Sunday, June 27, 2010

Daring Bakers June 2010: Pavlova

Hello, everyone! I'm back from vacation and it's now time to post my second ever Daring Bakers challenge. (And please excuse the really long post...I've got a lot to talk about with this recipe!) I was really excited when I found out what we'd be making. I mean, chocolate pavlova? Chocolate mascarpone mousse? Yum! Bring it on! Pavlova is extremely similar to a meringue, made by whipping egg whites with things such as sugar and cornstarch (in this instance, confectioners' sugar, which has cornstarch in it) and then either piping it or spreading it onto a baking sheet and slow baking, resulting in a crispy exterior and marshmallowy center. It's traditionally just a vanilla meringue and is topped with whipped cream and fruit, but we Daring Bakers got super fancy, and made our pavlovas chocolate, topped with a chocolate mascarpone mousse and a crème anglaise sauce. Crème anglaise is French for English cream, and is basically a custard sauce made for pouring on desserts. It uses the same basic ingredients as custard or pudding does, except there's no cornstarch added, so it stays a sauce instead of becoming thick. I thought I had a clear picture of what I would like best and what I was least looking forward to...but to my surprise, it turned out quite different.
I was very excited to use the mascarpone. I've been wanting to try this cheese for a while now being as people have compared it to cream cheese, but said that it was much better. I'm not too much a fan of cream cheese, so I thought I might really like this one. The cheese was alright...but it basically just tasted like heavy cream. I don't know why I expected a kind of sweetness to it, but I should have known better, especially being as I've looked over this recipe for mascarpone that the Daring Bakers made for tiramisu before I was a member. The only ingredients in it are heavy cream and lemon juice. However, it would make a great base for American buttercreams, I think. If I ever decide to use mascarpone in the future, I'll definitely make it myself, because it was a bit pricy to buy already made. Anyway, the process of making everything was crazy simple. Each recipe went by so easily that I was quite surprised. The meringue for the pavlova? Easy peasy. The mousse? Piece of cake. The crème anglaise? Nothin' to it. Although there was quite a bit of down time for each process, everything went by so perfectly. In fact, too perfectly. I should have known that, with everything going by so smoothly, something bad was bound to happen.

Well, I expected to like the mousse the most, the pavlovas second best, and I actually didn't expect to like the crème anglaise. However, it was the exact opposite. I don't know what happened to my mousse, but something definitely went wrong. I folded in the mascarpone cream and the mousse was beautiful and smooth and creamy. However, I set it off to the side and did something for a small moment, and when I came back, I noticed it was starting to get weirdly thick. I tried to think nothing of it, and put it in the fridge until the pavlova was ready hoping that it would be okay. Needless to say, it wasn't. It was extremely thick and had a weird texture, one that I would liken to ricotta cheese. I definitely couldn't pipe it, so I just kind of had to lob it on to my pavlova as prettily as possible. The taste was just okay...but I think it was too dark and not sugary enough for my tastes. The longer it set in the fridge, the thicker and more weird-textured it became...I had to throw almost all of it out. I was SO disappointed, especially being as I used pricy ingredients in it (the same chocolate I was talking about last post). It was most likely my fault, but I'll probably never try this mousse again. The pavlovas were good, however, I baked them too long. They were crunchy all the way through instead of marshmallowy in the center. But they did taste good, so I would make this recipe again, just not bake it as long. And the crème anglaise? I actually loved it! It was the only recipe that went by without a hitch, and it was really, really delicious. I would definitely make it again, and really, it didn't even need the mascarpone or cream stirred in! It was perfect as is! Anyway, I'd encourage you to try this recipe anyway. Hopefully yours will go by better than mine did. :)

Chocolate Pavlova with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse and Mascarpone Crème Anglaise (from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard)
Makes about 8 small pavlovas or 1 large pavlova

For the crème anglaise:

