blood orange rosemary pâte de fruit

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

I was set on these. I mean set.

And when I’m set on something, it is pretty difficult to pull me back. I guess the correct term for that would be “stubborn”.

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

Although I’ve been politely corrected and told, “Nah, you just know what you want. That’s not being stubborn.” Oh, do I really know what I want? Okay, that’s a whole other issue that I won’t even get into right now.

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

I will admit it though. Yes, I am stubborn. You know, sometimes you just have to act and become completely and unreasonably obstinate about things or else life wouldn’t be quite as fun….or stressful.

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

For instance, if you have the urge to bake a pineapple upside down cake on your day off, then go for it…No, baking a lemon pound cake it’s just not going to do it. Because you’re stubborn…and know what you want. That pineapple upside down cake is what you want.

And if you want to have your nails painted deep purple, the color called “heart throb” probably won’t do it. The color “I think in pink” may not work either. Because you’re stubborn…and you know what you want. Deep purple is what you want.

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

And if you want to write a recipe for fruity treats that possess a harmonious balance of fruity tartness and sweetness and a texture that when you bite into them is initial resistance followed by a delicate bite, then writing a recipe for something that resembles gummy bears clearly won’t cut it. Although, I will revise that first attempt and bring it to you in recipe form soon because ummm…hello!!!! Gummy bears!! Kind of awesome, really.

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

So I knew that writing a recipe for these little pastry jewels would be a true test, but I was out to conquer the “Pâte de Fruit Recipe-Writing Challenge” (…a serious challenge that I had formed in my mind and that nobody else around me was hopefully aware of..).

It took three attempts to get the desirable taste, texture, and consistency right on point. Stubborn much? Nah, I just know what I want. Right…

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

Yield:  Approximately 100 small pieces, depending on the size you cut them. Store for one month at room temperature fully enrobed. Keep well-wrapped in fridge for about one week.

Equipement: scale, candied thermometer, food processor, baking dish or tupperware that’s approximately 8″ x 8″, whisk, strainer.

ingredients:

1 blood orange

4 oz blood orange juice

6 small sprigs of rosemary

4 oz water

11 oz sugar

5 oz certo liquid pectin

4 oz sugar for coating

method:

1. Spray 8″ x 8″ baking dish with vegetable oil. Line baking dish with a piece of parchment paper that extends about 2 inches beyond the rim of the baking dish. Set aside for later use. (Note: The dimensions of the baking dish do not have to be exactly 8″ x 8″, as long as it’s close enough. I mean, let’s keep it real…I used a tupperware that was about 9″ x 5″ and that worked wonderfully. The size of the baking dish will only affect the height of your pâte de fruit.  The more area the baking dish has, the shorter your pâte de fruit will be. The less area the baking dish has, the taller it will be).

2. Cook the blood orange in boiling water for about 30 seconds in a sauce pan, until the peel has softened a bit.

3. Cut the ends off and discard them. Cut the blood orange into segments.

4. Place blood orange segments into food processor and pulse until blood orange is finely chopped. Add blood orange juice to food processor and pulse until mixture is well pureed.

5. Pour blood orange puree and 3 sprigs of rosemary into a medium sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Turn heat off. Put a lid on the pan and infuse for about 30 minutes, until the blood orang puree tastes like a hint of rosemary.

6. Place water and remaining 3 sprigs of rosemary into a separate small sauce pan. Bring water to a gentle simmer. Turn heat off. Cover pan with a lid and infuse for about 30 minutes, until water tastes like rosemary. Set aside for later use.

7. Strain blood orange puree into a bowl to remove the pulp, peel, rosemary, and fruit chunks. Pour liquid into the same sauce pan along with sugar.

8. Remove rosemary from water. Add water to sauce pan. Stir blood orange, sugar, and water to combine.

9. Cook over low heat until it forms a very thick syrup that coats the back of the spoon and the temperature is of 180 F.  Be sure to whisk constantly. Mixture should never come to a boil, but rather maintain a gentle and very low simmer. You may have to adjust the temperature as you cook it.

