baking

Cherry Clafoutis: a French Gateau

Cherry Clafoutis: Easy and Delicious Custardy Dessert A clafoutis is a "gateau" of cherries settled in a custardy tart, traditionally eaten in the Limousin region of France where cherries are a-plenty.  Like most French culinary creations, this dish was created as a way to use leftovers (leftover batter in this case).  This rustic, peasant dish typically involves pouring leftover batter in a dish, adding cherries, and baking it.

Because cherries aren't in season, I used cherries preserved in brandy. Like most French gateau, there isn't an American equivalent.  Gateau, which literally translates to "cake," is not at all similar to our American concept of "cake."  In fact, most homemade "gateau" are egg-y, custardy tart-like creations with little flour, and they aren't extremely sweet.  This recipe is typical because it uses ground almonds (or "almond flour"), like most French baked goods.  However, it is atypical because clafoutis normally do not use almonds.  But, the almonds give it a rustic, yet sophisticated flavor.

Cherry Clafoutis: Easy and Delicious Custardy Dessert

The silky texture reminds me of a Mexican flan, although it has bite to it, like bread pudding.  Although traditionally made with cherries, other fruits can be used, such as blueberries or pears.  Also, topping it with freshly-whipped cream is an absolute must.  This dish pairs excellently with a rose Champagne (or any Champagne!) I will definitely be trying this dish again when blueberries are in season.

Cherry Clafoutis Recipe, adapted from various sources

Ingredients: 1 c. granulated sugar 5 large eggs 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 3/4 c. all-purpose flour, sifted 3/4 c. plus 2 tablespoons almond flour, almond meal, or freshly ground almonds 1 teaspoon salt 1 c. whole milk 1 c. heavy cream 12 ounces cherries* Powdered sugar, for dusting Sweetened whipped cream, for serving

* The traditional dish uses unpitted cherries since the cherry pits add flavor.  However, using pitted cherries will certainly be easier on your guests.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 10-inch round gratin dish and dust it with granulated sugar. In a large bowl, whisk the 1 cup of granulated sugar with the eggs and vanilla. Whisk in the all-purpose flour, almond flour and salt until just incorporated. Add the milk and cream and whisk until light and very smooth, about 3 minutes. Pour the batter into the prepared gratin dish and arrange the cherries on top.
  1. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the clafoutis is set and golden. Let cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, cut into wedges and serve with whipped cream.
  2. This dish can be made ahead one day, stored in the refrigerator wrapped tightly in plastic.  Serve slightly warm.

Cherry Clafoutis: Easy and Delicious Custardy Dessert

Cherry Clafoutis: Easy and Delicious Custardy Dessert

There won't be much leftover!

Barbie Bachelorette Cake

Barbie Bachelorette Cake This past weekend, I helped a dear friend celebrate one of her last night's as a single woman in the City of Brotherly Love.  To commemorate the occasion, I made a four-layer white cake with chocolate buttercream, covered with purple fondant, and topped with Barbie who had a little too much to drink and lost one of her shoes.

Traditional American White Cake

I used a traditional American "white cake" recipe.  This is the type of cake that is traditionally used in formal cakes, such as wedding cakes.  It has an almond-y flavor, and a tender crumb.  I made an Italian Meringue Buttercream, which I flavored with Scharffen Berger 99% cacao Fine Artisan Dark Chocolate.  (Scharffen Berger was America's first contemporary Artisan Chocolatier, and my personal favorite American brand.)

I had several mishaps with the buttercream, and ended up having to make three batches.  The first batch: I added too much vanilla (which contains alcohol, and too much alcohol will "break" the emulsification).  The second batch: I spilled half of it on the floor.  I guess the third time's a charm..

Next, I "filled in the holes" and coated the cake with a think layer of Swiss Meringue Buttercream for the "crumb coat."  (This is kind of like glue--something for the fondant to stick to.)

Masking White Cake with Buttercream

Next, I mixed purple and white fondant (since the purple alone was too dark), and I rolled it out and masked the cake.  I then added a band at the bottom, designs, and rhinestones.  I also made Barbie a fondant "Bachelorette Sash" which unfortunately did not survive the night.  (I think drunk Barbie lost the sash at the first stop.)

Classy Barbie Bachelorette Cake

I also made a mini Vegan cake since the Bride-to-Be is Dairy Free.  I converted a Vegan Chocolate Cupcake Recipe, and I used tiny cake pans (the only modification was that I lowered the baking temperature from 350 to 300/325, and I baked it longer).

