Saturday, May 21, 2005

Amina's Shower/Henna Night

Yesterday, we celebrated Amina's shower/henna night at our friend Khatija's house. It was meant to be a surprise, but of course, it did not take Amina long to figure out that we were conspiring behind her back. At the end, our intention of secrecy became a big joke. Murat's parents arrived from Turkey the day before, so both mothers-in-law were present. It is good that Khatija has a huge house, because we were a big crowd. Everyone brought something, and we had a feast. Today's post will be pictures from the shower, but I doubt that I can get the recipes. Some of them are well-kept secrets.

This is Amina making an entrance to Khatija's house and a group of us admiring and cheering for her.

This beautiful gift basket was brought by a friend's daughter. I really tried to get the recipe for these petit feurres that were fashioned as tiny packages complete with a bow and a flower on top, but she wouldn't give it to me! They had marzipan in them, and I had to eat several to be able to roughly figure out how she made them.

Ceyda made her beautiful pecan crusted chocolate truffle pie. In fact, she made two of them. And unlike others (who know themselves), she said she would be happy to share the recipe with us.

Unfortunately, since the camera person was too busy eating when the desserts were served, I do not have a good picture of the dessert table. But in addition to the notorious petit feurres, Ceyda's chocolate truffle pie, and my chocolate cheesecake, we also had several fruit pies, Fatouma's famous almond baklavas and a big platter of fruit. It was a beautiful night; good food, good company and a very happy event to celebrate! What more can one ask for?

Friday, May 20, 2005

My Thursday

I could not do anything for Amina's wedding cake yesterday. Yurdaer left for a 3-day trip this morning, and I spent part of yesterday making provisions for his trip. Amina's shower/kina gecesi (which will be a potluck) is also today, and although Ceyda who is coordinating the cooking efforts for this occasion never asked me, I wanted to bake something anyway. So I tried Patatesli Dilim Borek, a recipe I found in SeMaVeR. The ingredients made a long roll, which I divided in two--one will be for Yurdaer and company, and the second for the shower. I will post an English translation of this recipe in Savory Dishes. I also made my Creamy Chocolate Lace Cheesecake for the shower, and 2 mini loaves of Pierre Herme's Apricot and Ginger Chocolate Cake from Chocolate Desserts, one for the travelers, and the other to be had at home.

Apricot and Ginger Chocolate Loaf Cake

This cake was to be made in a 9"x5" loaf pan, but I used two 8"x4" pans instead and ended up with 2 mini loaves. While I usually adore Pierre Herme recipes, I was a little disappointed by this one. It actually turned out to be a good cake, but I guess I expected more from the rich ingredient list and somewhat lenghty preparation. The ginger, apricot and chocolate pieces sank to the bottom (Pierre's own cake had the same problem) and the almond paste did not stand out in taste. Oh well, I really wanted to try this recipe once and I am glad that I got it over with.

1 1/3 c flour
1/3 c cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 oz apricots, cut into small chunks
3/4 c sugar
5 oz almond paste, broken into small pieces
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 c milk, at room temperature
2 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, cut into small chunks
1 3/4 oz drained stem ginger, cut into small chunks
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9"x5" loaf pan and place the pan on an insulated baking sheet or two regular stacked baking sheets. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Bring about a cup of water to boil. Add the apricots, pull the pan from heat, let the apricots soak for a minute, then drain and dry on paper towels. Procees the sugar and almond paste until "sandy". Place this in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the eggs one by one, beating at medium speed for 2 minutes after each addition. Now replace the paddle with the whisk attachment, increase the mixer speed to high, and beat for 8-10 minutes or until the batter starts looking like mayonnaise. Reduce the speed to low and add the milk, mixing until combined, and then sift the dry ingredients. Continue beating on low speed until the batter becomes homogenous. Working with a rubber spatula, mix the chopped apricots, chocolate and ginger. Finally gently fold in the melted butter. Turn the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle tests clean. The cake may crack as it bakes (mine didn't). If it seems to be browning too fast, you may cover it loosely with analiminum foil tent during the last 20 to 30 minutes of baking. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool on rack for 10 minutes before unmolding.

