Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy 2013, and a Peanut Butter Mousse Tart

Happy new year, everyone!

Peanut Butter Mousse Tart

I have a couple of friends in town, and there is no better excuse to bake than friends around to feed.

I have been going through a tart phase, and you may take that any way you would like.

Peanut Butter Mousse Tart

So I pulled out Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pie and Pastry Bible and made a peanut butter tart.

The tart crust is basically peanut butter cookie dough, pressed out into the pan and blind baked. This portion of the recipe takes the longest, and that is because there are a couple of one hour rests in the refrigerator. So really, not that hard.

Peanut Butter Mousse Tart

The peanut butter mousse takes at most ten minutes to put together. Just a mix of peanut butter, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and whipped cream. The filling goes into the pie shell and into the refrigerator.

Peanut Butter Mousse Tart

While the filling chills, the ganache--which is made of mostly milk chocolate with a little bitter chocolate to temper the sweetness--is made and when cooled, spread over the top of the pie.

The tart is a bit rich. You need to be a lover of peanut butter to enjoy this. The peanut butter cookie crust is excellent, the ganache is just the perfect balance, and the whole dessert is divine.

Peanut Butter Mousse Tart


All that is left is to slice and serve to your friends. We chose to do it while watching Ferris Bueller and drinking tea. It was a good way to start the year.

May your new year be the beginning of something sweet, something rich, and something divine.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chocolate Pumpkin Tart

I have been trying to write this post since Thanksgiving, and for some reason I have the worst writer's block about it. This is a little sad since the baked good in question, the Chocolate Pumpkin Tart, is freaking delicious.

November 22, 2012
Name of Tart: Chocolate Pumpkin, Yo!
Occasion: Thanksgiving
Constituents: one 10in GF gingersnap crust, 60% chocolate undercoat, chocolate-pumpkin pie filling

chocolate pumpkin tart

Back in 2008 I was a subscriber to Martha Stewart, and in her Thanksgiving issue she did a feature on all the fun ways the ubiquitous pumpkin pie could be jazzed up. One such suggestion was a Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Pie, with a graham cracker base, dark chocolate undercoat, semi-sweet chocolate-pumpkin filling, and a milk chocolate drizzle. Immediately I decided that pie needed to be made.

I have made this pie every year since that, as it was a big hit amongst all who tasted it. In fact, the pie developed such a reputation that people would come over just for the pie, screw the company.

Right out the door I modified the recipe to be gluten free; that was pretty easy as it just meant getting a GF cookie for the crust. I also threw out the milk chocolate drizzle; a double chocolate pie has been more than sufficient for us.

This year, I decided to screw the whole deep dish pie thing and turn the pie into a tart. This is so much better. You get a much higher ratio of gingersnap crust to silky pie filling. With a little whipped cream, this pie has achieved perfection.

chocolate pumpkin tart

In fact, I love this tart so much and have modified the original enough that I would publish the recipe. However I was not exact with some of my measurements...so...let me just bullet point all the modifications I made, and then you can print them out along with Martha's official recipe and make a kick-ass chocolate pumpkin tart of your own.

chocolate pumpkin tart

  • 2 packages Mi Del GF Gingersnap cookies, instead of graham crackers. You'll need about 1.5 packages, about 12oz or 340g cookies, finely ground.
  • You'll only need about half the amount of butter (3 tbsp as opposed to 6), as GF cookies don't readily absorb liquid.
  • Omit the brown sugar and cinnamon when making the crust. Your crust should be only cookie crumbs, melted butter, salt.
  • Press crust into a 10in tart pan. Bake until firm, 8 to 10 min.
  • Use closer to 8oz 60% chocolate for the undercoat and be sure to paint the chocolate up the sides of the crust too.
  • Use 60% chocolate for the filling as well.
  • Use light muscovado sugar instead of brown sugar.
  • I whisked the chocolate into the pumpkin, instead of the other way around.
  • Put your tart pan on a baking sheet and carefully pour in your pumpkin mixture. You will have more than you need; the extra batter can be baked in a separate ramekin or two.
  • The hardest part of this recipe is getting the tart pan into the oven without spilling pumpkin filling all over the baking sheet.
  • Bake time remained the same: 55 to 60 min.
  • Skip the milk chocolate drizzle and serve with whipped cream.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Baking Roundup

I tell ya, people. That Heavenly Cakes Bakethrough I participated in really killed my ability to bake AND blog. I am TRYING to get my mojo back, but as you might have noticed I'm not succeeding. I'm not beating myself up about it...but I do miss my weekly ritual of baking and blogging and reading your comments.

