Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

Crème Brûlée

For nearly an entire year, I have been a girl with a small butane torch and no ramekins in which to put custard.  Me even wanting to fill a ramekin with custard is weird in and of itself (you can search my blog for how I hated custard), but the desire came to a head if for no other reason than the desire to use this small torch.  I was lucky enough to find a steal on small ramekins (6 for $7!!!), and set on this task immediately thereafter.

Baking any custard based product is still a challenge for me; as seen here, here, and here.  I really want to get it down though and crème brûlée couldn’t be easier.  Using the recipe found in my CIA Mastering the Art and Craft Baking & Pastry book, I set to work gathering my ingredients and sauce pans.

I know what you’re thinking; “OMG!  How on earth do you make so many delicious things with an electric stove!?”  I don’t know friends (all 2 of you), but it CAN be done.  Trust.

Anyway, I followed the directions from the recipe – if you missed the link above, here it is again.  If you did not plan ahead and have 30 vanilla beans, or two from the McCormick spice jar from big box grocery, vanilla extract will suffice, just not look as pretty.  The CIA suggests

Vanilla extract can be substituted for the vanilla bean.  Blend 1 T into the custard just before portioning it into ramekins.  Vanilla beans that are used to infuse flavor into preparations such as custards can be rinsed under cold water, dried, and stored for a later use, such as making Vanilla Sugar.

Had I actually read the last sentence I could be indulging in vanilla sugar.   Uhg.

If you are not constantly stirring them mixture after you have tempered and added the sugared egg yolks, you run the high risk making scrambled eggs, so stir constantly!  If you don’t and kind of zone out of the task, get your strainer ready because you will need to pour all of your custard through it to remove the curdled eggs.  Actually, whether you zone out or not, it is best to strain it.  You know, precautionary, even if you’re as awesome as me.

Then just bake your ramekins off in a water bath so they do not get rubbery!

When you pull these guys out, or as many as you can bake (for any that you can’t/don’t want to bake off,  just put it in a sizable plastic container and use within a week or so), let them cool down and then refrigerate until they are fully chilled. But when they ARE…

Using 1 part granulated sugar to 1 part brown sugar and mixing them together completely, you have created brûlée sugar.  Take your brûlée sugar and layer it thinly on top of your custard…

Then you take that sugar and TORCH IT!  But not so much so that it is just burnt…but caramelized.

Some people pick their scabs, other break windows to relieve stress, feel good or waste time.  But if you are looking for a wonderful relief that is neither disgusting but is law-abiding, cracking through the glassy topping of this wonderful crème brûlée fits the bill.


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Rugelach is just about the most adorable little pastry (with the exception of course of petits fours).  It is not only cute, but it’s fillings are limitless.  Wikipedia explains that rugelach means “creeping vine”, but it also explains that it means “little twist” but I thought I read somewhere that it means “little horn.”  I’m so confused and don’t know what to believe, but I can tell you a few things about rugelach:

  • It’s delicious
  • It looks like a conjugal product between a croissant and a Pilsbury Crescent
  • When you bake it, you need to double-pan it up.

Really, these are the most important things to know.  Oh, and here is the recipe from Ina Garten, one of few Food Network stars who is there based on merit and not how much cleavage she can show from a single camera angle.  Anyway…

You start out with a cream cheese based dough.  After mixing it in your mixing bowl knead it on the counter wit a little bit of flour until you can form it into a disk (like pie), wrap the dough in plastic and keep it in your refrigerator for at least an hour.  If you keep it in the refrigerator for more than an hour or a day, you may just need to take it out to warm up a bit before working with it – not a big deal.  When you can work with it, try using as little flour as you can while still having the ability to roll it out in a large circle since you don’t want/need to incorporate more flour than necessary in the dough.

I have a 14 inch round cake pan which I was able to use as a stencil and cut away any of the scraps.  I decided not to utilize the scraps in any future rugelach because I feared over-working the dough which, as we know, would result in a tough end-product – gross.

