Tags: baking, dessert
I’ve been on a chocolate tear here for the last few weeks. I guess though that caramel is really the dominate flavor in Charlotte Akoto’s Cocoa Nests with Caramel Mousse. And I guess I should actually call the “mousse” that I made “cream” since I totally dumbed down her mousse recipe and just made a caramel whipped cream.
The nests are decoratively piped cocoa meringues, dried to a crisp in a low oven. I wanted to skip the gelatin and egg yolk bombe-based mousse in the recipe, so I just made a dry caramel (on the dark side) with a bit of sugar, poured in some cream and let it come up to a boil. Then I chilled the mix for several hours before I whipped it like regular cream. This is something I’ve made at the restaurant before, and it’s pretty freakin’ tasty. It’s sweet though, and I knew the meringue nests would be, too, so instead of making the nut praline garnish, I just scattered some chopped toasted hazelnuts over the finished dessert. This was a fun project and reminiscent of a pavlova.
Tags: baking, choux, dessert
Normally when I think beignet, I just think donut…well, French donut, I guess. Something made with a donut-like dough. Usually involving yeast. It turns out there’s another type of beignet that I wasn’t really aware of…one made with fried pâte à choux dough, and Norman Love’s Chocolate-Cinnamon Beignets are an example. These ones have cocoa and cinnamon flavoring the choux dough and a filling of caramelized banana pastry cream. Yeah, there are a a bunch of things to make, but mmmmm.
Assembling these beignets is a lot like forming dumplings or ravioli. The choux dough is wrapped and chilled, before being rolled, cut and filled. And then folded, crimped, frozen and fried. I’ve never rolled out choux dough before, so this was a fun exercise. I could have cut the dough into circles like in the recipe (and made half-moons), but I cut it into squares instead (and made triangles) so I wouldn’t have any scraps to waste or otherwise deal with. Different geometry, but it all tastes the same.
These are best served à la minute, right when they’re fried crisp and the filling is warm. The recipe calls for serving the beignets with a sweet walnut and cream sauce, which I’m sure is delicious, but I had some chocolate-tahini sauce I made the other week and I used that instead. I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some sliced bananas, just because.
Tags: baking, choux
I love making pastries with choux paste. The dough is so fun to make, and then when you open the oven the oven and find a tray of chubby golden puffs, well, I think it’s just delightful. These Bubble Éclairs are like cream puffs piped (I used a pastry bag and tip rather than a cookie scoop or spoon) snuggled up together in éclair form. Cute!
You can get fancy with these éclairs, or keep them simple like I did. I just sprinkled a little Swedish pearl sugar on the tops before baking and filled them with coffee whipped cream after (flavored with the espresso syrup I still have in the fridge from BWJ’s Cardinal Slice). I did make a couple of fancier ones with white chocolate glaze and passion fruit whipped cream, but it was such a hot, muggy day that they became a drippy mess when I tried to photo them. Whatever, you get the idea. I sure wouldn’t mind an éclair served profiterole-style, with ice cream and chocolate sauce…next time.
Gale Gand’s Inside-Out, Upside-Down Tirami Sù is pretty different from the tiramisu I usually make. The flavors are all here, but this reinterprets the dessert into a mix of textures and temperatures. Instead of ladyfinger biscuits soaked and layered into something so soft you can glide a spoon through, here you get shatteringly crisp phyllo disks sandwiching a luxurious mascarpone sabayon and an icy-cold espresso granita.
I baked off my scrunched up phyllo disks in 4-inch ring molds, which worked really well. I left the ginger out of the sugar sprinkled on top of them, because I didn’t want that flavor here. I did, however, want a nice splash of Kahlúa in my sabayon, so I added that.
This is kind of a posh plated dessert, but you can get the three easy steps (phyllo disks, granita and sabayon) done earlier in the day and just assemble it all right before serving. You really can’t wait to eat it once you’ve put the granita on, because it starts to melt immediately! By the way, I have plenty of granita left in the freezer…I’m thinking of turning it into an espresso-frappe-milkshake-type concoction. Bonus.
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.