Canelé (Cannelés) test part 1

canelecloseup

 

 

The first time I’ve tasted this pastry, I was in Paris. Gerard Mulot‘s pastry shop was a few blocks from the hotel. One bite past its crunchy shell into its custardy interior and this pastry had a fan for life; not to mention it was redolent with the scent of vanilla and the essence of rum. Except, it seemed to hard to find these outside Paris or big cities. For one thing, like macarons, they’re finicky to get right. As always, if you want food a certain way, you have to make it your damn self.

Anyway, this post from Chez Pim got me started on my canalé quest. I would say its partly successful with the silicone molds. The first batch (from the gray molds) tasted too eggy for me, and the second batch (red-orange) was almost right in texture and taste.

I just received my copper molds and can’t wait to get started using them. I will also try the recipe from Gerard Mulot’s baking book and see if it’s less eggy since he only uses yolks in his recipe.

 

canelecross

Cross section. A bit too “eggy” in taste.

caneletray01

The white “butt” maybe because I didn’t cook them on wire racks and the heat didn’t properly transfer.

 

moldcomparisoncanele

Results from the two different molds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Trail 2012 at Harbour City, HK

choctrail02
A giant macaron pièce montée

 ”Hungry” Hubby and I wanted to go to Paris this year mainly for me to do more research on pastry trends. However, we knew that it was more important  for me to visit my mom in the Philippines. She will be 85 years old this April and her memory is not what it used to be, so I didn’t want to pass any opportunity to see her while she still knew who I was.

Our flight on Cathay Pacific to the Philippines goes via Hong Kong and there was no extra charge for a longer stopover on the way back. HH has never been to HK and he was hesitant until I told him that there was a bronze statue of Bruce Lee in Harbour City.

It turns out, our timing was perfect. It was the Chocolate Trail exhibition at Harbour City, well-known chocolatiers from La Maison du Chocolate to new-to-me Paul Lafayet were showcasing their pastry.

Imagine my glee when I spied this giant macaron upon stepping out of my hotel (which was inside the mall).

choctrail01
Big mac
choctrail07
My first stop, La Maison Du chocolat

Booths like the above were scattered along the chocolate trail. All you had to do was follow the trail of picture-perfect pastry. Like below.

choctrail05
 

like the cream puff above or the eclair below. 🙂

choctrail06
Sitting on a big eclair

And macarons like this were scattered everywhere.

choctrail18
 
choctrail08
 

The main pavillon:

choctrail04
 
choctrail03
 

I was also lucky to come by a demo by Paul Lafayet about putting together a macaron piece montee.

choctrail09
 

Macarons were expensive. This half-dozen box from La Maison du Chocolate was HK$150 which was almost US$20. We were disappointed in the flavor, the chocolate filling was okay but the shell was almost non-existent.

choctrail10
choctrail10

The best macarons we tried were from Paul Lafayet. Since there was quite a few of us in our group we were able to sample more of the flavors. My favorite was the Bailey’s and the Passion Fruit. They were $HK 15 each, $USD 2 were about 1.25 inch diameter.

choctrail11
L-R: Baileys, Coffee, Chocolate
choctrail12
Pistachio, chocolate, Passion Fruit, Mandarin Orange

and a lot more…

choctrail13
Paul Lafayet Macarons

I also sampled macarons from Jean-Paul Hevin. They were a whopping HK$ 25, US$ 3.30 each and was a bit bigger than most macarons at 1.5 inches. They tasted okay but not as good as Paul Lafayet’s.

choctrail14
Jean-Paul Hevin macarons

Other pastries of note. Creme Brulee and strawberry tart, also from Paul Lafayet.

choctrail15
 

We also made the trek (okay, the train) from Kowloon to Hong Kong in search of Tai Cheong bakery (Lyndhurst terrace) egg tarts. I almost gave up when I saw the uphill road I had to take.

choctrail19
The road to egg tarts

But I thought I was already here. I braved a packed train and after a little more hike up this trail could justify eating two egg tarts.

The trek was not in vain. Fresh, hot egg tarts out the oven.

choctrail17
 

As I was enjoying a freshly-baked egg tart I was contemplating my next stop: Chickalicious cupcake outpost, Kisses.

choctrail16
Espresso, Matcha, Triple chocolate and Ferrero Rocher

I love their cupcakes, the frosting was just right and was not sweet at all! I wish cupcakes in Richmond would follow suit.

