NOT Caramel by the Sea

I had some leftover caramel in the fridge. It was (almost) too soft to fill chocolates (see below) but too thick to top ice cream. What a dilemma! Over the weekend I re-heated it, being sure it was 248 degrees then poured it into a hemispherical silicone mold.

I have been practicing chocolate work so I figured this would be a good way to conserve caramel and increase tempering skills, and have some chocolates for quality control consumption.

As I said, I poured the 248F liquid caramel into a mold then tossed the mold into the fridge to set. I weighed and chopped 250 grams of semi-sweet dark chocolate. You want the chocolate to be very fine so it will melt easily during the tempering. Dark chocolate is tempered by melting about 2/3rds of the chopped chocolate in a bain-marie to 120F.
Remove Chocolate covered Caramel 1from the heat and add the remaining chocolate a little at a time waiting for each addition to melt. If after all the chocolate is added and melted the temperature is still above 82F stir until it cools to 82F. Then place it back on the barely simmering bain-marie until
it reaches 85-86F. Remove the pot containing the water and the bowl holding the melted chocolate and place it next to the caramel to be dipped. The temperature of the chocolate will continue to rise a few degrees and should hold at 88F to 90F. Dip each piece of caramel, or whatever you are coating, lift it out with a fork, drain and place on waxed paper. Repeat, repeat, repeat…

017e21b931fdb63ab976dd07c2d459f8dd8ed2ecfd

I had some leftover chocolate so put some in a piping bag and set it aside to cool slightly. The rest I poured in the cleaned silicone mold to make some nice hard chocolate candies, or to re-melt sometime in the future. Who knows, I may decide to make more caramel to use up the extra chocolate I have waiting in the fridge.

Chocolate covered Caramel 2

When the chocolate in the piping bag was cooler but not set I snipped the end off and drizzled the lines of chocolate over the dipped chocolate to add some character.

A week ago I tried to make some chocolates for Fran’s Mah Jongg group by using the still soft caramel. They looked pretty, but it was hit or miss if there was much caramel in the chocolate candy. I also used milk chocolate which is much harder to work than the dark semi-sweet. Next I think I should make some more caramel, or maybe nougat and practice with the milk chocolate.

Chocolate covered Caramel 3

 

Advertisements

Baking in Jammies?

No, not quite. Maybe it should read “Baking With Jammies,” or “Incorporating Fruit Jammies in Your Baking,” or in this case “How I Made Strawberry Jammies to Incorporate in Strawberry Brownies.”

Recently, meaning within the last 4 months, I bought some Raspberry Jammy Bits from KAF to use in making some Raspberry Brownies. They were soooo good and added extra moisture, chewiness and flavor to the brownies, I decided to make them myself. Short story shorter: it didn’t go well. They didn’t gel adequately to form into little sugar-coated bits which would retain some integrity during baking. I ended up storing them in the trash bin.

Even more recently, as in last week, I had some leftover strawberries and decided to give image1it another go. I pureed 2 cups of hulled strawberries and heated it to boiling in a medium saucepan, added 2 Tbl of fruit pectin and mixed until dissolved before adding 2 cups of sugar.  The mixture was cooked over medium-low heat (just boiling) and stirred very frequently. Once it reached 2250 F, I spread it ⅛” to ¼” thick on a caster sugar coated silicone sheet and placed it in the freezer.

After an hour I coated the top of the still tacky spread with more caster sugar. The mixture was still too sticky to cut easily. Using a pizza wheel, I managed, while using some very short words)  to cut half of the spread both lengthwise and crosswise into bits, which I then rolled in more sugar and placed back on the silicone sheet. The strawberry jammy bits were useable but not great.

image2Undeterred, I tossed the second half of the spread back in a small saucepan and cooked for another 10 minutes or so. My candy thermometer died so had to guess the temperature. One trick I remember is to note how long it takes for the stirring marks to disappear. When I first started the second cooking, after the jam started to boil, the marks would disappear in 5 seconds. After 10 min of a quiet boil they remained 7-10 seconds and the jam spun as a wh0le around the spatula. I spread the twice cooked jam back on the silicone and froze again.

