Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pate a Choux Two Ways

Every August (yes, I know it's October), Wisconsin holds it state fair for two weeks. Memories of attending the state fair are probably the best from my childhood. Not only is there a ton of food, but it was the one thing that could get my entire family together during the summer months of swim practice, meets, summer school, my Dad's 20-hour work days, and general busyness. For a few short hours, everything stopped and we headed to the fair grounds. We had our routine...first was hand-pressed lemonade, then we picked up grilled corn on the cob (perfection dunked in melted butter) which we ate on our way to get our rotisserie chicken meals with even more lemonade. It was so routine, we hardly strayed from the exact same booths from year to year. To give our stomachs a break, we would walk through the stables and look at the animals and then we would head to the vendor booths on our way to the main event....Cream Puffs.

There are no words to describe how much I love the state fair cream puffs. I talk about them as if they are legends. They are light, not too sweet, and despite being almost the size of my face, you always have room for that last bite. The lines were usually so long that it took about 45 minutes to stand in line to get them, however those in line didn't mind because it was almost dessert and a show as you could watch through large glass windows as they made your cream puffs as you walked by. The others in the group always staked out an open table and one was in charge of getting the milk.

It seems that time for the state fair pauses for my extended family as well, as in the past few years, they have been scheduling family events like weddings and reunions either the week before or the week after the state fair. Living halfway across the country makes me have to decide if the state fair cream puffs are worth a second $150 plane ticket...which in my mind they are, but my checkbook disagrees.

So every August, my cravings for cream puffs increase and this year was no different. When September passed and I still couldn't get my mind off the cream puffs, I decided to do something about it. I decided to bring a treat to my monthly card making class and these were perfect. I dressed these up a bit with orange zest and a bit of juice and prepared them two ways.

Orange Scented Pate a Choux (Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)
Makes 3-4 dozen mini cream-puffs or doughnuts

For the pate a choux:
6 oz milk
2 oz orange juice
4 oz unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 oz sugar
6 oz bread flour
4 eggs
2 teaspoon orange zest

Combine milk, orange juice, butter, salt, and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the flour, all at once. Stir quickly. Return the saucepan to medium-low heat and stir vigorously until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer the dough to the bowl of a mixer. With the paddle attachment, mix at low speed until the dough has cooled slightly (still very warm, but not too hot to touch). Increase mixer speed to medium, and add orange zest and eggs one at a time, waiting until they are absorbed until adding more. When all the eggs are absorbed and the dough is smooth, it is ready to use.

Deep-fried method served with Grand Marnier chocolate sauce:

vegetable oil
4 oz sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
6 oz heavy whipping cream
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped or chips
1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange flavored liqueur (optional)

Combine sugar and orange zest on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Set aside while preparing doughnuts.

In a heavy saucepan, heat whipping cream until bubbles start forming around the sides of the pan. Pour over chocolate in heat-proof bowl and let sit 1 minute. Stir until chocolate is melted. Add in Grand Marnier and stir until combined. Let cool to room temperature.

In a large frying pan or sauce pan, pour enough vegetable oil to reach a depth of 3 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until a frying thermometer reaches 325 degrees F. Using a small ice-cream scoop, drop about 1 Tablespoon of the pate a choux dough into the hot oil. Turn the doughnuts once or twice, cooking until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

When golden brown, transfer to doughnuts to a cookie sheet lined with brown paper or paper towel to absorb excess oil. After 30 seconds, transfer doughnuts to the plate with the sugar/zest mixture. Roll to coat doughnuts in sugar mixture. Continue frying the remaining dough.

Serve doughnuts with Grand Marnier Chocolate sauce.

Baked and filled with Grand Marnier Whipped Cream:

8 oz heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon confectioner's sugar
1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier
confectioner's sugar for garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Add dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round decorating tip. Pipe dough into round mounds with a 1 1/2-inch base onto cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Dipping your finger into water, gently press tips of dough into mounds to make smooth tops. Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and continue to cook about 10 more minutes, until puffs are golden brown.

Remove from oven and immediately poke a hole in the bottom of each cream puff with a tooth pick or pairing knife to release steam. Place cream puffs on a cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature.

