Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pierre Herme's Chocolate Eclairs - Daring Bakers

Thank you Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey and Tony of Tony Tahan for this lovely challenge. The wonderful thing about all the Daring Bakers challenges is that it gets me baking items I would never have dreamed of making myself. Eclairs! Goodness, I love them but before this I have always bought them from a bakery. Brooklyn is not exactly known for its French bakeries so I don't remember when last I tasted an eclair. Now that I know how to make them I can be independent.

The pate choux worked up nicely and I piped it into a special eclair tray which I bought recently (cheap - just an aluminum tray, for about $7.00). There were moments of anxiety while my eclairs were baking as they seemed to take ages to puff up. Finally they did puff but then deflated when I took them out of the oven.

I surfed through the baking advice websites and found that it's good to lower the temperature and let them bake for longer. Apparently deflating is a sign of not being properly cooked. So I made a second batch, this time setting the temp at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then lowering it to 325 degrees for another 30 minutes. The second batch really came out nice and puffy and shiny with no deflating.

I made vanilla pastry cream rather than chocolate as I just felt like some. I followed a really simple vanilla pastry cream recipe from the website Diana's Desserts. It's a great site and I have often had success with her recipes. The Chocolate Sauce looks a little bit too liquidy although I did stir it for a full 15 minutes. It's in the fridge now so maybe it will firm up a bit more. Same with the Chocolate Glaze, but I have a feeling they are going to turn out all right. I think I will have quite a bit left over and I have just remembered that I have some Turkey Hill French Vanilla Icecream in the freezer - Umm.. a little Sunday night treat tomorrow?

Here's the recipe for this Oh So French Dessert.

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with
waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the
oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue
baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking
time should be approximately 20 minutes.

1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the
bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of
the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the
bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.

1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,
stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very
quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You
need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,
beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do
not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you
have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it
should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking
sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the
piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

I've just taken the pics and shall now enjoy the fruits of the day's labor - one eclair and one small glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cookies for Our Troops - Round 2 - Operation BakingGALS

Another exciting round of cookie baking for our troops abroad. This round's menu is:
Chewy Chocolate Coco-nut Squares; Peanut Jumbles; and Celebration Cookies. The Squares and the Jumbles are from Carole Walter's wonderful book, "Great Cookies" and the Celebration Cookies are from a recipe by Baking GAL host Kara of Kara's Kitchen.

I've worked out a way of packing the cookies (no easy task at first) for flights to Afghanistan and Iraq. Am becoming quite a pro - the APO boxes are available free from USPS and there is a flat rate charge of around $7.00 for a 12"x12" box. Plastic baggies for the cookies - with a bit of apple peel in the baggies to keep the cookies soft - kitchen towel paper, a cardboard cake box and some Staples packing peanuts do the trick very nicely. I'm off to the Post Office early tomorrow morning with my boxes of goodies. It's a wonderful way for me to do something worthwhile for our soldiers, for whom I have the utmost admiration and feel the utmost gratitude. I'm building up quite a list of 5 STAR cookies: Here are the recipes for my two 5 STAR cookies from this round:

Chewy Chocolate Coconut Squares

1 cup walnuts, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1/2 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Position the shelf in the center of the oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the baking pan. Invert the pan and tap sharply over the sink to remove any excess flour.
2. Place 1/2 cup of the walnuts in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse three or four times, until medium chopped. Remove the nuts from the processor and set aside for the topping.
3. Place the butter in a medium bowl and set it over a pot of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. When the butter is almost melted, add the chocolate. After 1 minute, remove the pot from the heat. Let stand until the chocolate is completely melted, stirring occasionally.
4. Place the sugar, flour, coconut, salt, and remaining walnuts in the work bowl of the food processor. Pulse three or four times.
5. Stir the eggs and vanilla into the chocolate mixture, then pour into the food processor bowl. Pulse all of the ingredients together just until blended.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with the back of a tablespoon. Press the remaining chopped nuts across the top. Bake for 15-18 minutes (mine took about 22), until set on top and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Place on a cooling rack. When cool, use a sharp knife to cut into 40 squares.

Store in an airtight container, layered between strips of wax paper, for up to 5 days. These squares may be frozen.