So I just found on my camera some photos of things I did actually bake over the summer, and that I really did intend on blogging over here but for some reason or another I never did. So let's do a quick photo-heavy roundup, shall we?

I think I mentioned in Joelf's bday post that I had extra biscuit lying around waiting to be used, right? Well here they are. I baked them in my toaster oven while Joelf's cake baked in the oven. I decided to use the biscuits to make a brown betty, based on recipes found in Rustic Fruit Desserts.

stone fruit brown betty


I took some peaches, cherries and apricots, macerated them in a little sugar, and poured them into a 9 inch deep dish pie plate.

stone fruit brown betty


I crumbled the biscuit over the top and added pats of butter.

stone fruit brown betty


I baked it.

stone fruit brown betty


And ate it with some whipped cream.

stone fruit brown betty


It was good, not awesome, and that is probably why I didn't blog about it. The biscuit, while having great crunchy texture, doesn't have much favor on it's own and that was a problem. I debated putting the biscuit on the bottom of the pie plate and the fruit on top, and I think there's something intriguing about that idea I might revisit next summer. If any of you want to experiment with that, please do comment and let me know how it went.

I also baked the Upside-Down Sweet Cherry Cake from Rustic Fruit Desserts and it was delicious! There's orange zest and cinnamon in the yellow cake batter that plays well with the sweet cherries. I think I baked it when friends came to visit; it was a darn good cake. I bought more cherries fully intending to make it again but it never happened. Sadly, I have one super lame pic of the cake: the cherries in a dark kitchen lined up in the pan, waiting to be covered with a thick luscious batter.

the only shot of an upside down cherry cake that was really delicious


I also baked Kate Coldrick's brownie/chocolate chip cookie cake thingy, and it was so super sweet. I also undercooked the brownie portion and wished in general I had stopped after making the chocolate chip cookie part.

choc chip cookie brownie pie


But it does look pretty, doesn't it.

choc chip cookie brownie pie


Well friends, that's it for now. I will try and be a better blogger as the holidays are coming and baking will probably happen more often now. Cross your fingers!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Wooden Spoon Adventures: Portland, Oregon and a Coffee Mallow Pie

Welcome to the Portland, Oregon chapter of The Wooden Spoon Adventures! Many of you probably don't know what the heck I am talking about, so allow me to recap: Kate Coldrick, of A Merrier World and Kate Flour fame, decided to celebrate the 5th anniversary of her blog by sending a spoon, engraved with the name of her blog, to fellow bloggers around the world. Kate hopes that the spoon can spend time in the kitchen of many a blogger, participating in the making of delicious recipes that reflect the local environment or culture of the host. What a great way to celebrate a blog! The joy of writing a baking blog is sharing your stories and delicious treats with an audience larger and more varied than you ever could expect, irrespective of time and place. Sometimes magic occurs and you find yourself part of a blogging community sharing a particular adventure, and sometimes something even more magical happens, and you become friends with people you meet over the blog.

 The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie

So the first leg of The Wooden Spoon Adventures began with Kate in her kitchen and a recipe for a decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie Cake. Kate sent the spoon to Melinda, who baked a yummy Lemon Blueberry Buckle. The third leg in the Spoon's adventures began four days ago when it arrived on my doorstep.

Initially I wanted to feature local Oregon berries, because berries love our region (and us, them). Our most famous berry, the Marionberry, has already finished its season but the blackberries are still going strong. However Melinda beat me to the punch, a little bit, with her lovely Blueberry Buckle. So I decided to shake things up a bit.

A Visit to The Sugar Cube A Visit to The Sugar Cube

The recipe I want to share with you all, in celebration of Kate's blog and baking blogs in general, is The Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie, from Kir Jensen's book The Sugar Cube. Here is a list of all the reasons why I chose this recipe (I love a good list!):

  • Portland is batshit crazy for coffee; I think it is all the dark rainy winters. Stumptown may be our signature coffee, and the one most known outside of Portland, but I am a fan of Water Avenue Coffee. This is a great recipe for coffee lovers.
  • Kir Jensen lives in Portland.
  • She is a pastry chef who owns a food cart, The Sugar Cube, and that's where she does all her baking. In the freaking food cart.
  • I discovered The Sugar Cube about three years ago when Kir moved her cart two blocks away from my office, and that was a dangerous discovery. Then her cart disappeared (turns out she moved over to the Good Food Here pod), and just recently I noticed she popped up in her current location, which coincidentally is a few blocks from my new office! We just need to be near each other, it seems.
  • Portland's food cart culture is getting pretty well known, so it seemed the right thing to talk about in a blog post featuring Portland. Saveur recently featured a love fest to Portland's food carts, and The Sugar Cube is one of the carts featured. (Kir shares her recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Orange Financiers in the issue.)
  • Lastly, the recipe looked pretty darn good, and easy to boot.

