BRAZILIAN PAO DE MEL

In case you’ve missed my big announcement:
12 days to showtime!

Want to say it as a native? Pay attention to the nasal sound of PÃO… and repeat after me…

Pão de mel translates literally as “honey bread.” However, it is definitely not a bread, and honey might not be the first flavor that comes to mind once you take your first bite. I admit the name is misleading, but I am thrilled to share this recipe with you, because it is a real classic in my home country. It has flavors I adore (that ginger, spicy thing), enclosed in a nice chocolate shell. The ones I grew up with were a bit on the dense side. My family had no tradition of baking, so I only had pão de mel that you get in stores, wrapped in plastic for who knows how long. This version is so good, very soft, tender, sweet and spicy. I made two kinds, the traditional, covered with a shell of chocolate, and a little departure from the classic, in bundt shape. You decide which one you like best.

PÃO DE MEL
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from several sources)

1 egg
250mL whole milk
90 g  sugar
270 g honey
30 g butter, melted and cooled
240 g all purpose flour
7 g baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (Dutch process is fine)

for the filling;
dulce de leche (store bought or homemade)

for covering:
tempered bittersweet chocolate, about 500 g

Mix the egg with milk, sugar, honey and butter in a large bowl. Whisk well. In another bowl, stir in the remaining dry ingredients and sift them slowly over the egg mixture in three portions, stirring well after each addition until a smooth, homogeneous mixture is formed.  Place batter in fridge for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, turn the oven on at 360 F. If using non-stick mini cake pans, you don’t need to do anything. Otherwise grease and flour the pans lightly.  Ideally you need a 6 cm round tin (a bit less than 2.5 inches). Pour the batter halfway through the tin, do not fill more than half.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Unmold the still warm rolls and let them cool completely on a rack. Cut them in half and stuff each with the dulce de leche.

Temper chocolate and cover each little pao de mel.

Alternatively, bake the batter in mini bundt pans, fill the central hole with dulce de leche and decorate with a drizzle of tempered chocolate. Mini bundt pans will take slightly longer to bake. Cool them in the mold before unmolding.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you want to make your own dulce de leche, there are many methods to do so. Pressure cooker, slow oven, even the microwave. I opted for sous-vide and must say it was perfect. Simply pour the contents of 1 can of condensed milk into a bag, seal it and cook it at 185F for 12 to 16 hours. When the time is up, simply cut the bag and pour the contents into a container. Into the fridge ready for any dulce de leche emergency.

Homemade dulce de leche is a real treat, I highly recommend you give it a try, but of course, the canned product will work well too. Pão de mel can be frozen for a couple of months without the filling and chocolate covering. You can also simplify the process and skip the filling. The simplified version is actually more common to buy in Brazil. But normally, when people make them at home, they go the extra mile. A very sweet mile, if you ask me.

Which version was better, classic or mini-bundt? I honestly have a hard time deciding. The mini-bundt is a lot easier to make because once you un-mold the little cakes the hard work is done. You can conceivably even get by without tempering chocolate, just melting it gently and drizzling it all over. But of course, the traditional version is the one that brings fond memories of my past. It’s your turn now, make both and let me know what you think…

For those interested:  this is the pan I used to bake the cakes. I love it!

ONE YEAR AGO: Stir-Fried Chicken in Sesame Orange Sauce

TWO YEARS AGO: Monday Blues

THREE YEARS AGO: A New Way to Roast Veggies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Two Takes on Raspberries

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spice Cake with Blackberry Puree

SIX YEARS AGO: Own Your Kitchen with Cappuccino Panna Cotta

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Chicken Parmigiana, the Thriller

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Wild Mushroom Risotto

NINE YEARS AGO: Tartine Bread:  Basic Country Loaf 

TEN YEARS AGO:  Pugliese Bread

SCARY GOOD RECIPES FOR YOUR NEXT HALLOWEEN

Halloween will be back in only 361 days, so I am here to help you get into proper mood for it. Truth is, I had so much fun making these recipes, I cannot stand the idea of waiting for months and months to share. Let me introduce you then to some Friendly Ghost Cookies, Witches’ Fingers, and a Gingerbread Coffin with a chocolate cake inside so delicious that a dead body will rest forever happy.

FRIENDLY GHOST SUGAR COOKIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

360 g all-purpose flour (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
215 g granulated sugar
2 tsp orange zest
¼ tsp salt
227 g cup butter, cold and cut in pieces
1 egg
3/4 tsp Fiori di Sicilia extract
1/2 tsp cardamom

for icing:
4 Tablespoons meringue powder
½ cup water
1 pound powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup (such as Karo)
a few drops of almond extract

Heat oven to 360F.  Make the cookie dough. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg, Fiori di Sicilia, orange zest and cardamom, mix well. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat just until combined.

Dough can be rolled right away in between sheets of parchment paper. Roll to about 1/4″ thick, and cut into shapes. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, freeze for 5 minutes. Bake for about 12 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool to room temperature before icing.

Make the Royal icing. In the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer, with paddle attachment the water and meringue powder for a couple of minutes. Add the powdered sugar (sift over the bowl), corn syrup and almond extract. Beat on high speed for about 5 minutes.

