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Archive for the ‘custard’ Category

I was happy about Tony and Meeta’s choice of Chocolate Eclairs for this month’s Daring Baker recipe because I actually have some experience making éclairs, but I haven’t found a recipe that’s convinced me to use it faithfully. And because I’m somewhat confident in my éclair-making ability, I was comfortable tweaking the recipe.

When I was in college, there was a dessert shop nearby that made the best mini-cream puffs. My friends and I went there at least once per week, and sometimes I would bypass all of the beautiful and tempting cakes and pies so that I could have just a pile of little cream puffs. But usually I would get a wonderful slice of chocolate layer cake with a cream puff on the side. I could never resist those cream puffs. Those mini-cream puffs are what I strived to recreate with this recipe.

I used the chocolate glaze recipe suggested by Tony and Meeta.  The glaze was very good, although the recipe is perhaps unnecessarily complicated, requiring a chocolate sauce to be made first, which is then used as an ingredient in the chocolate glaze. I’m assuming this is only because Pierre Herme assumes that anyone who owns his book Chocolate Desserts will keep a supply of the chocolate sauce around. It was a good glaze, and I may use it in the future, but I’ll condense the steps to bypass the separate sauce-making process.

I used a raspberry pastry cream filling instead of the chocolate pastry cream that Herme suggests. While I suppose that all’s well that ends well, it’s not a recipe that I would recommend to others. I simply took my favorite vanilla pastry cream recipe and mixed in raspberry puree at the end. Unfortunately, there was too much puree and the pastry cream never set. I tried some other stuff, but ultimately I had to dissolve some gelatin in half-and-half and mix that in to stabilize the cream enough to be piped.

One thing I’ve never liked about regular-sized cream puffs and éclairs is how they have to be cut in half, filled, and stuck back together. I wanted to fill my miniature cream puffs without cutting them open, so I put my pastry cream into a bag with a simple round tip and squeezed pastry cream into the cream puffs through a small hole in the bottom. It wasn’t completely successful – the inside of the cream puffs were often split into two or more large portions, and only one portion got filled with this method. I think I could also squirt pastry cream into the cream puff from a hole in the top, which will then be covered with glaze.

These were the best cream puffs I’ve ever made. I do want to tweak the dough recipe, and obviously the pastry cream was kind of a bust, but they were the perfect size and so easy to eat. Every time I’ve made éclairs I’ve gotten better at it, and I hope next time it’ll be just perfect.

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs (adapted from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé, except for the pastry cream, which is adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

The pastry cream didn’t work out. But I already had the recipe written down and don’t want redo it.

Makes 20-24 eclairs

Cream Puff Dough:
½ cup (125g) whole milk
½ cup (125g) water
1 stick (4 ounces; 115 g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (140 g) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature

Raspberry Pastry Cream:
6 ounces raspberries
2 cups half-and-half
½ cup granulated sugar
pinch table salt
5 large egg yolks,
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 4 pieces
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate Sauce:
0.9 oz (26 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons (50 g) water
5 teaspoons (25 g) crème fraîche or heavy cream
1 tablespoon (14 g) sugar

Chocolate Glaze:
⅓ cup (80 g) heavy cream
3½ ounce (100 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 teaspoon (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
7 tablespoon (110 g) Chocolate Sauce, warm or at room temperature

For the éclairs:
1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with
waxed or parchment paper.

2. In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.

3. Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

4. Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your hand mixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon. (Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately. Or, you can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

5. Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3-inch (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 4½ inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

6. Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep it ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes. (The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.)

For the pastry cream:
7. While the éclairs are baking, set a mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the raspberries to the strainer and use a spoon to mash them and press them through the strainer to create a seedless raspberry puree.

