Heat, Knives, and Chemicals

Adventures in Cooking

Coconut Chocolate Pie December 28, 2013

Filed under: custard,dry heat — presley @ 5:18 pm
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For my second birthday party (yes, I had two birthday parties), I made this pie. 

The crust is based on this recipe, made of only shredded coconut (which people brought to my first birthday party, making that really simple!) and butter. You could get away with less butter than is in the recipe. I don’t have any qualms with butter but I didn’t end up using all that was called for. Be careful about burning the edges – I covered them with foil and they still browned, so they turned out fine in the end but I wouldn’t want to push it.

The filling looks like it’s from the same recipe, but it’s not! That recipe has a ganache filling that you chill. Mine is my trusty recipe for flourless chocolate cake:

  • 200g dark chocolate (I use 60-70%; two nice bars of chocolate is usually exactly the right amount)
  • 200g eggs (4 eggs)
  • 200g butter (1 stick, 6 tablespoons, and a little smidge more)
  • 200g sugar (1 cup sugar)

You just melt the chocolate and butter together, and then mix in the eggs and sugar, making sure the mixture isn’t too hot for the eggs. If the chocolate separates, as it sometimes does, 1) don’t panic, 2) stir it over the heat until it comes back together, which it will.

Then bake at 350F for about 30 minutes.

It’s done when it doesn’t really jiggle, at 170F.

I can’t believe I hadn’t blogged that recipe yet. It’s easy to remember, easy to execute, and always makes friends.

So I blind baked the crust and then poured this inside – I didn’t have any problems with it leaking through the crust, just use enough coconut – and then baked again, still with foil around the edges. 

It was a hit! I was kind of sad that there weren’t any leftovers. 

 

Pear Frangipane Tart December 24, 2013

Filed under: baking,candy,dry heat,wet heat — presley @ 1:06 pm
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pear tart

I used this recipe to make a Christmas Eve dessert.

I adapted it slightly. I definitely poached my own pears. I’m not snobby about all ingredients, but the difference between fresh and canned pears is huge. I followed David Lebovitz’s recipe for that, and added ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and whole cloves (maybe a tablespoon of each? I didn’t measure) to the syrup, which I made double the amount of.

Double the pear poaching syrup might have been more than I needed, especially since you don’t actually need 4 pears to do this recipe. Only two quartered pears will fit on the top of my tart, although I squeezed in one more quarter.

I also don’t have baking beans or parchment paper handy, so I blind baked the crust without anything on top of it for 15 minutes and that seemed fine. It didn’t brown.

I haven’t tasted the finished product yet but I think the crust might turn out too floury tasting. It’s somewhere in between a cookie crust and a flaky buttery crust. You might want to try a pate sucree recipe instead. But I’ll report back after tonight. Edit: The crust was tender but a little too floury tasting for me. It wasn’t bad but I’d just as soon eat the filling and the pears without the crust. Making it either more buttery or sweeter would probably be better. The almond meal in the crust probably helped keep it tender but I don’t think it added much flavor-wise.

I also added some vanilla to the frangipane, and right now I’m boiling down the syrup I poached the pears in to make a sauce for the tart, especially important if it turns out to be not sweet enough. I also thought a caramel sauce would go well with it, but since I already have this syrup I’ll try that first. Edit: the frangipane was delicious. My sister doesn’t like pears so I just made her try a bite of the frangipane and she said “It’s like a little angel!” She then apologized for not being good at talking about food but I thought that was pretty great! I do think adding spices to it would be good, though. The syrup didn’t pack the punch I had hoped, but the tart didn’t really need it, either.

The whole thing took me two hours. I made the crust, let it rest while I prepped the pears, blind baked, poached, and made frangipane simultaneously, and now I’m baking and boiling down the syrup. You could do the crust ahead of time, of course.

One thing I learned from doing it is that you want to grab the pears out of the syrup either without piercing them, or piercing them from the bottom! When they dry up in the oven the fork marks really show!

Cinnamon and cloves are my obsession this winter since I tried a cocktail with Fernet Branco (but it didn’t taste bitter at all!). I’m thinking about using the syrup in a cocktail, too.

 

Daring Baker Challenge: Povitica October 28, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — presley @ 10:24 am

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

I finally got back to baking and made this, but I can’t post yet. Coming soon!