Divide the Royal icing in three portions, one large will be left white. Two small portions will be dyed black and orange.  Flood the cookies with white icing and decorate with black and orange details as shown in the pictures.  Allow to fully dry before serving them.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe click here

Comments: The recipe makes quite a bit of cookies, feel free to halve them if you prefer. Rolling the dough and baking is not a big deal, but of course the decoration demands a bit of time. I made them one evening after work and had this little voice talking to myself “why didn’t you make just half?”

The composite picture below shows you how easy it is to make the decoration for the little ghosts. Three lines, wet on wet, and a needle to pull the lines through, first in one direction, then in the opposite direction.  I cannot take credit for it, I saw a similar design somewhere in Pinterest world.


The combination of orange zest, fiori di Sicilia and cardamon is really wonderful. I need to think about those flavors for macaron filling.

Moving on……


WITCHES’ FINGERS

Recipe from my friend Karen over at Karen’s Kitchen Stories. Click here to get all the details.

RECIPE STEPS IN PICTURES

Comments: At first I was a bit insecure about how much green dye to use (secret is to use less than you think you need), and how to exactly shape the fingers. Well, don’t worry too much about it, no matter how you do it, the result will be gruesome and horrific. Which is pretty much the goal of the bake, right?  They taste delicious, and the nails  almonds add a nice flavor to them. As to the jam, I used raspberry jam with a tiny drop of red food color to intensify the effect. The jam by itself was not as red as I wanted.

Moving on to the final bake…


GINGERBREAD COFFIN WITH CHOCOLATE CAKE
(from Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

for the gingerbread dough:
660 g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 sticks (227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
200 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup unsulfured molasses

for icing:
4 Tablespoons meringue powder
½ cup water
1 pound powdered sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup
a few drops of almond extract

for the caramel glue:
200 g sugar
60 mL water
1 tsp corn syrup
1/2 tsp lemon juice

for the chocolate cake:
463 g sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
70 g Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (237 g) water
3/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
220 g all-purpose flour
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk

for the chocolate icing:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup

for the Royal icing decoration:
(same recipe as sugar cookies)

Make the gingerbread dough. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and spices. In another large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high, cream butter and sugar for about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then honey and molasses.

Slowly add the flour mixture until well combined. Divide the dough into 3 pieces, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about one hour.

Heat oven to 350°F. Working with a third of dough at a time, roll out to ¼-inch thickness on parchment paper well dusted with flour. Cut the pieces you need for the coffin, and transfer the cut pieces to the freezer for about 10 minutes. Bake cookies for 12 to 15 minutes. They must be crisp and dry but not getting dark.

Cool them completely before icing and once the icing is dry, assemble the coffin using caramel.

Make the caramel. Put the sugar and water in a large, low-sided frying pan over a medium-high heat. Without stirring, bring to 320 F.  If you don’t have a thermometer, the syrup is ready when the sugar has dissolved and it turns a golden color, not too dark.  Swirl the syrup gently in the pan to even out the color. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool for a few moments to thicken slightly to the consistency of honey. Dip the edges of the pieces you intend to glue and assemble them. Drizzle additional caramel if needed using a small spoon. 

If the syrup begins to harden in the pan, put it back over a gentle heat until it has returned to the required consistency.

Make the chocolate cake. Heat oven to 350F.  Spray a 13 x 9 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, extending the paper out of the pan to facilitate removal of the cake after baking.

In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, salt, cocoa, and baking soda. Add to it 1 cup of boiling water, stir well and let it sit for 15 minutes.

Pour the hot cocoa mixture into a mixing bowl, add the oil and vanilla and beat on low speed until combined. On low speed, mix the flour into the batter and then add the eggs, egg yolks and buttermilk. Do not over-mix. Pour the very thin batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 35 minutes, rotating the pan after 15 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean when tested in the center of the cake.  Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes on a rack. Run a thin knife around the edge and jar the edge of the pan to loosen. Invert onto the serving platter. Cool completely, then cut in pieces to fit inside the gingerbread coffin. You will have to do some assembling to fit some of the cut pieces in the bottom of the coffin.

Make the chocolate icing. Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler. Add corn syrup and set over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. use immediately, pouring it gently over the cake, once it’s inside the gingerbread coffin.  Allow it to set for a few hours at room temperature.  Use Royal Icing to draw a skeleton inside, if you so desire, or use powdered sugar and a stencil.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Your cake will be baked in a 13 x 9 rectangular pan. You should draw a design for the coffin that makes the lid no bigger than 12.5 inches in length. The sides should be 2.5 inches in height.  It is a pretty easy design, I made the pieces in cardboard and used those to cut the gingerbread dough. The recipe has a reasonably small amount of baking powder, so that the dough does not change much during baking, but you can always use a Microplane grater to bring the edges into better shape.

Most gingerbread sculptures are assembled with very thick Royal icing. It has its problems – I will discuss those a bit more in a future post. Caramel sounds dangerous because it’s so hot and if you burn yourself it’s not fun at all, but the advantage is that it glues quickly and you don’t have the white stuff joining every piece. That is nice for a house or other structures, but I prefer the coffin to be more austere.  Apart from having to clean the pan after making the caramel, I liked the method better than Royal icing for assembling.  Live and learn.

