Archive for November, 2011

Sans Milan

By the time this posts, I will be sitting in my mothers living room in New York for my annual Christmas pilgrimage back home. Since it is late at night and I just remembered I need to type this up (and I’m tired and stressed), this will probably end up a little clumsy, so please forgive me.

This months Bakers Challenge was brought to us by Catherine of Munchie Musings. She chose two Phillipino desserts to try. I wish I could say that I made both of them. But I didn’t. I have been baking cookies to put in the freezer for my better to eat and share while we are away. So please, go to her site and check out the other, very interesting dessert, which is called Bibinka.

The one that I made  is a Sans Rival cake. “Sans rival” means “without rival” and any Filipino will argue with you that this is true. Although it’s one of the most popular desserts in the Philippines, its origins are certainly French. In the 1920’s to 30’s there were many Filipinos who went abroad to study. A good number went to France and learned many French cooking techniques which they then brought home. A Sans Rival is made with layers of dacquoise, typically using crushed cashews, with very rich French buttercream frosting. The dacquoise is allowed to bake and dry to a crispy layer so that there is the crunch of pastry and nuts with the buttery, silky frosting.

For my version, I made an almond chocolate meringue with a coffee buttercream. Not very imaginative but really decadent and delicious. I will, without a doubt, be making again in the next few weeks. Maybe even for Christmas dessert. It was that good. And easy (ish). You can make this any shape and size you want; I chose cut the meringue recipe in half and made small circles. the end result was individual sized portions. I also made a slightly (4 inch) larger one and it is safely nestled in the freezer for him to eat when he chooses.

Ingredients (FULL RECIPE):

10 large egg whites, room temp
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) cream of tartar
¼ cup (60 ml) (20 gm) (2/3 oz) Dutch processed cocoa
2 cups (480 ml) (240 gm) (8½ oz) toasted, slice almonds (grind 1 1/2 cups and save 1/2 cup sliced for decoration)

Note: You will need four layers which will mean that you might have to bake in two batches. Be sure to use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans for each batch.

1. Preheat oven to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3.
2. Line cake pan bottoms with parchment paper and butter and flour the sides really well.
3. In a large clean, dry glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium until foamy (2 mins.). Sprinkle with cream of tartar. Gradually add sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, continuing to beat now at high-speed until stiff shiny peaks form. (about 7-10 mins.)

Fold in cocoa powder and finely ground nuts (1 1/2 cups) Remember, the sliced nuts are for decorating the finished cake.

5. Divide meringue into four equal parts. Spread in pans,evenly to the edges,  or like I did,and draw templates on the underside of a piece of parchment paper so you can do whatever size  you choose. If doing batches, use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans for each batch.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the meringue from the baking pans while still hot; allow to cool slightly. Peel off the parchment paper while it is still warm, it is difficult to remove sometimes when they have completely cooled.

7. When cool, trim edges so that all 4 meringue layers are uniformly shaped. Set aside.

French Buttercream:

5 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) white granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
1¼ cup (300 ml) (2½ sticks) (285 gm) (10 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
Optional Flavorings: 2 oz (55 gm) unsweetened chocolate, melted, or 1½ teaspoon (7 ½ ml) almond extract, or 1½ teaspoon (7 ½ ml) vanilla extract, or any flavor you like


1. Put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Beat at high-speed until the yolks have doubled in volume and are a lemon yellow.
2. Put the sugar and water in a heavy pan and cook over medium heat, stirring the sides down only until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup reaches 235°F/112°C (or thread stage).
3. With the mixer on high, very slowly pour the syrup down the sides of the bowl, until all has been added. Be careful as the very hot syrup could burn you if it splashes from the beaters. Continue beating on high until the mixture is ROOM TEMPERATURE (about 15 mins). Still on high, beat in the soft, room temperature butter a tablespoon at a time. Add flavoring after you beat in the butter. Refrigerate the buttercream for at least an hour, and whip it smooth just before you use it.


Set bottom meringue on cake board with a dab of butter cream to hold it in place. Spread a
thin layer of buttercream and then place another meringue on top. Repeat with a thin layer of
buttercream, meringue, thin layer of buttercream, meringue, and finally buttercream the top and
sides. Decorate with reserved nuts.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. It is easier to cut cold. May freeze.

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Here in Canada, Thanksgiving was celebrated well over a month ago, but since I will always be a New Yorker, the real Thanksgiving for me is this week. I was planning on doing a big dinner here since we have had requests from a few of our Canadian friends looking to get in on a big U.S. Thanksgiving foodfest, but I am getting to feel too rushed since I am leaving for NY next week. I won’t make it in time for the holiday, so here is my little tiny pumpkin treat. These are lovely at breakfast with a little maple butter.

