Monday, May 25, 2015

Moving, moving, moving and more hazelnut flour!

Wow - it seems like a long time since I've written about baking and delectable goodies!  I miss it but soon I'll be back in the saddle, as the old cowpokes say.

Steve and I are in the midst of our transition from Providence, RI to Grand Rapids, MI so my time spent in the kitchen has dropped pretty dramatically in recent weeks.  Yet . . .  I still have a few ingredients to use up, particularly the seemingly never ending supply of hazelnut flour in my freezer.

Soooooo - since we were planning on Memorial Day weekend supper at Dick and Dorothy's I developed a plan for dessert - the always popular pavé aux noisette, but this time with lime ice cream, blackberry sauce, fresh berries and toasted almonds.  YUM!

And, in addition, since making ice cream gives me egg whites to use up, I made a chocolate chunk hazelnut version of financier.  Delicious.

chocolate chunk hazelnut financier

hazelnut, lime, blackberry dessert

As the school year comes to a close and summer creeps up on us I suspect many of you will be spending more time out of doors and less time dealing with a hot oven.  It's only natural.

But for me, once we're settled in our new home (as yet to be determined), you can bet I'll be sharing my baking adventures with you.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A trio of treats for Sunday lunch at Mom's

Steve and I are currently in Grand Rapids spending time with my mom through the Mother's Day weekend.  She had planned a Sunday luncheon for a group of 12 lady friends so, of course, I had to make something for dessert!

The plan - blueberry financier,  moelleux chocolat and Breton shortbread with orange mascarpone and fresh citrus garnish.

lovely colors for the plate

working on the plating

All in all pretty straightforward - chocolate, moist almond cake, buttery Breton, a bit of fruit and some orange zested cream.  What's not to like?

the final medley

It's always fun to put a trio together!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Gateau Basque from Christophe Felder

Hmmmm - Gateau Basque - now just what is that all about?  Well let me tell you.  It's a traditional Basque butter cake baked with a pastry cream filling and/or cherry jam (for those of you who like fruit in your desserts).  It's kind of a cross between a cake and a tart and leans toward either of those depending on which recipe you use.  More about that later.

Gateau Basque (let's call it GB) was one of the first cakes we made in the basic pastry curriculum at LCB in Paris.  We were told then that one can make it with pastry cream and cherries or can substitute prunes or dried apricots.  As I researched it online I found pictures of many variations for this cake - some with only pastry cream, some with only cherries (black cherry jam to be precise) - including a couple of chocolate versions and one with a pink tinged (cherry? strawberry? raspberry?) pastry cream filling.  Let's hear it for artistic license, eh?

Below are the individual versions of GB that I made in my pastry studio at Hope Artiste Village a couple of years ago.  I used the LCB recipe from my schooling days and baked them with pastry cream and dried tart cherries that had been plumped up first in hot water ( you could use cherry juice or liqueur if you wanted).

When I was reading up on the topic back then, I remember one source (can't for the life of me tell you where I found it!) advising that a good GB should be one in which the interior pastry cream layer becomes one with the dough during baking, sort of melding into it without being identifiable as a distinct layer.  That's how the above LCB versions came out, and they were tasty!  Buttery, crumbly, yet cake-like, not too sweet and oh-so-good with a cup of coffee or tea.

Now, as I review the topic again, I see many photos of the sliced cake showing very distinct pastry cream/fruit layers.  That seems to be the way of it.

On to the task at hand.

This time I opted to try Christophe Felder's GB recipe from his book Patisserie!.  His leçons focus on a particular component e.g. a type of dough or pâte and carry that through to a finished product.  I like that. 

As I compare his recipe with LCB's there are several variations - his has a bit less butter, less sugar, fewer eggs and calls for almond flour along with all purpose flour.

He treats this dough like a tart dough, whereas the LCB recipe uses it more as a batter (and a very thick one at that). 

les ingredients

For the pâte à gateau basque place 175 gm soft butter, 125 gm sugar, 85 gm almond flour and the zest of one lemon in a mixing bowl.  Blend it by hand with a spatula or in the mixer with the paddle attachment on low speed.  Then blend in one egg yolk plus 25 gm of beaten egg (1/2 an egg) followed by 225 gm all purpose flour and a pinch of salt.

I mixed it until it looked like large curds (as seen below),

then brought it together by hand.

Wrap it up and into the fridge it goes for a couple of hours.

