Saturday, April 09, 2005

Apricot Dessert Bars

American desserts may not be spectacular like the European ones, but they are easier to make, transport and serve. The original recipe for these bars is from a Pillsbury Bake-Off booklet. I reduced the sugar in the filling and the base, and used unsweetened coconut instead of the sweet, sticky variety sold in the supermarkets. (However, when I tasted it, I thought that it was still a tad too sweet; you can safely reduce sugar more.) Also, I threw in a handful of dried cranberries since I did not have enough dried apricots at home. In the past, I used almonds and pecans instead of walnuts, and the recipe worked equally well.


12 oz dried apricots, finely cut up (2 1/2 c) [I use the food processor for this step]
1 1/2 c water
1/2 c sugar


1 3/4 c flour
7/8 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 c butter, cut up into small pieces
1 c unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 c chopped walnuts

In medium saucepan, combine apricots and water. Cook over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes or until apricots are very soft, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/2 c sugar.

Heat oven to 400F. Grease bottom of 13x9-inch baking pan. In large bowl, combine flour, 7/8 c sugar, salt and baking soda. Using fork or pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Add coconut and walnuts. Press 3 c of crumb mixture in bottom of greased 13x9-inch pan. Bake at 400F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.

Spread apricot filling evenly over crust. Sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture. Bake at 400F for an additional 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Cool and cut into bars. Very good served with a dollop of whipped cream.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Deep, Dark Chocolate Tart

I enjoy making chocolate pies very much. However with this particular one I had a different experience. Filling was fairly easy. But the pie crust gave me a little hard time. Since the only combining ingredient is butter, even after resting in the refrigerator for 4 hours I had hard time to roll it and placing it in the pie pan. Also while slicing it it tended to crumble. But my friend Zinnur tasted it and insisted that the crust was delicious and I do not need to improve the pie crust recipe. So I included the recipe just as it is. But I am curious if anybody else tries the recipe will have the same experience as I did or not.


1 12-inch prebaked chocolate short dough pie crust (recipe follows)

First Layer:
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp brewed coffee or espresso

Second Layer:
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsps light corn syrup

Chocolate Short Dough Pie Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2lb(2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Sift together the flour and cocoa powder into a medium bowl and set aside. Place butter in the mixer bowl. Beat on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly creamed. Add the powdered sugar mix on low speed again for 30 seconds. Add the flour mixture mix just until the dough comes together about 30 seconds. Remove the dough from the bowl and wrap it in plastic wrap.Chill for at least 4 hours. To prebake remove the dough from the refrigerator let it sit at room temperature until soft enough to roll but still cool. Preheat the oven to 350F. Roll the dough into your 12-inch pie pan. Prick the bottom of the pastry shell a few times with a fork. Line the dough with parchment paper and fill with your faux filling. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool on a rack before using.


First Layer:
Bring the cream to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat.Add the chopped chocolate in it. Let sit for 1 minute. Stir in a circular motion until smooth. Add the coffee and stir until well incorporated.Immediately pour the ganache into the tart shell. Place the tart in the refrigerator to set for about an hour.

Second Layer:
Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Puree the bananas in a food processor or mash with a fork and set aside. Bring the cream and corn syrup to boil over medium heat. immediately pour the cream over the chocolate. Let sit 1 minute. Stir in a circular motion until smooth. Stir in bananas. remove the crust from the refrigerator. Pour the mixture slowly into the the tart shell. Put it back into refrigerator for another an hour or two. Serve.

Dilek's Strawberry Charlotte

Here is a picture of the anxiously awaited charlotte after it was unmolded. I had other pictures of it with better lighting, but both Yurdaer and Zeynep thought that this picture is the most artistic one that I took, so there you go! And in case you are wondering, yes, it did collapse gradually, but it held itself very well until I took several pictures and cut that first slice. The charlotte was an instant favorite with both my kids, and in spite of the puddle it became by the time he came back from work, Yurdaer also liked it very much. I guess I have to give it another try with more gelatin power soon.

I already provided a link to Dilek's recipe in my previous post, but here is an English translation just in case.

1 strawberry jelly roll lined mold (refer to the previous post for jelly-roll recipe)
250-300 gm strawberries (can substitute frozen strawberries when fresh ones are not in season)
250 gm ricotta
200-250 gm heavy cream
200 gm raspberry juice
Unflavored vegeterian gelatin as needed (this is the tricky part!)

Puree the strawberries. Dilek's recipe does not include sugar, but since my strawberries were not very flavorful, I had to add 1/4 c sugar at this stage.) If you want, you can cut a few strawberries into chunks and add to the puree. Whip the cream in a medium sized bowl, add the ricotta and the strawberry puree to it and gently stir until you get a uniformly pink mixture. Bring the fruit juice to a boil in a small saucepan. Mix the gelatin to it, and stir until completely melted. Add this to the pink filling and stir well until incorporated. Pour the filling into the jelly roll lined mold. Tap a few times for filling to settle. Fit the leftover jelly roll slices to form the top layer. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, put a weight on top and let rest in the refrigerator for several hours. Unmolding should be fairly easy. If you have difficulty, you can wrap the mold with a hot, wet towel for a few seconds, or you can use your hair dryer. Once unmolded, you can glaze the charlotte with a little apricot jam diluted with orange juice.

