Happy birthday Dad

As I said before, September and October are special months for me. Busy, full, but so very special. In October I celebrate both my parents and also my sweet, lovely (bunny) daughter.
This past weekend, my sis and I planned a surprise party for dad’s 60th birthday. It was so tiring, driving 1200 km in 2 days, but it was so worthy – we were all together (mom, dad, my sis, her kids, me, M and my daughter) again after 6 years. It was short, but overwhelming and full of sweet memories. We stayed in my grandparents house, the house where I grew up, the house that brings me back to my childhood and it feels as if my grandparents are there again. I can hear their voices, feel their touch and go back to being a child for a few seconds.
I also had a real fruit feast. At my parents house, autumn means trees loaded with apples and quinces, grapes and as of late figs – the best I have eaten in my life. I brought 2 bags home with me and I am planning to make us some fig tarts. I also saved some to eat with my yogurt in the morning.
Among other things (salmon mascarpone filled vol au vents, mushroom thyme filled vol au vents, sushi, empanadas, sheep and pork steaks) we had vanilla macarons with salted caramel ganache, a vanilla and caramel mousse chocolate cake and a mango and matcha mousse cake.

For the cake layer

4 eggs
120 g sugar
53 g flour
53 g cornstarch
15 g cacao powder
15 g melted and cooled butter

Preheat the oven at 185 degrees C. Butter and line with parchment paper a 29*38 cm pan.
Sift the cocoa, flour and cornstarch and set aside. Put the eggs and the sugar in a heat proof bowl and place it over a pan with simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water). Mix the eggs until they are 35 degrees C. Take off the heat and whip them until they triple in volume. Add the flour mixture and gently fold it in taking care not to deflate the butter. Add the melted butter and mix it in taking care not to leave butter on the bottom. Pour the batter in the prepared pan and bake for about 10 minutes or until the cake springs back when gently pressed with a finger. Remove from the oven and cover with parchment paper. Invert the cake onto a cool pan. Cool completely. Remove parchment paper.

For the syrup
100 ml coffee
30-50 ml Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
sugar (to taste)

For the mango mousse

4 egg yolks
130 g sugar
50 ml water
8 g gelatin powder
300 g mango puree
320 ml whipping cream

Place the gelatin and water to bloom.
Whip the cream to soft peaks and refrigerate.
Place the sugar and water in a pan over medium high heat, cover it and boil until all sugar is dissolved. Uncover the pan and cook the sugar syrup to 238 degrees F.
When the syrup is ready, melt the gelatin in the microwave.
Whip the yolks while slowly pouring the sugar syrup over. Next add the melted gelatin while still mixing. Continue beating the yolks until tripled in volume, thick and cool.
Add the mango puree and slowly blend it in. Add the whipped cream and incorporate it gently.

For the matcha mousse

4 egg yolks
5 g gelatin
130 g sugar
50 ml water
320 ml heavy cream
vanilla bean
20 g matcha powder (use more or less depending on how strong you like it)

Place the water, sugar and vanilla bean in a pan, cover it and bring to boil over medium high heat. When it boils, uncover it, lower the heat and let it cook to 238 F. In the meantime soften the gelatin in some water and whisk the yolks. Place the softened gelatin on a water bath or in the microwave and melt it.
Once the sugar syrup reaches 238 F, remove the bean (you can scrape it later into the mousse), and with the slowly pour the syrup over the yolks while mixing. Next, pour the gelatin over the yolks and continue mixing until the mixture increases the volume, thickens and cools.
Whip the cream and matcha together and carefully fold the mixture into the yolks.

To assemble

Place the cake layer on a piece of parchment paper, inside your cake ring. Brush with coffee syrup. Pipe the matcha mousse and spread it evenly. Refrigerate for a while until set. Pipe the mango mousse over and level it as good as you can. Refrigerate overnight (to ease cutting I always freeze mine).
To cut the cake, use a very sharp knife and dip it in warm water before each cut

Vols au vent – I dared again

As every year since I know myself, September was one of the most hectic months. I love September, but I never have the time to show my love as it goes away in a blink. I am born in September, school starts in September, the elegant autumn smiles in September, grapes are ripen in September, yelowish leaves are all over and the air smells so good in September.
If that was not enough, September brought with it the puff pastry challenge and I am for ever in love with pastry – especially with making it. It is such a magic process.
I will miss my precious September for another year, and will love it more each time.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

I have made half of the recipe regular puff pastry and the other half was matcha puff pastry. I filled the first with chestnut mousse (to be seasonal) and drizzled with some salted caramel ganache. The second half was filled with rose mousse and decorated with raspberry mousse.

