Monday, March 29, 2010

Orange Tian with The Daring Bakers

Orange Tian

{The 2010 March Daring Baker's challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse's Cooking School in Paris.}

If I were to come across this recipe in a cookbook, I might not have chosen it as one of the first to try. Just the length of the recipe would probably discourage me from trying it! But I'm so glad that Jennifer picked it for all of the Daring Bakers to make this month. This is just one of the reasons I like the Daring Bakers. It takes me beyond the chocolate desserts and the lemony sweets I am drawn to and is expanding my horizons with every challenge.

Orange Tian

This tian is a molded layered dessert comprised of 5 components (this seems to be a recurring theme as last month's tiramisu had multiple components as well.) None of the components were particularly hard to make, except I did have my typical fear of caramel. This recipe uses the dry method of melting the sugar creating a bit of sugar anxiety for me, but even so, the caramel was successful. The greatest challenge was probably keeping track of all the recipes and directions and organizing the game plan - and for me, finishing the challenge on time!

Here are the components listed in order from bottom layer to top layer, as well as the make-ahead suggestions:

Pate sucree - a sweet pastry dough, much like a cookie - make the dough the day before, refrigerate overnight, roll out and bake the day of serving
Homemade Orange Marmalade - can be prepared several days ahead
Whipped Cream stabilized with Gelatine and flavored with Orange Marmalade - make just before assembling
Caramel-soaked Orange Slices - prepared the day before and refrigerated overnight; I ran out of orange slices on the sixth mold, so I'd make a few more next time
Orange Caramel Sauce - prepared the day before. Half is used to soak the oranges, the other half is reduced to a thick clear caramel sauce.

The result is a light dessert with bright flavors. It was delicious! I used 6 mini (4-inch diameter) springform pans with the bottoms removed to make this dessert, but they were a bit large for a single serving but perfect for two to share. A 3-inch mold would be better for a single serving. If I make this again (perhaps for Easter) I think I'll try using the same components and make tartlets or a larger tart to cut into slices. This tian would also be delicious if you used peaches or raspberries with a corresponding jam in place of the oranges and marmalade. Yum!

Orange Tian

Orange Tian

For the Pate Sablee:

2 medium-sized egg yolks at room temperature

granulated sugar 6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon; 2.8 oz; 80 grams

vanilla extract ½ teaspoon

Unsalted butter ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams ice cold, cubed

Salt 1/3 teaspoon; 2 grams

All-purpose flour 1.5 cup + 2 tablespoons; 7 oz; 200 grams

baking powder 1 teaspoon ; 4 grams

Put the flour, baking powder, ice cold cubed butter and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
In a separate bowl, add the eggs yolks, vanilla extract and sugar and beat with a whisk until the mixture is pale. Pour the egg mixture in the food processor.
Process until the dough just comes together. If you find that the dough is still a little too crumbly to come together, add a couple drops of water and process again to form a homogenous ball of dough. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.
Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until you obtain a ¼ inch thick circle.
Using your cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough and place on a parchment (or silicone) lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the circles of dough are just golden.

For the Marmalade:

Freshly pressed orange juice ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams

1 large orange used to make orange slices

cold water to cook the orange slices

pectin 5 grams

granulated sugar: use the same weight as the weight of orange slices once they are cooked

Finely slice the orange. Place the orange slices in a medium-sized pot filled with cold water. Simmer for about 10 minutes, discard the water, re-fill with cold water and blanch the oranges for another 10 minutes.
Blanch the orange slices 3 times. This process removes the bitterness from the orange peel, so it is essential to use a new batch of cold water every time when you blanch the slices.
Once blanched 3 times, drain the slices and let them cool.

Once they are cool enough to handle, finely mince them (I suggest a food processor).
Weigh the slices and use the same amount of granulated sugar . If you don’t have a scale, you can place the slices in a cup measurer and use the same amount of sugar.
In a pot over medium heat, add the minced orange slices, the sugar you just weighed, the orange juice and the pectin. Cook until the mixture reaches a jam consistency (10-15 minutes). (It will thicken as it cools.)
Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge.