8. Heat half-and-half, 6 tablespoons sugar, and salt in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.

9. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks in medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until sugar has begun to dissolve and mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in cornstarch until combined and mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

10. When half-and-half mixture reaches full simmer, gradually whisk simmering half-and-half into yolk mixture to temper. Return mixture to saucepan, scraping bowl with rubber spatula; return to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on surface and mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Stir in the raspberry puree. Press plastic wrap directly on surface, and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 48 hours.

For the chocolate sauce:
11. Place all the ingredients into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

12. It may take 10-15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon. (You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.)

For the chocolate glaze:
13. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

14. Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece, followed by the chocolate sauce. (If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly in the microwave or over a double boiler.)

For the assembly:
15. Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

16. The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40 degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

17. Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.

18. The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

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Oh, I’ve been looking forward to someone picking this recipe for a while. I’m so glad Amy chose it for TWD this week. Alternating layers of rich dark chocolate and creamy tart raspberry ice cream sounds like a winning combination to me.

It was also great timing, because it was chosen shortly after I got The Perfect Scoop, so instead of trying to squeeze in an ice cream recipe between all the TWD and Daring Baker desserts plus my insatiable craving for chocolate chip cookies (dough, actually), I was able to make a David Lebovitz recipe for TWD. The book has so many recipes that I’m interested in trying, but of course I was limited by what would go with the chocolate. I decided that Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream was at least somewhat fun and new, and it was similar but not identical to the raspberry ice cream Dorie suggests.

The torte may look fancy, but the recipe isn’t much work to put together. The chocolate mixture was easy to make, so it was just an issue of waiting around for each layer to freeze solid enough before adding the next layer. I worked on it while I slow-roasted some cherry tomatoes.

One thing I thought was odd about this recipe was that Dorie keeps referring to the chocolate portion as “ganache.” I’ve always thought ganache was just chocolate and cream mixed together, but the recipe included only chocolate, butter, sugar, and eggs – basically brownie batter without the flour. I did some scouting around the internet, and all I came up with was ganache = chocolate + cream. So ganache doesn’t seem like to right word to use, but maybe someone who knows more about pastry can enlighten me.

Dictation aside, I liked the torte even more than I thought I would. Unfortunately, the ice cream didn’t have enough blackberry flavor to stand up to the chocolate. Dave didn’t even know I had used the blackberry ice cream until I told him, after he’d eaten his slice. The only other thing about this torte that I wasn’t really thrilled about was the texture of the chocolate portion. It seemed a little gummy. I wonder if reducing the number of eggs would help? I know some people had problems with their torte being too hard to slice, but my freezer is apparently weak. If the eggs are there to keep the chocolate soft enough to slice, I could stand to lose a few.

Regardless, yum. This is an impressive, easy, and creative dessert. The recipe is posted on Amy’s site.

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I recognize, as I think most food bloggers do, that there are copyright issues with what we do. It’s all well and good to put a note saying where we got the recipe, but ultimately, it’s often unlawful to reprint the recipe at all. There are loopholes, of course. Rumor has it that ingredient lists can’t be copyrighted, so if the instructions are rewritten in our own words instead of the original author’s, everything is supposedly okay. But I’m generally too lazy to rewrite the instructions.

Cookbooks authors can respond to the copyright issue however they see fit. They can try to fight each of however many thousands of food bloggers are out there copying recipes, or they can do what I think is wiser – adopt the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mentality. Both David Lebovitz and Dorie Greenspan have clearly chosen to join us. They are both good about leaving comments on other blogs, in addition to keeping up their own blogs. Dorie has supported Tuesdays with Dorie from the beginning, when over a hundred bloggers published her recipes every single week. As well she should – I would not have bought, or even heard of, Dorie’s famous book if not for food blogs.

Neither would I have bought (or heard of) David’s The Perfect Scoop. Food bloggers love David, and while it is nice that he leaves comments on other blogs, what it always has to come down to is the quality of the recipes. David isn’t known as the master of homemade ice cream without reason.

