Entries from June 29th, 2009

A Sip of Summer

June 29th, 2009 · 20 Comments · Custards, Fruit, Recipes



 Whenever I'm in the mood for summer holiday, my mind always drifts to soft sandy islands afloat in glass-clear seas, bare feet dangling over hammocks, and tropical fruits hanging lush and ripe from the trees. 

Alas, no island getaway for me this summer, but fortuitously, I received a sample of The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley in my mail – in mango!  Although it's certainly great to be able to take advantage of seasonal produce, it's nice to have a quality alternative. When I was working at the bakery and we were making raspberry and passionfruit pates de fruits year round, fruit purees like these were a lifesaver: the consistent quality of good fruit purees takes one less variable out the complicated calculus of pastry.

I had also just gotten these adorable little dessert glasses – perfect for making verrines, those gorgeous French desserts that look like captured rainbows. Verrines are meant to be a feast for the senses – a beguiling combination of colors, textures, and tastes. I got out one of my favorite inspirations, a book on verrines by Stéphane Glacier, and there, as if pulled right out of my daydreams, was a mango-and-coconut striped number, ready to quench my thirst for a tropical getaway.


The coconut cream uses pastry cream lightened with whipped cream, one of my very favorite techniques. Although pastry cream has a glorious multitude of uses, sometimes I like to mix it with whipped cream to give an airier texture and soften the flavor. With intensely rich and creamy coconut milk added, the whipped cream also prevents the final mixture from becoming too cloying or sweet.

I combined the mango puree with a little sugar and gelatin to create a jelly layer. Glacier's original recipe combines mango and passionfruit purees, if you want your tropical verrine to be a veritable orchard of fruit. One note with using purees: as with using fresh fruit, the amount of sugar to add depends on the existing sweetness. Some purees are presweetened, so be sure to taste before putting extra sugar in.

I've made mango mousses before, but I like this mango jelly because it preserves the brilliant golden-sunset hue of the fruit, and provides a nice contrast to the coconut cream. Also, since it's a jelly, you only want to have a thin layer (unless you're going for Jell-O-esque cubes), so it makes for an elegant visual.


The very lovely photo in the cookbook showed the verrines decorated with chocolate curls, but since it was nearly 90 degrees in the city (yes, in SF, no joke!) I decided against the pain of tempering chocolate in high heat and opted for some chocolate wafers instead. I think it makes them look like little ice cream sundaes – sipping up summer, indeed!

Although San Francisco is not exactly the ideal place for outdoor unheated swimming pools, all the bodies of water I passed by this shimmeringly hot weekend looked mighty tempting. I hope you all get to enjoy a splash in the pool this summer!


Tropical Verrines

adapted from Verrines et Petits-Gateaux

makes 12 verrines

Coconut Cream

2 cups milk

10 tablespoons sugar

6 large egg yolks

4 tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

8 1/2 ounces coconut milk

8 1/2 ounces whipped cream

Mango Jelly

10 1/2 ounces mango puree

2 ounces sugar

6 grams (1 packet) powdered gelatin

For the coconut cream: heat 1 1/2 cups of the milk and 4 tablespoons of sugar in a medium saucepan on medium heat until it comes to a simmer.

Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar and the egg yolks together in a medium bowl.

Whisk the remaining 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch together in a small bowl, then add to the eggs and whisk to combine.

When the milk on the stove has come to a simmer, pour in a slow stream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens into pastry cream, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the vanilla.

If you see any lumps or cooked bits in your pastry cream, press it through a strainer. Place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming and let cool.

Whisk the coconut milk into the pastry cream until combined and smooth.

Gently fold in the whipped cream into the mixture into combined.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a round tip for ease of filling the glasses.

Combine the mango puree and sugar in a small bowl.

Bloom the gelatin with about 1/4 cup of water, then microwave for about 10 seconds until it is liquid.

Add liquid gelatin to the mango puree and stir to combine. Let sit for about 5 minutes to cool.

Pipe some of the coconut cream into the glasses, about 1/3 of the way up.

Pour some of the mango puree on top in a thin layer. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes to let the mango set slightly.

Pipe some coconut cream on top of the mango layer.

Pour some more of the mango puree on top, stopping short of the top of the glass.

Refrigerate verrines until set.

Read more →


Cherry Ice Cream Profiteroles with Almond Granita

June 18th, 2009 · 31 Comments · Fruit, Ice Cream, Recipes


Is everyone swooning over cherry season like I am? Of all the myriad sybaritic pleasures of summer, a bowl of ripe cherries ranks near the very top. At the waning of a lazy, sun-drenched afternoon, bare legs turned a few shades darker, book propped open and half-finished in your lap, a pile of cherry pits and ruby-stained fingers – perfection.


So, what to do when you get carried away at the market and come home with more cherries than even you can possibly eat? Solution: Ice cream, another summertime icon.

