Friday, August 27, 2010

August 2010 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Ice Cream Petit Fours

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop".
Having missed out on the July challenge (I was doing enough baking in Paris), I'm very glad I chose to do this one. Why? Because the browned butter pound cake is the most delicious cake I've ever made. I don't know why I don't use browned butter more - it caramel, nutty smell is amazingly seductive. Honestly, it's one of my favorite smells. And it's so easy to make too! Just melt some butter until the milk solids are caramelize and turn brown. 
Here's what browned butter looks like after you let it set (which you'll need to do for the pound cake recipe):
The pound cake recipe is very simple. You cream the butter with sugar and eggs, then whisk in flour and baking powder. The browned butter is the star here. (Don't worry, the recipe is at the bottom. This isn't one of those medieval recipes where you just "styre everything togither").

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kathy's Wedding Cakes

I had the privilege of making wedding cakes for my friends Kathy and Colin's wedding on Sunday. I spent all weekend working on two cakes and a batch of mango-mint macarons - I don't think I could work as a pastry chef full time, it was very hard work - but it was super rewarding to see the cakes sitting prettily on the table.

I made two cakes inspired from La Pâtisserie de Pierre Hermé. I felt so grown up using a real professional pastry book, but it's actually kind of difficult working with recipes that deal with kilos of butter...

Regardless of scale, both cakes had fantastic flavor combinations; one was a mango/litchi/coconut/caramel cake, and the other a chocolate/coconut/banana cake. I had some mishaps on the way (mango mousse will stick to parchment paper like nobody's business), but I was happy with the way both cakes came out in the end. I especially like using flowers for decoration, it's much prettier than marzipan or fondant!

The wedding itself was gorgeous, small and intimate and very unique. The groom had button nosegays and the bride had a gorgeous handmade ribbon bouquet.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Last Meal in Paris

Since I posted about my first meal in Paris, it's only appropriate to bring things full circle with a description of my last meal in Paris. Both meals took place in my tiny kitchen, but whereas my first meal was entirely purchased and quite traditional, the final one was prepared entirely from scratch and took a stretch of the imagination.

I returned to Paris from Edinburgh Sunday afternoon. I had just one more night to spend in Paris, and I wanted to make it memorable. I had plans to meet up with friends for dinner, but on the (very slow) train ride from CDG, I decided I wanted to cook instead. Going out to yet another French restaurant on my last night seemed...impersonal.

I had planned to make homemade shrimp dumplings and chocolate passion fruit mousse. What I didn't realize, however, was that it's impossible to buy groceries on Sundays after 6 PM. I finally found one tiny corner store that was still open. No shrimp, but there was frozen Norwegian salmon fillets. 

Salmon dumplings it is, then.

Last Demo, Final Exam, Graduation (and David Lebovitz!)

Last Thursday and Friday were kind of a blur. We had a final demonstration Thursday morning, followed by the practical final exam in the afternoon. Friday was spent rushing from Versailles to graduation to the airport (curse the malfunctioning RER trains), finally landing in Edinburgh.

The final demonstration was on chocolate bergamot mousse cake. It was the most complicated cake we've seen so far, with a sponge base, two mousses, and an orange almond crunch. Not that anyone was paying much attention, though. We were all madly revising, trying to memorize all ten recipes that we might be tested on that afternoon.

The chef seems to have guessed our intent, because the demonstration only lasted two hours - to give us more time to study, presumably. The cake itself was not too interesting - I would have included orange segments in the bergamot mousse and done away with the chocolate glaze - but we got champagne to go with our cake : )