Over the past couple of months I have been consumed by guilt. Even though I had tons of ideas and a couple of sleepless nights I did miss a couple of Sugar High Fridays. Guilty! It matters. It’s sugar. Allright, so "consumed" is a little strong. Upset that I could not work my schedule right to find an hour to make cupcakes is more realistic. When something I could have done starts bugging me, the smaller it is, the more it bugs me. I can easily forget there is an elephant in the room, but if a tiny little fly starts dancing in my head….It will keep dancing and buzzing until I do something about it. The elephant will still be in the room though.
I missed Fanny’s S.O.S for cupcakes but I surely was not going to miss Anita’s call for SHF spiced up sweets. So when C. and I started to plan her upcoming birtday party, the little fly in my head started to dance, loudly. Tap dancing even. Maybe I could combine both.
C: hmm, not sure what I want for dessert for my birthday…
Me: Cupcakes! You want cupcakes!
Me: chocolate cupcakes with a hint of cardamom…
C: that’s very grown up for a cupcake
Me: Well, that’s settled then! Chocolate Cardamom Cupcakes! Glad we had this discussion!
Allright, so that was the summed up version. I did give her some space to think and talk more than that, give me some credit here! I did however guided her towards the bittersweet chocolate cupcakes and the addition of cardamom in them which is a spice that she likes as much as I do. The frosting is a simple whipped ganache. Easy, rich and chocolatey to the bone. The combination seems classic and worked well as there were one left for her last night! Too bad I can only send a picture to Anita for this month SHF!!
Bittersweet Chocolate and Cardamom Cupcakes:
Makes 24 cupcakes. Kitchen Notes: the whipped ganache needs to go on the cupcakes as soon as it is ready so have the cupcakes baked and completely cooled. Make sure the ganache is chilled well before whipping or it might separate.
Note: I noticed a bloop (sorry was typing late night-early morning) and in the ganache I gave the single measure of chocolate for a double measure of cream. My sincere apologies…and yes, I promise to stop typing this late 🙂 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cardamom and salt and set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar on medium speed until airy and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition (scrape down the sides if necessary). Still on medium speed, add the chocolate and mixing until well incorporated. Add the flour,baking soda and salt alternating with the buttermilk . Make sure that all the ingredients are well incorporated but do not overbeat. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. Spoon the batter into cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
Whipped Ganache Frosting:
12 ounces (360 gr) good quality bittersweet chocolate
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
Place the chocolate in a medium size bowl and set aside. In a large saucepan set over medium heat, bring the cream to a simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for a couple of minutes. Stir the cream and chocolate together gently until the mass becomes smooth and shiny. Let cool and refrigerate until very cold. When ready to use, whip the ganache until it is holds its shape and spreads easily. Use as soon as it is made or it will be too stiff to pipe. If this happens, just reheat it on top of a double boiler to melt it again, and repeat the cooling and whipping process. If your chocolate is less than 72% bittersweet, add 2 more ounces before adding the hot cream.
We had a tad more than needed but with enough spoons digging into it, it was not a problem.
Eclairs With Chocolate Pastry Cream and Chocolate Glaze. Sprinkle of crushed Chikki (Indian Praline)
I wanted to write this post for our Daring Bakers challenge last night and started doing other stuff instead and I have just now gotten home from working a small party with Old Chef. I am exhausted and what happens when I am tired and need to focus is that I tend to make phrases and rhymes out of everything, like for our challenge this month, Pierre Herme’s Chocolate Eclairs: "Pierre, your eclairs, c’est du tonnerre. Soyons clairs, j’en suis fiere…" (does not sound that great translated but it basically reads that the eclairs were great!). I made the eclairs as written by our hosts but then played around a bit witht the eclairs and kept some of the pate a choux to make religieuses and cream puffs for a later post (without rhymes then, promise).
Indeed, Meeta and Tony made a great choice by going with Pierre Herme’s Chocolate Eclairs. Does PH really needs an introduction? I think not…He is pretty darn remarkable, not only by his creations but by his excellent timing and the excellence of the teams he puts together. I even But you see I have what the French call "un coeur d’artichaud", a heart like an artichoke…with many leaves for many people. So yes I like to look at and read Herme, but also Michalak, Aoki Bau, Glacier, Felder, and of course our favorite Zen Chef…And yes, B. knows and he is ok with it, except that PH had some serious shoes to fill regarding eclairs. Me? Never met an eclair I did not like so I was pretty happy to try a new recipe.
Pate a Choux for the eclairs – Chocolate sauce used in the chocolate glaze
It often starts with the egg….and ends with chocolate… giving the American icon Baker’s chocolate a go and the result was surprisingly very good and smooth.
A little story there…real short this time (humhum): a couple of years ago when we went home to France to see my family for Christmas, we left the chaos of family fun for a little two-day escapade in downtown Paris. On our way back we stopped at La Maison Du Chocolat and selected some delicious pastries to share with my parents. B. could not wait for after dinner and bought one single dark chocolate eclairs to have on the train ride back. When we split that one eclair, the world around us magically evaporated. No noise, no rocking from the train against the tracks, no little lady telling her grandchild to please sit down 5 times every 2 minutes, no brouhaha from kids playing with their little Christmas toys. We looked at each other and exclaimed at the same time with our mouths full "oh my god…this is incredible…" We did not even feel the stares of the people on the train. When we noticed them, we looked as guilty as if we had been caught up in a passionate moment of affection!
