Posted in baking

Fresh From the Oven Challenge: Turkish Pide

unbaked pide
I took to pinching the corners to get them more squared off.

That’s right, I couldn’t help myself.  I joined another monthly baking club: Fresh From the Oven.  This month, Pei Lin a.k.a Mrs Ergül hosted.  She chose a recipe from Iffet’s blog My Turkish Kitchen for a Turkish bread called pide – sounds like pita, looks not entirely unlike focaccia.  I made mine whole wheat because that’s the only kind of bread flour I have around, and it worked just fine.  Mine looks very, hm, rustic, but I got the basic shape with the scoring and the sesame seeds.  The inside was soft and evenly risen, with small holes throughout.  I think it would be best with some sort of jam or butter, but I had my Turkish friend Seda over (she helped me put together my croquembouche last month), and she liked it without.  She said it was good with a Turkish yogurt drink but she didn’t have a blender to make it with. Here’s the recipe with my notes, and the directions in my own words.

4 cups (to 5 cups) All Purpose Flour – I used 4 cups
1 and 3/4 cups Warm Water – I used 1 1/2 cups
1/2 stick Butter ( melted )
1/2 tablespoon Instant Yeast – I used active dry
1 tablespoon Sugar
1/2 tablespoon Salt
Black and White Sesame Seeds – I only used black

    baked pide
    It didn't rise in the oven as much as I would have liked, but that didn't compromise its texture.
  1. Mix dry ingredients and then add and mix in wet ingredients.  (Not the sesame seeds, of course.)
  2. Knead.
  3. Rise for about 2 hours, until doubled in size.
  4. Fold, then let rest for a few minutes so it will be easier to stretch.
  5. Stretch dough into a large rectangle on a cookie sheet. (The original recipe has measurements, which I ignored. I’m a rogue like that.  I made the rectangle close to the size of my cookie sheet, but not touching any of the sides.)  Score in a square pattern.  Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
  6. Preheat oven to 350F and let rise 30 minutes.
  7. Bake 30 minutes.
  8. Cool 20 minutes.
I like the way the black sesame seeds look on it.

The dough had a high hydration level (around the level of ciabatta bread, that famously wet dough) even with my reduction in the amount of water, and yet I found it very easy to work with.  I would definitely make this recipe again, and try it as more of a regular loaf.

a slice
It was nice and fluffy inside.
Posted in custard, emulsion, foam

Daring Baker Challenge: Chocolate Pavlova

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

the meringue
The piped meringue, before baking.

The pdf of the recipe is here.

I was kind of lukewarm about this challenge, because I had already tried chocolate pavlovas before.  I never got around to posting them, so maybe I’ll put them up soon for comparison.  This one involved a ganache-mascarpone mousse and a creme anglaise, though, so that was exciting.  I had never made creme anglaise before and it. is. delicious.

So here are some issues I have with the recipe (which have nothing to do with taste – no complaints there!):

1. It isn’t really a recipe for a pavlova.  It’s a recipe for chocolate French meringue, cooked until dry, as if for meringue shells.  Which are great!  But not pavlovas.  Meringue shells are egg whites and sugar, beaten to stiff peaks, and baked at a low temperature, say 200F, until hard and dry, say 2 hours.  Pavlovas are large mounds of the same, baked in an oven that was preheated at a higher temperature, say 350F, to make a nice crust, and then lowered to around 300F for maybe 45 minutes to an hour, so that the inside stays moist and marshmallowy.

I went for a pavlova, but I forgot to start the oven off at a high temperature because the recipe, of course, specified a low temperature, so I ended up with something not quite the same as either a pav or a meringue shell.  This mixture had a lot of cocoa powder in it, and I think that may have changed the texture, too.  It was almost cakelike.

finished pavlova
My finished pavlova.

2. The creme anglaise required 6 egg yolks, and the “pavlova” called for 3 egg whites.  Now that’s kind of silly.  So naturally, I doubled the amount of pavlova so I’d use up all my eggs.  I could have forgiven the silliness, though, if it weren’t for the fact that, even with twice the amount of meringue, I had about three times as much of both toppings as I could use.  Maybe I was supposed to dump them on, but I served the extra toppings with the pavlova and encouraged my friends to add more, and I still ended up having to throw a lot away.  (The mousse is great with the sweet pavlova but not sweet enough to eat on its own, and the creme anglaise is delicious but I couldn’t find many things to put it on that went with its eggy flavor.)