  • 1 cup (235 ml) whole milk (I used 2% and it was fine)
  • 1 cup (235 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons (75 grams) sugar
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow. (I did this in my stand mixer.)
  2. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat.
  3. Pour about 1/2 cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight. (I chilled mine overnight. I suggest doing this too, as it saves time when you're making the rest of the dessert.)
For the chocolate meringue (for the pavlova):
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (110 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
  • 1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.
  2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)
  3. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)
  4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon.
  5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. (If you make thinner pavlovas like me, you may want to take them out a lot sooner. I baked mine for 2 hours, and as I said, mine came out crisp all the way through. Start checking at 1 hour.) Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
For the chocolate mascarpone mousse:
  • 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
  • grated zest of 1 average sized lemon (I omitted)
  • 9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
  • 1 2/3 cups (390 ml) mascarpone
  • pinch of nutmeg (I used cinnamon)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) Grand Marnier (I used about a tablespoon of vanilla)
  1. Put 1/2 cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool. (My chocolate didn't completely melt using this method, so I quickly put on a double boiler and melted the rest that way.)
  2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)
  3. Mix about 1/4 of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.
For the mascarpone cream:
  • 1 recipe crème anglaise
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) mascarpone
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) Sambucca (optional) (I omitted)
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  1. Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.
To assemble:
  1. Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and fresh fruit if desired.

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Honey Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Surprise! I thought I wasn't going to be posting anything between my last post and my Daring Bakers post because I thought Father's Day was sooner than it actually is. I though I might have too many desserts in the house, so I wouldn't be baking anything else, but because it's not coming up for about another week, I decided to go ahead and make some cookies. The theme I was thinking for these cookies was honey nut. But I didn't actually want nuts in the cookies, and thought of peanut butter instead. And then I thought, why not add oatmeal too? By using Allrecipe's nifty little ingredient searcher, I came across this recipe that had a perfect 5-star rating. Although it didn't have that much oatmeal in it (which is why I left 'oatmeal' out of the title), it still sounded like a winner and with a 5-star rating and chocolate chunks added in, how could I refuse?

The cookie was excellent and oh, so chewy which is what I love so much about peanut butter cookies. They practically never lose their chewiness. The honey and oatmeal are just barely detectable and add a nice little twist to the cookies. For the chocolate chunks, I used the rest of a Ghirardelli's Intense Dark 72% bar that I had leftover from an unfortunately failed dessert. I was so upset about wasting 1 1/2 bars in a dessert that I messed up that I chopped the rest up and put it in these simple peanut butter cookies just to spite the dessert. Ha ha, I'm silly aren't I? But I digress... (More on the failed dessert in a later post.) The resulting cookie was extremely tasty with the chocolate, but of course, feel free to use whatever kind of chocolate you like. Maybe even some chopped up peanut butter cups in them? I'll definitely try it out sometime because this recipe is a keeper that I'll make again and again.

Honey Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
(from Allrecipes)
Makes about 2 dozen good-sized cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter (I used smooth)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, chopped
  1. Mix together flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat peanut butter, brown sugar, butter, honey, egg, and vanilla until well blended.
  3. Stir dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture in 2 additions. Stir in chopped chocolate.
  4. Cover and refrigerate until the dough is firm and no longer sticky, about 30 minutes. (I refrigerated mine for several hours.)
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 heavy, large baking sheets. (I used parchment paper.) With hands, roll heaping tablespoons of dough for each cookie into a 1 3/4 quarter inch diameter ball. Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 1/2 inches apart. (I used probably more like 2 tablespoons of dough per cookie.)
  6. Bake cookies until puffed, beginning to brown on top and still very soft to the touch, about 12 minutes. Cool cookies on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Applesauce Quick Bread

This recipe is a really great way to start off your day. I actually made it last night when I got a craving for quick bread (hence why I won't have any photos of the baking process, so please excuse me for that). I knew I had a lot of applesauce in the fridge, and although I've heard of it, I've never actually made applesauce bread. So I went on a quick search and it led me to this post in the forums over at Taste of Home. As I've stated back in my caramel cheesecake post, it's unusual for me to make a recipe that has little or no reviews at all, but it seemed like a solid recipe and the few people that posted there were assured that it was a good recipe. As usual, quick bread is an easy measure, dump, mix, and bake process, so it came together in a jiffy and in about 50 minutes, I had a wonderful and not too bad for you snack.

The recipe has little oil in it and only two eggs. It has just a couple of tablespoons of milk that you could easily use fat free for and a nice helping of applesauce in it, so it's fairly healthy for you. I have to admit that the applesauce flavor isn't really detectable, but gives the bread a nice moistness to it. The wonderful flavor comes from the cinnamon and nutmeg, so really it just tastes like a nice spice bread, and that was A-okay with me. Actually, if you happened to have any apple juice or even cider on hand, you could brush a little on the top of the bread when it's still warm to give it more of an apple flavor and to make it even more moist. But as I said, the bread is delicious on it's own.Just to mention, I'm going on vacation with my family from the 19th to the 26th, so obviously I won't be posting during that time. I'm mentioning it now because I'm not sure if I'll be posting anything else between now and then. I have a couple of things planned to bake, but one of them is my next Daring Bakers challenge (which I hope I won't be too worn out after my trip so that I can post it on time) which doesn't get posted until the 27th and the other is a treat for my dad for Father's Day, but I've already made the recipe before and blogged about it. I just wanted to clarify in the case that I don't post anything until the Daring Bakers challenge reveal. Anyway, onto the recipe now!

