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 KahluĂ 

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.)