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 freezing

The Summer of Ice Cream II: Cookies and Cream, twice

Don’t know why it took me so long to post this…

cookies and cream
Lower fat version on the left, higher fat on the right. The color difference is because I used different brands of cream.

You, lucky reader, are about to be let in on The Secret of Ice Cream.  It’s not in The Perfect Scoop (which I own and read, of course).  It’s not on foodgawker (my constant companion).  It’s in books like The Science of Ice Cream and The Handbook of Food Science, Technology, and Engineering.  It’s hardcore science that will make your ice cream soft.

The reigning messiah of ice cream, David Lebovitz (author of The Perfect Scoop, reigning ice cream bible) distinguishes between two kinds of ice cream: Philadelphia style and French style.  The former is based on cream and sugar while the latter adds to these egg yolks.  He gives a recipe for Philadelphia style ice cream but warns us that it will be icier than the French style.  What he doesn’t say is that there are other options.

It makes perfect sense, actually.  Ice cream aside, what are egg yolks used for?  Thickening and emulsifying things.  But they’re far from the only ingredients used for these purposes.  For thickening, you can use any of dozens of kinds of starches and gums, as well as gelatin and pectin.  (There are other chemicals that emulsify as well, but I don’t worry about that – yet, anyway.)  So it’s no coincidence that you can use all of these things to improve the texture of your ice cream, too.  But gelatin, pectin, and gums are needed in smaller amounts than egg yolks and starches, and lack the fat of egg yolks (it’s not a health thing, I swear – I just think an overly fatty ice cream isn’t as delicious), so I’d rather use them.

Unfortunately, ice cream scientists seem not to be very gossipy, so no one is helping me get the secret out, and as a result, there are precious few recipes to go on.  So, I took Lebovitz’s Philly Vanilla recipe and added an envelope of gelatin to it (and a row of Oreos, because I had been craving cookies and cream ice cream for at least a month).  It came out too thick for my taste, so I tried again with slightly less gelatin and light cream in place of heavy cream (I didn’t use his option of using part milk in either case), and it came out better, but ever so slightly too icy.  The experiments will have to continue, but my hunch is that more fat is not what’s needed.  Rather, more sugar or even more milk protein (which I could add in the form of nonfat milk powder) may be the key.  Or the full envelope of gelatin.  Or a different thickener (I’m considering ordering some guar gum).  I just try to see all these questions and the batches of ice cream they necessitate as the silver lining to the ridiculous heat wave we’ve been having here in Massafrickingchusetts, of all places.  I expect these temperatures in Florida, but in Florida I have air conditioning!

Posted in custard

Flourless chocolate cognac cake/tarte

chocolate cognac tarte
Read on for my theory on why this cake looks like it got in a bar fight.

Two of the students (one former) in our department recently got married, and tonight we toasted to them.  I asked the bride what she’d like, and she said she likes anything chocolate.  When people tell me that, I think chocolate cake just won’t cut it – not chocolatey enough.  So I decided to make a flourless chocolate cake.  Before googling or foodgawking (foodgawkering? I can’t decide) for a recipe, I checked my bookmarks, because I keep a store of recipes I’ve seen and want to try.  Sure enough, I had a chocolate tarte recipe saved in my bookmarks that looked delicious.  The recipe is from Côté Maison and is in French, so I’ve translated it.

pâte sablée (already made – I didn’t use one)
156.3 B%       250 g crème fraîche liquide (I used heavy cream)
18.8 B%        30 g butter
78.1 B%        125 g chocolate
15.6 B%        25 g sugar (I added two tablespoons to this)
62.5 B%        2 eggs
37.5 B%        3 yolks
a little unsweetened cocoa powder (I used powdered sugar instead, but it melted into the cake by the time I served it)
32.5 B%        5 cl cognac

I added a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of vanilla.

I did it without a crust and doubled the recipe, which made a thin cake in a 13×9 in pan.  It served 12 people with a little left over.  Sadly, I don’t think the flavor of the cognac came through in the final product.  It tasted great in the batter, but I guess the cognac couldn’t take the heat.  If I make it again, I’d use a lighter cream, because I think too much fat can cover the flavor of the chocolate.   Here’s how I made it – mostly following the instructions, but you know me, I always have to change something:

  1. Heat cream, butter, sugar, salt, and chocolate in a saucepan until everything is melted and dissolved.  Remove from heat.
  2. Lightly beat eggs and yolks.
  3. When cream mixture is cool, mix eggs, cognac, and vanilla together.  Pour into pan.
  4. Bake at 350F (180C) for 20 minutes.
  5. Cool, then sieve powdered sugar on top.

It came out moist, but cuttable (rather than needing to be spooned).  I should have checked it earlier, but thought it would need longer than 20 minutes (at slightly less than 350F) since I made twice as much, but then, I made it in a larger pan.  Twenty minutes was just right or possibly a minute or two too long.  It didn’t weep, so the eggs hadn’t coagulated, but I suspect it would have been a little smoother a couple of minutes earlier.