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Steph’s note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book. http://video.pbs.org/video/1174110297/search/Pastry

Ingredients:
2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter
plus extra flour for dusting work surface
* for the matcha puff pastry, I added 10 g matcha to the dough and 10 g to the butter.
Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that’s about 1″ thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10″ square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with “ears,” or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don’t just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8″ square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24″ (don’t worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24″, everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24″ and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you’ve completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent

Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent

In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need:
-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d’oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.

Fill and serve.

*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to “glue”). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.

*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).

For the chestnut mousse

3 g gelatin
15 ml water
2 yolks
65 g sugar
50 ml water
175 ml whipped cream
a vanilla bean
200 g chestnut puree
1-2 tsp cognac
75 g milk chocolate

Roast or boil the chestnuts. Let them cool and then puree them in a food processor. Set aside.
In a clean bowl, on bain mare, melt the chocolate. Set aside.
Place the water, sugar, and vanilla bean in a pan, cover it and bring to boil over medium high heat. When it boils, uncover it, lower the heat and let it cook to 238 F. In the meantime soften the gelatin and whisk the yolks. Place the softened gelatin on a water bath or in the microwave and melt it.
Once the sugar syrup reaches 238 F, remove the bean (you can scrape the bean later into the mousse), and slowly pour the syrup over the yolks while mixing. Next, pour the gelatin over the yolks and continue mixing until the mixture increases in volume, thickens and cools. Add the chocolate and incorporate it gently into the yolks. Add the chestnuts and fold them in. Add the whipped cream and carefully fold it into the yolks.

For the rose mousse

3 g gelatin
15 ml rose water
2 yolks
65 g sugar
50 ml water
10 edible rose buds
175 ml whipped cream (+10 ml rose water)
a vanilla bean

Place the water, sugar, rose buds and vanilla bean in a pan, cover it and bring to boil over medium high heat. When it boils, uncover it, lower the heat and let it cook to 238 F. In the meantime soften the gelatin in some rose water and whisk the yolks. Place the softened gelatin on a water bath or in the microwave and melt it.
Once the sugar syrup reaches 238 F, remove the bean and the buds (you can scrape the bean later into the mousse), and slowly pour the syrup over the yolks while mixing. Next, pour the gelatin over the yolks and continue mixing until the mixture increases in volume, thickens and cools.
Add the whipped cream and carefully fold it into the yolks.

For the raspberry mousse

3 g gelatin
15 ml water
2 yolks
65 g sugar
50 ml water
200 g raspberry puree
20 g sugar
175 ml whipped cream

Puree the raspberries and place them together with the sugar over medium heat, cooking until the sugar melts. Set aside.
Place the water, sugar, and vanilla bean in a pan, cover it and bring to boil over medium high heat. When it boils, uncover it, lower the heat and let it cook to 238 F. In the meantime soften the gelatin and whisk the yolks. Place the softened gelatin on a water bath or in the microwave and melt it.
Once the sugar syrup reaches 238 F, remove the bean (you can scrape the bean later into the mousse), and slowly pour the syrup over the yolks while mixing. Next, pour the gelatin over the yolks and continue mixing until the mixture increases in volume, thickens and cools. Add the puree and incorporate it gently into the yolks. Add the whipped cream and carefully fold it into the yolks.

For the salted caramel ganache

150 g bitter sweet chocolate
200 g half and half
50 g butter
10 g honey
110 g sugar
50 ml water
fleur du sel

Place the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl and set aside. Heat the cream and keep it warm until the caramel is ready. Have the butter at room temperature.
Place the sugar, honey and water over medium high power, cover and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Uncover and cook until the mixture turns a deep amber color. Take off the heat and add the butter. Then add the cream. Pour it slowly as it may overflow. Replace the pan over medium heat and stir until all the caramel is melted. Take off the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute and then stir to combine. Add the fleur to sel.

