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Jahresarchive: 2007

White Chocolate Pots De Creme And Hibiscus Flowers

Nothing much going on in the kitchen right now as my work life as taken a somewhat unexpected turn. Well, ok, I knew changes were coming, I was not sure of the timing so it’s been a pretty stressful week to say the least. I did fulfill the orders I had for cakes and other desserts but that’s about it. What I did find time to do was those little ramequins of white chocolate pots de creme (cream pots, literally) adorned with dried hibiscus flowers.

When I visited Lisa a couple of weeks ago, I asked her (ok, begged) to take me back to Sur La Table and Trader Joe’s to get the few things I had noticed from my previous trip there. Among the items I was coveting were those little ramequins (about 3 inches long and 1.5 inch wide) and dried sweetened hibiscus flowers. Why? Because both were pretty ad would photograph well, and I was curious to the taste of the dried fruit. B, brought back a large supply of the dried buds to make tea from a previous trip to Egypt and I fell in love with the deep red/pink color as well as its slight tart taste. Turns out the flowers taste just like dried cranberries….yum!
For more elaborated posts (and because no one tells a story like Lisa) about Mary's and my trip, go to Lisa’s blog where you will get the full report of our adventures.

One evening last weekend, while we had company over ( and boy, did we have fun), I was craving the comfort of white chocolate. Yes, I admit it, and chocolate purists can throw a stone at me, I like white chocolate. Can’t stand to eat it on its own, but I love incorporating it into desserts. The guys had plenty to munch on, brownies, cake….but I needed white chocolate…I needed soft and creamy and I needed a perk of flavor and tartness. So while the boys were grilling, I started the creams and by the time we were getting cozy on the patio with coffee, the creams were ready! While a little on the rich side, the ramequins are small enough to provide the perfect 4 bites serving. Wait until serving time to set the dried hibiscus flowers on top or they will start to bleed after a couple of days in the fridge. The verdict? Well, we fought over the last one…that should tell you something!

White Chocolate Pots de Creme, adapted from Death by Chocolate, by Marcel Desaulniers:

1 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup whole milk

12 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped

6 egg yolks

Combine the cream and milk in a heavy bottom, 2 quart saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Bring the water in a double boiler to a simmer. Place the chocolate in the top half and stir with a rubber spatula until melted. Whisk the egg yolks into the melted chocolate. Slowly pour the boiling cream mixture into the chocolate, whisking constantly. Bring to a temperature of 160 degrees, about 3 1/2 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a stainless steel bowl. Cool in an ice bath, stirring constantly with a wire whisk to a temperature of 90 degrees F., about 4 to 5 minutes. Evenly divide the mixture into 8 small pot de creme forms or glass custard cups. Cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours to set before serving.

Bostini Cream Pie: The Daring Bakers Take A Classic For Spin

I can’t believe it has already been a month since our last Daring Bakers' challenge, and once again I had such a good time getting this one done. I got the greatest opportunity of all by making it in my kitchen with my mom beside me….It is quite special since we don’t get to cook or bake together much often since I left France. Mom laughed when we were done putting it together because she felt she was not doing much. Since I move rather fast and I know where all my utensils are, I get around quicker but I really appreciated the help she provided by handing me the ingredients, weighing everything, washing the dishes and most of all being there with me in the same room, chatting about nothing and everything at once. I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved the moments spent reminiscing about my grandmother or her teaching me how to make my first dough or chocolate mousse.

Mary, from my Alpineberry (one of my first blog reads) and our host for October chose a recipe that took a classic looking Boston Cream Pie and turned it into a completely 100% deliciously buttery and creamy: a Bostini Cream Pie. Eggs a plenty, heavy cream flowing like a river…everything to make your Tartelette a happy gal! Working with that many eggs, can be daunting for new cooks and bakers but remember to temper your egg yolks for the custard (adding some hot liquid to them so they get acclimated to the temperature rise) and folding in 2 or 3 times the egg whites for the sponge. Once to thin out the cake mixture thus making more susceptible to the texture change when you incorporate the rest of the whites. Eggs are fussy but when you get the basics, they really are just as sweet as the cake they make.

This Bostini Cream Pie is a soft orange chiffon sponge set on a pool of vanilla flavored custard and covered with a buttery dark chocolate glaze. I am thankful that Mary allowed us to change the cake flavor while keeping it light colored. I immediately went for coconut water. I have become addicted to this over the summer as it was the only thing I could put in my stomach before and after an outdoor run in the morning. The chiffon sponge turned out beautiful and this is by far the best recipe I have used for chiffons and believe me I have gone through many a recipe for that airy, soft not mushy texture. Beside its health benefits, it is colorless, has a nice toasty coconut flavor that get very mellow while bakes, which gave plenty of space for the custard to shine through. And what a custard! I rarely make custard sauce with that many egg yolks or rich heavy cream, and now I know why….there was barely enough for the dinner time plating!! I used vanilla paste, since all my vanilla beans are flavoring my vodka to make extract and oh my god….B. had to hide the bowl away from me and mom!! The custard was quite thick enough that I was able to plate a cake round (3 inches) on top of the custard set in a pastry ring and refrigerated it, unmolded and had a short time to photograph it before it fell apart in contact with my spoon. The part I liked the least was the chocolate glaze, equal parts chocolate and butter and that was a little too much butter for me..oh I can’t believe I just wrote that but it was. I would have preferred a light ganache, but I have had Boston Cream Pies before that featured both styles so I guess I could "push" myself t eat them anyway (ahahahaha… "push", eheheh!!)