When I took it out of the oven, it had huge bubbles that sank into valleys upon cooling.  One of the sunken spots even caused a crack (the other, smaller crack is where I checked for doneness).  I think it went like this: the beaten eggs had lots of bubbles in them, and during cooking, they coalesced into big bubbles, which grew due to the heat into monster bubbles, which pushed a little of the batter out from under them, so that when the high spots sank, they sank even lower than the areas around them.  It did not make for a pretty cake.  (But everyone ate it anyway, bless their hearts!)  So take it from me: don’t overbeat your eggs – we’re not going for fluffy here – and let the batter sit for a while, maybe hit the pan on the counter a few times, to get rid of bubbles.

Overall, it’s hard to go wrong with a rich chocolate dessert, but I think this recipe could be improved upon.

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, custard, foam

Daring Baker Challenge: Tiramisu

Pictures are coming!

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

This is my third time making tiramisu and my first time making the mascarpone and lady fingers from scratch.  I was impressed at the amount of work involved – the cream has four components! – but it went faster than I expected.

The cream involved:

1. zabaglione/zabaione (the former spelling is apparently a more old-fashioned one, but still the most used here; in Italy, I believe the second is more popular.  Regardless of the spelling, the pronunciation is roughly what you see in the second way.) – a Marsala wine stirred custard (or foam, because it’s actually more whisked than stirred).  I was really glad to see this used in the recipe, because 1) it means the eggs are cooked, which is safer, and 2) the best tiramisu I ever had, in a little restaurant in Fiesole, used zabaione.

2. pastry cream – a milk/cream stirred custard with a little starch

3. whipped cream

4. mascarpone cheese – cream curdled by being heated with a little acid (lemon juice)

These were all simply mixed together.

Beaten egg whites mixed with egg yolks - the beginning of the savoiardi.
The baked savoiardi.

The lady fingers, or savoiardi biscuits, are made of a French meringue mixed with egg yolks and cake flour.  This is piped onto a cookie sheet and baked.  I cut my piping hole a little small (I’m a ziplock bag piper), so I made squiggly lines to make mine fat enough, and it came out really cute.

The tiramisu is three layers of the following: lady fingers dipped in espresso (or my roommate’s leftover coffee; sue me) topped with a layer of the cream mixture.  The recipe didn’t say to, but I think we can all agree that cocoa powder is to be sifted on the top at the very end.

My friends and I enjoyed it immensely.  The mixture of every cream-based substance under the sun ended

The finished tiramisu.

up with a very nice flavor.  However, having tasted each component as I went along, I was a little sad to see all of these specific uses of cream mix into a homogeneous creaminess.  I decided that the pastry cream doesn’t add much – the mixture is already all cream, eggs, and sugar, and it doesn’t have any special flavors or much of a different texture from the zabaione – and that next time I’ll double the zabaione and leave the pastry cream out.  The zabaione carries the flavor of the Marsala – and if I got one critique from my tasters, it was “Make it boozier.”  I’d also probably use more mascarpone and compensate by making a little less whipped cream.  The lightness of this is great, but what’s the point of making your own mascarpone if you can’t even tell it’s there?  I am now a huge fan of homemade lady fingers – they’re easier to make than I expected (and you don’t need a mold) and you can make them in different shapes.

Posted in candy, thickening, Uncategorized

A different way to enjoy wine

Milk chocolate truffles
Careful with the quality of your chocolate - I thought I was getting good stuff but the ganache had a sticky quality that makes me suspect they added a thickener to it..

I’ve been groaning to myself about the state of the food blogosphere circa Valentine’s Day, but then I realized, I’m doing the same thing.  I made truffles, as I have every Valentine’s Day since my freshman year in college.  I can’t help the fact that they’re the perfect potluck base: I make the centers – a simple ganache (cream + chocolate, melted together, some add butter), this year I took Cooking For Engineers’ advice and used a 2:1 chocolate:cream ratio by weight – and everyone brings a topping.

But I also made something else that is not what you usually see on Valentine’s Day (or ever), although I must admit it is clearly V-Day themed.

Madeleine-shaped gelled wine candies
You have to be careful when you pour them in the molds or you'll get those funny little edges.

I have a thing about pâtes de fruit, which will become clear when I finally get around to posting about my cranberry ones.  This time, I made them with red wine.  I used Juanita’s Allrecipes recipe for wine jelly as a starting point, but it’s a pretty loose interpretation.  Here’s what I did:

          • 1 bottle red wine
          • 1 packet low-sugar pectin (ie, pectin that can be used with low- or no-sugar recipes; not because I’m anti-sugar, but because this pectin can tolerate a wider variety of sugar concentrations, making it harder to screw up)
          • about 3 Tbsp. sugar
          • 1/2 an ice cube of lemon juice – about 1 Tbsp
            1. Make a pectin slurry: I mixed the pectin with some of the wine so the pectin wouldn’t clump when I added it later.  If you’re using liquid pectin, don’t worry about that.
            2. Boil the heck out of everything: I boiled the wine, sugar, and lemon juice, and then added the pectin and kept boiling until 1) a little put on a plate in the freezer solidified to my liking – when I pushed on it, it broke into two pieces on either side of my finger instead of letting me make a finger-shaped hole; 2) the bubbles were small and close together; 3) it was just shy of 220°F – it seemed like it would never get quite there!  The longer you boil, the firmer they will set, unless you go way too long and the pectin breaks down, in which case they won’t set at all (although your syrup will be pretty thick by then anyway).  I would love to tell you the temperature at which this happens but I have been unable to find it myself. If anyone knows, please comment!
            3. Pan and chill: I took it off the heat and poured it into a greased mini-madeleine mold and a greased mini-muffin pan, then refrigerated.  They came out of the molds just fine.  So don’t think your baking pans are unitaskers!
            Wine candies in the mold
            The good thing about my bad molding technique is you can get a better sense of the rich color!