10. Once the mixture has reached 180 F and the mixture has become thick and syrupy, turn off the heat and add the Certo. Whisk until well combined.

11. Pour into prepared baking dish and allow it to sit at room temperature for up to 5 hours.

12. Unmold onto a work surface. Peel off and discard parchment paper. Using a sharp knife, cut into small squares or rectangles.

13. Spread remaining 4 ounce of sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll the pieces in the sugar to coat. Arrange on a platter and serve.

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

blood orange rosemary pate de fruit

Enjoy!

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fried baklava with honey cinnamon cream

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Two words for you: Fried Baklava. I’ll let the pictures say the rest.

But really, this recipe is simple to execute and super gratifying to taste. It’s magnificently light and crispy on the outside while being decadently rich on the inside. The blend of honey, cinnamon, dates, and nut flavors will keep you coming back for more. More good news? Once the baklava are assembled, you are bound to enjoy them in a matter of seconds, as this baklava is…fried.

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On another note, today is February 3, 2013. For me it’s just another regular Sunday, but for  a multitude of other people, today is the Super Bowl, an event that in my opinion holds just as much power as a holiday.

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Over the years, I have never watched the Super Bowl. I know nothing about the sport of football. Like really….. nothing. Oh wait, I guess I do know that people tend to enjoy chips and salsa, chili, various types of dips, an assortment of precut veggies, and of course….lots and lots of booze. And then there’s the other stuff. This year for example, Beyoncé will perform during half time. And those commercials…aren’t they good? See? I know a thing or two.

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I have zero emotional connection to this sport, so instead of watching the Ravens and the 49ers fight over the Super Bowl trophy, I am keeping myself busy by reviewing this recipe I wrote a few days ago and bringing it to you. I hope you enjoy this as much as you may or may not enjoy the Super Bowl!

Yield: About 24 pieces. Serve immediately.

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Ingredients for Baklava Filling:

3/4 C dates, roughly chopped

1/2 C walnuts

1/4 C pecans

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp honey

small pinch of salt

Recipe for Baklava Filling:

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture is finely grounded and comes together to form a paste. Set aside for later use.

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Ingredients for Honey Cinnamon Cream:

1 C heavy cream

1/4 C honey

2 tsp cinnamon

Recipe for Honey Cinnamon Cream:

1. Combine heavy cream, honey, and cinnamon in bowl. Whisk until cream thickens and stiff peaks form. Refrigerate and set aside for later use.

Ingredients for Fried Baklava:

phyllo dough

baklava filling

egg wash

vegetable oil for deep frying

honey cinnamon cream

honey

walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

Recipe for Fried Baklava:

1. Stack three sheets of phyllo dough over a cutting board. Make 2″ marks along the bottom edge of stack. Cut vertically along each mark to create 2″ strips.

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2. Scoop 1/2 tsp of baklava filling. Form the filling into a ball with your hands and form the ball into a cylinder.

3. Place the cylinder at the bottom of each strip of phyllo dough.

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4. Lightly apply eggwash along the strip of phyllo dough with a pastry brush.

5. Roll phyllo dough over the filling and keep rolling until the dough has gone around the filling four times. Cut across the phyllo dough to separate the roll. Place roll on a dish with seam side down. Repeat steps 1-5 until all of the filling has been used.

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6. Heat up vegetable oil in a small sauce pan over low-medium heat and fry until golden brown. This happens fairly quickly, about 8-10 seconds.

7. Place fried baklava over a napkin to soak up excess oil.

8. Meanwhile, place honey cinnamon cream in a piping bag that has a #3 plain tip. Pipe spirals of cream on a serving plate. Place baklava over cream. Finish with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of finely chopped toasted walnuts.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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sweet-lab

chocolate orange mini pastries

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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lemon pudding • learning from mistakes

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I must really really love lemons.