Charlotte starting to collapse (see the top)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Hot Milk Sponge Roll with Berry Jam

I made this jelly roll as a prelude to Dilek's Erdbeer Charlotte. In fact, I made it twice: The first cake firmly got stuck on the parchment paper and refused to come off in one-piece. (The kids had to tear it into pieces to eat it.) The second time, I took the extra precaution of generously buttering and flouring the parchment paper--something I wouldn't normally do, and things were fine. After the roll was semi-fozen, I cut it into 1/4 inch slices and lined a mold. I proceeded with Dilek's recipe, but I used my Kojel brand vegetarian gelatine instead of her Agartine. Well, I think I should have used more of Kojel. The charlotte is in its mold resting in the refrigerator now, and I can not help myself from checking it every 20 minutes or so, to see if it is firming. Not really, so far. :( I am considering putting it in the freezer if things do not improve by tonight. I hope that it holds itself long enough for me to take a picture once I unmold it. Oh well, even if not, I know it will still make for joyful eating, since I tasted the filling and it was very, very tasty. Thank you, Dilek!

The jelly roll recipe is from Cocolat by Alice Medrich.

1/4 c milk
2 tbs butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 c sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 c sugar
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/4 c strawberry and/or raspberry jelly mixture

Preheat oven to 400F. Line bottom of jelly-roll pan with parchment so that the paper overhangs the pan at 2 opposite ends. Heat milk with butter in small saucepan until butter melts. Reduce heat to low, and keep hot, but do not simmer. Sift flour with baking powder twice. Return to sifter and set aside. In large heatproof bowl, combine sugar, whole eggs and egg yolks. (I added some vanilla at this stage.) Hold bowl directly over a stove burner, whisking vigorously for about 1 minute until eggs are warm. (If you fear that the eggs will cook, you can alternatively set the bowl in a pan of barely simmering water, and whisk occasionally, until lukewarm to touch.) Now take off heat, and beat at high speed until mixture has cooled, tripled in volume, and has the consistency of thick whipped cream. Sift one-third of flour mixture over batter, and fold in gently by hand, using the largest spatula you have. Fold in half of remaining flour; then fold in the remainder. Pour the hot milk and butter into batter and fold well, scraping the bottom each time and bringing the batter up the sides of the bowl until you can no longer see traces of liquid. Turn batter into prepared pan. Bake for about 10 minutes. The cake will have browned on top, and started to shrink from the sides of the pan. Cool cake in its pan. Spread with 1/4 c or more of berry jam and roll tightly.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Sicilian Cassata

These days, what I bake is dictated by what I need to use really fast before its expiration date. The leftover ricotta cheese from White Chocolate and Chestnut Cheesecake had to be saved, but I did not want to make another cheesecake. After some searching in my cookbooks, I came across this recipe in A Gourmet's Guide to Chocolate, something I've never tried before. The original recipe used a dusting of powdered sugar and chocolate curls for decoration. I opted for a ganache glaze which can only improve a cake, right? The cassata turned out OK with its Italiene filling of candied fruit, almonds and chocolate studded ricotta. But it won't be in my "sure to try again" list.


1 1/2 c self-rising flour
1 tsp baking powder
10 tbs butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
3 eggs


2 c ricotta
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate, grated
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs orange juice (to substitute for brandy in original recipe)
1/2 c chopped candied cherries or other fruit
1/4 c chopped almonds

To Decorate:

3 oz chocolate chips (about 1/2 c)
3/8 c cream

Some orange juice to wet layers

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a deep 8-inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper. Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Beat sugar and butter until smooth and creamy. Add eggs one by one and beat 10-15 seconds after each addition. Add the flour mixture and continue beating until well mixed. Pour into prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes, until golden-brown and firm. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

To prepare filling, sieve ricotta cheese into a medium-size bowl. (I don't know why this was necessary.) Add chocolate, sugar, vanilla and orange juice; beat thoroughly until mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in candied fruit and chopped almonds.

Cut thin crust of cake and save to nibble on later. Cut cake horizantally in 3 layers. Place one layer on prepared plate. Drizzle it with some orange juice. Cover with half of cheese mixture, repeat layers finishing with cake. Press down lightly, cover with a weight and chill overnight.

To make the ganache, bring whipping cream to a simmer and take it off heat. Put in the chocolate chips and stir until they are all melted. Correct with more cream or chips until you achieve the desired consistency. Cool a little. Glaze the cassata. Decorate the sides with sliced almonds, if you desire.