CREMINO ALLA NOCIOLLA

Or, if you prefer, Creamy Hazelnut… paired with a sugar cookie, also flavored with hazelnut and a touch of orange. I adapted this recipe from Gabriella’s blog Siula Golosa (click here for her original version). I’ve been meaning to make these elegant cookies ever since I read her post, but for some reason it only happened now. Better late than never, I say.


HAZELNUT CREAM OVER SUGAR COOKIE
(adapted from Siula Golosa)

for the cookie base:
1 cup (226g) butter
1 cup (200g) sugar
zest of one orange
2 eggs
1 tsp hazelnut bakery emulsion
1/4 tsp orange extract
420g flour
60g cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

for the hazelnut cream:
54g white chocolate
27g dark chocolate
19g Nutella or Nocciolata paste (I used this one)
11g cocoa butter

melted chocolate
gold luster powder
sprinkle to decorate


Make the cookie base: Mix flour, cornstarch, salt and baking powder. Reserve. Rub orange zest on the sugar with your fingers until fragrant. Cream butter with sugar. Whisk eggs with hazelnut and orange extracts, add to the butter/sugar with mixer on low speed, a little bit at a time. Once incorporated, add the dry components and mix on low-speed until a dough forms. Divide in two and refrigerate for 10 minutes before rolling out and cutting small circles. Freeze for 10 minutes, then bake at 350F until edges start to get some color, about 12 minutes. Recipe makes a lot more than you will need.

Make the hazelnut topping: Add all ingredients to a microwave save bowl, and heat at 50% power, in 30 second increments, removing from the microwave and whisking gently. Once melted, pour over a countertop or over acetate sheet and bring the temperature down to 78F by moving it around with a spatula. It is a small volume, so it will get there quickly. Pour into an icing bag, and fill the mold to the top. Allow it to set at room temperature for 1 hour, transfer to the fridge for 20 minutes, and un-mold.

Use a little melted chocolate to glue the hazelnut cream to the top of the cookie. If desired, you can paint the cookie with luster gold and vodka. Decorate the center with a golden bead.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: For the topping you will need this mold from Silikomart. I was very worried about it, because there is so much detail on the surface. But, as always, Silikomart products are excellent and the flexibility of this one was perfect to release the hazelnut component. The mold has 11 cavities, the recipe made exactly 10. Not a single one had any issues, they were all perfect.

Next time I will use the base from Gabriella’s blog, because I think it will be pretty nice, and will also roll it a bit thinner. This was in fact an impulse bake, I had a little bit of cookie dough leftover, and thought that the taste of hazelnut would go well with the creamy top. All things considered, this is a very easy concoction to put together, but it looks like you slaved over it for hours. Perfect to impress your favorite guests!


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PLUM SORBET

Before the cold weather hits us big time, allow me to share a sorbet I made back in July… I know, I can be so slow sometimes! I was inspired both to make it and to get the little container for it, once I read this blog post by Kelly. However, I did not have access to the amazing plums she has in her own backyard in California. I bought plums that were definitely not quite ripe, and waited. Waited and waited. In the end, I opted to make a slightly different recipe (modifying it from David Lebovitz), because it relied on cooking down the fruit. I thought that to use the fruit raw as Kelly did, I would have to start from the best possible plums out there. This was absolutely delicious, and what amazing color!

PLUM SORBET
(modified from David Lebovitz)

600g plums
80g sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tsp vodka
1 banana, mashed

Pit the plums, slice them, and put them in a medium-sized saucepan with 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook over medium heat, lifting the lid and stirring occasionally, until the plums are soft and completely cooked through. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Process the plums and the banana in a food processor or blender. Remove 1/2 cup of the puree to a small saucepan, add sugar and corn syrup, heating gently until the sugar is dissolved. Add this mixture to the rest of the fruit puree, add vodka and chill the mixture overnight.

