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Since I skipped the last two Daring Bakers Challenge’s I was determined to get back in the swing this month. The September challenge was hosted by Lucie of Chez Lucie and she chose a traditional Czech pastry called Kolache. We were given thee different versions to try: Pražský koláč (Prague Kolach), Chodské koláče (Kolache from Chodsko), and   Dvojctihodné/Moravské koláče (Two Fillings/Moravian Kolaches) .   According to Wikipedia, Montgomery, Minnesota is the kolacky capital of the world. Who knew?? Maybe because they are so tasty….

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I made the Prague Kolache two weeks ago for a dinner we had with friends. I really was incredibly simple to put together and was light and delicious. When people ask for seconds I know it’s a winner. I could have eaten the whole thing myself. It’s essentially a large, round bread filled with a lightened pastry crème. For mine I chose to make a homemade butterscotch pudding for a little added flavor but the original calls for a simple custard. Do what floats your boat (or what you have on hand).

The Moravian Kolaches are little pillows of dough filled with a lightly sweetened quark and topped with a fruit jam.   Since I didn’t have any quark I used sour cream that I strained for 24 hours to thicken it. Again, make it work for you. I cheated on the third version by using some of the leftover dough and filling from the morovian version (see the  photo above). Please stop by Lucies blog to see her great step by step photos of all three versions.

 

 

While I really liked every version, the Prague version was hands down the winner, both for flavor and ease of preparation. Please try them and get back to me which was your favorite. Bake on!

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Ingredients
for cake:
1¾ cups (420 ml) (9 oz) (250 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
½ cup (120 ml) (125 gm) mayonnaise (store-bought or home-made), room temperature (yes, mayonnaise)

2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz) (30 gm) granulated sugar
1 small egg, room temperature
15 gm (½ oz) fresh yeast or 1 packet (2 teaspoons) (7gm) dry active yeast
5 tablespoons (75 ml) milk, warm
½ teaspoon (3 gm) salt
for the pastry cream:
2 cups (500 ml) milk, divided
½ cup (120 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon (½ oz) (15 gm)vanilla sugar
½ cup (120 ml) (2-2/3 oz) (75 gm) vanilla pastry cream powder (such as Birds)
1 stick (½ cup) (4 oz) (125 gm) butter, room temperature
5 tablespoons (75 ml) heavy whipping cream, chilled
for streusel topping:
1/3 cup (1¾ oz) (50 gm) plain flour
¼ cup (60 ml) (1¾ oz) (50 gm) butter, chilled and diced
¼ cup (60 ml) (1¾ oz) (50 gm) caster (or granulated) sugar
½ teaspoon (2 gm) ground cinnamon
for finishing:
1 small egg, lightly beaten

Directions:
In a bowl of your stand mixer, sift flour and make a hole in the middle. Crumble the yeast into the hole, add 1 teaspoon sugar and about 3 teaspoons warm milk. Mix yeast, sugar and milk with fork and lightly sprinkle the surface with flour. Cover the bowl with towel and let rise for 10-15 minutes. Add rest ingredients (mayonnaise, sugar, milk, egg and salt) and knead with dough hook on low speed for 10 minutes, until you have smooth dough. If you are using instant yeast, it is okay to place everything into the bowl at once.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cover with towel or plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour to double in volume. Form the dough into a ball and place it onto the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With your palms and fingers press the dough and shape it to disc about 20–25 cm (8-10 inch) in diameter and 2–3 cm (¾-1 inch)thick. Let rise for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat your oven to moderate 320°F/160°C/gas mark 3 .

Make the streusel topping. In a medium bowl, mix together sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add cold butter and with your fingers, mix all ingredients until crumbly. Brush the cake with the beaten egg and sprinkle with generous amount of streusel topping. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack.DSC_1517

 

Prepare the pastry cream.
In a small bowl, mix well ½ cup (125ml) milk with the vanilla pastry cream powder. Set aside. In a saucepan, mix the rest of the milk 1½ cup (375ml) with the sugar and vanilla sugar and bring it to boil, stir occasionally. Add the milk-pasty cream powder mixture and boil for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Transfer the mixture into a bowl of your standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment and let cool completely, while stirring constantly on a low speed. Add diced butter and mix together.
Separately whip the double cream until stiff. Mix with vanilla cream.

Don’t be ashamed to use boxed vanilla pudding!

Cut cooled cake lengthwise and spread the cream onto the bottom part. Cover with upper part. Cut into 8 to 10 pieces

 

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MORAVIAN KOLACHES

Servings: about 30 small or 10 large kolaches 

 

Ingredients
for dough
3-2/3 cup (880 ml) (17-2/3 oz) (500 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour (use semi-coarse grounded if you can find in your store)
¾ cup (180 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1 cup (250 ml) milk, warm
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2-2/3 oz) (75 gm) butter, melted
30 gm (1 oz) fresh yeast or 2 packets (4 teaspoons) (½ oz) (15 gm) active day yeast
pinch of salt
2 small egg yolks
for quark fillingDSC_1541
3 cups (1-2/3 lb) (750 gm) quark
1 small egg yolk
confectioner’s (icing) sugar to taste
for plum filling
2/3 cup (160 ml) (7 oz) (200 gm) plum jam
rum or hot water to soften jam if too thick
for streusel topping
1/3 cup (1¾ oz) (50 gm) plain flour
¼ cup (60 ml) (1¾ oz) (50 gm) butter, chilled and diced
¼ cup (60 ml) (1¾ oz) (50 gm) caster (or granulated) sugar

for finishing
1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:
In a bowl mix together yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar. Add 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) warm milk, mix well and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 – 15 minutes. (Skip this if you are using instant yeast. I used SAF Gold. Everything goes in the bowl together)
In a bowl of your electric mixer (or in a large bowl) mix flour, sugar, salt, egg yolks, butter, milk and leavened yeast. Knead with dough hook (or with wooden spoon) on low speed for about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about one hour to double its volume.

Prepare quark filling – just mix all ingredientsDSC_1540

and

plum filling – mix plum jam with rum or water to soften it. Set aside.

 

Prepare streusel topping. In a medium bowl, mix together sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add cold butter diced in small cubes and with your fingers, mix all ingredients until crumbly. Alternately,  in a saucepan melt the butter, add flour and sugar at once and mix with fork until crumbly. Set aside.

 

When the dough is risen turn it onto a lightly floured surface and roll it with rolling pin to a thickness of about 2 cm (¾ inch). Cut with 10cm (4 inch) cookie cutter or just with a glass (if you want small kolaches) or divide the dough into 10 equal pieces (if you want large kolaches). Flatten each piece with your hands and fill with about 1 rounded teaspoon of  quark filling. Wrap it into a “purse” shape and pinch all the seams to seal.Preheat oven to moderate 340°F/170°C/gas mark 3. Line 2 – 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Put each kolach onto a prepared baking sheet with seam down. Press each kolach in the middle to make an indent. Brush it with egg wash and fill holes with plum filling. Sprinkle it with streusel topping. Bake for about 20 minutes to golden brown.

Sept 14, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
All kolaches are best the first and second day but you can store them in an airtight container in a fridge up to 3 (Prague kolach) or 5 (Chodske and Double filling kolaches) days. You can also freeze Prague kolaches WITHOUT filling in a freezer for one month.

