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Occasional Baker



All about my baking - pretty, delish or otherwise



Updated: 2017-11-05T23:49:39.378-08:00

 



Ruffle cake

2015-02-22T14:38:13.286-08:00

Ruffle cake for my niece's first birthday.More and more bakeries in Vancouver are featuring cakes styled with one piping tip.  I've used a large open star tip to decorate my friend's wedding cake last summer, and I've been wanting to try ruffle cakes made with a large petal tip.  Rose Levy Beranbaum's all-occasion downy yellow cake is an excellent base for many cakes.  I baked the recipe in two 8" x 2" pans at 350F  for about 30-35 minutes.  After cooling, I torted each layer in half, and filled it with strawberry jam - the kind that has twice the fruit and less sugar.    Cakes iced with one piping tip typically uses double the buttercream.  This double-layer 8" round cake used about 9 cups of icing in total.  I used my favourite Swiss meringue buttercream base and flavoured it with three cups of pureed strawberry jam (pass though a fine strainer after pureeing).  The colour will be a light, natural-looking pink.The cake is crumb-coated and guide lines are marked:    There are a number of helpful youtube videos for this technique.  I particularly liked this video. allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="https://ytimg.googleusercontent.com/vi/if3hVCGHPvk/0.jpg" frameborder="0" height="266" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/if3hVCGHPvk?feature=player_embedded" width="320">  I did not find the technique to strain my hands as the videos warned.  Using a larger Wilton # 125 tip (instead of #104 shown in the video), I finished the sides in a little over five minutes.  Instead of piping concentric circles of ruffles up top as shown in the video, I pulled the ruffles inward to the centre.  Here is the finished cake:   [...]



Bûches de Noël

2014-12-28T08:11:16.150-08:00

It has been 6 years since I last made a bûche de Noël.  A collection of my previous yule logs are compiled on this page.Early this month Melissa Clark (NY Times) made a bûche with Dorie Greenspan, and the duo can be seen in this video.  Ms Clark says, "it takes all day, it's incredibly complex, and it's a little bit nerve wracking.  But if you do invest the time, it is one of the most spectacular holiday desserts you can make and your guests just die.  They just die.  They die."Well, it doesn't have to take all day.  I've always thought that this is such a fun project to spread out over two to three days.  On day one, make meringue mushrooms (and these are entirely optional).  Day two, make the sponge sheet and filling, then roll the cake and pop in the fridge.  A day's rest in the fridge actually benefits sponge cakes as the moisture from the filling or any syrup used diffuses and the different flavours meld.  On day, three put it all together.Meringue mushroomsMartha Stewart's website is a treasure trove, and I like the meringue mushrooms by one of her guests, John Iuzzini.  Basically, make a Swiss meringue, pipe some discs and "kisses" (like the Hershey's chocolates).  The discs become mushroom caps, and the kisses the stems.I improvised a little by applying some tempered chocolate to the bottom of the meringue caps with an offset spatula, then sticking the peaks of the "kisses" into the bottom of the caps.  Tempering is an optional step.  It prevents the cocoa butter from coming to the surface of the chocolate and creating what looks like mold on the surface.  While this is not mold, and the chocolate remains edible, it may be off-putting for some finicky eaters.As a tip, small mushrooms are more esthetically pleasing.  My very first attempt in 2006 resulted in gigantic mushrooms.  The ones I made this year are as dainty as I want them:Invariably, there will be leftover tempered chocolate and meringue (stems in the picture below) - which I am sure will not go to waste.Sponge sheet cake and white chocolate mousseA yule log needs a sheet cake that can be rolled, often a European sponge cake that has a lot less butter and sugar and a lot more eggs by proportion than the American butter sheet cakes.  Sponges tend to be dry and need a brushing of simple syrup (one to two tablespoons per egg used in the recipe).  However, my favourite sponge is Rose Levy Beranbaum's cocoa souffle roll, which is so moist it needs no syrup and is so pliable it does not crack when rolled.  I took her recipe and simplified the mixing technique.  My tweaks can be found here.I filled this roll with Martha Stewart's white chocolate mousse.  The linked recipe makes 5 1/2 cups and you only need a little over 2 cups per 13" x 17" sheet (I use a 14" x 14" sheet because I have a very small oven).  Since I had a lot of family dinners this year, I just made two sheet cakes to use all the mousse.  It also wonderful eaten without any cake.Here is one of the two chocolate logs filled and ready to be wrapped in parchment before resting in the refrigerator for a day.Putting it togetherTrim the ends.  Then cut off two pieces from the ends on an angle.  Stick them on the the main trunk to approximate a log:Make seven-minute frosting.  Modify the recipe by reducing to 4 egg whites, one cup of sugar, and 1.5 tablespoon of corn syrup (optional).  This will be enough for two logs.For drama, take a kitchen blow torch and singe the meringue.  If you do not have a blow torch and you want browned meringue, cover the entire log with meringue (do not leave the ends exposed) and place under the oven set to broil.  Keep your eye on the cake the entire time and pop it out when you have achieved the browning you are after (this happens very quickly).  Browned seven-minute meringue tastes like toasted marshmallows!   Finally, stick on the meringue mushrooms and serve:The prequel Before m[...]



Brynn and Brandon's wedding cake

2014-08-12T23:29:02.803-07:00

This past weekend, my very good friend Brynn married Brandon.When asked to make a wedding cake before, I've always declined but this was one request I could not turn down.  I quickly set out by first writing a baking schedule:I baked three lemon almond layers (12", 9", and 6") from the "Golden Dream Wedding Cake" recipe in Rose Levy Beranbaum's Heavenly Cakes.Instead of using Rose L. Beranbaum's frosting, I made my own Swiss meringue buttercream icing and flavoured it with white chocolate and almond oil. Dowels or bubble tea straws are placed in the cake to support the layer above it (this is crucial).  For the cake to travel stacked, a 3/8" centre dowel must be driven through all the layers.  Here is a helpful youtube video. A box makes transporting the cake easier.  And, of course, there is a youtube video on how to prepare a box.  I used a 16" cube box to contain my cake that is resting on a 16" round cake drum.Just to make me nervous, a friend of mine sent me this picture of his cake transport disaster:Note the absence of a centre dowel in the picture. Thanks to the dowel and another friend's careful driving, the cake arrived in one piece:Brynn and Brandon's wedding was a heartfelt event, and it was such a pleasure making this cake for them!Notes:The Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC) is an easy recipe to remember: 4 egg whites, 3 sticks of butter, 1 cup of sugar, a healthy pinch of salt yields four cups of base.  Up to 8 ounces of white or dark chocolate can be added to this, or up to six tablespoons of lemon curd.My SMBC had 8 ounces of white chocolate and 3/4 teaspoon of almond oil.I needed about 8 cups to fill the layers and apply a crumb coat, then another 12 cups for the finishing (the rose swirl technique uses a lot of icing).The key to successful SMBC is to keep beating the meringue and butter mixture until it curdles, and then to keep beating some more until the mixture reconstitutes into a smooth, dreamy and luscious buttercream.  See this video.Try the rose swirl piping technique to frost your cakes.  It is super easy, and yields dramatic results.  Here is a list of videos demonstrating the technique.  You will be able to frost an 8" layer cake in less than 5 minutes - for real!A cake with this much frosting on the side needs to be in a cool room (19C).  If not, keep in the fridge and take out an hour to an hour and a half before serving.  Otherwise there is a risk that the frosting might get too soft and slip down the sides.[...]



