a blender or food processor. Once the mint syrup is cooled, process the strawberries, adding the syrup, one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is nice and smooth. The more syrup you add, the thinner your soup will be. Serve in shot glasses.

Teacakes and Strawberries


Lastly, I was psyched to hear from my friend Anita that Tartelette was named one of the world's 50 best food blogs. You can find the whole article here. Wow! I think there is going to be a giveaway here soon to celebrate!! Thank you all for your visits and comments, it is an honor.

Blackberry Apple Galettes And Burnt Sugar Ice Cream

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Apple & Blackberry Galettes

Yesterday I woke up to the sound of my husband's trombone and although he rarely rehearses at home it did not strike me as unusual. It felt nice actually. Deep, resonant notes, slightly muted as they came through the floor and walls. I immediately recognized the melody of "our" song, "Can't give you anything but love". The trombone stopped, the pupps rushed down the steps toward the bedroom and when they saw the door open, the immediately jumped on the bed to give me a good round of morning licks. Nice..although not earth shaterring new.

The unusual part was they were spotting brand new heart shaped name tags and a love poem was tucked inside a notch of their collars. Ah! Love Day! A serenade, two pimped up furry fuzz balls and the man whose love is more beautiful than anything I have ever known. Love and the little funny things in life, as we try to live them everyday. Except he tied it all up in a virtual red bow and I had extra butterflies in my stomach. Singletons out there, do not despair!


Breakfast Basics :)

Hidden from him were my breakfast plans. I know B. and I know he loves and enjoy eating and one thing we share is our love for pies, tartlets or galettes and a good ice cream, separate, together, one after the other, etc....Granted this breakfast was a little richer than what we usually have but B. is playing music, serenading others this lovely night, so it was like starting the day the way we would have ended it if we had been together, with dessert. I had made blackberry and apple galettes as a thank you gift for a neighbor and kept one for us to share and topped ours with a scoop of burnt sugar ice cream. Come to think of it, we had all the major food group covered!

The beauty of these galettes is that you can use any combination of fruits that strikes your fancy and you don't have to worry about tart pans and sizes, blind baking, etc... The pate sucree dough gets just a little rolling, filling, crimping and you're almost there. I like to add a pinch of fresh cracked pepper to the fruits to enhance their flavor as they bake. The burnt sugar ice cream is one of my favorites from Dorie Greenspan, almost enough to make any man or woman swoon it is that good, creamy and tasty.

Breakfast that is enough make you want to give your mate an extra hug or kiss today and for the days to come...And for those of you who inquired about my friend Linda who was proposing with a ring and a box of heart macarons, I just got a text message that her partner said "yes!" and then there were pelnty of these "!" and a bunch of smileys....

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Blackberry Apple Galettes And Burnt Sugar Ice Cream Recipe:

Makes three 5-inch galettes

For the Pate Sucree:
2 cups (250gr) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons (25gr) sugar
pinch of salt
1 stick (113gr) butter, cut in small dices
1 egg
2-4 tablespoons cold water

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt and cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or two forks until the mixture ressembles forms pea size crumbs. Make a well in the center and add the egg. With a fork, start working the flour in a little at a time and when most of it is incorporated, quickly mix the dough into a coherent and smooth mass, adding some cold water, a tablespoon at a time, if necessary (this varies depending on the humidity or altitude of where you live). Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

For the fruit filling:
1 small apple (I chose Granny Smith, peeled, cored and diced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons (25gr) sugar, divided
1 tablespoon (10gr)cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
1 cup (200gr) blackberries
pinch of frech cracked black pepper
egg wash to brush the crust with before baking


In a medium saucepan set over medium low heat, cook the apple with one tablespoon of sugar and the lemon juice until fork tender. Add the blackberries and let them cook for a couple of minutes. Dilute the cornstarch in the water and add it to the fruits along with the cracked pepper. Cook until the mixture is not cloudy anymore from the cornstarch. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

To assemble:
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Roll the dough onto a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick and cut three 6-inch rounds in it and place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Fill the center of each round with the filling and crimp the edges towards the center. I don't like to cover the fruit that much with the dough but that is a personal preference. Brush the crust with egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining sugar over the galettes. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Burnt Sugar Ice Cream, adapted from Dorie Greenspan:

1/2 cup (100gr)sugar
2 tablespoon water
2 cups(500ml) whole milk
1 cup (125ml) heavy cream
5 egg yolks
pinch of salt

