If you were to visit our house right now, you’d be wondering if Christmas is really just a a week away. Oh, we have a small tree up in the living room but that’s about it. No present wrapped up underneath and a few of Christmas decorations here and there in the house. We have gifts almost all ready to go for everyone but we can’t leave them out since they are of the edible kind. The pupps have a tendency to get in trouble with bows and ornaments!
In both my jobs, I work freelance, which means that on Sunday night, the upcoming week on the calendar looks one way and by Tuesday night all the little blocks are filled, scratches and arrows everywhere. By Wednesday morning one side of the fridge (B. has an aversion for magnets and other knickknacks on the front) is completely covered with "production sheets" such as menus, sitting charts,plating,order forms, invoices,…. One could say that my fridge is my office. Where am I going with this?
On Sunday night I looked at the calendar and thought this week would be nothing as busy as the week before, which left me a little uncomfortable. I get paid by the event, the gig, the class, the training, which means that a slow week gives me some rest but does not help the pocket book. I admit, I needed a break, it helps regenerate the creative juices and there are a ton of household things awaiting my attention. I am also trying for some extra greens as I have a certain VIB (Very Important Blogger) coming to visit in a few weeks and I want to be free to spend on foods and shopping while she is here. I looked at the schedule and said out loud "now is when I need that one easy high paying dinner party…Oh a girl can dream!" That sort of things never happen to me usually, well, maybe once or twice, like when Andie McDowell had dinner at the restaurant and left the staff a huge tip for the "exquisite" (her words) meal she had…and that was years ago! Let me tell you, men and women alike in the restaurant were in awe of her beauty…gosh that hair!!
Anyway,back to this Coconut Pana Cotta-Warm Lemon Poppy Seed Cake and Yuzu Mandarin Sauce. Quite a long title I know, and not something I would make for us during the week unless I were working on a project, which I was by Monday night. I got a call from one of my favorite clients who decided to celebrate his and his wife 25th wedding anniversary with a dinner for 30 under the theme "East Meets West", as he is American and she is Vietnamese, and would I want to take care of the desserts? I love working at their house, big, equipped to the ceiling, modern yet cozy and rarely used because they eat out more than anything. They are also very generous and fun which made me look at the sky, say "Thank you Big Guy" and promptly accept.
Two minutes afterwards, I started getting a little anxious: I don’t know that much about Asian desserts, I read a lot of Asian blogs, I know Asian flavors but I had to incorporate Eastern ones with it, and hopefully do it tastefully. Instead of marrying one dessert of each continent on a plate and hope for the best, I drew my inspiration from flavors and textures. What you see in this pictures is what will be served Friday night and after the initial test run with B., the client, and the other chef working the main, I think we are on track. If I could put my hands on fairy floss, I would use it to decorate the top of the panna cotta but no such luck here.
You can make all the elements separately and eat them as such, and although it seems like a lot to do for desserts, they come together quickly and you can spread your work over a couple of days if you want. The pana cotta is a cinch to make and I let the coconut milk infuse with a bag of white tea for extra flavor and one chopped lemongrass stalk. The lemon poppy seed cake is made with a mix of all purpose flour and semolina which gives it a nice crunchy bite. The sauce is puckery and sweet at the same time with extra poppy seeds which soaks into the warm cake making sure you get a soft bite and not a mouth full of cake against the panna cotta. Yuzu juice is not difficult to find online and goes a long way but you can substitute a mix of lemon and lime juice for it. If you want to read more about Yuzu, go check the article Kalyn wrote for Blogher a couple of days ago. The panna cotta rests on a peach chip since I had leftover peach puree from the peach ganache for the macarons I made the other day. For the technique to make fruit chips, read this post where I made raspberry one the exact same way.
