Coeur à la Crème

February 12, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Posted in other sweet, puddings, custards, mousses, 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.

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!

Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake

November 20, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, layer cakes, sweet things | 6 Comments
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brown butter pumpkin layer cake

I know that I’ll be making a pie for Thanksgiving dinner, so I’m getting the craving to stuff my face with cake out of the way ahead of time.  I’ve actually been itching to make this Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake ever since I saw it on the cover of  Fine Cooking last year.  And it was everything I’d hoped for in a spice cake, complete with cream cheese frosting and a crunchy topping.

If you are ambitious, you can make your own pumpkin purée by roasting a squash.  If you are lazy, like I am, you can just open a can.  The canned stuff works just fine, in my opinion, and you always know what you are going to get.  Anyway, you have to go through the extra step of browning butter a couple of times, so why make things too hard on yourself?  Actually, making browned butter is no big deal, and it’s totally worth it in terms of flavor.  It makes an especially gorgeous addition to the cream cheese frosting, giving it that slightly nutty taste and beautiful taupe color.  The browned butter baked into the cake gives the pumpkin and spices extra dimension, and because you use it as a liquid fat, you mix the cake by hand.  I love that!  I thought about skipping the pecan and pepita topping, but I’m glad I didn’t.  It’s crunchy and kind of Cracker Jackey caramelized.  I can’t wait to make this again next fall (or possibly sooner…)

P.S.:  Don’t forget to enter my BOOK GIVEAWAY, if you haven’t done so already….

Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake— makes 8-12 servings
adapted from Fine Cooking, Issue 107

Steph’s Notes:  You can substitute 1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin purée for homemade, if you like.  If you do choose to make the purée, you can do so up to 2 days ahead.  The frosting amount is a bit on the skimpy side.  I made it work, but there wasn’t a lot of extra play around with.  If you’d like more leeway, I’d suggest a 1.5x recipe.

for the purée (if not using 1-1/2 cups canned):
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 medium-large Sugar Pie pumpkin, cut in half from stem to bottom and seeded

for the cake:
6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter; more for the pans
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk

for the topping:
 1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2/3 cup pecans
 1/2 cup unsalted, raw, hulled pepitas
 2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. table salt

for the frosting:
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
pinch of salt
5 oz. (1-1/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar

-Make the pumpkin purée (if not using 1-1/2 cups canned): Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Brush a 9×13-inch baking dish with the oil. Put the pumpkin halves in the dish cut side down and bake until tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. Let cool. Peel the pumpkin and purée the flesh in a food processor until smooth. You’ll need 1-1/2 cups of the purée for the cake. Refrigerate or freeze any remaining purée for another use.

-Make the cake: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.   Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms (or butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans).   Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes.In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves. In a large bowl, whisk 1-1/2 cups of the pumpkin purée with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently whisk in the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.  Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove the pan bottoms or parchment, and cool completely.

-Make the topping (while the cake bakes):  Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and pepitas and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pepitas begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet.

-Make the frosting:  Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids.  With an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, brown sugar and pinch of salt on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

-Assemble the cake:  Put one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread 1/2 cup of the frosting on the layer and top with the second layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Arrange the topping  on top of the cake and serve.  The assembled, frosted cake can be covered with a cake dome and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve at room temperature.


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