hazelnut cheesecake

hazelnut cheesecake

I have to think about this one for a second. Should I do this?

Yes, I think I should.

hazelnut cheesecake

Okay here it goes. I recently read an article somewhere which stated that food bloggers are multitalented…Not only do they possess knowledge about baking/cooking, but they are also adequate writers and photographers, at least that’s what is expected from them and those are the qualities they should possess in order to be successful in the field.

hazelnut cheesecake

Well, to me writing is the trickiest of the three qualities, and I’m not talking about proper grammar usage or correct verb conjugation. I’m talking about trying to transmit my thoughts fully and properly with words. I have never been a person of many words, especially spoken words. An introvert like me, would rather express herself in other ways. But as I read over some of my posts, I have to admit that I have frequently and conveniently mistaken this blog for a diary, where I’m permitted to ramble on and on and then shyly hit the “publish” button. That doesn’t mean I’m a great writer. That just means that I happened to find the correct words in that specific time and place to express a certain feeling or thought. And thank God I did.

hazelnut cheesecake

Well, today, as I think about these cheesecakes I made, a bundle of emotion is stirred up inside of me and I might have to “let it all come out” and come clean once again…through words.

hazelnut cheesecake

hazelnut cheesecake

Here is the story. I made hazelnut cheesecakes today. I made one set for Periphery and one for me. Incase you didn’t know, Periphery is a progressive metal band that is doing really wonderful things in music.They just left for an Australian tour and I made them these treats before they left on their journey.

hazelnut cheesecake

About a year and half ago my other half, Mark, was offered the position of becoming one of Periphery’s full-time guitarists. He was offered the opportunity of a life time…of his life time. At the time, I was almost convinced that this opportunity, as rewarding as it may have been for him, did not match with what I had in mind for us. To keep things brief, after having been with Mark for many many years, I deeply believed that this sudden change of pace and life style in our lives would be a problem. I was stuck in the notion that the idea of the two (the band/touring and me) could not coexist. I was stubborn and pushed away. This would either make us or break us.

hazelnut cheesecake

Luckily we are still one, stronger than ever. It took some adjusting and getting used to, but after some compromise and care from both sides, we got over the unexpected bump on the road and swerved back to our path. After testing the waters and giving it a try, I realized that this situation is not that bad. I won’t bother listing the pros and cons. He is doing what he loves and that is very important.

hazelnut cheesecake

hazelnut cheesecake

So today, I made two sets of cheesecakes: one for me and one for Periphery to take on their trip. Mine has chopped and toasted hazelnuts along with striped dark chocolate on the top. Theirs has the band’s logo on the surface of each individual piece. Mine is a larger and thicker piece (I know, I know), while theirs are smaller and thinner mini cheesecakes, to the point where they almost resemble cheesecake cookies…Cheesecake and cookies united as one?! Simply delicious.

hazelnut cheesecake

hazelnut cheesecake

They are both different, but still alike, since the same batter, method, and care, were taken to elaborate both. After all, we can all coexist peacefully.

hazelnut cheesecakes

And even better? The guys enjoyed their treats quite a bit and as you probably figure, few things in the world gratify me more than to bring happiness to others through sweets. I hope you find them to be just as tasty.

hazelnut cheesecake

• Yield: Six mini cheesecakes and one 6″ x 2″ medium-sized cheesecakes. However, the yield varies depending on what size pan you prefer to use. I’m sure you can probably get two 8″ cheesecakes out of this. Freeze for 3-4 weeks well wrapped. Keep in fridge for about 2 days.

• Note: I used tart pans for the mini cheesecakes. I know you may be thinking, “Tart pans are meant to be used to bake tarts, not cheesecakes! Duuuh!” And you are so right. However, that’s what I had in hand and I made it work just fine. Since the material of the cake pans is so thin, the baking time decreases significantly because the heat reaches the batter sooner and with more force. If using a spring form pan, be sure to wrap the bottom and sides of cake pan with aluminum foil to prevent leakage. 

ingredients for hazelnut cookie crust:

4 oz butter

2 oz sugar

3.5 oz AP flour

1/4 tsp salt

2.5 oz hazelnuts

recipe for hazelnut cookie crust:

1. Place hazelnuts into a food processor and grind until hazelnuts are finely crushed. Set aside.

2. Cream butter and sugar until butter is light and fluffy.

3. Mix AP flour, ground hazelnuts, and salt together.

4. Slowly add all dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture and mix on low speed until dough comes together.

5. Drop spoonfuls of dough two inches apart onto a sheet tray that is covered with parchment paper. You will most likely need two baking sheets to bake off all the cookies. Bake at 350 F for about 12 minutes, until cookies become golden brown. Allow cookies to cool off.

ingredients for cheesecake:

hazelnut cookies

8 oz cream cheese

4 oz sugar

6 oz Nutella

1/2 tsp vanilla

3 oz mascarpone cheese

2 eggs

1 yolk

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 C hazelnuts, toasted and finely chopped

2 oz of dark chocolate

recipe for cheesecake:

1. Grind hazelnut cookies in a food processor until cookies are finely ground. The natural oils in the hazelnut will come out when this happens, so adding melted butter is not necessary to keep the crumbs together. 

2. Grease six 3″ x 1″ tart pans and one 6″ x 2″ round cake pan
 with vegetable spray. Cut out circles that have the same circumference as the base of the pans and place each circular piece of parchment paper on the base of each pan.

3. Press grounded hazelnut cookies into prepared pans. Bake at 350 F for about 10-12, until crust becomes golden brown. Allow crust to cool off completely.

