Friday, June 03, 2005

Pistachio Marzipan Triangles

I discovered a bag of shelled pistachios in my refrigerator the other day and made my own pistachio paste following this recipe from the Accidental Hedonist. The result had the consistency of marzipan, so I will call it pistachio marzipan. I used more than half of it as a filling in these phyllo triangles which got the approval of the men in my house. I am planning to make more pistachio marzipan to freeze. I can think of so many delicious ways to use it!

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
24 sheets of phyllo pastry
24 1/2-inch pistachio marzipan cubes
1 cup sugar
1.5 c water
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Brush one sheet of phyllo with melted butter. (Keep the other sheets covered so that they do not dry out.) Fold it lengthwise into thirds. Brush again with melted butter. Place a cube of pistachio marzipan at one end of the strip you thus obtain. Fold one corner over the filling to form a triangle. Continue folding until the end of the strip like you do when you make muska boregi. Repeat with the other sheets. Place all triangles in an oven tray. Brush the tops with melted butter. Bake in preheated 350F oven until nicely browned. Cool the triangles.

Meanwhile, prepare the syrup. Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan. Cook, stirring continuously until the sugar dissolves. Bring to aboil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice, simmer for another 5 minutes. Pour the hot syrup on the cooled triangles. Cool and serve with more ground pistachios.

(The quantities above are somewhat approximate as I did not measure the ingredients while I made the triangles.)

Cut triangle with Pistachio Marzipan

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Mousseline Buttercream and Lemon Curd for Another Wedding Cake

Mousseline (top) and Neoclassic (bottom) buttercreams

As some of you already know, another wedding cake is in the works for this Sunday. Our friend Juwairiyah's daughter Quasia is getting married, and although they had previously planned to buy the wedding cake, she said that this was only because they did not know we could make it. To make a long story short, Aisha will bake the cakes and I will make the buttercreams. It will be a joint project.

Aisha will make the infamous yellow butter cake from the Cake Bible with lemon zest mixed in the batter. Let's hope that she will have more luck with it than I did. The cakes will be frosted with Lemon Curd Mousseline buttercream in between the layers, and plain Mouselline on the outside. Today I made two batches of Mousseline and some lemon curd. I had egg yolks leftover from the Mousseline, and instead of freezing them, I made a batch of Neoclassic buttercream -- just so that we don't run out of buttercream at the last moment. (I used more than 3 kilograms of butter to make the buttercreams.) There are no pictures because Mehmet took one camera to his class trip and Yurdaer took the other to work, and forgot to bring it back home. I may add some tomorrow, but buttercream pictures are not very interesting anyway.

Mousseline Buttercream

(I am going to give you directions for a smaller batch. This yields approximately 4 1/2 cups of buttercream.)

2 c unsalted butter, softened but cool (65F)
1 c sugar
1/4 c water
5 large egg whites
1/2+1/8 tsp cream of tartar
3 oz fruit syrup (or nothing)

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until smooth and creamy and put to a cool place. Have ready a heatproof glass measure near the range. In a small nonstick saucepan, heat 3/4 c sugar and 1/4 c water, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbling. Stop stirring and reduce the heat to low.

In another mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Graduslly beat in the remaining 1/4 c sugar until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Increase the heat and boil the syrup until a thermometer registers 248 to 250F. Immediately transfer the syrup to the glass measure to stop the cooking.

Beat the syrup into the whites in a steady stream. At the end, use a scraper to remove the syrup clinging to the glass measure. Lower speed to medium and continue beating until the mixture is cool. (This took me several minutes.)

Beat in the butter at medium speed 1 tablespoon at a time. If at any time, the mixture looks slightly curdled, increase the speed slightly and beat until smooth before continuing to add more butter.

Lower the speed slightly and drizzle fruit syrup. Store in airtight bowl. Rebeat from time to time to reestore texture.

You can add up to 3/4 c lemon curd (recipe below) to flavor it. This buttercream will keep for 2 days at room temperature, 10 days refrigerated and 8 months frozen. Allow to come to room temperature before rebeating or it will break down irretrievably.