I often promised B. I’d try to make them as good as that one from La Maison du Chocolat but I never did. I knew that no matter how close I’d come or even if I were to succeed, there would always be something missing: Christmas, Paris and a train ride…. However, Pierre Herme’s eclairs got pretty darn close…very close if you kept the recipe given by our hosts as written: eclair shells, bittersweet pastry cream and bitter sweet chocolate glaze. That is a lot of chocolate, eggs, sugar, cream, butter heavens all spread throughout the Daring Bakers world!
Rose pastry cream, poured fondant and raspberry….add a lychee and it is a PH’s Ispahan eclair…
I did the full batch of doug but divided the pastry cream: half the pastry cream was chocolate trying to re-capture that elusive eclair described above. I did top some of the chocolate eclairs with some crushed Chikki(Hi Bina!). Inspired by PH’s Ispahan creations, I added rose water to the other half and made a poured fondant for the glaze. A poured fondant starts with a sugar syrup brought to high temperature then cooled dwon then whipped to a firm consistency. Once you have that block of fondant, you add some simple syrup and warm it up to pouring consistency. Why not do powdered sugar and water and call it a day? First, knowing your hot syrups is always a good thing…kidding (well, almost) but essentially this poured fondant is not as sweet as a simple glaze, goes on smooth and dries well, allowing you to stack, pack and transport those eclairs and pastries with ease….yes even if they only make it to your mouth! I borrowed The decoration for the second batch is inspired by Michalak and his book "C’est du gateau!" I love the picture in it and the smarts that went into it.
Allright…you need a recipe and I need sleep…
Most mornings I only have coffee for breakfasts except last week! Eclairs instead!
Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough. All recipes below from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 eclairs)
½ cup (125g) whole milk
½ cup (125g) water
1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature
In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to theboil.Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to mediumand start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth. Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time youhave added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted itshould fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.
Notes: Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately. You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined bakingsheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.
Chocolate Pastry Cream 2 cups (500g) whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75g) sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.
Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.
Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.
Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.
Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.
Notes:The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.
(makes 1 cup or 300g)
1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature
In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.
Notes: If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.
It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.
Chocolate Sauce (makes 1½ cups or 525 g)
4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 g) water
½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
1/3 cup (70 g) sugar
Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.
It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.
Notes: You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.
For a great poured fondant recipe with step by step pictures, check out this post.
As you know from my last post, Monday was a pretty rough day, ups and downs, high and lows, laughing at the most ridiculous things and crying over the simplest ones, but I have to thank you for cheering me up and on throughout the day with your words both here and privately. This little giant group of bloggers sure knows how to laugh, cry, send hugs and cheer up and cheer on. Thank you. I wish I could say that to each of you individually but I can’t. Instead I am bringing you a little dessert that is sure to heal a bad case of the blues or just make you feel better after a bad day. Problem is….I could not come up with a name for it and I am hoping that you can. What’s in it for you? Well, I have two copies of Tartine and only one being read so it is up for grabs…skip to the end of the post for details.
It was about 4 o’clock when I finally sat down on the front steps of C’s house, after a day filled with tons of little errands. You know, the ones you keep putting off but suddenly on a bad day they are the perfect thing to do to keep your mind busy and thought free. We started chatting about the kids going back to school, philosophising about the summer and that it had been a pretty rough one for everybody around us for different reasons. Just to think that a couple of months ago they were thinking about moving…I don’t think the neighborhood would be the same kindred one without them and the twins. We did not notice our husbands were doing the same thing but on our front steps until the wind started to carry their voices closer to us. We leaned over and asked what the heck they could be complaining about that we did not already know…"women, kids, pms, mortgages…what about you?", we pushed a united "same here, different gender!" and we all busted out laughing!!
I stood up and exclaimed "Well, I think the situation calls for chocolate and caramel…and a little grill-out with a good bottle of wine!" I asked the gentlemen to please tend to the grilling part that us women are so clueless about and that we would be back with dessert. I had an idea of what I wanted the final taste to be and a vague idea about the process and elements. That’s kind of the way I work with pastry I have noticed. I think of tastes I like together, close my eyes and try to imagine the texture, what flavor comes through first, which one is the last I want to keep. Then I think of the building process, kind of like playing Tetris with ingredients and ratio…sometimes it all fits together, sometimes the Tetris-like pieces catch up with me before I get right and I have got to start over. If you play Tetris, do you still see the pieces go down when you close your eyes after a game? I do…makes me laugh….
I had rearranged the pantry a couple of days prior to this story and had found an unexpected bar of dark chocolate, one of milk chocolate and a bag of salted butter caramel from Normandy…I had a square of chocolate followed by salted butter caramel (I did drop the pms word earlier, remember?!) and thought to myself that these three fellas needed to end up together in a dessert somehow. By Monday evening I had a plan: a dark chocolate and walnut fudgy brownie, a milk chocolate and salted butter caramel mousse, topped with chocolate ganache. Yes, I know there is one more element in the pictures, the little cut out triangles and squares are actually coffee jelly pieces but they did not turn like I wanted so it will be re-worked and blogged another time. I could not resist making some hot chocolate to go with it and it turned out to be very fitting to the windy and rainy evening we ended up having.
And this is where I need you, I turned this in my head in every which way possible and I can’t come up with one name that makes me say "that’s it! I want it!"…and I really hope you can. All you have to do is leave a comment between Thursday August 21st and Saturday August 23rd at midnight eastern time and I will submit each title to the group who shared those with me and let them pick the one they like best. Think about it as playing Tetris with the chance to add a fantastic cookbook to your collection!
