World egg day!

Maple pot de crème

Maple pot de crème

How many of you knew that October 12 was World Egg Day? I wouldn’t have known if it hadn’t been for Kim, the activities director at Heron Manor/Woods just down the street from our home.

It all started in 1996 when the International Egg Commission set the second Friday in October as World Egg Day to increase awareness of the benefits of eggs and how important they are in human nutrition. Who knew?

Needless to say, eggs are utilized in many different ways in the baking and pastry world. For a morning event this past Friday, October 12, I decided to really go for it in the egg department.

Never one to turn down pot de crème, I thought others would enjoy a maple version of this unctuous delight, topped with maple mascarpone cream, a sprinkle of walnut praline crumbs and a petite maple walnut shortbread cookie on the side. So lovely and so delicious.

The base is essentially a crème brulée type custard made with cream, yolks and sugar (maple syrup here). I used 3 ounce ramekins which I find to be a perfect portion for a just right taste.

To yield 14 portions, whisk together 9 yolks, 3/4 cup REAL maple syrup (don’t you even dare use “pancake syrup“!), 3/4 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract; heat 3 cups heavy cream to barely simmering and temper it into the egg/maple syrup mixture. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a pouring measuring cup then fill the ramekins to 1/4” below the rim.

Bake in a water bath at 325ºF. I use a clear pyrex glass baking dish, set the ramekins in, pour hot water into the corner of the dish and fill to about half-way up the sides of the ramekins. Cover loosely with foil and bake about 30-35 minutes, checking it periodically - you want the custard just set with a hint of a jiggle in the center. Once out of the oven, lift them out of the water bath and cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

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Then refrigerate until chilled. Garnish with whatever you’d like! If not being consumed the same day, I cover them with plastic wrap to enjoy over the next few days.

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Now for a tart!

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As always, having some version of a tart in the mix is right up my alley and thus a ricotta custard raspberry tartlette was born - buttery blind baked short crust filled with a few raspberry pieces and an easy to make ricotta filling.

For the filling whisk together 2 cups ricotta/3 eggs/one tablespoon cornstarch/3/4 cup sugar/zest of a lemon/ 1 teaspoon vanilla. Et voilà, très simple!

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Bake at 350ºF until the filling is set and a bit puffy, about 20-25 minutes.

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To give these babies some panache I made a lightly gelled raspberry coulis and pooled it on the top.

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Then a nice string-of-pearls crème Chantilly rim and a fresh raspberry to top it off. Smooth and berry delicious !

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The World Egg Day table also held browned-butter pistachio crumb cakes (egg whites) . . . .

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. . . . and apple pecan brioche (we all know that has eggs!).

Note: more on revisiting brioche recipes later - it’s an ongoing task.

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An enjoyable egg day it was!! Can’t wait until next year.

Petits gâteaux part 2 - toasted coconut lime

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Welcome to part 2 of petits gâteaux!

This toasted coconut cake is based on a pound cake recipe I've had for many years, even before pastry school days. I tweaked it in a few places to create a delightful, dense and flavorful cake made with ricotta, lime zest, diced dried pineapple, toasted coconut, a bit of whole wheat pastry flour plus the usual butter, eggs, sugar etc.

I baked these babies in another of my favorite flexi-molds from Silikomart - a rectangular ingot shape that just speaks to me.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

All baked up and glazed

All baked up and glazed

Just out of the oven I brushed on a lime glaze then popped them back in for a few minutes to set the glaze.

Once cooled, I garnished the cakes with a basic cream cheese frosting, zinged with some lime zest, plus a sprinkle of toasted coconut and a julienned piece of dried pineapple.

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Time for the recipes!

TOASTED COCONUT LIME CAKE: makes one standard Bundt cake OR two medium loaf pans or multiple small cakes. I made a half recipe which yielded 19 "ingots". Components include cake, glaze and frosting plus garnishes.