Ispahan Cake

plaisirs sucres, lychee, rose, litchi, raspberry, Ispahan, macaron

In my previous post, i said something about being busy with some mysterious affair :). As the mystery turned out better than I have ever expected, I am ready to share it with everybody.
On Friday, I took part in an International Cooking Contest. You had to choose your section (I was part of the dessert section), prepare whatever you wanted to show to the jury and impress them :).
I prepared a series of desserts and they were all impressed that an amateur was able to do so many nice things.
I have made a few batches of macarons: almond macarons with chocolate nougat filling, almond macarons with white chocolate and coffee filling, cocoa macarons with chocolate ganache and salted caramel sauce, rose macarons with mint meringue filling.

plaisirs sucres, lychee, rose, litchi, raspberry, Ispahan, macaron

Then, I made an adaptation of Pierre Herme’s Plaisirs sucrees, using white chocolate coffee Chantilly instead of the milk chocolate ganache, dark chocolate cardamom Chantilly instead of his milk chocolate Chantilly, and dark chocolate wafers instead of milk chocolate ones.

plaisirs sucres, lychee, rose, litchi, raspberry, Ispahan, macaron

Next, there was a cake I made for my daughter’s birthday 2 years ago – an Opera cake with matcha genoise, salted caramel ganache and Earl Grey mousse. Another treat was a crumble tart inspired from Aran – I used a polenta almond crumble, topped with basil roasted peaches, a lemon mousse filled sponge cake and with a quenelle (which melted a little) of goat cheese mousse.

plaisirs sucres, lychee, rose, litchi, raspberry, Ispahan, macaron

I also had some simple, but ohhh so good almond and dark chocolate biscotti. But the star of the show was the Ispahan cake: a moist almond sponge, lychee jelly, raspberry jelly and rose mousse.
My daughter was my assistant both during the preparation phase and during the contest and this is why she was even prouder when we won the first prize. For a few days, this was her favorite topic of discussion. She even created a diploma for me and brought me lots of flowers to show how much she enjoyed “our moment of glory”.

plaisirs sucres, lychee, rose, litchi, raspberry, Ispahan, macaron

Ispahan Cake

For the almond sponge
2 X 20/ 20 cm (8X8in) pans

200 g almond paste (recipe follows if you do not want to use store bought)
4 eggs, separated
15 g sugar
40 g flour
2 g baking powder
30 g butter, melted and cooled
salt

Almond paste
100 g blanched almonds
100 g powdered sugar
30 g egg white

Pulverize the almonds in a food processor. Add the sugar and mix until evenly combined. Add the egg white and mix until a paste is formed.

Preheat the oven at 175 degrees C (350 F). Butter the pans and line them with parchment paper.
Place the almond paste in the bowl of your mixer together with the yolks and whip them for about 5 minutes until pale and thick.
Whip the whites with the salt until stiff peaks are formed.
Add the butter to the yolks and gently mix it in. Add half of the whites and gently incorporate them into the batter. Add the flour and baking powder and fold them in. Add the rest of the whites and gently fold them in. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 12 minutes (they should spring back when lightly pressed with a finger).
Let them cool completely before using.

plaisirs sucres, lychee, rose, litchi, raspberry, Ispahan, macaron

For the lychee jelly

400 g lychees (fresh or in syrup)
50 g sugar (if using fresh fruit or unsweetened compote)
8 g gelatin
20 ml cold water

Puree the fruits in a food processor. Place the puree and sugar in a pan on medium heat and boil until all sugar is dissolved.
If using fresh fruit, place about 150 ml water and the sugar in a pan and bring to a boil. Add the fruits and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
In the meantime soften the gelatin in cold water. Drain the gelatin and mix it in the puree.
Pour the jelly in a pan that has the same size as your layers and put it in the freezer to set. You can line the pan with aluminum foil or plastic foil to ease removal.
Reserve the syrup from the compote or from boiling the fruits.

