Daring Bakers Do Vols Au Vent

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Salted Caramel Mousse Chocolate Vols Au Vent

I am never comfortable with scheduling blog posts to go up while I am away playing working. Oh yes…this conference is maximum work: all that shaking hands, exchanging business cards, hugging, eating, discovering, laughing, all this pretty much on loop. Tough job. Alright, so you don’t buy it. Wouldn’t either (check on Twitter) What you can believe is that my dear and better half is certainly enjoying the last bit of this month Daring Bakers’ challenge, Vols Au Vent and other puff pastry based items.

I remember back in the 80s when these were the hottest appetizers on restaurant menus, at cocktails parties, often topping over with cream and rich fillings. As a child I did get my share of them, happily volunteering my tastebuds to my mother’s latest puff pastry creation. I often associate these with memories of Christmas dinner, with a house filled with cousins, parents and pets, each of us sliding our fork in a pillow of layers upon layers of puff pastry, letting my grandmother’s morels, sweetbreads and cream filling ooze out on the plate. Yes, I just closed my eyes and sighed just now….

Goat Cheese Mousse And Shrimp Vols Au Vent

As much as I would have loved to recreate that particular food memory, sweetbreads and morels are pretty hard to find this time of year in my parts. Thus, I pretty much stuck to sweets for this challenge with a little savory diversion as shrimp season is in full swing here in South Carolina.

I started by divided the recipe in half and making one chocolate while the other remained plain. Having made mille-feuilles many times here and having hosted a Daring Baker challenge including puff pastry, I was really happy that we had to do something else this time and it had been a long while since I had last made vols au vent.

Goat cheese and Shrimp

We go shrimping just about every other day lately and my freezer and fridge are bursting. Friends come over right now and leave with a couple of pounds of shrimp and a couple of vols au vent. The savory rounds were filled with soft fresh goat cheese whipped together with dill, lemon zest, salt and pepper then topped with a steamed shrimp and garnished with capers .and dill springs. So easy and so fresh! Makes me want to keep a dozen of these ready in the fridge at all time.

My brain is on chocolate and caramel lately so once the chocolate vols au vent were baked and cooled, I filled them with a salted caramel mousse. I know. I am so predictable. “Yep!” is all I have to say about that. With a huge smile on my face of course. These were just perfect. The bittersweet cocoa powder coming through from the pastry mixed with the sweet and creamy caramel….oh that was good!

Lemon Curd Mousse Vols Au Vent

I still had a lot of lemons (in frozen juice form by now) from that case that fell on my lap a couple of weeks ago and so I filled the plain vols au vent with a tart lemon curd mousse and topped them with kiwi, nectarine, and strawberries. A little burst of summer still since it won’t feel like Fall for a very long time around here.

I did play with the scraps of dough a bit and made what Bill called Tiramisu Pear Tarts. The chocolate puff pastry was rolled thin and topped with a mascarpone marsala filling and thin slices of pears. I have to say these go down way too easily with an after dinner espresso! Trust me, they are all gone.

Tiramisu Pear Tarts

It’s good when everything is a bit crazy to be able to rely on a technique that you have done many times but I did enjoy playing around this month. If you take care of your first two turns when making puff pastry, you are set to go. These are crucial. Make sure to keep your butter pliable. Firm and it will no roll and will tear into your dough. Too soft and it won’t layer as you fold but create pockets and puddles at the bottom of your oven. Once you get the first two turns, you can pretty much put your brain on cruise and keep on.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Vols Au Vent:

Notes: I will update with all the recipes for the fillings when I get back from BlogHer Food 2009.

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough
From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Notes: for the chocolate puff pastry, I just added 2 tablespoons to half the recipe for the regular puff pastry.

Ingredients:
2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter
plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:
Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.
Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)
Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:
Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.
Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.
To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:
Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).
With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.
Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:
If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.
The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent
Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent

In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need:
-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice
Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)
On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.
(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)
Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)
Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)
Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.
Fill and serve.
*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to "glue"). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.
*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.
*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).

Vanilla,Salted Butter Caramel and Chocolate Mousse And A Giveaway

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Thursday, September 24, 2009


Vanilla, Caramel & Chocolate Mousse

When I asked Bill what he would like me to prepare for him while I am gone for a few days, his answer was an unequivocal "Mousse please!". Yes, he is a softee and I know his mom spoiled him with homemade desserts pretty much all his life so his answer did not come as a surprise. I did prepare a few things to warm up after work during the five days I'll be gone but I know Bill. When I showed him where everything was in the fridge, his eyes immediately landed on these Vanilla, Salted Butter Caramel and Chocolate Mousses. And they were all the way in the back. Of course.

