Posted in baking, candy, custard, foam

Daring Baker Challenge: Fraisier

 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.

Posted in baking, candy, custard, emulsion, foam

Daring Baker Challenge: Mousse in an edible container

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com

So yeah, it was supposed to be maple mousse.  But I got inspired to have a Red and Black party, so I made chocolate mousse in red tuiles.  I shaped the tuiles by putting some in mini muffin tins and draping others over the tops of wine bottles, so that they made bowls to hold the mousse.  They came out looking like rose petals.

I made my chocolate mousse from David Lebovitz’s adaptation of Julia Child’s recipe.  I tripled the recipe and, of course, made some minor changes, so mine came out like this – but be warned, this is for WAY more mousse than you really want to make.

  1. Mousse in the making
    Mixing the chocolate emulsion with the custard.

    Melt butter and chocolate with coffee.

    • 4 sticks butter
    • 510g dark chocolate (fair trade!)
    • 3/4 cup coffee
  2. Make zabaglione.  (A sweet custard with an alcoholic liquid.  Traditionally marsala wine; Julia’s recipe used rum; I used cognac and it was delicious.)  This is done by heating the ingredients in a double boiler until thick enough to coat a spoon, and then beating (an electric mixer is a good idea) off the heat (with the bowl in cool water, even) until lighter in color and thick enough that when you drip some, a trail remains.
    • 12 egg yolks (I bought jumbo by accident so I used 10)
    • 510g sugar
    • 6 Tbsp cognac
    • 3 Tbsp water
  3. Make meringue.  Beat egg whites; when it’s all opaque, add the sugar.  Keep beating until peaks form but aren’t too stiff.
    • 12 egg whites
    • 3 Tbsp sugar
    • a few pinches of salt
    • 1 tsp cream of tartar
    • 2 tsp vanilla
finished mousse
Blurry picture of finished mousse.

Gently mix the first two together and then fold the meringue into that.  This means you’ll be eating uncooked egg whites.  If you’re not ok with that, make a Swiss meringue instead, which is where you heat the egg whites and sugar to 160F before beating them.

This mousse was amazing, y’all.  Totally worth all the different ingredients and components.  The zabaglione alone was amazing, I’ll definitely make that again.

I did run into a hitch – my chocolate emulsion broke.  I googled around about this and came to the conclusion that humans do not fully understand chocolate, because what I found didn’t make a lot of sense.  But basically, I think it broke because I heated it too much, and what ended up working was cooling it in the fridge, and then heating it again, very slowly.  I tried this trick where I took just a little of it and mixed it with some heated corn syrup.  That bit re-emulsified, but as I added more of the broken mixture to the fixed mixture, it got fixed and then I added too much and it all broke again.  So I guess that last addition of broken mixture lowered the temperature too much.  So, chop your chocolate and butter before starting, so everything can melt fast and evenly, and if you run into this problem, cool and reheat slowly.

tuiles
Rose petal tuiles.

Now the tuiles.  I used this recipe without the almonds, and multiplied by 4.  These were really simple, and I had been so worried!  I used LOTS of red food coloring, and flavored them with cinnamon, but then added a little cocoa powder too because I wanted the red velvet color to come out right.  I didn’t add any liquid to the recipe to make up for this; maybe if I had they would’ve come out a little crispier, like I expected, but the texture they had was good for shaping them.  I’d skip the cinnamon next time; I wanted a red flavor to go with the red color, but I wasn’t crazy about the result.

Finally, I made some cayenne syrup to go on top.

  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Boil until the thread stage, 130F.  Unfortunately, even though I stopped at the thread stage, mine eventually crystallized.  But it was a nice mixture of hot and sweet, and I love spice with my chocolate.

The official drink for the party was something that’s apparently called Devil’s Blood – it’s a vodka cranberry with black vodka.  I layered it by pouring the vodka from a measuring cup over the back of a spoon onto the cranberry juice, which worked well.

devil's blood
Layered cocktail.
Posted in baking, foam

Daring Baker Challenge: Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

Recipe here.

filling station
All ready for my guests to dive in.

I used 545g of bread flour (the recipe gave a range for the amount of flour, and didn’t specify the type), and it was perfect.  The dough started out sticky and wasn’t anymore at the end of kneading.

I changed the shape of the bread/cake.  It was supposed to be rolled into a log and then made into a ring, exactly like the December challenge (especially because I filled my December challenge bread with this method instead of by mixing things into the dough).  I decided I would rather have my friends share the work with me and try something new, so I had a few people over and we each took part of the dough and rolled it up croissant-style: cut into an acute isosceles triangle, put fillings on it, and roll from the short edge to the point.

croissant construction
I decided mine was too big and cut it in two.
constructed croissants
We didn't skimp on the filling.

