Tis the Season for a Holiday Trifle!

DSC_0048

Holiday Chocolate and Strawberry Trifle

Trifles can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make them.  They usually contain some form of cake, a fruit and/or pudding and whipped cream. The particulars of what and how to layer are up to you.

I really appreciate order and symmetry (can you tell?) so my trifle looks a little less haphazard than some other recipes I’ve found online. Regardless of how you like to layer, coming up with a construction plan and writing it down ahead of time is essential!

My trifle construction plan:

  1. Genoise base and rolls with strawberry jam brushed with kirsch syrup with strawberries in the gaps
  2. Crumbled almond cookies
  3. Diced strawberries
  4. Chocolate and coffee pastry cream
  5. Crumbled  milk chocolate with almonds and sea salt
  6. whipped Chantilly cream

 

First, you’ll need to make the pastry cream and Genoise. I started with the pastry cream because it will need to cool before assembly.

Pastry Cream: 

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 5-oz. chocolate bar, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons instant espresso

DSC_0006Beat the egg yolks and sugar until creamy. Add the cornstarch, adjusting the amount for how thick you want your cream. I used about 3.5 tablespoons because I want the cream fully set so each piece of trifle comes out of the bowl keeping it’s shape.

In a saucepan, bring your milk and salt to a low boil. Add the espresso. Mix a spoonful of warm milk in to the egg mixture fully to equalize the temperature before adding the rest of the milk. Now return all ingredients to the pan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes). Be sure to stir constantly using a wooden spoon or whisk.

Chocolate Pastry Cream

Cooling Pastry Cream

Remove from the heat and mix in the chopped chocolate until fully melted and incorporated.  Pour the pastry cream into a shallow dish or baking pan to cool (the wider and flatter the surface, the faster it will cool). Cover directly with plastic film to prevent it developing a skin.

Basic Genoise:

  • 2/3 cup cake flour (or 53 grams Soft-as-Silk cake flour)
    • *I really like the light texture that Soft-as-Silk flour produces, but regular cake flour is just fine, too.
  • 2/3 cup cornstarch
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter, cooled
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • An instant read thermometer
  • 10-12 oz of seedless jam (I used Strawberry)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Butter and line pans for your sponge cake according the size of your trifle dish. My trifle dish has an 8″ top diameter that tapers to 7″ at the bottom. I used a round 6.5″ cake pan and a 10″ x 15″ baking pan. The small round will go on the bottom and I will make a jelly roll from the longer pan’s sponge.

DSC_0019

Sift the flour and cornstarch together into a medium bowl.

DSC_0017

The thick mixture will have a ribbon consistency

Beat the eggs and superfine sugar in a large heatproof bowl. Once beaten, create a bain marie over which you will continue to beat the mixture until the sugar has dissolved and it reaches 115 degrees.  Remove from the heat and mix with an electric mixer until it has become very thick and tripled in volume.

DSC_0018Use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the batter. Add them gradually, sifting about 1/3 over the batter at a time.  Fold in fully to get rid of lumps, but do not over mix.

DSC_0021Spoon about 2 cups of batter into a small bowl and mix in the vanilla and melted butter. Fold the mix back into the larger bowl of batter. Adding the butter like this prevents the larger bowl from loosing air and becoming deflated.

Spoon the batter into the pans quickly (meaning don’t just let your batter sit around at room temp and loose its mojo) and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on your cake pan dimensions. The cake will shrink away from the sides when it’s done, and be springy to the touch. **It’s better for the long pan (the jelly roll pan) to be a bit under-baked to prevent cracking when you roll it.

Invert the smaller cake onto a rack to cool.

DSC_0023Invert the longer cake onto a clean dish towel.

Roll your cake while it’s still warm. First, create a shallow incision at the short end of your cake to help in rolling (the end nearest you in the photo above). Now use the towel to help roll the cake into a spiral. Don’t worry if the towel gets rolled into the cake, but make sure it’s smooth. Put in the fridge to cool for 5 minutes until it is just cool, but not COLD.

DSC_0024 When your cake has cooled, but isn’t COLD, unroll it carefully. This pre-rolling creates a kind of muscle memory for the cake.

DSC_0025Spread the jam over the cake and re-roll into a spiral. Careful not to tangle any towel up in it this time! Refrigerate until completely cool (20-30 minutes).

Assemblage: 

Now it’s time for the fun part! As I said earlier, I used almond cookies, a milk chocolate bar with almonds and sea salt, and strawberries, but your ingredients may differ. Have fun using your favorite flavor combinations!

Let’s start building!

DSC_0030

Cut the end off the roll for a clean edge and slice one piece at a time into disks that will line the trifle sides. The number of disks you need will depend on the size of your trifle dish.

DSC_0031

Place the flat round sponge in the bottom of the trifle dish, leaving space around the sides to accommodate the thickness of your disks. Trim the round sponge as needed.

