Tags: baking, dessert, fruit
Charlotte Akoto’s recipe for Tropical Napoleons is in a section of the book called “Grand Pastries,” which seems to mean plated desserts. I have to say that a lot of them look kinda dated to me, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still taste great. This dessert, with layers of coconut and sesame meringue, fruit and rum whipped cream is really light, but so satisfying. I wouldn’t turn down Eaton mess or a pavlova, so I knew I would like this one, too.
Despite its “grand” status, this recipe isn’t really that involved. Whipped cream and sliced fruit are easy enough to prep. If you don’t have a good selection of tropical fruit (I wish I could buy passion fruit in Brooklyn from any corner fruit guy like I could when we lived in Sydney), just go with straight-up berries. Even the meringue is a simple one to make, and a quick stencil cut from a yogurt lid makes perfect meringue disks. I baked my meringues on a Silpat and they took almost twice as long as the recipe said to get fully crisp. If anything gives you trouble, it will be getting those meringues off your sheet pan after they’re baked– they’re meant to be really thin, which also makes them really brittle. I only broke one before discovering that if I ran an offset spatula carefully around its outer edge before kind of pressing the spatula down into the Silpat and scooting it underneath the meringue, it would come off in one piece. The meringues are sweet, so I cut back a bit on the sugar in the cream.
Tags: baking, choux, dessert
Choux paste treats have been well-covered here. Gougères, éclairs, cream puffs and even crullers–wait, something’s missing. How could I forget profiteroles, one of my most favorite desserts? I’ll take care of that one now with Norman Love’s Espresso Profiteroles.
Despite my love of profiteroles, I admit that I didn’t have high hopes for these. Quite frankly, I thought the picture in the book looked terrible (the choux looked bready, not light). I’m happy to report that they turned out better than expected. I’m not sure how much flavor was really contributed by adding coffee to the choux puffs themselves, but they puffed and hollowed nicely. I used espresso ice cream (instead of cinnamon) and boozed up the chocolate sauce with Kahlua (instead of Grand Marnier), so that took care of the missing coffee flavors.
These are best cut and filled right before serving, when the puffs are crisp and the ice cream is just beginning to soften. Pre-scooped and frozen is a profiterole no-no for me. And the sauce should be warm. Mmmmm…sauce…
Tags: dessert, fruit
I’m not too crazy about strawberries in baked goods. Baked strawberries turn pale and sad. Roasted strawberries, on the other hand, are vibrant and intense. We’ve been roasting strawberries at work over the last couple weeks (it’s actually a great way to save berries that are on the verge, so to speak, or were never that great to begin with), and I thought I’d take the concept home with me.
This is a super easy process that you can multiply or fiddle with. Strawberries and a sprinkle sugar are all that’s needed, but I added a dash of cassis to mine as well. A fairly hot oven does its magic, and in about half an hour you have a tray of deep red, syrup coated jewels.
Stir these into your morning yogurt or use them as a topping for ice cream (buttermilk ice cream would be even more amazing topped with these, as would vanilla malted). And mixed in with fresh strawberries in a shortcake–forget about it.
Steph’s Note: This is more of a process than a recipe. Adjust amounts depending on your quantity of berries. Although I probably wouldn’t bother to fire up the oven on a hot day for less than a quart of strawberries, this will multiply no problem.
a quart of strawberries (bigger ones halved or quartered, tiny ones left whole)
a couple spoons of sugar (white, raw or vanilla are all good)
optional splash of flavoring (like vanilla, balsamic vinegar, cassis or Grand Marnier)
-Preheat your oven to 400°F.
-Put the strawberries on a sheet tray, or in a cake pan or a small metal roaster. Use something where they fit in a single layer, but don’t have too much extra empty space where juices will just burn. Sprinkle over the sugar…you only need enough to lightly coat them, as the sweetness will intensify as they roast.
-Roast for about 15 minutes, and then give the berries a gentle stir to coat them with the liquid they’ve released. Continue to roast until the strawberries are deeply red and the juice is syrupy, almost beginning to caramelize. This will probably take another 15-20 minutes. Add in your splash of flavoring. Done….you can store them in the fridge for a several days.
If you think that a marshmallow is one of those semi-stale, crackly, crusty things you get at the supermarket, then we need to have a talk. Ideally, they should be squishy and soft, not tough and dense….and oh-so importantly, they should taste fresh. You don’t have to buy them, you know…the marshmallow ideal can be your reality if you make them at home. It is sticky business, to be sure, but it isn’t that hard. And there’s a whole, sweet new book, Marshmallow Madness! by fellow blogger Shauna Server, to help you out. It has a puffy cover and everything! It starts with the classics…vanilla, chocolate…and moves on to some really inspired flavors like buttered rum and maple-bacon. Who would have thought marshmallows could be so adult and sophisticated? I’ve already made my caramel sauce for the sea salt caramel swirl ones.
