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Sweet endings

10 Apr

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It feels weird that Vincent Price is the man my family credits for the sweetest, most angelic dessert we know.

His 1965 Joy of Creepy cookbook (Treasury of Great Recipes) is the source of our treasured family treat.
Boccone Dolce (“sweet mouthful”) is from Sardi’s on West 44th Street in Manhattan’s theater district.
It is ridiculous.

It’s an ice-box cake made with meringue, fresh strawberries, whipped cream and a touch of chocolate.

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UPDATE: We recently succumbed to a fit of the lazies and tried to make one large meringue (which we baked slowly for close to two hours)

But we should have left the chocolate sparse: we coated the whole thing and the cream couldn’t penetrate to soften the base. So while it looked good and tasted good, it was tough to cut and turned into a shipwreck.

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BOCCONE DOLCE
(Sweet Mouthful)

Preheat oven to 250.
Meringue Layers: 3 base layers which can be done days ahead.
(some recipes call for 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and 250 oven)

4 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup superfine sugar

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. In mixer, beat egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar and continue beating until meringue is stiff and glossy.

Line baking sheets with parchment. Trace three, eight inch circles on paper

With a rubber spatula, spread meringue evenly and equally over top of the circles. bake approximately 2 hours or until meringue becomes bisque colored. The low temperature will prevent them from browning too quickly. Then turn off oven, open oven door and let meringues “rest” in oven another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully peel off parchment or waxed paper. Put cake on racks to dry until thoroughly cool.

Once cooled, meringues may be wrapped in saran and frozen or just store in an airtight container if using within the next 24 hours. NOTE: Wrap each meringue in several saran layers, then stack in a large plastic container for freezing. Remove from freezer at least an hour before assembling.

6 ounces of semisweet chocolate pieces
3 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. powdered sugar
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 pints berries, sliced and macerated with sugar
Chocolate curls (for garnish) I just shaved some chocolate over the top
Melt chocolate pieces over hot water. When perfectly smooth, remove from heat and cool.

In a large bowl, whip the cream until stiff; gradually add powdered sugar and then vanilla extract. (try a splash of grand marnier)

Take two lbs./pints of fresh strawberries. Pick out the eight prettiest berries and put them back in the fridge for later. Hull and slice, or half, the rest of the berries into a bowl and sweeten with a half cup of sugar.

Stir gently, cover, and put back in fridge for an hour or two.

To assemble, place a meringue layer on a serving plate, rounded side down. Spread a very thin coating of chocolate over it. NOTE: Go easy on chocolate, too much will make it impossible to cut cake! I used a pastry brush to spread the chocolate.

Top chocolate with a layer (about 3/4 inch thick) of whipped cream.

Top cream with a layer of sliced berries.
Place a second layer of meringue on top of this, and repeat filling.
Top with final meringue, rounded side up (some say down), and frost top smoothly with remaining whipped cream.

Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with several whole strawberries and chocolate curls.

This dessert is not the easiest to cut – use a serrated bread knife works well and use a sawing like motion.
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And to gild the lily, here’s a remarkable peach meringue cake sweetened with butter cream and bolstered by ground almonds.

ALMOND MERINGUE CAKE WITH PEACHES
From Laura Calder
4 ounces ground almonds or hazelnuts
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
4 egg whites
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons125 g sugar (for the buttercream)
4 egg yolks (for the buttercream)
1 cup butter, very soft (for the buttercream)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (for the buttercream)
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted (for the topping)
6 peaches, sliced (for the topping)

Directions
Make the cake: Heat the oven to 275°F/140°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment and draw on two 9-inch/23 cm circles. (You could also do rectangles). Combine the ground almonds, cornstarch, and all but 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Beat the whites to peaks, then beat in the remaining sugar to make a stiff meringue. Fold in the almond mixture in three batches to combine thoroughly. Using a piping bag with a large tip, pipe the meringue onto the circles on the parchment. Bake until crisp and dry, about an hour and a half.
Make the buttercream: Heat the sugar with 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons/100 ml water to dissolve, then boil to soft-ball stage, which is just before the syrup changes colour (239°F/115°C on a candy thermometer). Beat the egg yolks in a stand-up mixer, then, with the beaters running, quickly add the hot syrup in a thin stream. Continue beating until the mixture is cool and forms and thick mouse, about 5 minutes. Beat in the butter, gradually, and finally add the vanilla.
Assemble the cake: Set a round of meringue on a serving plate. Spread over a quarter of the buttercream. Lay in a layer of sliced peaches. Spread the top layer with buttercream and set it on top on the first. Spread the remaining butter cream over the sides of the cake. Press the toasted almonds all around the sides. Arrange another layer of peach slices on top.