This recipe had some interesting flavors: Grand Marnier in the mousse and Sambuca in the creme anglaise mixture.  I didn’t have Grand Marnier on hand, but I did have Cointreau (made margaritas on Cinco de Mayo :)) and brandy, and since Cointreau is orange flavored nondescript liquor and Grand Marnier is orange flavored brandy, I thought a little of those two would have a similar effect.  It tasted great!

pavlova with mousse and creme anglaise

Posted in baking

The Other Belgian Waffle

Liege waffles
I had to resist eating them because the recipe makes so few.

To Americans, Belgian waffles mean fluffy waffles with big pockets.  But Belgium has two famous kinds of waffles, even if one of them failed to become famous over here.  There are Brussels waffles, which are more or less like what we think of, though they’re yeast-risen, and then there are Liège waffles, which are rich, dense, and dotted with chunks of sugar.  In Belgium, waffles are a snack food, served with whipped cream, fruit, chocolate, you name it.  I even got waffles from a vending machine once in France.  And Liège waffles live up to that calling, even without any toppings.  They’re essentially brioche with pearl sugar mixed in, cooked in a waffle iron instead of in an oven.

Brioche: yeast-risen bread with butter, eggs, and sugar.  About as rich as kneaded bread can get.

Pearl sugar: lumps of sugar made under intense pressure that hold their shape in heat.  I ordered some online, but in my experience half-crushed sugar cubes do just fine.

I used this recipe, and man, did it serve me well.  They all but canonized me when I brought these into the department for a colloquium reception along with some jersey whipped cream.  (Jersey refers to the kind of cow – it makes a higher-fat milk than our (Americans’) usual Holsteins. It also made a denser, less smooth whipped cream.)  It was definitely the most loved contribution I’ve made to the department, and most of the desserts I post here end up eaten by people in the department.  A gay man proposed to me so I could make them for him all the time.

liege waffle label
I put this out at the reception. Luikse wafels is their name in Dutch, gaufres liègeois is the name in French.

The recipe requires very little work but quite a bit of time and careful scheduling.  I find the instructions a little hard to follow, so I’ve gone through it again here.


1. Mix the flour, water, milk, yeast, and egg, and let it hydrate and develop some gluten and rise a bit before you add all the stuff that will make gluten development difficult (that is, sugar and fat – I supposed the egg goes in early because of its water content and in spite of its fat).

2. Wait 1-1.5 hours.  Put the butter out during this wait so it’ll be soft.

3. Then add everything else, except the pearl sugar.  (The recipe breaks this into a few steps, which I find unnecessary – and I’m stirring by hand!)  Mix well, knead a little.

4. Wait 4 hours.

4.5. Then the recipe says to put it in the fridge for half an hour before stirring it down, folding it a few times, and refrigerating overnight.  It says the preliminary refrigeration is critical, so I haven’t been gutsy enough to test it, but it baffles me why you would need to refrigerate it before refrigerating it.  The stirring down part just knocks out some air and redistributes the yeast – I can imagine, if I squint, that the yeast need to slow down before being introduced to new food sources, but no other bread recipes I know of require you to refrigerate before the punch-down.  Anybody have any clues?  Anyway, I add the pearl sugar at this point because it’s easier than when the dough is cold.  I haven’t had any problems because of it.

5. So, stir the pearl sugar in, refrigerate overnight (or whenever), and then take the dough out, divide it into waffle-sized pieces (the recipe is for five waffles, but I make about 8 small ones, and I usually double the recipe for a total of 16), and let rise at room temperature for 1.5 hours.

6. I have a Cuisinart Belgian waffle iron that I use normally (not the way the recipe says) at about level 3 or 4, out of 5, in terms of the heat.  I usually let them cook for a little longer than one cycle.  They’ll get pretty dark because they have sugar and protein, which brown well.  You’re aiming for the pearl sugar to caramelize but not burn, but even if it doesn’t caramelize, it will be de-freaking-licious.

Posted in candy, thickening

Cranberry Pâtes de Fruit, the easy way

cranberry pate de fruit 1
Aren't they pretty with the light coming through?

