Friday, February 27, 2009

Black Forest Cake

It's the beginning of the birthday season in my research group. We used to have a clump around April (miss you Korhan and Anoop!) but now they all seem to be in February. Our fearless leader ordered a cake but I couldn't resist making one too. But since we were already expecting a full size one, I made a mini 4" cake.

I decided on German Black Forest Cake because one of the birthday gals is of German heritage and it also has alcohol which is a plus (especially for a cake to be consumed mid-day).

For the cake I used a Wacky Cake recipe:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
4 T cocoa powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla extract
1 T cider vinegar
6 T vegetable oil
1 c water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter and flour the sides of two 4" springforms and line bottom with parchment paper.
Sift flour, sugar, salt, soda, and cocoa together into a bowl. Whisk vanilla, vinegar, oil and water together in another bowl. Add to dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.
Fill pans until halfway full. There will be batter left over (which is perfect for 4 cupcakes).
Bake until tooth pick inserted comes out clean (maybe about 25 minutes). Let cool completely.

Kirsch Cherries
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
3 T kirsch
1/3 cup dried cherries (I use Montmorency ones from TJ's)

In a small saucepan, dissolve sugar into water over medium high. Bring to a boil. Add dried cherries and turn heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes then remove from heat. Stir in kirsch and let steep for 10 minutes.

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream (minus 2 T if you are making ganache)
1 T kirsch
3 T powdered sugar

Whip cream to soft peaks. Add kirsch and sugar. Whip until incorporated.

2 T heavy cream
1/4 c chopped chocolate (I used Green&Black's 70%)

Heat cream in microwave until hot (15-25 seconds). Pour over chopped chocolate. Wait a minute then mix until smooth.

Chocolate shavings:
Place a bar of chocolate in the microwave and heat until slightly warm but nowhere near melting. Scrape shavings from edge of chocolate bar with a vegetable peeler.

Level cakes. Put first layer down. Brush top with cherry kirsch syrup. Spread with ganache. Top with soaked cherries. Place second layer on and repeat. Frost with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stuffed Peppers and Sauteed Fennel

Pics here. Words to come. X my heart.

Lemon Sabayon Pine Nut Tart and Rosemary Bread

Why would I be making these delicious things when I'm in the middle of grant writing? Well, it was for supper club! Anything for the creation of food that will soon be in my mouth. mmm.

So I made the rosemary bread from "Amy's Breads" and the Lemon Sabayon Tart with Pine Nut Crust from French Laundry. The rosemary bread is delicious. I think I've posted it before but when I made it this time I subbed 1/2 cup of high gluten bread flour for the original whole wheat and I think it made the bread moist and chewy while maintaining the crustiness. Great with evoo and balsamic.

I enjoyed making the Lemon Tart. It was quite easy although the Sabayon took a while. But I got to use my new awesome foot long whisk made out of piano wires that I bought from the C-town resto supply store. I have to admit, though, that I have no arm strength and could barely manage that big whisk after the first 10 seconds. So maybe next time it'll be the hand beater...

People loved the bread and liked the tart. Some complained that they could not taste the pine nuts. I decided this was because they did not know what pine nuts taste like because the crust is very distinctly pine nutty. The sabayon was smooth and so tart. Lovely.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happily a Verrine

I've been putting in long hours at school these days, lab work, writing, lab work, blog reading, writing, writing, writing...

When I get home, it's hard to get motivated to cook too much. But I know that if I make some verrines and leave them in the fridge, I'll wake up in the morning ready for forage for breakfast and find a beautiful delicious this waiting for me:
It would make you smile, no? It's a great way to start the day feeling tres pampered. Verrines are enticingly easy to make. Just layer ingredients you may have on hand. In one I used a berry gelee topped with vanilla yogurt topped with macerated strawberries and pistachios in a blood orange syrup. Delicious.

I made another verrine this morning to share with my advisor. Yes, we have work meetings on Sunday mornings - doesn't everyone? This one started with yogurt gelee which could use some improvement. Then it was topped by mixed berry compote. Then came the layer that made me think,"I'm a fucking genius.": yogurt mousse made with agar. I think I might finally have gotten the way to use agar to make mousse. Of course it took a half hour of searching on the internet and quite a few people have made mousse with agar so really I guess I'm not so much a genius. Damn.

Verrine #1

Berry Gelee
handful of blueberries
handful of strawberries cut up
handful of raspberries
2 spoons of sugar
1 spoon of lemon juice
1/2 t agar powder

Puree berries. Add berry puree, sugar and lemon juice together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for a few minutes. Sprinkle in agar and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Pour into bottom of small glasses. Let cool and set up. Pour some vanilla yogurt on top and chill.

Strawberry Mix:
1/2 cup strawberries diced
1/4 cup ground pistachios
2 t sugar

Mix together and let sit. Distribute over yogurt.

Blood Orange Syrup can be found here Drizzle over top of strawberries.

Verrine #2
Layer 1: sweetened yogurt
Layer 2: berry compote (same as berry gelee just without agar added)
Layer 3: yogurt mousse
1/4 c heavy cream
1/4 c powdered sugar
3/4 c yogurt
1/2 t agar
4 T water

Dissolve agar in water in a small pan. Whip yogurt in a bowl until smooth and slightly fluffy. Whip heavy cream to soft peaks. Whip in powdered sugar. Be careful not to overwhip. Boil agar mixture for 3 minutes stirring to dissolve the agar fully. While whisking slowly pour the agar mix into the yogurt. Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream until incorporated. Fold in rest of whipped cream.

Layer 4: fresh sliced strawberries

Here's the yogurt mousse:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pear (Quince) Frangipane Tarts

When I get all stressed after 10 hours of research, lab work, or procrastinating, I like to bake. So last night I looked at what I had in the fridge and found two quinces that I had bought in Flushing over New Years that were crying out to be eaten in some delicious form. Last fall I had made quince tarts out of quinces I salvaged from under a neighbors quince bush and they were good so tart it was. I used this recipe from Tartlette and it was easy, fast and delicious. I have to make frangipane more often! I admit I used frozen puff pastry from Trader Joe's but they make their puff pastry with butter so it's pretty darn tasty.

The tartlettes scared me when they were in the oven because the frangipane melted off to the sides and it looked like I was baking pancakes:

However, it wasn't really a big deal because one the tarts cooled, I chopped off the extra frangipane and was left with cute little tarts that looked like this:

I had at least 1 cup of frangipane leftover from making six little tarts. I cut two more pears in half, poached them, sliced and fanned to make one big "just pear" tart. This one I sprinkled some chopped pistachios on which was delicous and gave the tart more depth.