I whipped up a batch of Shauna’s marshmallow crème this morning. It’s marshmallow minus the gelatin, and just like with marshies, if you’ve only ever had store-bought Fluff, you’ll be wowed by the way homemade tastes. Like real vanilla, for one thing. Guess what I’m gonna put this sticky stuff all over tonight?? Minds out of the gutter people, this is a PG blog– I’m talking about chocolate ice cream! And if I have any left next weekend, I’ll turn it into a giant Ho-Ho with the chocolate-marshmallow roulade recipe in the “Fluffy, Puffy Desserts” section at the back of the book.
The nice folks at Quirk Books sent me a copy of this book, and now I want to send a copy to one of you, too. Just leave me a comment (one per person, please) on this post before 4:00 pm EST on Thursday (March 8) 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 now have two copies to give away, one from me and one from Quirk Books, who has very kindly offered to donate another. I used random.org to generate random comment numbers to find the winners. It selected comments 7 and 10, so congratulations to Christy and Anne M. You should be getting your books soon!***
Homemade Marshmallow Crème- makes about 2 1/2 cups
from Marshmallow Madness! by Shauna Server
Steph’s Note: I used golden syrup instead of corn syrup here, and it worked just fine (although the crème isn’t as blindingly white as it would be otherwise…it has the faintest tinge of gold).
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp salt
2 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
-Stir together the sugar, light corn syrup, water and salt in a small saucepan over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 240°F.
-Meanwhile, place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start whipping the egg whites to soft peaks on medium speed. The goal is to have the egg whites whipped and ready, waiting for your syrup to be drizzled in. If they’re whipping faster than your syrup is coming to temperature, just stop the mixer (or turn to lowest speed) until the syrup is ready.
-When the syrup reaches 240°F, set the mixer to low and slowly drizzle a tiny bit of syrup, a couple tablespoons’ worth, into the egg whites to warm them. (If you add too much syrup at once, the whites will scramble). Slowly drizzle in the rest of they syrup and then increase the speed to medium-high. Beat until the marshmallow crème is stiff and glossy, 7-9 minutes; towards the end of the beating, beat in the vanilla.
-Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Please note that the publisher, Quirk Books, sent me a copy of this book.
Tags: dessert, holiday
I’ve never gotten super excited (or super upset, either) about Valentine’s Day. It’s kind of a non-event, but I do like to use it as an excuse to make my sweetie something luxe and a little girly for dessert….coeur à la crème seems quite appropriate, non?
If you’ve never had coeur à la crème, it’s kind of a cross between a mousse and a cheesecake filling. It’s a soft cheese and cream mixture that’s not cooked, so it’s very fresh…it’s also a little tangy and barley sweet. It belongs to that group of traditional French desserts that is so elegant yet so unfussy. Several years back, I found some individual coeur à la crème molds on the post-Valentine’s Day clearance shelf at a local kitchenware shop, and even though (or maybe especially becasue) they’re kind of uni-taskers, I’ve made it a point to use them many times since. Although they are cute, you don’t even need the molds to make this dessert…a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl will work fine (but you will give up the traditional heart-shape). Cheesecloth is important here, though, since the excess liquid needs to drain from the mixture so it’s as thick and creamy as it should be. That also means that resting time is necessary…you’ll need to chill and drain your cream hearts for several hours…I do it overnight.
I like to make my base with a soft, fresh cheese called fromage blanc. Vermont Butter & Cheese makes a nice (non-fat!) one that I can find at several shops, but if you don’t have access to fromage blanc, I think a combo of cream cheese and sour cream could approximate it. The creaminess and gentle tang of this dessert calls out for fresh fruit. Fresh berries or even a berry coulis would be great in summer, but here I used blood oranges, both becasue they are in season and becasue a heart with blood seemed fitting in a twisted sort of way.
Happy Valentine’s Day! xoxo
Coeur à la Crème– makes four servings
Steph’s Note: If you don’t have individual coeur à la crème molds, you can use a larger mold or a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl. You may, however, need to make a 1.5x or 2x batch of the coeur mixture, depending on the size. If you can’t find fromage blanc, try substituing with 6 oz of soft cream cheese plus 2 oz of sour cream.
8 oz fromage blanc
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
squeeze fresh lemon juice
seeds of a quarter of a vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 oz heavy cream
fresh fruit or fruit coulis to serve
-Cut four squares of cheesecloth (about 8-inch squares). Rinse each square of cheesecloth under water and squeeze until just damp. Line each of four 4-inch coeur à la crème molds with one square of cheesecloth.