Additional Information:
Some additional recipes, in Czech:
http://dolcevita.blog.cz/0707/grandiozni-ceske-kolace
http://dulique.blogspot.cz/2010/01/sweettoothday-prazsky-kolac.html
http://www.svasniprojidlo.cz/2014/05/prazsky-kolac.html
http://www.ceskatelevize.cz/porady/10084897100-kluci-v-akci/206562221900…

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Can you believe it? I’m hosting this months Baker’s Challenge!! For my turn as hostess extraordinaire, I have chosen the gorgeous Neapolitan pastry, sfogliatelle. You might recognize them as the clam shaped pastry with hundreds of layers. They are filled with a  semolina-ricotta mixture that has added candied orange peel and a touch of cinnamon, served hot out of the oven (though I have eaten my fair share of room temperature ones).Here is a very interesting article on the history of this beloved pastry.

Growing up in Long Island, New York, it is virtually impossible to get away from Italian food.I think the natural progression for many Italian immigrants was to go from Italy, to Ellis Island, to Brooklyn, and then to Long Island.  For me though, my real love of Italian food, (and cooking in general) came later when I lived in Manhattan with my then boyfriend. We lived together for 10 years and the large family feasts at his parents Long Island home were memorable. We would arrive around noon and continue until late in the night with everyone pitching in with the cooking at one point or another. I really learned that the meal was as much about gathering together as it was about eating. Luckily for me, I am still extremely close with him and his family. He now even owns an Italian wine store in Brooklyn to go with the great food.  I now follow this tradition with my husband  by having our friends over as much as possible to enjoy their wit as well as food.
I wanted to choose something that would be a challenge; not only to you but for me as well. And I was right on point. I won’t lie to you, the first two times I made these it was a disaster. The third time was the charm and now they almost seem easy to make. The sfogliatelle ricci can be made over a period of days, if this makes it easier for you. I tend to like to make things in stages myself but you could also make this over the course of a long day. Keep in mind that you must chill the dough at various points before baking.
There are two main Italian versions of sfogliatelle. The first is sfogliatelle ricci (or Napoletane) and this is the crispy multilayered version. The second is sfogliatelle frolle, a tender almost cakey version covered in a soft pie crust like shell.
The American version goes by the name “lobster tail” and is a larger shell filled with a creme diplomat (pastry cream mixed with whipped cream) after it is baked. The dough is the same as Ricci but a dollop of pate a choux pastry is placed in the center of the shell before baking. This puffs up the core of the shell so that you can pipe in the creamy filling afterword. In one word, divine!

I am providing recipes for homemade ricotta cheese (so easy and so delicious), candied orange peel, sfogliatelle ricci and frolle dough. You must make the homemade cheese or the candied peel and at least one version of the sfogliatelle. Please experiment with filling flavors. I think chocolate ricotta with finely chopped pears would be lovely…The filling provided for the American Lobster Tail is a diplomat cream but I personally love marscapone mixed whipped cream. Again, amaze and inspire me. While I believe that the ricci version can only be made using a pasta roller, I hope that many out there prove me wrong!

Have Fun and Bake On!

Recipe Source:
The pastry dough recipe is from Great Italian Desserts by Nick Malgieri. Unfortunately this book is out of print but you can still find used copies online or if your lucky, your local library. The Ricotta Cheese recipe is from Luscious Creamy Desserts by Lori Longbotham. The method for making the lobster tails is from the Cake Boss You Tube video. The Pastry cream recipe is from Martha Stewart (but feel free to use any pastry cream recipe)

Dairy Free Ricotta Cheese: http://low-cholesterol.food.com/recipe/ricotta-cheese-substitute-vegan-gluten-free-447217

http://cassidyscraveablecreations.com/2012/09/ricotta-cheese-dairy-soy-nut-free.html

Equipment needed

Pasta machine to roll out the dough (this is for the Ricce and Lobster Tail)
Stand mixer with paddle and whisk attachments or hand-held mixer. You can make the dough in a bowl with a wooden spoon. If you choose to make the French Cream for the lobster tail you can whip the heavy cream by hand with a whisk
food processor (optional)
Whisk
rolling-pin
Grater for lemon and orange zest
Large pot to make the cheese
large glass or ceramic bowl
large strainer/colander
cheesecloth (I have used paper coffee liners as well)
medium saucepan for semolina
small bowl for butter/shortening mixture
Saucepan for pastry cream
Bowl for Pastry cream
Pastry Brush
Plastic wrap/cling film
parchment paper
baking sheets
cutting board
1/2 inch round pastry tip
Cooling rack

Fresh Ricotta Cheese (makes 2 cups)DSC_3361
8 Cups (1/2 gallon/64 oz/2 litre/4 pints) Whole Milk (or goats milk)
1 Cup (8 oz/250 ml) heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Line a large colander or strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth that has been lightly dampened over a large glass; set aside.

Pour the whole milk, heavy cream and salt into a large pot and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally. reduce the heat, add the fresh lemon juice and stir/whisk continuously for 2-3 minutes. The mixture will curdle, which is exactly what it is supposed to do. DSC_3363

Pour this into the cheesecloth lined strainer and let it drain for about 1 hour or until it comes to room temperature. At this point you can scrape the ricotta from the cheesecloth into a container and refrigerate for up to 2 days. The liquid in the bowl is the liquid whey, a very nutritional and tasty leftover byproduct from making cheese. It is excellent to use instead of water when baking bread, or adding it to soup stock. I love the stuff and never discard it. Here is an excellent article on the wonders of whey!

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Semolina-Ricotta Filling
This type is used for both the Ricci and the Frolle versions

5 minutes to make plus about 2 hours to chill

1 Cup (8 oz/250 ml) milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 Cup fine semolina or cream of wheat (I have tried both and personally like the semolina version)
1 1/2 Cups whole milk ricotta, preferably fresh (see above)
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or the seeds of one pod and 1 tsp extract)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup candied orange peel (commercial or home-made)
zest of 1 lemon

Combine the milk and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and slowly add the semolina (or cream of wheat), whisking quickly as to avoid any lumps. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Spread the mixture onto a lined baking sheet, about 1/2 inch, to cool. When cool, break into pieces and place into the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or a food processor), and add the ricotta cheese, egg yolks, vanilla and cinnamon. Beat until very smooth and creamy. Stir in the candied orange peel and lemon zest. (Maybe even some mini chocolate chips? Or pistachios??mmmm…I can’t wait to see what you come up with)
Scrape into a container, place plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate until needed (up to 2 days)

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Sfogliatelle Ricci
You will need a large/long workspace for this. I used my dining room table for this though I am sure someone will be more creative with limited space!
4 minutes to make the dough
10 minutes to condition the dough in the pasta roller
2 hours chilling
35 minutes to roll the dough
2 hours additional chilling

Dough
3 Cups (12 3/4 oz/ 334 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (6.2 oz/ 175 g) warm water (about 100F)

4 oz lard (I used Crisco butter flavored shortening)
4 oz (1 stick/1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir in the water, or use your standing mixer with the paddle attachment for this.. The dough will be very dry. If you feel absolutely compelled, add an extra teaspoon of water but it is supposed to be very dry. Turn this out onto a clean work surface and knead the dough together, bringing in all the dry bits. At this point get your pasta roller out and ready. Roll out the dough to about 1/3 inch and pass through your pasta machine at the widest setting. I find it much easier to cut my dough in half and work 1/2 at a time for this step. Fold the dough in half after each pass also change the direction of the dough occasionally. After about 15 passes the dough should be very smooth. Knead the dough back into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate and rest the dough for at 2 hours ,or overnight.