White Cake Recipe (for three 9-inch round cake pans)

Ingredients: 18 tablespoons (2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature 4 1/2 c. cake flour 1 1/2 c. whole milk 9 large egg whites, lightly beaten 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon almond extract 2 tablespoons baking powder 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 2 1/4 cups sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour three 9-by-2-inch round cake pans, tapping out excess flour; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together, milk, egg whites, and extracts. Into a second medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. With machine running, gradually add the sugar. Continue beating until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary.

  4. Add one-third of the flour mixture and one-third of the milk mixture, and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Add remaining flour and milk mixtures in 2 separate batches beating between additions to fully incorporate. Scrape down sides of bowl, and stir by hand to finish.

  5. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Smooth surface with a rubber spatula. Bake until top of cake springs back when lightly pressed and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

  6. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Run a small metal spatula around the sides of the pan, and invert cakes onto greased racks. Reinvert cakes onto cooling rack. Let cool completely before filling.

  7. Place one cake layer on a cake stand. Spread 3/4 cup buttercream evenly over top of cake. Top with a second layer. Repeat with a second layer. Top with third cake layer. Insert a few skewers into cake to keep cake from sliding. Spread remaining buttercream evenly over surface of cake. Decorate. Remove skewers before serving.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe

Ingredients: 4 large egg whites 1 1/4 c. sugar 1 1/2 c. unsalted butter, (3 sticks), softened, cut into tablespoons 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Put egg whites and sugar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160 degrees).
  2. Attach bowl to a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg-white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.

  3. Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low, add butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. (If frosting appears to separate after all butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more.) Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low; beat 2 minutes to eliminate air bubbles. Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth.

Four-Layer White Cake with Fondant

Slice of cake at the glitz station

A few more pics from the night...

Bachelorette Party Fun

back15me and the bride-to-be!

back13

Drunk Barbie Bachelorette Cake with Fondant

Gingerbread Houses

Homemade Gingerbread House: Etched Chocolate Bat Door The concept of making and decorating a gingerbread house is appealing in so many ways.  You can expressive yourself in a creative, artistic manner through baking.  And you do it during the holiday season with family and friends. Win, Win, Win, Win! I am a late bloomer to the gingerbread house game, as last Christmas was the first time that I EVER constructed or decorated one (I never even did the milk carton/graham cracker thing in school).  Last year gave me a glimpse into the planning and dedication that is needed to construct and decorate a gingerbread house.  The entire project can be completed in one day, but it's much easier if you plan in advance and construct/decorate over a couple of days.

Gingerbread House Igloo: "Ginger-gloo"

<!--more-->Over Thanksgiving, my mom, sisters, and I decorated gingerbread houses.  It was so therapeutic to post up in the dining room with Christmas music playing, making shingles from non-pareils and walls from sugar cubes.  I decided to switch things up this year and not make a "traditional" gingerbread house, but instead a gingerbread igloo.. or a gInger-GLOO.  It took me multiple attempts to bake the dome and tunnel, but it worked out!  The most difficult part of making a gingerbread house for me is the actual home construction--making the walls, and roof pieces all line up, and stay together with only royal icing!

Gingerbread House Recipe, adapted from Making Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbread Dough (Enough for 1 house or an army of gingerbread men)

Ingredients:

1 c. butter, softened (2 sticks) 3/4 c. (100g) firmly packed brown sugar 3/c. (250g) molasses 5 1/4 c. (630g) all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking soda 2 teaspoons cinnamon 2 teaspoons ground ginger 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves 1 teaspoon salt 3/4 c. (6 oz.) cold water

1.  Cream first two ingredients until light and fluffy.  Add molasses and blend on low speed.

2. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, and ground cloves into a large bowl. Stir in salt.  Add flour mixture and water to butter/sugar/molasses mixture, and blend until all of the flour is absorbed.

3. Spread the dough out on a sheet pan, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it until you're ready to roll it out (at least 3 hours, ideally overnight).  It will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or the freezer for up to one month.

rolling out dough with a rolling pin

Baking gingerbread over a bowl in the oven

Gingerbread Tunnel

Decorating the Gingerbread IglooDecorating with Sugar Cubes- Decorating with Sugar Cubes

Gingerbread House Assembly

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Roll out the dough on a clean, flat, floured surface.  Roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin.  The dough should be 1/2 inch thick so that the structure can support the weight of itself and the decorations.  Using a template, cut the dough with a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife, and transfer to a baking sheet.  Bake until deep brown, but not black (about 20 minutes). **Be sure to bake it until crisp and completely dry--this is building material--not a cookie!

