Entries from July 30th, 2007

Daring Bakers Challenge: Strawberry Mirror Cake

July 30th, 2007 · 51 Comments · Cakes, Events, Fruit, Recipes


Given my love for strawberries, it was with delight that I saw the challenge Peabody gave us Daring Bakers for July: the very classic and beautiful Strawberry Mirror Cake!

This type of dessert is a mainstay of French pâtisserie: layers of light, airy genoise layered with smooth, creamy mousse – the European equivalent of America’s buttercream layer cakes, if you will. The recipe for the challenge uses a Bavarian cream, which has gelatin in it so it will set up when chilled, and a "mirror" – the thin layer of strawberry glaze on top. Altogether, this cake is a natural for an elegant and impressive presentation.

And in spite of its seemingly complicated appearance, it’s actually less of a project than it seems. The genoise bakes up in a couple ticks of the clock’s hands, and the Bavarian cream also holds no surprises if you’ve made a creme anglaise or pastry cream before – not a problem for a Daring Baker! I will caution against using too much gelatin in the Bavarian; it’s easy to panic if the mixture appears too soft and liquidy and attempt to remedy the situation by throwing in some more gelatin "just in case". However, the Bavarian will set up nicely in the refrigerator to its firm yet still yielding consistency: too much gelatin will turn your Bavarian into rubbery Jello-ness. The amount given in the recipe worked perfectly for me.

The semi-liquid state of the Bavarian is, also, what made putting together the cake less daunting than assembling a buttercream cake: since you essentially pour the Bavarian over the cake layers, it’s easy to get a smooth and even surface with minimal effort. If only making all desserts was this simple! As a side note, the recipe calls for using a 10" springform pan; I only had a 9" springform, but simply cut the genoise layers a little smaller so they would fit and leave room for the Bavarian cream on the side. I did end up not using all the Bavarian to fill the pan so as to leave room for the glaze, which was a shame but not a big deal.

After the Bavarian sets, all that remains is make the mirror glaze and pour over the top. I’ll note that although the recipe called for adding food coloring to the Bavarian and the glaze, I decided not to because the color imparted from the strawberries was already strikingly sufficient – I’m always amazed at how much red comes from strawberries (not to mention how they stain everything in the kitchen if I’m not careful!)

My mirror had a satisfactory smoothness and shine; I think the top of my cake was not completely even so the glaze pooled up in a few corners which kept the surface from being completely smooth, but on the whole I was pleased to serve it. And the taste? Well, with organic strawberries coming from the local farmer’s market, fragrantly ripe and begging to be used, I can’t think of a better place to have put them. The Bavarian was pleasingly cold and smooth, vibrantly strawberry in flavor, the cake a mild, unobtrusively mellow base.  Altogether, a beautiful summery treat (even if San Francisco is covered in fog right now!)

You can go over to Peabody’s site for the recipe, and be sure to check the Daring Baker blogroll to the left to see everyone else’s cakes. As for myself, I am off to enjoy another slice of this cake!


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SHF #33: Passion Fruit Soufflé Glacé with Pineapple Fruit Soup

July 23rd, 2007 · 13 Comments · Custards, Events, Fruit, Ice Cream, Recipes


My homegirl Mary of Alpineberry is hosting this month’s Sugar High Friday, and she picked an appropriately summery theme: Tropical Paradise. It’s been lusciously sunny this weekend, but when the fog rolls in, especially on the western side of the city, San Francisco can seem a very chilly place to spend summer.

So how better to transport myself back to paradise than with this stunner of a dessert from Kate Zuckerman’s The Sweet Life: an island of passion fruit soufflé glacé in a sweet sea of chilled pineapple soup, dotted with an archipelago of strawberries and peaches.

Zuckerman names her soufflé glacé so (it means frozen souffle) because her airy concoction is made of a passion fruit curd base combined with whipped egg whites, similar to a soufflé, as well as whipped cream. The resulting fluffy mixture is frozen into something like a French parfait but even lighter and dreamier. If you remember my semifreddo post, this is yet another just-as-good-as-ice-cream frozen dessert that does not require an ice cream maker!

As an ardent fan of passion fruit, I found this recipe a spectacular expression of the passion fruit’s heavenly sweet-tanginess. Using passion fruit in both the curd and in the meringue creates a multilayered intensity of flavor, while combining whipped cream and a meringue gives the end result a wonderful smoothness and lightness – it dissolves in your mouth like cares melting away on a sunny beach.