Popovers are an American treat that are a direct descendent to Yorkshire pudding. the only real difference is that Yorkshire pudding is baked in one large pan that is coated with the drippings of roast meat, and popovers are individual portions with the pan coated in melted butter (or in this case, PAM). Popovers are crisp and puffy on the outside, custardy on the inside; truly a delightful treat, whether you serve it with coffee in the morning or with roast beef in the evening (just delete the sugar and spice)

Check out this recipe for popovers.  It is from 1877! Other than a few tiny tweaks that have been made in various cookbooks over the years, it is still essentially the same recipe that is still followed today. Talk about longevity! Or how about the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”!.  Bake on…

Pumpkin Pie Scented Popovers

1 Cup  all-purpose flour (I prefer unbleached)
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon if you prefer)
1 1/4 Cup milk
2 large eggs
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sift together the flour, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Whisk together the milk, eggs,sugar, melted butter and vanilla. Pour over the dry ingredients and whisk until just incorporated. The batter should still be slightly lumpy. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes (or up to 3 hours. Don’t you just love make ahead recipes?). Okay, that was easy enough, now onto the slightly more tricky part.

Preheat your oven to 400 F.
You need to do this 30 minutes before you plan to bake your popovers. You need a good, hot oven for the “pop” in popovers.

Get you popover tray (or muffin tray, though you won’t get as much height) and spray the bottom of each mold with PAM. Place it in the oven for 10 minutes before baking.

After the popover pan has been heating up in the oven for 10 minutes, get a potholder and quickly take the pan out of the oven (close the door again). Quickly divide the batter between the six popover molds. It will sizzle when you pour in your batter.

Place the pan back in the oven and turn the heat up to 425F. Bake for 25-30 minutes . Do not be tempted to open the oven door to check on the popovers until the last 5 minutes to avoid deflating them. Remove them from the oven and unmold them onto a cooling rack. Puncture the side of each one with a small knife to let the steam inside them escape. Dust with confectioners sugar, if desired. Enjoy!

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I was just in the mood for a bundt cake. Baking is my form of relaxation therapy (though sometimes it seems so stressful…) and I had a container of sour cream just calling out to be put into a cake. A chocolatey cake. In a pretty pan. Yes, a bundt cake. Now all I can think of is, “why don’t I bake these more often”? What a showstopper to bring out at the end of a meal with friends – or how about as a gift to say “thank you” to someone special?

This one is rich and chocolatey, but not overly sweet at all. As I get older I like my chocolate to taste more like chocolate, and less like sugar.  The best part of this recipe is that is actually tastes better as the days go on. In fact, don’t eat it the day you make it. Bake it the day (or two) before you need it and  let the flavors really develop. The chocolate sauce enrobing the cake keeps it beautifully moist and flavorful. Bake On…

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

1 Cup (8 oz) unsalted butter
1/2 C + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I like to use a mix of black cocoa and dutch process)
3/4 Cup strong coffee
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1 Cup (8 oz) sour cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 Cups (8 oz) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 10 cup bundt pan (I actually just use PAM)

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter with the cocoa powder. Whisk occasionally to get out any lumps. Take off the heat and whisk in the coffee, sour cream , eggs and vanilla. Stir in the sugar.  Transfer the liquid mixture to a mixing bowl. Sift in the flour, baking soda, corn starch and salt. Beat with a mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes (or by hand for 4 minutes) until smooth and shiny. Pour into your prepared cake pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. Now, whenever I read the recommended bake time on a cake I always set my timer for 5 minutes before (in this case 30 minutes) and test the cake by sticking it with a wooden skewer to see how done it is and then every 5 minutes after that so that I never overbake my cake.

Let the cake cool in the pan, on a cooling rack, for 25 minutes before inverting the cake out onto the cooling rack.

Make the Glaze:

* If you do not have Nutella on hand (or want to use it) just increase the bittersweet chocolate to 9oz)

1 Cup (8 oz) heavy cream
6 Ounces dark chocolate
3 oz Nutella

Finely chop the dark chocolate. Place in a medium sized bowl and set aside. Heat the cream over medium heat to a simmer. It should be hot but not boiling. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate; let this sit for 3 minutes. Add the Nutella and whisk until everything comes together and makes a smooth, shiny sauce. It will look a little curdled at first but just keep whisking and suddenly it will be gorgeous.

Final Assembly:

Place a sheet of wax paper (or parchment) under the cooling rack. This is to catch the extra sauce as you are pouring it over the cake; it keeps your counter clean and makes it easy to pour back into your bowl.

Slowly start pouring the warm chocolate sauce over the cake. You can start in a zig zag pattern and just keep overlapping as you go around. Ultimately, in the end, you want the entire cake enrobed in a layer of chocolate sauce. Mmm… now doesn’t that sound good?  You will be glad about that sheet of wax paper catching the drippings at this point. Any leftover sauce (you should have about 1/2 cup left) is excellent on ice cream (or maybe just with a spoon?…).

Transfer the cake to a cake stand and sprinkle with some swedish sugar (totally optional, but pretty).


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