French Apple Tart

French Apple Tart

Although this French Apple Tart looks fancy and work-intensive, a second read made me realize that almost everything can be done ahead of time. I could easily call it Beautiful & Easy Apple Tart. There are four components to this tart, of which three of them can and even should be prepared ahead of time.  Pastry dough, almond cream, apple sauce and apple topping.

 

French Apple Tart

In this slice, we can see all four components of the tart: the pastry dough, almond cream, apple sauce, and apple topping. Looks fancy, but it’s super easy and everything can be done ahead of time.

 

The pastry is a typical sweet pastry dough, just like you see in every tart. The almond cream is a mixture of butter, sugar, almond flour and eggs that’s creamed and spread over the tart shell (there is no blind baking). The apple sauce is a very simple mixture of apples and lemon juice cooked, cooled and then spread on top of the almond cream. All of these components can be prepared ahead of time, and the tart can even be assembled up to this point a few days ahead.

Then comes the cherry on top, or of course, the apples on top. Although they give this tart a very elegant look, putting them together couldn’t be easier. Basically, you slice red royal gala apples very thinly using a mandolin and arrange them nicely in a rose pattern. The closer the slices are packed together, the nicer the tart will look.

Another interesting aspect about this tart is that it calls for two different kinds of apples. The granny smith used in the sauce gives a tangy and sharp taste; the royal gala makes for a sweet and gorgeous presentation. Together, they scream APPLE better than any other apple tart I’ve eaten in years.

This recipe is quite generous. Each component yields a little more than you’ll need for a 10-inch tart. Better this way. I ended preparing a 10-inch tart plus an individual size tart.

For those of us who can visualize the upcoming Rosh A Shana Celebration, dinner can be written in those images! This French Apple Tart is bound to be the cynosure of all eyes!

 

French Apple Tart

(Inspired by Chef Cedric Grolet)

Makes one 10-inch Tart

(serving 8 to 10 people)

 

Sweet Pastry Dough:

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (150g) unsalted butter

¾ cup (95g) confectioner’s sugar

1/3 cup (30g) almond flour

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg (lightly beaten with a fork)

2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (more for dusting and rolling)

 

Almond Cream

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (150g) unsalted butter at room temperature

¾ cup (150g) sugar

1 ½ cup (150g) almond flour

3 large eggs

 

Apple Sauce

4 Granny Smith apples

¼ cup lemon juice

 

 Apple Topping

4 Royal Gala apples

7 tablespoons (100g) butter

 

For the Sweet Pastry:

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, confection sugar, almond flour, salt and vanilla. When creamed, add the egg, and beat until the mixture is combined. Then, working at low speed, gradually add the flour, stopping just when it is thoroughly incorporated. Shape the dough into a ball, flatten into a disk, cover in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to chill. This can be done up to 5 days ahead of time. Be sure to bring the dough to room temperature a good 20-30 minutes before using to make it more malleable.

 For the Almond Cream:

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and almond flour together. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic and chill. This can be done up to 5 days ahead of time. Be sure to bring the almond cream to room temperature before using so that it spreads better.

For the Apple Sauce:

Peel and core the Granny Smith apples and cut them into small cubes (not to small or they will cook and disappear). Combine the apple cubes and lemon juice in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time with a wooden spoon. When the apples have softened considerably—there should still be pieces of apple visible— remove from the heat. Allow to cool completely. Transfer to a covered container and chill in the refrigerator. This can be done up to 5 days ahead of time.

French Apple Tart

Look how there are still plenty of apple pieces in the apple sauce

 

Assemble, Bake, and Make the Apple Topping

Working on a floured surface, roll the dough about 1/16-thick, lifting the dough often and dusting more flour as necessary, making constant turns on the dough. Roll the dough up and around the rolling pin and unmold onto the tart mold, fitting the bottom and sides, and patching as needed. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350˚F.

Spread the almond cream over the unbaked tart, filling it half-way to the top of the rim.

 

Place the tart in the oven and bake until the almond cream is lightly browned, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the tart to cool.

French Apple Tart

The almond cream and sweet pastry dough will bake at the same time; you don’t need to blind bake it.