 

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies: The Hype and The Truth August 16, 2011

Filed under: baking — presley @ 1:25 pm
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Anyone who’s into chocolate chip cookies knows about the NYT recipes from Jacques Torres.  Some swear by it.  Last night, I was struck with cookie inspiration and decided to finally try it. My overall impression is that it makes for great texture, meh flavor. Here’s what I’ve found out so far:

No need to be so fancy

  •  Flour: It calls for, by weight, half bread flour and half cake flour.  Depending on the flours you use (their contents vary by brand), I think this amounts to using all all-purpose flour.  Perhaps Jacques had some good reason for writing the recipe this way, but until further notice, I’ll assume it was just to look fancy.  I didn’t have enough bread or cake flour on hand (most of my bread flour is whole wheat because most of it goes to making, you know, bread), so I used all-purpose flour, and I was perfectly satisfied with the result.
  • Chocolate: I hope I don’t even have to tell you that you can use whatever bits of yumminess you want in these cookies. High quality chocolate tastes good, but I used regular old chocolate chips and they taste just as good as they always do.
  • Size: The NYT recipe wants you to make enormous cookies.  Well, sure, cookies the size of my head can stay soft for a while, but I like my cookies normal size, and I want a recipe that produces well-textured normal size cookies. So I test mine with somewhere around a tablespoon of dough per cookie.  The results are good: the success of the NYT recipe is not due to a size trick. It makes good normal size cookies, too.
  • Timing: The NYT recipe says to chill the cookie dough for 24-36 hours before baking. What a pain, I wanted cookies last night! So I decided to find out if it really matters. I baked one sheet of the cookies last night right after making up the dough – I stuck them in the fridge for 5 or 10 minutes just because the preheated oven was making the room hot and I wanted them to have a fair chance. Then I put one log of cookie dough in the fridge to be baked tonight, and another log (it makes a lot of cookies!) in the freezer for a rainy day (like yesterday, and today…).  I will report on the results of a blind taste test soon. But already I can tell you, unchilled NYT cookies are plenty good. Not too flat or hard or crispy, pretty much just how I like them.

It succeeds in making a cookie that’s chewy, not crispy or cakey.

  • It uses a little more brown sugar than white sugar, as a chocolate chip cookies should, in my opinion. Brown sugar is brown because it has molasses in it, and molasses has water in it, so it’s a way of making your cookie a little softer.
  • I like to compare cookies to the Nestle Tollhouse recipe, which I’ve had memorized for I don’t know how many years.  My Nestle cookies always come out too hard when cool, and kind of greasy. Here’s approximately how to make NYT cookies from a Nestle recipe (all comparisons are by weight):
    1. Divide the amount of butter in half.
    2. Divide the amount of egg in half.
    3. Subtract one fourth the total amount of sugar.
  • It’s hard to tell that these are the differences between the two recipes, since they make different amounts.  That’s why putting recipes in baker’s percentage is so handy. But the result is that the flour, leavening, salt, and vanilla play a bigger role in the NYT cookies.
  • Why less butter and egg: Cookies that are heavier on flour and lighter on butter stay soft better, but they run the risk of being too cakey and dry.  In fact, I made some like this once and compared that recipe to the NYT recipe.  It turns out that the only difference between the two was that the dry recipe used all white sugar instead of a mix of white and brown, and more egg.  We know that brown sugar makes a cookie wetter and softer, and for reasons I don’t fully understand, eggs make them cakey, even though eggs are wet. So I guess in order to increase the relative amount of flour in the recipe without ending up too cakey, the NYT recipe had to decrease the amount of egg.

My one complaint is the flavor.

  • What I don’t know about is the sugar. Does it have to be decreased?  The combination of less sugar and more salt seemed to trick my taste buds into thinking I was eating peanut butter cookies, which I’m sure is right up some people’s alley, but I’d rather have the regular old sweet flavor. So my next task will be to replicate this recipe but with more sugar and less salt. (In Jacques’ defense, I had to estimate the amount of salt, because I was using kosher instead of sea salt, which is less coarse.)
 

Daring Baker Challenge: Fraisier July 27, 2011

Filed under: baking,candy,custard,foam — presley @ 10:10 pm
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 Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

 

Fraisier

Instead of the Daring Baker recipe, I used this recipe from Food Lover’s Odyssey. It uses genoise cake instead of chiffon, meaning the eggs aren’t separated but are heated and then beaten to make a foam, and it uses an ungodly amount of butter to make the cream stand up instead of gelatin.

I used half the amount of butter it calls for – the strawberries in the center of the middle layer did most of the work of holding the cake up.  My boyfriend and I picked the strawberries ourselves! And the blueberries came from the same farm.

The cake shrunk as it cooked, naturally, so my springform pan had a little extra room when I used it as a mold for the center layer. The result was the strawberries hanging kind of low. If I had started with the cream it probably would’ve worked better.

Regardless, it was delicious! Decadent and summery at the same time. We ate it on the Fourth of July. I would definitely make it again, but probably in the structure of a regular cake just to make my life easier.

