Friday, September 25, 2015

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

If I had to choose one savory food to live with for the rest of my life it would probably be pizza. And it could be any type of pizza--I mean I do have my favorites but I wouldn't necessarily pass up a slice of thin, pan or deep dish either.  If I could accompany that pizza with a dessert, then I'd likely choose chocolate chip cookies.  

Similar to pizza, I love all types of chocolate chip cookies.  I like them big, small, crunchy, chewy, gooey or some variation/combination of any of those.  So when I see a new recipe claiming to be "the best chocolate chip cookie recipe," I'm sold.  Regardless if it is actually the best, it's a pretty sure bet that I'm gonna like it.  However, this particular cookie recipe wasn't claiming to be the best chocolate chip cookie recipe.  But, it was voted the King Arthur's 2015 best recipe of the year.  You read that, right???  The recipe of the year.  

That means--as far as I can tell--that out of ALL of the recipes King Arthur came up with, a chocolate chip cookie recipe seized the day and came out as number one.  Naturally, I decided to give the recipe a try.  And I'm glad I did. Not only did the recipe make like 20 giant-sized cookies, they were all titillating to my taste buds.

As the title indicates they weren't just chocolate chip cookies, they were chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. But they weren't oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  By that I mean that they were chocolate chip cookies with some oatmeal in them.  They weren't oatmeal cookies with some chocolate chips in them.  See the distinction?  Good.

Now, these were the crispy on the edges and chewy in the middle type of cookie.  They also had a ton of chocolate in them.  The original recipe called for chocolate chips but I had these chocolate discs on hand--which I purchased in bulk from our local chocolate factory--so I used them--which I must confess was a superb choice because it created giant pools of chocolate instead of dispersed puddles throughout the cookie.

Another thing about these cookies that I really feel contributed to their unique character was the vanilla.  The recipe called for a full tablespoon of vanilla extract.  That's kind of a lot compared to most tried and true chocolate chip cookie recipes--they usually have a teaspoon at most.  And that teaspoon provides a hint of vanilla. This tablespoon made the vanilla loud and proud.  Well not loud. But it was definitely present and I liked that.

Although it did make me wonder if the vanilla was what made the cookie so great.  Like if I added a tablespoon of vanilla extract to any chocolate chip cookie recipe, would it stand out?  Then I thought about it some more and decided that no, that wouldn't necessarily happen.  And the vanilla certainly contributed to the greatness of these cookies but there were definitely other factors at play. I think that the amount of chocolate in them didn't hurt and the oatmeal gave it a bit more texture and crunch--which was a big plus.

I will concede that my opinion may not be so unbiased since I did readily admit that I've never met a chocolate chip cookie I didn't like.  But....nevertheless all in all, a well developed recipe worthy of its title.

Recipe via King Arthur found here

227g unsalted butter at room temp.
213g light brown sugar
99g granulated sugar
1 large egg at room temp.
1 large egg yolk at room temp.
1 T vanilla extract
241g all-purpose flour
99g old fashioned oats
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
510g chocolate chips, discs or chunks

First, line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and set them aside.  Then preheat the oven to 325 F.  Next, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  After that, using the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment cream the butter and sugars together until smooth--I did it for about 3 minutes on medium-high speed.  Then, stop the mixer, scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and add the eggs one at a time--mixing well between each addition.  Then add the vanilla and mix just until combined.  Now add the dry ingredients all at once and mix on low speed just until the they've been fully incorporated.  Finally throw in the chocolate and mix on low speed just until it has been dispersed as evenly as you wish throughout the cookie batter.  And now measure out about 1/4 cup full of batter and drop them onto the baking sheets leaving at least two inches around each lump of batter.  Bake the cookies for about 15-16 minutes.  Once they're done, remove them from oven and let them cool for about 8-10 minutes on the pan before removing them.  Eat. Love. Pray. Gay.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Banana Layer Cake

After making several of Christina Tosi's signature creations, you'd think I'd already be prepared for what's in store and thus my jaw wouldn't drop while reading through one of her recipes.  But with this one, my jaw still dropped a bit.  There's a lot of background work that I needed to do before I could even crack an egg for the actual cake.  I don't want to give the wrong impression with how I feel about her desserts because the truth is that I have never been disappointed after first bite--and every subsequent bite for that matter.  They're astoundingly delicious.  The ingredients and flavors she's crafted just work so well.

