Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Do you remember a Stevie Nick's song with these lyrics?
"I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait. What can I do when I'm crazy for you?"
Insert "I'm crazy for you" with "I want to eat you", and that's how I felt while waiting for my fresh ginger and chocolate gingerbread to "cure" for a day. Seriously painful! So painful in fact, that I only made it about an hour before I tried a piece. Luckily I made two 4" round cakes and one baby loaf pan.
The gingerbread loaf was immediately sacrificed, I just had to know what it tastes like, but we'll get to that later.
While reading the P&Q section on TWD, I was surprised by how many people said they thought the recipe called for too much ginger. Too much ginger? Is that even possible in a gingerbread cake? Does a fruitcake ever call for too much fruit, or a chocolate cake call for too much chocolate? I guess, but I'm all about excess; so I thought the amount of ginger in this recipe was appropriate. I even candied some of the fresh ginger I had left over to garnish the cake.
Joe and I don't have any plans to see people this week, so I halved the recipe. The only ingredient I couldn't find was the stem ginger. For chocolate I used Scharffenberger 70%, which is a favorite of mine.
It is kind of pricey, but it has always proved itself to be worth the splurge in baked goods. The recipe was easy to follow except Dorie doesn't say what to do with the 1 tbsp of sugar (I used 1 ½ teaspoons). I assumed it was to put on the finely chopped ginger to extract it's flavors, so that's what I did.
The recipe says that the cakes will rise, but not to worry because they'll level out once they come out of the oven. Mine rose, but stayed nice and tall. I think it may have something to do with the fact that I used such small cake pans. I love the look of domed cakes, so they are fine with me. Plus, what really matters is the taste.
As I said earlier, I had to try a piece once it came out of the oven, and I wasn't that impressed. The chocolate was still warm and I was having a difficult time picking out the chocolate flavor in the cake. A few hours later, I tried it again, and again, and again. The cake was so good plain that I considered not frosting it, but that would be just, well… wrong. Once frosted the cake was delicious. The ginger and the chocolate played off each other beautifully. All together the cake and frosting weren't a sweet as I had thought, so that was nice. I think the bittersweet chocolate is what makes this cake exceptional. Thanks to Heather of Sherry Trifle for choosing this recipe which I will certainly make again.
Friday, January 23, 2009
This Christmas I received the cookbook Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts by Claire Clark as a Christmas gift (thanks Kate!). For those of you who don't know, Claire is the head pastry chef at the French Laundry in Yountville, CA. I was lucky enough to work in close proximity to her a few times while I was a pastry cook at Bouchon. She would come over to the bakery every once in a while to borrow some chocolate, or to talk to Ethan (he was the pastry chef at Bouchon then). I could tell from the few encounters I had with her that she is an amazing pastry chef.
Indulge is inspirational; every turned page revealed a new recipe I want to make. Today, I made the Blackcurrant Spoom on page 198. I chose this recipe because I love the idea of a tasty low fat dessert; and that's exactly what this is. In addition, I'm a huge fan of making and tasting Italian Meringue. Meringue is so simple and beautiful. According to Ms. Clark a spoom is a light fluffy type of sorbet. The recipe calls for 14 oz of frozen blackcurrants, but I couldn't find them. I ended up using 10 oz of frozen blackberries and 4 oz of mix frozen berries (black, blue and raspberries).
The blackberry spoom was delicious, though there are a couple changes I would make. First off, if I make blackberry again I will cut back on the sugar a bit. I know that sugar helps crystallize the sorbet, and prevents it from getting too hard; but it was too sweet. I think what I'll do is cut back on the sugar and add just a tiny bit of booze to the sorbet so that it won't get too hard (not too much though because it won't freeze). Second I would love to make this recipe again as directed by Claire with the blackcurrants. I can imagine how the acidity of the currants would play nicely with the sweet meringue.
Blackberry Spoom (adapted from Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts by Claire Clark)
First, place an empty container in the freezer large enough to hold 2 quarts (1 big bowl will do). You'll need this at the end of the recipe.
14 oz frozen blackberries
3 ½ oz water
Thaw blackberries in a pot. Once they're thawed add the water. Cook over very low heat till tender. About 20 minutes. If your water evaporates add more to bring it back to the original level. Puree the mixture and strain it through a fine sieve. From that you should get at least 9 oz of puree.
Put 9 oz of puree in a heavy bottomed pot with:
5 fl oz water
Bring to a boil. Stir in:
Juice from one and a half limes (Claire suggests ½ lime with the black currants). The blackberries really needed the extra acid to perk them up. Take the mixture off the heat and cool completely.
In a small heavy bottom pot bring the following to a boil:
2 ¾ oz sugar
1 ½ tbsp water
Here's a tip. Put the water in the pan first and then pour the sugar directly into the middle of the pan. Take your finger and make a cross through the sugar so that the water gets fully incorporated into it. Try hard not to get any sugar on the edges of the pan. If there is water on the edges of the pan, wash down the sides with a brush soaked in water.
