Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pistachio Layer Cake

This particular cake may take some time, but the flavor combination of the pistachio and lemon curd is quite a treat.  In the cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar, Christina Tosi does state that this cake became a bestseller.  After tasting this, I do agree.

As you know, food bloggers are not real big on making things twice.  However, I am ready to make this again so I can share it with more people.  Sometimes the big projects in the kitchen are well worth the time and effort, and I put this cake in that category,

This is a six inch layer cake that does require some special equipment.  You will need a six inch cake ring and 2 strips of acetate (3"X 20").  The acetate strips are sometimes referred to as cake collars.

Before starting on this cake, the layering components should already be made.  The recipes for these items can be found (here). Please read through all this recipe prior to making this cake.  This will insure that you are aware of the time and the special ingredients required.

Pistachio Layer Cake
adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar

1 cup of flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup of blanched almond flour
1 3/4 cup sifted confectioners sugar
2/3 cup pistachio paste
3 tbs glucose
1/2 cup pistachio oil
1/4 cup heavy cream
6 egg whites (separated/add each in increments)

Prepare a baking sheet by coating the interior with non stick spray and lining with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a stand mixer, beat together the pistachio paste and glucose together until smooth.  This will take about 2-3 minutes on medium speed.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl when finished.

Put the mixer on low speed and add each egg white to the mixture.  Let the mixer run for about a minute before adding the next egg.  Repeat the same step with all the egg whites, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after each 2 egg increment.

Keeping the mixer on low speed, blend the confectioners sugar and almond flour.  Continue to beat the mixture for about 3 minutes.  Stop and then scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Then turn the mixer back on low speed and slowly pour in the pistachio oil and the heavy cream.  Those ingredients should be fully incorporated into the batter after one minute.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl again.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold the sifted ingredients into the batter until no dry streaks remain.

Spoon the batter onto the prepared pan and smooth to an even layer.  Bake for 20-22 minutes.  Cake is done when the edge bounces back when touched lightly and the cake starts to pull away from the edge of the pan.  Remove from oven and let cool in the pan completely before  proceeding.

Assembly Components (recipes here)

1/2 cup pistachio oil
1 recipe lemon curd
1 recipe pistachio frosting
1 recipe milk crumbs

Invert the cake onto another piece of parchment and peel off the top piece of parchment.  Using your cake ring, cut out two layers.  You will have some cake scraps left over which will be the bottom layer of your cake.

Clean the cake ring and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Line the ring with one piece of the acetate strip.  Take the cake scraps and place inside and lightly press the pieces together to form and even layer. Brush that layer with 1/4 cup of your pistachio oil.

Spoon 1/2 the batch of lemon curd onto the pistachio soaked layer.  Smooth out the curd into an even layer using a small knife or the back of a spoon.  Then sprinkle 1/3 of the milk crumbs over the lemon curd.  Press lightly so the crumbs are adhered to the curd.  The next layer added is 1/3 of the pistachio frosting.  Smooth the surface in the same manner as the lemon curd.

Take the other strip of acetate and tuck it between the cake ring and the previous piece of acetate.  The acetate should only overlap by 1/4 inch.  Choose the worst of the two layers (good layer is for the top) and place inside the acetate, on top of the pistachio frosted layer.  Smooth on the components in the same order and manner as done for the first layer.  In this process, reserve 1/2 of the remaining pistachio frosting and milk crumbs for the top layer and use up all the lemon curd and pistachio oil.

Place the top layer onto the second and smooth on the remaining frosting.  Sprinkle the rest of the milk crumbs on top.  Place the cake in the freezer for 12 hours for flavors to meld.  3 hours prior to serving, pop the cake out of the cake ring (push from cake bottom up) and peel off the acetate. Transfer to cake stand or platter.  Wrap cake in plastic and let defrost for 3 hours.  This cake will last in fridge well wrapped in plastic for up to 5 days.

Tips and Notes:

1. It is important that you have a good sturdy cake pan to insure that the cake bakes evenly.  Older pans sometimes get warped and cause problems when baking.

2. The hardest process I found was installing the 2nd acetate strip.  Since the strips are 20 inches there is a lot of overlap that must be kept even.

3. The amount of pistachio oil brushed on the layers is personal preference, I found the 1/2 cup to be too much initially. However to my surprise, it did finally meld with the cake during the chill time.

4. Do not press or mash the cake scraps too hard for your first layer.  The cake pieces still have to be somewhat spongy to soak up the oil.
                                  **LAST YEAR: Citrus Pie**

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pistachio Cake /Stage 1-Components

Well, I finally got around to doing the project recipe from the above book. This particular cake takes several hours for the flavors to meld and has several components that make up the layers.

