Tuesday, July 31, 2012

French Patisserie Inspiration

Raspberry Almond Petit Four

A petit four is a small confectionery generally eaten at the end of a meal or served as part of dessert. The name is from the French petit four (French pronunciation: [pə.ti.fur]), meaning "small oven".   Petits fours glacés (glacé meaning "iced") are iced or decorated in some way, such as tiny cakes covered in fondant or icing.  This small individual dessert is elegant, sweet and a showstopper. The raspberry filling and almond cake is delightful and a perfect way to impress your guests.  It tastes even better with my homemade raspberry and strawberry jam!  

Stress relief tip of the week:
Meditation. The calming effects of meditation are well-known and have been linked anecdotally to easing symptoms of anxiety. The nuts-and-bolts scientific demonstration of these benefits is less clear. But the lack of information need not be a deterrent to use of the approach, since there are no side effects of meditation.  If a treatment like meditation "is proven to be safe, it may sometimes be recommended despite lacking conclusive evidence of effectiveness with the belief that it is unlikely to hurt but has a potential to help,” says Amit Sood, MD, director of research for Mayo Clinic’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine Program in Rochester, Minn.

Raspberry Almond Petit Four Recipe

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus melted butter for pans
3/4 pound or 12 ounces almond paste
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
6 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch fine sea salt
1 1/3 cups of my Strawberry Raspberry Jam
8 cups tinted Royal Icing, recipe follows
Decorative dragees for garnish

Royal Icing:
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1 tablespoon almond extract
8 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar 
Green and violet food coloring (or your favorite colors)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush 2 18 by 13-inch rimmed baking sheets (otherwise known as half sheet pans) with melted butter. Line the pans with parchment paper, leaving a few inches of overhang on opposite sides. Butter the top of the parchment paper as well, then set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste and sugar on medium speed until well combined, about 5 minutes. Add the almond extract. Roughly cut the room temperature butter into pats and gradually add to the almond paste-sugar mixture. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating to combine after each addition. Add the flour and salt and beat until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared baking sheets, smoothing the batter out with an offset spatula. Gently tap the baking sheet on the table to remove any air pockets in the batter. Air pockets will cause holes in the baked cake and give a ragged look to the finished product. Bake until just set, but not browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Give the baking sheets a turn halfway through baking, after about 8 minutes, for even baking, if needed, but don't worry too much because we're covering the cakes. Test with a toothpick or skewer and if clean, remove from the oven and transfer to wire racks to cool.

To make the jam easier to spread and to prevent tearing the cake, puree the jam in a food processor. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn 1 cake layer out onto the lined baking sheet. Spread half of the raspberry jam in an even layer over the cake. Carefully flip the cake out of the baking sheet and top with a second cake layer. Spread with the remaining jam. Cut the cake in half width-wise. Carefully flip the right cake layer and top the cake jam side down. This should create four layers of cake.  Place a piece of parchment paper over the final layer and top with a second baking sheet. Weigh down with 2 large 28-ounce cans. Chill in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator and cut into 1-inch squares. Place onto a wire racks over at least 2 baking sheets, leaving at least 1-inch between each cake piece.

For the royal icing.   In a large heatproof bowl, combine 3/4 cups water, corn syrup and almond extract. Once incorporated, slowly whisk in the sugar until fully combined. Alternately, slowly mix together in a stand mixer and transfer to a heatproof bowl prior to icing cakes.

Divide the icing into 3 heatproof bowls.  Place each of the tinted royals icings in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, with the bottom of the bowl not touching the water, until pourable. You should have about 4 cups total. You'll be using about 1 heaping tablespoon icing on each. Carefully place a cut cake on a  small fork. Place the cake over the icing and spoon the icing onto the cake. If the cake drops into the icing, carefully pick it up with your spoon and place back onto your fork. Place back onto the wire rack using another dipper or fork to slide onto the wire rack. Top with decorative dragees, as desired. Repeat with the remaining icing and cakes. Let stand until set, about 30 minutes at room temperature or cover and place in the refrigerator for up to 1 week until ready to serve.