I am also thankful to Mary for giving us creative license with the plating of the Bostini. The first night with my parents I used a cookie cutter and cut out 3-4 inches circles out of the sponge (baked in a 9×13 inch pan). The remaining servings were set in different sized and shaped glasses to be taken to a dinner party down the street. When I make the recipe again, and notice I did not say "when", I will halve it if it is for us or a small dinner party or keep it the same if I know I have more than a dozen guests (if I use 3 inches diameter cookie cutters again)

Bostini Cream Pie
(from Donna Scala & Kurtis Baguley of Bistro Don Giovanni and Scala’s Bistro)
Makes 8 generous servings



3/4 cup whole milk
2 3/4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 whole egg, beaten
9 egg yolks, beaten
3 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean ( I used 1 tsp. vanilla bean)
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar

Chiffon Cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 1/3 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup beaten egg yolks (3 to 4 yolks)
3/4 cup fresh orange juice (I used coconut water)
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup egg whites (about 8 large)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Chocolate Glaze

8 ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces unsalted butter

To prepare the custard:

Combine the milk and cornstarch in a bowl; blend until smooth. Whisk in the whole egg and yolks, beating until smooth. Combine the cream, vanilla bean and sugar in a saucepan and carefully bring to a boil. When the mixture just boils, whisk a ladleful into the egg mixture to temper it, then whisk this back into the cream mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain the custard and pour into 8 large custard cups. Refrigerate to chill.

To prepare the chiffon cakes:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray 8 molds with nonstick cooking spray. You may use 7-ounce custard cups, ovenproof wide mugs or even large foil cups. Whatever you use should be the same size as the custard cups.
Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, zest and vanilla. Stir until smooth, but do not overbeat.

Beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten whites into the orange batter. Fill the sprayed molds nearly to the top with the batter.
Bake approximately 25 minutes, until the cakes bounce back when lightly pressed with your fingertip. Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. When completely cool, remove the cakes from the molds. Cover the cakes to keep them moist.

To prepare the glaze:
Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Place the butter in a saucepan and heat until it is just about to bubble. Remove from the heat; add the chocolate and stir to melt. Pour through a strainer and keep warm.

To assemble:
Cut a thin slice from the top of each cake to create a flat surface. Place a cake flat-side down on top of each custard. Cover the tops with warm chocolate glaze. Serve immediately.

Or layer the custard, cake and glaze in glasses or cups.

Waiter There Is Something In My…Butterscotch Mascarpone Cream Layer Cake!

It seems like an eternity since I have participated in a WTSIM event, and that is not for lack of ideas, recipes or just plain desire to get in the kitchen and cook, but pure and simple lack of time. Oh sure, there are lots of baking going on in the house, but with all the visitors we have had lately I rely on tried and true, easy to come together desserts, most of which have already been published here…except this one Butterscotch Mascarpone Cream Cake…..And it has been a long time coming believe me!

Let’s see if I can make a long story short about that one (can I do that?!)…When I first visited Lisa last July, she had received a an issue from the magazine Wicked, a special publication from The Australian Women’s Weekly dedicated to pastries and sweets. I remember looking at every recipe and drooling over them and the pictures. Her printer had a little malfunction that time, believe me it was all my fault, I just have to stare at anything plugged or battery operated for it to break down,….anyway, life took over and we both forgot about the pages I had marked in the magazine. This time around though, I went ahead and copied them by hand. I always do that, not that I don’t trust the machine, but over the years I have developed my own recipe writing pattern, especially if I am at someone’s house or the library and have minimal space to write them on. Back home this week, I quickly flipped my notebook to the Butterscotch Cake recipe..what’s not to love in caramel, mascarpone and tender flaky cake? Nothing, trust me!!

I thought it was also a tasty cake to add to Waiter There Is Something In My ….Layered Cakes, hosted this month by Andrew from Spittoon Extra

Butterscotch Mascarpone Cream Layer Cake:

Serves 10-12

For the Cake:
250 gr. butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 Tb. honey
1 1/4 self rising flour (I used 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour and 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder)
1/2 cup milk

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at time. Add the honey and flour. Add the milk slowly and mi until combined. Pour into 2 8-inch cake pans and bake at 350F for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool and unmold. Cut each cake in half.

For the Mascarpone Cream:
250 gr. mascarpone, at room temperature
300 ml. heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Whip the heavy cream and sugar to soft peaks. Fold it into the mascarpone and spread 1/4 on one cake layer, repeat with all the cake layers, finishing with the cream on top.

