Saturday, January 29, 2011

Double Chocolate Loaf-Baked Sunday Mornings

This is a I need chocolate NOW kind of week.  Craziness at work with a new reservation system along with craziness at home trying to organize ( and I use the term loosely) the basement. Add to the mix the fact that the washer is kaput-or pretty close to it-the digital/computer on it has gone berserk and in order to get it to work you have to stand there for about 10-15 minutes kicking it , shaking it, moving it back and forth-it's hysterical to watch. And last but not least J's phone has gone haywire,he can hear callers but they can't hear him !  Ahhh technology, isn't it grand ?  I need chocolate !

But in spite of all the craziness I feel a calm come over me as soon as I'm home-you know that safe haven kind of feeling-even when everything around me is falling apart.  I remind myself that it's the things that  are falling apart-not me- I still have it together. And things are replaceable-people aren't. 

I find myself thinking about my dad a great deal more than usual these past few weeks, probably because of losing my dear sweet friend, Ed.  But on a day like today when electronics are not functioning I know that if my dad were here, he would be taking things apart, putting them back together and they would work.  Dad's are like that aren't they ? Neither J nor I are mechanical enough to tackle the washer and the phone is a lost cause.  So I will do what I do best - bake.  

This is the Double Chocolate Loaf with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Spread. I'm usually not a lover of baked goods in the loaf category but I enjoyed making this.  I love how the top crackled when it came out of the oven.  I like it with powdered sugar for a dinner dessert and with the peanut butter cream cheese topping for a little breakfast bite.  I didn't cream the peanut butter and cream cheese together completely when I mixed them. I wanted the two tone effect when I decorated the little bites. I think these would be a sweet addition to a brunch tray-don't you ?  The next time I make this loaf, I think I will serve it with a little mascarpone topped with fresh raspberries and maybe a little raspberry coulis surrounding it-that would make it very elegant -don't you think ?

For now I'm putting the organization of the basement on hold; ordering a new phone for J; ordering a new washer and making myself a good cup of espresso. Then I'm going to light a few candles, take my espresso and a slice of this chocolate loaf and enjoy the rest of my day. I hope you do the same.  Bon Appetit.

Head over to Baked Sunday Mornings for the recipe and to see what everyone else did.

PS This was another recipe I made for our Will Bake For Food Bake Sale last year and they were the 2nd thing to sell out !

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Biscuit Joconde Imprime Entremet -DB January Challenge

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

Whew , that title is a mouthful ! And this challenge defined the word challenge so many ways. I have never made a biscuit joconde(A joconde imprime is a decorative design baked into a light sponge cake providing an elegant finish to desserts/torts/entremets/ formed in ring molds) before. And I have never created an entermet( an ornate dessert with many different layers of cake and pastry creams in a mold, usually served cold). So this was a real learning experience for me. Which is exactly what The Daring Bakers are all about.

Since I knew this was going to be complicated I tried to keep it simple.  I used the recipe for the joconde from Astheroshe.  Then while researching this dessert I found these beautiful mini entremets/charlottes over at Martha Stewart.  I really wanted to recreate them but remember I said I wanted to keep it simple.   So instead I took a few things from Martha, a few from myself and the rest from the Daring Bakers and created my Bittersweet Grand Marnier Mousse Entremet. Someday I'm going back and I will recreate those sweet little charlottes over at Martha Stewart ! Until then here are the components for:

Bittersweet Grand Marnier Mousse Entremet

Chocolate Piping Batter
Pate a Cigarette Batter
Courtesy of Martha Stewart

Makes about 2 cups
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted

1.Process butter and confectioners' sugar in a food processor until fluffy. While machine is running, gradually add egg whites and vanilla, and scrape down sides of bowl. Add flour, and process until combined.

2.Transfer to a bowl, and stir in cocoa powder with a rubber spatula. For piping, transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/16-inch plain round tip (such as Ateco #2). Piping batter can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature and stir before using.

