Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Up Side- Strawberry-Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

The weather finally got warm here, and I was all set to make a strawberry-rhubarb pie for the weekend, but then I saw this recipe and decided to try something a little different. The recipe was originally for a rhubarb upside-down cake, but I adapted it to include strawberries for sweetness and color. Rhubarb is a little too tart for my taste. The cake is moist and delicious- a dense cake, but not quite as heavy as a pound cake. I didn't know what to expect, but it actually exceeded my expectations.  It won't take the place of a fresh fruit pie for me, but it is a good alternative for a summer dessert.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
adapted from Melissa Clark, NY Times, 5/25/2011

20 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 pound rhubarb, rinsed and cut into 1/4-1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed and sliced
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1 /2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
zest of 1 lemon, grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs at room temperature
1/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

     Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.  Butter the paper and the sides of the pan. Wrap two layers of foil under the pan, and place it on a buttered baking sheet.
     In a medium bowl, mix rhubarb, strawberries, cornstarch and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.  Mix the brown sugar and 4 tablespoons butter in a pan over medium heat.  Whisk until smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes.  In a separate bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.
     In a mixer with a paddle attachment, whip 16 tablespoons butter for 2 minutes.  With your fingers, blend the remaining 1 cup of granulated sugar with lemon zest until the mixture is uniform in color.  Cream together with the butter at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl about halfway through.  Add the vanilla and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Mix in the creme fraiche and then the lemon juice.  On low speed, add the flour mix, 1/4 cup at a time until well combined.  Scrape down the mixer bowl after each addition.
     Pour the brown-sugar mixture into the cake pan and then spoon in strawberry-rhubarb mix and its juices. Spoon over the batter so it covers all the fruit.  Smooth out the top.  Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the top of the cake is firm to touch and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out without any large, moist crumbs.  Place the pan on a wire rack and cool 15 minutes.  Rn a knife around the cake, place a plate on top of the pan and turn it upside-down. Release the springform while still warm. Peel off parchment paper. Serve at room temperature. ((post by Susan))


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Eately-Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

It's been awhile- a trip to Spain (no enticing pastries, however) and Passover have interrupted the blog. But now I am back. I am not always that fond of biscotti- they are good, but a little plain. I guess when I want something sweet, I want something more to show for it. Decided to try these anyway, because I had some leftover shelled pistachios and rather than eat them raw....Turns out this is a delicious biscotti full of nuts and dried cherries- and I am always a sucker for dried fruit. The addition of oatmeal gives a more crumbly texture.  Very easy to make, and, though simple, just enough sweetness.

Pistachio and Dried-Cherry Biscotti
from Karen DeMasco in Bon Appetit, May 2011

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios

     Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the first 6 ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Blend on low speed for 30 seconds.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and next 5 ingredients.  Add egg mixture to flour mixture and beat until combined.  Fold in dried cherries and pistachios.
     Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and divide in half.  Shape each dough half into a 16 inch long log.  Brush off excess flour and transfer logs to prepared cookie sheet, spaced about 5 inches apart.  Flatten each log into a 2 inch wide strip.  Bake, rotating cookie sheet about halfway through, until browned and set, about 30 minutes.  Transfer to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 250 degrees F. and arrange 1 rack in top third of the oven and 1 rack in bottom third.  Line a second baking sheet with parchment.  Transfer biscotti to a work surface and, using a serrated knife, cut each strip diagonally into 1/3 inch thick slices.  Arrange slices, cut side down, on baking sheets.  Bake biscotti, rotating sheets half-way through, until crisp, about 40 minutes.  Transfer to rack and let cool.  ((post by Susan))


Monday, March 14, 2011

Frozen Caffeine- Coffee Ice Cream with Cocoa Nib Brittle

I can never decide whether making ice cream is actually worth the effort when there are so many artisanal options that I can just buy at the local gourmet store- until I actually do make it and realize that it is not really that difficult, the ingredients are pure with no additives or stabilizers, and it is delicious.  Coffee and chocolate are one of my most favorite flavor combinations, and this ice cream incorporates them both. It has a very strong coffee flavor with a sweet crunch from the Cocoa Nib Brittle.  Too bad you can't just wake up and have coffee ice cream to jolt yourself into the day- although on occasion, it would probably be ok.

