Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chocolate Honey Madeleines-Chocolate with Francois

Nothing like a good cup of espresso with a Chocolate Honey Madeline to transport me back to a little cafe on the streets of Paris. I'm a romantic at heart so it usually doesn't take much to transport me to Paris-the smell of French Onion Soup, a plate of perfect frites, pastry of any type, hot chocolate as rich as Angelina's, or a sweet little Madeline. I have never made chocolate madeleines-I prefer the simplicity of the original. However, Francois Payard does have a way of changing my mind. Julie from A Little Bit of Everything selected this month's Chocolate with Francois recipe-Chocolate Honey Madeleines. They have a hint of orange zest-mine had a hint of lemon zest ! I never know what to expect with his recipes. They are easy to follow but the results vary-you really have to follow them to the very letter-as with anything in baking. But I suspect his years of experience give him that little extra magic that results in perfection each time he bakes.

 I was very happy with my results. They have the little mound that rose in the center and very few pin holes from air bubbles when I turned them out of the pan. And the taste was just slightly chocolaty with a hint of lemon.The honey was lost in the batter. Next time I will let the batter reach room temperature before attempting to pipe it into the Madeleine pans. I didn't do that today and the batter was very thick and cold-I had to use every muscle to squeeze the pastry bag !  Time for another cup of espresso, Bon Appetit .

You can buy the book here :

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bomboloni with Cherry Preserves-Daring Bakers October Challenge

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I missed last month's challenge with the decorated sugar cookies and I was determined not to miss this month's challenge. When I saw it was doughnuts I was ecstatic. Simple sweet sugary doughnuts-breakfast of champions. Well maybe not, but surely we all have a favorite doughnut. I grew up back East in a small steel town along the river-Duquesne. We didn't have a local doughnut maker but Dunkin Doughnuts was within driving distance. And the site of that bag would bring chills to a 10 year old. My favorite were the custard filled chocolate topped ones and the simple powder sugared ones. It wasn't until we moved out West that I realized doughnuts were a big deal. Just mention the word  doughnut in Seattle and you have your doughnut camps forming-Top Pot with their hand forged doughnuts; Mighty-O with vegan and organic doughnuts;Krispy Kreme with their light as air morsels; Daily Dozen Doughnuts in the Pike Place Market-hot off the conveyor belt and a favorite of market goers and last but not least Tom Douglas's Dahlia Bakery-fried doughnuts with marscapone and jam-need I say more?

For this challenge I chose to make the Bomboloni with Kate Neuman's recipe . Not only did they sound scrumptious , I just love saying Bomboloni ! I used Bonne Mamam Sweet Cherry Preserves-the tartness of the preserves complimented the sweetness of the dough.

These disappeared immediately ! They were so tasty and warm just after removing them from the fryer. I couldn't wait to fill them with the Cherry preserves . And they were even better with the filling. This is a keeper recipe. I'm getting ready to make apple butter and I think these rolled in cinnamon sugar with apple butter filling would be incredible.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pink Macarons for Mactweets Pinktober

This month's challenge from MacTweets is dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness -PINKTOBER with Pinkarons instead of macarons. I am dedicating my Pinkarons to my friend Kelli-while I haven't been in her life as much as I would like (yes I'm a very bad friend) I hold her in my heart. She is a gorgeous blue eyed bundle of energy. She makes a mean Lemon Drop and an even meaner margarita ! She's a rockin dispatcher; a vision in black leather on her Indianhead motorcycle; a friend who was always there for me . And while we aren't in each other's lives much I know I could pick up the phone at any time and she would be there . She is an incredible mom and someone I've always admired-so Kelli-this one is for you ...miss you and big smooches to you !

Vanilla Macarons
Adapted from Hisako Ogita I Macarons


2/3 cup (3 oz/85 g) ground almonds
1-1/2 cups (5 1/4 oz/150 g) powdered sugar
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
5 tbsp (65 g) granulated sugar
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean


In a food processor, grind almonds and powdered sugar to a fine powder. Sift the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve twice. Set aside.

In a stainless steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until they are foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar to the egg whites and beat on high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 1 minute. Add vanilla bean seeds and stir lightly. Beat until the meringue is stiff, firm and has a glossy texture.
Add half of the sifted flour mixture from step .Stir it with a spatula, scooping it up from the bottom of the bowl and gently folding it in to itself.

Add the rest of the flour and mix it lightly in a circular motion-again gently-don't over mix-count your circular motions-15 to 18 should be about right.
Macaronnage (the term for mixing flour and meringue to make macarons): When you run out of flour, press and spread out the batter against the bowl’s sides. Scoop the batter from the bottom and turn it upside down. Repeat this process about 15 times. Pointer: If the macaronnage step is repeated less than 10 times, the baked macarons will lack luster. However, when it is repeated more than 20 times, oil stains may remain on the pastry’s surface after baking.

