Yesterday morning, I stood in the middle of the kitchen trying to find something, anything yellow that I could bake with. I thought I was finally ahead of the game for a change with recipes, writing, pictures, yet I had this nagging feeling that I was forgetting something. I was mumbling "yellow, yellow, something yellow" pacing the kitchen, opening the fridge, the pantry. Bill looked at me, banana in hand and exclaimed "That’s yellow!". Read this post and you will understand why I immediately protested: "Non pas encore des bananes. Y’en a marre des bananes!" (no, no more bananas. Enough with the bananas!) Lemons would be nice. Lemon Pots de Creme would even be nicer.
An hour later a baker friend stopped by with a small case of lemons. "Fell off the truck!" he said with a wink. I know it meant they had overstocked and they knew I’d find good use for them. "Oh yes! Yellow overstock! Please find a spot on my countertop" I thought while wringing my hands scheming. I did not have much time yesterday but I did not want to miss Barbara’s eventLiveStrong With A Taste of Yellow for anything. Barbara gives so much of her friendship and wisdom to all of us. It’s all about giving back.
I could write paragraphs after paragraphs about people I know and love who are touched by cancer right now and people I have loved and lost to cancer but it would not do anybody any good. You know some, you love some. It hurts and it’s ugly and it is not what Barbara or the event is about. For the past three years, Barbara has gathered food bloggers around the world to create a yellow dish in support of the Lance Armstrong Foundation to raise cancer awareness.
Two years ago I went with an all mango dessert that was devoured by my husband two seconds after I had taken a picture and last year I made tropical verrines with peach macarons that were also devoured right after the pictures. This year I baked Lemon Chamomile Pots de Creme, and guess what happened? Well yes, 3 were gone before lunch! You can’t leave two lemon heads like us around these and expect us to behave, not that we would have tried anyway.
"Pots de creme" are exactly that: little cups of creamy custard. Heavy cream, egg yolks, sugar. The rest is up to your imagination. I remember when my friend M. was undergoing chemo, she would often ask for a cup of tea with a lemon slice and some chamomille buds in there. As a tribute to her kicking cancer away for now, I added a small handful of chamomile buds with the cream and let it steep before mixing the cream with the rest of the ingredients and a serious dose of lemons. The result was soothing, tongue nipping and down right refreshing.
Side note: a few people have emailed asking me how I keep my tablecloths so white even after putting crumbs or ice cream right on them. HA AH! Here is my little secret: I use wood. Large blocks of wood or 2x4s that I sand, stain and paint (sometimes dark) so all I have to do is take a sponge when I am done photographing. Unlike Martha Stewart, I don’t find doing laundry and ironing that much of fun time. I have enough with the napkins and placemats I use!
Lemon Chamomile Pots de Creme:
Makes 4 to 6 depending on the size of your ramekins.
1 1/2 cups (375ml) heavy cream
2 tablespoons edible chamomille buds (found mine at health food store with bulk herbs and spices)
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
zest and juice of 2-3 lemons (you’ll need 1/4 cup or 60ml of juice)
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 325F and position a rack in the center. Place your ramekins in a heavy deep pan and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream and the chamomile to a simmer. Turn the heat off and let the chamomile steep in the cream while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until pale yellow. Add the lemon juice and salt and whisk until smooth.
Strain the heavy cream and discard the chamomile. Slowly pour the heavy cream over the egg yolk mixture, whisking well. Let stand for a couple of minutes to let any foam rise to the top, skim it off and divide the mixture among your ramekins. Pour hot water inside the pan, making sure the water comes at least halfway up the sides of your dishes. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes.
….and I play the triangle….because I can’t carry a tune, which really is funny. No, no, really, I find it really funny that I can’t sing or barely remember three notes on a piano considering that thanks to Mr.Tartelette being a musician, I had no problem finding sheet music, a trombone, a flute, a guitar and a violin lying around the house making it easy to take pictures or get inspired when Ivonne and Lisa , along with Shea from Whiskful and Fran from Apple Peaches Pumpkin Pie announced that the Daring Bakers challenge for May was "The Opera". Early on, I started humming Madame Butterfly and Carmen which greatly influenced the decorations on the cake: lovely "tuile/tulip" butterflies for the former and shapely upside down legs in the cake. Mid-month I was not humming so much anymore as I was making the original Opera for hundreds at work. I was on a mission though…
The Daring Bakers' Opera this month is dedicated to Barbara of Winos And Foodies. Over the last couple of years, Barbara and I have become closer than just blogging acquaintances often sharing very private which each other. As Ivonne and Lisa put it "Barbara is the force behind the food blog event called A Taste of Yellow that supports the LiveSTRONG foundation started by Lance Armstrong. This year’s LiveStrong Day is in May so we decided that we could show our support by dedicating our respective challenge posts to Barbara." For that matter we were asked to keep our challenges yellow or white…my finished cake turned out both depending on the light but some of the ingredients were definitely yellow to start with. Thank you ladies for a brilliant challenge and idea! To check our wonderful Daring Bakers' creations, head over to the blogroll, you won’t be disappointed!
