Playing with cookies

By Mélanie, on Sunday, November 23, 2008

I know, I know, I shouldn't play with food. But I could not resist to those cute little bears. And not only are they cute, they're really good too. I wasn't crazy about candies as a child, but those, oh, how I loved them! The marshmallow is so soft and sweet, coated with milk chocolate. If you don't know anything about the Oursons Guimauve, David Lebovitz's site will help you.
So when I saw them in the grocery store, I immediately knew I'd like to use them for my next baker's experiment.
Unfortunately, I think this must have looked like a horror movie for the poor little bears...

They were first cut in pieces, in order to be incorporated to a simple cookie dough. Then, they were refrigerated for a whole day (see, I also follow the rules I preach).
I was very curious to see how this would turn out after the cooking. First, they melted totally in the oven. But then the sugar of the marshmallow bubbled, and caramelized. Combined with the chocolate from the coating, it tasted like another delicious candy, the Michoko (I think it's like Heath bar? soft toffee coated in dark chocolate).

The thing is, they spread a lot. The caramel gets very flat, so the best is to reshape them into a disk when they're still warm. At this temperature, the caramel is malleable and forms strings, just like melting cheese. I was surprised, but, honestly, sticky and chewy cookies? I like that!! If you don't (why would you?), just wait a little. Once cold, you'll end up with a part cookie / part hard chocolate-caramel goody...

Marshmallows cookies

1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 vanilla pod
1 egg
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
4 oz “oursons en guimauve” (mini-marshmallows covered with milk chocolate)

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add egg and flour mixture gradually. Stir in morsels and marshmallows. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop 2 1/2-ounce mounds of dough onto baking sheet. Bake until golden brown but still soft, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer sheets to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough. Eat warm.

Cookies aux oursons en guimauve

150g de farine
1/2 cuillère à café de bicarbonate de soude
1/2 cuillère à café de sel
100g de beurre à temperature ambiante
50g de sucre
120g de sucre brun
1/2 gousse de vanille
1 oeuf
70g de pepites de chocolat noir
1 paquet de 120g d’oursons en guimauve

Mélangez la farine, la levure et le sel dans un saladier à part.
En utilisant la spatule de votre robot, travaillez le beurre ramolli avec les sucres jusqu'à ce que le mélange blanchisse. Ajoutez les graines de vanille, l’ œuf et le mélange à base de farine, en mélangeant bien après chaque addition. Incorporez ensuite les morceaux de chocolat et les oursons coupés en 4, en mélangeant avec une cuillère, pour ne pas les casser.
Couvrez la pâte d’un film plastique et réfrigérez 24 à 36 heures.
Préchauffez le four à 170°.
Tapissez les plaques à pâtisserie de papier sulfurisé. A l’aide d’une cuillère, faites des tas de pâte de la taille d’une petite balle de golf, et disposez les sur la plaque. Prenez soin de les espacer suffisamment pour ne pas qu’ils se collent entre eux lors de la cuisson. Enfournez pour environ 12 à 16 minutes. Laissez les refroidir quelques minutes avant de les transférer sur une grille.
Dégustez les encore chauds.
La suite, please

Autumnal melody : hazelnut, caramel and pears

By Mélanie, on Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Did I tell you that I like to bake with constraints ? Having a “brain-teaser” to solve before finding what I could serve? Well, this week-end, my wishes were granted. I had a lot of constraints…
I offered to bring a dessert for a party. So the whole “dessert on a plate/in a jar/etc…” thing was excluded. My thought immediately wandered to the different kinds of cookies I could make. I could try new selections, what fun I could have!! (you’ll see that soon).
But this would have been too easy! The only person I really knew at this party added some other specifications. No chocolate. Something light (which is a difficult concept to grasp, as he then told me how good a chocolate mousse was… Do you understand how lost I was?). So I made up my mind and decided that light had to mean without butter, and not too dense.