-In a food processor (or with a whisk or hand-held mixer) process the fromage blanc, powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla until very smooth. In another bowl, whisk the cream until medium-soft peaks form. Gently fold the cream into the fromage blanc mixture until evenly combined.
-Place molds on a rimmed baking sheet or in a shallow baking dish. Spoon the mixture into the prepared molds and fold the corners of cheesecloth up and over the top.
-Chill for several hours or overnight to allow the mixture to drain.
-To serve, unwrap the molds and invert onto plates. Garnish with fruit.
Tags: breakfast, snacks
It was hard for me not to make this week’s FFWD recipe. It’s toast– heck, I can make time for that! Toast with yummy stuff on top, that is. This tartine is a thick slice of brioche with butter, marmalade, Nutella, nuts and salt. You could buy everything and simply assemble it, but I happened to have a couple of the components in homemade form (but already on hand). I still had some homemade brioche in the freezer, and over the holidays, my BFF and I made a big pot of mixed-citrus marmalade to give to family. A bit of sweet, a bit of sour and a bit of salt…this is toast at its finest. Dorie says this is a typical after-school snack for French children, but I ate mine for breakfast. Then I went to the dentist and he found no cavities. Breakfast of champions.
Tags: baking, dessert, fruit
I do bake all day at work, but when this time of year rolls around, I’m also more than happy to dial up the oven when I get home. The kitchen is the coziest place in this old house on a chilly day (we really need to get our front windows replaced!). When a new book called All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art by Molly Stevens found its way into my hands, I immediately began plotting out a Sunday roast-fest!
The book goes into great detail about how to perfectly roast meat and fish, the science behind it and how to get the most out of the technique, but there are also recipes for gorgeous roasted veggies and fruits. Steven’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Capers and Lemony Browned Butter will for sure be on my Thanksgiving table, and maybe I’ll show you those later, but that I assume you are here for the sweet stuff. My CSA has given me four bags of apples in two weeks, so I’m just searching out things to do with them. Then my eyes hit this recipe for Maple-Roasted Apples with Candied Nuts, and I knew it would be the first one I’d try. This has the same warm, sweet flavors of baked and stuffed apples, but they are so much easier to prepare…no tedious hollowing out or accidentally ripped skins. Here, I followed the author’s suggestion to sever these apples warm over vanilla ice cream, but I can tell you that they are also great over waffles (that’s what I did with the leftovers) or pancakes, and I can’t think of a better topping for oatmeal.
Maple-Roasted Apples with Candied Nuts- makes 4 to 5 servings
adapted from All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art by Molly Stevens
Steph’s Note: Prefer your apples with cinnamon or vanilla? Feel free to switch out the nutmeg and ginger for whatever spices you’d like.
4 large tart, crisp apples (1 1/2 to 2 lbs), like Gravenstein, Cortland or Braeburn
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon maple syrup
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
salt to taste
3/4 cup nuts (any you like…I used walnuts and pecans)
-Position racks in the top and lower thirds of the oven and heat to 400°F (or 375°F if you are using convection). Line a large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet and a smaller sheet (like a quarter sheet tray) with foil, parchment or Silpats.
-Cut the apples into quarters (it’s up to you if you want to peel them first…the skin does look pretty and helps the pieces hold shape). Remove the cores/seeds and cut the quarters into 1/2-inch cubes. Pile the apples onto the larger baking sheet. In a measuring cup or small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup maple syrup, 3 tablespoons melted butter and the nutmeg, ginger and a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture over the apples, toss to combine and arrange in a loose single layer.
-Roast the apples on the bottom rack, tossing after 15 minutes and every ten minutes thereafter so they roast evenly, until soft and slightly caramelized, but not completely collapsed. This took me 25 minutes here, but may take as long as 40 minutes.
-Meanwhile, pile the nuts on the smaller sheet and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 tablespoon melted butter and a pinch of salt. Toss to coat and spread out in a single layer. Roast on the top rack above the apples, stirring once or twice until they are toasty brown, about 10 minutes. Let the nuts cool before serving, and they will become crisp.
-Serve the fruit warm as a topping for ice cream, oatmeal or whatever you choose, and drizzle any juices from the pan over top. Scatter with candied nuts and serve. If you are storing this, keep the fruit and juices in a covered container in the refrigerator, and reheat at 350°F for about 10-15 minutes to warm slightly. Keep the nuts in a separate continued at room temperature.
Please note that the publisher, W.W. Norton, sent me a copy of this book…but I just bought another copy for a friend!
Meet my latest addiction– Vanilla-Caramel Roasted Pineapple. Pineapple is delicious and sweet as-is, but cook it in rum and vanilla-infused caramel, and you may not be able to eat it any other way again. The first time I made it, I did just half a recipe, with half a pineapple. How silly! It was gone in a flash, and I had to make it again!