Stir the sugar and water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and cook until it becomes a caramel of deep amber color. Lower the heat and add the milk. It will bubble like mad but continue stirring until the mixture is smooth, remove from the heat. Add the cream and stir until combined.
In a large bowl, whip the egg yolks and salt until pale and thick. Slowly pour the hot milk mixture over it and whisk to temper the yolks. Put the mixture back into the saucepan and cook until it coats the back of a spoon (creme anglaise consistency or 170 degrees F).
Let cool completely and refrigerate until very cold (preferably overnight. Process the ice according your ice cream maker manufacturer's instructions. Freeze for 2 hours or more or until firm to scoop.

Guest Blogging : Quaint Tea

58

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I am playing hooky today... Well, not really, but I am getting pudding brains this close to deadline and I need all the extra bit of time I can find. After coming to the conclusion that sleep is highly overrated and lunch has been replaced by a cup of soup and a piece of toast in one hand, whisk and camera in the other, (yes, I am also amazed of my newfound dexterity!), I asked one of my favorite bloggers to come and keep you company. I discovered Cindy in one of my late night blog hopping and I instantly fell in love with hers inventive crafts, thoughtful posts and awesome pictures of New York. When I ask someone to guest blog I always tell them to do what they please and have fun. Cindy went beyond the call of duty and baked you something tasty, comforting and perfect for a little Valentine's day breakfast. I guess I am in love mode after all! I hope you'll show Cindy the same enthusiasm and support you show me day after day. Enjoy!


Hi Everyone - I'm Cindy from quaint handmade and was so honored when Helen asked me to be a guest blogger here on Tartelette. It wasn't a task to be undertaken lightly as she is an award-winning blogger. As you know, Tartelette is a serious baking destination featuring fantastic recipes all beautifully photographed. I'm not a prolific baker by any stretch of the imagination, but have been known to knock around some pots and pans in the kitchen from time to time. And, since I've been a collector of all things English for years, I thought I would write about a Sweet Tea, which would be lovely for Valentine's Day.

Now, this is a special post for a special lady and her devoted readers, so I pulled out all the stops and feature tasty delights you might want to enjoy on a special day. But, it doesn't have to be fancy. Most of the food can be found in the local market, online, or in your cupboard. I also included a simple scone recipe for a homemade touch. First up, it's time to go shopping!


Tea & Coffee
I've been coveting tea from Harney & Sons for a while now and chose their Paris blend. It's a black tea with a lovely fruity fragrance. True tea aficionados might prefer a loose tea, but I thought the sachets were pretty. As the flavors in our sweets are delicate, a subtle Jasmine Tea from Twinings or Kusmi would also be wonderful. My husband likes tea, but loves coffee. We've recently discovered Stumptown Coffee and it has a rich, smooth flavor that would also be a nice alternative.


Butter & Jam
Next up, jam to go with our scones. I've loved the preserves from Sarabeth's for years and chose the Raspberry Orange Marmalade I found in our local market. Conserves from Wilkin & Sons are also delicious as are the jams from Bonne Mamon. Be sure to have some delicious butter on hand, too.


Cookies & Marshmallows
We are lucky to live in NYC and can purchase delicious treats from Whimsy & Spice in the warm weather at a market in Brooklyn. But, it's winter so I ordered their Herbs & Spices Gift Box online. The assortment is filled with goodness and includes Honey Lavender and Chocolate Orange Cardamom shortbread cookies, Cardamom marshmallows (so fragrant), Coconut White Chocolate 5 Spice cookies, and the most intriguing, Rose & Black Pepper Thumbprints (subtle). All of the flavors are delicate and light.


Taking Tea At The Savoy
I learned about the book Taking Tea At The Savoy when the author, Anton Edelman, from the Savoy Hotel appeared on Martha Stewart's original television show. He was quite impressed with her ability to make a proper cup of tea and became a little bit flirtatious. It was kind of funny to see Martha under those circumstances. It's a wonderful book with a variety of traditional English tea recipes.


Homemade Scones
I wanted to make something for our tea and scones are traditional. This recipe is simple enough, but doesn't mention salt, so I added a pinch. I also added more flour as the dough was quite sticky.


Preparation
I am a newbie photographer and have learned so much from Helen. However, ever since picking up the camera, I've become a little bit impatient as a cook. I am absolutely amazed by the ladies who bake and take photos along the way. I do try to assemble the ingredients and tools I need in advance to at least capture the beginning and the end, although I made an extra effort for this post to get the middle, too.


