November 11, 2014

Pierre Hermé Pistachio Macarons

It only took about three years for me to finally get around to testing out Pierre Hermé's Macarons cookbook.  Call it procrastination if you like, but more than likely it was really macaron burnout on my part.  To say that I was maniacally obsessed with these French petit fours a few years ago is an understatement;  I was a fanatic and making them constantly.  It was great for my co-workers because I was bringing the macaron trials in to the office but after I found a fairly reliable recipe I stopped pretty much cold turkey.  

So what brought me out of hibernation after more than a year?  My brother's order of 200+ macarons in six different flavors.  Yikes!  I had been putting his order off for a few months and it finally got to the point where I couldn't delay any further.  

Up until that point I was using a macaron recipe that was French meringue based, i.e., no sugar syrup required.   Yes, it had its ups and downs but all the Italian meringue based recipes I previously made were far too sweet. It probably wasn't the most opportune time to try a new Italian meringue recipe, even if it was Pierre Hermé's, but I figured  if not now, then when?

My first attempt had to be Pierre's pistachio macarons, my absolute favorite flavor.   In hindsight had I known how fantastic and consistent his recipe was I would have converted ages ago!   Hermé is all about the filling which is where the real flavor of the macaron comes from and I couldn't agree more.   For the pistachio ganache I found this fantastic pure pistachio paste online that was 100% nuts, no added sugar.  Even better the company is based in the Central Valley of Northern California, miles from where I grew up!  

I highly encourage you to give this recipe a try if you want professional looking macarons from your own kitchen!

November 9, 2014

Cream Cheese Butter Cake with Raspberry Buttercream

Recently I received "The Baking Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum as a birthday gift from my sister and I tell you I couldn't wait to dig in.  I already own one of her other famous tomes, "The Cake Bible" and I knew her latest publication would be equally fantastic.  

The first recipe that caught my attention was for Cream Cheese Butter Cake.  The accompanying photo in the book looked so simple and inviting - a small square piece of white cake frosted with lemon curd buttercream.   No one does a white cake better than Rose.  She uses a reverse creaming method which produces a fine, moist and tender crumb that tastes surprisingly light. 

Unfortunately I didn't have much success with the lemon curd buttercream included in the recipe.  It didn't quite set up to the firm texture that I was hoping for.  Probably because I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have when I was making the recipe.  Oh well, I'll definitely need to revisit it another time.  But luckily I had some leftover vanilla buttercream that I embellished with fresh raspberry puree to frost the cake with.    All it needed was a fresh raspberry on top and I had the perfect snack cake.

October 5, 2014

Tartine's Passion Fruit and Lime Bavarian Cake

Tartine Bakery's fame extends not only within San Francisco but other parts near and far.  They received a James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2008 which is like an Academy Award in the culinary world.  So it was extremely gratifying for me when I was able to replicate, at home, one of their most popular cakes.  

I had my first taste of the Passion Fruit and Lime Bavarian a few weekends ago with my sister.  Yes, there was a line when we got there - as there always is - but in the end waiting for 30 minutes was so worth it.  One bite of the moist chiffon cake filled with tart passion fruit bavarian cream, covered with lightly sweetened whipped cream and coconut shavings and I was hooked.   I had to try and make it for myself and lucky for me Tartine included the recipe in their eponymous  cookbook.

 The cake was perfect to bring to a family gathering to celebrate my Mom's birthday.  As I've mentioned before my people don't care for overly sweet desserts so I thought this cake was the ideal choice.   Boy was I right.  My family loved the cake, although one of my brothers said it was too tart - hmmm, there's always one dissenter in any big   My sister commented that the cake tasted exactly like the one we bought at Tartine, surely confirmation that this recipe was a winner!

While the ingredient list and instructions may seem long the actual creation of this dessert was pretty straight forward.  Make the chiffon and passion fruit filling, assemble the layers and frost.  I spread the process over several days to make it more manageable.  In the recipe you end up with an extra layer of chiffon so I made little parfait versions of the cake in glass Weck canning jars.  I'd seen desserts presented like this at my favorite restaurant, ad hoc, and thought it was such a great idea.  

Stay tuned to this blog as I'm sure I'll be creating more fabulous treats from Tartine!

August 31, 2014

Bee Sting Cake | Bienenstich

Bee Sting Cake.  The name of this dessert intrigued me when I saw it in the Oct/Nov 2014 issue of Cook's Country.  And where there is intrigue there is inevitably a strong inclination to action so I had to make it.  It's German in origin, Bienenstich, and is basically a honey and almond coated brioche cake filled with vanilla pastry cream.   

My family prefers desserts that aren't too sweet so this cake fit the bill perfectly.  They're favorite part, and mine, was the delicious and crunchy honey almond topping.  I could just eat that alone.   Oktoberfest is just around the corner and if you need a cake to accompany your beer and pretzel why not give this bee sting a try?

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