Something chocolate and caramel:
Makes 16 servings (you can even cut the bars tinier if you want)
Dark Chocolate Walnut Brownie base:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 9×13 inch baking dish with parchment paper or foil, leaving a 2 inch overhang on to sides (you pick). Coat with cooking spray or a dab of butter.
Melt together butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Remove the bowl from heat and stir until smooth. Let the chocolate mixture cool slightly.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Beat in the chocolate mixture. Add the flour mix and beat until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Fold in the walnuts with a spatula.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, and smooth top with an spatula. Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownie between edge and center comes out with a few crumbs, 30 to 35 minutes, depending on your oven (Do not overbake.) Let cool 15 minutes; lift out of pan, and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely. Line a 9×9 inch square pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Cut your brownie base to fit inside the square pan, and set it down as your first layering component. Munch on the leftover or cut in little bites and cover with ganache for instant petits fours. Proceed to the rest of the recipe.
Milk Chocolate and Salted Butter Caramel Mousse Layer:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tb water
2 Tb salted butter, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream, divided
6 oz (3/4 cup) milk chocolate
Measure 3/4 cup of cream and refrigerate, this portion will be used to make whipped cream so keep it well chilled. In a microwave or small saucepan, heat the 1/4 cup remaining until it is fairly hot. It will be added to the caramel and by being hot it will prevent the caramel from seizing on you and clumping up.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in an heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). Set aside.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the sugar to the water over medium high heat and cook, without stirring until you get a dark brown caramel. Take the pan off the heat and add the butter and 1/4 cream. It will bubble like mad but it will not run over….if the butter and cream are not cold the bubbling will be minimal and short lived. Stir with a wooden spoon to smooth the caramel if necessary. Let it cool to lukewarm. Add the caramel to the chocolate and stir until smooth.
Whip the remaining heavy cream to soft peaks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Fold 1/3 of the whipped cream to the chocolate/caramel to loosen it up and then add the remaining whipped cream. Spread over the brownie base and refrigerate until completely set.
Dark Chocolate Ganache:
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup dark chocolate
In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer, remove from the heat. Add the chocolate to the cream and let sit for 5 minutes. Slowly stir the heavy cream and chocolate until they come together and form a shiny ganache. Let cool. You want the ganache to still be pourable but not too warm that it will melt the mousse.
Spread it over the caramel mousse and refrigerate until set.
To serve: lift the dessert out of the pan and trim the sides with a sharp knife (heated under hot water and wiped dry works great too), cut into the desired number of servings and enjoy.
Thank you all for the very nice birthday wishes for my mother, she truly appreciated the thought. Funny story about birthdays in my family and birthdays phone calls especially: my grandmother had the habit to see whom of her children would call her first to wish her a happy birthday. When I called my mom on Tuesday, I immediately said "I know I am not the first but I am the furthest…that’s got to count!".
Anyways, back to today’s dessert… I can’t plan..Let me rephrase this: I can’t plan to have a distraction free day because we all know that concept never truly works. I had planned yesterday to be a writing day punctuated by a few walks with the dogs, a couple of play breaks with them and the neighbors' kids, no grocery shopping, no baking commitment, no visits, no errands…just me and my thoughts. Ha! I should have checked the weather channel because as soon as I woke up the rain had decided to fall hard and steady, which meant no walks with the dogs, no play time nextdoor. Thus I had two crazy monkeys on my hands who all of a sudden had decided to team up to tear the house apart when I was not looking. I am still laughing when I think about the tricks those two played on me!
It all started when I was sipping my coffee looking at the creek and the rain…and the high tide…tidal creek during high rain equals a big puddle in your yard and a creek boat (think small fishing tin there people….we’re not the yacht type) that threatens to float away. B. went outside to tighten the rope, the dogs followed and found the yard, sorry puddle…and all hell broke lose. They played fetch with each other for thirty minutes and all we could do was watch. Watch them turn from beige to black really…Two bathes and numerous towels later and everybody settled down…a little. By then I had lost my writing mojo and decided to bake instead. At least it was easier to stop their shenanigans with a whisk in my hand than a thought up in the air.
Baking did take place but not in the case of this cake. How can I make a cake without turning the oven on? Recycling….When we did the last Daring Bakers challenge I did the whole batter but baked a 6 inch cake for the challenge and a 8 inch cake that I froze, not really sure of what I would use it for. I got a call from a friend Tuesday morning and told her to come by meet the puppy later that day over coffee and cake. I thawed the cashew gateau and started working on a filling when she called to cancel: her best laid plans got also derailed that day. We reset for the day after (gosh I have never written anything with that much timeline involved!), which turned out great given the way my rainy day was shaping up.
For the cake I used pastry rings to cut out 4 rounds into the cake and split those minis in half. I used one half at the bottom of each ring, topped them with a simple coffee and cardamom mousse, (you might have extra mousse in which case I recommend you divide it into glasses and eat as is. It is easier to make the full amount and have extra than the opposite. It is really good on its own), one more layer of cake and let them set in the fridge overnight. Wednesday morning I topped each mini cake with a dark chocolate ganache. The inspiration for the caramel stained "glass" panel comes from my grandmother (same one!) who used to say "I don’t care if it rains as long as there is some sun and some colors somewhere". I feel the exact same way but since there was no sun in sight I decided there would be colors then! I go a lucky break of 20 minutes to take some pictures and walk the crazy monkeys. Not too bad a day after all.