A Visit to The Sugar Cube

August 25, 2012
Name of Pie: The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Pie
Occasion: Happy Blogaversary, Kate!
Constituents: One 9 inch pie with a dacquoise crust, coffee cream filling, and salted caramel sauce

That's right! No pastry crust! Now you know why I chose to make a pie. (And YEAH, that makes this pie gluten-free!)

The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie

If you love coffee desserts, gather your ingredients and make this pie. It is rich but light at the same time. The meringue and the salted caramel sauce play along perfectly with the coffee cream. I think a pastry or cookie crust would have weighed this dessert down. The saltiness in the caramel keeps everything from feeling too sugary, and adds a deep, slightly bitter touch which compliments the coffee.

The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie

Step one: make the dacquoise crust.

Now Kir doesn't get all fancy and call what she's got a dacquoise crust, but that is basically what it is. You whip up a meringue and fold in some chopped, toasted pecans, and spread that in your well-buttered pie plate. The nuts not only pair well with the coffee in the filling, but they dial down the sweetness of the meringue. This shell gets a pre-bake until golden.

The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie

The only departure I took was to paint on a layer of melted bittersweet chocolate after the meringue shell cooled. I did this to put a barrier between the shell and filling, in order to extend the shelf-life of this pie. Without a barrier, the pie needs to be consumed pretty quickly after setting so that the moisture in the filing doesn't turn the shell into a soggy mess. I needed the pie to sit tight for 12 hours in the refrigerator so I took a chance on a chocolate barrier. It worked, by the way, and I'll probably make it a permanent part of the recipe.

The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie

Step two: make the filling.

Kir got this recipe from her mom, who used to make it when Kir was a child. She points out the recipe is from the wonderful shag-carpet decade of the '70's, which probably explains why the filling calls for a bunch of mini marshmallows. These marshmallows are melted with some strongly brewed coffee (Portland ingredient: check!), and sugar in a pan. This takes all of a couple of minutes. The marshmallows are just a fun, kitschy (read: '70's) way to get the gelatin into your cream filling.

The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie
Please disregard the dirty stovetop and lack of white balancing

Next, heavy cream is whipped with some more sugar and vanilla to medium-stiff peaks, and the two components are folded together and scraped into the meringue shell. The pie chills for one to three hours before you can serve it, but if you added the chocolate barrier it can hang on for a day or two in the refrigerator before serving.

Step three: salted caramel sauce!

Even though the pie calls for only half the recipe in the book, I needed only half of that. However that is no excuse to skip the caramel, or try to cook just a quarter recipe. You will want more salty caramel; for your ice cream, your yogurt, your fruit, and who knows what else. Don't skimp on the caramel. It is salty and sweet. It is excellent.

The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie

The Wooden Spoon is moving on to Colorado and Jenn of Knitty Baker fame! Jenn was a fellow Heavenly Baker who took on the helm of group moderator after Marie finished baking all of the cakes and retired her cake pans. After Jenn finished the book she put down her cake pans and picked up her knitting needles. So far she's knitted 10 sweaters, 11 shawls, and various accessories. This lady is crafty!

A note about the recipe: I was disappointed, to say the least, that The Sugar Cube keeps everything in volume measurements. I am too much of a Rose Levy Beranbaum girl to have much patience for volume measurements, and it makes it damn near impossible for the rest of the world to use this recipe. Not to mention it sent me on a wild goose chase trying to find out the weight of an extra large egg white, so that I could dip into my frozen egg white stash. Grr.

Mom's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie, adapted from The Sugar Cube: 50 Deliciously Twisted Treats from the Sweetest Little Food Cart on the Planet by Kir Jensen

Note: the caramel sauce needs a couple of hours to set, so depending on your schedule you might want to make it first.

Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients:
  • Meringue Shell
    2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
      (Note from ECL: My wild goose chase finally led me to Gourmet Sleuth which says one extra large egg white yields 2 2/3 tablespoons whites, so this recipe needs 5 tablespoons and one teaspoon egg white. I weighed out that measurement and it came out to 60 grams, which is the weight of two LARGE egg yolks!! I used my 60g egg white despite probably not being enough, didn't modify the proportions of any of the other ingredients, and had plenty of meringue that didn't taste too sweet or too nutty so go ahead and use that amount too.)
    1/4 tsp cream of tartar
    1/2 cup sugar (Kir recommends baking or castor sugar)
    1/4 cup finely chopped toasted peacans
  • 1 1/2 ounces (75g) bittersweet chocolate, about 64%, melted (optional)

  • Coffee Mallow Filling
    1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
    3/4 cup strong brewed coffee
    2 tsp unsalted butter
    1/8 tsp salt
    1 3/4 cups heavy cream
    1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    2 tbsp sugar

  • 1/2 cup salted caramel sauce, recipe below, at room temperature
  • one 3 to 4 ounce bar of high quality milk chocolate for garnish (Kir recommends Lindt Swiss Milk Chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 275°F. Generously butter a 9x1 1/2 inch glass pie plate.

Step one: the meringue shell

Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or a hand mixer), beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium-high and slowly beat in the sugar by the tablespoon. Increase the speed to high and beat until stiff, glossy peaks. If your meringue looks dry or lumpy, the eggs have been over beaten and it is time to start over again with fresh egg whites.

Gently fold the pecans into the meringue; I recommend using the whisk attachment to do so. Spoon the mixture into the pie shell and spread the meringue evenly around the bottom and up the sides of the plate.

Bake until light golden brown, about 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the meringue in the oven with the door closed for another 45 minutes; the shell should have a nice golden color. Remove from the oven and, if using the chocolate barrier, lightly coat the meringue shell with the melted bittersweet chocolate. I used a silicone brush and painted the chocolate on, but use very light pressure or you could puncture the delicate meringue. Another option is to finely grate the chocolate bar directly into the warm pie shell, and as it melts gently spread it over the meringue. Either way, you want a thin but thorough coat of chocolate, at least over the bottom but preferably up the sides as well. Let the pie cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Step two: the coffee mallow filling

Combine the marshmallows, coffee, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the marshmallows have completely melted. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Beat the heavy cream, vanilla and sugar in a large bowl until medium-stiff peaks form. Whisk about a 1/4 of the whipped cream into the coffee mix (Kir calls it "coffee goo") to lighten it up and break up any lumps. (I needed to take the extra step of pureeing the coffee goo-whipped cream lumpy stuff with an immersion blender to really break up the lumps.) Fold the lightened and smoothed coffee mix into the whipped cream until no streaks show, being sure to reach down to the bottom of the bowl in the last few passes. Scrape the coffee mallow cream into the cooled meringue shell, and smooth out the top. Let the pie set in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours before serving.

Drizzle the top of the pie with caramel sauce and grate the milk chocolate over the top. Cut into slices and serve. I liked the pie best straight from the refrigerator; the texture was most creamy and I found that the meringue/pie held together very nicely when straight from the refrigerator; too long at room temperature and the meringue would crumble when cut and the filling would stick to your knife and flop over onto the plate. Pass around any extra caramel, because there will most likely be takers.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Kir is a crazy badass when it comes to making caramel. She doesn't use a thermometer and doesn't think you need to, either. She likes to take her caramel to what she calls "the razor's edge," that is she takes it as dark as she can get it before it burns. It does result in a deeply flavored caramel that can stand up to the saltiness of this recipe. If you get nervous and take it off the heat too soon the flavor will be very light and the salt will overpower it. Be brave! Caramel can be intimidating but it is also a lot of fun. This is baking alchemy at it's most delicious.

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
  • 2 cups heavy cream, warmed (keep it near the sink)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Makes about 2 1/2 cups. Don't cut the recipe in half; you will find uses for all of it.

First off, clean out your sink; you are going to put the hot pot of caramel in there when you add the cream. Secondly, keep a pot holder in your hand at all times. Thirdly, if there ever was a time for getting all your ducks in a row before you begin, making caramel is that time. You won't have time to look for a spatula before your caramel is a stinky smoky mess. Fourthly, remove all distractions from the kitchen (phone off, kids in bed, animals outside).

In a deep heavy-bottomed pot, combine the sugar, water, and salt and stir until well mixed. Cook over high heat until the sugar starts to color around the edges of the pot, swirling to promote even caramelization. Continue cooking, swirling occasionally, until the sugar turns the color of dark maple syrup (dark amber).