The day before I decided to buy this book, I was saying that as much as I like ice cream, it’s just not as fun for me as baking with flour and butter and the oven. Furthermore, David has so many recipes on his website that I questioned whether I needed an ice cream book at all.

Um, apparently I do. For one thing, The Perfect Scoop is stuffed full of interesting ice cream recipes that I would never have considered trying but now can’t wait to make, including Guinness-Milk Chocolate, Olive Oil, Fresh Fig, Green Apple and Sparkling Cider, and I could go on and on. But the real reason I decided to buy the book can be attributed to a savvy move on David’s part and how cookbook authors can take advantage of having a food blog – he has a recipe for basic vanilla ice cream on his website. I’ve tried it. It is the best vanilla ice cream I’ve made, out of 4-5 recipes by some of my favorite recipe writers. So now not only do I have this book full of interesting recipes, but I have good evidence that the recipes will actually be good.

This blackberry swirl ice cream is a basic vanilla recipe with crushed blackberries swirled in. This certainly isn’t the most original recipe in the book, but I needed something that would go with chocolate for the next TWD recipe. Dave (um, my husband, not Lebovitz this time) loves blackberries and they’re at their peak right now.

It was as good as I expected. Dave and I agree that we might prefer a bit more blackberries stuffed in there, but we’re big fruit people, so that’s no surprise. Other than that, the vanilla portion was creamy, the blackberry portion was balanced between sweet and tart, the ice cream was beautiful, and the directions for the recipe were clear. I’m as excited as ever about this book.

Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream (from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop)

Ice cream:
1 cup whole milk
⅔ cup (4.6 ounces) sugar
pinch salt
1½ cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Blackberry swirl:
1½ cups (5.6 ounces) blackberries, fresh or frozen
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vodka
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. To make the ice cream, warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over the top.

2. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrap the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

3. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as your stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Add the vanilla and stir until cool over an ice bath. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

4. An hour or so before churning the ice cream, make the blackberry swirl by mash the blackberries together with the sugar, vodka, and lemon juice with a fork (if you using frozen blackberries, let them thaw a bit first) until they’re juicy but with nice-sized chunks of blackberries remaining. Chill until ready to use.

5. Freeze the ice cream custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. As you remove it from the machine, layer it in the container with spoonfuls of the chills blackberry swirl mixture.

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I thought long and hard about what to make for my birthday cake. The thing about this obsessed-with-baking phase that I’m going through is that the eating of the cake is almost secondary to the fun of making it. I had a fairly long list of desserts I was considering, split almost evenly between cheesecakes and somewhat-elaborate layer cakes. I settled on Dorie Greenspan’s Black and White Chocolate Cake because it seemed like a good balance between fancy and not so much work that I’d spend all day (the day before my birthday) baking. Or so I had hoped.

The cake consists of a straightforward buttermilk-vanilla cake, layered with chocolate pastry cream and vanilla cream. The chocolate pastry cream was easy and delicious, and the cake itself came together without any problems.

The white chocolate cream, unfortunately, was not so smooth (literally). This was one of the first TWD recipes, back when there were only a handful of members, so I had scanned a few of their entries and seen that the white chocolate cream might be a problem. I knew enough to use high quality white chocolate, which is less prone to problems in baking than cheaper versions. Valrhona and Guittard are recommended most often, but both require a special, out-of-my-way trip to either Whole Foods or Williams-Sonoma, and I’ve had good experiences with Green and Black’s White Chocolate, which is available at my regular grocery store.

The white chocolate cream is made by melting white chocolate with cream, then adding that mixture to cream that’s been whipped to very soft peaks and continuing to beat until firm peaks are achieved. Firm peaks. Not stiff peaks. I guess I should have considered the difference between those two more carefully. I knew, knew, that there was the potential to overbeat the mixture and cause curdling, and I was so careful, only beating for about a second at a time, then checking the consistency. I was waiting until the peaks could hold their shape.