Coconut Pana Cotta-Warm Lemon Poppyseed Cake and Yuzu Mandarin Sauce:
For the Pana Cotta:
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
zests of 1 lemon and one lime
2 stalks lemongrass, roughly chopped
1 teabag white tea
4 teaspoons powdered gelatin bloomed in 1/4 cup water (means to pour the water over the gelatin and let it sit while you prepare the panna cotta)
Combine all the ingredients, except the gelatin, in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let the cream to steep for 20 minutes. Pass the mixture through a sieve or a chinois, heat the gelatin in the microwave for 15 seconds and quickly stir it in the cream mixture. Divide it evenly among small dishes (I used brioches molds). Refrigerate and allow to set at least 3 hours or overnight. To unmold, dip the bottoms in hot water for a minute and invert to unmold onto a piece or parchment paper, they will be easier to scoop.
For the Lemon Poppy seed Cake:
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tb baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup egg whites (about 3-4)
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
grated zest of one lemon
1 Tb poppy seeds
1/2 cup butter, melted
Preheat oven to 300F. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the cake, except the butter. Mix with a whisk until smooth. Add the butter and nix until it all comes together. Pour the batter into 8 small buttered molds, or 3 inch metal tart shells. I used scalloped silicone cake forms. Bake for 20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes back clean. To reheat before serving, pop them in the microwave or back at 300F for 5 minutes.
For the Yuzu Mandarin Sauce
1/2 cup Yuzu juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 Tb butter
1 cup mandarin section (although I used fresh, you can sub. canned if you wish. Grapefruit or tangerine sections work nicely too)
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 10-15 seconds and remove from the heat. Add the mandarin sections. Use at once. Make it at the last minute and serve it hot with the dessert so that you get a wide spectrum of temperature.
Pour some sauce at the bottom of each plate, place a warm cake in the center, top with a peach chip, top with a pana cotta and decorate with a mandarin section if desired.
See, it looks a lot more labor intensive than it really is, which works great for me when I make 30 for my client’s "intimate dinner" (!) or 8 for us and a few friends. Ok, so next post will be cupcakes…just because I don’t want to scare you away!!
It is 1.35am here and I am wide awake….and I just half of one of these babies. For some of you it is the middle of the night, for others, mid-morning, or later somewhere somehow…so enjoy the pictures while I slowly slip into bed. Recipe later on today…
Looking at your comments I can tell that cheesecakes stimulate your appetites. I also feel the need to explain that I bake "constantly": sometimes for us or the neighbors, and a lot for special orders. I "rescued" the cheesecake in the picture from a larger order for a friend’s dinner party with her in-laws. I bake at odd times, whenever I get the chance, and I have a whole shelf of the fridge reserved for prep work full batters, baked sheet cakes, genoises, dacquoise, egg whites, creams and all the tralalas…There is no telling when Old Chef is going to call me or when stangers email me for cakes. My job at the gym is only part time so I can keep practicing my first job. This said back to the cheesecakes…
My friend C. has her in-laws visiting and they love cheesecakes and she loves mini-everything. She has a whole array of molds, pans, serving dishes ready to satisfy the most avid baker and yet, she hates anything that has to do with putting on an apron and spending time in the kitchen. She usually calls me to the rescue and I always love to oblige. A visit to her house is always a treat as she is the most perfect host, Martha has nothing on her, believe me, and I spend quite a bit of time admiring her designer’s eye an skills at the same time I deliver my baked goods.
Her requests for the cheesecake flavors were minimal: light an airy, no chocolate, maybe some citrus…needs to go well with vodka cocktails an margaritas….Hmmm…I think I can manage that!
I did not have to look deep into the pantry or the fridge for what I wanted the cheesecakes to be. While visiting Lisa a couple of weeks ago, I begged her to take me to Trader Joes (why we don’t have one here is beyond my understanding!) and picked up a jar of their ginger spread (like a thick ginger jam) as well as a jar of Yuzu marmelade.
