Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cherry Pie

Admittedly--to memory--this was my first cherry pie.  Which is interesting because I really do like cherries. But then when I was making my pie, my mom called and I told her what I was making and she asked why. She told me that she thought I never liked cherries and admitted that she never did.  So maybe that explains why I've never had a cherry pie...

Nevertheless, with it being my first one I have eaten or made, I have to say that I wasn't fully impressed at first.  But I'm also not sure if mine turned out exactly how it was supposed to.  Strike that, I'm almost certain it didn't.  It tasted great--perfect amount of sweetness.  But I think the texture and togetherness of the whole thing was askew.  The filling should have been thicker.  Right?

I used fresh cherries that I got that same day at the farmers market.  They were beautifully ripe and sweet and juicy. Like really juicy.  And I think that may have been my pitfall because I poured all of that juice into the pie crust and it never thickened up with the added corn starch and sugar.  All it did was make a soggy bottom crust and a lot of leftover liquid sitting in the pie pan after I cut the first slice out.  It kind of blows because I was excited about this summer pie.  I even bought a cherry pitter--which by the by worked fantastically--to ease my cherry pie making time.  It was going to be a great pie.  But it was just ok....at first.

Then it was great pie!  Sometimes--with pies--I feel as though they taste better as they age.  I don't mean age as in weeks or months but just a couple of days later and they taste even better.  It's as though all of the pie ingredients have marinaded and melded together and are in perfect harmony.  Also, the filling seemed to thicken up a bit which was awesome.  Still, it probably should have been thicker at the outset but since it was my first cherry pie, I'm not going to mull over what should have been.

Recipe adapted a tad from Simply Recipes:

1 - 9" or 10" pie dough recipe of your choosing--enough for a top and bottom crust (I used this one from Saveur again)

Pie Filling

2lbs (~4c) sweet cherries pitted and possibly drained of excess juice?
100g (1/2c) granulated sugar
1/2tsp almond extract
2T lemon juice
3T corn starch

Egg Wash

1 large egg
1T water

Course sugar for sprinkling

-Roll out the bottom crust for the pie dough and set within your pie pan and then stick it in the fridge while you get your filling together
-In a large bowl, mix all of the filling ingredients together until well combined and the cherries are fully coated
-Set filling aside
-Roll out your top crust (I made a lattice using a tutorial from Simply Recipes)
-Remove pie pan from the fridge and pour the filling inside
-Place your top crust over the filling and trim, crimp and pinch to your liking (Note about pie dough trimming: On a small edge of my pie, there was a portion that I didn't trim enough so it was cantilevering off of the edge of the pie pan.  So when I stuck it in the oven, it drooped over the edge and was like a waterfall of pie crust over the edge of the pie pan.  Thus, lesson learned:  Trim your pie dough just to the edge of your pan to avoid this droop)
-Place pie in the fridge while you preheat the oven to 425 F
-Once the oven is preheated, brush the top crust with the egg wash, sprinkle the course sugar on top and place the pie pan on top of a baking sheet to catch any juices that may drip down.  Bake pie for 15 minutes
-After the 15 minutes is up, reduce the oven temperature to 350 F and bake for another 30-35 minutes or until the top crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling and, ideally, thickened
-Remove from oven and let cool completely

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Roasted Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream

Perhaps it's a little late to be posting about something that contains strawberries and--heaven forbid--rhubarb. I mean, I know it's a bit late in the season.

But in my defense I made this ice cream weeks ago and just had it in the backlog of things to post.  Actually, it was technically birthday ice cream for my partner but we didn't actually end up eating it until after his birthday and we've been downing it scoop by scoop since then.

Nevertheless, here it is in full force.  This is an ice cream to be reckoned with.  You know how everyone claims ice cream is really really fattening?

Well this ice cream easily makes a case for that claim.  I mean...it has quite a bit of fat.  We're talking whole milk, buttermilk, heavy cream and cream cheese.  Kinda scary right?  Well, don't fret because I just read an article about how fat is back.

That's right--butter, cream, whole milk and cream cheese are ok to eat now--at least in moderation.  But if you're still worried then I have one more defense for this ice cream which is the simple fact that it's worth it.  And I know that that's not really a strong defense but I'm not writing to guide people on nutrition.

Plus, like I mentioned earlier I think these things are ok in moderation.  And it has fresh strawberries and rhubarb so it all balances out.  Sorta. But let's really get back to this ice cream and stop discussing the mental dilemma of do I/don't I.  You do. Simple as that.  Let's move on.

