After making pavlova for the first time, I found myself with four extra egg yolks. If it were winter I’d happily mix them into a batch of pasta a la carbonara, but it’s just too hot out to eat something so heavy for dinner– I decided to go with dessert instead. And since I was mysteriously short on ramekins, creme brulée was out… or was it?
I found a recipe for creme brulée tart that looked interesting– shortcrust pastry, layer of custard, and of course the caramelized top– and decided to give it a shot. I’ll say right now that there was a problem with this tart, but I think it was more in my execution than an issue with the recipe– while my crust looked fine (a little shrinkage, but mostly fine) during my blind-bake, for some reason it bubbled up in one spot during the custard-baking session, which made for a very odd-looking surface. It looked fine once I sugared and torched the top, but I had to be careful not to serve the slice with the giant crust-bubble in it, since it was dangerously short on custard!
Aside from that, the tart came together pretty easily. The crust is pulsed up in the food processor, and the custard filling doesn’t need any pre-cooking or thickening before being poured into the baked crust for a last session in the oven. The original recipe called for me to steep my dairy with a vanilla bean for half an hour, but since I used extract I got to skip that step and just warm the cream before mixing.
The tart itself is delicious– rich and creamy, with a nice buttery crust. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the egg tarts you get at dim sum restaurants, but a little less eggy and with the welcome addition of caramelized sugar. I still like regular creme brulée best, but this is a nice variation!
After a recent grocery trip in which I bought two gallons of milk (usually necessary), I came home to discover that I already had an almost-full gallon in the refrigerator, which meant I definitely had more than we needed for the week. What to do with the extra milk? Luckily, there are a ton of recipes that are perfect for just such a situation, and one of them is rice pudding.
Not just any rice pudding– many of them use only 3-4 cups of milk per cup of rice, which hardly seems worth it– but a rice pudding that purported to be the creamiest rice pudding out there. This recipe uses a whopping 6 cups of milk to a mere (heaping) half-cup of rice, and all it takes is time. A lot of time. But hey, it was the weekend and I’d already done my grocery shopping, so I had plenty of it, right?
I was a little leery of the milk-to-rice ratio, but as directed, I brought my milk (with sugar and salt) to a boil and stirred in my rice, then dropped it to a simmer and stirred it occasionally. I did cheat a bit– after about 30 minutes the rice was tender but the milk was still liquid rather than creamy, so I didn’t see the point in gently simmering it any longer. Instead, I cranked up the heat and let it boil for the next 15 minutes, slowly thickening into a nice, creamy mixture. Once off-heat, I stirred in my flavorings, then set it out to cool.
Since I was in a bit of a hurry I poured it onto a silicone-lined baking sheet on the counter to cool faster, then once it was merely warm I put it in the refrigerator to cool even more quickly. The finished texture was perfectly creamy– not liquid-y as I’d feared– and I added some toasted coconut and chopped pistachios on top for contrast.
I think this recipe could be the base of a bunch of different variations. Cardamom and orange zest. Cinnamon and nutmeg. Lemon zest and honey. Or with coconut milk substituted for some of the milk, and maybe some crushed pineapple– the possibilities are endless!
Lately my daughter has been watching the show Shaun the Sheep, by Aardman Animations (of Wallace and Gromit fame). During an episode entitled “The Farmer’s Llamas,” her eye was immediately caught by this cake, which is featured only for a few moments:
She was so interested in it that in a fit of reckless abandon, I promised to make it for her once she’d achieved a specific level of proficiency in one of her school activities. And here we are.
One thing I noticed about the cake was that it’s really not a cake at all– it’s a molded jelly dessert. You can tell that the top tier is pure jelly, the middle one is jelly with orange slices in it, and the bottom one is molded jelly with some kind of cream mixed in to make it more opaque (it can’t be cake, it’s too smooth). However, while we enjoy gelatin desserts we like cake better in our house, so we decided to compromise.
You know, sometimes the classics are just the best. I do love making fabulous, multi-component desserts– both for the challenge and the layers of flavor and texture– but every now and then it’s great to go back to basics. Especially when you’re running around frantically to cook your first solo Thanksgiving dinner and you JUST need something good for dessert and your family insists that they HATE pumpkin pie and can’t agree on whether to have apple pie or custard pie and and you’re ready to commit the heresy of getting STORE-BOUGHT just to get it over with–
In any event, we eventually decided on this pie, and boy is it a keeper. As is so frequently the case, it’s from the incomparable Deb at Smitten Kitchen, and having had my first slice I’m fairly sure I could make one of these every week and never get tired of it. The cornstarch pudding is simple to put together and practically foolproof– a for flavor, it’s perfectly rich, not too sweet, and light enough to not weigh you down, even after a holiday dinner. I even used a pre-made crust and it still turned out fantastically… though homemade whipped cream is a must here, I have to insist on it.
