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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Baba au rhum (Rum Soaked Yeast Cake)

This pastry is often overlooked at pastry shops, because often it is presented in a plain fashion. Do not be fooled by it's simplicity, because this pastry packs up a tremendous amount of "flavor", also known as liquor (most of the time rum). Most of the time, the Rum Baba will be filled with pastry cream or whipped cream, and topped with fresh fruit. It's individual servings make it easy to serve and to eat. Also a perfect dessert for 2. 

                                                                                         "King Stanislaw I of Poland and Lorraine"                    "Maria Leszczyńska"

This is another pastry that was invented almost by accident, or to the result of trying to fix another type of pastry. In this case, the Larousse Gastronomique refers to the exiled Polish king, Stanislas. This was in the 18th Century, during of on Stanislas' voyages. He was bringing back a Babka from Poland, and when he arrived to Alsace-Lorraine, the dessert was dry. One of his pastry chefs (Nicolas Stohrer) had the idea of adding Malaga wine, saffron, fresh raisins and pastry cream. Nicolas Stohrer then followed Stanislas' daughter, Maria, to Versaille as her patissier in 1725 when she married King Louis XV. He then founded his Patisserie in Paris in 1730. The idea of using rum to soak the baba, did not come until 1835, from one of Stohrer's descendants. The dessert finally appeared on US restaurant menus aroung 1899. 

This refreshing dessert is a great treat on a hot summer day or after a romantic dessert. It can be plated with a coulis, fresh fruit, different creams and soaked in different alcohols. This versatile dessert is worth the trouble to make it. 

Recipe to follow at a later date. Below is an example of a modern "Baba au Rhum" sold at The Frenchway Cafe.

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!


Monday, March 29, 2010

Scary Looking Fish!

Which fish am I referring to? Well the Goldeye fish of course. This fish get's its name from, no, not the local baseball team, but from it's golden colours.  These thin, 12 inch long skinny fish can have dorsal spins that range from olive to silver colors. All in all, they all seem to have a major characteristic about them which gives them their name, and this is their gold tint. The scary part is of course their very well developed teeth and gold colored eyes.

These curious creatures lay about 12000 eggs each year and prefers cold water to rely on survival. The cold, fresh water northern lakes, and almost icy conditions of Northern Manitoba, make the perfect environment for this fish. The Goldeye, unlike many other fish, prefers eating minnows and insects, rather then surviving on plants. Here's a tip for all you people who like to fish; they tend to stay gathered in schools and play in large shallow areas. So if you're catching Goldeye, chances are you won't have issues finding more then one.

As for what I found in my plate tonight, smoked Goldeye was on the menu. This served with a bean salad, green lettuce salad and a heaping spoonful of my favorite (yams), makes for a very filling and delicious meal. How to prepare smoked fish in general? Place large frying pan of boiling water to simply heat up the fish. This very fast and convenient method of serving fish comes with a catch; and that would be the smell of the smoked fish when being boiled. Growing up, the smell of smoked fish was always a familiar scent and something we got accustomed to. Certainly brings back good memories of being at the table as a kid.

Go out to your local supermarket and find some smoked Goldeye! It's rich and buttery texture will melt in your mouth! Definitely something to try out! 

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fougasse Bread

This bread finds it's roots all the way back in Rome, where is was called "Panis Focacius". You would say that by the name, this is "Focaccia", and not Fougasse. Well it depends where you are from, and which variation adapted from the ancient recipe you are following. In ancient times, it was a flat bread which was baked directly in the ashes of the hearth. From there, the Spanish have called the bread "hogaza", the Italians "focaccia" and the people of Provence, "fougasse". And this brings us to today's recipe and the French version of this bread.

The French version, known as fougasse, usually contains an additive to the basic bread dough, commonly seen as olives, cheeses and herbs. In it's early days, a wood fire oven's temperature could be assessed by putting a loaf of fougasse in the hearth. Depending on the time it would take to bake, they could tell if it was appropriate of not to slide in the rest of the breads. Since those times, many many variations of the fougasse has serviced. Some fougasse are found with being a flat bread, in the shape of a large leaf (see below), or some to a more oval loaf with a filling and scoring on top. Many combinations of toppings and filings have been created to create more of a pizza type of bread. Some of these include; red peppers, caramelized onions, multiple cheeses and of course lardons.

In the following recipe, the fougasse contains black olives and a blend of dried Provence Herbs. Here's the recipe.

