Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Miniature Florentine Squares and Glazed Mini-Rounds

August 4, 2015 at 7:32 pm | Posted in BWJ, cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 5 Comments
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miniature florentine squares and glazed mini-rounds

I make a lot of petits fours at work, but it’s not often that you’ll see something like Flo Braker’s Miniature Florentine Squares or Glazed Mini-Rounds making an appearance at my house.  I don’t usually get that old-fashioned fancy here.  If I serve up anything post-dessert, it’s typically just a healthy-sized complaint about having to do all the dishes myself.

The Florentine Squares and the Glazed Mini-Rounds are two different recipes in the book, but they are both made the very same way, just cut and decorated a little differently.  They are both ladyfinger genoise layers soaked in sweet wine syrup, sandwiched with jam (I used blackcurrant), glazed with white chocolate ganache and decorated with designs of melted dark chocolate.  I made one cake and cut and decorated some of each style.

They weren’t so hard to make (I watched the video first, and got some tips on chilling the cake before cutting to prevent too much crumbage) and they were pretty fun to decorate.  It’s so hot in my kitchen that my dark chocolate designs got a little droopy as the petits fours sat for their photo shoot.  I thought they were still charming though.  These were tasty little bite-sized treats, but they were quite sweet.  They would have been good with a strong cup of coffee.

miniature florentine squares and glazed mini-rounds

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (and here’s a video). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: White Chocolate Patty Cake

July 7, 2015 at 3:51 pm | Posted in BWJ, cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 13 Comments
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white chocolate patty cake

Over the years, I must have seen the Baking with Julia TV episode where Marcel Desaulniers makes his White Chocolate Patty Cake a dozen times.  Normally, white chocolate doesn’t really float my boat, but for some reason, I could tell by watching the episode that this cake would be fabulous.  I’m so glad that we’ve finally gotten to this recipe– and that my decade-long cake daydreams came true!

The white chocolate here is melted into the cake batter– a whole 12 ounces of it.  Two layers of cake are dressed up with raspberry sauce (made from pureed frozen berries) and fresh raspberries.  I made this with the Fourth of July in mind, so I used a combo of blueberries and raspberries in the sauce and on top.  You know, for that whole red, white and blue effect.  I think blackberries would shine in this cake as well.  In addition to all that white chocolate, the cake also has lots of eggs, so the texture is luxe and velvety.  Snappy berry sauce keeps it from being to sweet.

The cake rises in the oven and then shrinks a bit as it cools. If you make the recipe (which you should!), you might be concerned that the layers look a little schlumpy.  Don’t worry because once it’s stacked and decorated with the sauce and berries, it looks like a million bucks.  The cake will slice neater after it’s been refrigerated for a bit and the sauce has time to firm up.

white chocolate patty cake

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (there’s a a video here of Chef Marcel making the cake with Julia). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Rhubarb Upside-Down Brown Sugar Cake

May 26, 2015 at 7:01 am | Posted in BCM, cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 24 Comments
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rhubarb upside-down brown sugar cake

I look forward to rhubarb in the spring just as much as I look forward to all the berries and stone fruit that will come our way in the summer.  It is one of my favorite things to bake with, so a Rhubarb Upside-Down Brown Sugar Cake?  Yes, please!

This is, my opinion, better (and prettier) than the last rhubarb upside-down cake I made here.  The brown sugar in this BCM recipe is in the cake rather than in the fruit topping, which uses regular sugar that I guess you can caramelize to your desired shade of darkness.  I left mine pretty light, so it more or less just glazed the fruit and kept it from getting too brown.  My rhubarb stalks were more green than red, and I didn’t want to make my cake topping look too murky…I didn’t bother to string the stalks during prep either so I could keep whatever bits of red they did have.

The brown sugar cake is really soft and not to sweet.  The whole thing together hits the perfect sweet-tart balance…sometimes rhubarb desserts can be too sweet, and I like to be reminded of its snappiness!  Before making the rhubarb topping for the cake, Dorie has you macerate the cut pieces in some sugar for a bit.  This draws out some liquid from the rhubarb, which I suppose keeps the topping from being too wet when the cake bakes up.  Dorie says you can save that sugary rhubarb juice for homemade sodas, but I reduced it until it thickened a bit and then used it as my glaze (rather than jelly) to give the topping extra shine.

rhubarb upside-down brown sugar cake

Upside-down cake makes a great dessert with vanilla ice cream, and also a fabulous morning coffee cake with yogurt and some berries.  For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Cardinal Slice

May 19, 2015 at 3:13 pm | Posted in BWJ, cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 12 Comments
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cardinal slice

Markus Farbinger’s take on Cardinal Slice is the first I’d heard of this cake.  Where have I been?  On the wrong side of the Atlantic, I guess.  It’s called kardinalschnitte in Austria, where it’s a classic (and apparently ubiquitous— ha!) Viennese pastry.  Well, I didn’t need first-hand experience to know that I’d like to sink a fork into a cake made of ladyfingers and meringues sandwiched with coffee whipped cream.  If I could successfully pull it off, that is.