In the meantime I made a batch of basic pastry cream in the usual fashion using 250 ml whole milk, 3 egg yolks, 45 gm sugar, 20 gm cornstarch and a tablespoon of hazelnut liqueur (in place of the recommended rum) whisked in after the cooking process.

crème pâtissière

I like to cool the pastry cream on a plastic lined quarter sheet pan, folding the plastic over it to eliminate air and pop it in the fridge.  It doesn't take long.

Next up - the cherries.  Since I preferred not having a jar of leftover cherry jam (Christophe calls for 150 gm confiture de griottes) on my hands, I roasted 150 gm of frozen cherries with a couple of tablespoons of raw sugar and a pinch of salt at 450º for about 8 minutes (watch carefully so they don't burn!).  Then I added a couple tablespoons of hazelnut liqueur and gave them another 5 minutes in the oven.

before roasting

after roasting

I poured the cherries onto a clean flat pan and let them cool to room temp which allowed the syrup to thicken up a bit.

Now for the assembly.

Remove the chilled pâte from the fridge and divide it in two.  Butter an 8-9" round pan, line the bottom with parchment and butter and flour that.

my nod to Mickey Mouse

Roll out each of the pieces of dough slightly larger than the diameter of your pan.

Trim off the excess and place one round into the prepared pan.  Roll the scraps into a long snake and place it around the periphery of the pan, gently pressing it in to adhere it to the sides of the pan and the bottom dough layer.

I piped a layer of pastry cream over the bottom, topped it with the cherries and finished off the cream over the cherries.

Note - you can put the cherries in first and pipe the cream over them, or pipe all the cream in and top with the cherries - it doesn't really matter.

Take the second round of dough and place it over the filling.  Tuck it in nicely around the edges and remove the excess.

I used most of the dough to create a nice rim all the way around, leaving very few scraps.

almost ready for the oven

Give the surface a brush with egg wash, pop it in the fridge for a few minutes, give a second coat of egg wash and create cross-hatch marks with a fork.

At LCB we were told that there are a variety of patterns one can use.  As I understand it, in true Basque fashion, certain surface markings indicate what type of filling is inside i.e. cream only or jam only.  I basically winged it with mine.

Bake in a 350º oven for approximately 40 minutes until golden.

Once cooled a bit, turn it out of the pan and let cool on a wire rack.


I served this for dessert after a traditional Indonesian nasi goreng feast prepared by sister-in-law Dorothy's long time friend Jeanette from Toronto.  And what a feast it was!

What you see below are all of the cold portions of the meal which accompanied warm dishes of Indonesian fried rice, pork satay, coconut shrimp, beef with onions, chicken and various sauces.

My apologies Jeanette - I can't do the descriptions justice, but it was one delicious repast!

I felt almost too full for dessert, but the group was ready and willing so away we went.

Topped with crème chantilly and toasted almonds this was a delightful surprise.  While being in no way related to Indonesian food, it still seemed to fit the bill (more like a tart than a cake, not too sweet, buttery and cookie like) as a perfect ending to a meal full of flavorful contrasts.

The pastry cream/cherry layers remained distinct and certainly didn't detract from the overall experience, but in the future I think I'll go back to the LCB recipe.  In a nutshell its texture and overall flavor win out in my book.

And there you have it.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Glace à la ricotta et macarons craquelé aux noisettes

Making ice cream at home is a special treat, and now that spring weather has finally appeared here in Providence, it seemed right to make a batch of creamy goodness.


For those of you who aren't familiar with them, many basic home ice cream makers (lets call them ICMs) come with a special insulated canister that has to be frozen before use.  I like to pop it into the freezer at least 24 hours ahead of when I intend to use it - it has to be brrrrrr cold.

My first ICM (many moons ago) was a Donvier brand, hand-crank version that had a simple handle that fit into the top and required turning every few minutes over the 20-25 minutes it took for the ice cream base to firm up.  It was a work horse and delivered some delicious stuff, but, of course, I couldn't wander off when I was supposed to be turning the crank.  Then I moved up to (and continue to use) a Cuisinart electric version that plugs in, turns on and churns the mixture for you.  It's been great.

But enough about that.

I had a container of ricotta in my fridge that was just begging to be used.  After considering a ricotta cake of some sort, a little light bulb went on . . . .  how about ice cream?!