Cashew Gateau With Coffee Cardamom Mousse:
For the gateau: 3/4 cups cashew, toasted/skinned
1/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, divided (2Tb & 6 Tb)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
2 lg. egg whites
2 Tb melted butter, cooled
Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 8” X 4” inch round springform pan. Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.
Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add 8 Tb of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.
Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining 2 Tb of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute. Fold the yolk mixture to the whites. Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate. With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.
For the coffee cardamom mousse: 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup espresso or strong coffee
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp powdered unflavored gelatin, softened in 1 tablespoon cold water
1 cup heavy cream, cold
In a mediu saucepan, bring the coffee, sugar and cardamom to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the gelatin until it is completely dissolved. Let cool to room temperature. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with hand held beaters with balloon whisks, whipe the cream just until it holds stiff peaks, do not overbeat or it will become grainy and separate. Add a small amount first to the coffee mixture to loosen up the batter, slowly fold the rest of the whipped cream. Do not let it set completely before using it for the cake filling (have your cake baked, cooled, and cut before using)
For the chocolate ganache:
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup chopped chocolate or chocolate chips (about 6 oz or 180 gr)
In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer, remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Let it sit for 5 minutes so that the chocolate starts to melt then slowly stir the cream and chocolate until they come together to make the ganache. Let cool slightly before using it over the cakes.
To assemble: Cut 4 rounds out of the 8 inch cake and cut each round in half. Using 4 3 inch round pastry rings, place a cake round at the bottom of each ring, top with about 1/4 cup of coffee mousse, top with another cake round and let sit overnight. In the morning, make the ganache. Line a sheet pan with a sheet of parchment paper, position a cooling rack or a grid over it, position your cake over the grid and slowly pour the ganache over all the cakes to cover the completely. Rap the sheet over the counter top (be gentle, no jumping cakes allowed!), to let the ganache fall evenly. Let them set in the fridge for a couple of hours. You can dust them with a good coat of cocoa powder if desired like I did here.
For the stained glass caramel windows:
250gr sugar (1 cup)
37.5 ml water (35 gr) (2 1/2 Tb)
various food colorings
Line a baking sheet with parchement paper. Drop a few drops of food coloring onto the paper. Do not touch them, sirl them or move them.
In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water, do not stir and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil until the caramel reaches the soft crack stage or 140C – 285F on a candy thermometer (do not let it turn color). Immediately pour over the parchment paper with the food coloring. Take the baking sheet with your hands and move it left to right, right to left to move and swirl the colors. Let set until completely cooled. Break pieces of your desired size to decorate the cakes with.
First I would like to start this post by dedicating it to Sher from What Did You Eat? and fellow Daring Baker who past away last week. This past Sunday, a lot of bloggers honored her memory by cooking something from her site. We were in celebratory birthday mode on Sunday for my husband so I never got around to it. I did look through her desserts archives and noticed that a lot of them were previous Daring Bakers' challenges…so here is to you Sher, because I know we almost did have the same thought that a chocolate bath can’t be such a bad thing after all! You are missed and loved all over the world. It is definitely strange without you around today, "reveal day", but I’ll just come and say hey anyway.
Our host this month was wild red headed Chris from Mele Cotte who chose a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream from "Great Cakes" by Carol Walter. I had the pleasure of meeting Chris in the flesh this month after many months of chatting over the phone, so you could say we are "friends". That did not stop me from telling her last night that I approached this challenge not as enthusiastically as I usually do. It’s been around 100F (no kidding) and over almost everyday here, and very humid with thunderstorms almost every afternoons so making a cake while in the middle of another baking project did not make me jump up and down. Filberts (hazelnuts) are quite pricey here and the baking budget is pretty much well spent already. In July, I crave ice creams and fruits and I would probably not tackle a multi part "gateau' unless asked to. Oh wait! I was asked to, by Chris and B. needed a proper birthday cake too! The fact that Chris came to visit with a tote full of nuts (yeehaw) and other goodies also gave me another reason to roll up my sleeve and get down and dirty with this cake.
I am glad I did. The genoise part was light and flavorful, the praline buttercream perfectly balanced in sweetness and nuts and the chocolate ganache rich and delicious. I chose to go with cashews instead of hazelnuts in the cake, (although I prefer hazelnuts in all nutty things) did a cashew praline for the buttercream. One requisite was to use a layer of apricot glaze underneath the chocolate ganache but I am a very peculiar bird who does not like fruit messing with my chocolate (no dipped candied orange segments for me or chocolate-raspberry anything…can’t stand it, there I said it), so I did a salted butter caramel sauce instead. I was going to use mango jam I had just made but change my mind at the last minute.
Since I was essentially making it for B’s birthday and it was a small gathering, I baked and filled a 6 inch round cake and I still have a 8 inch cashew gateau ready to be used in the freezer (ah the possibilities!). I am glad Chris gave us many options to play around with because I used to the max to make a cake that everyone at the dinner table would enjoy. I left the liqueur out of the buttercream and used half a vanilla bean instead of extract. The soaking syrup for the cake was made with rum (per the recipe) with the addition of lime zest and lime juice. The chocolate glaze required corn syrup and I substituted honey instead to give a little flavor while I removed the alcohol part of it.