This post contains the recipes for the filling, frosting and milk crumbs.  However, if you do intend to try this delicious and unusual cake, please read over this as well as the actual cake recipe. The cake recipe will be posted tomorrow.  Review is needed to make sure you have all the ingredients and are aware of the advance hours needed to create the cake.

It is best to prepare these components prior to baking the cake, so once the cake has cooled it can be assembled without delay.  The components are more suitable for storing than the cooled cake by itself.

Lemon Curd

1/2 tsp powdered gelatin
2 tbs cold water
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick or 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
4 eggs
zest from 3 lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt

Fill a blender with the lemon juice, zest and sugar.  Blend on medium for 2-3 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved.  Add the eggs and blend on medium speed for an additional 2 minutes for the  color to change to a bright yellow.  Empty mixture into a sauce pan.  The blender will need to be cleaned for an additional use.

Pour the cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface of the water.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes to bloom.

Place the saucepan of the lemon mixture over low heat.  Let it cook, while constantly whisking and keeping a close watch.  It will become thicker and eventually come to a boil.  Once it reaches that stage, transfer contents back to the blender.

Drop cubes of butter into the warm lemon mixture.  Add the gelatin and salt.  Blend on medium high for 2 minutes.  It should have a sheen to it and be thick and smooth.  Strain contents into a heat proof bowl and place in fridge to cool for at least 1/2 an hour. After this chill time, mixture is ready to use as a filling. If refrigerating beyond the 30 minutes, cover surface with plastic wrap.  It will keep for a maximum of one week.

Milk Crumbs

1/4 cup dry milk powder (for mixing)
2 tbs dry milk powder (for dusting)
2 tbs flour
1 tbs cornstarch
1 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs melted butter
1 1/2 oz white chocolate

Line a baking sheet with parchment and preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Whisk together 1/4 cup milk powder, flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt.  Set aside.

Using a fork, stir in the melted butter until there is no longer any dry mix. It should turn into clusters. Pour the mixture onto the prepared pan and use a fork to break up any large clusters.  Place pan in oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove and let cool completely.  Again, use the fork to break up any large clumps.

Transfer the cooled crumbs to a heatproof bowl and dust with the remaining 2 tbs of milk powder and set aside.

Melt the white chocolate in the double boiler and pour over the cooled crumbs.  Stir until all is evenly coated.  Let cool, taking time to stir the mixture every 15 minutes.  After 4 of these intervals, you can  place in fridge to all the crumbs to completely harden.  This should take an additional 30 minutes at the most.  Break up mixture and it is ready to be used in the recipe.  For storing, place in an airtight container to store in the fridge.  Storage time can be up to one month in fridge or freezer.

Pistachio Frosting

1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 cup or 8 tbs of butter at room temp, cubed
1/4 cup of confectioners sugar
3/4 cup of  pistachio paste

Sift the confectioners sugar together with the salt into the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Drop in cubes of the butter. Beat the mixture at medium high for 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl at one minute intervals.  The mixture should be smooth and pale yellow when completely blended.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the pistachio paste.  Beat on low for 30 seconds and then on medium high for about 2 minutes.  Scrape down bowl at a one minute interval and at the end.  Turn the speed up to high and beat for 1 minute.  Frosting should be an even tone of green.  Using a spatula, scrape contents into an airtight container.  Frosting can be used immediately.  For storing, place in an airtight container and it will keep for 1 week.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Belgian Blondies

I have been trying different bar cookie recipes recently.  Last week I had tried a recipe for Margarita Lime bars that had an error on the liquid ratio, so the edges set up fine but the center was just a pool. There was no saving it, I even tried to microwave it so the center would get done, but that did not work.

Anyhow, this particular recipe did turn out to be a success.  The bars are rich, buttery and full of delicious white chocolate.  The recipe instructions had a method in which to melt the chocolate.  However when I made these, there was a certain amount of chunks that did not melt, which makes them perfect for the person that loves white chocolate.

The rich flavor makes them perfect paired with black coffee.  Also, forget the shortbread and serve these squares with a bowl of strawberries.

Belgian Blondies
adapted from Tea with Bea

1 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs or 2 3/4 sticks of butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb white chocolate (chopped into pea sized pieces)
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup of sugar
1 3/4 cup of flour
a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 340 degrees.  Grease an 8X12 inch baking pan and line bottom with parchment, leaving an overhang on 2 sides so the bars can be lifted out of the pan prior to cutting.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and let come to a boil.  Place the chocolate pieces in a heat proof bowl and pour in the melted butter.  Stir until most or all of the chocolate is melted.  Set aside.

