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 freezing

Summer of Ice Cream I: Lemon Lavender Sorbet

I have big plans for my ice cream maker this summer.  I gave my friends a list of flavors I wanted to make and they told me what they’d help me eat.  My first opportunity came at a barbecue.  Everyone brought fresh, summery food, so I tried to match the dinner with a lemon lavender sorbet.  I wanted to try the same in an ice cream, but my friend is allergic to dairy, and sorbet is certainly fresh and summery.

I adapted a recipe from Art is the Handmaid of the Human Good, and that recipe was adapted from Cuisinart.  It’s a simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar by volume, in this case, 2 cups) plus a cup and a half of lemon juice.

straining out the zest and lavender
Yellow and purple are complementary colors, y'know.

I flavored the simple syrup by putting a tablespoon of lemon zest and 2 teaspoons of dried lavender in the syrup while I was heating it.  I didn’t let it boil, because high heat kills volatile flavors, and the sugar dissolved before it boiled.  I let the syrup cool with the zest and lavender still in it, and then strained it before adding a combination of frozen lemon juice (from the last time I made limoncello) and fresh lemon juice.

Then you just put it in the ice cream maker for about 25 minutes, and then put it in the freezer.

the syrup in the ice cream maker
Just starting to churn it.

It was good, but a little too sweet.  I love lemon, but the flavor seems different when it’s combined with too much sugar.  Like a lemon drop.  That was one of my issues with limoncello for a while.  I think the recipe could stand a decrease in the amount of sugar; you have to be careful doing that because the same recipe with less sugar will freeze harder, but this sorbet was quite soft and melted really fast, so I think it would be fine.  I also didn’t pick up too much lavender flavor.  Maybe there’s a better way to extract the flavor.  Marianne at the blog I got the recipe from used lavender sugar, but I imagine it takes a while for the sugar to pick up the flavor.  I do think this recipe has just the right amount of lemon flavor in it, assuming you are a big fan of lemon.

By the way: I juiced four lemons for this recipe, but I only used the zest from two.  So, on the advice of America’s Test Kitchen, I zested the other two lemons (before juicing them) and put the zest in a baggie in the freezer.  They said it will keep its flavor when frozen, but not when refrigerated.

finished sorbet

Posted in foam, thickening

May Flowers Macarons

Baked macarons
When I first read about the importance of the frilly feet, I thought it was nonsense. When I saw these feet, I was ecstatic.

For our last departmental reception of the school year, I finally made macarons de Paris.  I’ve made macarons d’Amiens before, and I long preferred their unassuming deliciousness to the over-celebrated froufrou that is the Parisian macaron.  I actually never ate them in Paris, partially because I misunderstood what they were and didn’t think I’d really like them, and partially because I thought the colors everyone loves so much were a little silly.  But somehow I came around.

Spring makes me deliriously happy after spending my first winter above the Mason-Dixon line, so these macarons were an ode to flowers.  As a Floridian, the flowers were, naturally, orange blossoms.  So: orange blossom flavored macarons filled with orange blossom honey jam.

I used Not So Humble Pie’s French meringue macaron recipe with a capful (probably a little over a teaspoon) of orange blossom water mixed in while I was beating the egg whites.  I knew I could get away with that because Alton Brown taught me that you can add a little water to your egg whites for more volume.  I used an oven temperature of about 300F, and I used Bob’s Red Mill almond meal – please don’t even try to use Trader Joe’s (I’ll have to remake the macarons d’Amiens with the Red Mill meal, so much better).  I piped them with a Ziploc bag and a star tip, because it turns out my random assortment of piping tips does not include a large round one.  So they were not quite perfectly smooth, but they were pretty good.  I also didn’t bother to shield them with a sheet pan from getting browned.  They browned a little, and since I didn’t color them, I thought it was a nice peachy tinge.  I am very proud to say that they had lovely feet.  And great height, which of course came along with air bubbles inside.  Whatever.  You can’t even tell when you eat them.  I was super proud.

Assembled macaron
I ate this one after taking this shot.

Now, I have to confess: I tried to make honey buttercream frosting three times before giving up and making honey jam instead.  I’ll write a full post on that so you can learn from my mistakes.  But the honey jam was super easy: just add some water to the honey, and a little lemon juice (which I still suspect of being unnecessary since pectin comes with acid nowadays, but worst case scenario it freshens up the flavor, right?), boil, add pectin, boil a minute more, and you’re done.  I actually have a lot left over despite making about a third of this recipe.  I am not complaining.

They were loved and every last one was eaten.  Ok, I ate the last one.  What?  It’s important to try your own food, so you know what to improve on.  So even though buttercream kicked my butt, I am really proud that I can make macarons.  I feel like I can just whip them up for anything now.

Oh, and a lesson: it really does help to let your egg whites come to room temperature before beating them.  I was never patient enough before, and they will beat cold, but this time I let the whites age overnight and wow, the beating went a lot faster.  I also wait a little longer than most people to add the sugar in, because I find it really hard to get to stiff peaks if I added the sugar as soon as the eggs get frothy.

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 dry heat

            Pan-fried cauliflower

            CauliflowerSo we got some cauliflower from the farmshare and I almost never eat the stuff.  I had an amaaaazing cauliflower soup at my friend’s parent’s restaurant on Anna Maria Island one time, and that’s the only memory I have of ever eating cauliflower.  I don’t know how to recreate the soup, nor do I feel like working that hard, so I googled cauliflower recipes and I found that, to my surprise, people seem to prefer dry heat to wet heat.  (I was just working on analogy to broccoli, which probably isn’t the best idea).  Since I like pan-frying, I decided to try that, following 101 Cookbooks.  Well, sort of following it.  I’m using whatever I have on hand rather than what she calls for.  What I have on hand happens to be garlic and leeks from, you guessed it, the farm.  We’ll call it a white dish.  I keep some lemon juice ice cubes around and everyone seems to like lemon with their cauliflower, so I threw in some lemon juice, too.

            It turned out pretty good, but I give most of the credit to the lemon juice.  Somehow nothing else seemed that flavorful. But sure, I’ll add cauliflower to the list of vegetables I eat.