Halloween may have come and gone, but that day’s just the kick-off to candy season, if you ask me. Now we’re done with the store-bought candy bars and lollies and can move on to some homemade treats, like these Chocolate-Covered Toffee Breakups. I’ve made caramels and brittles before, but this is the first time I’ve made my own toffee. It was super simple, but I do think you need a good thermometer for candy making. I didn’t bother with the buttered parchment setup and flipping the toffee back and forth on cutting boards. I just lined my baking sheet with a Silpat and I was easily able to lift and flip the cooled toffee. In fact, I did all the work just on that one sheet. I also didn’t bother with stirring my nuts into the toffee base before spreading it out. That was totally a brain fart…I just forgot. The plus side to that was that my toffee was extremely easy to spread nice and thin. Thinking of my upcoming trip to Sydney (which I will actually be in the middle of by the time this posts), I used macadamia nuts and a flaky Aussie finishing salt to top the chocolate-coated toffee. I coated the bottom with dark chocolate as well, but let off the salt and nuts so it would sit flat. It broke easily by hand into nice, clean shards.
There’s something very pleasing about the crunch of toffee. I like it more than brittle. These make a great little after dinner nibble, ice cream sundae topping or homemade gift. For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!
Tags: baking, cake
For all the yapping I did last week about wanting my own dessert, I have to admit that I shared one of Johanne Killeen’s individual Hazelnut Baby Cakes. It wasn’t that I didn’t want a whole little loaf cake all to myself…it’s just that a mini loaf is actually kind of a lot of cake.
These mini loaves were easy to make. I did take them out of the oven a few minutes before the time noted in the recipe, and I did replace one tablespoon of butter with this lovely hazelnut oil that I bough a while back to use in vinaigrettes and keep forgetting about. Other than that, I followed the recipe as-is. I was pleased to use my mini loaf pans, which almost never see the light of day.
The cakes themselves aren’t too sweet, so it’s nice to serve them with a little something. In addition to the suggested mascarpone-whipped cream (sans grappa, thank you), we had our baby cakes with poached pear slices and candied hazelnuts. Speaking of that cream, after I made my husband a birthday cannoli cake a few months ago and frosted it with mascarpone whipped cream, I decided that adding a nice blob of mascarpone is the best way to stabilize whipped cream. It’s light, tastes delicious and holds up perfectly for a few days. I highly recommend.
Tags: baking, fruit, pie
Sometimes I just don’t want to share a dessert. When I want my very own cake, I have a cupcake. When I want a pie all to myself–let’s not talk about the time I ate an entire Mrs. Smith’s for dinner– these Apple Pielettes, made in a muffin tin, will fit the bill nicely.
This recipe uses Dorie’s galette dough. I don’t think we’ve made it before, but it was easy to do in the food processor and easy to work with. Remembering the kuchen from a few weeks ago, I was mentally prepared to be annoyed fitting the dough into cavities of the muffin tin, but this was actually no problem at all (although you’ll probably find that you need to cut your dough circles slightly larger than the recipe states if you really want to fill the tins). The dough baked flaky and crisp…I’d use it for big-girl pies, too.
The filling is nice, with apple, of course, (which I didn’t bother to peel) and flavors from dried apricots, raisins and a bit of orange marmalade. If you are an all-American apple pie purist, I’m sure you could fiddle with the insides to get just what you want. After all, it’s your very own pie.
Tags: baking, cake
I first had a Tiger Cake a couple of years ago at a beautiful bakery in Montreal, but I had no idea what it was called. I don’t think there was a sign and I just pointed to it and I took it to-go. When I ate it I thought it was so delicious– moist and chewy with ganache in the center– that I kicked myself for not having gotten its name. I could tell that it had almond flour in it and its texture seemed like a financier, so I immediately Googled around in English and French (it’s limited, but thanks to my fluent mother, I can speak some– especially food words!). I found exactly what I was looking for on several French sites, les tigrés au chocolat. Although I once posted about a tiger cake, it was a very different animal, and I never did make les tigrés at home. I didn’t forget about them, though, and was delighted to see a recipe for Tiger Cakes in Baking Chez Moi. I have nominated the recipe several for TWD times now, and I am really glad that its time has come!