 

Using an offset spatula, spread the apple sauce over the baked almond cream very thinly. You will not need all of the apple sauce, and that’s ok.

French Apple Tart

Apple tart is almost fully assembled.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Continue cooking until it just turns lightly brown (this is called beurre noisette, or hazelnut butter).

Apple Topping: Core the Royal Gala apples with an apple corer. Using a mandolin with safety guard, slice them thinly. Cut each slice in half, and starting at the rim, arrange the slices in a rose pattern, pressing the outward slices lightly against the crust. Be patient to make this design and try to pack as many slices as you can. The fuller the tart, the better it looks. Brush the browned butter over the apples and return the tart to the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and serve warm.

French Apple Tart

Thin slices of red royal gala apples

French Apple Tart

Take your time to arrange and design the slices over the tart.

French Apple Tart

After about 10 minutes, the apples on top are not mushy. That’s all the time the apple slices need to bake ever so slightly but still keep their shape.

 

French Apple Tart

Sweet Triumph!

 

Hope you will enjoy this French Apple Tart after reading this post!

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Cheesecake with Cherry on Top

Cheesecake With Cherry on Top

Luscious, juicy, sweet and versatile, cherries are at peek at the height of summer! This Cheesecake with Cherry on Top is a fun and elegant play on cheesecake;

Bowl of Cheeriosinstead of baked in the oven, the cream cheese is set in the fridge and then topped with a gorgeous mound of fresh cherries and a sweet cherry wine reduction. The result surpasses the expectations.

Cherries have a perfect balance between sweet and acid, making them very easy to pair with wine. A good red wine, such as Pinot Noir is a great combination, but feel free to use another type of red wine of your preference.

Cheesecake With Cherry on top

Be careful to place the cherry topping on top of the tart only at last minute, just before serving, as they will “bleed” and stain the white cheese filling.

 

Cheesecake With Cherry on Top

Yield: 8 servings

 

Graham Cracker Crust

1 ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs

2 ½ tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Filling

1 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin

1 ½ cups heavy cream (divided)

½ cup (4oz) cream cheese, softened

½ cup sour cream

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cherry Topping

2 cups red wine (Pinot Noir is a good option)

1 cup sugar

1 star-anise

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups red cherries

Equipment: 10-inch tart pan

  • Make the Crust: Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F. in the bowl of a food processor or mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Mix until well combined, then slowly drizzle in the butter until the rust comes together. Press it into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan. Bake for. 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Prepare the Filling: in a medium bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over ¼ cup of the heavy cream. Allow the gelatin to soften for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, bring ½ cup of the heavy cream and the cream cheese to a simmer. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and the cream cheese melts. Add the mixture to the bowl with gelatin and whisk until the gelatin dissolves. Let it cool to room temperature.
  • Whip the Cream: in the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the remaining ¾ cup of heavy cream, the sour cream, sugar and vanilla extract until the mixture holds medium peaks. Fold a third of it into the cream cheese mixture, then fold in the remaining whipped cream mixture in two additions. Pour the filling into the cooled tart shell and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours or preferably overnight.
  • Prepare the Topping: in a small saucepan, bring the red wine, sugar, and star anise to a simmer. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer until the sauce is syrupy and sticky, about 30 minutes (don’t allow the mixture to caramelize; it should stay dark red). Strain the mixture, discarding the solids and stir in the vanilla extract. Refrigerate until cooled, at least 1 hour or preferably overnight.
  • Just before serving, toss the cherries with ¼ cup of the red wine glaze. Spoon over the tart, mounding them in the center. Serve the tart with some of the remaining red wine glaze on the side, to drizzle more on the plates if desired.

 

 

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Yogurt Parfait with Granola

Yogurt Parfait With Granola and Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Some recipes are the perfect experimentation of taste, aroma, texture and colors. This Yogurt Parfait with Granola and Strawberry Rhubarb Compote is the way I like to give my imagination free rein. See those seeds on the top of the bowl? The add crunchy and taste. Even better, they mix perfectly with the sweet & sour taste of yogurt and strawberry rhubarb compote. It inspires health. Eat and breathe. Mediate. Inhale peace. Exhale peace of mind. You can watch a video of this recipe on You Tube!

