Sunday, June 27, 2010

JUNE 2010 - Daring Baker's Challenge: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

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Since joining the daring kitchen and taking part in their baking and cooking challenges, I have come to the conclusion that we (our family) has been non-daring for far too long.  You know how it is... the kids start getting picky, money gets tight and before you know it your menu consists of five basic meals that you know your kids will eat.  The sad part is, my kids are all grown now and I'm still cooking that way!  Well, I've been a bit more experimental since my mom moved in with us in 2004 but Neil is such a meat and potatoes man that my menu changed from pleasing the kids with the five meals to making mostly meat and potato dishes!
     I've enjoyed the challenges and the new techniques we are encouraged to try and this month's baking challenge was just that... a challenge! 

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious.  Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse.  The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

Mandatory items: The recipe is comprised of three parts, four if you include the crème anglaise. You must make the chocolate pavlovas, the mascarpone mousse and the mascarpone cream using the recipes provided. 
Variations allowed:
•You can use orange juice for the Grand Marnier in the mousse if you don’t use alcohol
•You can omit the sambuca from the mascarpone cream.
•You may substitute any crème anglaise recipe you might already have in your arsenal.

My first surprise was to find out that Mascarpone cheese was only to be found in one specialty spot in our area.  I needed at least 2 cups of Mascarpone and the asking price was $6.00 for 4ounces.  No way I was going to pay that!  So I made my own Mascarpone cheese - which proved to be relatively easy.

(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese) This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese
474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
     Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
     It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
      Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
     Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

     Next up was making the chocolate meringue- I had a lot to do so I decided to make one BIG Pavlova instead of individual servings.  In hindsight (isn't it a wonderful thing to have after a disaster???) I should have stuck with individual pavlovas.  Not that the big one was inedible, but it was hard to cut through and create slices.
Chocolate Meringue (for the chocolate Pavlova):
3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
     Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.
     Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)
     Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)
     Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire.
     Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Recipe 2: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse (for the top of the Pavlova base
1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)  *I used orange juice
     Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.
     Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the orange juicwe and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)
     Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

Recipe 3: Mascarpone Cream (for drizzling):
1 recipe crème anglaise
½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional) *I just omitted this ingredient
½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream
     Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca, if desired, and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.

Recipe 4: Crème Anglaise (a component of the Mascarpone Cream above):
1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar
     In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.
     Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat.
     Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
     Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.

Finally, you put it all together!!!
Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and fresh fruit if desired.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chocolate Chip Strawberry Shortcake

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Chocolate and strawberries just naturally go together for me.  I mean, I'll take them dipped in chocolate, in chocolate strawberry jam (recipe is to die for!) smothered in whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate.... great, now my keyboard has drool on it.

This month's Have the Cake challenge was strawberry shortcake. I know I have made shortcake before but it was way long ago - so long ago that I can't remember when, but my mom reminds me that I did indeed make it for her many years ago. 

Obviously, my fetish for chocolate and strawberries made me seek high and low for a recipe that would allow my beloved mix.  Thank you Taste of Home for coming to my rescue! These chocolate chip shortcakes were fast to put together and put in just enough punch of chocolate to not overpower the sweetness of the strawberries.  Served with homemade whipped cream and it was a plate of deliciousness!

Chocolate Chip Strawberry Shortcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, melted, divided
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
Whipped cream, optional

In a small bowl, combine strawberries and sugar; cover and refrigerate until serving.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, combine cream and 1/2 cup butter; stir into dry ingredients until a thick batter forms. Gently stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by 1/3 cupfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Brush with remaining butter; sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake at 375° for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Cut biscuits in half horizontally. Spoon fruit onto bottom halves. Top with whipped cream if desired; replace biscuit tops. Serve immediately. Yield: 6 servings.
Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put medium size mixing bowl in freezer along with beaters to chill for at least 1/2 hour before mixing.
Remove bowl from freezer and add ingredients.  Whip on medium speed until soft peaks form.

Taking a class with Allison

Wilton has revamped the courses and I was curious about the changes so I convinced my daughter to take the course 1 class with me.  She's ever my little rebel but I love her to pieces!  Just thought I would share with you the first cake she did for the class using the elongated piping skills we learned.  She didn't like any of the patterns that came with the kit (cupcake, hamburger or fish) so I found her a skull and crossbones clip art piece and she did that instead. She used electric pink and green(duff's new colors that michael's carries now) and black.

I made this hamburger cake for my son, Darren, who would eat burgers every day of his life! 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Daring kitchen: Tricolor Vegetable Pâté

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Pâté... never have had the want to try this delicacy (or so am told it is!!). I mean, the thought of eating liver makes me shiver and now add to it mushed liver??? No thank you!!! So after reading that pâté was this month's challenge I was strongly considering taking a pass this month. But wait... isn't the whole point of doing a "challenge" is to challenge yourself. So I kept on reading and the skies opened and the angels sang; there, right before my eyes was the answer to my anguish..... vegetable pâté. I like vegetables (well, most any way!) and so this was certainly going to be doable.
Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pâté with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.
Our choices for the pâté were:
Three Spice Liver Pâté: adapted from Ravenous Couple, which was inspired by White on Rice Couple.
Chicken Liver Pâté: slightly adapted from Stéphane Reynaud’s Terrine
Tricolor Vegetable Pâté: from Bon Appétit Oct 1993 on Epicurious
Trout and Shrimp Pâté: unknown (handed down to Valerie from someone, who got it from someone else, etc.)