For the Butterscotch Sauce:
60 gr. butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Heat the butter, sugar and milk until dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the powdered sugar, stir until smooth.

Apple Beignets And Cheesecake Ice Cream

Waking up this morning after getting in town late last night I really wished I had saved a couple of these beignets to pan fry and have along with my coffee….But no I was too greedy as they were made last week and eaten right before I went to spend the weekend at Lisa’s house with Mary. My original intention was to post them for Sugar High Friday, hosted this month by Andrew. I believe I am a day late but I will send him my entry nonetheless and see if he accepts it.

It is good to be home, sleep next to my husband and waking up with my dog curling with me on the bed. I have a lot to tell you about this past weekend. So many emotions, laughs, good times, foods and desserts to think over and straighten in my head before I can write more about it all. What can I say…there was cheese, wine, markets, ethnic foods, homemade bread, benne seed wafers, pecan sandies, a giant German chocolate cake, Trader Joes, Sur La Table (aka "On The Table") and Crate and Barrel. We did a lot, drank a lot, baked a lot. My heart, eyes and head are still full of all the precious time I have had with Lisa and Mary. So stay tuned for a more detailed account….one more guest arriving tomorrow and then I regain my sanity back (we hope!)

Back to the apple beignets…Ever since I was a child, I have been in love with them convincing myself that the frying oil effects were completely negated by the healthy aspect of the fruit..hummhumm. I went for a more grown up version this time, using the same method I had tried before (here) adapting it for apples. The fruit is first dipped in a light batter then coated with Panko breadcrumbs and then fried. You could deep fry the beignets but I did mine in a cast iron pan with about 2 inches of oil heated to 350F. The ice cream is once again nothing new, but a flavor I try to keep around as much as possible because we seem to go through it like crazy.
The result exactly what I had hoped for, a childhood favorite adapted for my grown up palate as there is alcohol in the batter. Serve as soon as they come out of the frying pan, with a glass of cider and you’re set!

Apple Beignets, adapted from Richard Leach:

2 Tb light brown sugar mixed with 2 Tb. granulated sugar
1/2 cup + 2 Tb flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup cider (the alcohol based one)
4 apples
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for frying

Preheat oven to 275F.Core the apples (do not peel) and cut them in half. Sprinkle with the sugar mix and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool.
Heat oil to 350F.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder add water in a bowl until smooth. Dip apple halves in beignet batter. Roll in breadcrumbs. Deep fry until golden brown.

Cheesecake Ice Cream, adapted from this post:

2 cups milk (50 cl)
1/3 cup heavy cream (10 cl)
3/4 cup sugar (170 gr)2 egg yolks
3 oz cream cheese (90gr)

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

Apricot Couronne – World Bread Day

Apricot Couronne
Just like my baking partner in crime, Peabody (who is packing and moving right now), I am not posting as much as I would like to and let alone comment on other people’s blogs but the past few months have been rich with life and full of good times and family moments that have kept me away and scrambling for time to come here and post. Not, that I haven’t been baking! First there was my goddaughter Sophie during August, then a brief escapade to the beach and then my parents arrived. This Thursday I will be flying to my favorite home away from home and walking the markets and baking up a storm with another favorite lady of mine. That’s right folks, Lisa and I are at it again, but this time we have Mary to add fuel to the fire! I "need" a little weekend away! When I come back next week, we have another friend staying with us for a week….so you can imagine than my posts will be sparse…but I promise a filled November…how’s that?

I could not leave for my little escapade without celebrating World Bread Day, hosted again by the wonderful and talented Zorra from Kochtopf. Last WBD was a huge success and the After Party was a blast also. I know this is last minute, but this will give you the general mood of things around here at Casa Tartelette for the past few months and the coming weeks….rush…rush…rush… Except that for this bread, ain’t nothing but waiting, and being rewarded with the sweetest scent of yeasted apricot dough on a chilly morning (allright everything was there but the chilly part this morning). I know it’s last minute to post about World Bread Day, but trust me we have been celebrating by nibbling on this all day long!

The recipe is from one of my favorite break baker, the super talented Paul Hollywood. I first caught a glimpse of his talent during an interview on the French food network years ago and I fell in love with his simple and down to earth demeanour. I started collecting some of his recipes and was delighted to find a library of his tv show on the UK food network. Some recipes also have videos to go along and it becomes quite entertaining to listen to him while you bake. I bookmarked his recipe for Apricot Couronne at least a couple of years ago and it took me all this time to finally make it. Boy! Did I miss on something good for a long time! This bread is easy to make, the dough is soft and stretchable at will and the scent as you cut into it and serve it with a hot cup of tea is just …perfect. Makes me want to have a never ending supply of apricots and yeast to make this everyday! I made a a few change to it by substituting dried cherries for the raisins, adding orange marmelade inside with the filling instead of using it for a glaze. Don’t be scared by the cutting through of the roll and twisting of the dough, there is really nothing to it if you just dive in (Look at the video and you will see what I am talking about).