C is for cookie, part 2

28 Feb

The battle continues. Classic chocolate chip.

The secret to a better chocolate chip cookie? Letting the dough rest for 36 hours.

From the New York Times: “What he’s doing is brilliant. He’s allowing the dough and other ingredients to fully soak up the liquid — in this case, the eggs — in order to get a drier and firmer dough, which bakes to a better consistency.”

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

JACQUES TORRES’ CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
NYT

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour

1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract

1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)

Sea salt.

 

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.
Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds.
Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them.
Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.
Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie.
Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes.
Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more.
Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day.
Eat warm, with a big napkin.
Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.

 

Half a Pound of Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Dinner With Julie

3/4 cup butter, at room temp

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

8 oz. dark or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into chunks

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars until pale and almost fluffy.

Beat in the egg and vanilla.

Add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt and stir or beat on low until almost combined; add the chocolate chunks and stir just until blended.

Drop dough by the spoonful onto a parchment-lined (or buttered) sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes (depending on their size) until golden around the edges but still so in the middle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

C is for cookie

28 Feb

This is the battle to end all battles, in two parts.

Part one: chocolate vs. chocolate. Dorie Greenspan’s world peace cookies vs. Vancouver’s Thomas Haas’s chocolate sparkle cookies.

Two adorable names (world peace? sparkles? goodie!), two scrumptious recipes.

CHOCOLATE SPARKLE COOKIES

recipe ran in the Vancouver Sun, which we couldn’t locate, but did find here, with great pictures.

1/2 lb bittersweet chocolate (Haas recommends Valrohna if possible)
3 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 tbsp honey (Haas recommends Blackberry)
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for rolling
3/4 cup ground almonds
2 tsp cocoa powder

pinch of salt

Melt chocolate on top of a double boiler, over (but not in contact with) simmering water. Remove from heat. Cut butter into small pieces and mix into the heated chocolate until melted.

Beat eggs, gradually adding the sugar and honey until light and the mixture falls into thick, smooth ribbons (about 10 min). Fold into the chocolate mixture. Add the cocoa powder and salt to the ground almonds and mix; gently add to the chocolate mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use an ice cream scoop to form the dough into 1 inch balls. Working quickly, roll the balls into granulated sugar. Place on the Baking sheet 2″ apart. Bake at 325 for 12 minutes, until the centres are moist, but not wet. Cool slightly. Dust lightly with powdered icing sugar. Makes about 36 cookies.

Note: You may find this recipe has cocoa and honey added that were not included in the original recipe. Thomas Haas tweaked the recipe between the LA Times version and Vancouver Sun printed version.

WORLD PEACE COOKIES

Go here to see good photos.

Makes about 36 cookies

1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons or 150 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (120 grams) (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces (150 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about one inch between them.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Serving: The cookies can be eaten when they are warm or at room temperature — I prefer them at room temperature, when the textural difference between the crumbly cookie and the chocolate bits is greatest — and are best suited to cold milk or hot coffee.

Do ahead: Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days (Deb note: not a chance); they can be frozen for up to 2 months. They can also be frozen in log form for months, and can be sliced and baked directly from the freezer, adding a coupld minutes to the baking time.

Cool Yule

24 Dec

Growing up, we were a fruit cake and goodie family at Christmastime, so we’re a little late getting to la bûche de Noël. Oh, but it’s never too late to start new traditions. The elegant French and Belgian city bakeries are offering gorgeous versions of the traditional sponge and mousse cake. Pricy, to be sure, but deadly good.

We had already ordered weeks in advance and forked over our credit card when brilliant and lovely Dinner with Julie proposed the idea of transforming an old fashioned wafer roll into a quick yule log. We nearly died of happiness. So simple! So fast! So next year!

Mousse insides can span all sorts of flavours: spiked with Baileys Irish Cream (!), espresso, hazelnut, gingerbread spice, peppermint, or any combination of fruit (raspberry, apricot, passionfruit, etc.).

