My Blog List

Monday, January 31, 2011

Great Grains Muffins - Tuesdays with Dorie

Christine of "Happy Tummy" picked Great Grains Muffins for us this week. It's just what I feel like - I have been baking and eating a lot of really sugary stuff lately so muffins are just the thing. If you would like the recipe it's on Christine's blog, here.

I don't usually bake with prunes (mostly raisins or currants) but I had a nice can of moist prunes so why not use it? I will probably tell my office team that the fruit is plums - if I say prunes they might start thinking about Activa yoghurt or senna pods - I mean, prunes are plums, aren't they, just dried a little bit, so I won't really be misleading them.

Easy to come together, easy to bake. They have risen nicely and took exactly 20 minutes to pass the doneness test. Tomorrow will tell if they are successful or not.

The next day: Some of my group really enjoyed the muffins, but on the whole they were not a rave. I thought they were quite good but not as good as other TWD muffins I have baked. However, they are really moist and not too sweet, and go well with a cup of morning coffee.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

French Shortbread Rolled in Non-Pareils

I think these look really pretty for a party I am planning. I have to confess that I just renamed them. The original recipe is for Sables, from Dorie Greenspan's "Baking From My Home to Yours." The original used sanding sugar for the decoration; I used multi-color non-pareils.

Dorie's Tips and Recipe for Sables :
Don't beat the butter (or the butter, sugar and eggs) so enthusiastically that the mixture is light and fluffy. You don't want to beat air into this dough, because it would cause the cookies to puff as they bake in the oven and sink as they cool on the counter.
Be soft and gentle when you blend in the flour. This is the make-or-break step in the process. With the word "sandy" singing in your head, add the flour all at once and mix it only until it disappears into the dough. To guard against overmixing, you can mix in the last of the flour by hand.
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature, plus 1 large egg yolk, for brushing the logs
2 cups all-purpose flour
Decorating (coarse) sugar
Makes about 50 cookies
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth and very creamy. Add the sugars and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. The mixture should be smooth and velvety, not fluffy and airy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in 2 of the egg yolks, again beating until the mixture is homogenous.
Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and the counter from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple more times; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks uniformly moist. (If most of the flour is incorporated but you've still got some in the bottom of the bowl, use a rubber spatula to work the rest of the flour into the dough.) The dough will not clean the sides of the bowl, nor will it come together in a ball — and it shouldn't. You want to work the dough as little as possible. What you're aiming for is a soft, moist, clumpy (rather than smooth) dough. Pinch it, and it will feel a little like Play-Doh.
Scrape the dough out onto a smooth work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a smooth log about 9 inches long: it's easiest to work on a piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic to help form the log. Wrap the logs well and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours, preferably longer. (The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Remove a log of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it and place it on a piece of parchment or wax paper. Whisk the remaining egg yolk until it is smooth, and brush some of the yolk all over the sides of the dough — this is the glue — then sprinkle the entire surface of the log with decorating sugar.
Trim the ends of the roll if they're ragged, and slice the log into 1/3-inch-thick cookies. (You can make these as thick as 1/2 inch or as thin as — but no thinner than — 1/4 inch.) Place the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving an inch of space between them.
Bake one sheet at a time for 17 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the midway point. When properly baked, the cookies will be light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges and pale on top; they may feel tender when you touch the top gently, and that's fine. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest a minute or two before carefully lifting them onto a rack with a wide metal spatula to cool to room temperature.
Repeat with the remaining log of dough, making sure the baking sheets are cool before you bake the second batch.

My Bench Notes: (1) Use fine, light decorations - sanding sugar, non-pareils, etc. I started with coarse sanding sugar and some of the edges fell off the sables as they were too heavy!

(2) Chill each full tray for about 10 minutes once the rounds are on the trays. Then bake.

(3) I really, really must confess I prefer regular, ordinary parchment paper to silpats for these cookies.
They are lovely buttery cookies and well worth a bit of fussing with the shaping.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The TWD Cinnamon Swirl Cake - Second Try

This is much better! I was determined to treat the office team to this cake and could not take it in crumbs like my first attempt.
This time I halved the recipe, used 2 tsps. of cocoa powder (unsweetened) instead of the chocolate and baked it for around 45-50 minutes. So now I can add it to my "make again" list.
It still cracked a little on turning it out; I am not quite sure why. I oiled the pan with quite a lot of Crisco and some flour. Maybe a bit less sugar will do the trick.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Nutty Chocolaty Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake - TWD

Oh no!!!!*****My cake would not release from the pan; this is in spite of Baker's Joy and knowing it's a good pan which I have used before!!

I cannot take it to work like this, although it is so delicious. I have been munching from the heap - the crust and the body of the cake are just perfect. However, I think I know the culprit - greed! I added too much milk chocolate, in quite large chips, so it must have made the batter too sticky.

I promised my office team a cake tomorrow; now I will have to disappoint them. But I will pick myself up and make it again tomorrow, with only one layer of filling and maybe without the chocolate.

Jennifer of Cooking for Comfort chose this week's TWD pick. Gosh, I am so sorry I made a mess of this lovely cake, Jennifer.