4.  Preheat oven to 275 F. Cream cream cheese and sugar on medium speed for a couple of minutes until cream cheese is light, fluffly, and smooth. There should be no solid chunks of cream cheese at this point. Add Nutella and vanilla.

IMG_4980

5. Add mascarpone cheese and continue to mix just until mixture is creamy and well combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl and be sure that all ingredients are well integrated.

6.  Add yolks and eggs one at a time on low speed until batter is very smooth.

7. Strain batter into a large bowl. Ladle batter into prepared mini tart pans, until batter reaches almost to the top of each pan. Ladle remaining batter into 6″ x 2″ cake pan.

IMG_4981

8. Place mini tart pans onto a baking sheet tray. Place sheet tray into preheated oven and pour water into sheet tray, until water reaches about halfway the sides of each pan. Place 6″ x 2″ cake pan onto a separate baking pan with sides. Pour water into baking pan so that water reaches about halfway the sides of cake pan. Bake mini cheesecakes for about 20-30 minutes and larger cake for about 1 hr 20 min, until cakes jiggle in the center when tapped.

9. Cool cheesecakes completely at room temperature. Place cakes in freezer for about 1-2 hours. 

10. Turn frozen cheesecakes upside down over a flat surface that is covered with parchment paper. Torch the sides and bottom of each cake and tap firmly until cheesecakes are released. Turn cheesecakes over.

DSC_0465

11. Time decorate your cakes…sprinkle a handful of toasted/chopped hazelnuts over the surface of each cheese cake. Place dark chocolate in a small bowl and melt over a bain-marie. Place melted dark chocolate into a pre-made paper cone. Cut the paper cone’s tip and and move swiftly and quickly back and forth over the cake to create thin lines of chocolate on its surface. If you don’t have a paper cone and don’t feel comfortable making one, you could try dipping the tip of a fork or a spoon in the melted chocolate and moving it back and forth over the cake so that chocolate drizzles over it.

hazelnut cheesecake

You can then play around some more with the chocolate…It’s fun to do so and you may have trouble containing yourself.

IMG_4985

You can also draw the logo of a progressive metal band with the chocolate, that’s just one idea for instance…

hazelnut cheesecake

Now comes the best part. Move the cheesecake onto a serving dish or platter with an offset spatula. Cut yourself a small piece or various pieces and enjoyyyyy! Be ware though, this dessert is super decadent and rich. A small piece goes a long way.

hazelnut cheesecake

dark chocolate bon-bons with rosemary ganache filling

rosemary bon-bons

Hey there! Just wanted to wish everyone a very sweet and happy Valentine’s Day with this chocolate treat. I hope you enjoy these dark chocolate bon-bons with rosemary ganache filling.

May you find yourself surrounded with lots of sweet and kind love–not just today, but every day.

Notes:

1. This recipe requires a technique called tempering. To make things short, the temperature of the chocolate increases and then decreases so that the end result is a glossy, shiny, and streak-less chocolate that possesses a nice snap. I don’t explain the methods ( which are seeding, cool water, and tabling) in this recipe, but there is a lot of information out there of how to do so. I can also provide explanations if anyone would like me to.

2. This recipe requires a bon-bon plaque. The best quality plaques are made from heavy polycarbonate plastic and they will give chocolate its best shine and are nearly indestructible. However, I’ll tell let you in in a little secret and say that I bought mine in Sur La Table for $ 2.95. They are plastic and not quite as durable, but they did the trick just fine.

ingredients:

about 10 oz 70% dark couveture chocolate (this chocolate is used for tempering, so be sure that it’s couverture)

3 sprigs of fresh rosemary (about 2 grams each)

4 oz heavy cream

2 oz white chocolate, finely chopped

1/4 vanilla pod (or 1 gram)

recipe:

1. Place one sprig of rosemary on a sheet tray and bake at 450 F for about 10-15 minutes, until fresh rosemary becomes dry and crunchy.

2. Remove rosemary leaves from stem. Grind leaves in a mortar and pestle until leaves resemble powder. Set aside for later use.

3. Temper chocolate using whichever tempering technique you prefer and fill bon-bon plaques with tempered chocolate. Fill cavities with tempered chocolate. Grab plaque from two corners and vibrate it to release air bubbles from the chocolate. Be sure to hold end of tray and tap multiple times. Hold opposite end of tray and tap multiple times. Knock out chocolate into bowl, tapping and scrapping with bench scraper or spatula so that chocolate comes out. Place plaque upside down over parchment and drain for less than 60 seconds. Pick up plaque and give it a last scrape. Put plaque in the fridge so that chocolate sets completely.

4. Bring heavy cream to a simmer in a small pot and place two rosemary sprigs and vanilla pod in heavy cream. Cover pot and allow heavy cream to infuse with the rosemary and vanilla for about 30 minutes. Remove rosemary and vanilla pod from heavy cream and scrape vanilla seeds into cream. Uncover pot and bring cream to a simmer again.

5. Place white chocolate into a bowl and pour simmered heavy cream over white chocolate. Allow cream and chocolate to rest for about a minute so that chocolate softens and melts. Stir mixture gently from the center until everything is well combined. Add 1/2 tsp rosemary powder to ganache and stir. Allow ganache to cool completely at room temperature.

6. Place rosemary ganache into a paper cone or a piping bag with a small piping tip. Fill each cavity with rosemary ganache just below surface.

