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The Basics- Creme Patissiere, Genoise And A Boston Cream Pie

Perfect egg whites

Perfect egg whites

Pastry Cream and Genoise, the building blocks for many different cakes or desserts. These recipes are again from Julia Child and are in her book Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom. Pastry Cream when used as a filling in a cake, pie or tart needs to be just the right consistency, not too thin or it will be runny and not so thick that it is reminiscent of glue. I found this recipe to be pretty perfect. The recipe gives you the option of using flour or corn starch as the thickening agent. Use whatever you are comfortable with.

A perfect Genoise is not as difficult as you may think. Once you master the technique it is a beautiful thing. I have had my share of fails and I always know why it failed, it was technique. I found that when making Genoise I cannot be interrupted, each step must flow, believe me this is not easy with the elderly pugs so I carefully plan for when I will make this cake.

Creme Patissiere

Creme Patissiere

Creme Patissiere

Makes approximately 2 cups pastry cream

Whisk 6  room temperature egg yolks in a stainless steel saucepan or mixing bowl, gradually adding 1/2 cup sugar and a pinch of salt. Continue until eggs are thick and pale yellow and form a ribbon. Sift on and whisk in 1/2 cup flour or cornstarch (I like to use cornstarch). Whisk in 2 cups hot milk or half and half by dribbles at first. Whisking slowly, bring to a boil, then wisk vigorously for a few seconds to smooth any lumps. Simmer, slowly stirring with a wooden spoon or whisk for 2 minutes (when it becomes thick) to cook the flour or corn starch (At this point whisk or stir constantly, it will thicken quickly and could easily scorch). If you are using a thermometer the custard should read 165, it will be very thick.  Remove from heat and blend in 1 tbs pure vanilla extract and 2 tbs unsalted butter and rum or kirsch. Strain through a fine meshed sieve into a bowl. Let cool, stirring occasionally to prevent lumps. Press a sheet of plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2-3 days. Can also be frozen.

Note: The pastry cream is very thick, I usually whip it with my mixer before using it, add 2-4 tbs of heavy cream and whip or whisk until it’s fluffy. 

9 inch genoise

9 inch genoise

Genoise

For about 6 cups of batter, to make 1 round 9 x1 1/2 inch cake, or 1  round 8×2″ cake or enough for 16 cup cakes or a 12×16 inch sponge sheet.

1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup plain unbleached cake flour sifted

1 tbs plus 1/2 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup clarified butter (I don’t always use clarified butter and it turns out just fine)

4 large eggs (soak the eggs in warm water for 5 minutes before whipping them, this will help to aerate the eggs and they will whip higher- saw this tip on a video Gourmet Magazine did)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Slide rack onto the lower middle level and prepare your pan. (I like to use a parchment round) butter and flour your pan well.

Sift the flour with the 1 tbs of sugar and salt and set aside, reserve your clarified butter. Beat the eggs with the remaining  1/2 cup sugar and vanilla in your mixer until it has formed the ribbon.  At once rapidly sift on and fold in a quarter of the flour, then fold in half of what remains, then fold in the remaining flour. In other words you will fold in the dry ingredients in 3 installments.  Fold a large plop of this batter into the clarified butter, then fold into the remaining batter. Turn batter into prepared pan filling to no more than 1/4 inch from the rim of the pan. Bang lightly on work surface to deflate bubbles and bake 30-35 minutes until light and golden brown and showing a faint line of shrinkage from the sides of the pan, let cool 20 minutes before unmolding onto a rack. Let cool completely before filling or icing.

Note:If you use an 8 inch round, the cake it is much higher than the 9 inch.

Making clarified butter:

The simple system: melt the butter and pour the clear yellow liquid off the milky residue. The professional long keeping method: Bring butter to a slow boil in a roomy saucepan and boil until its crackling and bubbling almost cease. Pour the clear yellow butter through a tea strainer into a jar where it will keep for months in the refrigerator or freezer.

Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie

A little history from Wikipedia:

A Boston cream pie is a cake that is filled with a custard or cream filling and frosted with chocolate. Although it is called a Boston cream pie, it is in fact a cake and not a pie. Created by Armenian-French chef M. Sanzian at Boston’s Parker House Hotel in 1856, this pudding and cake combination comprises two layers of sponge cake filled with vanilla flavored custard or crème pâtissière. The cake is topped with a chocolate glaze (such as ganache) and sometimes powdered sugar and a cherry.

The Boston cream pie is the official dessert of Massachusetts, declared as such in 1996.

