Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chocolate & Coffee Marzipan Swirls Wrapped with Tuile

Well, that's a hefty title, but it sums up these treats perfectly. This month's Daring Bakers challenge was to make tuile dough and bend them into whatever shape met our fancy. Tuiles are a French cookie baked extra thin, and shaped (to somewhat resemble a roof tile, from which they get their name) as soon as they come out of the oven. Due to the flexibility of the cookie while it's still warm, it lends itself to be shaped into whatever you please. This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michael Roux. Now for my own little take on these recipes...

I was thinking about making rod-shaped empty crusts and filling them with some chocolate whipped cream or chocolate mousse. Something of that sort. I mentioned it to Moowie, and she suggested I try playing with marizpan, and maybe add some chocolate and coffee in there. What can I say, I took the idea and ran with it. I quickly found a couple marzipan recipes and adapted them to suite me, then found a good icing recipe and put it all together.


2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup water
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 cups (1 lb) ground almonds
2 egg whites, room temperature
Just under 1 lb. confectioner's sugar

In a medium sized pot over medium heat, dissolve the granulated sugar in the water. Once it's fully in the liquid, add the cream of tartar and bring to a boil, covering the pot. Continue boiling for 3 minutes, then uncover and continue to boil with the lid off until a candy thermometer indicates the mixture is at 240ºF. Remove from heat and place into a larger bowl or sink containing cool water. Stir while cooling until mixture is thick, then add the ground almonds and egg whites. Place back over low heat and continue stirring for 2 minutes or until thick. Spoon onto a surface coated with powdered sugar and turn with a spatula until cool enough to handle by hand. Knead as you would dough, adding confectioner's sugar until fairly dry, smooth, and somewhat flexible.

Chocolate coffee icing:
3 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon strong coffee
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

In a double broiler (I always use a metal bowl that fits into a large pot containing a bit of water) melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring frequently. Take care not to overheat it, as the butter and chocolate will separate. Once melted, remove from heat and add coffee and powdered sugar. Stir or whisk vigorously until a smooth icing is formed.

Tuile dough:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
Dash of vanilla extract
2 large egg whites, lightly whisked
1/2 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together. Once sufficiently aerated, add the vanilla. Slowly add the egg whites, followed by small batches of flour. Take care not to overmix the dough. Cover and chill the dough in a refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Allow the dough to sit on the counter for 30 minutes before baking. Using two pieces of parchment paper, spoon some dough onto one piece and cover with the other. Flatten the dough thin with a rolling pin, then place into the oven for approximately 5 minutes. Traditionally, tuiles will be lightly browned and crispy, but then they cannot be sliced; for this recipe, go for a cookie that's still mostly white. Shape immediately.

Divide the marzipan into four portions and sandwich between layers of plastic wrap. Roll into an approximate 12"x10" rectangle, then remove the top layer of plastic wrap. The 10-inch face should be the closest and furthest from you, with the 12-inch faces on the sides. Spoon some icing onto the marzipan and spread evenly, leaving a 1-inch gap at the furthest side from you. Using the plastic wrap to help you pick up the marzipan, begin to tightly roll the marzipan forward. When the roll is formed, turn so the seam is on the bottom and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the marzipan retain its shape. Roll out tuile dough into a shape large enough to surround your marzipan loaf, and bake according to directions. Remove the marzipan loaf from the refrigerator and wrap with the tuile, forming a tight loaf. Allow to cool to reoom temperature before placing back into the refrigerator, chilling for at least an hour. Remove from the refrigerator and trim the edges off either side of the loaf, then cut individual cookies out, each about 2 cm (approximately 3/4") wide. Makes 48 cookies.

The combination of coffee with chocolate and almond make these treats a fine snack at any time of the day. Take a couple nibbles with coffee at breakfast, or bite into them for a sweet dessert after dinner. I had heard of marzipan only a few times previously, and it was surprisingly easy to make a batch of my own. Given, I still haven't had any in a pre-made fashion, so I'm not even sure if it turned out correctly, but the cookie comes together perfectly regardless. Just make sure you have people to share these with, or you'll quickly finish off all four logs.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Heather of Sherry Trifle. This dessert lead to an argument between my coworkers and I over what defines a brownie versus a cake. We've now established the lines after much time spent scanning the internet, and came to the conclusion that this is a cake-brownie mix. Its fluffiness and gingerbread flavor definitely indicate cake, while the dense chocolate flavor favor brownie. Regardless, it's a delicious treat.

