Posted in baking

Liege Waffles, Quicker

making the waffles
It’s important to dress for the occasion when you make Liege waffles.

Years ago I started making Liege waffles and blogged about it. I’ve made that recipe several times, and it’s always gone well, but recently I wanted to make Liege waffles and I didn’t have time to start the dough the night before. So I tried keeping the ingredients the same but changing the method.

I also multiplied the recipe by 7 because I was serving them at a party. That didn’t pose any problems, but it did require me to divide the dough into two large mixing bowls. It would’ve been smarter for me to make it in two separate bowls from the beginning, rather than guessing on how to halve it in the middle of adding ingredients. I ended up with 38 waffles.

Another change I’ve made since my first couple times making these waffles is that I ran out of imported pearl sugar and switched to bashing sugar cubes in a ziploc bag with the end of the handle of my chef’s knife. They still caramelize, so it seems like a fine compromise to me. This post suggests making pearl sugar by mixing sugar with maple syrup and letting it dry. I don’t know how real pearl sugar is made but that doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all since we know maple syrup tastes great with waffles.

Ok, so the quicker method:

1. Wake up your yeast.

Mix water, milk, yeast, egg, and half the flour in a bowl. Let sit for a few minutes.

2. Let the flour absorb the water.

Add the rest of the flour, mix well. Let sit for 20 minutes.

3. Make gluten.

Knead until the dough is elastic.

4. Add all remaining ingredients except pearl sugar (or sugar cube pieces).

This is where you put in the salt, which makes kneading difficult, as well as the brown sugar, honey, and butter, which make gluten formation difficult. It’s also when you add the vanilla extract, but I don’t think it really matters when you do that.

Getting the butter incorporated is hard if you’re mixing by hand. I recommend microwaving it until it’s melty but not liquid.

I got worried at this point, since I usually mix it in a machine but this time did it by hand, and the texture looked awful. But during the rise it rallied.

5. Let rise.

Let it sit for an hour.

6. Redistribute bubbles and yeast, divide into servings.

Punch it down, fold it a few times, and then shape it into a bunch of balls that are a bit smaller than each section of your waffle maker (because they’re going to rise).

7. Let rise.

Let it sit for another hour.

8. Cook.

Put them in your waffle maker. Mine does best on level 4 out of 5 for less time than my waffle maker thinks is necessary – I go by smell and intuition, and checking on them doesn’t really hurt.

finished waffles
No one knows how long Liege waffles keep for.

Cleaning your waffle maker is interesting after making Liege waffles. The trick is to let the caramel harden and then break it out with a fork. Then eat whatever caramel isn’t burnt as your prize for having to clean this thing.

Do you lose anything by speeding up the process? Possibly. I haven’t compared them side by side and these were perfectly delicious, but it is true that letting yeast work slowly at a cool temperature produces better flavors than having them work fast at room temperature. But I think there’s so much else going on in the flavor of a Liege waffle that it probably doesn’t matter.

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.

Posted in baking

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies: The Hype and The Truth

Anyone who’s into chocolate chip cookies knows about the NYT recipes from Jacques Torres.  Some swear by it.  Last night, I was struck with cookie inspiration and decided to finally try it. My overall impression is that it makes for great texture, meh flavor. Here’s what I’ve found out so far:

No need to be so fancy

  •  Flour: It calls for, by weight, half bread flour and half cake flour.  Depending on the flours you use (their contents vary by brand), I think this amounts to using all all-purpose flour.  Perhaps Jacques had some good reason for writing the recipe this way, but until further notice, I’ll assume it was just to look fancy.  I didn’t have enough bread or cake flour on hand (most of my bread flour is whole wheat because most of it goes to making, you know, bread), so I used all-purpose flour, and I was perfectly satisfied with the result.
  • Chocolate: I hope I don’t even have to tell you that you can use whatever bits of yumminess you want in these cookies. High quality chocolate tastes good, but I used regular old chocolate chips and they taste just as good as they always do.
  • Size: The NYT recipe wants you to make enormous cookies.  Well, sure, cookies the size of my head can stay soft for a while, but I like my cookies normal size, and I want a recipe that produces well-textured normal size cookies. So I test mine with somewhere around a tablespoon of dough per cookie.  The results are good: the success of the NYT recipe is not due to a size trick. It makes good normal size cookies, too.
  • Timing: The NYT recipe says to chill the cookie dough for 24-36 hours before baking. What a pain, I wanted cookies last night! So I decided to find out if it really matters. I baked one sheet of the cookies last night right after making up the dough – I stuck them in the fridge for 5 or 10 minutes just because the preheated oven was making the room hot and I wanted them to have a fair chance. Then I put one log of cookie dough in the fridge to be baked tonight, and another log (it makes a lot of cookies!) in the freezer for a rainy day (like yesterday, and today…).  I will report on the results of a blind taste test soon. But already I can tell you, unchilled NYT cookies are plenty good. Not too flat or hard or crispy, pretty much just how I like them.

It succeeds in making a cookie that’s chewy, not crispy or cakey.