But the mixture curdled first. I tried to save it, the same way I’ve saved curdled buttercream in the past, and I thought for a while that it might work, but it didn’t. I kicked myself over and over for not stopping whipping the cream mixture early enough. Then I mentally berated Dorie for not being more specific. She gives such wonderful detailed instructions sometimes, describing exactly what the food processor should sound like when tart dough is ready, but she can’t add a warning about this “firm peaks” issue. Bleah.

Even if I’d had the right ingredients, which I didn’t, I wasn’t enthusiastic about trying the white chocolate cream again. Instead, I made a white chocolate buttercream. But I accidentally only made enough to give the cake the thinnest of coatings. I was tired of dealing with fussy white chocolate, and I’d already incorporated raspberries into the cake, so then I made another buttercream, this time flavored with raspberries. But I was frustrated and bored by this time, so I screwed up the buttercream, twice (cooked the egg whites), because of I was inattentive.

So much for my relatively straightforward cake. To assemble, I mixed a portion of the white chocolate buttercream with some raspberry pastry cream I had leftover from another project, and used that as the white chocolate layer in the cake. I used the white chocolate buttercream as a crumb coat and the raspberry buttercream as a final layer.

I wasn’t disappointed in the final product. For one thing, it was really pretty. The cake itself was tasty, although it probably could have used a quick brush with a simple syrup. The dark chocolate pastry cream was fantastic. I wasn’t totally happy with either the white chocolate or the raspberry buttercream, but neither detracted from the final product, even if they didn’t add much. All in all, a satisfactory birthday cake.

Black and White Chocolate Cake (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)

Makes 10 servings

For the Cake
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup buttermilk

For the Dark Chocolate Cream
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
2½ tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces, at room temperature

For the White Chocolate Whipped Cream
6 ounces premium-quality white chocolate (such as Valrhona Ivoire or Guittard), finely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream

Chocolate shavings or curls, dark or white or a combination, for decoration (optional)

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake:
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then unmold, remove the paper and invert to cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.

To Make the Dark Chocolate Cream:
Bring the milk to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, cornstarch and salt until thick and well blended. Whisking without stopping, drizzle in about ¼ cup of the hot milk – this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won’t curdle – then, still whisking, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (make sure to get into the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the melted chocolate, and let stand for 5 minutes. Then whisk in the pieces of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the chocolate cream is smooth and silky. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the cream until chilled, or for up to 3 days. Or, if you want to cool the cream quickly, put the bowl with the cream into a large bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and stir the cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

To Make the White Chocolate Whipped Cream:
Put the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl and put the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir frequently to melt the chocolate evenly. Meanwhile, bring ½ cup of the heavy cream to a boil.

When the white chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the pan. Pour the hot cream into the melted chocolate and let it sit for a minute. Using a small spatula, stir the chocolate gently until it is smooth. Let it sit on the counter until it reaches room temperature – it can’t be the least bit warm when you add it to the whipped cream.

Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the remaining 1 cup heavy cream only until it holds the softest peaks. Turn the machine to high, add the cooled white chocolate all at once and continue to beat until the whipped cream holds firm peaks. Turn the whipped cream into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap gently against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 6 hours.

To Assemble the Cake:
If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Slice each layer horizontally in half. Place one layer cut side down on a cardboard cake round or on a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.

Remove the dark and white chocolate creams from the refrigerator and whisk each of them vigorously to loosen and smooth them. With a long metal icing spatula, spread enough dark chocolate cream (about 1 cup) over the cake layer to cover it completely. Top the cream with another cake layer, cut side up, and cover this layer with white chocolate whipped cream, making the white layer about the same thickness as the dark layer. Cover with a third layer, cut side up, and cover with another cup or so of the dark chocolate cream. (You’ll have some dark chocolate cream left over – use it as a dip for madeleines or sables.) Top with the final layer of cake, cut side down, and frost the sides and top with the remaining white chocolate whipped cream. If you’d like to decorate the top with chocolate shavings or curls, do it now.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

Serving: Remove the cake from the fridge about 20 minutes before serving. Use a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to cut it. Though the cake is particularly good with coffee or tea, it also goes well with a sweet or sparkling dessert wine.