I will say that I truly enjoy the act of zesting lemons more than I enjoy doing many things. More than I enjoy watching T.V.; more than I enjoy working out; more than I enjoy reading.

It’s kind of sad…or kind of glorious. Depending how you look at it.

To allow that citrusy aroma to take over everything and to get all up in my nose…It just gets to me. I simply like it. Period.

Plus if you scroll down to the previous post, the main ingredient and component of the dessert was–yep, lemon.

Please allow me to blab about that for a second or two. Yes, I made a lemon pastry cream yesterday and I didn’t really view the dessert as a success. The actual pastry cream was properly made and tasted delicious. It had the right consistency, the right taste, and it looked exactly how pastry cream should look like. I didn’t scramble the yolks, so that’s a plus!

The dessert was good, but good is simply not good enough. Pastry cream is very rich by nature and so using so much of it like I did in that dessert, was a bit much. The dessert was overly rich and custardy. It’s all subjective, I guess. If you absolutely love pastry cream and dream of bathing in it, then you’ll love it. Also, since the consistency of the pastry cream is thick, the cookies didn’t absorb enough moisture and therefore didn’t become that tender.

But that was then. This is now…

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So I have now learned from experience that pastry cream is delicious, but it’s more delicious when it is used in small amounts (ie: filling of éclairs, profiteroles, tarts, etc.) and possibly as a side character rather than a protagonist and main component of a dessert. Less is more kind of thing.

I should’ve known that. I’m pretty sure I did. I just wasn’t thinking…I should’ve taken all of that into account. But I didn’t. Ooops. Experiments are experiments and sometimes the outcome won’t always play out the way we had hoped for. Bummer.

But luckily we learn from mistakes…Sometimes.

So after giving it some thought I rethought and rewrote the recipe (I can be quite hardheaded and persistent and won’t let it go until it’s improved).  I said “Screw you pastry cream, I’m going for a traditional good ol’ pudding”. I love this new recipe! I added a few things to the dessert and it all works in sync. I basically just got rid of the yolks of the pastry cream and BOOM–pudding was created! It has a very smooth and light consistency and the taste of lemon is very present and refreshing. Plus the addition of the lemon syrup makes the cookies be super tender! Love, love, love this revised recipe as I hope you do too!

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**Yield: 3-4 small servings; Store in fridge for 2 days**

Ingredients:

1 C water

1/2 C sugar

3 T lemon juice

half lemon

2 C milk

1/2 vanilla bean

1/2 C sugar

1/4 tsp salt

2.5 T cornstarch

2 tsp lemon zest

2.5 T lemon juice

about 12-16 galletas maria or other thin cookies that are typically used in puddings

ground cinnamon for finish

Procedure/Recipe:

1. Make lemon light syrup: combine 1/2 C sugar and water in a small sauce pan and cook over medium heat until all sugar dissolves. Add 3 T of lemon juice and half a lemon to light syrup. Cover pot with lid and infuse for a minimum of 30 minutes. Set aside.

2. Pour milk and vanilla bean into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let the bean steep for 15 minutes (saucepan should be covered during steeping time). Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod into milk. Discard pod.

3. Bring the milk to a quick simmer once again. This should happen quickly, since the milk should already be relatively warm/hot after steeping the vanilla bean.

4. Meanwhile, combine sugar and salt into a bowl. Sift cornstarch over the bowl and whisk ingredients together. Add mixture to the simmered milk, a little at a time, stirring to dissolve.

5. Cook over low-medium heat and continue to cook while stirring until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat.

6. Add lemon zest and lemon juice to pudding and stir to combine.

7. Remove halved lemon from light syrup and pour a little bit of light syrup into a shallow and wide baking pan. Place four cookies into pan and soak in syrup for about 30 seconds, until cookies become a bit tender, but not overly soggy. Pour more syrup into pan/dish whenever necessary.