When the batter becomes firm and drips slowly as you scoop it with a spatula, the mixture is done.

Attach a 1/4-inch (1 cm) tip to a pastry bag.
Place the pastry bag, tip first, inside a deep measuring cup and pour in the batter. Clip the bag top to prevent the paste from coming out.
Pipe small circles on your parchment paper that is on your baking sheet. About 1 1/2 inches in diameter and about 1 inch apart.

Rap the baking sheet firmly against the counter or other flat surface. This helps the macarons hold their rounded shape and helps the pied, or little “foot,” to form.
Let dry at room temperature, uncovered, for 15 minutes. A slight crust should form on top. If the batter circles do not stick to your finger when you touch them, the drying process is complete. Depending on humidity this could take 30 minutes or an hour.

Baking the macarons

Place oven racks in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Stack the baking sheet holding the batter circles onto an empty baking sheet and slide both into the oven. Using two trays, one inside the other, prevents the bottom of the macarons from over baking, and from puffing up too much or cracking.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the trays once and switching them from top to bottom racks and vice versa, until slightly crisp and crackled on top. If the insides of the macarons are still soft after 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 300ºF/150ºC, cover the tray with foil and bake for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Place baking sheets on wire racks to cool. When the macarons are completely cooled, remove them from the baking sheet. Pointer: Macarons can be stored for about one week in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Raspberry Eau de Vie Simple Buttercream
1 stick of butter-softened
3 cups of sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped dried raspberries ( I use Just Raspberries from Whole Foods, Amazon also carries them)
1/4-1/2 cup of Raspberry Eau de Vie

Mix all ingredients except Raspberry Eau de Vie at low speed until incorporated. Begin adding Raspberry Eau de Vie until the desired spreading consistency is reached. Use 6cm tip and fill a pastry bag with the buttercream. Pipe onto macaron base and cover that with another macaron gently pressing them together.

I finished these with pink luster dust and I used my handy dandy Kopykake food coloring pens to draw the pink ribbon onto the dried shell. You can find them at

Why a Pink Ribbon for breast cancer awareness? According to the folks over at Think Before You Pink :

“Pink is the quintessential female color,” says Margaret Welch, director of the Color Association of the United States. “The profile on pink is playful, life-affirming. We have studies as to its calming effect, its quieting effect, its lessening of stress. [Pastel pink] is a shade known to be health-giving; that’s why we have expressions like ‘in the pink.’ You can’t say a bad thing about it.” Pink is, in other words, everything cancer notably is not.

One in ten women is diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United States of America. It is the second largest killer after lung cancer and can affect both male and female. However, woman are one hundred time more likely to suffer from the disease than men.

And if you are wondering about any company supporting Breast Cancer Research check out this link and the good job they do on educating all of us :

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lemon and Limoncello Bundt Cakes or Buddy Can You Spare a Dime

No pun intended with a posting about lemons, but I've been a little soured on humanity this week. That's unusual for me-I really do try and look for and see the best in people . In high school I was in the Drama Club and one of my performances was based on an excerpt from The Diary of Anne Frank. A quote from that book has stayed with me my entire life "Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart"-Anne Frank.  I have to tell you this week really tested that belief. I won't bore you with the depressing details and I won't get on the soapbox-not my style . I will share with you one of the little dramas that I encountered this week that made me want to kick myself. Believing in the goodness of people tends to make me a little more trusting than usual. I was on my way to work,  and I was running just a few minutes behind the other morning.  I came out of the parking garage hurrying down the street. A gentleman was crossing the street directly in front of me and coming my way. My guard went up only because it was still dark outside and I was alone on the street. As he approached he let out a sigh of relief and said oh you work for Clipper. I'm on your boat this morning (it was the logo jacket that gave me away !). He then said how happy he was to see me because he had just locked his backpack,wallet and keys in his car in the same parking lot I had just exited. Could I help him out ? He had used the change he had in his pocket to call a locksmith-problem was the locksmith required $25 cash to unlock his car. And this gentleman only had $15 on him. Could I loan him $10 and he would bring it back to the ticket counter when he checked in for the boat. You know where this is going right ? My first excuse is-I hadn't had my morning espresso yet so I wasn't thinking clearly; and secondly, he kind of looked like you would expect someone traveling that morning to look like . I "loaned" him the money, he was ever so grateful and waved to me with his God Bless You, God Bless You ,see you in a little bit, as he walked away. As I crossed the street I glanced over my shoulder and saw him head down an alley-not into the garage and I knew immediately I had been duped. Me a former 911 dispatcher-I should have known better. I was kicking myself all day long for allowing that to happen. By the end of the day I was able to laugh about it, still embarrassed by my gullible nature, but able to reconcile with myself that if given the same circumstances I would do it again. Yes I still believe that people are really good at heart. I also have to give the guy credit for creativity ! Moral of the story-come up with a good enough story and I will probably fall for it, I mean really if he was legitimate I would have felt good about my actions that morning. So why did I feel so duped. He apparently needed money bad enough to come up with that story ! After I thought about it, I realized it was my take on it -I just hope I didn't buy him his morning fix. Yes, still gullible and trusting and proud of it !