For the raspberry jelly
400 g fresh or frozen raspberries
80g sugar
8 g gelatin
20 ml cold water

Puree the fruits in a food processor. Place the puree and sugar in a pan on medium heat and boil until all sugar is dissolved.
In the meantime soften the gelatin in cold water. Drain the gelatin and mix it in the puree.
Pour the jelly in a pan that has the same size as your layers and put it in the freezer to set. You can line the pan with aluminum foil or plastic foil to ease removal.

For the rose mousse
3 g gelatin
15 ml rose water
2 yolks
65 g sugar
50 ml water
10 edible rose buds
175 ml whipped cream (+10 ml rose water)
a vanilla bean

Place the water, sugar, rose buds and vanilla bean in a pan, cover it and bring to boil over medium high heat. When it boils, uncover it, lower the heat and let it cook to 238 F. In the meantime soften the gelatin in some rose water and whisk the yolks. Place the softened gelatin on a water bath or in the microwave and melt it.
Once the sugar syrup reaches 238 F, remove the bean and the buds (you can scrape the bean later into the mousse), and slowly pour the syrup over the yolks while mixing. Next, pour the gelatin over the yolks and continue mixing until the mixture increases in volume, thickens and cools.
Add the whipped cream and carefully fold it into the yolks.

Syrup
Lychee syrup
15-20 ml Limoncello (optional)

To assemble

Place your cake ring on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Fit the first layer inside the ring and brush some syrup over. Spread a small amount of mousse over it (it should act as a glue between the cake and the jelly). Place the lichyee jelly over and spread another small amount of mousse. Place the second cake layer on top, brush it with syrup, spread a tiny amount of mousse over, place the raspberry jelly on top. Then, pipe all the remaining mousse and level it. Place the cake in the freezer for a few hours.
To cut it, use a very sharp knife dipped in hot water.

Pear Charlotte

pear, saffron, charlotte, lady finger, yoghurt

Recipes and photos to be blogged are getting more and more numerous and I feel sadder and sadder that I just can’t find the time to post all that I have prepared.
And September does not seem to allow me more time for my little blog, but at least there will be some events that I am looking forward to: my baby goes to school next Monday (she is not a baby anymore), I will have my birthday at the end of the month and on Friday I will be part of something I have been waiting for a long time. I will tell more when it will be over and with some great results hopefully. Till then I am leaving you with a slice of saffron pear charlotte, which was like my goodbye to summer.

pear, saffron, charlotte, lady finger, yoghurt

For the ladyfingers

100 g flour sifted
30 g cornstarch
6 eggs separated
200 g sugar
saffron threads
salt
powdered sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven at 175 degrees C.
Sift together the flour, cornstarch and flours.
In a clean bowl whip the yolks with half of the sugar and the saffron threads until thick and pale. Set aside.
Beat the egg whites to soft peaks and gradually add the rest of the sugar, beating until you have a nice, shinny meringue.
Add the flour to the yolks but do not mix it in. Add 1/3 of the whites over the flour and yolks and incorporate gently the three. Add the rest of the whites and carefully fold them in.
Transfer the batter to a pastry bag and pipe whatever form and dimension you want – I piped a 20 cm circle as the base and I piped connected 10 cm long fingers to fit the diameter of my ring.
Bake for about 10-12 minutes until golden. Let cool completely.

pear, saffron, charlotte, lady finger, yoghurt

For the saffron poached pears

4 pears
1l water
saffron threads
100g sugar
30 ml lemon juice
vanilla bean

Place everything except the pears over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.
Peel and core (I didn’t core them) the pears and add them to the syrup. Cover the pot, lower the heat and let them simmer for 10-15 minutes until soft. Drain the pears from the syrup, let cool ant then cut them into cubes.

For the cream cheese mousse

4 yolks
130 g sugar
80 ml water
10 g gelatin
500 g cream cheese (I used a mixture of mascarpone, yoghurt and cream cheese)
500 ml whipped cream
vanilla bean

Place the gelatin with some cold water and let it bloom. Whip the heavy cream and set aside. Place the cream cheese and yogurt at room temperature. Place them in a clean bowl and on medium speed whip them until creamy. Set aside.
Place the yolks in a bowl and whip them a bit. Place the sugar, vanilla bean and the water in a covered pot over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves. Uncover and let it cook to 240 degrees F (122 degrees C). Melt the gelatin in the microwave. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds over the yolks. Pour the sugar syrup over the yolks while beating on medium speed. Pour in the gelatin as well and continue whipping until the mixture is cold and thick. Slowly fold in the cheese-yogurt mixture. Then fold in the cream.