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Beat the lard/shortening and butter together in your mixing bowl until very fluffy. Make sure it is thoroughly combined. Place into a bowl and set on the workspace in easy reaching distance.

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Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 4 equal pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time (cover the other pieces with a towel or plastic wrap), lightly flour a piece pass it through the pasta roller set at the widest setting. Try to get the dough as even as possible, your goal is an even rectangle strip, about 4 inches in width. If needed, fold it over on itself a few times until you get an even strip. Once even, Pass the dough through every setting, ending with the highest (mine is 7)
You should end up with a long 4 inch wide strip. Repeat with the other 3 remaining pieces of dough.DSC_3278

*For my own ease of use I made my own rolling pin contraption like you can see on many instructional videos. I turned 2 bowls upside down and placed them on my table where I was planning to work. I then took a rolling pin (w/handles, not french) and taped the handles to the bowls. Every time that a piece of dough is finished and ready I lightly floured the dough and rolled it up onto the rolling pin. When all 4 pieces of dough dough were finished it made it much easier to pull out a section at a time to stretch the dough. If you are clumsy like me you might like to try this too!

Place one piece of a strip on you clean work surface and paint (or smear) it liberally with the lard/butter mixture. I did about a 8 inch section at a time. Gently pull the sides of the dough and stretch it, starting from the middle and going out, until it is about 8 or 9 inches in width. Begin from the short end and start rolling the dough into a very tight roll. When you start to reach the end of your stretched section, stop and liberally grease up another section, stretching and rolling until all the dough is finished. When one strip of dough is finished, overlap the end of one to the beginning of the other; continue to pull, stretch and roll up.

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Spread the lard/butter mixture over the entire finished log and starting in the middle gently run the hands down the length to extend the length another inch or so. This will release any air pockets and tighten the roll. Your finished roll should be approximately 10 or 11 inches.DSC_3288
Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. The dough may freezefrozen, for up to 3 months, at this time. Defrost it in the refrigerators overnight before using.

Preheat your oven to 400 F
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place on a cutting board. Slice off about an inch from each end so that they are straight and even. Cut the roll into 1/2 inch slices.
Put the semolina-ricotta mixture into a pastry bag with a 3/4 inch opening (A disposable pastry bag or even a ziploc bag with the corner cut off is fine).

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Take one slice of dough and place it on your workplace. With the heel of your hand, push out from the center in one direction. Rotate the dough and do this in all four directions. This forms the dough and opens up the layers. New York summer 20135

Pick up the piece and insert your thumbs on the inside with your forefingers on the outside, and gently stretch the center to make it more into the shape of a cone. You don’t want the layers to actually separate.DSC_3321 Holding the cone in one hand, squeeze some of the filling into the cavity so it is full. Lightly push the opening closed. You do not have to seal the opening as the filling is too thick to ooze out during baking.

Place onto the prepared baking sheet and very lightly brush the outside of each completed pastry with the lard/butter mixture. Bake them for about 20 to 25 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown.
Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. These are best served warm with a sprinkling of confectioners sugar on the day they are made. To reheat them, just place them in a 350F oven for about 5-10 minutes.

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Sfogliatelle Frolle (Makes 12 pastries)
This is a tender pastries, made with dough similar to pie crust |(and much easier to make). Some of my friends preferred these to the crispy sfogliatelle.

DoughDSC_3449
2 1/3 Cups all purpose flour
1/3 Cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons (4 oz) unsalted butter, cold
2 large eggs, beaten

Filling
See sfogliatelle ricci (I used dried apricots in this version)

Egg Wash
1 Large egg yolk
1 large egg
pinch salt

By hand: combine the flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Remove the butter from the fridge and pound in a few times with a rolling pin to make it pliable. Add it the flour and start rubbing it into the flour mixture with your fingertips, working from the bottom of the bowl upwards. Work quickly so the butter doesn’t get warm from your hands. This only takes a minute or two to complete. Add the eggs and stir into the dough with a fork until it starts to hold together. Empty it out onto your workspace and knead a few times. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill until firm. The dough can be made up to 3 days in advance.

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Prepare the filling and chill it. Whisk to egg yolk, egg and salt together for the egg wash.

Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 5 inch rectangle . Place a hefty tablespoon amount of filling on the lower half of the dough and pull the top half over this. Use your hands to press down around the filling and seal the edges together (like making ravioli). Use a 3 inch round cookie cutter (or glass) and cut away any excess dough.

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Place the formed frolle on a prepared baking sheet and chill for 2 hours
Preheat your oven to 375F
Brush the frolle with the egg wash and bake approximately 20 minutes, just until the frolle is baked through. Cool briefly on a rack.

and finally….

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American Lobster Tails

You need to prepare (and roll) a batch of the Sfogliatelle Ricci dough. Refridgerate until firm.

Pastry Cream

DSC_33815 minutes to make and 2 hours to chill

2 Cups (16 oz) whole milk
1/2 cup granulate sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
1/8 tsp salt
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup corn starch
2 Tablespoons butter
In a medium saucepan, combine milk, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour about 1/2 cup of the hot-milk mixture into the egg-yolk mixture, 1/2 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 coats the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes. Remove and discard vanilla bean. Remove from the heat and add the butter, whisking constantly until the butter melts completely and is thoroughly blended into the mixture. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Preheat your oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Prepare the pate a choux:

Pate a Choux (this a HALF batch )
3/8 cup (87ml) water (this is half of a 3/4 cup)
3 Tbsp. (42g) unsalted butter
1/8 Tsp. Salt
2 teaspoons Sugar
1/2 cup (63g.) all-purpose flour
2 large eggs

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. When it comes to a boil, remove from heat and add the flour, stirring to combine completely.
Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan (this will happen very quickly).
Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the egg. Now, I happen to use my KitchenAide standing mixer for this, but it’s just as easy to do this by hand (I’m just lazy).

Spoon into a disposable pastry bag. You do not a tip for this, you can just cut a 1/2 opening across the bottom when you are ready to fill your lobster tail pastry.

Watch this little video….

Take your prepared sfogliatelle Ricci dough out of the fridge and cut it into 1 inch thick slices. Press down on all four sides just like you were making sfogliatelle ricci (you are, just making a bigger version). Pipe in the pate a choux paste until it is about three quarters fulls. Gently close the opening (there is no need to seal it shut) and place it on your prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all of your Ricci dough is finished (You should get about 11 or 12 pastries). Lighlty brush the outside of the lobster tail with the lard/butter mixture and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a deep golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

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To make the diplomat cream you will need:
1 batch pastry cream
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

I like a 2:1 ratio of pastry cream to whipped cream but you might like a 1:1 ratio. I would whip 1 cup of heavy cream and start by only adding half of it to the pastry cream. Do you like the texture? Maybe you want it a little lighter… Either way, when you decide what you like.DSC_3384
Fold the whipped cream into the cold pastry cream. Transfer it into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip and insert it into the wide end of a lobster tail. Squeeze in as much filling as you can get into it (the more the better!). These should be eaten the day they are filled (this won’t be a problem, trust me). Hope you enjoy!!