Creamy Chocolate Lace Cheesecake

This recipe from a Pillsbury cookbook is one of my most loved desserts.


1 1/2 c chocolate wafer crumbs
1/2 c chopped almonds
1/4 c melted butter


2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
2/3 c sugar
3 eggs
2 c (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c whipping cream
2 tbs butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla


1 c dairy sour cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp sugar
1/2 oz chocolate, melted

Heat the oven to 325F. Mix the crust ingredients well and press into bottom and up sides of prepared pan. (This time, I omitted almonds. Also I just used 1 c crumbs and 1/4 c melted butter which I pressed only to the bottom of the pan.)

In large bowl, beat cream cheese and 2/3 c sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Put the cream in a saucepan and heat it on low flame until it starts to simmer. Turn off the heat. Add the chocolate chips to the hot cream and stir until all the chips melt and the mixture comes together. Let it cool for a few minutes. Add it to the cheese mixture together with the melted butter and vanilla. Beat until smooth and uniformly colored. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 55-65 minutes or until edges are set. The center of cheesecake will be soft. Cool completely.

In small bowl, combine all topping ingredients except chocolate; stir until smooth. Spread over cooled cheesecake. Drizzle with the melted chocolate in lace pattern. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

New Blog for Savory Dishes

After a long period of resistance, I finally decided to blog on not-so-sweet recipes as well. (I must be caked out.) Check the link on the side for Savory Dishes.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream

I made the buttercream that will go on the outside of Amina's cake yesterday. (The recipe is from the Cake Bible.) I made two batches, and the first one was definitely runnier than the second. It must be because the white chocolate did not cool down enough. I hope that upon refrigeration, it will acquire the desired consistency, otherwise I may have to whip up another batch (Oh, no!) I froze everything, so I will not know until the last few days. I also made another batch of Rose's raspberry sauce. (The fancy name for it is raspberry caulis.) My freezer is almost chock full now with cake, buttercream and raspberry sauce. I have yet to make 2 14" layers of cake and another batch of neoclassic buttercream, and yes, let us not forget the syrup to sprinkle on layers, too.

24 oz white chocolate
32 oz cream cheese, softened
2 c unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cut the chocolate into tiny pieces. (She said to break it into squares, but I was afraid to leave it at that, and now I have a blister on my index finger knuckle.) Place it in a bowl set over a pot of hot water (no hotter than 160F!) on low heat. Melt the chocolate stirring continuously. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, preferably with a flat beater until smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in the cooled chocolate until smoothly incorporated. Beat in the butter and lemon juice. If lumping occurs (and you can count on it), sieve the whole buttercream using a fine strainer. The buttercream becomes spongy on standing. Rebeat to restore smooth creamy texture. This buttercream will store 2 weeks refrigerated, and 2 months frozen.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Pierre Herme's Plain Chocolate Ice Cream

Yesterday we tried an ice cream recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme. Pierre Herme is a genius when it comes to chocolate, and this ice cream proved it once again. The ingredient list was very short; with no custard base or cream to distract, the taste of the Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate we used came to the fore. It always surprises me to see how his minimalist approach never fails to yield very rich and satisfying results. (See Pierre Herme's Chocolate Mousse for more of his genius with chocolate.)

1/3 c powdered milk
3 c whole milk
1/3 c sugar
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Place the powdered milk in a saucepan and gradually whisk in the milk. When the powdered milk is dissolved, whisk in the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, then stir in the chopped chocolate and bring to a boil again. Pull the pan from the heat. Cool the mixture in an ice water bath, stirring occasionally, to room temperature or a little bit cooler.

Churn it in the ice cream maker. When the ice cream is done, put it in a freezer container and freeze for 2 additional hours so that it firms and ripens.

For an exciting variation, just before the ice cream is frozen, add about 2 cups of finely chunked Brownies.