DSC_0032Continue placing disks snugly around the edge, pressing them gently but firmly into the glass so they’ll stick. Try not to leave any gaps between the slices.

DSC_0033Brush the sponge with kirsch syrup (a distilled brandy syrup from cherries), or your favorite liqueur. Use enough to taste but not so much that the sponge becomes overly saturated.

DSC_0035Crumble almond cookies or some other crunchy favorite on top of the sponge mix.

DSC_0036

Next, add a layer of fruit. I used diced strawberries. I set aside several slices to use as decoration between the Genoise disks.

DSC_0037

I pressed the strawberry slices between the Genoise disks and against the glass before adding the layer of chocolate pastry cream.

DSC_0038

Atop the pastry cream, I crumbled the chocolate bar with almonds and sea salt. Oh my! This is sounding so good!

DSC_0044

Finally, I piped whipped Chantilly cream as the last and top layer. As difficult as it is to do, let the trifle set in the fridge for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight. The longer it sets, the better it will retain its shape when you dig into it. What a fantastic and delicious centerpiece for a Holiday celebration!

Happy baking to you and Best Wishes in the New Year!

DSC_0051

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in Cakes, Chocolate, Fruit, Mousse, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Isles Flottant, or Floating Islands

Floating Islands are a wonderful mix of texture: light meringue, rich crème anglaise and crunchy spun sugar.  A simple and elegant dessert, they can be tricky to make but well worth the effort!

DSC_0023

Îles Flottantes

In the interest of full-disclosure I’ll tell you, my first attempt at Floating Islands went a little sideways. I had decided to patch together two different recipes from memory to see if I could pull this off “free-hand”…

In the end, I did okay but not perfect. An old friend’s voice kept ringing in my head: “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Wise words. An unrepentant Type-A personality, I try and remind myself of this often.

More importantly, my Floating Islands tasted amazing so who really cares about perfect anyway?

DSC_0001

These are the ingredients I used (with notes about where I think I may have gone wrong).

  • 4 eggs, separated (the whites are for the meringue, the yolks are for the Crème Anglaise)
  • 70 g of superfine sugar (this is for the meringue, and I think I should have used 100g)
  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp. Vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of superfine sugar (for the spun sugar topping)

 

Crème Anglaise and Poached Meringues

Pour the vanilla and equal parts milk and heavy whipping cream in a low, wide saucepan. Heat until just under simmering. It should be hot but not boiling.

DSC_0003

The vanilla made a beautiful star pattern as I poured in the cream! How cool is that!?

In a mixer, whip the egg whites, gradually adding superfine sugar until stiff. I added 70g, as I said, but I think I should have added more (100g?).

Once whipped, the meringue should be stiff enough to turn upside-down without coming out of the bowl. As you can see, mine was, but I think it should have been even stiffer still.  

DSC_0007

DSC_0008

Upside down meringue

Use two large spoons to form the meringue into four to six quinelles. To get a clean, smooth shape, it helps to dip your spoons frequently into a glass or bowl of water.

Drop your quinelles into the hot milk to poach them.

DSC_0009

Method #1: Poaching with steam

The first method I tried recommended I cover my saucepan and steam the meringue for NINE minutes to fully cook them. “Do not take the lid off for NINE minutes!!!

I was so good and I waited the full nine minutes. I could see them through the glass lid puffing up and looking so beautiful! I waited and waited….

DSC_0011

They looked so perfect! At least briefly….

Then I lifted the lid and…. Flop. They absolutely deflated. And so did I.

DSC_0013

Such sad little meringues. But the dog liked them.

Damn. When at first you don’t succeed…

Luckily, I still had more meringue to play with so I made four more quinelles and went for method #2.

DSC_0012

Method #2: poaching both sides uncovered (top sides)

I slid them gently from my spoon into the hot milk, just like the first time, but left them uncovered. I let them poach for two minutes then, very carefully, turned them and poached the other side for two minutes.

DSC_0014

bottom sides

My second try came out way better than the first, but the first method would probably work fine, too (if I had added more sugar to the meringue).  I think that must be where I went wrong… not making my meringue stiff enough in the beginning.

Even Batch #2 came out a little smaller than I would have liked but, again, “Perfect is the enemy of good.”

DSC_0015

Batch #2: good enough.

So, whatever they look like, love them and use a slotted spoon to transfer your meringues onto a wire rack to cool.

To finish the Crème Anglaise, whip the egg yolks in a mixer and gradually add the remainder of the poaching liquid. Blend fully, then pour the mix through a sieve back into the warm saucepan over low/medium heat.

DSC_0017

Keep it a bit runny and thin

Stir gently until the Crème Anglaise just coats the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat and set aside, covered.

Spun sugar!

Prepare by setting out a really big piece of parchment paper. You can also wrap a rolling pin in parchment paper, too, for forming the sugar. Actually, you can use just about anything, as long as you don’t mind cleaning it later.