I found this recipe from a fellow hometown blogger who--from what I read--adapted it from a boutique ice cream shop chain named Jeni's.

Jeni's is based out of Columbus, Ohio and they are known as a kind of a farm to cone type of place.  They use local ingredients and dairy products from pasture raised cows and all that good stuff.

And their ice cream is really good.  So I knew that this recipe, especially after seeing its list of ingredients, would be just as good.

It has a lot of great qualities such as its creaminess and abundance of great summer fruits so it's double cool.  So make this and eat this.  And with that I bid you adieu...

Recipe--which can be found on Dinner was Delicious as well:

1 pint of fresh strawberries hulled
2/3c rhubarb cut into 1/4" slices
3T balsamic vinegar
1/8tsp salt
1c sugar
1T vanilla extract
1 1/2c whole milk
1/4c buttermilk
1 1/4c heavy cream
3T cream cheese softened

-Preheat the oven to 400F
-Toss the strawberries and rhubarb along with the balsamic vinegar in a large baking dish
-Roast in oven for 15 minutes
-Remove and let cool completely
-After cooled, take 2/3 of the roasted strawberries and rhubarb along with the juice and puree it until completely smooth
-Set aside the rest of the fruit to fold in to the ice cream later
-In a medium sauce pan, combine the pureed fuit, sugar, salt and vanilla
-Cook over medium heat until the mixture is syrupy and thicker (took me about 15 minutes)
-Remove from heat and let cool completely
-Meanwhile, combine all of the fat in a large bowl (Note:  In the original recipe it's mentioned that although the cream cheese is to be softened, there may still be a few stray chunks in the mixture which will work themselves out in the ice cream maker.  This was true for me and they never really got worked out in my ice cream mixer so there were small chunks of frozen cream cheese in my ice cream--which isn't a bad thing but fyi...if you don't want that then either make sure the cream cheese is really really soft or strain it out before you put it in your ice cream mixer)
-Now combine the fat with the fruit syrup and stir together
-Then pour that into your ice cream mixture and mix/churn according to the instructions that your ice cream mixer model embodies and don't forget to fold in the fruit about 5 minutes or less before the ice cream is done (took mine about 20-25 minutes to churn out a good mixture)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cookies and Cream Chocolate Towers

When I saw the picture for these I was immediately drawn into the recipe.  You can't deny their allure.  They look like triple stacked Oreos or something.  And who doesn't like Oreos?

No one.  That's who.  It's America's cookie.  That said, I actually do have one qualm with the Oreo.  Admittedly, I've never been all that "into" the cookie portion of it.  I'm more of a cream person.

In fact, my favorite type of Oreos are the double-stuffed ones.  The whole cookie-cream combo works great but the cream is what really shines through for me.  With that in mind, when I saw this recipe I was concerned that there was a whole lotta cookie in those towers.

Grant it, there's clearly a lot of cream too but like an Oreo--in my opinion--unless you have a double-stuffed one, the cookie over-powers the cream filling.  Plus, it's too crisp--I like a cookie with a softer edge.

But, after making these chocolate towers, I assumed wrong--for the most part.  Yes, the cookie does sorta over-power the cream but I didn't care when it comes to these cookies.  I didn't care because these cookies were tender and chocolatey and melt-in-your-mouth good--not anything like the Oreo.

I was afraid they were going to be crispy and upon biting into one, all of the amazing cream would be squeezed out.  But no.  Nope.  No way Jose.  The cookie is like a chocolatey soft sugar/butter cookie and it gently collapses when you bite into it--unlike the Oreo which tends to crack and crumble.

And the cream is light but sweet and plentiful.  It's a pure delight to eat.  So with that I encourage everyone to make these because yes they are tall but they are cute too. And they're better than the Oreo.

