Monday, June 28, 2010

Daring Baker's (chocolate) Pavlova

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

I had the worst luck making Chocolate Pavlovas this month. I really don't know what happened, i followed Dawn's recipe exactly and i ended up with a Chocolate Pavlova with colors that were opposite from everybody else's masterpiece... I'm talking about having a DARK brown pavlova base and a LIGHT brown chocolate mousse! I'm guessing the mistake happened when i was folding in the coco powder into the egg whites... cuz after sifting in the 1/3 cup of cocoa powder, everything felt heavy as i was trying to fold it together. The folding took forever to blend and by the time i was done, the egg whites were already half-deflated. I didn't want to waste the ingredients so i baked it anyways... and luckily for me, what came out was a lovely flourless chocolate cake topped with yummy mousse and strawberries! LOL, it was the best mistake i've ever made ;)

But i thought you should know that i redeemed myself the next day and made a traditional Pavlova (without chocolate). It turned out soooo much better and i finally understood what the fuss is all about-- that crispy crust and chewy marshmallow cloud is to die for! The layer of mascarpone cream topped with kiwis gave it the perfect balance of sweet and sour. Sigh, i wish i had an oven here in Taiwan... so want to make this again!

1- Chocolate Meringue
(for the chocolate Pavlova):
  • 3 large egg whites
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
  • 1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.
  2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form [picture 1, 2]. (The whites should be firm but moist.)
  3. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white [picture 3]. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)
  4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon [picture 4].
  5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
2: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
(for the top of the Pavlova base):
  • 1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream
  • grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
  • 9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
  • 1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)
  1. Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.
  2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl [picture 1]. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)
  3. Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten [picture 2]. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.
3: Mascarpone Cream (for drizzling):
  • 1 recipe crème anglaise (recipe below)
  • ½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
  • 2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional)
  • ½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream
  1. Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.
4: Crème Anglaise
(a component of the Mascarpone Cream above):
  • 1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
  • 1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow [picture 1, 2].
  2. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil [picture 3]. Take off the heat.
  3. Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs [picture 4].
  4. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium [picture 5]. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon [picture 6]. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
  5. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.
Assembly of Chocolate Pavlova:
  1. Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top.
  2. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and fresh fruit if desired.
(failed) Chocolate Pavlova

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Daring Cooks' Pâtés and Bread

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

Ooops, i'm a day late for the challenge :( Life has been so busy these days that i just can't find the time and will to blog. JLo's graduating and he's busy packing and shipping his 5 years of junk away. Seeing his room empty out day by day makes me even more sad to do anything else, SIGHHHH, this sucks. We're both heading back to TW this weekend and thus starts our 1 year long-distance relationship, we'll see how that goes :(

On a brighter note, I was really excited when this months' Daring Cooks' challenge was revealed because one of my favorite bloggers, Valerie, whom i have followed for quite some time is the co-host! Valerie and Evelyne gave us many recipes for Pates to choose from and I went with a double-layered Vegetable Pâté (no pesto layer) and the Chicken Liver Terrine. Growing up in a Taiwanese household meant that chicken livers or any type of animal organs wasn't going to gross me out-- making AND tasting the Pâté was no problem for me! JLo also shared some with one of his friends and he told us that Pâté, or called "Pasztet" in Poland, is also very commonly eaten in Polish households. He said it tasted very much like the ones his grandmother makes! So thanks, Valerie and Evelyne, for sharing this awesome recipe with us!

Chicken Liver Terrine
Yields one 25 by 12,5 cm (10 by 5 inch) terrine or loaf pan
  • 1 tbsp duck fat, or butter
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 300g (11 oz) chicken livers, trimmed
  • 3 tbsp brandy, or any other liqueur (optional)
  • 100g (3 1/2 oz, 1/2 cup) smoked bacon, diced
  • 300g (11 oz) boneless pork belly, coarsely ground
  • 200g (7 oz) boneless pork blade (shoulder), coarsely ground (or ground pork see note below)
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 tsp quatre-épices (or 1/4tsp each of ground pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger is close enough)
  • 2 eggs
  • 200 ml (7 fl oz, 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) heavy cream
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
    NOTE: If you cannot find ground pork belly or blade, buy it whole, cut it into chunks, and pulse in the food processor. You can also replace the pork blade with regular ground pork
  1. Preheat oven to 200ºC (400ºF, Gas Mark 6).
  2. Melt the fat or butter in a heavy frying pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the chicken livers and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until browned but still slightly pink on the inside [picture 1].
  3. Remove the pan from heat. Pour in the brandy, light a match and carefully ignite the alcohol to flambé. Wait for the flames to go out on their own, carefully tilting the pan to ensure even flavoring [picture 2]. Set aside.
  4. Put the minced pork belly and blade in a food processor, then add the onion-liver mixture and the chopped shallots, and pulse until you obtain a homogenous mixture – make sure not to reduce it to a slurry [picture 3, 4].
  5. Transfer to a bowl, and gradually stir in the chopped bacon, quatre-épices, cream, eggs, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well [picture 5]. Spoon the mixture into a terrine or loaf pan, and cover with the terrine lid or with aluminum foil [picture 6].
  6. Prepare a water bath: place the loaf pan in a larger, deep ovenproof dish (such as a brownie pan or a baking dish). Bring some water to a simmer and carefully pour it in the larger dish. The water should reach approximately halfway up the loaf pan.
  7. Put the water bath and the loaf pan in the oven, and bake for 2 hours. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes. The terrine should be cooked through, and you should be able to slice into it with a knife and leave a mark, but it shouldn’t be too dry. Refrigerate, as this pâté needs to be served cold. Unmold onto a serving platter, cut into slices, and serve with bread.
  8. NOTE: This pâté freezes well. Divide it into manageable portions, wrap tightly in plastic film, put in a freezer Ziploc bag, and freeze. Defrost overnight in the fridge before eating.
Chicken Liver Terrine


Vegetable Pâté
Yields one 25 by 12,5 cm (10 by 5 inch) terrine or loaf pan
1. Line your pan with plastic wrap, overlapping sides.