Saving a ripped bundt

2013-04-13T10:34:42.072-07:00

David Lebovitz' almond cake whips up easily in a food processor and tastes incredible.  It has become one of my standby recipes. 

The other day, I took his recipe and multiplied it by 1.5 to make enough for a 12-cup bundt pan.  Baking time was about 60 minutes at 350F.  Everything was going well until I unmolded the cake:

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The bundt cake ripped all across the centre.

To fix it, I took about six small Meyer lemons, sliced them thinly, discarding seeds as I came across them and gently boiled them in a cup of sugar and a cup of water for about 20 minutes until the rind was translucent.  I then arranged these candied Meyer lemons around the unsightly gash:

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Very thinly sliced Meyer lemons are candied in simple syrup then arranged around the strip of torn cake.

And, with a "more is more" attitude, I used up the rest of the candied lemons to overdecorate the cake.


Notes:

  • I probably did not grease the bundt pan enough.  Often, if I use  "professional bakers' grease" from Baking 911, things turn out very well.  If the recipe is particularly sugary, I use the baker's grease and then spray it with Bakers' Joy.  This recipe is made with almond paste and is sticky, so next time I will go this route.
  • There are other tips on how to unmold cakes successfully on this website.



Return to baking: Apple pie

2012-03-24T13:23:31.772-07:00

The gap between my last post and this one represents my clerkship year in medical school plus a bit of the beginning of my final year. Though I kept on baking through this time - my clinical teams and ward nurses were beneficiaries of banana breads, tarts and brownies - there was never enough spare time to blog. Now as I am approaching the final weeks of medical school, I am happy to be able to blog again. Here is an apple pie I recently made: My first successful baking attempt was making an apple pie using the recipe on the back of a Crisco box for the pie dough. I loved that pie dough because it was tender, flaky, and nearly fool-proof. How could it not be? It had all the necessary tweaks - baking powder for puff, vinegar for tenderness, sugar and salt for taste. However, good as that pie dough may be, it cannot compare in taste to an all-butter crust. Unfortunately, my attempts at flaky butter pie dough had never been good. That is, until Chez Pim's ultimate pie dough.  Here are a series of photographs of this oh-so-easy to make and amazingly flaky pie dough, and yes it is made entirely by hand: There is even a YouTube video of Chez Pim making this dough: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/82BnB_bX7yQ" width="560">(If you are viewing this post through Facebook, the embedded video will not show, but you can click on this link).I wanted a tall apple pie that has no gap between the crust and the filling, so I turned to Cooks Illustrated's Deep Dish Apple Pie. To keep the apples from shrinking, they are partially cooked first and then cooled. Ten large apples went into this pie. After the filling has cooled, I rolled out the dough, and assembled my pie: The pie is packed with Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Ambrosia, and Pink Lady apples, and the crust, which shatters into innumerable flakes, has the incomparable taste of delicately browned butter: [...]



Almond cake with chocolate frosting

2010-11-11T13:43:52.045-08:00

Just a quick blog note while on a short hiatus from studying:

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The cake layers are from David Lebovitz, and the recipe is available here. I used two 8" pans instead of the 9" that he calls for in the recipe; the baking time is about the same. Note that the cake requires almond paste, which is not the same thing as marzipan. Vancouver bakers can get almond paste at The Grainry inside the Public Market on Granville Island.

For the icing, I re-visited an old favorite: Mrs. Milman's chocolate frosting. The recipe and accompanying video are available here.

This frosting actually takes a good four hours to set in the fridge if you follow the instructions. Here are my notes and modifications:
  1. The recipe was halved.
  2. Pour the cream into the pan you're going to be cooking in and set it out to room temperature 30 minutes before cooking. This will take the chill out of the cream, and will hasten cooking a bit.
  3. The cream and chocolate chips are cooked on LOW (not medium low as the recipe says) for 30 minutes (instead of 35), all the while stirring to make sure that no chocolate is sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the chocolate has all melted and the mixture looked homogeneous, I increased the heat *slightly*. If the cream is chilled when you started cooking, this will take longer than 35 minutes.
  4. I placed the heated cream/chocolate in a pre-chilled metal bowl and stirred it for a few minutes to rapidly cool the mixture before proceeding with the cooling step.
  5. I then placed the bowl in an icebath and I began to stir vigorously, occasionally taking the bowl out of the bath to make sure that the icing isn't forming any solid lumps. This method is quite a workout but the icing will be done in about 15 to 20 minutes, not four hours.
The frosting is done when it is very thick but still spreadable (it should hold furrows and soft shapes sculpted with a butter knife).

This frosting swirls very well:

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Chocolate salted caramel cake with lacquer glaze

2010-10-09T17:06:53.640-07:00

Rose Levy Beranbaum's new book, Heavenly Cakes, features the shiniest glaze:

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This glaze has intrigued me since I acquired her book a year ago. I finally had the opportunity to make it for this Thanksgiving weekend family gathering.

I decided to pair that wonderful Sweet and Salty Cake from NYC's Baked with Ms Beranbaum's new glaze:

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From left to right the small photos above show my mise en place, two cake layers slathered with salty caramel and sandwiching a caramel ganache buttercream, three cake layers, all the layers with a skewer to keep the cake fro tilting, the crumb coat, the smoothed coat and the glazed cake.

Here once again is the finished cake:

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Tips: The recipe for the lacquer glaze can be found in this post. Also, there is a youtube video where Ms Beranbaum shows how to pour this glaze.



