Saturday, January 31, 2009

Daring Bakers: Tuiles

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

The challenge was to use one of the batters given, shape it either prior (using a stencil) or right after baking and pair it with something light; fruit, sorbet, a mousse, etc.

Source: The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeinck
65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / ½ cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice (optional)
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet or parchment paper

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream butter, sugar and vanilla using a low speed until you have a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. Transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip and pipe the desired shapes. Or, if using a stencil, press the stencil on the baking sheet and use an off sided spatula to spread the batter. Leave some room in between your shapes.

If desired, mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa or food coloring and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe your decorations.

Bake for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from the baking sheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm so you might want to bake a small amount at a time.

I chose not to use any coloring or cocoa. I piped large circles (about 8 inches in diameter) and used an offset spatula to smooth the batter into a thin circle. As soon as the tuiles came out of the oven, I placed them over an upside down drinking glass to get the bowl shape I wanted. Then I went about making the fillings for the bowl.

Clementine Curd
Adapted from: The Elegent Sufficiency and Alton Brown
Zest and juice of 4 clementines
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

Place zest, juice (you'll need 1/3 cup of liquid total – add water if you're short), sugar and egg yolks in a heatproof bowl. Whisk until smooth, about 4 minutes.

Set bowl over a saucepan filled with an inch or two of simmering water. Whisk continuously for 7 to 10 minutes until it is lighter in color, opaque and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add butter one piece at a time whisking until each piece has melted completely before adding the next piece.

Your curd will keep for four weeks in the refrigerator with a piece of plastic wrap pressed on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.

Vanilla Mousse
Source: Tartelette
2/3 cup (160g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
2/3 cup (160g) whole milk
1 vanilla bean
4 medium-sized egg yolks
3 oz (6 Tbsp / 80g) granulated sugar
3 Tbsp (25g) cornstarch, sifted
4g / 2 tsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
1 cup (240g) whipping cream (35% fat content)

Pour the milk and 2/3 cup cream into a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean halves into milk and put the vanilla bean in as well. Heat to boiling, then turn the heat off, cover and let infuse for at least 30 minutes. Then remove the vanilla bean.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until white, thick and fluffy. Add the cornstarch, beating carefully to ensure that there are no lumps. While whisking vigorously, pour some of the milk into the yolk mixture to temper it. Put infused milk back on the stove on medium heat. Pour yolk mixture back into the milk while whisking vigorously. Keep whisking vigorously until mixture thickens considerably.

As soon as the mixture starts to boil, leave on for only 2 more minutes. Add the gelatin and let it melt completely, stirring once or twice.

Whip the 1 cup whipping cream until stiff and add gradually to the pastry cream. Blend delicately with a spatula.

To assemble the dessert, pipe the vanilla mousse into your tuile bowl and top with curd. Garnish with a curl of clementine zest.

Overall, the tuiles were fairly simple to make and I would make them again. Some changes I would try next time would be to add a little bit of flavoring to the batter – I think a few drops of almond extract or lemon extract would be perfect.

I would also try to get my toiles thinner. It was quite tricky getting them large enough to form a bowl and spreading them thin was even harder.

My favorite part of this challenge was making the clementine curd. It was much simpler than I expected and it came out beautifully. I thought it was a bit too sweet at first, but once it was chilled the sweetness was just right. I had some of the curd spread on toast for breakfast the next morning and it was heavenly!

I can't believe I've ever shelled out my hard-earned money for store bought lemon curd. Never again!

And once again, I had trouble with the pastry cream. Following a different recipe this time, I wound up with the exact same results – too-thick pastry cream with some lumps of coagulated corn starch. Both times it was edible and had great flavor, just not the right texture.

That's it pastry cream, it's on! We're gonna have this out until you're no longer my enemy. You and pie crust – you're going down.

Guess that means it's time to make a cream pie ...

Be sure to check out the blogroll to see what creations the other Daring Bakers came up with this month!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Instant pancakes

Another breakfast post?
I know, I know but I can't help myself – it's my favorite meal!