So where am I going for 5 days that he needs a fridge full of goodies? San Francisco! I am attending the 2009 BlogHer conference which will be held on Saturday. I am also one of the speakers at the conference! I am so psyched about this event for so many reasons. For starters just take a look at the program here. All these amazing bloggers giving of their experience and expertise, I am honored to be among them and hope to contribute as much as they are.

Then there are all these attendees that I will finely get to meet in person and finally hug silly until they call security because Tartelette is cutting their air supply from excitement! Friends kept tweeting they wanted to meet me, well I want to meet them just as much.


Making Mousse

Last May, I was supposed to join Bill on a working trip near Jen from Use Real Butter and we immediately made the plan that I'd stay with her a few days while he'd work. That plan fell through. We were both upset at the circumstances and she asked if I'd be coming to San Francisco for BlogHer. She was. Maybe we could meet up there. This summer has been financially sucky so we were pretty much tied down not going anywhere for a long time. She emailed back the same day and said in her usual ways "Damn it Helen! You're going! Here are Frequent Flyers miles we are not using and you are sharing a room with me. Get a conference ticket and we'll figure something out."

Yes. That is the kind of chick Jen is and I am proud to call her my friend. She rocks. Period.

Man! Those tickets were hotter than the best Nutella crepes on a street cart in Paris. They sold out before I could even log on the computer. So waitlist it was. Drats! Then my name got tossed in the hat for potential speaker and the wait began. Either a ticket would come open or I'd be a speaker in which case I would not need one. Nothing happened on either front for a very long time. Then, I finally scored a ticket and three days later got an email about being a speaker (in case you are wondering, that ticket went back in the ticket pool).


Vanilla, Caramel & Chocolate Mousse

So here we are...On Friday I get to squeeze silly one of the best gals I know and on Saturday I will be talking about "Your Blog is Great…now what? Letting your blog lead the way to new opportunity". I am honored, ecstatic and nervous all at once. Sharing this panel with Jaden and Amy gives the chance to see three different people with different opportunities, different paths and at different pit stops on their careers. I have no doubt this panel will be informative and fun. Did I say I was psyched already? Ok, ok....

Well, I am not done being psyched because my friend Anita from Married With Dinner extended an invite to stay with her a couple for a few days passed the conference and of course I jumped on it! Finally we get to hang out! We have plenty of fun things planned and I can't wait to tell you about it through pictures and emotions. There will be plenty of dinners, lunches and stories shared with friends and strangers and I hope to post a few fun shots while I am gone.

I know by now you must be pretty tired about me gushing about the next five days, so I will shut up and give you back some of the "good schtuff" I am lucky to experience everyday by hosting a little giveaway.

Aprons sample, for more colors and motifs, check The Hip Hostess website.

To win one of these adorable demi style aprons by The Hip Hostess (winner's choice) all you have to do is leave a comment on this post between Thursday September 24th and Sunday September 27th, midnight Eastern Time. My dear husband will draw the winner at random and I will put her/him in contact with The Hip Hostess to pick the preferred demi style apron. But that's not all! Deborah from The Hip Hostess generously offers all the readers of Tartelette a 15% discount on any order throughout October 15th 2009. Use the promo code TART (all caps) at check out. Very cool!

Enter Jen's to win an Ipod Nano and enter here to win a fabulous apron handmade by The Hip Hostess, so you can bake and groove in style. And no, we did not plan it, would not have worked, ahah!

Now you can understand why I loaded the fridge with tons of good things for Bill to eat while I am gone. I am sad he won't be able to walk around SF with me but I know he is not yet prepared for a room full of people saying "Oh my god it's you!" and hugging you every 5 minutes. He said mousse was just fine. Especially one that starts with a soft and silky Bavarian cream and combines delicious layers such as vanilla, salted butter caramel and chocolate...

Vanilla, Caramel & Chocolate Mousse

Vanilla, Salted Butter Caramel and Chocolate Mousse:

Serves 4 to 6 depending on the size of your ramekins

Notes: you want to prepare the caramel part of this triplr mousse first as it needs to cool down properly before being incorporated to the rest of the base.

For the caramel:
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2 tablespoons (30ml) water
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or fine sea salt
1/4 cup (60ml ) heavy cream
2 teaspoons (10gr) unsalted butter

For the chocolate:
4 oz (120gr) dark semisweet chocolate

For the vanilla mousse base:
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 gr) sugar
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean
1 Tb (7gr) powdered gelatin, sprinkled over 3 Tb water
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream

Prepare the caramel:Place the sugar and water in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to cook until caramel in color. Remove from the heat and add the salt, heavy cream and butter. Stir with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. Let cool to room temperature.

