Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Very Busy Baking Day

Two weeks ago, I had a very busy baking day. To be exact, I made 4 Chestnut and White Chocolate Cheesecakes, 4 Chocolate and Pecan Cheesecakes, a Linzer Torte, a Sacher Torte, lots of Chocolate Hazelnut Sables, Raspberry Macarons and Chocolate Crumb Bars. Fortunately, the weather was on my side, and I was able to use our front porch as a walk-in refrigerator. As intense as that experience was, I really enjoyed it; in fact, I confess that it left me craving for more.

Here is the last half-slice of my Chocolate and Pecan Cheesecakes. This happens to be one of the first recipes of Our Patisserie (posted more than 3 years ago). Chestnut and White Chocolate Cheesecakes were the more popular of the two, and they have vanished without any leftovers; so also has my yearly stock of homemade chestnut puree. I am very happy for being able to share one of my favorite desserts with a large group of friends, but I am also painfully aware of that void in my freezer where my ziplocked packages of chestnut puree once resided. Since chestnuts are very expensive once again, I don't think that I will attempt to make more chestnut puree at this point. My only hope for replenishing my stocks is to buy reasonably priced chestnut puree from Turkey this summer. Until then, no more chestnutty desserts in Our Patisserie.

The recipe for these cute sables comes from P Herme and D Greenspan's Chocolate Desserts. Until recently, baking a cake would be more appealing to me than baking cookies; but some cookie recipes in that book have changed my mind. I really enjoyed making these sables. Now you'll probably think that I am weird, but any cookie that necessitates the use of a ruler for preparation, is worth a try in my book.

A bonus of the sables was the leftover Sweet Tart Pastry, which I used to make some blackberry tartlets. My son (who has a habit of smelling food to decide if he wants to eat it) gingerly took a first bite after the preliminary sniffing, and liked them so much that he ended up eating my share as well.

What you see here is my adaptation of the Sacher torte. Judging only by some recipes claiming to deliver results very close to the original, I have no idea why Sacher torte is as famous as it is. I hate the idea of a dry cake, so my adaptation was a moister cake sprinkled with apricot syrup and filled with a chunky dried apricot filling. What's with the pistachios? My glaze was not smooth on the sides, so I had to camouflage. This is the second time these beautiful sliced pistachios have come to the rescue to cover up sides, but they contribute in taste, too.

I made this Linzer torte for the Viennese ball my son's class hosted. It was the first time I made a Linzer torte and I could not attend the event, so I have no firsthand idea of how it turned out. I confess that I ate the crumbs when the empty plate was returned, but that is not the same as eating a whole slice. My son reported that it was more popular than my adapted Sacher torte. The crumbs were quite tasty, too. I will have to make it again for us.

After all that baking, I ended up with a couple of leftover egg whites. In my case, just the sight of egg whites is a temptation to make macarons. My last few attempts at making macarons ended miserably, but I still could not resist. I used Kate Zuckerman's recipe with day-old egg whites and added 1 1/2 tbs freeze-dried raspberry powder to the batter to make the raspberry shells. The filling was raspberry sauce infused buttercream. I was generally pleased with the result, but I could not help but notice that the lovely color of the shells faded, in fact became beige-ish during baking. I have yet to find the correct temperature/method to make light-colored macarons.

This last dessert was made a couple of days earlier for a friend's guests. It is a chocolate crumb bar made with condensed milk. It is easy to make and transport, and is a definite crowd-pleaser. I'll add the recipe later today.