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, 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, cake, dessert
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.
Tags: baking, cake, dessert
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.
Tags: dessert, giveaway, icebox
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.***
Tags: baking, bundt, cake, chocolate, dessert
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.
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.)
Tags: baking, cake, dessert, holiday
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.