For some years now I've been using a basic ice cream base recipe from David Lebovitz - it's delicious and can be "doctored" to create whatever flavor you might want.  He describes a ricotta version of it in a 2014 post, and I decided to run with it.

The base calls for 5 egg yolks, which means there are egg whites to be used later!!  Time for some rustic macarons to go with that ricotta ice cream.  Yes indeed.

First the ice cream.

les ingredients

David's standard base calls for 2 cups of cream and 1 cup of whole milk, whereas this ricotta version calls for 1 cup of cream and 2 cups of whole milk ricotta.

Start by making a basic crème anglaise.  Have 5 egg yolks ready in a separate bowl.  Warm 1 cup heavy cream with 1/2 cup sugar and a pinch of salt just until you see small bubbles forming around the edges.  Temper the warm mixture into the egg yolks then return it all to medium heat.  Cook while whisking until little bubbles form around the edges and the mixture just begins to thicken.  Don't boil!

Strain into a clean bowl placed in an ice bath and let cool, whisking periodically.

Once the mixture has cooled blend in 2 cups ricotta (see note below), 1/4 cup honey and a teaspoon of vanilla.

A note about ricotta - store bought varieties tend to be grainy, so to smooth it out I whizz it in my small Salton processor for a few minutes.

before whizzing
after whizzing
Still a bit grainy but definitely smoother.

Pour the finished mixture into a covered container and refrigerate.  I like to make my base a day ahead of the actual processing step - it thickens and matures in the fridge.

cover and pop into the fridge

When ready to "spin" the ice cream (as they say in the biz), just pull the canister from the freezer, set up the ICM, stir a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice into the base mixture . . .

pour it in and turn 'er on!

and away we go!

In about 20 minutes it becomes a lovely, thickened, creamy ice cream.  Yes.

et voila!

Planning for the use of my 5 egg whites and continuing to pare down my supply of hazelnut flour, I decided to make a rustic version of macarons.  I have always found the classic French macaron process to be fussy and often frustrating, so I definitely prefer a more "rough and tumble" end product that doesn't have to be so pristine and perfect.

Some years ago, while I was in the thick of macaron making at Gracie's, I purchased Stéphane Glacier's book un amour de macaron.  

After paging through the options I chose to make a noisette version of macaron craquelé aux amandes to accompany the ricotta ice cream.

Let's go.

les ingredients

Egg whites mount better when warm so I weighed out my 150 gm and let them sit a while in the mixing bowl at room temp while preparing the other ingredients.

Weigh out 125 gm powdered sugar and 125 gm hazelnut flour and whisk them up, breaking up any lumps with your fingers (alternatively you can sift the two together to achieve the same goal).

Weigh out 42 gm sugar in a small bowl, have a pinch of salt and 3/4 teaspoon lemon juice ready (for the egg whites).

Whisk the whites with the salt and lemon juice on low-med speed until they start to get foamy.  Then add the sugar and whisk on high to softly firm peaks.

love those peaks

Blend the dry ingredients into the whites in two steps, gently folding until just incorporated.

ready to pipe

Since I wanted a finished base on which to scoop the ricotta ice cream I piped out approximately 3 inch rounds on one sheet pan . . .

and smaller rounds (that would later be sandwiched with chocolate) on a second pan.

Into the oven they go (350º for about 15 minutes) until lightly browned and set.

little cuties
The beauty of these goodies is they hold extremely well in the freezer.  I made them a couple of days ahead of serving, so into the freezer they went.

On the day that I planned to serve this dessert, I sandwiched the little ones with a chocolate glaze (113 gm chocolate and 42 gm butter melted together over a bain marie).

I wanted some additional crunch so I baked up some honeyed hazelnuts for garnish.

It's time for dessert!

The ice cream was pretty firm, so I had to soften it up a bit for scooping.  Into the bottom of the bowl went a macaron round, followed by the glace à la ricotta (which got a little softer than I intended) and then a mixed berry and crunchy honeyed hazelnut garnish.  A couple of dainty chocolate sandwiched macarons along side and the deed was done.

et voila!
Now I'll admit that I snuck a taste of the ice cream right after processing it and, while the flavor was good, the texture was a tad grainy.  But somehow it smoothed out after a rest in the freezer for a day or two.

The final verdict - deeeeelicious!  The combination of fruity, nutty, crunchy and creamy was superb.  Just goes to show ya that it never hurts to try something new.

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)!!