Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Daring Bakers Crostata

The 2010 November Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers' to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi's Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.
As soon as I read through the challenge I was thrilled. I make tarts often for family and friends and they are always met with big smiles. For this go around I couldn't decide if I wanted to use fruit or pastry cream so I figured I would make them as tartlets and prepare both! Good idea, right?
Simona provided two versions of pasta frolla to choose from so I chose the nut-free version for "J". The ingredients similiar to a pate sucree with the inclusion of lemon zest was a breeze to prepare and could easily be made ahead.
The filling choices were fruit preserves, pastry cream or any other of our choice!
The first filling I prepared was a small batch of pear compote:
375 grams pears peeled, halved, cored, cut into 1/2" cubes
62 grams sugar
1tsp vanilla
50 ml of apriot brandy or water
1tsp lemon juice
Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Cover with a parchment round with a vent hole, over low heat, cook stirring occasionally. The compote is finished when the pears are translucent and the liquid is evaporated. Set aside until needed.
The second filling I prepared was a small batch of vanilla pastry cream:
1 cup milk
1/3 cups sugar
2 tbs corn starch
3 yolks
1 tbs butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbs apricot brandy or liqueur
Combine 3/4 cup milk and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir to disolve the sugar, then place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Pour remaining milk into a 1 qt bowl and whisk in the corn starch, then yolks. Temper 1/3 of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture stirring constantly. Returm the remaining milk to medium heat and bring to a boil. With a hand whisk pour the egg mixture into the milk in a steady stream. The pastry cream will begin to thicken. Continue whisking until the pastry cream comes to a boil, careful not to scorch the sides. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Add the butter, vanilla, and brandy; whisk until smooth.
Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic directly on surface of cream so as not to form a skin. Set aside to cool.
After the pasta frolla has chilled it is ready to roll out and fill the desired pan. The filling is added and the final step is making a lattice top using the left over dough. A short stay in the oven and voila!
This was a welcome challenge and the timing was perfect for the holiday. Thank you Simona!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Butternut-scotch Pudding & Ginger Cake

I love the autumn; its colors, warm & spicy flavors, apples, wood fires, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and cool crisp air. It's a time when I like to experiment with new recipes before I get started on the holiday baking. Always looking for something new and special to share with family, friends and neighbors. This past weekend I tried out two new items: a pudding and a cake that looked so special I could hardly wait for them to cool before digging in.
Pudding is not something I would go out of my way for until I saw this one. Butternut squash is one of my favorites, it is sweet on its own and can be used as a side dish in many forms, or as a soup. This is the first time I've come across a dessert recipe with butternut squash as the main attraction. It truly conveys "comfort" to me and is perfect for a crisp autumn day.
Adapted from Bron Marshall
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tbs corn starch
1 cup roasted butternut squash; pureed
2 cups half & half
pinch of salt
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs butter
In a small bowl stir together the brown sugar and corn starch. In a medium bowl combine the squash, half & half, brown sugar mixture, pinch of salt, and egg yolk. Blend with an immersion blender (or do this in a blender) until smooth. Pass through a strainer into a medium saucepan.
Cook the mixture over medium heat whisking constantly until thick and bubbly. Lower heat and continue cooking a minute or two until thick but pourable. Pass through a strainer and add the vanilla and butter. Stir until the butter has melted. Cover the top with plastic directly on the surface to avoid a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold. Easy!!
Gingerbread Cake, well doesn't that say spicy all on its own. Moist, tender crumb, warm or at room temperature it was calling me. And wouldn't this go well with the pudding?!!
Adapted from Tish Boyle
3 cups flour
1 1/2 baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
10 tbs butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 yolk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbs vanilla
1 tbs grated fresh ginger root
3/4 cup mild molasses
1 1/4 cup very hot water
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease the bottom & sides of a 9" square baking pan, dust with flour.
Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and set aside. Whisk to combine well.
In the bowl of a mixer, using the paddle attachemnt, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and yolk one at a time, scraping down the sides as needed. Beat in the sour cream, vanilla and grated ginger. Add the molasses and beat for another minute. Add the dry ingredients at low speed, mixing just until blended. Carefully add the hot water and beat until smooth. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until the toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with whipped cream if desired.
These two recipes we a good find. They are a perfect ending to a perfect autumn day. Hope you give them both a try!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Apple Upside-Down Cake

Whenever given a choice I use apples. Such a light, delicate, sweet, sometimes tart flavor. Never have I ever not liked something made sweet or savory with apples. And then there are so many varieties to choose from! I have my favorites for pie, others for tarts, and still more for apple sauce and savory applications. This week the Heavenly Cake Bakers left the choosing to the bakers and of course it was Apple Upside-Down Cake for me. Since I am already late to post, without further delay lets dive into this gem.
The project breaks down into 2-3 components. The first being the bottom or shall I say the topping. Rose's recipe calls for brown sugar, lemon juice, butter, apples of course and walnuts (although I had to delete the nuts for "J"). All of the ingredients are mixed together save the butter and some of the brown sugar to mingle together and release some delicious juices. The butter and brown sugar are cooked together to make some caramel. The apples are arranged on the bottom of the cake pan with caramel and juices poured over the top. Simple as 1-2-3. As you can see however, I didn't quite get enough of the juices. I will have to change out the Cortland apples for a juicier variety next time. So make a note of this. I was not totally happy with using brown sugar in place of white sugar here either. I felt that the molasses over shadowed the apple a little. Next time I would use white sugar so that the apples shine through.
The next step is the cake batter. I can tell you straight out that with the inclusion of sour cream this batter was very smooth and that it was delicate, buttery, and had a small crumb.
The third component as you can see I omitted. It was a Bourbon flavored whipped cream garnish. Have to watch the waistline sometimes!
Overall all my tasters enjoyed this cake as did I. It was easy to like and went well with coffee and a glass of milk. I know I will do this cake again with the small changes I mentioned. Hope you give it a try too and let me know if you change the fruit.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sweet Potatoe & Date Cake with Caramel Sauce

