Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pain au Chocolat

I don't speak French, I know practically nothing of French culture and history. My mom lived in southern France for a couple years in her twenties, so I do know a couple of children's songs that my she taught me when I was a kid. Everyone knows Frere Jacques, but do you know Alouette or Ansi Font? But that pretty much sums it up. Oh, I guess I can count to ten, but every little kid who watched Sesame Street can count to ten in different languages.

I've found recently that my baking has leaned toward the French side of life, though. I suppose that makes sense, as many of the great pastries and desserts hail from a French tradition. But for whatever reason, my own baking interests have not been particularly French in the past. There is one pastry that I remeber my mom giving us a version of as children, Pain au Chocolat with warm sugar milk.

Pain au Chocolat is essentially a crossant with chocolate inside. I was inspired at the last minute to make some for my book club this morning. Again, I should have picked something that I knew would work in case the Pain au Chocolat didn't "pan" out (ha ha, sorry), but sometimes when I want to do something, I do it! Well, it didn't turn out at all like it was supposed to, (they were not at all croissant flaky-like) but fortunately the bread was still good, and I just didn't say anything! ;)

My recipe comes from Jacques Torres over at the Food Network. I know I used too little butter (I spazed and wasn't paying attention to what was going on), so I'll have to try again sometime soon and see if I can't get actual croissants. This is a good regular bread recipe, too, though!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers: Tuiles

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.
Another French-word-I-don't-know-how-to-pronounce to add to the list: tuile. According to our hosts,
"Traditionally, tuiles are thin, crisp almond cookies that are gently molded over a rolling pin or arched form while they are still warm. Once set, their shape resembles the curved French roofing tiles for which they're named. The Dutch angle: traditionally this batter was used to bake flat round cookies on 31st December, representing the year unfold. On New Years day however, the same batter was used but this day they were presented to well-wishers shaped as cigars and filled with whipped cream, symbolizing the New Year that's about to roll on. And of course the batter is sometimes called tulip-paste...."

Attempt #1
No picture included because they ... failed!!! I tried chocolate tuiles first time 'round, and because the batter was already dark I couldn't find a happy baking time. Not so good :P

Attempt #2
Uncreative, yet considerably more successful. Plain/vanilla triangles rimmed with piped chocolate batter and rolled into a traditional cigar shape. I got impatient, however, waiting for my chantilly to set up, and as you can see in the picture, it's kindof droopy. Ok, but I couldn't seriously finish with these.

Third and final attempt
Our lovely, inversion-induced week long break from the weather followed by refreshingly uncharacteristic rain, is now gone. Sigh. Back to the cold and the snow. But I will not be dismayed. I embrace the beauty that winter does bring: a snow flake. Inspired by Wilson Bentley, my last go isn't quite what our host had in mind (sorry, not paired with something light), these snowflake shaped tuiles are my homage to the things I do like about winter.

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template.

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones….

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sunday Brunch

It was my turn to have the ladies over for VT this month. I didn't read the message/thought until the morning of, but you can bet I had a menu planned way in advance! This isn't my usual tea party group of friends, so I got to introduce formal tea to a new group! I'll admit it, I usually go overboard with the food for tea parties, so I pulled back this time and decided to go with biscotti and blood orange verrines. I've never made either of those before, and that's not a good when you're planning on immediately serving something, but fortunately both worked out great.
A word about verrines: The lovely Tartlette and Cannelle et Vanille both ocassionally have posts about this kind of dish. I had to google it, though, to figure out what in the world they were talking about. Serious Eats tells us, "A verrine is an appetizer or dessert that consists of a number of components layered artfully in a small glass. (The word verrine refers to the glass itself; literally it means "protective glass.")" So really it's just a small parfait. Leave it to the French to give the exact same idea a different name because the size is different. In any case, I had a hankering for orange, and blood orange seems to be the fruit du jour, so I did a blood orange jelly with yogurt, nectarine and crumble. I didn't want the biscotti to distract from the tea, just to enhance it. So I did a basic version of Giada's popular biscotti with a bit of cinnamon. And we had a lovely time!