7. Re-temper chocolate and pour it on top of plaque to fill all cavities.

8. Smooth with scraper or spackle knife, removing excess chocolate. Allow chocolate to set completely.

9. Turn plaque over and bang firmly to release chocolate bon-bons.

10. Place a small pinch of rosemary powder over the upper right corner of each bon-bon for décor.

Enjoyyyyyyy!

almond & chocolate mini cake rolls

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

I have a quick story to tell. It’s quite simple.

By the way….Merry Christmas!! Just so you know though, this post has nothing to do with Christmas and I’m sorry if you were looking forward to a Christmas-related recipe or story.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

But here it goes. I made almond and chocolate pastries the other day because I’ve been currently obsessed with almonds for some reason: toasted almonds, almond extract, almond butter, almond cake, almond smoothie, almond everything….And chocolate…well, I’ve been infatuated with chocolate ever since I can remember. Nothing new there.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

So just imagine the moment I combined my very two healthy obsessions, almond + chocolate. Colorful fireworks went off all over the place. My palette was joyous with triumph. And when my palette is happy, I am happy.

Well, then I happened to take these almond and chocolate pastries to a little get-together and share them with people, hoping that others would find these creations to be as tasty as I did. And they did! They seemed to enjoy them quite a bit and nothing in the world makes me happier than witnessing others enjoy sweets I poured my heart and soul into, especially when those people are friends and family.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

“What are you going to name these sweet almond delights? They deserve an exotic name that goes with their strong character,” a nice lady whom I met that night asked me. “Oh, and before I forget…here, can you write the name of your blog down for me?” she asked as she handed me a black pen she had retrieved from her purse. I don’t think I had much of a choice.

IMG_4088

So I shyly wrote down the name of this blog and prayed that she found nothing of the content to be too out there. Now that more people are finding out about sweet-lab, I worry that my narratives may be too much at times. You know, because sometimes I swear that I mistake this blog for a diary and just ramble on and on about stuff…Kind of like I’m doing now…

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

So anyways, I wrote the name of the this blog down for her on a piece of paper, but I still have not thought of a unique name for these pastries. Almond & Chocolate Mini Cake Rolls….maybe? That’s all I’ve got so far. I also like the name Sweet Almond Delights, but I think I have already used the name “delight” for a dessert name, so I think I’ll stick with Almond & Chocolate Mini Cake Rolls. I know, the name does not sound exotic at all, but I think that their powerful flavor will make up for their weak name.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

These pastries are made up of a thin and spongy almond cake. Ganache is then spread over the cake and rolled to create cylindrical pastries. Smooth and velvety almond Italian butter cream covers each pastry. Toasted almonds surround each pastry, adding more almondy flavor as well as crunchy texture. I truly believe you may also be seeing fireworks if you get around to tasting these sweet almond delights…I mean, almond & chocolate mini cake rolls.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

Yield: 18 mini cake rolls.

Store baked 1 day at room temperature. Wrap tightly and freeze for a couple of weeks-1 month in freezer.

Note: The thin layer of cake is called a joconde. The recipe for this thin cake was given to me by L’Academie de Cuisine. Give credit where credit is due! The quantities of the ingredients are very precise for this recipe and were given to me in grams precisely because of that.

Ingredients for Joconde:

93 g almond flour

43 g sugar

23 g AP flour

3 eggs

63 g egg whites

50 g sugar

Recipe/Procedure for Joconde:

1. Beat almond flour, sugar, AP flour, and eggs on low speed with a paddle attachment for first 15-30 seconds and changing to high speed for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make a soft to medium peak French meringue: 

  • Whip egg whites at high speed for approximately 30 seconds. Bring down speed to medium after 30 seconds. At this point, meringue should begin to look thicker and the yellow color of the egg whites should disappear.
  • Begin adding 1 tablespoon of sugar to the egg whites while they continue to whip. Start to add sugar more continuously and in larger quantities when meringue gets shinier and it becomes stiffer.
  • Turn mixer off and test stableness of meringue by whipping it by hand. Meringue should stand on a straight peak when it’s ready.

3. Fold French meringue into batter in two parts.

4. Spread batter onto a 10″ x 15″ sheet tray that has been covered with a sil pat. Bake at 400 F – 425 F for about 10 min. until cake bounces back in center when it’s touched.

5. Remove joconde from sheet tray and allow it to cool completely before attempting to remove it from sil pat. Set aside for later use.

Ingredients for Ganache:

4 oz chopped semi sweet chocolate

4 oz cream

Recipe/Procedure for Ganache:

1. Heat heavy cream and bring to a simmer.
2. Put chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour simmered heavy cream over chocolate. Allow cream and chocolate to rest for about a minute so that chocolate softens and melts.
3. Stir mixture gently from the center until everything is well combined.
4. Set chocolate-heavy cream mixture aside and allow it to cool completely at room temperature.

Ingredients for Almond Italian Meringue Buttercream: (Note: There will be plenty of buttercream left over if making a 1x recipe, but I just like to work with a large batch when making Italian Meringue Buttercream because a small amount of egg whites won’t whip well in my mixer. If you rather not end up with as much left over buttercream, you may adjust the times of the recipe (1/4x, 1/2x, 1x, etc.) so that it fits your needs best).

16 oz sugar

About 4 oz water

2 T honey

6 oz strained egg whites

18 oz butter, cubed

2 oz almond butter

1/4 tsp almond extract

Recipe/Procedure for Almond Italian Meringue Buttercream: 

1. Combine water and sugar in a pot. Mix water and sugar with fingers to make sugar is lump-free.

2. Heat water and sugar to 238 F (soft ball stage). Add honey when sugar and water mixture looses yellow color and it becomes clear.