Coffee Ice Cream with Cocoa Nib Brittle
from Flour by Joanne Chang with Christie Matheson

Cocoa Nib Brittle
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 grams) water
1/4 cup (30 grams) cocoa nibs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of kosher salt

Coffee Ice Cream
1 1/3 cups (320 grams) heavy cream
2 cups (480 grams) whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/3 cup (35 grams) ground French or other dark roast coffee
8 egg yolks
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

To make the brittle: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat the paper liberally with nonstick cooking spray or butter.  Place the sugar in the bottom of a medium saucepan and slowly pour in the water.  Stir gently to moisten the sugar. If any sugar crystals are clinging to the sides of the pan, brush them down with a pastry brush dipped n water.  Place the saucepan over high heat and leave it undisturbed until the mixture comes to a boil.  Then continue to boil rapidly without moving the pan until the sugar starts to color and turn light brown, about 3-5 minutes.  When you see color in the pan, gently swirl it in a circular motion so the sugar caramelizes evenly.  Add the cocoa nibs and swirl them around in the caramel until the caramel turns medium amber-brown. (it may foam when you add the nibs- this is normal and will subside once you swirl the pan a few seconds) As soon as the caramel is amber-brown, immediately remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and salt.  Quickly pour the brittle mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, and tilt the sheet back and forth to spread the brittle in a thin, even layer.  Let cool for 30-40 minutes.  Place about 2/3 of the cooled brittle into a plastic bag or between 2 sheets or parchment paper and press a rolling pin up and down on the bag.  Set aside the smashed bits to mix into the ice cream and reserve the remaining brittle to use as a garnish for the ice cream.

To make the ice cream: In a medium saucepan, combine the cream and milk. Use the tip of a knife to scrape out the seeds from the vanilla bean directly into the pan and add the pod as well.  Then add the ground coffee. Scald the cream over medium-high heat (bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, but the liquid is not boiling).  Remove from the heat and let steep for 1 hour.
     In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended, and then slowly whisk in the sugar until combined. Return the cream mixture to medium-high heat and scald again. Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly.  When all of the hot cream mixture has been incorporated, return the mixture to the saucepan and place the saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, for 608 minutes or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. The mixture will seem watery at first, then it will start to steam and then it will begin to get thicker.  Remove from the heat and immediately strain through a fine mesh sieve into an airtight container. Whisk in the salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or cold or overnight.  Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.  When the ice cream is finished churning, mix in the crushed brittle by hand and freeze for at least 2 hours to allow the ice cream to ripen. When serving, garnish with the reserved brittle.  ((post by Susan))

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pucker Up- Lemon Lust Bars

Maybe Valentine's Day is not symbolically the best day to post something that makes your lips pucker, rather than smile. However, if you are a fan of super lemony, very tart lemon bars, these are for you- even on Valentine's Day (not everyone is a chocolate person).  Besides, lemon desserts remind me of spring- and this is a winter that we need any and all signs that spring is actually on the horizon.  Squeezing 14 lemons is a little bit of a workout, but the lemon flavor in these bars is intense.  Lemon curd is one of my favorite treats, and I can eat it right out of the bowl- never mind baking cookies with it. This lemon curd is no exception.  If you do continue on to make the cookies, these are delicious, but a small bar is all you need.

Lemon Lust Bars
from Flour by Joanne Chang with Christie Matheson

Rick's Shortbread
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (140 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (120 grams) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Super Lemon Curd
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (14-16 lemons)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 eggs
4 egg yolks
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the shortbread: Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter,  granulated sugar,  and confectioners' sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl and paddle to make sure the egg yolk is thoroughly incorporated.  In a medium bowl, sift together the all purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder and salt.  On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and mix for about 15 seconds or until flour mix is thoroughly incorporated and dough is evenly mixed. Scrape the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap the dough, pressing down to form a disk 6-7 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Refrigerate the dough about 30 minutes until firm but still pliable.