The, or, a school of thought on rugelach is that you have a wet ingredient and a dry one; apricot glaze and walnuts for instance, where you paint a layer of the glaze on the dough and then sprinkle it with nuts.

raspberry poppy and almond love

I followed that school in one batch, but got totally wild with the second batch where I merely chopped some bittersweet chocolate and combined it with nuts.  Like whoa.

As you can see, I did not cover all of the dough with filling but left room in the middle and on the outsides.

Because you will be rolling the dough and baking it, you certainly don’t want all of the delicious filling to go to waste when it bakes out of the middle.  Using a pizza cutter, or similar tool, cut the ingredient topped dough into triangles as you might a pizza.  The amount is really up to you and how large you rolled your dough out.  Then starting from out the outside and going in, roll each triangle into a croissant like shape.

You should see that I did not wrap each piece tightly.  It is a little loose so as to not squeeze out the ingredients as well as allow room for the dough to expand and puff out a bit during the baking process.  If at this point you want to freeze your rugelach to bake for later, you can.  They freeze nicely and you can take out as many or as few as you may need for a breakfast treat or a dessert table feature.  On this occasion, I baked half the batch and froze the other half, waiting until Thanksgiving to bake them.

When you DO  bake them, make sure to apply an egg wash (I prefer using a whole egg with a smidgen of milk, cream or whatever is on hand) and DOUBLE PAN your cookie sheets.  If you do not, the bottoms will burn before the tops look like they are finished.

Use the egg-wash as the glue that it is to sprinkle some of the filling on the tops of the rugelach so you and guests know what is inside the different little pastries!

If these little guys were animated, wouldn’t you just want to pinch their non-existent cheeks theyaresocute!?

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To be honest I cannot recall any desserts we ate in Russia.  This is not to say that they don’t have any, but I could not conjure up one of my own and so took to the Internets and came across this honey cake recipe.  The nesting dolls in the upper left-hand corner only ensure that this is a tried and true Russian recipe.  However tried and true is far from inaccurate as I will detail.

I fancy myself pretty good at baking – I even call myself a baker.  I think I grasp basic baking and cooking concepts easily and can certainly follow a recipe as well as understand what went wrong in a given recipe when it comes out sub-par.  I take a mental note of it and understand to alter it later when I again try to make it.  Given this, I was pretty frustrated with this recipe.  Though the method didn’t SEEM to make sense, but I went with it anyway in an effort to learn new techniques.  FAIL.


The recipe instructed you to heat the butter, sugar and honey in a pan and then add it to the beaten-egg-flour-mixture.  I did this. In fact, I did this twice.  The first time after adding this hot mixture to the egg-dough there were sizable chunks in it.  I figured I must have heated the sugar too hot and thus created scrambled eggs – an unappealing mouth feel and taste for sure and one I have overcome before while making pastry cream.  I tossed it all out and started again to have something similar occur, but the chunks were much smaller.  I tossed that out as well and moved on a the creaming method, which just made more sense to me and for the recipe.


butter sugar egg honey

I added the other ingredients and the batter finally came together in a smooth manner – in a batter manner if you will.

The other problem I had with this recipe was its insistence of baking eight separate layers and this may be a problem because of my relatively limited experience, or my alterations with the recipe and thus consistency of the batter, or it could be that this recipe is faulty by nature.  Whatever the culprit, I found it near impossible to spread the batter neatly and evenly as thin as requested over the spring-form pan.  After a failed attempt, I opted to bake the cakes in two pans where after baking i cut the cakes in half.  Not eight separate layers as demanded, but halfway there – literally.


super fuzzy cake picture!

The only thing in this recipe that was full proof was the cream filling, which required nothing more than mixing three ingredients together and icing the cake so it was made to be easy and coherent.


It deviated from the photo on the recipe, but it was still very attractive, and more so since I got to use one of my new display dome and trays.

