Thursday, January 27, 2011

My First Daring Bakers 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.

I thought about this challenge for a while wanting to do something wild and crazy for my first challenge. But in the end, I went very traditional with my design.
I got the stencils for the Imprime a couple of years ago from the Intenational Sugar Art Collection. They are very versatile. We used them for stenciling on a fondant covered cake but I thought they would look nice for this project.
I really wanted to use the toile for the sides of the dessert but the design was just too fragile. So I settled for the top and used the stripes on the sides and they held up much better.
 The dessert was very easy once I played with it a bit.
I had a recipe for the Joconde that I had used years ago. It is very easy and the only snag is that you need almond flour. I keep almond flour in the freezer because I love to make and eat French Macarons that use it as an ingredient.
I made a strawberry mousse filling since it is so close to Valentines Day and I wanted something to coordinate with the Gumpaste roses I made as a decoration.

I assembled the pieces in a six inch cake pan that I lined with Cling wrap. I layered the mousse with plain biscuit joconde and chilled it overnight. It removed nicely from the pan. The dessert was easy to cut and serve.

I love the Daring Bakers because it encourages me to do something I would not have ordinarily done. I felt challenged but had a great time. I cannot wait for the next challenge!

Here are the recipes I used.

Chocolate Tuile Paste:
3 ounces cake flour
1 1/4 ounces unsweetened cocoa powder
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Joconde Sponge:
2 ounces almond flour
2 ounces powdered sugar
2 ounces all-purpose flour
3 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2 egg whites
1 ounce granulated sugar
1 Ounce unsalted butter, melted

Method for Tuile Paste:
Sift cocoa powder and flour together; set aside. Cream the butter and sifted powdered sugar in a mixer with the paddle on medium speed. Lower speed to medium low and add egg whites slowly, scraping the bowl frequently. Add the vanilla extract and flour and cocoa mixture until just combined.
Place Silpat or parchment paper on back of a baking sheet. Spread paste across a stencil to imprint. You may also spread paste to about 1/16 inch thick and drag a decorating comb across batter in a decorative imprint. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

Method for Joconde Sponge:
With a wire whip, stir the almond flour, all purpose flour and powdered sugar together for about 20 seconds to combine. Add eggs and , using a paddle for a stand mixer, beat on high speed for about five minutes Add egg yolk and set aside.
Whip egg whites in a separate bowl, adding sugar slowly until soft peaks form. Do not over beat.
 Fold egg whites into batter, then the melted butter and finally remaining whites gently folding just to combine.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place Silpat or parchment with firm Tuile paste in a baking sheet. Spread batter evenly over the top of the paste. bake for about five minutes. Be careful not to over-bake or cake will crack rather than bend.
 Remove from oven. invert onto fresh parchment paper and peel off Silpat or used parchment. Cool to room temperature and cut into desired shape.

Strawberry Mousse

2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and cut in half
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin, one packet
1/3 cup cold water
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups heavy cream

Puree the strawberries in the food processor. Add the lemon juice and sugar and process a minute longer to combine.

Sprinkle gelatin over the cold water in a heat proof dish to let it bloom for about five minutes. Bring a small saucepan with about an inch of water to a boil and turn off heat. Set dish with gelatin in saucepan and allow gelatin to dissolve, swirling frequently. Remove as soon as gelatin has dissolved to prevent overheating.
Stir gelatin into strawberry mixture and cool until slightly thickened.
 Whip cream until stiff peaks start to form. Fold whipped cream into strawberry mixture until well combined. Chill well before using for mousse or cake fillings.

Use your creative flair to construct the entremet. It's like being a sculptor of your dessert!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Poached Pears

I poached some pears for dessert recently. I wanted to try poaching in Mead, a honey wine, that I found at my local wine store.
 I had tasted it as a dessert wine but felt like it was better suited for a poaching liquid. I used Chaucers Mead because it was a little spicier than the other brands.

 I added a little brown sugar and a little cinnamon stick to the poaching liquid. I poached the Bosc pears about 45 minutes. The recipe I used called for about 25 minutes but I recommend using the knife inserted into the pear rule. If it pierces the pear easily, they are done.
Poaching liquid
The recipe also suggested that the pears be served with mascarpone cheese and blue cheese. I think that is a lovely idea and I plan to give it a try next time. For my homey dessert though, I served it with Butter Pecan ice cream and ginger cookies. I will give more details on the ginger cookies in my next post.
I also served a pear liqueur, Belle de Brillet, with the dessert. It was really good but a little sweet. I think it would go better with the dessert if I had served the cheeses alongside instead of the ice cream and cookies.

Poached Pears

1 1/4 cups Mead
3/4 cup  light brown sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange, zest cut into strips
6 Bosc pears, peeled, and cored*,stems intact
4 ounces macarpone cheese, optional
4 ounces Cashel blue cheese, optional

In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the mead, sugar, water, cinnamon sticks, and orange zest to a boil. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, or until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is syrupy. Reduce the heat to low, add the pears,and simmer covered, for about 25 to 35 minutes, or until the pears are tender. Turn the pears 2 or 3 times during cooking. Remove from heat and let the pears cool in the poaching liquid (may be stored in the refrigerator at this point for up to 2 days). Strain the liquid into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered untill poaching liquid is thick and syrupy.