Prepare the chocolate:
In a medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate until smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

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

Assemble:
Add a couple of tablespoons of the base to the caramel to lighten it a bit and stir with a spoon. Gently fold the rest of the alloted mousse base into the caramel with a spatula.
Do the same for the chocolate portion.
Layer all three parts evenly into dishes or ramekins and refrigerate for an hour.

Double Chocolate And Pear Cakes

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Double Chocolate And Pear Cakes

When I look out the window, it is hard to imagine that Fall officially starts tomorrow. We have two seasons here more or less, Warm and Hot. Christmas celebrated in a summer dress, well, "it ain't fittin'. It jes' ain't fittin'" But there are signs that cannot be mistaken. Night falls earlier, the wind has finally picked up, the pecans are weighing the tree branches down. The light is now giving cold blue undertones, I put the diffuser back up in the studio, my shooting schedule has changed. Most importantly, the oven is buzzing with tarts, custards and cakes like these Double Chocolate And Pear Cakes, a gluten free adaptation of my mother's recipe.

I like spontaneity as much as I like certain family rituals. One that my folks have back home is to get together for tea time everyday around four or five o'clock. Even now that my grandmother is gone, my mother makes the same one yard walk to my grandfather's and continues the tradition. One of my fondest memories is always this moment shared around their dining room table right when it is getting darker outside and we cozy up around a slice of cake and a hot cup of tea and chat.

Getting Ready For Fall

As a kid, I'd sit quietly and listen to a mix of conversations ranging from politics and literature to the more basic questions of what to cook for the next family get together. As a teenager I started taking part by bringing treats of my own like madeleines and langues de chats. As an adult, every time I go home, I just sit quietly and listen, literally captivated by every word they say, every event or family member they talk about. I try to encapsulate those precious moments for the long strips of time I spent away from them.

Comes Fall when my "cozying-it-up" starts to kick in, I make this cake every weekend so that we can have tea and cake like they do back home. I have no idea where my mom got the original recipe, I just found several copies of it in different recipe tins around the house. I love it for the simple reason that you can make it your own with the flavor that you like. October might be cardamom and pistachios, November might give way to almond and vanilla while December might see some colorful candied fruits. Right now it's pears and chocolate.

After successfully adapting a chocolate tart recipe earlier this month to a gluten version, I thought my favorite cake would be next to become gluten free. The cake was not difficult to adapt using different flours and eggs and butter are there to help ingredients bind and raise properly. I mean, it's hard to mess things up when there are eggs and butter. I added cocoa powder and melted dark chocolate to the batter and topped each cake with slices of ripe pears. I knew the flours could lend a different, sandy texture to the finished cakes so I slightly underbaked them so they'd remain moist for a couple of days.

Double Chocolate And Pear Cakes

I purposely left out any kind of spice this time but I am thinking cardamom for the next cup of tea. I also want to try adapting this gorgeous Olive Oil Cake by Connie and these cute Nutella pound cakes by Dana. I can tell Fall is here...

Double Chocolate And Pear Cakes

Double Chocolate And Pear Cakes:

Makes five 3-inch cakes (I used these liners) or one loaf cake.

1 stick (113gr)unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
3 eggs
2 oz (60gr) semisweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
1/4 cup (60ml) buttermilk
1/3 cup (60gr) sweet rice flour
1/3 cup (60gr) sorghum flour (you could use amaranth or quinoa)
OR 1 cup (125gr) all purpose flour instead, if not going gluten free
3 tablespoons (15gr) cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 pear, ripe, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the center. Grease cupcake liners or a loaf pan and place them on a baking sheet. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs, one at a time, scarping the sides of the bowl in between each addition. Add the melted chocolate and beat until smooth. Add the buttermilk and beat, still on low, until incorporated. Add the flours, cocoa and baking powders and beat for 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and beat for a minute. Pour the mixture into your prepared pan(s) and place the slices of pears on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes for a loaf, 20-25 minutes for individual cakes. Check at the earliest baking time indicated as each oven runs differently and you want to keep the cake(s) moist inside.

Lemon Chamomile Pots De Creme & A Taste Of Yellow

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lemon Chamomille Pots de Creme

Yesterday morning, I stood in the middle of the kitchen trying to find something, anything yellow that I could bake with. I thought I was finally ahead of the game for a change with recipes, writing, pictures, yet I had this nagging feeling that I was forgetting something. I was mumbling "yellow, yellow, something yellow" pacing the kitchen, opening the fridge, the pantry. Bill looked at me, banana in hand and exclaimed "That's yellow!". Read this post and you will understand why I immediately protested: "Non pas encore des bananes. Y'en a marre des bananes!" (no, no more bananas. Enough with the bananas!) Lemons would be nice. Lemon Pots de Creme would even be nicer.

