Posted in baking, candy, dry heat, wet heat

Pear Frangipane Tart

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.

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Posted in baking

Daring Baker Challenge: Phyllo Dough and Maple Baklava

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.

 

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

Daring Baker Challenge: Cranberry Spice Stollen


The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

The Recipe: I altered the flavors and mix-ins.  I used 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp of cardamom, 1/2 tsp of allspice, and a 1/2 tsp of nutmeg.  I kept the vanilla and orange extracts.  For mix-ins I used slivered almonds, candied ginger, and Craisins, and I mixed them in differently.

    Mix-ins, evenly distributed
  1. Mix yeast and water, wait five minutes.
  2. Add other wet ingredients.
  3. Add dry ingredients.
  4. Add dried fruit and nuts. (I didn’t yet.)
  5. Knead.
  6. Refrigerate overnight.
  7. Let come to room temperature for 2 hours.
  8. Roll into a big rectangle. (Mine didn’t make it to 16×24 in.  Also, I learned that rolling gluten-full dough on top of wax paper doesn’t work, because it shrinks and pulls the paper with it into lots of crinkles.  It worked so much better on a clean bare countertop.)
  9. My way of mixing in: Put mix-ins on top of rectangle and then run a rolling pin over them.
  10. Roll dough like a jellyroll, starting from one of the shorter sides so you end up with a long log.
  11. Bring the ends of the log together, and fit one into the other.  Shape into a nice circle.
  12. Dough ready for the oven.
  13. Slash the outsides of the circle every 2 inches or so.
  14. Let rise for 2 hours.
  15. Bake for 40-50 minutes at 350F, rotating pan halfway through, until bread is 190F.
  16. Cool.
  17. Brush melted butter on top.
  18. Sift powdered sugar on top.

My method of mixing stuff in was probably nicer to my hands and the gluten since there weren’t slivers of almond involved in the kneading.  But I did seem to underestimate how much to use.  I guess the bread rose enough that the amount of mix-ins got diluted.  It was good, though, and the flavors were not at all overpowering.  In fact, I wish I had tasted more cardamom.  But it was a really fun challenge, to make something so seasonal and have it come out looking like it should.  Happy holidays!

Posted in baking

Peach Cobbler

peach cobblerMy friend had an awesome birthday party today.  We went tubing on the Deerfield River, then went home and showered and changed, and reconvened for a barbecue and finally, a bonfire.  Now there’s a dude who knows how to celebrate the passage of time.  He mentioned that peaches were in season when I asked him what I could make, so at first I was thinking of a peach pie, but I’m not great with pie crusts and I was low on time to experiment, so I decided on a peach cobbler.  I haven’t actually made a cobbler since I was pretty young and made a blackberry one with my grandmother in North Carolina (fond memories), so I was a little iffy on what I was shooting for.

I used Paula Deen’s recipe, reprinted here in baker’s percentage and all that good stuff:

257.1 B%        383.3 g        2 cups sugar, divided
79.4 B%            118.3 g        1/2 cup water
77.0 B%            114.8 g        1/2 cup butter
100.0 B%        149.1 g        1 1/2 cups flour
5.7 B%            8.4 g        2 1/4 tsp baking powder
245.2 B%        365.5 g        1 1/2 cups milk
4 cups (7-8) peeled, sliced peaches
Ground cinnamon, optional

I threw in a little ground nutmeg and changed the self-rising flour to flour and baking powder.  Her recipe doesn’t have salt, but my butter was salted.  Here’s my paraphrase on the instructions, plus my instructions for the peaches:

  1. Blanch and shock peaches.  (Put them in boiling water for 45 seconds to a minute, then put in ice water to cool.)
  2. Peel off whatever skin will come off.  Cut off the rest; it will still come off more easily than if they weren’t blanched.  But, they will have a slightly cooked outer layer that might not be as pretty as if you had just peeled them.  Your call.
  3. Slice peaches.  I tried slicing one radially, you know, like how canned peaches come sliced, but it’s hard to do thanks to the pit.  So I hacked off one cheek, the other, then the sides, and then the bottom.  Sliced the cheeks in half.  Works for me.
  4. Turn oven on to 350F.  Put butter in pan and pan in oven.
  5. Put peaches, 1 cup sugar, and water in a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Mix flour, baking powder, 1 cup sugar, and milk.
  7. Put batter, then peaches and syrup, in the pan with the butter, without stirring.
  8. Bake 30-45 minutes.  I baked mine for 35 minutes.

I think it needed to be baked longer.  I was skeptical about this but thought the top looked and felt done, but when I tried some at the party it was definitely doughy beneath the surface.  With no eggs, it’s not dangerous, but I imagine doughy isn’t the goal.  I should really eat more cobblers.