 

Yogurt Parfait with Granola and Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

 

Makes 2 Parfaits

 

Components:

2 cups Plain Greek Low Fat Yogurt

Tropical Granola (recipe here)

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote (recipe follows)

 

Recipe for Rhubarb- Strawberry Compote

 

3 medium stalks of rhubarb (about 9 ounces), trimmed, and chopped into ¾ -inch pieces

1 ounce fresh ginger, peeled and cut into large chunks

1/3 cup organic cane sugar

1 cup quartered fresh strawberries (rinsed)

zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint leaves

 

  1. In a medium sauce pan, place the rhubarb, ginger and sugar, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often.
  2. Simmer until the sugar dissolves and the rhubarb becomes soft and tender and releases a lot of juice, about 3 to 5 minutes (be careful not to let the rhubarb create any foam, or the compote will turn bitter and taste like soda).
  3. Transfer the rhubarb and all its liquid to a bowl, and while still hot add the strawberries and lemon zest. Let the compote cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator in a plastic container covered with a tight-fitting lid.
  4. Just before serving remove the ginger piece and add the mint leaves.

You can prepare this compote up to 3 days ahead of time and keep it a plastic container covered with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator.

 

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Matzoh Buttercrunch Toffee

Matzo Buttercrunch

Matzoh Buttercrunch Toffee

I write this recipe for Matzo Buttercrunch with a tight heart. As the world is navigating uncertain times with this pandemic, I wanted to come here to my blog and offer help and hope. If there is one thing that hasn’t changed in my life, is the way I feel about cooking, baking, spending time in the kitchen nourishing those we love. Back then, when life was normal, cooking has always been my anchor. OK, it can also be a source of stress sometimes, when I have a big job. But it’s always a good stress, if you know what I mean. Now that the world has turned upside down, cooking is more therapy than ever.

During Passover, we celebrate the exodus of Jewish slaves from Egypt. We do that with many habits and traditions, like abstaining from eating leavened foods for seven days. Instead of bread, we eat Matzoh. You can find it in just about any supermarket. I’m sharing a classic recipe for Matzo Buttercrunch that I discovered through Arthur Schwartz, adapted from his cookbook Jewish Home Cooking. Even if you’re not Jewish, you’re bound to love this recipe! In fact, I have given these treats to friends from all walks of life and they loved it! Everyone does! If you like toffee covered in caramel, you will like this recipe as well. You can top it with almonds, pecans or just about any nuts of your preference. The photos are quite helpful understanding the process. But if you have any questions at all, reach out to me. I’m always here!

 

Matzo Buttercrunch

Adapted from Arthur Schwartz Jewish Home Cooking

Makes one 12 by 15 inch sheet, or about 50 pieces of buttercrunch

 

Ingredients:

4 to 6 matzo boards

1 cup unsalted butter (or parve margarine)

1 cup light brown sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate Callebeaut, chopped

1 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted and roughly chopped

 

  • Pre-heat the 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with silicone mat. Spread the pan with the whole matzo boards, cutting extra pieces to fit any uncovered spaces. You want to leave the matzos as whole as possible, but you don’t want to leave any extra space on the sheet pan without matzah. Also, don’t overlap any pieces of matzo.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and sugar and cook, over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk until the mixture comes to a boil. At first, the mixture will separate, but as you mix constantly, it will come together in a beautiful caramel. Continue boiling and whisking for an extra 3 minutes. Add the cinnamon and whisk well.
  • Immediately pour over the matzos and using an off-set spatula, spread the caramel all over. Do not worry about covering both sides of the matzoh boards; spread only on the side facing up.

Matzoh Buttercrunch Toffee

  • Place the sheet pan with matzoh caramel in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes to make sure the mixture is not burning.
  • Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle the chocolate all over the sheet pan.

Let it stand for 5 minutes, then use an off-set spatula to spread the melted chocolate evenly and thinly over the matzos.