Yes, I had to make my own feuilletine and hazelnut paste--they're those types of ingredients I imagine are only readily available in Paris--or on Amazon.  And then I had to use those ingredients to make like, a bazillion other components for the cake.  But, these desserts are a project and--in case it's not fairly evident from the subject matter on my blog--I love baking so it's not exactly a chore to have to do all of this sort of logistical work.

Plus, it's pretty easy to make your own feuilletine--and I think it's good baking experience, or--if you will--builds strong baking character. Plus, maybe you'll save a few bucks making your own.  And if you don't like doing any of that, then pretty much any ingredient is just a mouse click away.

Now the flavor of the cake is not just banana--it's extra banana.  Not only do you get the banana flavor from the actual bananas but there's an extra boost from some banana extract. And unbeknownst to myself--previous to this endeavour that is--banana extract is readily available in most supermarkets!  So that was actually an easy ingredient to retrieve.  The banana cream obviously has some excellent banana-rama kick and is as good as any banana cream you'll find in your favorite banana cream pie.

What I like so much about Christina Tosi's cakes is that--as I mentioned earlier--the ingredients really are well crafted together.  Like there's just a perfect amount of banana cream and chocolate ganache sandwiched between the cake layers.  And the "crunch" she refers to has some salt in it that offsets the sweet quite nicely.  There's different texture and taste in the cakes that seems almost perfectly balanced.

I did have a tiny issue though.  And of course it had to do with the fact that--I'm almost positive anyway--I made some of my own ingredients.  Specifically, the hazelnut paste.  I found a recipe for hazelnut paste and making it wasn't a problem.  I thought it came out right because it had the same sort of consistency that the store-bought almond paste has--pretty thick and not easily spreadable. But whatever the case, I don't think it worked too well with the last component I needed for the cake which was the hazelnut frosting.

The frosting base is just powdered sugar and butter and then essentially you just mix in the paste. But because the paste I made was more viscous than anything, it didn't form a very spreadable frosting. So, whatever Christina Tosi uses--and she actually does list her specific make and model of ingredients in the front of her book--must be a different type of paste than what I made.  In retrospect, I probably could have added more butter to make it more spreadable and that may have done the trick.  Nonetheless, I worked with what I had and in the end, I don't think it made a negative impact on the finished product.

I often think how Christina Tosi's cakes are like super-sized french entremets.  You know, those little artsy cakes that have lots of different layers and textures?  In that same sort of way, this three layer six inch cake may look simple--maybe because it's not ornately frosted or topped with some slick looking fondant--but that's just a deception.  And I can attest to that because it took me over a week to get this thing together--albeit I was working full time too.  Nevertheless, if you venture to make one of the famed Milk Bar's cakes, beware it's not something you can necessarily whip up so quickly. At the same time, after all is said and done, I'd bet money that you will not be disappointed.


Components needed for the cake

Banana cake
55g (1/4c) milk
Chocolate hazelnut ganache
1/2 recipe of hazelnut crunch (you can just divide the recipe in half now if you don't want to make all of it)
1/2 recipe of banana cream (you can just divide the recipe in half now if you don't want to make all of it)
Hazelnut frosting

Banana cake

85g (6 T) unsalted butter at room temp.
200g (1c) granulated sugar
1 large egg
110g (1/2c) buttermilk
20g (grapeseed oil)
2g (1/2 tsp) banana extract
225g or 2 very ripe bananas
225g (1 1/3c) all purpose flour
3g (3/4 tsp) baking powder
3g (1/2 tsp) baking soda
2g (1/2 tsp) kosher salt