Blood Orange Jelly
adapted from
1 1/2 tablespoons gelatine
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 1/2 cups orange juice

Soften the gelatine in the cold water. Dissolve it in the boiling water. Add the sugar and salt and stir until dissolved. Add lemon juice, orange rind, and orange juice, cook for 3 more minutes. Pour the jelly into mold. Chill until it is firm. Clever idea from Tartlette: Divide evenly among glasses and position them at an angle in an empty egg carton. Let set a couple of hours in the fridge.

Yogurt Layer

2 c vanilla yogurt
1 1/2 c heavy cream

Beat the cream to stiff peaks. Fold into the yogurt. Spoon onto the firm jelly.


1/4 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c oats
3 T flour
2 T cold butter

Mix the brown sugar, oats and flour. Cut the butter into small cubes. Work the butter into the oat mixture with your hands until it is course crumbs. Bake at 350 F until just browned. (If it starts melting, pull it out, it will still be ok!) Let it cool, then break up and sprinkle on the top of the verrines.

adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 T cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour and baking powder and beat just until blended. Stir in the almonds.
Form the dough into a 4-inch wide 1-inch tall log on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until light golden, about 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.
Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Two-fer

I have a confession and a question. I use box cake and brownie mixes. There, I said it. Now, the question is, is it cheating to use box mixes? They certainly save time, and perhaps this is the worst confession of all, but I like them. I'm generally ok with the taste and texture of box mix cakes/browies. But they require absolutely no culinary skill, and who knows what kind of preservatives are in there. So, what's your opinion on box mixes?

The reason I ask is because I try to do straight homemade all the time, at least for my own satisfaction because I like starting from scratch, it's more fun and interesting that way. But I didn't have time this week and had to resort to a box chocolate cake mix. I had a request to make dessert from my mom for her group of ladies, and I had a birthday party. The ladies group was small and I wanted to do something fancier, and the birthday party was large and informal, so something more finger food style was necessary. The ladies group was Thursday night, and the birthday party Friday night. But I have class on Wednesday and Thursday nights, so I needed something that would be fast to put together, and would work for both events. That led to parfaits for the ladies, and cupcakes for the birthday. The parfaits have chocolate Bavarian, then crumbled cake, then strawberry mousse, topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. The cupcakes are filled with the strawberry mousse, and frosted with the chocolate Bavarian and chocolate shavings.

Bavarian and Mousse recipes here (substitute 1 cup pureed strawberries for the boysenberries)To assemble the cupcakes, cut a cone out of the top of the cupcake. Fill in the hollow in the cupcake with the mousse. Cut off the bottom of the cone and place back on top of the cupcake. Bytheway, I really need to get a better camera. Can you tell which pictures were taken with my old boring digital camera, and which were taken with my dad's fancy scmancy camera?!!!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lemon Blueberry Polenta Cake

Have you ever heard of polenta? Probably, but it's not a common food in SLC, so I'd never come across it until a few months ago. And suddenly it was every where! Like when you learn a new obscure word, and then you hear everyone saying it. In case you don't know, polenta is ground dried corn. Polenta is also what it is cooked into, usually a sort of patty or a porridge. It is a staple of traditional Italian food, but has an historical association with the poor peasants. (You'd think I'd have heard of it sometime in all my Italian classes in college, but Dante never mentions it in the three cantiche, and he is the standard for any other piece of literature in Italy.)
In the last few days it's been brought to my attention that I am the source of much weight gain around me. This seemed a perfect opportunity, then, to use polenta in a healthy(ish) dessert. I googled around for polenta dessert recipes and came across this recipe. With a little alteration, I decided on a polenta cake with blueberries, a Italian meringue bassed yogurt icing, and a sprig of thyme for decoration. With rave reviews from the fam., I'm quite pleased with my vaguely healthy dessert!

(adapted from Alpineberry)
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup polenta
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
2/3 cup whole milk, at room temp
6 T butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan. Line bottom with a parchment paper circle and butter paper.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, polenta, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat butter and sugur until light and fluffy. Whisk in eggs, milk and vanilla. Add egg mixture to flour mixture all at once. Stir until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean and the cake is browned. Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around edge of pan to loosen cake. Invert onto a cake rack. Remove parchment paper.

