Since we’ve been grocery shopping less often and trying to use pantry staples for meals lately, I’ve been eating more chickpeas. And what’s left when you use canned chickpeas in recipes? Chickpea brine– or, to use another term, aquafaba.
I’ve used aquafaba before to make macarons and they turned out well, so I thought I’d give it another try and make some meringues. However, since my chickpeas weren’t low-sodium (as is usually recommended for aquafaba recipes), I was wary of making a plain vanilla meringue recipe– I worried that the salt might come through too strongly. So instead I decided to add a few spoonfuls of raspberry Jell-o powder for flavor and color, figuring that the raspberry flavor would disguise any lingering salt.
The finished meringues were light and airy and delicious– they’re actually even more melt-in-your-mouth than meringues made with egg whites! Seriously, egg-white meringues still retain a slightly chewy quality at the very end as you crunch into them, but these literally just melt away on your tongue and disappear. The raspberry Jell-o came through nicely, and I can definitely see using other flavors in the future for a pastel rainbow of meringues. All in all, I like them!
As you know, I’ve always had a thing for cute desserts, particularly if they’re tiny and pastel-colored. When considering what kind of sweet to make for this year’s historical picnic, I came across a recipe for strawberry lamingtons, and suddenly couldn’t get them out of my mind.
I admit I’d never actually had lamingtons before, much less made them, but they looked easy enough– cubes of sponge cake dipped in glaze and coated in finely shredded coconut. Traditionally the glaze is chocolate, but apparently strawberry is a common variation– and it’s made with jello!
As you may have noticed, I make mooncakes every year– just not in the usual flavors. While I really do like my chocolate-cherry mooncakes and my gingerbread mooncakes, I thought I’d try a new recipe this year and go with something almond-flavored.
For the centers I baked up an extremely moist almond cake. I actually tried two different recipes to see which one I liked better– the first is from Chez Panisse and is mixed in the food processor, and the second is from Amanda Hesser has a bit more flour in it and is made in the mixer. The first one turned out more cake-like, probably due to the fact that it incorporated whole eggs rather than just yolks, but the second turned out moister and squidgier, despite the fact that it had twice as much flour in it. I ended up using equal amounts of each cake, crumbled up together, to make my filling– it was the perfect mix!
I cut the sweetness of the almond cake with a tart raspberry jam center– Smuckers is my favorite raspberry jam, but not the seedless kind!– which I piped into the filling balls before molding the mooncakes.
The other day I was at Roche Brothers in the cheese section, when I spied a jar of jam.
I was immediately intrigued, as my love of the raspberry-rose (and often lychee) combination is well-known. I experienced momentary confusion as to whether it was quince and apple jam (due to the brand name) or raspberry-rose jam, but determined that it was the latter and decided to try it.
It’s really excellent– the raspberry is nice and bright, and the rose comes through just enough to avoid being overly floral. But what to do with it? It seemed a waste to spread it on toast, and I worried that the delicate flavor would be lost if I used it in a layer cake. But then I saw these lovely linzer cookies from Brina’s Bites and knew exactly what to do with it.
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.
When I asked my daughter what flavor of cake she wanted for her fifth birthday, she told me “chocolate with cookies and raspberries,” so what could I do but comply? Not a huge project, but it was impressive (and tasty) enough that I figured it was worth writing about.
The cake is my standard chocolate cake, divided into three 7″ round cake pans. I didn’t have sufficient time for my usual whipped frosting recipe, so I threw some frosting together out of what I had on hand– it was a bit denser than I prefer, but still tasted good. There wasn’t really enough of it to properly frost the cake, but that’s where the cookies came in!
Okay, I admit that this isn’t really a project. It’s too easy to count as a project. But the results are tasty, and I learned something useful, so I’m posting about it anyway.
The other day I got out a can of refrigerated crescent roll dough and the half-can of raspberry pie filling I had left over from my “Raspberry Swiss No-Meringue Buttercream” (wow, that’s a mouthful), and put them together to make some breakfast rolls. Simplest thing ever– just plop a generous spoonful of pie filling onto the dough, roll it up, and bake until golden brown. Top with a drizzle of powdered sugar glaze and voila– something tasty.
I love to read. I love to cook. What better set of projects to undertake than foods inspired by my favorite books? I can’t count the number of times I’ve been comfortably curled up, reading a description of something delicious being eaten/made/thrown by a character, and thought “I wonder what that tasted like?” So I figured that I’d try to bring some of those dishes to life.
First up is a classic from my favorite book in the world, Anne of Green Gables. There are numerous references to food in the book, mostly mentioned in passing (ice cream, chicken salad, chocolate caramels), but a few stand out as plot points. One of those is the layer cake Anne makes for a tea party, despite having a head cold that prevents her from smelling the bottle-full of what she thinks is vanilla extract– with disastrous results, since it’s actually anodyne liniment. Based on the text, the cake is a vanilla-flavored layer cake, sandwiched with jelly.
The cake did rise… and came out of the oven as light and feathery as golden foam. Anne, flushed with delight, clapped it together with layers of ruby jelly and, in imagination, saw Mrs. Allan eating it and possibly asking for another piece!
While the Anne of Green Gables Cookbook (written by Montgomery’s granddaughter) provides a recipe for this cake, reviews indicate that it comes out somewhat dense, which doesn’t jibe with the “light and feathery as golden foam” description in the original book. I decided to go another route, using a hot milk sponge cake recipe which has been around for a while and is supposed to produce a light, tender cake.
While I was in Paris for my breadbaking course, I made a point of visiting famous pastry shops (okay, not just famous ones) and picking out the most delectable-looking desserts to enjoy, regardless of cost or calories. After all, it’s not every day one is in Paris and able to experience all of the delicious things the city has to offer! And one of the most important delicious things on my list was the Ispahan macaron at Pierre Herme.
The Ispahan is a dessert made of two pink macaron shells, sandwiching fresh raspberries, lychees, and a rose buttercream. The combination of flavors was perfect. Absolutely perfect. It was an exquisitely balanced meld of sweet and floral and fruity, with creamy and crispy and juicy textures in each bite… I just can’t do it justice with mere words. A perfect dessert. This from a woman who usually goes for chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. I knew I had to recreate it here at home.
I’ll get to a perfect reproduction later, but until then I’m just trying to get the general flavor profile right. I decided to start with panna cotta, figuring that it’s light and creamy, doesn’t have egg yolks or butter to disguise the delicate flavors of rose and lychee, and is simple enough that I wouldn’t feel bad about wasting tons of time and effort if it didn’t turn out well.
So, after my first excursion into petit fours the matter rested for quite a while, until by chance I came across an article about mooncakes. You know, intricately-stamped pastries filled with red bean or other sweet pastes, given as gifts or served with tea for the Harvest Moon Festival or Lunar New Year. I actually don’t like them very much, flavor-wise. But I do appreciate the possibilities in detailed molds intended for desserts.
Once the mooncake mold arrived, I immediately realized that it was just the right shape and size to make petit fours. If I used rolled fondant instead of poured fondant, I could mold it however I liked over a cube of cake. Of course, I don’t much care for regular fondant, even the marshmallow fondant I use for layer cakes– it’s chalky and cloyingly sweet. So, figuring it couldn’t hurt, I decided to add cream cheese to the recipe. Voila! Perfect. The new recipe maintained the flexibility of fondant, but the extra fat from the cream cheese added richness, which did a lot to cut the sugariness and reduce the rubbery texture. Continue reading →