For the Orange Segments:

For this step you will need 8 oranges.
Cut the oranges into segments over a shallow bowl. Do not drain the juice off.
[See YouTube video in the References section below for additional information on segmenting oranges.]

For the Caramel:

granulated sugar 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams

orange juice 1.5 cups + 2 tablespoons; 14 oz; 400 grams

Place the sugar in a pan on medium heat and begin heating it.
Once the sugar starts to bubble and foam, slowly add the orange juice. As soon as the mixture starts boiling, remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture over the orange segments.
Reserve the other half of the caramel mixture in a small bowl — you will use this later to spoon over the finished dessert. When the dessert is assembled and setting in the freezer, heat the kept caramel sauce in a small saucepan over low heat until it thickens and just coats the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes). (I did this the night before just after dividing the caramel in half.)

[Tip: Be very careful when making the caramel — if you have never made caramel before, I would suggest making this step while you don’t have to worry about anything else. Bubbling sugar is extremely, extremely hot, so make sure you have a bowl of ice cold water in the kitchen in case anyone gets burned!]

For the Whipped Cream:

heavy whipping cream 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams

3 tablespoons of hot water

1 tsp Gelatine

1 tablespoon of confectioner's sugar

orange marmalade (see recipe above) 1 tablespoon

In a small bowl, add the gelatine and hot water, stirring well until the gelatine dissolves. Let the gelatine cool to room temperature while you make the whipped cream. Combine the cream in a chilled mixing bowl. Whip the cream using a hand mixer on low speed until the cream starts to thicken for about one minute. Add the confectioner sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high. Whip the cream until the beaters leave visible (but not lasting) trails in the cream, then add the cooled gelatine slowly while beating continuously. Continue whipping until the cream is light and fluffy and forms soft peaks. Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl and fold in the orange marmalade.
[Tip: Use an ice cold bowl to make the whipped cream in. You can do this by putting your mixing bowl, cream and beater in the fridge for 20 minutes prior to whipping the cream.]

Assembling the Dessert:
Make sure you have some room in your freezer. Ideally, you should be able to fit a small baking sheet or tray of desserts to set in the freezer.
Line a small tray or baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Lay out 6 cookie cutters onto the parchment paper/silicone.
Drain the orange segments on a kitchen towel.
Have the marmalade, whipped cream and baked circles of dough ready to use.
Arrange the orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter. Make sure the segments all touch either and that there are no gaps. Make sure they fit snuggly and look pretty as they will end up being the top of the dessert. Arrange them as you would sliced apples when making an apple tart.
Once you have neatly arranged one layer of orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter, add a couple spoonfuls of whipped cream and gently spread it so that it fills the cookie cutter in an even layer. Leave about 1/4 inch at the top so there is room for dough circle.
Using a butter knife or small spoon, spread a small even layer of orange marmalade on each circle of dough.
Carefully place a circle of dough over each ring (the side of dough covered in marmalade should be the side touching the whipping cream). Gently press on the circle of dough to make sure the dessert is compact.
Place the desserts to set in the freezer to set for 10 minutes. ( I suggest 20 to 30 minutes.)
Using a small knife, gently go around the edges of the cookie cutter to make sure the dessert will be easy to unmold. Gently place your serving plate on top of a dessert (on top of the circle of dough) and turn the plate over. Gently remove the cookie cutter, add a spoonful of caramel sauce and serve immediately.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Caramel Sauce

The first (and second and third) time I tried to make homemade caramel sauce, it didn't turn out quite right. And so I've had this fear of melting sugar...I mean, how much simpler can you get? It's just sugar and water and heavy cream and I think the water is optional, and you don't even need a candy thermometer. Yet, it's a bit tricky. Stir too much and the caramel crystallizes. Gritty caramel? No, thanks. Cook too little and it's sweet and tasteless, like eating raw sugar. Cook too much and it'll taste burned, almost bitter.
Caramel Sauce
But getting it just right...well it's perfection...especially atop some vanilla ice cream or combined with hazelnuts and drizzled over Emily Luchetti's Chocolate Truffle and Vanilla Pastry Cream Tart. So if at first you don't succeed...try, try again.