If you can manage to control the urge to eat every last piece with your fingers and then drink the syrup, you might like to know that it makes for a great tart, and it transforms Greek yogurt into something even tastier than my childhood favorite Breyers flavor. It’s a shame I don’t have some vanilla ice cream in the freezer right now, because I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to make an incredible, syrupy pineapple sundae. Don’t even get me started about pineapple pancakes…
The original recipe comes from Pierre Hermé…I’ve made some minor modifications to it below, basically just to make it a bit quicker/easier to cook and a bit more economical. If you don’t have banana or ginger, you could modify it further and leave them out, with no ill-effects, I’m sure. I do recommend roasting the pineapple in quarters, then cutting them into chunks later, as I imagine the smaller pieces could get mushy otherwise.
Vanilla-Caramel Roasted Pineapple
modified from a recipe by Pierre Hermé
1 fresh pineapple, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cored
120 gr granulated sugar
30 gr (about 1/2) mashed banana
1 vanilla pod, scraped
20 ml (4 t) rum
4 thin slices of fresh ginger
60 mL (1/4 c) cold water
-In a small heavy-bottomed pot, make a dry caramel (no water) by heating the sugar over medium heat. Wait until the caramel is deep amber. If part of the sugar is caramelized while the rest has not melted yet, turn your pot to move the hot spots under the unmelted sugar.
-Meanwhile, split the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds. Add the seeds and pod to the caramel along with the ginger slices. Leave 10 seconds, then pour the cold water into the caramel to stop the cooking process (don’t worry if it seizes). Bring it to a boil and cook gently until the caramel is liquid. Remove from the heat and add the rum and mashed banana.
-Leave in the fridge for several hours or overnight to infuse. The syrup will be quite intensely flavored, but will mellow when it cooks and mingles with the pineapple juices.
-Fish out the vanilla pod (save it) and pass the syrup through a fine sieve.
-Heat the oven to 450°F (230°C) and lay your pineapple quarters in the smallest oven proof dish that will just hold it. Pour the vanilla-caramel sauce over the pineapple, toss in the saved pod, and bake for about 35-40 minutes, turning and basting the pineapple every ten minutes. It is important to check that the caramel remains liquid or else it will burn. If too thick, just add a splash of water.
-When cool, cut the quarters into slices or chunks. Store them in the fridge in an airtight container, submerged in the syrup.
After more than two years as a Daring Baker (it all started with a mirror cake…), I’m so excited that Liz and Ivonne have asked me to host a challenge! Woo-hoo! But oh no–what to pick?? Looking over past challenges, I realized that we’ve covered a lot of territory! One thing we haven’t made since I’ve been in the group, though, is our own puff pastry (aka pâte feuilletée). Puff is something most of us usually buy at the grocery store, but in order to be really daring, we should try to make our own at least once, right?
Puff pastry is in the “laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. (In fact, if you participated in the Danish Braid challenge back in June 2008, then you already know the general procedure for working with laminated dough.) A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the beurrage) that is enclosed in dough (called the détrempe). This dough/butter packet is called a paton, and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.
I picked a recipe for homemade puff pastry from Michel Richard, as it appears in the book Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. In order to showcase off the hundreds of flaky, golden, buttery layers in the homemade puff, we formed a portion of it into vols-au-vent– little puff pastry cases designed to hold a filling. They can be made large enough for a full meal, or made small for little one-bite canapés. Vols-au-vent are typically served hot and filled with a creamy savory filling (often poultry or seafood-based), but cold fillings, such as chicken or tuna salad, work, too. Whipped cream or pastry cream with fresh or stewed fruit often goes into sweet versions.
Sizes of and fillings for the vols-au-vent were left up to the individual baker. I made three types: a smoked salmon mousse canapé, a larger main course-size filled with tuna salad and a sweet version with vanilla whipped cream and bright red tristar strawberries.
As it’s a little long, here’s a printable link to the recipe for puff pastry, as well as instructions for forming vol-au-vents and some extra tips. Also, there is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). Dont’ be put off by the length of time it takes to make your own puff pastry (most of it is inactive, while waiting for the dough to chill between turns)…it really isn’t that hard to do! I encourage anyone who has never made puff before to take a look at the video, get some good butter, and give it a try!
Thanks so much to everyone who participated in this month’s challenge– I know it required a lot of time and a lot of butter, both of which are precious commodities. I appreciate your feedback and advice in the forums…not to mention your fabulous results!! Also, of course, great big hugs go to Liz and Ivonne, not only for starting this group, but for keeping it alive and fun and so well-organized! Check out the Daring Bakers’ Blogroll for more adventures in puff!
The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.