Pour 1 cup of superfine sugar in a saucepan set on medium/high heat until the sugar melts, turns a golden caramel and bubbles slightly. It should be thick but still “liquidy”.

DSC_0019

Meet my little friend.

Use a fork or whisk to sling sugar strands all over the place. The more free-wheeling you sling it, the thinner strands you’ll have.

DSC_0021

Strands, bits and blobs of sugar

I think I may be too Type-A to make spun sugar well. When you do it right, it’s a mess. I did it only kind-of right, and it was still a mess.

My goal was fragile, fine sugar nests which call for a wilder, crazier whipping motion.  I don’t wants ants in my kitchen, so I kept mine within the bounds of my parchment and came out with random strands and bits. I think it’s a judgment call about how long you want to spend cleaning your kitchen afterward.

Plating

Pour an even layer of Crème Anglaise onto a shallow serving dish and gently float the Islands on top. Decorate with spun sugar bits (or nests, if you’re brave!).

DSC_0033

Creamy and light with a slight crunch. Yum!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Mousse, Souffle, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Banana Pudding Pie, Oh my!

 

Banana Pudding Pie

Banana Pudding Pie, Oh my!

Like any true Southerner, I love banana pudding! Creamy and sweet, it has just a touch of vanilla and is filled with layered pastry cream and that old stand-by, Nilla Wafers. Classic.

This recipe is from Angelfish Cake Bakery in Charleston, SC. Honestly, it’s delicious but a bit too sweet for my taste. Next time I make it I’ll cut back on the sugar. Like sweet-tea, adjust to your own preference.

Filling:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar (for the whipped cream topping)
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 or 4 bananas, sliced (I used 3.5)
  • 1 box of vanilla wafers

Crust:

  • 2 cups ground vanilla wafers
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Start with the crust: crush about half a box of vanilla wafers (I put them in a freezer bag and crushed them with my roller). In a bowl, combine the wafer crumbs with the granulated sugar and melted butter. (Next time I make this, I’ll probably use 1/4 cup sugar here instead of the 1/2 called for and I’d possibly add some crushed walnuts). Just sayin’…

Mix together and press into an ungreased pie dish. Bake for 10-15 minutes until just brown. The crust will be slightly bubbly and won’t seem crispy, but it will harden slightly as it cools.  After baking, set it aside to cool on a wire rack.

Crust

Raw crust, mixed and pressed.

Next, the crème pâtissière (pastry cream): Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a heavy saucepan over medium/high heat until it starts to boil. Remove from heat.

DSC_0035

Heating the milk and vanilla until just boiling.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 1/3 cup superfine sugar until thick and pale.  Whisk in the cornstarch until smooth.

Now pour just a bit of your hot milk into the mixer as it turns. This will help equalize the temperatures. If you pour your hot milk in too quickly, your egg yolks could scramble. Now continue to slowly pour in the remainder of your hot milk, whisking continuously.

Once combined, pour the mix back into the warm saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking continuously until thick. Once thick, remove from heat immediately.

Transfer to a large glass bowl and cover the crème directly with plastic wrap (like a skin). The larger the bowl, the more you can spread your cream out so it will cool faster. I put mine in the fridge.

DSC_0040

Cover the cream directly so it does not form a skin as it cools.

Combine the heavy cream and 1/4 cup of superfine sugar in a mixer. (Yet another chance to cut the sugar in half, if you choose…). Whip until firm. Fold 1 cup of the whipped cream into the cooled pastry cream.

DSC_0050

 

Assemblage:

DSC_0045

Spoon the pastry cream into the crust and spread an even layer. Alternate with banana slices and vanilla wafers (cream, bananas, cream, wafers… and so on). You can create as many layers as you like. Then top with the remaining whipped cream.

Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

DSC_0063

Piped and chilled.

DSC_0003

 

If you do make this, let me know what you think about the sweetness level. Was it too sweet for you? Did you adjust it beforehand? I’d love to know!

Happy Baking! 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fruit, Pies, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When life gives you lemons, make lemon sauce.

I’m not going to talk about politics. I’m going to make dessert.

When I turn off the news and close Facebook, what’s left is home and home is a happy place. Yes, let’s stay involved and current, but also know when it’s time for a break.  You owe it to yourself to have some dessert.

I’m thinking of all my friends as I make this… I made bite-sized portions so you could each have one.  No fighting.

 

5complete-angel-cakes-close

Mini Angel Cakes with Lemon Sauce

 

Mini Angel Cakes with Lemon Sauce

  • 1/2 cup cake flour (sift before measuring)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract

Lemon Sauce

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tbsp. butter (unsalted)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Angel Cakes

Preheat over to 325 degrees. Use a mini-muffin pans (makes 24). You can also use a regular muffin pan, but line the bottom of the cups with parchment circles. Minis pop out easier than regular sized. They’re also cuter.