30 g egg whites
75 g sugar
25 g water
1 T lemon zest
3/4 c vanilla yogurt
2 T lemon juice

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and heat to 230 F.
Whip egg whites to a soft peak. Add the sugar syrup and continue beating until cool. Add lemon zest half way through.
Add yogurt and lemon juice.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rice Pudding Parfaits

I spent Fall semester of my junior year at St. Andrew's University in Scotland. I know that sounds all romantic and adventurous, and while I loved my time there, every experience like that has it's down side. Scotland's downside: freakin' cold and wet. I was there from October through December, and I don't think I could feel my fingers and toes the entire time. I remember being grateful for the first few weeks every time I'd go outside and see that the ground was wet, but it wasn't raining. And then I realized the ground wasn't wet because it had just rained, it was just that humid. I remember sitting through countless lectures soaked through because no amount of rain gear can protect you from the wind and rain. BUT, I traveled a ton, met fabulous people who I'm still friends with (thank you, facebook!), and had some amazing desserts (not meal food, I don't care what shape the potato is on your plate, it's still potatoes every single meal!).

One of those fabulous desserts that I got hooked on was rice pudding. I lived on rice pudding from a tin and lime crisps finals week. So this time of year when it's cold and wet and dreary I'm always drawn to the warm creamy comfort of rice pudding. (The lime chips they sell here in the US just aren't as good as the UK's.) I was also feeling the need for some light refreshing fruit (Christmas gets all the heavy desserts). And I also wanted caramel, but my family insisted that I not do caramel with the fruit, so that necessitated two kinds of parfait. Even though I meant to avoid a heavy dessert, chocolate Bavarian cream was the obvious pairing for caramel, and the fruit component is boysenberry mousse because boysenberries are on sale at the local market. Though this "little" project took all evening, it was totally worth it. Yum!

Rice Pudding
3 c whole milk
1/2 c arborio rice
pinch Fleur de Sel (or red sea salt in my case b/c I can't find Fleur de Sel)
1/3 c sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and simmer for up to an hour until the rice is soft and the milk has cooked down.

Chocolate Bavarian Cream
from Cannelle et Vanille

60 grams half and half
5 grams sugar
1 egg yolk
2 grams gelatin softened over 1/2 T cold water
125 grams milk chocolate, finely chopped
100 grams heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

In a small saucepan, bring the half and half to a boil. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar. Temper the hot half and half into the egg yolks and whisk. Pour this mixture back in the pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and add the softened gelatin.

Strain the custard over the milk chocolate that we have finely chopped into a clean bowl. Let the custard melt the chocolate for a minute and then gently whisk until a cream is formed and all the chocolate has melted.
When the chocolate mixture has cooled to the touch, fold in the whipped cream.

Bosenberry Mousse
(adapted from The Food Network)

  • 30 g egg whites
  • 50 g sugar
  • 16 g water
Pate a Bombe
  • 1 c pureed bosenberries
  • 40 g egg yolks (about 2 egg yolks)
  • 10 g sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoons gelatin sprinkled over 1 Tbl cold water
  • 100 g heavy cream, whipped
For the pate a bombe, cook the pureed until bubbling. Ribbon yolks and sugar, temper with purees and cook until 185 degrees F. Add gelatin, strain, cool. For the meringue, whip egg whites into soft peaks. Cook sugar and water until 235 degrees Fahrenheit. Slowly add sugar and continue to whip on high speed until cool and stiff peaks form. Fold half the cream into meringue and half into the pate a bombe. Fold mixtures together.

Salted Caramel Cream
from Cannelle et Vanille

180 grams heavy cream
1/2 t vanilla
45 grams sugar
60 grams egg yolks
3/4 t gelatin softened over 1 T cold water
pinch fleur de sel

Bring the cream and the vanilla to a boil. Reserve.