I’m still in this autumnal mood, so pears seemed very appropriate. And after reading Tartelette’s Poire d’Eve description, I was highly attracted to the idea of associating them with caramel. And this was no mistake…

For the base, I mixed white eggs with hazelnut, obtaining a very light dacquoise, between the macaron and the meringue. This is the easiest thing to do, and it is delicious. Plus, it’s very versatile, you can replace hazelnuts with almonds, or with coconut, and turn the whole cake into something new.
After that, I added the poached pears, covered with a soft caramel mousse. Don’t be afraid by the description of the recipe, which is long, I don’t think it took me more than 2 hours to make (dish washing included!). You just need to be organized, and, well… have a lots of containers and bowls…
I have to admit I was not feeling very well and I did not taste it, but everyone said it was very good, so we’re gonna need to trust them on that one!

Autumnal Melody

For the hazelnut angel cake :
3/4 cup confectioner sugar
1 cup (lightly packed) hazelnut powder
1/4 cup flour
4 egg whites
1/4 cup brown sugar

For the caramel :
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream

For the caramel mousse :
1 egg and 2 yolks, room temperature*
½ cup sugar
3 tsp. powdered gelatin, sprinkled over 3 Tbsp water
1 cup heavy cream
3 poached pears, cubed - or - 3 canned pears in syrup

For the glaze (optional)
1/2 pear, thinly sliced
1/2 cup reserved poaching syrup
1 tsp gelatin, sprinkled over 1 Tbsp water

* The eggs need to be at room temperature, otherwise the sugar will crystallize when poured over the beaten eggs.

Prepare the cake :

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, sift together flour and confectioner sugar. Add the hazelnuts.
Beat whites in mixer at medium speed until they form soft peaks. Add brown sugar gradually, beating, and continue beating at high speed just until whites are thickened and form soft, droopy peaks.
Sprinkle one third of sifted dry ingredients over whites and fold in with a rubber spatula gently but thoroughly. Fold in remaining dry ingredients, one third at a time.

If you don’t have a ring mold or a springform, you could use parchment paper to remove the finished cake from the pan easily.
Gently pour batter evenly into greased cake pan and bake until top is light golden, and a tester comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.
Transfer cake to rack; cool completely.

Prepare the caramel mousse :

Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks, and reserve in the fridge.

Combine 1/3 cup sugar and 1 Tbsp water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil over medium high heat. Cook the sugar until deep golden brown. Turn off the heat and carefully pour heavy cream into the hot caramel. The syrup will bubble shortly, so be careful. Return to the heat if you get caramel bits and stir until it is one smooth liquid.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water, and let it sit.

Whisk shortly the egg and the yolks. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1 Tbsp water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil over medium high heat, and cook until it reaches 233°F. Add it to the yolk mixture and continue to whisk on medium high until it triples in volume and cools to room temperature.

Melt the gelatin in the microwave for 20 seconds and add it to the caramel. Mix the caramel with the egg preparation. Finally add the heavy cream to the mousse base and fold gently together.

Assembly :

Put the hazelnut cake on a serving dish, in the pastry frame (or in the baking pan if you don’t have any pastry frame). Spread the pear dices over, and cover with the caramel mousse. Freeze the cake for 2 hours before decorating with the glaze.
Arrange some pear slices over the cake.
Bring the poaching syrup to a boil, add the gelatin and stir until completely dissolved. Let cool at room temperature before pouring over the cake. Reserve in the fridge before serving.

Mélodie d'Automne : noisettes, poires et mousse caramel

Pour le biscuit :
4 blancs d’œufs
50g de sucre brun
75g de sucre glace
25g de farine
100g de poudre de noisette

Pour le caramel :
75g de sucre
8cl de crème

Pour la mousse :
1 œuf et 2 jaunes à température ambiante*
100g de sucre
25 cl de crème liquide
3 feuilles de gélatine
3 poires pochées ou au sirop, coupées en petit cubes

Pour la décoration (facultatif) :
1 feuille de gélatine
20cl du sirop de pochage des poires (ou le sirop de la boite)
½ poire coupée en fines lamelles

* Si vos œufs sont trop froids, le sucre cuit que vous ajoutez ensuite va se cristalliser immédiatement au lieu de s’incorporer au mélange. C’est pourquoi il est important de les sortir quelques heures avant de commencer la préparation de la mousse.