Storing: While both the dark chocolate cream and white chocolate cream can be made ahead and kept tightly covered in the refrigerator, once assembled, the cake is best after about 3 hours in the fridge. However, it can be refrigerated overnight – just cover it loosely and keep it away from foods with strong odors.

The Raspberry Buttercream is the same recipe used for Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake, with raspberry puree substituting for the lemon juice. The White Chocolate Buttercream is the ingredients in this recipe using the method for Dorie’s buttercream.

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The blueberry sour cream ice cream that Dolores chose for TWD this week sounded interesting, and I wasn’t really sure how I’d feel about it. I had never tried sour cream in ice cream, or even really heard of it being used. I remember mixing sour cream into whipped cream for the cream puff filling and being surprised by how much I liked it, so I had high hopes for this ice cream.

The recipe itself was very simple. Bring sugar, berries, and lemon to a simmer, blend it with heavy cream and sour cream, chill, and churn. No one seemed to have any problems putting the recipe together this week, so that’s something. A few people even went ahead and made it without an ice cream maker.

I really liked it. Dave thought it was too sour creamy, but that might be my fault – I told him it was blueberry ice cream, and he said that the sour cream detracted from the blueberry flavor. But this is definitely blueberry sour cream ice cream – the sour cream gets equal billing with the blueberries.

The texture was smooth, not grainy at all. Some other TWD members have complained that the ice cream was too rich and left an unpleasant coating behind each bite, but I don’t really agree.

The ice cream admittedly isn’t a classic choice; the sour cream flavor definitely stands out. But I thought it was really good, and I enjoyed trying something different. Plus, it’s super easy.

Check out the recipe on Dolores’ site.

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It’s safe to say that this Summer Fruit Galette, chosen for TWD by Michelle, wasn’t my best effort. My baking has gotten really out of control lately – my freezer is full of cupcakes, cookies, muffins, and breads. There’s cookie dough and half a cake in my refrigerator. (But I finally found someone to offload some of this excess onto, so I’m excited about that!) My capacity to bake has far outstripped our capacity to eat. I thought the galette would fit into this pattern perfectly because I could pare down the recipe, which would be tricky with a regular pie.

Last time I made Dorie’s pie crust, I was pretty happy with it, but was put off by the shortening. Mari suggested substituting lard for the shortening, and since the galette uses the same dough as the blueberry pie did, I had that opportunity. I didn’t notice any big differences between the crusts made with shortening and with lard – they seemed equally easy to work with and flavorful. But a few weeks ago, I had noticed two or three TWD members who had problems with the pie crust sort of melting in the oven, and I had a little of that problem this time. In short, I’m going to stick with my old favorite pie crust. They’re both good, but I’ve been using that one for years and I’ve always been happy with it. (I’ll put it on my blog at some point or another – probably the next pie recipe TWD makes.)

The rest of my problems with the galette were my fault. I only made a quarter of the recipe, and I’m afraid that that’s an impractically small fraction. The ratio between the area necessary to hold fillings and the area necessary to pleat the edges gets thrown off, and you end up with far more crust per filling than the recipe intended. And one of the parts of this recipe that I was very interested in was the custard topping that gets poured over the fruit, but again, with so little filling exposed, I was only able to dribble in the slightest amount of custard mix before it overflowed and made a mess.

Despite all of my foibles making this dessert, I still really enjoyed it. I can tell the potential for a really amazing dessert is there. This is another example of how Dorie takes just a few ingredients and shows them off to their best advantage.

The recipe can be found on Melissa’s website.

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Melissa’s TWD pick of chocolate pudding really hit the spot for me this week. I hadn’t made anything chocolately in a while, and something smooth and cool like pudding is perfect for the hot summer weather right now. Also, as much as I like to cook, it’s nice to have something simple every once in a while.