An hour later the spread solidified to a crack. I let it warm at room temperature for a few minutes to soften and was able to cut it with the pizza wheel. Actually, this version was just about the correct viscosity (or jamminess) and I could cut it with a long knife, cleaning in hot water and drying between cuts. Roll in more sugar and store in a air tight container in the freezer. Checking a few days later they are still semi-soft and have not fused back into a blob.

image4

Adding the DIY Strawberry Jammy Bits and some chocolate chips to the brownie batter before baking (good alliteration, huh?) resulted in spectacular brownies (NOTE: Do NOT overbake!! The middle of the pan should feel very soft and the edges should look cooked. Don’t let the middle bake to firmness, the brownies will be over baked.)

Fruit Jammy Bit Brownies

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups Berries (I have now used Rasp and Straw Berries and will try others)
  • 2 TBL Fruit Pectin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Caster sugar (Extra Fine) for coating

METHOD

  1. Hull and puree strawberries
  2. Heat puree to barely boiling and add pectin
  3. Once pectin is incorporated add the sugar
  4. Continue boiling until mixing marks stay 7-10 seconds or about 235-2400F
  5. Spread mixture on caster sugar coated silicone mat and freeze
  6. Remove the sheet of fruit from the freezer and coat top with caster sugar
  7. Flip coated over onto a cutting board and coat the now top surface with more sugar
  8. When the fruit sheet is pliable cut into small squares (1/4” across) with a knife
  9. Toss the jammy bits into a bowl of sugar then store in an air-tight container in the freezer

Stairway to Raspberry Heaven

I saw a KAF recipe for Chocolate and Raspberry Brownie Bars. If you are a regular reader, you know I am baking about 800 one and two bite desserts for a fundraiser in March. Since brownies are baked in a sheet pan and cut to bite size, these brownies become a relatively easy way to make 4 dozen desserts (or about 6%) at once.F677178C-384A-4527-AFD1-0640B7565AD4

Basically this is a brownie with both chocolate chips and raspberry jammy bits folded into the batter and coated with a heavy layer of ganache. Once baked, and still warm a thinned coating of seedless raspberry jam is spread over the brownies. (Don’t over bake the brownies!) I cooled the coated brownies in the fridge for a while as I made and cooled to thicken the ganache.

While not essential topping with a raspberry and dusted with confectioners sugar really set this dessert off. (Rats, just ended that sentence with a preposition.)

CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY BROWNIE BARS

INGREDIENTS

BROWNIES

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups dark cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup Raspberry Jammy Bits
  • 3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 tablespoon  water

CHOCOLATE GANACHE GLAZE

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoons light corn syrup (20g)
  • 2 2/3 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan. To make very even bars, line the pan with aluminum foil before baking, leaving foil sticking up above the edges of the pan.
  2. Crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Add the sugar and melted butter, stirring until smooth.
  4. Add the flour, chips, and Jammy Bits, again stirring well.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look moist, but not uncooked. Do not overbake! Remove them from the oven.
  7. Heat the seedless raspberry jam with the water, and stir until smooth. Brush over the warm brownies. Set aside to cool for an hour or longer before topping with the ganache.
  8. To make the ganache, heat the cream and corn syrup until they begin to steam. Pour over the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes, add any flavorings, and whisk until smooth. Let cool for 15 minutes or so.
  9. Pour ganache over the brownies while it’s still warm, but has begun to thicken — reheat if it thickens too much as you work. Allow several hours for the ganache to set up fully. You may refrigerate the brownies to hasten the setting of the ganache.
  10. Remove the brownies from the pan using the aluminum foil sling. Heat a knife in hot water, wipe dry and use to cut the brownies. Repeat with each cut.
  11. Just before serving, garnish brownies with fresh raspberries and confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

 

Busy Bakery Day

Here are some samples of one and two bite pastries I am making for a party of about 200 people. We are meeting tonight for a party progress meeting. I decided to give the group a sample of some of the varieties of desserts I am baking for the event.

 

I have both lemon and mango curd filled profiteroles, cream patisserie filled eclairs and tartlets, vanilla cake with pink icing and raspberry drizzle and vanilla cake with chocolate drizzle. There are mini-raspberry cheesecakes, blueberry and apply mini pie bites, chocolate brownie cups with chocolate mousse and a raspberry drizzle. Some of these were made ahead and frozen until today. The tartlets, eclairs, profiteroles and all icings, drizzles and frostings were made this afternoon.

