Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cannelés Bordelais

cannelés Bordelais

I first made a Christophe Felder recipe for cannelés back in late winter/early spring of 2013 in my pastry studio at Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket RI.  While the batter is trés simple I soon learned these delectable treats required baking in a hot oven (450-500º) for a good hour (or more!)   Since I couldn't justify dedicating the oven to one thing for that long, I didn't bake them on a regular basis.  But man are they good!

We're talking one tasty little tidbit.  With a custard like interior and darkly caramelized exterior they are a true taste and mouth-feel experience.

Also known as canelé de Bordeaux these babies are well known and very popular, not only in and around Bordeaux, but in many parts of France.  For years they have been baked traditionally in copper molds coated with beeswax, but, now that silicone molds are so prevalent, there's much less muss and fuss involved, especially for the home baker.

One of the big producers in France is Baillardran.  They have a shop in Paris, and when Steve and I were there in May, 2013 (soon after I had first made cannelés) we felt we HAD to try them.

yup - nicely caramelized

custardy pockets are de rigueur as I understand

Sad to say, we found them rather dry and unappealing, not like the delicious, custardy treats we had sampled at The French Tarte.

At any rate, fast forward 2 years to now.  Inspired by Dorie Greenspan's "Baking Chez Moi" it seemed only natural to try out her recipe for cannelés.

The batter preparation is straightforward and includes milk, sugar, butter, egg, flour, vanilla and usually rum.  Not being a rum fan, I substituted hazelnut liqueur.  Part of the planning involves making the batter at least a day before baking since it requires a good 12 hour (or more) rest in the fridge.

les ingredients

Here we go.  Bring 480 ml (2 cups milk), 150 gm (3/4 cup) sugar and 28 gm (2 TBSP) butter to a boil, stirring occasionally to make sure the sugar is dissolved.  Let it cool 10-15 minutes.

In a separate bowl sift 136 gm (1 cup) flour plus 100 gm (1/2 cup) sugar together.

Whisk 2 large eggs and 1 yolk in another bowl, then slowly add the warm milk mixture while whisking.  Then whisk in the flour/sugar mixture, beating vigorously as needed to blend everything.

ready to strain

Strain it into a clean bowl or pouring container and whisk in 2.5 TBSP rum (or liqueur of choice) and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

ready to cover and pop into the fridge

Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours (FYI - you can keep it in the fridge for several days).

On baking day brush the cannelé molds with melted butter and put them in the freezer for 30 minutes while heating the oven to 450º.

getting ready to butter the molds

When ready, take the batter out of the fridge and whisk it up, since the ingredients have a tendency to separate during their chilling time.  Fill each mold about 3/4 full.

ready for the oven

Bake at 450º for 30 minutes then lower the temp to 400º and bake another 30 minutes.  In my case I took Dorie's advice and removed one of the cannelé from the mold with a bamboo skewer so I could check the progress at about 40 minutes.

after a 40 minute bake

custardy pockets

I kept the remainder of the batch in the oven for another 10 minutes (total 50 minutes) and felt the browning was just right.

just out of the oven (the empty spot is the for the one I removed early)

Once out of the oven let them cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning them out of the molds.

whoa baby!

not bad, eh?

Upon cutting one open the interior had the same custardy pockets as the one I had taken out of the oven ten minutes earlier.

So could I reduce the oven time in the future?  With these petite molds I say "yes"!  However, based on my previous experience a couple of years ago when I used a slightly larger mold, the cannelés required a full hour (if not more) in the oven.  Just remember that baking times vary depending on the size of the goods.

The moral of the story?  Pay attention to what's going on in your oven.

A quick note about the taste - firm and chewy on the outside yet with a moist and custardy interior.  In a word - delicious!

Steve took a bunch of these to work, later reporting that they were gone in 5 minutes and were enjoyed by all!

Yes, I would make these again (and again and again and again)!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hazelnut flour and Easter dessert Part 2: final assembly and tasting

Now for the finale of the 2015 Easter dessert!

But first a BIG thanks to Dick and Dorothy for a delicious Easter meal at their home.  Although the day dawned sunny and breezy it developed into a cloudy and (dare I say it) snow flurried afternoon.  Hey!  It's supposed to be spring already.

Just try and imagine the crocuses and tulips waiting to poke through the snow.

peering out of the sunroom windows

the Easter table

In my previous post I described the preparation of the various components for this hazelnut dessert.  So let's move on to the assembly, made so easy by having everything completed ahead of time.