This was my first time buying stem ginger. I was worried it would end up overpowering the flavor of the chocolate, or that large chunks would turn up through different bites and ruin the effect, but the gingerbread evenly distributed everything. I tried mincing the ginger, but gave up on it after a few minutes and just ground it in a food processor. Much faster, and I just scooped out the tablespoons necessary.

I thought making gingerbread from scratch would be a much more daunting excursion for some reason, but this recipe turned out to be fairly easy. And now that I have a bunch of ginger stashed in the freezer, I'm sure I'll find some reason to make more gingerbread goodies in the coming months.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 212

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Berry Surprise Cake

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Mary Ann of Meet Me in the Kitchen. It's a light cake, a nice break from the traditional overly-sweet ones. The cake itself is more egg than flour, lending an airy feel to the overall product. The filling is cream cheese based, loaded with raspberries, and after it's all been assembled it's topped with whipped cream.

According to Dorie's directions, the cake should rise up considerably more than mine did. Mine also caved in on me while it was cooling, but I didn't worry too much about it. After cutting the cake down the middle, I just kept loading raspberries into the center until it finally looked flat when the top was back on. Same finished product, just a different method via improvisation.

This is one of those treats that gets a top-five count for Dorie's best. The cake is light through every bite, with whipped cream, whipped cream cheese, and the egg-based batter. The raspberries play the key role of flavor, and the others go into the background to support without argument. The only bad thing with this delectable is that it's so light and delicious, you could probably eat the whole thing in one sitting without really noticing.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 273-275

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Rebecca at Ezra Pound Cake. This was a well-welcomed relief from the fleet of sweets I've been ingesting courtesy of the Dorie group. These muffins are stuffed with mildly spicy flavor.

Packed inside each of these muffins (made with both flour and cornmeal for an added savory flavor) are fresh corn kernels, cilantro, baby bell peppers, and dried California Chili pods. I went with baby bell peppers instead of one red one because I like the more varied colors presented by using multiple small ones, and used the dried California Chili pod instead of a jalapeño because...well, I was lazy and I had a bunch of these in my cupboard anyway. I knew the muffins just needed some spice, so one of these larger pods would bring a more subtle spice, but would add a lot of flavor.

These savory muffins are definitely a hit. Its times like these that I ask myself why I don't bake muffins more often - they're always full of little goodies, and rare is a batch come across that doesn't taste delicious. Now I know that this book does savory just as well as it's always done sweet.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 6

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Combination Couscous

I'll call this Combination Couscous because it combines so many various items that you wouldn't normally thing would come together. Sweet, sour, salty, savory, soft, crunchy, and everything between - but at the same time, surprisingly, nothing loses its own flavor in the mix. Everything stands out on its own, yet melds together perfectly with the corresponding ingredients. If you have any spare couscous laying around the house, I suggest you give this recipe a try.

Recipe - adapted from Bon Apetit, August 2005
3 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups couscous
1 cup golden raisins
1 bunch (about 8 total) green onions
3 slices pancetta
1 cup hulled sunflower seeds
1/2 cup butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the chicken broth into a large pot and add the salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the couscous and raisins, then remove from heat. Allow it to sit, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed by the couscous. Chop the green onions into 1-inch long sections, and roughly chop the pancetta. Combine green onions, pancetta, and sunflower seeds in a large bowl and mix. Cut the butter into 8 pieces and add to the bowl. Pour the hot couscous on top and stir (using tongs helps to get everything mixed in well) until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot.

This recipe can very easily be adapted to whatever extra things you may have lying around the kitchen. Have pecans but no sunflower seeds? No problem. Don't want to make a trip to the store for pancetta? Don't worry about it. I still have some leftover couscous, and I'm planning on cleaning out my cupboard a bit with the help of this recipe.

Combination Couscous

A mix of green onions, sunflower seeds, and golden raisins ...

See Combination Couscous on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

French Pear Tart

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by the woman behind the name herself - Dorie Greenspan. I believe this is the first time she's thrown in a suggestion for a recipe, and I think it's wonderful that she's taken an active role in this fan/baking group.

I spent a bit more time on this recipe than was probably necessary - blanching the almonds and poaching the pears myself. However, I hadn't done either until today, so they're good things to have learned. I also had some leftover ground almonds (non-blanched) from a previous recipe, so I took Dorie's suggestion and made a nutty tart shell by replacing 1/4 cup of flour with 1/4 cup ground almonds.

Covering the almond flavored shell is a layer of almond paste, which is delicious in its own right. The pears on top bring the dish to an end, combining their subtle fruity flavor with the sweet almond layers, culminating into a delicious dessert. This tart is every bit as tasty as it looks. As often happens with these recipes, this is one that will probably be repeated when the right occasion comes.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 368 - 369