A productive bakery day!

Which Way to Carnegie Hall?

Everyone knows how to get to Carnegie Hall, right? I am considering making bite size desserts for a gala at our temple with about 200 people expected to attend. Conventional wisdom indicated I will need 4-600 individual desserts. Perhaps you can see why I have not yet committed to this task. Allotting 2-3 desserts per person I should also have 5 or 6 dessert options, too many and it’s overwhelming (for the attendees and the baker!)

blueberry lemon and mango keylime profiteroles

So, back to Carnegie Hall. Practice, practice, practice. For anyone who follows my blog you know mistakes to not leave the house, so I practice everything first. I also experiment with different flavors and combinations. For instance, I made profiteroles last week. One was to be a mango/key lime and the other a lemon/blueberry. They were fine, except the key lime overpowered the mango. I will have to try again. Practice, practice, practice. The lemon was fine, if a bit intense.

vanilla cake and swiss meringue buttercream frosting

A couple of days ago I made some vanilla cake bites with Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting. It was a new cake recipe, I was looking for something a bit lighter, plus a new buttercream. This one uses a Swiss meringue (egg whites and sugar whisked over simmering water in a bain marie. The frosting was delicious but a bit of a pain in the butt. I would use this if I could have  several desserts that use the same frosting. I may just divide it into aliquots and color them differently to make an easy differentiation.

chouxI make choux fairly often so don’t really need to practice, but the little choux pastries are a good way to try the different filling flavors and icings. I made these choux in an hour or two last week, used a dozen or so for experimenting and froze the other 4 dozen. If I decide to do this project I will take a day and make 200 or so. I just need enough freezer space.

This morning I decided to add two new pastries File Jan 10, 10 17 21 AMto my portfolio. The first, and easiest was the chocolate cookies with chocolate mousse filling. I decided to add some shaved milk chocolate and white chocolate over some of them and since I had some raspberry coulis in the fridge, I drizzled that over some to add more color.

pineapple upside down bites.jpeg

Once those were complete and I finished cleaning the kitchen, (yes, I clean everything up between each bake) I started the one bite Pineapple Upside Down cakes. I used the same vanilla cake recipe as last week. It was a little tricky miniaturizing everything and keeping them looking good. Next time I will reduce the amount of pineapple and use a quartered cherry so there will be more room for the cake.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

INGREDIENTS

  • 7 large (210 grams or 7 oz) egg whites
  • 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1½ cups (3 sticks or 340 grams) unsalted butter, softened*
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt (we use non-iodized fine sea salt)

METHOD

  1. In a medium pot, add at least 1-inch of water and bring to simmer.
  2. Thoroughly wash and dry the stainless-steel mixing bowl from your stand mixer* (you don’t want grease touching meringue). Add 7 egg whites and 2 cups sugar and whisk together.
  3. Place mixing bowl over pot of barely simmering water, creating a seal over the pot (bowl should be over the steam, not touching water). Whisk constantly until mixture reaches 160˚F (takes about 3 min). Sugar should be fully dissolved (you should not feel any sugar granules when rubbing mixture between finger tips). Mixture will feel hot to the touch.
  4. Wipe water from bottom of mixing bowl and transfer bowl to stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff glossy peaks form (about 15-20 min) and bottom of the bowl feels completely at room temp and not warm (important: warm meringue will melt the butter).
  5. Once bowl is at room temp, switch to paddle attachment, reduce to medium speed and add butter 1 Tbsp at a time, adding it just as fast as it is absorbed by meringue. Once all butter is in, scrape down the bowl and continue beating until it reaches a thick whipped consistency (3 min on med-high speed). If it looks lumpy or liquidy at all, keep beating until smooth, thick and whipped.
  6. Add 2 tsp vanilla extract and ¼ tsp salt and mix on med-high until incorporated (about 1 min).

Notes

*Butter should be softened at room temp about 1 hour (more or less depending on your room temperature). It should be slightly cool to the touch and not overly soft or warm. If too soft, refrigerate for 10 minutes at a time.