Celebration Cookies
Yield: 3 dozen cookies

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 recipe Celebration Cookie Mix (follows)*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In large bowl, combine butter, eggs and vanilla; mix until well blended. Add cookie mix to butter mixture; mix until well blended. Drop rounded Tablespoon scoops of dough 2 inches apart, onto greased baking sheet. Flatten cookies slightly if you want a crisper cookie.

Bake 13-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove to cooling rack.

*Celebration Cookie Mix
1/2 c granulated sugar
3/4 c sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 c white chocolate morsels
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1-1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 teasp. baking powder
1/2 teasp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c quick or old-fashioned oats
1/2 c pecan halves, coarsely chopped

Both recipes are delicious.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sour Cream Fudge Layer Cake with Chocolate Rum Frosting

This is absolutely the best chocolate cake that I have ever tasted! It's from a recipe in Recipezaar (one of my favorite sites), is quite easy to make and has a nice soft but firm crumb. Big extra plus - you can taste the rum in it!

This cake went to a dinner given by a good friend of mine, Joanne, and is photographed on her dining room table. It was served after a delicious entree of sauteed turkey wings with tasty rice and vegetables, cooked in the Rachel Ray large saute pan. The wine was Trapichihe Broquel Carvernet Sauvignon and it went exceedingly well with the turkey wings and the chocolate cake.

Now that I have this recipe it's going to be a keeper. My last chocolate cake was of the cloud cake species and it fluffed all over the place. This one is just right.

Here's the recipe:
Sour Cream Fudge Layer Cake with Chocolate Rum Frosting (Recipezaar #191214)

2/3 cup strong coffee
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dark rum or Kahlua
1 cup regular sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons dark rum or Kahlua
1-2 tablespoon sour cream or milk

Preheat oven to 350.
Two 9 inch round pans; line bottoms with parchment paper. Butter pans well and dust with cocoa powder; shake out excess.

Combine coffee with chocolate in large glass bowl and microwave on high 1-2 min until very hot and chocolate has melted.
Whisk in rum until smooth.
Cool to room temperature.
Place sour cream in smaller bowl and add soda and salt, stir.
Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy.
Beat in eggs one at a time.
Beat in chocolate mixture until smooth.
Beat in 1/2 flour, 1/2 sour cream; repeat. Make a smooth batter.
Spread evenly in prepared pans.
Bake on middle rack for 35-40 minutes or until cake feels firm in the centre and the edges begin to pull away from the sides.
Cool on racks for 5 minutes, turn out onto wire racks to cool.
Cakes can be plastic wrapped and frozen for 1 month at this stage or continue on with frosting.

Sift sugar and cocoa into a large bowl.
Beat in butter and rum, start at low speed, until smooth.
Beat in enough milk or sour cream to make a spreadable frosting.
Frost top of one cake, then top with other cake. Frost sides and then the top of the cake. Decorate with chocolate curls or raspberries or eat it just as it is!


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream - The Daring Bakers July Challenge

Finally, my Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream! Last month it was the Daring Bakers challenge but I was zapped by my old oven dying on me. I promised myself I would make this divine cake in my new oven, this time with all the trimmings.

A gorgeous confection! Not difficult to make but it involves a lot of work as there are so many stages in preparing it - the hazelnut sponge itself, the buttercream frosting, the pouring syrup, the chocolate ganache and more. But all the work is well worth it. I am so proud to have produced a real fancy European-type torte. My biggest achievement with this cake was I actually managed to torte it evenly into two discs, with the help of toothpicks and a cake cutting contraption I purchased from NY Cake and Baking Distribution.

I was a bit short on buttercream and chocolate ganache but the cake is so rich I don't think it matters. It was very popular at work; (there were only a couple of people who resisted as they are afraid of getting love handles!). A classy cake indeed!

Thank you Daring Baker Chris of Melle Cotte for this wonderful choice. Here's the recipe.

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

1 Filbert Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
½ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 recipe Apricot Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
3 tablespoons filberts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Filbert Genoise

Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.

1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted/skinned
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
5 lg. egg whites
¼ cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.

Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.

*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup
Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers

1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup praline paste
1 ½ - 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)

Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.

Swiss Buttercream
4 lg. egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 ½ -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice
1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a elevtric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Wait! My buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste
1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup Sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.

Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Apricot Glaze
Good for one 10-inch cake

2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

**Ganache can take on many forms. While warm – great fudge sauce. While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled – can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid – the base of candied chocolate truffles.