So I decided this posting would be my way of taking the proverbial lemons I encountered this week and making some sweet lemon and limoncello bundt cakes !

You remember back in August I made Limoncello, well believe it or not we still have some left so I thought I would put it to good use with this recipe. If you don't have limoncello just use fresh lemon juice.

I found this recipe over on Jane's Sweets and Baking Journal. I love her blog-she always has something scrumptious going on-check it out.

Lemon and Limoncello Bundt Cakes with Limoncello Glaze
Recipe from Jane's Sweets and Baking Journal
Based on Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America's Lemon Buttermilk Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 24 mini bundt pans.
2 and 2/3 cups All-Purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1 and 3/4 cups granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
4 eggs, large
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
4 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 Tbsp. limoncello (lemon flavored liqueur)

Limoncello Glaze
Juice from 1 freshly squeezed lemon
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup approximately of limoncello (or enough to make the glaze thin enough for drizzling)
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside

Using the paddle attachment cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest for about 5 minutes, until smooth and light. Scrape the bowl down a few times during the mixing.

Add in the eggs one a time, still at medium speed, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Mix well after each egg.

On low speed, add in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk in three additions. Mix just until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes more, until the entire mixture is smooth and light in color.

Add in the lemon juice and limoncello. Blend just until evenly mixed, no more than 30 seconds.
Portion the batter evenly into your pans and smooth the top of the batter.

Bake until the center of each cake springs back when pressed lightly and a cake tester inserted in the center emerges clean. This will be about 20-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool for about 10 minutes before inverting the pans onto a cooling rack to remove the cakes.

To make the glaze, mix the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice and about 1/2 of the limoncello in a small bowl and stir until any lumps are completely gone. Thin the glaze to the desired consistency by adding the remainder of the limoncello-what you don't use (limoncello) take a sip and enjoy ! If you think your glaze is too thin just thicken it by stirring in a bit more confectioners' sugar until it's the consistency you prefer.

To apply the glaze, place the cooled cakes on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet. Using a spoon, drizzle the glaze liberally over each cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Let the icing set for about 15 minutes before moving the cakes.

Hey Mister this Bundt is for you !

Enjoy any left over Limoncello !

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vanilla Vanilla and more Vanilla Cupcakes

After tackling Pierre Herme's recipe I decided I needed something simple and sweet.  Cupcakes came to mind.  I love cupcakes, I just haven't gotten on the cupcake craze bandwagon yet.  And I say yet , because while I was looking for a recipe that sounded enticing,  I came across so many blogs and recipes for cupcakes that I wanted to bake and have added to my "to be baked" list. Well all I can say is watch out,these little sweeties will be making regular appearances on my blog in the future.  I'm working on a chocolate pumpkin one for Halloween .

What is it about little tiny cakes ?  Is it that we don't feel so guilty eating one because it seems harmless-surely something this small couldn't be so bad for us ?  Or is it because they just look so cute in their teenie little cups ?  I do know that when they turn out tasty and just right it seems that one little cupcake isn't enough, so you pop a second one in your mouth-quick walk away from the table now , I know you want that third one or fourth run away from the table.

When I was looking for something simple I was thinking something simple in taste.  Vanilla is my favorite flavor.  Boring ? I don't think so.  I love the smell, it evokes so many memories-like that first time baking sugar cookies at Christmas, or the first time discovering the beautiful crystals on the vanilla bean, or the smell of the sugar canister that's been infused with vanilla beans.  When I was in pastry school the final project of the quarter was having an ingredient assigned to your team and then doing a presentation on that ingredient-history,harvesting,culture associated with it,uses, you get the picture.  My teammate and I were assigned vanilla.  I was jumping for joy-couldn't wait to get started.  I was amazed by how helpful producers and wholesalers of Vanilla were when I contacted them for information .  They seemed to be overjoyed that I was so excited about their product.  I got so many samples that even after giving away samples to my classmates I still have a corner in my bakery supply shelf filled with vanilla. And needless to say we got an A on our project.  Maybe it was the free samples ? Or maybe my attempt at reproducing Pierre Herme's Vanilla Entrement ?  That's another post for another time.  Whatever it was, my love for vanilla just strengthened after the project and is still going strong.  So when I stumbled upon the blog way more than 52 Cupcakes and the Cupcake Queen declared these as awesome I knew it would be my recipe.