An hour later a baker friend stopped by with a small case of lemons. "Fell off the truck!" he said with a wink. I know it meant they had overstocked and they knew I'd find good use for them. "Oh yes! Yellow overstock! Please find a spot on my countertop" I thought while wringing my hands scheming. I did not have much time yesterday but I did not want to miss Barbara's event LiveStrong With A Taste of Yellow for anything. Barbara gives so much of her friendship and wisdom to all of us. It's all about giving back.

I could write paragraphs after paragraphs about people I know and love who are touched by cancer right now and people I have loved and lost to cancer but it would not do anybody any good. You know some, you love some. It hurts and it's ugly and it is not what Barbara or the event is about. For the past three years, Barbara has gathered food bloggers around the world to create a yellow dish in support of the Lance Armstrong Foundation to raise cancer awareness.

Lemon Chamomille Pots de Creme

Two years ago I went with an all mango dessert that was devoured by my husband two seconds after I had taken a picture and last year I made tropical verrines with peach macarons that were also devoured right after the pictures. This year I baked Lemon Chamomile Pots de Creme, and guess what happened? Well yes, 3 were gone before lunch! You can't leave two lemon heads like us around these and expect us to behave, not that we would have tried anyway.

"Pots de creme" are exactly that: little cups of creamy custard. Heavy cream, egg yolks, sugar. The rest is up to your imagination. I remember when my friend M. was undergoing chemo, she would often ask for a cup of tea with a lemon slice and some chamomille buds in there. As a tribute to her kicking cancer away for now, I added a small handful of chamomile buds with the cream and let it steep before mixing the cream with the rest of the ingredients and a serious dose of lemons. The result was soothing, tongue nipping and down right refreshing.

Lemon Chamomille Pots de Creme


Side note: a few people have emailed asking me how I keep my tablecloths so white even after putting crumbs or ice cream right on them. HA AH! Here is my little secret: I use wood. Large blocks of wood or 2x4s that I sand, stain and paint (sometimes dark) so all I have to do is take a sponge when I am done photographing. Unlike Martha Stewart, I don't find doing laundry and ironing that much of fun time. I have enough with the napkins and placemats I use!

Lemon Chamomile Pots de Creme:

Makes 4 to 6 depending on the size of your ramekins.

1 1/2 cups (375ml) heavy cream
2 tablespoons edible chamomille buds (found mine at health food store with bulk herbs and spices)
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
zest and juice of 2-3 lemons (you'll need 1/4 cup or 60ml of juice)
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 325F and position a rack in the center. Place your ramekins in a heavy deep pan and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream and the chamomile to a simmer. Turn the heat off and let the chamomile steep in the cream while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until pale yellow. Add the lemon juice and salt and whisk until smooth.
Strain the heavy cream and discard the chamomile. Slowly pour the heavy cream over the egg yolk mixture, whisking well. Let stand for a couple of minutes to let any foam rise to the top, skim it off and divide the mixture among your ramekins. Pour hot water inside the pan, making sure the water comes at least halfway up the sides of your dishes. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

Banana Doughnuts With Dried Banana "Streusel"

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Banana Doughnuts

Before I tell you all about these delicious Banana Doughnuts, I must announce the winner of the giveaway: "minisuperbias" won "Confections Of A Closet Master Baker" by Gesine Bullock-Prado. Congratulations! Please, email me your mailing address at mytartelette{at}gmail{dot}com and I will get the book in the mail pronto.

Back to the doughnuts. They pretty much made everybody swoon. Granted we did not share but with one neighbor so we can't really say for sure but we have the feeling they would make people do just that. Or sigh heavily in approval. I did and that is no small feat given my general dislike of bananas. Yes. The only reason why I even buy bananas is because Bill can't live without.

We are very territorial about our fruits, I have noticed, and have clear favorites. However, he can rest assured that I'll never have a midnight craving for "la banane". At a rate of a banana a day for him, I tend to buy a bunch for the week to be on the safe side. Well, last week I found myself with 22 of them in the house. Ugh! I got 8, he stopped by the store on his way home and got 8 (hello! He never goes grocery shopping!) and his mother brought 6 huge ones (were on sale - bought too much - dumped them on me). My least favorite fruit! I had to come up with a plan.

