Coeur à la Crème

February 12, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Posted in other sweet, puddings & custards, sweet things | 6 Comments
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coeur à la crème

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 blancVermont 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.

TWD Rewind: Chocolate Biscotti

January 31, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Posted in cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 11 Comments
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chocolate biscotti

Today was a warm and beautiful day (what a strange winter we’ve been having over here).  Too bad I was mostly unaware of it because I work in a basement, but at least I had a nice walk home.  And now that the sun is about to set, I think I’ll plop on the couch next to an open window and watch Downton Abbey (oh, please tell me you love it, too!) while drinking tea and eating crunchy biscuits.  I’m quite certain that Mrs. Patmore didn’t make Chocolate Biscotti for the Crawleys, but I bet these are tastier than the whatever dry cookies went into the biscuit jar in those days.  These are full of flavor.  I contrasted the dark cocoa and espresso base with chunks of white chocolate and macadamia nuts.  Mmmm…they sliced and baked nicely and are good keepers, too.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Daisy Lane Cakes, as it was Jacque’s pick back in June.

TWD Rewind: Honey-Almond Prune Tart

January 24, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 5 Comments
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honey-almond prune tart

When Kayte chose a Honey-Almond Fig Tart for TWD pick last month, I didn’t bake the recipe because figs were out of season and I was drawing a blank on a good sub.  Then it dawned on me that prunes would be a delicious partner for a honey-almond cream tart…especially if those prunes were quickly poached in simmering red wine and that almond cream had a little orange zest in it.  So that’s exactly what I did.  And it was great.  I’m a fan of frangipane tarts (here’s another good one), and I could really taste the honey in this almond cream.  The prunes gave the tart a bit of sticky chewiness.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Grandma’s Kitchen Table, as it was Kayte’s pick about a month ago.

French Fridays with Dorie: Quatre-Quarts

January 20, 2012 at 12:02 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, french fridays with dorie, groups, simple cakes, sweet things | 17 Comments
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quatre-quarts

Yowzer– it’s been ages since I’ve had an FFWD post.  I happened to notice this week’s recipe, Quatre-Quarts, and it looked like good a point to jump back in.  I guess quatre-quarts is most often compared to pound cake.  I’m sure every grand-mère has her own version of quatre-quarts, but I thought this one was much lighter and springier than an American pound cake typically is.  In fact, it seemed quite like a sponge cake, thanks to the beaten egg whites that are folded into the batter.  I only made half a recipe, thinking a full would be too buttery and heavy for us to eat for more than a couple of days.  I was wrong–we could have easily polished of the whole thing.  Also, I flavored it with a glug of good Cognac, which made it pretty easy to enjoy!

For the recipe, see Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out my fellow francophiles’ posts.

P.S.: If you don’t already have it, enter my BOOK GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a copy of Baking with Julia!

TWD Rewind: Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte

January 6, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, cheesecakes, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 4 Comments
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cream cheese torte

Happy New Year!  After the rush-rush of the holidays, things seemed to have returned to normal around these parts.  I’m back to my regular days off  from work, and even at home, it’s back to my regular living room.  I took down the Christmas tree yesterday.  Sad, but it was becoming more cactus than pine….so dry and prickly.  My vacuum smells like it has a built-in air freshener thanks to all the needles that are whirring around in there.

TWD may have made it through the book as a group, but I still have a few recipes left to catch-up on before I can personally say the same.  One of them is this Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte that was chosen a couple weeks before I joined on.  I have been wanting to make this for four years…yes, I’m a little slow to get moving.  Since I needed to come up with a dessert for Christmas dinner, I thought it would be a good opportunity to finally try it out.

I liked telling my dinner guests that we would be having a “torte” after dinner…made it sound super fancy and exotic.  But this really is a familiar dessert–a slim and elegant cheesecake.  It had the extra step of making a dough crust (rather than a crumb one), but the cheesecake batter itself was simply whizzed in the food processor.  That’s my favorite way to mix cheesecake batter, actually, because you never get any lumps.  A layer of jam hidden in the middle (I used some of my homemade plum jam) made a nice surprise when I cut the first slice.  Because it wasn’t t four inches tall like a NY-style cheesecake, I didn’t feel uncomfortable eating it after a big dinner.