There is something about dates that I simply can't resist. Maybe its the intense sweet, or perhaps the sticky, smooth texture. I'm not sure but, anytime I see a recipe that calls for dates I am surely going to try it. I spotted this recipe on Bron Marshall's blog several months ago and set it aside for just that moment when I could whip it up. Then when fellow blogger and fellow Heavenly Cake Baker, Haana mentioned that she too had a love for dates, I just knew I had to share this find, so here we go Haana!
1 cup sweet potatoes; cooked & pureed until smooth
1 cup dried dates; pitted & chopped
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup boiling water
75grams soft butter
1 tsp baking soda
1tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cardamon
Line a 9" square cake pan with parchment or use a greased & floured muffin pan. Preheat oven to 356 degrees.
In a bowl place the chopped dates, brown sugar, boiling water, and butter. Let stand for at least 15 minutes while the butter melts and the dates swell.
Stir the date mixture and add the baking soda. Stir to combine, the mixture should foam up. Add the sweet potatoe, eggs, and vanilla. Fold in the flour, cardamon, and baking powder.
Pour the batter into the baking vessel of choice and smooth the top. Bake for 35-50 minutes, or until the skewer comes out clean.
Caramel Sauce (optional):
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cream
pinch of salt
In a clean dry saucepan place the sugar and heat over medium heat until it begins to melt. Gently swirl the pan to get even color. As soon as it is golden remove from the heat and carefully add the cream. Be cautious, it will bubble up and release alot of steam at the beginning. Stir carefully. Add the salt and let stand until it cools.
Pour it over the cake and allow to soak in. I found this to be wonderfully moist, flavorful, soft,and not overly sweet in spite of the carmel sauce. The dates are soft, sticky and oh so marvelous. Hope you give it a try and enjoy it as much as I did!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Swedish Pear & Almond Cream Cake Rerun

When I saw that this weeks project with the Heavenly Cake Bakers was the Swedish Pear & Almond Cream Cake that I did in error on May 31th I was glad. Since this is a wonderful multi-purpose cake as is I couldn't help but wonder how it would taste if I changed the fruit. Having this opportunity to bake it again I thought instead of pears I would try apples. This recipe is set up in the usual easy to follow multi component format that I love so much. So let us get going.
The first component to prepare is the almond cream. Almond cream is one of those mixtures that can and should be tried out different ways. I use it as a middle layer in apple, pear, and blueberry tarts or tartlets, as a spread on brioche (just spread and brown under a broiler), and now as a component of a "coffee" cake. It is simply a mixture of almond paste, sugar, butter, flour (or cornstarch), egg, and vanilla (of course). All ingredients go together quickly in a food processor and can be frozen (up to a month) for later use or stored in the refrigerator for 1 week.
The next component to prepare is the batter. This batter contains sour cream (ooooh the promise of a creamy smooth batter), cake flour (ahhh, delicate crumb), butter, sugar, vanilla, egg, and the leavenings. And lets not forget the pears (or shall I say apples in this run) sliced thinly and sprinkled with lemon juice.
The batter is spread in a greased and floured bundt pan. A 1/2" depression is made around the middle of the batter where the almond paste is spooned. Top the with the thinly sliced pears or apples and it is ready to bake.
There is two things I learned from this rerun. The first is that while some batches of cakes or cookies can be cut in half and baked in smaller pans, this is not one of them. Although the finished cake was still delicate, light, small crumb and wonderful in its vanilla-apple flavor, I was left with the desire for more. More cake that is- the piece was just too short! Therefore, I would not reccomend cutting the batch size but rather go for a SLIGHTLY smaller pan for a higher cake. The other thing I learned was- pears or apples this is a wonderful addition to anyones favorites list.
Hope you enjoyed!
P.S.- I would also consider some cinnamon if I was to do the apple again :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Bostini

The very moment I laid eyes on the Bostini I couldn't wait to make it. What can be better than an orange chiffon cake sitting in vanilla bean pastry cream sauce with chocolate glaze spilling ovr the top? I for one could think of nothing (at the moment that is). Well, this week the Heavenly Cake Bakers all set out to do this project. I can't wait to surf around to my fellow bakers blogs to see the various results. So, without further delay lets break this one down into 3 components; the cake, pastry cream, and glaze and get going.
The cake derives it wonderful orange flavor from fresh orange zest and fresh squeezed orange juice, The tender crumb is due to the cake flour I am sure. And the ethereal texture of this wonderful cake is certainly due to the meringue that is carefully blended into the batter. I was very pleased with the results of this cake from start to finish. No dryness with this cake.
The vanilla bean pastry cream sauce was the next component to be prepared. Made from milk, yolks and a single whole egg, vanilla bean (of course), sugar, salt and heavy cream. There is nothing not to like about this pastry cream. Simple to prepare, creamy texture, and unbelievable vanilla flavor.
My family are not big fans of chocolate and I didn't want to over power the light flavors of the cake and cream, so I went very light on the chocolate glaze. It was easy to prepare with butter and chocolate. Slowly melted into each other and poured over the top before cooling.
The sight of this beautifully presented dessert had the whole family antsy to try it out. We were all delighted with the Bostini. The only draw back is that it was gone as soon as the photo shoot was done!!!