Recipe slightly adapted from Food & Wine

Chocolate cookies:

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter softened at room temp.
3/4c powdered sugar
1 large egg at room temp.
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4c unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4c all-purpose flour

-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachement, beat the butter and sugar together until well combined
-Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined
-Add the cocoa powder and salt and mix until just combined
-Add the flour and mix until just combined
-Divide the dough into two discs and wrap each tightly in plastic wrap
-Refrigerate until firm--at least 1 hour--or overnight
-After the dough is firm, preheat the oven to 325F
-Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat
-Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured clean surface
-Using a 2 1/2" round cookie/biscuit cutter, cut out at least 30 cookies
-Place cookies on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes
-Remove from oven and let cool completely

Chocolate pastry cream:

1c half-and-half
3 large egg yolks
1/4c granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbsps all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

-Set a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl and set aside
-In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, flour, sugar and salt together until pale and fluffy and then turn off mixer
-In a medium saucepan bring the half-and-half to an almost simmer--just heat until you see bubbles form around the edges of the pan and it starts to steam a bit
-When the half-and-half has started to steam, turn mixer back on low and slowly pour half of the warm half-and-half into the egg mixture and whisk until just combined
-Pour the egg/half-and-half mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the half-and-half
-Put the saucepan back on the stove and heat over medium heat whisking constantly until the mixture has thickened and just starts to slowly bubble
-Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour in the melted chocolate and vanilla and whisk until fully combined
-Strain the pastry cream through the fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl
-Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the pastry cream and refrigerate until it is completely cool and chilled--maybe 1 hour or so

Whipped Cream:

1c heavy cream
1 tsp powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

-In the bowl of stand mixer, whisk all of the ingredients on high speed until stiff peaks form

To assemble everything

-Transfer 3/4 of the whipped cream mixture to a small bowl and add 3 tbsps of the chocolate pastry cream to it and mix until fully combined and a light chocolate mixture forms
-Then take 3 separate pastry bags fitted with large plain tips and add the chocolate pastry cream to one, the light chocolate cream mixture to another and the whipped cream to the last
-Now lay out all 30 cookies onto a clean work surface
-Pipe the chocolate pastry cream onto 12 cookies--about a tablespoon of it
-Pipe the light chocolate cream onto 6 cookies--again about a tablespoon
-Pipe the whipped cream onto the remaining 12 cookies--another tablespoon or so
-Next stack the towers as illustrated:  Start with a chocolate pastry cream cookie, top it with light chocolate cream one followed by a whipped cream cookie and then another chocolate pastry cream cookie and lastly another whipped cream topped cookie.
-Lastly, pipe a dollop of the chocolate pastry cream onto the top of each cookie stack
-Refrigerate the cookie stacks for at least 6 hours to overnight until they are set
-Consume ravenously

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Belated Birthday Cake

There's an amazing bakery in San Diego called Extraordinary Desserts that my partner and I frequent when we visit.  However, let me define what I mean by "frequent."  Our visits usually consist of an extended weekend of a mere three days.  Thus our frequenting means that we pretty much go each day...  They have extremely decadent cakes--like over the top decadence--if such a thing can be said.  And it can, because I've been to this bakery.

They fill their cakes with rich mousses and douse them in sweet syrups and then cover them in light creamy frostings.  There's this one particular cake that caught my partners taste buds called the Creme Ivoire.  Last year when we went, he ordered it on each visit.  Needless to say he was quite taken with this cake.  So, when I asked what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday this year he wasn't sure at first.  But then as I started listing off types of cakes I mentioned the Creme Ivoire--which neither of us actually remembered the name--and he stopped me and asked if I thought I could actually make that cake.

I was quite offended.  Of course I could make that cake!  But before I said that to him, we scoured the menu on the bakery's website until we found the one he adored so much.  I read the description which went something like this: A pound cake (I can make that) soaked in vanilla bean syrup (check) filled with white chocolate mousse (been done before) and covered in whipped cream (easy peasy). So yes, I felt I was quite capable of making this cake.  Well I was sorta right and sorta wrong.

The cake part was fine, the syrup couldn't have been easier but it was the mousse that got me.  It wasn't that I couldn't make the mousse because I could and did and it was rich and spectacularly light--perhaps exactly what a mousse should be.  But what this particular mousse shouldn't be is a filling for a cake--at least not one with six layers of pound cake sandwiching it.  I mean they don't call pound cake pound cake because it's light.  Anyway, basically--if you haven't guessed--the mousse was spilling out the sides of the cake and the layers were sliding off of one another.