Préparez le biscuit :

Dans un bol, mélangez la farine et le sucre glace tamisés, ainsi que les noisettes en poudre.
A l’aide d’un batteur électrique, fouettez les blancs pour les rendre mousseux. Incorporez alors le sucre brun au fur et à mesure, tout en continuant de battre, puis en augmentant la vitesse. Vous devez obtenir un mélange ferme et brillant.
Ajoutez alors un tiers du mélange à base de noisettes, et incorporez le doucement à l’aide d’une cuillère en bois ou d’une maryse. Procédez de même pour les deux tiers restants.

Préchauffez le four à 180°.
Beurrez et farinez un moule à manqué ou un moule à fond amovible de 22cm de diamètre. Si vous n’avez pas de cercle à pâtisserie de la même taille ni de moule à fond amovible, vous pouvez chemiser le moule de papier sulfurisé, afin de faciliter le démoulage du gâteau une fois assemblé.

Versez le mélange dans le moule ainsi préparé, et enfournez pour 30 à 35 minutes, jusqu’à obtenir une belle couleur dorée. Laissez refroidir complètement. Si vous n’utilisez pas de cercle à pâtisserie, laissez le biscuit dans son moule.

Préparez la mousse :

Battez la crème liquide en chantilly, et réservez-la au frais.

Préparez un caramel avec les 75g de sucre et une cuillère à café d’eau. Portez à ébullition et laissez sur feu moyeu jusqu’à obtenir une couleur ambrée assez sombre. Retirez du feu, et ajoutez la crème liquide en remuant vigoureusement. Le mélange va bouillonner et fumer, c’est normal. S’il vous reste quelques morceaux de sucre non dissout, portez à nouveau sur le feu, au plus doux, en remuant. Retirez du feu et laissez à température ambiante.

Dans le bol de votre robot, battez les œufs pour les rendre mousseux. Dans une petite casserole, mouillez le sucre avec une cuillère d’eau, et portez à ébullition jusqu’à atteindre 112° (stade du soufflé. Si vous n'avez pas de thermomètre à sucre, suivez ce lien pour la méthode empirique).
Versez le sucre cuit en filet sur les œufs tout en battant. Autant que possible, le sucre doit être versé directement sur les œufs, non sur le fouet ou sur le bol… Augmentez ensuite la vitesse et battez le mélange jusqu’à ce qu’il triple de volume.
Faites ramollir les 3 feuilles de gélatine dans un bol d’eau froide. Puis égouttez les, et faites les chauffer (soit 20 secondes au micro-onde, soit dissoute dans une cuillère à soupe d’eau bouillante). Mélangez ensuite avec le caramel encore chaud, et versez le tout dans la préparation aux œufs.
Incorporez ensuite doucement la crème battue avec une maryse.

Montage :

Placez le disque de biscuit sur un plat de service, à l’intérieur du cercle à entremet. Répartissez les morceaux de poires sur le biscuit, et recouvrez avec la mousse.
Placez 2 heures au congélateur avant de décorer.
Disposez les lamelles de fruit sur le gâteau.
Mélangez la gélatine (préalablement ramollie et réchauffée, comme pour la mousse) avec le sirop de pochage des poires, et versez-le sur la mousse en vous aidant d’un pinceau.
Placez au frais avant de retirer le cercle à entremet et de servir.
La suite, please

Long due : meeting with the winter squash

By Mélanie, on Sunday, November 16, 2008

I should have told you about this for a long time. Like, for example, when I first made it, as an invitation for fall to come. It was early September, leaves were barely changing colors and lunch could still be appreciated on a terrace. This was my way to feel the seasonal change.

Or when a light breeze caused a golden fall of leaves, making me realize that autumn had arrived. I wonder if I used to be blind, or if the days were cooler and sunnier than usual, but I had never seen such vibrant red and gold in the trees. It was exactly what everyone would dream of for this season.