When was poking around the interwebs for info on the Cardinal Slice, I came across Joe Pastry’s detailed posts on the subject.  Seems that in order to recreate a classic version, he started off with the BWJ one and then scrapped it for another because he couldn’t make it work.  Oh no– not promising!  The cake layers are alternating strips of meringue and ladyfinger batters baked side-by-side…two things that require very different baking times and temperatures.  The BWJ recipe bakes for a long time at a low temp, which cooks the meringue, but makes getting a puffed up ladyfinger tricky (I can only assume that Chef Markus has made this so many times in life that he just has the touch).  I didn’t want to abandon the BWJ recipe entirely here, so I decided to follow the BWJ ingredients and mixing techniques with the baking temperatures Joe Pastry recommends (essentially to start out in a hotter oven and then reduce the temperature halfway through).  I don’t think that my cake layers came out as poofy as either Markus’s or Joe’s, but my mixed up method seemed to work out OK.

The whipped cream filling is flavored with an intense syrup made from caramelized sugar and espresso called a couleur.  This syrup reminds me a lot of a French coffee extract called Trablit that we use to flavor buttercream at the restaurant.  It tastes so much better than instant espresso, but it’s pretty pricey and not so readily available for home use…I’m pleased to know I can make a very similar thing for the price of two shots of espresso from the coffee shop down the block.  I have plenty extra for my future coffee buttercream or whipped cream needs…or perhaps my coffee milk or milk shake needs…

The Cardinal Slice has a bit of a tiramsu thing going on with the flavors, but since the filling’s all cream with no yolks or mascarpone, it feels a lot lighter.  Like any other type of icebox cake, the cake layers soften further as the cream absorbs into them, and this needs about an hour’s rest before cutting into it.  I’d say the recipe instructions to eat the cake within four hours of assembly are probably ideal, although we did have a hunk left over that we ate the next day.  It was very smooshy at that point, but still tasty.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (there’s a a video here of Chef Markus making the cake). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Nutella Buttons (and Concord Grape-Peanut Butter Buttons)

May 12, 2015 at 6:57 am | Posted in BCM, cakes & tortes, cupcakes, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 17 Comments
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nutella and PB-grape buttons

These adorable little two-bite Nutella Buttons (i.e., mini cupcakes) have a surprise hiding inside.  If you guessed a pocket of Nutella, you win!  And if you aren’t a fan of Nutella, or if you just feel like getting creative, it’s pretty easy to come up with other ideas for the hidden surprise.  Jam, peanut butter, ganche, flavored ganache, cookie butter….they’d all be good things to find in the middle of this yellow cake batter.  I did a mix– some filled were with Nutella and others were filled with concord grape jam that I made back in the fall.

I made half a recipe of the cake batter and just did it, whipped egg whites and all, by hand.  I used the optional almond extract, so the little cakes had a kind of marzipany taste to go along with their springy texture.  I split the batter up evenly between the Nutellas and the grape jams.  My buttons didn’t brown on top while baking, but they were done a minute or so early.

I topped my Nutella ones with a little of the milk chocolate ganache I have left from the super-delish Black-and-White Malted Icebox Cake I made last week.  (That reminds me, have you entered my Icebox Cakes BOOK GIVEAWAY yet??  If not, get on it!)  Then I wanted a little flair on top, but didn’t have any hazelnuts in my fridge nut drawer.  I did, however, have a single Ferrero Rocher candy, so I chopped up the crispy outside coating part (I scooped out and ate the center…mmm) and decorated with that.   The grape jam ones got dunked into a white chocolate and peanut butter glaze and sprinkled with some salty peanut bits on top.

Too cute, especially when you find a smile inside!

nutella and PB-grape buttons

For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Black-and-White Malted Icebox Cake and a BOOK GIVEAWAY!

