Custard, floral, fruit, Places, Recipes, Tropical

Welcoming Spring: Flowerbomb Verrine

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Today is the first day of Spring, and while you could hardly even tell Winter came to Southern California this year, I still anticipate the sunshine and flowers and general sense of renewal that comes with this season. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, nor have I ever been the type to keep them, but there’s something about Springtime that just makes me want to make everything better: my life, my health, and my overall happiness. Lately I’ve noticed that I haven’t quite been myself and things have been very… off. So while I won’t go too far into personal details here, I’ve resolved to fix that, albeit slowly, as well. Baby steps.

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Yesterday was my day off and since the hubby was at work, I took a nice, quiet stroll through the San Juan Capistrano Farmer’s Market, which was a mere 10 minutes from our home. While the farmer’s market itself was small, downtown SJC during the daytime is always a bustling place, filled with rich history and culture. It happens to be my favorite place to relax; there are antique shops and little markets and boutiques all without the LA prices, so if you’re ever in South Orange County, I highly recommend stopping by. I got the lovely mix of flowers in the picture above for $4 at the market. Aren’t they stunning??

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For a while I’ve wanted to come up with a very floral dessert, and yesterday I finally decided what I wanted to make: something with very simple components, but bursting with the flavors of Spring. I made a verrine with a Honey Panna Cotta, a Feijoa and Strawberry Rope, and a Lavender Broth, and garnished it all with some edible pansies. For the panna cotta I used local honey made from avocado blossoms: while it’s not quite as floral as say, an orange blossom honey, it’s very buttery, which combines really well with the already rich and creamy dessert. For the rope, I used very ripe feijoas and wild strawberries. Feijoas are also known as pineapple guavas; they have all the tropical notes that pineapples and guavas have, but the meat is smooth and more creamy than it is tart. The rope gives the dish a nice fruity pop when you take a bite. The lavender broth combined with the feijoa strawberry rope cut into the richness of the panna cotta really well, and make for a dish that swells with springtime goodness. Basically, I want to jar it and use it as perfume.

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Flowerbomb Verrine

For Honey Panna Cotta:

Makes 3 verrines

165 g heavy cream

20 g granulated sugar

20 g honey

3 g granular gelatin

15 g cold water

Bloom your gelatin in your cold water and set aside. In a small pot, combine heavy cream, sugar, and honey and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off heat and stir in bloomed gelatin until completely melted. Let mixture cool a little, then carefully pour into verrines. To achieve the tilted glass look that I have in my pictures, I set my glasses into the wells of a large muffin pan, and tilted them slightly to the side while ensuring they have enough support to stay tilted when filled, then filled them just under half-way. Chill panna cottas overnight.

For Feijoa Strawberry Rope:

90 g Feijoas, ripe, trimmed and seeded

45 g strawberries, trimmed and quartered

150 g granulated sugar

2 g granular gelatin

10 g warm water

1/2 teaspoon lime juice

Bloom your gelatin in cold water, set aside. In a small pot, combine Feijoas, strawberries, and sugar, and bring to a boil. While stirring, let mixture boil until fruit has softened and broken down considerably, and sugar syrup reduces (I brought the entire mixture to 110C). Stir in your bloomed gelatin until it has melted completely, then remove from heat and stir in your lime juice. Blend the entire mixture together until smooth, then strain through a fine mesh sieve onto a lined sheet pan. Discard any pulp, and cover and chill the puree overnight. The next day, scrape puree (it should be firmer and more like a paste by now) into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip (I used Ateco #801). Keep cold.

For Lavender Broth:

1 Tablespoon dried Lavender buds

30 g sugar

230 g water

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 drops purple color (if desired)

Combine lavender buds, sugar, water, and vanilla extract in a saucepot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and chill overnight. The next day, strain out buds and add color if desired. Carefully pour into verrines with chilled panna cotta, and then pipe Feijoa strawberry paste into a long rope around verrines. Garnish with edible flowers if desired.