For the pear chocolate ganache

100 g white chocolate
50 g pear puree
20 g cream
10 g butter

Puree 50 g of poached pears. Add the puree and cream over low heat and bring to a boil.
Place the chocolate in a clean bowl. When the pear-cream mixture boils, pour it over the chocolate. Let stand for a minute. Mix gently until smooth. Add the softened butter. Let cool to room temperature.

For the undermixed saffron macarons

I used the same recipe and method as here, added a few saffron threads to the sugar almond mixture and made a few mistakes: :). They were very good however with the pear chocolate ganache.

pear, saffron, charlotte, lady finger, yoghurt

To assemble
Line your cake ring with rhodoid or plastic wrap. Place the ladyfinger circle on the bottom and line the sides with as many ladyfingers as fit.
Brush the bottom and the sides with reserved poaching syrup. Pipe half of the mousse. Top with the diced pears. Pipe the rest of the mousse and level well. Refrigerate until set.
Decorate with macarons filled with pear ganache and be happy!
This is also my entry in the “LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow 2009” event.

Multiple choice Dobos Torte for the Daring Bakers

DB, matcha, vanilla, challenge, Dobos, salted chocolate

You should have seen my face when I read about the August challenge. M asked what’s up. And I started laughing.
“Do you know what is the challenge”
“No”
“You would not believe it. It’s Dobos…”
“Really??!! Our Dobos torte?”
Why our? Because where I live, part of the people are Hungarians. The Dobos is almost like our national cake and you can buy it from every pastry shop and for sure it will be on the menu for every celebration.
So, you guessed: I was not going to follow the original recipe. There is also one more reason for not following it: I do not like buttercream. There, I said it. And I was relieved to find out that I am not the only one – Fanny, from Foodbeam said it as well some time ago.
So, after taking this off my chest, I can go on with the post.
I am quite proud of myself because this month I managed to finish one week early. I am writing the post on the 27th, but the cake is gone. We had it for our 9 year wedding anniversary that was yesterday.
I opted for 3 cakes: one matcha and vanilla mousse, one salted caramel mousse and salted caramel ganache and one lemon mousse and blackberry jelly. All 3 cakes were covered with salted caramel ganache and decorated with caramel “free forms” (that melted quite fast). After the taste test, the matcha version was the winner (2:1). M and my daughter, both loved the matcha one (it is light and flavorful). I liked all of them (even if I consider the caramel/ chocolate one really heavy and sweet for this time of year), but I voted for the blackberry one.

“The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. “
Thank you Angela and Lorraine for the challenge and for allowing variations from the original.
Thank you Lis and Ivonne for the wonderful group you have managed to gather. Every month I am more and more amazed of the marvelous phenomenon that the DB group is.

DB, matcha, vanilla, challenge, Dobos, salted chocolate

For the sponge cake layers
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, divided
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
pinch of salt

NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1.Position the racks in the top and center thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9″ (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn’t touch the cake batter.)
3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner’s (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don’t have a mixer.)
4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner’s (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8″ springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)
*I baked it in an a sheet pan and when cooled I cut out 3.5 in circles that fitted my cake rings

For the matcha/ vanilla mousse

3 egg yolks
4 g gelatin
100 g sugar
50 ml water
250 ml heavy cream divided
1 vanilla bean
5-10 g matcha powder

Place the water, sugar and vanilla bean in a pan, cover it and bring to boil over medium high heat. When it boils, uncover it, lower the heat and let it cook to 238 F. In the meantime soften the gelatin in some water and whisk the yolks. Place the softened gelatin on a water bath or in the microwave and melt it.
Once the sugar syrup reaches 238 F, remove the bean (you can scrape it later into the mousse), and with the slowly pour the syrup over the yolks while mixing. Next, pour the gelatin over the yolks and continue mixing until the mixture increases the volume, thickens and cools.
Divide the cream in half. Add the matcha powder to one half and whip to soft peaks. Whip the other half as well. Divide the pate a bombe above in half. Add the matcha whipped cream to one half and carefully fold it in. Repeat with the second halfs.

