Thursday, January 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Biscuit Joconde Imprime / Entremet


The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro.  She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.


What a mouthful, right?  I first read this challenge and thought what in the world have I gotten myself into?!  I have always stared in amazement at these magnificent looking desserts and have to admit that I never knew their name until reading this challenge.  As I reread the directions I realized how manageable this recipe was; so I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.


While I could use a little work on my piping skills, I think I was pretty successful with this challenge.  My dessert molded perfectly to form and stayed erect after slicing.   While traditional Entremet filling options can include mousses, pastry creams, bavarian creams, cheesecakes, puddings, curds, jams, cookie bases, nuts, Dacquoise, fresh fruit, chocolates, and gelee I opted for a mousse and bavarian cream.  I also added a bit of toasted coconut and fresh blackberries to the top.

Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste

Ingredients

14 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups plus1½ tablespoons powdered sugar
7 large egg whites
1¾ cup cake flour
Food coloring

Directions

Flip over a large baking sheet or jelly roll pan and line with a silicone baking sheet.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Gradually add egg whites.  Beat continuously.  Fold in sifted flour.  Tint batter with coloring to desired color.

Put the Joconde paste in a pastry bag with a small tip or use a Ziploc bag and cut a hole in one corner.  Pipe any pattern onto your baking sheet and place in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.

While this is in the freezer prepare the Joconde Sponge.

Joconde Sponge

Ingredients

¾ cup almond meal
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
¼ cup cake flour
3 large eggs
3 large egg whites
2½ tsp sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Directions

Whip the egg whites and sugar to firm, glossy peeks. Reserve for use later.  Sift almond meal, powdered sugar, cake flour.  On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition.  Mix until smooth and light.  Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.  Fold in melted butter and set aside.

Remove the Joconde paste from freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde batter over the design.  Spread evenly to completely cover the pattern of the Décor paste.

Bake at 475ºF until the Joconde bounces back when slightly pressed, approx. 15 minutes.

Cool, but do not leave this too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from the mat.  Flip cooled cake onto a powdered sugared parchment paper. Remove silicone baking mat. The cake should be right side up, and pattern showing! (The powdered sugar helps the cake from sticking when cutting.)

Prepare the mold

Using a spring form pan, line the inside ring with parchment paper cutting to fit all the way around.  Also cut the top of the paper so it is just even with the spring form pan.

Trim the cake of any dark crispy edges. You should have a nice rectangle shape.   Decide how thick you want your “Joconde wrapper”.  Traditionally, it is ½ the height of your mold. This is done so more layers of the plated dessert can be shown.  Once your height is measured, then you can cut the cake into equal strips, of height and length. (Use a very sharp paring knife and ruler.)  Make sure your strips are cut cleanly and ends are cut perfectly straight. Press the cake strips inside of the mold, decorative side facing out. Once wrapped inside the mold, overlap your ends slightly. You want your Joconde to fit very tightly pressed up to the sides of the mold. Then gently push and press the ends to meet together to make a seamless cake. The cake is very flexible so you can push it into place. You can use more than one piece to “wrap “your mold, if one cut piece is not long enough.

The mold is now done and ready to fill.
  
Mango Mousse/Bavarian Cream

Ingredients

2 1/2 tsp gelatin powder
2 Tbsp water
8 3/4 oz fresh mango puree (about 1 1/2 fresh mango, pureed in the food processor)
3 1/2 oz sugar
8 oz heavy whipping cream

Directions

Combine the gelatin and water in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat half of the mango puree with the sugar just until the sugar dissolves. Do not let the mixture boil. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, remove the puree from heat and stir in the gelatin until the gelatin completely dissolves. Finally, add the remainder of the mango puree. Let cool.

Meanwhile, whip the heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold in the cooled mango puree.  Immediately pour the mango cream into the prepared cake molds on top of the cakes, smoothing the tops. Refrigerate until set, about an hour or two.


Coconut Bavarian Cream

Ingredients

1 Tbsp powdered gelatin
3 Tbsp water
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup heavy cream

Directions

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand to soften while you prepare the cream.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until very pale. In the meantime, in a medium large saucepan set over medium heat, bring the coconut milk to a simmer. Slowly pour the milk over the yolks, whisking constantly to prevent them from curdling.  Pour the mixture back into the saucepan over medium low heat and cook until the cream coats the back of a spoon (as if making creme anglaise).  Add the softened gelatin and stir until melted completely into the cream. Let cool to room temperature.
 
