Monday, March 02, 2015

The Baking Bible: Hamantaschen

This week's project is Hamantaschen, a filled cookie traditionally made for the Jewish holiday Purim. A quick tool around the internet led me to this blog which has links upon links for those who would like to do deeper research on the cookie in question.

Rose's Hamantaschen are made with a sweet cookie dough and are filled with a homemade poppy seed filling. She also gives the option to use canned poppy seed filling, which I happened to have in my freezer, so I skipped making the homemade version. I wonder how the homemade compares, as the canned stuff has high fructose corn syrup as the first ingredient (boo). The filling in my hamantaschen is really sweet; thankfully Rose has you add lemon zest and some apricot lekvar or preserves to the canned filling so that it tastes of something besides sugar.

The dough is a sweet cookie crust, or a Pate' Sucree, made with turbinado sugar. I didn't take any photos of the making of the dough so I'm just going to skip ahead to the rolling and shaping. :)

ready to roll

Half of the dough is rolled out at a time to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Then circles are cut out and the edges washed with an egg wash. I'm guessing this is to help the edges stick to the filling and each other.

egg wash; but really i included this photo because i love the colors

Then the poppy seed filling is scooped into the middle of the rounds. I discovered that my newly acquired tiny cookie scoop was the perfect size. This made the distribution of the filling go super fast.

The edges of the dough are folded up to make little triangles.

There's an optional instruction to egg wash the outside of the cookies, which gives them a nice shiny brown color. After the cookies cool, a little apricot glaze is brushed on the poppy seed filling to give them a nice shiny glaze, too. They don't want to miss out on being shiny.


These were a big hit around these parts. The cookie is flaky and buttery and the filling is sweet and lemony. There are lots of variations on the fillings, from fruit jams to chocolate to sweet cheese and even savory. Lots of room for play, which makes this a cookie I'll look forward to repeating.  

Bonus cookie!

All those extra egg whites, plus the extra egg white from last week's posset went into making some coconut macaroons. I had leftover coconut from Eliot's birthday party; I had dyed it green to mimic grass (long story, wish I had photos) so I made some green macaroons. I called them Hobbit Hills but Mark calls them Grassy Knolls, which is a play on our last name (Knowles). He was super proud of himself so I can't argue. Then I covered them in chocolate ganache which makes them Muddy Hobbit Hills or Muddy Grassy Knolls.Whichever. They're pretty good but I wish I had baked them for a bit longer.


Monday, February 23, 2015

The Baking Bible: Lemon Posset Shortcakes

This week's project is another one of those easy to make, spectacular results kind of bake. Little genoise cakes filled with a lemon posset, which is a lemony custard made with just lemon juice, sugar, and cream. The acid in the lemon juice is what sets the cream, and such spare ingredients really let the lemon shine. A perfect dessert for the lemon lover in your life.

The original Lemon Posset was served in a cup without the cake, and there are instructions to make this variation as well. I doubled the posset, since I had enough lemons and cream, so we got to try both desserts. Such a hard life we have.

It has been awhile since I have made a genoise and I had forgotten how much I love them. A genoise is a sponge cake leavened with very well beaten eggs. What makes these cakes so delicious is the browned and clarified butter, or beurre noisette. This is what you do to butter when you want to make it more awesome than it already is. Beurre noisette can take a while to make, as you have to not only clarify the butter (cook off all the water and wait for the milk solids to separate) but then you wait for those solids to brown. And as Carla Hall says on The Chew, "there is flavor in the brown." Totes right, there is.

Rose mentions that beurre noisette can live in the freezer for a good long time so I like to clarify a pound of butter and freeze the results. This takes forever to do but having it on hand is wonderful. And holy cow, according to what I wrote on the top of my container, this beurre noisette is from 2012!?! And it is still perfectly good.

After the cakes cool they are syruped with a lemon simple syrup and left to rest. Usually we leave genoise to rest overnight once syruped, and although this recipe makes no mention of that, I went ahead and did it anyway. The recipe does call for glazing the cakes in an apple jelly glaze to seal the sides and keep the cake from drying out. I totally forgot to do that, but we ate all the cakes within 12 hours of final assembling so there were no dry cake problems to speak of.

The lemon posset component is really easy to make, but does take a lot of time to set. Lemon juice and sugar are brought to an almost boil, the scalded cream is mixed in, and then it is poured into a nonreactive container to set. Rose warns that the posset mustn't be deeper than 3/4 inch to set properly, and when you double the recipe it fits perfectly in a 9 in pyrex pie plate. Then the waiting game begins. 3-4 hours later, the top layer of the posset has set to a thick cream. This is scraped off with a spoon and set in the cakes' depression. Both the cakes and the posset go back into the refrigerator for another hour to set, then the more creamier middle layer of posset is spooned into the cakes up to the top. Then, OMG, another 2 hours of refrigeration to set that before you can eat it. Thank the fudge I doubled the posset so Mark and I could sample it while we waited for the final set. It was delicious, but I wanted a little whipped cream to set it off. Yep, I wanted even more cream. I also thought a little ginger syrup would go nicely with the lemony custard, but I was too lazy to make any. Next time.

When we finally were able to eat a shortcake, it was well worth the wait. The buttery, soft, genoise is a perfect match for the bright and creamy posset. I am not ashamed to say we ate two each last night, leaving the last two shortcakes for this morning for photos. Then we ate them as sort of a dessert after breakfast. Delicious.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Baking Bible: Chocolate Pavarotti with Wicked Good Ganache

There are chocolate cakes and there are chocolate cakes. This is one of the best I've had; it is light, moist, and tender. It almost feels like a cross between a sponge type cake (like the Chocolate Cuddle Cake) and a dense rich butter cake. It is easy to make and so delicious. The secret ingredient is white chocolate, which gives it that melt-in-your-mouth quality as well as a little bit of extra lift. Oil replaces some of the butter to keep it moist and soft at cool room temperature.

The ganache is also really wonderful; it is soft and pliant and richly satisfying without being too dark and possibly overpowering (I'm looking at you, Midnight Ganache of my dreams). There's a secret technique here, too, which is what Rose calls an "enrichment" of unsweetened chocolate and corn syrup. This gets mixed into the regular culprits of 61% chocolate and heavy cream. Oh, and there's a little kick from a bit of cayenne pepper. I thought we had cayenne until I went looking for it and discovered we don't anymore (Mark went on a big spice clean-out before we moved here). He suggested using the Ancho chili powder instead so I did. Just a tiny bit of lingering something that stays on your tongue, nothing overpowering or uncomfortable. Rose says the bit of heat encourages the chocolate flavor to linger in your mouth, and I think I might agree. At any rate, it is a yummy ganache.

I am loving pre-prepping the night before baking. Everything is up to room temperature, everything is measured out, and therefore mixing takes only a couple of minutes.  

And when you've given the child his favorite car, a stool, and some pots and pans to keep him occupied, a quick mix is a great thing.

Here's the finished cake. I got a little lazy with the melting of the white chocolate and you can see a little white chocolate blob on the side there.

And frosted. We couldn't wait to cut into this pretty little cake.

The young sir ate peas while I frosted and photographed.

So...can we eat yet?

 Pac-man cake.

We initially had vanilla ice cream with the cake, which was nice but not amazing. Also, the cake really blossomed in flavor and texture later that night, maybe four or five hours after cooling. Also, I would totally bake this cake again, if I had a chance!