So I grabbed some chop sticks and pierced the cake with them to hold the layers in place.  But that was really just a temporary fix and then I got mad at the whole mess and threw the cake in the trash.  My partner was upset.  But I explained what had happened and he accepted it and then I told him I'd go and get him a Dinkels cake for his birthday--which is a bakery that makes cakes we both love.  I also promised him that I would try again to make the same cake--a belated one.  So then I made a new mousse that was specified as a good cake filling and again, it was a great mousse.  But I still ended up with the same problem and I still ended up sticking more chop sticks in the cake to  prevent the layers from sliding and I got mad again.  But I didn't throw the cake away this time.  I threw it in the freezer instead.  And decided to encase the whole cake in white chocolate to create a sort of shell that would prevent the mousse from spilling out and keep the layers in check.  I probably could have just kept it refrigerated but it seemed like a cool idea.  In the end, the cake was probably nothing like the one at Extraordinary Desserts.  But it was good and decadent and I used it as an excuse to do some fancy decorations too.


"Perfect Pound Cake" from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

3 tablespoons (45g) of whole milk at room temperature
3 large eggs (150g) at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2c (150g) cake flour
3/4c (150g) granulated sugar
3/4tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
13 tablespoons (184g) butter softened at room temperature

-Preheat oven to 350 F
-Grease two 6" cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper
-Sift all of the dry ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer
-With a paddle attachment, turn the mixer on for 30 seconds on the lowest setting just to ensure that all of the dry ingredients are well combined
-In a separate medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk and vanilla and lightly beat until well combined
-Add the butter to the dry ingredients and half of the egg/milk/vanilla mixture and turn the mixer on the lowest setting  and continue mixing on the lowest setting until the dry ingredients are well moistened (30-45s)
-Turn the mixer on to a medium-high setting and let it mix for 1 minute
-Turn the mixer off and add half of of the remaining egg/milk/vanilla mixture
-Turn the mixture on low-medium and mix until combined (30-45s)
-Repeat with the remaining egg/milk/vanilla mixture
-Divide the batter evenly between the two greased parchment paper lined cake pans and smooth/even the batter
-Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean
-Remove from the oven and let cool at least 10 minutes in the pans before removing from pans

Vanilla sugar syrup

1/2c (100g) granulated sugar
1/2c water
1/2 vanilla bean

-Combine the water and sugar into a small-medium saucepan
-Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the pan along with the pod
-Bring to a boil over medium heat until all of the sugar is dissolved
-Remove from heat and let cool completely

White chocolate mousse slightly adapted from Food and Wine

1/2 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin
1/2 tablespoon water
1/2c chilled heavy cream
2 tablespoons water or a flavored liqueur
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons of sugar
pinch of salt
4 oz white chocolate melted and cooled

-In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand until softened
-In the bowl of stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk the cream until soft peaks are formed and then refrigerate for about 10 minutes
-In a small bowl, heat the water or liqueur in a microwave on high for about 45 seconds
-Remove from microwave and stir in the gelatin--set aside
-In another separate bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks with the sugar and salt until the yolks are pale in color and the mixture is thickened (5 min)
-Next, beat in the water or liqueur/gelatin mixture
-Then beat in the white chocolate
-Remove bowl from the mixture and in two additions, fold in the chilled whipped cream
-Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours until the mousse is set

Whipped cream

1c chilled heavy whipping cream
Granulated sugar to taste (depending upon how sweet you want the cream--I used about 2 tablespoons)

-Place the chilled whipping cream in the bowl of stand mixer
-With a whisk attachment, whisk the cream on medium-high speed
-When the whisk begins to leave tracks in the cream--the cream is thickening--slowly add the sugar and whisk until hard peaks form

8oz white chocolate melted and cooled (this is more than you'll need but you can always just let the extra white chocolate harden and use it for another recipe)

To put everything together (work as quickly as you can--you may need to refrigerate/freeze intermittently while you work to ensure that the mousse doesn't get too soft and things start to fall apart)

-First, slice each cake layer in half using a long serrated knife
-Next, lay one layer on your serving platter with the cut side facing up
-Using a pastry brush, brush the cooled vanilla sugar syrup on the layer evenly--don't drench it--just moisten it
-Add 1/3 of the while chocolate mousse on top of the bottom layer and spread evenly--or just let the weight of the next layer push it out over the layer...
-Repeat with the next 2 layers
-Add the last/top layer
-Wrap the cake in plastic wrap lightly and place in the freezer for at least 1 hour--mine was in there for a day...
-After the hour is up, remove the cake from the fridge/freezer and remove from the serving platter. -Place the cake on a cooling rack set over a cookie sheet and pour the cooled melted white chocolate over the cake and use an offset spatula to guide it/smooth it out and to scrape off any excess white chocolate from the cake
-Carefully place the cake back on the serving platter and back in the fridge/freezer until the chocolate is set
-Once the chocolate has set, remove the cake from the fridge/freezer and frost with the whipped cream
-Decorate as desired--or just leave plain
-Refrigerate until ready to eat

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rhubarb Hand Pies

I could go on and on about how big of a pain in the ass making pie crust can be but this time it turned out pretty good so I just won't go there.  Instead I'll remark on the ease at which these seem to disappear after they're introduced to a bunch of people at a barbeque and the joy it was to finally get some rhubarb and make something with it.  