8. Assemble dessert by placing a cookie at the bottom of a small bowl (the bowl I used was about 2.5″ – 3″ in diameter and 1.5″ in height). As you place and layer cookies into serving bowl, remove them from lemon syrup carefully with a fork. This process should be done quickly so that the cookies don’t become overly soggy and break apart. Spread about a tablespoon of lemon pudding over each cookie and place another cookie over the lemon pudding.

Repeat procedure until about 4 cookies are used. The amount of cookies being used will depend on how may are needed to fill up your specific serving bowl. Spread lemon pudding evenly over the top of the last cookie and sprinkle cinnamon over the pudding. Chill before serving.

chocolatey candied walnut swiss meringue • sweet memories

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

raspberry lemon curd cake • better late than never

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It’s better late than never. At least that’s what they say.

It’s better to wait one year before visiting home, than to never be visiting home at all.  It’s preferred to wait months, days and days, and prolonged hours without seeing your other half, than to never be seeing him/her at all.

I would rather go the entire summer without stepping into the cool ocean water and go to the beach for the first time in late September, than to not enjoy such bliss at all.

And if you’re running late, it’s better to catch the next train, instead of catching no train at all.

As for this recipe, it’s been on hold for more than one month. In one month many things can happen. I suppose that life can happen: moving to a new apartment, work, work, work, a trip to Austin, mom visiting from Spain, going up to New York City, sleeping in a tour bus, etc.

But here it is now. You know…because it’s better late than never.

Overview: This is a three layer cake that has many independent components that are all combined in the end. The upper and lower layers are filled with a raspberry Italian meringue buttercream that is flavored with a raspberry coulis. The middle layer is filled with lemon curd. The whole cake is iced with lemon Italian buttercream that is flavored with lemon curd. Finally, the lemon curd recipe as well as the Italian buttercream recipe are not my own recipes. I acquired them from when I was a student at L’Academie de Cuisine. They’re delicious, so why reinvent the wheel?

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In addition, every component of this recipe can be done in advance. It is actually recommended to do the lemon curd, raspberry coulis, and Italian meringue buttercream beforehand, because if all the recipes for all the different components are done in the same day, the entire procedure of creating this cake will seem like an overwhelming task. Frustration may take over and we don’t want that. You can also bake the cake one day in advance if you wish, but be sure to wrap it and store it properly before assembling and icing the cake so that it doesn’t dry out.

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Ingredients for Lemon Curd:

4 lemons, zest and juice

8 oz unsalted butter

12 oz sugar

4 large eggs

Procedure/Recipe for Lemon Curd:

1. Zest lemons directly into a small saucepan.

2. Strain lemons as you juice them over the same saucepan with a reamer. Push pulp down to get extra juice into saucepan.

3. Add butter to pan and bring mixture to a boil.

4. Meanwhile, crack eggs in a separate bowl. Add sugar to the eggs and whisk.

5. Temper eggs with hot lemon/butter mixture slowly.

6. Put mixture back in pot and bring to a boil while whisking continuously. Whisk for 5 minutes after mixture is brought to a boil.

7. Sieve curd into a bowl when the five minutes have passed.

8. Place bowl on top of a bowl full of ice to cool curd down.

Store in fridge for about a month, well wrapped. Store in freezer for 6-8 months.

Ingredients for Raspberry Coulis:

1 C frozen raspberries

1/8 C sugar

1 T lemon juice

Procedure/Recipe for Raspberry Coulis:

1. Place raspberries and sugar in a medium sauce pan and cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until mixture is brought to a simmer and sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

2. Add lemon juice and stir.

3. Place raspberry/sugar/lemon mixture in a blender and puree.

Freezes perfectly for several months

Ingredients for Italian Meringue Buttercream:

8 oz sugar

2 oz water

1T-2T honey (the original recipe uses corn syrup. I don’t like to use such ingredient and found that honey works just as well).

3 oz strained egg whites

10 oz butter, cubed

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 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 to being formed. Stop whipping when buttercream looks fluffy and stiff peaks form.

Store in freezer for 6-8 months.