I’m in a cold climate, and since I was having people over to shape the bread, I wanted to make sure it rose on time.  So for the first rise, I put the bowl of dough in the oven with just the pilot light on.  It worked great.

For fillings, we used meringue, chocolate chips, chopped pecans, and dried cranberries.  Delicious.

I tried to do an egg wash the lazy way: rub some meringue on top.  It came out looking like bread with a little meringue rubbed on top, haha.

finished product
Yum.

I baked mine for about 18 minutes, which is shorter than the recipe says, which is expected given that mine had more surface area, and that my oven is crazy.  My thermometer read about 205F when they were done.

You’re supposed to let bread cool first, but we ate them hot, and they were great!  I had no problems with this dough, so I would definitely use that recipe again.

with lemon curd
The meringue left me with three egg yolks, which is just the right number for making lemon curd.
the inside
Very well-behaved dough.
Posted in baking, custard, foam

Daring Baker Challenge: Entremet with Joconde

the outside
Now you know what the margins of my notebooks look like.

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

It’s my first Daring Bakerversary!  I’ve been a Daring Baker for a whole year now.  Yay.

Normally I just post the pdf of the recipe and leave it at that, but this recipe needs some tweaks, I think.

It says to make the sponge cake batter first and then the decorating paste that goes under the sponge cake as it bakes, even though the batter runs the risk of deflation and the paste needs to be frozen for 15 minutes before baking.  That’s just silly.

So first, make the decorating paste.  But unless you’re planning to forget the whole joconde thing and make 3 dozen cookies out of it, for goodness sake don’t make as much as they say.  I halved it and had way too much.  Here’s half of the cocoa version (ie, what I made):

  • 7 tablespoons/100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g Confectioners’ (icing) sugar
  • 100g egg whites (I used the kind in a carton so I didn’t have to worry about fractions of eggs)
  • 85g cake flour
  • 30 g cocoa powder (sifting this with the cake flour is not actually necessary)
  1. Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Add eggs.
  3. Add dry ingredients.
  4. Pipe or otherwise make a design on a Silpat on a jellyroll pan.  I bought a Silpat especially for this, because parchment paper usually gets warpy in situations like this.  They say to put the jellyroll pan upside down; that’s fine, but it’s also ok to do it right-side up if you have an offset spatula.
  5. Freeze for 15 minutes, till hard.

Meanwhile, make the cake batter.

  • ¾ cup/ 180 ml/ 3oz/ 85g almond flour/meal
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 150 ml/ 2⅔ oz/ 75g confectioners’ (icing) sugar
  • ¼ cup/ 60 ml/ 1 oz/ 25g cake flour
  • 3 large eggs – about 5⅓ oz/ 150g
  • 2 tablespoons/ 30 ml/ 1oz / 30g unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large egg whites – about 3 oz/ 90g
  • 2½ teaspoons/ 12½ ml/ ⅓ oz/ 10g white granulated sugar or superfine (caster) sugar
  1. Whisk dries together (not granulated sugar).
  2. Add whole eggs.
  3. Add melted butter. (Another place where I disagree with the recipe.  I did it this way, nothing exploded.)
  4. Separately, beat egg whites.  When frothy, add granulated sugar.  Beat to stiff peaks.
  5. Fold egg whites into batter.
  6. Take the frozen paste out of the freezer.
  7. Pour cake batter onto jellyroll pan.  Spread into an even layer (using offset spatula if you have one).  Remember cake decorating technique: pour it all in the middle and then spread from the middle.
  8. Bake at 475F for 7 minutes.  They said 15 minutes; clearly that was too long for my crazy oven, but I think that’s too long for anyone.  We’re talking about less than a half-inch of sponge cake here.
  9. Cool for a couple of minutes, then flip onto parchment paper.
  10. Cut into strips with the same width as the height of your mold (or the height that you want your joconde to be, if not the full height of the mold).
the inside
An unintentionally dramatic photo, with a flower pot from my Catalan friend in the background.