This recipe was so nice, I made it twice!  I had to make up for that whole four years late thing, I guess.  Since, I’d made a half recipe the first time, I still had half the ingredients remaining to do another small cake.  For the second go-round though, I put my own little twist on it.  This time I used a crumb crust (made from some gianduja cookies I took home from work because we…ummm…screwed them up…it happens sometimes).  And instead of spreading on a layer of jam, I mixed a couple tablespoons of nutella (really a single packet of Justin’s) into the batter.  I didn’t know how intense the flavor would be, so topped it off with a little hazelnut ganache, which also handily disguised the little crack that formed in the middle.  It was New Year’s Eve, so I tossed on some stars.

cream cheese torte

I think this recipe was picked so early on, that there wasn’t really a host-post system set up yet, so here it is…

Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte– makes a 9″ cake
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

for the crust:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (6 oz) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

for the filling:
1/3 cup thick berry or cherry jam
9 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
8 oz (1 cup) cottage cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)

-Butter a 9-inch springform pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

-Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse just to blend. Toss in the pieces of butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir the egg yolks and vanilla together with a fork, and, still pulsing the machine, add them and continue to pulse until the dough comes together in clumps and curds – restrain yourself, and don’t allow the dough to form a ball.

-Turn the dough out onto a work surface. If you want to roll the dough, gather it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about 20 minutes before rolling. Or simply press the dough into the pan. The dough should come about 1 1/2 inches up the sides of the springform. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

-Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.

-Fit a piece of buttered aluminum foil against the crust, covering it completely. Fill the crust lightly with rice, dried beans or pie weights and slide the sheet into the oven. Bake the crust for 20 minutes or so – you don’t want the crust to get too brown. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the filling.

-Lower the oven temperature to 350°F.

-Stir the jam, and spread it over the bottom of the crust – it’s okay to do this while the crust is still warm.

-Put the cream cheese and cottage cheese into the food processor and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times, for 2 minutes, until you’ve got a smooth, satiny mix. Add the sugar, salt and spices and process for another 30 seconds. With the machine running, add the eggs and process, scraping the bowl as needed, for a final minute. Pour the filling over the jam.

-Bake the cake for 60-70 minutes, or until the filling is uniformly puffed and no longer jiggly. Gently transfer the springform pan to a cooling rack and allow the torte to cool to room temperature, during which time the filling will collapse into a thin, elegant layer.

-Run a blunt knife between the crust and the sides of the pan, then open and remove the sides of the springform. If the sides of the crust extend above the filling and you don’t like this look, very gently saw off the excess crust using a serrated knife. Chill the torte slightly or thoroughly before serving and, if you’d like, dust the top with confectioner’s sugar.  Wrapped well, the torte will keep in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Kids’ Thumbprints

December 27, 2011 at 12:01 am | Posted in cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 29 Comments
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kids' thumbprints

So here is it…the last recipe TWD is baking as a group from Baking: From My Home to Yours. I’ve been in the group for close to four years, close to 200 recipes. It’s kind of hard for me to imagine that we are here at the finish line, and I almost don’t know what to say.  It’s very true that my week-to-week posts are not as wordy as they were at first, but I have still have been baking (and eating) with the same enthusiasm.  I bake professionally, but, as much as enjoy it, it is so much more satisfying to fire up the oven at home and bake for people I know and love. So, thank you, Dorie for your big, beautiful book of recipes, stories and kitchen wisdom.  My husband thanks you, too, btw…that guy has gotten quite accustomed to homemade cake and cookies!  Thank you, Laurie for your brilliant idea to start this group and to Julie for keeping it running like clockwork.  And thanks to my fellow bakers for leaving so many nice comments over the last four years and always being quick to lend advice and suggestions.  You have been so much fun to bake with and get to know!

Boy, I am talking like we are all done here, or maybe like I have just won an Oscar, and neither of those things are true.  Starting in February, TWD is switching to a different Dorie book, the classic Baking with Julia.  New members are very welcome, so if you want to join the fun you have a whole month to get the book and get on board!  And while we’re on hiatus in January, I’ll definitely be posting a least a few rewinds for the handful of BFMHTY recipes I’ve missed along the way.