The cake was absolutely wonderful even next day, moist, intense, it gave a bit of moisture to the gingerbread base, which I did not roll as thin as I should have. I need a lot more practice with this type of dough, and find that particularly to roll large pieces, I have issues keeping it thin and uniform. At any rate, Karl Lagerfeld did not seem to mind cutting pieces for Spider Woman. And she was delighted for catching him in her dangerous web. They do make a nice match, even if I say so myself. Biased, who moi?

I hope you enjoyed this little roundup of Halloween recipes. It is a scary job, but someone has to do it.

ONE YEAR AGO: Devil Wears Chocolate

TWO YEARS AGO: Slow-Cooker Pot Roast with Potatoes, Carrots, and Fennel

THREE YEARS AGO: The Best, the Very Best Hummus

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cheddar Cheese Crackers

FIVE YEARS AGO: A New Take on Cauliflower Puree

SIX YEARS AGO:
 In My (NEW!) Kitchen

SEVEN YEARS AGO:
 
The Lab Move and New Beginnings

EIGHT YEARS AGO:
 Honey-Oat Pain de Mie

NINE YEARS AGO:
 Carrot and Leek Soup

TEN YEARS AGO:
 Chicken Parmigiana 101

 

FALL-INSPIRED BAKING

Everyone who knows me is well-aware I am a summer-creature all the way. But there’s something about the colors of autumn that fascinate me. I suppose they fascinate all human beings. Growing up in Brazil, I had never seen trees turning color, but used to marvel at photos from Vermont or other places famous for having the most spectacular color change in their trees. Now I enjoy them in our own backyard, Phil planted a beautiful maple tree that is thriving nicely, each year more magnificent, with a more intense red tone in the leaves. Gorgeous. Today I share with you a series of recent bakes inspired by the season.

I will start with the Maple Leaf Chocolate Sugar Cookies, because I loved making them.

MAPLE LEAF CHOCOLATE COOKIES
(cookie recipe from Lilaloa and decoration technique from Salt and Serenity)

for the cookie dough:
227 g (1 cup) slightly softened unsalted butter
43 g vegetable shortening (43 grams)
300 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs ( about 100 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
80 g unsweetened cocoa powder
490 g all-purpose flour
(if saving the dough to roll at a later time, use 420 g flour)
for the Royal Icing:
80 g egg whites
420 g powdered sugar
food dye (brown, red, orange, and yellow)

Heat oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream butter, shortening and sugar together in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer with the paddle attachment. Add eggs, vanilla, baking powder and salt and mix well.
Stir in the cocoa until well blended.

Add flour and mix until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough holds together in a ball. Roll out on lightly floured surface, cut in the desired shapes.I like to place the baking sheet in the freezer for 5 minutes or in the refrigerator for 15 min before baking. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, cool completely before icing.

Make the Royal icing: whisk the egg whites and powdered sugar using a KitchenAid type mixer until fully smooth. Adjust if needed with sugar or a little milk. I like to have it at around 15 second-icing consistency, because it works both for piping the edge and flooding, which is all I need for this design.

Pipe the four colors starting with brown, finishing with yellow, but feel free to play with them in other arrangements. Pull the colors with a needle or toothpick, watch the tutorial online for details. Allow the icing to fully set at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I urge you to visit Salt and Serenity and watch Cindy’s video explaining how to make this eye-catching design. It is one of those things that seem very complicated until you see how it’s done. Basically, if “I” could do it, you will be able to do it also. Trust me. It is important to use a cookie recipe that holds its shape well, and I was happy with the one I used, especially because you can roll the dough without resting it in the fridge. You know I am not the most patient baker out there.

Moving on to Halloween Brigadeiros…

Brigadeiros are the most typical candy from Brazil, and totally addictive.  I used my default recipe and simply coated them with orange and black non-pareils. For the recipe and to read more about them, visit my old post with a click here.

PUMPKIN CUPCAKES
(adapted from many sources)

for the cupcakes:
170 g granulated sugar
130g brown sugar
225 g all-purpose flour
1 + 1/2 tsp baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
320 g canned pumpkin (about 3/4 of a small can)
150 ml grapeseed oil
3 large eggs
for the icing:
120g unsalted butter, softened
190 g cream cheese, at room temperature
675 g powdered sugar
sprinkles to decorate

Heat the oven to 375 F.  Place both sugars in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and blend with the whisk so that no lumps remain in the brown sugar. Sift all other dry ingredients and mix well with the sugars.

In another medium bowl mix well the pumpkin, oil and eggs. Add to the KitchenAid bowl and mix with the paddle attachment until smooth. Place paper liners in a 12-muffin baking pan, and fill each about 3/4 of the volume.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 18 minutes.

Make the icing while the cupcakes bake and cool. Beat the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until pale and very smooth. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, then add to the butter mixture in three additions, beating well each time. 

When the cupcakes are completely cool, frost them using the icing tip of your choice. I used Wilton 1M.  Decorate with your favorite sprinkles.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: These are deliciously soft cupcakes, with the perfect amount and combination of spices. I used two different styles of piping trying to change things a bit, but the traditional swirl still gets my vote. I suppose if you want to go the more austere route, these cupcakes will shine with just a dusting of powdered sugar, so keep that in mind.

