Monday, November 28, 2016

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Mousseline

Have you ever been tempted by a cupcake at a bakery only to bring it home and find that it's dry and flavorless and the nicely-piped mountain of icing tastes of nothing but sweetness?  Well, these cupcakes are not like those cupcakes.

First, they're made with melted white chocolate, which gives them an indefinable but definite flavor and also (I think) gives the cake some texture so that you can't just squish it in your hand and have it turn to mush.  (Well, I didn't try that maneuver, but I'm still standing behind my statement).

Other than making sure you have real white chocolate with butterfat content, there's nothing tricky about making the batter.  And even without weighing the individual cupcakes, I found that the batter was just enough for 16 cupcakes.  You probably could have put a little more batter in each cup and make 14 cupcakes, but there's too much for just a dozen.  Having more than a dozen of these cupcakes is not the worst thing in the world.

Now the frosting.  When I first read the name of the recipe, I said to myself, "Mousseline.  Hmm.  Isn't that the frosting with the sugar syrup that can fly all over the kitchen and the one that turns into a horrible curdled mess but eventually turns out OK?  If you're lucky."  Yes, indeed it is.

I hate straining and pounding and mashing raspberries.  Last time I had to do it, I told myself to immediately order a food mill.  But I forgot.  I forgot until I was pounding and mashing the raspberries this time.  I even know which one I'm going to get, but there are no more raspberry puree recipes in The Baking Bible, so should I get it now or wait until the next time I need it, which may be never.  The jury is out.

Once you have the raspberry juice and the puree (I have to say it was really hard to tell the juice from the puree).

Creaming the butter for a good long time is the easy part.

And this time, adding the sugar syrup to the egged whites was easy too.

Dealing with the curdled mess was not so easy.  Actually, curdled messes, as in two of them.  First, the butter and sweetened meringue mixture curdles.  Then, when you add the raspberries, it breaks apart and curdles again.  I took the curdled mess's temperature several times; it was 68 or 69.  Not too hot and not too cold.  But definitely not just right.  However, by magic as far as I can tell, eventually the curdled mess turns into mousseline.  Should it be called messeline?

I'll grant you that this doesn't look much like a rose.  But hey, I piped it, didn't I?  I should get credit for that, especially since I hadn't a clue which tip I was supposed to use.  Also I got tired of piping from the middle outward, so I went from thse outside in.  There is actually one cupcake that you might look at and say to yourself, yeah, I guess you might call that a rose.  Unfortunately, Jim didn't take a picture of that one.

Mess or not, I love the taste of this mousseline.  Usually I try to eat one piece of whatever I've made and get it out the door ASAP.  I put these in the freezer, however, to reward myself for doing something reward-worthy.  JJ gets a treat for being a good listener.  Maybe I should
try that.

What did you say?

Friday, November 25, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Wow!"

Photo by Rosa
Simply Delicious

This picture of Rosa's looks, at first glance, like it's made with a meringue pie shell, but that beautiful white rim is actually piped super-stabilized whipped cream.  For the crust, Rosa made a honey wafer graham crust from The Pie and Pastry Bible, and added lemon zest and toasted walnuts for extra flavor.  I think she was a little surprised at how delicious this pie turned out to be, and suggested that it would make a dynamite Christmas dessert.  Some other alternatives she suggested were to make mini pies or to simply skip the pie concept altogether, and spoon it into pretty glasses topped with whipped cream and crumb topping.

When you have enough Minor Mishaps to start numbering them, you know it wasn't completely smooth sailing.  But Rachel didn't let her list of mishaps stop her from making the pie from start to finish.  First, there was the two-hour slow-oven meringue bake, which prevented her from baking the pie before taking a planned walk, but that just threw the timing off.  More problematic was the Losing of the Pie Pan.  This clearly shows the disadvantage of having only one pie pan (although you can see that logic would require you to have at least two of every cooking utensil).  Well, in fact, she did have another pie pan, which was perfectly fine except for being a little shallow for this recipe.  Minor mishap #3 was beating her egg whites for the meringue with an immersion blender that was leaking oil.  It turns out that you can beat egg whites by hand.  Rachel, who's not on Facebook, missed Rose's instructions on how to get a meringue shell out of the pan.  Suffice it to say "the pie had to be scraped out like a baked pudding."  Oh well.  Rachel still found things to admire about this pie, but it wasn't going to make it on her Top Ten All-Time Favorite list.

