Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chocolate Napoleon

Oh I am a bad blogger.  It's not that I haven't been baking, but life is complicated right now and doesn't make for inspiring blog posts.  I am determined to keep this going, so bare with me.

I made this for no reason, other than I'm obssesed with making my own puff pastry right now.  There are so many uses for this versatile dough, and I've always wanted to make this particular dessert.

The chocolate pastry cream is a little thick for my liking, but has an absolutely decadent chocolate flavor.  I would probably reduce the amount of cornstarch, or find a recipe without it altogether next time.

I used Nick Malgieri's super duper easy and amazing puff pastry recipe, the recipe makes more than you will need for this, I suggest some simple sugar palmiers to finish it off.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Napoleon
from Martha Stewart

- 1 pound Puff Pastry (see recipe below)
- Chocolate Pastry Cream (see recipe below)
- ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
- 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 teaspoons Dutch-process cocoa powder

- On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll out Puff Pastry to a 12-inch (30,5 cm) square, about 1/8 inch (0,5 cm) thick.
- Using a pastry cutter or pizza wheel, cut squares into three 12-by-4-inch (30,5-by-10-cm) strips.
- Transfer dough and parchment to a large baking sheet; prick over with a fork.
- Cover with plastic wrap; chill in the refrigerator or freezer until firm, about 30 minutes. Mean while preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C.
- Transfer sheet to oven; bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until pastry is puffed and golden around the edges, about 10 minutes.
- Set another baking sheet directly on pastry strips (weird, I know) and continue baking until pastry is light golden in the center, 6 to 8 minutes more.
- Remove top baking sheet; bake until pastry is baked through and golden brown, 6 minutes more.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, butter (or shortening), corn syrup and 1 tablespoon milk. If the mixture is too thick to pour, add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it reaches the consistency of sour cream.
- Transfer a quarter of the glaze to a small bowl; whisk in cocoa.
- Transfer chocolate glaze to a paper cornet; set aside.
- Pour white glaze onto one of the pastry strips; spread evenly with an offset spatula.
- Cut the tip of the paper cornet, and pipe lines of chocolate glaze crosswise over the white glaze, about ½ inch (1,3 cm) apart.
- Drag the tip of a wooden skewer down the length of the glazed strip, in alternating directions, to create a decorative pattern.
- Fit a pastry bag with a 5/8-inch plain tip (such as an Ateco #808) and fill with half of the Chocolate Pastry Cream.
- Pipe an even layer onto another pastry strip.
- Top with the remaining pastry strip, pressing gently to secure.
- Fill the pastry bag with the remaining pastry cream, and pipe evenly onto the strip.
- Place the glazed pastry on top.
- Once assembled, the Napoleon is best eaten the same day; slice with a serrated knife.

 Quick Puff Pastry
from Nick Malgieri 

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold water

Cut 1 cup (2 sticks) butter into 1/4-inch cubes. Place in an even layer on a plate and transfer to refrigerator to chill.

Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl. Cut remaining 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter into thin slices and add to bowl. Rub in the butter, squeezing it with your fingertips, rubbing the butter and flour mixture between the palms of your hands and reaching down to the bottom of the bowl. Repeat process until flour and butter are evenly mixed; this should only take a couple of minutes and the mixture should remain cool and powdery. Alternatively, pulse flour, salt, and 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter in the bowl of a food processor until no visible pieces of butter remain; transfer to a large bowl.
Add chilled butter cubes to bowl and, using a rubber spatula, fold them into flour mixture.
Reserving 2 tablespoons of the cold water, pour remaining water into bowl. Using a spatula, fold water into flour mixture, scraping from the bottom of the bowl upward. If the mixture still has a lot of dry, unmoistened flour, add reserved water, 1 tablespoon at a time, repeating folding process.

Scrape dough from bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Lightly flour dough and, using your hands, squeeze and shape dough into a cylinder. Press down to flatten into a rectangle.
Starting at the narrow end furthest away from you, use a rolling pin to press the dough firmly in parallel strokes close to one another. If there are sticky pieces of butter on the surface, cover with a large pinch of flour and press with the rolling pin to combine. Clean off the rolling pin as you go to make sure nothing sticks to the dough. Continue pressing with the rolling pin, working toward the narrow end closest to you.