First, grease a quarter sheet pan and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.  Then, preheat the oven to 325 F.  Next, in a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, soda and salt and then set it aside.  And then using a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil and banana extract and set that aside.  Now, in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy on medium-high speed--about 2-3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the egg and beat for another 2-3 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl again, turn the mixer down to its lowest speed and slowly stream in the buttermilk-oil-banana extract mixture.  Then turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and beat for another 5-6 minutes or until the mixture has doubled in size and all the ingredients are fully combined and look cohesive.  Turn the mixture down to its lowest speed again and add the bananas and mix just until they have broken up and are evenly distributed within the batter.  Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix just until combined.  Pour the batter in the prepared pan and spread it evenly.  Bake the cake for about 25 minutes or until it's fully set.  Remove the cake from the oven, and let cool before removing it from the pan.

Chocolate hazelnut ganache

55g (1/4c) heavy cream
60g (2oz) gianduja chocolate chopped (I used this)
65g (1/4c) hazelnut paste (I made mine from this recipe)
38g (3 T) fudge sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients except for the cream.  Then, using a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream until it comes to a boil.  Next pour the cream over the rest of the ingredients and let it set for about a minute.  Then, lightly whisk until the mixture is fully homogeneous.  Store the ganache in an air tight container until ready to use.

Hazelnut crunch

110g (1/3c) hazelnut paste
80g (1/2c) hazelnut brittle
80g (1c) feuilletine (I used this recipe to make mine)
20g (2 T) confectioners sugar
3/4 tsp kosher salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, combine all of the ingredients until everything is evenly distributed.  Store the crunch in an airtight container until ready for use.

Banana cream

225g or 2 ripe bananas
75g (1/3c) heavy cream
55g (1/4) milk
100g (1/2c) granulated sugar
25g (2 T) corn starch
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 large egg yolks
2 gelatin sheets
40g (3 T) butter
1/2 tsp yellow food coloring
160g heavy cream
160g confectioners sugar

Using either a blender or food processor, puree the bananas, cream and milk until smooth.  Then add the sugar, corn starch, salt and eggs yolks and mix until fully incorporated.  Now, pour that mixture into a medium heavy bottomed saucepan.  Clean the food processor or blender.  After that, bloom the gelatin in cold water.  Heat the mixture in the saucepan over medium heat whisking constantly until it starts to bubble and thicken.  Once it starts to bubble let it boil for 2 minutes whisking constantly. Then pour the mixture back into the blender or food processor, add the bloomed gelatin (remember to wring out the excess water from the gelatin before adding it to the banana cream), butter and food coloring and blend until fully combined.  Pour the mixture into a heat safe bowl and chill in the refrigerator until completely cooled.  Once the banana cream is chilled, pour the remaining heavy cream and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, whisk until medium stiff peaks have formed.  Stop the mixer, add the cold banana cream and whisk slowly until fully combined. Store the banana cream in an air-tight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Hazelnut frosting

25g (2 T) unsalted butter at room temp.
65g (1/4c) hazelnut paste
20g (2 T) confectioners sugar
1/8 tsp kosher salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter using the paddle attachment.  Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until fully smooth and fluffy.  Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator until ready to use BUT bring to room temperature before using.