Rachel should take a look at Catherine's blog if she wants to feel a little better about her mishaps.  Catherine didn't number her mishaps, but I think she might challenge Rachel to a mishap duel.  (Easy for me to say since I didn't even make the meringue).  Had Catherine not been an Alpha Baker, she would not even have considered making this pie.  "To my mind, a meringue pie crust is an odd concept, and filling it with mousse straight out eccentricity."  But, as it turned out, she was glad she made it.  "The meringue swirls at the rim of the pie ... are a clever and pretty way to show off the pink mousse filling.  The pomegranate flavoured filling is a really lovely, fresh flavour that goes well with the sweet meringue."  Because I've already written enough, I won't detail the things that went wrong in the formation of the meringue (but remember that Catherine lives in one of the most humid spots in the world).  I'll just say that in Catherine's estimation, delicious as it tasted, the rest of the pie just might have to "go to the big fridge in the sky."  Sniff.

Let me add that Joan has been baking right along with us, but the fruits of her labors are not always visible.  Her blog is acting up, so she's been unable to post photos to the blog, but you can see some on Facebook.  She may be working on her pie at this very moment!

Next week:  The last cake in the book--a white chocolate cupcake with raspberry mousseline.  Sounds delightful.

The countdown:  We have only three recipes left--the cupcakes, a candy/cookie, and the incredible Kouign Amann.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Pomegranate Winter Chiffon Meringue Pie

Although the name of this pie has the word "meringue" in it, my pie does not, as the picture makes clear, contain meringue, piped or otherwise.  We had dinner guests on Saturday.  I was still shocked and saddened by the election results, and I didn't have it in me to plan the menu.  Saturday morning, though, I realized I was either going to off to shake off my gloom and get started or I would end up ordering pizza and having ice cream for dessert.  Nothing wrong with pizza and ice cream, but that's not what I have in mind when I invite people for dinner.

I decided on comfort food--braised short ribs, mashed potatoes, and glazed carrots.  Then I checked the pomegranate pie recipe to see if I'd have time to make it.  Well, clearly the meringue shell wasn't going to work.  Not only did I have to make meringue and pipe it into a pie pan, but I'd also have to bake it for over 2 hours.  And where did that leave the short ribs that had to go into the oven for 3 to 4 hours.

I considered the alternative: a lemon cookie crust.  That sounded delicious, but I'd have to bake cookies, which gave me the same short rib problem.  Then I had, if I do say so, a brilliant idea.  Remember the very good, very easy crumb crust made with vanilla wafers?  What if I made that, and just added lemon peel to it.

And so I did.  Vanilla wafers, sugar, almonds, butter, and lemon zest.  No baking, no interfering with the short ribs.

Once I got the crust problem out of the way, it couldn't have been simpler to make the pomegranate chiffon part of the pie.  POM pomegranate juice (Rose is right about the beautiful color) with sugar and cornstarch.

Then beaten egg whites mixed in with the thickened juice to make a sweet pink mixture, and whipped cream to make it even more sweetly pink.

Poured into the already made crumb crust.

Since I wasn't doing any of the hard stuff, I thought that the least I could do is decorate the pie with fresh pomegranate seeds, AKA pomegranate arils.  It's a little tricky to get rid of all the bitter white pith that wants to cling to the arils.

And here is a piece of pie.  As the pie sits, the mixture wants to separate.  The next day, there was a definite dark red layer at the bottom of the pie, but if you don't say anything about it, people will think it's supposed to be like that.