Stir the cake flour and 1/3 cup sugar together. Set aside. In a larger bowl, mix 6 egg whites with cream of tartar, salt and lemon extract. Use a hand-mixer to mix until frothy. While continuing to mix, gradually add 1/3 (the rest) of the sugar. Mix until stiff peaks form.

 

1stiff peaks Angel cake.jpg

Stiff peaks

 

Gradually sprinkle the flour/sugar mix into the egg mix and fold with a spatula. Fold until all flour has been blended smoothly. Folding (not mixing) ensures that the air stays in the mix to keep it light.

 

2Fold in angel cake batter.jpg

Fold, don’t mix.

 

Divide batter into muffin cups.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until dry in the center. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

 

3muffin pan angel cakes.jpg

Mini and regular muffin cups.

 

Lemon Sauce

Stir sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. Gradually add the water while stirring on medium to high. Sauce will start to boil and thicken. Stir occasionally.

Remove from heat and add butter, lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir. Pour sauce in a metal bowl and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. It will continue to thicken.

Pop the cooled cakes onto a serving platter and drizzle with the lemon sauce.

 

4angel-cakes-baked

So light!

 

 

fini angel cakes.jpg

Drizzled with Lemon Goodness – like Sunshine!

 

Eat each one purposefully. Taste the lemon zing your tongue. Feel the soft cake melt in your mouth. BE in the moment.

Happy baking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cakes | Leave a comment

Before sliced bread, there was flour.

Before sliced bread, the Cubs won the World Series. I keep hearing this as a reference to how long it’s been. Well, things change. The Cubs are on top again, and I’m learning about flour.

DSC_0485_4346 copy

Because I want to be a reliable baker who knows the difference between all-purpose, white wheat, and bread flour, today I’m brushing up on the basics. I’m baking soft dinner rolls with something called Strong White Flour. But first, what the heck is strong white flour?

Tired of being confused, I did some research for us, dear reader. Here’s the low down on the most common flours. We teach best what we most need to learn, so they say. Hopefully, this will help us both.

First off, this is a wheat kernel. And probably more than you cared to know about it.

Most flour we use in the US comes from the wheat kernel of the wheat plant. The kernel has three sections: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ.

 

 

Bran. The bran, as you can see, is the outer shell of the kernel. The bran shell is fibrous.  The bran is what gives whole wheat bread, for instance, fiber. So, whole wheat bread, muffins, etc.- anything made from whole wheat flour – contains the whole wheat kernel. The bran, once milled, has sharp edges. Tiny, microscopic sharp edges. Remember that. We’ll come back to it…

Endosperm. The endosperm makes up most of the interior of the wheat kernel and is milled to make white flours. Two proteins exist within the endosperm: gliadin and glutenin. Together, they create gluten. We’ll come back to that, too…

Germ. Meanwhile, deep inside the wheat kernel (like the seed of a grape) is the germ. The germ contains necessary fat.

Back to protein.  When the two proteins that live in the endosperm are combined with liquid, they form gluten. Gluten is the essential glue that holds dough together. It’s a binding agent – a thickener – and determines the chewiness and density of breads, brownies, pastries and other baked goods.

For example, a muffin is more dense than a cupcake. A loaf of bread is more dense than a croissant. The flour used to make these denser goods necessarily contains more of the wheat kernel’s endosperm and, therefore, more protein. The more protein, the more gluten.

What about yeast? As the yeast added to dough activates, it releases carbon dioxide. You can feel the dough actually getting warmer as you knead it. Now imagine  gluten as a net that traps the carbon dioxide. When the carbon dioxide gas gets trapped inside the dough, it rises.

So why is whole wheat dough flat if it has so much protein? If whole wheat uses the whole kernel, shouldn’t it rise more than any other dough? Well, it probably should except for the sharp little bran bits (remember those?) that cut the gluten stands as they begin to form. They act like little knives inside the dough, cutting the gluten net and setting the carbon dioxide free. Whole wheat breads, as a result, are quite dense.

Now, on to flours.

Totally off-topic, but worth it. I can’t think about various flours without recalling my favorite scene in the movie, “Stranger Than Fiction.” Mr. Krick (Will Ferrell) is an IRS auditor trying very awkwardly to win the heart of  Miss Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a beautiful baker he is auditing. In this scene, he brings her a “bouquet” of flours. I’ll post the scene on my Facebook.  It melts me.

Seriously, on to flours.

Self-rising flour  has a protein count of about 8%. Very low.  This flour is perfect for biscuits. Sometimes it’s also known as Soft Wheat flour. This flour contains baking powder and salt already. Different brands seem to add different amounts of baking powder and salt to their blends, so experiment to see which brand works best for you.

Cake Flour has about 9% protein content. It’s very fine and soft. Typically, cake flour comes in a box. It may be tucked in with the cake mixes instead of the flours at your grocery store. Softasilk is my go-to cake flour for making sponge cake and other airy treats. The dough has stability without toughness.     