On my last day in HK, I discovered this giant structure. I’m not sure what pastry it represents, but I just have to have my picture taken with it.

choctrail20
 

The Raspberry Charlotte

raspberrycharlotte
Raspberry Charlotte

The unusual heat wave the other week has stifled my desire to turn the oven on but not, apparently, my preoccupation with reading cookbooks. Which makes this dilemma all the worse because now I’m left with a long list of things to cook or bake.
My addiction to cookbooks are well documented on this blog. It’s not that I use every one of them and more often than not I’m left with buyer’s remorse. I have ran out of shelf space and walls to stack them and have more than gone through the familiar exercise of Sophie’s choice…which one to keep on the kitchen shelf, which one moves to the office bookcase and …shudder…which one gets packed up and banished to the basement probably never to be read from again.

I buy books for inspiration, an idea, a thought, a slight nudge to try something I’ve never made before. 

This time it’s the charlotte. I always found them adorable, tied with a ribbon sash looking very girly. There are four layers in this charlotte – an alternating cake and raspberry mousse. Sadly the recipe I based this dessert on had problems and the book is going to be re-issued later, luckily I was informed that I would be getting a replacement for free.

The problem I had was with the mousse, I knew the recipe read kind of iffy and the end product didn’t look very promising. But I already made my sash of lady fingers and I’ve also torte the cake into layers, all that was needed now was a luscious mousse. Darn if I’d let them go to waste. I decided to salvage my mousse in the only way I knew how, folded in more whipped cream (to which I added some sugar to offset the additional cream) and prayed that it will set … and it did … beautifully.

Top with some fresh raspberries  and voila, a gorgeous dessert I wouldn’t mind taking to that next dinner party.
 

Defining my sweet tooth

rizaulait01
Caramel sauce, riz au lait, caramel apples

Warning: Possible rambling post!

Many people get the wrong impression that because I love to bake, I have a big sweet tooth. Sure there are times when I have no choice but to survive on cupcakes for a day but that doesn’t mean I did not want something else, like deep fried pork belly for example.
{Confession: I have a continued addiction to the Coke soda which I am trying control because too much high-fructose corn syrup couldn’t be too good for you and any iterations of it from diet to coke-zero are simply not acceptable. I’m able to curb my craving to some degree with sparkling water so it must also be partly the fizz that I like.}
The truth is I’m very picky with the desserts I put into my mouth. I do not have the metabolism of a bird but I am not afraid of sugar either, my motto is to make every bite count so I want to be satisfied with just a few bites {although for some desserts that really have my number, I’m doomed to overeating}.
If you shove a cupcake laden with American buttercream in front of me, I could feel my throat constricting and my teeth hurting. Giant cookies have no appeal to me and when I see them bunched together in some plastic containers at our finer supermarkets, I find myself wondering if people really eat those. Why not just eat a spoonful of sugar since there really is no other taste that can be gleaned from them.

applecake01
Apple Cake

So do I have a sweet tooth?

Let’s see:
I love chocolate. {who doesn’t, but I know some who don’t} My favorite form of chocolate desserts are: brownies, pots de creme, chocolate lava cake, chocolate torte (not cake), pastry cream and let’s not forget hot chocolate which I did a comparative study of when I was in Paris {yes, I’m one lady who takes her hot chocolate very seriously.}

I think I love chocolate in rich concentrated form so just a little of it goes a long, long way.

I love cream. Whipped cream, creme fraiche, mascarpone cream, vanilla pastry cream – specially when they are mixed with fruit.

I love yolk-based desserts – creme caramel, ice cream {certain flavors only but vanilla made with real vanilla beans is always a favorite) and pastry cream.

I guess by now you are all saying: “We get it, you like pastry cream.” This is probably why I don’t sell any desserts made with it, the temptation is too strong I’d probably eat the whole bowl even before it gets into the dessert.

I cannot stand doughnuts but I love beignets. Go figure. I peel the glaze off the doughnut before I eat it if I’m desperately hungry enough in the morning {not much left of the donut when you remove the glaze} but I’d eat two huge beignets from Lousiana Flair in a heartbeat.

rizaulait02
Rice pudding

I love rice pudding. There’s this Filipino snack called champorado which would probably be the equivalent of chocolate rice pudding – and I could eat it with “gusto” any time of the day. Rice pudding is a dessert staple in Parisian restaurants and one way to test the right consistency of a good rice pudding is if you could stand a wooden spoon in it. Also the rice shouldn’t be overcooked and should still have some “bite” to it so risotto rice, like arborio, is typically the best one to use.

Of course, I’m saving the best for last.

I love tarts and apple pie, specifically my mom’s apple pie. My heart quivers when I see apple anything on the “sweets” menu. “Comfort me with apples” is definitely true when it comes to my dessert choices. Which is why I couldn’t wait to make these “apple-y” creations from Dorie Greenspan’s new book, “ Around My French Table”.

applecake02
 

The recipe for Marie-Helene’s Apple cake can be found here. I didn’t have the right size pan which was probably why there wasn’t enough cake batter to cover the cake, but I did like the abundance of apples in this recipe.

applecake03
Lotsa apples!

