Sunday, August 31, 2008

Secret Baking, part II

There was a moment that I realized blueberries were all around me.  I don't know if it was the four cooking magazines I get or if I was struck by something on the food network or if America's Test Kitchen ran a program.  But, there I was drawn to the blueberries, standing in the Stop 'n' Shop staring at them wondering what can I do with them.  You see, they aren't my favorite fruit, but Michael really, really likes them.  So, being a good partner, I wanted to surprise him with a fresh dessert with one of his favorite ingredients.  

What the hell was I going to do with them?  I thought muffins, too obvious.  I thought, ice cream, too easy.  I thought I've always wanted to make a clafouti.  So, I spent the rest of the day online searching for a recipe that used blueberries instead of the usual cherries.  I went every where.  Finally,  I realized I should just look at my cook books.  I have Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, et. al. on my shelf. (Remembering the reason I wanted to start the blog thing was because I met Julie Powell of Julie and Julia fame and got to speak with her, I was inspired to follow.)

Duh,  when you are looking for something French, consult with Julia first.  It was right there on page 657.  Her recipe follows.  

My version turned out a bit eggy and not as flan/custardy as I'd hoped. And all my berries floated to the top.  Luckily, I can try it again.  A really simple recipe to use any fruit. Sadly, after all that research and planning, my honey got very ill and couldn't even try a bite.

Clafouti – Julie Child

1 1/4 cup Milk
1/3 cup Sugar
3 Eggs
1 T Vanilla extract
1/8 tsp Salt
1/2 C flour
3 cups Blueberries (or fruit you have)


Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a blender, mix milk, 1/3 cup sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour.

Pour a 1/4 inch layer into a lightly greased baking dish and bake for a few minutes until lightly set.

Remove from oven and sprinkle berries over batter then pour in remaining batter.

Bake for 45-60 minutes until puffy and golden brown.

Can use other fruit instead of blueberries. If using a sharper fruit, sprinkle an extra 1/3 cup sugar over the fruit.

Bake Through

Secret Baking, part I

J isn't the only one who's been baking alone -- doesn't that sound sorta dirty? 

The sad part of summer has been our long summer hiatus.  So, we've each taking to baking in secret.  I think this means we have a problem -- if you find AP flour hidden in our toilet tanks, it'll be confirmed. This siren song luring me back to baking had to be heeded. 

After re-re-baking the pretzels from the Double Daring Bakers challenge -- what can I say, it's a yeast bread that I feel confident doing! -- and forgetting to actually take a photo.  I decided that I'd photo all the baking I did.

The first contender is the Cheesecake with Minted Blackberries.  This was the best crust I've ever eaten with a cheesecake.  The almonds add a light, buttery taste -- ok, the butter helps with that too.  The cheesecake is creamy and dense and not overly cream-cheesy.  A real winner.  The only change I'd make is to let the blackberries macerate a bit longer.  They were a bit too firm and didn't have the amount of "drizzle" I'd've liked.  But, this was really worth it.  

This is the cover recipe from Gourmet Magazine August 2008

Cheesecake with Minted Blackberries
Serves 8 to 10 (dessert)
Active time: 30 min start to finish: 6 hr (includes cooling and chilling)
Recipe by Dan Barber

For crust
3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup blanched almonds, finely chopped

For filling
3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup half-and-half
3 large eggs

Equipment: a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment
Accompaniments: minted blackberries, corn ice cream

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350ºf with rack in middle. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with 2 crisscrossed sheets of foil, leaving an overhang on 2 sides, then lightly butter foil.
Beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add flour and almonds, mixing until combined and dough begins to clump together.
Press onto bottom of baking pan with floured fingers.

Bake just until a shade darker and edges begin to pull away from pan, 20 to 30 minutes. Cool crust completely in pan.

Make filling and bake:
Reduce oven temperature to 325ºf.

Beat together cream cheese, sugar, and flour with cleaned beaters at medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add half-and-half, then eggs 1 at a time, mixing until incorporated. Pour filling into crust.

Bake in a hot water bath until set 1 1/2 inches from edge but center is still wobbly, 40 to 45 minutes. (center will set as it cools.) Transfer pan to a rack and cool completely, about 2 hours. Chill, uncovered, at least 2 hours.

Using foil overhang, lift cheesecake from pan and peel off foil before cutting into small rectangles.

Cooks’ note: cheesecake can be chilled (loosely covered once cold) up to 3 days.

Minted blackberries
Makes about 3 cups
Active time:10 min start to finish:40 min

3 cups blackberries (3/4 lb)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Stir together all ingredients in a bowl or airtight container and let macerate at room temperature 30 minutes.

Cooks’ note: blackberries can be chilled (after macerating) up to 2 hours.

Bake Through

Daring Bakers August 2008 Challenge


I love choux paste. It is just so fun to make.

About 20 years ago I made it for the first time. I had talked my way into a job at a bakery and was given some responsibilities I was not completely qualified for. It was a small operation with the manager/chef and me, plus some counter girls. There I was in my first week working alone one afternoon trying to make eclairs. I had seen it done, once, in culinary school by someone across the kitchen. I had a vague memory of how the dough comes together, but I wasn't sure if what I remembered was the student assigned to the task that day fouling it up or if that was the way it was supposed to go. When you are adding the eggs, it looks like it has totally gone to hell, then you keep mixing and it turns into beautiful dough. I'm glad I kept the mixer running while I tried to figure out what to do.

Not that I am some withered and dried up old lady, but youth does have its advantages, doesn't it? I didn't know enough to see how foolish I was to talk my way into this position. Somehow I muddled through for a couple of months and left to start the next year of school.

For this challenge I used a coconut cream filling in the eclair. It turned out like an eggy mounds bar which was a little weird.

