Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TWD - the party will be later

Hi folks, just a quick note to say that the Perfect Party Cake will be coming along sometime this week -- just not yet! Frosting made & in freezer. Orange curd made & in fridge. Cake, well...not yet.

Friday, June 26, 2009

TWD postscript -- dacquoise becomes sundae

In my last post I reported that the dacquoise was pretty good, but not our favorite. News flash -- it is great when you turn the components into a sundae!

Haagen-Daz vanilla ice cream, pineapple chunks, white chocolate ganache, caramel sauce, broken-up dacquoise, toasted coconut.

I rather like the dacquoise as little crunchy bits. And the white chocolate is kind of nice as long as it is a subtle whisper in the background...

I guess my heart belongs to down-home desserts. Fancy bowls are optional but fun.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TWD: Coconut - Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise

This week's recipe for "Tuesdays with Dorie" was a Coconut - Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise, chosen by Andrea of Andrea in the Kitchen.

Whenever I'm flipping through Dorie's book, I have to stop a moment by the picture of this dessert. It looks fabulous! Layers of crunchy meringue with ground-up coconut and almonds (that's the "dacquoise part. Where do the French come up with these names?). Creamy filling. Luscious roasted pineapple slices. Crunchy toasted coconut. Ooh-la-la!

Unfortunately, as the time came to make it, I began to worry. The weather was hot and humid and showed every sign of staying that way. (And it has.) Everyone says that meringues don't do well in humid weather. Was it worth turning on the whole-house air conditioner to make these? What was I going to do for "Plan B?" Fortunately, my husband was all for the idea of turning on the air conditioner, so we could stay with "Plan A."

Plan A did involve making only half the recipe. It took about 2/3 of one of those smaller (but delicious!) "Honey Sweet" pineapples to produce 36 slices. (Yes, I like math. 3 layers of pineapple arranged 3 x 8 = 72 pieces for the whole recipe.) This was the first time I'd ever used the broiler in our stove/oven. I'm pleased to report it works well, but it seems to brown a little faster in the middle. Or maybe my slices were uneven. Or both. I sprinkled them with a little rum after broiling.

I'd defrosted some of the frozen egg whites left over from previous baking (another reason I wanted to make the dacquoise). They whipped up beautifully and I was able to fold in the ground-up coconut/almond mixture with no problems. Whew! (The last time I tried to make a meringue-based dessert, the folding-in step was a complete disaster. I ended up with something resembling marshmallow soup. Not a good thing.)

More calculations here -- Dorie's recipe calls for making 3 rectangles of 12 x 9 inches for a total of 216 square inches. For my half-recipe, I made 6 rectangles of 6 x 3 inches. The next part was easy -- bake for 3 hours. A good time to make the other components of the recipe, clean out the fridge a little, read food blogs...interrupted occasionally by my husband saying "Isn't it done yet?"

I'm not a big fan of white chocolate. I was considering leaving it out altogether, but eventually decided to make just a quarter recipe of the ganache, and then add in some drained yogurt. We were low on yogurt, though, so I also mixed in some sour cream. (D**n those fat calories, full speed ahead!)

And a half-recipe of Dorie's Caramel Sauce (page 466) with rum and sea salt added -- just because! Oh, and the toasted coconut for on top -- almost forgot that!

I cut my dacquoise squares in half and arranged them in two layers. Lovely!

Unfortunately, we both thought this was only "pretty good." Here are the details:

Roasted pineapple: fabulous, especially with a little rum!
Dacquoise: very nice texture, crispy/crunchy yet tender. But too sweet and not much taste of coconut/almond.
Ganache: before adding the yogurt/sour cream, it was too sweet and tasted strongly of white chocolate. Adding the sour ingredients helped the flavor considerably, but made it a bit runny. After trying several brands (all "good" ones) and several recipes, I've come to the conclusion that I just don't like white chocolate. Cocoa butter should be eaten combined with cocoa solids the way Mother Nature designed it!
Salted Rum Caramel sauce: nomm nomm nomm! Next time, make a whole recipe--I'm sure we'll find uses for it. On second thought, maybe it would be better for our waistlines if I didn't...

What I learned:

1) Roasted pineapple is fabulous. Caramel sauce is fabulous (wait, I knew that already). A touch of rum is fabulous (oh, I knew that already, too).
2) I can make dacquoise! Meringue success! But alas, I really don't like things that are mostly meringue. Too sweet, don't taste like much of anything else. Well, there are plenty of other egg-white recipes to try -- like next week's cake. In future I'll be looking for recipes that combine egg whites & sugar with lots of other flavorful ingredients.
3) Sorry, I just don't like the taste of white chocolate. This expensive ingredient is wasted on me.
4) I love the combination of flavors / textures in this dessert, but next time I'd use different components to create it. For the "pastry" part -- how about coconut sweet tart pastry, or puff pastry, or even a trifle with rum-soaked cake? and for the creamy part, ice cream, or some combination of yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, whipped cream?

Andrea, thanks for choosing this recipe! I had fun making the components and assembling them. Unfortunately, we weren't completely thrilled with the result. But, I joined this group to challenge myself and learn more about baking, and in that respect, this recipe was a complete success!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

TWD: Parisian Mango Tarts, late, and no ice cream

For June 16, 2009, Jessica of My Baking Heart chose the "Parisian Apple Tarts" for our "Tuesdays with Dorie" assignment. I decided to make them with mangoes instead, as Dorie suggests in the "Playing around" section of the recipe.

I finished these wonderful tartlets just before flying out to Puyallup, Washington, to attend my nephew's high school graduation. So, a late post for last week's recipe and no Honey-Peach Ice Cream for this week.