Ingredients for Cake:

4 oz butter

5 oz sugar

1 tsp vanilla

4 oz eggs

7 oz plain yogurt

1 oz lemon juice

8 oz cake flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

3 oz fresh raspberries

2 T AP flour

Procedure/Recipe for Cake:

1. Grease two 6” x 2” cake pans, base and sides.

2. Place a circular-shaped piece of parchment paper on the bottom of each cake pan.

3. Beat butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

4. Reduce speed to medium and incorporate eggs, one at a time and beating well after each addition.

5. Sift all dry ingredients (cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt).

6. Reduce speed to low. Beat in dry mixture in 2 batches, alternating with yogurt and scraping bowl as needed.

7. Add lemon juice and continue to mix just until all ingredients are well incorporated.

8. In a small mixing bowl, mix fresh raspberries and 2 tablespoons of flour gently with your hands. Fold raspberries into cake batter.

9. Pour batter into prepared pans. Each pan should hold about 14 oz of batter. Bake at 350 F for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick that is inserted into center comes out clean.

10. Let cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack. Run a knife around edges of cakes to loosen. Unmold cakes, and let cool, right side up, on rack.

Putting it all together……

1. Mix 3/4 of Italian meringue buttercream with 4.5 oz of lemon curd. Set lemon buttercream aside.

2. Mix remaining 1/4 Italian buttercream with about 1 oz of raspberry coulis. Add 1/2 C of finely chopped raspberries to buttercream. Set raspberry buttercream aside.

3. Build and assemble your cake:

a) Place the cake on a stable surface to work on comfortably. A cake turntable is recommended for icing cakes.

b) Hold serrated knife at the same level as the top part of the cake and place other hand over the top of the cake.

c) Trim dome of cake by cutting back and forth and then turning cake after each time. Continue passing knife back and forth and turning cake until the top is completely cut off.

d) Cut cake into two even layers by proceeding with same cutting procedure that was followed when trimming top and bottom off cakes. This time cut through the center of the cake to end up with 2 even cake layers.

e) Fill a pastry bag that has a #5 plain tip with lemon curd buttercream. Pipe the lemon curd buttercream into round along the edge of the cake to create a dome. This will prevent the colorful filling to leak out. Spread raspberry buttercream on the surface of first bottom layer with spatula and spread with spatula just until that filling reaches the piped lemon buttercream boarder.

f) Place second cake layer over the raspberry filling. Pipe another lemon buttercream round along the cake edge to create another dome. This will prevent the lemon curd to leak out. Spread lemon curd on the surface of second cake layer with spatula just so that filling reaches the piped  boarder.

g) Place third cake layer over lemon curd filling. Pipe a third round of lemon curd buttercream along the edge of the cake to create a third dome. Spread raspberry buttercream filling on the surface of the third cake layer just so that the filling reaches the piped boarder.

h) Place fourth cake layer over raspberry buttercream.

i) Make sure layers look flat and straight. If they don’t look flat, gently  push down on the cake or trim sides and/or top with serrated knife to even it out.

j) Apply crumb coat: Put a big dollop of lemon buttercream in center of cake and work icing with spatula in order to cover entire surface of cake until it reaches the edges.

k) Clean spatula and both sides. Spatula should be completely straight while spreading the icing on the sides. Turn table around while icing and get more icing when you run out.

l) Clean sides first by running spatula around cake as turning it to smoothen sides.

m) 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.

n) Place cake in fridge and chill for about 10-15 minutes before next coating. Cake should have at least 3-4 coats, including crumb layer, with a resting period of 10-15 minutes in fridge after each coat. Repeat same procedure from steps j-n until icing has been applied 3-4 times

o) 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. Chill cake until it becomes firm.

p) Place lemon curd buttercream into piping bag that has a #5 star tip, being sure not to overload pastry bag. Pipe rosettes along the boarder of the cake and one in the center. Place fresh raspberries on top of each rosette.

Pheeeew! Finally! Yes, we’re finally done! That took a little while, huh?

But what did I already tell you? Better late than never.