I ended up using only one of the two hazelnut cakes I had baked, not wanting the final dessert to be too high.  After a thaw I split it into two layers, one for the bottom and one for the top.

Now it's a simple matter of building the stack.

I removed the still frozen custard/coulis/crumble layer (on the right in the photo above) from the form with a hot knife, then placed it on top of the cake.

After a short rest in the fridge to allow the custard to thaw and soften a bit, I added the second frozen custard layer and gently settled it in place.

On goes the top cake layer,

followed by a garnish of lightly sweetened whipped ricotta cream, a sprinkling of crumble,

and a few berries.

c'est fini

Now how about a little berry coulis and fresh blackberries with your dessert Ma'am?

The servings smushed a bit during the portioning part, but it didn't do the taste any harm.  A lovely combo of moist cake, smooth custard, somewhat tart berry and a hint of crumble crunch.

It seemed a bit sweeter than I was expecting but not excessively so - and the group gave it a thumbs up!

Not bad at all.

Thanks again D & D!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hazelnut flour and Easter dessert Part 1: planning and components

As Steve and I get closer to our move back to Grand Rapids, Michigan in a handful of weeks I'm working on using up some of the ingredients in my larder.  My current focus is hazelnut flour.

I'm able to buy nut flours (primarily almond and hazelnut) here in Providence from the Virginia and Spanish Peanut Company, but they sell them in minimum 5 pound portions.  I go through almond flour fast, but I end up freezing the bulk of the hazelnut flour for periodic use.  I still have 3 lbs or so on hand, so I've been working on recipes that will help me reduce my stash before the move.

The other day I held a tart class during which we baked a hazelnut version of sablé Breton, garnished with an orange-zested, white chocolate pastry cream and some nut crumble.  Boy, was that tasty!

Being on tap for dessert for Easter dinner at Dick and Dorothy's, I turned to the recipes from my spring 2009 professional entremets course at LCB Paris.

I opted for my version of an almond-lemon-raspberry number, focusing on hazelnut-orange-fruits rouge as my flavor profile.  There's still a hint of winter in this combo, but, since Easter is on the early side this year, I figured this would be a last nod to late winter's tastes.  And besides, the weather hasn't figured out that it's spring yet!

Many chefs, whether savory or sweet, will sketch out a dish/dessert for assembly or plating.  I certainly don't claim to be an artist, but it's kinda' fun to draw out what one has in mind for a layered dessert (takes me back to those grade school coloring days).  It's all part of the mise en place.
In this case I was looking for a cake/custard/fruity/nutty ensemble.  Gotta have those contrasts!  And the good news is the components can be made several days ahead and frozen before final assembly.

First I created two 16 cm square cake "pans" by wrapping these bottomless forms in foil.  My intention was to make my components in the same square shape in which I would assemble them.

On to the prep!

les ingredients pour le pavé

For the pavé aux noisette blend 95 gm soft butter, 150 gm sugar, 2 gm salt and the zest of an orange.  Add half of 200 gm egg, then half of 190 gm ground hazelnuts; finish with remaining egg and ground hazelnuts, blending to smooth.

before the egg white addition

Whisk 100 gm egg white with 30 gm sugar to medium firm peaks . . .

and fold them into the butter/sugar/egg/nut mixture. 

finished batter

Butter the foil, divide the batter between the two forms . . .

ready for the oven

and bake at 375º for about 25 minutes (should look nicely browned and feel firmly spongy in the center).


Once the cakes cool, remove them from the molds, wrap and hold 1-2 days at room temp or up to 2 weeks in the freezer (the day before assembly place them in the fridge to thaw).

For the vanilla bean ricotta custard . . . .

les ingredients

blend 354 gm cream cheese, 177 gm ricotta, 112 gm sugar and the seeds scraped from one vanilla bean until smooth; blend in 2 eggs and 1 white, followed by 177 gm heavy cream until incorporated.  Pour into your chosen pan or ramekins.

I baked these in the same foil wrapped 16 cm square forms, placed in a water bath.  Steve was tickled that I had leftover custard to fill a handful of small ramekins to boot!

Bake at 300º for about 30 minutes until set.

Once the custard had cooled I put it in the freezer for 30 minutes or so, during which I made a mixed fruit coulis using IQF berries and cherries.

Thaw, puree and strain 227 gm/8 oz frozen fruit (yield 150 gm).  Warm the puree, add 20 gm sugar to dissolve, and whisk in 3 gm of bloomed sheet gelatin (softened in ice water and squeezed out).  Let the mixture cool a bit.

I poured it over one of the chilled custard squares, spreading evenly . . . .

and topped it with hazelnut/almond crumble, pressing it in gently.