Some time ago I saw a recipe for a very quick puff pastry made in a food processor. I've been hoping for an excuse to try it, so this recipe fit the bill! It was indeed easy. Prepare dough one evening (very quick), roll and fold, wrap and chill. Cut into pieces and roll out the next evening; chill briefly and trim edges. Third evening, make the tarts!

Mangoes aren't naturally round like apples. In fact they are a really strange shape. So I trimmed my mango halves into nice little half-spheres and chopped up the extra bits fairly fine. I put a small pile of scraps under the quartered half-spheres. They took just about 25 minutes to bake -- maybe a little more. The butter and sugar mostly slid down to the bottom and made a lovely "sauce" around the bottom of the mango pieces.

Wow, this was great! The pastry was wonderfully flaky and buttery, the fruit was sweet / tart. Easy and fabulous!


Quickest Puff Pastry, by Nick Malgieri
From his recipe for Sausage Rolls, currently the recipe of the month on his site (but it will probably move after a while). Here's the link: http://www.nickmalgieri.com/recipes.html
This is 2/3 of his recipe.

1/2 cup cold water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (9.0 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1 1/3 cup (10.67 oz) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1. Combine the water and salt in a measuring cup or small bowl and stir well to dissolve the salt completely. Set aside.
2. Place the flour in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add a fourth of the butter (1/3 cup) and pulse repeatedly to mix in finely. Add the remaining butter and pulse just until it is distributed in the flour mixture, 2 to 3 times.
3. Add the salted water and pulse 2 to 3 times again. The dough will not form a ball.
4. Invert the dough to a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade. Lightly flour the dough and form it into a rough rectangle.
5. Gently roll the dough, making sure there is always enough flour between the work surface and the dough to prevent it from sticking, until it is a rectangle about 12 x 20 inches.
6. Fold the top long edge over the middle section, and then fold the bottom edge over that to make three equal layers, giving a 4x20 rectangle. Roll the dough up like a jelly roll from one of the short edges. Use the palm of your hand to flatten the rolled dough into a rectangular shape, about 5 x 6 inches, and about 1 inch thick. (Note: at this point, I rolled the dough out a bit more, and gave it another "business letter" fold.)
7. Refrigerate the dough in plastic wrap until it is firm, at least 2 hours.
8. Roll the dough out to a rectangle 12x18 inches.

Storage: You may keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before using it. If you are preparing the dough longer in advance, double-wrap and freeze it. Defrost the dough in the refrigerator overnight before using.

Note: I ended up with 686 grams / 24.2 ounces of dough. I divided the dough into three equal pieces. The pieces were long and narrow, so I folded them in half again to form a square. I rolled each one out to slightly more than 8x8 inches, then trimmed to exactly 8x8 inches. Two of the pieces are now in my freezer. The other one was cut into 4 squares, and each square was trimmed to an octagon. The scraps are also in the freezer.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

TWD: Cappuccino Cake Squares and a cat adventure

I had such good intentions for posting "Tuesdays with Dorie" on time this month. And then life came along and slapped us upside the head -- but, read on, the story has a happy ending.

I made Dorie's lovely Cinnamon Squares (Cappuccino variation) for a pot-luck on Monday. Took pictures, figured I'd finish up my post on Tuesday.

Our younger cat Annie didn't come in Monday night. That happens fairly often, so we weren't worried. But then she didn't show up on Tuesday -- not for breakfast, not in the afternoon, not in the evening...

We were worried. Really worried. She never stays away that long. To make a long story short, we spent the next several days talking to all the neighbors, checking all the hidden areas in our yard and neighboring yards, calling local vets & the Humane society, and worrying and grieving. I was too depressed to want to write up my TWD post.

Sunday afternoon we sat down for brunch in the sunroom. I was sipping my coffee and thinking, "Gosh, I'm beginning to accept that Annie is gone." Suddenly my husband Jim exclaimed, "What the f***!?" and there was Annie, calmly walking across the side yard.

It feels like a miracle! She seems to be fine; a little tired, a little jumpy, and her feet are dirty -- but no injuries, not sick or thirsty or starved. And of course, she'll never tell us about her adventure...cats never do. Sigh.

So, with no further ado, here are the Cappuccino Cake Squares.

I reduced the sugar to 3/4 cup, which was just right for our tastes. Wrapped the pan in home-made "cake strips" to help keep the edges from getting too brown. (What are they? Just long strips of aluminum foil, folded over wet paper towels, and clamped with metal clamps from an office supply store. If you use heavy-duty aluminum foil, they will last a long time.)

The cake took about 42 minutes to bake. For the frosting, I used 4 ounces of milk chocolate and 2 ounces of bittersweet, because somehow milk chocolate sounded like a good match to the coffee and cinnamon flavors of the cake. Unfortunately, I forgot that milk chocolate is even more sensitive to heat than dark chocolate, and some of the chocolate around the edges of the bowl ended up "seizing." But I beat in some more butter, which took care of most of the problem, and then strained the frosting through a fine sieve directly onto the top of the cake. That worked.

I was in a hurry, so I had to cut the cake while the cake and frosting were both warm. Messy messy messy but still delicious! The milk chocolate frosting was great. The icing really makes this cake.

It wasn't quite as big a hit at the potluck as the brownies or rhubarb squares -- but what can you expect? Still, it was much appreciated, and nibbling on the leftovers was a bit of consolation during our 5 days of worry.

All's well that ends well...

And before I end this post, thanks to Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures for choosing this recipe. Great choice!