Cold Chocolate Crémeux, Wine-Poached Cherries and Lots of Crumbs

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The picture in our cookbook made the crémeux look like a scoop of ice cream…that is what it looks like, but it is actually harder to describe than that.  It is mousse-like, ganache-like, or more simply a pastry cream thickened with gelatin.  It did seem like the perfect dessert for this hot California summer….hottest July on record!

Few of my thoughts:

I struggled with the custard portion of the crémeux.  At least I think I struggled.  I actually made the custard twice, making a determined effort the second time to get a more silky result.  Same result both times…ugh.  Maybe my expectations weren’t correct. I was expecting a pastry cream and it just wasn’t the same consistency.  I went ahead and used the second custard I made, and it seemed just fine.   Anyone else with that problem?  Also, this was very rich…very rich.  It did seem like you were eating ganache rather than a cream and only needed a small amount.

I am not a wine fan…or a cherry fan for that matter, but interestingly the process of the wine poaching smelled really good…and the syrup tasted pretty good too.

The cocoa crumbs we have made before…and honestly those could be added on any dessert.  So simple, yet so good.

I wasn’t sure how this dessert was going to go over…pretty gourmet for my tasting crew, but this is what it is all about.  Unless we went to a French restaurant, where would we ever get to try something as grand as this??

Imagine my surprise then when I get this text:

“Hey Kim, Do you have any more of the dessert?  It was fantastic.  Mom and I think it displaced one of the top 5!!”

I was like whoa!  Who knew?!!  I told my husband and son, you need to try this because my parents loved it.  They were a little skeptical, but are always my trusted and loyal tasters. Honestly, sharing my creations is the best part of the baking.  I am always curious what others think since I am not a dessert lover.

They were not so blown away…they enjoyed it, but couldn’t quite embrace loving it.  They both kept saying it was interesting…and rich.  They are not cherry fans so I am sure that had something to do with it.  I tried a bite without the cherries and enjoyed the flavors and the crumbs.

All in all, fun as usual.  Not sure I would make this again, that is unless my parents requested it. 🙂

 

 

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Vanilla-Bean Sablés

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In our recipe, Dorie tells us that “In the American world of cookies, the chocolate chip is the icon.  In the French world, it’s the sablé, a simple shortbread cookie notable for its fine texture-snappy around the edges, cakier in the center, fresh butter flavor and, often, its bit of saltiness.”

These cookies are simple…not really too much to say about the making and baking, although the dough is a little fussy, but I do think it is fun to learn more about what we are baking and why it might be popular, especially to certain regions.  Also interesting to note is the name sablé means “sandy” which describes the cookie’s characteristic texture.  This we learn, is accomplished by mixing at low speeds so very little air is added and secondly, being very quick and gentle when adding the flour all at once. Baked perfectly, they should be brown around the edges and golden on the bottom.  To me, they look slightly burnt…but I have never had a sablé in France. 🙂

We all loved these…although it would be interesting to ask everyone which they prefer…the chocolate chip or the sablé!

Me…no contest!  The chocolate chip! 🙂 🙂

Classic Fruit Tart

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We are told in our recipe that there are only 3 elements so each one must be very good.  “The crust should be beautifully brown; not pale, the pastry cream should be silky, cold, and well flavored, and the berries should be ripe.”  Sounds pretty straight forward compared to some other recipes we have tackled!

  1. We have made this Sweet Tart Dough many times, so that was easy.  I made my tart into 5 mini ones just to be different and so I could use my mini pans 🙂
  2. The Vanilla Pastry Cream we have also made before, so that was easy.  I had an easier time with it this time since I knew to pull it off the heat at first signs of it thickening.
  3. Ripe berries out here in California, was really easy!

All in all, this was an easy dessert to pull together.  Everyone loved it with the only suggestion being, that a dollop of whipped cream would have put it over the top!

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Black-and-White Baked Alaska

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This is one of those desserts that now that I have made it, wonder how I have never had it before?  None of us had…and ALL of us loved it!  My family went so far as to say it might be the best thing we have made…wow!  How have we been missing out on this dessert haha.  They LOVED the crunchy marshmallow meringue…definitely the favorite part..although they just raved about the whole thing!  A keeper for sure!

Starting out on this one, I was pretty confident it would be a hit in our house since we are ice cream lovers. 🙂  I have to say, although a pretty simple dessert, this is not one you would just throw together.  It takes some planning.  I did love that once constructed, you could keep it in the freezer until ready to brown the meringue and serve.

I made it over the course of two days, starting with the cake/brownie base.  I opted to use a slightly larger springform pan rather than a slightly smaller one and I think the next time, I will use the smaller so all of it can be just a little bit thicker, especially the marshmallow meringue!  This cake was interesting…most would expect it was your typical brownie type batter but there was actually a few steps with separate mixtures to combine:

  • -the egg yolk mixture
  • -the beaten egg white mixture
  • -the melted chocolate mixture
  • -the butter and cocoa mixture

To say this recipe uses a lot of dishes, bowls, and utensils would be an understatement haha!  The second part that was interesting about the cake…was the intended outcome.  We are to expect the cake to rise, which is only temporary…within minutes of taking it out, the center will sink and we will have our perfect “bowl” for our ice cream.  It worked exactly as predicted..sinks and leaves you with a perfect brownie crust.  I found the cake too fragile to try and peal off the parchment right after cooling, so I waited until after the 4 hour freeze time and did not have any trouble.