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The princess torte has been on my bucket list for some time now so I was tickled pink (notice my non traditional color) when I found what or Baker’s Challenge this month was . Our very talent host this month is Korena, of Korena in the Kitchen, and she chose the Swedish Prinsesstårta for us. Exciting, exciting, exciting… It has lovely  layers of sponge cake, jam, pastry cream and fluffy whipped cream all covered in a layer of marzipan. Is there anything not to like about this??? Oh, I guess that it doesn’t hurt that this cake is so damn pretty look at you almost don’t want to eat it. This is traditional covered in a green colored marzipan but I thought the pink reflect so much better with my flavor choices. The sponge cake is flavored with raspberries, the jam is rhubarb-raspberry, and the whipped cream is infused with rosewater. Everything pink for a princess. It is also supposed to be topped with a marzipan rose for decoration but I love to make gumpaste flowers so I chose to do this instead. Please check out Korena’s tutorial on the marzipan rose.

The best part about this is that it is actually” kind of”  easy to put together. The real challenge here is covering the cake with marzipan. If you have never covered a cake with this or fondant it can seem scary, but that should not hold you back from trying. It just takes a little practice. I bet this would be amazing assembled as a trifle if you too afraid of trying to cover the cake – but try it at least. Once you get the hang of it you will want to cover everything you bake. Well, maybe not, but you will be glad you know how to do this and it will impress your guests. Hey did you know that the princess torte is as popular in Finland as well as Sweden – so much so that the third week in September is officially Prinsesstårta Week. Oh, the things we learn….

So, it’s best to break this cake down into components so that when you are ready to assemble everything is ready to go. First is the marzipan covering the cake. Marzipan is a sort of sweeter version of almond paste. Almond paste is made with granulated sugar and marzipan is made with confectioners sugar (a lot of it). You can buy marzipan but it is pretty expensive and it’s  easy to make your own if you have a food processor. You can make it well ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  You could even use fondant if almond allergies are an issue. Next is the custard; again,you make it up to 2 days in advance. The sponge cake can be baked the day ahead and that really just leaves the whipped cream, which should be made at time of assembly. DSC_2585Oh wait, and the jam. Any store-bought jam can be used though traditionally it is seedless raspberry jam. BUT, since rhubarb season is in full swing here (at least in my backyard) , I made my own rhubarb-raspberry spread. This allows me to control the sugar since I like my jam on the tart side and it only takes about 30 minutes to make. You just put fruit and some sugar in a pot and let it bubble away until soft. If it is too thin I will make a slurry of cornstarch and water and add a little bit to thicken it up.

I also stabilized the whipped cream. This is done by adding some dissolved gelatin to the cream and will keep your whipped cream good and sturdy for a few days. I highly recommend doing this step but it’s your choice.

I know this seems like a lot, but challenge yourself. It will be easier than you think. Read through the entire recipe (twice) before starting.  Bake On!

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Egg-free Marzipan Recipe

(adapted from Cake Central)

4 oz (115 gm) ground almonds
8 oz (225 gm)  icing sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon (5 ml) almond extract
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice or water

Place the ground almonds and icing sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine and break up any lumps. Add the corn syrup and almond extract and pulse again to combine. The mixture should be quite dry and crumbly still.

With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the lemon juice, stopping as soon as the mixture starts to clump together.Scrape the marzipan out onto a work surface and knead it into a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill overnight in the refrigerator to let the flavours ripen. Makes just over 1 lb.

Vanilla Custard

1 cup (240ml) heavy cream, divided (I used 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup whole milk)
4 egg yolks from large eggs
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) cornstarch
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm) (1 oz) granulated white sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract)

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and egg yolks. Gradually whisk in ½ cup (120 ml) of heavy cream until smooth. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining ½ cup (120 ml) of heavy cream and the scraped vanilla bean and bring just to the boiling point. Remove the vanilla bean pod, leaving behind the seeds. Slowly whisk the hot cream into the bowl with the egg mixture to temper the eggs. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until it becomes thick like pudding and just comes to a boil. The mixture must hit a boil for the cornstarch to properly thicken the custard, and also to cook out any starchy taste. If it starts to look curdled or lumpy, remove it from the heat and whisk vigorously until smooth, then return to the heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. If using vanilla extract, add it now. Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the top of the custard (to prevent a skin from forming ) and chill completely.

Sponge Cake

You will need a 9 inch springform panDSC_2579-001

Fine dry breadcrumbs for the pan (such as crushed panko) I did not have any breadcrumbs on hand so I used finely crushed rice krispies – they worked great!

4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz)  granulated white sugar
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
½ cup (120 ml) (65 gm) (2¼ oz) potato starch (or cornstarch, which is what I used)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder 1/8 teaspoon salt

For a raspberry version:

I added 4 Tablespoons  raspberry puree and 1 tsp natural raspberry extract . To compensate for the additional liquid I added 1 Tablespoon potato flour (which is not the same as potato starch)DSC_2624

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Thoroughly butter a 9” (23 cm) round springform pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, then butter the paper. Dust the buttered pan with enough breadcrumbs (or rice krispies!) to coat the bottom and sides, just like flouring a cake pan. Set aside. This gives the batter something to cling to as it rises during baking.

Place the eggs and granulated white sugar in a mixing bowl and beat on medium-high speed with an electric mixer or stand mixer with whisk attachment until the eggs are tripled in volume and very light coloured and fluffy, about 5 minutes. The mixture should fall from the beaters in thick ribbons. Don’t overbeat the eggs – once they form thick ribbons and stop growing in volume, stop beating.

Sift the all-purpose (plain) flour, potato starch (or cornstarch) , baking powder, and salt into a bowl, then sift the flour mixture over the whipped eggs. With a balloon whisk, fold the flour into the eggs until blended, keeping as much air in the batter as possible. Use large, gentle yet confident strokes, bringing batter from the bottom of the bowl to the top. Add the puree and extract, if using. Once mixed, the batter should be quite thick and smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spread it out evenly, and bake in the lower third of the preheated moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 oven for about 40 minutes or until golden brown on top, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the cake cool in the pan for a few minutes then run a knife around the edge and remove the sides of the springform pan. Don’t worry if it sinks a bit in the middle. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack and peel off the parchment paper. If the cake is lopsided, press gently to make it level, then allow it to cool completely before continuing. The cake can be made a day ahead and stored, well-wrapped in plastic, at a cool room temperature.

Assembly:

  • 2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream, chilled
    2 Tablespoons rosewater (if you want rose whipped cream)
    granulated white sugar, to taste (scant 1 tablespoon is plenty)
  • Sponge Cake, cooled
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) seedless raspberry jam (or regular jam pressed through a sieve to remove seeds)
  • Vanilla Custard, chilled
  • Marzipan Covering and Rose Icing sugar, for rolling and dusting

Optional: melted chocolate, royal icing, or piping gel (for decorating)

In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar to taste (keep in mind that the rest of the cake components are sweet, so the whipped cream should be very lightly sweetened at most) and continue whipping the cream until stiff. Stabilize it with the gelatin if desired. You want it to be sturdy enough to provide structure to the cake, but not over-whipped enough to make butter. Set the whipped cream aside.