Applesauce Quick Bread (adapted from kathyf's post on Taste of Home)
Makes 1 9x5 inch loaf

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the applesauce, oil, eggs, and milk until well combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together with a wooden spatula just until combined. Do not overmix.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes until a skewer inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. Let cool for about 10 minutes on a wire rack, then loosen the bread from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Levain Copycats

Happy June, everyone! I hope everyone had a great Memorials Day weekend. This is an amazing recipe to start off the new month. I think this cookie has just become my new favorite chocolate chip cookie! This is a copycat recipe of the chocolate chip walnut cookies from Levain Bakery. Levain seems to be pretty well known, but if you don't know what I'm talking about, they're a bakery up in New York that sells monstrous 6 oz. cookies of four different kinds: chocolate chip walnut, dark chocolate chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and dark chocolate peanut butter chip. They're famous for being crazy ooey gooey on the inside, with a nice crunch on the outside and of course, their monstrous size. If you go to their website, you can see some pictures of the inside of their amazing cookies. The funny thing about all this? I've never actually had one of their cookies. I've only been to NY once, and we never got a chance to go up there, but I've still dreamed about having one of those amazing chocolate chip walnuts since I heard about them. I actually had walnuts in the pantry for once, so I had to settle for the copycat for now.
A baked cookie compared to a fortune cookie. (The cookie dough ball below step 4 is compared to a quarter.)

The copycat recipe that I used seems to be the one that's pretty much settled on as THE copycat recipe to use. If you type in "Levain copycat recipe" into Google, this particular recipe is the one that always comes up. The only difference I spotted was varying amounts of baking powder/soda. One version of the recipe contains more baking powder than soda (which was the one that I used) and one contains more baking soda than powder. I may try the other one next time, but the one I used was so amazing that I'm not sure if I want to! The cookie was wonderfully chewy and had great flavor, and honestly made me wonder why I don't put walnuts in my chocolate chip cookies more often. The recipe doesn't have any vanilla in it (which the owners of Levain have stated that they don't use) and I actually did taste a difference in the dough. As a lover of vanilla extract, this has kind of boggled me. Maybe I might try not putting any vanilla in some of my tried and true cookie recipes just to see what a difference it makes? All I know is that you have to try this recipe. If the actual Levain cookies taste anything like these copycats, they have to be out of this world!

Levain Copycats (from the commenter Lisa on Su Good Sweets)
Makes 12 BIG cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I only needed 3 1/4 cups...more notes below)
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (I used a rounded 1/4)
  • 12 oz (2 cups) good quality semisweet chocolate chips (I only used 6 oz of semisweet chunks and it was plenty, but feel free to use however much chocolate you want)
  • 1 cup walnuts
  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside. (For the flour, Lisa said to go by the feel of the dough. You want the dough to be workable by your hands without it being sticky or sticking very little. I only needed 3 1/4 cups of flour and the dough was perfectly workable without being sticky at all. She didn't clarify on the baking soda, however, so I just put in a rounded 1/4 teaspoon.)
  2. Place the cold, cubed butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until it becomes creamy. Add both sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at time, mixing until fully incorporated.
  3. Add the dry ingredients a little bit at a time until fully incorporated. Add the chocolate and walnuts and mix in by hand or on the lowest speed of your mixer.

  4. Portion the dough into 12 equal portions (Lisa said that each portion will weigh more like 4 oz. instead of 6. I don't have a scale however, so I'm going by her word.) Refrigerate the dough until completely chilled or overnight. (You can skip this step, but I highly recommend that you don't. Refrigeration allows for a much chewier cookie.)

  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Situate the cookies about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (they don't spread that much, so don't worry about that). Bake for 16 to 20 minutes. (I baked for 16 minutes at 350 and then turned it up to 375 and baked for 5 minutes more and they were perfect. Use your better judgement.) Cool on the cookie sheet slightly and then remove to wire racks.