And finally, how could I possibly make a Fall inspired baking post without French macarons?

I used my default recipe, which you can find here, but added orange and brown food color at 4:1 proportion.

PUMPKIN MACARON FILLING

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup canned pumpkin pureed
2 cups powdered sugar (220 g)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch of allspice
to decorate:
White Candy melts (about 3/4 cup)
black gel food dye
sprinkles of your choice

Cream the butter and pumpkin puree with an electric mixer. Add in the sugar and spices. Mix well and scrape down side of bowl. If needed, thin with a very small amount of milk or heavy cream.

Add a small amount of buttercream to a macaron shell, top with another shell. Melt the Candy melts in a microwave or double boiler. Add black food dye. Place in a piping bag, cut a very small hole in the plastic. Pipe lines on top of the macarons, immediately add sprinkles before the drizzle sets.

As always, leave the filled macarons in the fridge overnight before serving them.

ENJOY!

to print the filling recipe, click here

Comments: This is my second version of a pumpkin macaron, and I like this filling better, it has a more complex flavor. For the drizzle with black candy melts I did something a bit different, and unfortunately I am not quite sure how reproducible it is. You are welcome to try it, but if it does not work for you, don’t get mad at me. A couple of months ago I was heating candy melts and used too high power in the microwave. The suspension kind of broke, and I simply tossed it and started all over. Later I learned that you can recover the broken suspension if you add a bit of oil such as grapeseed or safflower. Something mild in flavor, obviously. This time I made the suspension break and brought it back but not to the point that it was fully smooth. I wanted some texture, and I think it worked well, at least it was close to what I had in mind.  So, next time Candy Melts play a trick on you, consider using it to your advantage…

I hope you enjoyed my quartet of bakes. Since summer is over, I might as well embrace what’s good about cooler weather: BAKING WITH ABANDON!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: On a Halloween Roll

TWO YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Macarons

THREE YEARS AGO: Zucchini, Lemon & Walnut Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Paleo Energy Bars

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Honey Mustard Dressing

SIX YEARS AGO: Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Burgers

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Clay-pot Pork Roast

NINE YEARS AGO: Panmarino

TEN YEARS AGO: A Classic Roast Chicken

GIANT COOKIE MEETS MOUSSE

…and the Entremet Cookie is born! I cannot take credit for it, so before I even start talking about this delicious dessert, let me thank Maxime, from Empreintesucree.fr.  She is a professional pâtissière who shares very detailed recipes of her beautiful productions. If you are a bit intimidated by entremet type cakes, this one is an excellent starting point, especially if you simplify the decoration steps (see comments). I guarantee it will still impress your guests.

ENTREMET COOKIE
(slightly modified from Empreintesucree.fr)

for the cookie base:
80 g butter (at room temperature)
65 g muscovado sugar
a pinch of salt
1 egg (55 g)
120 g all purpose flour
2 g baking powder
90 g dark chocolate mini chips

for the chocolate cream:
1 egg yolk
10 g of sugar
100 g heavy whipping cream
38 g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)

for the dark chocolate buttercream:
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
290 g confectioners’ sugar
90 g unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

for the chocolate mousse:
180 g Caramelia chocolate (or milk chocolate of  your choice) of milk chocolate
250 g heavy whipping cream

for the chocolate velvet spray (optional)
120 g milk chocolate (I used Caramelia)
80 g of cocoa butter

for decoration:
golden stars
chocolate Crispearls

Suggested timeframe: make cookie two days before serving time and freeze it. The day before serving make the mousse, and the chocolate cream. Assemble the cake and save the cream in fridge until cake is un-molded.  On serving day make the chocolate buttercream, and the chocolate spray suspension (if using).

Make the cookie base. Heat the oven to 350 F. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper  and place over it a 20 cm ring. Reserve.

In the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer, cream the butter with the brown sugar and salt. Add the egg and mix again, then sift the flour with the baking powder and mix gently.  Add the mini chocolate chips, and spoon the batter inside the ring. (It is easier to just pour the batter over the parchment paper eye-balling the dimension, then sit the ring on top and use an off-set spatula to carefully spread it uniformly inside the ring).

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the edges start to get some color. Remove from the oven, and – using oven mitts – immediately make circles with the ring, which will make the cookie base shrink a little bit, as it is still hot. You just want to have the cookie a tiny bit smaller than the ring, so that the mousse will cover the edges fully.  Allow the cookie to cool completely before placing it in the freezer.

Make the chocolate cream.  Whisk the sugar and the egg yolk in a small bowl. In parallel, heat the cream in a small saucepan. Pour the cream over the sugar/yolk mixture to temper it, then transfer everything back to the saucepan. Cook the custard over low heat until 180 F.  Pour the cream over the chocolate until it is slightly melted and mix with a spatula.  Place a plastic film in contact with the cream and reserve it in the refrigerator. When ready to assemble, place in piping bag with a plastic adaptor and have two round piping tips ready, of different sizes.

