I can’t remember the first time I heard of the idea of baking meringue on top of a cake layer, but I do remember that it sounded amazing. I think I bookmarked a recipe and then promptly forgot about it. And although I already have an amazing recipe for Peach Cloud Cake that involves cake, meringue, fruit, and cream (and is incredible, you must try it!), peaches are not in season yet, which meant I had to find a different recipe to bring along to a barbecue this weekend.
Enter King Arthur Flour’s Berry Blitz Torte. Or as I (more descriptively) call it, Raspberry Meringue Cream Cake. It looked really incredible, and I couldn’t wait to try it– since I was taking it to feed a crowd, I doubled the recipe to make a 9×13″ cake. I admit, instead of making the pastry cream from scratch I used my own shortcut (which is actually the same one recommended by the website) and used instant pudding made with light cream instead of milk– it makes for a rich, creamy filling with none of the egg-tempering or tedious stirring over a stovetop.
I’m a sucker for pastry, especially at breakfast, so when I came across this recipe for King Arthur Flour’s Almond Puff Loaf, which promised a delicious, multi-layered pastry in only a few simple steps, I knew I’d have to try it out. It starts with a base that’s halfway between a biscuit and a pie crust, and it’s topped with choux paste to provide some serious puff. The process reminded me a little of the Gateau St. Honoré, but the finished product was very different– probably because of the different ingredient proportions.
I also decided to add a layer of almond paste between the two doughs, to really amp up the almond flavor– I would highly recommend it to anyone seeking to try this recipe, along with using apricot jam, which pairs perfectly with the almond.
I was inspired to make these by a video one of my friends posted on my Facebook page, showing adorable teddy bear cookies that you can hang off the side of a mug.
Knowing my daughter’s love for both hot cocoa and animal-shaped food, I knew that these would be appearing in my kitchen at some point. I also couldn’t help but notice that the teddy bears would be perfect for making these bear-shaped cookies hugging almonds, which I’ve also seen around and coveted, so it would be like killing two birds with one stone, right?
I went on Amazon and bought the Rilakkuma cutter set (which would also come in handy for cute bento lunches), and I was off!
I was melting some chocolate chips in the microwave the other day for a glaze, and I threw in the 2 tablespoons of butter called for in the recipe, figuring they’d just melt together as they usually do. I’ve never had problems with melting chocolate and butter together before, but on this occasion I guess the combination of having only a small amount of butter, and having it melt slowly along with the chocolate, resulted in just enough water being released from the butter to make the chocolate seize.
Uh-oh. Seized chocolate. I hate it when this happens. Usually it’s the result of water getting into the chocolate, either from a bain-marie or from stray water droplets on a spoon or something, and I avoid it by going the microwave route. But I was well and truly stuck this time– the chocolate was the consistency of rapidly-drying mortar, and despite my melting some extra butter into it, hoping the fat would bring it back, there was nothing to be done. So I stuck it in the fridge and figured I’d make something with it later.
A week later the chocolate was still staring at me from the fridge and my husband and I were doing a fridge clean-out, so it was use it or lose it. I pulled it out, along with a partially-used block of cream cheese that was at least a month old and a jar of leftover praline paste from my Gateau St. Honoré, and tried to figure out something to do with them.
When I was in Paris I finally got the chance to try the famous Gateau St. Honoré– a toothsome confection consisting of a layer of puff pastry, topped with a piped choux pastry swirl, topped with a ring of caramel-dipped cream puffs, and filled with fluffy cream. It was rich, decadent, and begging to be reproduced at home. Of course, I can rarely leave well enough alone, so when I decided to try making one I thought it would be delicious to incorporate elements of another famous French dessert, the Paris Brest.
Paris Brest is made of a large ring of choux pastry (meant to resemble a bicycle wheel, as the dessert was created in honor of a bicycle race), which is split and filled with a praline mousseline cream. The praline is made of caramelized hazelnuts and almonds, pulverized until they turn into paste, which is then folded into the cream.
I actually vacillated between which of these desserts to make, as both sounded fantastic, but in the end the Gateau St. Honoré– being both more complicated (I always love a challenge) and involving puff pastry, which I always adore– won out. But instead of the regular chiboust (mixture of plain pastry cream and Italian meringue) to fill the center, I made two changes: First, I used diplomat cream (mixture of pastry cream and whipped cream) instead of chiboust cream, because I hate making Italian meringue– too fiddly with the sugar syrup. Second, I decided to add praline paste to the cream to deepen the caramel flavor of the dessert.
The result? Spectacular. The flakiness of the puff pastry base adds just enough textural interest to the slightly firmer choux pastry and the gobs of creamy, hazelnut-kissed filling. The hard caramel dip on the cream puffs is just enough to crunch between your teeth and provide a hint of bitterness, and the dessert as a whole is light yet rich. I will absolutely make this again the next time I need an impressive finish to a meal.
For the next installment of Reader’s Digest(ibles), I’m going with white soup. Originating in 17th Century France, white soup (a variation of it, at least) became a popular food to serve at balls in Jane Austen’s time. The dish is referenced in Pride and Prejudice by Mr. Bingley, as he plans the Netherfield Ball.
“By the bye, Charles, are you really serious in meditating a dance at Netherfield?—I would advise you, before you determine on it, to consult the wishes of the present party; I am much mistaken if there are not some among us to whom a ball would be rather a punishment than a pleasure.”
“If you mean Darcy,” cried her brother, “he may go to bed, if he chuses, before it begins—but as for the ball, it is quite a settled thing; and as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough I shall send round my cards.”
When I first read the book in high school I had no idea what “white soup” could be, and given the context I initially speculated that it might be some weird term for envelope paste or something necessary for the invitations. But eventually I learned that it was an actual soup, and when considering what to make next for this series it immediately presented itself as an option. As implied by its name it’s a creamy soup, generally based on a meat stock, thickened with bread, and it includes almonds.
Okay, so having tried Pierre Herme’s Ispahan in panna cotta and granita, I’m ready to bite the bullet and try reproducing the exact dessert I had in Paris. Here’s a photo I took of the original for comparison:
To recap, it’s two macaron shells filled with rose-flavored cream, lychees, and fresh raspberries. Because of the chilling and resting time you’ll need to start these at least a day before you plan on serving them.