Banana Doughnuts

I started with an easy and quick dessert, bananas foster. Ok, down to 21. Then we had banana bread. 19. "Mon cheri, eat one please. Right now!". 18. I'm never going to see the end of this, I thought. Oh yes! Skewer 2 more on lollipop sticks, freeze, coat with melted chocolate and eat. 16. Banana sorbet. 14. Can I start breathing again now. Not yet?

At 14 left, I threw my arms up in the air and said "Mon cheri (I promise, start every request with this or"mon amour" works every time), give me some ideas because this is becoming boring." He pondered this for a minute and asked if they could find their way into a doughnut. At this point, I would have come up with anything to get rid of more so "Yes! Brilliant!"...

After tweaking my recipes to make sure I had the right ratio of dry to wet ingredients, I was still down only two more bananas, unless I was ready to make more and stand at the stove frying the entire evening, feeding our neighborhood and the one next to it. I remember Bill mentioning he liked those little streusel pieces on top of certain doughnuts and that's when the idea of topping the doughnuts with chopped dried bananas came to my mind. Wow! It really made things come together!

Doughnut & Bananas

The banana flavor in the dough is very subtle and the fruit acts more as a moisture agent than a flavoring. The dried bananas really made it for us. Their smell alone is enough to reconcile me with them. After an hour of drying time, I opened the oven door and did not close it for a few seconds. I was almost paralyzed by the whiff of caramelizing bananas hitting my nose! Amazing! I could eat home dried bananas everyday. Natural chewy candy that makes the house smell absolutely wonderful.

We were then at 11 bananas left. A lot more manageable here, especially if he doubled up on the daily intake!

Banana Doughnuts


Banana Doughnuts

Makes about 24

For the doughnuts:
3 to 3 1/2 cups (440gr) all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons (12gr) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2gr) baking soda
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup honey
2 small bananas, mashed
1/4 cup (55gr) sour cream
canola oil for frying.

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk

For the dried bananas: (best prepared the day before or while the dough is resting)
1 small banana

Prepare the dough:
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt twice and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the eggs and honey for one minute at medium speed, until light and airy. Add the bananas and sour cream and beat until well incorporated. Turn the speed down to low and add the dry ingredients (little by little). The dough will be soft. Transfer to a medium bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
On a well floured board or countertop, roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut rounds either with a 3-inch doughnut cutter or use a 3-inch cookie cutter and a 1-inch small cutter to make the holes in the middle. Reroll the scraps as you go. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes if it starts getting tough as you reroll and cut, to relax the gluten.
In a large cast iron skilet, heat enough oil (2 inches deep or so) to 325F and fry the doughnuts 3 to 4 at a time, 1 to 2 minutes on each side, turning them once. Do not over crowd your skillet or it will drop the temperature of the oil and you will end up with soggy doughnuts. Drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

For the glaze:
In a medium bowl, sift the powdered sugar. Add the milk and whisk until smooth.
Dip the doughnuts into the glaze and let drip on a wire rack set over a piece of parchment paper

For the dried bananas:

Line a baking sheet with either a silicone mat or a piece of parchment paper.
Preheat the oven at 250F and position a rack in the middle.
Slice the bananas in 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick and place them on the baking sheet. Let the banana slices dry in the oven for 2 hours. Let cool. Chop in small pieces.
Scatter the chopped banana slices over the doughnuts after the glaze is applied but before it is completely set so they have time to stick.

Muscovado Date Cake With Maple Sugar Buttercream And A Giveaway

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Muscovado Date Cake With Maple Sugar Buttercream

Baking for Bill is easy. It's actually very enjoyable. He likes everything. He is willing to try it all. He is also very much like an 8 year-old when I bake. He comes to the kitchen five times for the same imaginary glass of water. Goes back to his study with a banana. Comes back to the kitchen to dispose of the banana peel. Sixth imaginary glass of water. You get the idea. I love it. I also love that when I stacked the last layer of this cake, the first words that came out of his mouth were "Oh wow! That cake is huge! Yeah!!" Yes, The New England Cake, is indeed humongous and delicious.

I would not make a cake of this stature on the spur of the moment, just for us and two cups of tea. This is a Reunion Cake, a Birthday Dinner With Friends Cake, a Celebration Cake, a Date Cake! No really, I mean it. It is literally a lovely brown sugar cake filled with dates and iced with maple sugar buttercream. Trust me, you could make this for a first date and end up with a second. And a third.