Place the first cake circle into the ring layered with rhodoid. Brush it with a simple vanilla syrup. Pipe matcha mousse and level. Top with the second cake circle, brush with syrup and pipe vanilla mousse. Repeat for all the cake layers. Refrigerate until set and then coat it with the salted caramel ganache (recipe will follow).

tiramisu, coffee, dipping sauce

For the lemon mousse
3 g gelatin powder
cold water for the gelatin
205 ml milk (either whole or skim or part skim)
1 vanilla bean
2 large egg yolks
35 g brown sugar
25 g cornstarch
40 ml lemon juice
165 ml whipped cream

In a small bowl put the gelatin and water and let it bloom until you prepare the rest.
Place the milk and the vanilla bean on medium heat and bring to a boil. In the meantime mix the egg yolks and the sugar. Add the cornstarch and mix well. When the milk is boiling, take it off the heat, remove the bean and scrape the seeds in the milk. Slowly pour the milk over the yolks, whisking continuously. Return to low heat and cook until it thickens. At this point add in the lemon juice and cook another 30 seconds or so. Melt the gelatin (in the microwave on LOW or over a pot of boiling water) and immediately add it to the milk – lemon mixture. Let it cool to room temperature, and when cool enough add the whipped cream.

For the blackberry jelly
600 g blackberries
80 g sugar
12 g gelatin powder

In a small bowl put the gelatin and water and let it bloom until you prepare the rest.
Place the fruit and sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat and cook until the sugar melts. Puree in a food processor. Add the gelatin to the fruit puree. Let cool to room temperature. Pour into a pan lined with parchment paper and freeze. When frozen, cut out circles the same size as your cake layers.

Place the first cake circle into the ring layered with rhodoid. Brush it with a simple lemon syrup or with Limoncello. Place one fruit layer over the cake and then pipe lemon mousse over. Repeat with all the layers. Refrigerate until set. When set, coat it with salted caramel ganache (recipe will follow).

tiramisu, coffee, dipping sauce

For the salted caramel mousse
100 g sugar
3 g powdered gelatin
25 g butter
240 ml cream divided
fleur du sel

In a small bowl put the gelatin and water and let it bloom until you prepare the rest.
Heat 60 ml cream and keep it warm. Have the butter at room temperature. Make a dry caramel with the sugar. When the caramel is ready, add the butter and combine, then add the cream. Take care and pour it slowly as it can overflow. Replace the pan over medium heat and stir until all the caramel is melted. Take off the heat and stir in the gelatin. Add a pinch of fleur du sel. Let cool to room temperature. Whip the rest of the cream to soft peaks and hently fold it into the caramel mixture.

For the salted caramel ganache
150 g bitter sweet chocolate
200 g half and half
50 g butter
10 g honey
110 g sugar
50 ml water
fleur du sel

Place the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl and set aside. Heat the cream and keep it warm until the caramel is ready. Have the butter at room temperature.
Place the sugar, honey and water over medium high power, cover and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Uncover and cook until the mixture turns a deep amber color. Take off the heat and add the butter. Then add the cream. Pour it slowly as it may overflow. Replace the pan over medium heat and stir until all the caramel is melted. Take off the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute and then stir to combine. Add the fleur to sel.

Place the first cake circle into the ring layered with rhodoid. Brush it with caramel liqueur (Bailey’s). Spoon some ganache and level. Pipe caramel mousse and level. Repeat with all the cake layers. Refrigerate until set and then coat it with ganache.

For coating, use the ganache when it has around 114-116 degrees F for best results.