  • It uses a little more brown sugar than white sugar, as a chocolate chip cookies should, in my opinion. Brown sugar is brown because it has molasses in it, and molasses has water in it, so it’s a way of making your cookie a little softer.
  • I like to compare cookies to the Nestle Tollhouse recipe, which I’ve had memorized for I don’t know how many years.  My Nestle cookies always come out too hard when cool, and kind of greasy. Here’s approximately how to make NYT cookies from a Nestle recipe (all comparisons are by weight):
    1. Divide the amount of butter in half.
    2. Divide the amount of egg in half.
    3. Subtract one fourth the total amount of sugar.
  • It’s hard to tell that these are the differences between the two recipes, since they make different amounts.  That’s why putting recipes in baker’s percentage is so handy. But the result is that the flour, leavening, salt, and vanilla play a bigger role in the NYT cookies.
  • Why less butter and egg: Cookies that are heavier on flour and lighter on butter stay soft better, but they run the risk of being too cakey and dry.  In fact, I made some like this once and compared that recipe to the NYT recipe.  It turns out that the only difference between the two was that the dry recipe used all white sugar instead of a mix of white and brown, and more egg.  We know that brown sugar makes a cookie wetter and softer, and for reasons I don’t fully understand, eggs make them cakey, even though eggs are wet. So I guess in order to increase the relative amount of flour in the recipe without ending up too cakey, the NYT recipe had to decrease the amount of egg.

My one complaint is the flavor.

  • What I don’t know about is the sugar. Does it have to be decreased?  The combination of less sugar and more salt seemed to trick my taste buds into thinking I was eating peanut butter cookies, which I’m sure is right up some people’s alley, but I’d rather have the regular old sweet flavor. So my next task will be to replicate this recipe but with more sugar and less salt. (In Jacques’ defense, I had to estimate the amount of salt, because I was using kosher instead of sea salt, which is less coarse.)
Posted in freezing

All Coconut All the Time Ice Cream

I have not yet taken pictures of this ice cream, but that’s no reason to deprive you of the recipe, which as far as I know, you will only find here.

Last summer, I made more ice creams than I told you about. Sorry. One of them was made solely and exclusively out of the following ingredients:

ingredients
Coconut milk and coconut sugar.

I had calculated that coconut milk – the regular kind, not light or anything – has just about the amount of fat that I like in my ice cream, somewhere around 18%, like light cream. It has a similar sugar content to the milk I have in my fridge, which is probably a little different from light cream, but close enough that I kept the amount of sugar roughly the same.

So I made ice cream thusly:

  • 1 can coconut milk (1 3/4 cups)
  • scant 1/2 cup coconut sugar (my rule for sugar is to divide your amount of milk by 4, by volume) (yes, you can use regular sugar if you’re not hell-bent on all coconut all the time)
  1. Dissolve sugar in milk, heating gently if necessary.
  2. Cool.
  3. Churn.
  4. Freeze.
(I think I actually used 2 full cups of coconut milk and a full half cup of sugar that time, hence the two cans.)
The texture was good.  The flavor was good until I caught something…strange.  Not really bad – people ate it – but not what I want my ice cream to taste like.  Sort of a cooked flavor.  The coconut sugar has a pleasant caramelly flavor, but I think it’s the coconut milk that’s to blame.
So I intended to try again with a different brand of coconut milk, but I misremembered which brand I used last time and did it over with the exact same one.  Haha.  But this time, I tasted the coconut milk and decided it was still going to add that funny flavor, so I fought back with:
  • the juice of half a lime
  • some vanilla extract
  • a dash of salt
It worked.  It still has a musky coconuttiness about it, but I liked the ice cream this time.  The lime was not detectable.  I suspect that even more lime juice would give an even yummier result, without compromising the texture too much.  I also suspect that the amount of sugar could be reduced a tad (indeed, most recipes I’ve looked up that use coconut  milk call for less sugar).
If you know your stuff about ice cream (and precious few people do, alas), you might wonder why I’m not using any sort of thickener to improve the texture.  That’s the beauty of canned coconut milk!  Not only does it have the right amount of fat, it also has guar gum already added to it to minimize the freaking out of Americans upon seeing their coconut milk separate.  Guar gum is the preferred thickener of the ice cream industry, and is made from a plant.  So this ice cream is really simple to make, and it’s vegan and dairy-free.  Now you understand why I’m so set on getting past this flavor issue, right?  I think if you add strong flavors to it you should be fine, and even if you don’t, coconut enthusiasts should enjoy this recipe with the splash of lime juice.
Things to try: chocolate coconut ice cream, lime coconut ice cream (don’t think I wasn’t singing “you put de lime in de coconut and shake it all up” while making this), pina colada ice cream, mango coconut ice cream.  Also, in the spirit of two-ingredient ice cream recipes, that ice cream made from banana and chocolate.  Bananas don’t usually excite me, but there are these chocolate chip banana bread muffins at a local coffee shop that are so amazing, I’m willing to give all banana-chocolate creations a try.
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, 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

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!