Perfect chocolate chip cookies

2010-09-06T12:42:41.225-07:00

Today I decided to take a short breather from studying for my anesthesia clerkship (which I am thoroughly enjoying). Pat needed some sweet treats for an upcoming office shindig, so I baked up two batches of my new favourite chocolate chip cookies:Audaciously dubbed by Cooks Illustrated as their "Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies," these truly live up to their name.They bake up golden and crisply at the sides and chewy in the centre without tasting like unbaked cookie dough, which is a failing of many chewy cookie recipes. Instead what you get is the wonderfully complex taste of caramel, toffee and chocolate.To bake these sublime cookies, first visit Une Gamine dans la Cuisine for a printer-ready copy of the recipe.Prep your ingredients:What sets this apart from other chocolate chip cookies is that it uses browned butter...... which is then added to brown and white sugars with a bit more butter to make a caramel/toffee base.Initially, the mixture will appear separated, greasy and gritty.As you add the eggs and vanilla, and go through a couple bouts of stirring and resting, the mixture eventually becomes shiny and luscious.At this point, all the other ingredients are ready for mixing.I used an ice cream scoop to portion out the dough.Tip # 1: If, after mixing all the ingredients, you find that the batter is too soft to scoop, pop your bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes, then proceed.Tip # 2: Do not bake these right away. Instead, freeze the scooped dough overnight. This will ensure that the cookies do not spread too much when you bake them.As with any other cookies, bake these until they are golden brown around the sides and soft and almost gooey in the centre. The residual heat will cook the centre perfectly. As they cool , the cookies will fall a little and wrinkle:Tip # 3: All ovens are different, so it's good to get to know yours. In my oven, on a convection setting of 180 Celsius, these were done in 9 minutes.[...]



Icing a layer cake

2010-08-18T08:26:16.211-07:00

Start with your components:Buttermilk country cake. The recipe is from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible. For the cake I made, I split the batter into two six inch layers instead of using a single larger layer that she calls for. This is ready to be pulled out of the oven in 25-30 minutes.Raspberry jam. Heat over a stove to a simmer, then strain to remove the seeds. A cup of jam yields about half a cup after straining.Milk chocolate buttercream. Also from The Cake Bible. Follow the recipe link and prepare as directed, which will make more than you need for this project. See the notes below for storage and reuse. This buttercream is so much better than anything made with icing sugar. (I can write a whole diatribe against icing sugar "buttercreams").The picture below shows all the cake components; the chocolate is melted and waiting to cool before being whipped with butter.Assembly is a breeze.First, tort each cake in half, so you will have four layers in total. Take the first layer and place it on a parchment lined plate. Place two tablespoons of strained raspberry jam on the first layer:Spread the jam, then place about a quarter cup (or a little more) of chocolate icing on top:Repeat with the second layer. Place the third layer of cake and dollop a large amount of icing on top. When it comes to chocolate icing, I prefer a relaxed approach. Instead of applying a crumb coat, then applying more icing which is then perfectly smoothed, I like to take that dollop of chocolate from the top and pull it to the sides and then swirl the cake around to make a whimsical pattern.After this is done, I pull the parchment from the sides. Happy birthday, Patrick!Notes:What to do if instead of buttercream, you end up with melted slush. With Vancouver's hot, hot, hot August weather, I ended up with melted butter and chocolate instead of a luscious buttercream. If this happens to you, fear not, your icing is entirely salvageable. Take your Kitchen Aid bowl which is holding the melted puddle, and place it in an icebath. Stir. As soon as the buttercream solidifies on the sides of the bowl, return the bowl to the KA and resume beating. To arrive at the right consistency, you may have to repeat this process a few times. This buttercream really is best prepared in cooler weather... but it is noteworthy how this buttercream is able to withstand all that handling and the rapid temperature changes from a warm room to an icebath and back again.In this hot weather, the cake was starting to become lopsided as the layers shift with each stroke of my spatula. I could have driven a skewer through the center to keep it still, but in keeping with the relaxed attitude of this cake, I just let it lean.For a pretty cake - for any cake - there are three key visual elements: even icing, clean edges and a clean plate. Even icing means no cake layers peeking through on the sides. Clean edges means the angle between the icing on the top and sides is sharp (or sharp-ish for this casual cake). Tucked parchment sheets go a long way in giving you a clean plate. Below is a photo of two examples, showing a lemon curd cake and a bigger version of this chocolate swirl design. The sketches on the left are my vision of what a tiered version would look like.The buttermilk cake rises very tall, so I only used three of the four layers. There will also be some spare strained jam and buttercream. To save the buttercream, freeze. To reuse, thaw at room temperature and then re-whip.This post closes my summer as I head into the clerkship years of my medical schooling, which means my baking will likely become even more occasional. Much thanks to the readers of this blog who check in once a while to see what's up on Occasional Baker.[...]



Rainier cherry frangipane tartlets

2010-07-19T19:25:26.844-07:00

The local cherry harvest is finally in full swing here in Vancouver.

Having feasted on cherries in almost about everything - tossed in salads, served alongside fiery Andouille sausages (works very well!), as a raw snack or dessert - I decided today to give in to a baking urge that I have been suppressing. This is the result:

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I whipped up my favourite tart crust and used 1/3 of the dough to line two 4" tartlets, which I froze for two hours, then blind-baked for 20 minutes in a 350 F oven. Be sure to check out the tart crust recipe and the step by step photos courtesy of LA Times.

Then, I filled each blind-baked tartlet with a tablespoon of frangipane. The best frangipane, in my opinion is Dorie Greenspan's almond cream, to which I add a tablespoon or two of cream during the final whir in the food processor. This produces a lighter (well, not calorie-wise, just texturally) frangipane. The recipe makes quite a bit, but I find that it freezes well - just stir vigorously after thawing.

On goes some cherries, and in they go into the a preheated 350 F oven for about 30-35 minutes. Don't forget to turn halfway through the baking time.

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They are done when the frangipane puffs and begins to brown at the centre.

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Notes

  • This dessert relies on the sweetest cherries one can find. I prefer Rainier cherries to the more well-trodden Bing.
  • Don't overcrowd the tartlet with cherries, otherwise the frangipane won't bake.
  • Photos were taken with my iPhone 3GS.