It’s also great fun to make – the passion fruit curd itself is a wonderful thing in itself, tart and buttery bliss for morning toast, while making the meringue involves whipping egg white and creating a passion fruit-sugar syrup. Sounds labor-intensive, but actually the entire thing can be made fairly quickly, and if you make it in the morning, you have a frozen dessert by evening!

The soufflé glacé is marvelous in itself, but it’s possible with a little more effort to make it into a dessert, as Zuckerman does by pairing it with her chilled pineapple soup. Pineapple and passion fruit is one of my favorite flavor combinations – another reason I found this recipe irresistible. Making pineapple soup is the easiest thing imaginable; the most effort you’ll spend is cutting the pineapple up, and you’ll also have the heady scent of cooking pineapple to perfume your kitchen and help complete the transport to paradise.

The cooked pineapple is pureed and strained – the resulting liquid, chilled, laced with hints of vanilla bean, is sweet, rich, and delightfully refreshing, a nice complement to the lightness and tanginess of the passion fruit soufflé glacé. Add some diced strawberries and peaches for textural interest and color, and you have the perfect instant tropical vacation – palm trees not included.


Passion Fruit Soufflé Glacé

from Kate Zuckerman’s The Sweet Life

makes about 2 quarts, or 12 servings


8 egg yolks

1/3 cup (66 g) sugar

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons passion fruit puree

pinch of salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature


1 cup heavy cream

4 egg whites

pinch of cream of tartar

6 tablespoons passion fruit puree

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

For the curd: Make a bain-marie by heating a saucepan of water on the stove. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl for the bain-marie.

Add the salt and passion fruit puree to the yolks and whisk to combine.

Place the bowl over the simmering water and whisk constantly for about 5-8 minutes, until the mixture has thickened and holds the lines from the whisk.

Remove bowl from heat and place in an ice bath until it has cooled to warm. Add in the butter and whisk until completely combined into the curd.

For the meringue: Whip the heavy cream in a stand mixer to soft peaks. Store the whipped cream in the refrigerator.

Place the egg whites In a clean stand mixer bowl and whip on medium-high with the whisk attachment until it starts to foam.

Add the cream of tartar and continue whipping until soft peaks start to form.

At this point, combine the passion fruit puree and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan and heat on stove on high until it comes to a boil.

While the passion fruit syrup is boiling, carefully add in the remaining one tablespoon of sugar to the whipping egg whites, a little at a time. The egg whites should get shiny and gain in volume – be sure to watch that they do not overwhip while the syrup is cooking.

When the temperature of the passion fruit syrup has reached 245 degrees F, remove from heat and carefully pour down the side of the mixer bowl while the mixer is still running. Let the syrup combine with the egg whites and continue whipping for about 6 minutes until the meringue has cooled to room temperature. It should be very thick and glossy.

Place the passion fruit curd in a large bowl. Scrape the whipped cream on top and carefully fold into the curd with a rubber spatula, taking care not to deflate the whipped cream too much.

Scrape the meringue on top of the mixture and incorporate in the same manner.

Pour the mousse into desired glasses or molds and place in the freezer for at least 4 hours to set. I use silicone molds that make it easy to unmold the shapes when they are frozen.

The frozen mousse will keep in the freezer for about 1 week.

Pineapple Fruit Soup

from Kate Zuckerman’s The Sweet Life

makes about 5 cups

1 vanilla bean

1 medium pineapple

1 cup sugar

Cut open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Place the seeds and pod in a large saucepan.

Slice off the top and bottom of the pineapple. Carve off the skin of the pineapple. Cut the pineapple down the center and then each half into 1/2 thick slices. You don’t have to be precise as the pineapple will be pureed later but keep the pieces similar-sized so they will cook evenly.

Place the pineapple, sugar, and 1 1/2 cups water to the saucepan.

Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from heat. Remove the vanilla bean pod.

Take about half the pineapple and place into a food processor. Add a little of the cooking liquid, and process until the pineapple is mostly pureed. Strain the puree into a container, using a ladle to push as much of the liquid through the strainer as possible. Repeat with the rest of the pineapple.

Chill the strained liquid in the refrigerator.

When you are ready to serve, ladle into bowls, place a scoop of the passion fruit soufflé glacé in the center, and add some diced strawberries, peaches, mango, or fruit of your choice.

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An Abundance of Summer

July 17th, 2007 · 20 Comments · Custards, Fruit, Recipes, Tarts


Back in the blogosphere…a happy sigh that my computer is up and running again! I’m glad I finally get to share some of what’s been happening in my kitchen – a lot of sweet, succulent, summer fruit!