To prepare filling, place whipping cream in mixer bowl and with whisk attachment, whip on medium speed until cream thickens. Add confectioner's sugar and whipped until soft peaks form. Add Grand Mariner and whip until combined. Transfer whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch round decorating tip. Pipe whipped cream into cream puffs using the hole formed when releasing steam. Alternatively, you can cut cream puffs in half with a sharp knife and sandwich a spoonful of whipped cream with the puff halves. Sift confectioner's sugar over cream puffs for garnish.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A return to the kitchen...Fresh Mint Chocolate Tart

Wow, I did not realize how long I was away from blogging. After our trip to England, I had grand plans to return home and bake, cook, clean and craft while Steve remained in England to work. However, I did none of that. I returned home to some events that absorbed most of my time. In my spare time, I needed to escape the stress I was feeling, so I turned to reading. I read more in 3 weeks than I have read in 3 years (don't be too impressed, it was only 3 books). I've never been a big book person, mostly because my reading comprehension is terrible (give me calculus equations any day) so I'm slow, but the books I chose captured my attention and brought me some happiness.

After the storm had passed, I returned to the kitchen but not for me. My favorite cousin who lives in Spain was returning to the States to have her marriage blessed in a church ceremony and to have her beautiful daughter baptized. She asked if I could help decorate a plain cake she wanted to get at the grocery store, but I decided that just wouldn't do. I volunteered to make her cake so I packed all my pans and tips and supplies and flew home to Wisconsin to spend a long 27 hours baking, stacking, and decorating. It was so good to get into the kitchen again, and I always relish the feeling of calm I get when baking, even if I'm making a cake for 100 plus people.

Since I've been home, my head has been overflowing with ideas and flavors that I can't wait to try. My biggest complaint is that I can never seem to find enough time in the kitchen, and with work picking up for the next couple of weeks, I woke up early this past weekend to make this fresh mint tart. It was quite delicious and the mint flavor was infused in both the tart dough and the filling. I'm not a huge chocolate fan, but this hit the spot.

Fresh Mint Chocolate Tart (Adapted from Williams-Sonoma)
Makes 1 14-inch x 4-inch tart, Serves 8

For the tart crust:
1 egg yolk
2-3 tablespoons very cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2-3 sprigs fresh mint, roughly chopped (4-6 leaves) (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and chilled until firm

In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, vanilla and 2 tablespoons cold water. In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, sugar, fresh mint and salt. Pulse the food processor to combine and chop the fresh mint into smaller pieces. Add the butter and pulse in quick short bursts until the texture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk mixture and pulse until the mixture forms a ball. If necessary, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the dough comes together.

Turn dough onto a work surface lightly dusted with flour and form into a rectangle. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Return dough to floured work surface and roll into a rectangle, making sure to rotate the dough to prevent sticking. Roll the dough until the rectangle measures about 16 x 6 -inches, 1/8-inch thick. Lightly dust top of dough and fold in half to transfer the dough to the tart pan. Unfold the dough into the tart pan and gently push the dough to the sides of the pan. Roll your rolling pin over the tart pan to trim any excess dough. Refrigerate for another 15-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When ready to bake, line the pastry shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or uncooked rice. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the shell no longer looks wet under the parchment. Remove parchment and weights and continue baking an additional 7-10 minutes until shell is lightly golden. Transfer tart shell to cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

For the tart filling:

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
5-6 springs of fresh mint (about 20 leaves)
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
confectioner's sugar and extra mint leaves for decoration

Place the finely chopped chocolate in a large bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream and fresh mint over medium heat until the cream comes to a boil for 1 minute. Strain the cream through a fine mesh strainer into the chocolate to remove the mint. Let sit for 1 minute. Gently stir the cream and chocolate and stir until combined. (If needed, place bowl over simmering water and stir to continue melting chocolate). Add the corn syrup and stir until smooth. Pour the filling into prepared tart shell. Refrigerate tart until well chilled, at least 1 hour.

When ready to serve, transfer tart to serving platter and dust with confectioner's sugar. Garnish with additional mint leaves.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Orange & Pistachio Madeleines and Grand Marnier Souffles

Life is truly getting in the way of my blogging. I've been baking away but lately I just can't find the time to sit down and collect my thoughts. From my actual job to family visiting to getting everything settled for our upcoming trip to England, the day is just too short to do everything I want to. I feel guilty saying it, but in the last week I've wished more than once that my vacation could be me staying home and baking every day...or sewing...or making cards...or house projects. However, I know I will have fun and Steve has promised me lots of shopping....what's not there to look forward to. I hope to return refreshed with new inspiration.

I've been so busy that I did not have a chance to wish all the dads out there a Happy Father's Day. It's around these little holidays that I really do not like living half way across the country from our families because it just makes me feel so distant. I love surrounding myself with family and laughter and it seems like I'm seeing them less and less these days.