Whip the cream with a mixer to soft peaks on medium speed and fold it into the cooled cream base. 

Filling the mold

Layer the bottom of the spring form pan with half of the mango mousse mixture.  Cut a portion of the Joconde Sponge and place this over the mango mousse.  Pour the remaining mango mousse in the mold and spread evenly with a spatula.  Next take the coconut cream mousse and pour it into the mold.  Spread the top as evenly as possible.  Place the cake in the fridge for a few hours to set.  When you're ready to serve, simply remove the outer layer of the spring form pan and then carefully unwrap the parchment paper.  Slice with a very sharp knife and enjoy!



Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie


Have you ever wondered where the recipe for the best chocolate chip cookie comes from?  Well, I was recently informed that it comes from American's Test Kitchen.  Affiliated with both Cooks Illustrated and Cook's Country, America's Test Kitchen lives up to its name- the group takes a regular recipe and puts it through a variety of tests to come up with the best techniques and combination of ingredients to create the ultimate recipe.  And thus we have found the Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.


After my first glance at the recipe two items stood out- the whisking technique calling for 3 sets of 30 seconds of whisking and 3 minutes of rest and the note to bake one cookie sheet at a time.  I sometimes try to find ways to take shortcuts in the kitchen, so I figured these two techniques were just what I was looking for.  But then I realized that if I wanted to seriously test the recipe for the Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie, I would need to fully commit myself and make sure I had ample time to complete each step without shortcuts.  In case you're wondering, I did, in fact, follow the recipe exactly as called for!


The jury is still out on the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, but I have to admit that these cookies deserve a spot at the top.  As soon as I caught the smell of the browned butter while the first batch of cookies was in the oven I knew this recipe was destined for greatness.  And it's not just the smell, you can really taste the browned butter in each bite of the cookie which provides a unique distinction from other chocolate chip cookie recipes.  While the cookie's outside had a slight crunch, the inside was soft and chewy.  No need to fight over crunchy versus chewy because this cookie provides it all!


Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie
taken from America's Test Kitchen

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
14 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted 

Directions

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heart to 375 degrees F.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk the flour and baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Place 4 Tbsp of the butter in a large heatproof bowl.  Heat the remaining 10 Tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes.  Continue cooking for about 1-3 minutes more, constantly swirling the pan, until the butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma.  Remove the skillet from the heat and, using a heatproof spatula, transfer the browned butter to the large heatproof bowl and stir until the 4 Tbsp of butter are completely melted.

Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to the butter mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.  Add the egg and egg yolk and whisk until the mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds.  Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds.  Repeat this process of resting and whisking 2 more times until the mixture is thick, smooth, and light brown.  Using your spatula and a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute.  Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving the dough a final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

If you like large cookies, divide the dough into 16 portions (about 3 Tbsp per cookie).  If you prefer smaller cookies, divide the dough into 32 portions.  Sometimes I try to get away with placing more cookies than called for on the baking sheets to decrease the batches, but you cannot do that with this recipe!  The cookies will spread, so be sure to arrange 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake the cookies 1 tray at a time until the cookies are golden brown and still puffy and the edges have begun to set but the centers are still soft, about 10-14 minutes.  Make sure to rotate the baking sheet halfway through baking.  Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool completely.  


The next time I make these cookies I think I may add an additional 3/4 to 1 cup of chopped nuts.  I may also may mix it up and add some walnuts as well.  :)


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dark and Creamy Fudge


Have you ever walked by a candy shop with a sign outside that says "Free Fudge Samples"?  Well, it happened to me recently, so it got me thinking...have I ever walked past the store, resisting the temptation of a free fudge sample?  It's not that I find myself walking past these candy shops often, but I do find it difficult to resist walking in even if it's only to take a look.  I guess I just like my fudge!


When I found this recipe for Dark and Creamy Fudge I was not totally convinced that it would be as delicious as the fudge found in the irresistible candy shops.  But to my surprise, the fudge was sweet and smooth and just as decadent.  You can make this fudge very quickly and then store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks; so this is a great recipe to prepare ahead if you're short on time.

