Sunday, February 27, 2011

Heavenly Cake Baker: Sticky Toffee "Pudding"

heavenlycakeplace I've joined the Heavenly Cake Baker "club" (although, sadly, they are almost at the end and there are fewer than 10 cakes left). The cakes are all from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Rose's Heavenly Cakes and this week's cake is Sticky Toffee "Pudding," page 71.

I was excited to make this cake as my husband is British and a lover of all things with the words "sticky toffee" and "pudding" in the title.

I decided to make individual sized puddings, in ramekins, instead of one big pudding. I love tiny things and thought the presentation would be really pretty using the individual it would be easier that way not to go overboard with my "tasting" of the finished product. (My only complaint about the recipe, is that there are no instructions on how long to bake the individual sized puddings. I ended up baking them for 10 minutes, rotating the pan as directed, and baking for 10 minutes more. While still very moist, I think they may have been slightly overcooked with the 20 minutes total. Next time I'd rotate them at 7 minutes and then check them at 15 minutes total.)

Here, my ramekins are lined with a little parchment round. I didn't bother with the shortening, as directed in the recipe, and they popped out absolutely fine in the end after running a small spatula around the edge.


mise en place for the pudding

mise en place for the toffee sauce

The stout beer (I used Lion Stout), baking soda and pureed date mixture smelled really odd, but looked pretty...a rich brown color with foamy bubbles...

pureed date and beer mixture

a third of the flour gets mixed in

then half of the beer/date mixture

the finished batter

The recipe said the batter would fill 12 ramekins about half full. After filling 12, my batter only only came about one-third of the way up, however they puffed way up in the oven so 1/3 full turned out to be fine.

ready to be baked


turning them out to cool

they smelled so yummy

one for my husband and...

one for pretty!

spongy and moist, with a tender crumb

that was delicious!

Overall, these were quite easy to make and would be great for a large dinner party since the batter made 12 individual servings. They also looked very professional when plated with the toffee sauce, crème fraîche and toasted pecans. The taste and texture reminded me of a gingerbread; my husband said both the taste and the sponginess of the cake were very authentic. However, we both agreed that the toffee sauce - when sampled on its own - tasted a little too much like brown sugar (i.e. molasses) so I added about 1/4 cup more heavy cream and a splash of vanilla extract to try to lighten the flavor. Next time I might try making the toffee sauce using light brown sugar instead of dark. Once the sauce was poured over the pudding however, the molasses taste didn't seem as strong but I do notice that my toffee sauce is much darker than the photo in the cookbook (which is more of a caramel color), so I wonder if I missed something there.

I think I will make them again at Christmas and add the option of a vanilla custard to satisfy my husband's hometown yearnings.

Bye for now...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lemon Hazelnut Dacquoise Torte

This was one of the first recipes I made when I took my first class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts several years ago. Every now and then I think about how delicious it was and wanted to try to make it again. The dacquoise torte is nutty and sweet and the whipped cream filling is light and lemony. Something about the combination of flavors and textures never left me and it was as good as I remembered! Next time I make it I will try whipping the egg whites to a stiffer peak because I felt that my dacquoise discs were a bit flat. But really, who cares since they tasted so delicious!

Recipes are from an Advanced Baking Class at Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.

Ingredients, Dacquoise
6 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 c. sugar
1 Tbls. vanilla extract
2 c. toasted and finely ground hazelnuts, mixed with 2 Tbls. cornstarch
zest of 2 lemons

toasted hazelnuts - smells divine!

I learned a great trick in my class to remove the nut skins. After they are toasted, while they are still warm, wrap up a handful in a clean kitchen towel and rub the toasted nuts vigorously between your hands...and, voila!

skins removed

nuts and cornstarch

pulsed into a fine grind

mise en place for the dacquoise

sugar and vanilla added, definitely should have whipped my egg whites to a stiffer peak though

fold in nuts and lemon zest

At this point I could tell that my dacquoise - which is basically a meringue with ground nuts - was too soft. The mixture was more like a soft whipped cream, rather than a stiff meringue. Oh well, I'll keep going!

all folded together

filling the pastry bag, fitted with a large plain tip

piped into rounds; I made them smaller than the recommended 8"

The dacquoise gets baked in a low temp oven so they get dried out. Mine ended up sadly flat and a little chewy. I can't remember whether the texture was exactly the same as when I made them in class...should they have been chewy or crisp? I tend to think that they should be chewy, due to the nuts.

In an effort to get them to crisp up, I considered whether or not I should have continued to bake the dacquoise - maybe at a lower temperature - but since they were browning on the top at this point, I took them out to cool.

they smell fabulous!