To assemble the cake

You'll need a six inch cake ring for the assembly.  First, invert the-cooled banana cake (I find that having the cake cold or even partially frozen helps with this part) onto either a silpat or a piece of parchment paper.  Using the cake ring, cut out two circles.  Clean your cake ring. Then, place the cake ring on a silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Line the inside of the cake ring with either an acetate strip that's 9-12 inches wide or--if you're like me and don't have acetate strips on hand--you can use parchment paper to do this--grant it, it's not as sturdy as the acetate but it gets the job done just fine.  For the parchment paper, just cut out a piece that will line the inside circumference of the cake ring and that is about 9-12 inches wide.  Now, place 55g or 1/4 cup of milk in small bowl and set it next to your work space.  Take the cake scraps (everything leftover from the two circles you cut out) and using your fist or some other tool you deem workable, gently mash them into an even layer at the bottom of the cake ring.  This will be your bottom layer.  Now get your milk. Using a pastry brush, brush about half of the milk onto the mashed up cake scraps at the bottom of the ring.  Then, using the back of a smallish spoon, spread half of the ganache over the cake in an even layer.  Next, spread 1/3 of the hazelnut crunch over the ganache. After that, using the back of a smallish spoon, spread half of the banana cream over the crunch as evenly as possible.  This completes the first layer.  For the second layer, place one of the cake circles you cut out over the banana cream.  And then repeat everything you did for the first layer starting with brushing the top of the cake with the remainder of the milk--spread the rest of the ganache over it, then 1/3 of the crunch and finally the remainder of the banana cream.  Your second layer is now complete.  To finish, place the remaining cake layer over the banana cream.  Spread the hazelnut frosting over the top of the cake and then sprinkle the remaining crunch over the frosting.  After that, place the cake in the freezer to set for at least 12 hours.  The day you're ready to eat the cake, take it out of the freezer, and using your thumbs pop it out of the cake ring (pushing it out from the bottom), place it on your cake platter, remove the parchment paper and let it defrost for at least 3 hours.  Then eat.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Basil Ice Cream

I may have mentioned this before.  I probably shouldn't have.  I'm actually reluctant to mention it at all because it's something that I believe sets me apart from pretty much everyone else in the whole wide world--and not in a good way. The thing is, I'm not the biggest fan of ice cream....  I like it ok.  I remember once a while back I was chatting with an acquaintance of mine and he had just moved to the neighborhood I live in.  He told me he discovered this place, George's, and I happily added that I knew all about George's because they have the best chocolate fudge cake. He laughed at me because he found it odd that I mentioned a cake instead of the gallons and gallons of ice creams they have on display sitting below a menu that lists a plethora of different flavors as well as sundaes.

In short, George's is really more of an ice cream destination for most people--although they do have quite a selection of other types of non-frozen desserts--including that delectable chocolate fudge cake I adore/prefer over all of those aforementioned ice cream flavors. Don't get me wrong, I think ice cream is good.  But I'd much rather have a brownie or piece of cake over it.  At the same time, my lack of enthusiasm for ice cream doesn't prevent me from wanting to make it.  I mean I do have my own ice cream maker and truth be told, over the years I've made quite a bit of it.  But I think it's more the novelty of it--homemade ice cream is a little more rare than cake or brownies.  And as boring as it may be, vanilla ice cream is probably my favorite flavor.  It's also the most basic and simplest ice cream flavor to make--so I make it more than any other flavor.  Plus, it pairs so well with everything--especially chocolate cake and brownies...  Nevertheless, on occasion I like to expand my horizons and try something a lil different.  And since it's summer and I have an abundance of basil growing on my balcony, I knew that when I came across a recipe for basil ice cream I had to give it a shot.

The closest thing that basil ice cream tastes like is green tea ice cream.  Not surprisingly, it does taste basily--but not overwhelmingly so.  And I can't honestly say that I loved it (setting aside my moderate passion for ice cream in general) but I also don't think it's bad at all.  Though, what I think really elevates it is adding in some fresh berries--or some sort of fruit sauce--like cherry sauce--which is what I had on hand.  I'm not sure why or what the reasons are, but in the same way that vanilla ice cream and brownies go well, basil and berries pair quite nicely too.  Throw in some white chocolate magic shell (I made my own which was extremely easy) and you've got an amazing alternative type sundae.  It might seem like a very odd flavor but--as I mentioned earlier--it's no stranger than green tea ice cream.  So if you like that, then you'd probably enjoy this.  It's actually kind of a refreshing flavor--worth a try.  And for someone who isn't the biggest ice cream lover, I think that's saying something.