Strawberry pavlova

2010-07-05T11:37:02.366-07:00

After Oprah's Favourite Brownies, I had to go on a three-month blogging hiatus to finish what has been an extremely challenging term at school. I am glad to back bringing this:A pavlova is probably the easiest dessert to whip up. It is at once elegant and casual.Its strength rests on the sweetest and best local strawberries you can get. I found mine at the Nelson Park Farmers' Market, held every Saturday during summer in Vancouver's West End.To make this dessert, start by preheating your oven to 200 F. This low temperature keeps the pavlova snow white.Clean, hull and slice your sweet, succulent red strawberries (as above).Separate whites of two large eggs. Beat the egg whites until foamy then gradually add half a cup of sugar while beating. Continue to beat at medium-high speed until you have barely stiff peaks when the beater is raised.Pile the resulting meringue onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. With the back of a spoon, form a mild depression on the centre. Sprinkle the meringue with icing sugar. This is to help the meringue dry up. Pop the meringue in the oven and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. When the time is up, turn the oven off and let the meringue stay in the oven for another 30 minutes or so.This will bake into a puffed "bowl" that you can easily transfer to a serving plate:Whip some cream. (Note: the link shows whipping cream in a cold bath, which I usually dispense with).Pile the cream onto the meringue.Then top with strawberries.NotesWhen making the meringue make sure there is no trace of yolk in the separated whites, and that the bowl and beating utensils you will use are scrupulously clean and free of grease. You do not want this meringue to be dry and hard through. Bake it only until it is dry on the outside and the sides separate easily from the parchment but the inside is still slightly soft. To check, press on the centre: the crust should shatter and yield a dry but soft interior. I took the above pictures with my iPhone 3GS since my camera broke this month. Not bad quality photos for blogging, I think, after some mild post-processing to adjust lighting and hue.The type of meringue used here is the French variety, which is uncooked. For an exposition on other types of meringue, particularly the Swiss kind, see this link.[...]



Oprah's favourite brownies

2010-04-04T22:38:31.722-07:00

These brown beauties, which made Oprah's favourite things, are from that little Brooklyn pastry shop success story, Baked. Incidentally, these sell US $38 by the dozen.A cheaper option would be to make it yourself, and thankfully, Baked owners Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito have released the recipe in Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. This homey cookbook features wonderful throwback American recipes, some of which call for quaint classic ingredients like Ovaltine as well as very of-the-moment food stuffs such as matcha, chipotle and espresso - but fear not, most people's pantries are well stocked as is to tackle the recipes without having to search far and wide for when the whim to bake hits.Oprah published the spicy variation of this brownie four years after the original captured her heart, so you can imagine that this has made a lasting impression on her. The recipe is available here. To make the original, omit the chili powder, cinnamon and grated ginger, and make the following changes: 2 1/2 eggs (instead of 3), 5.5 ounces 60 to 72% chocolate (instead of just 5) and 1 Tb cocoa (instead of 1.5).These are excellent, at once delicate and fudgy, chocolaty with every nibble, and I could see dropping $38 for a dozen if I were a New Yorker. However, these lean a bit more towards sweet than bittersweet for my current liking. Mind you, I did use a chocolate percentage that is a bit shy of 60%. I will likely go up to 72% next time around (and I rarely ever go that high when baking).So, this is all the baking I'm going to be doing until exams are over. See you all in June!NotesHere are a few of my tips and tricks to brownies:Above all, do not overbake your brownies. A dry brownie is uneatable and unsalvageable. You may crumble it over ice cream, and the ice cream might be worse for it. On the other hand, even a woefully underbaked brownie sets in the fridge overnight and turns into something deliciously fudgy. So, if you are to err, do so on the side of underbaking.The different layers of complexity inherent in chocolate only come through if the brownie is moist. This almost universally for anything chocolate - it has to be in a moist vehicle! Imagine a chocolate bar. Now imagine it melting with your body heat when you place it on your tongue and it bursts into its full flavours. Mmmm. Now imagine dry cocoa on your tongue. Enough said - chocolate needs to be moist.To this end, you must keep on checking on your brownies from 5 minutes or so before the stated end time. Poke it in the middle with a skewer. If the skewer comes out dry, it might be too late. You want the skewer with a good amount of moist crumbs attached to it (not wet batter, however).To get fudgy brownies, start with a recipe that promises to be fudgy. Your goal after this is to minimize the air you whisk in the batter. Do not overstir your eggs in the chocolate. This means starting with room temperature or, even better, eggs warmed by soaking in hot tap water for 5 minutes. If the eggs are fridge-cold, you will have no choice but to whisk and whisk to get it incorporated with the chocolate. Also, fold the flour gently and just until it's almost fully incorporated. Don't be fussed by lumps unless they are huge. Scrape the mixture into your prepared pan, then rap the pan a few times on the counter before placing in the oven. This gets rid of air. At half the baking time, rotate the pan - but before you do so, take it out the oven and rap it on the counter a few more times. When the brownie is done, rap it on the counter again. Then, leave it alone until it totally cools. This will take about two hours at least. Leave it alone.Just so I'm clear, when I say rap, do it with a reasonably strong force. Drop the pan straight on from a height o[...]



Clafoutis - reworked, again

2010-08-18T08:29:22.995-07:00

Taken from New World Provence: Modern French Cooking for Friends and Family by Alessandra and Jean-Francis Quaglia, this clafoutis can be sampled at Provence Marinaside, the restaurant that the authors own. Writes the couple: "We once took it off the menu but soon customers begged us to bring it back!"I was one of those customers.When I tried the published recipe, I found that an 8-inch tart pan does not hold the volume of batter. An 8-inch deep-dish pie plate is required. Also, the original uses an unbaked crust which didn't quite bake enough in the oven, leaving a slight taste of raw flour. Using a pre-baked shell improved it immensely.I have posted this recipe twice now, each time with a little tweak here and there. It's always a winner - one that I'm happy to haul out for family and friends.Clafoutis with white chocolate and berries(updated March 31, 2010)adapted from New World Provence: Modern French Cooking for Friends and Family by Alessandra and Jean-Francis QuagliaSet your oven to 375 F.For the pastry shell: Use Dorie Greenspan's sweet tart dough or your own trusted tart shell recipe. Roll out the dough and place in a deep 8" pie dish (if you want to use a shallow tart pan, it needs to be 11" in diameter)Whatever recipe you use, make sure to partially bake the shell: line the tart with foil and place pie weights, then bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 F. Remove the foil and weights. Return the shell into the oven and bake some more until the bottom of the shell begins to brown lightly, about 5 minutes. Set the crust aside.Turn the oven down to 350 F.For the filling4 to 6 ounces white chocolate, chopped1 cup heavy cream, whipped until stiff, then set aside2/3 cup sugar3/4 all-purpose flour1/2 teaspoon salt7 tablespoons butter, slightly softened (not melting)1 egg2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries or blueberries or mixed berriesPlace flour, sugar and salt in a stand mixer and mix on low for a minute. Add the butter and run the mixer for another minute or so, until the mixture appears sandy.Add the egg and half of the whipped cream. Set the mixer to medium-high speed for a minute and a half. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream by hand or use the mixer set on low. The batter will appear thick and luscious.Scatter the berries in the pre-baked tart shell.Scatter the chopped white chocolate pieces.Pour the batter in the center of the shell, leaving a one-inch outer border free of batter. The batter will spread as it bakes and a batter-free margin prevents overflowing. Click on image below:Bake at 350 F for 55 to 65 minutes, until the clafoutis is puffed at the sides and deeply browned all over.Cool to room temperature, for about two hours. This dessert can also be served chilled.NotesIf, after 30 minutes, you find the sides are browning too quickly, use some foil to shield it. If using frozen berries, your clafoutis will bake closer to 65 minutes.Do not be concerned if the clafoutis is still slightly jiggly in the centre when you take it out the oven. As long as the clafoutis is a deep golden to brown all over, the jiggle is a good thing. It will set some more with residual heat.The final texture will be somewhere between cake and custard; the centre will fall a little.Need a shortcut? One friend suggests using a graham cracker crust, pressed into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, as one would for cheesecakes. Another friend skipped the crust altogether and placed everything in a ceramic dish generously buttered then coated with flour. The crustless version is probably more in keeping in with traditional clafoutis. If going crustless, fill the buttered and floured pan in this order: 1/3 the batter followed by berries followed by another 1/3 batter then all of the white choco[...]