That said, get yourselves to Whole Foods and buy some ripe peaches pronto.  Eating the leftover bits of peach was magical.  I don’t think I have properly appreciated peaches in the past because I haven’t normally had really good, really ripe ones.  I also got rainier cherries after 1) having them stare at me on my computer background for months and 2) not finding any at the store until recently, when my usual grocery store started having them, but first they looked really bad, and then they looked ok but where EIGHT dollars a pound, and 3) finally happening upon them at Whole Foods, looking perfect and costing something I could stomach. And man. are. they. good.  I can’t even tell you.  You’ll just have to go buy some yourself.

Posted in baking, foam, freezing, infusion, thickening

Daring Baker Challenge: Swiss Roll Ice Cream Cake

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

A slice
My guests thought it was just chocolate and vanilla, but you know me better than that.

The recipe is available here.
I’ll be honest, I thought this dessert was going to be too much.  I had to pick flavors for four components, plus have a fudge sauce.  But I tried to pick things that wouldn’t clash, and I think it turned out really well.  The subtleties probably didn’t come through, because you tend to eat it all together, but it tasted good together, and that’s what matters, right?

So, this dessert had five parts.

1. Sponge cake – I tried making it first by whipping the egg yolks and egg whites separately, folding the flour and water into the yolks, folding part of the whites into the yolks, and then adding all of the yolk mixture to the whites.  This worked well and it worked FAST, especially because my eggs were pretty old.  Then I tried it with brand new eggs, whipping whole eggs.  I can’t say whether it was the fact that they were whole or the fact that they were new or both, but they definitely took a lot longer to whip.  Eventually, though, they did, and although I had the impression they didn’t end up as airy as the first batch, the cakes were basically identical in the end.  It is important to grease your parchment paper – something I’ve never had to do before – because this cake will stick to everything, and it’s too thin (thin enough to bake in a jellyroll pan, that’s the kind with short sides) to afford losing a layer to the parchment. Because it’s so thin, it cooks fast.  In my overzealous oven, I consistently cooked them for 8 minutes each.

I flavored my cake by using brown sugar instead of white (actually I kept a little white sugar in there, but I doubt it matters).  When it came out of the oven, it smelled like French toast.  Yummmm.  I substituted cake flour for the cocoa powder in the recipe – all the flour I used was cake flour.

By the way, does anyone know why the recipe says to have the water boiling?  I don’t see why that matters, but I did it just to be safe.

2. Filling – I made whipped cream with brown sugar instead of white, and added some ground cassia/Saigon cinnamon.  I once impatiently put the filling on the cake before letting the cake cool, and the cake soaked it all up.  You really do have to let the cake cool first.  I don’t know how important it is to roll the cake while it’s warm to make it roll without breaking later, but I always did.  I didn’t use a towel, since my kitchen towels are of questionable cleanliness. I never had any trouble with the cake breaking from rolling or unrolling it, but I did have trouble getting the cake to roll tightly enough to be pretty but not so tightly as to squeeze out the filling.  I ended up rolling as best I could, slicing, and then unrolling and rerolling each slice.  Messy, annoying, but got the job done.  I think the trick, if there is one, has to do with getting an even layer of the filling on the cake.  Mine seemed to have more towards the middle, which made my outer slices badly shaped.

The slices of the resulting Swiss roll were pressed into a bowl (which was covered in plastic wrap) to line the sides, and this was put in the freezer.

Cake and Ice Cream #1
About halfway there.

3. Ice Cream #1 – I made Mexican Hot Chocolate ice cream, loosely based on David Lebovitz’s Aztec Hot Chocolate recipe from The Perfect Scoop.  I believe in making dairy-based ice creams with light cream, around 18% fat (I calculated that this makes an ice cream with the same fat, solid, and water content as a formula I found for premium ice cream), so I did that, and the recipe went like this:

Mexican Hot Chocolate Ice Cream

3 cups light cream

5 Tbsp cocoa powder

3/4 cup sugar

2 oz chile flavored chocolate, chocolate

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pinch salt

1 Tbsp cognac

1 small dried red chile pepper, chopped and with seeds removed (I got this from my farmshare and don’t know what it should be called, but it is HOT)

Heat cream, sugar, pepper, and cocoa powder until boiling.  Remove from heat and add everything else.  Strain.  Chill.  Churn.  Freeze.

I didn’t know if it would be too hot or not hot enough, but I think it turned out just right if you like it mild.  You could tell something interesting was going on, but it wasn’t at all bothersome.  People who like spicy food would want more heat, though.  I think having it cold and with all that dairy definitely tones it down – I got more spice out of it when I tasted it pre-churning.I thought it was delicious.  In any case, I think it’s one of my new favorite flavors.