Muscovado Date Cake With Maple Sugar Buttercream

There were a couple of reasons for this cake to start taking over the kitchen countertop. A family reunion and a book club. The reunion was as typical as can be: tiresome, crazy, at times scary but ultimately fun. Basically, no reason to elaborate on that but to focus on the book club instead. The Edible Word started last year under the initiative of Cath from A Blithe Palate and Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness. I had such a good time doing it that I said yes for this year's book, "Confections Of A Closet Master Baker" by Gesine Bullock-Prado, a non fiction memoir. I am just a couple of days behind the deadline but I blame it on this cake. And the reunion.

Confections Of A Closet Master Baker traces Gesine's journey as a Hollywood executive who finds her true calling in baking and decides to pursue her passion by moving to Vermont and opening a bakery in the small town of Montpelier. I devoured the book, all pun intended. So many emotions, "coups de coeur" and fun truths. Her passion is the air she breathed. You can bet I found myself in many of Gesine's mornings, getting to the bakery at the crack of dawn, leaving after everybody else and never questioning getting to do it all over again the next day.

Muscovado Date Cake With Maple Sugar Buttercream

I also fell in love with Gesine, her writing style and her voice. Fun, honest, visual. Writing is definitely her other talent. She is a cool chick. Each chapter of the book ends on a sweet note with one of her recipes. I had plenty to choose from: Carrot Cake, Plum Tart, Espresso Cheesecake, cream scones, and the list goes on. I went with The New England purely out of necessity. I was given very short notice to bring another dessert and not much time to shop so I did have to match my pantry to one of the recipes in the book.

I did make a couple of changes to her original recipe. The cake calls for brown sugar and I substituted half the amount with muscovado sugar which gave it an even deeper brown sugar flavor and kept the cake ultra moist, even days later. The frosting is a wonderful maple sugar Swiss meringue that would also go very well with any other darker cakes. I did make the executive decision to leave it un-buttercreamed on the outside. I had this vision of the cake growing and growing the more I was spatulating the inner layers. It was also starting to be pretty hefty and I had to travel with this cake. Honestly, it was quite perfect as it was. Impressive and delicious, filled with dried dates and a soft hint of molasses and maple sugar.


Due to copyright restrictions I am not at liberty to post the recipe (although I have stumbled upon a few close recipes with a quick Google search) but trust me, this cake is worth getting the book alone. Wait! Wait! What I do have is one extra, brand new copy to give away to one lucky reader. If I could I'd add a slice of the New England cake with it but I am afraid it won't work with the post office policies.

To enter the giveaway:
- leave a comment between Thursday September 10th 2009 and Sunday September 13th 2009 (midnight Eastern time)
- One entry per reader.
- no anonymous comment will be taken into consideration. Sign Zorro or X if you must.
- the giveaway is open to all. I'll ship anywhere in the world.
- the winner will be randomly picked by asking Bill to call out a number from all the entries received.

If you happen to know or have a link to a great date cake recipe, feel free to leave it in the comment. I know I am ready to try more!

You can follow Gesine on her blog, Confections Of A (Closet) Master Baker filled with humorous stories, tempting recipes and videos and on Twitter.

Chocolate Truffle Tarts

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Chocolate Trufle Tarts

Hanging out on Twitter late at night when I can't seem to figure out where sleep went has very very good outcomes. I get to talk to my favorite people as if they were just a few feet away and beside geeking out with Jen, ZenChef and Mark, I also get to talk gluten free with Shauna of Gluten Free Girl . I love the way she is gently coaxing me to push my own boundaries. These Chocolate Truffle Tarts for example are the pure result of an idea that Shauna unkowingly planted in my head one late night.

When we are having large gatherings of friends and family like this weekend, I always try to accomodate everyone's needs, especially when it comes to gluten free and low salt recipes since they directly affect me too. After weeks spent reading about my diagnosis last year and ways to eleviate the symptoms, I realized that a gluten free diet could help a lot with genetic diseases and there was not much around as far as treatments were concerned. Our diet is 90% gf to start with except when it comes to pastries. Even there, I take a small portion and ship the rest to the neighbors, family or friends.

I admit, beside the obvious desserts like macarons, ice creams, panna cottas and financiers, I rarely practice my gluten free flours to the most of their ability. I should, I know it. I clearly see a difference when I keep the salt and gluten under wrap. The attacks are far less and few in between, the strength a bit less violent and I recover faster from feeling on a rollercoaster for a couple of hours. Trust me, it's not only "not fun", it's rather debilitating when you are in the middle of work. And who likes to feel like they are on a plane 24/7 from the ringing and pressure?

Chocolate Trufle Tarts

Thus, hanging out on Twitter and chatting with people like Shauna gives me the necessary push to try making more gluten free desserts. I have played with gf mixes in the past and often ended up with a brick to cut or cement to chew. I knew it was my lack of practice, and time to persue the issue because there are millions (the gf Daring Bakers for a start) eating gf pastries that not only look good but taste great. I mean, just give a look at this pie!