In the meantime, make a dry caramel with the sugar. Deglaze the cooked sugar with the heated cream. Be careful because it will bubble over if all the cream is added at once. Whisk so all crystalized sugar has dissolved. Pour this caramel over the egg yolks and whisk. Return this to the pan and cook for 1 minute.

Add the softened gelatin and strain through a fine sieve.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Passionate Chocolate

As I've mentioned before, I've never actually eaten a macaron before from someone who actually knows how to make them (ie, not me). I googled "macaron Salt Lake City" and only one website came up, Les Madeleines. They started out as a cupcake bakery a few years ago (wonderful creative flavors), and it appears they've moved on to add sandwiches, drinks, and other pastries, including macarons. I finally got around to going again over the weekend to try her macarons. The are different from how mine turn out. Mine are considerably more hollow. Perhaps I'm overbaking (a tendacy of mine). Anyhow, the macaron flavor they had was passionfruit. I also got a passionfruit cupcake. I don't think I'd ever considered passionfruit before, but it is wonderful. Unfortunately, it isn't exactly the time of year for passionfruit. After some searching at a few markets, I had to settle on passionfruit juice frozen concentrate.
I also have a lot of egg yolk left over from all the macarons, so I figured the best solution was a passionfruit mousse. (The Yule Log has completely turned me onto to homemade mousse.) And as I was falling asleep last night the rest of the dessert came to me, as if it was meant to be: passionfruit mousse with a chocolate chantilly on a walnut crust.

Walnut Crust

1 1/2 cups crushed graham cracker
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
4 Tbl melted butter

Combine graham cracker, walnuts and butter. Press into the bottom of a aluminum foil lined 8x8 inch pan. Bake at 350 F for 10 min. Let cool.

Chocolate Chantilly
(from Flore of Florilège Gourmand)
1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream 35% fat
3.9 oz (110g) milk chocolate
1 tsp (8g) glucose or thick corn syrup
3/4 cup (180g) heavy cream 35% fat

1. Chop the chocolate coarsely.
2. Heat the 160g of cream to boiling and pour over the chocolate and glucose syrup.
3. Wait 30 seconds then stir the mix until smooth. Add the remaining cream.
4. Refrigerate to cool, then whip up.
5. Spread onto cool crust. Refrigerate.

Passionfruit Mousse
(adapted from The Food Network)

  • 2 egg whites
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1-ounce water
  • 1 loose cup passion fruit frozen concentrate
  • 1 peeled, cored apple, pureed
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons gelatin sprinkled over 1 Tbl cold water
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
Ribbon yolks and sugar, temper with purees and cook until 185 degrees F. Add gelatin, strain, cool and fold in half of the whipped cream. Whip egg whites into soft peaks. Cook sugar, corn syrup and water until 235 degrees Fahrenheit. Slowly add sugar and continue to whip on high speed into stiff peaks, set aside. Combine purees and bring to a boil. Fold remaining cream into egg whites. Fold mixtures together and spread on top of chocolate chantilly. Chill in freezer.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Blackberry Macarons

Ok, I admit it. I am obsessed. I LOVE macarons. Before I'd ever made them I thought, sure, they're cute and it looks like you can do a lot with 'em, but really? They're just meringue. I have no special reason to want to like them. But they are so much more than "just meringue". Last time I made them I had to give the rest away because I was eating them until I felt sick. And I never do that, in fact I rarely eat much of what I make. But these little cookies have me hooked :)

A local market was advertising blackberries for cheap (in the middle of winter!), so I had to get some and make blackberry macarons. I'm also completely addicted to the whipped chocolate caramel ganache from the French Yule Log. I lightly mashed the berries and cooked them down until they weren't runny. Same macaron recipe as last time (Italian meringue style). I piped the ganache around the edge of one macaron and filled the middle with the blackberry and topped it off. I didn't add any sugar to the blackberry, so the sweet of the macaron and chocolate perfectly offset the tart from the berries. The ganache is very winter, and the berries are very summer, the contrast is great.

Macarons: see this post

Ganache (from Flore of Florilège Gourmand)
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
5 oz (135g) chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

1. Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).
2. While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.
3. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
4. Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.