Oh, except that I’m incapable of keeping things simple in the kitchen. I’ve had my eye on the chocolate pudding recipe that Deb posted a few months ago. Deb was looking for an easy pudding recipe after making her way through a disappointing one that sounds suspiciously familiar now that I’ve made Dorie’s pudding recipe. Deb’s pudding looks dark and chocolately and delicious, and as an added bonus, there’s no egg yolks to mess with. I decided to make both recipes and compare them. (I made a third recipe as well, but it didn’t set properly, so I’m not going to review it on the assumption that I screwed something up.)

Both puddings had their strong points. The eggless pudding had a much darker chocolate flavor, which I like but Dave isn’t crazy about. It was also really firm. Overall, it reminded me more of chocolate pots de crème than good ol’ pudding. In contrast, the chocolate flavor of Dorie’s pudding seemed weak, at least to me. However, the texture was that of a perfectly smooth and refreshing pudding.

Clearly, Dorie’s recipe requires more effort, what with moving the pudding back and forth between the food processor and the stove. I haven’t decided if it was worth it. I’d like to take Deb’s recipe (or maybe the third recipe I tried, which was similar), and tweak it. I think if I just add a little more milk, it won’t be so overpoweringly chocolately and the texture will soften to be more like a pudding. But we’ll see.

Dorie’s pudding recipe can be found on her blog.

Silky Chocolate Pudding (adapted from Smitten Kitchen; originally from John Sharffenberger)

Serves 6

Bridget note: There was no coating the back of a spoon after 20 minutes on a double boiler over gently simmering water. I’m assuming this is because I used a glass bowl instead of a metal bowl. I cranked the heat up and cooked it for another 10 minutes or so over a very lively simmer, and that did the trick.

¼ cup cornstarch
½ cup sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
6 ounces 62% semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler. Slowly whisk in the milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

2. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a serving bowl or into a large measuring cup with a spout and pour into individual serving dishes.

3. If you like pudding skin, pull plastic wrap over the top of the serving dish(es) before refrigerating. If you dislike pudding skin, place plastic wrap on top of the pudding and smooth it gently against the surface before refrigerating. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

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vanilla ice cream

I love it when I get food as gifts. There’s so many great foods out there that I’m too frugal to splurge on for myself even though I really want to try them. I’ve never had artisanal balsamic vinegar or Valrhona chocolate, and I can never bring myself to get the expensive bottle of olive oil. My sister gave me this chocolate wine sauce for Christmas, and it’s a perfect example. I would have tried the free sample of this and thought “oh, it’s so good, I want to take some home!” and then I would have looked longingly at it and talked myself out of buying any.

So I was really excited to get it as a gift – so excited, in fact, that I waited 6 months to open it. That’s right, I’m one of those people who has to wait for the perfect opportunity for open that special bottle. I had told myself that I wanted to have the sauce on homemade vanilla ice cream, and I just never got around to making it earlier in the year. What’s really silly is that I made three pound cakes in March! But I was too stubborn to open the bottle for pound cake.

Ah, but it was worth the wait. Of course I knew that I liked red wine and that I liked chocolate, but I had forgotten how much I like red wine and chocolate together. The sauce has the perfect proportions of each component. It seems really sweet to me, but that’s probably because I like chocolate really dark.

The ice cream should in no way be passed over in favor of the sauce. This is the third vanilla ice cream recipe I’ve made (after Cook’s Illustrated’s and Alton Brown’s) and by far the smoothest. I do have in mind to try one more vanilla ice cream recipe, but it has a lot of live up to after this one.

Vanilla Ice Cream (from David Lebovitz)

About 1 quart

1 cup milk
a pinch of salt
¾ cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
5 egg yolks
2 cup heavy cream
a few drops of vanilla extract

1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the milk with the tip of a paring knife. Add the bean pod to the milk.