Ingredients, Light Lemon Cream (lemon curd lightened with whipped cream)
5 lemons, zest and juice
4 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter (1 stick), cold, cut into small pieces
2 c. heavy cream, whipped

mise en place for the light lemon cream

lemon curd ingredients into a saucepan (although, eek, I should have whisked the
ingredients - sans butter - together first! oops.)

finished lemon curd, strained and cooling in an ice bath

folding in the whipped cream

all done - delicious!

Now it's time to assemble everything. I added some fresh raspberries. I think layering the lemon cream with a raspberry puree would be wonderful as well.

lemon cream, ready to be piped

the middle layer...kind of messy

a star tip creates a pretty top layer

all done!

a mini one

the chewy nutty dacquoise with the smooth lemon cream is a delicious combination!

Bye for now...

With regard to posting recipes...

Since I am such a newbie blogger I wasn't sure whether it was okay to post the recipes of all of the goodies I'm baking and I preferred to err on the side of not pissing anyone off. However, after a little searching, I found this post on the Food Blog Alliance website which quotes and links to the U.S. Copyright Office regarding posting recipes that are not your own. In short, according to the U.S. Copyright Office, the ingredient list is okay to post, but the word-for-word method/directions/instructions are not okay to post as they are considered "original works of authorship..."

So, with that said, I will begin posting the ingredient list with the source listed and a notation when/if I make changes to the ingredients. I will not post the word-for-word directions, although I may include my own tips or notes from my experience following the recipe.

Although I am not a pastry chef and don't write cookbooks, I do occasionally come up with my own recipes, see Pecan Lemon Biscotti, so in that case I will list the ingredients and directions. Also, if I find the recipe online - like I did with many of my Thanksgiving dishes (scroll to the bottom of the page) - I will link to the source and give my comments and/or feedback.

Bye for now...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Spaghetti with garlicy-mushroom sauce

For dinner last night I made some sauteed mushrooms to go over pasta. It was delicious!

Ingredients for the "sauce"
1 Tbls. olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
3 portobello mushrooms, sliced in half and then across into thin slices
8 oz of white button mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 c. red wine
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbls. jarred spaghetti sauce
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated, to taste

In a large frying pan, sautee the garlic in the olive oil over medium-high heat for a minute or so. Add the portobello mushrooms to the pan, then add the button mushrooms. Give everything a good stir so the garlic doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan.

Let the mushrooms cook down slightly, stirring occasionally. Add the wine and spaghetti sauce and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the liquid has reduced and thickened.

cooking down the mushrooms

While the mushrooms are cooking down, cook your pasta. I used whole wheat pasta so it took a bit longer than spaghetti made with white flour.

getting hungry now

While I'm waiting for things to finish, I'll grate some cheese to top off my spaghetti.

hmmm, that may be a bit too much

When the pasta is cooked to the package's directions, drain it and add to the frying pan, mix well with tongs  to coat all of the spaghetti with the sauce. Then plate, add your cheese, and it's dinner time!


Bye for now...

Another go at gougères

I'm not sure if I had a dream about them the night before or what, but all day at work on Wednesday I was thinking about gougères. I had to try to make them again. Last month when I made them I overcooked them (I think) and they just didn't hit the spot. These were much better.

Here's the recipe I made up on Wednesday for gougères with Gruyère and scallions. You can substitute chives for scallions - which I think is more traditional - but I thought that the scallions provided a nice, light oniony flavor which goes very well with the cheeses. The directions follow the method used by Chef Delphin in my petit fours class a few weeks ago. It is so much easier and faster to use a stand mixer rather than making the dough on the stovetop.

1 c. water
1/2 c. butter
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (more or less to taste)
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp. paprika (more or less to taste)
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 c. flour
4 eggs
3 scallions, white and light green parts, roughly minced (about 2 heaping Tbls., more or less to taste)
4-5 Tbls. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely diced
1/4 c. Gruyère cheese, grated

mise en place

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer and attach the paddle.

In a saucepan, combine water, butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg and bring to a rolling boil; make sure butter is completely melted. Stir in the paprika and dijon mustard and remove from heat.

Pour the water mixture into the mixing bowl, all at once, and mix on medium for approximately 1 minute until the dough reaches 155 degrees.

"mashed potato" stage

With the mixer on medium, add 1 egg at a time. The dough will look like it's falling apart, but just be patient, it will be gorgeous in the end.

mixing in the eggs, one at a time

Your dough should look smooth and shiny when it's done. If it is still sticky looking, add one more egg.


Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape down the sides, if necessary. Fold in the chives and the diced Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

in goes the scallions and cheese

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle a little of the grated Gruyère cheese onto each puff.

into the oven

Bake at 375 for 35 minutes. Lower temperature to 325 and bake for an additional 15 minutes until they are golden and "dry" looking (a few extra minutes may be needed, depending on how large your puffs are). Try not to open the oven during baking.

hot out of the oven

They are best warm, just out of the oven. I had mine with a little Chianti...delicious!


Bye for now...