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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Recipe: Candy Corn Cream Horns

Stack of Honey Cream Filled Candy Corn Cream Horns

Recipe: Candy Corn Cream Horns

Would a "Cream Horn" by any other name taste as sweetly?

"Trubochki" in Russian. "Torpil" in Turkish. I feel as though the English-speaking world failed in this name game. "Cream Horn" is far from appetite-inducing. But there's nothing not to like about these simple but extremely satisfying pastries.

Cone-shaped spirals of Pastry Dough filled with sweetened Whipped Cream, Cream Horns were The Great British Bake Off's penultimate signature challenge featured in Episode 8: Pâtisserie.

Like Tarts, Cream Horns are a "blank canvas" pastry. It's a basic theme that is perfect for infinite variations. While a sweetened Whipped Cream filling may be traditional (and undeniably delicious in its simplicity), you need not stop there. Even this Halloween spin, which involves a Honey sweetened Whipped Cream and Candy Corn, is rather basic. Fruit, Nuts, Chocolate, Custard, Cheese... if you can put it in your mouth, you can use it here!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Charlotte Russe

Pumpkin Spice Charlotte Russe - Overhead 

Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Charlotte Russe

Charlotte Russe - 225 years old and still beautiful... and delicious!

Could there be a greater thrill than having a dessert named in your honor? I'm still waiting for someone to create the "Mark". It would likely be a jar of Peanut Butter served with a straw. But perhaps such a gesture is banal to a princess, as may have been the case in 1800 for Princess Charlotte, daughter of King George IV, the employer of French chef Marie-Antoine Carême who created this dessert.

There have been many incarnations of the Charlotte Russe over two centuries. The original version used stale Bread - a classic case of repurposing leftover foods for desserts. Modern versions use delicate Ladyfingers, 

Today a Charlotte Russe is a Cake made from delicate Ladyfingers. The Ladyfingers are often piped individually and then filled with a Bavarian Cream and held together with a ribbon. The dessert was also the showstopper challenge for Episode 7 of The Great British Bake Off.

Here is my version, in seasonally appropriate Pumpkin Spice form.

The filling, a Bavarian Cream (or Bavarois), is a smooth Custard made from a base of either Fruit Purée or a flavored Crème Anglaise. What makes a Bavarian Cream unique is that the base is thickened with Gelatin and then folded with Whipped Cream. Gelatin is a defining characteristic of many desserts from this era. In fact, pastry lore suggests that the Charlotte Russe was an invention of necessity - a desperate attempt to save a dessert when the Gelatin failed to set in a Bavarian Cream.

True or not, when executed correctly, the Bavarian Cream should be sufficiently stable on its own. The Ladyfingers Cake is just an added bonus! 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Recipe: Seasonal Fruit Frangipane Tart

Unbaked Seasonal Fruit Frangipane Tart Overhead

Recipe: Seasonal Fruit Frangipane Tart

Trouble brewing in the kitchen?

Who would have thought that the world of sweet desserts would become international news? And yet The Great British Bake Off has captured headlines with an announcement that the show will move from BBC One to Channel 4. Translated for American readers, that's the equivalent of a show moving from PBS to Fox. The implications should be distressing.

And while airing rights have always disadvantaged American audiences who must wait a full year for a new season to cross the Atlantic, the fate of any future viewing is now in limbo. Who knows how or when those of us residing state-side will see Season 7, which is now airing in the UK to record-breaking audiences.

So what more can we do but watch, wait and bake? And bake we shall - this week, a Seasonal Fruit Frangipane Tart, inspired by Episode 6: Pastry. It's home turf for any classically trained pastry chef.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Recipe: Eggless Sugar Cookies

Three Varieties of Eggless Sugar Cookies

Recipe: Eggless Sugar Cookies

An Eggless return! After several weeks off, the Blog is back.

It has been a busy few weeks since those Hazelnut Crème Brûlées. A brief hiatus for some vacation time was unexpectedly extended. The cause? A potential trademark issue around the name "Outside of the Breadbox".

Long story short...  

There is a gluten-free bakery in Colorado by the name of "Outside the Breadbox". Although the company now has a federally-registered trademark on the name, they have graciously allowed the Blog to continue. All of you know I've never dabbled in gluten-free recipes. But for those who are interested in a range of gluten-free products, check out their website. They ship! huge thanks to "Outside the Breadbox" and its owners!

As for the return, this is the long-promised and long-overdue Eggless Sugar Cookies recipe. It is also the fifth in a series of The Great British Bake Off inspired posts, following the "Alternative Ingredients" episode. And given an infant son's recently diagnosed Egg allergy, it is also a little self-serving. This kid will have Cookies!

There are a lot of potential Egg Substitutes out there. I decided to try six of them in one of my basic Cookie recipes. Those Cookies were then submitted to some hungry taste testers. The results were surprising, even to me, and I knew which Cookies were which!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Recipe: Toasted Hazelnut Crème Brûlée

Toasted Hazelnut Crème Brûlée with Raspberries

Recipe: Toasted Hazelnut Crème Brûlée

I'll take Classic Desserts for $200, Alex!

