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

Glaze
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))

Monday, January 17, 2011

Baking Gingerly-Fresh Ginger Cake

 A new year, two new baking books and many new recipes to try.  It is always always somewhat overwhelming, because I look and read and kind of want to make everything.  The weather here has been very cold and snowy, so it is perfect weather for semi-hibernation and baking. I am still searching for the perfect gingerbread recipe, and decided to try a new one for a friend's birthday.  This is actually termed ginger cake, not gingerbread, so it is baked in a springform pan, not the usual square baking pan, and should be moister and less cakey than gingerbread.  The addition of quite a bit of fresh ginger makes it very spicy, but I served it with a suggested whipped cream lightened lemon curd which tones down the spice.  The amount of ginger could be reduced as well if you do not like it quite so spicy.  I'm not sure if I am getting closer to the gingerbread I am imagining- but it was very good.

Fresh Ginger Cake
from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz

4 ounce piece of fresh ginger (115 gr), peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup (250 ml) mild-flavored molasses
1 cup (200 gr) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 ml) vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups (350 gr) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup (250 ml) water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 large eggs at room temperature

     Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan, and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
     In a food processor fitted with the metal blade or with a chef's knife, chop the ginger until very fine. Set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and pepper.  In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil and then stir in the baking soda.  Whisk the hot water into the molasses mixture and then add the chopped ginger.  Gradually, sift the flour mixture over the molasses mixture, whisking to combine.  Add the eggs and whisk until thoroughly blended.
     Scrape the batter into the prepared springform pan and bake until the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost clean, about 1 hour. I would suggest checking after 50 minutes and then every couple of minutes if not ready then. I let bake about 3 minutes too long. Let cool completely.  Run a knife around the sides of the cake to help loosen it from the pan.  Invert the cake onto a plate, peel off the parchment paper and then reinvert onto a serving platter.  Serve with whipped cream lightened lemon curd.  ((post by Susan))

Lemon Curd

1/2 cup (125 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
1/2 cup (100 gr) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream

     In a medium nonreactive saucepan over low heat, combine the lemon juice, sugar and the butter.  Set a mesh strainer over a medium bowl.  In another medium bowl, briefly whisk together the eggs and egg yolks.  When the butter has melted, whisk some of the warm liquid from the saucepan into the eggs, whisking constantly as you pour, and then stir the egg mixture into the saucepan.  Cook, whisking constantly, until the curd starts to thicken and looks slightly jelled. Don't let the mixture boil.  Pour the lemon curd through the strainer set over the bowl.  Cover, let cool, then refrigerated until chilled.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks.  Fold the whipped cream into the chilled lemon curd. (or if you are like me, eat straight from the bowl!)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Getting High-Pontchartrain Mile-High Ice Cream Pie

I wanted to make something special for New Year's Eve that appealed to people with a range of dessert tastes- and something rich before all the New Year's resolutions kicked in.  Most people like ice cream and I played around with the flavors so there was a little something for the vanilla and the chocolate sides.  This dessert is easy to put together, looks impressive and serves many.  The one change I would make is to use a cookie crust rather than a standard pie crust. Because it is a frozen dessert, the buttery flakiness of a regular pie crust gets lost- something a little crunchier would make a better contrast.

Pontchartrain Mile-High Ice Cream Pie
from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts

Crust
9 inch fully baked pie shell, baked in glass pie plate

Filling
3-4 pints ice cream- traditional flavors for this pie are peppermint, vanilla and chocolate, but you
can use your favorite flavors or any other combination. (I always like coffee and chocolate together)

Pontchartrain Meringue
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups egg whites (10-12)
1/1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pontchartrain Chocolate Sauce
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces best quality milk chocolate, broken up
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

To make the pie: Spread the ice cream in the pie shell. If you use more than one flavor of ice cream, place them in layers.  Mound the ice cream in the middle. Cover airtight and place in the freezer, making sure it is frozen solid.

To make the meringue: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Place the egg whites in large bowl of an electric mixer and add the salt. Beat at high speed until foamy. Add the lemon juice and beat only until they hold a soft shape. Reduce speed to moderate and add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, pausing 10-15 seconds between additions. When all the sugar has been added, increase the speed to high, add the vanilla and beat 4-5 minutes longer until the meringue is quite stiff.

Remove the pie from the freezer and quickly cover with the meringue. Using a long, narrow metal spatula, form the meringue into a dome and then flatten the top. The meringue should be about 4 inches high.  IMMEDIATELY place the pie in the oven and bake for 5 minutes.  The meringue will become golden.  Put the pie right into the freezer and freeze for 2-8 hours.

To make the sauce: Place the cream in a 6-8 cup heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Stir occasionally until it barely begins to simmer. Add the sugar and stir over heat until completely dissolved.  Reduce heat to low, add the chocolates and stir until melted.  Whisk until smooth. Let cool until warm.
Serve pie with sauce. (I made this sauce and a caramel sauce- both equally good)((post by Susan))