Resting before baking
My round pastry cutter seemed to be in hiding and after trying a few alternatives, I used a heart. I hope it was divine intervention from cupid because I'm so happy they were in heart shapes and perfect for a Valentine's Day Sweet Tea.


Baked and cooling
Out of the oven and cooling on a wire rack. I think the egg wash helped identify them as hearts since the dough rose quite a bit thanks to a box of fresh baking powder.


Beautiful mess
You should have seen our kitchen after I made the scones! I think there was too much mess for such a simple recipe. The other side of room, which is three feet away, was worse. As I mentioned, the dough was quite sticky so there was flour everywhere, including places it shouldn't be ;).


Assembling
At this point, I'm just about ready to pull it all together. I've selected some pieces from our English china collection and the double tiered cake stand is the star. I've polished the silver and endlessly fussed with the arrangement.


Sugar Cubes
My husband Scott went for a walk and to pick-up my one missing item - sugar cubes. I didn't ask him to come right back because I wasn't expecting to be ready that day in terms of choosing the china. By now, I really have to photograph the Sweet Tea, or I'll have to disassemble everything, and start all over again the next day. Plus, those cookies are so fragrant and look delicious.


Teatime
Finally, everything is arranged and it's time for tea + coffee! Thank you for your hospitality everyone. One lump or two?

I *heart* Macarons

144

Monday, February 09, 2009

Macarons & Milk

You would have to live in a cave these days not to realize that Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Those lovely sweet tarts! And the chocolate kisses! And the heart shaped cookies! And the cutest heart adorned cupcakes! Shades of pink and red... everywhere. Well, I guess I live in one because when a friend called and asked if I could make her some macarons for Valentine's Day, I replied "oh yes sure, just remind me when it's closer to that time". Silence. "Ugh, it's soon, really. Like next week!" My turn to be silent.

I admit we don't really celebrate Valentine's Day. For as long as I remember I was always stuck at work that evening and even now that we could, B. always seems to have a music gig that night. Nothing against V-Day, not even the countless years of having me hide rings and earrings in desserts at the restaurant! I love romance. I am a hopeless romantic. I love old, well - read books and often create a romantic, often sad story behind their earmarked pages. I love old black and white movies and spending a few hours with Jimmy Stewart, a couple of macarons and a glass of milk (don't question the association, it just works)

Hard to believe when the first words that came out of my mouth when I met B. were "and now I am going to have to eat chicken!" instead of "Hi! You just bought the last ticket to the gala dinner! You are going to love the squab!". This was followed by "you're hot" when I should have said "you're sweet" when we got to talk later. He is hot, and he makes me lose my marbles, even today. Taking an extra day to celebrate that would send me straight to the mad house!!

Mornings

I understand how a day devoted to celebrating love can give a timid suitor the necessary strength to propose or take the next step. Turns out my friend Linda could use all the help she can get as she will be proposing on V-Day and she thought that a batch of cute romantic macarons could sweeten the pot. I already know she does not need to worry and I accepted her request with a happy and giddy heart. I love it when there is a purpose behind, when you know there is something important shaping up and you have been part of it.

I guess I was deep in my thoughts and forgot to be stunned when B. said "So what would you like to do for Valentine's Day?". Silence from me. Really trying to word this the right way so he won't have any way out "I'd like to make macarons with you. I'd like if you could grind and shake, shift and fold with me. I'll even let you build things with them when they are done". Interesting how much we got done within a couple of hours...even a makeshift macaron Eiffel Tower balancing on the counter top... What do you think I was going to say, eh?!!

We used a mix of almonds and pistachios for the macaron shells and kept one half uncolored and the other bright cherry pink. I purposely did not add white coloring to the other shells which I sometimes do and let them get a nice shade of antique pink while cooking. To draw the heart, I simply set aside a tablespoon of each batter and drew hearts on the shells with a toothpick dipped in the batters before baking them. We filled them with B.'s favorite spiced Swiss meringue buttercream with hints of cardamom and star anise.

"Lovely" Spiced Buttercream Macarons

Valentine's Day Macarons Recipe:

For the shells:
90 gr egg whites (about 3)
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
55 gr almonds
55gr pistachios
pink cherry 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, pistachios 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 lava 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.
Divide the batter in half and mix some color to one half to the desired effect. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with one of the batters and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. Use another bag for the second half of the batter.
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.