Freeze in your ice cream maker next day.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: As I mentioned many times in the past, Phil is the resident sorbet maker, but this time I decided to do it myself and surprise him. The only thing I did not care about this recipe is how little sorbet it made, even starting with a pretty large amount of fruit. But that’s the nature of the beast. It was totally worth it. We often include a banana in our sorbets because we like the texture it provides, and depending on the fruit, you can barely taste it. Plums have a very intense flavor, we did not think the banana detracted from it. I know the season for plums is over, but save this one for next year, especially if you have access to perfect plums. In that case, consider trying Kelly’s recipe.

Souper Cubes are available at amazon.com, and they are a pleasure to use,
soft, easy to un-mold but very sturdy.


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TIRAMISU TART

This is a perfect dessert for Valentine’s Day, not only for the flavors and whimsical look, but – I won’t lie to you – because it is a labor of love to put it together… The recipe comes from Savour, the Australian online cooking school run by the amazing Kirsten Tibbals. I cannot share the recipe in all its many details, as it is copyrighted. One must join the site to have access to, but I can share just the list of ingredients, and include a link to the mousse I’ve used, which is not the same from Savour. I wanted something a little less rich than the original version, which was a pâté à bomb-based mousse, the most indulgent of all.


OVERVIEW OF THE RECIPE

It all starts with a chocolate-sable base, which is rolled as thin as you can, and baked in a rectangular tart pan. I used a perforated frame for that. You can also do it in a round format, using a normal tart pan with removable bottom.

Ingredients for chocolate sable base
120g unsalted butter
80g powdered sugar
1g salt
1g Vanilla Bean Paste
50g whole eggs
20g almond meal
175g plain (all-purpose) flour
30g Cocoa Powder

The ingredients are used to make a dough, rolled very thin and baked in a 290 x 90mm
(11 x 4.3 in) rectangular tart pan.

Tiramisu normally uses store-bought lady fingers, but in Kirsten’s version we go the extra mile and make our own, which is quite a fun little project. As you can see from the composite above, the lady finger batter is piped, baked and then the resulting layer is cut to fit exactly over the coffee-chocolate mousse spread in the bottom of the tart. I used THIS RECIPE for the mousse, adding 1 tsp of espresso powder to the heavy cream before incorporating into the chocolate.

Ingredients for the lady-finger sponge:
85g egg whites, room temperature
30g egg yolk
30g granulated sugar
1g salt
5g Vanilla Bean Paste
35g cornstarch
35g all-purpose flour
sugar, for sprinkling

After baking, the sponge is soaked with a coffee-Marsala syrup.

Once the sponge is placed on top, the mascarpone cream is gently spread on top, and the whole thing goes into the fridge for a little while. The last step is piping additional cream on top using either a grass tip like Kirsten does in the tutorial, or a regular round opening tip (which is what I did). A shower of cocoa powder closes the deal.

Ingredients for the mascarpone cream:
8g gold gelatine sheets
700g mascarpone cheese
220g granulated sugar
10g Vanilla Bean Paste
300g fresh cream 35% fat
70g Marsala wine (I omitted)
Cocoa Powder, for dusting

I made some decorations with tempered chocolate to add to the top. Would love to repeat this tart using the grass tip as demonstrated in the tutorial, because the look that gives is simply stunning! But I only had very small grass icing tips that are used for cookies, and that did not work at all for the top of the tart. Obviously, that gave me the opportunity to order the correct tip. Are you surprised? 😉

I should also mention that all the ingredients are enough for TWO tarts, so I halved the lady finger and the mascarpone cream amounts. I made the full recipe for the tart base because I am not very good at rolling the dough and feel better if I have more to work with. Leftovers make great little cookies.

The tart is perfect for entertaining because it is actually better made the day before. Leftovers were still quite delicious a couple of days later, much to our delight!

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MINI-HEART CAKES FOR YOUR VALENTINE


Valentine’s Day is so commercial. Who needs a special day to celebrate love and friendship? No one. We should all just ignore it. With that in mind, let me say I have no problem with a special day to shower all those special persons in your life with attention and affection. A partner, a special friend, that family member you look up to and adore. Today I share a recipe that seems a bit involved, but when you break it down into its components, it is quite simple. Trust me. I almost always speak the truth.