After a successful first run with Yuzu curd, I knew C. would love a thin glaze of the marmelade on the cheesecakes. I made a couple of extras the day before her dinner so that we could try them out….you know…for safety purposes!!! Before I could get my spoon into one of them, she had already made her way through 3/4 of it, so I packed one up to share with B. later on. Well, later on was last night and he went to bed as soon as he got home from a music gig. I, on the other hand was all revved up from chatting with a friend….And why oh why was this cheesecake strategically positioned in the fridge that everytime I’d open the door for water, there it was, sending me subliminal messages. After a 30 minutes dance between my fork and the water, the fork won and I sat outside with half of it. Needless to say, I fell asleep like a baby!!!
Ginger Cheesecakes With Yuzu Glaze:
Makes 2 41/2 inch cheesecakes
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 Tb. butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tb ginger spread (you can sub 1 Tb fresh grated ginger)
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 Tb melted butter
1/2 cup yuzu marmelade ( you can sub. lemon curd or orange marmelade)
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a medium side bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and the melted butter. Divide among 2 4 1/2 inch mini springform pans and pat with your fingers until evenly distributed. Bake 10 minutes. Lower temperature to 325.
In a large bowl, with the electric mixer or by hand , mix the cream cheese, butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time until well incorporated. Add the vanilla and ginger spread. Divide betwee the springform pans. Wrap each pan with heavy duty foil. Set them in a roasting pan, fill with water and bake at 325 for about 40 minutes, or until they wiggle just a tiny bit in the middle. They will set more after an overnight trip in the fridge. Remove the foil, let cool, and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, run a hot knife on the inside of the pan and release the cheesecakes. Heat up the marmelade in the microwave until of spreadable consistency and spoon on top of each cake….you are ready to go!
It is probably no news that I love berries, lemons, and mascarpone, but what I love when two bloggers give me the chance to put them together. Lisa from La Mia Cucina and Kelly from Sass & Veracity got together and concoted a Salad Extravaganza event in their quest to shrink their hips and thighs.
I first thought about doing a simple fruit salad with a drizzle of honey and lemon juice, maybe a dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream. However, after several email exchanges with Lisa and her desire to keep the taste and bang factor while watching what she eats, I wanted to share with her that one can keep that "wow" factor by using regular ingredients but decreasing the portion size. I too have had my battle with my thighs and over the years I have found out that they respond well the old "quality over quantity" phrase (although I have been known to have my cake and eat it too!).
I first tried yuzu in a tart purchased from the amazing pastry chef Sadaharu Aoki while in Paris last Christmas. How to describe the taste? Sometimes it is like a grapefruit or a perky tangerine in your mouth, sometimes it has a lemon kick to it, the kind that makes you gums go "ouyee" overall it just is plain good if you love citrus! I cannot find fresh yuzu fruits here but thanks to the internet the juice is easily accesible.
These "verrines" are a dessert we have often as it is light and tasty, easy to put together and extremely refreshing. Don’t tell be but I even enjoy a few spoonful in the morning before my run. With the yuzu juice, I make a simple (lower calorie) curd that I layer with a mascarpone cream spiked with lemon zest. The berries don’t really need anything else as you dip your spoon and mix them with the creams.
Berry Salad on Yuzu and Mascarone Creams:
For the yuzu curd:
2/3 cup yuzu juice
1/3 cup sugar
Combine the sugar and juice in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs until light.
Beat some of the yuzu mixture into the eggs to temper. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook stirring constantly until it thickens up, about 5 minutes.Strain and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap until ready to use.
For the mascarpone cream:
8 oz mascarpone, at room temp
1/4 cup powdered sugar
grated zest of one lemon
Mix all the ingredients together and keep at room temperatue, it will be easier to layer.
For the mixed berry salad:
1 cup cut up fresh strawberries
1 pint fresh raspberries
1 pint fresh blueberries
To assemble: layer the yuzu curd and mascarpone cream in glasses or cups and top with a generous amount of the mixed berry salad.