Spiced Buttercream:
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon star anise
pinch of salt

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 spices and salt and whip for another 10 seconds to incorporate it. If not using right away, refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to 1 month.

Milk Chocolate And Chestnut Mousse Verrines

107

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Milk Chocolate & Chesnut Mousse Verrines

I hold dear and close the big things in life like love, family, friendships, and connections. I also believe they are all enhanced by the little things. The little things in life...Those little trickets or thoughts that we hang onto. They might be in a shoe box in your closet or the attic, they might be on your nightstand. Special paper and photographs in your desk drawers. A dish or an ingredient that you are cherishing to the last crumb.

When I moved to the US, I came with the two suitcases and a few little things that kept me connected to my home. Among those items were "Pipou" a stuffed rabbit that I got when I was born and a tiny porcelain box with my name on it. What was I thinking?. Imagine the first time B. stayed over: "oh and by the way, meet my favorite blankie type thingie, Pipou" Now that a sure way to get rid of your date!! Or was I so afraid to become mute that the box would become another way to give my name out?! Well I know why they came along but retrospectively it could have thrown a few people off. However I did meet a wonderful man who embraced all the crazy little things his crazy expat of a wife enjoyed and needed to stay connected with.

A lot of the little things that bring me a smile on my face are, you can guess, often related to food. I just have to open a jar of Herbes de Provence that I can hear the cicadas and all of a sudden I am home for a brief instant. Open the jar, close the jar. Open the jar, close the jar.....smile. Slicing lemons almost always makes me want to drop a couple of slices in a hot cup of tea, just like Mamie used to do. Within ten minutes, the kettle is singing away. Little things like that make me vibrate, keep me alive, keep me going. We all have our inner batteries, these are mine.

Chesnut Cream Mousse

I made a bunch of souffles earlier this month, and for one of them I opened up my last and treasured can of chestnut paste.One of my little things. I kept it waiting on the shelf for a long long time but one souffle I wanted to bake again was my family's Chesnut Chocolate Tapioca Souffles ( you can read the full article in Desserts Magazine). When I served one to B., he exclaimed "Oh my gosh! Did you finally pop that last can open? That's serious!" while my head was screaming "yes I did , so pay attention and eat it slowly!". I did not say it outloud though. I did however scrape that can to the last drop of cream and froze the leftover for a future dessert.

It then hit me that my favorite way to eat it is still the simplest: with a spoon. However, since it is a delicacy after all, to be savoured to the last bit, I decided to give it a more proper farewell than us, our spoons, a tin can and a comfy sofa. I made a verrine layering a simple milk chocolate mousse, a layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache, chesnut cream mousse and a little whipped cream. Delicious! It was winter comfort at its best for me. Now I must remember to ask mom to bring more when they come next month (read this mom?!).

What are your "little things" in life?

Milk Chocolate & Chestnut Mousse Verrines

Milk Chocolate And Chesnut Mousse Verrines Recipe:

Serves 4 depending on the size of your ramekins or glasses.

Kitchen Notes: you can find "creme de marrons" or chesnut cream online, here for example or make your own. The chocolate painted glasses I used were extras I had prepared for the Daring Bakers challenge last month and did not used and they worked perfectly with this.

For the Milk Chocolate Mousse:
4 oz (120gr) semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons (30ml) whole milk
3 tablespoons (25gr) butter
3/4 cup (175ml) heavy cream, cold

In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (make sure that the bowl fits snuggly over the pan and does not touch the water), melt together the chocolate, milk, and butter. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. In a mixer, whip the cream to medium peaks and fold it into the chocolate mixture. Pipe or spoon the mousse into ramekins or glasses. Refrigerate.

For the Chocolate Ganache:
1/2 cup (125ml) heavy cream
6 oz (180gr) bittersweet chocolate

In a small heavy saucepan set over medium hight heat, bring the cream to a boil. Place the chocolate into a medium sized bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Let the mixture stand for 2 to 3 minutes. Gently stir the cream and chocolate together with a spatula until the mixture comes togethr and is fully combined. Let cool completely before dividing it on top of the chocolate mousse. Refrigerate.