All-Purpose flour is just what it says. The protein count is middle-of-the-road (10.5 to 11+%, depending on the brand) so it works for most things. It’s dense enough for brownies; light enough for most cakes (not all). Sometimes All-Purpose flour is also called Hard Wheat flour.

Bread flour (the flour I’m using today), is also known as Strong White Flour (so I’ve learned!). It has a protein count of about 13% – a little more than All-Purpose. This makes for a stronger gluten net and more chewiness.  Think of bagels and chewy dinner rolls.

Whole wheat flour has a protein count of about 14% so it creates denser baked goods. Remember those spikey bran shards that cut through the gluten net to keep it from rising? Whatever you’re making, it’s going to be dense.

White Whole Wheat flour is essentially the same as regular whole wheat flour, except their wheat kernels of origin are white and red, respectively. Don’t be fooled by the color of white wheat flour. It’s still a whole wheat flour and will result in a dense texture.

Those are the basics. There are so many other flours – more than I could ever hope to learn! Armed with knowledge, I’m feeling inspired to start experimenting. Bring on the White Strong Flour (a.k.a. Bread Flour)!

Soft Dinner Rolls!

 

dsc_0041

Soft dinner rolls with sea salt!

 

This recipe is from “Breads & Baking”: editor, Gina Steer; Flame Tree Publishing; 2008.

You’ll need:

ingredients

  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp. caster sugar
  • 8 fl. oz milk
  • 550 g Strong White Flour (or Bread Flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast (*Note: dry yeast is only good for about 4-6 months after opening. Also, once open, keep it refrigerated or in the freezer. Check your expiration date before starting.)
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten

To glaze and finish:

  • 2 tbsp. milk mixed with about 1 tbsp. of beaten egg 
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds 

Heat the butter, milk and sugar in a small saucepan until the butter is melted. It should be warm, but not hot. This mix will activate your yeast. If it’s too hot, it will kill the yeast and your bread won’t rise.

 

dsc_0005

Butter, milk and sugar mixture will activate the yeast.

 

Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Stir in the dry yeast and make a well in the center. Reserve 1 tbsp. of the beaten eggs for brushing the rolls before baking.

Pour the beaten eggs and warm milk mixture into the well.

 

dsc_0012

Knead the dough about 10 minutes.

 

Knead by hand or use a stand-mixer to knead the dough for about 10 minutes. You’ll feel the dough get warmer as the yeast activates. After about 10 minutes, the dough should be smooth and elastic.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

 

dsc_0016

Smooth, elastic dough. Cover loosely and leave to rise.

 

I use my microwave as a proofer. To do this, put a small bowl of water in the microwave and heat until boiling (2-3 minutes). After the microwave shuts off, put the dough in the microwave with the steaming bowl of water. Let it rise for 1 hour or until about doubled in size.

 

dsc_0017

Doubled in size after 60 minutes.

 

After the dough has risen, knead by hand another minute or so. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces.

 

dsc_0019

Risen dough.

 

 

dsc_0021

Divide the dough into 16 pieces.

 

Shape the 16 pieces into balls, braids, cottage buns. Just have fun with it.

Place your rolls on 2 lightly oiled baking pans and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let them rise for 30 minutes. To keep them warm, you can set them on the stove as the oven preheats. They should double in size.

 

dsc_0022

Rising a second time… 30 minutes.

 

 

dsc_0024

Dinner rolls, doubled in size

 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Once the rolls have risen, brush them with the egg/milk mixture. Alternate sprinkling them with sea salt, sesame seeds or poppy seeds. Or leave them plain.

 

dsc_0033

Sprinkled with Sea salt, Poppy Seeds and Sesame Seeds

 

Bake the rolls in the oven for about 20 minutes or until golden. I baked mine 10 minutes and then turned them 180 degrees for even browning. Toward the end, I moved them to the top rack to keep the bottoms golden (not too brown). Everyone’s oven is different. Don’t be afraid to move things around a bit for the best result.

Transfer to a wire rack and cover with a towel to keep them soft.

dsc_0035

Let them cool as long as you can stand it then break out the butter and jam!

 

dsc_0049

Buttery Soft Dinner Roll made with Bread Flour

 

Happy baking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Breads | Leave a comment

Roasted Chicken Bouchées (aka: succulent roasted chicken in a flakey pastry cup!)

I’ve been a little distracted…

I’ve been remiss in my food blogging, although I’ve been cooking up a storm!

The good news on this end is that I’m no longer cooking just for me. I’m still in my tiny kitchen (which I love!), but now there are two of us. Sometimes it’s a little cramped, but close quarters are fine when you love the company.

IMG_0133

This is my fiancé and master taste-tester, John. He’ll be showing up here from time to time as he tests my blog recipes. It’s always good to have an extra set of eyes in case I miss some detail. Never one to shy from a challenge, he went for the gold with his first test…

On New Year’s Eve he made Beef Wellington!