On Saturday mornings, when you head into the kitchen all bleary eyed, do you ever reach for the box of instant pancake mix? You can tell me, I won't judge you. I do it too.

My mix might be a little bit different though. I'm talking about Alton Brown's "instant" pancake mix. A mix that I put together myself so I know exactly what goes into my pancakes. I keep it in my cabinet at all times. Whenever the pancake craving hits, I can grab my mix and easily whip up a bowlful of batter.

Instant pancake mix
Source: Alton Brown
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a lidded container. Shake to mix.
Use the mix within 3 months.

Instant pancakes
Source: Alton Brown
2 eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups Instant Pancake Mix, recipe above
1 stick butter, for greasing the pan
2 cups fresh fruit such as blueberries, if desired

Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to 350 degrees F. Heat oven to 200 degrees F.

Whisk together the egg whites and the buttermilk in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the melted butter.

Combine the buttermilk mixture with the egg yolk mixture in a large mixing bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the pancake mix. Using a whisk, mix the batter just enough to bring it together. Don't try to work all the lumps out.

Lightly butter the griddle. Wipe off thoroughly with a paper towel. (No butter should be visible.)

Gently ladle the pancake batter onto the griddle and sprinkle on fruit if desired.

When bubbles begin to set around the edges of the pancake and the griddle-side of the cake is golden, gently flip the pancakes. Continue to cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the pancake is set.

Serve immediately or remove to a towel-lined baking sheet and cover with a towel. Hold in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes.

Be sure to serve your pancakes with some real maple syrup – local if possible!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

White Hot Chocolate

Being a New England girl, you would think I'd be used to winter. But it's been cold. No, I mean really cold. Friday's forecast showed a high of 18 degrees ... and a low of -15 degrees.

15 degrees below zero.

Seeking a way to warm up, I decided to make some hot chocolate. Not just any hot chocolate, but the most decadent hot chocolate recipe I have ever made. I'm telling myself that the calories were worth the warmth.

White Hot Chocolate
Source: Paula Deen
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vanilla whipped topping or freshly whipped cream, for garnish
Mint leaves, for garnish

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine white chocolate chips and heavy cream. Stir continuously until white chocolate chips have completely melted. Stir in the half-and-half, and vanilla extract. Stir occasionally until heated through. Pour into mugs and top with a dollop of vanilla whipped topping and garnish with mint leaf.

I halved the recipe which made two large portions. The vanilla whipped topping had the flavor of tapioca pudding which was not bad – but I came for the hot chocolate. I'll skip it next time and just savor the white chocolate's flavor.

Okay Old Man Winter, let's warm things up around here before my pants don't fit!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Quick and easy cinnamon buns

Sunday morning breakfasts are usually the most decadent of the week in my home. It's the one day I can actually spend the time to make a special morning dish.

This week I decided to give cinnamon rolls a try. I've been wanting to make these for quite some time now, but haven't gotten around to it because of the immense time requirement. In looking for a recipe, I stumbled across two versions in my new copy of Baking Illustrated– one a traditional yeast-dough, the other a non-yeast quick version.

Cinnamon buns in one hour? My heart be still!

I just so happened to have every ingredient on hand with one exception. The icing calls for cream cheese and I was sadly lacking. So I went on a hunt for a cinnamon roll icing that sounded rich and dreamy but did not call for cream cheese. I found just the recipe I needed on the King Arthur Flour site.

Quick Cinnamon Buns
Source: Baking Illustrated
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, for greasing the pan

For the cinnamon-sugar filling:
3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

For the biscuit dough:
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for work surface
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Pour 1 tablespoon of the melted butter into a 9-inch nonstick cake pan; brush to coat the pan. Spray a wire cooling rack with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

For the cinnamon-sugar filling:
Combine the sugars, spices and salt in a small bowl. Add tablespoon of the melted butter and stir with a fork until the mixture resembles wet sand; set the filling mixture aside.