With a long serrated knife, slice the sponge cake into three even layers. This cake is very delicate, so do this as carefully as possible. Use a gentle sawing motion to move the knife through the cake instead of trying to pull it through the cake. Use a spatula to help you lift off each layer after you cut it. Set aside the middle layer – this will become the top layer of the assembled cake as it is the most flexible and therefore easiest to bend into a dome over the whipped cream.2013-05-20

Place one of remaining layers on a cake board or serving platter and spread it evenly with the jam. Spread or pipe half the chilled custard over the jam in an even layer, leaving enough room around the edges so that it doesn’t spill over the sides of the cake. Top the custard with another layer of cake. Spread or pipe the remaining custard evenly over it, again leaving some room around the edges.  Reserve ½ cup (120 ml) of the stiffly whipped cream. Pile the rest into a mound on top of the custard. Spread it into a thick layer with a thin, flexible spatula or off-set spatula, then hold the spatula at an angle to shape the whipped cream into a dome, piling it up in the middle of the cake as much as possible.  Place the final layer of sponge cake (the one cut from the middle of the cake) on top of the whipped cream. Do not press on the top of the cake – instead, gently tuck the edges of the cake layer into the whipped cream, so that they are flush with the cream. This will create a smooth, seamless dome on top of the cake. Gently spread the reserved ½ cup (120 ml) of whipped cream over the entire cake to fill in any cracks and even out the surface. If necessary, refrigerate the cake to firm it up before continuing ( I did this for an hour before moving on).

2013-05-201

Dust your work surface with icing sugar and press the marzipan into a 6-inch (15 cm) disc (knead it a bit to warm it up first). Coat both sides with icing sugar and roll it out into a 14” (35½ cm) diameter circle less than 1/8” (3 mm) thick. Use plenty of icing sugar to prevent it from sticking. Alternatively, you can roll the marzipan out between two wide sheets of parchment paper (still use plenty of icing sugar).
Use the rolling pin to drape the rolled-out marzipan sheet over the cake and smooth it around the cake gently with your hands.If it seems like it wants to fold or buckle around the cake, gently lift and stretch it away from the cake with one hand while smoothing it down with the other.DSC_2612

Trim the excess marzipan from the bottom of the cake with a paring knife or spatula blade. Dust the cake with icing sugar, then place the marzipan rose and leaves in the middle of the cake.
(You can also use melted chocolate, royal icing, or piping gel to pipe a design on top of the cake, if you wish.)

To serve, cut the cake into wedges with a large, sharp knife (run the blade under hot water and wipe it clean after every cut for neater slices). The cake can be served immediately but will be easier to slice after chilling in the refrigerator for at least an hour.The finished Prinsesstårta should be refrigerated until serving, and any leftovers refrigerated as well. Ideally the cake is eaten the day it is made, but will keep in the refrigerator for a day or so, after which it may lose its structural integrity and aesthetic appeal,but it will still taste good. If you stabilize your cream it will be picture perfect for at least 3 days.

Here is a cross-section diagram to illustrate the layered components of a prinsesstårta:

  • Marzipan                                 (top)
  • Sponge cake
  • Whipped cream
  • Custard/pastry cream
  • Sponge cake
  • Custard/pastry cream
  • Raspberry jam
  • Sponge cake                            (bottom)

DSC_2634

These videos show some prinsesstårta variations (videos are in Swedish but the visual is very informative):Finally!

  • Hallonprinsesstårta, or raspberry prinsesstårta, made with custard, whipped cream flavoured with raspberry jam, whole raspberries, and topped with pink marzipan
  • Karl-Gustav tårta, made with custard, sliced banana, a chocolate-covered meringue disc replacing the middle layer of cake, and covered with yellow marzipan
  • Williamtårta, made with custard, poached pear, whipped cream, topped with marzipan, covered with a shiny chocolate glaze, and garnished with toasted sliced almonds

Thanks Korena for such  a great challenge!!

I forget to mention how perfect this worked out for my monthly dinner club. Since I wanted to make this for when I had company over I decided to have a Swedish theme. On the menu:

Swedish meatballs (of course) , handmade egg noodles, boiled potatoes with dill, cucumber salad, and roasted beets and apples.

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DSC_2468

“A man who was fond of wine was offered some grapes at dessert after dinner. ‘Much obliged’, said he, pushing the plate aside, ‘I am not accustomed to take my wine in pills’.” – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Ready for a little taste of France? The April Bakers Challenge is hosted by Natalia of Gatti Fili e Farina and she chose Savarin,a yeasted cake made with a rich dough the soaked in syrup and served with pastry or chantilly cream (which is just pastry cream mixed with whipped cream to lighten it). I bet ice cream would be pretty good, too.

A little history, taken from “What’s cooking America”

Baba (BAH-bah) – Baba is called Babka in Poland and in France. In French, the word baba meaning, “falling over or dizzy.” These are small cakes made from yeast dough containing raisins or currants. They are baked in cylindrical molds and then soaked with sugar syrup usually flavored with rum (originally they were soaked in a sweet fortified wine). After these cakes were soaked in the wine sauce for a day, the dried fruits would fall out of them.

 1600s – It is believed to be a version of a kugelhopf, which was invented in Lemberg in the 1600s. The baba was brought to Paris, France by King Stanislas Leszczynska, the deposed king of Poland and the father-in-law of King Louis XV (1710–1774) of France when he was exiled to Lorraine. According to legend, he found the customary kouglhopf too dry for his liking and dipped the bread in rum. He was so delighted that he named the cake after one of the heroes of his favorite book, Ali Baba from A Thousand and One Nights. Later, his chef refined the sweet bread by using brioche dough and adding raisins to the recipe. The dish was then simply called “baba.”

According to the famous book called Larousse Gastronomique, The Encyclopedia of Food, Wine & Cookery, by Prosper Montagne:

“At the same time a Parisian Maitre Patissier, Julien, by omitting raisins from the dough, giving the cake another shape and changing the syrup in which it was steeped (this syrup remained the secret of his establishment for a long time) created the Brillat-Savarin, which later became simply savarin.”DSC_2463

The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson says that one of the Julien brothers, from a family of Parisian pastry-makers, set his mind to experimenting with the baba recipe sometime in the 1840s. The result was this rich and tasty dessert, which he named in honor of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), celebrated French gourmet and writer on gastronomy.

The dessert became very popular in France, but the people called it Baba Au Rhum and soon dropped the name Savarin. In other parts of the world, the cake is known as simply Savarin. In Turkey this cake is called “father’s cake.”