Recipe slightly adapted from Saveur

2 cups basil leaves
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 T lime zest
1/4 tsp salt
6 large egg yolks

First, combine everything in a blender until completely smooth.  Then transfer the mixture to a medium or large saucepan.  Heat the mixture over low heat, stirring often, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture has just almost come to a simmer.  Once heated through, remove from the heat and pour it through a fine mesh sieve over a large clean bowl.  Discard the leftover basil leaves.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day, freeze the mixture according to the instructions for whatever ice cream maker you utilize.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Almond Berry Tarts

I’ve recently discovered how to make my own almond cream.  And how I can replace the almonds with pistachios or hazelnuts or pecans…  Basically, a whole new world full of joy has just been revealed to me.  And with summer fruit season in full swing, it’s fairly inevitable that I should pair the two. 

It’s funny because pastry chefs have been using almond creams and pistachio creams to do just that for a while and I’ve probably been eating them often enough but never realized precisely the bliss my taste buds were experiencing.  But now I know.  And I’ve been putting this knowledge to good use lately.  

I read about almond cream from Dorie Greenspan in Baking Chez Moi and while she was discussing it, she offered up the tidbit of replacing the almonds with other nuts like pistachios.  So I actually made pistachio cream first.  And I fell in love with it.  Then I tried a pecan cream and was equally smitten.  In fact, I made two galletes with  some fresh summer fruit—one with pistachio cream and one with pecan cream.  If not for some technical difficulties (new camera coupled with some personal technical density) they both would have probably made it onto my blog.  Nevertheless, I come here bearing a new product with almond cream—one of the tree nuts I had yet to try my hand at.  And it did not disappoint either.  I paired the almond cream with some raspberries and blackberries and threw them both into some partially-baked pâte sablée.  The entire combination wasn’t too sweet or rich—it was pretty right on.  

Admittedly, I think I prefer the pistachio and pecan creams over the almond cream.  But it’s not as though I’d ever pass on an almond one—it’s pretty delicious nonetheless.  The great thing about these recipes is that they are super easy to make—professional pastry chefs use them all of the time and that’s probably because they’re equally delicious and easy to make.  That said, I certainly don’t think this is something that the every day baker couldn’t or shouldn’t tackle.  It’s an amazing addition to spruce of a fruit tart at any time of the year.


Pâte sablée from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan (enough dough for 1 double crust pie for a standard 9 inch pie pan or six 4 inch individual tart pans with some dough still leftover)

408g (3 cups) all purpose flour
120g (1 cup) confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
256g (18 T) chilled unsalted butter and cut into small quarter-inch cubes
2 large egg yolks

First, butter your tarts pans and set aside.  Then, prepare the dough.  You can do this in a food processor or by hand.  I did mine in my food processor so here's how that went...  Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of the food processor and pulse to combine.  Place the butter in the food processor and pulse until the mixture has clumps the size of peas--you may need to manually stir the mixture up a bit to make sure the butter has been distributed evenly.  Add the egg yolks and pulse until they have fully moistened the dough.  Remove the dough from the bowl of the food processor and place it on a work surface.  Lightly knead it just to make sure there aren't any dry bits leftover. After that, you can either roll the dough out and place it into the tart pans or press it into the pans.  I pressed my into the pans--which I found to be easier.  Once the pans are lined with dough, prick the bottoms of each tart pan all over with a fork.  Place the tart pans on a large baking sheet, cover it with plastic wrap and then place the pan into the refrigerator to chill until you're ready to par-bake them.

Almond Cream from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan

85g (6 T) unsalted butter at room temp.
132g (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
75g (3/4 cup) almond flour
2 tsp all purpose flour
1 tsp corn starch
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Attach the bowl to the mixer and using the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until it's creamy--1-2 minutes.  Then, add the sugar to the bowl and beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy--3-5 minutes.  Add the flours and corn starch and beat until fully combined.  Next, add the egg and beat until it has been fully combined--making sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl so that all of the ingredients have been thoroughly combined.  Lastly, add the vanilla and beat until it has been combined.  Store the almond cream in an air tight container in the refrigerator until read to use.