For the biscuit dough:
Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the buttermilk and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter in a measuring cup or small bowl. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until the liquid is absorbed (the dough will look very shaggy), about 30 seconds. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until just smooth and no longer shaggy.

Pat the dough with your hand into a 12 by 9-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter. Sprinkle evenly with the filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border of plain dough around the edges. Press the filling firmly into the dough. Using a bench scraper or metal spatula, loosen the dough from the work surface. Starting at the long side, roll the dough, pressing lightly, to form a tight log. Pinch the seam to seal. Roll the log seam-side down and cut it evenly into 8 pieces. With your hand, slightly flatten each piece of dough to seal the open edges and keep the filling in place. Place 1 roll in the center of the prepared nonstick pan, then place the remaining 7 rolls around the perimeter of the pan. Brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter.

Bake until the edges of the buns are golden brown, 23 to 25 minutes. Use and offset metal spatula to loosen the buns from the pan. Wearing oven mitts, place a large plate over the pan and invert the buns onto the plate. Place a greased cooling rack over the plate and invert the buns onto the rack. Cool about 5 minutes before icing.

Vanilla Glaze
Source: King Arthur Flour
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 to 5 tablespoons heavy cream

Combine the sugar, vanilla, and enough cream to make a spreadable icing. Slather on the cinnamon buns with a spatula.

While the texture may not be the same as yeasted cinnamon rolls, these are a great substitute. The flavor was perfect and the buns had a slight crunch to them that Matt thoroughly enjoyed. I do hope to try making the real thing soon, but in the meantime, I'm pretty happy with this version!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


When thinking of treats to include with my homemade jam, I decided that shortbread was appropriate. Not only is it tasty on its own but it would be a nice platform for the jam.

I chose this recipe because of its simplicity. I wanted a recipe that used accessible ingredients and would come out right every time – a must when baking in bulk. I found the addition of almond extract very pleasant though it's more traditional and equally delicious without it.

Source: King Arthur Flour
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at cool room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 300° F. Lightly grease two round 9" cake pans or line them with parchment, and grease the parchment. (I prefer my shortbread in rectangles rather than wedges and used two 8" square baking pans. The resulting shortbread was a bit too thick for my taste. I will use a larger square or rectangular pan next time. Also, I found that using parchment paper worked very well for preventing the shortbread from sticking to the pan.)

In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract, then beat in the flour. The mixture may seem a little dry at first; keep beating until it comes together. If it absolutely won't come together, dribble in up to 1 tablespoon of water, until it does. This is a stiff dough.

Divide the dough in half, and press each half into one of the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with your fingers, or with a heavy-bottomed glass.

Use a fork to prick the dough all over; this allows any steam to escape, and prevents the shortbread from bubbling as it bakes.

Bake the shortbread until it's a light golden brown across the top surface, and a deeper golden brown around the edges, about 35 minutes.

Remove it from the oven, and immediately turn each shortbread round out onto a clean work surface.

Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut each round into 12 wedges. (Do this while the shortbread is still warm; if you wait until it's cool, it won't cut easily.) Transfer the shortbread wedges to a rack to cool.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Homemade Christmas: Jam and Shortbread

Okay guys, this is the last Christmas post ... I promise! Um ... wait. Lemme double check. Okay, yeah. I really mean it.

Continuing on my homemade Christmas canning kick, I made blueberry jam, raspberry jam, strawberry jam, and peach butter. (For the jams, I just used the recipes that come with packages of liquid pectin and the peach butter, while tasty, didn't have the consistency I wanted so I'm not quite ready to share the recipe.) What started me on this kick, you ask? Well it was these new Ball canning jars! They're just so sexy, I had to use them for something!

To present my lovely homemade treats, I put together these gift baskets. Included in the baskets were the pretty jars filled with the jewel-colored jams, some loose leaf tea and homemade shortbread (recipe to be posted soon).

It seems that my family and friends certainly know my foodie ways. I received many a kitchen tool for Christmas and am having a blast putting them all to good use!