UPDATE: We did it!

Raspberry on the inside, Bailey’s and marscapone with whipping cream on the outside. Our raspberry cream was a little too loose (too much water from the frozen berries we pushed through a seive.
But that’s easy to fix next time. Also, we ran out of time to sprinkle cinnamon or cocoa on the finished log, which has a ghostly naked appearance:

We like the idea of a raspberry filling and frosting made with 1 cup whipping cream, 1/2 tbsp brown sugar, and then folding in 1/2 cup Irish Cream mixed with 1/2 cup of mascarpone.

Chocolate wafer cookies, graham wafers and god knows whatever other biscuits will work.
Our version may not be as swank as the one above (designed by Alexis Mabille for Angelina Salon de The in Paris).

But jeepers. Pinch us. We’ll try.

Bark versus Bite

19 Dec

We are simply mad for chocolate peppermint bark a la Williams and Sonoma. It is a serious addiction. And we love the darling tin and tempting glass stand with matching dome. But it’s so bloody expensive. This year, we are tempted to cheap out and make our own.

How hard can it be? The key here is good quality chocolate. A base layer of melted chocolate, topped with cooled white chocolate laced with peppermint extract and sprinkled with crushed peppermint candy. This is the flavour of Christmas — see Gourmet’s peppermint bark cookies below this recipes.

Peppermint Bark

12 oz good chocolate chips
1 pound white chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup peppermint candy, crushed

Preheat oven to 250. Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper, letting it hang over the sides. Pour the chocolate chips in an even layer on the parchment paper. Place in oven for 5 minutes or until almost melted. Remove from oven, smooth with an offset spatula or knife. Place in refrigerator until cold and firm, about 20 minutes.

Melt white chocolate chips in a double boiler or in a metal bowl over simmering water (don’t let bottom of bowl touch water), until chocolate is almost melted. Remove bowl from water and stir until completely melted, stirring in extract. Let cool a little bit so it doesn’t melt the chocolate layer when you pour it on top. Pour this over chocolate layer, and, working quickly, spread to cover. Sprinkle with crushed candy.

Chill until both layers are firm. Lift parchment out of pan and shake off excess candy. Break into pieces. Chill in covered container. Makes about 2 pounds.

Tips from the internets: Don’t make the layers too thin as this can cause the layers to separate.
Take the bottom layer out of the frig a few minutes prior to spreading the top layer. Sometimes if the bottom is too cold, the top will set but may not bond completely with the bottom.
If there’s condensation on the bottom when you remove it from the frig, sometimes this prevents the top from sticking to it, as well.Let the bark sit out a few minutes before you try to cut or break it apart.

Kick-the-Can Vanilla Ice Cream

7 Sep

We love it when children are around for summer barbecues, because it equals slave labour. This cool dessert is a great way to keep small ones entertained — and away from our drinks.

Recipe from Canadian Living Test Kitchen

 

In large heavy saucepan, bring milk, cream and vanilla beans to boil over medium heat. Remove saucepan from heat; cover and let stand to steep for 30 minutes. (If using vanilla extract, add after removing pan from heat.) Remove vanilla beans and scrape out seeds; stir seeds back into pan.

In bowl, beat egg yolks with sugar until light; stir in milk mixture. Pour egg mixture back into pan; cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened enough to coat back of spoon, 12 minutes. Place pan in ice bath to cool, stirring for first minute.

Half-fill each of two empty 500 g coffee cans with ice-cream mixture; seal lid well with tape. Place each can in 1 kg can filled with ice mixed with 1/3 cup (75 mL) salt ; seal well. Rotate and gently kick cans until ice cream is set, about 25 minutes. (Or freeze in ice-cream machine according to manufacturer’s directions. Or freeze in shallow metal pan until almost firm; break into chunks, pur?in food processor then freeze in airtight container for 1 hour or until firm.)


An alternate, eggless recipe:

1 cup half and half

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 quart size zipper bag

ice cubes/6 tbsp salt

2.5 lb coffee can with lid

duct tape

 

Ice Milk in a bag:

1/2 cup chocolate milk (the real thing)

1/2 cup table salt

ice

sandwich bag

freezer bag

etc.