White Bean Layer
  • 2 x 15-ounce / 900 ml cans cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained thoroughly
  • 1 tbsp / 15 ml fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil
  • 1 tbsp / 15 ml minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
2. Mash beans in large bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and garlic and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread bean mixture evenly on bottom of prepared pan [picture 1, 2].

Red Pepper Layer
  • 7-ounce / 210 ml jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, chopped
  • 3/4 cup / 180 ml crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces)
3. Combine peppers and feta in processor and blend until smooth. Spread pepper mixture evenly over bean layer in prepared dish [picture 3, 4].

4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

5. To unmold, invert pâté onto serving platter. Peel off plastic wrap from pâté. Garnish with herb sprigs and serve with sourdough bread slices.


Peter Reinhart's French Bread

I stumbled across this wonderful recipe through Judes' Apple pie, Patis, and Pâté. The recipe can also be found in Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

Homemade French Bread

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pea, Lettuce, and Bacon Soup

I'm officially done with school this year! Well, other than my summer training that i have yet to do and some scores i have yet to receive, i'm pretty much done!! :) :) :) :) :) The weather has also cheered up and it's finally hot enough for shorts, tanks and skirts. You can say that i'm a very, very happy person right now :D

So with summer here, all the grass, trees, and flowers around the city reminded me of a soup I made a while back-- a green one, a very very green pea, lettuce, and bacon soup. I don't know about you guys, but i'm not familiar with using iceberg lettuce in any sort of cooking other than eating them fresh in salads. I was afraid the taste would be too odd and the look too healthy for JLo (he sometimes think healthy eating= unappetizing food), so I halved the recipe to test it out. The green mush looked pretty gross after blending it up but i was a changed (wo)man after the initial taste test. Forget "peas and carrots", Forrest Gump would have no problem changing to "peas and lettuce" if he knew what i'm talking about! The lettuce pieces stirred in on the last step gave it a nice crunch and change of texture. JLo had no problem asking for seconds and thirds-- that's pretty good considering how thick and rich the soup was!

Pea, Lettuce, and Bacon Soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) bacon strips, chopped
  • 2 lb (900 grams) baby peas, defrosted
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 1/2 lbs (1 kilogram) iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and bacon and cook for 2 - 3 minutes or until soft, but not browned [picture 1].
  2. Add the peas, stock, and half the lettuce to the saucepan, then simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper [picture 2, 3, 4].
  3. Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly, then blend in batches until smooth (i used a stick blender) [picture 5].
  4. Return to the saucepan with the remaining lettuce and stir over medium-low heat until warmed through [picture 6].
Pea, Lettuce, and Bacon Soup

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Daring Bakers' Croquembouche

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.

Oh no... i just realized i'm 5 days late for my daring bakers' Croquembouche post. AHHHHHHHHH, i can't believe it. You have no idea how devastated i'm feeling right now. I was so excited about this moths' challenge that i completed mine on May 2nd-- that's 1 day after the reveal date! UGHHHHH, *cries*, it's been a long time since i've been this dissapointed in myself, but i guess i should cut myself some slack since life has been more than hectic for the past week. I'll spare you guys the details but let's just say it involved a lot of studying, graduations, family reunions, food comas, hospitals, parties, and fist fights. Mmmhmm, now let your imaginations run wild! :P

So back to the my piece montée: I never had much luck making choux pastry; tried it many times but always ended up with dough that was too wet to stand. So this time i followed Cat's recipe EXACTLY and out came the most amazing puffs ever! I made around 40 miniature puffs and filled it with coffee pastry cream. I wanted to do more with the decorations on the Croquembouche but after many fail attempts with numerous items, i decided to keep it simple with spun sugar and a last-minute stapled ribbon. I can't wait till I finish my last exam this saturday because i'm dying to try these puffs again. Thank-you so much, Cat, for this awesome challenge. It's definitely one of my fav!

Pâte à Choux
(Yield: About 28)
  • ¾ cup (175 ml) water
  • 6 tablespoon. (85 g) unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • Egg wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally [picture 1, 2].
  3. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely [picture 3].
  4. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan [picture 4].
  5. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
  6. Add 1 egg [picture 5]. The batter will appear loose and shiny [picture 6]. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
  7. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs [picture 7].
  8. 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 [picture 8]. 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.
  9. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).
  10. Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.
  11. Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more [picture 9]. Remove to a rack and cool. Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.
Pâte à Choux

Vanilla Crème Patissiere
(Half Batch)
  • 1 cup (225 ml) whole milk
  • 2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 6 tablespoon (100 g) sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoon (30 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon. vanilla extract
  1. Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk [picture 1]. Set aside.
  2. In another pan, combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat [picture 2].
  3. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture [picture 3].
  4. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook [picture 4].
  5. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking [picture 5].
  6. Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil [picture 6].
  7. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.
  1. 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 [picture 1].
  2. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Hard Caramel Glaze:
  • 1 cup (225 g.) sugar
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  1. Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand [picture 2].
  2. 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.
  3. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.
Assembly of your Piece Montée:
  1. 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 [picture 3]. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up [picture 4].
  2. 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!