So what this is saying is that Savarin, Baba Au Rhum, ad Kouglhofp are all in the same family, but seriously, isn’t all food a derivitive of  another in some way?. We just keep re-inventing the same wheel over and over. Thank goodness it’s a  long road…

You will be making an enriched dough for this. What is that? Well, if you have ever made brioche, panettone, or challah then you are already familiar with enriched doughs. It just means that it has eggs and butter so you have to work longer at getting the gluten developed. With a stand mixer that means about 15-20 minutes mixing time, by hand, longer. I cut this recipe in half and made individual cakes with the help of some vintage tins since I wasn’t expecting too may people to drop by this week. I would love to make a single large oe for a dinner party though. Anyway, my friends, Bake On!

Ingredients

2½ cups (600 ml) (12-1/3 oz) (350 gm) bread flour

2 tablespoons (30 ml) water, lukewarm

6 (320 gm) large eggs at room temperature, separated

½ satchel (1½ teaspoons) (4 gm) instant yeast or 15 gm (½ oz) fresh yeast

4 teaspoons (20 ml) (20 gm) sugar

2/3 stick (1/3 cup) (80 ml) (75 gm) butter at room temperature

1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) orange and lemon zest (I used the zest of a blood orange ad 1 tsp of fioro di sicilia)

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt

¼ cup (60 ml) (2 oz) (55 gm) butter for greasing the work surface, hands, dough scraper & baking pan

Sponge

In a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons  (30 ml) lukewarm water, 3 tablespoons (1 oz) (25 gm) flour and yeast , cover with cling film and let rise 60 minutes

Dough

After 30 minutes put the egg whites in the mixer bowl and start working with the paddle at low-speed adding flour until you have a soft dough that sticks to the bowl (about 2 cups or 270 gm) and work until it comes together , cover with cling film and let rest 30 min

Add the sponge to the mixer bowl along with a tablespoon of flour and start mixing at low-speed (if you wish to add the zest do it now)

When it starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl add one yolk and as soon as the yolk is absorbed add one tablespoon of flour. Add the second yolk , the sugar and as soon as the yolk is absorbed add one tablespoon of flour. Raise the speed a little, add the third yolk and the salt and as soon as the yolk is absorbed add one tablespoon of flour. Keep on adding one yolk at the time and the flour saving a tablespoon of flour for later.DSC_2437

Mix the dough until is elastic and makes threads, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the butter at room temperature and as soon as the butter is adsorbed add the last tablespoon of flour. Keep on mixing till the dough passes the window pane test, about 10 minutes.DSC_2443

Cover the dough with cling film and let it proof until it has tripled in volume 2 to 3 hours.

You can prepare the Pastry cream now if you choose to use it, and refrigerate it.

While you wait prepare your baking pan buttering it very carefully not leaving too much butter on it. Grease your dough scraper, your hands and your work surface and put the dough on it and fold with the Dough Package Fold two or three times around (5 folds twice or three times). Cover with cling foil and let it rest 15 minutes on the counter.Turn the dough upside down and with the help of your buttered dough scraper shape your dough http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta2_h6Qogp0 in a rounded bun.

Make a hole in the center with your thumb and put it in the prepared pan. Cover with cling film and let rise in a warm spot until the dough reaches the top of the pan about 1 hour.2013-04-252

Pre-heat oven to moderate 340°F/170°C/gas mark 3

Bake the Savarin for about 40 minutes until the top is golden brown; meanwhile, prepare the Syrup

When the Savarin is done take it out of the oven, let it cool and remove carefully out of the pan. You have two choices now : you can immerse it in syrup right now or you can let it dry out (so it will lose some of his moisture that will be replaced by the syrup) and soak it later on.

DSC_2453

To immerse it in syrup it is a good idea to place it in the mold you baked it in (a spring-form pan one wouldn’t work for this) and keep adding ladles of syrup until you see it along the rim of the pan. Or you can just soak it in a big bowl keeping your ladle on top of it so it doesn’t float. Once the Savarin is really well soaked carefully move it on a cooling rack positioned over a pan to let the excess syrup drip off. The soaked Savarin gains in flavor the next day .Whatever you decide the day you want to serve it, glaze it and fill the hole with your filling of choice and decorate it. You can serve the Savarin with some filling on the side.DSC_2455

Syrup:

1 1/2 cups (350 ml) water

1 1/2 cups (350 ml) blood orange juice

1/2 cup Amaretto, separated in two

3/4 Cup sugar

Boil the water, juice, 1/4 cup Amaretto, and sugar for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 1/4 cup Amaretto. Cool completely.

Natalia’s Peach Syrup:

1½ cups  (350 ml) peach tea
1½ cups (350 ml) peach juice
1½ cups (350 ml) water
1 cup (240 ml) (8 oz) (225 gm)  sugar
zest of one lemon
one cinnamon stick

Glaze:

2 tablespoons (30 ml) Jam (I used lingonberry for the color, but apple or peach is great)
2 tablespoons water

In a saucepan mix jam and water and warm up. When the savarin is cool and soaked, brush it with the glaze

DSC_2470
Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:

You can store the dried savarin for 5 days in a closed container. If you have soaked it cover well with cling foil and store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Additional Information: Folding  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta2_h6Qogp0

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How glad I am to write about puff pastry again. Since the last post about it (vols-au-vent) two years ago, I have made it puff pastry many times. That first time was nerve-wracking, with a few failed attempts along the way, but then after a few tries it all came together and then the lightbulb goes off and you realize that it isn’t difficult at all, just time consuming. While I will never judge anyone for using store-bought puff pastry, I use it myself in a pinch, there is a deep-rooted sense of satisfaction when you open the oven door and pull out a tray of perfect, flaky pastry that you made yourself.I’m not kidding.
The October Bakers Challenge was hosted by  Suz from Serenely Full and she chose a  French , though “wildly popular in Morocco”, dessert called mille-feuille, which translates into” cake with a thousand sheets”. It is a very elegant looking dessert that is absolutely delicious. All of your friends will love you for making this. Trust me on this.

This makes a pretty large quantity of puff pastry, but I find this recipe perfect for two reasons.
1.) It is actually easier to handle a large piece of dough
2.) Since this is such a labor of love (time consuming labour intensive), isn’t it easier to freeze half (up to 2 months) for the next time you need it?
This makes enough for three 11 x 17 pieces. I know this seems like a lot, and it is, but the few times I have made mille feuille in the past year it has been requested for a crowd, so this was perfect. You can easily cut the pastry down to fit the size pan that works for you. When doing this it is best to roll out the entire dough to about 1/8″ inch, cut off what you need, then roll the rest up in wax paper and freeze.

While I used to do the “diamond on the square” technique for making puff pastry, I have switched to a much simpler method.This is since discovering the amazing book “Bourke Street Bakery”. I have found their recipe/method to turn out perfect every time.

Part 1

PUFF PASTRY
4 3/4 oz ( 135 g) unsalted butter, diced and chilled
4 1/2 Cups (675 g/1 lb 8 oz) all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon (20 g) kosher salt
1 Tablespoon (20 ml) vinegar, chilled
10 1/2 oz (300 ml) water, chilled
1 lb (500 g) unsalted butter, for laminating, chilled

Take the 4 3/4 oz cubed butter out of the fridge about 20 minutes before starting, so it is soft but still cold
Step 1
In a large food processor, place the butter, flour, and salt together and pulse for about 30 seconds, or until it is crumbly and has a fine sand texture. Combine the cold vinegar and water and pour into the bowl, pulsing until the dough comes together into a ball. Take the dough out, pat it into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Placed in the fridge for 30 minutes (or overnight).
Step 2
Take the other one pound of butter and place it between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Gently pound it with a rolling-pin into a 8 x 8 inch square. What I usually do is start between 2 pieces of wrap and then as I’m getting closer to the 8×8 I switch to a piece of parchment paper folded in half. You can use the folded inside edge to get a clean line on the one side of butter and then use a bench scraper push the other edges in place. Watch this video for good demonstration of this. Once you get your 8×8 square place it back in the fridge until your dough is ready to use.