Make the chocolate mousse. Melt the Caramelia chocolate gently in a double boiler.  Bring one third of the cream, about 80 g to a simmer in a saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the melted chocolate and mix with a spatula until fully smooth. Whip the remaining whipping cream until it gets the consistency of melted ice cream.  Pour half of the cream on your milk chocolate mixture and mix gently with a spatula. Add the remaining cream and mix again until you get a perfectly smooth chocolate whipped cream.

Assemble the dessert. Stretch a piece of plastic wrap on the 20cm circle ring, pulling it well to stretch it nicely.  Flip your circle over a baking dish that fits in your freezer and place a strip of acetate film on the inside to facilitate un-molding later. Pour all the mousse into the circle, then smooth roughly. Take the cookie out of the freezer and push it upside down into the foam (the smooth side of the cookie up). The mousse should be flush with the cookie, smooth over what is needed. Reserve the dessert in the freezer overnight.

Make the dark chocolate buttercream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until it is smooth. Turn the speed to slow, add the icing sugar and cocoa powder and beat until combined. Pour the milk and vanilla extract then add the salt and continue beating until well combined. Increase the speed to high and beat the frosting for a couple of minutes. Place in a piping bag fitted with a 1M tip or another star-shaped tip of your choice.

Make the chocolate suspension for velvet effect.  Melt milk chocolate and cocoa butter in a double-boiler. Filter and place the mixture into the tank of your sprayer. Temperature should be 98 F. Un-mold your dessert and immediately spray the chocolate on it. Ideally, do this inside a dishwasher with racks removed. Decorate the cake with the cream and buttercream, add sprinkles of your choice. Leave in the fridge to thaw for at least one hour before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Well, I do realize that it seems a bit of a stretch to post this recipe as simple and then come up with quite a few components to make it. As I mentioned, you can simplify it quite a bit. For instance, you can skip the two different types of piped decoration and do a drizzle of melted dark chocolate all over it. That would work well. A shower of golden sprinkles for fun and a bit of a dressed up look. The velvet spray is also optional. I find it fun to do, though, and it helps me deal with guilty feelings of having a sprayer sitting in the basement just for my patisserie adventures. It’s nice to put it to use.

On that note, three things are worth mentioning. First, you must strain the melted chocolate + cocoa butter before pouring it in the sprayer. If you look at my photo above, you’ll notice how much stuff gets retained in the sieve. That could conceivably clog the sprayer and you don’t want that at all. Second, if you are using a regular paint sprayer for chocolate work, the container is large, so what works very well is to place a much smaller plastic cup inside, so that you don’t need to make a huge amount of chocolate suspension. I used an empty Benecol container. And third, do the spraying inside an empty dishwasher, because it is a messy process and all you need to do after is turn the dishwasher on.

We took this cake to a dinner party at a friend’s home, so I snapped the pictures with my cell phone very quickly. I admit they are not prize-winning shots. At any rate, everybody raved about the dessert. The cookie component goes very well with the creamy mousse, and it had just the right thickness, don’t try to make it thinner because it won’t work the same way. I loved the contrast of the sharp cocoa buttercream with the milk chocolate cream and mousse, but the cake can shine with only one of the piped toppings.

Maxime, thanks for a lovely recipe, I am thinking of many variations in the future.

ONE YEAR AGO: The Brazilian Battenberg

TWO YEARS AGO: Salzburg Sourdough

THREE YEARS AGO: If I had One Hour

FOUR YEARS AGO: Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cake

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sourdough Rye Bread with Flaxseeds and Oats

SIX YEARS AGO: Apricot-Raspberry Sorbet: A farewell to Summer

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Marcela’s Salpicon

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Pork Kebabs

NINE YEARS AGO: Fondant au Chocolat

TEN YEARS AGOGot Spinach? Have a salad!

 

POP-TARTS WITH STRAWBERRY BALSAMIC JAM

Pop-Tarts were not part of my childhood, in fact I had no idea what they were all about until I was around my beloved husband’s kids in their teenage years. Of course, making them from scratch is a lot more fun than ripping a package open and sticking the little pastry in a toaster. And if that was not enough, you have to deal with another package to get the drizzle going. Granted, it takes longer to make it from scratch, but in my opinion, it is totally worth it.

POP-TARTS WITH STRAWBERRY BALSAMIC JAM
(jam from Pastries Like a Pro)

for pastry:
280 g all-purpose flour
38 g sugar
½ tsp kosher salt ¾ cup
172 g cold butter, cut in pieces
120 mL ice cold water

for strawberry jam:
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup water
700 g sugar
575 g strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

for glaze:
65 g powdered sugar, sifted
2 + 1/2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream
sprinkles of your choice to decorate

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine the ingredients. Add the cold butter, pulsing until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water to the flour-butter mixture and pulse until little clumps start to form. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and press into a disk. Refrigerate while you make the jam.

Place all the ingredients for the jam in the order listed in a saucepan at least three times as large as the ingredients as it will rise up really high when it come to a rolling boil. Cook until it reaches 200 F, mashing the strawberries gently as they cook down. Refrigerate until needed.

Roll the dough to ⅛-inch thickness, and cut into sixteen 3 x 4-inch rectangles. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 8 rectangles of pie dough on the baking sheet, top each rectangle with 1 tablespoon strawberry jam. Top with a second rectangle of dough, and crimp around all sides with the tines of a fork. Using a small, sharp knife, cut 3 small slits in the top of each pie. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before baking, or for several hours.

