Wednesday, October 27, 2010

daring bakers: donuts

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Because I think that raised donuts are really only good straight from the fryer, I opted to make the old-fashioned buttermilk cake donuts, so that I could enjoy some later, as well.

I enjoyed this challenge. It was simple and straightforward but a lot of fun. I liked the recipe well enough, but I probably won't use it again. I prefer my donuts a little sweeter, a little more tender and crumbly. (Because the recipe includes sour cream, I mistakenly expected the donuts to be more like typical sour cream donuts than cake donuts. Oops.) I loved how perfectly crisp the outsides of the donuts were, even after cooling off. Thanks for a great challenge, Lori. I'll definitely be making donuts again.

old-fashioned buttermilk cake donuts

Preparation time:
Hands on prep time - 25 minutes
Cooking time - 12 minutes

Yield: About 15 doughnuts & 15 doughnut holes, depending on size

.25 C sour cream
3.25 C flour, plus more for dusting surface
.75 C sugar
.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher (flaked) salt (or .5 tsp table salt)
1.5 tsp nutmeg
1.125 tsp active dry yeast
.75 C + 2 TB buttermilk
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 TB vanilla

sugar for dusting
neutral-flavored oil for cooking


1. In a small stainless-steel bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water, heat the sour cream until just warm.

2. Heat the oil to 375°F.

3. Over a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg; make a large well in the center. Place the yeast in the well; pour the sour cream over it. Allow it to soften (if using packed fresh yeast), about 1 minute.

4. Pour the buttermilk, whole egg, egg yolks, and vanilla extract into the well. Using one hand, gradually draw in the dry ingredients. The mixture should be fairly smooth before you draw in more flour. Mix until it is completely incorporated. The dough will be very sticky. Wash and dry your hands and dust them with flour.

5. Sift an even layer of flour onto a work surface. Don’t be afraid to use a lot of flour. You don’t want the doughnuts sticking to your counter. Scrape dough out of bowl onto the surface; sift another layer of flour over dough. Working quickly, pat dough into an even 1/2-inch thickness. Dip cutter in flour and, cutting as closely together as possible, cut out the doughnuts and holes. Place holes and doughnuts on a floured surface. Working quickly, gather scraps of dough together, pat into 1/2-inch thickness, and cut out remaining doughnuts and holes.

6. Drop three to four doughnuts at a time into the hot oil. Once they turn golden brown, turn them and cook the other side.

7. Once cooked, place on a baking sheet covered with paper towels to drain. Roll donuts in sugar and serve.

Monday, September 27, 2010

daring bakers: sugar cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Mandy of "What the Fruitcake?!" Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

I was relieved to see that this month's challenge wouldn't be an all-day project. Although I love difficult challenges where I learn new techniques, we've had house guests and more house guests and parties and family things and major cleaning projects and more of all of those coming soon. So making cookies instead of some complicated sixteen-component French thing was a nice break.

We were supposed to decorate the cookies, but I hate royal icing, and I added too much yellow to the glaze I made, so it was a weird egg-yolk color. So I skipped the decorating. I didn't love the flavor of the cookies, but they did hold their shape amazingly well. If I ever need great-looking sugar cookies, I'll use this recipe and bump up the vanilla.

sugar cookies
7 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
14 oz flour, sifted
7 oz caster sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat until just becoming creamy. (Don't overmix or you'll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape.)

Beat in the egg until well combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a nonsticky dough forms.

Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of .2 inch.

Refrigerate for at least 30 min.

Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.

Cut out shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30 min. to an hour.

Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Bake cookies until golden around the edges, 8-15 min., depending on the size of the cookies.

Leave to cool on cooling racks. Once completely cooled, decorated as desired.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

daring bakers: 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.

I was, once again, not looking forward to the month's challenge. What can I say? Ice cream cake is not my favorite, and the prospect of swiss rolls on ice cream cake did not improve things. But that's what's great about the Daring Bakers--it gets me to try things I would never do on my own. For this challenge, Sunita allowed us to choose our own flavors and our own recipes for the components, so long as we made them all from scratch. I asked B what flavors he'd like in the cake and he requested blackberry and stracciatella. Again, I wasn't feeling inspired. I have never cared for blackberries (inferior raspberries, imo) and stracciatella is just gross. Little chocolate bits in ice cream are always waxy and disappointing.

I'm happy to report that all my preconceptions about this challenge were wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. First I made the blackberry ice cream, using David Lebovitz's raspberry ice cream recipe. It was fantastic. So, so good. The blackberries give the ice cream this wonderful tang. Then I made the stracciatella, again using David's recipe. The vanilla base was out of this world and when I added the chocolate, it only got better. (These ice creams were so good they deserve their own posts, so I'm going to wait to give them the attention their merit.)

For the swiss rolls, I used Martha Stewart's mocha roulade and filled it with a blackberry cream. While both are good on their own, they weren't the most inspired combination--the roulade had a much stronger coffee flavor than I had expected and the blackberries didn't complement it. I was in a hurry to get it put together, so I didn't let the roulade chill and it got a little smudgy when I lined the bowl with it. I kind of liked the effect, though.