Also, since I made these first thing in the morning, I filled one with some scrambled eggs with chives. Delicious!

For the recipe, and to see what some other folks did this month, please see some of the other Daring Bakers sites.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Double Daring Bakers: Chocolate Intensity Cake

Intense? yes
Cake? not really

This flourless chocolate recipe is the least cake like flourless chocolate cake I have ever tried. Usually in these flourless recipes, ground nuts are substituted. Not in this case. It was an intensely chocolate, not overly sweet, eggy custard enhanced with some strong coffee. I sampled it when it was warm from the oven and it was very eggy indeed. I actually liked it, so I knew it wasn't going to please those with a real chocolate sweet tooth. When chilled, the flavor was still intense, a little less eggy, and it had a really dense smooth pudding texture. The coffee I used was an orange scented espresso (undrinkable btw- thanks nespresso!), and you could just get a hint of it, which was nice in this application. I cut out individual circles with a 3 inch round cutter and spread a little raspberry puree and drizzled some ganache on top. The raspberry added sweetness and a tart contrast to the dense pudding.


Chocolate Intensity from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book Makes one 9-inch cake

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 62% cocoa), finely chopped
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brewed coffee
6 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350º F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with a parchment round and butter the parchment. (If you're using a pan with a removable bottom like a springform, make sure to wrap the pan with 2 or 3 layers of foil.)

Place chopped chocolate in a large bowl.
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, stir butter, sugar and coffee until the butter is melted and mixture is boiling. Pour the hot mixture over your chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute then gently stir until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs vigorously until blended. Whisk in the vanilla and salt. Slowly add about 3/4 cup hot chocolate mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly. (Tempering the eggs with a little bit of the hot chocolate mixture will prevent "scrambled eggs" when combining the two mixtures.) Add the egg mixture to the hot chocolate mixture and whisk to combine well.

Strain the batter through a sieve (to catch any cooked egg bits) and then pour batter into prepared pan. Set cake pan in a large roasting pan and fill the pan with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the center is shiny and set but still a bit jiggly. Transfer cake pan to a cooling rack and cool for 20 minutes.

Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a cardboard round on top of the pan and invert the cake onto it. Remove pan and carefully remove the parchment paper. Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours before glazing with chocolate glaze.

Bittersweet Ganache
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.
In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Remove pan from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute then gently stir until chocolate is melted and the glaze is smooth. Gently stir in the vanilla. Transfer glaze to a small bowl and cover the surface of the glaze with plastic wrap and let cool for 5 minutes at room temperature before using.

To glaze the cake:
Place the chilled cake, still on the cake round, on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Slowly pour the hot glaze onto the center of the cake. Smooth the glaze over the top and sides, letting the excess drip onto the baking sheet.

Scrape the extra glaze from the baking sheet and put it in a small ziploc bag. Seal the bag and cut a tiny hole in one of the bottom corners. Gently squeeze the bag over the top of the cake to drizzle the glaze in a decorative pattern. Refrigerate the cake at least one hour before serving.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Guess who had a big birthday??

Robb, that's who!! He turned 40 and had a pretty terrific surprise party put together by his partner, Michael.
Who knew there was
a decent place to go here in Peekskill?? Henry's on Hudson had been reported to be a real s&#t hole. It's a motel restaurant so expectations were low to boot. But it was shockingly good! The food and beer selection was good, the service was excellent, and no one could complain about gorgeous views of the Hudson river at sunset.
My contribution to this monumental event was, naturally, a birthday cake. What to make for Robb... It has to be special, that's a given. I don't want for him to "know" all the elements. Uh, but I can't remember what he doesn't fancy. I'm sure that he's not fond of coconut, but what else... I don't want it to be too predictable...not just chocolate... Ok here goes!

It's a variation on a Baumtorte. This is not a widely known cake (at least here in the U.S.). It's not one that you are likely to see done commercially, either. The labor is a killer, although I bet it wouldn't be that hard to mechanize production. It's a cake that gets baked, broiled really, in thin layers one at a time, so that the end result is a short cake with tons of layers that looks like a cross section of a tree trunk. The almond paste batter gets spread into a very thin layer and broiled until its set, every other layer gets brushed with apricot and dusted with ground pistachios.
In honor of Robb's 40 years, I thought it appropriate to make it with 40 layers. I counted the cake batter layers. A second layer had 29, figuring that's the age many of us wish to stay in perpetuity.

The normal Baumtorte would be cov
ered in Apricot and glazed with chocolate. It's tapered sides then covered with ground pistachio. To create a little more drama with this tiered version, I made an Apricot Silk Meringue Buttercream- our favorite from the cake bible (p. 239) with creme Anglaise, Italian meringue, butter, and apricot puree ( p. 335).

My piping skills are im
proving, and even though I thought it would be smashing to have some chocolate scroll work piped on the pale orange frosting, I decided not to ruin the cake! Instead, I recycled something we had done before. Robb and I liked it so well on the Strawberry Maria (CB p. 184), that along with the buttercream replay I didn't think he'd mind seeing it.

I experimented with some candy making molds, too. The little cordial cups came out pretty well and I liked the marbled look of the white and dark chocolate. I filled them with the frosting, although some apricot puree topped with frosting would have been better. Live and learn, right?

Robb's gifts there are an Easy Bake oven- yes they still make them- and some extra cake mix and tools to go whit it. My Dad always said it made a perfectly edible cake, hopefully we'll see sometime soon.

Lots of great folks were at his party, including Robb's friend Rob who was kind enough to share some of the photos he
took at the event. Thanks Rob!

To be fair, I'll add a picture that Rob shot of me at the party too. I'm no spring chicken either, my 40th is only 1 month away!

Happy birthday!

P.S. If you're dying for the recipe to the cake, just send me an email. Or google for it, I found little to no variation in recipes for it.