Caramel Sauce
adapted from Classic Stars Desserts by Emily Luchetti

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup heavy whipping cream

In a heavy nonreactive saucepan, stir together the sugar and water. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil.

(Tip: While the sugar is boiling, keep handy a bowl of water and a clean pastry brush. As you see crystals forming up the sides of the pan, dip the brush in water and brush down the sides of the pan to dissolve the crystals.)

Increase the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until the mixture becomes a golden amber color. You can gently swirl the pan occasionally to prevent hot spots that could burn, but don't stir or you'll get that gritty caramel sauce I was talking about.

(Tip: as the sugar is cooking and changing color, place a few drops on a clean, white plate to see the color more accurately. The sugar mixture will look darker in a stainless pan and you may end up under-cooking the caramel. Stop cooking when the drop of caramel on the white plate is a nice medium amber color.)

Remove from the heat and let the bubbles subside for a few seconds. Stir in the cream, very slowly and carefully. The caramel will bubble up when you add the cream so take extra caution as boiling sugar is very hot and could burn you. Serve the sauce warm or refrigerate for later use.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Brownie Latte Cheesecake and Meet Joy Beadworks

Brownie Latte Cheesecake

This post is part of my 2nd Blogiversary "Best of" Series. The criteria for choosing the best of?...well there are none, except that these are the recipes that I think about - no, dream about - long after the last bite was taken.

I often share goodies with my real life friend, Joy Beadworks, who lives just down the street from us. Joy makes the coolest jewelry which you can find in her Etsy Shop or at Sweet Peas in Wexford, PA if you're a Pittsburgher. My favorite piece of Joy Beadworks jewelry is my interchangeable glass bead ring - check it out!

Not only is this ring unique and beautiful, the ring opens up so that you can change the bead - and the bead choices are endless! You can even request a particular color or design. Joy's talented husband makes the glass beads by hand and they are beautiful pieces of art. Collect them and you have multiple rings all in one which you can match to your outfit or your mood... I'm particularly fond of the blues and greens...

Joy also makes my favorite earrings...which are also interchangeable - slip off the crystals and slip on different dangles...

and check out this ring for St Patrick's Day - so cute! ...

...and don't forget to check out her blog at Joy Beadworks. She's always got some cool craft going on like this scarf or this one or this great tote bag or this game table, or a story to tell about something her kids did like put a Lego creation in the oven of an unsuspecting cook. I'm so lucky to have such creative and caring friends, who are also terrific moms.

So back to the cheesecake - I remember Joy's husband commenting on this cheesecake after I had sent over a sample. He said, "You know, you could open up a shop and sell just this cheesecake!" - and I know he didn't mean that the rest of my sweets were bad, but that this cheesecake is just soooo good!

Make sure you place a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil around the springform pan - mine sprung a leak and the brownie layer got a bit soggy, but I think it was just a little fudgier that way - either way it was still unforgettable.

Brownie Latte Cheesecake
from Tish Boyle's
The Cake Book

Brownie Base
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 tablespoon
instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Latte Cheesecake Filling
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
2 tablespoons Kahlua
pinch of salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 large eggs

Make the Brownie Base
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F with the rack positioned in the center of the oven. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9X3-inch springform pan. Cut an 18-inch square of heavy-duty aluminum foil and wrap the foil around the outside of the pan. (Make sure the foil has no holes and you may want to double the foil to make sure no water seeps in from the water bath.)
In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate with the butter over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and stir in the espresso power, vanilla extract, and salt. Whisk in the sugar until combined. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until blended. Stir in the flour until no traces remain.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it into an even layer. Bake the brownie for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Place the pan on a wire rack and let cool while you make the filling. Leave the oven on.