1 - 1 1/2 cups of fresh raspberries and blackberries

First, par-bake the dough-lined tart pans.  Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Line each dough-lined tart pan with parchment paper and fill each one with pie weights.  Bake them for about 12-15 minutes and then remove them from the oven to cool completely--and remove the pie weights and parchment paper.  Once the par-baked dough is completely cool, preheat the oven to 350 F.  Then, divide up the almond cream evenly between each pan and spread it evenly over the bottom of each one. Divide up the berries between the tart pans and spread them atop the almond cream.  Bake the tarts for 30-45 minutes or until the almond cream has puffed up and slightly browned.  Remove the tarts from the oven and let cool.  

Friday, August 21, 2015

Basque Cake

Ever since I discovered the basque cake at a cafe--Floriole to be specific--in my hometown, I've been kind of obsessed with finding a recipe that rivals it--or at least comes close to it.  I suppose I could just politely ask for the recipe from said establishment, but I have my doubts that they'd give it to me.

Nevertheless, I think this particular concoction that I came across comes pretty damn close--maybe a few tweaks and it would be even closer. But even on it's own--without comparing--it's a heartstopping cake.  And it literally might stop your heart.  I have never made a single cake that has a POUND OF BUTTER and a POUND OF SUGAR in it--plus a full tablespoon of kosher salt.

This has to be the richest cake known to humankind.  It's not a cake for those who are trying to "cut back."  It's not a cake for those who are looking to eat better.  This cake is very very bad for you. the same time it's soooo darn good for you too.  If this were the last cake I was to eat before I died, I would probably die happy.

That said--admittedly I experienced certain bouts of angst during the process of making this cake. Specifically when I had to weigh out the pound of butter and sugar.  I kept asking myself, 'Should I really do this?  Is this right?  Should I find another recipe?  Am I gonna die after eating this thing?'  All of those answers became quite clear after the first bite--yes, yes, no way, who cares--this is so f'ing good.   This is the kind of the dessert that's really just good for your soul.

Recipe adapted from Amanda Rockman's Basque Cake recipe via Lottie + Doof

16 oz unsalted butter at room temp.
16 oz granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
3 large eggs at room temp.
10.5 oz cake flour
2.5 oz almond flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 T kosher salt
6-8 oz of cherry preserves

First, butter and flour an 8, 9 or 10 inch spring form pan (the original recipe I found called for an 8 inch pan but I only had a 10 inch one so I used it and it worked fine).  Next, preheat the oven to 325 F.  Then in a medium bowl, combine the flours, salt and baking powder and whisk to combine--set it aside. Now, place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, and then using the mixer and the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for about 3-5 minutes until it's light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla bean paste and mix just until it's fully incorporated.  Then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Next begin adding each egg one at a time beating well so that each egg is fully incorporated into the mixture before the next egg is added--scrape down the bowl as necessary.  Finally, the add flour mixture and mix on low speed just until it has been completely incorporated into the mixture.

Now for assembly--you can choose to do this a couple of ways.  The first way is by spooning half of the batter into the baking pan and spreading it out and creating a bit of a well in the middle where the cherry preserves will sit.  Or, place the batter into a piping bag and then pipe half of the batter into the pan and create a well that way.  Either way you go about it will work as far as I'm concerned. Nevertheless, once you have half the batter spread in the bottom of the pan with a well in the center of the batter, spoon the cherry preserves into that well.  Then pour/pipe the rest of the batter on top of the preserves and cake batter and smooth out the top evenly.  Finally, place the cake in the oven to bake for at least an hour--mine took about 75 minutes (like the original recipe stated).  The cake is done when it's set and as the original recipe stated--err on the side of baking longer because the cake has so much fat in it, it would be quite difficult to dry it out.  Once the cake is done, remove it from the oven and let cool completely before removing it from the pan.  Eat in small portions--if you can resist...

