Of all the things I imagined making with a sourdough starter, brownies were not one of them. This month Sourdough Surprises showed me otherwise. Silly me.
Natalia of Gatti Fili e Farina challenges us to make a traditional Savarin, complete with soaking syrup and cream filling! We were to follow the Savarin recipe but were allowed to be creative with the soaking syrup and filling, allowing us to come up with some very delicious cakes!
Before this month, I had of course heard of the great epicure and gastronome Brillat-Savarin, but not of this cake by the same name – which is quite unlike any other cake I’ve ever made. It starts with a rich brioche dough baked in a ring pan (there are special Savarin pans, but a bundt or angel food cake pan works too). The baked cake is soaked in a flavoured syrup, which it soaks up like a thirsty sponge, and then the hole in the middle is filled with pastry cream and topped with fruit. Savarin is very similar to baba au rhum, which is soaked in rum syrup and usually made into individual cakes, and both baba and Savarin are somehow related to Polish babka (sort of like this babka – it’s all one big extended brioche family).
Lemon curd. Toasted meringue. Coconut macaroon. What’s not to love?
(I told you there’d still be plenty of butter and sugar in these parts… no flour in this one though!)
In the course of making these little tarts, the only thing I didn’t really love was that for some reason, my meringue topping just would not whip up to stiff peaks. I started it off by hand with a whisk, because I thought how hard can it be to whip one egg white into a stiff meringue? Apparently it’s pretty hard (and I think I know the reason I’ve ended up with tennis elbow, or more accurately, baker’s elbow!), so I transferred it to the KitchenAid mixer, ending up with sticky meringue on half the utensils in my kitchen, and still only achieved floppy peaks. Nonetheless, the meringue toasted nicely under the broiler, which worked out much better than my failed blow-torch attempt.
As mentioned in my previous post, I loves me some lemon. Lemon curd is one of my favorite things to spread on toast, dollop on scones, stir into plain Greek yogurt (or layer with granola in a dessert-for-breakfast parfait), or just eat straight off a spoon. It’s also darn good in a tart shell or as a Danish filling, which is the reason I came across this particular incarnation.
In the winter I often get massive cravings for rice pudding – warm, creamy, comforting, and delicious. I was having one of those cravings when I found these adorable miniature Seckel pears at the grocery store, and I immediately thought of poaching them in wine and spices and serving them with rice pudding. But not just any rice pudding: sweet dessert risotto flecked with vanilla bean seeds. If you like creamy rice pudding, you’ll love this. All the stirring that makes a creamy risotto with broth makes an even creamier dessert risotto with milk.
I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions because I’m terrible at following through on them (see last year’s resolution… I can’t say it went so well), but if I were to make one for this year it would be this: MORE CHEESECAKE.
I know resolutions are usually about exercising more and eating less, but that’s kind of the antithesis of a food blog (or at least, this food blog. And I already get plenty of exercise). And after making this cheesecake to take to a Christmas Eve dinner, all I can say is that I want more cheesecake in 2013.
I’m not a big coffee drinker and I don’t even love eggnog all that much, but once a year when the Eggnog Latté makes an appearance on the Starbucks menu, I always crave it. I thought those flavours would go well together in a cheesecake (while I may not like drinking coffee, I sure like eating coffee-flavoured things!), and luckily I was right. This eggnog latté cheesecake turned out better than I expected.
I really really wanted to garnish it with a big pile of white chocolate curls, but I think it is safe to say that “Operation White Chocolate Curls” was my biggest baking flop of 2012. I tried three different methods for making curls (going through a considerable amount of white chocolate in the process) and NONE of them worked, not even in the slightest. Just when I was ready to throw in the towel out of frustration, I remembered chocolate leaves, and the day was saved. I actually think the leaves look better than chocolate curls would have, and they are considerably easier to make, both physically and mentally.
Adapted from Canadian Living and Bon Appetit. Makes one
10″ cheesecake 9″ cheesecake which I managed to cut into about 16 thin slices (this thing is rich!). Beat the cheesecake batter on low to medium-low speed only – if too much air is incorporated, it will encourage the cheesecake to puff up and crack in the oven as the hot air inside it expands.
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. In a medium bowl, combine:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 24 square cookies, crushed)
1/3 cup butter
2 tbsp sugar
Mix together until evenly moistened, then press firmly into the bottom of a
10″ 9″ round springform pan. Bake in the preheated 350˚F oven for about 10 minutes, then set aside to cool. (I actually forgot to prebake my crust and it came out fine in the end…)
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat on low to medium-low speed until smooth:
4 x 8 oz packages of cream cheese, cubed and at room temperature
1 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
One at a time, beat in:
Stir well after each egg, then beat in:
2 tbsp flour
When the flour is incorporated, beat in:
1/2 cup sour cream
Place half the batter in another bowl. To one bowl, add:
1 tbsp rum (or 1 tsp rum extract)
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
To the other bowl, add:
3 tsp instant coffee powder dissolved in 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Dollop each batter alternately over the prebaked crust to create a marbled effect, then carefully drag a skewer through the batter to swirl them together slightly. Be careful not to scrape up the crust and don’t swirl too vigorously – you want to maintain some contrast between the two batters. Give the bottom of the pan a few little thumps on the counter to dislodge any air bubbles.
Wrap the bottom of the springform pan in a large piece of aluminum foil (it must be watertight) and place it in a large roasting pan. Put the whole thing in the oven, then pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the cheesecake. Bake for 65 – 80 minutes, until the edges are puffed, the center is just set, and the cheesecake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake and cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then chill, uncovered, for at least 6 hours. The cooled cheesecake will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days. Garnish with chocolate leaves.
Wash and thoroughly dry 12 – 16 non-toxic, sturdy leaves, such as rose or salal (I used salal). Melt about 1 ounce each of white and dark chocolate. Using a tiny spoon or a clean paintbrush, spread the chocolate over the underside of the leaf, taking care not to spread the chocolate over the sides. Make the chocolate thick enough that it won’t break when you peel off the leaf (at least 1 mm is good). Place on a plate and chill until set. Carefully peel the leaf off the chocolate and keep the chocolate leaves chilled until you are ready to use them.
Almost every fall, I end up with a whole bunch of apples from my Mum (usually from the tree of a friend of hers), and more often than not, those apples end up in one of my very favorite things to make: apple pie. For me, fall is not complete without an apple pie or two.
But sometimes it’s good to change things up. My friend Sibella feels the same way about apple strudel as I do about apple pie, and when I saw her recipe – complete with homemade strudel dough that you stretch and stretch until it is see-through-thin and big enough to cover your entire kitchen counter – I changed my tune from apple pie to apple strudel.
Our October 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky puff pastry, but then take it step further and create a sinfully delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!
Mille feuille (aka napoleon) means “a thousand layers” in French, and is so-called because it contains three layers of puff pastry (pâté feuilleté), each containing many flaky layers, plus two layers of pastry cream (crème pâtissière). I’ve been wanting to make puff pastry since making croissants and danishes – the laminating process (aka rolling and folding and rolling and folding) is exactly the same, the only difference is that croissants and danishes are yeasted and puff pasty is not.
Last weekend we went to Nate’s parents’ house for lunch to mark his mum’s and (now) 4-year-old nephew’s birthdays. Of course, two birthdays call for two cakes. Gunnar, the 4-year old, got a fantastic Mr. Bean cake, and I offered to make Kathryn, Nate’s mum, a cake. She requested a lemon cake (my nemesis!) but I was stoked to try to get it right finally – third time’s a charm, right?