VALENTINE’S MINI-HEARTS MOUSSE CAKES
(inspired from many sources)

for the sable base:
120 g cold butter, cut in pieces
65 g powdered sugar
260 g all-purpose flour
30 g almond flour
pinch of salt
1 egg

Heat oven to 375 F.

Add the sugar, flour, almond flour and salt to the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix at low speed for about 30 seconds just to incorporate the ingredients together. Add the cold butter and process until the butter gets in small pieces, a bit smaller than pea-size. Add the egg and mix just until it starts to glue together as a dough, but stop before it all gets into a single mass to avoid gluten formation.  Gather the dough on a piece of plastic wrap and gently form it as a disk with your hand.

Roll the pastry between plastic or parchment paper to a 3mm thickness. Cut heart or round shapes. Place over parchment paper on a baking sheet and freeze for 10 minutes.  Bake for about 10 minutes until it starts to get golden around the edges.  Reserve.

for the quinoa-crisp:
115 g white chocolate
20 g pistachio paste (or almond butter)
20 g puffed quinoa (or rice Krispies)
for home-made puffed quinoa, click here

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 in freezer until  needed.

For the Raspberry Mousse insert:
2 g of Platinum gelatin (1 sheet)
100 g mashed raspberries (fresh or frozen), seeds sieved out
20 g granulated sugar
100 g whipping cream, cold

First, put the gelatin leaves, in a bowl with very cold water to bloom for 10 minutes.  In a small saucepan, heat the raspberry puree until it boils. Remove from heat, wait 5 minutes, drain the gelatin and add to the mixture. Mix until completely dissolved. Let cool to about 95 F.

Meanwhile, whip the cream to soft peaks. Gradually incorporate the cream into the raspberry mixture. Place the mousse in the semi-spheres and freeze overnight.

For the mascarpone mousse:
6 g Platinum gelatin (3 sheets)
80 ml whipping cream
55 g egg yolks
80 g granulated sugar
160 g mascarpone cheese
1/4 tsp vanilla paste
320 g heavy cream

Bloom the gelatin in cold water for 10 minutes. Combine egg yolks with sugar, whisking well and set aside. In a saucepan, heat 80 ml of cream until it boils. Remove from heat, and slowly pour a bit of the hot liquid into the egg yolk mixture, to temper it gently. Add the rest of the cream and transfer all the mixture to a saucepan.

Over low heat, cook until 180 F stirring constantly. Remove from heat, drain the gelatin, and add to the mixture, stirring until completely dissolved. Let the mixture cool down to around 140 F. Add the mascarpone cheese, mix until the cheese is incorporated. Process with a hand mixer, to emulsify. Add the vanilla paste, and let it cool to around 95 F.

Meanwhile, whip the 320 ml of cream to soft peaks. Incorporate the  cream gradually to the mascarpone mixture. Place in the mini-hearts mold, 1/2 to the volume, spread gently with a spoon around the sides to avoid air bubble.  Drop the frozen raspberry inserts, cover with mousse almost to the top, place the crunchy quinoa layer on top, press gently and freeze overnight.

For mirror glaze:
3 sheets Platinum grade sheet gelatin
120ml water
150 g liquid glucose
150 g granulated or caster sugar
1 tsp agar-agar
100 g condensed milk
150 g white chocolate, chopped fairly small
½ tsp titanium oxide (optional, but advisable)
red gel food coloring

Put the water, sugar, liquid glucose and agar-agar in a small pan and bring to simmering point, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let it stand for about 5 minutes. This is the base syrup for the glaze.  Meanwhile, soak the gelatin in some cold water for about 5 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water and stir into the hot water, sugar and liquid glucose mixture to dissolve. Stir in the condensed milk and the titanium oxide.

Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour this hot mixture slowly over the chocolate, stirring gently to melt it, avoid making bubbles. Add the red food gel dye. A stick immersion blender works great, but you must keep the blades fully submerged at all times. If bubbles are present, pass the mixture through a fine sieve.

The ideal temperature to glaze is 92 to 94 F. Glaze the frozen mousse cakes, decorate with sprinkles if desired.

