Quick, Simple- Chocolate Tart

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Just a quick post of a nice simple dessert. They are nice because they don’t take all that long to do, and the individuality of each one means if you have a varied crowd you can tailor to individual tastes/preferences. These I made a chocolate cream and then a quick homemade cream to top with a strawberry slice.

Mille-feuille- or for the many Americans… Napoleon

This falls under the list of one of my favorite pastries I’ve had from growing up. I remember years ago when my grandfather was still around it was one his favorites so that desire got imparted onto me. The problem these days though is, where exactly in Southern New Jersey can you find a “legit” fresh version of one. Well, I haven’t come across one, so I did the next best thing…I consulted my Bouchon Bakery cookbook and started from square one.

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Now, I am sure there are manyb recipes and ways of creating this pastry- for everything from how to make a nice laminated dough variations in making the cream(s). But, like anything else, if you want the best, you may have to put in quite a bit of time and effort.

The laminated dough concept is not too difficult to start up. There are some tricks and things to look out for. When doing the turns you want to make sure the dough is nice and solid as the butter block in the middle if it gets to soft will make it harder to fold and get the distinct layers you want when it bakes. Overall, the process is not difficult, but to do ir properly to “Bouchon perfection” takes quite a bit of time.

For the cream, which the end point is a nice mousseline cream, there are two bases- start off with a buttercream and also a pastry cream and then blend the two together. As it is something I had not necessarily seen in the grocery stores (I had purchased on Amazon) for the pastry cream go with using custard powder). Upon completion of blending these items, then spread out on a sheet pan and freeze the rectangular block.

After the dough is baked, it gets cut into strips which then the frozen cream is cut to fit and then it is alternating layers. Personal preference for topping, I made a fresh whipped cream as well as a nice chocolate-cream sauce.

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Enjoy

Hybrid Paris Brest

This particular dessert has combined elements from a few traditional pastries. The choux pastry and the shaping style come from the Paris Brest which has its shape to represent a wheel to commemorate the Paris-Brest bicycle race. The chocolate cream I had made would be more reminiscent of an eclair style filling versus the traditional praline flavored cream used in the pastry.

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For the top, I had also made a chocolate glaze as well as piping on some fresh sweet cream and threw on some crushed hazelnuts. The rich chocolate bodes well with the complimenting flavor of the cream as well as the added element of the hazelnuts.

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Enjoy.

A Variety of Breakfast Options

This post will encompass some various breakfast items I have done over the past few months. Some are simplistic and flavorful and others require a little more work (are well worth it).

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The first one is my attempt at the croissant. I am sure there are plenty of simplistic and easy versions of making such a breakfast pastry, however from previous experiences in NYC I had to go right to the source and used the recipe from the Bouchon Bakery cookbook.

Not having a strong baking background I am unsure as to some of the timing aspects, i.e. having to do “turns” every so often, but it is rather awesome when you roll them out put em in the oven and that first bite- crisp, flaky, all the layers that were created. In this particular instance however, I went all out like the version I had in the city and made a nice almond cream filling and added some jam. I then topped with some honey and almond pieces and then baked in the oven.

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This next breakfast is somewhat more common to make on a nice morning. Combination of an omelet- in this case I kept it simple with shallot, bacon, and cheddar along with a nice roasted pear (brown sugar and a berry brandy) comes together as a quick yet flavorful meal.

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A nice fulfilling meal doesn’t get too much easier than this. A nice toasted bagel, topped with a poached egg and some sauteed Chanterelles.

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Enjoy.

Hybrid Danish

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Hybrid Danish

Just a quick picture of my hybrid danish/scone. Utilizes a dough more utilized with scones but I added the touch of a cherry jam/mascarpone mixture which is more reminiscent of a danish. Nice meal whether its a day like today- a little cooler and some rain Or tomorrow- may have some sunshine and can sit outside and enjoy it with a cup of coffee.

Macarons…some various seasonal flavors

Going way back to sometime in the early Spring when I had first done macarons (click here) you can find my general recipe and it takes you through the process from food processing and sifting ingredients to folding in and eventually pouring the batter and cooking in the oven.