Press the dough once along the width; it should now be a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Flour under and on top of the dough and roll dough away and back toward you in the length and once in the width, without rolling over the ends, to make a rectangle about 18 inches long and 8 inches wide.
Fold the two 8-inch ends in toward the middle of the rectangle, leaving a 1-inch space in the middle. Fold the bottom up to the top to form 4 layers of dough. Turn the dough so that the folded edge, which should resemble the spine on a book, is on your left.
Repeat rolling and folding process two more times. Wrap dough and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, and up to 3 days, before using.

Chocolate Pastry Cream recipe:

- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
pinch of salt
- 4 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

- In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, ¼ cup sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt.
- Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining ¼ cup sugar.
- Whisking constantly, slowly pour about ½ cup of the hot-milk mixture into the egg-yolk mixture. Continue adding milk mixture, ½ cup at a time, until it has been incorporated.
- Pour mixture back into saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens and registers 160°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes. (mine needed 45 seconds)
- Remove and discard vanilla bean.
- Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- Add the butter and chopped chocolate, and beat on medium speed until the butter and chocolate melts and the mixture cools, about 5 minutes.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Nutella Coffee Ice Cream Sandwiches

omg these are decadent and oh so delicious.  A combination of a hazelnut dacquiose (meringue), nutella, chocolate, crushed sugar cones, and coffee ice cream is just about as close to dessert perfection as you can get.  In my opinion anyways.

They are pretty rich so I cut them into small squares.  Not that I couldn't have eaten several of them at a time, but even I can show restraint.  Some of the time anyways.  

Nutella Coffee Ice Cream Sandwiches
adapted very slightly from Food and Wine

1 cup hazelnuts (4 ounces)
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1 cup Nutella
6 sugar ice cream cones, crushed
1 pint coffee ice cream, softened

Preheat the oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with parchment. Spread the nuts in a pie plate and roast for 12 minutes, until the skins split. Transfer the nuts to a clean kitchen towel and let cool. Rub them together to remove the skins and transfer to a food processor. Add the confectioners' sugar and flour; process until the nuts are finely ground.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt at high speed until soft peaks form. Beat in the granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the whites are stiff. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the ground nuts. Spread the batter on the parchment in a 9-by-12-inch rectangle. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden. Prop the oven door open and let the dacquoise sit for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate in the microwave at high power in 1-minute intervals. Stir in the Nutella and crushed ice cream cones.

Invert the dacquoise onto a surface and peel off the paper. Spread evenly with the Nutella filling. Cut the dacquoise in half to make two 9-by-6-inch rectangles. Freeze until the filling is set. Spread the ice cream over one half. Close the sandwich and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours. Slice and serve.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fresh Blueberry Double Crust Pie

Mmmm, pie.  I'm more of a cream pie person myself, but my husband is all about fruit pies with flaky crusts, so I indulge him once in a while.  Of fruit pies blueberry is probably my favorite, and there are plenty of blueberries available at our local farmer's markets for a great price.
I got this recipe out of my Cook's Country America's Test Kitchen book, which is one of my favorites.  They have tested and re-tested every aspect of every recipe and the end result is usually perfection.

The crust is a combination of shortening and butter.  I'm usually in the all butter camp since I think you can't beat a nice buttery crust, but admittedly the shortening does contribute to a good flaky crust so this is a good choice for me.


Fresh Blueberry Pie
from America's Test Kitchen

Double Crust Pie Dough:
2.5 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
8 tablespoons Crisco, cut into 1/2" pieces and chilled
12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" pieces and chilled
6-8 tablespoons ice water

Process the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Scatter the shortening over the top and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the top and, using short pulses, process the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses. Transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture. Stir and press the dough together, using a stiff rubber spatula until the dough sticks together.

If the dough does not come together, stir in the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it does.