Make the filling
In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium-low speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat until blended. Add the vanilla, espresso mixture, Kahlua, salt, sour cream, and cornstarch and mix until well blended. At low speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
Scrape the batter onto the brownie base. Place the pan in a roasting pan or large baking pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come about 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cake in the water bath for 70-80 minutes, until the center is set but slightly wobbly (the cake will continue to set up as it cools.) Remove the pan from the water bath and cool the cake completely in the pan on a wire rack.
Refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours before serving.
To serve, slice the cake with a thin-bladed sharp knife, wiping the knife clean between each cut. Garnish each slice with a dollop of whipped cream and a few chocolate covered espresso beans. (Alternately, dust with cocoa powder and garnish with chocolate-capuccino sticks.)
Store loosely covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Saturday, March 6, 2010



This is my very first Daring Bakers Challenge. All the components were made from scratch - the ladyfingers, the zabaglione, the vanilla pastry cream, the whipped cream, and the mascarpone cheese. Here's my take on each component...

The ladyfingers...easy and delicious...perfect for tiramisu...didn't get quite enough of them for three layers in an 8x8 pan. I started accusing family members of eating them, but they assured me they did not.
Savoiardi Biscuits

The zabaglione...not at all difficult, I think I would try adding coffee instead of the Marsala next time.
The vanilla pastry cream...very good.
The whipped cream...well, it's whipped cream and it was good.
The mascarpone...caused me the most worry...couldn't find cream that wasn't ultra-pasteurized but it seemed to work...firmed up nicely in the fridge, but when I stirred it again to make it smooth, it became almost liquid again...did this happen to anyone else? The resulting mixture was fine in the end...still, I worried it would be runny.


The final delicious. I just wish I'd counted the number of dishes and utensils this project required me to wash...let's just say it was ALOT! There's got to be an easier way, but I can't deny this dessert is fantastic! And I learned quite a bit just making this - and that's the whole reason I joined the Daring Bakers! I'm looking forward to the next challenge!

{The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.}


(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings (at least)

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu:
Working quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.


(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,


Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Coconut Cupcakes and Meet Jennifer Juniper

Coconut Cupcakes

For the month of March, I'm celebrating my second blogiversary and bringing you some of my favorite recipes from my archives. I am also going to introduce you to some of my best friends.

I chose to highlight this cupcake today because they are heavenly and also because they are my good friend Jennifer Juniper's favorite. If you haven't met Jen yet, you must hop on over to her awesome blog at Hope Studios. She is creative and artistic, she's extremely funny, and she has quite a following. She is also a great cook and baker! And she's not paying me to say these things.

Jen is the one who introduced me to blogging. She's the one who told me about Flickr and Picnik (I used special effects on Picnik on the photo above to give it a funky color boost - see the original on the sidebar) . Jen is the one who makes me laugh every Sunday morning with her Sunday Funny Series. She is the one who makes me ponder things in her regular feature called Feedback Friday. She teaches us how to do things on Tuesdays with her Tuesday Tutorials complete with linky parties. Jen amazes me with her creativity and humor that I always wish I had more of.

Jen is also the face behind these beautiful custom picture frames you can purchase in her Etsy Shop. She's got a gun and she's not afraid to use it (a glue gun that is) and that goes for spray paint and sewing machines and saws too. I bought a can of spray paint once - still haven't used it...

If you like a laugh and like playing games, you can follow her on Twitter.

For all you bakers, Jen has posted some great recipes like Coconut Marshmallows, Key Lime Mousse Cake, Starbucks Chocolate Espresso Caramel Latte Cupcakes (say that ten times fast!), and tutorials like How to Make a Pie Crust.

Please visit Jen at Hope Studios and say hello - tell her Marzipan sent you! (Although she probably sent many of you to me!) Hi Jen!

Coconut Cupcakes (see original post here)
from Baked, New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Makes 24 cupcakes

It's a long recipe, but they are so worth the effort!

For the cupcakes:
2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening, at room temp
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup ice water
2 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut

For the coconut pastry cream:
2 cups half and half
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

For the Coconut Frosting:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coconut pastry cream
For garnish:
1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut

Make the coconut pastry cream:
Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, bring the half-and-half to a simmer. Off the heat, add the unsweetened coconut, cover and let steep 20 minutes. Strain and discard the coconut.
In another medium bowl, whisk the egg yolk with the sugar, flour, and salt until the mixture is pale, about 1 minute. Whisk half of the warm half-and-half into the egg mixture, then pour that mixture into the remaining half-and-half in the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until boiling and thickened. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through the sieve and press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate the pastry cream for about an hour, or until chilled.