Joconde Sponge

Courtesy Astheroshe
Yield: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan
¾ cup almond flour/meal
½ cup plus 2 tablespoonsconfectioners' (icing) sugar
¼ cup cake flour 3 large eggs - about 5⅓ oz/ 150g
3 large egg whites
2½ teaspoons white granulated sugar or superfine (caster) sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1.In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peeks. Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later.

2.Sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour. (This can be done into your dirty egg white bowl)

3.On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light. (If using a stand mixer use blade attachment. If hand held a whisk attachment is fine, or by hand. )

4.Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.

5.Fold in melted butter.

6.Reserve batter to be used later.

Preparing the Joconde- How to make the pattern:
1.Spread a thin even layer of décor paste approximately 1/4 inch (5 millimeter) thick onto silicone baking mat with a spatula, or flat knife. Place mat on an upside down baking sheet. The upside down sheet makes spreading easier with no lip from the pan.

2.Pattern the décor paste – Here is where you can be creative. Make horizontal /vertical lines (you can use a knife, spatula, cake/pastry comb). Squiggles with your fingers, zig zags, wood grains. Be creative whatever you have at home to make a design can be used. OR use a piping bag. Pipe letters, or polka dots, or a piped design. If you do not have a piping bag. Fill a ziplock bag and snip off corner for a homemade version of one
3.Slide the baking sheet with paste into the freezer. Freeze hard. Approx 15 minutes.

4.Remove from freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde batter over the design. Spread evenly to completely cover the pattern of the Décor paste.

5.Bake at 475ºF /250ºC until the joconde bounces back when slightly pressed, approx. 15 minutes. You can bake it as is on the upside down pan. Yes, it is a very quick bake, so watch carefully.

6.Cool. Do not leave too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from mat.

7.Flip cooled cake on to a powdered sugared parchment paper. Remove silpat. Cake should be right side up, and pattern showing! (The powdered sugar helps the cake from sticking when cutting.)

1.Start with a large piece of parchment paper laid on a very flat baking sheet. Then a large piece of cling wrap over the parchment paper. Place a spring form pan ring, with the base removed, over the cling wrap and pull the cling wrap tightly up on the outside of the mold. Line the inside of the ring with a curled piece of parchment paper overlapping top edge by ½ inch. CUT the parchment paper to the TOP OF THE MOLD. It will be easier to smooth the top of the cake.

1.Trim the cake of any dark crispy edges. You should have a nice rectangle shape.

2.Decide how thick you want your “Joconde wrapper”. Traditionally, it is ½ the height of your mold. This is done so more layers of the plated dessert can be shown. However, you can make it the full height.

3.Once your height is measured, then you can cut the cake into equal strips, of height and length. (Use a very sharp paring knife and ruler.)

4.Make sure your strips are cut cleanly and ends are cut perfectly straight. Press the cake strips inside of the mold, decorative side facing out. Once wrapped inside the mold, overlap your ends slightly. You want your Joconde to fit very tightly pressed up to the sides of the mold. Then gently push and press the ends to meet together to make a seamless cake. The cake is very flexible so you can push it into place. You can use more than one piece to “wrap “your mold, if one cut piece is not long enough.

5.The mold is done, and ready to fill.

*Note: If not ready to use. Lay cake kept whole or already cut into strips, on a flat surface, wrap in parchment and several layers of cling wrap and freeze.

Entrement- Filling Options:
It is nice to have a completed dessert so you can unmold and see the Joconde working. Fill with anything you desire. Layers of different flavors and textures! However, it needs to be something cold that will not fall apart when unmolded.

Mousses, pastry creams, Bavarian creams, cheesecakes, puddings, curds, jams, cookie bases, more cake (bake off the remaining sponge and cut to layer inside), nuts, Dacquoise, fresh fruit, chocolates, gelee.

Espresso Syrup 
Courtesy of Martha Stewart
Makes about 2/3 cup
1/2 cup freshly brewed strong espresso
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Bring espresso, sugar, and water to a boil in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Let cool. Syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Milk Chocolate Ganache
Courtesy of Martha Stewart

Makes about 2 cups
8 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
1cup heavy cream

1.Put chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Bring cream to a simmer in a saucepan. Pour over chocolate. Let stand for 10 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Let cool, whisking occasionally. For piping, immediately transfer to pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain round tip (such as Ateco #802). Use immediately.