Divide the dough into two even pieces and flatten each into a 4 inch disk. Wrap the disks tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Let the chilled dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling it out and fitting it into a pie plate

Blueberry Filling
6 cups fresh blueberries (about 30 ounces)
1 Granny Smith apple , peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
2 teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca , ground
Pinch table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large egg , lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

For The Filling: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling. Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using 1 1/4-inch round biscuit cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2 inches from edge of center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1/2-inch overhang on each side.Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes. Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Rainbow Graduation Cake

I made this cake for my little guy's preschool graduation picnic.  I wanted to make something really special for the kids and parents so I immediately thought of the gorgeous rainbow layer cake I had been seeing around the Internet.  The preschool's logo is a rainbow and a smiling sun so I thought it would be perfect.  I was so happy with everyone's reaction, the kids were smiling ear to ear, and I got so many lovely compliments from parents.  Not that I do this baking thing for the kudos, but to get validation that I'm actually kind of good at my passion is really nice to hear.

I love my son's preschool.  It's a co-op, and while I felt hesitant about it at first, I now am quite literally smitten with the teacher, children, and parents.  I feel like I'm a part of a caring community, and I can honestly say that if I was ever in need of anything I could comfortably call any of the families and count of them for help, as I hope they feel they could count on me. 

Luckily with my boy in Pre-K next year, I get to enjoy most of the families for one more year.  But we had to say goodbye to a few wonderful friends whom I hope to continue to see even if our kids are in different schools, or years.  Much love to all the CVPP families and the most kick ass teacher ever, you are all special, wonderful people and knowing you has made our lives better. :)

Okay, back to the cake.  I used the Whisk Kid recipe, via Sweetapolita.  A couple of things.  Do not, under any circumstances, try and make the lemony Swiss meringue filling with a 5 quart mixer.  I thought I might be in trouble when I was beating the meringue portion, but once I started adding the butter it was clear there was going to be trouble.   I ended up with about half the buttercream that I should have, but it was enough to fill one of the cakes.  I would just use the "to frost"  recipe which is smaller, and do it twice.  Also, there are a lot of layers to bake, so if you can borrow a few extra 9 inch rounds than do.  This eliminates some of the waiting around for pans to cool. 

This cake not only looked awesome, but was delicious as well.  It was time consuming but if you're into this sort of thing and have the occasion to make a rainbow cake, do it!  You'll be glad you did.  :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Strawberry Chocolate Baked Alaska

Um, how did I not know how amazingly awesome baked Alaska is??  Cake (in this case brownie), ice cream, and meringue??  Three of my favorite things all piled into one glorious, perfect dessert.  I can tell you I'll be making these babies on a regular basis.

I got this recipe from Bon Appetit, but once you have the technique down the sky is really the limit.  The main thing is you need a base, topped with ice cream, and the ice cream needs to be completely sealed with meringue.  The completely frozen dessert is then baked for a five minutes in a piping hot oven, and voila.  Nirvana.  Well, for me at least.

The recipe said you could use an oven or a kitchen torch, so I tried both and can say with certainty the oven is the only way to go.  The torch made for a nicer presentation since you can singe the meringue more easily, but the base and ice cream remained rock hard (as is evident in the picture below).  In the oven, everything is just as it should be.  Soft base, delightfully soft ice cream, and a crisp meringue.  Must go make more.  Now.

Strawberry Chocolate Baked Alaska
from Bon Appetit 

 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 large eggs
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
  1 pint strawberry ice cream, slightly softened
  3 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9x9x2-inch metal baking pan; line bottom with parchment paper. Stir bittersweet chocolate, butter, and unsweetened chocolate in small saucepan over low heat until chocolates melt and mixture is smooth. Cool 10 minutes. Whisk 3/4 cup sugar and eggs in large bowl until well blended, about 1 minute. Whisk in chocolate mixture. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt over; stir to blend. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake cake until top looks dry and tester inserted into center comes out with some thick sticky batter attached, about 17 minutes. Cool cake in pan to room temperature.