Out of the bowl
If I were more into crafty baking, I would totally make one of these to look like a turtle.

4. Ice Cream #2 – I chose hazelnut for this one.  I bought some hazelnuts, skinned them – I found out through on OChef that boiling them in a quart of water with 4 Tbsp of baking powder for about 3 minutes makes this really easy, I was so thankful – baked them at about 200F for about 10 minutes or 15 minutes, and then tried to grind them into butter.  That failed, so I infused my light cream (actually, this time I used half heavy cream and half whole milk, which is approximately the same) with the ground hazelnuts (and sugar) and then strained it.  This time, since I wasn’t adding alcohol, which makes ice cream softer, I added gelatin, which also keeps ice cream from freezing too solid, though in its own, gelatiny way.  In the past I’ve used a whole packet of gelatin for this much ice cream, and half a packet for 2/3 this much ice cream, and both times thought it was a little much.  So I tried half a packet, but I forgot to bloom it in some of the liquid kept cold, so I just stirred it into the hot liquid, and I don’t know if that keeps it from working, but it didn’t seem to have any effect.  The texture of the ice cream was great, but gelatin keeps ice cream from melting into a puddle and this ice cream melted like crazy, so I’m skeptical that it was really doing its job. I also used a little more sugar because my lower-gelatin batch before seemed not quite soft enough and perhaps not quite sweet enough.  I looked at Lebovitz’s Gianduja Gelato recipe to see about infusing the cream with the nuts, but other than that this is my own recipe.  If I can figure out how to make hazelnut butter I’ll have an even more original one for you – I’ve done the math to match that premium ice cream formula again, but alas, my grinders just aren’t cooperating.

Hazelnut Ice Cream

3 cups light cream

7/8 cup sugar (that’s 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp)

150 g ground hazelnuts

1 pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 envelope of gelatin (about 4g)

Bloom gelatin in some of the cream.  Heat the rest of the cream, sugar, salt, and hazelnuts.  Remove from heat and add gelatin and vanilla, whisking well.  Strain.  Chill.  Churn.  Freeze.

These ice creams were poured into the bowl on top of the frozen Swiss rolls.  I let the first freeze before churning and adding the second.

Complete
At first I was just drizzling the sauce on top, but then I said what the hell.

5. Fudge Sauce – I cheated.  I’m sorry.  Please let me stay in the club.  I was supposed to put the fudge sauce in between the layers of ice cream, but I’m sorry, that is not the purpose of fudge sauce.  Fudge sauce it to be added hot on top of cold ice cream.  So that’s what I did.  I poured it on top of the whole ice cream cake.

I also wasn’t very excited about a fudge sauce based on water thickened with cornstarch.  I found a recipe on Allrecipes that was simply sweetened condensed milk and unsweetened chocolate, with a little salt and vanilla.  (It also had water, but I omitted that – I wanted it nice and thick.)  That sounded more like it me, so that’s what I made.  It was thoroughly enjoyed.

Posted in dry heat

I’m now that person who makes her own granola

homemade granola
After I threw away the burnt part and ate a bowl of it, this much was left.

I never thought I’d make my own granola.  I’m a cereal for breakfast except on special occasions kind of person, and I didn’t want to have to do any work for breakfast.  But lately I’ve been paying more attention to eating healthy, and I found myself wanting to decide what was in my granola.  Or maybe it’s just the hippieness of Western Massachusetts rubbing off on me.  I’m going to a yoga class this weekend, too.

I estimated that I eat 3/4 cup of cereal in the morning.  So, per bowl, the recipe (made up by yours truly) is:

1/2 cup oats

2 Tbsp flaxseeds, ground

2 Tbsp almonds, blanched and chopped

2 Tbsp sweetener (I used a ratio of half honey, one fourth agave maple syrup blend, and one fourth sugar, simply because that was how much I had left of the honey and the syrup)

1/2 Tbsp coconut oil

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 pinch salt

to be added after baking:

1 tsp candied ginger

Mix the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients and mix them in, spread onto a baking sheet in a thin layer, and bake for 20 minutes at 325F, moving stuff around halfway through.  Cool and add the ginger.

I made four bowls’ worth, which seemed like the perfect amount for one baking sheet.  I did have one snag: it got a little too brown.  One edge got downright burnt, so I threw a little of it away, but the rest is ok…but just barely.  I don’t know if this is because 20 minutes at 325F is too much, or because my oven wasn’t really at 325F, but I suspect the latter.  I use an oven thermometer, but lately it says that the oven is at a lower temperature than it’s supposed to be at.  Maybe both my oven and my oven thermometer are off.  Alas.  I’ll check it again at 15 minutes next time.