Or when I understood time had passed by again, and that we were now experiencing what people call “typical November weather” (I hate when they say that. It’s my month. So it shall not be criticated!). And anyway, I love that weather too. A dark grey sky, the sound of the wind blowing, heavy rain*, it makes me feel alive (ok, and also a little bit like a character of a Brontë sisters’novel).
* Well, except when I'm wearing my new shoes...

But now that a winter coat, and sometimes even mitten, are necessary to go outside and face the cold temperatures, I fell it’s high time for me tell you how I got to like winter squash. See, I was highly intrigued by them. Except for pumpkin and red kuri, we don’t cook/find a lot of winter squash in France. I tried them once in the US, but the flavors were too mild and cloying (just like pumpkin pie… I know this will sound as a sacrilege for some of you…). But then, I saw this cutie in the grocery store.

I had no idea what to do with it, but I just couldn't resist. I searched on the web to understand how I should cook it, and how the flavors would develop with other ingredients.

I took advantage of its nice shape for the presentation, and stuffed it with brown rice, celery, and some ground hazelnut, which complement ideally the nutty and sweet taste of the squash. And this is how I discovered how good it was!

Stuffed sweet dumpling squash
For 2

1 sweet dumpling squash
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion
1 branch of celery
1 tsp salt & pepper
1 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp dried parsley
¼ cup brown rice
1/3 cup hazelnuts
1/8 cup dried cranberries (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut through the stem end of the squash with a sharp knife. Scoop out the seeds and place cut-side down on the baking sheets. Bake for 40 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 375°F.

While the squash is in the oven, cook the brown rice in the water.
Finely slice the onion and the celery. In a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the celery and onion over medium heat until just softened. Stir in the parsley, pepper, nutmeg, and salt, and take the pan off the heat.

Use a food processor to grind the hazelnuts to powder.

When the squash is cooked, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, leaving a bit behind to keep the skins from tearing. Mash the flesh coarsely with the ground nuts and the sautéed mixture.
Add the brown rice and the cranberries to the squash in the bowl and mix thoroughly.

Stuff the mixture into the squash shell. Bake for 20 minutes, then close with the lid and serve.

Patidou farci au riz brun et aux noisettes
Pour 2 personnes

1 patidou
1 cuillère à soupe d’huile d’olive
1 oignon
1 branche de céleri
1 pincée de sel, de poivre et de muscade
2 cuillères de persil
½ bouillon cube
50 g de riz brun
30 g de noisettes
20g d’airelles séchées (facultatif)

Préchauffez le four à 200°.

A l’aide d’un grand couteau, découpez le dessus du patidou pour avoir un couvercle. Videz les graines qui sont à l’intérieur de la courge. Posez la à l’envers dans un plat (n’oubliez pas le couvercle) et enfournez pour 40 minutes.

Pendant ce temps, émincez l’oignon et le céleri.
Faites cuire le riz dans une casserole d’eau bouillante salée avec le bouillon cube.
Faites chauffer l’huile dans une casserole. Lorsque l’huile est chaude, faites revenir les oignons. Lorsqu’ils ont atteint une couleur translucide, ajoutez le céleri et laissez dorer. Ajoutez sel, poivre et persil, et retirez ensuite du feu.

Dans votre mixeur, broyez les noisettes.

Une fois que la courge est cuite, creusez la chair avec une cuillère (attention de ne pas casser la peau de la courge, qui est assez fine et fragile) et passez la au mixeur avec les noisettes, les oignons et le céleri. Mélangez avec le riz égoutté et les airelles pour ensuite farcir la courge.