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Cake, Chocolate

Another Happy Birthday and a Crepe Cake

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2 days ago was my cousin’s 27th birthday, and she requested the same cake I made her last year: a nutella crepe cake.

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Unfortunately, I don’t have a cross-section photo of the cake, but it’s 25 paper-thin crepes layered with nutella filling and enrobed in white chocolate chantilly. Needless to say, I was very pleased with the outcome, and the cake also managed to last the 2-hour drive in the humid 95 degree weather, which I was also very pleased with!

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Candy, Caramel, Recipes

Vanilla Butter Caramels

Whenever I cook, I always try to consider what I have on hand so I can avoid going through the hassle of making a trip to the grocery store. I love recipes that use simple household ingredients that you can find in anyone’s pantry, and this happens to be one of them!

Yesterday I made some vanilla butter caramels; they’re both chewy and soft, and almost melt away in your mouth.

So I know that this is candy-making blasphemy, but I didn’t use a candy thermometer. I know, I know, but those of us at KnitterBakerPateaChouxMaker are also risk-takers, and this recipe is simple enough to follow without one, I promise!

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I love the beautiful sheen this caramel has, and the little flecks of vanilla bean just bring it to another level that is incomparable to any flavor a plain extract would have brought. Oh, and they taste pretty damn good too.

Vanilla Butter Caramels

makes about 36 pieces

300 g sugar

170 g corn syrup

1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and scraped

80 g water

130 g cream

40 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Line a small sheet pan with a silicon mat or parchment paper sprayed lightly with oil. This recipe is really small, so I used metal bars to make an 11″x 5″ frame to pour the caramel into. Set pan aside.

In a medium-sized pot, combine sugar, corn syrup, vanilla beans and pods, and water, and mix until just combined. When choosing your pot, pick one with tall sides, as the caramel will bubble up a lot later on. Make sure there are no granules of sugar stuck to the sides of the pot.

Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, swirling the pot from time to time. Do not stir! Let sugar boil until it reaches a deep golden brown. Immediately turn off heat, then slowly pour in 1/3 of the cream (the caramel will bubble furiously, so be careful to avoid steam burns!). Whisk in the cream until fully incorporated. Pour in another 1/3 of the cream, and whisk again. Then pour in the rest of your cream, and whisk until thoroughly combined. Add your butter and whisk until completely emulsified.

Discard your vanilla pods and quickly pour caramel into your frame or sheet pan. Refrigerate caramel until it is fully set, at least 1 hour. Using a clean, hot knife, cut into 36 pieces and wrap in wax or parchment paper. Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

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Candy, Chocolate, Petit Four, Recipes

Dark Chocolate Bon Bons & Thai Iced Tea Cremeux

One of my favorite drinks is milk tea, and Thai Iced Tea is no exception; it’s rich, creamy, smooth without being overly sweet, basically all the characteristics I look for in a dessert, but in the form of a drink! When I saw boxes of this stuff on sale, I knew I had to use it for something!

As it turns out, World Market also had blocks of Callebaut Coverture on sale (1/2 off!!), and so began my dream of combining the two flavors for a match made in heaven.

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Scaling out some chocolate. Make sure you chop it finely!

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Ingredients for the cremeux.

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Just before tempering the eggs in.

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After mixing it with the chocolate. The word “cremeux” is just the french word for “creamy.” It is basically a rich, silky custard that is somewhere between pudding and a mousse. So basically, heaven!

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Filling the truffle molds. I made a mistake of filling them a little too high.

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Popping them out of the molds. I won’t lie, I was ecstatic when I saw how glossy the shells got 🙂

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The finished product. This is quite possibly one of my best attempts at truffle making, and I’m definitely glad I tried! After taking a bite into these babies, the silky custard bursts into your mouth, and the Thai Iced Tea flavor adds a nice bittersweet touch. When I first learned how to temper chocolate, it was just a big pain in the butt (tabling, ugh!), so I avoided anything that required it for a long time. After learning some new, cleaner methods (seeding, yay!) I decided it was time to put it to the test, and I’d say it was a success!