We did have to keep the cake round but decorations were left up to us as long as some of the buttercream made it "on" the cake. I almost read through that line without registering. As I was putting the decorations up on the cake, I stopped, "what was it again about the buttercream?" Gah…got to find its way on top somehow….Oh good, I just needed some "glue" to anchor the shards white chocolate bubble wrap! I dipped some cashews in caramel (dry sugar method) and played around with caramel strands too. I think everything "required" ended up in the cake, albeit modified since we could play around. Well, maybe not, I did skip the "clarified butter" and used just plain melted butter without an issue in my cake rising or changing in texture. Oh, oh…almost forgot, since we had the option of using of a layer of whipped cream with the buttercream, I prefered to opt out. There was just something rubbing me funny with whipped cream on buttercream on cake. I "love" buttercream you see so masking it with whipped cream would have been a shame in my opinion, especially with a praline buttercream.
This cake was like a little Christmas in July and I am glad there were outside forces helping me wrap my mind and time around making it. That’s what I like about being a Daring Baker, that "may the making force be with you" attitude that make us dive in into big pools of butter, flour, sugar and/or chocolate at any given month! Thank you Chris for choosing a tasty cake and thank you Ivonne and Lisa for all the tremendous work done to keep it organised and civilised. Bake on!
With the heat and humidity the caramel strands lasted about 2 minutes. See…there is buttercream sneaking its way on the gateau!
Cashew Gateau with Praline Buttercream, adapted from Great Cakes by Carol Walter
1 ½ cups cashew, toasted/skinned
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
5 lg. egg whites
¼ cup melted butter, cooled
Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan. Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside. Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.
Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute. Fold the yolk mixture to the whites. Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate. With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon.
Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.
Sugar Syrup 1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum
zest and juice of one lime
In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur,lime zest and juice. Cool slightly before using on the cake.
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup praline paste
Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine.
Swiss Buttercream 4 lg. egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1/2 vanilla bean, cut open and grated
Place the egg whites in a large bowl of a electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows. Remove from pan and with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. Set aside. Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. Keep the butter around 65F. On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the vanilla bean seeds and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.
Praline Paste 1 cup (4 ½ oz.) cashews, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter. Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.
Salted Butter Caramel Sauce
See here (I used about 2/3 of a cup)
Ganache Glaze 6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
6 oz. (¾ cup) heavy cream
1 tbsp honey
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ – 1 tsp. hot water, if needed
Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside. Heat the cream and honey in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Add the vanilla. If the surface seems oily, add ½ – 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!
Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.
Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes. Brush the top and sides of the cake with cooled caramel sauce, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.
If some well established passion fruit-chocolate or cassis-violet pairing French macarons masters were reading this, they would probably take out their whisk and come after me. On a side note, as my mate Zen Chef pointed it out, since Pierre Herme looks more melon than lemon, I’ll take pretty boy Michalak in a heartbeat…forgive me this aparté, it’s got to be the heat.
Yep, the heat…As I was reaching for a gallon of water in the pantry I discovered Mr.Tartelette’s secret Snickers stash. He pretended they had fallen behind the picnic totes and I pretended not to have a sudden craving for some peanut, marshmallow caramel and chocolate. I stood up and knocked my head on one of the shelves. It had been a long hot day, with many little work things nipping at me, like a last minute macaron order and the last thing I needed was a bump, a bruise or a headache. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and calmly said "That’s it. Snickers Macarons."
"Isn’t it like French macarons gone white trash? Mac on crack,maybe?" he asked. Yeah, well…maybe…but if either Pierre or Christophe tried one, I know they would react the same way we did after I assembled them: "More! Where are those darn KitKat bars now?!" I love the Snickers combination of milk chocolate, peanuts, caramel and nougat but like for most people, one bar is too much and too little at the same time. I admire my friend S. who cuts it in four pieces and eat them throughout the day. For me it’s more like throughout the next three minutes!
I still have a good bit of the dulce de leche that Marcela brought me and given the heat wave lately (seems that way in most states), I used it instead of standing over the stove and make a caramel filling. Coming out of a double shift, I hope you will forgive me if the nougat was a bit of a shortcut too….but a sweet one as I melted marshmallows with peanut butter. The rest of the parts were a simple milk chocolate ganache and a whole peanut in the center of each macarons. As far as the shells, I used half almonds and half peanuts to keep most of the oily mass out and add to the peanut flavor. Chocolate macaron shells have always been my dreaded part, they are never chocolaty enough for me and more finicky than other shells, so this time, instead of simply adding 2 Tb of cocoa powder like I would normally do, I also subtracted 2 Tb of the powdered sugar before mixing it in with the nuts and the meringue. Worked like a charm!
Warning from Mr. Tartelette: do not eat these straight out of the refrigerator or you will need new dentures and new jaws. The marshmallow cream does get hard but if you let the macarons sit out for 10-15 minutes prior to eating (or devouring) the shells and the fillings become as soft as a Snickers bar. I hope that Minko likes this candy bar gone wild in macarons because I am virtually sending them to the "Mad For Macarons" event she organised. Sorry for being last minute…
Makes about 16
For The Shells: 3 egg whites (I like to use 1-2 day old egg whites)
50 gr. granulated sugar
200 gr. powdered sugar (minus 2 Tb)
55 gr. peanuts
2 Tb cocoa powder
For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature in a covered container. If you want to use 48hrs (or more) egg whites, you can store them in the fridge.In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry and your macarons won’t work. Combine the almonds, peanuts, cocoa powder and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Pass through a sieve. Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 300F. Let the macarons sit out for an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 8-10 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. Pipe or spoon some ganache on one shell and sandwich with another one.
