THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF IS BACK!

Americans who love the show will be very happy because Netflix is releasing each episode just a few days after they air in the UK. I was lucky enough to watch the opening show in London, but now I have to be patient and wait from Tuesday to Friday to indulge.  This year the group of contestants seems surprisingly young.  Or, does that mean I am getting so old that I noticed the trend? Hard to tell, but I have the feeling that in other seasons the ages were a bit more widespread. Still, they picked a bunch of folks with interesting personalities so it should be fun to watch. I decided to bake some of the challenges this year, and will start with the signature from episode 2, Biscuits. The theme is deceptively simple: make 12 chocolate-covered biscuits. I went Japanese with my interpretation. Matcha cookies with a miso-caramel filling. Coated with tempered dark chocolate.

CHOCOLATED-COATED MATCHA COOKIES WITH MISO CARAMEL
(inspired by Japanese Patisserie)

100 g all-purpose flour
150 g cornstarch
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoons baking powder
75 g  granulated sugar
113 g softned butter (1 stick)
2 egg yolks
3 g matcha powder
for caramel:
160 ml whipping cream
1 tablespoons corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
200 g granulated sugar
50 g miso paste
to coat and decorate cookies:
500 g dark chocolate, tempered
100 g white chocolate, gently melted and placed in piping bag
sprinkles of choice (I used edible golden stars)

To make the cookies, mix together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and baking powder; set aside.

Beat the sugar with the softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, then the matcha powder and beat until fully combined.

Gently fold in the flour mixture to form a crumbly dough. If the dough is too dry, sprinkle a few teaspoons of cold water, a little at a time until it forms a dough that adheres when you press portions with your fingers. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 1 hour.  

Heat the oven to 350 F. Roll out the dough, using as little flour as possible on the work surface, to a thickness of around  1⁄4 inch (6mm). Stamp out rounds with the cookie cutter. Roll the scraps again and cut rounds of the same size, but use a smaller cookie cutter to remove most of the central part, so that you can form a barrier for the caramel to be poured inside (as shown in the composite picture). Place the top portion over the circles that will form the base, prick the surface with a fork. Bake in the preheated oven for around 12 minutes until set but not browned. Remove the cookies from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

To make the miso caramel, place the whipping cream into a microwaveable bowl and warm gently for 30 seconds. Put the corn syrup, water and sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently, until it turns into a dark, golden brown caramel color.   Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the warm cream, stirring constantly. Once the cream is fully incorporated, stir in the miso paste. Allow the caramel to cool and then scrape into a piping bag. Add the caramel to the center of the baked, and fully cooled cookies. Refrigerate several hours up to overnight.

Temper the dark chocolate using your favorite method. Dip each cookie in the tempered chocolate, then drizzle melted white chocolate to decorate. Add sprinkles of your choice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Best component of this recipe is definitely the miso caramel. I could enjoy it by spoonfuls, staring at the trees in our backyard, daydreaming… Come to think of it, a drizzle over vanilla ice cream sounds pretty amazing also. Matcha is a flavor that not everyone is fond of. I like it because it cuts through excessive sweetness and since the caramel is obviously quite sweet, it pairs well with it. If you prefer a less sharp and assertive cookie, omit the matcha powder, add some vanilla or lemon zest. But please do try the miso caramel, it goes more or less along the lines of salted caramel, but more subtle in its savory nature.

After coating the cookies in tempered chocolate, avoid the temptation to put them to dry over a rack. They might stick to the rack, so the best way is to carefully lay them over parchment paper once the excess chocolate drips away. This tip is a courtesy of the one and only Philip, from Phil’s Home Kitchen… And since I mentioned him, stop by to see his recent takes on the technical challenges of this GBBO season with a click here and here.

ONE YEAR AGO: Queen of Sheba

TWO YEARS AGO: Brunch Burger

THREE YEARS AGO: Mango Salsa with Verjus

FOUR YEARS AGO: Raspberry Bittersweet Chocolate Chunk Brownies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Scary Good Pork Burgers

SIX YEARS AGO: Review of exercise program Focus25

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

NINE YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

TEN YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

 

CHOCOLATE TARTLETS WITH HONEY CARAMEL FILLING

Care to find out what’s my latest obsession? Afternoon Tea Cookbooks. Most are not available as Kindle books, so I tend to be very selective when inviting one into our home. Reviews must be absolutely stellar, and pictures must be included for most (if not all) recipes. One book that made the cut is Afternoon Tea At Home, by Will Torrent. It is absolutely wonderful. As I was browsing through its pages and trying to decide what to make first from it, I had this crazy idea and immediately acted on it. Handed the book to Phil and said “Here, pick a recipe, any recipe, and I’ll make it.”  I call that Self-Inflicted Technical Challenge. He needed less than 2 minutes. Of course, the recipe he chose involved a crust, a caramel filling, tempering chocolate, and using transfer sheets to decorate it. Me and my big mouth. When will I ever learn?