Matzoh Buttercrunch Toffee

  • Sprinkle with toasted almonds and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Matzoh Buttercrunch Toffee

  • While the matzo is sill “wet”, cut the candy into squares, or simply, just break it into pieces with your hands. Chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Bring it bag to room temperature and let it rest and set. At this point, you can keep the matzo buttercrunch in a covered container for up to 1 week, or in the refrigerator for 3 weeks.

 

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Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread Recipe

 

I wish Irish Soda Bread would appear more than once a year during St. Patrick’s Day, a celebration of all things Ireland. Although we are surrounded by baked goods, there is something quite special about the Irish Soda Bread Recipe. This rich and handsome bread is made with bread flour, yeast, butter, buttermilk and it’s studded with raisins.

Every culture has its own bread variation, from Babakas from Eastern Europe, Croissants and Kugelholf in France, Colomba Pasquale in Italy, Cheese Bread in Brazil and many more.

Around the early 2000’s, I was an “stagiere” at Payard Patisserie by acclaimed pastry chef Francoise Payard, when the pastry shop was in its full glory in the Upper East Side location. Each day we used to roll croissants in the morning hours and then we’d bake huge batches of dough in the afternoon. Irish Soda Bread was prepared mostly for St.Patrick’s day and Eastern Holiday.

You’d think that I’d be done baking breads by now, but it turns out, I still love to bake at home, especially interesting breads such as this one. I can’t resist a warm oven filling the house with the most wonderful bread aromas. For this Irish Soda Bread, I turned to expert John Barricelli of Sono Baking Company, a lovely bakery in Connecticut.

Bread baking requires patience for sure. Let the yeast do its work and don’t try to rush it. I’m sure you’ll find plenty to do while the dough is resting at various stages. You’ll be rewarded with a delicious and gorgeous bread to enjoy. It also makes a beautiful food gift by the way.

With my recent trip to Belém do Pará, in Brazil, I came back with lots of Cupuacú Jams in the luggage. Turns out, it goes perfectly with Irish Soda Bread. But any jam in the likes of apricots or orange will be nice here! Hope you’ll enjoy this recipe!

 

 

Recipe adapted from Sono Baking Company cookbook

Irish Soda Bread

Makes one loaf

Ingredients:

6 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting the loaves

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt

4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons instant yeast

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes

2 cups buttermilk

1 ½ cups raisins

 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and yeast. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the buttermilk, and using your hands, mix until the dough just comes together, mix in the raisins. Using a plastic bowl scraper, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it’s smooth and supple, 3 to 4 minutes. Shape into a round loaf.

Irish Soda Bread in the Making

Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rest in a warm location (at least 70˚F) until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Irish Soda Bread rising

Irish Soda Bread proofed

Punch the dough down to deflate it, reshape it into a round loaf, and let it rest again until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. With a bench scraper, divide it into two pieces, and shape them into two round loaves.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Dust the top of each loaf with flour, and with a bench scraper, form an X through the center of the bread, pressing down deeply in both directions with the scraper, almost cutting through the loaf. Place the loaves on a lightly floured baking sheet.

Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the crust is deep golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, about 1 hour. Transfer the bread to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Serve it with butter and jam of your preference!

 

 

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Dulce de Leche Souffle

Dulce de Leche Soufle with Coconut Sorbet

Dulce de Leche Souffle

 

Making a comeback: a 70’s inspired recipe for Dulce de Leche Soufle that encourages satisfaction and conversations. Add a scoop of coconut ice cream and welcome to dessert paradise!

Dulce de Leche Soufle with Coconut Sorbet

Serves 12 people:

Ingredients:

3 cups whole milk

10 yolks

1/3 cup (80g) organic cane sugar

2 tablespoons + 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons + 4 teaspoons cornstarch

200 g dulce de leche (I used Nestle)

 

14 egg whites

Pinch salt

4 tablespoons organic cane sugar

 

Equipment: Twelve 6-oz soufflé ramekins coated with a thick layer of butter and dusted with sugar all over.