Cake Dilemma: A 14" Cake or 2 13"x9" Backup Cakes?

13"x9" and 14" cake pans with a spoon for reference.

I made the 2nd half of the 12" cake and another batch of neoclassic buttercream yesterday. It was daytime and Rana insisted on helping, so things did not go exactly as planned. I must have taken the syrup off heat before it came to a rolling boil, because the buttercream turned out thinner than it should be. I made a mental note to flavor this batch with white chocolate (rather than lemon) with the hope that chocolate will stiffen it a little more. When the cake came out of the oven, I noticed that one side rose more than the other. This may have happened because the tray underneath was not level, but it could also be because I failed to level the batter well when it first went in the oven--I do not know. Anyway, I had to trim a portion off the top to level it and I made another mental note to place these thinner layers in the middle so that the cake looks symmetric when it is cut. We had the trimmed top for dessert, and to my relief everyone liked it. And one more unfortunate thing, a small piece of the cake on the side broke as I unmolded it from the pan, again because I was not careful enough as I ran a knife around the sides to separate it from the pan. This will have to be masked with buttercream during frosting.

At this point, I have 12", 10", 8" and 6" cakes baked, and these (with 2 13"x9" backup cakes) will be enough cake for 275 people. (By the way, a backup cake is an untiered and undecorated cake that is not displayed. It is kept, cut and served from the kitchen. Since it takes an expert quite a while to cut and serve the real wedding cake, a backup cake is a very practical thing to have on hand and speeds up things.) This was my initial plan but now I am a little worried that with these sizes, the tiered cake may look small. It is possible to make a small cake look bigger by using pillars in between layers, but Amina asked specifically for no pillars so this is not an option. I am seriously debating now if I should forget about the backup cakes and bake a 14" bottom cake instead. The cakes are more difficult to bake as the sizes get bigger, and they become a challenge to manipulate, but a 14" bottom tier will certainly make the finished cake look grander. I am just undecided about what to do :(

Monday, May 16, 2005

Wedding Cake Update-I

On Friday, I spent long hours in my kitchen. In addition to baking with Zeynep for the Talent Show and breaking in our ice cream machine, I baked the first half of the 12" cake, which thankfully came out good. Since the cake used only egg whites, I had about 9 egg yolks left, and I decided to use them to whip out my first batch of Neoclassic buttercream. To make it, I just doubled the buttercream recipe in the Marjolaine. This yielded 8 cups of buttercream, about one third of what I need to frost in between the layers. The pictures are not great because they were taken late at night with my old camera.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I received an ice cream maker as a mother's day gift. (Aren't my children very clever when it comes to choosing gifts?) First Zeynep tried it, but in her impatience to see results, she could not wait for the inner compartment to freeze for 6-22 hours. She took it out after only 4 hours, and what she made with that was delicious, but it was of a much softer consistency than ice cream. Of course, it did not go to waste, it was put back in the freezer and eaten as a frozen treat. On Friday, I tried the vanilla ice cream recipe from the booklet that came with the machine. I must have cooked the custard too long, because it curdled. But I put it through a sieve and proceeded with the recipe. The end result was a very delicious ice cream; better, in fact, than most store-bought varities. By the way, the bowl you see in the above picture was thrown on the wheel by Zeynep in her clay class.

1 1/2 c whole milk
1 1/2 c heavy cream
1 whole vanilla bean
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 c sugar

Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan. Use a sharp knife to split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds. Stir the seeds and the bean pod into the milk/cream mixture. Bring it to a slow boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Combine the eggs, egg yolks and sugar. Beat until the mixture is thick, smooth and pale yellow in color, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Remove the bean pod from the milk/cream mixture. Pour the hot liquid in a slow, steady stream into the egg yolk mixture while beating on low speed continuously. Transfer back to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the mixture is thick enough to cover the back of the spoon. Transfer to a bowl, cover surface with plastic wrap and chill completely.

Turn the ice cream machine on, pour in the custard and let mix until thickened.