Defrost 2 hours in fridge before serving.

 ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For this dessert I used a mini-heart mold from Silikomart and a mini-half-sphere mold. The mini-heart mold I bought came with a cookie cutter with the exact dimension to made a cookie base. I am not sure every single mold sold comes with the cutter (I got mine at ebay a while ago), but any heart-shaped cookie cutter will work, if the dimensions are approximately right.

Start your preparation two days before serving, by making the raspberry centers. In this case I used a mousse, which tones down the sharpness of the raspberry a bit. If you prefer a sharper, more intense taste, consider using just the puree thickened with gelatin, like I shared in this post. You can also make the crunchy base with puffed quinoa (or rice Krispies) and the sable base two days in advance. Or even earlier. Stick the crunchy layer in the freezer, keep the sable at room temperature.

The day before serving make the mascarpone mousse and assemble the little cakes. Freeze everything and if you want to make your life very easy on serving day, prepare the mirror glaze emulsion and store it in the fridge.

On serving day, glaze those babies and keep in the fridge to defrost for a couple of hours. It is a process I love making, no matter how many times I do the mirror glaze thing, I am always in awe…

I had to add sprinkles because that’s how I roll… Also, they work wonders if you have a small boo-boo here and there on the glaze. Just drop a silver star on it, and call it a day.

You could omit the crunchy later with puffed quinoa but it is so simple to make and it does add a lot to the dessert. You can buy puffed quinoa or quickly make some, following the instructions here. If you don’t have  pistachio paste, use a bit of almond butter softened in the microwave just to make it a tad more spreadable. It won’t be exactly the same, but it will work.

I am pretty happy with the way these little hearts turned out. Both mousses combined well in flavor and texture. If you don’t have the hear-shaped mold, use large half-spheres. You can also go for dessert rings and make the insert as a smaller component with any shape that is convenient for you. Just keep in mind the volumes you will need. Every component can be scaled up easily if necessary, but the raspberry mousse already makes more than you’ll need for 8 mini-cakes. I had enough for 15 inserts and only used 8.  Leftovers are in the freezer, patiently waiting for a next opportunity to play.

Finally, when you pour the mirror glaze, do it over a baking sheet lined with Saran wrap, so you can easily store leftovers. They freeze well and if you accumulate several colors you can go Pollock on your next dessert…

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THE DOBOS TORTE


Several years ago I saw a recipe for Dobos Torte in a website and the image of those thin cake layers joined together with chocolate buttercream, plus the interesting crown of caramelized cake made me wish I could taste a piece right then through the screen. I said to myself I would be making it really soon. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and I swear it’s been at least 3 years if not more in my plans. Finally, I went for it, and it was one of the most rewarding experiments in our kitchen. I enjoyed the preparation of each component, and loved how they came together nicely. But what really makes this cake is the decoration on top. You must get the caramel dark enough so that it will stay hard on the cake, otherwise it might start to weep and you lose the textural contrast. This is definitely a cake fit for a special occasion. Like a gray Monday early in November that brought with it unexpected snow showers.

THE DOBOS TORTE
(adapted from a recipe from Chef Wilhelm Wanders)

for the sponge cake layers:
140 g egg yolks
120 g granulated sugar, divided (60 + 60g)
2 g salt
1 tsp vanilla paste
210 g egg whites
120 g all-purpose Flour
40 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

for the chocolate buttercream:
250g granulated sugar
250 g whole eggs
550 g unsalted butter at room temperature
200 g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)

for the caramel:
150 g granulated sugar
50 g water
10 g fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp coffee extract

to decorate:
crispearls or shaved chocolate

Heat the oven to 375 F. 2. Prepare six sheets of parchment paper drawing a circle with 8 in diameter in the center. Flip the parchment, so that the pencil drawing is in the bottom. Reserve.

Important: weigh the bowl you will be using to make the cake batter and write down that number. 

Whisk the egg yolks with  half of the sugar (60g), salt and vanilla using a KitchenAid type mixer fitted with the wire whisk. You must whisk until the mixture is thick enough to form a ribbon when the batter drips from the whisk. It might take more than 8 minutes to get there, be patient.