3. Test the temperature of the sugar by numbing finger in ice-cold water, dipping finger in sugar mixture, and re-dipping finger back into cold water. Form the cooled sugar into ball with your hands. Drop ball onto a flat surface. Sugar is ready when it makes a sound when it reaches the surface and when it doesn’t sink in while resting.

4. Begin to whisk egg whites at high speed when sugar has reached or is close to reaching 238 F. Decrease speed to medium after about five seconds, just after egg whites have been broken up.

5. Begin to slowly add the hot sugar to egg whites while they continue to whip and meringue is soft and yellow color is gone. Be sure to pour sugar from the side of the mixing bowl and whip for about 20-25 minutes until the bottom of the mixing bowl has cooled off and feels lukewarm to the touch.

6. Add pieces of butter continuously to mixture when egg whites are fluffy and stiff peaks are close being formed. Do not wait for butter to become dissolved into the mixture before adding more of it. Stop whipping when buttercream looks fluffy and stiff peaks form.

7. Add almond butter and almond extract to buttercream. Mix well until ingredients are fully incorporated into buttercream.

Time to finally put it all together!!!

Ingredients for Almond and Chocolate Mini Cake Rolls:

1/2 C sliced almonds

joconde cake

ganache

almond italian meringue buttercream

Recipe/Procedure for Almond and Chocolate Mini Cake Rolls:

1. Toast almonds at 325 F so that they become toasted all through the center.

2. Place almonds into a food processor and press button a few times until almonds become finely chopped, but not to the point where they are too ground. Place almonds into a plate and set aside for later use.

3. On a flat working surface, trim off all four edges of joconde cake with a serrated knife.

4. Spread ganache over joconde with an offset spatula so that ganache covers every edge and corner of the cake.

IMG_4069

IMG_4072

5. Make 1.5″ marks on the top and bottom of cake and cut vertical strips, connecting the top and bottom marks to end up with nine strips of cake.

IMG_4074

6. Carefully start rolling each strip halfway and cut the strip when it has been rolled half way up. Place rolled pastry into a sheet tray. Carefully start rolling the other half of the strip and place rolled pastry into a sheet tray. Continue to rolling  until all strips have been rolled. You should end up with 18 rolled pastries.

IMG_4075IMG_4080IMG_4081

7. Recondition buttercream if necessary by re-whipping it so that it is smooth and fluffy. Apply almond buttercream to each rolled pastry with a small offset spatula. Turn the pastry around with your hand as putting buttercream on the sides of each pastry. This is kind of a messy process. Be ready to wash/wipe your hands after applying buttercream to each pastry.

8. Sprinkle chopped toasted almonds around the sides of each pastry.

9. Place almond buttercream into a piping bag that has a #15 star tip and pipe a swirl or another decorative design onto the surface of each pastry.

Enjoy!

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

crunchy nutty choco toffee

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

I love FaceTime. Thank you Steve Jobs for making your Apple/Mac products so…just so damn good.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

Because of FaceTime I get to see my 6-month-old niece who lives in Austin chew her sock and smile at my feeble attempt to make her giggle. Hearing her giggle is the best sound in this world by the way.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

Because of FaceTime I get to see Mark when he’s away on tour with his band Periphery. “So where in Europe are you today again? Oh, Prague, of course. How beautiful. I wish I was there too.”

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

And because of FaceTime I get to see my wonderful mother who lives in Spain. I always tell her that I love her and that I can’t wait to see her. And then she’ll say, “I know. I can’t wait to hold you, but isn’t it great that we can at least see each other so often through FaceTime?” Yes, it is mom.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

Yesterday I was in the middle of making this recipe when mom called me on FaceTime. I pretended I had everything under control, but I still had to get my mise en place in order so that everything was ready to be added to the toffee when it reached the correct temperature.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

However, I knew I didn’t have the situation completely under control: the sugar was already cooking and the butter still had to be cubed, the pecans still needed to be chopped, the baking soda and vanilla had to be measured out, the candy thermometer had to be placed on the side of the pot, a few recipe adjustments had to be marked down on my recipe book before they evaporated from my memory, etc. But when mom calls, everything can wait.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

“What are you doing? You seem busy…” she stated (in Spanish, of course) as she heard the clanking of pans and sheet trays and saw how I turned my back on her a few times to check what was going on in the stove. I told her that I was in the middle of making toffee. “I can call back later or we can just talk tomorrow…”

“No! It’s okay. I can multitask!”

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

I told her a few things about my day. She told me a few things about hers. And through it all, I managed to show her how to finish the recipe. “Oh shit! Hold on mom! The sugar has reached 305 F and I have to add a few things to it before I pour it….”

“Really, we can talk at another time if you want to. You seem like you have a lot going on…Mmmmmmm…that looks delicious,” she stated as I poured the toffee over the chocolate and graham crackers.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

And just like that, I got to feel extremely close to my mom. I always, always do, no matter how physically apart we are. But that moment was pretty special and magical. I never thought I would be able to share a such a spontaneous moment that involved doing something I love with all my heart (cooking/baking) with a person I love with all my heart while being thousands of miles away. I guess I’m just extremely thankful for it. That’s it.

Oh yeah, and I’m also very thankful for these delicious crunchy nutty choco toffee treats!

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

Ingredients:

12 graham crackers (or 24 if they’re cut down the perforated line–as long as the dimensions of the rectangle you build is about 7.5″ x 9″).