I was inspired to make these orange and pistachio madeleines to celebrate my father's love of pistachios and for me to try the orange flower water I received as a gift a few months ago. I wanted to send to my Dad a treat to indulge in for the short time that he is home during the summer. His work is extremely seasonal and during the summer months he is known to work 14+ hours a day. It is also extremely physical so come summer his standard routine is work, eat, sleep, repeat. They were so good that I decided to make a second batch just for me. I also treated myself to a soufflé flavored with Grand Mariner.

The madeleines had a distinct citrus flavor but it was more sweet than tart due to the orange flower water, and had a lot more dimension. The pistachios grounded these little delights with a hint of nuttiness. The soufflés were rich and creamy but still light enough that I didn't mind eating one in near triple digit temperatures (another reason to look forward to England for...escaping the heat and humidity of the mid-Atlantic region in July). The only thing I need to approve upon is taking pictures of soufflés quicker, as they deflated quite a bit before I could snap a photo.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

Orange Flower Water & Pistachio Madeleines
Makes approximately 3 1/2 dozen madeleines

12 ounces unsalted butter
4 eggs, separated
9.5 ounces granulated sugar, divided
3/4 teaspoon orange flower water
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 ounces pistachios, finely ground
10 ounces cake flour, sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Confectioner's sugar, if desired.

Clarify the butter: Line a strainer with damp cheesecloth and place over a heatproof bowl. Set aside. Place unsalted butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and allow the butter to come to a simmer. You may want to partially cover the saucepan to prevent spatters. Remove cover and watch the melted butter closely as the milk solids will separate and start to brown when the sizzling slows (all the water has evaporated). You may wish to skim off the foam that rises to the surface in order to see the browning milk solids. When the milk solids have turned brown at the bottom of the pan, pour butter through the lined strainer. Set aside and allow butter to cool but it should remain liquid when adding to the madeleine batter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat madeleine pans with baking spray and dust with flour.

Mix cake flour, ground pistachios, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside. Place eggs and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and whip with a whisk attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add orange flower water and orange zest and whip an additional 1 minute.

Fold the flour mixture in 3 additions, until all the flour is incorporated. Carefully fold in the liquid clarified butter. Chill batter for 30 minutes.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag with a medium sized round tip. Pipe about 1 tablespoon batter into each cup for large (2 1/2 x 1 1/2 - inch) madeleines. Bake madeleines 12 to 14 minutes until slightly golden and soft to the touch.

Cool for 5 minutes before unmolding onto wire racks to cool. If desired, sift confectioner's sugar over cookies.

Grand Marnier Soufflés
Makes 6-8 3-ounce individual soufflés

1 1/2 ounces unsalted butter
1 1/2 ounces bread flour
1/2 pint whole milk
3 ounces granulated sugar, divided
5 eggs, separated
1 ounce Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
Confectioner's sugar, if desired.

In a medium saucepan, combine milk and 2 ounces sugar. Heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. In a second saucepan, melt butter. Add flour and stir to make a roux. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add milk to roux and whisk until smooth and no lumps remain. Return mixture to heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture is very thick. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir occasionally to cool the base mixture. After about 10 minutes, add egg yolks one at a time, and mix well until combined before adding next yolk. Stir in Grand Marnier and orange zest.

Soufflés can be prepared in advance up to this point. Chill the mixture until ready to use and then continue.

Prepare the soufflé dishes by buttering the insides well with room temperature butter and coating with granulated sugar. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Meanwhile, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining 1 ounce sugar and continue to whip until the mixture forms firm, moist peaks. Fold the egg whites into the soufflé base in 3 stages, mixing the first stage to lighten the base. Pour the mixture into the prepared pans almost to the top and smooth the tops. Bake for about 15 minutes for individual portion soufflés.

If desired, dust with confectioner's sugar 1 - 2 minutes before soufflés are done. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chai Tea Bread

Last fall, I broke my Starbucks habit. Now, I've never been a coffee drinker (love the smell, hate the taste), so my habit developed into the sugar-loaded drinks that hardly resemble coffee. This was not good for my wallet or my waist line, so it was pretty easy to stop. However, the winter hit and I missed how those warm drinks were a great way to warm up on the way to work.

One blistery cold day, I gave in and needed something to warm me up. I stopped into my local coffee shop and starred at the menu until Chai tea popped into view. I had been intrigued about this drink for a while, but always found something that I had to have more at that moment. So, I tried it. Now, I realize I'm probably the last person on Earth to ever try one, but it was like tasting Christmas. And I was hooked. It was the perfect blend of spice, sweetness and warmness, and I brought it home and curled up with a new cookbook while sipping my drink (a new favorite thing to do).