If you use fresh whites, zap them up in the microwave on medium high for 20 seconds to mimic the aging process.
Milk Chocolate Ganache: 1 cup milk chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
In a heavy saucepan over medium high heat, bring the cream to a boil. Remove from the heat, drop in the milk chocolate and let stand a couple of minutes. Gently stir the chocolate into the cream until smooth. Set aside until it cools down and thickens a bit (a trip to the fridge is ok)
Marshmallow Cream: 2 cups marshmallows
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
In a heavy saucepan over medium low heat, melt the marshmallows and peanut butter until smooth. Let cool. Once cooled you will be able to pull the "nougat" and from the saucepan and cut pieces to flatten in the palm of your hands and sandwich with the rest of the ingredients.
I get excited every month about posting the Daring Bakers challenges. Actually it is more like an act in three part. On reveal day, I check our site in my pajamas like a kid waiting to open her Christmas present. I give myself a week or so to think about how I want to go about the challenge, baking, cutting, plating and photographing. Then, I usually get them done the second week and then I tend to lose the mood until posting day. That’s when it hits me, why I love it so much: it’s the sense of community, knowing that there is a bunch of us out there loving the same thing…baking and sharing the fruits of our labor. It may be more or less challenging for some of us each time but it gives me the opportunity to share my love of baking and eating with you all. I just realized my first challenge was on December 2006 with Biscotti, right after Lisa and Ivonne introduced the concept of a group baking session. Time flies when you are having fun!!
Since I have been in the States for over 10 years, I can’t say that cheesecake is new to me, having churned about 2-3 a day at work back in the days and a few here on this site However turning a cheesecake into a lollipop was something I had never done before but always wanted to try, ever since I had watched a show on a restaurant dunking big slices of cheesecake in chocolate and serving them as ice cream pops. But you know…so many recipes, so little time! That’s until Deborah from Taste and Tell and Elle from Feeding My Enthusiasms chose these Cheesecake Pops from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor. Thank you ladies I don’t know when I would have gotten around to making these bites but thanks to the Daring Bakers, now it was… (I know, not grammatically correct but you get it).
I made the pops for our weekly gathering with the neighbors and decided to make half the recipe. This turned out to be a little mistake since one of the couples present was celebrating their anniversary yesterday and he asked me if I could make some as party favors and a small box with heart sprinkles on them especially for her. I forgot about it until yesterday morning and I was still duking pops a few hours before the party a la Bridget Jones….read with curlers in my hair and a party dress on. I also almost walked into the reception room with one curler still on my head but that is another story!
Anyways….each half batch took about 40-45 minutes to bake which makes me think that the 55 minutes indicated for the full batch is very very conservative, and from what other Daring Bakers have reported throughout the month, it was more like over an hour of baking time. I went for the queen of flavors (just my opinion) for the cake, vanilla, scraping a whole bean into the batter and the cake tasted like vanilla ice cream. I thought about adding a blueberry or a raspberry into each pop but in the end I kept relatively simple. The result? Decadent pleasure…
I used good old store bought chocolate chips for the coating and it worked perfectly. The only problem with a recipe that calls for variance in temperatures like dunking the frozen pops into hot chocolate coating where I live is that within 20 minutes with the humidity and the heat around make the chocolate sweat. I notice that this morning when I was dunking the remaining bites and taking extra pictures. It was humid and hot in the room where I was and it made my pops go into thermal shock!! No big deal, they did not suffer long… Will I make them again? Probably but this time I want to cut bigger slices and put them on ice cream sticks, ahahaha!!!
Cheesecake Pops, (full recipe) adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor
5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs (I used 3 eggs when I baked half the recipe without a problem)
2 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, seeded
¼ cup heavy cream
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, chopped or in chips
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)
Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) I also used cut chocolate transfer sheets.
Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.
Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.
Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 to 2 hours.
When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.
Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.
Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paperlined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.
Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.
Don’t forget to check out the other Daring Bakers' creations here and again thanks Lisa and Ivonne for your hard work this month setting us up with a brand new forum!!
Because we both work odd hours and often during the weekend, some Mondays offer the luxury of a quieter day. A day I like to spend outside or in my favorite room in the house, the guest bedroom. When we built the house, we designed the entire upper floor ourselves and B. did an amazing job at it, it really feels like a separate apartment complete with a reading/library space, office and large bathroom. We like it so much that we sometimes sleep upstairs and it does feel like a mini break. I set up a little photo studio up there and with views of the trees and the water ahead, it s very soothing for the soul and the spirit. Last Monday, we decided to shut away from the world for a little while and recharge our human batteries by taking a nap upstairs. He woke up before I did and when I opened my eyes, he was sitting at the desk, reading old books, savouring the warmth of the three o’clock sun entering the room. I went downstairs, made us a pot of coffee (we both at gigs that night) and cut a few slices of the Chocolate Mocha Cake I had made on Sunday night. I set both in front of him, sat on the bed with my book and we both smiled.
We had managed to shut the world away for a few hours and take a mini vacation, complete with reading, cake and coffee. Moments like these are truly a blessing, don’t you think? We are in full speed again as the week goes on and weekend draws near but all week long I knew we both thought about those couple hours stolen away from the hustle and bustle whenever we felt a moment of stress and anxiety. Spring in the South is truly a moment to be savoured and taken advantage of because it won’t be long before you feel the wrath of heat and humidity that makes you feel all sticky and slow all day long. I know, I know, with the bounty of fresh strawberries, watermelons and other produce out there right now, I could have gone a lighter route, but there is nothing like chocolate cake to enhance a feeling of comfort and well being.