Slice each pear lengthwise almost all the way through and fan out onto a dessert  plate. Drizzle thickened syrup over each pear. Serve with a scoop of Butter Pecan ice cream and ginger cookies. As an alternative garnish, whisk together the mascarpone and blue cheese until blended in a small bowl and add a scoop alongside the pear.

Pears cooling in the poaching liquid
And don't forget a glass of Belle de Brillet.
*To core the pears, I used a melon baller to scoop the seeds out of the bottom of the uncooked  pear. It only took a couple of scoops to bore halfway up the center of the pear leaving it beautifully intact and seedless.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Columbia's 1905 Salad

The Columbia Restaurant in Sarasota, Florida is one of my favorite restaurants for nostalgic reasons. I have family in Sarasota and attended college not far away in St. Petersburg. The restaurant is formal service in a casual atmosphere and they pull it off beautifully. The table side preparation of the 1905 salad is always a treat to watch and eat. I had the opportunity to dine there recently and was not disappointed. It was a lovely day with just a hint of cool to the air. We sat at one of the outdoor tables where the conversation is almost communal given the distance between tables. In such a tourist area, there were a lot of locals sharing a meal near us. I got the Black Bean Soup with a side 1905 salad. I like the soup  but don't love it and usually wish I had just gotten the salad alone. But that day, the chunkiness of the soup and flavor balanced well with the salad.
The salad is a favorite in my family. Each of us has taken the basic recipe and changed it to make it our own, adding our favorite salad veggies and meat. We usually agree on the cheese addition only varying in the amount  to add. I am not usually a fan in iceberg lettuce but this salad needs a hearty,crunchy lettuce. I am adding the original recipe here. You may find the history about The Columbia interesting as well.  There are far more locations now than the original in Tampa and the outpost in Sarasota when I was a younger me. But thinking you may not be close to one, I am posting my version of the recipe. The pictures following the recipe are the Evelyn version.Please vary the salad to make it your own. It is a great light dinner and perfect with a vegetable based soup like Black Bean or Lentil.

Buen Provecho!

Family Salad
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, broken into bite size chunks
1  tomato, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 cup Swiss cheese, cut into julienne strips
1/2 cup ham, or turkey or shrimp cut into julienne strips
2 sticks celery, cut into bite size pieces
1/4 cup pimento stuffed green olives, sliced
1/4 cup Romano cheese, grated
Salad Dressing Ingredients
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 lemon, juiced

1. Toss all salad ingredients together, except Romano cheese.
2. Mix garlic, marjoram, and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Beat until smooth with a whisk. Add olive oil gradually beating to form an emulsion. Stir in vinegar and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

3. Add dressing to salad and toss well. Add Romano cheese and toss one more time.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas Tree Farewell

We took down the Christmas tree over the past weekend. And when I say "we", I really mean my sweet husband did it all. I did not help other than make lunch if that counts and the boy pretended like it wasn't happening. I love the Christmas tree...everything about it.  I love the smell, the nostalgia of collected ornaments and the glow it casts around the house at night. I find that I spend some wonderful meditative moments just gazing at that tree. I would love the tree to be up all winter.
The tree this year was really nice and we spent a total of five minutes looking for it. There were no mishaps in getting it up and keeping it up.Yes, there have been tragedies in the past of fallen trees  and the plural is purposeful.

Our family favorite for ornaments is hands down, the beaded ornaments or spaceships if you are speaking the mother tongue of the boy. They were a gift handed down from my great aunt Lena from Virginia. She started giving them away in 1953. The story is she would get old jewelry, break it up into pieces and use it to make many of the beads for the ornaments. Most of them are in amazing condition. I have two kits for making beaded ornaments. I have had them for a couple of years. I say that I am going to start the tradition again but then the holidays swoop in and I barely have time to get the cookies baked and the presents wrapped.
 I might just make them this is the time to good and I may give you one!


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Winter at Borderland

Yesterday was a bit of a heat wave here in New England! We got temps. upwards of 50 degrees. Although there was a lot of melting, there was still plenty of snow. We took a walk along our favorite path at Borderland, Pond edge trail. It looks very different than October when I posted our Fall walk,
 New England Beauty.  It took much longer for our walk because there were some slippery spots we needed to walk slowly through. The boy also stopped to poke the icy lake with his stick to confirm that it was  frozen.

Pebbles puppy was happiest when jumping through the snowy parts that came almost up to her tummy. Everybody slept well last night after that trudge, I mean walk.

If you don't live this way, here are some of the pretty parts of snow. If you do live this way, I think today should be warm as well and the trail is waiting. Yesterday, there was a fire going in the hearth at the lodge and they were handing out hot chocolate!

The water is still moving freely near the Lodge
 Behind the mansion were about 50 people sledding down the hill

The trail?