Remettez là dans le plat, et remettez au four à 180° pour 20 minutes.
Refermez la courge avec le couvercle, et servez.
La suite, please

Salted caramel + chocolate, the perfect combo

By Mélanie, on Sunday, November 9, 2008

This summer, I spent one week at the Ile de Ré. Not only did I bake the addictive plum and almond tart I told you about, but I also had one of the best chocolate cake ever*.
Now, I’m very bad with naming chocolate cakes. I’ve seen everything under every name. I thought a “moelleux” would be more cakey, like a traditional grand-mother cake, while the “fondant” would be more dense and chocolaty, sometimes with melting center. But then I had a “moelleux coeur fondant” (melting heart), which, basically, was a lava cake, a “fondant” which was more cream-like, a brownie that tasted like a fondant, and now, I’m lost!
If you have answers to my metaphysical questions, I need your help...

But, back to the cake.
It was rich, but not too dense. On the contrary, the border was very soft and cake-like, and the centre was slightly undercooked, melting in my mouth. Have I told you before that I’m not a huge fan of chocolate? If I had to choose a dessert, it’d be a fruit pie without hesitation. But this cake was heaven.
Maybe the difference was that behind the chocolate, I could taste salted butter. Better than that, salted butter caramel.

It was quite logical that they would use butter with Fleur de sel, because the Ile de Ré is one of the famous place where it is produced. The name Fleur De Sel comes from the aroma of violets that develops as the salt dries. It is the least salty, purest part of the saline. This artisan sea salt is comprised of "young" crystals that form naturally on the surface of salt evaporation ponds. They are hand harvested by traditional "Paludiers" (salt farmers).

Of course, I tried to reproduce it at home. The first attempt was not bad, but nothing exceptional. The second went directly to the garbage. The third one was close, but then, I got tired (or, more exactly, I got apples!!). Fortunately, a post on one of my favorite blog put me on the right track again, and, after two more attempts, here it is!

*The competition for the Best chocolate cake is raging between the 3 finalists: the chocolate cake from the farmers’market at Les Portes en Ré, the brownie from Le Pain Quotidien, and the moelleux from le Cak’T at Loches.

Salted caramel chocolate cake

3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp heavy cream
1 1/2 stick salted butter
2 eggs + 2 yolks
5 oz dark chocolate (60%)
4 Tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large saucepan, bring half of the sugar and 1 teaspoon water to a boil, stirring the sugar as it melts. Cook until the sugar has a golden color. Add the butter and the cream and stir it in.
Remove from heat and add chocolate gradually, whisking it until you get a smooth sauce.

In another bowl, beat with an electric mixer the eggs, yolks and rest of sugar. Add the chocolate caramel mixture, and the flour, while beating until well incorporated.

Pour the mixture in a cake pan or into cupcake liners, and bake about 15 minutes for the cupcakes, and 25-30 minutes for an entire cake. The center should still be soft and slightly uncooked.
Let cool and serve at room temperature.

Gâteau au chocolat au beurre salé

150g de sucre
50g (5cl) de crème liquide
140g de beurre demi-sel
2 œufs et 2 jaunes
140g de chocolat
40g de farine

Préchauffez le four à 180°.

Dans une casserole de taille moyenne, mouillez 75g de sucre avec 1 cuillère à soupe d’eau. Portez à ébullition, et laissez sur le feu jusqu’à ce que le caramel ait une jolie couleur ambrée. Ajoutez le beurre en morceaux et la crème, et mélangez. (Faites attention à ne pas vous brûler, car cela créera de gros bouillons au moment de l’ajout).
Retirez du feu et incorporez le chocolat en plusieurs fois, en remuant jusqu’à ce qu’il soit complètement fondu.

Dans un autre récipient ou dans le bol de votre robot, battez les œufs, les jaunes avec le sucre restant pour les blanchir. Ajoutez le chocolat au caramel et la farine, en battant jusqu’à ce que le mélange soit homogène.

Versez la préparation dans un moule à manqué beurré et fariné, ou bien dans de petites caissettes en papier. Faites cuire 15 minutes (pour des caissettes) ou 25-30 minutes (pour un moule à manqué). Le gâteau doit encore être fondant et légèrement coulant en son centre.
Laissez refroidir un peu avant de le démouler et de le servir.

La suite, please