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse
6 ounces of good quality bittersweet chocolate-finely chopped
6 Egg yolks
3/4 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Grand Marnier liqueur
1 1/4 cup Chilled whipping cream

Stir the chocolate in double boiler over barely simmering water until smooth and melted. Cool to lukewarm. using electric mixer, beat yolks to blend in mixing  bowl. Gradually add sugar and beat until pale yellow and slowly dissolving ribbon forms when beaters are lifted. Blend in Grand Marnier, then melted chocolate. Whip cream in another bowl until soft peaks form. Fold 1/3 of cream into chocolate mixture. Gently fold in remaining cream. Pour mixture into the entremet,  smoothing  top. Freeze until set, about 30 minutes.

Shiny Chocolate Glaze
Courtesy of Martha Stewart
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
6 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1.Bring chocolate, sugar, coffee, corn syrup, and salt to a boil in a saucepan, stirring to melt chocolate. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in butter. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until barely warm but still pourable, about 20 minutes. Use immediately.
Optional topping: 2 cups of whipped cream , whipped to soft peaks . Spread onto of the chilled entremet and then  shave some dark chocolate over the whipped cream topping.

1.Follow Astheroshe's directions for filling the mold, including using the leftover joconde scraps to line the bottom of the mold.
2.Take the espresso syrup and dab it onto the sides and bottom of the joconde
3.Pour about 1/2 inch of the milk chocolate ganache into the bottom of the mold.
4.Freeze until the ganache is firm-about 30-45 minutes
5.Add the Grand Marnier Mousse
6.Freeze until the mousse is firm about 45 minutes- 1 hour
7.Top with the shiny chocolate glaze and place back in freezer for about 20 minutes.
8.Carefully remove the spring form mold-you may have to quickly heat the outside of the ring with a hair dryer-do this briefly and quickly so that you don't melt your beautiful creation.
9. If you made the optional whipped cream topping, spread that over the top now leveling it out with a spatula then shave some dark chocolate over that.
And voila your deletable Bittersweet Chocolate Grand Marnier Entremet. Bon Appetit.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Good Bye Sweet Papa

We said goodbye to Papa Ed.  Ed wasn't my father, he was my dear friend's father. But he was Papa to everyone.  He was one of those angels who lit up a room when he entered it.  He laughed and loved with his whole heart and soul. His Gumbo parties were legendary-no one made Gumbo like him. I remember one year I made Gumbo and he came over and told me it was almost as good as his. I am honored that I have one of his Gumbo pots to remember him by and some day soon I'll be cooking up a batch in his honor. 

Those parties were always fun-a room full of friends from all walks of life, friends of his, friends of his daughter, neighbors, co-workers, his harem -the women he worked out with at the Senior Center-everyone felt fortunate to be there. And we would sit for hours and listen to him tell stories of his daughter and son growing up and all the crazy things they did. There was always so much laughter you went home with a full belly and enveloped by the love that was generated. In the summer Ed would do BBQ and not only was he the Gumbo God he was the King of BBQ. Ribs and chicken grilled to perfection by him. Everyone brought their favorite dish and the laughter and grilling went on all day . His living room was filled with a huge big screen tv, his favorite chair and a ledge with nothing but toys for all the kids to play with. The image of him over a steaming pot of gumbo, or flipping ribs or watching his favorite basketball team on tv-those will stay with me forever.

I'm going to miss those parties, but more than the fun I'm going to miss Papa. He was  the most honorable, loving caring man I have ever known. He was one of those special people, an angel among us, someone who was just plain good through and through and I will miss him terribly. He was as sweet and pure as the roses he grew and every time I walk through my garden or prune my roses I'll be thinking of him

Good bye Papa, may the angels keep you forever in their love-you will always be in my heart and I will strive to live my life in a way that honors you.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Ta da- a huge thank you to The Art of Being Perfect for passing this award on to me ! What a way to start my week, Sunday night- my team the Pittsburgh Steelers won the AFC Championship-go Steelers .