IMG_1264

I’m not sure he realizes yet how showing me he can cook could be a double-edged sword…

Roasted Chicken Bouchées

Recently I served up Roasted Chicken Bouchées. The rough puff recipe is from Michel Roux’s book, “Pastry”.  There are just so many ways to use this dough!  Use the search option to find more ideas on this blog!

Rough Puff Pastry

Much easier than classic puff pastry, rough puff pastry is quicker to make. It’s every bit as flavorful and rises to 75% of the classic version.

  • 500g all-purpose flour
  • 500g very cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 6g salt
  • 250ml ice-cold water

DSC_0220

Put the flour in a mound on your counter or in a large mixing bowl. Work in the butter and salt with your fingertips until the texture becomes crumbly.

DSC_0224

Once your mix is grainy, work in the cold water. When the water is fully incorporated, roll the dough into a ball. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

DSC_0225

After 20 minutes, flour the counter and roll the dough into a large rectangle.

DSC_0228

Fold the dough like a letter (into three).

DSC_0229

Give the dough a quarter turn, then roll it into a second rectangle. Fold into three again. Your dough should be gaining a smoother consistency.

DSC_0232

Wrap the dough in cling film and put it back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, you’ll be doing two more turns, just like these.

After you’ve done a total of four turns, let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using.   While the dough is resting….

Roasted Chicken

To serve, I cut this chicken up into small pieces anyway, so there are many ways to cook your chicken. Don’t feel hemmed in.

In this instance, I used two large bone-in chicken breast/thighs. Rubbed the skin with sea-salt and pepper. In a shallow baking dish, add 1/4 cup olive oil, about a cup of water, some thyme, onions and a bay leaf.

Bake the chicken, uncovered, at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes. When cooked through, slice the chicken. Save the pan of juices for gravy…

DSC_0245

Back to our dough!

Reset your oven temperature to 350 degrees.

You can use all of the dough, or just part, depending on how many people you are serving. This dough will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator, or up to 4 weeks in the freezer.

I used only 1/3 of my dough here and saved the rest for later.

DSC_0233

Flour the counter and roll the dough into a rectangle. Your dough should be about 1/4″ thick or slightly less. Use a 3.5″ biscuit cutter to cut an even number of circles.

DSC_0234

Use a smaller biscuit cutter (2″ – 2.5″) to cut smaller circles out of HALF your circles. The rings will form the walls of your cups.

DSC_0235

Set your circles on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Lightly brush the edges with egg wash. Place the rings on top of the circles, egg wash down, pressing slightly.

DSC_0237

Prick the centers of your cups a few times with a fork.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden.

DSC_0248

Once risen, remove and place on a rack. Use a paring knife to gently remove any excess puff from the centers and discard (discard can also mean eat!).

Gravy, anyone?

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 water (or use juices from chicken – or a mix of both)
  • 1/4 cream
  • 1 tsp Arrowroot

In a small bowl, whisk the flour and Arrowroot into the water until smooth. In a small sauce pan, bring the remaining water and cream to a simmer. Slowly add the flour mix and stir over med-high heat until it thickens. Season to taste.

Assembly

Place the chicken slices in the bouchées. Ladle gravy over the bouchées and garnish with thyme. Serve immediately.

DSC_0256

I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did.

Happy Cooking!

DSC_0254

 

 

 

 

Posted in Breads, Dough, Meats, Pastries | 3 Comments

Perfect Buttermilk Biscuits

IMG_1348

Flakey buttermilk biscuits are a Southern favorite. If you’ve been following my blogs, you know I didn’t inherit strong cooking genes. My sweet Southern grandmother, bless her heart, made biscuits (naturally!) but they were “Cat Head biscuits” – meaning if you threw them at a cat’s head, you’d probably kill it. Like a rock.

Despite her biscuits, I have fond memories of the huge breakfasts she used to make for us. Gravy, sausage, eggs, bacon.. cholesterol hadn’t been invented yet!  She’s the main reason I love to make a big breakfast on the weekends, so I’m dedicating this recipe to her. Thank you, Nanny.

 

Nanny

Looking good at 91, Nanny!

 

For years I have been experimenting to discover the perfect biscuit recipe and I think I’ve finally nailed it! Fluffy inside with a crisp bottom and golden top – these biscuits may just be too simple to make.  Dangerously simple!  You’ll need:
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/3 cup Crisco shortening
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp melted butter

Self-rising flour really is the key to biscuits. I know you’re not supposed to have to add baking powder and salt to self-rising flour, but different brands of flour vary slightly. I’m using Gold Medal here, and so I’ve added the baking powder and salt.