 

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a boil.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with sugar until yellow and pale.
  3. Sift together the flour and cornstarch and add to the egg yolk mixture, whisking well until the mixture thickens. Make sure there are no lumps of flour or cornstarch.
  4. Carefully pour some of the hot milk into the egg yolks then add the remaining milk, always whisking well. Transfer this mixture back to the saucepan, and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the pastry cream thickens, about 4 minutes.
  5. Add the dulce de leche and mix well, until it becomes homogeneous.
  6. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator in a plastic container covered with a tight lid for up to 2 days. Make sure you bring the base to room temperature before adding the egg whites.
  7. Heat the oven to 350˚ F.
  8. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, place the egg whites with a pinch of salt and start beating until they start to foam and rise. Gradually add the sugar, turn the speed to medium-high, and beat until glossy soft peaks forms (that means when you lift the whisk you should see a smooth triangle shaped pick of egg whites).
  9. Using a large spatula, fold one quarter of the whites into the pastry cream to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining whites (the reason behind this procedure is to mix smoothly batters that have two very different consistencies like egg whites and pastry cream). Using a spoon or ladle, fill the ramekins up to ¾ full. Place the soufflés on a baking sheet and bake until they are beautifully puffed and golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes
  10. Remove from the oven and dust some powdered sugar on top.
  11. Scoop a ball of coconut sorbet on top of each soufflé and serve immediately.

 

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Leticia

Sweet Potato Pie Recipe

Sweet Potato Pie Recipe

Sweet Potato Pie

Ok, I’m all about healthy cooking. The proof is in the book, Latin Superfoods. But this time of year is a little special! Let’s dig right into this Sweet Potato Pie, adapted from Gourmet Magazine. Go ahead and celebrate the old-fashioned way with family and friends. No guilt allowed. It’s only once a year! Remember, baking a pie, doesn’t mean gorging! Just a sliver slice is all you need. 

Growing up in Brazil, such a tart was not in the habits, and in fact it took some time for me to get the liking of it. But after 20 years of living here, let me tell you, I’m hooked! And Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays since it’s all about food, friends and family!

 A note about the recipe: You can roast the sweet potatoes and mash it up to 3 days ahead of time.You can also make and bake the whole pie ahead of time, and just bring it out to room temperature before serving. I like to garnish this pie with whipped cream and cocoa puffs, but even plain this pie is so good.

 

Sweet Potato Pie

(adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

Serves 8

For the Crust:

1 cup gingersnap cookies

½ cup walnuts

1 tablespoon organic cane sugar

Pinch salt

5 tablespoons melted butter

 

For the Caramel:

½ cup regular sugar

1/3 cup water

 

For the Filling:

2 cups (510g) mashed sweet potato (about 2 large sweet potatoes)

3 eggs

½ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To garnish:

Whipped cream and chocolate cocoa crisps

Equipment: one 10-inch glass or ceramic pie plate

1-  Prepare the Crust: Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F.

2-  In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ginger snap cookies, walnuts and sugar. Process until well combined then slowly drizzle in the butter until the crumbs are uniformly moist. Transfer to a bowl.

3-  Using your hands and fingers, press the mixture into the pan, patting an even layer over the bottom and all the way up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust for10 to 12 minutes then transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

4- Prepare the Caramel: In a sauce saucepan, cook the sugar, pure and dry over high heat until it turns amber caramel. Remove from the heat and carefully pour water —it will bubble and steam and harden the sugar— and return to heat to dissolve the caramel. Remove from the heat.

5- in a large bowl, mix with a rubber spatula the mashed sweet potatoes, eggs, cream, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and vanilla and caramel, and mix well, stirring gently.

Pour the filling into the crust. Bake the pie until the filling is slightly puffed and center trembles slightly when gently shaken, 40 to 40 minutes. The top may crack, and that’s ok, and the filling will continue to set as it cools. If the crust begins to brown too much before the filling is done, crimp a ring of foil or use a pie shield to protect it. Cool the pie on a rack for 1 hour.

6- Serve the pie at room temperature garnished with shipped cream and cocoa puffs on top.