The making of the cake started kind of backward, with the buttercream actually. In one of our many French tutoring Sunday mornings, Veronica and I were discussing the many different kinds and virtues of buttercream (I told her my theory that Ina Garten’s perfect camera glow comes from buttercream). I told her I was addicted to Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Mousseline Buttercream and she told me she was addicted to her egg yolk buttercream. As often, our phone conversation ended with an email swap of recipes, and I filed the buttercream recipe away…until Sunday night. I made it without a precise dessert in mind, thinking I would find something during the week to use it with, and I realised after tasting it that it’d better be sooner than later or there would not be a whole lot left given the way we were digging our spoons in it! I agree with Veronica that the addition of a good dose of vanilla bean paste really makes it taste like soft vanilla ice cream.
So I had the buttercream, I needed cake right? It was now, Sunday night past 11pm and B. had already retreated to the bedroom, so no option to use a mixer at that point. I fixed my easiest one bowl, no mixer cake recipe and proceeded to make a Swiss roll type cake. Once baked and cooled, I filled it with the buttercream flavored with coffee, covered it with a milk chocolate glaze and showered it with chocolate sprinkles. After a night’s rest in the fridge, the cake was ready for our little break at home Monday afternoon. The buttercream is not cloyingly sweet and the cake batter makes a very light spongy cake, perfect for a snack or to feel somewhat virtuous about a little coffee break!
In a large saucepan set over low heat, stir together the butter, instant coffee, water, chocolate and sugar until smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool 10 minutes.
Whisk in the egg, flour, baking powder and cocoa powder until incorporated.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, lightly coat with cooking spray. Pour the chocolate cake batter in the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes at 375F. Do not overbake or it will crack when you roll it. Check after 12-15 minutes, if it springs back when you touch it, it’s done.
Remove from the heat, cover with a towel and let cool a few minutes.
Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and unmold on the kitchen counter. Peel the bottom parchment layer that is now your top, roll the cake without filling with the parchment paper from the long side to give it some form and elasticity for when you fill it with the buttercream. Let cool completely.
6 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
4 sticks of butter (don’t roll your eyes, you won’t feel it:))
Butter should be soft but nor mushy (65F)
1 Tb vanilla bean paste
2 Tb instant coffee dissolved in 1 Tb hot water
In a stand mixer or with a hand held one, whip the egg yolks for a minute.
Boil water and sugar until the temperature reaches 238F on a candy thermometer.
Slowly pour the hot sugar syrup over the egg yolks on a steady stream, continue beating the yolks until pale in color and cooled. Beat in the softened butter until the buttercream is smooth a
and together. Add the vanilla bean paste and the coffee, beat a few extra seconds until incorporated.
For the ganache:
300 gr milk chocolate
3/4 cup heavy cream
Bring the cream to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Pour over the chocolate. Let stand a couple of minutes and then stir carefully until it is incorporated and smooth.
Unroll the cake from the parchment paper, fill with the buttercream (you won’t use it all). Reroll the cake, cut it in half (so it does not seem like a Yule log, but more like a Swiss roll). Set each half on a wire rack set over a piece of parchment paper. Cover with the ganache and douse with chocolate sprinkles. Refrigerate to set.
I was trying my best to pretend Christophe was not around the house….avoiding his mischievous glance on my way to the kitchen, grazing my hand on the shiny cover and yet preventing myself from leafing through the pages filled with gorgeous photographs and fun recipes. One night though, I found myself alone in the house and tempted by the promises of silky chocolate mousse, I gave in. I have always been pretty forward with my beaus (ask B. and he will tell you that the first thing I told you was "You’re sexy" instead of "You’re sweet" when we met – he’d tell the truth), and when there is chocolate, well I guess you don’t need a visual…except Christophe was not going to get the best of me this time and leave me wondering again if he was the man for me. After making his Chocolate-Caramel Mousse, I think we might go steady for a while.
I was really intrigued by Christophe’s mousse, particularly the ingredients and since there was just the two of us in the kitchen that evening, it was all quiet and calm and I thought we would get along better….no distraction meant that we could dance to the sound of bubbling caramel and not have a care in the world for a short while. The mousse I usually make is rich and yet nothing extravagant: melt chocolate, add butter, add egg yolks, whip egg whites with sugar, add whipped cream, fold and eat. But this is Christophe and we are on a date…His mousse is lighter due to his use of 2% milk, less egg, milk chocolate to add a touch of sweetness and very little butter. It is almost liquid when you pour it into a cup, dish or other but sets up to a beautiful silky cloud of paradise. I see some of you ready to come tell me about the danger of eating raw eggs. Stop right there. I will continue to eat the way and foods I was raised upon, including vats of egg filled mousse if I can (if it works for 97 year-old Grandpa Rene, I’ll take my chance) I respect your opinion, really I do, but do you really know what tomorrow holds? Yeah…neither do I….except maybe "more mousse!" 🙂
The caramel part of the recipe? Well, that was Christophe little secret move…You have to earn your right to the mousse as you wait to let it set but oh my! that little bit of creamy caramel layer is just a great contrast in texture and flavor to the bittersweet chocolate layer. B, jealous of my little evening with Christophe, made the (bad) joke that we had invited Pierre Herme as the chaperon. Indeed, I layered the mousse and caramel cream on the diagonal, like I did with my adaptation of his Sensation Satine. I made enough caramel cream for only two servings but mousse for four people so I used empty and washed egg shells to pour it into and topped all with some crushed toffee. I ended up polishing both little jars which left B. with the eggs without caramel…sorry, bad pastry jokes are against the company’s policies(!).