I've actually made 3 rhubarb desserts since it started showing up at the farmers market.  

These hand pies, a rhubarb crisp and a white chocolate mousse tart that I screwed up and then had the gall to serve to my co-workers knowing that it was going to taste just so (my apologies for that to any of you that are going to or will read this).  

All of this rhubarb madness got me thinking about why rhubarb is so popular as a dessert item.  I mean, it's actually a vegetable. 

I realize it isn't the first vegetable to be integrated within desserts-- which got me thinking more about things like zucchini bread and carrot cake.  

What's the point of adding these otherwise healthy foods into not-so-healthy baked goods?  It doesn't make the baked good any healthier.  

And let's be honest, do we like carrot cake and zucchini bread and strawberry rhubarb pie because these things actually taste like the vegetables that get baked into them?  Well, I kinda don't think so.  I think that as long as we pile a bunch of sugar on top of anything it's eventually going to taste good..  I could pulse and mince up some broccoli and fold it into my chocolate cake batter and I bet it would still taste good as long as I put a lot of sugar in it.  Right?

Well, maybe.  Maybe not.  I've never actually tried that and I could be wrong.  Maybe my cake would taste like broccoli or maybe it would taste just like chocolate cake with some added green "texture".  But what I do know is that I actually might be wrong about all of this because of these hand pies.

Yes yes, these hand pies have a good amount of sugar in them but it doesn't stop the one major characteristic of rhubarb from coming through which is its tartness.  Rhubarb is tart and I think that as long as you don't overwhelm your recipe with sugar--and other spices/ingredients--you can find a great balance and that tart trait can shine through gracefully.  In fact I think you could kick back the sugar amount even more and it would still be an amazing dessert that screamed rhubarb.  There are tons of recipes that always combine it with strawberries--and for good reason--but I think that rhubarb deserves its day in the sun.  These hand pies make the case for rhubarb.  Make them. Savor them. Revel in the tartness that rhubarb embodies.  This is the word of rhubarb.


For the pie crust:  

Lately I've gone back to basics with pie crust (for a while I was using the Cooks Illustrated recipe that uses vodka--but the honeymoon is over with that one--it's just too soft to deal with).  So, I've been using a real basic crust which I found on Saveur that has step by step instructions with pictures. You can use any pie crust recipe you wish but just make sure it is enough for what would be a top and bottom crust for a single 9" pie. 

For the filling:

1lb rhubarb stalks with the ends trimmed and cut into half inch slices
3/4c (150g) granulated sugar
2tbsp corn starch
1tsp lemon extract
pinch of salt

-Place the rhubarb, sugar and corn starch into a large bowl and toss it all together until the rhubarb is well coated
-Place the mixture in a medium saucepan and place on the stove over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, covered.  Then remove the cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes on medium heat until it is thick enough so that you can take a spoon and run it along the bottom of the pan and a trench quickly forms and then disappears.
-Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon extract and the salt
-Let cool completely.  Also--courtesy of a tip from Deb at Smitten Kitchen because it is quicker--you can spread the mixture on a plate and place in the freezer until it is cool enough.  It will thicken more as it cools.

To assemble:

1 large egg
1tbsp water
coarse sugar or a cinnamon/sugar mixture (which is what I used) for sprinkling on top

-Preheat the oven to 400 F
-Roll out your chilled pie dough--1 disc at a time--on a well-floured surface--to somewhere between a 1/8-1/4" thick
-Using a pastry cutter or a pizza cutter, cut 3x3 inch squares.  You could also probably use a 3" diameter biscuit or cookie cutter as well.  I got somewhere between 15-18 (I made these a week ago so I can't remember now..) hand pies total out of this dough.
-Once you've matched up your squares with a top and a bottom, in a small bowl whisk the egg and water together well and using a pastry brush, brush the bottom of each hand pie with the egg wash
-Spoon about a teaspoon of the mixture (maybe a tiny bit more--my one criticism is that they could have had just a tad more filling) on each of the bottom squares.
-Place the top square over the bottom with the filling and lightly press the edges to seal
-Brush the top square with the egg wash and sprinkle the course sugar on top
-Place pies on a parchment paper or silicon lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown 
-Remove from the oven and cool or eat warm

