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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Big Feast Day Reception and Some Mini-Desserts

I prepared the desserts for the Epiphany Feast reception at my Church. They turned out pretty well - I made about 200 pastries in total. I made Galette des Rois, center front; Peppermint Brownies (clockwise); Nigella Lawson's brownies; pecan tartlets with cream and mini-carrot cake cupcakes.

Part of the enjoyment was coasting around the internet looking for recipes:

The Galette des Rois is by Chickpea Chef, on Group Recipes. The Galette des Rois is a cake of French origin, made of puff pastry and frangipane. It is only eaten on Epiphany night. I used Trader Joe's Puff Pastry, which is superb. It has a light and buttery flavor and rises beautifully. These puffs vanished instantly.

The green items are the result of using dark green candy melts on a perfectly good peppermint brownie bite recipe I have. Apparently there have been studies done on the effect of color on food appeal - dark green must be a loser as these were not popular at all. I don't suppose I will be using green candy melts again any time soon. I think a white chocolate coating would have been much more pleasing.

The chunky, fudgy looking brownies are from the blog site Sweet and Simple Bakes and come from one of Nigella Lawson's books. My, what a brownie! Rich, fudgy, just right - definitely my best brownie recipe.

The next treat was Butter Pecan Tartlets. (I put a dollop of cream on each one just before serving). The sweet pastry is delicious; I mixed it by hand and then used the food processor to get it to blend nicely.

The last treat was a batch of mini-carrot cupcakes with orange cream frosting from the blog Simple Recipes. These were cute, dainty and delicious.

This was lot of work, a lot of fun, and gave me the opportunity to try new recipes and skills. My next big bash is in March sometime - it will be a specifically
petit four and mini pastries evening. Here are the recipes for the mini treats:

Galette des Rois
•1/2 cup ground almonds
•1 stick butter
•3 eggs
•1/4 cup of sugar
•2 sheets puff pastry
•powdered sugar

1.Grind almonds in food processor
2.Beat sugar and butter
3.add TWO eggs and almonds.
4.You now have Frangipane!
5.Butter a flat baking sheet
6.unfold thawed puff pastries and using a pie pan as a template cut into two circles
7.Lay one circle on buttered sheet and spread Frangipane in the middle
8.Place a dried fava bean or ceramic figure in the Frangipane
9.Using the last egg, beat and paint the edges of the dough
10.Place the other dough circle on top and seal the edges very tight!
11.Brush top with egg (i forgot to in my picture)
12.Bake ~ 25-30 min at 375 (I did 400 for 10 minutes and 15 minutes at 375)13.Dust with powdered sugar

I tried this recipe with both Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry and with Trader Joes. Pepperidge Farm is less expensive, easier to work with and tastes quite good. Trader Joes is quite expensive, so bouncy that it's difficult to work with, and utterly delicious. It's a no contest. The main thing is to keep putting the Trader Joes pastry in the fridge during the process, as soon as it gets too soft to handle; use a sharp cutter; and don't even try to roll out extras from the left over pieces.
Also, use a generously buttered baking paper (Criscoed in my case). Once out of the oven, remove parchment with cakes on from the baking tray and let them cool completely on a grid. It's easy just to peel off the cakes from the parchment once they are cool. These would probably work well with a silpat.

Sweet and Simple Bakes Monthly Bake ~ Snow-Flecked Brownies

375g best quality dark chocolate
375g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
6 eggs (large)
350g caster sugar (superfine)
1 teaspoon salt
225g plain flour
250g white chocolate buttons or chips, or white chocolate chopped into chunks (or your own choice of chocolate)
2 tsp icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line the sides and base of a 13x9 inch baking tin with foil or baking parchment.
Melt the butter and dark chocolate together in a large heavy based pan.
In a bowl or wide mouthed large measuring jug, beat the eggs together with the caster sugar and vanilla extract.
Allow the chocolate mixture to cool a little, then add the egg and sugar mixture and beat well. Fold in the flour and salt. Then stir in the white chocolate buttons or choped white chocolate. Beat to combine then scrape and pour the brownie mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake for about 30 minutes. You can see when the brownies are ready because the top changes to a slightly paler brown speckle, while the middle remains dark, dense and gooey. Even with such a big batch you do need to keep checking on it: the difference between fudgy brownies and dry ones is only a few minutes. Remember, too, that they will continue to cook as they cool.
To serve, cut into squares while still warm and pile up on a large plate, sprinkling with icing sugar pushed with a teaspoon through a small sieve.

Butter Pecan Tarts
TART SHELLS 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup LAND O LAKES® Butter, softened* 1/2 cup sugar 1 egg 1 teaspoon almond extract FILLING 1 cup powdered sugar 1/2 cup LAND O LAKES® Butter 1/3 cup dark corn syrup 1 cup chopped pecans 36 pecan halves
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine all tart shells ingredients in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Put lots of Crisco in the tartlet pans.
Press 1 tablespoon mixture into each cup of mini muffin pans to form 36 (1 3/4 to 2-inch) shells. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until very lightly browned. Remove from oven. Reduce oven to 350 degrees F.
Meanwhile, combine all filling ingredients except chopped pecans and pecan halves in 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a full boil (4 to 5 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in chopped pecans.
Spoon filling into baked shells; top each with pecan half. Bake for 5 minutes. Cool 20 minutes; remove from pans.

My Tips - I baked the tarts for about 12 minutes at 400, filled the shells and reduced heat to 350, just so the filling could meld nicely. Make sure there is not too much filling - it will bubble over and make it impossible to remove the tart.
I used Rose Levy Berenbaum's tip on removing pastry from small tart pans - use a sewing needle (medium size) and just prick the side of the tart against the edge. If the pan cavaties are straight sided, not fluted, carefully give the tartlet a twirl, still using the needle and keeping the tartlet in the pan. It will loosen, then carefully lift out the shell with the help of the needle.(This RLB method is the best one I have found for removing tiny tartlettes from their pans.)

Mini Carrot Cupcakes

Carrot Cake
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
2/3 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups shredded carrot
6 oz crushed pineapple (drained)- that is, from a 6 oz. can of crushed pineapple. Use the pineapple in syrup, not the one in its own juice, for a sweeter taste.
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz cream cheese
2 tablespoon butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ tablespoon grated orange rind

Carrot Cake
In a large bowl blend together the salad oil and the sugars. Add the eggs one at the time beating until blended. In another bowl shift together both flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture, about 1/3 at the time to the oil and egg batter, beating just enough to blend. Fold the carrots and then the pineapple into the batter. Add the nuts it desired. Pour approximately 1 tablespoon into small size bake cups (1 in). Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350F for 8 to 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes out on the rack, let it cool completely.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
In a large bowl mash the cream cheese, add the butter and mix well, until the cream is fluffy. Add the confectioner’s sugar to the cheese mixture and beat until well blended. Blend in the vanilla extract and the orange rind. The orange cream cheese frosting is ready to be used.