  1. Get a few things ready: toast 70 g (plus a bit more for garnish) unsweetened shredded coconut and set aside. Zest three limes, reserving the zest of two for the cake and one for the frosting, then juice the limes to yield 45 ml juice (you can do a combo of pineapple and lime juices if you'd like) for the cake plus 30 ml juice for a glaze at the end. Finely chop about 1/4 cup dried sweet pineapple (I found mine at Trader Joe's) and cut a bit more in strips to use as top garnish.
  2. Heat the oven to 325 ºF. If using a Bundt pan or loaf pans, do the butter and flour thing. No need for that with silicone molds.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together 272 g all purpose flour, 88 g whole wheat pastry flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream 227 g unsalted butter with 170 g whole milk ricotta until smooth; add in 480 g granulated sugar and the two lime zests, then cream until light and fluffy. NOTE: I like to rub the lime zest into the sugar as I do my mise en place then just add the zested sugar when ready.
  5. Add 5 large eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each addition.
  6. Blend in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  7. Add lime juice alternating with the dry ingredients just until blended.
  8. Blend in the toasted coconut and diced dried pineapple.
  9. Fill prepared pan(s) or molds and bake. Bundt will take up to 1.25 hours, loaves more like 50-60 minutes and small cakes perhaps 20-25 minutes. Watch what's going on in there! A skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. Remove from the oven.
  10. While your cakes are baking, make a GLAZE by whisking together 3/4 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons lime (or pineapple) juice. You want it thin for just that oh-so right light coating. Once the cakes are out of the oven, brush the glaze on the surface and pop them back in for a few minutes to set the glaze.
  11. Let cool in the pan or molds, then remove.

LIME CREAM CHEESE FROSTING: makes about 2 cups, plenty for your needs (I made a half recipe for my half cake recipe).

  1. Soften 227 g cream cheese and 113 g unsalted butter on low in the microwave. I you prefer not to use a microwave, place the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and place that in a second larger bowl with warm water - you want them soft, not melted.
  2. Add 170 g powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, a splash of lime juice and the zest of 1 lime.
  3. Blend all until smooth. Spread or pipe as you desire on the top(s) of the cake(s).

For the pièce de résistance, sprinkle some toasted coconut on top along with a piece of slivered dried pineapple. Et voilà. You've done it!!

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Jour de l'Indépendence et les tartes aux saison - cerises et fraises

Happy July 4 tout les mondes!

Steve and I visited the Fulton Street Farmers Market here in Grand Rapids MI yesterday with the express purpose of buying fresh cherries for the tart I was planning for the day's celebration.

Not only did we find cherries, cherries, cherries but soooo much more.  The covered outdoor market is a colorful and enticing destination with all manner of veggies, fruits, perennials, herbs, meats, cheeses and a smattering of local artisans selling their wares.  And surely I've omitted some of the other goods we saw.

Fulton Street Farmers Market

As is often the case, I plan my tarts (and baking in general) around what fridge stock needs to be used up. This time it's ricotta and buttermilk, both perfect complements to fresh summer fruit.

I decided to bake two different tarts as a way to highlight some of the local seasonal fruit.  I was already planning on cherries but when I saw the strawberries, they looked so succulent I couldn't pass them up. I also bought a small box of California lemons for only ONE DOLLAR (such a deal!) - perfect for my lemon buttermilk filling.

So the day's duo includes tarte citron aux fraises and tarte aux cerises/vanille/ricotta.

laying out the fruit

I used my favorite pâte d'amande, blind baked, for both of the tarts.  First up is the tarte citron which is actually a lemon buttermilk tart à la Emily Luchetti.  She makes hers with raspberries baked in the tangy filling, but I baked it sans fruit, saving my fresh strawberries for the after baking garnish.

ready for blind baking

The filling is trés simple and is made by whisking together 3 large eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, 2 tablespoons heavy cream, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 8 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, zest of 2 lemons, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of ground nutmeg.

working on the filling

Pour the filling into the blind baked crust and bake at 325º for about 50 minutes until set.

just out of the oven

Once cooled I garnished the top with fresh strawberries brushed with a hint of vanilla syrup for a bit of sheen.

Next up - the cherry/vanilla/ricotta tart.  This filling is another straight forward preparation, made by whisking together 4 large eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, the seeds scraped from one vanilla bean, plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 cups ricotta (whole milk or part skim - your choice).

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Pit and halve 1 1/2 cups of sweet cherries and place them on the bottom of the blind baked tart shell.

Pour the filling over . . . .

ready for the oven

and bake at 350º for about 30-35 minutes until set.

just out of the oven

Once cooled I garnished with a central pile of whole, unpitted cherries just for fun.

Nothin' fancy here folks!

Time to eat.

Slicing was a bit messy.  Steve and I shared a sample piece of each.  The lemon buttermilk was tasty with a nice tang that went well with the fresh, ripe strawberries, but we both found the cherry ricotta lacking a little something.  The texture was smooth but there wasn't much bold cherry flavor to complement the ricotta custard, and I would have liked a more intense vanilla component.

All in all not bad but next time I'd roast the cherries in raw sugar ahead of time (as I've done for gateau Basque) to provide a richer cherry experience.

So Happy Birthday USA!  On to the fireworks!!

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.


Hurray!!

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.

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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.


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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.