 

 

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Leticia

 

 

Chocolate Sorbet

Chocolate Sorbet

Chocolate Sorbet

Chocolate Sorbet

 

If there was ever a recipe to sum up a great discovery in the 1980’s, chocolate sorbet was it. Adored for its smooth texture and thin-like silhouette, it was often the choice for restaurant menus with the greats of Le Cirque, or Lutece. Remember those days?

Who did I turn to? Pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini has a great recipe; Revealing in the light taste of summer, this sorbet is very smooth and not too sweet. Keep some in the freezer for a quick chocolate fix.

 

Chocolate Sorbet

Adapted from Johnny Iuzinni’s cookbook Dessert Fourplay.

Makes 1 quart

 

3 cups less 2 tablespoons(690g) water

¼ cup (20g) nonfat milk powder

1 ½ (45g) invert sugar (or corn syrup)

¾ cup (150g) sugar

¼ cup (25g) unsweetened cocoa powder

3 ¼ oz (110g) unsweetened chocolate

  • Set up an ice bath in a large bowl.
  • Whisk the water and powder milk together in a sauce pan. Cook over medium heat until it starts to boil. Whisk in the corn syrup and sugar and continue cooking until it’s all dissolved, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the cocoa powder and chocolate and cook, whisking until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Mix well with an immersion blender. Pour into a bowl and set over the prepared ice bath. Chill completely stirring often
  • Freeze in an ice cream maker. This can take a long time in a home-style ice cream maker. Pack into a plastic container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

 

I’m so happy that you visited today! Thanks for reading and browsing my site!

If you like what you read, tell your friends about it,

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Leticia

 

 

 

low res cake

Tiramisu Birthday Cake

Tiramisu Cake

There are things in life that have a simple majesty.

A cake, for example is how we mark a special occasion. This January, I’m celebrating the new year; I’m also celebrating my birthday, but most importantly, I’m celebrating 15 years of cooking with my newly designed web site and a new cookbook on the way! After a decade of Brazilian oriented cooking, a new era of recipes seethes with the needs of our current times.

Tirami- who? Tiramisu Birthday Cake! if you’d like to celebrate anything in your life, I highly recommend this recipe! Inspired by Dorie Greenspan’s Baking book (love her!), this cake is absolutely delicious; a detour from the classic Tiramisu, but with all the authentic flavors of the beloved Italian dessert. Go ahead cake! This is your moment to be beautiful! Make a wish Leticia! The possibility of my wish coming true is actually very exciting!

Tiramisu Cake

Tiramisu Birthday Cake

Adapted by Dorie Greenspan’s Baking, From My Home to Yours

Makes 12 servings

For the Cake:
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
1 ¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup buttermilk

For the Expresso Extract:
2 tablespoons instant expresso powder
2 tablespoons boiling water
For the expresso syrup:
½ cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoons amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy

For the Filling and Frosting:

one 8-oz mascarpone cheese
½ cup confectioner’s sugar sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon amaretto, kahlua, or brandy
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 ½ oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter two 9 X 2-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.

1- Make the Cake: Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and baking soda and salt.
2- Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternatively with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions (begin and end with the dry ingredients). Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with an off-set spatula.

3- Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.
4- Make the Extract: stir the expresso powder and boiling water together in a small cup until blended. Set aside.
5- Make the Syrup: Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Pour the syrup into a small heatproof bowl and stir in 1 tablespoons of the expresso extract and the liqueur or brandy. Set aside.
6- To make the Filling and Frosting: Put the mascarpone, sugar vanilla and liqueur in a large bowl and whisk just until blended and smooth. Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until firm peaks. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir about one quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch.
7- Assemble the Cake: of the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long, serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Place one layer right side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected with strips of parchment paper. Using a pastry brush, soak the layer with about one third of the expresso syrup. Smooth some of the mascarpone cream over the layer- use about 1 ¼ cups, and gently press and chopped chocolate into the filling. Put the second cake layer on the counter and soak the top of it with half the remaining expresso syrup, then turn the layer over and position it, soaked side down, over the filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.
8- For the frosting, whisk 1 tablespoons of the remaining expresso extract into the remaining mascarpone filling. Taste the frosting as you go to decide how much extract you want to add. If the frosting looks a bit too soft to spread over the cake, refrigerate it for 15 minutes or so. Refrigerate the cake too.
9- With a long metal icing spatula, smooth the frosting around the sides of the cake and over the top. I decorated my cake with chocolate shavings; but you can choose expresso beans, cocoa nibs, chocolate sprinkles, or just about any kind of pastry decoration you wish. Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours, or up to 2 days, before serving.
10- Remove the cake from the fridge 30 minutes to take out the chill; serve and enjoy!

