Sunday, February 28, 2010

Random sweet, cakes and students

Meet Kristi! She is just one of my fabulous students in my night class and she is posing with the mocha hazelnut triangle cake she made in class. The reason I am introducing you to her is I need to give her credit for all the nice pictures she has been taking of me in action. Most of the latest cake/pastry pictures that I have been posting with me in them is her talented hands taking them for me with her little point and shoot... not bad, huh? This one included but of course I had to take this of her so I could properly thank her :) THANKS KRISTI!! You rock!

Next up random pictures of cakes I have made lately. These were taken by Royce (thanks Royce!) from Blurred line photography...(you can find them on facebook!)... and soon I will have the one I am making for our wedding cake section as demo... they want to see a topsy turvy cake so I am obliging. But that will be next week for now I have a nice picture of the one I did for the mid day class.
I call it the "drapery cake" for obvious reasons...

And this bit of chocolate artistry that I ended up taking to my local fire station right around dinner time...knocking on the door with my uniform on, they open and I blurt out. "Am I late for dinner??" with the cake in hand... I got a few strange looks and of course I then broke up and told them I was just bringing a few local heros some yummy sweets and they told me I was their hero! Awwwww gosh....
BTW it is a double chocolate mousse entremet (french cake) with a dark chocolate glaze and marbled chocolate bark around the outside... they were very happy! 

And this little number (sorry about the poor photo I took it with my phone) is the very first doll cake I have ever made! I have been making cakes for over 30 years and never made one of these before! Amazing.... but it was fun to dress her up. I used buttercream under the fondant and then made the flowers with gum paste and hand painted little hearts on the under skirt in front. The crown is also gum paste. I made a little four year old girl very very happy!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tiramisu and a funny story to go with....


Tiramisu is one of the most popular desserts on just about any menu today... but in 1988 when I was a pastry chef at the wonderful local Italian restaurant, Ristorante Avanti,  
I had never heard of such a thing... It sounded rather Asian to me rather than Italian...but I was soon to be enlightened.
We had hired this very cute young NY Italian guy for the summer as a buser. He as not only cute with his thick dark curls and dark eyes but had the most charming NY Italian accent. The young waitresses were completely taken with him. He had told us he just finished high school and was here for the summer before entering college back in NY.
Everyday I worked with him he would come into my tiny workspace and beg me to make tiramisu. "What???" I would respond. He then told me his Mother had an Italian restaurant in NYC and made this dessert and he could get me the recipe. So one day he calls his Mom in NYC and gives me the phone to ask for this legendary dessert. She first says to me,"So write this down! You know how to make a pastry cream, right?" "Sure" I respond wondering what exactly I need to write. Then she tells me to make it "very rich with 1/2 and 1/2 instead of milk." Ok, so far I don't need to write this down but I am sure there is more. Suddenly she tells me to hold on and puts the phone down a bit and begins to yell at the top of her lungs in Italian! She is screaming at her cooks since I can hear all the sounds of a busy kitchen in the background! I try to keep from busting up laughing and when she gets back on the phone she doesn't miss a beat and says, "Marscapone is too expensive and hard to find so get an equal amount of cream cheese, the Philly type not that soft stuff and on a mixer mix it with the pastry cream and a bit of Marsala." "ok..." I hesitantly answer wondering where this is going... Again she puts the phone down and begins yelling at her employees... and again picks up right where she left off. "You know how to make lady fingers don't you? Well, make a lot of them and then mix together 8 or so shots of espresso and 2 ounces of dark rum, like Meyers. Then in a shallow pan pour the coffee mixture over the cookies and make sure they soak up every drop. They should be very soggy. Now in a small hotel pan start with the soaked cookies and then layer with the cream mix, on top of that put some finely chopped semi sweet chocolate bits, and then repeat with the cookies and then cream and then chocolate. Top the entire thing with whipped cream and cocoa powder and you have the tiramisu!" "Got it!" I blurt out. She then explains that it is much better the next day after the flavors begin to marry. I couldn't wait to try this and when I did I couldn't make enough of it! We sold out day after day...
But now marscapone is more common and less expensive so I no longer make it with cream cheese. But if you made it for your most discerning customer I would bet they couldn't tell it was not marscapone... it is very rich and wonderfully tasty! 

So the end of the story goes like this... Mom then says to me, "take care of my boy please and make sure he comes home to finish school!" I then say, " but I thought he was going to college?" And she replies," I know he told you all that he is 18 but really he is 16 and don't tell him I told you. I don't want him to loose the job, but I worry..." I assured her that the secret was safe with me and I would encourage him to go home. But I had to laugh every time I saw that cute young 21 year old waitress going out with him after work thinking he was 18 and couldn't wait for the day when he went back to school and I was able to fill her in on her summer fling!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Valentine's sweets for your sweet!

Last night while lecturing to my class about how to present a nice plated dessert, I mentioned that a memorable dessert must have creamy, crunchy and pulpy or cakey textures. I then asked the class if they know what the most popular dessert in the US is and one gal immediately popped out with, "chocolate lava cake"! Close but no cigar! Actually it is apple pie a la mode, it has all we need for the perfect flavors and textures. 
HOWEVER, for this special sweet day we have the first call... chocolate lava cake. I think that this would be the close second to apple pie right about now. Trends change with time but apple pie seems to remain on top. Chocolate lava is the top winner in restaurants now and with raspberry sauce, crunchy cookie decoration and a scoop of ice cream you have not only all the three main characteristics but two important aspects to the mouthfeel of the dessert, hot and cold. Personally, aside from the flavor, one of my favorite traits of good dessert is hot and cold on the same plate. 
This ought to seduce your sweetie into just about anything you desire!