Matt's cousins also had some homemade gift giving in mind. We received this pretty jar filled with the dry ingredients for pumpkin bread – always a favorite!

So while it's overdue, I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday season. I'm looking forward to a 2009 filled with great food!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Homemade Christmas: Dulce de Leche

This post is overdue – seeing as how it's January – but you'll forgive me, right?

Every year I make and give homemade treats for Christmas gifts. This year I decided to go on a canning kick. I wanted to give several different types of canned treats and set out to find a variety of recipes.

That's when I decided upon Dulce de Leche – a sweet caramel-like sauce made from milk. In researching which recipe to use, I came across three very different ways to prepare Dulce de Leche. I decided to test all three techniques before deciding which was the best for my gift-giving purposes.

Two of the recipes call for using (almost) nothing but sweetened condensed milk. The third seemed to be the most homemade and was the version I was routing for.

The first technique I tried seemed to be the most dangerous. I almost skipped this test all together but then changed my mind when I saw a recipe for this method on the Food Network site.

Dulce de Leche
Source: Gale Gand
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Remove label from the can. Stand the can in a saucepan and add water to cover. (Note: Do NOT open or puncture the can in any way prior to cooking.) Bring the water to a gentle simmer and keep it there for 3 hours, adding water as needed to keep the can submerged. (WARNING: Please be careful and keep the can submerged otherwise there is a risk of the can exploding!)

Using tongs, carefully (it's hot!) remove the can from the pot and allow it to cool completely before opening. The milk will have transformed into a smooth, creamy, caramel-colored sauce, dulce de leche.

Transfer cooled Dulce de Leche to a mason jar and store, covered, in the refrigerator.

The second technique is a safer version of the condensed milk option which uses the oven instead of the boil-in-can technique.

Dulce de Leche or Confiture de Lait
Source: David Lebovitz, Adapted from The Perfect Scoop
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Sea Salt

Preheat the oven to 425° F (220° C).

Pour the can of sweetened condensed milk into a glass pie plate or shallow baking dish. Stir in a few flecks of sea salt.

Set the pie plate within a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of the pie plate.

Cover the pie plate snugly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1¼ hours. (Check a few times during baking and add more water to the roasting pan as necessary).

Once the Dulce de Leche is nicely browned and caramelized, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, whisk until smooth.

Store in the refrigerator.

The final technique comes from Alton Brown, the goofy guru of food science and host of Good Eats.

Dulce de Leche
Source: Alton Brown
1 quart whole milk
12 ounces sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
½ teaspoon baking soda

Add milk, sugar and vanilla bean to a large saucepan set over medium heat. Stir until sugar has melted then add ½ teaspoon of baking soda. Reduce heat to low and cook uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally (the mixture may foam up a bit but that's okay).

After one hour, remove vanilla bean and continue to cook for 1½ to 2 more hours until mixture reduces to one cup and is the color of dark caramel.

Strain into a mason jar and refrigerate for up to four weeks.

So, after thorough testing, I determined that the best method for my gifted dulce de leche was Gale Gand's boil-in-can technique.

The baked version was not fool-proof enough for making in mass quantities – I clearly took it out of the oven too soon as the color had not gotten nearly dark enough.

The homemade stove-top version had quite an odd texture indeed. I'm sure this had something to do with my preparation as after nearly 2
½ hours of cooking, it still looked like milk. I cranked up the heat until the mixture boiled then reduced and cooked for another 2 hours. This left me with a beautiful caramel color but a foamy and somewhat gritty texture. I would like to try this one again being sure to bring the milk to a boil before adding the baking soda.

So yes, while I was scared to pieces making the Gale Gand boil-in-can version, it came out nicely browned, thick and creamy. Plus, I could boil a few cans at a time making it ideal for making large quantities.

Now, while the boil-in-can method was
my favorite, I'm sure all of these methods could have produced beautiful dulce de leche. I encourage you to try each and find your favorite.