Monday, July 13, 2015

Pistachio and Raspberry Financiers

Financiers were once described to me as little tea cakes.  And when they were, I conjured up the image of  a proper English tea time with elderly woman wearing big hats sipping Earl Gray from floral printed cups all while sitting next to tiered trays of several different types of these tea cakes.

It seemed so elegant--and I imagine that that image actually comes to fruition some where in the world--or at least at one point in time it did.

And even if it doesn't today it doesn't change the fact that, still, there is something elegant and quaint about financiers.

They're not ornate or ostentatious by being garnished with piped frosting or layered with different types of mousse.  It's just the cake and any flavor added to the batter by way of nuts or fruit.  Nothing is overly embellished and everything about them is restrained--but not dull.

So simple that I can't seem to find anymore words to write about them--albeit a few notes/words of advice.

Financiers are usually baked in little rectangular loaf-like pans--which I happen to own.  If you don't, it's not uncommon to use mini muffin/cupcake pans, which the author (Dorie Greenspan) of this recipe points out.  That said, the recipe baking times may differ a bit depending on which type of mold you use--so you'll need to keep any eye out for that.  I have another recipe that specifies the financier molds I have so I referenced that for the baking time and tested it out a bit on my first batch. Initially, the first batch seemed a bit over-baked.  I felt like they were a bit too crunchy on the outside edges.  So, I reduced the baking time for the next few batches and that seemed to allay that issue. However, during the next few days--while being stored in an air tight container--the financiers seemed to soften up a bit and their texture was even more cake-like--which pleased me.  I've read from other recipes that financiers are best the day they are baked and then a few days after.  I completely disagree with this.  I think they taste even better as they age a bit---I mean I'm not talking anymore than a week--but after a few days I think they taste even better--in fact I happen to think this about a lot of desserts that aren't deep fried.  But anyway, contrary to what most recipes state I think these will keep great for up to a week in an air tight container--and at room temperature.

Recipe slightly adapted from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan

170g (12 T) unsalted butter
180g (+/- 6 large eggs) egg whites
99g (3/4c) roasted and salted shelled pistachios
200g (1c) granulated sugar
90g (2/3c) all-purpose flour
pinch of sea salt
123g (1c) fresh raspberries

Place the egg whites in a small bowl and using a fork or a small whisk, whisk the whites just until they are broken up and then set them aside.  Next, using a small saucepan melt the butter over medium heat--whisking often so you don't let any of the butter burn.  Essentially you're browning the butter--although Dorie Greenspan doesn't specifically state that.  She states to melt the butter until it just about turns a "pale golden" brown color.  So, I guess you're slightly browning it.  Anyway, once it just starts to brown remove it from the heat and pour it into a measuring cup and set it aside.  Then, take the shelled pistachios and place them in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse the pistachios until they are a course grind--be careful not to over-process them or else you might form an oily paste. Add the flour, sugar and salt to the ground pistachios and pulse until they are well combined with the pistachios.  Next, pour the mixture from the food processor bowl into a clean medium sized bowl. Pour the egg whites into the dry ingredients and whisk gently just until fully combined. Lastly, slowly pour the butter mixture into the egg white mixture and whisk just until combined.  I poured the butter mixture in incrementally--so I poured a little in and whisked it just until combined and continued doing that until I poured all of it in.  Once all of the butter is mixed in, place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the batter and refrigerate the batter for a least 8 hours or overnight.  Once the batter has been chilled, butter your molds (I used 3 1/4 inch by 1 3/4 inch rectangular molds) and then place them on a baking sheet and into the fridge to chill.  Then, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Divide the batter evenly between the molds (about 25g or 1 1/2T for each rectangular mold).  Place at least one raspberry in the middle of the batter of each financier mold.  Then, bake the financiers for about 17-20 minutes.  As I mentioned previously, I had to lower my baking time and that time ended up being 17 minutes.  Once the financiers are done--they should be springy when you lightly touch the top of one--remove them from the oven and immediately remove them from the mold and let cool completely on a cooling rack.  Store the cooled financiers for up to a week in an air tight container.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Strawberry Sour Cream Scones