3/4 C dark chocolate chips

8 oz sugar

2 oz water

2 oz honey

6.5 oz butter

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 C pecans

sea salt

*Yield: Anywhere from 12-24 pieces, depending on how you cut/break up the toffee. Cover toffee in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.*

Note: There will be additional toffee left over after pouring it over chocolate/graham crackers. I simply poured the extra toffee over another silpat or a greased baking sheet to have extra toffee at hand. If you don’t want to have extra toffee, cut the recipe for the actual toffee in half. Keep the same amount of graham crackers and chocolate chips.

Recipe/Procedure:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick silicon baking mat (ie: silpat).

2. Place graham crackers on parchment paper or on silpat in rows and of 4 x 3 to end up with the dimensions of 9″ x 7.5″

3. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over graham crackers and bake for about 10 minutes, until chocolate softens and becomes spreadable.

IMG_3930

4. Remove cookie sheet from oven and gently spread the melted chocolate chips over graham crackers with an offset spatula, trying your best to not knock the graham crackers out of place. The melted chocolate should cover entire surface of graham crackers. Refrigerate so that chocolate cools down and firms up.

IMG_3933

5. Meanwhile, toast pecans at 325 F until they toasted all throughout. Allow pecans to cool. Roughly chop pecans and set them aside for later use.

6. Cook sugar and water over medium heat and add honey when sugar and water mixture looses its murky appearance and it becomes clear, after about a minute or so.

7. Add butter and continue cooking until it reaches a temperature of 300 F–305 F (hard crack stage).

8. Remove from heat and add vanilla, baking soda, and toasted pecans. Stir and pour mixture over the prepared chocolate and graham crackers. Spread toffee gently over chocolate/graham crackers so that it reaches every edge and corner of the rectangle. Allow toffee to completely cool before cutting/breaking it up in pieces. Sprinkle sea salt over toffee. Enjoy!

IMG_3934

chocolate orange mini pastries

sweet-lab.com

I have a deep appreciation for the fusion of chocolate and orange. Yes, I have written recipes that showcase these two ingredients before…and I know that I will probably do so again…and again and again, since there are always new ways of exploring flavor combinations that I love.

sweet-lab.com

But I already told you…I am kind of in love. Or no, wait. I told you that I am obsessed.

Well, I am probably both: in love and obsessed with the kind, yet powerful union of chocolate and orange. Those two ingredients in unison can compose a symphony of flavors in my palate. The bitterness of the chocolate along with the tartness and sweetness of the orange. Yes, I know I am repeating myself so I will stop right there.

sweet-lab.com

I think the idea for this recipe began with a simple yet delicious dessert I made for my family while visiting Spain.

sweet-lab.com

I could describe the recipe for you, but if you take a look at the photocollage below, you may understand the procedure fairly quickly. First, simply dip orange segments in melted tempered chocolate and finish each segment with premade candied citrus peel and chocolate sprinkles. Suuuuuper easy. Suuuuuuuuper attractive, pleasing, seductive, and delicious.

I never posted the recipe for the chocolate-covered orange segments for solely one reason. Would you care to know why? Well, if you notice in the picture, the chocolate that covers the orange segments is not tempered (Aaaaahh!!!) and untempered chocolate is a big no no, at least to me and many other pastry cooks, chefs, or…pastry nerds..Tempered chocolate has a beautiful shine, a smooth finish, and a satisfying snap. I’m completely addicted to it.

While being in my hometown in Spain, I unfortunately couldn’t find couveture chocolate that is used for tempering. So I simply melted regular bittersweet chocolate and dipped the orange segments in the chocolate, knowing that I would have to remake the recipe once more with the real thing…tempered chocolate. Tempering chocolate can be an intimidating process, but I promise to offer the best and most thorough explanation I am able to provide when I post the recipe for chocolate-covered orange segments…as soon as I get my hands on some couveture chocolate.

sweet-lab.com

Anyways…where was I? Oh yes, of course. Those chocolate-covered oranges inspired me to try other ways of uniting chocolate and orange. Thus, these chocolate and orange mini pastries were born. Layers of lightly flavored orange cake and orange Italian meringue buttercream are layered and glazed with ganache. Then they are finished with candied orange peel and chocolate sprinkles…Enjoy!

sweet-lab.com

sweet-lab.com

**Yields approximately 15 mini pastries. Freeze 4-6 weeks without ganache. Keep at room temperature for 3-4 days.**

Note: The Italian buttercream along with the cake and candied citrus peel can be done days in advanced. The cake and the Italian buttercream can be frozen until you’re ready to assemble the mini pastries. I deeply discourage you from doing all four recipes on the same day. That might just drive you insane. 

Ingredients for Orange Italian Meringue Buttercream: (I like to have leftover buttercream every time I make it and freeze it for later use. If that’s not the case for you, you can cut the recipe in half).

12 oz sugar

3 oz water

2T honey

4.5 oz strained egg whites

15 oz butter, cubed

4 tsp orange juice (I didn’t get my hands on orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier, but I believe that replacing orange juice for Grand Marnier would make a great contribution. I suggest adding it a little bit at a time and tasting the flavor until you reach the desired orange flavor).

2 T orange zest

Procedure/Recipe for Italian Meringue Buttercream: (Please read all steps first before proceeding in order for the technique to be completely clear from start to finish).

1. Combine water and sugar in a pot. Mix water and sugar with fingers to make sugar is lump-free.

2. Heat water and sugar to 238 F (soft ball stage) and add corn syrup to water/sugar mixture as soon it looses yellow color and it becomes clear. Be sure to watch it closely and attentively.