My guests loved this pie.  We had it for dessert at our pre-theater dinner.  Then, after we watched the play, we came back and had a second piece.  Our friend David said that mango chiffon pie was his old favorite pie, but his new favorite is pomegranate chiffon pie.  I feel a little bad about displacing an old family favorite, but I think there's always room for two kinds of pie in your life.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Dangerously easy to eat"

Photo by Jen
Evil Cake Lady

The question of the week was "Are these real madeleines?"  Jen, for example, said she had never tried a madeleine before, so she has "no idea if this is true to the original or not," but it is a "lovely soft little chocolate cake," so that's good enough for her, especially since the madeleines are "easy enough to make and pretty quick."  (You'll notice that she made full-sized madeleines, which accounts for their being quick and easy.)  She also discovered that the unbaked batter tastes like "soft serve ice cream."  An added bonus.

It seemed to Catherine that an authentic madeleine would be made with almond meal.  But she acknowledged that she was no expert in the arcana of madeleine-making, especially since she had only one single madeleine mould.  So she made just a few madeleines that looked like madeleines; she filled up her mince pie tray with the rest of the batter.  Without "the traditional shell shape," these looked like "cake blobs.  Delicious but meaningless."  But is anything delicious really meaningless?  That is my existential question for the day.

Raymond may be the Alpha font of madeleine knowledge, since he says he has "made many different kinds of madeleines over the years," his favorite being "the classic lemon flavored Commercy madeleine."  His "only complaint about madeleines is that they go stale so quickly."  He liked these chocolate madeleines (and, I'm guessing, the fact that they don't get dry and stale), but would not bother brushing on the glaze next time:  he'd either "dunk them in the chocolate glaze or skip it altogether and just dust them with cocoa."  

Faithy had some doubts about whether you could call these true madeleines because they were "humpless"--they came out of the oven without the "characteristic hump" of traditional madeleines and they "tasted more like chocolate cake than madeleines."  They actually reminded her of whoopie pies, and so she decided to sandwich them with ganache.  Doubts about this madeleine's authenticity fell by the wayside after she tasted them.  "I would still make it again anytime since they are easy to make, delicious, and easy to eat too in bite size."  

Vicki didn't much care if they were true madeleines or not.  She didn't even much care if they were baked or not.  Like all of Rose's cake batters, "why bother baking them at all?  Just hand out spoons and sit around the mixer bowl like a fondue pot."  But she did bake them, in both regular- and mini-sized versions.  There were "more casualties among the mini."  On the other hand, that meant "more to pop into my very willing mouth."  They are "lovely little morsels."  

Rachel's "adventure into madeleine land definitely ended well," even though she used mini-cupcake pans instead of madeleine pans and even though she dipped the cupcake-madeleines into the ganache instead of glazing it on.  (No stray bristles on your madeleines that way).  They were delicious, and easy to make, although that could just be because "compared to the complicated dance of supervising college applications while not being overbearing makes most things look simple by comparison."  Yes, I remember that dance.

Next week:  The Pomegranate Winter Chiffon Meringue Pie.  A perfect choice for Minnesota, and probably some other states and provinces, since we're supposed to have our first winter snowfall tonight.  Note Rose's new information on how to unmold a meringue pie.  

The countdown:  Only 4 recipes left, one from each major category of the book--pies, cakes, cookies, and breads.  You can do it!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Chocolate Sweetheart Madeleines

This would be quick and easy if you didn't use mini-madeleine pans and if you didn't have to glaze the mini-madeleines with a tiny paint brush (that shed red bristles on the tiny cookies).  Also, if your mini-madeleine pans had some definition, you might end up with tiny madeleines that actually looked like madeleines.  If they don't, then you end up with little brown blobs.  Brown blobs taste fine, but they don't have the same cachet as madeleines.

The madeleine batter is based on Rose's Chocolate Domingo Cake recipe, so even though the madeleines are in the cookie section, they're really more of a cake.  Even the small madeleines (made using only 4 grams of batter) remained moist after baking.