May 9, 2015 at 8:39 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, puddings & custards, sweet things | 26 Comments
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black-and-white malted icebox cake

Now that the days are getting warm– maybe even borderline hot– wouldn’t it be nice to just reach in the fridge and pull out a cool, creamy dessert that practically made itself?  That exists…it’s called an icebox cake!  At its most simple and familiar, an icebox cake is just store-bought wafer cookies and sweet whipped cream, stacked in alternating layers and left to meld in the refrigerator (or icebox– my dad actually calls it that, by the way) for several hours.  The cookies absorb moisture from the cream and soften during the rest, and what you get afterward is a rich, creamy dessert that falls somewhere between pudding and cake.

You can imagine that you can take this basic, yet brilliant, idea in a lot of interesting and delicious directions…like my friend and former co-worker Jessie Sheehan, who, along with her co-author Jean Sagendorph, just published a super-fun (and super pretty) new cookbook called Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in Town.  They have the basic “old school” covered, of course, and recipes for 24 other awesome-sounding icebox cakes.  Espresso-chip– hello!  Chai-ginger– whaat?  And OMG– a black-and-white malted.  That’s the first one I decided to try.

You need four main components for this malt shop-inspired treat:  whipped cream flavored with malt powder (super easy), milk chocolate ganache (super easy), vanilla wafer cookies (not hard to make yourself, but super easy if you choose to buy them instead) and time (the hardest part!).  Oh, and some chopped malt balls scattered over top will make it extra pretty– let’s not forget that!   You just alternate layers of the cream, cookies and ganache in a springform pan and you’re ready to refrigerate.  If you’ve used store-bought cookies, you can get away with just 5-8 hour chill, but if you’ve made your own cookies, you’ll need a full 24 hours in the fridge for them to properly soften.  You can see I took a little artistic liberty and divided the components into individual-sized mini icebox cakes instead of a full 9″ springform.

Go find the full recipe for the Black-and-White Malted Icebox Cake on Jessie’s blog…and know that you can use shop-bought vanilla wafers (like Nabisco or Keebler) if you don’t have the desire or time to make your own.  It’s rich, creamy, malty, sticky and delicious, and when you see this black-and-white zebra striped beauty waiting for you on the icebox shelf, you’ll be very happy you put it together the night before.  Jessie says it’s a crowd-pleaser, and I can’t argue with that.

I’m so excited about Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in Town that I want to send a copy to one of you!  A signed copy at that!  Just leave me a comment (one per person, please) on this post before 5:00 pm EST on Friday, May 15 and I’ll randomly choose a winner from the list.  Be sure your e-mail address is correct so I can contact you.

***Giveaway Winner Update: I have two copies to giveaway, actually!  I used random.org to generate two random comment numbers to find the winners. Congratulations to Maureen and franklyentertaining!  I’ll be in touch soon.***

Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Lemon Madeleines

March 10, 2015 at 12:01 am | Posted in BCM, cakes & tortes, cookies & bars, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 22 Comments
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lemon madeleines

By now, I’ve made several of Dorie’s madeleine recipes, but these Lemon Madeleines were the first to give me that coveted backside bump!  The trick, apparently, is to keep the batter super-cold until the second the shell-shaped pan hits the oven.  Hmmm…perhaps I should revisit one of the older recipes (chai was a favorite)?

I like madeleines, but I never really think of them until they roll around for TWD.  They’re easy enough to make…the batter is quickly whisked together by hand and it can even out in the fridge for a few days.  Madeleines are for sure best eaten fresh, so it’s handy to be able to bake them off as you want them (I did about four a day until the batter was gone).  These ones came out nice and spongy.  And lemony, of course, because of zest in the batter and juice in the glaze.

Madeleines often find themselves dunked into a cup of tea, but there was some lemon curd left from last week’s BWJ recipe, so we swiped them in that.

For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Crème Bruléed Chocolate Bundt

February 17, 2015 at 12:02 am | Posted in BWJ, cakes & tortes, groups, puddings & custards, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 21 Comments
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crème bruléed chocolate bundt

This Crème Bruléed Chocolate Bundt is the first, no second, no make that third Mary Bergin chiffon cake we’ve made.  I’ve liked them all…I think I just really like the spongy, fluffy softness of chiffon cakes.  And it also helps here that I love chocolate and Bundts.  And crème brulée, too…who am I kidding?  I knew this would be good.

