Friday, December 26, 2014

Rose's Alpha Bakers: Frozen Pecan Tart

It's week five of my bake-through adventure with Rose's Alpha Bakers. Up this week is the Frozen Pecan Tart - which I served for dessert after Christmas lunch - from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Baking Bible. The tart was a huge hit and was met with a chorus of ohhs and ahhs and a round of "you made this? It's delicious! Seconds, please."

my lovely Frozen Pecan Tart

a close up...

...and now a slice for dessert on Christmas

I let the tart warm for about 30 minutes before serving because it seemed rock solid when I took it out of freezer and I was a little unsure how a frozen tart/pie would taste (was it really not frozen through? It felt pretty solid!). But - never doubt Rose! - the filling was smooth and silky, almost like caramel. Even after 30 minutes, the tart was quite chilled - which was different than what I'm used to with pecan pie (warmed with vanilla ice cream, please) - but it was very, very good.

The tart would have been delicious with ice cream or whipped cream, but was equally good on its own. It was sweet, but not syrupy sweet like a lot of pecan pies. And - again, unlike most pecan pies I've made - the recipe made exactly the right amount of filling! With most pecan pies I've made in the past, you end up with either too much or too little filling. This recipe was perfect.

I added some leaf cutouts on surface of the tart (using these small leaf cookie cutters I bought at and - other than wishing I had baked them slightly before adding to the tart so they would be a bit more brown - I really liked the decorative addition.

Here are my step-by-step photos.

mise en place for the crust

The crust was a pâte sucrée, so it's made with more sugar than a regular pie crust and has an egg yolk added to strengthen it. Pâte sucrée is a great crust for tarts because it's very sturdy and easy to roll out. I love making pies and tarts!

the heavy cream is added to the egg yolk

butter and sugar are creamed together

the flour is added to the butter-sugar mixture

then in go the creamy-eggs and everything is pulsed
until the dough is in pea-sized clumps

hello, gorgeous dough!

At this point, the recipe directions got very complicated about how to roll out the dough and lift it into the pan. It involved a pizza wheel, a 12" flan ring, and inverting the dough over the back of an 8" cake pan.

Hmmm...I normally just roll the dough larger than the tart pan and the gently work the dough onto the bottom, corners and up the sides. As much as I know that Rose never steers me wrong, I'm going to just to this my way. The main thing to remember is to not stretch the dough as you place it in the pan, otherwise it will pull back and shrink when it bakes.

measuring the dough

ta da - fits perfectly!

the dough is worked into the pan's fluted edges,
leaving no overhang

the tart shell is filled with rice and blind baked

while the tart shell is baking I made these leaf cutouts to go on top

...and now my gorgeous crust is done!

mise en place for the pecan filling

the filling is strained, giving it a silky smooth texture when baked

the pecans are laid out randomly or in a pattern, if you prefer

then the filling is poured over, gently

the leaves are laid down, edges covered and we're ready for the final bake


Bye for now...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Rose's Alpha Bakers: Almond Coffee Crisps, part II

After my epic canelé post from yesterday, here is a short and sweet post about a second take on some delicious cookies.

Last week, in week four of my Rose's Alpha Bakers group, was the delicious, light and crunchy Almond Coffee Crisps from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Baking Bible.

I enjoyed them so much that I decided to make the recipe again to give to my family on Christmas. However, this time I used some cocoa powder instead of espresso powder since some family members dislike coffee. Ta are my Almond Chocolate Crisps. They are very similar to the Coffee Crisps...except chocolatey, as you'd expect :)  I highly recommend this (and the original) recipe. It's very quick to make and the cookies are delicious!

Almond Chocolate Crisps - all bagged up and ready for gifting

Almond Coffee Crisps on the left; Almond Chocolate Crisps in the right

I only took a few photos from yesterday's Almond Chocolate Crisps, but you can see the step-by-step photos of the original Almond Coffee Crisps here.

I used some cocoa powder instead of espresso powder

the cocoa is so fine that it blended too well into the flour, so I didn't get any
of the pretty speckles that I had with the coffee version

which to eat first, coffee crisp or chocolate crisp...dilemma, dilemma!