Adapted from Anne Thornton

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Millions of Peaches

Roasted Peachy Sherbet

Did you know July is National Ice Cream Month?  I think it's fair to dedicate an entire month to ice cream considering it is consumed by 90% of the nation in the United States.  My contribution is summery, light and made with peaches.  The tartness of the buttermilk is mellowed with the sweetness of the peaches and balanced with cinnamon.  It's like having peach pie!  Roasting the peaches with brown sugar boosts that peachy flavor, making this sherbet scrumptious. 

Stress relief tip of the week:
Be willing to forgive others. Allowing others the right to make a mistake goes a long way toward forgiving yourself for mistakes. Assume that others are doing the best they can. Mark Twain once said, "Never attribute to malice what can easily be attributed to stupidity." This goes a long way toward doing the best you can as well.

Roasted Peachy Sherbet Recipe

3 ripe yellow peaches, pitted and halved
3 donut peaches, pitted and halved
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp cinnamon
3 tbsp brown sugar


Cut your peaches in half and remove the pit. Place them cut side up in a baking dish and stuff the middles with brown sugar. Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 25 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes on a cooling rack.  Puree peaches and their syrup in a food processor. Pass through a medium sieve into a bowl; discard solids.

Whisk together corn syrup, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt, and pour into peach puree. Whisk in buttermilk and milk. Cover, and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, until thick and creamy, about 35 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container.

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ramadan Recipes

Pistachio Choco-date Cookies

Celebrate Ramadan with this delicious recipe that is SO addictive!  The blending of flavors like pistachio, date and chocolate are so unique and satisfying.  This cookie is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside giving you balanced textures with these amazing flavors.  Enjoy with a big glass of milk after iftar, a strong cup of coffee at suhoor or a midnight snack.  The perfect recipe to include in your family's Ramadan tradition.

Stress relief tip of the week:
Write it down. A stress management journal is an important tool for combating stress. Journaling can help to uncover past hurts and patterns which are causing stress today. By journaling you can also uncover the ways of resolving these problems yourself.  Journaling can also help uncover emotional problems which are causing stress. It also promotes self-reliance – realizing you can not only cope with stress but you also have the answers yourself. Above all, it helps you to gain clarity in difficult and stressful situations

Pistachio Choco-date Cookie Recipe

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup pistachio instant pudding powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon salt

16 tablespoons butter, melted (2 sticks)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup medjool dates, chopped
1/2 cup semisweet Valhrona chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cup unsalted pistachios, shelled, toasted, chopped

In a medium bowl, combine flour, pudding powder, baking powder, baking soda, oatmeal, and salt. Whisk together to combine and aerate, then set aside.

Melt 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) of butter and allow to cool slightly. Add butter, vegetable oil, and both sugars to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low to medium speed until well combined.

Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix again.

Incorporate the flour mixture a little at a time on low speed until well mixed in.

Add in dates, chocolate, and pistachios. Mix by hand or on low with the mixer until the add-ins are well combined and mixed through the dough.

Chill the dough for one hour.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F.

Place golf ball sized dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet, spacing them out to about 6 to a sheet since the cookies will spread. Bake for approximately 10-13 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a moment on the sheet before removing to a cooling rack. Allow to cool for another 5-7 minutes.

*Don't want to make a whole batch of cookies?  Freeze golf sized balls on a tray until frozen then transfer the a freezer safe bag.  Anytime you want a cookie, place balls on a cookie sheet and follow cook time instructions.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Spice it up

Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes with Ancho Whipped Cream

Chile in a cupcake?  Yes, the balance of spiciness and sweetness are harmonious in this delicious cupcake.  Light, fluffy, moist cake topped with a sweetened whipped cream and a little warmth in the back of your throat when you're done.  Amazing and satisfying.

Stress relief tip of the day:

Accept what you can't control. Some circumstances are simply beyond our control, and we have to learn to cope with and accept them. Fortunately, you do have control over how you react to stressful situations. Staying calm and being willing to accept emotional support from others can help in managing stress.

Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes with Ancho Whipped Cream Recipe

1 tablet Mexican chocolate, chopped
1 cup almonds, toasted
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp ancho chili powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
6 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1 tsp coffee extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
pinch of salt

1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tbsp vanilla extract
5 tbsp confectioner's sugar

For the cake.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin pan with cupcake liners.  In a food processor, combine the chocolate and almonds and pulse to grind finely.  Transfer to a small bowl.  Add the flour, cocoa and chili powder and whisk to minx.  In a large bowl, using a stand mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until pale, about two minutes.  Reduce speed to low and gradually add 1/2 cup  of sugar, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the egg yolks one at a time.  with the mixer on low, add the ground chocolate and almonds, coffee and almond extracts and beat until blended.