3. Test the temperature of the sugar by numbing finger in ice-cold water, quickly dipping finger in hot water/sugar mixture, and re-dipping finger right back into cold water. Form the cooled sugar into a ball with your hands. Drop ball onto a flat surface. Sugar is ready when it makes a sound when it reaches the surface and when it doesn’t sink in while resting.If you would rather avoid using this procedure, you can also use a candied thermometer and test the sugar until it reaches 238 F.


4. Begin to whisk egg whites at high speed when sugar has reached or is close to reaching 238 F. Decrease speed to medium after about five seconds, just after egg whites have been broken up.

5. Begin to slowly add the hot sugar to egg whites while egg whites continue to whip, meringue is soft, and yellow color is gone. Be sure to pour sugar from the side of the mixing bowl so that it doesn’t go flying everywhere. Whip meringue/238 F sugar until the bottom of the mixing bowl has cooled off and feels lukewarm to the touch.

6. Add pieces of butter continuously to mixture when egg whites are fluffy and stiff peaks are close to being formed. Stop whipping when buttercream looks fluffy and stiff peaks form.

Store in freezer for 6-8 months. Recondition buttercream before use by warming it up over a double boiler and whipping it until fluffy.

Ingredients for Orange Cake:

3 oz cake flour

5 oz AP flour

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

6 oz sugar

4.5 milk

3.5 orange juice

4 oz egg

4 oz vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla

3 1/2 tsp orange zest

Recipe/Procedure for Orange Cake:

1. Sift cake flour, AP flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl.

2. Add sugar to dry ingredients and mix well to combine.

3. In a different bowl, whisk milk, orange juice, eggs, vegetable oil, and vanilla together.

4. Combine the wet and dry mixtures together, just enough so that all ingredients are incorporated into the batter. Do not over mix.

5. Add orange zest to batter. Allow batter to rest 20-40 minutes in fridge.

6. Spray a rectangular 13″ x 9″ x 2″ cake pan with vegetable oil and place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan. Pour cake batter into pan. Bake at 350 F for about 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick that is inserted in the center tests clean. Allow to cool in cake pan.

7. Place a large cutting board over cake pan. Flip cake over onto cutting board and remove parchment paper. Flip cake over once more onto another cutting board so that the top of the cake is on the top. Set aside for later use.

**Keep well wrapped at room temperature for 3-4 days. Freeze for 6-8 weeks**

Ingredients for Candied Citrus Peel:

1 orange

2 oz sugar

2 oz water

Recipe/Procedure for Candied Citrus Peel:

1. Scrub oranges in hot water and pat them dry.

2. Cut off pieces of orange peel and cut orange peel into thin strips. Be sure to exclude as much of the white part as possible to decrease extra bitterness.

3. Throw orange peel strips into a pot of boiling water and cook for about 30 seconds. Strain citrus peel.

4. Fill same pot with new water and bring it to a boil. Throw citrus peel into pot and cook for about 30 seconds and strain. Repeat blanching process once more.

5. Meanwhile, combine sugar and water into a pot and cook over medium heat until all the sugar has completely dissolved to create a simple syrup.

6. Bring simple syrup to a boil and cook blanched orange peel in a gentle simmer in the simple syrup until peel is translucent and tender. You must taste the peel to know if it’s fully cooked. Strain citrus peel.

7. Roll citrus peel in granulated sugar.

Ingredients for Ganache:

12 oz heavy cream

12 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Recipe/Procedure for Ganache: (this recipe should be done right when the rest of the cake has been assembled to prevent ganache from thickening so much it will can not be used to glaze mini pastries). 

1. Heat heavy cream and bring to a simmer.

2. Put chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour simmered heavy cream over chocolate. Allow cream and chocolate to rest for about a minute so that chocolate softens and melts.

3. Stir/whisk mixture gently from the center and whisking outwards until everything is well emulsified.

**Store at room temperature for 2-4 days**

Thank Goodness! The time has come to put it all together…

Ingredients:

orange cake

orange Italian meringue buttercream

ganache

candied citrus peel

chocolate sprinkles

Procedure:

1. Build and assemble your cake:

a) Place the cake on a stable surface to work on comfortably. A large cutting board works well for this type of assembly.

b) Trim off all four edges of cake and then cut cake in half with a serrated knife to end up with two thin layers of cake.

c) Cut cake in half down the center vertically to end up with four thin layers of cake.

d) Recondition buttercream to begin cake assembling.

e) Place a layer of cake layer on a cutting board. Spread orange buttercream filling on the surface of the cake layer so that it reaches every corner.

f) Place second cake layer over orange buttercream.

g) Spread orange buttercream filling on the surface of the second cake layer so that it reaches every corner and smoothen it out evenly. Repeat the spreading of buttercream and the layering of cake layers until all the 4th cake layer is on top and cake is about 1.5″ tall.

h) Make sure layers look flat and straight. If they don’t look flat, gently push down on the cake.

j) Put a big dollop of orange buttercream in center of cake and work icing with spatula in order to cover entire surface of cake until it reaches the edges. Cover edges of cake as well.

k) Smoothen top of cake by starting at the edge and coming straight across with spatula at a flat angle until surface is as smooth as possible.  Place cake in fridge and chill for about 10-15 minutes before

l) Hot knife the cake: Bring water to a boil and pour it into a tall cup/beaker. Dip spatula into hot water. Dry spatula and pass it over sides of cake and then over top as well to create smoother and cleaner surface all around. Be sure to dip spatula into hot water after every pass to remove excess icing. Dry spatula and continue passing it gently over the surface of cake to smoothen it even more.

2. Cut cake.

a) Take flat cutting board w/ parchment paper and put even pressure and press down so that surface of cake is completely flat. Leave board over it and refrigerate.

b) Make 1.5” marks on top/bottom and sides of cake layers. Cut strips horizontally and vertically to end up with 1.5” squares.