This dessert is a sweet and rich baked Custard with a glass-like, caramelized Sugar top. The question?

What is a Crème Brûlée?

A well-executed Crème Brûlée is the ultimate illustration of perfection in simplicity. Cream, Egg Yolks and Sugar come together in a silky smooth Custard. A crunchy, brûléed (i.e. caramelized) Sugar top creates the ideal textural contrast.

Any pastry chef worth his Salt (or more appropriately, his Sugar) should be able to make a Crème Brûlée in his sleep (although I would advise against using a culinary torch while semi-conscious). As you might imagine, it featured prominently in culinary school. So, too, was a Crème Brûlée an appropriate test for the fourth episode of The Great British Bake Off, which focused on plated desserts.

A basic Crème Brûlée is delicious, but a simple Custard is also an amazing blank canvas for some culinary creativity. Forever swayed by the Italian influences of my first restaurant job at Osteria Morini, my mind immediately went to a Toasted Hazelnut incarnation. That's not an inexpensive choice (oh, Whole Foods pricing!) But, my god, is it delicious!  

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Recipe: Cheddar Broccoli Quick Bread

Slice of Cheddar Broccoli Quick Bread with Melting Butter

Recipe: Cheddar Broccoli Quick Bread

This is not your Grandma Eileen's Irish Soda Bread...

To head off any criticisms, let me start by saying that this Cheddar Broccoli Quick Bread really isn't Irish Soda Bread at all... yet there are similarities.  More on those particulars later.

This is the third recipe in my run of The Great British Bake Off inspired posts. Episode three was dedicated to Breads. But seeing as I've already covered a number of basic, and not-so-basic, Breads on the Blog, I didn't want to be repetitive. And after multiple seasons of "Bake Off", it would seem that the producers were facing a similar conundrum. Another Yeast Bread? ... snore! And so the Quick Bread challenge was born.

What is a Quick Bread? 

A Quick Bread is simply a Bread that is made using a chemical leavening agent, such as Baking Soda, rather than a biological leavening agent, namely Yeast. Whereas Yeast is a biological organism that produces gas as it converts simple Sugars into Alcohol (which provides flavor), Baking Soda relies on the gas-producing chemical reaction between an acid and an alkali. The other distinct advantage of a Quick Bread is that no kneading or careful temperature control is required. As a result, it's a faster process from mixing to munching.

When it comes to Quick Breads versus Yeast Breads, the end products are distinctly different. Quick Breads have a denser crumb and a more cake-like texture. Chemical leavening simply cannot produce the large, open crumb of a crunchy Baguette or the complex flavor of a Sourdough. That's not to say a Quick Breads are an inferior product. They are simply different. 

For those interested in other Bread recipes, look no further, as links abound. And as for my Irish Grandmother Eileen, she was more of a Pie woman with a distinct preference for Strawberry Rhubarb and Lemon Meringue. So much for cultural heritage!

Other Bread Recipes to Try:

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Recipe: Orange Almond Biscotti

Chocolate Covered Orange Almond Biscotti

Recipe: Orange Almond Biscotti

A Cookie so nice, they baked it twice...

This is the second in a series of The Great British Bake Off themed recipes. Episode one was dedicated to Cakes, and that inspired a recipe for Madeira Cake (psst... I'll let you in on a secret... it's basically a Pound Cake). Episode two moved on to Cookies (okay... "Biscuits", in local parlance). But the world doesn't need another Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. It's time for something different... Biscotti!

Biscotti (plural of Biscotto) are oblong-shaped Almond Cookies from the Italian city of Prato. Literally translated as "twice baked", in Italy, the term Biscotti has come to refer more generally to any Cookie, similar to how the label "Biscuit" is used in the United Kingdom. But in the U.S., "Biscotti" clearly identifies those hard and crunchy Italian Cookies, ideal for dipping in Coffee or Tea.

The world of Italian desserts is admittedly not my favorite (ironic, having worked in pastry at Osteria Morini, a proudly traditional, Italian restaurant in New York City). The Italian dessert flavor profile relies heavily on Nuts and Citrus - delicious in certain circumstances, but not nearly as satisfying as the Custard-filled, Chocolate-drenched, Puff Pastry province of the French tradition! And Italian baked goods, notoriously dry by any honest account, are particularly disappointing.

If Italian Cookies are so loathsome, then why write a recipe for Biscotti, the driest of the dry?

First, Biscotti are interesting from a technical perspective because they require two rounds of baking in the oven. Anything out of the ordinary like that always catches my attention. Second, I feel obligated to at least appreciate Biscotti, if only as a professional courtesy. Rather than sit in my kitchen and whine, I'd prefer to create a recipe that I like.

So here it is! This is not some also-ran morsel served with an after-dinner Espresso... a Cookie that is consumed with resentment, mind wandering to thoughts of the Chocolate Truffles that could have been served in its place. This is Biscotti for the Biscuit beleaguered.