And then I woke up this morning and found this on my blog-wow. I am very honored to accept this award. It's such a fabulous way to meet new bloggers and promote each other. There are some rules when accepting-aren't there rules with just about everything ?

Here they are:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
Massive thank you to The Art of Being Perfect for the Award.

2. Share 7 things about yourself

1. My heart belongs to Paris (well J too ! ).

2. I've always believed my sister and I are fraternal twins born 3 years apart.

3. Champagne is my favorite drink.

4. I love Tasmania , if I couldn't live in France I would live in Hobart.

5. Standing in the wilderness with zillions of stars overhead brings tears to my eyes.

6. I still believe that people are really good at heart.

7. Louis Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World " -I could listen to it all day long.

3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers

Here are 15 of my favorite bloggers. Some more recently discovered than others but all incredibly talented and all more than well deserving of A Stylish Blog Award. Check them out :

My French Kitchen

4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award!

Wishing all of you a wonderful week and hope your January 2011 ends on a high note. Bakers start your engines -Valentine's Day is just around the corner

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Strawberry and Vanilla Macaron Trifle -Mac Tweets January Challenge

As soon as I saw the gorgeous cover of this issue of Donna Hay I knew I had to make that trifle.  And perfect timing because our  first Mactweets challenge 2011 is to : integrate your macarons into any dessert, making it a new part of an old favorite, or turn your macarons into your favorite dessert, inspired in flavor, texture, color.  I don't know about you, but growing up jello was part of my food pyramid, and of course the whipped cream just fulfilled the dairy requirement !  Seriously, I don't make a lot of jello, as a matter of fact I can't remember the last time I made any. But really when you look at this magazine cover are you not inspired to make this delectable dessert ?

Doesn't it just look a light and pretty after all those cookies, stollens, and chocolate from the holidays ?  And doesn't it just look like a lovely choice for Valentine's Day too ?  And for those of you who are not obsessed with making the perfect macaron-you can even use (quelle horreur) store bought macarons.

Pretty feet ! Thank you Deeba

I usually make my macarons from Hisako Ogita's book I Macarons. But today I decided to experiment and use a recipe from a fellow blogger who always inspires me with her writings, photography and food-Deeba over at Passionate About Baking.  Check out her blog, you'll see why she is so inspirational !

I made the vanilla macarons using Deeba's recipe.  I followed Donna Hay's recipe for the jello, added more strawberries than the recipe called for, because I'm of the belief you can never have too many strawberries and I filled my macarons with mascarpone mixed with a touch of balsamic vinegar (the berries love balsamic vinegar), and topped everything with whipped cream and more berries .  This is a  perfect dessert for today-the sun is shining,  teasing me with thoughts of warmer weather and gardening. 

Strawberry and Vanilla Macaron Trifle
You can find the original recipe from Donna Hay here.

For the Macarons recipe-head over to Deeba's blog .

Mascarpone filling:
8 ounces of Mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Mix together until smooth and fill a pastry bag for piping onto the macarons.

Whipped Cream Filling
16 ounces of whipping cream
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
Add all ingredients to your mixing bowl and using the whisk attachment , whisk on high until peaks are just starting to firm up.

Head over to Mac Tweets and see what everyone else did this month.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Michel Rostang’s Double Chocolate Mousse Cake-French Fridays with Dorie

I knew I would love this weeks recipe.  Chocolate and mousse together-a wonderfully divine combination.  Mousse is one of my favorite things and chocolate mousse, well it is definitely something I would want on a deserted island along with George Clooney, opps I mean J.  

 I couldn't bear to add ice cream or whipped cream to the plate.  I wanted the pure incredibly rich chocolate taste to be the star.  I read all the P & Q's over at French Fridays with Dorie so I knew what not to do.  I've made a cake similar to this when I worked at the bakery and it was always one of my favorites.  Dorie gives you a couple of variations to try with this cake.  I baked a third of the batter; cooled the cake for 4 hours; added the rest of the mousse batter and baked it again for 30 minutes; then chilled it for another 4 hours. I dusted it with unsweetened cocoa powder. Thank you Dorie - I love love love this version. And don't let the simple appearance of this cake fool you. 