Step 3
Take the dough out of the fridge and lay it on a lightly floured counter. Roll it out to 8 x 16 inches. Place the chilled 8×8 butter square at one end of the dough and fold over the other to cover it. Firmly pinch the edges together to completely seal in the butter. Turn the dough 90 degrees and begin to roll the dough out in long, even strokes. You want to end up with a 8 x 36 rectangle. Try to only roll in one direction to help promote lots of layers. I roll on one side then swivel the dough and continue rolling on the other end. Be patient, this takes a few minutes.
Once the dough is 8 x 36, fold the two short ends into the middle to meet, then fold it once again like you were closing a book. Dust very lightly with flour, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. congratulations, you have just completed your first turn!


Step 4, 5,6
Repeat the folding process 3 more times, turning the dough 90 degrees each time. Every time you finish a completed fold you must place the dough back into the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling again. Myself, I complete 2 turns then place the dough in the fridge overnight and complete the next 2 turns the following day. You can do it all in one day, but you cannot skip the resting/chilling time between turns. This is crucial for relaxing the gluten and keeping the butter cold so you will end up with gorgeous, flaky, mile high pastry.
After the completed 4th folded turn, you now must wrap up your pastry and chill it overnight.
The next day….
Okay, now your pastry is ready to use! Yeah!!! Take the dough out and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before you begin rolling it out.
Part 2

PASTRY CREAM

2 Cups whole milk
3 large egg yolks
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1/3 Cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or the seeds of one vanilla bean

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

Whisk together the corn starch, egg yolks, and sugar; set aside

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk (and vanilla seeds, if using) until it is hot and steaming, but not boiling. Take the pan off the heat.Very slowly, and whisking constantly, pour some of the hot milk into the egg mixture (this is called tempering) then pour this back into the hot milk (keep whisking!). turn the heat to medium low and place the pot back onto the heat. Whisk the mixture until it thickens and begins to slightly bubble; simmer, whisking,  for one minute.

Pour the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. If using vanilla extract, stir in now. to prevent a “skin” forming on your custard, you can either place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface or dust the entire surface with confectioners sugar. Let cool to room temperature then place in the fridge to cool completely.

Baking the pastry

preheat your oven to 400 F. You will need two 11 x 17 baking pans (or 2 baking pans the same size)

Line one baking pan with parchment paper. Roll out your dough to 1/8″inch into a 11 x 17 rectangle. Cut the pastry into 3 equal pieces (drag the knife through as opposed to straight down- this can ruin your lovely layers) and place side by side in the pan. Prick all over with a fork. Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Place another sheet of parchment paper over the top and then the other baking pan on top. This will prevent the layers from puffing up too much. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the top tray and parchment, then return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely. You might need to gently pull the 3 pieces apart.

Assembly

Lay down one sheet of puff pastry. Cover with half of the pastry cream, spreading it as evenly as possible. Now take another piece of pastry and place it over this, pressing down gently. Spread the remaining pastry cream over this layer and finally top with the remaining piece of puff pastry.

Place this in the fridge while you prepare the topping (or you can just dust the top with a little sugar if you choose)

2 ¾ cups (660 ml/ 12⅓oz/350gm) icing sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 large egg whites
½ cup (2¾ oz/80gm) dark chocolate

To make the icing, whisk 2 egg whites with 2 teaspoons lemon juice until lightly frothy.Whisk in about (2 cups)  of the icing sugar on a low setting until smooth and combined. The mixture should be thick enough to leave trails on the surface. If it’s too thin, whisk in a bit more icing sugar.Once ready, immediately pour over the top of the mille-feuille and spread evenly. I found that I didn’t quite need all of the icing. Still working quickly, pipe a row of thin chocolate lines  along the widest length of your pastry sheet (see below). You can make them as far apart/close together as you like.Take a sharp knife and lightly draw it down (from top to bottom) through the rows of chocolate. A centimeter (½ inch) or so further across, draw the knife up the way this time, from bottom to top. Move along, draw it down again. Then up. And so on, moving along the rows of chocolate until the top is covered in a pretty swirly pattern.

The Switch-Up

As I have mentioned before, we have a monthly dinner supper which  I host every month (it’s easier and I enjoy it). The menu this month:

Pear and endive salad with blue cheese and pecans

Osso Bucco

Roasted butternut squash risotto

Pineapple infused napoleons with sauteed fresh pineapple

To make this dessert, I cut the pufpif pastry into small rectangles before baking and I did not place another baking sheet on top. I wanted these to rise to the heavens.  I had in my pantry some freeze dried pineapple, which I ground into a powder with the grinder. I then stirred this into some pastry cream. I then mixed up some whipped cream and slowly added this to the pastry cream to lighten up the whole mixture. OMG this was so good!! This was then piped (using a star tip) between the layers. I then diced up some fresh pineapple and sauteed it in a pan with brown sugar and rum. this was served on the side. Deluxe!!!!

Helpful links

http://moroccanfood.about.com/od/tipsandtechniques/ss/How-To-Make-Millefeuille-Napoleons_11.htm

Puff pastry video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zg-ybzGok3U Mille-feuille/Napoleon video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGQCWuKU7Co Vegan puff pastry: http://veganbaking.net/pastries/718-puff-pastry Gluten-free puff pastry (plus a chocolate mousse & raspberry mille-feuille): http://www.tarteletteblog.com/2010/04/recipe-gluten-free-puff-pastry.htm… Vegan pastry cream: http://vegandad.blogspot.co.uk/2011_08_01_archive.html

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I am like a broken record. Every month it’s the same story. I look at the upcoming Baker’s Challenge at the beginning of the month and say to myself ” no problem, I’ll tackle it this weekend”. Uh, yeah…. And every month I am baking it 2 or 3 days before the 27th of the month (sometimes, the night before). Last month I ended up too busy with other baking/decorating projects that I didn’t even complete the challenge, which was baklava with homemade phyllo. How fun would that have been? I just waited too long and couldn’t get my act together. This month though, I vowed to get back on track. Err, that is to baking the challenge 2 or 3 days ahead of the 27th.  I was happy with my 3 day lead, as small as it is…

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’s host and she challenged us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine. When I first looked at the recipe I was first reminded of the filled Jaconde that we made a few months back, but then quickly realized this was so different. This is a typical french strawberry cake, since in France a strawberry is called fraise. The fresh berries make a lovely design on the sides of the cake, filled with a pastry cream lightened with whipped cream. The inside had has secret compartment filled with more chopped fruit so when you cut into it you get a nice fruit surprise. Super addictive filling; so light and fluffy (not that I’m saying it’s low-calorie!).I kept my design very simple, but I am sure my fellow bakers are going to come up with some truly inspiring cakes. Take a look over here if you would like to check some of them out.