I had the perfect oppportunity this weekend to tackle a gluten free dessert once again. There are full blown celiacs in our family and then there's me, who does not have the usual stomach reactions but who could benefit from a little tightening of the regimen here and there. I had just the ticket with Chocolate Truffle Tarts and since the filling is already gf, the only thing I'd have to work on was the chocolate crust. I put one of Shauna's recipes side by side with mine and went about tweaking.

Oh happy happy me! The result was exactly like the original. A crisp, deep chocolate flavored crust, filled with an amazing truffle like chocolate filling and topped with a rich chocolate ganache. If I had been looking for my chocolate cravings to be back all these weeks, well....I was surely not looking anymore with these. Decadent and rich without being heavy or coyingly sweet. My kind of chocolate heaven!

Chocolate Trufle Tarts

While I don't think about turning this blog into a complete gluten free one, and developing the gf recipes I want to make demands more than I can handle right now, I am looking forward to finding the right balance for you readers and us here at home. I can cheat about 10% and feel fine but I know I am also tempting my symptoms and playing with the good days. These tarts were the perfect place to start. Not a crumb was left on anybody's plates.

Chocolate Truffle Tarts:

Makes eight 4-inch tarts

Note: There are many gluten free flours out there that would work with this crust and I just used what I had available in the pantry. Here is a list of gluten free flours from which you can get inspired to try your own concoctions. For a non gf crust, use 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour instead of the 3 gf flours

For the chocolate crust: (adapted from Shauna's pie crust recipe)
1 stick (113gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (60gr) unsifted powdered sugar
3 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 cup (160gr) white rice flour
1/4 cup (30gr) amaranth flour (you could use sorghum flour)
1/4 (40gr) potato starch
1/4 cup (20gr) unsweetened cocoa powder


For the chocolate truffle filling:
8 ounces (240gr) bittersweet chocolate
12 tablespoons (170gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 (50gr)cup sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) strong brewed coffee
4 large eggs

For the chocolate ganache:
4 ounces (120gr) bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Prepare the crust:
In a mixer, whip together the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and pinch of salt and mix until incorporated. Add the three different flours and cocoa pwder and mix briefly. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured (use more rice flour) board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Do not work the dough while in the mixer or it will toughen it up. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center. Place eight tart rings on a parchment lined baking sheet and set aside.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between two sheets of plastic. Cut out eight 6-inch-rounds into the dough and fit them into eight 4-inch tart rings. If the dough tears while you roll or/and transfer into the rings, just patch it with your fingertips. Line the dough with pieces of parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dy beans and par bake for 10 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment paper. Keep the oven at 350F.

Prepare the filling:
Place the chocolate in a medium bowland set aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the butter, sugar, and coffee together to a boil over medium. Pour the mixture over the chocolate and leave it undisturbed for 2-3 minutes. Gently whisk until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time whisking quickly until the mixture is smooth. Divide the batter evenly among the tart shells and bake for 10 minutes.
Let cool completely.

Prepare the chocolate ganache:
Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a gentle boil. Pour it over the chocolate and let sit for 2-3 minutes. Whisk until smooth and incorporate the butter at the same time until the ganache is completely smooth. Divide evenly on top of the tarts and snooth out with an offset spatula. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Matcha And Peach Pate de Fruit Macarons

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Matcha & Peach Pate de Fruit Macarons

When Spring and Summer roll around, I think in shades of pinks and reds. When Fall and Winter point their nose, I am all about the blues and the purples. Greens are oranges are not my colors. Nope. And yet, the first thing I thought about with the first sign of cooler mornings and breezy nights were Matcha and Peach Pate de Fruits Macarons. Enjoying the last bit of summer produce while cozying up to the subtle taste of matcha tea.

Lately, the mere mention of tea evocates long talks on the porch and a light chill on a late night walk. You can feel the air changing. I can finally feel some coolness under my feet when I let the dogs out early in the morning. I can almost hear the grass crisp up as we come down, ready for us. These first few days of September have really been quite Fall-ish and are probably temporary due a hurricane being just around the corner. Nevertheless, every time this lovely Fall breeze enters the house, we just stop whatever we are doing and enjoy for a few seconds. Even if it is short lived it is worth those few seconds in the day.