Vanilla Butter Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk Note: I use 1% milk and add the 2 Tbl as whipping cream

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a cast-iron pan, and dust with all-purpose flour, tapping out excess. Sift together flours, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, mixing well after each addition.
  3. Fill pan halfway, and bake until golden around edges (time will vary depending on size of pan). Remove from oven, and let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Transfer cakes from pan to a wire rack. Let cool. Coat each with glaze just before serving.

Chocolate Mousse Filled Chocolate Cookies

INGREDIENTS (Half Recipe)

  • 1 cup butter, softened (1/2)
  • 2 cups white sugar (1)
  • 2 eggs (1)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (1)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (1)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (6 Tbl)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (1/2)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (1/4)

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.
  4. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; stir into the creamed mixture.
  5. Spray Baker’s Joy or similar product into mini cupcake pans and fill ½ full (about a level teaspoon).
  6. Bake for 12 to 16 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are set.
  7. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 egg yolks (2)
  • ¼ cup sugar (2 Tbl)
  • 1 cup whipping (heavy) cream (1/2)
  • 1 package (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (1 cup) (1/2)
  • 1 ½ cups whipping (heavy) cream (3/4)

METHOD

  1. Beat egg yolks in small bowl with electric mixer on high speed about 3 minutes or until thick and lemon colored. Gradually beat in sugar.
  2. Heat 1 cup whipping cream in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until hot. Gradually stir at least half of the hot whipping cream into egg yolk mixture; stir back into hot cream in saucepan. Cook over low heat about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens (do not boil). Stir in chocolate chips until melted. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, just until chilled.
  3. Beat 1 1/2 cups whipping cream in chilled medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff. Fold chocolate mixture into whipped cream. Pipe or spoon mixture into serving bowls. Immediately refrigerate any remaining dessert after serving.

When You Wish Upon A Star…

 

(a Cinnamon Star Bread that is,) “Makes no difference who you are.”
I saw this recipe on KAF as part of their CINNAMON STAR BREAD BAKEALONG: CHALLENGE #16.   These are fun ways to improve and augment anyones baking skills, no matter who you are, plus they result in a delicious product (when executed properly.)

Dusted Completed bread

INGREDIENTS

DOUGH

  • 2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • ¼ cup potato flour
  • ¼ cup nonfat dry milk
  • ¾ cup + 2 to 4 tablespoons lukewarm water, enough to make a soft, smooth dough
  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

FILLING

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

METHOD

  1. First, measure the flour by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. Next, sift the flour, potato flour, and dry milk through a strainer; this is an important step to prevent lumps in the dough. (If you’re using instant mashed potatoes rather than potato flour you can skip this sifting step.)
  2. To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead —I use a mixer and dough hook — to make a soft, smooth dough.
  3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 60 minutes, until it’s nearly doubled in bulk.
  4. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, cover the balls, and allow them to rest for 15 minutes.
  5. On a lightly greased or floured work surface, roll one piece of dough into a 10″ circle. Place the circle on a piece of parchment, brush a thin coat of beaten egg on the surface, then evenly sprinkle with 1/3 of the cinnamon-sugar, leaving 1/4″ of bare dough around the perimeter.
  6. Roll out a second circle the same size as the first, and place it on top of the filling-covered circle. Repeat the layering process — egg, cinnamon sugar, dough circle — leaving the top circle bare.
  7. Place a 2 1/2″ to 3″ round cutter in the center of the dough circle as a guide. I used a 3/4 cup measuring cup and scored the center of the top ring. With a bench knife or sharp knife, cut the circle into 16 equal strips, from the cutter to the edge, through all the layers.
  8. Using two hands, pick up two adjacent strips and twist them away from each other twice so that the top side is facing up again. Repeat with the remaining strips of dough so that you end up with eight pairs of strips.
  9. Pinch the pairs of strips together to create a star-like shape with eight points. Be sure the ends are well pinched or they will separate.
  10. Transfer the star on the parchment to a baking sheet. Cover the star and let it rise until it becomes noticeably puffy, about 45 minutes.
  11. While the star is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.
  12. Completed breadBrush the star with a thin coat of the beaten egg. Bake it for 12 to 15 minutes, until it’s nicely golden with dark brown cinnamon streaks; the center should register 200°F on a digital thermometer.
  13. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.
  14. Store any leftover bread, well wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

What The Fig!!