I had only two mini-madeleine pans (24 small indentations in each pan, for a total of 48).  I'm glad I didn't get four pans to make 100 (or 96, to be precise).

These are the little molds.

And these are the big ones.  Even when I looked at them both, it didn't occur to me that the big one was going to produce something that looked like a shell, and the little one wasn't.

Even when I spooned (no, I didn't pipe) them in their little pan in 4-ounce increments, it didn't occur to me that they might not look like madeleines.

Finally, after I took them out of the pan and started daubing chocolate glaze on them, I started thinking, hmm, these don't look like much of anything.  Aren't madeleines supposed to look like shells?  Well, maybe when they have glaze on them, they'll look like something.

Nope.  Well, maybe a little bit like a newly hatched bunch of headless brown turtles.

Actually, even the bigger ones didn't look so much like madeleines.  On the other hand, they didn't look so much like headless turtles.

The good news is that they really did taste good.  And the small ones were just the right size for granddaughter Lily to smush in her hand before popping into her mouth.  And anything that elicits a big toothy grin from Lily is OK with me.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Quite tasty"

Photo by Raymond
Your Just Desserts

I thought this week was going to be all about the prune filling, but it was more about the multiple steps involved and what might have gone wrong, or almost went wrong, and did go wrong.

Not so much for Raymond, whose biggest problem was the same feeling of deja vu that he had last week (deja vu all over again?) when he made the monkey dunkey bread.  Fortunately, he's not going loco.  He just baked them both as a Beta Baker, and since those top-secret posts have been erased from history, he couldn't check on it.  But he liked the cake the second time, just as he liked it the first.  He also thought the cake was "very easy," and making the caramel was "old hat," and he had no problem rolling up the cake.  (See above photo).  "All in all a really nice dessert."

Although Raymond made a double batch of lekvar to have some on hand for morning toast, for Faithy it was "plums yes, prunes no," so she substituted mango preserves for prunes.  She also substituted canned dulce de leche ("lazy me," says dynamo Faithy), and made the cake a little thicker by using a smaller pan and adding a little water and oil to the cake mixture.  Because the cream melted so quickly, she put it in the freezer, and served it with ice cream.  And presto!  The prune roll became an Arctic Roll.  who

Rachel, who took the cake to a party, admits that she didn't tell anyone what the fruit was in the cake roll.  "But then again, they didn't ask."  Are we getting better through experience or is it just my imagination?  Rachel thought that making the cake went "really smoothly" and the sugar syrup was "easy peasy."  The unrolled cake was "in good shape," and there was no problem with rolling it back up, although "the edge view reminds me of a wrinkly-faced dog.  Homely but appealing."  She drizzled the glaze atop instead of using a piping bag, which brought her some criticism from her would-be food stylist daughter, but the cake got gobbled up at the party, barely giving Rachel herself a chance to eat a piece.

Kristina titled her post "Caramel Cream Cake Roll" because "that sounds so much better than a recipe that starts with the words 'prune preserves,' right?"  As her husband was about to invite some friends over for dinner, with homemade dessert as a principal draw, he discovered the name of the dessert in question and said, "I can't sell that."  As it turned out, thought, she ended up "loving" the dessert.  And so, I surmise, did everyone else.  "I didn't expect to [love it], but the stewed prunes (aka Lekvar) took a back seat to the caramel whipped cream, and really just added a subtle fruit flavour that you wouldn't be able to put your finger on if you didn't know it was there."

Jen enjoyed making this cake because each component could "hang out and wait" for a time to fit in busy schedule.  Here's a hint:  wrap the cake in a Silpat instead of a kitchen towel--works just as well and you don't have to launder the Silpat.  And nothing went wrong, except for "Eliot was intrigued with the chocolate drizzle and asked his mom if she was making a tiger cake.  Even though the tiger cake was headless, Eliot was still OK with that.  "We all liked the cake, and I love the feathery lightness of the biscuit.  The prune lekvar is really good and pairs well with the caramel.  It actually felt like a great autumnal dessert, and a nice departure from all things pumpkin and spice and apple."