You can also make a smaller batch of these biscuits by dividing the recipe in half.  The small batch makes about 4 – 6. A full batch makes 6-8, depending on the size of your biscuit cutter. I like to use a small cutter. The biscuits seem to cook more evenly and rise more. Here we go…

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Prepare a pan to bake the biscuits. I use a small cast iron skillet. Cast iron makes the bottom of the biscuits a little crispy. You can also use a baking pan. Whatever pan you use, make sure it will fit in your microwave (I’ll explain later!). Rub the pan with butter or Crisco.

Start with 2 cups flour in a bowl and stir in your baking powder and salt. Use your fingers to mix the shortening into the flour until crumbly.

IMG_1321IMG_1322

Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk. Again, mix with your fingers until you have a very sticky dough. If it’s too wet, sprinkle it with a little flour and mix in. You don’t want dry dough – you want the dough to be sticky enough to get all over your fingers, but not dipping wet.

DSC_0486_4355 copy

Pour buttermilk into the well

After washing your hands, sprinkle flour on the counter and pat the dough into the thickness you desire. About 1/2″ or slightly more is fine.

IMG_1323

Here comes the fun part: biscuit cutting!

IMG_1324

I’m making a half batch here.

Another great tip (besides the self-rising flour) is to put your biscuits in a proofer for a few minutes before baking. Don’t have a proofer? Sure you do! Heat a bowl of water in the microwave for 2 minutes until it’s steamy. That’s your proofer! Now put your pan of biscuits into the microwave for 3-5 minutes and let sit (don’t turn the microwave back on!).

After letting them proof, you should notice that they are slightly risen. Put them in the oven immediately for 8-10 minutes. The time will vary slightly depending on the size biscuit you cut.

After 8-10 minutes, they should be nearly done (risen but not quite golden). Take them out and brush them with the melted butter. Now put them back in the oven on broil just until golden. Watch them closely! They can go from golden to “too dry” quickly!

IMG_1337

Brush with melted butter.

IMG_1339

Golden biscuits!

Serve with jelly or gravy for breakfast, or fried chicken for dinner. If you’re not sure how to fry chicken, that’s coming up soon!

Happy cooking!

IMG_1349

 

Posted in Breads, Dough | Leave a comment

’tis the season for Rhubarb Roulade!

Rhubarb Roulade

Rhubarb Roulade

Kruger's Market

Kruger’s Market, Rhubarb Season!

Rhubarbs have been sort of a mystery to me for years. Until now, I’d never cooked with rhubarbs, nor had I actually eaten rhubarb before last summer (a wonderful strawberry-rhubarb pie), but by the time I realized how good they were, the season had ended.  Luckily, the season has come around again… time to experiment.

So what is a rhubarb? Is it a fruit or a vegetable?  Well, it’s commonly considered a vegetable but, in 1947, a US court decided that since we so often use it as a fruit (in pies and such), it could be reclassified as a fruit.  Tariffs were higher for vegetables than fruits at the time, so it saved us money. Apparently, some foods are whatever courts decide they are, despite what they may actually be.  Either way, it’s a plant.  In some of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, she refers to rhubarb pie as “plant pie”. So, I guess what I’m making here today is a plant roulade.

DSC_0074_3729 copy

Fruit or vegetable?

The recipe I am using is exactly the same as the raspberry roulade I made in August 2013, but with rhubarb. Also, I’m making two (one to keep and one to share). Note, the recipe below is for one.

Genoese

  • 20 g butter to grease the pan
  • 125 g flour, sifted (Softasilk)
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 125 g superfine sugar
  • 30 g melted butter, cooled

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour a 11 x 14 shallow baking pan.

DSC_0084_3733 copy

Whisk the sugar and eggs together in a bowl for about 10-12 minutes until the mix trails in ribbons. Dust with flour and gently fold to incorporate. Be sure to fold thoroughly so all the flour is incorporated. Lastly, gently fold in the melted butter. The idea is to keep the air pockets – to keep it light.

Fold the flour in completely.

Immediately pour the batter evenly into the pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the sponge cake is golden and springs back to the touch.

DSC_0087_3742 copy

Set the pan on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then flip the cake out onto parchment paper.  My cakes each had a crisp bottom layer so I used a long, serrated knife to slice it off and make it more malleable. I didn’t want it to crack when I rolled it. I also trimmed all the edges.

DSC_0093_3752 copy

Rhubarb

DSC_0079_3738 copy

Clean and slice the rhubarb stalks about 1″ thick. In a pan on medium/high heat cook about 1 pound of sliced rhubarb with 1/2 cup sugar. It will release it’s own juices as it heats and cook down into a soft spread. Cook covered for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

DSC_0083_3734 copy

Once soft, spread in a shallow pan and leave to cool.

DSC_0088_3743 copy

Chantilly cream.

  • 500 ml heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 50 g confectioner’s sugar

Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the cream. Put the cream in a chilled metal bowl with the sugar and whip with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes at medium speed. Increase to high speed and mix until thickened.