Despite the initial roulade/cream mismatch, when the cake was put together, all the flavors blended nicely. A little extra hot fudge on top, and it was a dessert that I can't get enough of. Kudos to Sunita on her choice and to B on his inspired choice of flavors.

blackberry cream
1 C heavy whipping cream
3 TB strained blackberry puree
.75-1 C sugar

Whip cream to soft peaks. Mix in sugar and puree and whip to firm peaks.

mocha roulade (Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon hot water
6 large eggs, separated, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a 17 x 12" rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

2. Dust a large kitchen towel with cocoa; set aside.

3. Sift together cocoa and flour. In another bowl, stir together the espresso powder and hot water until dissolved; set aside.

4. Beat the egg yolks on high speed until thick and pale (using a mixer); it should hold a ribbon-like trail on the surface when the whisk is raised, about 5 min. Set aside.

5. On another bowl, whip the egg hites on low speed until foamy. Raise speed to medium-high, and add the sugar in a slow, steady stream, beating until stiff peaks form.

6. Fold a third of the egg-white mixture into the egg-yolk mixture to lighten. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until just combined. Fold in the espresso mixture, then gradually fold in the cocoa mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.

7. Pour the batter onto prepared sheet; using an offset spatula, spread evenly and smooth the top. Bake rotating pan halfway through, until the cake springs back when lightly touched, 10-12 min.

8. Immediately invert the cake onto prepared towel; carefully lift off pan and peel off parchment paper. Starting on the long side, roll towel and cake into a log, incorporating towel as you go. Transfer the cake, seam side don to a wire rack to cool completely.

9. Unroll the cake, leaving it on the kitchen towel. Using an offset spatula, spread mocha mousse evenly over the cake. Gently roll the cake again into a log (do not incorporate the towel).

10. Wrap with the towel; refrigerate on a baking sheet until filling is well chilled; for at least 2 hours.

hot fudge sauce (Cook's Illustrated's New Best Recipe)
10 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cocoa
1/3 sugar
1/3 cream
1/3 corn syrup
1/3 water
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 TB unsalted butter

1. Melt the chocolate. Mix in the cocoa and set aside.
2. Place the sugar, cream, corn syrup, water, and salt in a nonreactive pan. Heat on low without stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat up to medium high. Simmer for four minutes.
3. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and butter.
4. Cool to minutes. Whisk in chocolate mixture.

Slice the roulade into swiss rolls and line a bowl with the rolls. Soften the first flavor of ice cream and place in the bowl. Freeze. Pour 1 C of the fudge onto the ice cream and freeze. Soften the second flavor of ice cream, place in the bowl and refreeze.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

daring bakers: chocolate pavlovas

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.

I had a lot of fun with this month's challenge, once I had time to make it. (We have had in-laws visiting, friends visiting, a family reunion, and so on, some of which we had planned on and some we hadn't. Between one thing and another, I didn't get a chance to start baking until after the posting date.) All of the components except the mascarpone were easy to make. I love the mascarpone mousse and the creme anglaise.

I've had trouble with making mascarpone before, and this time was no exception. I cooked it about three times as long as I was supposed to and still couldn't get it up to the required temperature, so I cheated and started throwing portions of it in the microwave to bring up the overall temperature. Finally, I got it to 190. I think I overcooked it, though. In the past, I haven't been able to get it to set up. This time it set up, but only made 1 cup of very thick mascarpone. So I had to make a second batch. That time, I skipped the double boiler (I suspect my stove just sucks) and cooked it on low and was able to complete the recipe in 15-20 minutes. Although it wasn't quite as thick as I'd expected. I'll keep working on it.

Anyway, because the first batch of mascarpone was so thick, I only used 1 C of mascarpone in my mascarpone mousse and thinned it down with an extra 1/2 C or so of whipping cream. Everything else was simple to make and assemble. For my photo, I wanted a dessert with a bit of height, so I piped on several layers of mousse. However, I found that I preferred the flavor of the dessert with just one generous layer of mousse and tons of mascarpone cream to balance things out. I enjoyed the dessert and am filing it away for when I need a light (as in not filling, not as in low-calorie), fancy dessert with plenty of flavor. I don't know whether I'll make it again for just for myself because I like my desserts to have a little more density so that I don't feel like I can eat five of them. (Good thing the batch only made four.) I will definitely be making the mousse and the anglaise again, though. They were both spectacular. The anglaise is the best I've tested yet. Frankly, it seems like a bit of a waste to hide most of its flavor by serving it with the mousse. Thanks to Dawn for the recipes. A great choice.

chocolate pavlovas and chocolate mascarpone mousse with mascarpone cream

While the pavlovas are baking, the crème anglaise should be made which will take about 15 minutes. While it is cooling, the chocolate mascarpone mousse can be made, which will take about 15 minutes. There will be a bit of a wait time for the mascarpone cream because of the cooling time for the Crème Anglaise. If you make the Crème Anglaise the day before, the dessert should take about 2 hours, including cooking time for the pavlovas.

Equipment required:
baking sheet with parchment or silpat
several bowls
piping bag with pastry tip
hand or stand mixer

chocolate meringue (for the chocolate pavlova):
3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) Dutch processed cocoa powder

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.