Make the coconut cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two 12-cup cupcake pans with paper liners.
Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a large bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together until creamy. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the egg, and beat until just combined. Turn the mixer to low. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the ice water, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix on low for a few more seconds.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Do not overbeat. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Fold the coconut into the batter.
Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pans and place them on a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the coconut frosting:
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture comes to a boil and had thickened, about 20 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Add the vanilla extract and 1/2 cup of the freshly-made pastry cream and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put it into the refrigerator to chill slightly, then mix again until it is the proper consistency.

Assemble the cupcakes:
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a medium tip with the remaining coconut pastry cream. Puncture the center of a cupcake with the tip and squeeze approximately 1 tsp of coconut pastry into the cupcake. Repeat for all cupcakes. (I cut a hole in the cupcake with a thin serrated knife, removed the plug, filled the cupcakes, and replaced the plug.)
Frost the top with coconut frosting and sprinkle with shredded coconut.

You're done! (whew!)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Best Baklava I've Ever Had


Classic Baklava
by Cindy Mushet for Fine Cooking Magazine
Yields about 30 pieces

1-lb. “twin pack” phyllo dough (two 8-oz. packs, each containing about twenty 9x14-inch sheets)
10 oz. (1-1/4 cups) unsalted butter for brushing the phyllo

For the filling:
1 lb. unsalted walnuts and almonds
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom, optional

For the syrup:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup water
1-1/2 tsp. orange flower water (I omitted)

Thaw the phyllo overnight in the refrigerator. Then put the phyllo box on the counter to come to room temperature, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
Make the filling:
Put the nuts, sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom (if using) in a food processor. Process until the nuts are finely chopped (the largest should be the size of small dried lentils), 15 to 20 seconds. Set aside.
Assemble the baklava:
Unfold one pack of the phyllo sheets and stack them so that they lie flat on your work surface. Cover the top with plastic wrap, letting some excess plastic fall over all four edges. Dampen and wring out a kitchen towel and drape it on top of the plastic wrap; this will hold the plastic in place and prevent the phyllo from drying out.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Brush the bottom of a 9x13-inch metal pan (preferably with straight sides and a light-color interior to prevent overbrowning on the edges) with some of the butter. Remove a sheet of phyllo from the stack, re-cover the rest (be sure to cover the remaining sheets each time you remove a new one), and put the sheet in the bottom of the pan.
Brush the sheet with some of the melted butter but don’t soak the phyllo (remember, you’ll have about 40 layers of buttered phyllo by the time you’re done). Repeat until you have layered and buttered about half the sheets from the first pack—about 10 sheets in all. If your pan has slightly angled sides, arrange the sheets so the excess falls on the same side of the pan and cut the extra off every few layers with a paring knife.
Sprinkle about one-third of the filling evenly over the phyllo.
Repeat layering and buttering the remaining sheets from the first pack and sprinkle on another third of the filling. Open, unfold, and cover the second pack of phyllo. Layer and butter it as described above, sprinkling the remaining filling after layering about half the phyllo, and ending with a final layer of phyllo (you may not need all of the butter). Cover loosely and put the pan of baklava in the freezer for 30 minutes (this makes it much easier to cut the pastry).
Bake the baklava:
Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.
Before baking, use a thin, sharp knife (I prefer serrated) and a gentle sawing motion to cut the baklava on the diagonal at 11/2-inch intervals in a diamond pattern. Try not to compress the pastry by pressing down on it with one hand while cutting with the other. Not only are you cutting serving portions, you are also cutting pathways for the flavored syrup to permeate the pastry, so be sure to cut the pastry all the way to the bottom of the pan. If you have an electric carving knife, this is the perfect time to use it.
Bake the baklava until golden, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.
Make the syrup:
Put the sugar, honey and 2/3 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is clear, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange flower water (if using).
Pour the syrup evenly over the entire surface of the baklava, allowing it to run down into the cut marks and along the sides of the pan. Allow the baklava to cool to room temperature before serving.


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