Bring the pan over to the sink, swirling, and wait until the caramel turns a dark mahogany color and just starts to smoke (it won't take much time at all). Place the pan in the sink and add the warm heavy cream in a steady stream, stirring constantly. It is going to steam and bubble like crazy; Kir suggests wearing an oven mitt on the hand that is stirring. If the caramel hardens up, place back on the stove on low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom until smooth.

Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for one hour. Refrigerate, uncovered, for several hours to thicken.

Store any extra in an airtight jar in the refrigerator and use within one week.

The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie

Follow The Wooden Spoon Adventures! Kate is keeping track of The Spoon's travels back at A Merrier World, her blog and Spoon headquarters.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Cake for Joelf's 9th 30th Birthday

So another birthday for my friend Joelf has come and gone, and now all the stooges are in our last year of our thirties. Or rather, we are currently in our ninth year of being 30. However it has been advised that I begin to round up my rounded down age to 35. I have noticed I get carded much, much less.

But I digress. Joelf had a birthday. He also had a friend visiting from a foreign land, and they were in Portland for the week. So we got to celebrate his birthday together. Hooray!

July 11, 2012
Name of Cake: Dirty Thirty, nine times
Occasion: Joelf's Birthday!
Constituents: one biscuit de savoie, filled with butter pecan ice cream and frosted with whipped cream

Yes my friends, we had an ice cream cake.

joelf's ice cream birthday cake

Joelf loves the ice cream: dead of winter with several feet of snow in the ground or middle of a hot summer day this dude will choose the ice cream. So when I offered to make his birthday cake and threw out the option of an ice cream cake, he said yes, most emphatically. Of course, I was thinking of a cake modeled after the Ice Cream Cake in RHC, you know with a chocolate cake base? I envisioned turning the cake into a sort of hot fudge sundae, frosting the cake in whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles, drizzling each slice with hot fudge and caramel sauces, and a sprinkling of roasted salted peanuts to top it off.

We were in Ben and Jerry's getting, you guessed it, ice cream, when Joelf gestured to the butter pecan and said, "how about a white cake with butter pecan? It would be so good with the caramel."

And so I sighed, as I knew my task would be to find a white cake that wouldn't be hard as a rock right out of the freezer.

Butter cakes were out of the question, as those cakes are hard as rock when they come out of the freezer. Was there a white cake made with oil? Internet searches turned up a big fat no. How about a sponge type cake? My very first ice cream cake was a couple of genoise cakes frozen with ice cream, so I toyed with that option. There actually is a recipe for a white genoise in TCB but Rose describes it as delicate and tender, which doesn't exactly lend itself to an ice cream cake. So I threw out that option too.

joelf's ice cream birthday cake

I decided to screw the white cake part and make a biscuit, not only because it has no butter or oil (just flour, eggs, and sugar) but also because the absence of oil makes a cake that can absorb a whole hell of a lot of liquid before it gets mushy and falls apart. When I thought of a melty ice cream cake, a cake base that won't turn into soup sounded just about perfect.

I copied the method outlined in the Chocolate Ice Cream Cake, that is I used the recipe for two 9 inch layers (from the Lemon Meringue Cake) and poured about 3/4 of the batter into a 10 inch pan. The extra batter was made into cupcakes, which will be good for berries and cream in the future.

The cooled cake was split in half and the top crust removed. Each layer was syruped with a vanilla simple syrup and squashed into a 9 inch springform pan, with 2 quarts of softened butter pecan ice cream spread between the layers. The assembled cake went back into the freezer for about 8 hours to firm up before serving.

joelf's ice cream birthday cake

At the party I excused myself to whip up the cream and frost the cake right before serving. The hostess's three year old granddaughter helped me out, mostly by standing on a stool next to me licking the beaters and asking if the cake was ready to eat, if she could frost the cake, why I was using her knife, and if I was finished frosting so we could eat the cake. Finally I was indeed finished so we brought the cake out to Joelf where we lit his candles and sang happy birthday.

It was a beautiful summer evening in a friend's backyard, eating ice cream cake and getting bit by mosquitos. The cake was well recieved; the bicuit indeed soaked up all the melty ice cream with good texture and very mild taste. The caramel and the ice cream were the real stars of this show, and rightly so. It was so fun having Joelf in town and being able to celebrate his birthday with him and the foreigner, and all of our friends. Happy birthday, Joelf!

joelf's ice cream birthday cake

I had the pleasure of baking Joelf's birthday cake one other time: Joelf's 6th 30th birthday cake: chocolate cake with peanut buttercream

I also baked him a cake and then ate it myself (he was in another country): Joelf's mini Vanilla Bean Poundcakes