Billy's Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes
adapted from Billy's Bakery
Makes about 30-36 mini cupcakes

1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened-room temperature, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs-room temperature
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Vanilla seeds scraped from 2 vanilla beans ( add the beans to your sugar canister when done)

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. With your mixer, use your paddle attachment and  combine flours, sugar, baking powder, vanilla bean scrapings and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.

2. In a large glass measuring cup or bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated being careful not to over beat.

3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about two-thirds full. Bake for approximately 17-20 minutes.  Rotate your pans halfway through.  Bake until  a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Once cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake or use a pastry bag with the tip of your choice to decorate.  Add sprinkles if you like.

Billy's Vanilla Buttercream

Makes enough for 30-36 mini cupcakes
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add 6 cups powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla; mix until light and fluffy. If necessary, gradually add remaining 2 cups sugar to reach desired consistency. I didn't need the additional 2 cups of sugar.

I really liked the icing for these-not to sweet, it really complimented the taste of the cupcake.  It's definitely a recipe for buttercream that I will keep and try with different flavors.  Now go and have a cup of coffee with a couple (because you can't eat just one) of these little sweet cakes and enjoy. Bon Appetit.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Faubourg Pave-Chocolate Caramel Cake to Thank all of You

I am finally able to peak out from under the blankets.  I've been down with a horrible cold for the past week. No energy, a cough that rocked the house, aches and pains-you know the drill. My menu this week consisted of Tylenol,menthol eucalyptus cough drops, herbal tea, orange juice, water and chicken noodle soup.  Today was the first day I felt like I could move around the house a bit.  And it's really the first time I ventured over to my PC to catch up with the rest of the world. 
I want to thank  all of you for your support during my Project Foodblog Challenge. But sad to say, I didn't make to  Round #4 . Boo Hoo.. Really and truly I have appreciated your support and kind comments-get over to Foodbuzz and vote for your favorite among some very creative people !
This is what I planned on posting for that challenge had I advanced-Pierre Herme's Faubourg Pave. I've narrowed down the photos and didn't include half of what I would have included for the photo essay-won't bore you with pictures of egg whites on beaters. And I won't lie to you-this is not a creation for putting together in an hour or two. It's Pierre Herme after all and nothing he creates is simple . And to not try and duplicate his perfection does him a disservice. After tasting this , God, I wish I had 1 millionth of the talent he has. The flavors of this creation are outstanding.

The chocolate cake is light and with just the slightest saltiness to it, it really brings out the chocolate flavor. The caramel syrup that's used to soak the cake-yummy. The apricots plumped then soaked in lemon juice and black pepper-exquisite contrast to the sweetness of the ganache. And the ganache-if you don't do anything else with this recipe-take the time to make the ganache. OMG, you will want to smear it on loved ones and lick it off slowly. It's chocolate meets caramel meets salty meets sweet meets heaven in your mouth.

Some people like to take his recipes and make them their own-not me. I want to challenge myself to his pastry perfection by duplicating his recipes. It's the best way to learn-I mean until this recipe I wouldn't have thought of adding black pepper to apricots . Following his recipes gets you into a creative frame of mine, a WHAT WOULD PIERRE DO frame of mind. It makes you look at your own recipes with a new set of eyes-how could I enhance that flavor ? What if I added a little salt or more cardamom ? He makes you want to be the best pastry chef you can be. Maybe someday I'll take one of his recipes and put my own spin on it by changing around something but right now, why mess with perfection. The only change I made to this was to take it from a "Pave" or paver shape to a "Mini Rond" or mini round shape. Only because I didn't have the proper size pans for his recipe so I improvised. With that I give you my riff on Faubourg Pave. I'm proud of the results. Since the recipe isn't published on the Internet I wrote to Pierre Herme for permission to publish and haven't heard back. So in the mean time go out and buy the book Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme. Or you can go to Google Books and find the recipe and instructions here.

Apricots chopped and soaked in lemon juice and black pepper

Cutting out the cake for my miniature version

Chocolate Caramel Ganache with apricots

Crumb layer of ganache

Bon Appetit ! Well worth the effort .

I hate to cut into it-it's so pretty !