And so this is how the Russian Dinner Night concluded.  We ran out of good Russian vodka but still have fantastic wine, good food and great friends, which may (or may not?…depending on how you roll) be most important anyway.

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I love love love trying new recipes.  Ones that look beautiful but too difficult to make or just any old day.  At the same time, there is absolutely nothing better than fresh fruit to top off a great meal.  This dessert however, is a mere two steps away from the fresh fruit end of the spectrum.  It is really easy, has some sort of “wow” factor and you can even make it the night before!

I have wanted to try Adam Robert’s recipe for figs for some time now.  Often times when I am desperate to make it, it is not fig season and I am SOL.  However, while at the store, I learned that it was indeed fig season and I snatched some up!  Sadly they sat, unattended in the refrigerator for a week before I paid them any mind, but when I did I dolled them up so simply that you don’t even need a recipe.

DSCN1253-1Step one: quarter them up!

Step two: drizzle honey on top of the exposed figs.

Step three: pour some orange juice (whether fresh or from a jug – just remember to keep your honey/juice ratio in order if using jug juice since it will inherently be sweeter than fresh OJ.)

Step four: pop them in an oven at 350F for ~15 minute,  Baste the figs with the juice in the pan.  Bake another 15 minutes.

Step five: take out of oven.


You can serve right away, or until cool.  I let mine sit in the refrigerator overnight.  The day I wanted to serve them, I just whipped some heavy whipping cream (with a quarter cup of buttermilk to give it some bite) and garnished the figs with it.  The cream gave the sweet figs a different mouth feel as well as an entirely different taste.

See!?  I told you it was easy.

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Summer is ubiquitous with fresh berries.  There are many fine ways to feature berries in any dessert, any appetizer and any entree.  I chose dessert.  Moreover I also chose to buy frozen berries rather than fresh (I already feel the same.  Don’t judge!).

I had a whole afternoon to myself and a birthday gathering to go to later that night.  With that much time, I decided to indulge and make a berry pound cake crisp.  I’ve done crisps, cobblers, and the like, but never thought to add pound cake as a topping to any better dish until I saw it in August’s issue of Food & Wine Magazine.  Having lost my pound cake recipe, I got one from Joy of Cooking, and started baking away. 

The first order of business was to whip up the pound cake:

I took the room temperature butter and sugar and added it to my mixer until it became a light and fluffy concoction. 

When it got to the right consistency, I added each of the four eggs, one at a time.  By the fourth egg, the mixture began to resemble a coagulated mess, much like cottage cheese.  However, by the time I added the flour, baking powder, baker’s sugar and salt mixture, and let my mixer run with it for about five minutes, it became light and fluffy – the perfect consistency.  I dolloped the entire bowl into one loaf tray (perhaps a mistake as it was overflowing, but I’m OK with that).

While I put the pound cake in the oven for 50 minutes, I had a lot of time on my hands.  The berry part of the crisp merely takes 10-15 minutes, but I sliced and chopped up some fresh – not frozen (Huzzah!) rhubarb to give the berries a little sour kick.  The rhubarb was sturdy, deep red (green rhubarb is also good), and in all respects a perfect specimen, which I mixed in with the berries, sugar and cornstarch.  

I pulled the pound cake out at the right time.  It was golden on the outside, and a crisp white inside. 


After it cooled, I cut the loaf into one inch cubs, and put them back in the oven on a cookie sheet for about ten minutes.  During that time, I poured the berries and whatever juices they had into an 8X8 Pyrex pan.  When the twice baked pound cake was cooled, I tossed it into a buttery-sugar mixture and placed each piece on top of the berries, and put the whole pan back in the oven for 30 minutes with tin foil on, and 20 minutes exposed.  Fifty minutes later I had a beautiful summer dessert to share for David’s little brother’s birthday. 

(Little did I know that his sister was making the family chocolate cake that is made on each birthday.  I felt like a jerk, but I quickly got over that feeling and ate the cake.  It was delicious…and so was this berry bake.)

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