This is my all time favorite cake, it has been since I was a child. It was my choice for a Birthday cake. There is something about the yellow cake, creamy vanilla pudding and chocolate ganache that are just so delicious.

The Glaze or Ganache

4 oz chocolate (all dark or half dark half milk) chopped into small pieces

1/4 cup + 2 tbs heavy cream

1 tbs Kahlua or corn syrup (Optional)

Place chocolate in bowl, heat cream to scalding, pour over chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes, add the optional Kahlua or corn syrup, stir until smooth and shiny.

Assembling

Cut your cake layer in half, brush each half (cut half) with simple syrup (you can flavor with a liquor if you like) spread a thick layer of pastry cream on the bottom half, place top half on, press down gently, smooth pastry cream with flexible offset spatula, pour ganache or glaze on cake. Serve at room temperature.

Beautiful

Beautiful

IMG_5578

Happy Valentines Valentines Day – Coquille St. Jacques Part 3, The Entree and Wine

Coquille St Jacques

Coquille St Jacques

I don’t know what made me think of this dish, it was one of my favorites years ago. It’s been a very long time since I have had it and have never made it myself.   After searching the internet to find recipes, I decided to make this one from Epicurious, actually I combined several different techniques when I made it. This dish is really very simple to make and is an elegant and delicious meal. It  is a scallop gratin,  and was very popular in the 1950’s but had fallen from popularity and has been replaced by lighter fare. It is often served in the shell of the scallop but if you don’t happen to have the shells a gratin dish works just as well. I serve with a crisp salad of belgian endive, microgreens, mandarin orange segements and toasted pecans.The wine I chose is a  2011 Pouilly Fuisse, fresh and assertive and bold enough to pair nicely with a rich cream sauce.  It’s a lovely dinner for two and no one has to know how simple it is to make.

The Salad:

Belgian Endive

Mandarin Orange segments

pecans toasted and chopped

Micro greens

Vinaigrette

Good Olive Oil

Champagne Vinegar

Squeeze of fresh Orange Juice

Drizzle of honey

Herbes de provence

dijon mustard

sea salt and pepper

Coquille St. Jacque -Loosely Adapted From Epicurious 

Serves 2

1 cup white wine

1 large shallot chopped

Bouquet Garni (I used parsley, thyme, bay leaf, tarragon)

Pinch of herbes de provence (Optional)

1 lb fresh dry scallops

8 oz mushrooms

4 tbs butter divided

2 tbs flour

1/2 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste

bread crumbs

grated gruyere cheese

1. Saute the shallot in 2 tbs butter, when translucent add the mushroom and continue to saute until soft. Pour in the wine and add the bouquet garni, optional herbes de provence and simmer on medium heat until liquid is reduced by about half.

2. Add the scallops and simmer for 2-4 minutes, careful not to over cook, remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Remove the bouquet garni.

3. Add the remaining 2 tbs of butter to the liquid and whisk in the flour, cook until thichened, pour in the cream and continue cooking until it’s thickened to the consistency of heavy cream . Remove from heat and add the scallops.

4. Fill 6 scallop shells or shallow 6-inch ramekins almost to the top with the scallop mixture. Dust the top lightly with bread crumbs and sprinkle with the grated cheese. (If you’re not ready to serve the scallops, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

5. Preheat the broiler. Broil the gratin until the mixture bubbles and the cheese melts and turns golden brown.

Belgian Endive, orange, pecan, micro greens

Belgian Endive, orange, pecan, micro greens

Pouilly Fuisse

Pouilly Fuisse

Valentines Day – Part 2 – The Basics: Dessert, A Vanilla Souffle

Deflated a bit

Deflated a bit

I hit the publish button by accident this was supposed to be published on Friday but here it is today.  The posts will now be out of order, sorry!!

The Souffle, it can strike fear in the heart of almost every cook (including me) truth be told I have never made a souffle. I have eaten my fair share and really love them but have never actually made one. This is Julia’s base Vanilla Souffle recipe that I varied slightly, she does give several different variations and I took creative license and added what I wanted. The variation is minor, instead of vanilla extract I used vanilla paste that has the beans in it and I added cognac. Served with chocolate salted caramel ice cream. Well, they did not turn out as I hoped they would, the rise was not sufficient, they tasted great though. This was my first attempt at a souffle and I did it with a bit of a handicap, I whisked with my injured hand and I probably did not whisk well enough. Also note if you make individual souffle’s reduce baking time to 12 – 15 minutes. They deflated pretty quickly and I was not able to get photo’s fast enough, although the rise was a bit higher it still was not as I imagined a souffle to be. I also did not use a collar because I could not attach because of my hand. 