2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)

3. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)

4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon.

5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

chocolate mascarpone mousse (for the top of the pavlova base):
1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier

1. Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.

2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (Do not overbeat as the mascarpone will break.)

3. Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

mascarpone cream (for drizzling):
1 recipe crème anglaise
½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional)
½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream

1. Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.

crème anglaise:
1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar

1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.

2. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat. .

3. Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. Do not overcook.

4. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.

mascarpone cheese (Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese, from Baking Obsession)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

Ingredients: 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.

It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.

Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and top with fresh fruit if desired.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

deep, dark chocolate cookies

Dorie Greenspan's Baking is one of the staples in my cooking library. I love this book, so much that I will try even the recipes that don't really appeal to me. I've had the book for several years, and at no point tried the Chocolate Chunkers. Don't get me wrong--I love almost anything chocolate. But I'm not much for dried fruit in my cookies or my chocolate, my husband hates nuts in dessert, and "chunkers" is a word that turns me off. So I didn't get around to trying the recipe until I needed to make chocolate-chocolate chip cookies for a friend. I thumbed through several baking books. Some of the recipes I found sounded all right, and some sounded a little iffy. But on closer reading, Dorie's cookies, with two kinds of chocolate melted into the batter and two more mixed in in chunks, sounded pretty amazing, name notwithstanding.

The first time I made these, I omitted the dried fruit and nuts and used bittersweet and milk chocolate for my mix-ins. Although I loved the batter, I didn't like the cookies until the next day, when they were thoroughly cool and so less sweet. This time, I made them sans fruit and nuts and with only bittersweet mixed in, in hopes that avoiding milk chocolate would make them enjoyable even before they cool. Because who wants to wait to enjoy double-chocolate cookies? Not me.

The result was indeed a cookie that I didn't have to wait a day to enjoy, though I expect I will again like these cookies still more after they've cooled completely. I love the intensity of these, although I'm considering the possibility that they would be best of all as Dorie intended them, with fruit and nuts to cut the richness.

deep, dark chocolate cookies (adapted from Baking, by Dorie Greenspan)

1/3 C flour
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
.25 tsp baking powder
.5 tsp salt
6 oz bittersweet
1 oz unsweetened
3 oz butter
2 eggs
2/3 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
12 oz bittersweet, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

Place 6 oz bittersweet, 1 oz unsweetened, and butter in microwaveable bowl and microwave in twenty-second intervals, stirring between intervals, until melted. (Be careful not to overcook.)

Place eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until foamy and pale. On low speed, mix in vanilla. Scrape down bowl. On low speed, mix in chocolate mixture until just combined. Still on low speed, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in 12 oz bittersweet chocolate.

Spoon large tablespoons full of batter onto baking sheets, about an inch apart. Bake one sheet at a time for 10-12 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheet and cool on cookie racks.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Martha Stewart's rhubarb meringue pie

I was thumbing through Martha Stewart Living at B's aunt's house last week and admiring the pictures, so B's aunt kindly lent me several back issues. When I flipped through the May issue, I saw all the rhubarb and knew this was where I had to start. B requested the rhubarb meringue pie. It was easy but time-consuming to make, just because the rhubarb pulp had to be cleaned out of the juicer so frequently. (Cleaning up, on the other hand, was ridiculously difficult and time-consuming. Getting all the bits of rhubarb pulp out of the tiny crannies of the juicer I'd borrowed required a bevy of toothpicks and an electric toothbrush [with a clean head, of course].)

The end result was nice but not amazing. Despite my following the directions exactly, the pie filling didn't firm up quite enough. Every time I cut a slice, the filling gooshed all over. And the meringue was not the billowy-yet-firm masterpiece I'd imagined from the photo. It didn't quite set properly, and there wasn't enough of it. And the overall flavor, though nice, was a bit one-dimensional. However, I really loved the crust, which I wasn't expecting after tasting the dough before it baked. The crust was just perfect. The pie was nice enough that I'd like to try it again with a few tweaks. When I make it again, I'll make more meringue, whipped to firm rather than medium peaks. I'll add just a bit of gelatin to the filling to firm it up. And if the extra meringue doesn't balance out the sour filling, I may resort serving it with strawberries.

rhubarb meringue pie (from Martha Stewart Living, May 2010, p 34)
1 disk pate sucree
all-purpose flour, for surface
2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces
1.75 C sugar
coarse salt
3 large egg yolks plus 4 large egg whites
2 TB unsalted butter

1. Preheat aoven to 375. Roll out pate sucree to 1/8" thickness on a lightly floured surface. fit dough into a 9" pie dish; trim to 1", fold under, and crimp edges. Refrigerate for 30 min. Prick inside of pie shell all over with a fork; line with parchment. fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edges are golden and set, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove weights and parchment. Bake until bottom is dry and light gold, 5-10 min. more. Let cool.

2. Juice rhubarb. (You'll need a juicer to make this filling. Rhubarb is fibrous, so cut it into 3" pieces before juicing. This will help keep the fibers from clogging the appliance. Clean your machine if it gets too full or sounds labored.) You'll need 2.25 C juice; add water if needed. Whisk together 1 C sugar, the cornstarch, and .25 tsp salt. Whisk in juice; bring to a boil in a medium saucepan, whisking. Cook for 1 min.