 

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Chocolate Peanut Cake

Chocolate Peanut Cake

When it comes to matters of food and cooking for the holidays, I have high standards, which makes this recipe a perfect feature for the festivities.

Not all recipes are easy. Just so you know. Composed of 4 different steps, this cake comes together in a sheet pan and can be frozen up to 3 months ahead of time. Look at the photo again: stay here!

This is truly fancy restaurant style dessert, adapted from Johnny Iuzzini ‘s cookbook Dessert Fourplay. He is a rock star pastry chef who worked for many years at Jean George’s restaurant in NYC. I love his work.

This recipe is a true gem. Godsent. It makes any home cook appear to be better than he or she really is, elevating average baking skills into something that approaches alchemy. Tell no one how many steps this takes though. Make it sound like a breeze, especially since you’ll forget about all the work after freezing the cake. I promise.

If you feel intimidated by it, don’t. I’m here with you, and I’ll be with you every step of the recipe, holding your hand in the kitchen while you make this recipe, and you’ll hear my voice in the procedure.

I’ve made this recipe a few times, so by now, I made my own adaptations and I’ll share a few tricks (like using parchment paper for the sponge; add the peanut butter at the ganache after it is done).

About the feuilletine: this is really the secret of this dessert. If you buy it in a pastry supply store, you are bound to buy a 5lb bag. So, I found these cookies that are made of feuilletine; just crunch them up with your hands (be careful not to over crush them).

ingredients

Hunting for praline paste is also a little time consuming, so if you want to make life easier, just use almond butter and call that your praline paste.

Chocolate Peanut Cake
Serves 8

Chocolate Peanut Praline

1 cup (250g) smooth peanut butter

1 cup (250g) hazelnut praline paste

4 oz (105g) white chocolate

8 oz (230g) feuilletine

Hazelnut Peanut Sponge

½ cup (50g) hazelnut flour

½ cup (50g) peanut flour

8 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1 cup + 4 tablespoons (250g) sugar

8 egg whites

Pinch of cream of tartare

8 tablespoons chopped peanuts and hazelnuts

Chocolate Peanut Ganache

10 oz (324g) milk chocolate, chopped

1 ½ cups heavy cream

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup (250g) smooth peanut butter

Caramel Chocolate Mousse

2 cups + 3 tablespoons heavy cream

6 oz (170g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

4 tablespoon (50g) sugar

pinch salt

4 egg yolks

Cocoa powder to dust over the cake

  • Prepare the Chocolate Peanut Praline: Line a 12 X 18-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the peanut butter and praline paste in the food processor and pulse to combine, scraping the bowl.
  • Melt the chocolate over low heat in double boiler (without touching the water). At this point you can’t go anywhere or your chocolate will overheat. Use a rubber spatula and as soon as your chocolate is just melted, take it off the heat. Add to the food processor. Pulse to combine. Scrape into a bowl. Fold in the feuilletine and mix thoroughly, being careful not to break the pieces too much.
  • Feuiettine