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


I can't express the joys of making puff pastry and having it turn out perfect.  I can't express them because I've never had it happen to me.  But at the same time I've only made it twice in my life.  It's fun actually--time consuming--but fun.  Anyway, the two times I have tried it, I did with two different recipes.  The most recent, which pertains to this post, was from my Bouchon Bakery cookbook.  

As a side note, I am really enjoying this cookbook.  It's photos are pristine and mouth-watering and the recipes that I have made have not disappointed in the least bit.  That said, many of the things that I have made take time.  Like I really need to read the whole recipe before I decide to make it so that I know if I can get it done that day or two days later.  There's a lot of thought and care that goes into making these recipes.  As a side side note, I knew--from my past experience--that making puff pastry does take time but the recipe from this book takes even more time.  There's a lot chilling and resting going on.  And I had a bit of trouble this time around and I think it had a lot to do with the one thing you can't let happen when you are making puff pastry:  The butter began to melt.  

Yes, and it's not as though my apartment was super hot too.  I blame it partly on the butter that I used.  I used what I understood to be--and still believe is--a good quality European style butter (Kerrygold).  But the thing with this butter is that it just seems too soft and it melts faster than a crappier butter.  I think I used a lesser quality butter last time--although truth be told I can't recall for sure.  I just know that I didn't have a butter melting problem last time.  So anyway, every time I began taking the dough out to roll and fold, a little bit of butter would melt and smear into the dough.  I felt helpless.  Sad.  Mad.  Not glad.  Yet I trudged along hoping for the best and realizing I wouldn't find out the true damage until I made something with the dough.  

That was the other small predicament I found myself in.  It's one project just to make the puff pastry.  It's another to figure out what to do with it once you've got it.  So again I turned to the laborious yet beautiful Bouchon Bakery cookbook and decided on the Mille-feuille a.k.a. Napoleon.  

It's really a brilliant concoction this Mille-feuille.  It's so rich.  It has four layers of puff pastry sandwiching three layers of mousseline cream topped with whipped cream.  Damn.  Right?  And that mousseline cream is luxuriant--I could easily eat a bowl of it.  And then some.    

Once you have the puff pastry and the mousseline cream made, it's fairly easy to put together.  You can start by making the cream which is basically vanilla pastry cream and buttercream mixed together.  Then, get the puff pastry ready by rolling it out onto a baking sheet and weighing it down with as much weight as possible so the puff pastry doesn't "puff" up a lot.  Seems kinda wrong right?  Not letting puff pastry puff?  But the purpose is to create really thin sheets of puff pastry that have many many flaky layers squeezed in them.  And generally it worked.  But remember that butter melting problem I mentioned earlier?  Well I found the damage that it caused which is visible in my photographs.  Notice, if you will, the second pastry layer from the right.  It doesn't look flaky.  It looks like a big clump of dough which is basically what it is.  Again, sad.  But, the other layers seem to have turned out great!  So, not that sad.  

Also, something that you'll notice about this particular Mille-feuille is that it is turned on it's side so that the layers are side by side.  Typically they are turned so that the layers are on top of one another like a sandwich.  But not this one.  This one is constructed on it's side per Bouchon Bakery instructions.  I read that it is done this way because the pastry chef felt that with the traditional way you always end up squeezing out the mousseline cream when you pierce through it with a fork or bite down on it.  Although I can see the logic in this, and perhaps it is through my own misdoings in making the pastry, but it's not exactly easy to eat it this way too.  It's a little difficult to cut through the pastry.  It's flaky but not easily destructible and unless you're eating it with a fork and knife the cream still manages to ooze out between the pastry layers.  So, maybe my pastry wasn't tender enough.  I don't know.  Either way this is one really good dessert. 

