So, in my pastry adventures I’d often heard of canelés de Bourdeaux, little French pastries that are custardy on the inside, deeply caramelized on the outside, and which (sadly) require a lot of time and some specialty equipment to make. Given the apparent complexity of the process I’d decided against trying to make them myself, until I actually tried one and got hooked.
These things are really delicious– the outside has a nice, toasty flavor from the caramelization and a crisp-chewy texture, presumably from the beeswax/butter coating, while the inside is soft and squidgy, with a nice hit of rum at the end. They’re kind of like creme brulee in pastry form– I had to try making my own.
The problem, of course, is that traditional canelés are made with individual copper molds that run for $15-40 *each* online, and obviously you’d need a set of at least 8 to make the recipe worth baking. There had to be another way. Some internet research indicated that most of the silicone options weren’t sufficiently conductive to get real caramelization on the outside, so I went for a heavy-duty metal pan— nonstick, but that was only a side benefit since I would definitely be using the wax/butter coating for a more authentic result.
I found a very helpful post by Taste of Artisan, giving not only the recipe but very clear instructions on the baking process. I highly recommend that you check it out, though I had to adapt things a bit to account for my use of non-traditional molds.
After a recent trip to Montreal I wanted to bake something as a thank-you for our catsitter– after spending time surrounded by images of maple leaves, a maple cake seemed like the perfect gift!
I wanted to be mindful of potential nut allergies, so I looked for a recipe without pecans or walnuts, both of which were very common pairings with maple syrup. I ended up with a recipe from King Arthur Flour that was billed as a pound cake, but which was ultimately too light and delicate to really count as a pound cake in my opinion. That being said, the texture of the cake was perfect for a layer cake, and I will absolutely be trying to figure out how to replicate it (without the use of maple syrup) for future adventures! Can I just note that the batter smelled amazing while baking? I’d be tempted to make this just to make my house smell good… and the finished cake was buttery and maple-y, very reminiscent of pancakes with syrup (in a good way). I sprinkled a touch of kosher salt on top, just to emphasize the sweet-salty combination.
I wanted to make a pretty bundt cake, but also wanted to make another cake to eat at home since I can never give something away without taste-testing first! I doubled the recipe to make an 8-cup bundt as well as a loaf cake. (quantities below are for a single recipe) Sadly, the bundt cake refused to release cleanly from the pan and it literally fell apart on me, so it was in no condition for gifting– we’ve been eating it out of the pan with a spoon, and it’s delicious that way too! Luckily I’d lined my loaf pan with a parchment sling, so the loaf was much easier to lift out in one piece!
On our not-so-recent Hawaiian vacation (I still miss the islands!) my daughter spied an ice cream shop selling Pineapple-Coconut ice cream and was instantly drooling at the thought. We bought some, and it was decadently creamy and coconut-y, but there was next to no pineapple, which made it somewhat disappointing given that “pineapple” was the first word in the name. I vowed then and there to make my own version, though as you’ll see below I didn’t technically keep that vow…
The coconut ice cream was simple– while I’ve made custard-based ice creams before, for this recipe I decided to go with an eggless base to ensure that the eggy richness of custard didn’t overpower the coconut flavor. It totally worked– the finished ice cream was creamy and coconut-y, and (unlike many homemade ice creams) scooped smoothly and easily right out of the freezer. I toasted half of the coconut to add an extra dimension of flavor and some texture, and really liked the result. All in all, an excellent ice cream.
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.
I love my mini mooncake molds. Seriously love them. They’re probably my favorite decorative kitchen gadget, beating out the letter stamps for shortbread, the nori punch that makes tiny faces to put on food, and all the cookie cutters. Lately I’ve been using them to cover petit fours in molded fondant, but before that I actually used them to make mooncakes, and I’ll be doing a variation on that in this post. After all, the Autumn Moon Festival is coming up, so everyone else is making mooncakes too, right? Right???
Anyway, I never much liked traditional mooncake filling– bean paste, nuts, salted egg yolks– so I spent some time trying to figure out what to use instead. It had to be firm and hold its shape while baking, so cake batter and most cookie doughs were right out. Same with fresh fruit and any creamy centers. Finally, I hit upon the idea of using cake pops– not the kind you bake into shape, but the original kind, where you mix crumbled cake with something liquid or gooey and form it into a ball. I figured the moisture from the liquid would prevent overbaking, and the structure of the cake would hold its shape well enough to keep the molded outside from collapsing or exploding.
And what do you know, it worked! Since then I’ve made a few different types, my favorite being yellow cake and cream cheese with candied pineapple, coconut, and maraschino cherries, all wrapped up in a shortbread crust. However, for this version I wanted to try something different– chocolate. Chocolate crust, chocolate filling, chocolate EVERYTHING. I decided to use my small (35g) round mold to make these as bonbon-like as possible.
It never fails– I buy a bunch of bananas that are nice and green, figuring I’ll have plenty of time to eat them at my favorite stage (yellow with green tips) before they get overripe, but then life interferes and I’m stuck with a bunch of soft brown bananas with rapidly forming bruises that even my preschooler won’t touch. What to do? I’ve already made a batch of banana muffins and I don’t have any occasion to make a real banana cake. Then it hit me: ice cream.
Not the “freeze pieces of banana and then whirl them in the food processor” faux-ice cream that’s making the rounds on Pinterest (though I’ve made it and it’s not bad)– real ice cream. With caramelized banana puree, a swirl of salted caramel sauce, toasted walnuts, and chunks of banana bread to give me something to dig for. Sound good? I thought so.