For my bread I went with my tried and true French Bread favorite from Better Homes and Gardens.  It has a nice crunchy crust and is still moist on the inside.  The recipe makes 2 loaves of french bread or four baguettes and I've always had success with freezing the loaves I don't use right away. 

The mandatory guidelines of this challenge were to prepare one pâté recipe and one bread recipe of your choice. The pâté has to 1) be baked or refrigerated (or both) for a significant amount of time, so that 2) you have to be able to unmold it onto a serving dish. This is to avoid the possibility of someone puréeing a bunch of vegetables, putting the mixture in a jar, and calling it “vegetable pâté”: that is not a pâté, that is a spread.

Tricolor Vegetable Pâté
Yields one 25 by 12,5 cm (10 by 5 inch) terrine or loaf pan
Line your pan with plastic wrap, overlapping sides.
To make the White Bean Layer  use:
2 x 15-ounce / 900 ml cans cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained thoroughly
1 tbsp / 15 ml fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil
1 tbsp / 15 ml minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2 garlic cloves, pressed

Mash beans in large bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and garlic and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread bean mixture evenly on bottom of prepared pan.
Next make the Red Pepper Layer:
7-ounce / 210 ml jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, chopped
3/4 cup / 180 ml crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces)

Combine peppers and feta in processor and blend until smooth. Spread pepper mixture evenly over bean layer in prepared dish.

Your final layer will be the Pesto Layer:
2 garlic cloves
1 cup / 240 ml fresh basil leaves
1 cup / 240 ml fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup / 60 ml toasted pine nuts
3 tbsp / 45 ml olive oil
1/2 cup / 120 ml low-fat ricotta cheese

First thing is to toast the pine nuts if you have purchased raw pine nuts.  I toasted mine in a frying pan using a teaspoon of butter. Over low heat I stirred the pine nuts until they were a nice golden color. Mince garlic in processor. Add basil, parsley and toasted pine nuts and mince. With machine running, gradually add oil through feed tube and process until smooth. Mix in ricotta. Spread pesto evenly over red pepper layer. Cover with plastic wrap.

Next step is to be patient. You need to let the pâté refrigerate for at least eight hours or overnight. 
To unmold, invert pâté onto serving platter. Peel off plastic wrap from pâté. Garnish with herb sprigs and serve with bread slices.

French Bread
5-1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages active dry yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F)
1 egg white, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon water

In a large mixing bowl stir together 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, and salt. Add the warm water to the flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (8 to 10 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball. Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 1 hour).

Punch dough down. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Cover; let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease a baking sheet. Sprinkle with cornmeal.

Roll each portion of the dough into a 15x10-inch rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side; seal well. Pinch ends and pull slightly to taper. Place seam side down on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl stir together egg white and water. Brush some of the egg white mixture over loaves. Let rise until nearly double in size (35 to 45 minutes).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across the top of each loaf. Bake for 20 minutes. Brush again with some of the egg white mixture. Continue baking for 15 to 20 minutes more or until bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove bread from baking sheet. Cool on wire racks. Makes 2 loaves (28 slices).

Baguettes: Prepare as above, except divide dough into 4 portions. Shape into balls. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease 2 baking sheets or 4 baguette pans; sprinkle with cornmeal. Roll each portion of the dough into a 14x5-inch to 16x5-inch rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side; seal well. Pinch ends and pull slightly to taper. Place seam side down on prepared baking sheets or baguette pans. Continue as directed, except reduce the second baking time to 8 to 10 minutes. Makes 4 baguettes (56 slices).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Martha Stewart's Strawberry Cupcakes

I love food challenges and so I was thrilled when Sugar Betty of MS: Cupcake Club opened up her cupcake challenge to everyone.  I've had Martha Stewart's cupcake book for well over a year now and have only tried one or two recipes from it.  Part of my problem is if I make the things then chances are I'm going to have to eat them!  I'm trying to eat more healthy and even though the cupcakes do contain fruit in them... well, I seriously doubt if that counts towards being "healthy."  So, what to do, what to do; make them for Sunday School snacks!  Between my mom's class of second and third graders, and my class of kindergarten and first graders we have some serious snackers between us!  Hey, I'll do whatever it takes to be able to still bake and if that means sugaring up some kids, well than so be it! 
This month's challenge pick was chosen by Sherry from Sherry Starts Cooking - Strawberry Cupcakes.
These are some sweet smelling cupcakes and the recipe made three dozen regular sized cupcakes.  I got by with using one pound of giant strawberries from the grocery store.  It has been too wet around here for the fresh stuff to be out yet so it was with great sadness that I had to rely on the grocers bounty.

For the frosting I used Martha Stewart's Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  I know that the recipe in the book calls for making the Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream, but I ran out of strawberries (to many hands pickin' at the berries) and instead added a couple tablespoons of some chocolate strawberry jam I had put up last year.   It was delcious!! I am surprised I had enough frosting to cover the cupcakes since we did a ton of "test" tasting to be sure it was good enough for the cupcakes!
If you don't have Martha Stewart's book "Cupcakes: 175 inspired ideas for everyon's favorite treat" follow this link here for the frosting recipe.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Darren's 22nd birthday cake

Darren loves cats... and when we came across this cake of a cat on top of a ball of yarn, Neil and I knew we had to do something like it for Darren.  However, Darren's dessert of choice happened to be a chocolate cream pie and not cake; so instead I rolled rice krispy cereal treats in to a tight ball and covereed it with thin strips of fondant giving it the appearance of yarn.  Of course it was my husband who did the fabulous molding job of the cat! 
  New recipes coming soon!