Matcha & Peach Pate de Fruit Macarons

When I went to teach Veronica a three dayPastry Bootcamp, she not only gifted me with her hospitality and friendship, but with also a few stashes of vanilla beans, some saffron and a brand new can of the matcha she preferred to use in her macarons. I can see why. From the can to the finish product I could taste and smell the wonderful grassy properties of matcha. If you have never had it before, you might go "wow! what is that?" but trust me it grows on you real fast. It's unpretentious and absolutely delicious in pastry.

I know that our Southern peaches are near their end and I have been stocking, preserving and canning as many of them as I could. This season has been particularly prolific and tasty and as much as it pains me to say goodbye to stone fruits I am happily getting my taste buds ready for pears, pomegranates, apples and pumpkins. Each season is a new palette. Even if it makes me paint in greens and orange which I am so-so about! One thing I have made a couple of times recently is peach pate de fruits. It keeps well, makes great little gifts for my students and is just plain good when the fruits are ripe.

So...in my usual ways, peach in one hand and matcha macarons in the other, I decided to marry the two together in one little perfect bite, mending the bridge between Summer leaving and Fall approaching. Alright, so I was helped by a little mascarpone and vanilla cream in the middle. I had no idea that peach and matcha would be that delicious together. They are. I am making more this weekend!

Peaches

On a side note, I know that Caitlin and Y are going to be disappointed that I did not do a talking picture post as we joked about while Twittering one night. I was starting to crack up looking at some of the shots and started playing around with captions. Here are some of the outakes for the macarons "beauty" shoot.

One more little thing though before the recipe. There are people you want to meet and there are people you want to meet, eat and laugh with and learn from. For me, Tish Boyle is one of those people. I remember the morning I opened my emails and found one with her name as the sender. I did not click for a few seconds. Really. I turned to Bill and said "if this is not a joke, she emailed me" pointing at one book I love and that she co-authored, Chocolate Passion. I carefully clicked and held my breath. I turned to Bill with the biggest smile ever and said "Tish Boyle wants me!". And we both laughed. Or I snorted my coffee. I can't quite remember. She wanted an interview for the print magazine Desserts Professional, alongside David Lebovitz and Michael Laiskonis. Without hesitation, I emailed back "Yes!" before adding "I love your work". When she responded "I'm honored you even know who I am", I fell in love with her even more, if that was possible. Ugh, hello! I am supposed to say that! Thank you Tish, I am honored beyond belief to be in such good company in a wonderful magazine. You can check the article in their August issue.

Matcha And Peach Pate de Fruits Macarons:

Notes:
Use eggs that have been preferably aged 3-5 days in the fridge. Pierre Herme uses eggs that are aged until they are almost like water, about 5 days. If it's good for Pierre, it'd good for me! The humidity, folding, aging of the eggs (the macs here were made with fresh whites) will affect the outcome. It's all a balancing act of chemistry and action.


For the shells:
90 gr egg whites (30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds
1 tablespoon matcha powder

For the pate de fruits:
Notes: I use Certo liquid pectin so I can't vouch for how others might behave. I use a large stainless steel pot so the evaporation and cooking could happen faster.
For a superb pectin free recipe, follow this recipe posted by the awesome Anita from Married with Dinner.


13 oz (380gr) peach puree (weight after you remove skin, pits and processed)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups (400gr) sugar, divided
3-4 tablespoons liquid pectin

For the mascarpone - vanilla cream:
8 oz (210gr) mascarpone, at room temperature (or substitute cream cheese)
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
or 1/2 vanilla bean, seeded
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Prepare the macarons:
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry. Place the powdered sugar, almonds and matcha in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add them to the meringue along with some food coloring if using, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. 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 or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 280F. When ready, bake for 15 to 20 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.


Prepare the pate de fruits:
Line a 8x8-inch pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Plce the peach puree in a heavy saucepan and add the lemon juice. Stir in 1/2 cup (100gr) saugar and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and cook until its temperature register 113F, stirring constantly. Add the remaining 1.5 cups (300gr) sugar and the pectin to the pot and slowly bring the mixture to 200F, still over medium high heat while stirring constantly. Turn the heat down a bit and keep the mixture at 200F for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the heat back up and slowly bring the mixture to 223F. Keep it there for an additional 2-3 minutes (turn the heat down if necessary to do so). Remove from the heat and immediately pour the mixture into your pan lined with parchment paper. Let set for a couple of hours. Cut shapes with a sharp knife and roll the pieces of pate de fruit in sugar. Refrigerate if not eating all of them at once.

Prepare the mascarpone-vanille cream:
In a large bowl, whisk together the mascarpone and sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla and the heavy cream and whisk until all the ingredients are incoporated. Place the mixture in a piping bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe a dollop of cream onto half of the macarons. Top with a square of pate de fruits and another macaron shell.

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