Once the sugar has started to boil. Whisk:
2 egg whites (room temp is best)
With a hand mixer to soft peaks. Once they reach soft peaks and your sugar reaches 245 F, turn your mixer to low and slowly pour your hot sugar mixture into your egg whites. Be careful not to get sugar on your beaters, but make sure to move your beaters around so that the sugar gets incorporated. Turn your hand mixer back up and beat till the meringue is no longer warm, smooth and holds a peak.
Combine the meringue with the sorbet so that you have ripples of both white meringue and sorbet in it.
Put your spoom mixture into the container you had put in the freezer earlier. Put that back in the freezer for at least an hour. Once it's frozen you can pipe or spoon it into your serving dishes. Serves 8.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake picked this week's TWD recipe; Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins. Rebecca's blog is one that I often look at, so I was happy to see it was her turn to choose a recipe. Extra awesome is the fact that we're not baking something sweet this week (at least not in the typical sense).
This recipe could not have been easier to put together. Simply put your dry ingredients in a bowl mix in your wet and then add the chunky stuff.
I like many other TWD'rs, made chili alongside the cornbread. While making the chili I got a little overzealous and I accidently put all my chopped red pepper into the pot! Good news is that I checked the recipe before I added the whole hot pepper to the chili as well. Though I live in a big city (Boston), I couldn't find a jalapeño to save my life (okay! I only went to one store, but it was a big one!). I ended up with this:
It looks like a jalapeño, but it's red. Regardless of my peppers heritage; it was spicy and delicious in the cornbread.
I can't believe how good this recipe was. There are so many BAD cornbread recipes out there; I'm happy to add this recipe to my good cornbread file! I baked the muffins in mini muffin pans for 11 minutes (5 minutes; rotate; 6 minutes) at 400 degrees.
They came out perfect. So perfect in fact, that I'm sure we ended up eating more cornbread for dinner than chili. Also, as a side note, these seem to keep pretty well. In a moment of desperation, I ate one that was two days old, and you know what? I ate another, it was still that good.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Dorie Greenspan picked this week's TWD recipe. For those of you who don't know; Dorie wrote the book Baking: From my home to yours and has written several other great cookbooks both on her own and with the likes of Pierre Hermé and Julia Child.
The recipe for the French pear tart was very simple. Dorie actually okayed using canned pears (gasp!) in this recipe. I chose the alternate option which was poaching pears. No offense to the canned pear industry, but as a pastry chef I prefer to poach my own. My Bartlett pears took about 25 minutes to poach.
For the base I made the sweet tart dough with pistachios. I decided to cut back on a tablespoon of butter because I thought the fat in the pistachios would make up for it. The rusting dough was a little crumbly. it wasn’t too difficult to deal with though because I have a lot of experience putting nut doughs in tart shells from my time at Bouchon. I simply took the dough and pressed it into the pan.
My time was limited, so I didn’t freeze the dough as Dorie suggests. Luckily it didn’t shrink while it was blind baking, and it came out lovely.
I bought a food processor for myself as a Christmas gift in December, and I’m so happy I did. Making the almond cream was so easy (as was the tart dough). Instead of grinding my own almonds, I used the almond meal you can buy at Trader Joe’s. It’s a nice time saver, and it has worked well in everything I’ve used it in so far.
The tart was easy to assemble. My pears were a bit on the huge size, so I had to use less of them. Even cutting back on the amount of pear, their width was so big I had to squeeze them in into the tart shell.
Luckily, after baking the tight fit wasn’t noticeable. The almond cream neatly puffed up around the pears.
This tart is certainly a crowd pleaser. It looks beautiful, and many people love the almond cream/pear combination. It’s très French. Joe loved this tart, however I found it to be way too sweet for my liking. While eating it, I realized I would like it much more if I had a strong cup of tea to counteract the sweetness. Since Joe liked this tart so much, I’m sure I’ll be making it again. Next time, I’ll be sure to try my piece earlier in the day with a strong cup of black tea.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Dinner began with help from our friends. Cheese, crackers, potato latkes and 3 types of Stromboli started the evening. Next we had French onion soup paired with Ayinger Jahrhundert beer.
The main course was braised shortribs served on top of baked polenta. For dessert I found a really interesting recipe in Baking with Julia for a creme bruleed chocolate bundt cake. Essentially you make a chocolate chiffon cake and a custard. Right before serving you fill the middle of the cake with fruit mascerated in sugar and alcohol. The recipe suggested fresh raspberries with chambord, but I used fresh cherries and pomegranate seeds with a little vanilla sugar. Once you fill the middle of the cake with fruit, you pour the custard over the cake, sprinkle sugar all over it; and then brulee.