DSC_0091_3746 copy

Vanilla beans from the pod

Spread a layer of soft rhubarb on the cake(s), then top with a layer of whipped cream. Spread flat with an offset spatula.

DSC_0094_3751 copy

Carefully roll the roulade from the short end. A lot of the filling will want to squeeze out at the end – that’s normal. It’s messy. Keep going. Scrape the excess away.

DSC_0095_3750 copy Fold the parchment over the roll and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

DSC_0097_3748 copy

After the roulade has set, place on a cutting board and peel away the wrap. With a clean, serrated knife, trim the two ends to reveal clean edges.

DSC_0101_3756 copy

Dust the top with confectioner’s sugar and serve in 1″ slices. If we consider this a vegetable, could it be dinner? You decide.

Enjoy!

DSC_0102_3757 copy

Posted in Cakes, Fruit, Vegetables | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Plating pretty: Individual Chocolate Key Lime Cakes

DSC_0134_3568 copy

A friend of mine asked me to create a dessert for a six-course dinner he was serving. Since mine was the last of some very impressive (and somewhat heavy) dishes, I wanted to make something light and fruity. I chose this recipe from Classic Charleston Desserts. Specifically, it’s from the Kiawah Resort. Right off, I’ll tell you that the recipe itself has a few “problems”. Some of the mousse directions are questionable and the assembly directions actually create the cake upside down, if you follow them exactly. The directions here have been modified.

Overall, the cake turned out well and dinner was a success. Well done, Rick!

Chocolate sponge cake 

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 8 whole eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 8 egg whites
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • Pinch cream of tartar

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.

DSC_0093_3533 copy

Combine the egg yolks, whole eggs and sugar and mix with an electric mixer at high speed until batter falls in ribbons.

DSC_0096_3536 copy

Sift the flour and cocoa together and gradually fold into the egg mixture. Be sure to fold thoroughly so there are no pockets of powder hiding in the mix.

DSC_0100_3546 copy

In another bowl, beat the egg whites, 1/3 of the sugar and the cream of tartar until it forms stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter gradually. Divide the batter evenly between two pans.

DSC_0101_3545 copy

DSC_0102_3544 copy

Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate and bake for another 10 minutes or until the cakes are springy to the touch. Cool on a rack. Once cool, remove the “skin” from both cakes so that each cake is as light as possible. Set aside.

Key Lime Mousse

  • 2 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tbsp cold water
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 7 tbsp Key Lime juice
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water to dissolve. Combine the milk and key lime juice in a small pan and bring to a boil.

DSC_0103_3543 copy

Combine the egg yolks and sugar in another bowl until well combined. Pour a small amount of the heated egg mix into the sugar egg mix to temper the eggs, then pour it all into the saucepan to cook.  Heat to 184 degrees.

DSC_0107_3547 copy

Add the gelatin and stir to dissolve completely. Cool the saucepan in a bowl of ice. (This last bit of instruction is from the recipe book but, better yet, use a bain marie to heat the custard. Mix with an electric mixer until it develops some body before cooling).

DSC_0108_3548 copy

Whip the cream until soft peaks form and fold into the cooled custard.

DSC_0110_3550 copy

Raspberry Mousse

  • 2 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup raspberry puree
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Again, sprinkle the gelatin over the water to dissolve. Puree one cup of raspberries and strain to remove the seeds.

DSC_0111_3551 copy

Bring the raspberry puree to a gentle boil in a saucepan. Combine the eggs yolks and sugar in another bowl. Pour a small amount of the heated puree into the egg mix to temper the eggs, then pour it all into the saucepan to cook. Stir gently until it reaches 184 degrees.

DSC_0112_3552 copy

Stir in the gelatin until it’s dissolved. Remove the thickened custard from the stove and let cool completely. Whip the cream in another bowl until soft peaks form and fold into the cooled custard. Set aside.

DSC_0114_3560 copy

Cocoa Sauce

  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar (use half this)
  • pinch of salt

Combine the sugar, water, salt and cocoa in a saucepan and stir until thickened. Again, this is from the recipe book, but half the sugar would do. And you might need to add some Arrowroot or Corn Starch or you’ll be stirring all night. Cool in the refrigerator overnight.

To assemble, lay a layer of cake on parchment paper. Spread the raspberry mousse over the cake thickly and evenly, then layer with the second cake.

DSC_0116_3558 copy

Spread the key lime mousse thickly over the top. Put the cake in the freezer for at least 24 hours.

DSC_0119_3556 copy

When frozen, trim the edges (run a serrated knife under hot water and wipe dry each time). Score the top before cutting so your pieces are even, then cut into even pieces.

DSC_0124_3564 copy

Top with raspberries and serve with the chocolate sauce and espresso. Enjoy!

DSC_0127_3567 copy
DSC_0132_3570 copy
Posted in Cakes, Fruit, Mousse | Leave a comment