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ - 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.

Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with ½ of the whipped cream, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream.

Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-ich blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.

Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.

To garnish the cake, fit a 12 – 14-inch pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream. Stating ½ inch from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake. As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting. Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake.

Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about ¾ inch closer to the center. The leaves should overlap. Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2-inch space in the center for a chopped filbert garnish. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.

Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Last edited by Mele Cotte (2008-07-13 08:52:12)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Granola Grabbers - Tuesdays with Dorie

Looks good for a bedtime snack. However, I'm not raving about the Granola Grabbers - it's just my personal taste. I'm a white bread and butter and lots of chocolate type and am not into health foods. The recipe is easy peasy and has all sorts of wholesome foods in it - granola (I made it myself from a recipe in the P&Q section); dried fruit; and so on and so on and the cookie is nice and moist. Maybe it was the wheatgerm flavor I didn't like and I think the peanut flavor was too predominant. I ate the pair of Grabbers in the photo so I should not be criticising too much. Used another good tip in the P&Q to soak the raisins and use dried cherries as well to reduce some of the sweetness.

The ice cream torte for next week's TWD promises to be rather divine - I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte - Tuesdays with Dorie

After much thought, I decided to do a re-run for this Tuesday, seeing Laurie gave us the option. So many difficult choices - the Shortbread; the Black and White Cake; the Apple Cheesecake and so on and so on. I have come to realize just how precious and brilliant Dorie's book is with its variety of desserts - sophisticated-easy; sophisticated- challenging; simply delicious rustic; delicate tea party; - I could go on and on, and of course, lots of French, French, French! Well, after browsing through the book I finally decided on the Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte, a light cheesecake using part cottage cheese and part cream cheese, ideal for Summer.

It's sitting baking in my new oven right now (behold New Oven, an absolute delight, pictured with Mystery inspecting it). The Torte was easy to get together. I tripped up a bit by not making the buttered foil covering for the pie crust quite large enough, so I got a few edges of over-baked crust, but nothing serious.

Done and delicious! It's a soft, delicate cheesecake just right served on its own with the only addition the cherry preserves, adding an extra taste of sweetness. I used Vavel Morello Cherry Jam, made in Poland, an excellent brand. Bought it at the local Polish deli in my neighborhood. It got rave reviews all round at work and a couple of firm dieters had two slices!

Any changes for next time? Yes, I will use a cheesecake pan with a removable base, rather than a springform (the springform cracked some of the cheesecake when I released it; also the cheesecake pan gives a lovely smooth shape).I'll line the pan with foil, buttered, going up to about a half-inch above the top - that should take care of any over-browned pastry bits.

Here's the recipe:

Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons unsalted butter,
cut into small pieces and chilled
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup thick berry or cherry jam
9 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces (1 cup) cottage cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)

GETTING READY: Butter a 9-inch springform (or cheesecake)pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

TO MAKE THE CRUST: Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse just to blend. Toss in the pieces of butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir the egg yolks and vanilla together with a fork, and, still pulsing the machine, add them and continue to pulse until the dough comes together in clumps and curds - restrain yourself, and don't allow the dough to form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface. If you want to roll the dough, gather it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate if for about 20 minutes before rolling. Or simply press the dough into the pan. The dough should come about 1-1/2 inches up the sides of the springform. Refrigerate for a least 30 minutes.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Fit a piece of buttered aluminum foil against the crust, covering it completely. Fill the crust lightly with rice, dried beans or pie weights and slide the sheet into the oven. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, then carefully remove the foil and weights and bake for another 5 minutes or so - you don't want the crust to get too brown. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the filling.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

TO MAKE THE FILLING: Stir the jam, and spread it over the bottom of the crust - it's okay to do this while the crust is still warm.

Put the cream cheese and cottage cheese into the food processor and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times, for 2 minutes, until you've got a smooth, satiny mix. Add the sugar, salt and spices and process for another 30 seconds. With the machine running, add the eggs and process, scraping the bowl as needed, for a final minute. Pour the filling over the jam.

Bake the cake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the filling is uniformly puffed and no longer jiggly. Gently transfer the springform pan to a cooling rack and allow the torte to cool to room temperature, during which time the filling will collapse into a thin, elegant layer.