I almost forgot that there are cookies to talk about!  These Thumbprints feature the classic kids’ flavor combo (which I have never outgrown), PB&J.  A peanut-coated shortbread-style cookie holds a dollop of yummy jam in the middle.  Here, I used the concord grape jam I made back in the fall.  These were good cookies, and they served as my Christmas cookies (since they were the only cookies I made).  I have some more unfilled doughballs in the freezer, and I think when I bake those I will try filling them with some chocolate in the center.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, or stop by Dorie’s blog since she is our host for this last week.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

TWD Rewind: Bittersweet Brownies (with Peppermint)

December 21, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Posted in cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 2 Comments
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bittersweet brownies with peppermint

I’ve been doing a lot of holiday baking…but it’s all for work…all for strangers. Home baking will largely have to wait until our customers resolve not to eat another slice of almond cake or pint of gelato or whoopie pie until Valentine’s day.  (I kind of like the holiday rush, but I love the post-holiday slow-down.) I can’t possibly miss out on the last couple weeks of TWD, though, and this week the group is giving us a chance to make up a recipe we missed.  I chose these Bittersweet Brownies specifically because I thought they might lend themselves to a little bit of Christmassy doctoring up…maybe my husband won’t feel so neglected.  Instead of espresso powder, I added a few drops of mint extract to the brownies.  And I actually do use a dropper for mint extract because things can go from a hint-of-mint to mouthwash pretty easily.

Everything came out right with these brownies. Since it’s the last brownie recipe in the book, maybe that means I’ve learned something.  The texture was perfect…rich and fudgy.  And of course they were choco-minty. I liked them best right out of the fridge. I’m going to leave one for Santa and see if I get a good present.

bittersweet brownies with peppermint

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Lethally Delicious, as Leslie chose this recipe last month.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll and see what everyone else chose to rewind this week!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Puffed Double Plum Tart

December 13, 2011 at 12:01 am | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 7 Comments
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puffed double plum tart

This is one of last recipes left in the rotation from BFMHTY.  I may have had to pass on it, cuz there are no plums around right now, but in a rare moment of genius forethought, I made this Puffed Double Plum Tart back in September.  Actually, I was just looking for things to do with all my summer CSA plums before they died a long, slow death in my fridge, but whatever.

Why is it called “double plum”?  Double plum turns out to equal plums plus prunes.  The prunes are jazzed up with a quick red wine poach, and that’s really the most difficult step of this whole thing.  Certainly save that sweet winey poaching liquid and reduce it into a quick sauce, so your family is tricked into thinking this was harder than just arranging some plums and prunes atop a square of store-bought puff pastry.  I liked this, not only for its ease, but also because red wine steeped prunes are incredibly delicious.  So delicious that you could probably skip the fresh plums and make this mid-winter afterall.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Julie’s blog, Someone’s in the KitchenAnd see TWD founder Laurie’s blog for Unbelievably Good Chocolate Blueberry Ice Cream, this week’s other recipe (which I unfortunately did not make this week, but I look forward to seeing your reviews). Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie (on Sunday!): Normandy Apple Tart

December 4, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 2 Comments
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Normandy apple tart

This Normandy Apple Tart is everything I think a French tart should be– chic and elegant and deceptively easy.  It’s a sweet tart dough with a simple applesauce filling and circles of sliced apples on top.  I love the way the apples brown on their tips…so pretty.

Dorie’s applesauce is really good.  In fact, I multiplied the recipe, because if you’re gonna make applesauce, you might as well make enough to enjoy even when the tart is finished. It has hardly any sugar and no spices, so the flavor is pure apple.  Putting it through a food mill (with the coarse disk) gives it a great texture.  When its baked in the tart, it firms enough to make perfectly clean slices.

Normandy apple tart

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie (or Tart)

November 29, 2011 at 12:01 am | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 7 Comments
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sour cream pumpkin pie

This Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie was my Thanksgiving dinner dessert (perfect timing!).  Not having pumpkin pie with Turkey Day dinner would be considered absolutely unacceptable for my dad’s side of the family, and even though I didn’t head to Seattle to see them this year, I’m happy to carry on the W family tradition here.  The texture of this pie was great…smooth and creamy (especially if you strain the filling into the crust).  It’s actually a bit more dairy-heavy than I’m used to for pumpkin pie, but the spicing was nice.

Apparently this recipe works as either a pie or a more dainty tart.  The recipe makes a substantial amount of filling, so especially if you chose to bake a tart, be prepared to have extra on your hands.  And if you make a pie, you may need a deep-dish plate.  (I used my seven-inch glass pie plate, which usually works perfectly for a half-recipe of deep-dish filling.  I actually only made a third of the filling, and still had a smidge extra that I couldn’t fit into the crust.)  You can always pour extra filling into custard cups and bake them in a water bath– pumpkin custards are yummy, too, and gluten-free guests won’t feel left out of the fun.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here on Serious Eats) or read Judy’s Gross Eats. And see Tracey’s Culinary Adventures for Normandy Apple Tart, this week’s other recipe (which I did make and will show you later in the week). Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

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