In a clean mixing bowl with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and remaining 60 g of sugar on high speed to soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into egg yolk mixture, then fold the flour (sifted on top). Remove a small amount of the batter and mix with the melted, cooled butter. That makes it easier to incorporate the butter homogeneously into the cake batter. Fold the butter into the cake batter.  Weight the bowl and calculate exactly how much batter you have. Divide by six to get the exact amount you’ll need to spread on each parchment paper. In my case I played conservative, and although the calculations gave me 104 g of batter per circle, I used 100 g only.

Spread onto the parchment lined baking sheets within the circles. Bake for about 10 minutes, in my oven I could do two sheets at a time. The other circles can wait as you bake.  Remove from oven and transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack.

Make the chocolate buttercream. In a clean metal mixing bowl, warm the sugar and eggs over a water bath to 140 F. Whisk in a KitchenAid at medium-high speed for 5 minutes, so that the mixture will cool almost to room temperature.  Add the butter (room temperature, preferably as close as possible as the temperature of the egg/sugar mixture) in small pieces, then the melted chocolate, and mix until homogenous and a spreadable consistency.

Make the caramel:  Stir the sugar, water, and lemon juice and melt in a saucepan over medium heat. Prepare an off-set spatula by coating it lightly with oil. Cook the sugar until the caramel turns amber. Pour the caramel onto one of the cake layers and spread with an oiled offset spatula.  Wait 30 to 60 seconds. With a well-oiled chef’s knife score the caramel-coated cake layer into twelve even pieces slices. Use scissors to cut neatly the 12 triangle shaped slices.  Set aside to cool in the fridge. Add 1/4 cup water and coffee extract to the pan with the leftover caramel, gently heat and make a simple syrup to use as a soaker for the cake slices.

Place the first sponge layer on work surface. Soak the sponge layer with simple syrup. Evenly spread a thin layer of buttercream filling on the cake layer. Repeat until five cake layers have been filled with equal amounts of buttercream filling. Frost the cake and decorate the sides using a cake comb.  Score the cake into 12 pieces.

Pipe decoration on each piece using a star-shaped piping tip. Place caramel sponge decoration on each cake piece and decorate the center with crispearls or shaved chocolate.  Cool for buttercream to set, but if possible bring to room temperature before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: One of the best advices I’ve seen lately for baking in general is to weigh the bowls you use most often and write down that number someplace. I actually stuck a tape on my Kitchen Aid with the magical number 1,045. That is how much the bowl weighs.  Whenever I make cake layers I don’t need to think twice. Just weigh the bowl with the batter, subtract the magical number and work from there. If I  need to divide the batter in 2, 3, 4 pans, I do it on the scale and know exactly how much to pour.

In the case of the Dobos, it’s really important that the layers get uniform in thickness. Next time I will also weigh the amount of buttercream added to the first layer, so that I can make sure all others are exactly the same. I had a little too much enthusiasm filling one of the layers and it is evident in the sliced photo that you’ll see later. Finally, I think it could be also good to spread the cake batter slightly bigger than 8 inches in diameter and then use a cake ring to cut them all exactly the same size. Details like this will make the final product more polished.

I cannot praise enough that caramel coated-decoration. In fact, I think one could make cake-cookies just like that. I had to control myself not to go to the mail room in our department and steal all the decorations. But truth is I always send a picture of the dessert as a group email on Sunday, so it would be hard to explain how its crown would be all of a sudden absent.

The cake is obviously very rich but a small slice is more than enough. I’ve seen Dobos Tortes showcasing 8 or even 9 layers, so if you feel particularly brave and indulgent, make more cake batter and go for it. But you will need extra buttercream also, the recipe as written had enough to fill, cover and make the piped decorations with a small amount leftover. I have also seen variations without the cake layers fanned on top and using sugar work instead. I urge you to stick to the classic method. I hate to be repetitive, but… those caramelized pieces? You need to get up close and personal with them…

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