3. Glaze cake.

(Use room temperature ganache that is at liquid state. Hot ganache will melt buttercream on cake. Ganache that drips onto plastic wrap after glazing cakes can be collected and used again for reglazing or for other purposes. If used for glazing, be sure to act quickly before it cools and the consistency becomes too thick).

a) Place iced cakes over a rectangular cooling rack that is covered completely with plastic  wrap.

b) Pour ganache at one edge of cake and move bowl of ganache to opposite end in order to cover entire cake. Repeat same procedure with all cakes.

c) Allow chocolate to set at room temperature for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate sprinkles over the surface of cakes and finish by placing a strip of candied citrus peel in the center.

sweet-lab.com

chocolatey candied walnut swiss meringue • sweet memories

sweet-lab.com

I’ve heard it being said before–that tattoos, whether you have an abundance of them or not, can represent specific moments in your lifetime. Ink patterns that resemble a break-up, a move, a heartbreak, a spiritual awakening, an epiphany, a bond, a friendship, a plan, a moment of inspiration (or lack there of), regret, love…

I believe those have all been causes of getting inked and have heard from several people who have tattoos, that looking at each specific one will awaken the feelings they were going through when they got it.

But I wouldn’t know. I don’t have any tattoos.

sweet-lab.com

But I can say that I may have a similar reaction when looking at dessert pictures that I have made. Each specific dessert reminds me of what was going on when each recipe was prepared. I vividly relive that moment, whether good or bad, and go back in time.

Poached pears reminds me walking through my neighborhood during the coming of fall last year and driving to Philly to see Periphery and Dream Theater. Spiced tea and lemon bread brings back memories of baking with my friend during a crisp January day. Chocolate almond tart reminds me of baking and waiting for my bebe to visit me for one day mid tour. Almond crepes with peaches reminds me of my fake attempt to be happy when in reality sadness was uncontrollably taking over.

sweet-lab.com

But here we are today with yet another new dessert. This dessert, which I’m not even sure how to name. This swiss meringue with candied walnuts and ganache which if I predict correctly, will one day remind my of cooking in my new apartment for the very first time..so much more room, so much more light and counter space. It will also remind me of Mark coming back from tour early and pulling these out of the fridge and having dessert with him for the first time in our new apartment.

sweet-lab.com

And there you go. It’s so simple that each sweet creation, just like a song, a movie, or a tattoo, can have the power to transport you to another lived place and time. What a miraculous gift.

**Yield: 3-4, depending how full you decide to fill each serving cup. Keeps 2-3 days in refrigerator**

Ingredients for Candied Walnuts:

1 C walnuts

5 oz sugar

pinch of sea salt

Recipe/Procedure for Candied Walnuts:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread walnuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for approximately 5 minutes. Test for doneness. If not quite toasted enough, toast for 1 or 2 more minutes until they are done. Remove from oven and let cool.

2. Pour sugar into a medium saucepan. Be sure to have walnuts nearby, ready to quickly add them to the pan at the right time. Cook sugar on low-medium heat, smooshing it with a heatproof silicon spatula. Keep smooshing it until all the sugar has melted and it turns medium amber.

3. Add the walnuts to the pan as soon as the sugar has a turned medium amber in color, quickly stirring and coating each piece with the sugar.

4. Spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet that is lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Separate the walnuts very quickly from each other by using two forks.

5. Sprinkle walnuts with sea salt. Let cool completely. Be sure to save at least 4 halved walnuts for later.

6. Place candied walnuts in a food processor and pulse until walnuts are finely chopped. Set aside for later use.

Ingredients for Ganache:

6 oz heavy cream

6 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Recipe/Procedure for Ganache:

1. Heat heavy cream and bring to a simmer.

2. Put chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour simmered heavy cream over chocolate. Allow cream and chocolate to rest for about a minute so that chocolate softens and melts.

3. Stir/whisk mixture gently from the center and whisking outwards until everything is well emulsified.

4. Set chocolate-heavy cream mixture aside and allow it to cool completely at room temperature.

Ingredients for Swiss Meringue:

4 oz egg whites

6 oz sugar

Recipe/Procedure for Swiss Meringue:

1. Fill a pot about one quarter to one half of the way up with water and bring it to a boil.

2. Mix eggwhites and sugar in a mixer bowl over hot water.

3. Bring eggwhite/sugar mixture to 140 F – 165 F, whisking regularly. (Sugar should be completely dissolved and mixture should feel hot and slimy/sticky).

4. Remove from heat and whip in a mixer until stiff peaks form.

Putting it all together….

1. Gently fold finely chopped candied walnuts into the swiss meringue.

2. Scoop or pipe swiss meringue 3/4 of the way into a serving cup. Smoothen the surface of the meringue with a spoon, so that it resembles a flat top.

3. Pour ganache over meringue so that meringue is completely covered and sealed by the ganache.

4. Place dessert in fridge until ganache sets up and becomes firmer. At that time, place a saved candied walnut half in center.