Mendy made his caramel whipped "cream" with Rich's Whip so it would be parve and he wouldn't have to get out the toaster oven.  This was a good plan except that Rich's is sweeter than cream, so the caramel whipped cream ended up to be "cloyingly sweet."  He made up for that by using 82% dark chocolate "love me a Scharfenberger 82%."  Mendy's used to buying lekvar, but he made it this time and found that he missed the allspice flavor that he grew up with.  Still, no complaints about the lekvar or the cake.  And from the smiles on "Omi girl's) and "Ez man's" faces, no complaints from them either.

Considering all the things that might go wrong with this cake, you probably wouldn't put "whipping the cream" high on the list.  And yet that's what happened to Catherine.  You'll probably guess that sad turn this take is going to take when you see that her post is titled, "The Prune Caramel Swiss Roll adventure on which we learn never to turn out back on a stand mixer."  That's what she did, and "instead of deliciously light caramel cream, I found myself looking at a large bowl full of wet sand."  I'd like to say something encouraging, but I have to admit that a cake filled with wet sand sounds singularly unappetizing.  She did manage to cobble together at least one edible piece (more cream and some gelatin).  "The combination of flavours (who would think of adding prunces?) was sophisticated and interesting as well as being delicious."  Just think how great it would be without the sand!.

Next week:  I think I told Tony many months ago that he should buy some mini madeleine pans because we'd be making them soon.  Well, it wasn't soon but it was eventually.  You can also make these in regular madeleine pans.

The countdown:  We're moving so fast.  Down to 5.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Prune Preserves and Caramel Cream Cake Roll

Pity the poor prune.  While other dried fruits--cranberries, apricots, cherries and the like--are found in healthy, well-muscled young hikers, prunes (especially stewed prunes, which sounds even worse) are in the sad cereal bowls of the elderly.  Rose wants to change all this.  It definitely helps to add caramel whipped cream--that was certainly never served at breakfast at my grandmother's house.

I guess these prunes are stewed.  Maybe lekvar means "stewed prunes."  At any rate, they're cooked with water, sugar, and some lemon zest until they're so soft and tender that you probably wouldn't even have to put in your false teeth to eat them.  This is, by the way, a multi-page, multi-step recipe, but it's not too bad if you just take it one step at a time and try not to think about all the steps that are left.  While the prunes are coming to room temperature, you make the sponge.  We've done this so often I feel that I should have the recipe memorized.  I don't, of course.

It involves beating whole eggs and then adding in beaten egg whites.  That's always good for at least one photo.

Then the batter is spread onto a half sheet pan.  I never get mine completely even.  After a while I get tired of smoothing it out with a spatula, so I just decide it's good enough.

After the lekvar and sponge cake are made, the caramel is next.  I've taken to using caster sugar sometimes; it has a little more color than regular white granulated sugar, so I thought it might interfere with my ability to tell when the caramel was done, but luck (and an instant thermometer) were with me.

Jim always likes the part where you add the cream to the caramel mixture and it "boils furiously."

I could just dig into that mixture of caramel and cream, but I have a little discipline.

One layer of cooled lekvar spread on the sponge cake.

Followed by a layer of caramel cream.

I should have rolled it tighter, I now see, but at the time, it seemed that I was.

Finally, the chocolate glaze.  Very easy; just melted chocolate, cream, and about a tablespoon of leftover caramel.

JJ and Lily came over just as I was finishing the cake, so there were bowls of caramel, chocolate, and caramel cream, not to mention various bits of cake that I'd trimmed off.  They were in hog heaven.  I gave each of them a small spoon and told them to have at it until all the bowls and scraps were eaten. By the time their mother came in the kitchen to see why it was so quiet, the evidence was gone--except on their faces, of course.  I told her it was actually a fruit dessert.