Lesley Stowe's Death by Chocolate and Raspberry Splash

2010-03-28T20:40:15.590-07:00

Here's a quick blog post as I head into exams:

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This is the ultimate chocolate lover's dessert, and it is surprisingly easy to put together.

Lesley Stowe has the recipe on her website. There is even a youtube video on how to put this together. For those reading this via FB, you won't see the video embedded below, so just click on this link.

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Notes:
  • The youtube video uses half the recipe on Lesley Stowe website.
  • I prefer a taller cake/ganache so I multiply the recipe by 1.5 on the website to fill a 6-cup loaf pan. This will make 16 very generous servings. A 6-cup loaf pan measures 8"x 4" at the bottom and tapers to 8.5" x 4.5" at the top.
  • I do not use Cointreau or Grand Marnier, and my friends who have made it with those ingredients say there is not much difference between my alcohol-free D by C and theirs.
  • While Ms Stowe recommends 62% to 70% cocoa dark-chocolate, I personally prefer 50%. At any rate, use the best chocolate available (Callebaut or Valrhona) and certainly do not go below 50% or your D by C might not mould well. Set in the fridge overnight (not four hours), unmold, then cut with a knife warmed over a running hot tap.
  • When I first made the raspberry splash, I did not strain it. It was alright. However, it was absolutely divine after having been strained. In retrospect, I actually feel slightly embarrassed that I served the unstrained raspberry splash.



Mother-in-law's Birthday Cake Part 2

2010-01-01T17:00:49.219-08:00

Here is the cake I made for Pat's mom:We had all his family over at our place, and what fun it was! Pat made some slow-cooked ribs and pasta with his trademark roasted red-pepper Oyama sausage sauce. His sister, another foodie in the family, brought over the finest coleslaw I have ever tasted. She was the one who introduced me to Rose Levy Beranbaum's books some years back. The Cake Bible, in particular, is life-altering (if you're a baker) and is pretty much the only cookbook I use for cakes.On to last night's cake.Over the last four days, I made four génoise layers which were brushed with syrup, filled with lemon curd and slathered with lemon white chocolate buttercream. The next series of pictures shows the cake at different stages:The white chocolate lemon buttercream is from Rose Levy Beranbaum's new book, Heavenly Cakes (pages 46 to 47). It starts with a white chocolate custard base made of eggs, butter and white chocolate that is cooked over a bain-marie, a process that is very similar to making lemon curd. For tips and pointers on making this buttercream, see the notes at the end of this post.I've always been The buttercream is one of the best I've tasted and it spreads and pipes like a dream:One of my colleagues taught me how to pipe roses over our lunch break. It is surprisingly easy. The key is smooth yet stiff buttercream. Watch the embedded video (or, if you are viewing this post through my facebook profile where the embedded video will not work, click on this link to take you to youtube):Some hints: the wide end of the piping tip is at the bottom, and it is easier to transfer the rose if you pipe roses on squares of parchment attached to the nail with a dab of buttercream. Here is one of my piped roses:The family was happy with the cake, despite my mistake of not using enough syrup to moisten the génoise layers, which were consequently on the dry side. The buttercream was a definite highlight, with the rich vanilla flavour of white chocolate pairing very well with the crispness of lemon. We finished off the large bottom layer and I packaged the small tier for Pat's mom to take home.I will definitely make these again and I will probably use buttercake instead of génoise. Ms Beranbaum has a new recipe in Heavenly Cakes that calls for almonds and sour cream - promising for a Valentine's Day project. In the mean time, I will be diving deep into my new year's resolutions and deeper yet into my studies. See you in February!Notes:Ms Beranbaum specifies the end-point as 140F, but I cooked my custard to 160F to kill Salmonella. To hasten the process, I do not whisk after the eggs are added - this causes temperature to dissipate. Instead, I use a heat-proof silicone spatula to slowly but continuously stir while scraping the bottom of the bowl.Do not be concerned if after the chocolate and butter have melted there appears to be some mild curdling. By the time the custard is done, the whole mixture is smooth and creamy.After cooling the custard for 15 minutes, I press a Saran wrap on its surface and refrigerate it for at least a few hours. This works well for me because I like to make up cake components over a series of days.The custard is beaten into whipped butter. For this, I start with fridge-cold butter, which I first soften with the Kitchen Aid flat beater. When all the butter is clinging to the sides of the bowl, I switch to a whisk beater and begin whipping.After the custard is added, the mixture may appear curdled. But as with most buttercreams, you only need to whip at a higher speed setting for a bit longer to reconstitute the emulsion.I piped my roses on parchment squares which were affixed to the flower nail [...]



Mother-in-law's Birthday Cake Part 1

2009-12-29T14:54:18.900-08:00

My mother-in-law is celebrating a major birthday on New Year's Eve and I am excited to make her cake. True to form, I was wracked with indecision right from the get-go. What flavour should the cake be? What should it look like?

Pat simplified things by asking his mom what flavour she prefers. Lemon it is. Now all I need is to settle on its appearance.

I decided early on that I wanted a two-tier cake although I did not want to hew too closely to formal wedding cakes. This needs to be whimsical. I perused my blog to look at my past work and began sketching:

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Up top is the lemon curd cake that I have made on several occasions over the last couple years. I like the dots and stripes that festoon its surface. Below it is a swirly chocolate cake. I'll have to decide later which direction I'll go. In the meantime, I went ahead and the baked génoise layers.

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I mistakenly used an 8" pan instead of 9"; baking without my usual early morning coffee is my excuse. An 8" layer will not stack well with the 6" cake - visually, the proportions would be off if the smaller cake was placed on top and centre. Clearly, the layers will need to be stacked off-centre:

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The bulk of the work was done today - baking, making the filling and buttercream, initial assembly and crumb-coating. Here is one of the cakes after the crumb-coat:

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Now all that needs to be done is put on the final coat of buttercream and some finishing flourishes.

