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.



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 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 infusion


The lemon zest turns it yellow.
The lemon zest turns it yellow.

I have a limoncellario, or limoncello recipe, from a real live Italian mom.  And I can’t use it in this state, which has banned grain alcohol.  So I had to do my best to adapt the recipe to 80 proof (40% abv) vodka.  I never thought I would say this, but vodka is wimpy.  But, it’s still good limoncello.  I think I used a little too much sugar, which is funny because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to dissolve enough sugar in the small amount of water I was adding (when you use 95% abv you can add a lot more water).  I think that by increasing the ratio of sugar to water to 2:1 by volume, I created an invert sugar despite not adding acid or boiling for the syrup for very long.  Invert sugar is sweeter than regular sugar, so that threw off my proportions.  And it seems to be true that the vodka can’t extract quite as much of the lemony goodness as grain alcohol can.  But again, any limoncello is good limoncello.  Here’s the recipe I used this time (which I put in baker’s percentage based on the vodka, even though this is not at all a baked good):

100.0 B%    690.0 g    750 mL vodka (1 bottle)
29.0 B%      200.0 g    200 mL water (your measuring cup probably has mL on it; if not, convert here)
47.0 B%      324.0 g    400 mL sugar

zest of 8-10 lemons

Put the lemon zests in the vodka for a week to a month.  Put the sugar in the water and bring to a boil, then cool.  Strain the vodka and mix it with the simple syrup (that’s what you call the sugar-water thing you just made).  Pour into bottles.  Refrigerate.

Naturally, if you zest 8 lemons, you will be left with 8 naked lemons.  I assume naked lemons don’t last that long.  So I juiced all of mine and put the juice in my Not Actually Ice cube trays.  Now whenever I have a recipe that calls for lemon juice, I don’t have to wait until my next grocery trip to make it.

Incidentally, it is unbelievably difficult to find a decent funnel in this town.  Or the next town over, for that matter.  After exhausting the usual big chains, I went to a little cooking supply store, where I had a goldilocks problem.  The canning funnels are too big and the spice funnels are too small.  I could buy both and put them together, but that would cost about $25, which is about ten times what I think a funnel should cost.  Then I found a wine funnel, with a curved tip and a strainer inside, and that was $30.  I guess they figure people who do things with wine will pay anything.  So I made do with a measuring cup and the pour-y part of my saucepan.  But really.  Dear Town, please import some funnels.

Finally, having freed up my infusion vessel, I put a new bottle of vodka in with my squeezed-out key limes.  We’ll see what that tastes like in a couple of weeks.

Later notes: Never put the pith (white part) of citrus in an infusion.  My key lime liqueur came out way too bitter.  I’m very sad.  However, I used 200 mL of sugar with the same general recipe in another batch of liqueur, and I think it’s a better balance.  I’ll use it in my next limoncello.