Vanilla Bean Cognac Souffle

Makes a 6 cup souffle or 3 individual 8 oz and one 4 oz souffle’s

3 tbs flour

1/4 cup milk

1/3 cup + 2 tbs sugar

4 egg yolks

2 tbs butter softened (optional)

5 egg whites

2 tsp vanilla paste

3 tbs cognac or brandy

Note: The original recipe calls for 1 tbs of vanilla extract.

Preparing the souffle dish: Choose a straight sided baking dish or a charolotte mold. Smear a light coating of soft butter over the inside of the dish, covering bottom and sides. Dust with granulated sugar covering the bottom and sides, shake out excess.

The collar: If you are using a collar cut a length of parchment paper or aluminum foil long enough to wrap around the dish with a 2 inch overlap. Fold in half lengthwise and butter one side. Wrap the collar around the dish buttered side in. Secure in place with butchers twine or straight pins.

Prepare your souffle dish as directed. Slide the oven rack into the lower third of the oven and pre heat to 400 degree’s.

Whisk the flour and milk in a saucepan and add 1/3 cup sugar, whisk until well blended and lump free. Bring to a boil and slowly boil whisking constantly for 30 seconds. This is now a bouillie.  Remove from heat, let cool for a moment, then, one by one beat in the egg yolks and the optional butter.

Whip the egg whites to soft peaks sprinkle in the 2 tbs of sugar and beat until stiff shiny peaks form. Whisk the vanilla and cognac into the sauce base then whisk in a quarter of the whites to lighten it. Delicately fold in the remaining whites and turn the mixture into the prepared dish or dishes, filling all the way to the top of the dish. Using the tip of a paring  knife or even a scrupulously clean fingernail run the knife or finger along the side around the circumference of the dish, not all the way down the sides just around the top, this will create the slight well around the souffle. NOTE: I forgot to do this and this could possibly be a reason why my souffle did not rise as well as it should have.

Set in oven and immediately reduce heat to 375 degree’s and bake until the souffle has begun to puff and brown  – about 20 minutes for a large souffle and 12-15 minutes for individual. Rapidly slide out rack and dust with confectioners sugar. Continue baking until it has puffed high into the collar. Tips for when your souffle is done. If it has a collar, rapidly release it just a bit to check – if the puff sags re-fasten the collar and bake a few more minutes. When a skewer is plunged down in the side of the puff and comes out with a few particles clinging, the souffle will be deliciously creamy inside but will not hold up long. If the skewer comes out clean, it will hold up a little longer. The souffle should rise about 3 inches above the rim.

Serve immediately.

With ice cream

With ice cream

Valentines Day – The Basics: First Course – Part 1 Leek And Potato Soup And Variations

Leek, potato and watercress soup

Leek, potato and watercress soup

With Valentines Day fast approaching I decided to  break the meal into separate posts,  3 recipes, first course, entree and dessert. Two of the recipes will be in line with my basics posts. The first is from Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom.

Julia Child calls this a primal soup, a basic soup that is uncomplicated and adapted into many variations. Leek and Potato soup is your most basic soup, it is elegant and delicious and wildly popular for many years. This recipe has withstood the test of time and has many variations. I am making the basic soup and adding watercress, this adds a little green, a peppery bite and if you are a fan of watercress you will love it. I made it exactly as written, you can add a little butter if you wish while pureeing. It’s delicious as is and is vegan friendly by simply omitting the sour cream or creme fraiche garnish.

The Basic Recipe for Leek and potato soup:

Makes 2 quarts or approximately 6 servings

3 cups sliced leeks, the white and tender green parts, cleaned thoroughly to remove any sand and grit.

3 cups peeled and roughly chopped “baking” potatoes (I used russet)

6 cups water

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a 3 quart saucepan. Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Adjust seasoning. Puree and serve with a dollop of the sour cream or creme fraiche.

Variations:

Onion and Potato – substitute onion for the leeks

Cream of leek and potato soup – After you puree whisk in 1/2 cup heavy cream

Watercress: Add a bunch of watercress during the last 5 minutes of simmering, Serve with a scattering of fresh watercress.

Cold Soup – Vichyssoise- puree any of the above, add 1/2 cup heavy cream and serve chilled. Top each bowl with minced fresh chives, parsley or watercress leaves.