A few weeks ago, as I was sipping yet another Chai tea, I remembered Steve's sister always gets Chai teas when she visits us. She just happens to be finishing her last semester of college and has been extremely busy. So busy that she had to cancel her spring break plans to work on papers and projects. I started to reminisce about my last semester in college, remember staying up days on end while working on our senior design project (designing a system to take astronauts to Mars and starting a colony), hardly finding time to eat and if I did it usually was fast food and a soda while sitting in front of a computer. It was always nice when I received a package, and usually lived off the contents for a few days. I started to think of something that I could send to her in Missouri while she poured over her books.

I thought about cupcakes but didn't want to worry about the frosting to get smooshed while enroute and cookies seemed a bit plain. I settled on a quick bread and went on my way to incorporate chai spices and the rich flavor of tea. This bread got rave reviews, from both Steve's sister and my coworkers who were my guinea pigs.

Chai Tea Bread
Makes 1 loaf or 4 mini loaves

For the bread:
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup prepared black tea, cooled
1/3 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease only the bottom of an 8x4- or 9x5-inch loaf pan or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, tea, milk, vanilla and spices on low speed until well combined. The mixture will look curdled. Slowly add the baking powder, salt and flour; stir until just moistened. Spread into the pan.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Loosen sides of loaf from pan; remove and cool and wire rack for 30 minutes.

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 5 teaspoons prepared black tea
Additional ground cinnamon

In a small bowl, whisk together confectioner's sugar, vanilla and 3 teaspoons of the tea, adding more tea little by little, until the glaze is spreadable. Spread glaze over bread. Sprinkle with additional ground cinnamon. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing.

To store, wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days or refrigerate up to 10 days.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Citrus Mousse Cakes with Blood Orange Compote

Wow, I can't believe it's March already...and half way through at that. Things have been a bit crazy getting back on track after the epic snow here on the east coast. Catching up at work, running random errands and just enjoying the sunshine has kept me out of the kitchen, but despite my wish for one more good snow the weather this past week has me in the mood for spring and bright, light flavors. {I also blame the emerging tulips for crushing my dreams of more snow for this year.}

These cakes started when I purchased a large bag of lemons to add to my drinking water in my failed attempt to drink less soda. However, every time I looked at them, they were staring back at me telling me to make them into I did. Then I found some beautiful blood oranges at our grocery store and since I had never experienced one, I picked up a few to incorporate into these cakes.

These mousse cakes hit just the spot. Bright and tart, smooth and creamy. After all the chocolate I consumed in February, I very much enjoyed the change of pace. The tartness was complimented by just a bit of sweetness in the graham cracker crust and that bit of crunch just made me smile.

Citrus Mousse Cakes with Blood Orange Compote (Adapted from Williams-Sonoma)
Makes 6 3-inch cakes

For the Citrus Mousse Cakes:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
4 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup cold water
2 1/4 teaspoon unflavored powder gelatin (1 package)
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup blood orange juice
1 Tablespoon blood orange zest
1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and melted butter and mix until well blended. Place 3-inch ring molds on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Divide crumb mixture into molds and use a heavy glass or the back of a spoon to press crust together. Bake for 5-7 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl with water and ice. Set aside.

Place egg yolks in a heatproof bowl and lightly whisk. Set the bowl over a saucepan with simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Cook the egg yolks, stirring constantly, until a thermometer reads 140 degrees F. Maintain a temperature between 140 and 150 degrees F for 5 minutes, making sure to remove the bowl from heat if the temperature rises above 150 degrees F. After the 5 minutes, place bowl in ice bath and continue to stir the eggs until cool. Replenish the ice bath with ice.

Pour the cold water into a clean saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let gelatin sit for 5 to 10 minutes, allowing the gelatin to soften and swell. Stir in the remaining 3/4 cup granulated sugar, salt, lemon juice, orange juice, orange zest and the cooled egg yolks; the mixture will be lumpy. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring continuously, until the gelatin dissolves and the mixture thickens, 6 to 8 minutes, making sure not to let the mixture boil. Set the saucepan in the refreshed ice bath and cool until the mixture is cold to the touch.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the whipping cream and confectioner's sugar with a whisk or electric mixer, until soft peaks form. Spoon the whipped cream into the gelatin mixture in 3 batches, folding the whipped cream in after each addition. Spoon the mixture into molds and smooth top with the back of a spoon.