FOUGASSE (Makes 4 small loaves)
- 2 Tsp Dried yeast
- 1 Tsp Sugar
- 500g (4 Cups) White Strong Flour
- 60ml (1/4 Cup) Olive Oil
- 185g ( 1 Cup) Black pitted olives, chopped
- 1 Handful chopped mixed herbs, such as parsley, oregano and basil
(For the herbs I put in 1/8 of a cup of dried Provence Herbs)

Step 1:
Put the yeast, sugar and 1/2 cup warm water in a small bowl and stir until dissolved. Leave in a warm place for ten minutes, or until bubbles appear on the surface. It will become frothy and will increase in volume.

Step 2:
Sift the flour and 2 Tsp of salt into a bowl and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture, olive oil and 3/4 cup of warm water. Mix to a soft dough and gather into a ball.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, or until smooth. Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap of a towel. Let rise 1 hour or until it has doubled in size. ( I leave my bowl on top of the warming oven and the heat shortens the rising period and saves me time.)

Step 3:
Punch down the dough and add the olives and herbs.

 Knead for 1 minute. Divide the mixture into 4 equal portions.

Press each portion into a large, oval shape about 1 cm thick and make several cuts on wither side of each. Lay the dough on large floured baking trays, brush lightly with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to rise for 20 minutes.

Step 4: Preheat the oven to 415F (210C). Bake the fougasse for 35 minutes, or until crisp.

***Tip of the day***
To make the crust crispy, spray the inside of the oven with water after 15 minutes cooking, with a clean spray bottle.
This bread is amazing with any kind of soups. Even better, serve it at your next dinner party as an appetizer with a marinara dip! Impress your friends with this beautiful looking bread!

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

One of the basic recipes which you should have under your belt, is this Chocolate Chiffon cake, which can be used for cakes of all occasions. So what is a "chiffon cake" and where did it come from?

It is a very light cake usually made with oil instead of the traditional butter found in most cake recipes. The Chiffon is part of the "foam" cake recipe with the Angel Cake because both are lightened up by incorporating whipped egg whites into the cake mixture. The fact that this type of cake is made with oil, makes it lighter and doesn't harden when cooled. Because some of the flavor from the cake is lost by replacing butter with oil, Chiffon cake is usually accompanied by fruit, flavorful fillings or fruit.

Compared to many other very popular cake recipes, this one was invented in the 20th Century. To my surprise, I discovered that it was even invented by an insurance salesman, turned caterer. Harry Baker invented this cake in 1927 and kept the recipe TOP SECRET for a good 20 years, that is, before he sold it to General Mills. That was the big turning point in the commercialization of this recipe. After that, 14 variations and recipes of the cake were created and published in a booklet to the public by no one else then, Betty Crocker in 1948. At this point in time, cake flour was sold under the brand name of "SOFTASILK" and was featured in the Crocker chiffon cake recipes, as was "Wesson Oil". This oil was manufactured in Memphis TN in 1899 by the discovery of deodorizing cotton oil. This resulted in the first vegetable shortening made from cotton seeds.

The chiffon recipe was, at the time, very revolutionary and almost a science experiment to have in your home kitchen. Unlike this recipe, the following recipe contains butter and all purpose flour can also be used if you do not have cake flour laying around the house. Here's what you'll need:

- 1 1/4 cup
- 2 Tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 cup Cocoa
- 1/2 Tsp Salt
- 3/4 Cup Butter (softened)
- 1 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 5 Egg Whites (At room temperature)
- 2 Egg Yolks (At room temperature)
- 1Tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 Cup Milk (Room Temperature)

***Because this cake's height relies on the assembly of the ingredients, the ingredients should be put together in this manner before mixing. ***
Step 1: Sift together flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt in a medium bowl, set aside.
Step 2: Place the egg yolks and the vanilla together in a small bowl, set aside.
Step 3: Beat softened butter with ONE CUP of the sugar in a large bowl till fluffy and light in color (this will be your main bowl).
Step 4: Have your egg whites ready in your mixer bowl with the remaining HALF A CUP of the sugar.
Step 5: Spread a thin coat of butter inside 2x 9" round pans and dust the pans with cocoa. This "butter and flour mold" technique will aid with unmolding the cake. Preheat oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

***Before whipping up your egg whites, your prep should resemble this***

Now to assemble the ingredient:
Step 6: Add the yolk and vanilla to the butter mixture, mix well with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Step 7: Add the flour mixture and the milk, alternating between the two, starting and finishing with the flour mixture.

Step 8: Whip the egg whites, adding the 1/2 cup of sugar when foaming in mixer. Whip till firm peaks form on the whisk attachment.

Step 9: Incorporate a third of the whites into the chocolate batter, mixing well to lighten up the mixture. Then gently fold in the remaining 2/3 of the whites to put the most air possible into the cake mixture.