Chocolate-Caramel Mousse: Serves 4
For the Caramel Cream Layer:
40 gr sugar
100 ml water
150 ml heavy cream at room temperature
1 tsp powdered gelatin
1 Tb water
pinch of salt
In a heavy saucepan, bring the sugar and water to 180C (358F) or to a dark amber caramel if you do not have a thermometer, over medium high heat. Be careful, if it turns too dark it will be bitter. Lower the heat and add the cream and stir until fully incorporated. Do not worry if it hisses at you and starts bubbling like crazy, it calms down after a few seconds. Remove from the heat. Pour the gelatin over the tablespoon of water and let it bloom for a couple of minutes. Stir it into the caramel and stir to dissolve. Pour into your selected dishes in the manner described here if you wish, or just let it be your bottom layer. Let set for 2 hours.
For the Dark Chocolate Mousse Layer:
1/2 cup (125ml) 2% milk
100 gr bittersweet chocolate (chips or chopped)
25 gr milk chocolate (same)
1 egg yolk
15 gr butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (125 ml) heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
Bring the milk to a boil in heavy saucepan. Add the chocolate, let stand a couple of minutes. Stir gently until the chocolate is melted and fully incorporated. The mixture should be at 45C (128F) when you add the egg yolk, if it is colder it might seize. Whisk in the butter. Add the whipped cream and fold delicately. Pour into your dishes and tilt them in the manner described here if you wish, or just let it be your top layer. Let set for 2 hours.
Top with crushed toffee if desired before serving.
I guess I really can’t be left alone… or my mind start playing tricks on me. Last Sunday I was working on a wedding cake for a friend of mine getting married this coming weekend when she called and asked me for the thousandth time if I had also started working on her wedding favors. "Yes" I replied "and may I add that I must really love you and F.?" "Why is that?" she asked… "because of all that blue…I think I am losing my mind". The theme of her wedding is a beach/lagoon sea and ghastly as I found her idea to have a lot of blue, I agreed to do it all, including macarons for wedding favors. Why can’t I be left alone? Well, it seems that my brain has short circuits because not only did I agree to make a lot of them (300) I started playing on the ocean theme and decided to swirl the white and blue batters together and ended up with these Swirly Macs. I think I had moment of lucidity when I decided to only swirl half the bunch and sandwich them with a plain side. Half a genius is still better than none!!
It is funny but the more I am swirling them the more they are growing on me. And that is where the second part of the post comes in. Today is my wonderful brother’s birthday. His name is Arnaud and I guess that like the macarons, the more we were hanging out together the more we were growing on each other. He is a wonderful guy, husband and father to my two precious little nieces and all around awesome dude and cook. I never realised how much I loved him until a few years ago when B. and I went back to France for Christmas. We visited him and his wife before they had the girls and we went out one night together to share a good cassoulet. We sat there and I had the most overwhelming feeling in my heart. I was sitting across from him, staring at this grown up man with a wedding ring on his fingers, talking to my husband in such a warm and natural manner. He loved me. I could not stop the tears. I loved him back.
We could not be more different in characters and lifestyle and growing up we were seriously harsh on each other but we shared so much in the past few years that we know now how to love and respect each other. I know losing our brother to cancer was a tough wake up call, but so were the births of his children, the distance between us and the other events marking our family. Today I want to publicly wish him a "Joyeux Anniversaire" and show him that our relationship may be as swirly as those macarons sometimes but he is the other half of me. Yep, the same guy who bit a chunk out of my thighs when I was 4 and I was probably getting right nerve under his last nerve (I still have the mark, no lie).
Let’s all wish him a Joyeux Anniversaire Arnaud! Mille bises de nous tous!
I wish I could send them overseas but I can’t…they will however be part of a small gifts table at my friend’s wedding. I think I will save some and send them to Danielle who is hosting Sugar High Friday this month with the theme of Sweet Gifts (and I am not only speaking of the virtual world:))
Swirly Macarons With Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache:
For the Macarons:
3 egg whites (I like to use 2-3 day old egg whites)
50 gr. granulated sugar
200 gr. powdered sugar
110 gr. ground almonds
2 Ts blue powdered food coloring
For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature on a covered container. If you want to use 48hrs (or more) egg whites, you can store them in the fridge.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry and your macarons won’t work. Combine the ground almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a quick pulse. It will break the powdered sugar lumps and combine your almonds with it evenly. Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold and remove some of the batter that will remain uncolored. Add 2 TB food coloring to the rest and fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon.
Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Do the same for the plain batter.s
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper baking sheets.
With a toothpick dab dots of the plain batter and swirl.
Preheat the oven to 300F. Let the macarons sit out for an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 8-10 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. Pipe or spoon some ganache on one shell and sandwich with another one.
If you use fresh whites, zap them up in the microwave on medium high for 20 seconds.
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup bittersweet chocolate
In a heavy saucepan set over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the stove and add the chocolate to it. Let stand 2 minutes and then stir until fully combined. Let cool until firm enough to put in a small piping bag.
Notes: Today march 2oth is the "Journee du Macaron" when numerous pastry shops around France, Swiss and Belgium offer free samples all day long! Lucky you’s!!!
I receive a lot of emails about breaking the code of making macarons and I am working on a tutorial with step by step pictures. Coming soon!