Lemon Curd

I had previously given a recipe for lemon curd. But this one is richer in lemon taste, so here it is (again from the Cake Bible):

4 large egg yolks
1/2 c +2 tbs sugar
3 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tbs unsalted, softened butter
pinch of salt
2 tsp finely shredded lemon zest

In a noncorrodible saucepan, beat the yolks and sugar until well blended. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the zest. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened enough to thickly coat a spoon but is still liquid enough to pour. It will change from translucent to opaque and will start to take on a yellow color on the back of a wooden spoon. It must not be allowed to boil or it will curdle. Whenever steam appears, remove briefly from heat, to keep from boiling. When thickened, pour at once to a strainer. Remove and discard the coarse residue. Stir in the zest and cool.

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Wedding Day

Yesterday was the long-awaited wedding day for Murat and Amina. There is so much to tell about it that this will be a long post with lots of pictures. However, I wanted the first picture to be of their wedding invitation. What made this wedding so special--other than the fact that Amina and Murat are two very special people--was that almost everything was attended to either by the couple, or their families, or close friends who loved them. Their wedding invitation was no exception; it was printed and prepared at home. Amina studied marbling as her senior project last year. By the end of the year, she was able to produce beautiful tree and flower motifs which now adorn the walls of Ayca's house. Of course, it took her several months to master marbling, and she had a lot of practice sheets leftover from her project. It was Murat's idea to use these for the invitations. The result was these original, one-of-a-kind invitations that were the bride's own handiwork.

Sunday turned out to be a lovely day; it was sunny yet not too hot, and most importantly, despite the weather predictions of "few showers", it did not rain! A group of friends gathered at the dergah in the morning, and under Ayca's careful supervision, prepared and decorated the entrance of the dergah, the tent and the tables. Meanwhile Aisha and I transported the cakes to the dergah, and Aisha started to build up the tiers. The picture below shows her hands cutting the plastic straws that support the cake. After she placed the other 2 cakes on top, she hid the seams of the tiers with piped decorations. It was such a relief to have someone as calm and experienced as Aisha to do this part and to have Fatima around to help, as I was already nervous about whether or not a few plastic straws would be able carry this heavy cake for the following 6 hours.

After the assembly of tiers and piped decorations were completed, Aisha decorated the cake with fresh flowers.

Around noon, our friend Mehmet arrived with his car loaded with all kinds of goodies. He zoomed into the dergah kitchen and cooked up a storm of a wedding buffet. Unfortunately, I do not have a good picture of the L-shaped buffet table, but I can personally vouch that it looked very beautiful and festive, and everything was very delicious.

After the wedding ceremony ended and we had our pictures taken with the new couple, we leisurely had a Turkish feast. Then it was time for dessert. Fatouma had made her famous almond baklavas. And of course, there was the wedding cake! Three people carried the cake outside. Needless to say, its short trip from inside the dergah to the garden seemed nerve-wreckingly long to me. The picture below shows the newlyweds cutting off the first slice.

And here is the cake in its entirety. Do you notice how the bottom 14" cake looks a different color than the above cakes? This happened because the neoclassic buttercream we used for crumb-coating ran out when it was turn for the 14" cake, and we had to use the lighter color white chocolate cream cheese buttercream instead. The 14" cake was still a little cold when we served it. Six hours outside was not enough to cool it down to room temperature.

This picture was taken while the cake was being cut into slices. It shows the straws used for support, and demonstrates how bigger cakes are cut into concentric circles first, and then to individual slices. This requires expertise, and Aisha rose to the occasion once again. I was busy running after Rana at the time. (Unfortunately, Zeynep was on her class trip, and could not be at the wedding. At times such as these, I appreciate her help with Rana more than ever.)

Here are the slices of cake served with Rose's raspberry sauce. I only had a bite of it from Mehmet's plate, and without the sauce. Despite my fears it was not dry (thanks to the 7 cups of syrup I sprinkled on the cakes), and the raspberry flavor was evident. I am sure that it was even better with the sauce. Many people commented that it was delicious. What a relief!

All in all, it was an incredibly beautiful day. It really brought us together as a community, and reminded us once again that we have so many reasons to be thankful for. I really felt priviliged to be able to contribute to this celebration. For me, it was a great experience and a very valuable learning process. In retrospect, I really think that the whole experience would not have been as beautiful if it were not for the failures in the beginning with the baking of the cakes. It is a little bit like baking itself. You know how a pinch of salt is always added to a cake batter to ensure that the finished cake does not have a flat, boring taste.

I want to finish this long post by a picture of something sweet: Amina and Murat's wedding favor, a bundle of traditional almond dragees and a chocolate kiss. May the newlyweds always be happy, healthy and prosperous! And last but not least, I want to thank you reader, for your support throughout this journey. It was invaluable.