Step 10: Divide the batter between the two prepared pans, gently leveling the batter in the pans. Bake right away into the preheated 350F oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

After baking, it is crucial to let the cake cool in the pan before removing. Because the chiffon cake is so light and moist in texture, not letting it cool might result in the cake crumbling out of the pan like the following picture.

This cake recipe is always a good choice when wanting to assemble a birthday cake. This is simply a recipe from what you have when baking a Betty Crocker cake in a box. I'll bet you anything that this version tastes WAY better, mostly when baked with love. 

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Raisin Bread

This amazing recipe has been adapted from a bread served at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco even before World War I. It has held the test of time and is truly something that you will enjoy to the last crumb, with butter of course (with butter is always better). Here's what you'll need.

If you are planning this recipe in advance, you will benefit from making this step a night before
Combine in a bowl;
- 1 1/2 cups sultana raisins
- Sherry or Cognac to barely cover
- 1/2 tsp ground mace (i used cinnamon and it was just as good)
- Grated fresh orange rind
The raisins will soak up all the flavors and it will bring amazing aromas to your bread.

For the bread:
- 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
- 2 Cups lukewarm milk
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1Tablespoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 5 to 6 cups of all-purpose flour

Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of the warm milk let it foam up on the side. Combine the rest of the warm milk, sugar, salt, and 3 Tbsp butter in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture, then, using one hand or a heavy wooden spoon, gradually sti in enough flour to make a stiff dough. Turn out on a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth, elastic, and glossy. Place in a buttered bowl and turn to coat the surface with butter.

Cover and set in warm, draft-free spot to rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 1/2 hours. I place the bowl on top of my preheating oven and the warmth from the oven really accelerates the rising stage.

Punch down the dough and knead for 3 minutes. Return to the bowl, cover and let rise again for 30 minutes.

(After having been punched down and kneaded)

(Having risen for another 30 minutes after punch down )

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and roll each other out into a rectangle about 7 by 20 inches.

Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with raisin mixture.

Roll the dough up tightly; tuck the ends under. Fit each roll, seam side down, in two well buttered 8x4x2-inch loaf pans.

Cover and let rise in a warm spot till the dough shows just above the top of the pans.

Beat together; 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of cream and brush mixture on loaves.

Bake in a preheated 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and continue baking for 20 to 30 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on top and bottom. 

This recipe resulted in a very moist and extremely tasty raisin loaf. Amazing warm with butter for breakfast or dessert! Enjoy! Any questions or concern about this recipe, please leave a comment on this post. Thanks!

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Basics of an "ENTREMET"

Before the XVI th century, the "entremet" was always a salty dish. During the Middle Ages, it referred to the salty dish served between the meals to occupy the guests, which, were often seated at the table for many hours. The term, more obvious in french, when broken down into two words; "ENTRE" meanning between, and "MET", meaning meals.

Catherine de Médicis
The sweet version of the entremet only arrived to the "Cour de France", when Catherine de Médicis often requested Italian pastry chefs to be part of her kitchen staff. In the XVI th century, the French are still uncertain about this sweet version, for they often had a  developed pallet for salty foods. Compared to the English and Italians, who, were more used to incorporating sugar into their dishes.

Between the years 1689 and 1759, the table placings were beginning to become fixed. The tables were then adorned with porcelain and silver. At the same time, the first bottles were being created in England, and champagne was more at reach and often served with a sweet entremet.
But it won't be until the century of XIX, that the French will really incorporate the sweet variation into their culture. The entremet was now laced with milk, cream, sugar and eggs.

In the XX th century, the dairy industry started to really develop and we started getting familiar with canned products like; riz à la crème in a can and crème caramel. It wasn't until the 1950's that the first refrigerators aided with the distinction between a mousse, a flan and other fresh desserts.

With all of this history in mind, I went along and made a "White Chocolate and Raspberry Mousse Entremet". It's lengthy title could possibly be compared to the long process of making it. With good organizational skills and the right techniques, this impressive dessert will put a smile on anyone's face (unless you are lactose intolerant). The recipe combines many recipes and basic pastry building blocks. Here's the recipes and steps to achieve this grand dessert.


 Now let's get on with the mousse (insert) which will have to be set before even starting the final mousse. But before even starting the raspberry mousse, prepare a 16-18cm ring, lined with foil, which will serve as a mold for the raspberry insert. 

- 500g of fresh of frozen raspberries (heated, pureed, and strained to obtain 300g of pulp)
- 9g gelatine (I used 4 gelatin leaves which are of gold standard and 2g each)

After making your pulp, (with a hand mixer is easiest) it will still be warm, add the softened up gelatin and whisk to well incorporate the gelatin.  Then put it aside to make your Italian Meringue:
- Bring 36g water and 75g sugar together, to 121 Degrees Celsius.
- Pour boiling sugar mixture into the mixer with the foamed up whites, while the mixer is on high speed. 
- Let whip until the mixture (bowl) has cooled and thickened. It should be firm and shiny. 
For more information and precise instructions on how to make this meringue check out this YouTube video: . 