Bak in a 425F oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes, depending on your oven. Allow to cool to room temperature. In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, heavy cream and vanilla until smooth. Frost the cooled pies with glaze and top with colorful sprinkles.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This would be a perfect recipe to make for kids, you can change the filling, use chocolate, butterscotch, other types of jam, including store-bought if you want to make life a little easier.  The recipe for the jam makes a large amount, you can make half and still have enough with plenty of leftovers. It is delicious, it has a kind of gourmet aura with the balsamic (that you will notice) and the black pepper (barely there, but adds complexity).

Sprinkles are optional, but mandatory in the Bewitching Kitchen!

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A MODERN TAKE ON TARTE TATIN

It started with Shepherd’s Pie. It continued with Avgolemono Soup and Moqueca. Clearly, I’ve been taking liberties with classics and not acting ashamed. Tighten your seatbelt and be prepared for another wild ride. I share with you a modernized version of Tarte Tatin. It has no flaky crust. It is not cooked on the stove top. It does not have a thick, gooey layer of caramelized apples on top. But the overall concept is similar enough. Or so I say. A cookie base replaces the flaky crust, and a layer of apples slowly cooked in caramel sits proudly on top of it. Don’t skimp on the whipped cream. It adds a creamy and refreshing counterpoint that goes perfectly with the other components.

A  MODERN TARTE TATIN
(slightly modified from J’en reste Baba)

mold used: Silikomart Vague, but you can also use a 20cm ring or cake pan

for the caramel-apple:
5 Golden Delicious apples
65g of honey
40g of sweet butter
125g granulated sugar
60g of whipping cream
5g of gelatin in sheets (I used Platinum strength)

for the cookie base:
220g all-purpose flour
30g cornstarch
1 pinch of salt
40g ground hazelnuts (or hazelnut flour)
90g powdered sugar
130g softened butter
1 egg

for the stabilized whipped cream:
1 cup whipping cream (232 g)
14 g powdered sugar
1 tsp gelatin (powder)
1/2 tsp vanilla (I used clear extract)
golden sprinkles to decorate (optional)

Prepare the apple topping: Peel the apples, core them, and cut them in small pieces (as shown in the composite photo below).

Put the butter and honey in a pan and melt them together. Add the apple pieces to the pan and coat with honey and butter mixture. Cook the apple slices over low heat until soft and slightly translucent, then set aside. If they released any juices, drain the liquid.

Soften the gelatin sheets in cold water while you make the caramel. Heat the cream gently in a saucepan or in a Pyrex container using the microwave. Heat another small saucepan and pour the powdered sugar into it, one-third at a time, turning the pan after each addition so that the sugar mixes well and turns into caramel, slowly. Watch the sugar like a hawk, do not allow it to burn, keep moving the pan off the heat if necessary. Do not use a spoon, or you might set up a catastrophic crystallization reaction and will have to start all over.

Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add the hot cream (beware of splashing), stirring with a spatula as you gently pour it on the caramel. Mix everything well, allow it to cool to about 80C and add the drained gelatin.  Once the gelatin is well dissolved, pour the whole thing on the apples reserved. Gently combine caramel and apples, and add to your silicone mold, or to a ring (make sure you use some type of acetate or plastic wrap to facilitate un-molding later.

Pack the layer of apples well, because you want that component to lay fully flat on the cookie base. Freeze the apple-caramel overnight.

Make the cookie base: Sift together the flour, cornstarch, powdered sugar, and salt into the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer with the flat beater. Add the hazelnut powder, turn the mixer on and combine all ingredients lightly.  Mix the egg gently with a fork inside a cup and add to the bowl. Give it a few turns in low-speed. Add the softened butter in pieces and mix gently until the dough starts to form a ball. At this point stop the mixer and turn the dough into a countertop, finish mixing by hand. You do not want to develop gluten.

You should refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out 4 or 5mm thick.  Cut a circle 3 cm bigger than the diameter of your mold. Silikomart Vague is exactly 20cm in diameter, I cut my dough a bit larger than 23cm. Refrigerate the disc for 30 minutes or place it in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking.

As the dough cools, turn the oven at 370 F. Once the pastry is cool, bake it for about 20 minutes, until the edges start to get golden, and the center is fully set. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool completely. Cookie base can be made a few days ahead.

Make the whipped cream.  In a small saucepan, combine the powdered sugar and gelatin. Gradually stir in ¼ cup  of the cream. Bring the mixture just to a boil, stirring constantly. It will thicken slightly. Scrape the mixture into a small bowl and allow it to cool just to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla. In a chilled mixing bowl, whip the remaining cream just until traces of the beater marks begin to show. Add the cooled gelatin mixture in a steady stream, beating constantly. Whip  just until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised.

Assembly: remove the frozen topping from the freezer and carefully un-mold it. Place the cookie base on the serving platter, set the frozen apple insert centered on top. Spoon the whipped cream in a piping bag fitted with a 1M tip or any other star tip of your choice. Decorate the sides and the center of the tart with the cream. You will have whipped cream leftover.  If you like, decorate with golden sprinkles.

