November 30, 2014

Top Crust Lemon Bars

Lemon bars are one of my favorite bar cookies and I definitely prefer them over the more popular brownie.  I have a tried and true recipe that I've turned to without fail.  Now don't get me wrong, I love it, but my only gripe is that I whenever I dust the top with powdered sugar it inevitably melts in to a sticky goo - not so pretty. 

My co-worker raved about the fabulous lemon bars from Devil's Teeth Baking Company and brought one in for me to try.   Their lemon bar was different from ones I'd tasted (or made) before.  This bar had a crispy and brown top "crust" that allowed the powdered sugar that was sprinkled on top to stay dry.  

I searched online to see if Devil's Teeth might have a recipe posted but to no avail.  By happy coincidence I was watching some baking videos by one of my favorite websites, Woodland Bakery Blog, and saw a recipe for lemon bars.  Even better, I could tell from the video that they had a top crust.  Eureka!  I tried the recipe and while the filling was exactly what I was looking for I found the crust to be a bit too soft.  So I combined my favorite shortbread recipe with this new filling to come up with a lemon bar that had a crispy bottom AND top crust! 

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.

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