Notes:

This is a new buttercream from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Rose's Heavenly Cakes. It starts with a white chocolate custard base that is incorporated into whipped butter and flavoured with lemon curd. A definite find!

Some génoise pointers can be found in this post.



Summer, Fall and Holiday 2009

2009-12-27T20:05:59.093-08:00

Wow, that was a long baking hiatus!Thanks for all the emails asking how I'm doing and when I'm going to post again. My med school exams didn't finish until the 21st of December, so I almost wasn't able to bake - almost.First, a bit of catching up.Pat and I moved to a new place this summer and while we are totally in love with the condo, the tiny AEG oven broke my heart a little:The usable internal space is about 13" x 14" x 15" so I spent some time in the summer trying to scale down some of my tried and tested recipes. So, there was quite a bit of baking during this time. Here are a couple pictures, a strawberry tartlet on the the left and a plain génoise on the right:I found that tarts, pies, as well as sponge and foam cakes bake very well in this new oven. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for buttercakes. Somehow, buttercakes tend to stay wet in the middle, and if I bake it through the cake begins to shrink by more than 30% in volume when I take it out of the oven, which is a sure sign of being overbaked. On a convection setting, the oven temperature calibration is spot-on, but about 20C too low on conventional baking. I've corrected for this, and use a baking stone to help keep bottom heat, with only so-so results.Anyhow, on to holiday baking:These are Dorie Greenspan's simply amazing sable cookies. The recipe is available from the NY Times. It is akin to shortbread, differing only by the addition of egg yolks which gives both crunch and tenderness, setting off the nutty flavour of mildly browned butter. These chic beauties fed me all throughout my exam review period (basically all of December).Again, because school interfered with my baking scheduling, I was not able to turn out a bûche de Noël this year. I will have to be content with memories of last year's log and those cute little meringue mushrooms:My bûches are compiled on this page.This year, I went for another favourite, Cooks Illustrated's lemon tart which is improved by Maury Rubin's tart shell. The recipe for the tart filling is the exact same one featured in Leite's Culinaria and the tart recipe can be copied from the LA Times.Notes:Ms Greenspan says the secrets to really sandy sable cookies include not overcreaming the butter and sugar, being very gentle with adding the flour (which is added all at once), and ensuring that the dough gets adequate resting time in the fridge (at least two hours). I am going to highlight another advice: these are amazing on the second day when the flavours have set, so plan ahead.I am in the middle of planning a cake for a family celebration this NYE. I think it's going to be a génoise with lemon curd and Rose Levy Beranbaum's new white chocolate custard buttercream. So there are a few posts out of me yet before I head back to school.[...]



The best flourless chocolate cake

2009-07-23T13:04:05.701-07:00

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Actually, the heading should be "The best flourless chocolate cake."

Yes, it is flourless and as far as chocolate cakes go, this one is simply incomparable. The texture changes from light cheesecake to mousse as you sample from outside to in. Every bite is as good as the Callebaut chocolate that went in it.

Here's the unbelievable part to it: only 290 calories and 17 grams of carbohydrates per 1/16th slice!

While 1/16th may not seem like much, this cake packs a wallop of dark chocolate that it is sure to leave even the most fervid chocoholic totally sated. An equivalent "regular" flour-based cake with ganache and buttercream will easily break 500 calories and carry an absurd carbohydrate gram count.

I once made a 1170-calorie per serving dessert which was fabulous, but this one is even better.

And even better news - it freezes well. There is no danger for dieters and carb-counters such as myself of slicing away at the cake portion by portion until the whole cake is consumed. I've stashed away the rest of this cake, and I am resolved they will only be thawed out for my once a week cheat/reward day.

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The recipe is from Baking Illustrated and was developed by Alice Medrich.

Notes:

  • I used 8 ounces of 60% chocolate and 8 ounces of milk chocolate.

  • It is imperative that you use an instant-read thermometer to determine doneness. I've overbaked this cake a couple times in the past because I did not use an instant-read thermometer. Those were quite awful.

  • Take it out when the centre is 140F. It will still be very soupy. Don't fret - it will look just like the first picture after 12 hours in the fridge. According to Baking Illustrated, 140F is a key temperature because the cake will continue to cook after it is taken out of the oven, killing Salmonella.



Farewell posts

2009-06-26T16:01:10.745-07:00

(first in a series of three)Two years ago I had a phone conversation that went like this:"I'm so stressed out. I have a year to finish these prerequisites, work full-time on top of that, and THEN apply to medical school and wait for almost another year to see if I get in.""Have you tried doing something to keep your mind off this? Why don't you take up rock-climbing or train for a marathon or start baking?"So, I picked up a copy of Baking 911, a cookbook that remains as my first and true love. It is perfect for anyone who has ever baked puck-hard cookies or anyone who has ever uttered an expletive first thing after opening the oven door.I really enjoyed baking, and as soon as my early efforts began to improve, I started this humble blog. Over the next few months, I discovered Daring Bakers which pushed me to new baking heights. I've made some wonderful friends there, as well as over at Tuesdays with Dorie. (See my Tuesdays with Dorie baked goods here). In fairly short order, the name of this blog "Occasional Baker" was no longer appropriate. One of the sardonic friends I keep jokingly asked, "How's your blog, 'The Obsessive Baker'?"Eventually I got the good news that I had been waiting for from UBC Medicine. After the heady few months that followed, I realized that I had the time to either bake or blog, but not quite both. Also, my interest has now turned to fresh, local foods and I am now, once again, an occasional baker. Going back to that phone conversation two years ago, I have now signed up to train for a marathon (a 2-year plan).Baking remains a great stress reliever for me, and I very much enjoy sharing with new classmates and friends. This will continue. However, the demands of maintaining a blog - the meager couple hours required to shoot pictures, post-process images, and write something useful (which was always my aim) - directly competes with study time, so I now feel that this baby should be put to bed.In this first of my last three posts I look back at the past year, which I feel is my best:French macarons If that comment about being an obsessive baker needs to be justified, this would be its strongest case. French macarons are incredibly difficult to turn out perfectly - with the frilly feet and smooth domed top. After seven batches, I finally turned these out:The moral to this: perfect baking is over-rated. Honestly, even the macarons that were cracked or feet-less tasted the same as these beauties. I have never made macarons since, and I am ever thankful that there is a French patisserie nearby.Dark chocolate cake Everyone needs a good chocolate cake once in a while, and this is hands-down the best because it is easy, fool-proof, and a guaranteed crowd pleaser. There is no recipe in my blog post but it is from The Cake Bible which you should own if you do not already. Also, the author demonstrates this recipe over at youtube.French lemon cream and classic tarts I am a bit of a lemon tart snob. Tell me that there is any bit of flour or cornstarch in the filling and I will turn away. (Well, I will take a large forkful of the "lemon tart" and then turn away). Lemon tarts ought to be made with baked lemon curd. It is best when served naked except perhaps for a dusting of sugar - no berries, no meringue, no creme chantilly on top. The star is the lemon, and the shortbread crust its sole supporting companion.Imagine the best baked lemon curd tart you have ever had (picture on right). Now imagine it tasting even better and speaking fluent French (picture on left).Lemon curd cakeUnderneath the curd and buttercream is an exquisite[...]