4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
4 ounces unsalted butter
2 eggs

5 ounces sugar

4 ounces semi sweet chocolate 

4 ounces heavy cream

Do this first so it has time to set up and then roll it into
small balls and refrigerate.
Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heat
proof bowl. In a small saucepan scald the cream and
pour it immediately over the chopped chocolate.
Stir until the chocolate no longer has any lumps appear when you
let it run over the back of your spoon.
Refrigerate until set and then roll into balls. 

Coat each container with butter and sugar.
Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat proof bowl with the butter 
and melt it over a water bath. 
Whip the eggs and sugar on hight until light and foamy.
Fold the egg foam into the chocolate mix.
Now fold in the flour. 
Fill large muffin tins or souffle dishes 3/4 full of batter. 
Drop one of the ganache balls into the center of each one and cover
with the remaining batter.

Bake at 350F for 12- 15 minutes depending on the size of your pans... 
I always do a tester to see the actual time to ensure they come out 
gooey and runny in the centers. 
The cakes will look risen in the center but will still have a wet look to 
the very center of the cake. 
Turn it out immediately onto the plate you will serve it on. 
Serve with vanilla ice cream and a small crunchy cookie and a kiss for
your sweet one! 

If your sweet is not fond of dark chocolate...hard to imagine but... if...

Valentine’s White chocolate Raspberry Crème Brulee

A perfect sweet for your sweet on this romantic day! Creamy, fruity and luxurious, crème brulee is a favorite dessert at restaurants all over the world. It is easy enough to make at home if you have 6 ounce ramekins. These can be the traditional flat ones that are made for crème brulee or the more common soufflé ramekins that you just might have laying around.
In any case you will seduce your love with this dessert so have fun making and eating this creamy creation!

This recipe makes four 6 ounce ramekins

1/3 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 ½ cups heavy cream
¼ teaspoon salt
4 ounces chopped and melted white chocolate
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 Tablespoon Framboise liqueur
more sugar for the top

You will also need a deep roasting pan big enough to fit your four ramekins.
This is baked in a water bath in a low oven.
Set your oven to 300°F

Place the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl and either by hand with a whisk or on the mixer whip until light, meanwhile heat the cream on the stove until scaled, do not boil.
Temper the egg mixture with some of the hot cream by adding it to the eggs and mixing. Then put all the hot cream into the eggs and stir using a spoon. Now mix in the vanilla, salt and melted white chocolate. Mix gently so as not to make bubbles.
Gently toss together the raspberries and liqueur and sprinkle them in the bottoms of each ramekin.
Now place the ramekins in the roasting pan and  carefully ladle the custard mix over the berries. Move the pan to the open oven door and pour hot water into the roasting pan until it reaches half way up the sides of the ramekins. Very carefully place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until completely set. If the custard has a sloshing motion they are not done yet. It should wiggle like jello and not slosh back and forth.
Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate.
Immediately before serving, sprinkle the extra granulated sugar over the custard in an even layer. Using a torch or broiler heat the sugar until it caramelizes. You are looking for a brown caramel color for the sugar to harden and have that wonderful crack when you cut into it…
Decorate with fresh berries and savor!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Childhood memories in cookie form!


Do you remember??? They have a very soft, rich, cakey chocolate cookie filled with marshmallow creme. YUM! 
Well, one of my students asked us if we would make some cookies for his niece and nephew to sell at a bake sale to help Haitian children and well... of course I'm going to help out! I wanted to make something I loved as a kid. I then remembered this recipe that I had made last year with peanut butter cream filling. My brain then sent me to Moon Pie land and with that others had memories of them with different names. So here they are in all their glory; Moon, Whoopie, or Scooter Pies! Whatever you call them they are a kids delight.
Oh, and I did include the original idea I had with the peanut butter filling so you can choose the old fashioned pie or the updated version with peanut butter. Why they are called "pie" I don't know but both are very tasty and ought to send you to a very happy place. 
Eat with glee!

CHOCOLATE Whoopie, Moon, Scooter pie
Makes about 24, 2”  cookies 

Cookie batter

FLOUR                                1 ¾ CUPS
COCOA POWDER             ¾ CUPS
BAKING SODA                   1 ½ TSP
SALT                                     ½ SALT
BUTTER                               3 OZ.
SUGAR                                  ½ CUP
BROWN SUGAR                 ½ CUP
EGG                                       1
MILK                                     1 CUP
VANILLA                              1 TSP

Marshmallow filling

1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated gelatin
1/3 cup cold water
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites
½ teaspoon vanilla

              <<< OR>>>

Peanut butter filling

PEANUT BUTTER                      1 CUP
POWDERED SUGAR                  1 CUP    
SALT  (OPTIONAL )                   PINCH



Marshmallow filling

Bloom the gelatin in the first measurement of water, when it has soaked up all the water then gently melt it until liquid and keep warm.
Place the sugar, cornsyrup and water in a small saucepan.
Wash the sides down with a pastry brush and water to eliminate any sugar crystals on the side of the pan.
Place a candy thermometer in the stirred sugar mixture and cook on medium heat until soft ball stage 240F.
When the sugar reaches 230F then put the whites on a stand mixer with the whip and begin whipping on high speed.
Take the syrup off the stove when it reaches soft ball and very slowly pour it into the egg whites. Now do the same with the warm gelatin. Then add the vanilla.
Whip until very light, has strong peaks and sticky.
Immediately pipe onto one side of the cooled chocolate cookies and place a matching side on top. If you wait too long the marshmallow will set up and the top won’t stick as well so top them right away.
If you have left over marshmallow then pipe it into a small square pan that you have lined with a good amount of powdersugar. Refrigerate to set and then cut into squares with a hot knife. Pull them apart and roll in powdered sugar.
They will last for days but enjoy them on your hot chocolate or just eat and enjoy!