Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mostly Cookies...

This post will be a recap of the cookies I baked in the last 3 months, but before I get to the cookies, let me mention this dome cake. My real project was another chocolate cake, but at the end of the day, it was the eclectic dome --made with leftovers from 2 seperate desserts-- that stole the show. It had white chocolate mousse, raspberries, pistachio praline, chocolate genoise, whipped chocolate ganache and a chocolate glaze. You may think it a little too extravagant, but it really was just right.

You can find the recipe for these hazelnut cookies here. Instead of filling the thumbprints with melted chocolate before baking them, I bake them blind and fill the holes with Nutella while the cookies are still warm. This time, I reinforced the hazelnut theme by adding a whole hazelnut to each cookie, but they are great plain, too.

These are apricot and pistachio icebox cookies. The recipe is from Gourmet's December issue and can be found online here. I did not have dried cranberries, so I had to substitute dried apricots. You can keep the wrapped cookie dough in the refrigerator for a couple of days and have oven-fresh, delicious sables on a whim.

As you can see, the cookies lost their neat sides and edges as they baked. I think that a pistachio sable border (like here) may help them keep their shape as they bake. The bottoms and tops of sables look different, and you can see both sides in this picture.

This recipe for this cookie comes from a Pillsbury booklet, the kind they sell at supermarket stands. It has a surprise chunk of almond paste wrapped in chocolate cookie dough.

The original recipe suggests rolling the cookies in sugar after they come out of the oven. But if you prefer to take your poison in more subtle ways...

... you can glaze them with leftover chocolate ganache instead. You can even let the ganache thicken a little bit, and write your initials or make designs on them.

Luckily, this recipe is also available online. Next time, I am planning to use two layers of nut paste filling --maybe almond paste wrapped by a thin layer of pistachio paste-- and less of the cookie dough to make a three-color variation. You can, of course, think of other surprise fillings such as a chunk of white or dark chocolate.

These are apricot filled thumbprint cookies. The glaze is flavored with almond extract. My thumbprints usually lose their shape as they bake. As a remedy, one of the commentors to my Turkish blog suggested to fill the cookies after they are partially baked. I will try it the next time.

Another cookie recipe from Gourmet's December issue... These crinkle cookies were really delicious, maybe a little bit on the cakey side. The dough was rich with ground hazelnuts and melted chocolate. The recipe yielded more than 70 cookies, so you may want to consider halving it. The dough has to be really cold for the crinkle effect to be visible. I baked my cookies in two batches, and the second batch came out looking more crinkley because I took the trouble to shape them in my (really) cold porch. The picture above is from my first batch where, as you can see, the powdered sugar partially melted into the cookie dough.

I tried a Rugelach recipe with raisins and chocolate chips. I took them to a gathering of friends, and judging by the fact that I could not even taste one, they were pretty good. The chocolate chips made it difficult to roll the dough; grated chocolate would be a better (and probably messier) idea.

I made these Mexican wedding cakes for another gathering. You can find the recipe here. These had dried Turkish sour cherries and pistachios. They were colorful and delicious.

Last but not least, I made peace with macarons once again. After many trials of which I lost count, I had just started making reasonably good macarons when my oven died on me. With my new oven, it was back to square one for me as far as macarons were concerned. Finally and thankfully, we (my oven and I) got a better result the last time we tried. be continued with little delights soon.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

More Cakes

As far as I am concerned, December is the month for chestnuts. Time to use up whatever is left from last year's chestnut puree, time to make a new batch for next year's chestnut desserts... I first baked this dense chestnut cake over a year ago. Since then, I've been wanting to make it again with a chocolate glaze as in the original recipe (from Bruce Healey's The Art of the Cake). Finally, I got to it and result was as good as I anticipated.

My second attempt at Panettone. These were better than last year's, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. The recipe can be found here.

Here is another first for me: Rana's birthday cake with rolled fondant. Fondant cakes are very popular with Turkish dessert bloggers these days, but I was never tempted to make a fondant cake until I discovered Debbie Brown's wonderful book Enchanted Cakes. Rana and I had a difficult time to choose a cake for her birthday party, because the book is full of extraordinarily beautiful cake ideas.

Underneath the fondant was a white butter cake brushed with raspberry syrup and filled with raspberry buttercream (all from RLB's Cake Bible). I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but the result was still impressive. Sugar paste is as much fun as play dough, and although the cake took a couple of hours to complete, I had fun making it. And the way the children reacted to it when they first saw it was priceless.

Fondant is a great visual tool in cake making, but I personally do not like the idea of feeding children sugar paste and food coloring, so we collected the pieces of fondant from the plates after the cake was cut, and made sure that they were not eaten.

2006's last cakes... Unlike traditional Yule Logs, these two were layer cakes baked in my new $1- cake mold. I cut each cake in two layers and filled them with chestnut buttercream and candied chestnut pieces. Since I used chestnut, plain and chocolate buttercreams, having a layered cake instead of a roll helped to maximize the cake to buttercream ratio, and made the cakes lighter. As always, the mushroom meringues were a lot of fun to make.

And this was my older daughter's birthday cake for a suprise party their friends threw for her. The funny thing is that we made the cake together, and she thought that it was for her father's birthday (according to the Chinese calendar.) She loves green tea, so we made a matcha roll soaked with matcha syrup and filled with matcha-mascarpone cream. For decoration, we melted some white chocolate, colored a little bit of it with matcha and piped random designs on a silicon mat. We let it harden a bit, then covered the whole mat with the remaining white chocolate in a thin layer. The rest was a lot of fun; we cut out tiny shapes and decorated the roll to our hearts' content. I feared that it would be difficult to cut, but a heated knife worked beautifully.

This was again for Zeynep's birthday; this time for the home celebration. We were all very sick that day, so I used supermarket-purchased sponge cake, and lots of fruit to make it light and easier to digest. I had some French rolled cookies at home, and they were an easy way to decorate the cake.

These miniature cakes with chocolate bands and ruffles (not quite, really) were inspired by a recipe from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet. I made the cakes in my ring molds. The bands were easy to make and turned out to very smooth and shiny. The ruffles were another story. Looking for visual help on the Internet, I found Astrid's video clip which was very useful. I also watched Alice Medrich's clip, but she was a little too fast for me. My first try mostly yielded shards of chocolate and a few ruffles. The right thing would be to remelt the chocolate and try again; but I was pressed with time, so I used whatever I had. I am looking forward to making ruffles again. It is really satisfying provided you can make them :)

This carrot, prune and walnut cake from Abby Mandel's Cuisinart Classroom (a book I recently rediscovered in my attic) was moist and delicious. I'll definitely make it again.

I wanted to make Pain d'Epices ever since I saw the recipe in Francois Payard's Simply Sensational Desserts. I must confess that it wasn't what I expected at first bite, but it definitely improved as days went by, and I was in love with it by the end of the week. My family members did not appreciate it as much, which means that the next time I bake it, there'll be more for me to enjoy.

That concludes the Cakes category, Cookies next...