2. Stir together the egg yolks in a bowl and gradually add some of the warmed milk, stirring constantly as you pour. Pour the warmed yolks back into the saucepan.

3. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Rinse the vanilla bean and put it back into the custard and cream to continue steeping. Chill thoroughly, then remove the vanilla bean and freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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I don’t deal well with lemon desserts. I lose self-control. Lemon tastes so light and fresh that I have trouble wrapping my mind around all the butter that’s usually paired with it. The Extraordinary Lemon Cream Tart that Mary chose for this week’s Tuesdays With Dorie recipe is extreme in the amount of butter called for – just shy of a full pound for a 9-inch tart.

With only Dave to share it with, I had to consider my options concerning this dessert. Unless I planned to serve nothing but salads or do nothing but exercise for several days, I was going to have to find a way to control my lemon tart intake. I decided that I needed tartelette pans so I could cut the recipe in half. Plus tartelette pans are super cute.

One of the fun aspects of being in a group like TWD is the opportunity to troubleshoot recipes. When my gooey chocolate cakes were a bit overcooked the first time I made them, my first thought was that my oven temperature was off, but with 100 other people making the recipe and most having the same problem, it seemed like it was the recipe that was off.

This week the problem that popped up involved the temperature that our lemon mixture was supposed to reach while being stirred over a double boiler. Dorie wanted our mixture to get to 180 degrees, which she said would take about 10 minutes. That seemed accurate for about half of us, but for the other half (myself included), the temperature topped out around 155 degrees and stayed there. In our ongoing discussion of the recipe, it seemed like there might be a correlation between the material of the mixing bowl used and the temperature reached – metal bowls were more likely to reach 180 degrees than glass bowls (although there were a couple outliers). I’m interested in trying the recipe again with a metal bowl instead of the pyrex bowl I used.

But I doubt I’ll be making this again. Not that it wasn’t good, because it was – very good in fact. But there’s just so much butter in it. I don’t generally shy away from rich foods, but they have to be worth it. And with over 600 calories per slice at the serving size that Dorie suggests, this tart has a lot to live up to.

The lemon cream was delicious – smooth with just the right balance of sweet and tart. But lemon curd is delicious too, and it only takes 4 tablespoons to make enough curd for a 9-inch tart, as opposed to 21 tablespoons that this cream needed. I’ll have to settle for rich-but-not-ridiculous lemon curd in the future.

The Most Extraordinary Lemon Cream Tart (from Dorie Greenspan’s From My Home To Yours)

The filling in this tart is everything. It is the lemon cream I learned to make from Pierre Hermé, and it is the ne plus ultra of the lemon world. The tart is basic-a great crust, velvety lemon cream-and profoundly satisfying. It is also profoundly play-aroundable. You can add a fruit topping (circlets of fresh rasp-berries are spectacular with this tart) or a layer of fruit at the bottom; you can finish the tart with meringue; or you can serve it with anything from whipped cream to raspberry coulis.

1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough, fully baked and cooled
1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
½ cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10½ ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size
pieces, at room temperature

Getting Ready: Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan, and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk-you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling-you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point-the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience-depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high (or turn on the processor) and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going-to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. (The cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days and, or tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months; thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.)

When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Serve the tart, or refrigerate ‘until needed.

Serving: It’s a particular pleasure to have this tart when the cream is cold and the crust is at room temperature. A raspberry or other fruit coulis is nice, but not necessary; so is a little crème fraîche. I know it sounds odd to offer something as rich as crème fraîche with a tart like this, but it works because the lemon cream is so light and so intensely citric, it doesn’t taste or feel rich.

Storing: While you can make the lemon cream ahead, once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made.

Sweet Tart Dough:
Makes enough for one 9-inch crust

Storing: Well wrapped, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, I prefer to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer-it has a fresher flavor. Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

In French, this dough is called pâte sablée because it is buttery, tender and sandy (that’s what sablée means). It’s much like shortbread, and it’s ideal for filling with fruit, custard or chocolate.