For the Chesnut Cream Mousse:
3/4 cup (157ml) heavy cream
1/2 cup (125ml) chesnut puree

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream to medium stiff peaks. Add one third into the chesnut puree to lighten it and then fold in the remaining whipped cream until combined. Pipe or spoon on top of the ganache layer. Refrigerate.

For the whipped cream:
1/2 cup (125ml) heavy cream

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream to medium stiff peaks. Pipe or spoon on top of the chestnut layer and level with an offset spatula.

Strawberry & Vanilla Floating Islands

88

Monday, February 02, 2009

...

It had been a while since I had the night off to bake something just for us. No book recipe to test, no challenge, no order or request. Just for us. In moments like this I tend to gravitate towards childhood memories and desserts I learned to make with my mother and grandmother. Simple desserts made so often that I bake them from memories with only the guidelines they used to whisper as I was standing on the little step stool next to the kitchen counter. It always amazes me how clearly I can still hear my grandmother's voice every time I make Floating Islands for example.

Many years after her passing, Mamie Paulette is still here as I separate the eggs and mix them with sugar to make those lovely clouds of meringues. Everytime I cut through a vanilla bean I respectfully scrape every bean to the last one "pour ne pas gaspiller" (not to waste) and put the pods in small jars of sugar to flavor it. Whenever we would make creme brulees, we would have floating islands or "iles flottantes" a few days later. Again, "pour ne pas gaspiller". I seem to faithfully carry on the tradition. I measure my egg whites, double their weight in sugar (which you can use as a guideline to increase or decrease the number of servings) and make a Swiss meringue. Stirring as she would to, still fascinated at the magic a couple of ingredients can create once baked...

Making Floating Islands

After the vanilla bean mousse for the Daring Bakers challenge and the creme brulee tartelettes I had enough egg whites for a batch of macarons and some floating islands. The same week, juicy strawberry were on sale at the market and between my mother in law and us, I somehow ended up with about 5 pounds of them. I tried my best to use them but work got in the way and I decided to turn most of them into a coulis and freeze it in ice cube trays. That way I can easily portion out what I need for ice creams, sorbets, buttercreams, mousses later on. Some was used for the Floating Islands instead of the creme anglaise (vanilla custard sauce) they are traditionally served with. I hope mamie won't scream "sacre bleu" since we are severe creme anglaise addicts in the family. I think she would have approved of the variation.

She would either bake the meringue in a baking dish in a water bath and scoop out portions for each of us or divide it in between several glasses and ramekins and bake invidual ones. I liked the latter best as my role once the meringues were baked was to invert them into the pool of sauce and I loved watching how they would just slide on down the glass and float around in the plates. I did the same thing here and decided to skip the traditional decoration of caramel sauce or caramel strands as I wanted to add a little touch of color to the glasses and used finely chopped pistachios instead. There was just not enough time in the day to let me play with caramel which I tend to get carried away with anyway...

The end result was just perfect after a full day at the office. The soft and delicate vanilla scented meringue contrasting with the energizing and fragrant strawberry coulis. Enough to make you want to put on your pajamas to take the dogs for a walk...

Strawberry & Vanilla Floating Islands
Strawberry & Vanilla Floating Islands Recipe:

Serves 4

For the strawberry coulis:
16 oz (500gr) strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice

In a medium saucepan, bring the strawberries with the sugar and lemon juice to a simmer over medium low heat. Cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and puree the mixture in a blender or food processor. Divide evenly between 4 dishes or glasses.

For the floating islands:
2 egg whites (60gr)
1/2 cup+1.5 tablespoons (120gr) sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, seeded

Coat 4 ramekins of your choice with cooking spray, place them in a deep baking dish set on a baking tray, set aside.
Preheat the oven to 250F.
Place the egg whites, sugar and the seeds from the vanilla bean in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water and cook until the mixture registers 140F on a candy thermoter, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and whip the mixture with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until double in volume and cool to the touch. Pipe or spoon the meringue into the ramekins and fill the baking dish with hot water almost 3/4 of the way up. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the meringues are slightly dry to the touch. Using tongs, remove the ramekins from the baking dish and set aside to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, invert them and let the meringue slide right off over the strawberry coulis.
Decorate with cut strawberries and chopped pistachios is desired.

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Note: If you liked the White Chocolate and Lemon Souffles from last week, you can find 3 more recipes I made for Desserts Magazine. Bittersweet Chocolate Souffles, White Chocolate Souffles and Chesnut Milk Chocolate Tapioca Souffles. It's all about chocolate this month!

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