Back in June

2009-04-23T08:11:28.987-07:00

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Thanks to all of you who have been reading my old blog entries. I appreciate the emails asking if I will still write or if I am alright. :)

I will be back - just have to survive some exams first.

Have a great Spring!



Clafoutis

2010-08-18T08:28:54.750-07:00

A few classmates from medical school and I had a potluck dinner last night as part of our Wellness Initiative group. Absolutely everything was fantastic.For my share, I made clafoutis with white chocolate and wild blueberries. It is the same clafoutis I made a few weeks ago:The original recipe is from New World Provence: Modern French Cooking for Friends and Family by Alessandra and Jean-Francis Quaglia. Like Vij's: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine, this cookbook is written by Vancouver restaurateurs and it has all our local critics raving.I remember very well how incredible the clafoutis at Provence Marinaside and was delighted to see that the recipe has been published.Writes the couple: "We once took it off the menu but soon customers begged us to bring it back!"I was one of those customers. I remember telling the waiter very pointedly that it was a mistake that they had taken it off the menu. Actually, I told more than one waiter that since I repeatedly asked for this dessert (I used to live right above their restaurant so I was a regular).I immediately tried the recipe as written but found that an 8-inch tart pan wasn't quite enough to hold the rich clafoutis batter. Also, the original recipe uses a tart crust that was not blind-baked I found the lingering slight taste of raw flour unappealing.Remembering how glorious the dessert could be, I decided to tweak the recipe. I originally posted it here and it has been a work in progress since. The latest incarnation follows below.Clafoutis with white chocolate and wild blueberries(updated March 11, 2008)adapted from New World Provence: Modern French Cooking for Friends and Family by Alessandra and Jean-Francis QuagliaFor the pastry shell: Use Dorie Greenspan's sweet tart dough or your own trusted tart shell recipe. Roll out the dough and place in an 8" pie dish or an 11" tart pan. Line with foil, and blind bake with pie weights for 20-25 minutes at 375 F. Remove the foil and weights. Return the shell into the oven and bake some more until the bottom of the shell begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Let the crust cool to room temperature.For the filling: Chop 4 to 8 ounces white chocolate (white chocolate can be very sweet, so judge according to your taste) and set aside.Whip until barely stiff 1 cup heavy cream, then set aside in the refrigerator.Cream 2/3 cup of sugar and 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, then slowly add one egg. If the mixture curdles, whip at a higher speed. The mixture should be homogenous and airy.Fold in 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spoon lightly into cup then sweep). Fold whipped cream into the batter in three portions. You can be fairly heavy-handed with the first third because the batter is quite stiff, but be gentler with folding the last two thirds.Scatter 2/3 of the chopped white chocolate onto the crust. Dollop and spread one third of the batter. Press in 1 1/2 cups wild blueberries and scatter the remaining white chocolate on top of the berries. Dollop and spread the last two thirds batter, leaving a free one-inch margin all around.The batter will spread as it bakes. To avoid overflowing, there should be a bit more batter in the middle than around the margins.Bake at 350 F for 50 to 65 minutes, or until the clafoutis is puffed, golden and still slightly jiggly at the centre two inches. This will set some more with the residual heat of the ceramic dish. Cool to room temperature. Run a thin spatula around the rim of the clafoutis; this will make serving easier and more neat.Chill in the refrigerator for tw[...]



Dorie Greenspan's Génoise

2009-01-20T10:24:43.229-08:00

A Tuesdays with Dorie eventHave you ever set out to make a dessert in the face of a time crunch?If so, you must have - armed with some forethought - diligently prepared each component a few days in advance, making sure that these will keep in the refrigerator. And, if you're like me, the one thing you probably didn't anticipate are the other hungry fellows who live with you and raid the fridge in your absence.That is the gist of why I only have the génoise for this week's TWD event, the Berry Surprise Cake on pages 273 to 275 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.Having baked a few génoise cakes in the past, I was not so much daunted at the thought of having my cake fall, which I have been told, foam cakes are apt to do. I personally think the fear mongering around foam cakes is unfounded.I can imagine in the past when the foam batter was beaten by hand - continuously up to half an hour or more - that the génoise might have acquired its reputation as a capricious prima donna. Kitchen Aid stand mixers now make easy work of creating the foam batter. There is a "secret" to getting it right: the warm sugar/whole egg mixture needs to be beaten to the point that a thick, billowing, rope (the oft-used term "ribbon" isn't quite enough) falls from the whisk when lifted. This rope should coil over itself and dissolve very slowly back into the batter. Most cookbooks will direct letting the Kitchen Aid rip at medium to medium-high speed for 5 minutes; I find that it takes me about 8 minutes to reach this state. In any case, it is best to ignore the advised time and go with the appearance of the batter - this is almost never less than 5 minutes.A common cause of consternation is folding. A génoise batter is nothing more than a large bubble held together by egg proteins that have become arranged in an orderly manner because of the energy it received from vigorous beating. Folding must be done gently, evenly and quickly on one hand so the bubble doesn't burst, but also thoroughly so no unmixed flour remains. This description makes it seem harder than the task really is. Many professionals use quick and apparently strong (to a casual observer) strokes when folding. But because I am not a pro, I like to fold this way (if video is not visible, click on this link):Without the filling, I wasn't be able to assemble the Berry Surprise Cake. However, I dug out some leftover plain butter cream in the freezer to which I added some pureed preserved peaches and came up with this:Thanks to Mary Ann of Meet Me in the Kitchen for choosing this recipe. Please visit the other blogs participating in Tuesdays with Dorie.NotesA génoise is endlessly adaptable and is a remarkable contrast to butter cakes in terms of its composition. The right amount of soaking syrup is essential so that the génoise comes to life.Instead of making one 8-inch cake, I divided the batter between two 6-inch round pans. The baking time was about 25 minutes.A sturdy cake, it tolerates carving before it is soaked with syrup. Here is a sketch of how I was going to excavate the middle of the genoise to make room for the filling:Instead of just using clarified butter, use browned butter (beurre noisette). It gives the cake a deeper, richer, nuttier flavour.To add the clarified butter or beurre noisette: fold all of the flour into the foam in three portions then take a cup of the foam and mix it with the beurre noisette, and finally fold that mixture into the foam. The batter will deflate slightly.It is fascinating t[...]