Keep 1 to 2 hours in the fridge to defrost before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I wish I could take credit for this interpretation of The Tatin, but all credit must to go to the food blog that originally featured it over a year ago: J’en reste Baba. I followed her recipe to a T, except for the whipped cream, which I opted to stabilize with gelatin. As I’ve mentioned before, my desserts are all made the day before they are enjoyed, as I take them to the department on Mondays. That “Mondays with Sweetness” thing. I am normally out of the house by 7:15am, so the idea of fiddling with whipping cream and piping bags earlier than that would be a bit too crazy. Stabilizing the whipped cream works well, and this method my favorite by far. The taste is unchanged and the texture perfect.

The tart can be served straight from the fridge once it de-frosts, but keeping it at room temperature for a while makes the texture of the topping even better, so consider that option if you make it.

This preparation could be used in different types of presentation, don’t let the lack of a Silikomart mold stop you. You can do a simple round insert, or even make individual portions, cutting circles of cookies and using a dome or flat circle for the apple. Just make sure to cut the cookie base with enough space around to allow for the whipped cream piping.

I had a bit of trouble using the 5 apples. At first it seemed to me there was too much fruit for not enough caramel. I might have left 3/4 of the last apple out of the mixture. After having made it, I’d say it would probably have been ok to add them all, but I was afraid that too much fruit would interfere with un-molding the topping. Kind of a tough call. Weighing the fruit could be a better way to go. But if you start with 5 medium apples and use your best judgment, I anticipate no problems.

The dry caramel is the trickiest component. I had never made dry caramel before and things can degenerate quite quickly once it gets going. It does give it a stronger taste and if you go overboard, it could end up bitter. If I make this dessert again (so hard to repeat things when I have that mile long list of things to try), I might try a “regular” caramel made from sugar-water as a starting point.

I really loved the combination of the cookie, the apples and the whipped cream, and the tart was gone by 10am, which I suppose is a good endorsement of this modernized Tatin…

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SAKURA BUCHE DU PRINTEMPS

This past winter was so hard that I intend to keep celebrating the arrival of spring for as long as I can get away with it. Clearly, nothing says spring better than cherry blossoms. In this cake, my goal was to have a creamy sakura-flavored mousse involving a fruity center, as a red fruit compote. For the base of the dessert, I made a crusty layer with puffed quinoa, the new (to me) ingredient I mentioned in my last post. To finalize, a pastel-colored mirror glaze action, in pink, purple and green.  Why the French name?  Because it is irresistibly poetic, that’s why.

SAKURA BUCHE DU PRINTEMPS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

for the biscuit layer:
125 g eggs
90 g powdered sugar (I used Bakewell cherry flavored)
90 g almond flour
30 g flour
20 g melted butter
180 g egg whites
40 g sugar (superfine if available)

for the berry compote:
300 g pure of cherries and red berries
2 whole eggs
140 g honey
140 g whipping cream
6 g gelatin in sheets
60 g butter, at room temperature

for the quinoa-crisp:
113 g white chocolate
20 g pistachio paste
20 g puffed quinoa

for the Sakura mousse:
210 g milk
1/8 tsp sakura leaf powder (optional)
1/8 tsp cherry blossom essence
100 g egg yolks
110 g sugar
8 g gelatin sheets
210 g whipping cream

for the mirror glaze:
150 g glucose
150 g granulated sugar
150 g white chocolate, cut in small pieces
75 g water
100 g condensed, sweetened milk
9 g gelatin in sheets
1/2 tsp titanium oxide (optional, but worth it)
pink, purple, and bright green gel food dye

Two days before serving, make the biscuit and the cherry compote.

For the biscuit: In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer fitted with the leaf blade, beat the eggs, sugar an almond flour together for 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and after thoroughly cleaning the bowl of the Kitchen Aid, whisk the egg whites until you can see if forming a trail as the whisk goes through them. At this point, slowly rain the fine sugar to form a soft-peak meringue.  Add the meringue to the egg-sugar-almond mixture previously made. Mix gently with a spatula. Add the flour gently, sifting it over the mixture. Finally, add a bit of the mixture to the melted butter, make a smooth emulsion with it, and pour it into the batter. Mix as gently as possible.

Spread the batter on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper as a layer a little over 1/2 inch thick, and bake for 12 minutes at 380 F.  Once the biscuit is cool, cut the rectangle needed to fit the smaller buche. While the biscuit cools, make the compote.

For the compote: Soak the gelatin sheets in a bowl of cold water for at least 10 minutes. Place the eggs, honey, fruit puree and heavy cream in a bowl and whisk with an immersion blender (or use a regular blender if you prefer). Pour the mixture in a saucepan and bring the temperature to 180 F, stirring constantly and never using too high heat. Remove the pan from the stove, add the drained gelatin, and mix. Let it cool for about 10 minutes and add the softened butter, mixing again until well incorporated. Pour into the mold, then gently add the biscuit on top, pressing gently. You don’t want it to submerge, just float on the surface. Wrap the top of the mold with plastic and freeze overnight.