            The verdict: They were quite good, but a little too tart.  I would either increase the sugar, at least for this particular wine (did somebody say Riesling candy? I’ll get right on that), or drop the lemon juice.  I have a sneaking suspicion that since all the pectin I buy has citric acid in the ingredients, we may not really need to add acidic ingredients anymore.  Perhaps lemon juice and such are just still in all the recipes from before someone got the bright idea to add it to the pectin.  Does anyone know for sure?  I’ll have to test it sometime.  Anyway, wine is already acidic so maybe it’s sufficient on its own.  My recommendation is to make this with a fruity wine and no lemon juice – I still like to err on the side of too little sugar because, even as someone with a huge sweet tooth, too much sugar can take some of the complexity out of the flavor.  And these are supposed to be sophisticated candies, after all!

            Posted in custard, thickening

            I’m a Daring Baker!

            The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

            This is the point when I came around to making graham crackers - it looks like cookie dough!

            In December I found out about the Daring Bakers, and I really wanted to join but I thought, I’m probably not up to speed with them.  But they have deadlines for getting in each month due to the way they all reveal the challenge on the same day, and the thought of missing the deadline and having to wait a long time gave me that extra push.  So I dove in, and here I am doing a Daring Bakers’ Challenge!

            Unfortunately I missed the month they did cannoli only to come in right on time for the graham cracker month.  Graham crackers.  I won’t even eat the things if they aren’t in s’mores or pie crusts.  But ok.  I wanted to be a Daring Baker, I’ll do it.

            At least there is also a recipe for the graham crackers to go in – Nanaimo Bars.  This is cool because it’s a Canadian recipe I had never heard of, so I’m learning.

            A sheet of graham crackerness coming out of the oven.

            I’ll be learning about gluten-free cooking, too.  I of course wanted a deeper understanding of the chemistry of gluten-free baking, so I read up on the different kinds of flours at Gluten Free Mommy.  I soon realized these flours replace the starch of wheat flour; the binding action of the gluten is left up to other ingredients, like xanthan gum.  Gluten-free Lifestyle gets a little more into the nitty gritty of it – you need less xanthan gum for products that would otherwise rely less on gluten than yeast breads.  Guar gum is another possible binder.  And adding protein, such as milk powder or gelatin, can be helpful, I suppose because protein strengthens the structure of the baked good.  Apparently, graham crackers don’t really need a binder, because there is no egg or gum in them at all.  I guess they don’t have to support much!

            I couldn’t find glutinous rice flour anywhere, so I used white rice flour.  It seemed to work fine.  One of my flours seemed not to be milled quite fine enough, though, and left a grainy mouthfeel that kept me

            Some was sacrificed to the Nanaimo bars.

            from enjoying them too much, although the flavor was good otherwise.  I don’t know which it was but for some reason I suspect the sorghum.  I also substituted a little 1% milk and a little cream for the whole milk I was supposed to use.   I forgot to make my graham crackers look like crackers, but that didn’t matter for crushing them up for the Nanaimo bars.

            It seems kind of a shame to forfeit the lovely texture of a custard, yummy as the mix-ins were.

            The bottom layer is a chocolate custard with stuff mixed in – graham crackers, coconut, and almonds.  This is the part I would do differently the next time around.  1) The custard curdled on my first try.  I redid it a little differently: I melted the butter halfway, so it wasn’t too hot, then took it off the heat and added the rest of the ingredients, then put it back on the heat and let it thicken.  If you don’t mind dirtying up another bowl, mixing the egg with the sugar first would be extra protection.  Alternatively, you could cream the butter and sugar and then add the egg, like you’re making cookies.  The point is, if you have fat and/or sugar mixed with the egg, the proteins will be protected somewhat from curdling.  If you add the egg to already hot ingredients, you should remember, unlike me, to temper them first by adding a small amount to

            Middle Layer
            Yum.

            the egg and then adding the egg to the rest. 2) I think the flavor would be better with melted chocolate than

            cocoa powder.  I think this about most chocolate flavored things.

            The middle layer is mostly butter and powdered sugar.  Gross to think about, delicious to eat.  The top layer is mostly chocolate.  Delicious again.

            I served these at a party I threw recently and they got great reviews.  I happened to have a guest who eats gluten-free, so she was pleasantly surprised!

            The finished bars
            Ta-daaa!

            PS: Apologies for the bizarre look of this page.  I wrestled with WordPress to get my pictures displayed nicely and WordPress won.  Kind of took the fun out of my first Daring Baker post, to be honest.