Re-Blog Blueberry And Coconut Loaf From Bonheurcuisine

Blueberry coconut loaf

Blueberry coconut loaf

One of the blogs I love and follow is Bonheurcuisine, Viviana is an architect and Mom to 2 pre teens, she has some amazing and delicious recipes and her blog is written in both English and Spanish. When I saw this post today it made me happy, it was like Spring had come. It sounds incredible, blueberries and coconut  baked into a light and flavorful loaf, look at that lovely crumb. Check out the recipe here.  I love the recipes and photo’s and I know you will too. This loaf is made without oil, I had to read it twice but this really moist loaf has no oil or butter. It also contains almond flour and coconut milk. I think I would love this as muffins also. Visit bonheurcuisine, I know you will enjoy!!

coco8

Featured Blog-Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog

Sophie

Sophie

As most of you may have surmised I am an animal lover and advocate. I am active in animal rescue and have a real soft spot in my heart for senior and special needs dogs and cats. I recently found the most wonderful and inspiring blog, Lessons from a paralyzed dog, this blog was started by Sharon an animal rights writer and co founder of an animal rescue group. Sophie is paralyzed and Sharon is the most amazing, generous and kind hearted person you will find. I also have special needs dogs and she invites her readers to tell their story, I did and she featured it on her blog. Click here to read it.

Sharon is an angel,  helping spread love and find forever homes for helpless homeless animals.  When I saw the photo of Sophie I was immediately touched and I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to Sharon and her wonderful blog, please visit and subscribe. The stories are interesting and heartwarming, read Sophie’s story, after you do you will know what love is!

It’s important to give back and recognize acts of kindness and generosity. In my opinion those that give of themselves helping the helpless, innocent animals deserve accolades. Prepare to be inspired.

The Basics- Hollandaise Sauce

Hollandaise

Hollandaise

Julia Child calls this one of the Mother sauces. I love Hollandaise, probably because it’s a crucial component for my favorite meal, Eggs Benedict and right there with that is asparagus with Hollandaise. It’s creamy, buttery, citrusy, I could almost drink it, well not really but I do really like it. The classic method of preparation is to whisk over a double boiler which is how the recipe will be written here. I can’t always be bothered to do this and I take a shortcut, blender Hollandaise, pouring the hot butter into a whirring blender or food processor (much like the mayonnaise) the hot butter heats the yolks and is blended into a delicious creamy thick sauce.

Asparagus with hollandaise

Asparagus with hollandaise

Hollandaise Sauce

Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups

3 egg yolks

big pinch of salt

1 tbs lemon juice ( I like it very citrusy so I add some lemon zest also)

2 tbs cold unsalted butter

2 sticks ( 8 oz) unsalted butter melted

salt and pepper to taste

Beat the egg yolks with a wire whisk in a stainless steel saucepan for a minute or two until they thicken lightly and turn lemon colored. Whisk in the salt and lemon juice and add 1 tbs cold butter. Set over moderate low heat and whisk continuously at moderate speed. remove pan from heat now and then to make sure the yolks aren’t cooking too fast. When they cling to the wires of the whisk and you can see the pan between strokes, remove from heat and stir in the 2nd tbs of cold butter. Start beating in the melted butter by little dribblets at first, until a good 1/2 cup of the sauce has thickened, then add the rest of the melted butter a little more quickly as the sauce thickens into the consistency of heavy cream. Taste and correct seasoning.

I cut corners because I cannot really hand whisk so I thought why not try a blender or food processor. It comes together in minutes and works well. I whiz the egg yolks, lemon, lemon zest and salt until light and creamy, now add the 2 tbs of cold butter and whiz together and  drizzle in the melted butter with the blender or processor running, stop when thick and creamy. If you have leftover sauce, refrigerate no more than a day or two and heat GENTLY in double boiler.

Troubleshooting Hollandaise:

If you have added the butter too fast for the egg yolks to digest it, or if you’ve kept the sauce over heat too long, it can thin out or separate. To bring back to a creamy state, whisk briefly to blend and add a tablespoon into a bowl, whisk in a tbs of lemon juice and whisk vigorously until creamy. Now whisk in very little dribbles of the turned sauce gradually increasing the amount until is is all creamed and has reconstituted.

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict

YUM!

YUM!

Variation:

Bernaise Sauce with steak is one of lifes great pleasures. It is basically hollandaise with some vinegar, shallot and taragon. To make Bernaise to a small saucepan add 1/4 cup white wine vinegar and 1/4 cup white wine, 1 tbs minced shallot, 1/2 tsp dried tarragon, 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook until it reduces to 2 tbs. Use this in place of the lemon juice and reduce the butter to 1 1/2 sticks. Optional add chopped fresh tarragon at the end.