If you watch the video of the BWJ episode, you’ll see that this chocolate chiffon Bundt gets its center stuffed with raspberries and then a big glug of vanilla crème brulée custard is poured over top of the whole shebang and torched.  I figured that as soon as the brulée was poured on, the cake pretty much needed to be eaten up…This would be very dramatic and impressive for a crowd, but since I was just making it for two of us, I had to both reduce the recipe and settle for adding the custard to order.  I made a half recipe of the cake (in my 6-cup Bundt pan) and a half recipe of the brulée cream, too.  I was convinced, even though I’d sprayed the heck out of my Bundt pan and coated it well in cocoa (which I prefer to use instead of flour for a dark chocolate cake), that the cake would stick like crazy and rip when I tried to unmold it.  It didn’t!  I made sure to kind of gently nudge it from the sides with a little offset as it started to cool and shrink in a bit, and it released perfectly– phew!

I used my darkest cocoa powder (Valrhona) and my Bundt had great flavor.  The chiffon was easy to make, too…in fact, I did the whole thing in my bathrobe (TMI??).  I’d happily make it again on its own, just to have with ice cream or whipped cream.  I liked the stovetop water bath method for thickening the crème brulée…that was new to me, and it came out nicely.  After the better part of a day in the fridge, the brulée had thickened up well and I was able to pour it over a single slice without it looking a mess.  All in all a winning dessert for Valentine’s Day weekend.

crème bruléed chocolate bundt

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here, along with a video). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!  (Update:  I see from the blogroll that some folks wound up with a thinner custard, in which case I’d just serve it as an anglaise sauce on the plate.)

Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake

January 27, 2015 at 12:01 am | Posted in BCM, cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 37 Comments
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brown-butter-and-vanilla-bean weekend cake

A weekend cake- I love it!  A good cake does make the weekend even better, if you ask me.  (Hopefully it will make the nor’easter we’re about to get socked with better, too!)  This one’s a simple loaf cake, but it’s flavored with brown butter, vanilla bean and rum.  Simple but special.

I have a French blue steel loaf pan, and I thought it naturally appropriate to use for a French cake.  I like that the pan has perfectly straight, not flared, sides.  It’s longer and slimmer than the standard 9×5, so I was sure to check it in the oven plenty early.

The ingredients are lovely and fragrant, and the cake smells so good out of the oven, that it’s hard to wrap it up and let it sit overnight like Dorie suggests.  It’s less buttery and heavy than a pound cake but has a similar delicious crust.  This cake is good on it’s own or with a sauce.  (I’m going to try it in early summer as a strawberry shortcake base.)  If you can’t eat it all up over the weekend, don’t worry because it freezes nicely.  Dorie also says stale slices are good toasted, although I don’t plan on testing that out this time.

For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Gingerbread Bûche de Noël

December 23, 2014 at 12:01 am | Posted in BCM, cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 23 Comments
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gingerbread bûche de noël

It’s almost Christmas, and that means it’s time to get fancy in the kitchen!  Something like a Gingerbread bûche de Noël sounds like the right way to celebrate.  Way back in the early days of this space, I made another bûche.  That one was all done up with stumps, meringue mushrooms and faux wood grain…this one’s easier in that it’s just a roulade but it’s still a showstopper and, of course, it still has several steps.  In addition to a gently-spiced geniose-style gingerbread sponge cake, there’s a cream cheese filling, a marshmallow meringue frosting and, for crunch and sparkle, a pecan praline.

If you’re the organized type, you can actually break up the steps and knock out the praline and filling a day in advance, but I did it all start to finish in one afternoon, so I can tell you that it’s procrastinator-friendly, too. I did kind of goof up the cake a bit, and you can see it in the center of the spiral.  I deflated the cake batter while mixing in the butter at the end.  I was pretty annoyed with myself, and worried it would be like eating a rubber mat, but there’s a lot going on with this cake and we also had it with a scoop of eggnog ice cream, so it really wasn’t that noticeable.  Next time, I’ll do better with that.  Although the marshmallow makes a stunning, glossy, snow-white frosting, I had a lot left over…next time, I’ll also try cutting that amount in half.  I’ll reduce the cream of tartar in the frosting a bit as well because I think it gave the marshmallow a slightly acidic taste.  If you’re on the fence about gingerbread (I know not everyone is crazy about it), the flavoring here is very subtle…no molasses or cloves or other dark and mysterious flavors.

gingerbread bûche de noël

For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here and here, along with a video). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll.  Happy holidays!!  xoxo

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