I've been buying a crap load of strawberries.  They are my favorite berry--and they were having a two for one deal at the farmers market the other day.  That said, I'm getting a little frazzled trying to figure out how to consume all of them before they go bad.  I eat them every day--either on their own or in my cereal--but I still have a lot.  I mean I know I can make pies or cakes or jams but sometimes I want something a little different.  So when I came across an article on The Kitchn that so conveniently presented me with a slide show of just things to do with your spring/summer berries, I was like f yeah.  And then scrolling through it I came across these scones.

I never think of making scones.  I like scones.  My partner loves them.  They're not hard to make. My only problem with them is that they are really only good the day of baking them--like donuts--which is kind of a drag... After a day they seem to get a bit dry and a little less palatable.  But that wasn't really a factor for me. And I'm glad it wasn't because these scones were delectable.  The strawberry to dough ratio was perfect.  They were moist and tender.  And they had a crumb topping.  I love crumb toppings.  Crumb toppings--with all of their butter and sugar--can really elevate a baked good for me and this one did not disappoint.

So, if you're looking for an alternative from strawberry shortcakes or strawberry rhubarb pie, and want to expand your strawberry baked goods repertoire then make these guys because strawberry season is short and you should explore their presence in a variety of baked goods--especially these scones.

Recipe from The Kitchn

5oz (2c) all purpose flour
1.75oz (1/4c) granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
4oz (1/2c) cold unsalted butter cut into small 1/4 inch cubes
6oz (3/4c) cold sour cream
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla bean paste--or extract
1c chopped fresh strawberries

First, line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  Next, in a large bowl sift and whisk all of the dry ingredients together.  In a separate small bowl, whisk the sour cream, egg and vanilla together until well blended and then set it aside.  Toss the cubed butter into the flour mixture and using a pastry blender--or a fork--cut the butter into the flour until it resembles course bread crumbs. Then, pour the wet ingredients--not the strawberries--into the dry. Using a silicone spatula, gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry just until incorporated--don't keep folding or else you are going to form some gluten strands and have a tough end product.  Next, place the dough onto the prepared baking sheet and gently pat--most easily with either a spatula or the back of your hand--it into a rectangle that's about a half of an inch thick.  Spread half of the chopped strawberries over the rectangle and gently press them into the dough--they do not have to be fully embedded within the dough.  Then--most easily with the use of a bench scraper--fold the rectangle in half and pat it again into another rectangle that's about a half of an inch thick.  Spread the remaining strawberries over the rectangle, press them gently into the dough and fold it in half again.  Gently pat the dough into another rectangle, fold it in half and do that one more time--you are just trying to thoroughly fold the strawberries into the dough.  Lastly, after your final "turn" pat the dough into a large circle that is an inch thick on the baking sheet.  Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least an hour--I did mine overnight.  In the meantime you can make the crumb topping.

Crumb topping

1.75oz (1/4c) all purpose flour
1.25oz (1/4c) brown sugar
1.5oz (3 T) cold salted butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes

In a small bowl--whisk together the flour and sugar.  Then--using either your fingers, a pastry blender or a fork--blend the butter into the flour/sugar mixture--into a crumble if possible.  My mixture just formed a big mass so I refrigerated it overnight and then I crumbled it the next morning when it was nice and cold.  At any rate, cover the mixture with plastic wrap and chill it until your scone dough has chilled.

For assembly

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Remove the scones from the fridge and remove the plastic wrap as well. If any strawberries have fallen out of the dough, just gently press them back into it.  Crumble the crumb topping evenly over the dough and then cut the dough into eight equal wedges.  Carefully separate each wedge from its neighbor--as much as possible.  They will rise and spread out so ideally a two inch gap would be nice.  Finally, bake the scones for 18-20 minutes or until they are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and let cool just enough until you can pick one up with your hand and it doesn't burn you.  Serve warm.