Apricot Couronne Apricot Couronne, adapted from Paul Hollywood.

For the dough
250g strong white flour
5g salt
50g butter, softened
120ml warm milk
12g fresh yeast or 7g dried (one packet)
1 egg, beaten

For the filling
120g dried apricots
150ml orange juice
90g butter
70g light brown sugar
35g plain flour
60g dried cherries
65g chopped walnuts
50g apricot jam

1. Prepare the filling. Place the apricots and orange juice in a bowl and set aside to marinate for a couple of hours.
2. To make the dough, place the strong white flour, salt, butter, warm milk, yeast and egg in a mixing bowl. If using dried yeast, dissolve in the warm milk first, let stand 10 minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients.
3. Mix well together to form a dough.
4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 6 minutes.
5. Return the dough to a clean mixing bowl and set aside to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
6. While the dough is rising, drain the marinated apricots.
7. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Mix in the drained apricots, flour, dried cherries, and walnuts.
8. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough into a rectangle, approximately 25 x 33cm.
9. Spread the apricot mixture evenly over the dough rectangle. Spread the orange marmelade over it.
10. Roll up the rectangle tightly until it resembles a Swiss roll. Roll it slightly then cut lengthways along the dough and plait the 2 dough lengths together.
11. Place the dough plait on a lined baking sheet and set aside to rise for 1 hour.
12. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400F
13. Bake for 25 minutes until risen and golden. Set it aside to cool.

Pumpkin Praline Tartelettes With Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Today, it actually felt like Fall for the first time. There was a little chill in the air this morning as we left for work, and we actually had to wear a little cardigan this evening while watching the sunset. The kind of weather that makes me very, very happy… I have been impatiently awaiting a good reason to make fall favorites such as pumpkins, cranberries, pomegranates and so forth. It is rather unusual to pop by the neighbors' house on a hot humid day with pumpkin praline pies and have they exclaimed "yeah, we had been craving those!". I tend to bring more fruit filled desserts or frozen ones. However, when I walked up the stairs to the twins' house with a small box of these tartelettes, I knew everybody had fall on their mind and a little place for them. C. opened the box while we were chatting on the steps and before we knew it there was cofffe brewing and the other neighbors chatting things up with us while the kids were already devising their Halloween parade….oh yeah, this year it is a parade!!

I know you have had or/and made countless amounts of pumpkin pies before so why would I was poetic about these? Well, there are the first I make this season and that is something so be tlaked about after month of scorching ht summer days and temperature refusing to drop below 80 degrees at night. It just feels nice to say the words "pumpkin pie". The tartlets were further enhanced by homemade butter pecan ice cream showcasing the first pecans our tree gave us and the delightful Moravian cookies we brought back from Winston – Salem this past weekend. Thanks again Abby for all your suggestions: Sweet Potaotes and their sister restaurant, The Cotton Mill were both great destinations for dinners the Reynolda house and Old Salem were incredible and we threw in the battlefield in Greensboro for good measure!

Back to the tartelettes….all my favorites in a couple of bites: an almond shorbread crust, rich pumpkin and praline filling and a little touch of ice cream because…well…just because homemade ice cream rocks! For the praline, I used this paste I was given by another pastry chef in town, a sales rep. dropped two of and she wanted me to give her my opinion. Being as busy as the next person, I like the convenience of already made pastry "aids" like nut pastes and fruit purees and this particular one did not disappoint. You can also make hazelnut praline (caramelized hazelnuts) and grind it fine and use as such in the following recipe, but you can find good and affordable pastes on the internet nowadays that will your time more efficient in the kitchen. The dough is my go-to nut and butter dough inspired by Dorie Greenspan. Feel free to change the nuts in it, walnuts work as good as (even better in my taste) almonds. It needs to be rolled between sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper and kept as cold as possible, even when handling. Use your fingertips to pat and patch it if it tears. The filling is inspired by the same Richard Leach I love and admire so much, except that I do not have time this week to follow through with his beautifully designed plated desserts. It was my first try at butter pecan ice cream and it has now become a new favorite. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can freeze the custard for a couple of hours, beat it with an electric mixer and refreeze again, repeating the operation 2-3 times, until you get a proper ice cream consistency. Feel free to use your favorite cookies for the ice cream sandwiches (the Moravian cookies I used had a ginger flavor).

Pumpkin Praline Tartelettes with Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Makes 8 4 inch tartelettes

Almond Short Dough:
In a food processor, combine 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 cup walnuts and 1 stick of butter, pulse until it resembles coarse meal, add 1 egg yolk and pulse until combined into a ball. Flatten the into a disk in between sheets of plastic wrap, refrigerate and roll it out to cut rounds big enough to fit into 8 mini tart pans. The dough gets soft very fast so you can flour your fingertips to push it up and down the sides and bottom of the pan.
Bake at 300 for 10 minutes. Let cool before filling them.