Recipe ever so slightly adapted from Bouchon Bakery

What you need:

600g puff pastry
375g pastry cream
375g buttercream
300g whipped cream

Pastry Cream

132g egg yolks
1 1/2 tsps of vanilla bean paste or extract
110g granulated sugar
50g all-purpose flour
550g whole milk
27g room temp. butter cut in 1/2" pieces

-Set up an ice bath and place a clean medium bowl in the bath
-Place the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and pour in the vanilla
-Whisk on low speed for about 30 seconds and then slowly add the sugar
-Increase the speed to medium-high and whisk until the yolks have lightened up in color--about 1 1/2 minutes
-Scrape down the bowl
-Turn the mixer back on to medium-high and whisk until it's thickened and even lighter in color
-Reduce the speed to low and add the flour and whisk for another 30 seconds or until fully combined
-With the mixer running, slowly pour in the milk and mix until combined
-Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a large saucepan
-Set pan over medium heat while whisking constantly until the mixture thickens and simmers, very slow bubbles just start to pop at the surface
-Pour the mixture into the bowl that is sitting in the bath and whisk in the butter
-Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the pastry cream and set aside to cool/refrigerate until ready to use


75g egg whites
150g + 33g granulated sugar divided
42g water
227g unsalted butter at room temp. and cut into pieces

-Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment
-Place the water and 150g of sugar in a small saucepan and stir until combined
-Bring the sugar/water to simmer over medium-high heat
-When the temperature of the syrup reaches 230 degrees F, turn the mixer on medium speed and gradually pour in the remaining sugar
-Whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks.  If the syrup has not yet reached 248 degrees F and the egg whites have formed soft peaks then turn the mixer to the lowest setting and continue to cook the syrup until it reaches 248 degrees F.
-Once the temperature of the syrup reaches 248, remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour the syrup into the mixer while the mixer is still running at its low setting
-After the syrup is in, increase the speed to high and whisk until the bottom of the bowl is at room temperature and the egg whites have formed stiff peaks
-When the egg whites are cool, put the mixer back on its low setting and start adding the butter one piece at a time--adding the next piece only after the previous one is fully combined within the mixture
-When the buttercream is at the proper consistency, turn off the mixture and set it aside or refrigerate it.

Note:  I didn't end up using all of the butter--I think I had a quarter of it left over when it started coming together.

Whipped Cream

150g heavy cream
5g powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsps vanilla bean paste or extract

Place everything in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on medium speed until the mixture seems stiff enough to pipe through a pastry bag

Mousseline Cream

Pastry cream

-Place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of a 9x13 jelly roll pan
-Place the pastry cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk until smooth
-Add the buttercream and whisk until fully combined
-Pour the mixture into the jelly roll pan and with an offset spatula smooth and even it out
-Place it in the freezer overnight

For the puff pastry dough

-Roll out the puff pastry to the size of a 12x16 jelly roll pan and trim it to fit in it
-Freeze the dough for an hour
-After an hour preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
-Once the oven is preheated, remove the dough from the freezer and place another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough
-Place the same or as similar as you have sized baking sheet on top of the dough and weigh it down as evenly as possible.  This is to prevent it form puffing up.
-Bake for one hour and ten minutes or until the bottom of the dough is golden brown
-Remove pastry from oven and remove the other baking sheet and any applied weights
-Invert the pastry on another sheet pan, place a piece of parchment paper on top of that and then another sheet pan to continue to weigh it down
-Put it back in the oven for another ten minutes
-After ten minutes, remove the sheet pan that is weighing the pastry down and the piece of parchment paper sitting on top and bake for an additional eight to ten minutes
-Remove from oven and let cool

Note:  When baking the pastry you might want to place another sheet pan or something below the sheet pan holding the dough to catch any butter that might seep out.  I didn't do this and to this day every time I use my oven it smokes from all of the grease sitting at the bottom of it (Yes, I need to clean it)

Putting it all together

-Take the cooled pastry and trim it to a 10x12 rectangle
-Then, cut it lengthwise into 4 strips each 2 1/2 inches wide
-Remove the mousseline cream from the freezer and invert the sheet of cream onto a cutting board
-Cut the mousseline cream to match the size of the strips of pastry
-Once everything is cut to size, lay flat a piece of pastry, then lay a strip of mousseline cream on top of that and continue with another piece of pastry, then cream etc... until you have what you something like you see in my pictures
-After you have everything all sandwiched together, turn the whole thing on its side and with a serrated knife, trim about a half inch off on each end.
-Pipe the whipped cream on top to whatever pattern or design of your choosing--I did the petal thing because that's all I know.  In the Bouchon Bakery book, he does something else which is fancy and nice--beyond my grasp at this stage..

See?  A ton of steps!