Barbara…I would love to sing you an Opera but if you knew how badly I sing you’d be much happier eating a bite of the one I made! This one is for you my dear dear friend! I am like you: "a cook who cannot sing who married a musician who cannot cook". If only I could give you a hug and thank you for the words of wisdom and comfort you have spoken in my ears since we "met" through Blogging By Mail… Remember I told you your dancing shoes picture was part of my screen saver mosaic? Well…I’d like to think these are the sexy legs that go along with them. You are a true inspiration of strength and compassion, humor and wit. Love you!
I looked at the recipe provided by Ivonne and Lisa and the variations allowed (we could use different recipes as long as the outcome remained white or light colored) and let my mind sing me an Opera for a change…I got inspired by the flavors of my native Provence: orange, honey and lavender and incorporated those ingredients at different stages of the cake. I cannot take credit for the leg shaped tuiles as I had seen them done by a French blogger (original post here) 2 or 3 years ago but the funky idea stuck in my head thinking the right time would come along to play with it. I use tuile butterflies and other shapes a lot at work since it is easier to keep stable with the humidity here. Once I have the cookies and shapes made, I dry them off a bit in a low temperature oven to keep them crispy longer, much easier than blooming chocolate or limping caramel.
I did halve the recipe for the cake base, the Joconde, as there was just the two of us around in the neighborhood that weekend (really strange feeling by the way when you know our street) and added a good dose of orange zest. For the buttercream, I went with a Italian meringue based buttercream I had used in a Swiss Roll and replaced some of the sugar with honey and added some vanilla bean paste (thank you Holly!). I infused the syrup used to soak the cake to keep it moist and flavorful with lavender. We were given the option of adding a light colored mousse to the top of the cake before adding the glaze and here again I used a favorite recipe of mine, a soft and light (although rich) lavender infused mousse. I am a little weary of white chocolate as a glaze as I often find it cloyingly sweet so I made this one very very thin, just to brush the cake off with a nice sheen and slide off the sides.
Honey And Lavender Opera:
For the cake (Joconde)
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
2 Tb orange zest
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C). Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside. If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and orange zest and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven. Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold. Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.
For the syrup:
½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. food grade lavender buds
Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
For the buttercream:
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
3 sticks of butter (Butter should be soft but nor mushy, around 65F)
1 Tb vanilla bean paste
In a stand mixer or with a hand held one, whip the egg yolks for a minute.
Boil water, honey 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, beat a few extra seconds until incorporated.
Caramel Lavender Mousse:(makes 5 cups as written)
Note: have the cake cut and ready to be assembled before you make the mousse
6 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 packet unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup water, divided
1 cup sugar
2 Tb food grade lavender buds
2 cups heavy cream
The day before of a few hours before you start: combine the lavender and heavy cream in a heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let the lavender infuse the cream. Let sit for 30 minutes. Strain the buds out and refrigerate the cream until completely cold.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg yolks and the salt. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup water, and let it sit while you make the caramel.
Combine the sugar and 1/4 cup water in a heavy saucepan. Cover and bring to a rapid boil over medium high heat (prevents crystallization of the sugar on the side of the pan). Once boiling, uncover and cook the sugar until deep golden brown. Turn off the heat and carefully pour 1/4 cup water into the hot caramel. The syrup will bubble and spurt,so stand back. Make sure the water incorporates fully to the syrup. Return to the heat if you get caramel bits and stir until it is one smooth liquid.
Pour the caramel in a container with a spout, it will be easier to add the to the yolks. Pour the caramel slowly and into a steady stream into the egg yolks with the machine running on medium high. Melt the gelatin in the microwave for 10 seconds or into the (now empty) saucepan until dissolved. Add it to the yolk mixture and continue to whisk on medium high until it triples in volume and cools to room temperature.
In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Add it to the mousse base and fold the two gently together. Use within 30 minutes or it will be too set to spread.
For the glaze:
10 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)
Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth. Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer. Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.
Assembling the Opéra Cake:
(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).
Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.
Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.
Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.
Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.
Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).
Spread the mousse on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.
Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.
Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.
I apologize ahead of time if I am very slow making the rounds checking other DB’s operas but I am putting up a huge SHF round-up and trying to enjoy my family visiting from France for a while.
There are many events I like to participate in but there is one I would not miss for the world: LiveStrong Day With A Taste Of Yellow launched and hosted by Barbara from Winos and Foodies . Last year 149 bloggers from all over the world answered her call to celebrate life, remember our loved one who passed away from cancer and this year I have no fear that more will rally on May 13th to support the LiveStrong Foundation. I have previously talked about my brother passing away at an early age from cancer and then my grandmother a few years later. There is not a day that goes by without their memory influencing my thoughts, my choices and my attitude. I laugh more, I try not to sweat the small stuff (does not mean I succeed all the time) and I live and love stronger, for me and others. I tried to write this post all weekend long but everytime my eyes got cloudy and my heart heavy, no exception this very minute. I miss Thierry, I miss Mamie Paulette. I wish I could write a more eloquent post to their memory but I can’t even write the word cancer without hurting. The anger and disbelief has given way to sadness but last year I did manage to write some about it which you can read here.
Instead I want to focus on the woman behind the event, Barbara. Although I have never met her in person, I like to believe that we would be good friends if we were neighbors. I first "met" Barbara when I sent her a package during one round of Blogging By Mail….all the way to New Zealand! We kept in touch through emails, we discovered more about each other as the months went by and she is in my thoughts just about everyday. She has her own battle with cancer to fight and yet she never cease to amaze me by dropping me a line or sending me a little package when I come here and open up about some of my "mishaps". Thank you for being here, for being fierce, for being strong, for being such a support when I needed a little boost.
When she launched Taste of Yellow this year, she added a little photo contest opportunity with the request that our picture had to feature the yellow cancer wristband. Name your color, I got it, but in this case when I went to get mine wrapped around Teddy The Mini Bear I discovered that this ferocious beast had a field trip with the bear and the bracelet. I got online and figured I would order a bag of 10 and give them out to friends and family and right after I hit "buy", an email from Barbara came in reading that she had some and would I like her to send me one (from Australia this time, because she moved) Yep, Ma’m! I gave the whole bag I purchased away and kept hers for the photo shot and away from the beast of the house! Thank you my dear, macarons look great wrapped in yellow! The "funny" thing this year is that LiveStrong day falls on my birthday, a date my brother never missed although he was completely in his own world when it came to dates and celebrations. Life has a way to remind you of the big things doesn’t it?
Allright, what about Barbara’s event and the food…. It has to be yellow for one and since it has been in the 80sF around here lately I decided not to turn the oven on too long and make something refreshing. A tropical "verrine" of mango, fruit salad, and whipped Greek yogurt with peach ganache macarons…yellow, yellow…Of course I had to stick a macaron in there..eheheh!! That went down so easy last night as we were sitting on the porch, reminiscing about the first time B. met my bother in Montmartre in front of a big bowl of spaghetti and the first time he met my grandmother at her house in front of one of her famous tarts and a cup of tea. Great memories…the best (someone pass me a Kleenex).
I need to add after reading several comments that you do not need a yellow wristband to enter the event, it is just to take part in the photo contest. However, purchasing one or several through the Lance Armstrong Foundation will help fight this nasty disease.
For the bottom layer, peel the mango and cut in rough chunks, run them through the food processor with the lime juice until you obtain a fine puree. Divide it evenly among four glasses or dishes.
Peel and dice the remaining mango and mix it with the other fruits to get a nice fruit salad, add a couple of Tbs of lemon juice to prevent the fruits from turning brown if you want. Divide on top of the mango puree evenly among the glasses.
Mix the Greek yogurt and the whipped cream and top each glass with it. Sprinkle with crushed sugar cookies if your desire. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the Macarons shells:
3 egg whites (I like to use 1-2 day old egg whites)
50 gr. granulated sugar
200 gr. powdered sugar
110 gr. ground almonds
1 drop yellow food coloring
1 drop red 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 the food colorings 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. 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.
For the Peach Ganache:
150 gr good quality white chocolate
75 ml heavy cream
Bring a small pot filled with water to a boil on the stove and cook the peach in it for a couple of minutes. Remove from the water, let cool, peel and chop into rough chunks. Run them through the food processor until you get a fine peach puree. Set aside.In a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt the white chocolate until completely smooth. Remove from the heat and add the heavy cream and peach puree. Gently incorporate all the ingredients together until your ganache is smooth. Refrigerate until of piping consistency and fill the macarons shells with it.