 

Daring Baker Challenge: Phyllo Dough and Maple Baklava June 27, 2011

Filed under: baking — presley @ 10:10 pm
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Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

I was a little daunted by the idea of making my own phyllo dough. Even Alton Brown doesn’t make his own phyllo dough when he makes baklava.  I have now made something more from scratch than Alton Brown.  But I did decide to compromise.  I made the bottom layer myself and used store bought dough for the rest.  I also tweaked the classic recipe by making mine round and using maple syrup instead of spiced honey.  I liked the idea, but I don’t think the spices that you mix in with the nuts complement the maple flavor that well.  I doubt it’s the cinnamon, so it’s probably the allspice or the clove, or both, that’s not playing nice with maple.  That didn’t stop my friends from enjoying it, though.

homemade phyllo dough

The dough got pretty thin and translucent.

The full recipe is here.  I’ll just add a tip for rolling out the phyllo dough, if you are ever possessed to do this yourself.  It’s not as hard as you’d think, and you can use a regular rolling pin even though they suggest a wooden dowel.  But when you roll out dough, you create new surface area, and so even though you floured the dough and the counter, you still get sticky areas.  If you’re rolling out something this much, you have a lot of sticky area. So I tried buttering my work surface instead of flouring it.  After rolling a piece, it came right off of my counter instead of needing a lot of gentle prodding like before.  And then I had a head start on the buttering that you do to make the baklava.

I only baked mine once, for about 30 minutes, whereas the recipe has you do that twice.  Mine probably could’ve used some more time in the oven, but I think another full 30 minutes would have been too much.

 

 

All Coconut All the Time Ice Cream May 10, 2011

Filed under: freezing — presley @ 9:50 pm
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I have not yet taken pictures of this ice cream, but that’s no reason to deprive you of the recipe, which as far as I know, you will only find here.

Last summer, I made more ice creams than I told you about. Sorry. One of them was made solely and exclusively out of the following ingredients:

ingredients

Coconut milk and coconut sugar.

I had calculated that coconut milk – the regular kind, not light or anything – has just about the amount of fat that I like in my ice cream, somewhere around 18%, like light cream. It has a similar sugar content to the milk I have in my fridge, which is probably a little different from light cream, but close enough that I kept the amount of sugar roughly the same.

So I made ice cream thusly:

  • 1 can coconut milk (1 3/4 cups)
  • scant 1/2 cup coconut sugar (my rule for sugar is to divide your amount of milk by 4, by volume) (yes, you can use regular sugar if you’re not hell-bent on all coconut all the time)
  1. Dissolve sugar in milk, heating gently if necessary.
  2. Cool.
  3. Churn.
  4. Freeze.
(I think I actually used 2 full cups of coconut milk and a full half cup of sugar that time, hence the two cans.)
The texture was good.  The flavor was good until I caught something…strange.  Not really bad – people ate it – but not what I want my ice cream to taste like.  Sort of a cooked flavor.  The coconut sugar has a pleasant caramelly flavor, but I think it’s the coconut milk that’s to blame.
So I intended to try again with a different brand of coconut milk, but I misremembered which brand I used last time and did it over with the exact same one.  Haha.  But this time, I tasted the coconut milk and decided it was still going to add that funny flavor, so I fought back with:
  • the juice of half a lime
  • some vanilla extract
  • a dash of salt
It worked.  It still has a musky coconuttiness about it, but I liked the ice cream this time.  The lime was not detectable.  I suspect that even more lime juice would give an even yummier result, without compromising the texture too much.  I also suspect that the amount of sugar could be reduced a tad (indeed, most recipes I’ve looked up that use coconut  milk call for less sugar).
If you know your stuff about ice cream (and precious few people do, alas), you might wonder why I’m not using any sort of thickener to improve the texture.  That’s the beauty of canned coconut milk!  Not only does it have the right amount of fat, it also has guar gum already added to it to minimize the freaking out of Americans upon seeing their coconut milk separate.  Guar gum is the preferred thickener of the ice cream industry, and is made from a plant.  So this ice cream is really simple to make, and it’s vegan and dairy-free.  Now you understand why I’m so set on getting past this flavor issue, right?  I think if you add strong flavors to it you should be fine, and even if you don’t, coconut enthusiasts should enjoy this recipe with the splash of lime juice.
Things to try: chocolate coconut ice cream, lime coconut ice cream (don’t think I wasn’t singing “you put de lime in de coconut and shake it all up” while making this), pina colada ice cream, mango coconut ice cream.  Also, in the spirit of two-ingredient ice cream recipes, that ice cream made from banana and chocolate.  Bananas don’t usually excite me, but there are these chocolate chip banana bread muffins at a local coffee shop that are so amazing, I’m willing to give all banana-chocolate creations a try.
 

 
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