A follow-up to Green things I like.
A summer dessert with great potential that fell flat on its face. The texture was spongy not fluffy, more like Jell-O dessert-in-a-box than gourmet. Even the fresh lemon zest and juice lacked zing. If I didn't know better, I'd think it was lemon extract.
Verdict? Epic fail.
(although I'm still convinced it's a good idea, in theory)
Banana Mocha Cupcakes.
The product of too many overripe bananas, these cupcakes were the underdog victor. Shelve those thoughts of dense loaves and think airy chiffon instead. A rich mocha frosting elevates banana from dilettante to sophisticate.
Verdict? Unexpectedly delicious.
Banana Mocha Cupcakes
2 3/4 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 vegetable shortening at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (about 4 medium)
1/2 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper or silicone liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and shortening on medium speed until creamy (about 3-4 minutes). Add the sugar and vanilla and beat on medium speed until fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs and beat just until combined.
Add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on low.
Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate the pans, and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before removing the cupcakes from the pan to cool completely.
3/4 cup butter
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup cocoa
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup milk (approximately)
1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat and set aside to cool. In a small bowl, dissolve the espresso in the milk and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the cooled melted chocolate, cocoa and vanilla. Beat in the icing sugar.
Add the milk/espresso mixture and beat until very cool and creamy. If the mixture is too thick, add more milk. If the mixture is too warm or thin to spread, set it over a bowl of ice and mix frequently with a wooden spoon until the desired consistency is reached.
Swirl or pipe the frosting, as you wish, onto the cooled cupcakes.
Sources: "Banana Cupcakes" in Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, p. 70. Mocha frosting based on "Chocolate Icing" in Bonnie Stern's Essentials of Home Cooking, p. 170.
Notes: I halved both recipes with no problems.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
A follow-up to Green things I like.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Unbelievably, it's been over two years since we last discussed the merits of the macaron and more than one year since I could satisfy my hankerings with a quick trip to the neighbourhood pâtisserie.
That previous post was more a lesson in tasting than baking. Now that I've had a chance to taste a few Canadian interpretations of this delicacy, it's abundantly clear that it's the baking I need to master.
Macarons are like most things French: small, dainty, beautiful, and more difficult than they look.
That didn't stop me from a first attempt this past week, on what may well have been the most ill-advised day of the year. A hot, humid summer afternoon that left my kitchen with that wet sauna feel—never a good thing when meringue is involved.
But cravings aren't rational, and neither am I.
Despite good intentions, I'm rarely systematic about my kitchen experiments. This time, however, I did manage a comparison of silicone and parchment baking surfaces, with dramatic results. Exhibits A and B were made from the same batter and baked side-by-side, at the same temperature, for the same length of time.
The macarons baked on parchment developed the requisite domes and ruffled bottoms affectionately called feet.
Exhibit A: parchment paper
The others? Well, they imploded.
Exhibit B: silicone baking mat
I was definitely happy with the results, but am also convinced the trick is not in baking a good macaron, but in baking consistently good macarons. Time will tell how I'm doing on that front.
Macarons au chocolat
Apologies for the mishmash of weight and volume measures.
100 grams egg whites (about 4 large)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
25 grams sugar
225 grams icing sugar
125 grams almond meal
15 grams cocoa
Separate the eggs and let the whites sit at room temperature for several hours before beginning.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a food processor, pulse the icing sugar, almond meal and cocoa until fine (about 10 3-second pulses). Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites with the lemon juice until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While still mixing, sprinkle in the sugar and beat the mixture until it forms stiff peaks (about 2 minutes).
Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. As soon as the mixture is smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, scrape the batter into a pastry bag with a plain 1/2-inch tip.
Pipe about 1 tablespoon of batter in a 1-inch circle, leave 1 inch of space, and repeat. At this point, DavidLebovtiz.com advises rapping the bottom of the pan on a countertop and then baking immediately, while Cannelle et Vanille recommends letting the macarons dry at room temperature for 20 minutes before baking. Impatience led me down the first path, with good results.
Bake for 10 minutes, rotate, and bake for another 8 minutes.
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Heat the cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan over low-medium heat just until the cream begins to boil at the edges. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute and then stir until smooth. Stir in the butter until completely incorporated. Cool completely before piping or spreading onto cooled macarons.
Sources: Bits and pieces from Cannelle et Vanille and DavidLebovitz.com.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Unripe balcony tomatoes.
Homemade spinach fettucine.
Made in my favourite workout/pasta-making shorts.
(Some might call them teal, but let's pretend they're green.
Recently re-discovered in a stack of summer clothes.)
My egg bag.
(From Workshop Studio + Boutique in Ottawa, Canada.)
That's all for now.
Labels: Away from the kitchen
Sunday, July 05, 2009
What follows is a stylized snippet of the water cooler conversation that ensued when R. brought in a Tupperware of florentines to work.
Taster 1, sizing up the florentines:
So she made a pan of the squares, then?
Taster 2, taking a first bite:
What're they called? Panda squares?
R.: No, I think they're actually called....
Taster 3, a belated entrant into the conversation:
These panda squares are good.
(or Panda Squares, as they're known around here)
Dust off your kitchen scales folks, this one's in metric.
150 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
95 grams icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
280 grams flour (or 250 grams flour + 30 grams ground almonds)
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt)
Cream the butter until soft and smooth. Mix in the icing sugar, vanilla and ground almonds (if using). Beat in the egg.
Add the flour and salt and mix by hand with a spoon, just until incorporated.
Form the dough into a rough disc, being careful not to handle it too much. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate overnight. If you're in a rush, you can skip ahead to the next step. I won't tell.
220 grams sugar
125 grams water
2 teaspoons corn syrup
100 grams honey
115 grams butter, at room temperature
125 grams cream, warm
300 grams sliced almonds
Remove the pâte sucrée from the fridge and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll the dough out into a 9x13-inch rectangle and transfer to a baking pan lined with parchment. Refrigerate for 15 minutes and then bake for 15 minutes (or until light brown). Remove from the oven.
Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and start preparing the topping.
In a saucepan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the syrup is light amber in colour.
Remove from heat and add the honey, cream and butter. Stir just until the butter melts, then cook the caramel topping until the mixture reaches 255 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove from heat and quickly stir in the almonds until evenly coated. Immediately spread the caramel over the warm pastry crust with a wooden spoon.
Return the baking pan to the oven and bake for 10 minutes (or until the top bubbles). Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes.
When cold, run a knife around the edge of the baking sheet. Slide the bar onto a work surface and cut as you like. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Source: Les florentins de mon arrière grand-mère at Foodbeam.
Casual Baker Notes: Lacking Fanny's eye for presentation, I cut the finished bars in fingers instead of rounds.
Labels: Bars and squares