Thai Iced Tea Chocolate Creameux

1 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

5 bags single-serve thai iced tea

3 egg yolks

3 + 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

6 oz (good!) dark chocolate, chopped finely

In a small saucepot, combine milk, cream, tea bags, and 3 tablespoons sugar. Whisk together and bring to a simmer over low heat, then remove from heat and let tea steep 10 minutes, until cream is a deep orange. Remove and discard tea bags, squeezing out any excess liquid. Bring liquid to a light simmer. In a small bowl, whisk well egg yolks and 3 tablespoons sugar, until there are no visible lumps. While whisking, pour 1/3 of hot milk mixture into egg yolks, whisk until combined. Add egg mixture to saucepot and whisk to combine. With a rubber spatula, gently stir and scrape sides and bottom of pot until custard becomes thick and coats the back of the spatula well. Pour custard over chopped dark chocolate, and whisk well to combine, until all chocolate is melted. The finished product should look smooth and glossy.

Keep refrigerated until ready to use, and serve cold. Cremeux should thicken as it cools. OR, you could be a little naughty like I was and use them as a bon bon filling!

Temper about 1 pound of dark coverture and pour into clean and dry polycarbonate or silicon molds*, filling up every mold. Vigorously tap out excess chocolate back into bowl and out of molds. The more you tap out, the thinner the shell will be, and the more delicate the truffle will be (which is what you want!). With an offset spatula, scrape off any excess chocolate from the top of the mold, making sure surface is completely smooth. After shell has set (I put it in the fridge for a few minutes because I was a tad impatient), pipe cremeux into center of each mold, leaving a 1/8″ lip around the edges for the bottoms of the bon bons. Let filling set in fridge for a few minutes. When filling is set, pour the rest of the tempered chocolate over the molds, and use an offset spatula to scrape off (well!) any excess chocolate and smooth the bottoms. If chocolate is tempered properly, the bottoms should set up within a few minutes. Now pop out your bon bons and enjoy!

*I used a silicon mold for these, polycarbonate molds probably would have been better in terms of scraping off extra chocolate smoothly, but it’s your decision!

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Candy

Fleur de Sel and a New Year

And with the new year, I bring you a new blog! As some of you may know, I have had a few blogs in the past, but this time I decided to start fresh. I wanted something that would highlight the food/clothes/whatever I make, without being as personal as the previous ones have been. I also thought it would be a good time to start writing again since I just finished school and actually have time for it now (more or less).

Today the boyfriend and I made fleur de sel caramels; chewy, buttery, and not overly sweet as many caramels tend to be. And with every granule of fleur de sel that touches the tongue, you get a nice pop of flavour.

I got the recipe from one of the two new (and very cute) books I bought this weekend, Sugar Baby.

Some things I learned from making these:

  1. Quality ingredients make ALL the difference and are well worth the price (if you can afford it!).
  2. Fleur de sel is expensive! Or maybe Whole Foods is. Possibly both. I will definitely be saving that one in the pantry for special occasions…
  3. Caramel is kinda a pain in the butt to cut up, which leads to snacking of all the bad pieces, which leads to terrible, terrible things….
  4. USE GOOD BUTTER. I will refer you back to number one! These caramels were really smooth and buttery, but not overly rich, which I’m sure I can attribute to the good butter. Since we had some leftover this morning, Robert and I used a pat of it when we made scrambled eggs, and OHMIGOD. yep. I don’t think I can ever go back to buying the $2/# stuff at Stater Bros…

Anyway, I hope ya’ll enjoy my new blog, and have a wonderful 2012! My new year’s resolution is not necessarily to lose weight, but to definitely not gain it. We’ll see what’ll happen with all these caramels sitting around…

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