CHOCOLATE TARTLETS WITH HONEY CARAMEL FILLING
(adapted from Afternoon Tea at Home)

for the crust:
200g all-purpose flour
150g butter, cut in pieces, cold
90g powdered sugar
60g almond flour
20g cocoa powder
pinch of salt
4 egg yolks

for the filling:
1 cup (320 g) honey
½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream

¼ cup (60 ml) sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup (85 g) corn syrup
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 

for the topping:
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar (or to taste)
1 tablespoon skimmed dry milk
100g tempered dark chocolate
12 sugar bees

Make the crust: Put the flour and butter in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer and mix until the butter gets into crumbs, coated by the flour. In a separate bowl mix the sugar, almond flour, cocoa powder and salt. Add this mixture to the butter/flour, mix on very low-speed to combine (you want to avoid developing gluten). When it is almost fully combined, add the egg yolks and again mix very gently.  Form a dough, flatten it, wrap in plastic and place in the fridge for 1 hour.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll out to 1/8 inch thick. Cut 12 rounds that will fit a muffin pan, coming all the way to the sides. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before blind-baking at 325 F.  I like to use plastic wrap to enclose rice or pie weights, it is safe to bake at this temperature, as long as the plastic does not touch the metal surface of the tin. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the weight, and bake for 5 to 10 more minutes. The tartlets must be fully baked, as no more cooking will take place.  Cool in the pan.

Make the filling: Combine the honey,  cream, condensed milk, corn syrup, and salt in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the mixture reaches 240F. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Divide among fully blind baked shells and allow to cool to room temperature. 

Make the chocolate decoration. Temper the chocolate according to your favorite method. Spread over the transfer sheet (make sure to use the correct side of the sheet!), let it set for a few minutes, then stamp circles the exact size of the top of the tartlets. Once fully set, gently peel the chocolate off the transfer sheet. Marvel at the design, pat yourself on the back.

Make the whipped cream. Beat the heavy cream with sugar and powdered milk until it forms medium peaks, transfer to a piping bag with a simple round piping tip.

Assemble the tartlets. When the crusts are cold, fill them with the caramel, place in the fridge to speed cooling a bit. Once the surface is set, gently place the chocolate decoration on top. Pipe the whipped cream, and set a little sugar bee on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This recipe, originally called Beehive Tarts, comes from David Girard, Head Pastry Chef from The Dorchester. I kept the crust and the chocolate decorations, but changed the filling and the topping. The filling was a honey caramel thickened with gelatin, but I worried that it would not set up enough to be neatly sliced in half. Since I take my bakes to the department, I prefer to offer a larger number of small portions, so more colleagues can enjoy them.  For this reason, I used a caramel adapted from a recipe I made a couple of years ago.  As for the topping, in the book he uses lemon curd (it did give a nice yellow color very cute with the little bee sitting next to it), but I love the combination of chocolate, caramel and whipped cream. I stabilized the whipped cream with powdered milk, a trick I learned from Anna Olson. It does stabilize it very well and is super simple to do, but I prefer the taste of whipped cream stabilized with gelatin (I will talk about it in the very near future).

The chocolate disc decoration… Tempering chocolate is the number one culinary task that gives me hyperventilation. So many failures, it’s not even funny. Somehow this time things worked beautifully in the microwave/seeding method. Two basic changes in my approach: I grated the chocolate finely instead of keeping it in chunks, and used a microwave-safe plastic bowl instead of Pyrex, in very short cycles of heating, not more than 10 seconds at a time. I kept 1/4 of the chocolate grated at room temperature to use as “seed.”  Then I stirred, and stirred, and stirred some more, monitoring the temperature very carefully.  Once the chocolate was tempered, it was spread over the transfer sheet. I tried my best to do it as uniformly as possible.

At that point, I waited for the chocolate to start setting, but did not allow it to fully harden. You have a good window of several minutes to work, no need to panic. You could panic, of course, but it’s not mandatory. Then using a cookie cutter, I pressed into the chocolate, and lifted the disc. That is what I call a rookie’s mistake. If you use this technique, press the cookie cutter, forming the edges as sharply as possible, but do not lift the disc yet. Wait until it is fully set. That will ensure that the pattern will efficiently transfer. My first discs clearly showed some variability in the pattern, weak at some spots, well-defined in others. But for a first time, I am pretty happy with the way it turned out.  The sugar bees? I bought them from amazon.  If you have artistic inclinations, you could make some with fondant, or modeling chocolate. I cringe to imagine what my bees would look like if I attempted to make them from scratch. Rotten mangos? Pineapples after a wild boar stampede?  Neither option would look right.

But the heart of the matter is: can Sally bake without drama? Sometimes yes, but not always. After I took the photos for the post, I placed my cute tartlets in a tray to take them to the fridge, where they would sit until Monday morning. A very unfortunate bump of my hand on the shelf of the fridge, and they slid off the tray, one fell all the way to the floor, some tumbled inside the fridge… Can you feel the pain? At first I thought they were all ruined, but luckily enough most were ok after I shaved off a bit of broken crust  here and there. I had to discard a few bees that were messed up when they got shoved into a puddle of whipped cream. I also had to remove all the cream very carefully, clean the tops and decorate them again. The tartlet that fell to the floor? You can guess who swallowed it before I could do anything to prevent that from happening. Yes, there was chocolate. Yes, he was totally fine and quite pleased with that twist of canine fate.  Never a dull moment, folks. Never a dull moment.

The tartlets are quite decadent, the little bees have a melt in your mouth texture, not hard as rock sugar. I was pleasantly surprised. Obviously you can skip that component, without compromising the dessert. I just felt like going the extra mile, because the person who requested the recipe deserves only the best…

ONE YEAR AGO: Zucchini Soup with Tahini

TWO YEARS AGO: Black Sesame Macarons

THREE YEARS AGO: Fine Tuning Thomas Keller

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Tortillas

FIVE YEARS AGO: Majestic Sedona, Take Two

SIX YEARS AGO: Secret Ingredient Turkey Meatballs

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Swedish Meatballs and Egg Noodles

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Italian Easter Pie

NINE YEARS AGO: Black Olive Bialy