3. Place yolks ina bowl; gradually hisk in half of hot juice mixture. Return to pan. cook over medium heat, whisking, until thick, about 1 min. Whisk in butter. Strain through a fine sieve into pie shell. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours or overnight.

4. Preheat abroiler with rack about 8" from heat source. Heat whites and remaining .75 C sugar in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering waater, whisking, until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot (160 F), about 2 min. Transfer to the bowl of a mixer. Whisk on high speed until medium peaks form. Dollop meringue onto pie. Broil until well browned, 30-40 seconds.

pate sucree
2 large egg yolks
.25 C aice water
2.5 C all-purpose flour
3 TB sugar
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1. Lightly beat together yolks and water until combined.

2. Pulse flour, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds. Drizzle yolk mixture over dough mixture. Pulse until mixture just begins to hold together (no longer than 30 seconds).

3. Divide dough in half, and wrap in plastic wrap. Shape dough into disks. Refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes or overnight.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

le succes

This dessert is the reason I bought Rose's Heavenly Cakes. When I thumbed through a copy at the bookstore, none of the other recipes really called to me (although that has certainly changed as I've looked through the book more). But le succes looked heavenly with its thick layers of ganache. And it's absolutely as good as it looks. Layers of ganache sandwiched between almond meringue disks, it's basically a giant truffle. And the ganache is made with creme fraiche, which gives it a lovely, subtle tang. It's quick and easy to make, although you do need to wait a day to eat it. I'll definitely make it again, and I can't wait to make the ganache by itself for truffles.

le succes (from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, Rose Levy Beranbaum)
Prepare and compose a day in advance.

6.3 oz almond flour
6.3 oz superfine sugar
7.5 oz (weight) egg whites (about 7) at room temp.
1 tsp cream of tartar

Line two 17-inch baking sheets with parchment and coat lightly with cooking spray. Mark three 8-inch circles on the parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Beat egg whites on medium until foamy. With mixer off, add cream of tartar. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in 2.5 TB of sugar until stiff peaks form when beater is raised slowly. (If whites are not very stiff, the succes will spread slightly during baking.)

Fill a pastry bag (with 1/2-inch plain tip) with meringue and pipe the batter onto the baking sheets, forming three 8-inch circles, starting at the perimeter and spiraling inward toward the center. Because the disks will puff and expand up to 1/2 nnch in diameter when baking, do not pipe them too close to the edge of the pan. Use an offset spatula to fill in any gaps with leftover batter and smooth the surface.

Bake first the two circles then the remaining circle, baking each pan for 15-20 minutes, or until the disks just begin to brown. Rotate the pan front to back n the oven halfway through.

Place on baking sheet on wire rack to cool. Cool completely, then loosen carefully with long offset spatula, including at the centers.

tea ganache
1 lb dark chocolate, chopped
13.6 oz creme fraiche
2.7 oz heavy cream
4 tsp instant powdered lemon tea

Whisk together cream and creme fraiche and scald it. Pour it over the chocolate and mix until smooth. Mix in the tea. Let it sit for an hour, then cover with plastic and let it sit until it reaches frosting consistency.

Spread a little ganache on the serving plate to anchor the succes. Place a disk on the ganache and cover with an even layer of ganache. Place the second disk on top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. Spread on another layer of ganache and place the third disk on top. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate another hour. Spread a thin layer of ganache around the sides, then cover the top. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

daring bakers: piece montée (croquembouche)

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

This was my favorite DB challenge so far. I've been meaning to make cream puffs for quite a while now, but I've been too intimidated. And croquembouches sounded even more fun, and even more intimidating, than regular cream puffs. Thanks to Cat, I've conquered my fear of choux pastry. The recipes she provided were easy to follow and the results were delicious. For eating out of hand, I prefer the vanilla pastry cream. But for the actual cream puffs, the chocolate pastry cream won, no contest. Everyone who tried them preferred it. Unfortunately, I was the only one who liked the croquembouche. Or perhaps not so unfortunate, as it left more for me. I love the feel of the caramel coating cracking in my teeth.

The pastry cream and the choux pastry were simple to make, but I'll need more practice to get my pastries a consistent size and shape. And to be able to assemble a piece montée without burning my fingers or having the finished dessert come out lopsided.

Anyway, we all loved these. I ended up making a whole batch of both the chocolate and vanilla creams and two batches of the puffs. One just wasn't enough. And my son particularly loved the cream puffs. They were just the right size for his hands. I don't have any of Nick Malgieri's cookbooks yet, but that's going to have to change after trying these. Thanks to Cat for such a great pick.

cream puffs

vanilla crème patissiere (half batch)
1 C whole milk
2 TB cornstarch
6 TB sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 TB unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

chocolate pastry cream (half batch)
Bring ¼ cup milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat and add in 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, and mix until smooth. Whisk into pastry cream when you add the butter and vanilla.

pate a choux (yield: about 28)
¾ cup water
6 TB unsalted butter
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 C all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

egg wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip. Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high and about 1 inch wide.

Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.

Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Bake the choux at 425 F until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350 F and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. They can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

chocolate glaze
8 ounces/200 g. finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced; I recommend semi-sweet)

Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.

hard caramel glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

assembling your piece montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

paneer with spinach and simple pilaf

B and I love Indian food. Well, we love almost any kind of food. But Indian is one of our absolute favorites. I've tried to cook Indian food in the past, but the results have been nothing like the wonderful things we eat when we go out. Toasting and grinding spices is a lot of work for a meal that tastes terrible. So I haven't tried to make Indian for a few years. But I found Anjum Anand's Indian Food Made Easy on sale at the bookstore a while ago and when I read her description of her food as not being for purists, I thought this was something I could handle.

The first thing I made was saag paneer, which she calls "paneer with spinach." I served it with her simple pilaf. The saag paneer is my new favorite. I like hers better than any of the ones at the local restaurants--it has a lovely, bright flavor. And true to her title, it was very easy to make.

The recipe makes a rather small batch, so I always at least double it. I've since had a bit of trouble making the paneer successfully, but it has worked when I've used yogurt with a bit of lemon juice, so that's how I'll make it from here on. I used ghee instead of oil to cook in, and I throw a pinch of asafoetida in the cooking oil (on the recommendation of the former chef who owns the Indian spice shop I go to). There's really nothing more to say about this--a little blanching, a little chopping, a little frying, and you've got dinner. Couldn't be easier.

paneer with spinach and simple pilaf (from Indian Food Made Easy, by Anjum Anand)

4 C whole milk
7/8-1 C fresh yogurt or 2 TB lemon juice

Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy-based saucepan. once the milk starts to biol and rise up, stir in 7/8 C of the yogurt or all the lemon juice. Keeping the milk on heat, stir gently to help the milk curdle--this should take only a minute or so. If it does not separate, add the rest of the yogurt (if using) and keep stirring. The curds will coagulate and separate from the watery whey. Remove from the heat.

Line a large strainer with muslin or cheesecloth, and palce it over a large bowl or saucepan. Pour the cheese into the lined strainer and run some cold water through it. Wrap the cheese in the cloth, and hang it from the faucet over the sink to allow the excess water to drain for 10 minutes. Then, keeping it fairly tightly wrapped, place on your work surface with a heavy weight on top (I refill the same saucepan with the whey or water and palce it on top) for 30-40 minutes or until it is flattened into a firm block. Then cut into cubes or crumble, depending on how you want to use it.

Store any unused pieces of paneer in the refrigerator in water in a covered container. You can alos freeze it in an airtight container. Defrost thoroughly before use.

paneer with spinach
7 C baby spinach leaves, washed
3 TB veg. oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2" fresh ginger, sliced into long julienne strips
1.5 TB chopped garlic
1-2 green chilies, left whole
2 tsp ground coriander
salt, to taste
4 C milk, made into around 9 oz paneer with fresh yogurt
1/2-1 tsp garam masala, depending on quality
3/8 C whole milk or 4 TB heavy cream
1-2 tsp lemon juice, or to taste

Blanch the spinach leaves in hot water for 3 minutes or until well wilted. Drain into a colander and run under cold water until they cool. Blend to a smooth paste and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan. Add the cumin seeds and fry for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the onion and fry over a mild heat for about 5 minutes or until soft. add the ginger, garlic, and chilies, and cook for 1 minute. Add the ground coriander and salt to taste. Cook for another 30 seconds, then add the spinach and a splash of water, if necessary. The mixture should be loose but not watery. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes.

Add the paneer cubes, garam masala, and milk or cream. Stir and cook for a few minutes or until the spinach is creamy. Before serving, stir in the lemon juice to taste.

simple pilaff
2 TB vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced (I chopped mine instead)
1 tsp garam masala
salt, to taste
1 C Basmati or long-grain white rice, washed and soaked for 30 min.
3/4 C frozen peas
1.5 C water
1-2 TB lemon juice, or to taste

Heat the oil in a large nonstick saucepan. Add the cumin seeds and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the onion and saute for about 6 minutes until lightly caramelized. Add the garam masala and salt, and cook, stirring, for another 20 seconds.

Stir in the drained rice and frozen peas, then add the water. Taste for seasoning. Bring to a boil, then cook, covered, on the lowest heat for 10 minutes. Check that the grains are tender; if not, leave to steam for another 2 minutes. Then remove the lid and allow any moisture to evaporate, Drizzle the lemon juice over and gently mix with a fork, fluffing up the grains.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

daring bakers: steamed british pudding

I admit, I dreaded this challenge all month. We were supposed to make a traditional British steamed suet pudding, either a crust or a sponge pudding. The ingredient list for the sponge pudding didn't appeal to me, so I decided to make the crust pudding. But I was defeated by my imagination--a steamed crust pudding just sounded like it would come out squishy and dumpling-like. I couldn't bring myself to make it. (Judging by some of the others' pictures, I was completely wrong and steaming will give you a lovely crisp crust.) So I made the sponge pudding instead.