Pumpkin Praline Filling:

1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (I used canned)
¼ cup praline paste
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ cup milk
Pinch of salt
¾ cup heavy cream
3 eggs

In a large bowl beat the eggs with the sugar until combines. Combine the pumpkin and praline paste and cinnamon and add to the egg mixture. Slowly whisk in the milk and the cream. Divide evenly among the tart shells and bake at 300 for 20 minutes or until the custard just starts to set. Let cool to room temperature.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream:

Makes 1 quart

2 cups pecans (1/2 lb), chopped ( I like mine coarse)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cups packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
4 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast pecans in a shallow baking pan in middle of oven for 7 to 8 minutes. Add butter and salt to hot pecans and toss until butter is melted, then cool pecans completely.
Whisk together brown sugar, granulated sugar and cornstarch, then whisk in the eggs until combined. Bring milk and cream just to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add to egg mixture in a stream, whisking constantly, and transfer custard back to the saucepan.
Cook custard over medium low heat heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thick enough to coat back of spoon (do not let boil).
Immediately pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and stir in vanilla, then cool, stirring occasionally. Chill custard, its surface covered with wax paper, until cold, at least 3 hours.
Freeze custard in ice cream maker until almost firm. Stir together ice cream and pecans in a bowl, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.
Use your favorite cookies to make small sandwiches and serve along side the pumpkin tartelettes (which I decorated with chopped pecan brittle for their photo shoot)

Mascarpone Banana Tartlets

I apologize for the current lack of posts but my parents are leaving in a week and I want to spend as much time as possible with them, even if it’s just relaxing on the patio with a glass of lemonade and some macarons, or spending the whole evening playing cards like when I was a kid. It’s going to be a little hectic here at Mr. and Mrs. Tartelette B&B as we have other friends dropping by for the next couple of weeks and then I am off to my favorite spa….

Back to our regular programming…

Leaving for a weekend getaway is fun and relaxing, especially with my parents (the “in-laws” for B.) They are really fun to hang out with, always ready for the next thing whether it is an exhibition or a hike. I am really happy that they adore B. and we all get along watching rugby (go France) or playing cards. I am not saying it is always rosy but when the logistics of packing for a trip and unpacking when we are back are easier when everybody gets along. I had to work last evening so I left the house in the hands of mom…unpacking the goods and knickknacks bought along the way, separating the laundry, taking care of my poor husband suffering from a terrible lumbago, etc… When I got home there was a post it on the counter top next to a plate of overripe bananas, “we are at the dock, catching shrimp for dinner. These bananas need to be used. We want dessert!” Now, this is a command I am most happy to execute! Especially if they took the time to fish dinner and all I have to do is fix the salad…There is nothing that screams more vacation to me than having boiled shrimp and salad for dinner. You can make a mess right there on the table and get silly on cocktail sauce and beer.

Back to the bananas…Right before my parents got in town, I had started to prepare a tart dough for one of my husband’s favorite pies but never got around to use it much less go beyond that part of the prep work. Hopefully I’ll get around it soon but in the meantime I had a whole delicious chocolate dough parked in the fridge about to give me a hissing fit if it did not get used (remember that my ingredients speak to me). Not wanting to make a dozen little tarts (too easy to eat!), I divided the dough in half and froze the rest for later use. Coming back home is always nice but the bananas had a most definite sad look about them. Not it was not cake or crumble, but tarts this time, how surprising eh?! The mascarpone filling is pretty straightforward. I used it a lot in catering and can’t tell you where I got it from, we all seem to have passed it down to one another over the years at the restaurant. You can use cream cheese if you prefer, but I like the smooth texture and sharper taste of mascarpone, especially with a touch of almond extract. Perfect balance to chocolate and bananas, and perfect bite size dessert after a big crab and shrimp boil!

Mascarpone and Banana Tartlets

Makes 6 3-inch tartlets

Chocolate Crust (inspired from Chocolate Passion, by Tish Boyle and Tim Moriarty)

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 stick butter, softened, cut into small pieces

Sift flour with cocoa powder and make a well in the center. Add the egg yolks, sugars and vanilla to the well. Combine with your hands or a mixer and add the butter pieces. Knead with your hands 2-3 minutes or until the dough comes together. Divide in 2 and wrap in plastic. Note that you only need one half for the recipe. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes prior to using.
When ready to use, roll the dough in between sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Cut out 4 inch circles with a cookie cutter or other template. Fit into the 3 inch tartlets or other desired molds. Prick with a fork and blind bake for 10 minutes at 350F
Let cool completely before feeling them with the mascarpone cream.