After one bite you will think you just had the most decadent bite  in the world-and you have.  Again simplicity wins out-good ingredients, careful directions and a little love in your heart while cooking equals success.  Speaking of love in your heart-this would make a beautiful Valentine's Day dessert, add a little raspberry coulis around it, top with a bit of whipped cream and a few ripe raspberries-your partner will be forever grateful.

This has espresso in it so it enhances the chocolate. But don't let the fact that this contains espresso  stop you from having an espresso with this slice or an ice cold glass of milk-mmm heaven.  I must confess I went through two slices while setting up to shoot my photos for this.  Ohh, but they were small slices-that's my story and I'm sticking to it !

Head over to French Fridays with Dorie and see the beautiful cakes everyone else created.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Buttermilk Doughnuts-Baked Sunday Mornings

I couldn't wait to make these doughnuts-more properly known as Farm Stand Buttermilk Doughnuts Three Ways.  Whew, that is a mouthful-but so are these.  I have become addicted to homemade doughnuts-especially these and especially the cinnamon sugar version of these.  There was something so comforting and so , well old fashioned , about rolling this dough and then pressing out the doughnut shapes.

 I reached my doughnut zen moment while making these.  It was a quiet Friday morning, J was at school teaching his class and I had the house to myself.  The early morning grey skies and drizzle had cleared and a little bit of actual sunshine was peaking over the backyard garage roof right into my little kitchen window.  As I mixed the batter I could watch the little sparrows and finches flitting around the backyard. 

In that moment I felt such contentment and gratitude for my life and I understood the meaning of comfort food.  Not only is there comfort in eating it but also comfort in making it.

Of course my little rose colored glasses blocked out all the dirty pots and pans piling up from making the 3 different dipping bowls but something so sweet and delicious doesn't come without effort.  This is actually a fairly simple recipe -don't be fooled by it's length and ingredient list.  If you want something quick and delicious make these and  just make the cinnamon sugar to roll them in-it was my favorite.

 It reminded me of being 10 years old again when mom would make toast in the morning and sprinkle her cinnamon sugar mix over it-yum.  Cinnamon sugar always puts me in that chair in my mother's kitchen if just for a moment.

 I do feel compelled to warn you though, eating these out of the frying pan, rolled in cinnamon sugar-crack doughnuts-highly addictive, highly habit forming and don't even remind me about the time needed on the treadmill.  But again, so worth it. Head over to Baked Sunday Mornings and see how everyone else did with these, you will also find the recipe there. And think about baking along with us. Get the book and get Baked.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Black Forest Cupcakes-to soothe and comfort

I've sat down to blog several times this week.  But each time I tried I just couldn't.  My heart and my mind was occupied by the events and tragedy in Tucson,Arizona.  I would sit in front of my computer and just stare. I would walk away and watch the news and wander aimlessly around the house.  I'm sure I've asked all the same questions all of you have asked, questions that have no answers. What can I do in my own little world to change things.  All I can do is my best.  My best at my life with J, my best with my family, my best at my job, my best with my friends and my best with the human race.  I don't want to lecture-that's not my thing and I don't want to tell anyone how to live their life.  All I know is that I have to strive to be human and caring and not take life for granted .  All I know is that I have to strive to be courteous, loving, peaceful and respectful of each and every person I encounter. That's all. 

I've noticed I've sought comfort food  this week-mac and cheese, egg sandwiches, waffles, grilled cheese and tomato soup,cottage cheese and bow tie noodles.  Foods that always made me feel better when my heart was broken or the world seemed a little too much .  The world has seemed more than a little too much this week.  When I started to make these cupcakes for my Martha Stewart Cupcake Club, they just seemed too festive, too joyful,and I set them aside.

 But every time I opened the refrigerator they were in there reminding me that life goes on .  So I took them out tonight and made the pastry creme filling and put the sweet cherries in the center and topped them with chocolate ganache.  And I remembered that life can be whatever we make it and tonight I will bring a little sweetness into my world and pray for all of those who have much sadness in their world.