The batter had a nice flavor and came together in five minutes or less. I didn't know where to get suet, so I used a mixture of butter and butter-flavored Crisco. I was also out of milk, so I swapped half cream and half water. And I didn't have a one-liter bowl or even a tall, relatively narrow bowl. So I just buttered up one of my small metal mixing bowls and steamed the pudding in that. Unfortunately, I didn't butter it enough. My pudding broke when I tipped it out.

The final flavor of the pudding was fine. The breadcrumbs gave the pudding a coarser texture than I care for. I mixed up some Byrd's custard (with a little extra powder for thickening and a *ton* of extra sugar) and made a tangerine caramel for serving. After dousing the pudding in custard and caramel, I understood the need for the breadcrumbs. They help the pudding keep a little bit of form under a deluge of sauces.

The pudding was a fun thing to try, but I probably won't make it again. I liked it okay, but I didn't love it, even with the sauces. And three hours is a long time to wait for a dessert that I don't love. [Edit: After letting everything sit over night and cool so that it wasn't a hopeless slog of soggy pudding, I really enjoyed the dessert. It reminds me a little of old-fashioned strawberry shortcake.]

The April 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

steamed sponge pudding
100 g all-purpose flour
.25 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
100 g bread crumbs
75 g caster sugar
75 g butter & butter-flavored Cristco
1 large egg
6-8 TB cold milk

1-Sift flour, salt, and baking powder into bowl.
2-Add breadcrumbs, sugar, and fat.
3-Mix to a soft batter ith beaten egg and milk.
4-Turn into a buttered 1 liter pudding basin and cover securely with buttered greaseproof paper or aluminum foil.
5-Steam steadily for 2.5-3 hours.
6-Turn out onto warm plate. Serve with sweet sauce to taste, such as custard, caramel, or a sweetened fruit sauce.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

David Lebovitz's chocolate sherbet

When I saw David's photo of this sherbet, I knew I had to make it. In fact, it looked so good I went ahead and made a quadruple batch the first time. It was easy to put together (aside from my letting the chocolate/milk mixture boil over--all over, below the electric coil on the stove and in the tiny gap between the stove and the cupboard--because the baby started crying at a crucial moment;), and it tasted every bit as good as it looked. I had some trouble getting it to freeze properly--I had to put it in the freezer to get it to set up, and it had some unpleasant ice crystals when it did--but testing other recipes confirmed that this is a problem with my ice cream maker and not the recipe.

This is a fantastically intense dark chocolate sherbet. While I certainly didn't limit myself to the one scoop David suggests, this sherbet packs enough punch that I felt satisfied much sooner than with regular ice creams. My only complaint about this sherbet was that when I did choose to glut myself on it, after I ate the sherbet for fifteen or twenty minutes, a cocoa/fat scum started to accrue on the roof of my mouth. I suspect this is a problem most people don't have.

chocolate sherbet (David Lebovitz)
2 cups (1/2l) milk (whole, low, or non-fat)
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup (50g) unsweetened cocoa powder
4 ounces (115g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: 2 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur, such as Kahluà

For directions, see David's site.

Monday, April 12, 2010

pear caramel tartlets

I love tarts. I am invariably disappointed by tarts that I get at local restaurants and bakeries, though. The crusts are hard and flavorless and the fillings are boring. But I love baking tarts. I've had a few disappointments baking them myself, but not many. I love Dorie Greenspan's Tartest Lemon Tart and I adore Pierre Herme's Linzer Tart. Herme's cinnamon-rum-almond tart crust for the linzer tart is my absolute favorite. It's easy to make (at least, it is now that I can buy almond flour instead of having to grind it myself), it has a lovely crumbly texture, and it's delicious. Homemade tarts are one of my favorite desserts. And the only way to improve on a homemade tart is to make it a tartlet. Smaller means cuter, and as long as there are enough minis to go around, it means you can try all the flavors or have several servings of the same one without the guilt of having a full serving each time.

My family gave me a set of mini tart pans for Christmas, and I'm always plotting new things to try in them. (You'll be seeing a lot more tartlet posts as I work out the fillings I like.) I made these pear caramel cinnamon cream cheese tartlets a couple of months ago and they were a big hit with my family. The caramel was something I threw together after reading the ingredients on a bottle of delicious and, sadly, discontinued pear caramel I found at the store. Mine was, of course, quite different from the original, but still quite good. It seems to be my sister's new favorite. At any rate, it's a work in progress, so the directions are a bit higgedly-piggedly. When I made the tarts again to use up the remaining caramel, I replaced the cinnamon in the cream cheese with ginger. The sharper flavor was a nice contrast with the caramel.

pear caramel tartlets
pear caramel
2 C pear juice
2 C sugar
.5 C corn syrup
1 TB butter
2 C cream
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp-2 Tb lemon juice (to taste)
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Melt the butter. Add sugar and corn syrup. Mix and cook on medium heat until just turning golden. Add the pear juice and cook ten or twenty minutes so that the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining ingredients. When cooled to room temperature, spoon over cream cheese in tart shells.

cream cheese filling
8 oz cream cheese, softened
pear caramel, to sweeten to taste
.5 tsp cinnamon or 1 tsp ginger

Mix all and spoon into cooled tart shells.

tart crust (from Chocolate, by Pierre Herme)
7 TB unsalted butter, at room temperature
2.5 TB confectioners' sugar
2.5 TB finely ground almond powder
1 large hard-boiled egg yolk, at room temperature, pressed through a fine strainer
.25 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 tsp dark rum
pinch of double-acting baking powder
.75 C all-purpose flour

Mix butter until creamy. Add sugar, almond powder, egg yolk, cinnamon, and salt. Mix until smooth, scraping bowl as necessary. Whisk the baking powder into the flour and add the flour to the bowl, mixing until thoroughly blended. The dough will feel soft and look a little like the dough you'd use to make peanut butter cookies.