Refrigerate cakes for 4 hours until mousse is firm. To remove from molds, run a warm sharp knife or metal spatula around edge of cakes and apply light pressure to lift the cakes through the top of the mold. Allow to sit for about 20 minutes before serving to take the chill off the mousse.

For the Blood Orange Compote:
1 cup blood orange juice
3/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 blood orange, peeled and segmented

In a heavy saucepan, combine the orange juice, sugar and cinnamon stick. Stirring occasionally, bring mixture to a boil to dissolve sugar. Lower heat and simmer 5-7 minutes, added the orange segments in the last 2 minutes. Allow compote to cool slightly and drizzle over cakes before serving.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pomegranate White Tea & Honey Ginger Yogurt Verrines

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope everyone was able to spend time with those they love the most. It was a very low key day in our household, but very nice nonetheless. It's hard to imagine that 6 years ago, I would be going on my first date with my future husband. I remember going to dinner and splitting a wonderful blueberry cobbler for dessert (he's lucky he didn't pass up dessert), then heading off to a movie.

These have been on top of my list of things to make for over a year now, and I finally got a chance to a week ago. However, I think they are so pretty and would make a wonderful, understated dessert for Valentine's Day. These verrines, a layered dessert usually presented in a small glass, were delicious. Tart, smooth, and balanced. They made for a great breakfast the next day as well...hey, they're yogurt!

Pomegranate White Tea & Honey Ginger Yogurt Verrines (Adapted from Tartelette)
Makes 6 verrines

For the Pomegranate White Tea Jelly:
1 1/2 cups brewed white tea (I used a pomegranate white tea)
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
1/4 cup cold water

Add the cold water to a small bowl and sprinkle powdered gelatin over it and set aside. Meanwhile, add the tea, juice, sugar, and lemon zest in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture and stir until completely dissolved. Let mixture cool to room temperature. Divide mixture among glasses and refrigerate for about 2 hours until set. If desired, position the glasses at an angle in an empty egg carton to set at an angle.

Honey Ginger Yogurt Gelee:
1 1/2 teaspoon gelatin
2 tablespoon cold water
2 cups Greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

In a bowl, combine 1 cup yogurt, the honey and the ginger and mix until combined. Set aside. In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cold water and set aside. In another bowl, heat the remaining yogurt in the microwave for one minute. Then heat the gelatin mixture in the microwave for 12 seconds. Mix the melted gelatin into the hot yogurt mixture and stir until well combined. Add the gelatin and yogurt mixture to the yogurt-honey-ginger mixture and combine. Spoon the yogurt gelee over the pomegranate white tea jelly and refrigerate at least 2 hours or until set before serving.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

French Silk Tarts

My birthday was Monday and I don't think it could have been a better day. The large snow storm that dumped over 30 inches of snow in my yard allowed me to stay home and bake. It's now Wednesday, and I'm still off of work because of even more snow, so I'm spending my days trying to craft, bake and clean, however, the kittens are excited that we're not leaving in the morning and have been sabotaging any attempts to do anything but play. They're taking a quick nap, so I thought I'd at least start this post.

I understand many people think I'm crazy for being so excited about the snow, but you see, I'm a Midwest girl at heart, and always will be. I truly miss the snow. The views out my back deck are serene and perfect and I just love making comfort food and blankets and snuggles with the kittens. However, I'm starting to see the downsides of living here with this much snow...they just don't have the resources and are trying their best to clear the roads, but it takes so much more time.

French Silk Pie is probably my second favorite dessert, just slightly behind Creme Brulee. I used to have a slice every time we went to Baker's Square Restaurants, and usually "bugged" my mom into letting us take a whole pie home. I decided I was going to make myself something to celebrate my birthday since going out was a bit treacherous. I decided on French Silk Tarts to share with Steve and my sister Lauren.

These were extremely close to the original...very rich and very delicious. If the snow keeps up, I might have to make these again because were gone so fast.

French Silk Tarts
Makes six 4-inch tarts or one 9-inch pie

For the short crust:
5 1/2 oz (about 1 1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2-4 tablespoon cold water

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour and salt to combine. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 5-10 short pulses. (You can also mix pastry by hand, by cutting butter into flour and salt with a pastry cutter)

Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse to incorporate. Do not over pulse. Test dough by pinching a small amount of dough together; if it is too crumbly add a a little bit more water and pulse until combined.