Bye for now...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Canelés de Bordeaux...a delicious sweet treat

I have been in love with canelés for several years now. My husband and I have visited Montréal almost annually for the past 5 years. A few years back we discovered a cute little café/boulangerie/pâtisserie called Mamie Clafoutis on Rue St. Denis. It was at Mamie Clafoutis that I first discovered the canelé (formally called Canelés de Bordeaux and sometimes spelled cannelés)...and a love affair was born. I don't know how the Mamie Clafoutis canelé compares to one you would find in France, but I loved them!

my very first homemade canelé

three months later...back at canelé-making. These came out much taller
and not quite as dense in the insides...
but still so amazingly delicious!

adorable canelé, ready for a party

The canelé is crunchy, chewy, and caramelized on the outside and custardy and creamy in the inside. It's pure deliciousness. I mean, look at this picture -

these were still warm so they are really custardy on the delicious!

After having them several times in Montreal, I was determined to make these at home! I read through several online recipes and decided to try Chez Pim's on my first go 'round. I liked that her website had lots of photos and that she included detailed directions on the method. I can be a bit obsessive so I like details, details, and more details when I haven't made something before. Paula Wolfert also has recipe online and a history of Canelés de Bordeaux. The one area where I differed from both Chez Pim and Paula Wolfert is that I haven't (yet) used beeswax to coat the molds. I also use silicone molds - I have the de Buyer brand - which I love.

Again, I don't know how close my canelé are to those you would find in Bordeaux (without the copper mold and beeswax), but, to me, they are perfection. For me, many of the pictures of those made with the beeswax are too brown, uniform, and waxy looking. If you only have the silicone molds and have been debating whether to try these, please won't be disappointed! I have made them several more times since I originally drafted this post..and each time, perfection!

I got this amazing cookbook last Christmas, Fine French Desserts: Essential Recipes and Techniques, and look forward to trying their canelé recipe. It is quite different from the recipe below so I'll be curious to see how it turns out. Maybe I should have a canelé taste-testing party!

canelé on parade

Canelé ingredients (courtesy of Chez Pim)
2 c. whole milk
3.5 T. (50g) butter
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scrape out the seeds (check out Beanilla, my amazing source for the freshest (and cheapest!) vanilla beans)
3/4 c. + 1 T. (100g) all-purpose flour
2 c. (250g) powdered sugar, no need to sift yet
1 t. fine sea salt
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/4 c. rum
1 T. butter, melted, for the molds

This recipe makes approx. 16 canelé. The batter should be made 24-48 hours before you plan to bake them. Personally, I prefer the way mine bake up and taste after 24 hours rather than 48 hours of resting, so I usually make the batter just one day in advance. (Although, I only bake them as I'm going to eat them, so some batter gets used 48+ hours later. You can experiment and see what you like best!)

mise en place for the canelé far, so good

my gorgeous vanilla bean

Step 1: in a medium saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla bean pod and seeds, and butter. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to ensure the butter melts and the vanilla seeds are distributed throughout (per Chez Pim, you want the mixture to reach 183 degrees F).

Set aside and let cool slightly while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

the milk, butter, vanilla bean mixture

an instant thermapen comes in handy for this recipe

Step 2: while the milk mixture is cooling slightly, prepare the other ingredients. Over a large bowl, sift together the flour, powdered sugar, and salt. Set aside.

sift together the dry ingredients...

In a medium bowl, gently combine the eggs and egg yolks - try to avoid getting any air into them! Pass the eggs through the same mesh strainer, directly into the flour mixture. Use the back of a silicone spatula to press the eggs patient, it will take a while to get all the eggs to go though the strainer.

...then add the eggs, passing them through the strainer

Then, very gently so as not to incorporate any air, mix the eggs into the dry ingredients.

gently mix the ingredients together

Keep mixing, gently, until all of the ingredients are incorporated. It will be a lumpy, sticky, doughy mess at this point.

keep mixing...gently

When the milk mixture cools down to about 120 degrees F, remove the vanilla bean and place it in a heat-proof glass food storage container (e.g. pyrex) and set the dish aside. Carefully pour the milk mixture into the bowl with the flour-egg mixture.