Dark and Creamy Fudge
taken from Weight Watchers
2 PointsPlus per serving

Ingredients

10 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 (14-oz.) can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch + 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

Directions

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 2-inch overhang.  Smooth out any wrinkles.

Combine the chocolate, condensed milk, vanilla, and pinch of salt in a large heavy saucepan.  Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat, until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes.  Transfer fudge to prepared pan; spread evenly with rubber spatula.  Let cool.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Uncover the fudge, remove from the pan by lifting edges of plastic wrap.  Invert the fudge onto a smooth cutting board; discard plastic wrap.  Cut the fudge into 8 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 8 pieces.  To serve, bring the fudge to room temperature.  Sprinkle evenly with 1/2 tsp salt.  Yields 2 pieces per serving (2 PointsPlus per serving).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Doughnut Muffins


I have already exposed my love of doughnuts in a previous blog post, so I do not think it will be much of a shock to now reveal my love of muffins.  Hand me a warm blueberry muffin, I'll find a nice cozy chair, and I am all set!  When I saw that two of my most favorite treats were combined in this recipe I just knew I had to give it a try.


I was heading to a New Years brunch last weekend and figured this would be a great item to add to the table.  The doughnut muffins exceeded my expectations and also those of my friends and office mates.  One friend who is lucky enough to have sampled many of my experiments ;) said these were her absolute favorite out of everything I have ever brought to the office and another demanded they get posted on the blog ASAP.  So here we are...


These muffins taste so great that your taste testers will think they are fried when they are really baked.  The muffins are perfectly soft and the cinnamon and sugar coating makes you think you are truly eating a doughnut.  If you'd like to add a little flare, cut the muffin in half and spread a bit of dulce de leche or nutella on the inside.  That will surely take it up a notch!


Doughnut Muffins

Ingredients

For the muffins:
3 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp buttermilk
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

For the cinnamon-sugar coating:
2 cups sugar
2-3 Tbsp ground cinnamon
8-10 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease and flour 2 mini muffins tins.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk and buttermilk.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric or hand mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until just combined.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in one fourth of the dry ingredients.  Then beat in one third of the milk mixture.  Continue to alternate until all ingredients are incorporated, finishing with the dry ingredients.  Do not over mix- the batter will be heavy, it's ok.

Fill the prepared muffin tins about 3/4 full with batter.  If you have batter left over then you can grease another muffin tin or two and fill those as well.  The recipe I followed said it would yield 24 muffins, but I ended up with about 36.  Bake until lightly golden and firm to the touch, 15-20 minutes.  Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Remove the muffins from the tins and transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet. 

To coat the muffins:  Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a resealable plastic bag.  Roll each muffin in the melted butter, making sure to coat the entire surface.  Place a few muffins in the plastic bag and shake well to coat.  Repeat until you've finished all of the muffins.

Serve warm or at room temperature.


Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles


Calling all peanut butter fans...this recipe is definitely for you!  My mother found this recipe shortly before Thanksgiving and got so excited that it was immediately added to our long list of Thanksgiving desserts!  Even though the list was long, these little treats stood out in a good way.


While I am always the first to admit that I am not the biggest fan of peanut butter, I did enjoy my one truffle.  I have been searching recently for recipes combining salty and sweet flavors, so I appreciated the salty pretzels mixed with the sweet chocolate.  And that's not all, the smooth peanut butter with a hint of crunch from the crushed pretzels created great texture that surprised our guests.  All in all, these bite size treats earned an excellent grade from our entire Thanksgiving table!


Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles
adapted from How Sweet It Is

Ingredients

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped/crushed pretzels
1/2 - 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Combine the peanut butter and pretzels in a bowl until well combined.  Place the bowl in the freezer for 15-30 minutes, or until firm enough to handle.  Roll the mixture into roughly 20 balls (1 tsp each).  Place on a pan lined with wax or parchment paper and place in the freezer for about an hour or until very firm.

Melt the chocolate and then remove the balls from the freezer.  Dip the frozen balls into the melted chocolate and then refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.


These softened pretty quick, so be sure to eat them soon after removing from the fridge!