After chilling, you fill the crust with whatever slightly melted ice cream you would like.  Super easy and then more chilling time.  The last step is making the marshmallow meringue.  Also, very easy, but takes about 15 minutes.  It is one of those times that I hear myself saying, I LOVE my stand mixer!!  Once complete, you simple cover your ice cream and either pop it in the oven to brown or put it in the freezer to use later.  I put it in the freezer and had no problem with it tasting fresh.

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This dessert was a huge success…with requests to have it again coming as soon as we were finished.  I wonder which ice cream flavor we will try the next time 🙂

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Cowgirl Cornmeal-Pecan Financiers

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This recipe comes to us from a talented American in Paris known as “Cowgirl Chef”. She, along with the muffins have one foot in America and the other in France. We are told these financiers, or mini muffins are a perfect addition to a brunch and that the cornmeal’s sweetness is a great match for the ground toasted nuts and brown butter.

These were fairly easy to make.  I halved the recipe as I didn’t see a need for 48 mini muffins…although this would be a great recipe to take somewhere and share.  The only difficulty is finding time for the 4+ hours of chilling, although…we are told we can use the batter immediately but that it won’t have the great texture.  I made the batter one evening, and baked the next morning.  They did smell wonderful while baking!

These were an interesting taste.  Surprisingly, my son and I had the same reaction independent of each other.  At first we were thinking we didn’t quite care for them.  They are different…but we had both kept eating the muffin, and it grew on us.  Both of us decided we actually liked them and their unique flavor and texture.  I was surprised how much I could taste the cornmeal since I had only made a half batch, there was only 1/8 of a cup in the batter.  I mean pretty inconsequential compared to the ground pecans and also flour, sugar, and butter.  I would say this is another one of those awesome recipes that I probably wouldn’t have tried if it weren’t for this baking group and look what we found…a good one!

Cheers to great baking! 🙂

 

 

Springtime Cookies and Curd

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Continuing from the previous post…this is recipe #2 using the cookies from last post.  This looks so simple but for some reason the flavors were so complex…it was delicious!

Word of warning though it can be costly to make if you don’t have some of these ingredients sitting around in your house.  I already had to buy the almond flour for the cookies, then the Rhubarb and Angostura Bitters, Grenadine, and Strawberries.  I always feel so out of place going to my Total Wine store…”excuse me, I am baking and need these, showing them my paper, can you help me. :). The good news is, now I have these supplies and can make this again more easily.

This is a dessert that you make all the components ahead of time and then construct it when you are ready to eat.  There are a few steps!

  1. First bake the Double Baked Double Butter Petite Beurre Cookies
  2. Make the Curd consisting of grapefruit and lemon juice.  This needs to be chilled minimum of 4 hours.  I made this the night before.
  3. Make the Roasted Rhubarb with Bitters.  This is an optional step but I would say this completes the diverse flavors in this dessert.  It gives it a taste that I would equate to cloves or allspice. I am not sure, but wonderful!
  4. Prepare the strawberries with sugar 10 minutes prior to serving.
  5. Assemble the “parfait”…crumble the easy to crumble cookies on the bottom,  spoonful of curd, spoonful of rhubarb bitters, and spoonful of strawberries.  Top with more cookie crumbles.

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I don’t know what we were all expecting, but I can tell you, not something tasting as complex and delicious as this.  The flavors all complimented each other so well…and the textures just put it over the edge.  This was a wonderful surprise…and certainly not the usual dessert I prefer.  I am so glad I gave it a try because I loved it.   I would totally make this again…even those high maintenance cookies  haha!  This one is a keeper for sure!

 

Double-Butter Double-Baked Petit Beurre Cookies

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On first glance you would think this is a very simple, plain cookie…you would be wrong.  Although this is a plain cookie on its own, it is not simple and is usually used as a part of a more elaborate dessert.

This month we will bake a little differently than in the past.  We will still have two recipes, but this first one will be used in the second.  We have a double duty kind of thing going on.  I have made both as of this posting but will refrain from speaking about the second except to say…it is simple delicious!!!  Any of you who have not made it yet, go the extra mile and make the Rhubarb Bitters to go with it.  I think it takes it over the edge.

Back to our recipe at hand, the plain cookie that is not simple.  These cookies are a VERY fragile butter cookie.  The lengths you have to go to in order to have an unbroken cookie is unbelievable haha…so yay for me for accomplishing the first task 🙂

These cookies actually have a few steps.

Mix up the dough until you have crumbs resembling streusel and turn them out onto a cookie sheet squeezing some together to create different sizes

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  • Bake the mixture, turning the crumbs every 5 minutes.  Cool the crumbs to room temp.
  • When the crumbs are cool, transfer them back to the mixer and add the remaining butter and beat…keeping some of its irregular texture.
  • Shape dough into a disk and roll between parchment paper.  Freeze dough for at least an hour.
  • Using a cookie cutter cut the dough out, knowing the dough will most surely crack as you do this.  We are to take heart that all will end well.
  • Bake the cookies and without moving them off the cookie sheet let them cool to room temp.
  • After the cooling we are “suppose” to then move them gently still on the cookie sheet into the refrigerator and let them chill for 1 hour THEN we can remove them from the cookie sheet.  High Maintenance would you say!!!  (I skipped this step and I still was able to have whole cookies)

We tasted the cookies and thought ok, good but rather bland.  It is a simple butter cookie that crumbles and dissolves in your mouth.  Good…but at this point I was seriously saying to myself, and some of my tasters, I will not be making these again.  Too much work for not enough flavor.  This is where this post ends but the story does not.  Like I said these cookies are used as part of a much more elaborate dessert that had me saying to myself, sure, yes, I can make those cookies again. The next dessert is THAT good.  Stay tuned.  I guess I would say then this one is a keeper! 🙂