Tiramisu tarts with coffee chocolate sauce

tiramisu, coffee, dipping sauce

Running faster each day, doing more things at once, planning, thinking ahead, constantly busy with something. No time to sit back, to do nothing, to empty your mind, to breathe. And then I question myself, what would I do if I would have a day to sit back, to do nothing. Would I be able to do it? “Slow down” – that’s what I hear quite often and I wonder if I should. But would that be good? Or maybe I am one of those people who just can’t slow down. In fact I don’t feel the need to slow down. I am afraid that I would not be myself anymore if I would just sit and …..?
This is how I feel alive. And a good doze of coffee is always welcome. But, make it strong please….

As these days I rediscovered how much I love baking tarts, I had to put the coffee into something tart-esque. So, I made a cocoa tart dough, a mascarpone cream and topped everything with a caffeinated chocolate rum sauce, from Elizabeth Falkner. I decorated everything with “tiramisu” macarons, for a touch of fanciness :).
These are really easy to make and are a great dessert for boosting your energy.

For the tart shells

I used this recipe from Aran, at Cannelle et Vanille.

For the mascarpone cream

3 egg yolks
65 g sugar
50 ml water
250 g mascarpone
250 g whipped cream
2 tbsp rum

Make a pate a bombe from the yolks and sugar (heat the sugar and water to 240 degrees F and slowly drizzle it over the yolks while beating on medium until the mixture is thick and cool).
Separately, beat the mascarpone with the rum until creamy. Mix the cooled pate a bombe with the mascarpone. Slowly incorporate the whipped cream.

blackberry, tart, puff pastry, chocolate puff pastry

For the chocolate coffee sauce
*adapted from Elizabeth Falkner

120 ml cup heavy cream
40 g honey
15 g cocoa powder
112 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pieces
45 ml hot and strong brewed espresso
25 g butter
30 ml rum
pinch of salt

Combine the cream, honey and cocoa powder in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat until mixture starts to simmer.

Place the chocolate in a metal bowl and pour hot espresso over it. Pour the hot cream mixture over it and stir until the chocolate is melted and everything is combined.

Add in the butter, rum, and salt, and stir until butter is melted. Let cool to room temperature. If making it in advance, store in the refrigerator and reheat slightly before using as the sauce will thicken.

To assemble
Put about 1 tbsp of sauce on the bottom of each shell. Then pipe or spoon mascarpone cream up to the top. Drizzle the tarts with some more sauce.

For the coffee macarons
90 g old egg whites (Mine were 4 days old)
30 g granulated sugar
110 g powdered almonds
200 g powdered sugar
espresso powder (about 3-4 g)

Preheat the oven at 150 degrees C.
In a food processor mix the powdered sugar, espresso and almonds until very fine.
Beat the egg whites until foamy (not stiff). Add the sugar and beat just a bit more, until shinny. Add the almond mixture to the egg whites. Fold them quickly (4-5 strokes) and them gently. Do not overmix them – the batter should be able to hold its shape when dropped from the spoon for a few seconds.
Pipe rounds on a parchment paper lined baking sheet (leave some distance between them as they will spread a little). Let them out for about 30-40 minutes until they are no longer sticky – when touched you should feel that a crust has formed. Put 2 other trays one on top of the other and place the macaron baking sheet on them. Bake for about 15 minutes, depending on their size.

Let them cool and pipe some mascarpone cream between 2 same sized macarons. Pop the first one in your mouth and be happy.
*Note: a big thank you to Helene for presenting to me the macaron magic

Culinarysnapshot and chocolate chip cookies

blackberry, tart, puff pastry, chocolate puff pastry

I can’t remember how I came across Culinarysnapshot. But this is not even important. What matters is that I totally fell in love with this blog and I want to thank Kristen (who also hosts Dine&Dish) for the great job she is doing there. I love the wonderful articles and tips she is gathering on food photography especially that I am now looking to get some more stuff to improve the quality of my photos. I am really looking forward to receiving my tripod and some halogen lamp.
I have tried to make photos that would stand up for such a theme, but I am not very happy with them. Let’s hope they will soon improve with the new equipment :)
The recipe for these lovely cookies can be found on Kristen’s blog. They are good indeed, but I am completely faithful to Elizabeth Falkner’s XS Chocolate Chip cookies.

blackberry, tart, puff pastry, chocolate puff pastry

After August 19th, you can see the roundup on Culinaysnapshot.

blackberry, tart, puff pastry, chocolate puff pastry