I have to post as I have not done a TWD recipe for a while. Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Daring Bakers - January 2011 - Biscuit Joconde Imprime and Entremets Dessert, with Custard and Meringues

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

Oh my goodness! I have just finished the joconde decor strip; my kitchen is smoky from the high baking temp.; there is bubblegum pink squish all over the sink top and on the floor, and sponge cake crumbs galore. I did it though! I have a 7-inch springform pan lined with a pink and yellow strip, ready to be filled. In spite of warnings about the baking time, I overbaked my joconde. It turned in a minute, but there was enough of the sheet to rescue a strip. Quite a lot of the paste just blended into the sponge batter and was a solid pink - maybe that had something to do with the heat and overbaking or perhaps because the paste was too thick on some of the sponge sheet.

Most fun thing so far? Definitely drawing a pastry comb down the pink batter. It gave me a nice feeling of creativity. I have seen these pastries at quite a few high-end shops, like Citarella; it never occurred to me to wonder how they were fashioned.

Well, I' have decided to fill the cake with something quite easy - a nice plain custard, covered with some meringue kisses I made last night.

For another time? Maybe halve the batter of the paste and the sponge, and use just a couple of small cake rings for an exotic little treat. And definitely sit glued to the oven to check the baking status.

I think this was a wonderful challenge. It was a difficult, professional chef technique to learn. Everytime I make something really challenging for Daring Bakers I feel my learning curve goes way up. It's a bit like being trained as a Roman soldier - they used to drill wearing extra-heavy packs, so by the time they had to go into battle, with normal -weight gear, they were leaping over hills and gullies, conquering everything.

Thank you, Astheroshe, for a wonderful challenge and new technique.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Galettes des Rois for Epiphany

I made over 50 of these delightful little pastries for the Epiphany reception after Mass at my Church, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in NYC. They are mini "Galettes des Rois" (King cakes), served on Epiphany night, to commemorate the night when the three Kings from the East journeyed to Bethlehem to pay honor to the baby Jesus, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Posted in her column on the "Serious Eats" website is an entry by Dorie Greenspan on Galettes des Rois: Dorie writes
, "While the galette des rois is a cake meant specifically for January 6, Epiphany, it’s impossible to resist its temptations before or after the official holiday—so impossible that some shops [in Paris] offer the sweet until the end of the month.

The galette is really very simple, if a little time-consuming to make—it’s an almond and pastry-cream filling sandwiched by two rounds of (all-butter) puff pastry dough—but so, so good. Nothing beats buttery puff pastry and a filling made with more good butter! But great taste is only one of its attractions—the chance to wear the king’s crown is another, and probably the one that keeps kids asking for the cake over and over.

Every galette comes with a crown and, this being Paris, patissiers vie to have the most beautiful crowns of the season. And the way you get to wear the crown is to be the person lucky enough to get the feve, the little trinket that’s baked into the filling. Feve means bean and, originally, that’s what the trinket was. But over the years, while the word feve remained, the beans gave way to fanciful trinkets. (There are feve collectors all over the world now.) It probably goes without saying, but this being Paris, the best pastry chefs change their feves each year and, yes, vie to be the most original. Oh, one last thing about the crown—you’re not supposed to keep it. If you win, you can pocket the trinket, but when you get the crown, you’re meant to place it on the head of your chosen king or queen. It’s a lovely tradition, but one I’ve never seen honored. Everyone I know who’s won, has plunked the crown on his or her head, gloated over winning and dug into the galette."

Of course, at our reception, we just ate the galettes. They were very popular - "so delicate", "the best Galettes I have ever tasted", (comment from a visitor from France!), "this is a lovely pastry," and so on. But my word, they are a lot of work! I used the Defour Puff Pastry, which is worth every cent of what it costs. It's a light, buttery pastry and can be rolled out quite thin - I got 12 two-and-one-half inch cakelets from one box. I made the frangipane (almond cream) filling from a combination of recipes, tripling it to make enough for the entire batch. That was easy, but it's the putting of the pastries together that takes the time. Would I make these again? Yes, definitely, for a small batch, but never again for 50 pastries!

This is the Frangipane recipe I used. It's quite delicious and difficult to resist the temptation of eating it with a spoon.

1 stick (110 gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 gr) sugar
1 cup (100 gr) ground almonds
2 eggs (beaten)
1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream

Combine dry ingredients in food processor and pulse until almonds are fine in texture. Add beaten eggs, then stir in cream (do not pulse cream). Store in refrigerator overnight so the cream can firm up.

Roll out pastry to about 1/8 -1/4 inch thick and cut 2-1/2 inch rounds.
Using two rounds for each galette, place 1 heaping TBS. of frangipane in center of the bottom round, leaving at least 1/2 inch around the edge uncovered.
Dab some water on the edges and press together the sides.
Bake at 375 degrees F for just over 20 minutes. (This is the temperature recommended for Dufour pastry.)
When they are nice and golden, with a little bit of brown on the base, remove from oven. Place immediately on cooling rack.

They are absolutely best eaten fresh, slightly warm. This is not practical for most baking I do but they taste really good the first day baked. The unbaked, filled rounds can also be frozen and then baked straight from the freezer if it's necessary to prepare them in advance.

What changes would I make for next time?
1.Add more ground almonds until the frangipane is of a firmer consistency - it tended to spread and leak over the edges of the rounds.
2.Make them a bit larger - 3 inch rounds at least (more room to handle them).

I have some of the delicious puff pastry left over; I'll freeze it again and my next adventure will be with Eccles Cakes from the North of England.