    Feuiettine all crunched up

  • Pour the mixture into the prepared baking sheet and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly into the pan. It’s not super easy as the feuilletine will present some force against spreading, but just have patience and it will spread. Cover with another piece of parchment paper and freezer until needed.
  • Prepare the Hazelnut Peanut Sponge: Center a rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat it to 350˚F. Lightly spray a baking sheet with grease, line with parchment paper, then spray grease again. (Warning: a silpat will not work well).
  • In a bowl, whisk the hazelnut flour, peanut flour, and all-purpose flour until is well mixed and light in texture.
  • Put the egg whites and a tine pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start beating the egg whites on low speed, slowly and gradually increasing the speed to medium and slowly adding one third of the sugar. Continue beating on medium until the whites develop more body. Add another one third of sugar and continue beating. Gradually increase the high speed as you add the remaining sugar and beat the whites at full speed until they are completely structured and looing shiny and glossy and at soft peaks. Remove from the mixer.
  • Carefully sprinkle the dry ingredients over the whites, and fold them with a rubber spatula. Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and smooth it out with an off-set spatula. Scatter the nuts on top.
  • Bake in the oven until it just starts to get golden, about 8 minutes. Be very careful here. You are looking for a sponge that is completely malleable after baking. If you over bake, even by a few minutes, the sponge might get too hard and become more like a meringue than a sponge—you don’t want that.
  • Remove the pan from the oven, let it cool for 3 minutes, then careful peel off the parchment paper off of the sponge. Let cool on a rack, then transfer to a clean baking sheet—this is the first layer of your cake.
  • Now we are going to start assembling the cake: on the bottom, the sponge. Then, take the praline from the freezer, and invert on top of the sponge, pressing down firmly to make sure you don’t have any air bubbles between the layers. Peel off the parchment paper from the praline layer, and chill in the fridge while you prepare the Ganache and Mousse.
  • Prepare the Chocolate Peanut Ganache: Put the chocolate in a medium bowl (glass or stainless steel). Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour over the chocolate (be sure it is finely chopped) and let it sit for one minute, to allow the heat of the cream to melt the chocolate. Using a rubber spatula, start mixing slowly, from the center to the edges, until the ganache comes together beautifully. When it’s nice and smooth, add the peanut butter, and continue mixing, until it’s smooth again. Let it cool completely to room temperature. But not that long that the ganache is set. 20 minutes should do, and only then, spread over the praline layer, using an off-set spatula to make sure it’s nice and smooth. Every time you add another layer to the cake, place it back in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • Prepare the Chocolate Mousse: Place 4 tablespoons of the heavy cream in a small bowl to be used in the caramel. Place the remaining heavy cream in the mixer of an electric mixer and whip to soft peaks. Transfer whipped cream to a bowl and reserve in the fridge for just a few minutes. Warning: remove from the fridge a few minutes before mixing in the mousse as you don’t want the whipped cream to be icy cold when mixing with the chocolate.
  • Melt the chocolate over the top of a double boiler on low heat, without touching the water, until the chocolate is just melted, mixing with a rubber spatula. Remove from the heat and let it sit at room temperature.
  • Put the sugar in a small pan and moisten with a few drops of water to make it moist. You’re looking for the consistency of wet sand, so about 1 tablespoon of water should be fine. Cook the sugar over medium heat, swirling the pan as it begins to color, until it riches a golden amber color. Pour in the cream from the bowl and mix well. Let it cool completely.
  • Meanwhile, put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start beating on low speed and gradually increasing speed. When the yolks have developed some structure (if the yolks are too little on your bowl, feel free to whisk by hand), carefully pour the caramel (should not be too hot) into the yolks, and beat now at high speed until it’s higher in volume, thicker, fuller and completely cool.
  • Fold the melted chocolate into the yolks, mixing well.
  • Then fold in the whipped cream, using a rubber spatula, and making sure the mixture is homogeneous. This mousse is easy to break; work fast as you are dealing with temperature sensitive components here.
  • Spread the mousse evenly over the ganache layer on the baking sheet. Freeze overnight.
  • Remove the cake from the freezer and dust it lightly with cocoa powder. Use a knife dipped in hot water to cut the cake, cleaning the knife between each cut. You want to cut the cake while it’s still frozen, but you don’t want to serve it frozen. Keep the cake in the fridge until ready to serve. Cake can be served by itself, or, if you want to dress it up a little, serve with some chocolate sauce, or gold leaves, or some chocolate décor, or a caramel sorbet, or a chocolate sorbet… or anything that you might desire. You don’t need too much with this cake. It’s a lot of work, but worth it! Enjoy!
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