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This post is more into the aspect of filling flavors and being how we are almost, sort of in between seasons, I figured I could go in either direction (though more fall flavors will come deeper into the fall).

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In some cases, I made a white chocolate gnache with simply using a Ghiradelli White Chocolate bar and some heavy cream in a sauce pan and constant stirring (followed by cooling in the refrigerator. In these cases I placed a thin layer on both sides of the macaron and then either places in between some fresh raspberry that I had cut into smaller pieces or a whole blueberry. Optionally, some of the raspberry ones are topped with flaked coconut.

Another fruit based cream filling I had done involved fresh cantaloupe, mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, and some basil. These were all heated and blended together to make a nice thick cream. Some of the shells for these were topped with crushed mint leaves.

A fall seasonal flavor I tried was utilizing apples and fresh ginger. These ingredients were chopped finely and mixed together in a light homemade caramel until soft enough to become a more homogenous caramel cream.

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Finally I ended with filling some with the traditional chocolate gnache (utilization of bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolates by Ghiradelli). In all, a nice variety of flavor combinations, was pleased with flavors as well as the way the shells cooked and came out. They developed nice feet and there were no issues with air pockets of any sort.

Later to come in the fall, when I do find some fresh pumpkin, going to be experimenting with that. Also looking into other apple combinations as well as doing something with poached pears.

Stay tuned.

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Borrowed Idea— Apple Strudel

One of the many things I love about having the blog is interacting with fellow bloggers and coming across many ideas which may be good as they are to try or in some cases tailoring recipes to your own liking/cravings.

In this particular case, I had borrowed the recipe by Liz over at MY FAVOURITE PASTIME and made some tweaks to an already amazing apple strudel.

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If you are following the original recipe, nothing really changes with the dough except I added a little vanilla extract at that point. To make it easier for you, here is the original dough:

  • 225g (13/4 cup, 8oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 30ml (2 tablespoons) vegetable oil
  • 4-5 tablespoons tepid water (I added 4 tablespoons water)
  • ½ teaspoon cider vinegar—

I did not use the vinegar instead I just poured in some vanilla extract.

The major changes in my version came a little but in the way of making the filling. To make it easier for you here is Liz’ original filling:

  • 450g (1Ib) cooking apples (I used 4 apples, granny smith)
  • 75g sugar (⅓ cup, 3oz) If you want it sweeter, please suit your palate and double or triple
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 40g (1½oz) flaked almonds
  • 50g (⅓ cup, 2oz) seedless raisins
  • I tablespoon grated lemon or lime rind (I used lime rind)

In my case, I went with Granny Smith apples as well (they are by far my favorite) and in the realm of sugar I did a combination of plain old sugar and some brown sugar. I’m also not a big raisin guy but I do love cranberries so I switched to Craisins. My next major change is how/when I prepared my filling. The original recipe called for making it as close to filling time as possible. Me, I like things to marinate and ferment, so before letting the dough rest for an hour, I prepared the apples (put in bowl with some lemon juice so they do not brown), added the craisins, the almonds, and besides cinnamon I added some ground clove and some nutmeg. To really strengthen what I will call my “fall flavors” I added in a few teaspoons of pot-distilled rum, mixed well and set covered in fridge for close to an hour and a half. I then took the recipe through to the end from that point with using melted butter to close up the strudels and to baste before cooking in the oven.

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Thanks again Liz for a creation worth remaking. Looking forward to many more.

 

*Post Edit: Forgot to mention, after the baking time, I knocked off the roasted almonds off the top, brushed with honey and stuck them back on. Yes I know I could have roasted them on the side however, it was a post baking thought that popped to mind. 🙂

Made a whole meal..but you only get to see the dessert.

This past week I had went back down to Atlantic City to help finish on a couple of houses (are only a few left and then some of the people will be going to other areas to help out). I figured it would be a nice thing for one of the nights to make a nice dinner. Well since we had a long day and everyone was hungry, was no real time to take pictures of the dinner itself. If you love grilled chicken and grilled potatoes, then Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction is the book for you. Both the Mustard-Aoli grilled potatoes and the Grilled Red Chile-Buttermilk Brined Chicken with a spicy mango-honey glaze were phenomenal. But on with the dessert which I had come up with based on a variety of different ideas. It is a very nice summer dessert because the whipped filling isn’t overly heavy and raspberries and chocolate are good any time of the year.

