Sunday, September 6, 2009

A pie so good....

So, the other night we had friends over after a picnic. Dinner was leftovers of antipasta pasta salad, fresh veggie garden salad, brats and chops on the grill. But having been out all day, I hadn't even thought about dessert. What to do, what to do....

Was pondering when my eyes caught the bottle of Mozart Chocolate Creme Liquor. The reason I had the Mozart Chocolate Creme was because a friend of ours introduced me to drinking it with some di Amore Raspberry. Together the two make a lovely cordial that you want to enjoy as a private moment. We had nicknamed it "Liquid Sex".

So having made a white chocolate cake with raspberry filling for the party the day prior, I had a half a can of raspberry cake filling. These pieces combined with some whole milk, half and half and chocolate chips made a whipped ganache topping that I put over some white chocolate instant pudding. It was delicious for a quick afterthought.

While at a friend's house to celebrate a soon to come home new puppy, we were at the store and she was wondering about dessert. I told her about how the drink had inspired a dessert and we then took it further into making it into a pie.

So at the store we bought a pre-made chocolate pie shell, Ghiradelli Milk and Semi-Sweet chocolate chips and a quart of heavy whipping cream along with a package of fresh raspberries (they didn't have the cake filling but fresh was better).

We started with 2 cups of heavy cream in a sauce pan and melted in 2 cups of chocolate chips, we did one cup each of milk and semi-sweet. Making a basic ganache. Then we get to add the the good stuff. Added in two ounces each of the Mozart Chocolate Cream and di Amore Raspberry Liquor to the chocolate mix. Making sure it was smooth and glossy, it was then moved into a mixing bowl and popped in the fridge for about an hour. In the meantime, we washed and dried the raspberries and put them in the bottom of the pie crust so that it was a lot of berry peaks. Of course several berries disappeared while we were waiting for the ganache to chill.

When the ganache was cool enough, an electric mixer provided all the oomph we needed to whip up the ganache to a rich creamy mousse like texture. This was then scooped into the pie crust on top of the raspberries and went back into the fridge.

Just before we were ready for dessert, we put the last two cups of whipping cream into a bowl, added just a hint of sugar (about 1/8 Cup) and a good tablespoon of pure Mexican Vanilla Extract and whipped it to fluffy white peaks. This was then put on top of the pie and it was ready for dessert.

One of the people sampling this was eating it so fast, we wondered if she was savoring it. She said it was just so good she couldn't stop! My friend and I wondered what to name it. Since we had dubbed the drink liquid sex, what follows that? Considering it was smooth, creamy and just gave you a sense of well being, it had to be named "Afterglow".

So hope you try and enjoy our Chocolate Raspberry Afterglow.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Does your French Bread sing to you?

I knew I wanted some fresh bread since I had fresh compressed yeast to use up. Finding it in the grocery store when it isn't a holiday is a treat for me as a baker!

While trying to decide what to make, I was looking through my magazines, books and the web and ran across a blog on The Fresh Loaf that spoke about efforts to make french bread and how it "sang" when it came out of the oven. The blog referenced an episode of Baking with Julia (a PBS series where Julia cooked with the Master Chef's). On Julia's series, Danielle Forestier showed her version of french bread. The site had the recipe as well as video from the episode which walked through the entire process. The recipe was simple, only four ingredients: flour, water, salt and compressed yeast. Since the recipe specifically called for compressed yeast, this was the recipe I felt I must do.

Sat down and watched the full episode and decided to try making the bread with all purpose unbleached flour as I was out of bread flour and the hubby had the car at work when I decided to start. (I know, my kitchen pantry without bread flour!)

The recipe and instructions were clear and easy to follow and the result was a bread that sang when it came out of the oven! There is nothing so exciting as hearing your bread crackle as you place it on the boards to cool. It was a major sense of accomplishment and a picture of one of the loaves is below.

If you have the time, this process takes several hours but is so worth it. A light loaf with a very crispy crust. The loaves rose to a perfect level and rose out of the slashes and golden. It was hard to wait the required 20 minutes before cutting into them. The aroma even woke the sleeping hubby who wanted to know how soon he could have bread.

I was a bit disappointed on the crumb of the bread. While it was quite delicious, I didn't get the nice big and uneven air pockets that are traditional with a good french bread. Quite possibly due to my using all purpose flour instead of bread flour. I did end up with a full moist, delicate crumb to the bread. Again, a picture of the slices follows:

It was fun and an adventure. One that I certainly will take on again once I have fresh yeast and bread flour to see if I can get the crumb correct. Although I am by no means disappointed in this effort. Pass the butter please.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Feeding the love

When you want to show someone how much you care, you make something that will make them happy. This was the meal plan for Tuesday.

When we wandered through Amana, Iowa on the way to our daughter's wedding in early July, my husband was delighted to find mini banana cream pies out on the dessert cart. I knew he liked them but had forgotten just how much he really liked them. So when my local market had a 10 pound box of bananas for just $3, I knew that banana cream pie would be part of the banana useage. Yes, there would be banana nut muffins, banana bread, smoothies with bananas but the key useage would be at least one banana cream pie for Jeff.

Having made banana nut muffins and seen that the bananas were at the perfect ripeness for banana cream pie. I started by making my grandmother's pie crust blind baked to a light golden flaky crust.