It’s been a pleasurable challenge trying to keep up with the abundance of fruit coming my way – blush-colored peaches and nectarines, raspberries and blueberries bursting out of their cartons, watermelons stacked in their enticing hefty greenness. Here are a couple recipes I’ve made, out of the dozens begging to be made:


White Peach and Raspberry Tart with Pistachio Frangipane

What speaks the language of summer better than a fruit tart?  This, however, is a bit of a twist on the traditional berries-and-pastry cream combination. The last time I made frangipane, it was for a rich, autumn-colored tart. It turns out frangipane makes a perfectly delectable cushion for some ripe peaches and raspberries as well. The piquant nuttiness of the pistachio frangipane plays off beautifully against the floral, honeyed sweetness of the peaches and the puckery tartness of the raspberries. As well, I think the frangipane gives the tart a bit of heft and substantialness that makes it ideal for dessert after dinner, perhaps with a glass of muscato.

Instead of making the tart shell out of pâte sablée, I used pâte sucrée instead, to enhance the delicate sweetness of the dessert. A little trick I learned – brushing the par-baked tart crust with a light coat of egg wash before filling it – prevents the crust from getting soggy and preserves its perfect buttery crispness. I found this tart visually stunning as well; the vividness of the red raspberries and green frangipane in golden crust perfectly epitomizes the luminous vibrancy of summer.


Raspberry Blanc-manger

This simplest of desserts that defies simple description: it is famed as a classic French sweet, yet variants of it have been found all over Europe; it is described variously as a pudding, a glorified Jell-o, or a cousin to panna cotta. Perhaps Escoffier describes it best; he called it, "one of the best sweets served."

Although blanc-manger is beloved as the can’t-fail dessert of French newlyweds, the keys to this dessert’s appeal are its utterly smooth texture and its pure white color. Not surprising that such a soothing-seeming creation would have been served to the infirm and indisposed back in the Middle Ages as a balm. But in its current incarnations, blanc-manger is far from bland. Made with almond milk sweetened with sugar, folded with softly whipped cream, its meltingly ethereal – like biting into one of those big fluffy cumulus clouds up in the blue summer sky.

Perhaps because it also bears a passing resemblance to one of my favorite Asian desserts, almond tofu (actually an almond-flavored gelatin usually served with a mix of fruits), it is easy to see how well blanc-manger takes to the addition of other flavors – it’s like the perfect white canvas. I followed Dorie Greenspan’s example and tossed in some more of my raspberries, turning the dessert from stark to striking. A drizzle of raspberry coulis is about all the dressing up this dessert needs – just right when you want to keep things nice and simple while enjoying the pleasures of summer.


White Peach and Raspberry Tart with Pistachio Frangipane

adapted from Regan Daley’s In the Sweet Kitchen

makes one 9-inch tart or five 3 1/2-tarts

Pâte Sucrée

1 1/4 sticks (146 g) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup (86 g) confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1/4 cup (35 g) almond meal

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg, room temperature

1 3/4 cups (232 g) all purpose flour


1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, skinned

1/3 cup (66 g) sugar

5 tablespoons (68 g) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk (save egg white for egg wash)

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

3 tablespoons (20 g) flour


2-3 three ripe white peaches

1/2 pint raspberries

apricot jam for glaze

For the tart shell: Place the butter in a food processor and process until soft and creamy.

Add the confectioners’ sugar and process until well blended and smooth.

Add in the almond meal, salt, and vanilla extract and process until well blended.

Add in the egg and egg yolk and process until just blended; scrape the bowl down as necessary.

Add the flour and pulse just until the dough starts to come together into a ball; don’t overprocess. The dough will be very soft like cookie dough.

Scrape the dough out of the food processor and make into a ball. Flatten out into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill in refrigerator for at least 4 hours until it is firm enough to handle.

When you are ready to bake off the tart shells, take the dough out of the refrigerator – let it warm up a bit if necessary but not too much because it will start melting fast.

Roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap to 1/8" thickness. If the dough gets too soft, place back in the refrigerator to firm up.

Place the tart rings you will use on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Cut out circles of dough to fit into desired tart rings. Press the dough carefully into the tart rings and up the sides, being careful not to stretch the dough or it will shrink when baked. Place the rings into the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes. Trim off the excess dough from the top of the rings.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F while chilling the tart shells. When you are ready, line the shells with parchment and fill with beans or rice to keep the shells weighed down.

Bake shells for about 20 minutes until they are lightly colored and the shell feels dry to the touch. Remove from the oven and place on a rack. Remove the beans and parchment and brush the bottoms of the shells with a light egg wash (made from an egg white and a bit of water). Let finish cooling.

For the frangipane: Place the pistachios in a food processor along with the sugar. Process until finely ground and combined.

Add the butter and process until smooth.