However, it was a simple rice pudding that had me in a tizzy for dessert for two days in a row. I’ve also  realized another aspect of dessert that tickles my fancy: hot and cold desserts in one.

Some of my favorite “hot-cold” indulgences:
Vanilla ice cream and hot fudge.
Volcano cake and vanilla ice cream
Warm apple pie and vanilla ice cream
Cold rice pudding, warm caramel sauce and caramel apples
Warm chocolate pudding with a streak of cold milk

Oh, and a pet peeve: cold apple pie.

Continue reading

The dog days of summer are here

basilicecream
Basil Ice Cream

The hot and humid weather has sequestered me indoors. I really hate being under the sun, you would think I was a vampire. But a person’s got to eat and I had to go grocery shopping.
Speaking of groceries, a big new Kroger just opened in our neighborhood and I was so excited to see what the buzz was all about. I probably shouldn’t have gone during the first week of opening. I was less than impressed because what I saw was more of the same mediocre stuff in copious quantities which really made my teeth grind. I also waited 5 minutes behind the seafood counter to buy shrimps but left empty-handed – I counted 4 staff that were “busy” doing other stuff like packing things into containers while ignoring me and the line that was forming behind me.
So much for my excitement about buying all my groceries in one place, I couldn’t find the brand of organic cream and milk I use – so I left. I’ll give them another try in a few more weeks.

So, Whole Foods, I guess I can’t quit you – but you are so bad for my wallet. 😦

I wish organic didn’t always equate with pricey.

Anyway, I was keeping an eye out for when basil became abundant towards the end of summer so I can make basil ice cream and it so happened when I walked into Whole Foods  that I spotted a 4-oz container of organic basil by the tomatoes.

Some of you all might say “Ewwww!”, and I would have said the same too until I tasted fresh mint with chocolate here and now I’m more than willing to give herbs a chance in the land of sweets.
 

curdberry
Meyer Lemon Curd and Berry Tart

I’ve been on a tart-making frenzy earlier this week. It’s not that I’m tired of the macarons but I felt we needed to be apart every now and then. Basil ice cream goes very well with this meyer lemon curd tart {what could be my favorite tart to eat and make}. I’ve decided to dress it quite a bit with some raspberries and blueberries and yes, it tastes sublime.

I also wanted to recreate this cherry clafoutis I had at Balthazar a few years back. Yes, those tarts still haunt my dreams. Judging from how the cherries looked after baking I think the cherries needed to be “compoted” a bit before adding to the tart.
 

cherrycurdtart
Cherry – meyer lemon curd tart

Continue reading

Puff Pastry – two ways

millefuielle2
Roasted pear-saffron mascarpone millefeuille

* Note. Colors of pictures are more vivid when clicked on to activate lightbox

threetarts
Luscious apple tarts!

One evening after the new year, I had an odd compulsion to make puff pastry. It must have been triggered by this arctic blast that had sent people (me) scuttling indoors and despite the furnace running up my heating bill, my fingers remained ice cold. What better time to make puff pastry, right?
Some flour, some butter – okay, lotsa butter, ice water and icy fingers, you get one of the miracles of pastry. Multi-layered sheets of buttery heaven, how can one resist?
The one disadvantage of making puff pastry is the time commitment needed to produce it. It’s almost unheard of for a home cook to make their own and there are certainly store-bought ones that may be passable, but mastering the art of puff pastry is a worthwhile endeavor, I believe. Then again, there is still the time constraint.
Back in July, Helen showed me how to make rough puff pastry and I was amazed with the results. But you know me, curious to the very end, I wanted to compare them side by side.

pearsaffronpist
Saffron, pears and pistachios

I also had some Iranian pistachio that I wanted to use in some dessert. If there are two things Iran is known for, it is for the quality of their pistachio and saffron. I did not have the heart to use it for pistachio paste, after all at 25 euros for 1kg, one must use it wisely. I leafed through “Sweet Seasons” by Richard Leach and found his roasted pear and mascarpone filling. I thought if I infused the cream with saffron, I could use that to fill a millefuielle and then sprinkle some ground roasted pistachios on top. It’ll look pretty…let’s hope the filling holds up.
I also wanted to do a repeat of the peach tart on rough puff pastry but this time use apples which was the original recipe anyway.

pearapple1
A fruit composition 🙂

Please excuse the abundance of pictures, I thought since it’s already 2010, I should improve my food photography and it takes patience (by not being too tempted by the dessert before good pictures are taken) and lots of practice (playing with different camera settings.)

This recipe for my regular puff pastry comes from by Bo Friberg. We used it in our Daring Baker’s challenge for the Gateau St. Honore and I found this to be one of the best and problem free puff pastry recipe that I have tried.

puffpastry
Regular puff pastry on its 4th turn

Continue reading