Mascarpone Banana Filling:

1 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on your taste)
1 egg
1 tsp. pure almond extract
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp lemon juice
2 bananas, thinly sliced

In a large mixing bowl, combine the mascarpone, sugar and egg. Whisk until well blended. Add the lemon juice, zest and almond extract.
Divide evenly among the tart shells. Arrange the bananas slices over, pushing them in the cream a little. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Tonka Bean White Chocolate And Apricot Cakes

Ever since that little magic bean popped up on French blogs, I have been intrigued to try it. I had heard about it, seen it even smelled it but sourcing tonka beans here in the US was somewhat difficult, even five years ago, at least in my town (not that we are the culinary black hole of the universe). Nowadays, it is a little easier to locate but when my mother asked me what I wanted her to bring (along with the chocolate bars, silicone molds and other baking items I asked) I jumped at the chance to finally get a big bag of tonka bean at a relatively cheap price.
As soon as I opened the bag, the scents of vanilla and almonds wafted through the air and a little note of clove tickled my nose. I am telling you…magic….

You can use to infuse liquids such as creams and milk for flans, creme brulees, sauces, etc…or you can directly grate it with a microplane (easier) and directly add it to your preparation. I kept the little knobs I could not get through the grater and put them in a jar of sugar for instant flavor. If you are really gunho about not having little specks of tonka bean, I guess you could process them fine in a coffee grinder but I like my tonka to show, much like the seeds of vanilla beans. That reminds me of a woman dining at the restaurant one night and sent her vanilla bean creme brulee back to the kitchen. I asked the waitress what was wrong with it and she replied rolling her eyes to the ceiling (at the customer) "She said there was dirt in it"….Argh!!! I guess she would not wait vanilla bean ice cream either, eh?!

We have planned to drive to Winston-Salem, NC this weekend and spend some relaxing time visiting the town, with my parents, and thanks to a local, Abby of Confabulations In The Kitchen, I think we have a pretty good list of great places to see. I wish I could meet her in person and give her a great big hug, because she has saved me hours with her guidelines and recommendations, especially local delicacies, restaurants and of course bakeries! I wanted to pack some home baked goodies for the drive and immediately thought about mini cakes with grated tonka beans. I remembered a post titled (translated from the French): "A cake to die for", where the tonka bean was paired with apricots and white chocolate….I am a not a chocolate snob and as long as it is good quality I will eat all kinds. I was once again spoiled by one of my clients when she brought me a few bars of Valrhona chocolate from a recent trip to France. Well, by now you must know my theory: if all the ingredients are getting together like that, that means I must join the party!!

The cakes are quick and easy to come together and you can make a loaf cake or a round cake, possibilities are endless, and you can’t barely taste the white chocolate if you are not a fan. I would not take it away from the recipe though as it adds a little fudge feeling to cake. However, the biggest problem is that by the time we get in the car tomorrow, en route to Winston-Salem, there won’t be any left….it is absolutely the best mini cakes I have ever had! They are out of this world warm and a little denser and flavor concentrated at room temp. What the heck! They are even to dye for straight out of the fridge at 2 in the morning!
OK, I hear you, you may not have tonka beans available where you are, but a good substitute is to combine 1/2 tsp. each good quality vanilla and pure almond essence.

Tonka Bean White Chocolate and Apricot Cakes, (original recipe here)

Makes 8

1 1/2 sticks butter, melted and cooled

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup white chocolate, melted

3 large eggs

1/2 cup flour

2 tonka beans

15 dried apricots, cut in small dices

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Whisk together the eggs and sugar until pale and thick, about 2-3 minutes. Add the butter and chocolate. Whisk well and add the flour. Finely grate the tonka bean and add to the batter. Add the dried apricots and mix until incorporated. Divide evenly between muffin tins coated with cooking spray and cook for 15 minutes (longer if using a larger pan, about 20-25 minutes).

P.S: no internet connection for the next 4 days, so have a great weekend ya’ll and see you back next week!

Note: One commenter made me realise that I should put this info up about tonka beans:

"The coumarin active component (and why it is not found in food products in the US) is chemically similar to the active ingredient found in a common blood thinner called warfarin or Coumadin. This medication is commonly used to "thin out" blood and prevent clot formation. Patients on this medication have to have regular blood test since too much, may pose them at risk for bleeding and too little–risk for clot formation. The dose varies so regular blood work is the only thing that we can use to adjust the dose. You can imagine that there are a lot of drug interactions when patients are on this medication. There are also food interactions."

So folks. just like everything in life (but love and chocolate) use in moderation!

Lemon Lime Meringue Cupcakes

I wish I could tell you I am sitting right here enjoying one of these lemon lime cupcakes as I type my post but truth is I am trying to write in a room where English and French are mingling with hand gestures and strange sounds, and my brain is not sure this post is going to make sense by the time you read it. I tried isolation, taking one cupcake to the office room, sitting down at the computer with a cup of tea but I keep being interrupted because it seems that nobody understand my house, kitchen and pantry set-ups, hmmmm….really?….and I thought I was Ol' Deat Martha!! Anyways…back to the cupcakes.