By this time, the raspberry should be cooled. You will want to add the meringue to the puree but only when the puree is MINIMUM room temperature. It works best when the puree is a little chilled.

 Incorporate with whisk. You will want to get your whipped cream ready at the same time in a mixer bowl for more speed. 
- 250ml cream and 25g sugar

When cream ready, add a third into the raspberry mixture, then fold in the rest very gently to not lose any air out of the mousse. Pour ONLY 1 INCH  high of the raspberry mousse into the prepared mold. Place in freezer for quick set. It should be ready by the time you finish making the biscuit cuiller and the white chocolate mousse. The rest of the mousse can be scooped into plastic glasses and served simply as a raspberry mousse.  

And now, the "biscuit cuiller". This soft, lady finger like cake will border the sides (biscuit cartouchière) and the bottom. A "biscuit cartouchière" gets its name from looking like the belt which usually contains ammo for a gun. The visual similarity gave the biscuit its name.

- 4 egg whites, whipped to firm peaks with 60g sugar
- 4 egg yolks, whisked with 60g sugar (blanchir)
- 120g flour (sifted)
- 1 large piping bag and a 10cm piping tip (ready before starting to assemble the ingredients = Mise En Place)
- Parchment paper on tray with 3x6" strips running along the tray and another tray with a 20cm diameter circle. Make sure that the traced lines are on the underside of the paper to not get it on the cookie. <

Step 1 : Mix the yolks with 60g sugar to lighten the color of the yolks, without incorporating too much air into them.
Step 2: Whip up the whites and when foamy, add the sugar to the mixing whites. Beat till stiff peaked stage.
Step 3: Add 1/3 of the whites to the yolk mixture, then the rest, folding in, to not deflate the whites.
Step 4: Gently sprinkle in the sifted flour and fold in with a spatula to get a smooth and light texture, making sure there are not lumps of flour found in your mixture.
Step 5: Pipe the 3 strips of biscuit cuiller and the 20cm circle. When done piping, dust the cookies with icing sugar, let soak in for 10 seconds and dust another layer of icing sugar on top.

Step 6: Place in a 350 degree F oven until the cookie has reached a light golden color. When baked, remove the parchment from the tray and slide directly on the counter to cool.

When cooled off, flip the cookie and parchment over and pull the paper from the cookies, not the cookies from the paper. Then do the necessary trimming to the cookie for it to be places in the 22cm ring.

Once the cookie is in place inside the ring, place in freezer till the last mousse is ready for assembly. Now let's get on with the final mousse.For the base of this mousse you will have to prepare a type of "crème anglaise" for the creation of the ganache. Here's the recipes.

- 180g milk
- 3 yolks
- 25g sugar
- 5g gelatine (bloom 2 and a half leaves or 5g of powder and have ready before starting)
- 150g white chocolate (finely chopped and place on the side in a bowl)

Whisk the yolks and the 25g of sugar to whiten the yolks. Add in a sauce pan with the milk. Stir non stop with a spatula to prevent the eggs to coagulate. Cook on medium-low until 80-85 degrees Celsius. It should have less of a watery texture and be more creamy.

To make sure that you have achieve the "à la nappe" stage, have some of the cream on your wooden spoon or spatula, and make a streak with your finger horizontally. If the mixture drops through the streak, it is not ready.

When the cream is ready, add in the bloomed gelatin and whisk to make sure the gelatin is well melted and incorporated. Pour on top of the chocolate and stir to melt all the chocolate and create a smooth "ganache" mix.

 Let cool until room temperature or cooler. When cooled enough, add in 350ml of whipped cream, a third at first and then fold in the rest in gently.

Now that you have your final mousse ready, it's time to assemble the charlotte.

Step 1:
Take the mold with the prepped cookie out of the freezer. Placing gently half to 2/3 of the white chocolate mousse inside the biscuit, make sure that it comes up on the side of the cookie.
Step 2:
Place the raspberry insert in center of the mold. and cover with the rest of the white chocolate mousse. Make the top smooth.

Step 3:
Place into the freezer for quick set or into the fridge overnight for it to set completely. When set, decorate with fresh raspberries on top and enjoy.

The long process of making this dessert is well worth it, if you are up for the challenge that is. The mousse recipes are JUST as good on their own. They can be enjoyed in a cup with fresh fruit and served as a light dessert.

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!


P.S. If anything in this recipe needs clarifying or you need any tips for completing a part of this recipe, please leave a message on the post and I will do my best to help you out!