I served this to my book club.  I did not apologize for the haphazard look of the glaze or the too-flat appearance of the roll.  One person asked me if I bought the roll at Wuollet's (a well-known local bakery).  Another took a picture to send to a woman who wasn't able to come.  And every plate was absolutely clean.  Not even a morsel for the compost bin.  Take that, you prune haters!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Absolutely more-ish"

Photo by Catherine
Phyllis Caroline Blog

What's not to like about brioche, chocolate, and caramel?  There were very few criticisms to be found as we ate our way through petite balls of this bread.  And that is the only way to get the word "petite" into the description of this bread, which is otherwise a Don't Step on the Scale for at Least Two Days kind of treat.

Catherine found it "delicious, time-consuming and very sweet," and that was without the caramel sauce, which would have made it even sweeter.  Next time she would omit the chocolate because "it didn't need it."  With or without caramel, with or without chocolate, even the generous Catherine was not sure she'd share it at work.

Katya also preferred a more simple version of this bread, the plainer monkey without the caramel pour-over and the chocolate filling.  That said, however, she admitted that when she told her colleagues what it was supposed to be like, she saw their "eyes glaze over with desire."  So next time she thought she'd take the version that would satisfy the most insatiable sweet tooth.

To Nicola, who nicknamed her bread "Resistance is Futile," this bread/cake was a reminder of why she had stopped baking for a year:  the recipes that are "totally amazing" and make "blood sugar spike."  She gave one to her son Isaac as a bedtime snack, and, after declaring it to be "totally amazing," he promptly went for more.  (Remember, Catherine warned that they were "more-ish.")

Raymond somehow "worked this in" along with some other kitchen projects (I have enough trouble doing one a week!), and found it "delish."  He also promised to either take his "weekend baking projects to work or share them with the neighbors....  I am sure that everyone is going to be wanting seconds."

Vicki, who loves the smell that baking brings to her kitchen, knew from "the lovely aroma" that the monkey bread was going to be something special.  And tasting it made her even more sure.  "This is definitely going to be a family favorite for years to come."

When I read Rachel's blog, I thought, for probably the 100th time, that doing a bake-through of Rose's recipes really does make you a better baker.  She recalls first hearing of monkey bread on a Martha Stewart show and thinking it looked good but complicated.  Then she bought a few versions, but they were disappointing.  So finally she made her own, and was not disappointed at all.  "This bread was so good!"  And, although it took a while, "the 'fiddle factor' was negligible" and "many tummies were happy."

Like Raymond, Kristina, playing catch-up, had a busy and productive weekend in the kitchen:  "2 loaves of bread, monkey dunkey brioche dough, and all of the components of cannoli."  With all that baking, though, when it came time to finish the monkey dunkey, she "looked at the instructions for filling the dough balls with chocolate, said 'No way!' and just made [it] without the chocolate, without the caramel sauce, and without gilding the lily with chocolate drizzle."  Still "plenty gilded" for a "great breakfast"!

Jen remembered making this monkey bread as a Beta Baker, at which time her tube pan leaked, making the predictable mess, so this time she made it in a bundt pan.  She didn't roll the dough--just pressed it into shape, and used chocolate chunks instead of chocolate perles, but otherwise, the monkey bread was pretty much as directed.  When Eliot tasted it, he said, "We are eating cake." When Mark tasted it, he said it might be his favorite Baking Bible project yet.  And when Jen tasted it, she said she was sure she would be making this for years to come.  I think we can all see this bread becoming a family tradition.

Rosa dropped the chocolate and the dunking sauce, fearing that it would be too sweet.  Instead, she added toasted pecans, as well as the caramel sauce.  Still "monkey," but not as "dunkey."  And still delicious.

Next week:  The Prune Preserves and Caramel Cream Cake Roll.  It's a lot of words, so you may just end up calling it that prune-y thing.

The countdown:  How has this happened?  Only six more baking projects left!