Place dough in plastic wrap and form into a disk. Chill at least 4 hours before rolling and baking.

Roll the dough out or pat it into the tart pans. Chill at least thirty minutes.

Bake at 350 until crust is honey brown. (How long this takes depends on the size of your mini tart pans.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

daring bakers: blood orange tian

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose orange tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

This is my first Daring Bakers challenge, and it was a lot of fun. I had never heard of a tian before. The dessert is a pate sablee spread with orange marmalade and covered with whipped cream, orange segments, and orange caramel. This was a nice dessert, but it needs a little punch. If I made it again, I'd use a cream cheese-whipped cream mixture instead of plain whipped cream.

I decided to make mine with blood oranges. I think they're beautiful, and I especially love the way they look like jelly candy when you slice them.

I've made pate sablee before, so making it was a snap (especially now that my grocery store carries almond flour). The marmalade was easy as well, and unusually tasty. I was out of pectin, so I used some gelatine to set the marmalade. Too much gelatine, as it turned out. My delicious marmalade turned into delicious blood orange jello. I snacked on a little of it and threw the rest in the food processor with hot water until it was spreadable.

I was excited that Jennifer included a recipe for stabilized whipped cream, because I've always had trouble making it, even when I follow the recipes in my cookbooks exactly. Apparently the gelatine requires a lot more water than my other recipes suggested. This time, it worked perfectly--no horrible gelatine chunks to be strained out of my whipped cream.

I had a little trouble with the caramel. The sugar seized when I added the orange juice. I had to take the pan off the heat and keep reheating the juice and pouring it over the sugar until most of it mixed together. Then I moved it to a different pan to thicken it.

Segmenting the oranges was the hardest part for me. Thank goodness Jennifer gave us a link on how to do it. Even with great instructions, it took me forever to segment the oranges. After soaking them in the caramel and draining them, I put the soaking caramel back in with the rest so I could have extra sauce.

The upside-down assembly was fun. I broke my crust trying to assemble the dessert, but you couldn't really tell once it was all together.

blood orange tian (adapted from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School)

pate sablee
2 medium-sized egg yolks, room temperature
6 TB + 1 tsp sugar
½ tsp vanilla
¼ C + 3 TB unsalted butter, ice cold, cubed
1/3 tsp salt
1.5 C + 2 TB flour
1 tsp baking powder

Put the flour, baking powder, ice cold cubed butter and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

In a separate bowl, add the eggs yolks, vanilla extract and sugar and beat with a whisk until the mixture is pale. Pour the egg mixture in the food processor.

Process until the dough just comes together. If you find that the dough is still a little too crumbly to come together, add a couple drops of water and process again to form a homogeneous ball of dough. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.

Pat the dough onto the bottom of a parchment-paper-lined 9" springform pan until you have a .25"-thick circle.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the circles of dough are just golden.

blood orange marmalade

.25 C + 3 TB fresh blood orange juice
1 large orange (to make orange slices)
cold water
5 g pectin
granulated sugar: use the same weight as the weight of orange slices once they are cooked

Finely slice the orange. Place the orange slices in a medium-sized pot filled with cold water. Simmer for about 10 minutes, discard the water, re-fill with cold water and blanch the oranges for another 10 minutes.

Blanch the orange slices 3 times. This process removes the bitterness from the orange peel, so it is essential to use a new batch of cold water every time when you blanch the slices.

Once blanched 3 times, drain the slices and let them cool.

Once they are cool enough to handle, finely mince them (using a knife or a food processor).

Weigh the slices and use the same amount of granulated sugar. If you don’t have a scale, you can place the slices in a cup measurer and use the same amount of sugar.

In a pot over medium heat, add the minced orange slices, the sugar you just weighed, the orange juice and the pectin. Cook until the mixture reaches a jam consistency (10-15 minutes).

Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge.

blood orange segments:
8 blood oranges

Cut the oranges into segments over a shallow bowl and make sure to keep the juice. Add the segments to the bowl with the juice.

blood orange caramel:
1 C sugar
1.5 C + 2 TB blood orange juice

Place the sugar in a pan on medium heat and begin heating it.

Once the sugar starts to bubble and foam, slowly add the orange juice. As soon as the mixture starts boiling, remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture over the orange segments.