For my Frasier cake I chose to do a basil infused chiffon cake filled with a Grand Marnier pastry cream. The fruit filling hidden in the middle is a mixture of chopped strawberries and raspberries, freshly picked from my garden! I tossed the fruit with a little basil simple syrup before filling the cake.

Read through the entire recipe before attempting this cake. It’s really just a cake sliced in two and filled with fruit and pastry cream. It is topped off with a thin layer of almond paste, but you don’t have to use that, it you don’t want to or don’t have any on hand. A simple dusting of powdered sugar would be just lovely. There are a lot of steps but I was able to easily make this in one afternoon. That being said, you can spread this out over days if you prefer, which is a really nice option. The simple syrup (it’s just equal parts sugar and water;boiled) can be made way in advance. I happen to always keep a jar of simple syrup in the fridge. I use it to brush on a cake before frosting it, but it’s also really good in a cocktail that needs a little sweetener…

If you want to make it in one day, just follow the steps: Bake the cake. While the cake is in the oven, make the simple syrup (this takes 2 minutes). Make the pastry cream (without the whipped cream) and cool. Cool the cake. Chop you fruit filling. Slice the cake layer in half. finish the pastry cream mixture. Slice a few strawberries to decorate the sides of the cake. Assemble. Refrigerate. Eat and enjoy!

Bake on…

Components:
1 baked 8 inch (20 cm) chiffon cake
1 recipe pastry cream filling
⅓ cup (80 ml) simple syrup or flavored syrup
2 lbs (900 g) strawberries/raspberry combination
confectioners’ sugar for dusting
½ cup (120 ml) (5 oz/140 gm) almond paste

Basil Infused Chiffon Cake

1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 ml) (5½ oz/155 gm) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) baking powder
3/4 cups (180 ml) (6 oz /170 gm) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (3.17 fl oz/95 ml) water
A few sprigs of fresh basil (about 1/4 c)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon  lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) cream of tartar
1 drop green coloring (optional)

Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3). Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.

Place the basil leaves, water, and oil in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and let cool. Once cool, puree the mixture in a mini processor or blender; set aside for a moment.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.

In a small bowl combine the water/oil/basil mixture, egg yolks, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly
until very smooth.

Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat
on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny
peaks, but do not overbeat.

Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the springform sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper.
Refrigerate for up to four days

Simple Syrup:

1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) (2⅔ oz/75gm) of sugar
1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) of water
few springs fresh basil

Combine the water, sugar, and basil in a medium saucepan.Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary,,Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator

Grand Marnier Pastry Cream Filling

1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) whole milk
1/2 teaspoon  pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup (60 ml) (2 oz/55 gm) sugar
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (such as KNOX)
1/2 tablespoon water
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) heavy cream
1 drop orange coloring (optional)

Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a bowl add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.

When the milk is ready, slowly pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture, whisking the entire time (this is to temper the eggs. which means to warm the eggs without making scrambled eggs out of them).

Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly,  until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon.

Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl to remove any lumps. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.Stir in the Grand Marnier.

Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream one  piece at a time until smooth.

Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days.

When you are ready to finish the cake, proceed with finishing the filling:

In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.

Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz/60 ml) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water. Heat the pastry cream until it is 120 F (48.8 C).Too much fuss for me ,  I microwaved mine for 40 seconds instead, checking the temp after 30 seconds.

Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream.

In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula. You are now ready to assemble your Frasier.

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Assembly:

Line the sides of a 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan with plastic wrap (I just used acetate). Do not line the bottom of the pan.

Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.

Fit the bottom layer into the prepared springform pan. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough. I used all of my basil simple syrup between the two layers.

Hull and slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan,
point side up forming a ring.Pipe cream in-between strawberries and a thin layer across the top of the cake.Hull and quarter your remaining strawberries and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the strawberries and entirely with the all but 1 tbsp. (15 ml) of the pastry cream.

Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners’ sugar and roll out the
almond paste to a 10-inch (25 cm) round 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) thick. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover
with the round of almond paste.Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

To serve release the sides of the springform pan and peel away the plastic wrap.Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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Well, it’s that time of the month again…and by that I mean the Bakers Challenge!
The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri. This is a very traditional French wedding cake and is really just lots of cream puffs “glued” together with a hard caramel sauce. You might think to yourself, “when am I going to need a traditional French wedding cake?”, but think again. Break is down and you have delicious cream puffs to serve as a dessert. If you can master the pate a choux (which is so incredibly easy), you will always be able to whip something up in a flash. You can fill them with ice cream, pastry cream, pudding, or whipped cream. You can make it as simple or complicated as you want. I loved the idea of making this colossal tower of cream puffs, but since this week it’s just me and my 4 yr old at home I opted to make a teeny tiny one. The balance of my cream puffs are in the freezer awaiting company.  I also made a version last week with chocolate pate a choux with a nutella cream center and chocolate sauce. Way too good!!!
Since we had to make a pastry cream for the filling, I chose to make a pistachio pastry cream then added some whipped cream mixed with pistachio brittle to lighten it up a little (funny how more cream can “lighten” something…) While I loved making this dessert in the future I will skip the caramel sauce my  – dentist will thank me.

Well, it’s that time of the month again… by that I mean the Baker’s Challenge.
The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of

For the Vanilla (or Pistachio) Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla
1/2 C Pistachio paste (optional)

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla (and pistachio paste, if using).

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Place in the fridge to cool and until ready to use. You can make this up to 3 days in advance.
Pistachio Praline

1/2 C Sugar
2 Tbsp water
1/2 C shelled pistachios
1 C heavy cream, whipped

Line a sheet pan with either a piece of foil, lightly oiled, or a silpat.
Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and let it boil until it turns a nice golden color (about 5 minute). Quickly stir in the pistachios and spread onto prepared pan. Let cool completely then break into pieces. Process in food processor until finely ground. Combine with 1 cup whipped cream and the reserved pistachio pastry cream.
Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. When it comes to a boil, remove from heat and add the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan (this will happen very quickly).

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs. Now, I happen to use my KitchenAide standing mixer for this, but it’s just as easy to do this by hand (I’m just lazy)

Piping:
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top

Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Baking:
Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

Can be stored in an airtight container overnight.

Filling:
When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces/200 g. finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced; I recommend semi-sweet)

Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.

Hard Caramel Glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up.

When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate. Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!

Additional Information: Here are some videos you may want to take a look at before you get started on your piece montée.

1) Martha Stewart Assembles a Croquembouche:
http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/marthas-famous-croquembouche

2) Assembling croquembouche using the interior of a cylinder:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fq-UgMxe0Y4
3) Asembling Free-standing Croquembouche with Chocolate Glaze:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrIanD5pi9E&feature=related

4) Assembling a Croquembouche with Toothpicks and Cone:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIGaidsM-NI&feature=related

See this google images search of Croquembouche for inspiration:
http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&source=hp&q=croquembouche&btnG=Sea…

Here’s a link to a dairy-free pate a choux and crème patisserie recipe:
http://dairyfreecooking.about.com/od/dessertsbeverages/r/creampuffs.htm

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