In another bowl,  blend eggs, sugar and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour in the chocolate mixture and stir. In another bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.  Then fold dry ingredients into the chocolate batter until no dry streaks remain.

Spoon mixture into prepared pan and smooth the surface.  Place pan in oven and bake for 28-33 minutes.  The bars are done when golden brown on top but still retain a gooey center.

Remove pan from oven and place pan on cooling rack.  After 1 hour, place pan in the refrigerator for  2 hours to set up.  After two hours, remove pan from refrigerator and run a knife down between the pan and the blondies on the sides without parchment paper.  Then lift out blondies and cut into squares for serving.

Tips and notes:
1. You can use a 9X13 size pan, but watch on the baking time. Also with a bigger pan, the blondies will not have the same height.
2. Do not use baking chips.  They are a different blend than the actual white bar chocolate and will not work in this recipe.  Use good quality white chocolate bars.
3. For a smoother bar with no chunks of white chocolate, use a grater disc in a food processer to grind the chocolate to insure that all chocolate will be melted with the hot butter.
                                  **LAST YEAR:Butter Cupcakes**

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Raspberry Cream Cheese Braid

Outside of the wonderful taste of this breakfast treat, I really do like the ease of the recipe.  The appearance of this pastry gives the impression that this took a lot of effort.

The recipe makes two pastries, which means you can keep one and give another to the neighbors.  In my case I brought it to my co-workers.  Another good thing about the recipe is that it can be changed up, depending on your preference of fruit.

Raspberry Cream Cheese Braid
adapted from King Arthur's Bakers Companion

Ingredients/ Dough
3 cups regular or pastry flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast
6 tbs sour cream or yogurt
1/4 cup water
1 egg
6 tbs butter (room temp)
1 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup of raspberry jam mixed with 2 tbs flour
2 tbs butter
1- 8oz package of cream cheese
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbs flour
1/4 cup coarse sugar (optional for topping)

For the dough, mix together the yeast, warm water and 1 tsp of sugar (take from 1/4 cup measurement).  Then add 1/2 cup of the flour (take from 3 cup measurement).  Blend until the mixture forms a dough.  Shape into a ball and place back in bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside until the yeast becomes very active, about 10-15 minutes.

Once active, stir in all the remaining dough ingredients.  After all is blended into a dough, knead dough until it becomes soft and is no longer sticky.  You can do this by hand or with a dough hook in a stand mixer.  Grease the interior of a medium size bowl.  Shape the dough into a ball.  Put dough ball into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Place bowl in a warm, draft free place and let dough rise for about 45 minutes or until doubled.

While the dough is rising, you can prepare the filling.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in the salt and vanilla extract. Take the cream cheese and cut into 8 portions. While the mixer is still running, add pieces of cream cheese at 15 second intervals. Scrape down sides of bowl and then beat in egg and flour.  Scrape down sides of bowl again and beat until all is incorporated.  Set aside.

Divide dough into 2 equal pieces.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Take 1 piece of the dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle measuring 15 X10 inches.  Place sheet of dough on the center of the parchment lined baking sheet.  Repeat with second piece of dough.

Spread half of the jam in a 2 1/2 inch wide strip down the center of each piece of dough.  There should be a 1 inch border left at the top and bottom of the dough.  Then spoon and smooth 1/2 of the cream cheese mixture on top of the jam for each piece of dough.

On each 15 inch side of the dough, make strips by cutting 2 1/2 inches in length which are 3/4 inches wide. The strips should be at a 15 degree angle downward.  The end result is that the strips make like an upside down "V" with the filling in the center.

Fold in the 1 inch border dough on the top and bottom.  Then crisscross dough strips over top of filling, placing one left strip over the filling and then alternating with the right. Repeat the cutting and folding process for second piece of dough. Cover both braids with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until they puff up, about 30-45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Once the braids have risen, you can top according to preference.  An egg wash (one egg blended with 1 tbs water) will add shine and a deeper color to the braid.  Spritzing the dough with water was the method I used.  After that process, sprinkle the dough with the coarse sugar.

Bake the braids until they reach a golden hue, which should take about 32-36 minutes.  Once baked, let cool for about 15 minutes and then slice and serve.

Tips and notes:
1. Pastry flour will make the braids more tender.  If using regular flour, add 2 extra tbs of water.
2. You can use a product called Clear Gel in place of the flour in the filling.  Use 2 tbs to mix in with the raspberry jam instead of the flour and use 2 tbs to add with the egg instead of 3 tbs of flour.
3. This dough can be used for many sweet breads such as monkey bread and hot cross buns.
                                **LAST YEAR:Black Pond Cupcakes**