Ennnnjooooyyyyyy!

sweet-lab.com

Note: I tried different ways of assembling each cup. One method is the way I explained above. Another option is to do layers of swiss meringue and ganache. So you would:

1. Fill cup 1/4 of the way with swiss meringue and spread it so that surface is flat and smooth. 2. Pour ganache over swiss meringue until it’s covered. Refrigerate until ganache sets up a bit. 3. Scoop more swiss meringue over ganache and spread it so that the surface is smooth. 4. Pour a thin layer of ganache over swiss meringue so that meringue is completely covered and sealed by the ganache. 5. Place dessert in fridge until top layer of ganache sets up and becomes firmer. Place a candied walnut half in the center over the ganache.

chocolate almond tart • my other one and only

If I didn’t have a significant other, this tart would be the one–my one and only.

sweet-lab.com

In fact, I would keep pursuing it until it had no other option than to be with me, and I would leave it no choice but for it to fall head over heels for me. I would work my magic to make this tart become completely infatuated and addicted to me, just like I have become completely infatuated and addicted to its individuality and existence.

sweet-lab.com

sweet-lab.com

But up to this day, I do have a significant other.

sweet-lab.com

So in the meantime, I will just have to be unfaithful to him with this super decadent, elegant, and sexy chocolate almond tart. Please enjoy.

I truly think you will.

sweet-lab.com

sweet-lab.com

sweet-lab.com

sweet-lab.com

sweet-lab.com

(Yield: one 8″-9″ tart)

Research Question: Will this chocolate almond tart have the power to make my taste buds sing and dance of blissful euphoria…or something of that nature?

Hypothesis:

– Using chopped almonds in the chocolate custard will add nice texture that will contrast the smoothness and tenderness of the chocolate filling.

– The semisweet chocolate custard flavor + the almond flavor that is achieved from the almond extract and toasted almonds will in fact make my heart and taste buds sing.

– The light and airy créme chantilly on top will provide a nice contrast to the rich and dense chocolate custard.

Ingredients for Tart Shell:

6 oz AP flour

4 oz butter, cubed and chilled

About 2 oz water or less

1/2 tsp salt

4 tsp sugar

Procedure/Recipe for Tart Shell:

  1. Put flour on the surface of a clean table or cutting board. Add salt and mix with hands.
  2. Add cubed butter to flour and cut butter into flour with a dough scraper or a knife until butter cubes become pea-sizes or smaller.
  3. Start incorporating water by adding 1 tablespoon at a time. Blend water well into the flour by folding everything together with dough scraper. Stop adding water once the dough holds together.
  4. Wrap dough in plastic and allow it to rest in refrigerator or in freezer until the dough is completely chilled, about 30 minutes or more.
  5. Roll dough:
    1. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on the table so that dough doesn’t stick.
    2. Push rolling pin down on dough to flatten it out a bit.
    3. Begin rolling dough away from you. Rotate dough 180 degrees and continue to roll away from you. Dough should be rolled only once before turning. Continue to do this process until dough resembles the shape of a square.
    4. Being to roll and turn dough 90 degrees. Roll once away from you and turn 90 degrees. Continue to do this until the thickness of the dough is close to 1/16” thick.
    5. Spray tart pan with vegetable spay to aid dough get into pan. Put dough over tart pan and ease it into every corner by pushing it in. Squeeze edges a bit to have a little of extra dough that extends inward.
    6. Trim edges by rolling the rolling pin over the tart pan.
  6. Place a circular shaped piece of parchment paper over dough and put baking beans over parchment paper, enough so that baking beans come to the rim of the tart pan.
  7. Bake tart shell for a total of approximately 25 minutes with the beans, until crust sets and becomes golden brown.
  8.  Remove beans and continue baking for an additional 15 minutes, until crust is baked all through out. Set aside.

Ingredients for Chocolate Custard:

8 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

5 oz heavy cream

5 oz milk

2 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

Procedure/Recipe for Chocolate Custard:

  1. Heat heavy cream and milk and bring to a simmer.
  2. Put chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour simmered heavy cream and milk over chocolate. Allow cream and chocolate to rest for about a five minutes so that chocolate softens and melts.
  3. Whisk mixture until everything is well combined and emulsified.
  4. Set ganache aside until it cools.
  5. Beat eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract in a separate bowl and add them to ganache. Stir well to combine.

Ingredients for Créme Chantilly:

7 oz heavy cream

1/2 C 10x sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Procedure/Recipe for Créme Chantilly:

  1. Whip heavy cream on medium speed and continue whipping until stiff peaks are just about to form.
  2. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and finish whipping by hand until stiff peaks form.

Ingredients for Toasted Slivered Almonds:

1 C slivered almonds

2 T 10x sugar

Procedure/Recipe for Toasted Slivered Almonds:

  1. Spread slivered almonds onto a sheet tray.
  2. Sprinkle 10x over slivered almonds.
  3. Bake at 325 F until almonds are golden brown, for about 25-30 minute, and toss them every 5 minutes.
  4. Place half the amount of almonds into a food processor and pulse just until almonds are roughly chopped. Reserve the other half for topping.

FINALLY-Time to put it all together!!

1. Sprinkle some of the roughly chopped toasted almonds evenly over the base of the tart shell.

2. Pass chocolate custard through a sieve and fill tart shell with chocolate custard just shy of the top.

3. Sprinkle additional roughly chopped toasted almonds evenly over the chocolate custard.

4. Bake at 250 F – 275 F for about 40-45 minutes until it jiggles in the center when it’s tapped. Allow tart to cool completely.

5. Cut slices of tart and dallop or pipe créme chantilly over the top. Finish with a few toasted slivered almonds over créme chantilly. Serve warm.

sweet-lab.com

sweet-lab.om

sweet-lab.com

Results/Conclusion:

– warm, smooth, and tender chocolate custard with a nice spark of texture from the almonds and the crispy crust.

– perfect harmony of chocolate and almond flavors.

– topping of créme chantilly contributes to the overall smoothness and velvety feel of the filling.

I’m in love all over again!