2. Transfer the pieces to a cooling rack, and allow to cool completely (at least 25 minutes).

3. Using a 12 or 14 inch cake board, commence assembly.  Using a pencil, lightly mark where you want the house to sit on the base (cake board).  Place royal icing in piping bag, and use the icing like glue to assemble the house.  Let the pieces dry completely before beginning to decorate.

Royal Icing Recipe

Ingredients:

5 1/4 c. (630g) powdered sugar 1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar 1/2 c. egg whites

1. Sift the powdered sugar after measuring it. Add the egg whites and cream of tartar to the sugar.

2. Combine the ingredients with a mixer on low speed, then beat them on high for two to five minutes (until snow-white and fluffy).  **Keep the icing bowl covered with a damp towel to retain moisture.  The mixture hardens and crusts quickly when exposed to air.

My favorite 7-year old's gingerbread house.  Her little house improved SO MUCH from last year!

We even invited some youngsters over and helped them to each construct and decorate a gingerbread house.  The kids--ages 7-14--were all entirely engrossed in the project.  It was really great to see them so focused on being creative little decorators.

decorating gingerbread houses

Buche de Noel (Yule Log)

Buche de Noel (Yule Log)

I love pies, cakes, and cookies at Christmastime.  But, I also like trying new things, and I wanted to bring a little bit of France with me home to Lousiana for the holidays.  The buche de noel (Yule Log) is a traditional Christmas dessert in France, Belgium, French Canada, Lebanon, and Vietnam.  It is traditionally made from a sponge cake , and filled with chocolate buttecream rolled up to ressemble a log.

I wanted to make one a little more--interesting. I found a recipe that combined Nutella, whipped cream, and toasted almonds. I couldn't resist!

The toasted almonds really bring out the nuttiness of the Nutella, and compliment the Genoise cake splendidly.  The finished product is so festive and really adds a nice flair to any dining table set for Christmas dinner.  You can always enjoy a left over piece the next morning with coffee for holiday-only guilt-free breakfast ;)

This Yule Log recipe is particularly wintry since the whipped cream frosting symbolizes snow on the log.  Get creative and really create a winter wonderland! Enjoy!

Buche de Noel (Yule Log), courtesy Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

Nonstick cooking spray, for pan 4 large eggs, separated ¾ c. granulated sugar ¼ teaspoon pure almond extract ½ c. all purpose flour ¼ teaspoon salt Powdered Sugar, for dusting ½ c. sliced almonds, toasted Chocolate-hazlenut filling and whipped cream frosting (recipes above)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Coat a 10 x 15 inch jelly roll pan with nonstick cooking spray; line bottom of pan with parchment paper.  Coat parchment paper with cooking spray.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yoks with ½ c. granulated sugar until pale yellow.  Whisk in almond extract and flour just until combined (do not overmix!).  Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form.  While beating, slowly add remaining ¼ c. granulated sugar (1 tablespoon at a time) and beat until stiff and glossy.  Whisk 1/3 of beaten egg whites into yolk mixture.  Gently fold in remaining egg whites with a rubber spatula.  Spread batter evenly in prepared pan; bake until center of cake springs back when lightly pressed, 15-17 minutes.
  4.  Immediately after removing cake from oven, run a knife around edge of pan.  Dust top of cake with powdered sugar.  Invert cake onto clean parchment paper and gently peel off the lining paper that is now the top of the cake.  Starting from short side of cake, gently roll cake, along with clean paper, into a log.  Let cool, seam side down, 30 minutes.
  5. Once cake has cooled, prepare filling and frosting.  Gently unroll cake and spread with filling, leaving a ½ inch border.  Starting from a short side, carefully re-roll (do not roll paper in cake), and place, seam side down, on a baking sheet or serving platter.  Spread log with frosting; sprinkle with almonds.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

 

 

 

Chocolate-Hazlenut Filling and Whipped Cream Frosting

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin ¼ c. Nutella 2 ¼ c. heavy cream ¼ c. sugar

  1. Place 2 tablespoons cold water in a small saucepan; sprinkle with gelatin, and set aside to soften, about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk Nutella with ¼ cup heavy cream.  Set aide.
  3. Heat gelatin mixture very gently over low heat, stirring just until dissolved.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat remaining 2 cups heavy cream with sugar until soft peaks form.  While still beating, pour dissolved gelatin mixture over cream all at once (gently reheat gelatin mixture if it has stiffened).
  5. Fold half of whipped cream into Nutella mixture to finish the Chocolate-Hazlenut filling.  The remaining whipped cream is the whipped cream frosting.