Laurie from Quirkie Cupcake posted a Cupcake Hero Event focused on lime and as a new September Daring Bakers I wanted to give her full support, except that I am late….I can’t lie…It’s funny how I can think so much (three weeks) that it almost seems real, like I already made it, and then I wake up the morning of the deadline to realize that it was all in my head, a nice pretty dream, full of lemon and lime and soft meringue…

We have a saying in French that goes like this: "Il n’a pas invente la poudre" translating as "he surely did not event gunpowder", which is pretty much what I did when I made these the other day. They had been on my "must try" list for a long time and this month I finally had the opportunity to play around with them and my blow torch. I used a recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Cupcake Bakeshop. Cheryl’s site is not only amazing to look at but I admire her adventurous spirit when it comes to pairing ingredients and flavors, creating recipes and styling them with the most relevant details. I fell in love with her meringue cupcakes ever since they jumped at me through the screen. I followed one of her recipes for the cupcakes adapting it to fit Laurie’s challenge, except I can’t remember which one as I scribbled it in my blue notepad one day I was in a hurry. I used lime oil as an added boost of flavor. The lime curd inside is my usual foolproof recipe that I make time and time again and probably make you guys sick ad tired of it….but if it ain’t broken why fix it? As for the meringue, well, if you have a blow torch it does make the job easier. I have not tried the broiler in my oven for these so far, but if you do, please let me know the outcome.

Lemon Lime Meringue Cupcakes:

Makes 12


1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lime oil
½ cup buttermilk
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
zest of one lime

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well in between each addition. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture and milk alternatively to the butter/eggs mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Add the lime juice and zest. Fill cupcake tins 2/3 full. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Lemon Curd:

grated zest of 2
1/2 cup strained lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs

Combine the zest, sugar, juice in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, beat the eggs until light.Beat some of the lemon mixture into the eggs to temper. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook stirring constantly until it thickens up, about 5 minutes. Remove the curd from the heat, let cool completely.

Lime Meringue Frosting:

1 cup egg whites
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. lime juice

Combine egg whites and sugar into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer and set over a water bath. Whisk by hand for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved or preferably until the mixture reaches 110F . Transfer bowl to electric mixer, beat on medium speed for 10 minutes. Add lime juice Beat on high speed until stiff glossy peaks form, about 2 to 5 minutes more.

To fill the cupcakes: with a sharp knife cut a small hole in the cupcake, not cutting all the through. Fill the cavity with the lemon curd, and put the top back on. Spread the meringue and brown with a blow torch.

Gooey Goodness – Daring Bakers' Cinnamon Rolls And Sticky Buns

Cranberry Pistachio Sticky Buns
Are you ready for Fall yet? Well, you might with these Cinnamon and Sticky Buns, courtesy of the Daring Bakers, September edition. If I were you I would trust the numerous other Daring Bakers out there (over 100 by now), tempting you with pictures of gooey goodness and telling you how wonderful and soft these are. If anything, trust me: I have made them 4 times since the recipe was announced by Marce from Pip In The City, our hostess this month. Each month takes on a different aspect as far as the challenges and recipes are concerned. Sometimes, it is the challenge of coordinating schedules, sometimes it is trying to be creative with presentation or design, this time it was just difficult to keep them around long enough to share, let alone take pictures!

Everything about this recipe from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker´s Apprentice made me want to make it again and again. Lisa got us started on a comical note as poor lady was suffering tremendously from her back and made the buns within the first week of September while high on painkillers. I expect her post to draw tears from my eyes, but her experience seriously made me crave sticky buns and cinnamon rolls. I made my first batch a couple of days later, in the evening, with the intention to photograph them in the morning and bring some to the neighbors before. When I got up, my husband was long gone…so was my tray of walnut sticky buns when they should have been awaiting their photo shoot! I thought that by no, he would now the rules of baking/blogging: don’t take any, don’t give any, don’t hide any until it has been photographed…nope! I got a sweet note form one of his students a few days later “Thank you Mrs. Tartelette, the sticky buns were delicious and it was great to start the day like this…” Well, I wish I had been there too!!

Cinnamon Rolls
Now, you understand my challenge this month…but it deter me to make them again and again. I froze the cinnamon buns and proceeded to make the buns, this time with cranberries and pistachios. Probably my favorite combo of nuts/berries and it worked really well taste wise and packed a punch of visual appeal when I served them to my parents for brunch a couple of weeks ago. I changed the filling to cardamom instead of cinnamon a few times and it was jsut out of this world. We all loved the buttery goodness, (well, that’s a given with one pound of butter in the caramel part), the moistness of the dough and all the cinnamon flavor we tasted with every bite. I found that there was more than enough cinnamon sugar (used inside the rolls and buns) as well as powdered sugar glaze for the rolls. Turned out B. adds glaze as he eats away so if our mate is anything like mine, who knows?!!