Turn dough on to a clean surface and form dough into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before rolling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll dough 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick and cut circles large enough to fit into tart pans. Line with parchment and fill with baking beads or dry beans. Bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden. Allow to cool to room temperature before adding filling.

For the french silk filling:
4 oz (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 oz (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
4 oz (2/3 cup) semisweet chocolate wafers or chips, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
4 oz (1/2 {liquid} cup) heavy whipping cream

Break eggs into heatproof bowl and whisk to blend. Set the bowl over a simmering water in a saucepan, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Cook the eggs, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 140 degrees F. Maintain the temperature of the mixture for 5 minutes, making sure the temperature does not increase over 150 degrees F. If the mixture climbs above 150 degrees F, remove from heat while continuing to stir. After 5 minutes, place the bowl in an ice bath and stir the eggs until cool.

In a large bowl, beat the butter on high speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat on high for 4 minutes. Add vanilla and mix to combine. Add the egg mixture slowly and beat for 2 minutes on medium-high speed until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed. Slowly add the melted chocolate and mix until incorporated. Pour the heavy cream in a thin stream and whip on high speed for 2-3 minutes.

Spoon filling into crust(s) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

For the stabilized whipped cream: (Adapted from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum)
Makes 2 cups
3/4 tsp powdered gelatin
4 teaspoon water
8 oz (1 {liquid} cup) heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Refrigerate the mixing bowl and beater (whisk attachment if using stand mixer) for at least 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water and let sit for 5 minutes to soften. Microwave the gelatin and water on high in 5 second intervals, stirring in between each, until gelatin is dissolved. Cool to room temperature. The gelatin must be liquid but not warm when added to the cream.

In the chilled bowl, add the cream, sugar, and vanilla and whip until the traces of the beater marks begin to show distinctly. While continuing to whip the cream mixture, add the gelatin in a steady stream. Beat until stiff peaks form. Be careful to not over beat, as a few seconds past stiff peaks will not allow for a velvety smooth consistency.

Pipe whipped cream onto tart filling using a large star tip (I used tip 1M). Garnish tarts with chopped chocolate or curls.

Note: When using the stabilized whipped cream, the tarts can be refrigerated for up to 2 days without the whipped cream watering out. If desired, tarts can be topped with non-stabilized whipped cream immediately before serving. When ready to serve the tarts, let sit at room temperature for a few minutes to let the filling soften.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Meyer Lemon and Pistachio Shortbread

Every year, around Christmas time, I get this craving for pistachios. It must come from my childhood memories. Every year, my mom, sister and I made a point to ALWAYS get my father a selection of nuts from a local nut shop. Of course, we always had to make sure there were pistachios in the box. We actually usually got enough to last a month. I think Dad always thought he was extra special, when in reality, it was for us to snack on during the days to come. That fact does not diminish his awesomeness, by any means, because eating the pistachios was always more fun because I did it with him. I think my craving was stronger this year since I wasn't able to make it home and I was a bit homesick.

It just so happened that a friend of mine was having a procedure a few weeks ago, and I wanted to send something to help with the recovery. I started to go through my list of recipes I've been waiting for the right time to make and came across these. They were perfect...quick, easy and shippable, not to mention they were pistachio!

These definitely hit the spot and the care package was well received. I'm hoping to make these again soon and ship some off to my Dad.

Meyer Lemon and Pistachio Shortbread (Adapted from Cannelle et Vanille)

227 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
60 grams (1/2 cup) powdered sugar
2 Tbsp meyer lemon juice
zest of 2 large meyer lemons
4 grams (about 2/3 tsp) fine sea salt
60 grams (1/2 cup) pistachios, finely chopped
280 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour


In a large bowl, cream the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and zest and cream for an additional minute until smooth. Add flour and salt and mix until just combined. Add the chopped pistachios and mix until well blended.

Divide the dough into two parts, and roll each into a log about 2-inches in diameter. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and referigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the dough is chilled, use a sharp knife to cut 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick disks from the log. Bake on a parchment covered cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden.

As you can tell, I've been a little distracted and my baking has become sporadic at best, and my blogging non-existent. Well, I think I have a very good reason, as we've had an addition to the family...well 3 to be exact. Last August, we found 5 kittens under our back deck, the results of strays in the neighborhood.

They were only 4 weeks old and had to be bottle-fed for awhile, but since everyone has found their homes and we're not outnumbered by cats any more (one is my sister's), things seem to be looking up. I hope you start to see a lot more of me.