When I was studying abroad in France, some family friends took me out to dinner at Apicius, a devastatingly good restaurant. When they brought dessert, there were a few things that they served regardless of what we ordered, and one of those things were these little square raspberry things coated in sugar. They were soooo good. But that’s not all; they were the mysterious puciunin that my then-boyfriend used to tell me about (his Piedmontese grandmother called them that). I had tried to figure out what they were, but try googling puciunin – hardly anything comes up. Sure enough, I saw them again at a store in the airport in France (and bought them, of course!), and that was when I found out what the rest of the world calls them: pâte de fruit. Fruit paste, in other words.

They’re not as schmancy as they sound: they’re just overcooked jam. But try these and you may start calling jam undercooked pâte de fruit, because really, what better way is there to eat your fruit? (I’m just so sad that a lot of the nutrients break down at the temperatures required.)

When I got home I tried making them. Several times. I never got quite the consistency I wanted. Puciunin should be a definite solid, but not rubbery. They’re not like jello, either. They’re just right. I made some apple ones that were a little too firm, some apple ones that were too soft, some strawberry ones that were too firm, some pineapple ones that were too soft.

The problem is that pectin is the gelling agent, and pectin is very finicky. It needs just so much sugar,

cranberry pate de fruit 2
This is the dish held vertically. I'd like to see jam do that.

just so much acid, just so much heat. But the fruit you’re using has an unknown amount of sugar, acid, and even pectin.  I considered buying a refractometer and ordering the brand of fruit puree that you can use to eliminate these unknowns, but eventually it occurred to me that I could (more inexpensively) just buy some low-sugar pectin and see if that helped.  Low-sugar pectin is still kind of finicky, as you can’t use too much sugar with it, but trust me, these things do not suffer from a lack of sweetness.  I’ve also noticed that both kinds of pectin have an acid in their ingredient list, and so I wonder if the acid included in pâte de fruit recipes is actually necessary.

So the other night I found myself with a lot of cranberry juice left over from my cranberry fondant (yes, that’s how long I’ve been sitting on this post), and it was so delicious, except for the fact that the acidity or astringency or both made it undrinkable.  But I could tell that it would be delicious if I could get it under control!  I thought, you normally make pâte de fruit from puree, but juice could work.  It might not have quite the same consistency, and you shouldn’t make this substitution in a recipe you have without taking into account that the juice will have less pectin than the puree, but still…  And so, I gave this a shot:

  1. 2 1/2 cups cranberry juice (not juice cocktail)
  2. 2 cups sugar (Ok, to be totally honest, I didn’t write this down and I’m not sure if I actually used 2 cups.  But it must have been in the ballpark…I know, big mistake.)
  3. a pinch of cream of tartar
  4. a packet of low-sugar pectin

I boiled the juice and sugar for a few minutes and then added the acid and pectin.  Then I boiled more, and more, and more, continually testing it by spooning a little onto a pyrex pan kept in the freezer (my candy thermometer is being shipped to me

sugared cranberry pate de fruit
Here they are after being dipped in sugar. Though it's traditional, it really wasn't necessary.

with a bunch of my other stuff that wouldn’t fit in my suitcase).  In the end I sort of chickened out – it was just shy of perfect, and I knew if I cooked the pectin too far it would break down and not gel at all, so I stopped there, and poured the whole thing into aforementioned pyrex pan.  I let it cool on the counter and then stuck it in the fridge.  The next day, I cut it into squares and spread them out on a plate so the sides could sort of dry.  They don’t end up feeling dry or anything, they just get a little firmer and less sticky.  I think it would have been even better if I had had the patience to flip them over and let the bottoms dry, too.  Finally, I tossed them in sugar (sanding sugar is preferable, but I just used regular granulated).  This was the test: the bottoms ended up, not visibly wet, but wet enough that the sugar didn’t look white anymore.  The other sides stayed dry and white.  So I guess that’s the trick to keeping them from weeping and dissolving the sugar and getting sticky: cook them enough, and let them sort of dry out for a while first.

I wish I had added even less sugar, because the wonderful acidity of the cranberries is a little lost.  I also think I should have cooked them just ever so slightly longer; but still, I think these pass as pâtes de fruit, and that is a triumph!  Who would have thought my most successful try would be the one where I just used juice?