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To start, I made a thin chocolate souffle type cake in a 12×16 inch pan. Really a combination of making a simple meringue and then in a separate bowl a chocolate-whiskey combination then folding in and pouring-then bake. For the filling, I made a simple whipped cream with mascarpone cheese and vanilla extract. After the initial cake was baked and sliced into rectangles, I then put layers of cream with raspberries on top between layers of the chocolate cake. It is then topped with powdered sugar. To finish, I made a chocolate-whiskey sauce to drizzle over and serve. The nice thing was besides a little bit of baking time, it is not time consuming at all and only requires a few ingredients and is not too hard to make.

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Unrelated, I also must say from a photographic perspective I love the countertop and tiled wall where we are staying at while down there. Love to have that in my own kitchen someday.

Enjoy.

An Afternoon Affair (or maybe 2)… Macarons

Yes, you read the title right…it is a macaron (not to be confused with macaroon- which my mom had already done on facebook). I wouldn’t say they are excruciatingly hard like some people and blogs have made them out to be (though there is quite some patience needed to get the job done)- I did find it to be a good experience and something of a future project. The flavors and combinations are endless for these bite-sized snacks.

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The first battle was finding the right recipe or using various sources and coming to a determination. The NotSoHumblePie  blog was a great starting point to determine a general recipe foundation.

My recipe is as follows:

130 gram Almond Flour

190 gram Powdered Sugar

100 gram Egg White

35 gram Granulated Sugar

 

The Egg white and granulated sugar are whisked up until a nice meringue is formed with somewhat hard peaks. As my one friend had been told by his “pastry-experienced” brother…you know when it is done when you can flip over the mixing bowl and it stays inside.” So I did this…and it worked so I was happy.

The almond flour and powdered sugar I put in the food processor and then put it through a sifter. If anything such as cocoa powder is added I do it pre-processor. Added dyes are done in the meringue before adding the flour mix.

After those two steps are done, take a quarter of the flour mix, add to meringue and fold in. You do this quarterly until it is all incorporated and you remove the air out of the meringue. Worth noting that too much folding will leave you with a runny batter and then be unable to make nice circles for the individual pastries.

After folding in, put in a pastry bag, and pipe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (if you can get the sheets as the lay out flat-very important for these. Then I let them sit out 30-60 minutes (outer film layer forms and get out air bubbles) before putting in the oven (about 280 degrees) varies on individual ovens for about 16 minutes.

My initial set of macarons (as with everything I do, I go all in), I started with a “dough” that incorporated some cocoa powder in it (flavor and a light brown color). For fillings of these I did a simple chocolate ganache (bittersweet chocolate and heavy cream) as well as other which had a fresh banana-cream I had made up.

Suffice to say however, something went wrong with my first batch as I pulled them out of the oven and they did not look the part (tops were not so smooth). Second time was the charm (and a little extra blending of the almond flour and powdered sugar in the processor).

The next batch, I added some red/yellow dye (turned into a light orange). To these I made a blood orange-Cointreau blend with mascarpone cheese. I also made a mixed berry jam for others in the batch.

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So on to day two (wanted to make some more…nice dessert type of dish for a graduation party this weekend). For the first time since I got it for my birthday like 2 weeks back I got to use my dehydrator. I had some mint leaves/stems so I dehydrated them for about 2 hours until dried out. I then took the leaves off the stems and proceeded to grind them in my mortar/pestle. This was incorporated in the mix pre-processor and then I added a little extra “green” by way of dye.

Upon completion of this set, I decided to fill them with a chocolate ganache as they would be a mint-chocolate combination. For best results, they are kept in the refrigerator in a sealed container for 1-3 days initial (allows the moisture from the fillings to go into the shells). Just take out and bring up to room temperature…time for dessert.

What I love about them is the endless possibilities. Next time around I want to infuse with vanilla and do a butterceam filling with fresh raspberries. There’s just so much to try, so many flavors…

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Enjoy.