The simplest way to make a tart shell with this dough is to press it into the pan. You can roll out the dough, but the high proportion of butter to flour and the inclusion of confectioners’ sugar makes it finicky to roll. I always press it into the pan, but if you want to roll it, I suggest you do so between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper or inside a rolling slipcover.

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in-you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses-about 10 seconds each-until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change-heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed-press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.

Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (I dislike lightly baked crusts, so I often keep the crust in the oven just a little longer. If you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust’s progress-it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash.) Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

To patch a partially or fully baked crust, if necessary: If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.

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chocolate cream pie

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After weeks of pound cakes, I’d had enough of vanilla-flavored desserts. I was in the mood for chocolate! And I wanted to make a chocolate pie, which I had never done before. I wanted something rich and intensely chocolately. I had 6 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, and cocoa. (Fun fact: so far, about 10% of the words in this blog post are “chocolate.”) My dairy options were also limited.

Chocolate Mousse Pie is exactly what I was in the mood for, but it didn’t fit my ingredient limitations. (I’m stubborn about extra trips to the grocery store.) I had to settle for Chocolate Cream Pie.

Chocolate cream pie is just pudding in a pie crust. I was starting to get disappointed that I wasn’t going to end up with a dessert as rich as I had originally intended.

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I needn’t have worried. This chocolate pie was plenty rich and chocolatey and delicious. See how I’ve nicely spread the filling into the pie shell here? Okay, now look at the edges, and you can see where I took a spoon around the edge of the pie to scoop up some filling. Just to taste, you know? I had to make sure it was edible. I needed several spoonfuls to really make sure.

Oh, it was edible all right. Topped with whipped cream and dusted with cocoa, this definitely fulfilled my chocolate craving.

Chocolate Cream Pie (adapted from epicurious.com and Cooks Illustrated)

8 to 10 servings

Epicurious note: Pie (without topping) can be chilled up to 1 day.

Bridget note: I made the pie on Friday and we finished it on Tuesday, and I didn’t notice any loss of quality over time. I topped each piece with whipped cream as it was served rather than spreading it on the pie. Also, I used 4 ounces semisweet chocolate and 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, plus 2 teaspoons extra sugar.

Chocolate Cookie Crumb Crust
16 Oreo cookies (with filling), broken into rough pieces, about 2½ cups
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Chocolate Cream Filling
2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
3 cups whole milk
5 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), melted
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whipped Cream Topping
1 cups heavy cream (cold)
1 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the Crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. In bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, process cookies with 15 one-second pulses, then let machine run until crumbs are uniformly fine, about 15 seconds. (Alternatively, place cookies in large zipper-lock plastic bag and crush with rolling pin.) Transfer crumbs to medium bowl, drizzle with butter, and use fingers to combine until butter is evenly distributed.

2. Pour crumbs into 9-inch Pyrex pie plate. Following illustration below, press crumbs evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie plate. Refrigerate lined pie plate 20 minutes to firm crumbs, then bake until crumbs are fragrant and set, about 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack while preparing filling.

3. For the filling: Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and yolks in a 3-quart heavy saucepan until combined well, then add milk in a stream, whisking. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking, 1 minute (filling will be thick).

4. Force filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, then whisk in chocolates, butter, and vanilla. Cover surface of filling with a plastic wrap and cool completely, about 2 hours.

5. Spoon filling into crust and chill pie, loosely covered, at least 6 hours.

6. For the topping: Just before serving, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla in bowl of standing mixer on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium; continue beating until beaters leave a trail, about 30 seconds more. Increase speed to high; continue beating until cream is smooth, thick, and nearly doubled in volume and forms soft peaks, about 20 seconds. Spread or pipe whipped cream over chilled pie filling. Cut pie into wedges and serve.

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