Putting the crumble on the still liquid coulis and then into the freezer helps set the layers and keep them together for the final assembly.  The crumble will ultimately become the center layer of my creation (let's hope!)

Next up - final assembly and tasting!

Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tarte aux fruits rouge pistache from Christophe Felder

Lately I've been delving into Christophe Felder's book Patisserie! in search of new recipes to try. Tarts being one of my favorite things, I settled on the first section of the book (Les Pates et Les Tartes)  and chose this one primarily because it uses a tart dough that I've never made.


Even though I arrived at my list of favorite and regularly used tart doughs long ago, I can't resist trying a new one every now and then.  Just gotta' do it.

The array of tart dough recipes one can find is overwhelming, with so many variations on the theme, whether it's pâte brisée, pâte sablée, pâte sucrée or sablé Breton!  More butter? Granulated or confectioners sugar?  Greater butter to flour ratio?  Eggs, yolks?  Nut flour? A splash of cream?  The possibilities go on and on.

Felder's book has a great table at the beginning of the tart section giving an overall look at certain doughs' characteristics, how easy they are to make, what types of fillings work well with them, what oven temperature at which to bake them, etc.  Check it out if you get the chance.

Now on to the recipe for pâte brisée fondante and tarte aux fruits rouges pistache.  Let's go!  

The word fondante means "melting" which certainly gave me a clue as to how this might come out.  I compared the ingredients with a standard pâte brisée (flour, butter, water, salt and sometimes a little sugar) and found a higher ratio of butter to flour, plus a bit of egg yolk and milk in the fondante version.  And more butter definitely means "melt in your mouth".

Here's the dough:  mix 185 gm soft butter with 25 gm warm milk and 10 gm egg yolk; add a teaspoon fleur de sel and a teaspoon sugar; add 250 gm flour and mix just until it comes together.  Wrap the dough and chill it for a couple of hours.  (Note:  this dough amount was plenty for two 180 mm/7" tarts, plus probably one more).

When I took the dough out of the fridge and tapped it with my rolling pin to render it more malleable, I could appreciate the firmness of the buttery dough.  It rolled out pretty easily, although it was more stiff and breakable than other standard pâte sablée or pâte sucrée doughs I've used.

I lined the tart ring carefully (I made a 180 mm tart this time), pricked it with a fork and popped it into the freezer while I prepared the filling.

Now's the time to heat the oven to 350º.

I made 2/3 of the filling amount which turned out to be perfect for my 180 mm ring.

les ingredients

This is VERY easy!  For  2/3 recipe mix together 2 eggs, 16 gm almond flour, 66 gm sugar, 100 gm heavy cream, 16 gm melted butter, a splash of vanilla (the recipe actually calls for kirsch, but I don't keep that around) and a scant teaspoon flour.  In addition have 20 gm pistachios and 166 gm fruits rouges assortis ready to go.  I used a mixture of IQF raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and cherries.  Yum.

filling all mixed up

Sprinkle the pistachios and fruit into the shell (note - UNbaked shell!) . . .

love the colors

and pour the filling over.

ready for the oven

This baked about 40 minutes, pretty much on target with the recipe instructions.  You can tell it's ready when it nicely browned on top and the filling doesn't jiggle any more.

Once it's cool dust with some powdered sugar and serve it up!

Imagine my disappointment upon finding an unbaked center with a big dimple on the bottom - yuck!  That is one of my biggest pet peeves when baking tarts.


When I read this recipe over the first time, I had a niggling sense in my brain that blind baking the crust was in order with this very liquid filling.  But Christophe Felder is a seasoned professional with an impressive resumé, so I decided to follow his lead.  Not.

The good news is that, in spite of the unbaked center, the tart was deeelicious and the crust definitely a "melt in your mouth" experience.

Not to be thwarted, I decided to take one more go at this one but with a blind baking approach.  Particularly with the lining step, one has to be very gentle and careful with this dough.

I started the bake with weights, but when I removed them there was a crack in the bottom crust.  I took a small piece of raw dough to patch it and finished off the blind bake.  Whew!  Is this really worth it??

Then, just to be sure, before putting the filling in, I brushed the bottom with egg white to seal it.  No leaks allowed here, folks.

c'est fini!

The crust developed a nice light golden color, although you can appreciate some cracking in parts of the periphery.

The good news is a well done, non-dimpled center bottom crust.  Now we're talking.

And it's still "melt in your mouth" delicious.

Moral of the story - blind bake first if you have a really loose, liquid filling!

Yes, I would make this again.