When I make fruit ice creams, I like to try and preserve as much of the fresh fruit as possible. So instead of pureeing the cherries to a perfectly smooth coulis, I roughly chopped them up, then cooked them in a saucepan with a little sugar on a low simmer until the cherries had softened up, and their juices had thickened slightly. Then I swirled the cooled, jammy mixture into ice cream base, poured it all into my ice cream maker and let the machine do its magic. The result? A gorgeous cherry-blossom-pink ice cream studded with pieces of cherries, tasting vividly of the fruit. There's no eggs in this ice cream, so it's closer to a sherbet; especially when trying to showcase fruit, I find the fewer ingredients, the more your star flavor will shine.


Now, I could also just sit on the porch and eat my way through a tub of this ice cream (are you sensing a theme here?), but to take this ice cream to the next level, I decided to make some pâte à choux and create some cherry ice cream profiteroles. To finish it off, I remembered an almond granita that I'd had at a local restaurant – I'd been wanting to try to reproduce it and now it seemed like the perfect accompaniment. If you're wondering how this simple summer treat turned into a major dessert project, umm, it seems to happen to me quite often. Inspiration may be a capricious muse, but I'm never one to turn down her visits!

Granita is the Italian version of snow cones, made from water mixed with fruit puree or other flavorings, which is then frozen and broken up into sparkling crystals. Icy-cold fruit granitas are a natural refresher for a hot day in Rome; however, I'd encountered an almond granita served with espresso cream at an osteria in SF that had me swooning. 

While most granitas are made with water, this one is also made with almond milk and almond paste, which gives extra depth of flavor. It's also why it's less icy-looking. I spent an interesting morning trying to make almond milk from almonds – while the result is tasty and certainly a tasty alternative to dairy milk, you're perfectly fine picking up some almond milk from the store.

Making granita is a fascinating exercise as well: to get the crystals to form, you should break up the granita with a fork about every half hour so it doesn't freeze into a solid block. If you're the multitasking type, you can work this into the pate a choux making process, so that when you're finished baking the puffs and filled them, you'll also have a beautiful granita ready!


Does it seem like an awful lot of work to get up from the poolside lounge for? Well, I think it's worth it – I'll certainly be making another batch before cherry season is over!

Oh, and by the way, if you haven't noticed to the right of the Dessert First page, I've put some some of the videos I made for Chow to promote my Field Guide to Cookies. I demonstrate a few cookie-making tips in the kitchen. I also hope to have some news to share about the candy book very soon!


Cherry Ice Cream

makes about 1 1/2 quarts

3/4 pound cherries, pitted and roughly chopped

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup milk

Combine cherries, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cherries turn soft and jammy and the mixture is  bubbling. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

In another medium saucepan combine the cream, milk, and remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is almost simmering.

Remove from heat, pour mixture into a bowl, and chill over an ice bath until it is room temperature.

Stir in the cherries. Cover and chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.

Freeze in an ice cream maker per manufacturer's instructions.

Pâte à choux Dough

makes 20-24 puffs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup water
4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 + 1 large eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Combine milk, water, butter, sugar and salt In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan and heat on medium high.

Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough should come together into a ball. Continue stirring for another 3-4 minutes until it is completely smooth and soft.

Transfer the dough into a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat to cool it down slightly. Add in four eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. The dough should be very thick and shiny but not liquidy.

Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1 inch plain tip. Pipe out mounds of dough on the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart.

Beat the last egg with a little water to form an egg wash, then brush lightly over the puffs.

Bake in oven for about 15-18 minutes, rotating halfway through. The puffs should turn golden brown and be dry to the touch. It's easier to underbake than to overbake; make sure they are dry before taking out.

Place sheet on a wire rack and let puffs cool before slicing in half and filling with ice cream to make profiteroles.

Almond Granita

1 cup almond milk

1 cup water

3 ounces almond paste

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process until very smooth.

Strain into an 8 inch square baking pan (stai nless steel is best).

Place in freezer and let freeze for about an hour. Using a fork, break and crush the mixture into small pieces. Freeze for another 30 minutes and repeat the process, turning the pieces into even small crystals. The mixture should be firm and ready to serve after about 2 hours of this process.

Read more →


Macaron Mania in 805 Living

June 5th, 2009 · 18 Comments · Field Guide to Cookies, Personal


It's been a busy week for me, and unfortunately not in the kitchen. I don't have a new recipe to share this week (although the near-bushelful of cherries I got at the market today might provide a hint as to what's in store), but I'd like to share something else!

A couple months ago, I was contacted by 805 Living Magazine and asked if I'd like to share some tips on macaron-making. I love that the macaron craze continues unabated in the food blogging community, especially in the US (yes, Veron, I'm looking at you!!). It gives me hope that M. Hermé might finally get an outpost opened here someday! And, a chance to differentiate between macarons and macaroons – in print! I know there are ardent devotees of both kinds of these two cookies that have caused so much gastro-linguistic confusion, so I was glad to be able to discuss both!

I hope you enjoy these scans of the article from the May issue. Continue on with the macaron/macaroon merriment!!





Article posted with kind permission from 805 Living Magazine.

Read more →