Reserve the other half of the caramel mixture in a small bowl — you will use this later to spoon over the finished dessert. When the dessert is assembled and setting in the freezer, heat the kept caramel sauce in a small saucepan over low heat until it thickens and just coats the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes). You can then spoon it over the orange tians.

stabilized whipped cream with marmalade:
1 C heavy whipping cream 1 cup
3 TB hot water
1 tsp gelatine
1 TB confectioner's sugar
1 TB orange marmalade (see recipe above)

In a small bowl, add the gelatine and hot water, stirring well until the gelatine dissolves. Let the gelatine cool to room temperature while you make the whipped cream. Combine the cream in a chilled mixing bowl. Whip the cream using a hand mixer on low speed until the cream starts to thicken for about one minute. Add the confectioner's sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high. Whip the cream until the beaters leave visible (but not lasting) trails in the cream, then add the cooled gelatine slowly while beating continuously. Continue whipping until the cream is light and fluffy and forms soft peaks. Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl and fold in the orange marmalade.

Make sure you have some room in your freezer. Ideally, you should be able to fit a small baking sheet or tray of desserts to set in the freezer.

Line a small tray or baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Lay out 6 cookie cutters onto the parchment paper/silicone.

Drain the orange segments on a kitchen towel.

Have the marmalade, whipped cream and baked circles of dough ready to use.

Arrange the orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter. Make sure the segments all touch either and that there are no gaps. Make sure they fit snuggly and look pretty as they will end up being the top of the dessert. Arrange them as you would sliced apples when making an apple tart.

Once you have neatly arranged one layer of orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter, add a couple spoonfuls of whipped cream and gently spread it so that it fills the cookie cutter in an even layer. Leave about 1/4 inch at the top so there is room for dough circle.

Using a butter knife or small spoon, spread a small even layer of orange marmalade on each circle of dough.

Carefully place a circle of dough over each ring (the side of dough covered in marmalade should be the side touching the whipping cream). Gently press on the circle of dough to make sure the dessert is compact.

Place the desserts to set in the freezer to set for 10 minutes.

Using a small knife, gently go around the edges of the cookie cutter to make sure the dessert will be easy to unmold. Gently place your serving plate on top of a dessert (on top of the circle of dough) and turn the plate over. Gently remove the cookie cutter, add a spoonful of caramel sauce and serve immediately.

Friday, February 19, 2010

olive oil and balsamic vinegar ice cream

A few years ago, one of my foodie friends told me that she and her husband had fond memories of an olive oil ice cream served for dessert on an out-of-state trip they'd taken. A the time I thought it sounded a little odd, something I'd probably not be interested in. But B has a crazy olive-oil-and-vinegar obsession, and when he recently started getting his fix by swirling oil and vinegar in a glass and drinking them straight, I thought, there's got to be a better way to do this. And I remembered K's olive oil ice cream. I headed to the internet, and found a promising recipe at the Worldwide Gourmet.

Although I'd rate the recipe as easy on the whole, the directions were a little confusing for someone with as little ice-cream making experience as I have. I haven't made a lot of custard bases, and I curdled my first batch. This made B ridiculously happy because we strained out the clumpy bits and he drank the custard and dunked French bread in it. I also had a bit of weirdness with trying to fold the cream into the anglaise. There's a *lot* of custard, and it sort of dissolved the whipped cream, leaving a few bits of whipped cream unincorporated. I'll play with this next time to see if I can get it mixed smoothly.

Now, if you're anything like my friends, this recipe may be inspiring a lot of hate. I know it isn't exactly a standard flavor, but I wasn't expecting so many of the people I talked to about it to dislike the idea so much. If you're leaning this direction, I have good news for you--you're wrong. This is one of best ice creams we've eaten. I loved it, the one friend who actually tasted it loved it, and B loved it. Enough to go back for more every night. (With B, this is the equivalent of an 15-out-of-10-star rating. He does *not* go looking for dessert. If I buy his usual favorite, strawberry ice cream, it will sit in the freezer for two months before he'll consider eating it. And he loves it.) The olive oil and balsamic are there, but they're quite subtle. If I didn't know what I was eating, I wouldn't guess olive oil and vinegar. The custard base is incredibly rich, as it should be with ten egg yolks, and the oil and vinegar complement it nicely. The final product is a beautiful custard color.

At some point, I want to try making a savory version of the ice cream, where the oil and vinegar are more noticeable, but it's hard to really think about tinkering with this recipe when it's perfect. The finished ice cream was a little bit icy in texture, but based on results making other ice creams, that seems to be a problem with our machine and not the recipe. (If you have any recommendations for a really good ice cream maker, I'd love to hear them.)

Now for the best ice cream recipe ever. Go make yourself a batch. You deserve it.

olive oil and balsamic vinegar ice cream (from The Worldwide Gourmet)

4 C milk
10 egg yolks
9 oz. sugar
9 oz. cream
3 TB olive oil (I used a robust oil to be sure the flavor would show up.)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Heat the milk. (I don't know how hot it's supposed to be; I'd recommend checking your favorite liquid custard recipe.) Temper the egg mixture with some of the hot milk. Whisk the remaining hot milk into the eggs and transfer to a heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens slightly to form a creme anglaise. Do not overheat or the eggs will curdle.

Cool custard to lukewarm. Whip the cream and fold it into the creme anglaise. Add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Put in ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Devour.