In a large bowl combine the egg whites and salt and beat until frothy.  Gradually add remaining sugar, and increase speed to medium hih until whites form stiff glosssy peaks.  Using a spatula fold in a third of the whites into the patter.  foldin in remaining whites in two additions until combined.  pour batter into cupcake lines 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for 15-17 minutes.  Cool on a cooling rack for five minutes before frosting.

For the topping.  In a bowl whisk together the cream and chili powder and let stand for five minutes.  Whisk confectioner's sugar into the cream mixture and pour into a bowl.  Add the vanilla and beat with the whisk attachment on medium high until soft peaks form.

Transfer whipped cream to a piping bag with a star tip and decorate cupcakes.  Top with chocolate covered cocoa nibs if desired.

Adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Baking Book

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Retro Redone

Mango Cardamom Icebox Cake

An icebox cake is a dessert consisting of whipped cream and chocolate wafers. The wafers are stacked with whipped cream cementing them together, and then left overnight in the refrigerator. The wafers absorb moisture from the whipped cream and the cake can be served in slices. This retro dessert is redone with Italian ladyfingers and a mango mousse with a hint of cardamom.

Stress relief tip of the week:
Make time for relaxation.  Go for a walk. Spend time in nature. Call a good friend. Sweat out tension with a good workout. Write in your journal. Take a long bath. Light scented candles.  Savor a warm cup of coffee or tea. Play with a pet. Work in your garden. Get a massage. Curl up with a good book. Listen to music. Watch a comedy.  

Mango Cardamom Icebox Cake Recipe

For the Cake
1 (.25-ounce) package unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 cup water
3 medium-sized, ripe but firm mangos, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 1/4 cups (about 8 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (about 12 ounces) mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
44 savoiardi Italian ladyfingers 

For the Topping
2 medium-sized, ripe but firm mangos
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp powdered sugar


For the Cake: Combine gelatin, cardamom, and 1/4 cup water in small bowl and allow to soften, about 5 minutes. Microwave 45 seconds and allow to cool to room temperature, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse 1 cup diced mango, 1/4 cup sugar, and lime juice in food processor until completely puréed. Reserve.

Stir remaining 1 cup sugar, remaining 1/4 cup water, and corn syrup in heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and boil syrup until it registers 238°F on candy thermometer, about 5 minutes.

While syrup boils, with electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites, vanilla bean seeds, and salt with whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes.

When syrup reaches temperature, with mixer running on medium-high speed, slowly and carefully pour into egg whites. Beat until outside of bowl is cool to the touch and whites are thick and glossy, about 7 minutes. Add gelatin mixture and beat just to combine.

Whisk mascarpone, sweetened condensed milk, and pureed mango mixture together in large bowl. Mix in 1/3 of meringue. With rubber spatula, fold in remaining meringue. Fold in remaining 2 cups mango.

To Assemble: Line bottom of 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper round. Reserve 24 of the best looking ladyfingers and, with serrated knife, gently cut each into 3 1/4 inches long. Break remaining 20 cookies into 1/2-inch pieces.

Cover bottom of pan with half of the cookie pieces. Scrape half the mango mixture (about 4 1/2 cups) into pan over cookies. With rubber spatula, spread out over cookies, leaving a 1-inch gap between mixture and edge of pan. Tuck the 24 whole ladyfingers into the gap vertically; this will help keep them standing up straight. Once finished, spread the mango filling all the way to touch the cookies.

Top filling with remaining half of cookie pieces, pressing gently in with fingertips. Spread remaining half of mango mixture over cookies, smoothing top.

Peel mangos and discard skin. Peel mango flesh into thin strips and place in bowl. Toss with lime juice, then, wrap strips into flower-like rolls and arrange on top of cake.

Whip heavy cream in a stand mixer with powdered sugar until it can hold its shape.  Transfer to a piping bag with a star tip to decorate the top of the cake.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Release cake from springform mold and, leaving it on parchment round, gently slide onto a serving plate or cake stand. Slice and serve chilled.

Recipe from María del Mar Sacasa

picasa thingy