Run a blunt knife between the crust and the sides of the pan, then open and remove the sides of the springform. If the sides of the crust extend above the filling and you don't this look, very gently saw off the excess crust using a serrated knife. Chill the torte slightly or thoroughly before serving and, if you'd like, dust the top with confectioners' sugar.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Chicken Pilaf with Apricots

This is a tasty dish. The recipe is from the Australian Women's Weekly Middle Eastern Cookery. [These books are absolutely wonderful; some can be purchased on Amazon -US; Canada; or UK - or on e-bay or from second hand book stores.The AWW website also has some fabulous recipes online -]

I tweaked the recipe a bit - it calls for boneless chicken thighs, cut up - I have yet to find them ready boned here in the U.S. so I just used a standard supermarket pack and put them in the pan as is; also I reduced the liquid content.

Here is the recipe:

Chicken Pilaf with Apricots

6 TBS. butter, clarified*
A 6-portion pack of chicken thighs
2 medium onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced
2 cups basmati rice
1-1/2 cups chicken stock, low sodium
1-1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

*To clarify butter, place in small pot on very low flame until it melts. Let it sit for a while, then remove the white streaks from the top.

1. Heat half the clarified butter in large pan, add chicken, cook until almost done and lightly browned all over and tender; drain.
2. Heat remaining clarified butter in same pan, add onions, garlic and spices, cook, stirring, until onions are soft.
3. Add apricots and rice, stir over heat until rice is coated in spice mixture. Stir in stock and water. Add one teaspoon salt. Simmer, covered with tight-fitting lid, 15 minutes.
4. Place chicken pieces back in pan in rice mixture and simmer very low for another 10 minutes. Remove from stovetop and let stand for 15 minutes. Stir in raisins, peas and toasted pine nuts.

A tasty dish indeed!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Goodies for Operation BakingGALS

I am so proud to have baked three sets of cookies for a wonderful project started by fellow blogger, Susan, of She's Becoming Domestic. Susan e-mailed us for help in sending some home-made cookies to her cousin, Jason,who is posted in Iraq and missing his wife and new baby very much. The whole story is on Operation Baking GALS - it is delightful - how everything got started, the pictures of all the goodies baked by participating bloggers, Jason's fine Thank You letter and photos, and useful advice from a military wife on how to mail packages to the troops.

These are samples of my cookies, photographed on my new Frigidaire oven which arrived this week. I wanted the cookies to be the first item baked in oven, which is really beautiful and lovely and gorgeous and everything.

I made Molasses Cookies ; M&M Cookies and Apricot-Almond Bars. Of course, I tasted them, just a few. I liked the M&M Cookies and the Apricot-Almond Bars, but I loved the Molasses Cookies - soft, chewy things, with just enough spice to taste the ginger and cloves and the real comforting sweetness of Grandma's Molasses. Yum. The recipe follows, and will become a staple in other BakingGALS packages I send.

Molasses Cookies
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment paper on cookie sheet.


1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup of Crisco
1 egg
1/4 cup Grandma's Molasses
1/8th teasp. salt
2 cups flour
2 teasp. baking soda
1 teasp. ginger
1 teasp. ground cloves

1. Combine dry ingredients.
1. Cream together butter/Crisco and sugar (about 3-4 mins. on beater)
2. Lightly beat egg and add to creamed mixture - beat in just until blended.
3. Add molasses.
4. Slowly add dry ingredients combination.

Use Tbs. cookie scoop and drop batter in balls onto parchgment paper cookie sheet.

Bake for 11-12 minutes - cookies must look a nice bronze/ginger color. Remove from oven and leave on sheet for a couple of minutes. Remove to wire cooler.
*Recipe adapted from GMA Recipes/Eliza Leverton/2002.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Maybe Third Time Lucky

The oven range gods are against me - today, Saturday (and two days late), the delivery men showed up with my range, but we couldn't get one half of the lobby door open to my apartment building! Oven had to go back on the truck and I must now arrange with our Super to unjam the door for attempted delivery number 3 - I am so frustrated I could screeeeeeam! Maybe, just maybe, Tuesday then.

Meantime, I am so behind - my Daring Bakers' Hazelnut torte; my galette and banana-choc. cake and my cookies for Operation Baking Gals. Just posting so that you don't all think I've wimped out.