This batter is a lot like a financier, or maybe more like a friand, with melted butter and egg whites. It stirs together in just a few seconds. Dorie’s recipe has finely chopped chocolate mixed into the batter to give the tiger cakes their stripes, but a bunch of those French recipes I saw called for chocolate vermicelli instead. Makes sense to me…jimmies do look like stripes. I have a box of nice Dutch dark chocolate ones, so I went ahead and used them (and also saved the trouble of chopping up chocolate into tiny flecks). I just eyeballed the amount. Some folks had trouble getting their baked tigers out of the tin, and recommended greasing well. My mini muffin mold is non-stick and has only been used a couple of times so it’s still pretty slick. I used a bit of spray for added insurance and I didn’t have any sticking issues. The ganache on top isn’t strictly necessary, but it sure is good.
These were great…just what I remember from Montreal. Cute, too. I will definitely repeat this one.
Tags: savory, tart
This is my “take two” of Michel Richard’s Torte Milanese recipe. I did the first take last fall, when we prepared Richard’s homemade puff recipe and did other stuff with it. Pictures of that version were lost, unfortunately, and were never to be seen again, except perhaps by the hackers who encrypted them a few weeks later. Hope those bastards got hungry.
The only silver lining to all that mess is that I was encouraged to make this tasty torte, which is a full meal of layered scrambled eggs, cheese, veggies and meat encased in puff pastry, again. And I got to play around with it a little this time. I used chard in lieu of spinach for the greens, I left out the ham layer and instead crisped up some bacon and cooked them into the scrambled eggs, which I flavored with the herbs I had on hand (thyme and basil), and I used a mix of cheddar and Swiss cheeses. Even my roasted red pepper layer was actually a combo of red and yellow ones. I would say that the puff stayed the same, except I used store-bought instead of homemade this time. Its savory, salty (in a good way) and very filling. Plus, the tall slices look great with all those layers of good stuff.
The recipe says to bake the torte at 350°, but I don’t think puff pastry bakes well that low, so I started it at 400° and turned it down at the halfway point for the rest of the bake.
Tags: baking, dessert, fruit
Concord grapes are one of the highlights of fall in the Northeast. Every autumn, I’m sure to make a pie and a batch of jam from them. Thinking about what else I could do with the purple-blue beauties, a crumble seemed like the next logical experiment. A peanut butter crumble, of course.
I prepped the fruit for the crumble in much the same way I do when I make the pie. It sounds a bit tedious to seed the grapes one-by-one, but it’s only about a quart of grapes, so it doesn’t take too long. It’s one of those zone-out prep tasks that’s really worth the step. After a stint in the oven, the fruit bakes up jammy and deeply purple and the crumble topping tastes like peanut butter cookies. This one’s definitely added to the annual list.
Concord Grape and Peanut Butter Crumble- serves 4-6
Steph’s Notes: You can mess around with this crumble topping a bit if you want or need to. For instance, you can sub AP flour for the whole wheat or chunky PB for smooth. And if you don’t have peanut butter powder, just leave it out.
for the crumble topping
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
3 tbsp rolled oats (old-fashioned or quick)
1 tbsp peanut butter powder
2 tbsp coarsely chopped peanuts
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt (bigger pinch if your peanuts are unsalted)
3 tbsp smooth peanut butter (I used a “natural” one)
3 tbsp (1.5 oz) unsalted butter, melted
for the fruit mixture
4 cups stemmed concord grapes (about 1 1/4 pounds), rinsed well and patted dry
1/4 cup+ 2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 T cornstarch
pinch of salt
squeeze of lemon juice
-Start by making the crumb topping. Combine all dry ingredients for the topping in a medium bowl, then stir in the peanut butter and the melted butter. It will resemble a soft peanut butter cookie dough, but after chilling briefly, you’ll be able to break it into clumps. Put the topping in the fridge while you preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare the fruit filling.
-For the filling, slice grapes in half and remove the seeds. As you work, put the seeded grapes (and their skins, which tend to easily slip off–don’t worry about it) into a large sieve set over a medium bowl. Drain off grape liquid, saving 2 tablespoons.
-Whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt in another medium bowl to blend. Mix in drained grapes, reserved juice and squeeze of lemon juice.
-Put the fruit mixture in the bottom of a greased ceramic or glass baking pan, approximately 8-9″ in diameter.
-Sprinkle the chilled topping evenly over the fruit mixture, breaking it up into clumps and crumbles. Bake until topping turns golden and juices are bubbling, about 35-40 minutes, turning at the halfway point.