Cranberry and Pistachio Sticky Buns
Cinnamon and Sticky Buns (from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice)
Days to Make: One (1)Active/Resting/Baking Time: 15 minutes to mix, 3 1/2 hours fermentation/shaping/proofing, 20 – 40 minutes to bakeRecipe Quantity: Eight(1) – twelve (12) large rolls or twelve (12) – sixteen (16) small rollsMaking the Dough

6 1/2 tablespoons (3.25 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 tablespoons (2.75 ounces) shortening or unsalted butter or margarine
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon grated zest of 1 lemon
3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast*
1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature OR 3 tablespoons powdered milk (DMS) and 1 cup water
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (6 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or any other spices you want to use, cardamom, ginger, allspice, etc.)
White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns or caramel glaze for sticky buns (at the end of the recipe.)
Walnuts, pecans, or other nuts (for sticky buns.)
Raisins or other dried fruit, such as dried cranberries or dried cherries (for sticky buns, optional.)
*Instant yeast contains about 25% more living cells per spoonful than active dry yeast, regardless of the brand. Instant yeast is also called rapid-rise or fast-rising.

Making the Dough: Cream together the sugar, salt, and shortening or butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon and mixing bowl and do it by hand).
Note: if you are using powdered milk, cream the milk with the sugar, and add the water with the flour and yeast.
Whip in the egg and lemon extract/zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Fermentation: Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Form the Buns: Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don´t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 pieces each about 1 3/4 inches thick for larger buns, or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 1/4 inch thick for smaller buns.)

Prepare the Buns for Proofing:
For cinnamon buns: line 1 or more sheet pans with baking parchment. Place the buns approximately 1/2 inch apart so that they aren´t touching but are close to one another.
For sticky buns: coat the bottom of 1 or more baking dishes or baking pans with sides at least 1 1/2 inches high with a 1/4 inch layer of the caramel glaze. Sprinkle on the nuts and raisins (if you are using raisins or dried fruit.) You do not need a lot of nuts and raisins, only a sprinkling. Lay the pieces of dough on top of the caramel glaze, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag.

Proof the Buns: Proof at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.

Bake the Buns:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with the oven rack in the middle shelf for cinnamon buns but on the lowest shelf for sticky buns.
Bake the cinnamon buns for 20 to 30 minutes or the sticky buns 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. If you are baking sticky buns, remember that they are really upside down (regular cinnamon buns are baked right side up), so the heat has to penetrate through the pan and into the glaze to caramelize it. The tops will become the bottoms, so they may appear dark and done, but the real key is whether the underside is fully baked. It takes practice to know just when to pull the buns out of the oven.

Cool the buns:
For cinnamon buns, cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes and then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the buns are warm but not too hot. Remove the buns from the pans and place them on a cooling rack. Wait for at least 20 minutes before serving.
For the sticky buns, cool the buns in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes and then remove them by flipping them over into another pan. Carefully scoop any run-off glaze back over the buns with a spatula. Wait at least 20 minutes before serving.

Toppings for the Buns:

White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns:
Cinnamon buns are usually topped with a thick white glaze called fondant. There are many ways to make fondant glaze, but here is a delicious and simple version, enlivened by the addition of citrus flavor, either lemon or orange. You can also substitute vanilla extract or rum extract, or simply make the glaze without any flavorings.
Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract and 6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste.
When the buns have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze and waving the fork or whisk over the tops. Or, form the streaks by dipping your fingers in the glaze and letting it drip off as you wave them over the tops of the buns. (Remember to wear latex gloves.)

Caramel glaze for sticky buns
Caramel glaze is essentially some combination of sugar and fat, cooked until it caramelizes. The trick is catching it just when the sugar melts and lightly caramelizes to a golden amber. Then it will cool to a soft, creamy caramel. If you wait too long and the glaze turns dark brown, it will cool to a hard, crack-your-teeth consistency. Most sticky bun glazes contain other ingredients to influence flavor and texture, such as corn syrup to keep the sugar from crystallizing and flavor extracts or oils, such as vanilla or lemon. This version makes the best sticky bun glaze of any I´ve tried. It was developed by my wife, Susan, for Brother Juniper´s Cafe in Forestville, California.
NOTE: you can substitute the corn syrup for any neutral flavor syrup, like cane syrup or gold syrup.
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature.
2. Cream together for 2 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Add 1/2 cup corn syrup and 1 teaspoon lemon, orange or vanilla extract. Continue to cream for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
3. Use as much of this as you need to cover the bottom of the pan with a 1/4-inch layer. Refrigerate and save any excess for future use; it will keep for months in a sealed container.

Cinnamon Rolls
I might make another batch before this coming week is over! Thanks Marce for picking up such a recipe. Thanks Lisa and Ivonne, founders of the Daring Bakers, for managing this wonderful group with such gusto and taste. Check the blogroll to read more sticky goodness!

I was lucky enough to photograph the buns and rolls on pictures framed by my mom. See, her talent is that she is a framing artist. My dad paints watercolors and that’s how she got started, she took classes to be able to display his work. After many years, the class became more of a group of friends, challenging themselves with new techniques. Last year I ordered a set of prints from a French artist, Anne-Soline, 3 fairies and 3 dancers, and she brought them over this trip, double bubble-wrapped. They made it one piece, which enabled me to play around with the layout of the pictures.