Given my love for fancy, multi-component desserts, it’s not surprising that someone gifted me a silicone mold perfect for making mirror-glazed mousse cakes. What’s surprising is that the mold has been sitting in my cabinet for months without ever having been used!
With all this extra time at home lately, I decided that it was time to take the plunge. Since we’re coming up on strawberry season I figured that I could use them as my base flavor, and when I found myself with a half-drunk bottle of prosecco I knew that I had a winning combination. After that it was just a matter of browsing recipes online to find components that I thought would work well together.
So what we have here is a strawberry-champagne mousse, encasing layers of white chocolate panna cotta, strawberry gelée, and genoise cake. It’s all topped off with a mirror glaze. The panna cotta turned out a bit bland on its own, but the mousse was delicious– the champagne flavor really came through– and the gelée was nice and fruity, providing a good contrast. While I was initially dubious about the sponge cake (it was a bit tough the first day), it softened up well and I’ve come to realize that a sturdy cake is necessary to keep its shape in a moisture-heavy dessert like this.
It takes a little time, since you have to let it cool down naturally to avoid graininess (or so I’ve been told, I’ve never tested a faster chilling method), and it does require an immersion blender to get that nice, silky texture, but it’s worth it.
It’s fall, which in baking terms means pumpkin and spices and all things warm and cozy! That being said, while I’m perfectly happy to bake standard pumpkin muffins at home, when it comes to parties I always have to try something more interesting. That’s why, for a recent potluck, I came up with this recipe, which combines pumpkin and ginger and all those other spicy fall flavors with chocolate– and it was a great combination!
That being said, while I increased the original cake recipe by 50% to make a taller cake (big crowd expected), in retrospect I think this was a mistake– the cake-to-frosting ratio was off. I’ve reduced the cake amounts back down for this post, so your cake will not turn out as tall as the one in the photo– this will be a good thing! I’m kind of tempted to try to make this into cupcakes next time so I can really pile on the frosting– you should try it!
So, having found a new chocolate cake recipe, I decided to try a new chocolate frosting recipe! I’d previously decided on this one as my go-to, but I think it may have been beaten (heh, baking joke) by this new one!
This recipe, from Serious Eats, starts off with a basic cocoa buttercream, but then adds a healthy dose of bittersweet chocolate ganache to really amp up the chocolate flavor. The reviews were excellent, and boy, did it deliver! This is officially my new favorite chocolate frosting, and you’ll see how I use it in my next post!
Sure, it takes a little extra time to make and cool the ganache, but the results are amazing. Smooth, creamy, and a nicely deep, dark, chocolate-y flavor. It does whip up just a little bit loose at first, but some time in the fridge will fix that if you stir it periodically to keep the chilling even.
You know, despite having used choux pastry to make cream puffs (a LOT), breakfast pastry, and fancy French praline desserts, I’d never used it to make éclairs before now. I wonder why? Perhaps because I tend to like my desserts either tiny and adorable (like, bite-sized), or big and easy to serve to a crowd. In any event, I was recently invited to a last-minute dinner party and needed something light, summery, and capable of being ready to transport in 90 minutes or less.
A quick scan of the kitchen showed that I had no fruit to bake into a crumble or cake, no thawed butter I could use to make frosting (even if I’d had time to bake and cool a cake enough to be frosted), and no leftover cake scraps or cookies that I’d ordinarily be able to use as the base for something interesting and maybe ice cream-based. And then I thought of choux– made of pantry staples, it would bake up quickly and could be filled with any number of things; plus, it would be best filled on-site, which would give me a little more time to acquire fruit or something else tasty for a filling on the way to the party.
Recently, I was trying to figure out what dessert to bring to a Lunar New Year party. More specifically, I was trying to figure out what dessert to bring that was not red bean cream puffs, because I didn’t want to go to the trouble of making the craquelin topping and I still needed something bite-sized and tasty. I was going through my old recipes when I came across my post about honey-cornflake crunchies and it occurred to me that they might make a neat base for a different kind of dessert combining honey with some other flavor components.
I decided to flavor my filling with cardamom, since it’s often paired with honey. I’d originally planned to make a simple stabilized whipped cream filling, but concluded that it would be too light in comparison to the crunchy base and opted instead to give it a richer mouthfeel by combining two concepts– stabilized whipped cream and cooked-flour frosting. Both involve beating a thickened pudding-like mixture into the dairy– it’s just that the frosting uses butter instead of liquid cream. My experimental recipe worked beautifully, and I’ll definitely be using it in the future.
Of course, once I’d settled on cream-filled tartlets, I felt that they needed something more, for texture, and flavor. After a false start (persimmons apparently just went out of season, boo!) I settled on pears and pistachios, both classic pairings with cardamom.