The fillings were up to us.  I made what was supposed to be a brownie, with my very own recipe! I looked at several other brownie recipes to get a general idea of how much chocolate should go into them, and then brownie-fied Smitten Kitchen’s Blondie recipe using MATH.  Here’s the Blondie recipe:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 egg

Here’s the rationale behind my browniefication thereof:

  • 1 cup flour minus 1/3 cup, to be replaced by cocoa powder
  • 1 stick butter minus 1 Tbsp, to be replaced by the fat in the chocolate I use
  • 1 cup sugar minus 2 Tbsp, to be replaced by corn syrup, which is more hygroscopic (will keep it moist)
  • 1 egg

And my final brownie recipe:

  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 7 Tbsp butter
  • 30g dark chocolate
  • 7/8 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 egg
  1. Melt butter and chocolate.
  2. Add sugar, corn syrup, egg, and cocoa powder.
  3. Add flour.
  4. Bake at 325F for 30 minutes.

It turned out denser than I expected, but definitely not dry and definitely very chocolatey.  I never thought I’d do this, but I might add a little baking powder next time.

I also made champagne mousse using this Epicurious recipe.  I added a little extra champagne and that wasn’t the greatest idea, because it didn’t thicken much until I gave up and let it cool.  But it worked.  It was very sweet, probably due to the sweet pink champagne I used.  It doesn’t make very much.

I put a layer of my joconde sponge cake on the bottom (so the bottom of your slice is pretty!), then some strawberry jam, then the brownie, then a layer of the chocolate decorating paste (since I had so much extra), then the champagne mousse, and there was still room.  So I made some whipped cream with very little sugar, as a nice light finish to a very rich and sweet dessert.

Posted in baking, foam

Middle Eastern Macarons

I didn't dye them, so they're just a faint green from the pistachios.

My first attempt at macarons went pretty well, and I had been excited to try them again ever since.  So when a professor who works in France came to visit our department, you know what I made.  But I didn’t go with French flavors.  Instead, I

  • swapped out the almond meal for pistachio meal (you can’t find that in stores, I just threw some pistachios in my magic bullet),
  • added a scant Tbsp rose water to the egg whites before beating them (remember, you can add some water-based liquid to your egg whites without hurting the meringue),
  • and filled them with honey jam (like I did with my May Flowers Macarons).
  • Besides these changes, I followed the exact same recipe as last time – Not So Humble Pie’s recipe – and I had the same weak point as last time – air pockets in the macarons.  But I don’t really mind them.  As soon as you bite it’s all the same anyway.

These are common flavors in Middle Eastern cuisine, so I told my friends they were Middle Eastern flavored.  One person replied “I don’t think I know what the Middle East tastes like,” but when she tried one she said “These are Middle Eastern flavored!”

And it turns out, the Middle East tastes good.  This is one of those rare dishes that I plan to make again without needing someone to specially request it.  I’ll probably try a honey buttercream instead of honey jam next time (honey jam is so sweet and sticky) but the combination of flavors with the texture of the macarons was heavenly.

A tale of warning: I wanted to make these again for some especially helpful professors as a holiday gift, but I made two different batches using defrosted frozen egg whites, which normally work fine in meringues, and they just were not right.  The first batch was too sticky, and the second batch never dried on the top, so neither came out very macaron-like.  They tasted good, but I think they taste better in macaron form.  So it looks like you should use never-frozen whites for your macarons.

 

Posted in baking, candy, foam

S’more bars

This summer, foodgawker was inundated with recipes for s’more bars and I’ve been dying to make some.  My friends’ housewarming seemed like the perfect opportunity.  But when I looked at the recipes (the ones that didn’t involve strange ingredients like granola), they were all exactly the same: it’s essentially a cookie dough with some of the flour replaced with graham cracker crumbs, topped by chocolate and marshmallow fluff and more of the same cookie dough.  I don’t know where it originated or I’d link to it.  Anyway, delicious as that sounds, I decided to try to go a little more traditional with it and use a graham cracker crust like you’d make for a cheesecake – just graham cracker crumbs and butter – topped with chocolate and homemade marshmallow.  I omitted the top graham cracker layer so I could flambe the marshmallow, because I don’t know about you, but I like my marshmallow seriously singed.

I based the graham cracker layer on this recipe, ending up with the following:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (12 crackers)
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.

Based on the ubiquitous s’more bar recipe, put 6 Hershey bars on top of that.  I put this in the turned-off but still hot oven for a few minutes to melt them.

Instead of using marshmallow creme like the s’more bar recipe says, I made marshmallows according to Chef Thomas Keller’s recipe via Cooking For Engineers.  (The Keller link no longer leads anywhere, but that’s what CFE cites.)  It’s really easy: make a hard-ball stage candy while you bloom gelatin, then beat both together until it gets opaque and thick and voluminous.  Then I poured it over the chocolate and let it cool.  I didn’t use the whole recipe on the s’more bars – I saved enough to fill one of those short square Gladwares because it just made too much.  I still think I ended up with more marshmallow on the bars than I should have had, but I guess that just makes it indulgent.