To make the lemon curd: While the dough is chilling, combine the lemon juice, butter and cream in a medium non-reactive saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and heat to just below a boil.  In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks until blended.  Slowly whisk in the granulated sugar until combined.  Remove the lemon juice mixture from the heat and gradually whisk a little of it into the sugar-egg mixture. Continue whisking the hot liquid into the eggs, a little at a time, until all of it has been incorporated. Return the contents of the bowl to the saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan frequently to prevent the eggs from scrambling, about 5-8 minutes or until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon thickly.
Remove the lemon curd from the heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Whisk in the salt and vanilla.

    Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly flour the dough disk and two large sheets of parchment paper.  Place the dough between the sheets of paper and roll it out into a rectangle 9 by 11 inches and about 1/4 inch thick. Carefully peel off the top sheet of parchment. Transfer the bottom sheet with the dough to a 9 by 11 inch baking pan with at least 2 inch sides.  Press the dough to fit the bottom of the pan and allow the parchment to come up the sides of the pan.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until light brown in color.  Remove from the oven, pour the lemon curd on tip and smooth evenly over the shortbread with a spatula.  Bake another 15-20 minutes or until the curd has set and jiggles like firm Jell-O.  Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Loosen the parchment from the sides of the pan and then slide out onto a cutting board. Cut into bars. ( I cut into small bars- Joanne Chang cuts these into only 9  bars).  Refrigerate.  ((post by Susan)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Batch of Brioche-Pain Aux Raisins

Pain Aux Raisins (also known as Roule Aux Raisins)- are my madeleines.  For a number of years, my family went skiing with our closest friends and stayed in a small town an hour outside of Montreal.  Each morning, my friend and I would get up before everyone else and go and have coffee and a pain aux raisins at this tiny, very French cafe where no one spoke English.  Sharing the start of the day deliciously with a close friend and wonderful coffee and pastry was very special. I have never had that particular pastry anywhere that was quite as good as I remember those-  so fresh and and the experience buttery seemed so quintessentially French while we were just over the border in Canada! Since it has been so cold here and the outdoors has not been beckoning,  I thought I would attempt to recreate the pastry with this recipe-and I was fairly, though not perfectly, successful.  I remember them being more flaky and not as puffy, but these are still very good. Brioche takes time and patience because of the resting and rising, but it is not that difficult to make.  The pain aux raisins has some additional steps, but is well worth it for a wonderful  breakfast treat.

Pain Aux Raisins
from Flour by Joanne Chang with Christie Matheson

1/2 recipe basic brioche dough
1 recipe pastry cream
1 cup (160 grams) golden raisins

1 cup (140 grams) confectioners' sugar
2-3 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pastry Cream
1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (30 grams) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the pastry cream: In a medium saucepan, scald the mil over medium-high heat (bubbles will start to form around the edge of the pan, but the milk is not boiling).  While the milk is heating, in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, and salt.  In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended, and then slowly whisk in the flour mixture. It will be thick and pasty.  Remove the milk from the heat and slowly add it to the egg-flour mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly.  When all the milk has been incorporated, return the contents of the bowl to the saucepan and place over medium heat.  Whisk constantly and vigorously for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil.  At first, the mixture will be very frothy and liquid but will start to thicken as it cooks longer. Once it thickens, stop whisking every few seconds to see if the mixture has come to a boil. If it has not, keep whisking vigorously.  As soon as you see it bubbling, immediately go back to whisking for just 10 seconds, and then remove the pan from the heat.  Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a small heatproof bowl.  Stir in the vanilla, then cover with plastic wrap, placing it directly on the surface of the cream.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until cold (up to 3 days).

 To make the pain aux raisins: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 16 by 12 inches and 1/4 inch thick. Position the rectangle so a long side is facing you.  Spread the pastry cream evenly over the entire surface of the dough.  Sprinkle the raisins evenly over the cream.  Starting from the long side farthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll.  Roll as tightly as possible and even off the ends by trimming about 1/4 inch from each side.
     Cut the roll into 10 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide.  Space the pieces, cut side down, evenly on the prepared baking sheet.  Cover the pastries lightly with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot to proof for about 2 hours or until the dough is puffy, pillowy and soft.
     Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the center of the oven.  Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown on the edges of the spiral and pale brown in the center. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes.

To make the glaze: While the pastries are cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, 2 tablespoons of the water and the vanilla extract until smooth.  Add more water if needed to make the glaze more spreadable.
    Generously brush the tops of the still warm pastries with the glaze. ((post by Susan))