Well, it finally happened. The figs in our backyard tree are ripe and ready for harvest. To date, we have harvested about 55 pounds (about 25 Kilos) of figs. Let me be clear. That is the first harvest. We probably have 2 or 3 more to go.  Prolific tree, I just wish the apricot and plum trees would take a lesson. I made several pints of fig preserve and several fig newton filling (alone with some homemade fig newtons), fig and brie tarts and froze a few pounds for future consideration.

Picking the figs proved somewhat challenging. It turns out many people are allergic to the sap and/or leaves of the fig tree. As luck would have it, all of us were, some more than others. Soap (Dawn dishwashing detergent) and water and time worked well to remove the itch and rash. It was gone the next day. Next time, long sleeves and gloves.

After the figs were washed, dried and sorted the best were sliced (about ½” thick) and frozen. Some were laid out on parchment lined baking sheets and put in the freezer. Others were sliced and put into zip lock bags and a simple syrup with Fruit Fresh added were frozen. We shall see which method we like better.

Picking Figs

Picking 2

Picking

Frances and I picked the first half of the harvest. Daniel, The Young and Tall, joined us after his work the next day to  help with the high fruit. Rosie, the Supervisor as ever vigilant.Supervisor

 

Washing, Sorting and Processing

The fruit was washed, dried (wet fruit spoils faster) and spread as a single layer on paper towels in the refrigerator for processing the next day (after rash). Note to self: Use gloves on day two also.

The cut figs were boiled to 220oF and either mashed with a potato masher (Frances’ method) or food processed with a couple quick pulses (my method) and canned. I added a couple more pulses for the newton filling, which seemed about right in the final product.

Here are a couple of tips about making the fig newtons. The recipe makes just the right amount of cookie batter vs. filling, try it. After cutting the rolled dough to an 8”x14” sheet, roll it as rectangular and with as straight edges as possible. It will make the cookies look better.  Also, before trying to fold the dough over and pinching shut cut the sheet in half, or ever thirds, crosswise. This makes the soft dough easier to fold smoothly. More also, be bold when folding. Like flipping eggs in a frying pan. Just go for it. If you don’t fold far enough for the un-filled edges to meet, it’s a bear to try to stretch the top layer to meet the bottom to seal.

For the tartlets, be sure to use enough Brie (or other cheese) to fill half the shell. Too little and the cheese does not add enough flavor. You can always add a piece of cheese to the top to compensate. I also sprinkled the tartlets with a little flaked sea salt to offset the fig sweetness.

Homemade Fig Newtons – HGTV

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pint fresh or preserved figs or 12 ounces dried figs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice

If you are using:

  • Fresh figs: Remove stems and boil figs with a cinnamon stick and 2 cups of sugar in 1 cup of water for 45 minutes. Drain and cool.
  • Dried figs: In a bowl, pour boiling water over figs (stems removed) and let rest 10 minutes. Drain all but 2 tablespoons water and stir in 2 tablespoons corn syrup + ¼ teaspoon cinnamon.
  • Preserved figs: Drain syrup.

METHOD

  1. Puree figs in food processor until a thick paste forms (if too thick or thin to spread evenly, add a little water or flour until spreadable consistency is reached).
  2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl.
  4. Add egg and vanilla, mix until smooth
  5. Add orange juice and combined dry ingredients to bowl and mix until dough forms.
  6. Optional: for dough into a flat thick disk and chill to set butter and make it easier to roll and fold.
  7. Roll dough out on a floured surface into a 8”x14” rectangle about ¼” thick.
  8. Cut rectangle in half lengthwise.
  9. Spread fig paste onto half of each rectangle, lengthwise.
  10. Cut the rectangle in half crosswise, or even thirds to facilitate folding.
  11. Fold dough in half lengthwise to cover fig paste and pinch edges to seal.
  12. Slide each newton log onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
  13. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees until crust begins to brown.
  14. Slice into cookie-sized segments and cool. Slice while warm to reducing flaking.