I took the bars to my friends’ place and flambeed them, which melted the top of the marshmallow but didn’t get it really burnt like I like it.  I tried to take a picture but the picture put the fire out somehow!  Next I’ll try setting the reserved marshmallow on fire.

If I made the s’more bars again, I think I’d go with different chocolate – something darker.  I stuck with Hershey’s milk for tradition’s sake, but it really was a little too sweet for me.  I must be getting old.

Posted in baking, foam, freezing

Daring Baker Challenge: Baked Alaska

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and
Baking
. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and
Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa
chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice
Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s
“The Perfect Scoop”.

The pdf with all the recipes is here.

Brown Butter Pound Cake

I had never browned butter before and was a little nervous about burning it, but it went fine.  I just put it all in the pan – didn’t even worry about cutting it up – and heated and stirred and heated and stirred until the milk solids turned brown.  Then got it out of that hot pan quick, because they get browner and browner really fast.

The annoying part is cooling the butter just enough to where it’s solid but soft for creaming with the sugar.  From there, it’s just a regular creaming method pound cake.  A breeze in my stand mixer :).

Cake and ice cream layers

Zabaglione Ice Cream

I thought a French vanilla would go well with the brown butter cake, and I looked through The Perfect Scoop for something like that but a little more exciting.  Enter zabaglione ice cream.  Zabaglione is a poured custard made with egg yolks, marsala wine, and sugar.  I adore it.  We used it in the DB tiramisu challenge.  But Lebovitz’s recipe says to use 1/2 cup of dry marsala for a 1 quart recipe (he just substitutes it in for 1/2 cup of the dairy), and that seemed like a lot.  Alcohol makes ice cream softer, and I wanted mine to stay frozen during the baking and flambeing, plus I wasn’t sure if my guests would love the flavor as much as I do; some people don’t go for it as much.  So I used 1/4 of a cup.  This is even less when you consider that I increased the recipe to make 1.5 quarts.  I still tasted it, though; I think it might have been a little overpowering if I had used as much as he said, but a little more would have been fine.

Besides that, I followed his recipe, egg yolks and all.  I found that when I use light cream, as I am wont to do instead of all heavy cream or Lebovitz’s mix of whole milk and heavy cream, the yolks don’t make it too fatty.  I had some freezing issues due to not having frozen my ice cream maker’s core early enough, so I couldn’t judge this ice cream very accurately, but I think it turned out pretty well.

Unbaked meringue on the first one
Baked meringue on the second one

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meringue

I could make meringue in my sleep, which was good to know because I decided to wait until my guests had arrived to make it.  That was a Good Idea; I piped, baked, flambeed, and served one baked Alaska before doing the same to the next one, and in the meantime, the quality of the meringue had noticeably declined.  It was less satiny, starting to separate I guess.  But not too much – purely an aesthetic issue at that point.  Having the stand mixer do the beating for me made doing this mid-party less of a hassle.

I tried to do some pretty piping but I wanted to make sure to cover every little cranny since the meringue is an insulator for the ice cream, and that necessitated going over some spots multiple times.  But all in all, not too bad.

Don’t know how to make meringue?  Commit this to memory:

Beat room temperature egg whites with a few sprinkles of cream of tartar and cornstarch.  When they start to turn opaque, add sugar (1/4 cup or 60 g per white is customary for meringue shells; in this case, about half that much*) and keep beating.  Stop when they stick out pretty straight from the beater when you stop it and pull it out of the foam.

There, now you can make meringue in your sleep, too.

*1/4 cup or 60g per white is twice as much sugar per egg white by either volume or weight.  This recipe used slightly less than an equal weight of egg whites and sugar.  It was a nice amount.

Bake

Heat up the broiler and put the Alaska under it for five minutes.  My ice cream was definitely starting to melt at this point, which didn’t matter since my Alaskas were so horizontal, but one of those tower-type ones might have had trouble.

Flambeing

Flambe

I was kind of afraid to flambe them, because I had never done it before, but it’s so easy.  Just pour a little alcohol – at least 40% abv, I think; I used cognac – into a pan, heat it until it just starts to bubble, pour it on the dessert, and light it with a long match.  I had better luck lighting the pan of alcohol, actually, and then poured the flaming alcohol onto the dessert.  It sounds dangerous, but it went fine.  It looks really cool if you turn out the lights.

This part is unnecessary and actually not traditional for baked Alaska; mine were technically bombe Alaska because I did this.  But it makes a great show! And the leftover booze that soaked in tasted good.