-Let cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes before serving.
Tags: baking, savory
Flo Braker’s Cheese and Tomato Galette is more of a revisit than a rewind. I first made this one with the group a couple of years ago, but I’ve also made it many times since. I hope I’ll still see tomatoes at the Greenmarket here for a couple more weekends, so I can squeeze in one more of these this year!
The dough is the only tricky part about this galette. It bakes up nice and crisp, but it starts out super sticky. I roll it well-chilled and directly on the parchment I’m going to use for baking so I move it as little as possible. After the dough is rolled into a circle, it’s then easy to just slide the parchment onto the baking sheet, top it and pleat it up.
The recipe specifies the filling as tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and jack, but I play around with the herbs and melting cheeses depending on what’s in the fridge. I’ve used dill, cilantro or parsley (even pesto–which is amazing!) to replace the basil, and while I do always like to use the mozzarella in here, I’ve subbed the Monterey jack with cheddar, provolone, etc. Also, I like to season the tomatoes with salt and pepper. If the tomatoes give off some liquid while the galette bakes, I just tip it out with a spoon at the half-way point so it won’t make the tart watery.
Tags: baking, cake, fruit
I have to say that I wasn’t too sure about this Apple Kuchen when I started putting it together. I did not doubt that it would be tasty…I mean, apples and custard inside a sweet crust….yeah, that’s good, obvi. This sounded like it would be the high-rise cousin to the low-rise Alsatian Apple Tart. It’s just that I did not get off to a very good start making it.
The crust was easy enough to make and roll out, but let me tell you that getting a soft, delicate crust pressed neatly into a tall springform pan is a pain in the you-know-what. It was frustrating enough that the dough cracked into like a 1,000 pieces, but while I was pressing them back together into something crudely resembling a crust, the clasp on said springform decided to pop and now will not stay closed (actually, now it’s in the recycle bin). Ugh. I needed to go with it at that point, so I put a tight rubber band around the pan to hold it closed, dusted cookie crumbs on the bottom, piled it full of apples and chucked it in the oven to par bake. Not my most brilliant idea, as within a few minutes, the rubber band popped in the heat and the buckle opened up again, cracking the crust. I scrambled around and found a small pie pan that was big enough to hold the springform but tight enough to keep the buckle in the closed position. The dough was still soft at that point and seemed to come back together when the pan was re-closed, but with all those apples in there, I really couldn’t tell what condition it was in.
After the par bake, I poured in the crème fraiche custard (confession:I replaced 1/3 of the crème fraiche amount with buttermilk to lighten the calories a bit) and scattered on some plumped raisins. I was amazed that the custard did not immediately leak out the pan, so I hoped for the best. I was just making a half-recipe (6″), but I left it in the oven the full time. A knife poked into the center still didn’t come out completely clean after an hour, but I took it out away. After it came to room temp, I popped my springform-in-pie-plate contraption it into the fridge for extra insurance that the custard would be fully set. And then the moment of truth…
Guess what. The crust was perfect. There was not one spot torn or cracked and not a drop of custard had leaked out. How this happened, I do not know. It’s like it self-healed in the oven. It was very handsome, actually, and delicious…chockablock full of chunky apple pieces with rummy custard seeped around them. Now that I know to relax about the crust, next time, I’ll either mix the raisins in with the apples at the start or I’ll skip the final step of running the kuchen under the broiler with extra sugar and butter on the top…or maybe I’ll do both. The raisins were a little too brûléed for my tastes…they started off as golden raisins, but you can see in the picture what happened to them under the broiler!
Tags: baking, bread, breakfast
After making the dough for Nancy Silverton’s Brioche Tart with White Secret Sauce, I had enough of it leftover for a brioche loaf to tuck into the freezer. Twice-Baked Brioche, or bostock, is just the thing to make with extra brioche, especially if it’s a little stale. It’s the brioche equivalent of an almond croissant. Take slices of brioche, douse them in a orange flavored syrup, smear them with almond fangipane and sprinkle them with sliced almonds. Then pop them in the oven until toasty brown.
With a cup of strong coffee in the morning or warm, with a little scoop of ice cream for dessert, this is really good…yup, really good. Going on the repeat list. I may even keep a little pot of frangipane in the freezer to have on hand whenever I crave bostock.