Add the egg and egg yolk and process until combined, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add the almond extract and combine.

Add in the flour and pulse just until combined – do not overprocess.

You can use the frangipane at this point or refrigerate it for up to two days. Let it come to room temperature before using.

When you are ready to bake the tarts, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the frangipane evenly into the shells – do not overfill because it will puff up in the oven.

Wash the peaches, slice in half and discard the stones. Slice each half into thin slices and arrange evenly over the frangipane on each tart.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes for small tarts, 50-60 minutes for a large tart, until the frangipane is puffed and golden and the center of the tart is firm to the touch.

Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. When you are ready to serve, place raspberries over the tart. Warm a bit of apricot jam in a saucepan over the stove to make a glaze, and brush gently over the entire top of the tart. Let cool before serving.

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Back from Vacation: Not-So-Good News and Good News

July 10th, 2007 · 10 Comments · Photography, Travel


Interior of Dushanbe Teahouse, Boulder, Colorado

picture source   


I’m back from Colorado, which was beautiful in a dry, stark, majestic mountains in the clouds sort of way, and Kansas, which was beautiful in a humid, lushly green, sipping lemonade by the lake as the sun sets sort of way. It’s good to get away from home once in a while and see what else is out there.

The above picture is of the Dushanbe Teahouse in Boulder, Colorado, a gorgeous traditional Tajik teahouse, or choihona, given to Boulder by its sister of Dushanbe in Tajikstan. All of the parts of the teahouse, from the elaborately carved ceiling panels to the statues in the interior fountain, were made in Tajikstan and shipped over. It’s a stunning, one-of-a-kind place to have a cup of afternoon tea and imagine yourself in ancient Persia – the tea list is excellent, as well as the rest of the menu.

My return from the midwest was supposed to be good news for my sadly non-updated blog, but unfortunately, bad news awaited me: I came home to discover that my computer had decided to break down in my absence (perhaps reprimanding me for my lack of care? I dote lovingly over my kitchen equipment but rather much less so on my poor computer – I guess it got tired of the lack of attention) It is in the process of getting fixed, so some of the posts I had been planning to do on my return may not make it up until next week.


In the meantime, I’ll share some good news that brightened my return: I found out that Schmap Travel Guides has included some of my food photos in the new edition of their Paris guide. For those of you who haven’t discovered their website, Schmap’s digital guides make trip planning an interactive, surprisingly fun experience. Each city guide is linked with a Google map that shows all of the city’s attractions, restaurants, hotels, and other items of interest so you can easily see where everything is located.

If you look to the right sidebar of this page, you’ll see a Schmap of Paris – you can move around, zoom in, and investigate the listings on the map. If something interests you, say the ice cream shop Berthillon, you can either click on "Photos" to see some images of the store or click "more…" to go the Schmap description of the place. Pretty ingenious, no?

It was a pleasant surprise when Schmap contacted me and asked if some of my photos of Paris could be used for their entries. I am sure it will come as no shock to any of you that all my photos are of food! If you are curious, here are the photos they selected:

Dalloyau – their service is impeccable, their opera cake to die for. Even though I only bought one slice of cake, they wrapped it up carefully and thanked me as politely as the customers buying boxes of macarons and petit fours.

Fauchon – the displays at their store on Place de la Madeleine are always nose-to-the-window fabulous.

Pierre Herme – of course a must visit for every lover of pastry in Paris!

Pierre Herme again – Schmap has currently misattributed this photo to another Paris icon, fashion house Hermès. Honestly, I think I’d rather be spending my money on some of Pierre’s macarons than one of those scarves…

Chez Michel – one of my favorite little bistros in Paris, just blocks away from the Gare du Nord. I had some divine foie gras there, as well as a lovely Paris-Brest.

The photos are all from my trip to Paris a couple of years ago…I was so thrilled to be there and wanted to document every pastry that I saw. The photos were also  how I met the wonderful Carol, who confessed to finding my pictures on Flickr and loving them – now I’m the one who goes to her site and envies her trips to France and the beautiful watercolors she produces! What a lot of magic Paris can produce!

And finally, I learned that the photo I submitted to the June 2007 edition of DMBLGIT won in a couple of categories: tying for second in Edibility and placing third overall!  Many thanks to Bea for hosting – if you go to her post you will see she made cute little bar graphs showing the performance of the top ten in each category – I’m pleased to note I actually did show up in all of the categories. I need to thank Helene for providing the inspiration for the St. Honoré cakes, otherwise I wouldn’t have had the photo to submit!

Back to the kitchen for me…hopefully by next week I’ll be able to share my creations again with you all!

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