Cut around cake in pan. Place cutting board over pan and invert, tapping out cake. Peel off parchment. Using 3-inch round cutter, cut out 6 cake rounds (save remaining cake for another use). Line small baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange cake rounds on prepared sheet. Using 2 1/4- to 2 1/2-inch-diameter ice cream scoop, place scoop of strawberry ice cream in center of each round, leaving about 1/4-inch plain border. Freeze until ice cream is solid, about 2 hours.

Combine remaining 3/4 cup sugar and egg whites in large metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of gently simmering water and whisk until mixture is very warm, and registers 160 degrees F on a candy thermometer.   Remove bowl from over water. Using electric mixer, beat meringue at high speed until very thick and billowy, about 2 minutes. Place baking sheet with cake rounds on work surface. Mound 2 heaping tablespoons meringue atop ice cream on 1 cake round. Spread meringue evenly over to cover, sealing meringue to plain cake border and swirling decoratively. Repeat with remaining desserts. Freeze uncovered on baking sheet until meringue is solid, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 500°F. Transfer desserts still on baking sheet from freezer directly to oven. Bake until meringue is deep brown in spots, turning sheet as needed for even cooking, about 3 minutes. Transfer to plates.

Linked to:
Melt in Your Mouth Monday 
Crazy Sweet Tuesday

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chocolate Oatmeal Moon Pies

Have I mentioned my love for marshmallow creme before?  Love love love.  So when I saw this recipe for oatmeal moon pies in Bon Appetit I was all over it.  I told my husband I was making them and he said "I figured as much when I saw that recipe".  I am nothing if not predictable in my love of sweets.

I changed the recipe up a bit, omitting and adding some of the cookie ingredients.  That said on it's own this oatmeal cookie recipe is awesome.  Never mind drizzling them with chocolate (I skipped the glaze) and sandwiching a healthy dollop of marshmallow creme between them.  

I originally made these months ago for my son's preschool's bake sale.  After making them I realized they weren't that portable since marshmallow creme is pretty molten.  But I wrapped them up in wax paper and tied them up with ribbon so they worked out pretty well.  They're really best assembled and immediately eaten though.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Oatmeal Moon Pies
adapted from Bon Appetit

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup good quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 7-ounce jars marshmallow creme
about 6 ounces good quality dark chocolate for melting and drizzling

Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 350°. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Combine oats, raisins, pecans, and chocolate chips in a large bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in another large bowl, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat to blend. Scrape down sides of bowl. With machine running at low speed, gradually add flour mixture; beat just to blend. Stir in oat mixture with a wooden spoon just to blend.

Using a 1-oz. ice cream scoop or scooping out 2 level tablespoonfuls of dough, measure dough into 36 portions. Divide among baking sheets. Using your hands, gently press down on each dough ball until 1/2" thick.

Bake cookies for 12 minutes. Rotate sheets front to back and top to bottom; continue baking until cookies are golden brown and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will appear underdone and shiny in centers), 7–8 minutes longer. Do not overbake.  I actually did one batch at a time so without rotating racks 12 minutes was enough.  Let cookies cool on baking sheets. DO AHEAD: Cookies can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Once cookies are room temp melt the chocolate and drizzle over each cookie.  Once dry (this can take several hours), spread 1 Tbsp. marshmallow creme on bottom of 18 cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies.

Linked to:
Crazy Sweet Tuesday 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hummingbird Cookies

I just wanted to share these hummingbird cookies I made and sent my Mom for her birthday recently.  I wish I had done a tutorial, but I was in a rush so I just have a picture of the final product.  I also made soccer ball cookies for my Dad, but apparently hexagons are quite hard to get right so they weren't as cute as I had envisioned (thus, no photo documentation).

For the hummingbirds I mainly used the flow method of decorating, and did everything but the beak at the same time.  Most of their poor little beaks broke off in transit, and in hindsight they were probably not a good choice for shipping, but my Mom loves hummingbirds so I wanted to make something special.  Thanks for looking and happy birthday to my wonderful Mom and Dad!!

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