Return to Tuesdays with Dorie

2009-01-09T19:54:19.867-08:00

Playing Around with the French Pear TartI am excited to have the opportunity to rejoin Tuesdays with Dorie, the worldwide group of food bloggers who pick and compare recipes from Ms Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. This week's recipe, the French Pear Tart on pages 368 and 369, is chosen by the author herself, so I just had to join in the fun despite the lack of canned or fresh pears at Vancouver's newest Urban Fare.In a pinch, I pitted some preserved cherries and assembled the tart. Here's a slice:Sweet cherries are nestled in a nutty, custard-like almond cake (frangipane) altogether held in a buttery shortbread crust (pâte sucrée).Making the crust and frangipane cannot be any easier. The ingredients of each are just whirred together in a food processor. The threat of running out of these components is ever present: it is ever so tempting to just spoon out a dough of the shortbread crust, or a dollop of the frangipane. They are simply that good!Incidentally, this week is the beginning of my Host, Diseases and Infections block in school, and I must point out that spooning raw dough or uncooked frangipane carries all the risks that come with eating raw eggs. So, save these for the tart.Because the cherries are the main players in this dessert, I chose these wonderful non-alcoholic preserves from Mission Hill:With all its dimples, this tart appears more casual and has a more relaxed elegance than the original pear version. It is reminiscent of another French home-baked comfort, the clafoutis.I thoroughly enjoyed my last stint with TWD and am thankful that I am in good company once again. (Thanks, Laurie). Please see all my previous TWD baked goods by clicking on this link.Notes:Ms Greenspan will have pictures and the full recipe posted on her site.Pâte sucrée is basically a sugar cookie. Don't expect flaky pastry, think shortbread. The dough is very forgiving, easy to pat onto a pan or rolled for a more refined looking tart. Scraps can be re-rolled and re-used or can be dipped in sanding sugar to make cookies.Here is a video showing how to press crumbly dough onto a tart pan.The shell is best when baked to a deep golden brown. When you are nearing that perfect dark shade, stay close to the oven. The time it takes to go from perfect to burnt is very short.Sides are browning faster than the rest of the shell? Fashion a shield with foil or take a shiny aluminum tart pan one size larger than the one being used (without its bottom) and invert it over the baking shell.To prevent a soggy bottom, I partially blind-baked the crust, then brushed some beaten egg white on its surface then returned it briefly to the oven for five minutes to allow the egg white to seal the crust. I then proceeded to cool the crust, fill and bake as usual.Please visit Tuesdays with Dorie blogs. Click on "TWD-all" on the upper left to expand the list of TWD bakers, then click on anyone to view.[...]



Bûche de Noël

2008-12-26T15:43:24.042-08:00

My mom is coming over for dinner, and I was happy to be relieved of main course duties, which Patrick has taken over. Right now he is busily slow-roasting red peppers and Roma tomatoes and the scent of thyme is permeating our house. He is going to use those in his chicken-apple sausage pasta sauce for tonight's penne dish.All his efforts leave me free to put together tonight's bûche de Noël.While this cake can be assembled in one day, I find that the process is (only) enjoyable if spread over two or three separate days.Make the meringue mushrooms on the first day.On the second day, prepare the white chocolate mousse followed by the chocolate sheet (recipe below). Fill the cake with mousse and roll using the parchment. Refrigerate the roll overnight wrapped in parchment and a kitchen towel.On the morning of the third day, make the chocolate ganache. When the ganache is frosting-like in consistency, assemble the cake. The frosted cake can chill in the fridge, but it tastes best if it has been set out for a couple hours so the ganache is at room temperature.The sheet cake is based on Rose L. Beranbaum's Cocoa Soufflé Roll. Instead of separating the egg whites and yolks, as with a soufflé, I whipped the whole eggs and sugar, like a génoise. This method will result in a more deflated final mixture, so the amount of eggs was increased slightly to compensate.Chocolate soufflé sheetadapted from Rose L. Beranbaum's The Cake Bible28 grams Dutch-process cocoa1/4 cup boiling water1 teaspoon vanilla100 grams sugar4 large eggsa pinch cream of tartar2 tablespoons unsalted butter, meltedPreheat oven to 400 °F. Line a 10" x 15" baking sheet with parchment and coat evenly with nonstick spray.Mix the first three ingredients together in a measuring cup. Leave uncovered and set aside.Whisk the eggs and sugar together in the bowl of a stand-mixer. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (the water should not touch the bowl). Continue whisking for three minutes, or until the egg mixture is hot to touch. Add the cream of tartar Quickly transfer the bowl onto the stand-mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and immediately whisk at medium speed for eight minutes. The eggs will thicken, and will fall from the whisk in voluminous ribbons.Pour a quarter of the mixture into a bowl; into this smaller portion, whisk the cocoa mixture and melted butter until smooth.Fold the cocoa/egg/butter mixture into the larger portion of whipped eggs. The mixture may appear soupy - not to worry.Bake for 10 minutes. Cool in the pan. Loosen edges with a thin spatula and invert onto a rack lined with parchment. The sheet will be about an inch thick out of the oven and will fall to about half an inch, the perfect thickness for rolling.Sugared rosemary provides a punch of colour. For an even more festive look, I intend to plate slices of this bûche with some preserved cherries. No, no, never Maraschino. Instead, I will be using these wonderful non-alcoholic preserves from Mission Hill:Happy New Year to everyone!Notes:Patrick's pasta utilises ingredients from Granville Island Public Market, and it's gonna be great. Oyama sausages are always wonderful and the selections are forever varied - a reflection of the family business' deference to the seasonality of good food.I am discovering that ganache icing is not for the impatient (that is, not terribly suited for me). Knowing that it takes a while for the proper consistency to be reached, I tried t[...]



Merry Christmas

2008-12-24T15:25:06.347-08:00

The bûche de Noël components are finally finished.

This time 'round, I used a sheet of chocolate soufflé - a departure from the génoise rolls of the past couple years - and it is luscious! I will be putting it together on Boxing Day (December 26th), so check back later.

Here is a solitary meringue mushroom, the first of many to sprout on the bûche.

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Thanks to all those who have stopped by this humble blog through out the past year.

Have a wonderful Christmas!