Make the quinoa-crisp. Bake the puffed quinoa in a 325 F oven for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt the white chocolate in a microwave very gently. Mix the melted chocolate with the pistachio paste.  Add the quinoa and spread  in a 4 mm (1/8 inch) thickness in between two sheets of parchment paper. It will be a little sticky, try to level it as best as you can. When it is cooled down a bit, cut the exact dimension of the bigger mold you will use for the dessert. Reserve.

Make the Sakura mousse. Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water for at least 10 minutes. Bring the milk to almost boiling and add the sakura leaf powder, mixing well to dissolve. Let it sit covered for 10 minutes.  In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar. Slowly add the hot milk infused with the sakura powder, whisking constantly. Transfer back to the pan and heat gently to 180 F. Do not let it go over or you will scramble the egg yolks. Transfer to a bowl, let it cool for a couple of minutes and add the drained gelatin and the Sakura extract. Reserve.

Whip the cold heavy cream to very soft peaks, do not over whip it. When the sakura custard is barely warm to the touch, add the whipped cream to form the final mousse, fold with a spatula until smooth. Pour the mousse into the large Buche mold up to 1/3 of its volume. Add the frozen insert made the day before, with the biscuit layer up. Complete the mold with mousse almost to the top, place the quinoa crisp on top, pressing gently. Wrap with plastic and freeze overnight.

Make the mirror glaze. Place the gelatin sheets inside a bowl with cold water for 10 minutes as you prepare the other ingredients. In a sauce pan, heat the glucose, sugar and water until boiling. Make sure the sugar is fully dissolved. Let it cool slightly, and add to a bowl with the white chocolate in small pieces. After a few minutes, use a spatula to dissolve the chocolate. Add the gelatin and the condensed milk, and mix gently, try to avoid incorporating air bubbles. Add the titanium oxide and emulsify the mixture with an immersion blender to get rid of bubbles. Divide the mixture in three bowls. Eyeballing is fine. Add the color and mix very gently with a spatula, do not use a whisk to avoid incorporating bubbles. Cover with plastic touching the surface and place in the fridge overnight.

To glaze, warm up the mixtures in the microwave for 30 to 40 seconds. Pass them each through a fine sieve to remove any residual bubbles. When the mixtures are at 98 F you can pour them in a tall pitcher, one color at a time, working fast so that the temperature does not drop too much. Glaze the frozen dessert allowing all colors to mix and mingle.  Thaw the cake in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. Decorate the sides if you like, with tempered white chocolate or candy melts.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The dessert was assembled in a set of Silikomart molds called “Buche.” They can be used either separately, or together in a way that the smaller mold makes a component that goes inserted in the bigger one.  When planning a dessert using two molds, the first thing to consider is the volume needed, keeping in mind that a great deal of space will be occupied in the larger mold by the insert previously made. The amounts I shared work well with the Buche set. The composite photo above shows the overall preparation of the insert (compote + biscuit), that I made on a Friday evening, and left to freeze until next day. You can use any type of freezer-safe container you want, as long as it allows for easy un-molding later. The biscuit recipe makes more than needed for the base, so I cut a few rounds to freeze for a future adventure.

Saturday morning I made the crusty layer using puffed quinoa. To do so, I drew a precise template of the bigger Silikomart mold, and used a sharp paring knife to cut it. It is easier to cut  while it’s still just a tad warm. While the layer cooled completely, I prepared the Sakura mousse.

The mousse is poured inside the larger buche mold, then the frozen insert carefully placed in the center, with the biscuit layer facing up. More mousse is used to fill the mold almost to the top, then the  crusty layer is gently pressed on top. It is important to wrap the mold in plastic wrap so that when the mousse freezes it gets nicely compacted around the insert and the quinoa top (which will become the bottom in the final presentation).

Mirror glazing is definitely the most exciting part, although still a bit nerve-wracking for me. Things can go wrong in this final step for two main reasons:  first, you can pour too fast and lose track of how much glaze is being used, how much is left to finish coating; second, the temperature might be slightly off, so either the glaze slides off the cake without sticking, or it might set too fast and compromise the beautiful, super smooth surface that is the goal. When using more than one color, it gets even trickier. All components have to be just right in consistency and temperature. The glazes are best made the day before, so I made them on Saturday, kept them all in the fridge.  A 30 to 40 seconds encounter with the microwave puts all glazes at around 110F. At that point they went inside my bread proofing box set at 98F, and the waiting game started. You must be patient, and remember that whisking a mirror glaze suspension is a capital sin in patisserie. Bubbles must be minimized at all cost. Allow the different colors to equilibrate to the same temperature, get your frozen dessert ready, and let your inner Monet fly.

So there you have it, the Sakura Buche du Printemps ready to be enjoyed!  The cherry blossom flavor is very unique, floral (obviously) but not overpowering, as long as you exercise caution when you add it. A little too much and the mousse will be ruined. I really liked the texture of the crunchy quinoa, an idea that I cannot take credit for. I found it in this blog post and simply “borrowed” it. I will be using it again and again. It is sturdy enough to support the mousse, but easy to cut without making a huge mess on the plate. The biscuit layer could conceivably be omitted to simplify preparation, but it does add a different texture in a sea of mousse and creamy fruit. I think it makes the dessert considerably more interesting.

Before you leave, grab a pin…

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