Grandma's Pie Crust

2 Cups Flour
1/2 Cup Crisco
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/3 Cup Oil
1/3 Cup Very Cold Water

Beat oil and cold water well with fork, set aside. Cut Crisco into flour and salt. Add oil and water into flour mixture until you get a nice dough. Chill for a couple of hours. When ready to use, roll between waxed paper. Makes 3 crusts.

I blind baked the pie with weights over waxed paper about 20 minutes and then removed the weights and paper and returned crust to the oven for 5 more minutes until golden.

At this point I was tempted to use the pudding version of banana cream but decided to make the pastry cream from scratch, something I haven't done in a while. Pulling out my trusty cookbooks (yes, I have a passion for them!) I decided to use the recipe in one of my favorites: How to Bake by Nick Malgieri. The Pastry Cream recipe is on page 368 and I used the recipe for two cups worth of filling. A great recipe which has fantastic results. The pastry cream was then chilled overnight before assembling the pie. You can use the warm cream and assemble then chill the pie if you are making the pie for the same day.

To Assemble the pie, I used 4 ripe but not mushy bananas. You want to use the bananas that are soft and ripe but with a firm creamy texture, easy to slice. If the bananas have started to go transparent, they are too ripe and better used for other baking. Slice the bananas into nice sized slices and cover the bottom of the pie crust. I like to lay the slices out and then create a second layer that overlaps the first. Spoon on the pastry cream and smooth. Return to the refrigerator to chill with plastic wrap laying on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent skin from forming. Just before I'm ready to serve, I like to whip the cream so it is at it's fluffy best.

Whipping cream is simple and the results are so much better! Pour the heavy whipping cream into a chilled mixing bowl. Beat the cream at a medium speed with a wire wisk for a few minutes until cream starts to set. The reason for medium speeed at this point is that if you start with full liquids at high speed you will be cleaning the walls and surfaces around the mixer as the liquid splashes out! Once you have gotten the cream to a soft peak, add in a teaspoon of vanilla and some sugar. Several people recommend using granulated sugar but I like the texture and taste of powdered sugar. You will want to sweeten to taste, I typically use 2-3 teaspoons of sugar per pint of heavy cream. Keep whipping the cream but now at high speed for a few more minutes until you get a nice stiff peak when you pull the beater out of the mix. Spread on top of the pie (remember to remove the plastic wrap) and just make pretty decorative swirls with a spoon or spatula, piping it out in decorative swirls is nice but in this case, not really needed.

The pie was appreciated as he had two slices, one before and one after dinner which was a Cornish Pasty which will be the subject of my next blog. So to appreciate the ones you love, make them something they love and appreciate.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I'm an Iron Cupcaker!

Finally made it to my first Iron Cupcake Challenge with my entry of Zen Peach

This entry was for Iron Cupcake Milwaukee's July Challenge of Vegan/Gluten-Free

Having done a lot of baking but never vegan or gluten-free, I of course did my research. My local library helped by having some great references for me to borrow. I check out Sinfully Vegan by Lois Dieterly, Gluten-Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly and Great Gluten-Free Baking by Louise Blair. These were good starting points for me to figure out how to convert into gluten-free baking. I opted to not move into vegan once I found out my friend Mina has celiac disease and was "bored" with her options of dietary choices. So this recipe challenge was for Mina.

My muse for the cupcake was the shipment of fresh peaches that were front and center in the store. I knew I wanted to use them in the cupcake. My first attempt at the cupcake portion was a success. I knew it was flavorful and moist with a good crumb. My taste testers, DH and friends all liked the cuppy. One important thing I learned with the "alternate" flours was to cream the butter before adding the flour mixture and cream it more before adding the liquids.

The first attempt at frosting however didn't go well. It was an attempt at a boiled sugar buttercream using fresh peach puree to flavor. The syrup cooked well, got up to a soft ball stage, washed down the crystals and everything was going well. While pouring the syrup slowly into my trusty Kitchenaide mixer I evidently poured a bit too fast and ended up with sugar lump on the bottom of the mixer and a lot of syrup dots all over the sides of the mixer. Once the peach puree was added the frosting was too soft, more of a glaze than the light fluffy frosting it was supposed to be. My taste testers liked the taste but not with the cuppys. Too much peach in the frosting overpowering the delicate peach in the cupcake.

So back to the drawing board for the frosting. Listening to my testors, I toyed with the idea of cream cheese frosting with spice. Something to compliment the peaches. Looking at my favorite peach recipes, the two main spices were ginger and cinnamon. So I thought about the fresh ginger in the fridge and the three varieties of cinnmon in my spice drawer. I wanted the frosting to compliment not overpower the peach flavor. Wanted layers of flavors to come out as you smell, eat and savour them.

The fresh grated ginger and cinnamon was added into the beaten butter and cream cheese in the beginning instead of at the end. My thought that was whipping it in the beginning would allow it to flavor in undertones instead of being an overpowering after flavor. Then finished off the frosting with the required powdered sugar, vanilla and almond. The frosting was a hit!

So I met some new friends in Milwaukee, thanks again to my cheering section in the back corner! I appreciate the support to a new entrant.