Gently (again, you don't want to incorporate any air into the mixture) stir with the spatula until the ingredients are well combined (there will still be lumps at this point).

Once again, it's back to the strainer! Put the strainer over your glass storage container with the waiting vanilla bean and pass the milk-flour-egg mixture through the strainer. Use the back of the spatula to smoosh any lumps. When you get to the lumpy part, it helps to dip the bottom of the strainer into the liquid mixture and swirl it around then use the back of the spatula again.

The last step is to gently stir in the rum.

stir gently until all of the ingredients are combined,
then pass through the strainer again

Cover with plastic wrap and then the container's lid. Refrigerate.

ready to refrigerate for 24-48 hours before baking

Step 3: about 30 minutes before you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Prepare the molds by brushing the inside of each cavity with melted butter. You want a good coat, but don't want too much butter to pool in the bottom indents of the mold. Because it's silicone, the butter won't stick too well to the sides, but the canelé will come out fine (and you can even leave the molds unbuttered - see below for my butter/no butter comparison).

Refrigerate the molds for at least 10 minutes or so (so the butter and silicone are chilled).

buttering the molds

Step 4: after the batter has been refrigerated for 24-48 hours (and your molds are buttered and chilled), you're ready to bake! Give the batter a very thorough, gentle mixing (it will settle overnight and will be very thick on the bottom) to make sure the consistency is even throughout.

Place the mold on a sheet pan covered with parchment then use a 1/4 measuring cup to fill the molds. You'll have to experiment with how full to fill your molds. 1/4 c. was perfect for my oven - no puffing over the top but full enough to make a nice, tall canelé.

fill each mold cavity with batter...then you're ready to bake

filled molds...ready to bake!

Step 5: the baking! Here's where things need a bit of micromanaging. Also note that these times worked for my oven, you'll need to see what works best for your oven but you can use these guidelines.

As soon as you put the pan in the oven, lower the temperature to 450 degrees
Bake for 7 minutes, rotate pan from front to back
Bake for another 8 minutes (total of 15 minutes at 450 degrees)

Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees
Bake for 15 minutes, rotate pan front to back
Bake for 15 minutes, rotate
Bake for 15 minutes, rotate

At this point I took mine out and flipped them onto a cooling rack. they were way too light so I quickly popped them back in the mold and back in the oven for 20 more minutes (this would be a total of 1 hour 20 minutes at this point). In checking Paula Wolfert's recipe, she bakes hers at a higher temp (400) for nearly 2 hours, so I'm not worried about over-baking, but rather am looking for the dark golden color. Luckily the custardy centers weren't overdone.

Finally done! To unmold, place a wire cooling rack over the top of the molds then flip them over. Beware that hot, melted butter will drip out from the mold. It helps to place some paper towels under the cooling rack before you flip. Don't burn yourself!

I didn't get any of the puffing up effect that Chez Pim talked about - I was super careful to mix gently, with a spatula (say no to whisks for this recipe) - and my batter did not raise up above the molds at all.

gorgeous...and sooooo delicious! Just like in Montreal!

these are from my very first batch, where the molds were not filled as high as in
subsequent batches, so these are a little more "squat" than the ones below

these were from my second batch where I filled the molds higher
I think the air pockets are more evenly distributed because I didn't take them out of the oven after
1 hour like with the first batch

yum! butter or not butter? That is the question!

If you're using the silicone molds, you don't actually need to butter the mold cavities. However, I found that I liked the results with the buttered molds better. The canelé from the buttered molds were shinier, crunchier, and more caramelized than the unbuttered ones.

Overall, I prefer the silicone molds, buttered. I don't like the completely uniform, dark crusts of the copper molds with beeswax. I like a less uniform look to my canelé. Chez Pim's are pretty uniformly brown, but I prefer some golden brown ridges with lighter golden brown on the top and in the crevices.

Here are some photos of canelé made in buttered vs. unbuttered molds.

the buttered canelé is much shinier, more caramelized and has a crunchier crust

you can see the unbuttered one has a less shiny crust and didn't caramelize as well

the insides were slightly different too



grab a cuppa (tea) and enjoy!

Bye for now...