30th Recipe: Bourbon Eclairs

This recipe is pretty self explanatory. Eclairs. With bourbon pastry cream. The only difficulty with this recipe was using the chocolate transfer sheets for the pretty tops. Here is what they should look like…..

You can buy all types of designs. I decided to keep mine close to the original recipe’s design. I do think it would be beautiful at Christmas to do in a white chocolate. The chocolate gets spread on the design side of the acetate transfer sheets…when it gets hard, you should be able to peel off the acetate and you are left with the chocolate with a design on it. After many attempts, I finally figured out that, not just chilling them, but instead, FREEZING them seemed to work best. Then all you needed to do is stick the chocolate piece on the éclair with a line of cherry puree. Here is my attempt at them…..

The chocolate gets it’s curve from laying the pieces over a paper towel tube cut in half while it’s cooling. Pretty, not-to-hard, and tasty.

29th Recipe: Moulin Rouge

Well, here we are at the second to highest difficulty level. 2 1/2 macarons. There are only 3 recipes in this level. and there are a full 10 in the highest difficulty level. Do I sound intimidated ??? I feel this one went really well, in spite of my fear. Here’s the pic of how it should look…..

The décor on the sides of this dessert are not just stenciled on, but rather baked in the layer of cake that is wrapped around it. This visual may help…

Not easy, but not hard either. Just a little tricky. You need to freeze the red design of tuile batter first, so you can pour the almond cake batter over it to bake. I picked a different style of stencil for my decoration. Here’s my version…

The flavor combinations used in this recipe were so strong and I was surprised that they worked so well on the palette. ( Doesn’t that sound “chef-fie”? ) Seriously though, this dessert is layers of silky strawberry mousse, and coconut meringue paired with black pepper. Then wrapped with the almond cake, and finished with strawberry mirror glaze. In case you missed it….yes, Black Pepper. Quite a bit of it. Enough to give it a little kick! As I said, it worked surprisingly well with the coconut.

The mousse was made with fresh strawberry puree and unflavored gelatin to set it. You stacked the layers in an acetate ring, and chilled it till it set. Once the acetate was removed , it held together pretty good, although it sagged a little when cut. Everyone who tasted it seemed to enjoy it … even my 91 year-old neighbor, who despite being very traditional, especially liked the coconut/pepper layer.

28th Recipe: Beer Float

Pretty self-explanatory, uh ? Here’s the pic…..

This is the last recipe in this difficulty group of 2 Macarons. Next one up will be in the harder category of 2 1/2 macarons. I again was not quite sure why this one was labeled with this degree of difficulty, unless maybe they considered the chocolate curls and the caramelized malted barley décor on top as the difficult part. The coffee ice cream was pretty straight-forward. Easy to make in my little 2 quart electric ice cream maker. The Chocolate Stout beer they called for was a little difficult to find, as was the malted barley for making the brittle. Other than that, not too hard. I am not a beer drinker, but if I were—coffee ice cream definitely helps !!! Mine….

The only Chocolate Stout we could find here was Oscar’s Chocolate Oatmeal Stout…brewed right here in Wisconsin. It had a real sharpness to it which was offset by the ice cream. Also packed quite a punch !

27th Recipe: Baller’s Delight

I’m going to show you the pic of this one right away, so that you can see what I’m talking about.

The first thing you notice, and the first thing the author suggests, is that you serve this on a $100 bill as a coaster. My Husband. Maybe. Otherwise….THAT ain’t happening. I wasn’t too sure why this one was rated so high in the difficulty scale at first…then I made the chocolate balls. Cute, but as my mother would say….puttsie. The recipe is a simple Moscato D ‘Asti Sabayon, pored over some cantaloupe balls, and served with Ladyfingers. And of course, the notorious chocolate ball décor. A sabayon only has 3 ingredients—the wine, egg yolks, and sugar. And here is where, (forgive me) I venture off course. This journey has led me to some emotional realizations, as of late. Like, for instance , what a phenomenal pastry chef my mother was, in her own right. As a child, I remember her making Eclairs and cream puffs (pate a choux), toffees, caramels, candies, custards, and baked goods of all types. For years she just had an old Mixmaster that barely worked, so most of her mixing was by hand. (I remember her telling me to whisk until my arm felt like it was going to fall off!) She either didn’t own, or didn’t use, a candy thermometer. She patiently taught me to cook by “feel”; to gauge soft ball or hard crack stages by dropping a small amount into a cup of cold water. So when I started this ….I thought I needed to learn the “proper” way to do things, carefully watching temperatures, measuring by the grams, dumping the hand mixer for the large Kitchenaid. Perhaps I need to rethink some of that, and remember my roots. This recipe really kind of drove that home. The recipe called for a lot of extra steps, heating the eggs and sugar to 131 degrees, then whisking , and then heating the wine to the same 131 degrees, and then slowly poring it down the sides of the bowl. A sabayon is NOT THAT HARD. Everything can be heated all together, and whisked till it becomes a rich and fluffy custard. I just HAD to drink some of the Asti as I made it !

The ladyfingers were a little tricky. They tend to spread, (as mine did) but there is nothing quite like them. Here’s how mine turned out….

The chocolate balls, as I said earlier, were the most time consuming. You had to make the outside shell, color the tiny chocolate pearls, stuff the shells, fuse them together, and then spray the balls with edible paint and glitter. I wouldn’t say this was a $100 dessert, but it was impressive.

26th Recipe: Sunset on the Boulevard

Let me start off by admitting that I changed this recipe. It was a tart made with almond,(gee, the French use a lot of almond!) lavender, and grapefruit. The problem was the grapefruit. It shows my age, but frankly everyone I know is on blood pressure medication, or heart meds; and most of those, (including me), cannot mix them with grapefruit. So. I thought about what I could sub that would have the same color and tartness of a pink grapefruit, and I decided on a Blood Orange. This is what it was supposed to look like….

The pale pink domes are the blood orange(grapefruit) mousse, and the yellow domes are lavender crème brulee. Underneath, is a Almond pastry cream with a layer of ground pistachios, and the whole thing sits in an almond tart crust. Here’s what mine looked like….

Success! I think this one was a confidence booster for me. Although not easy–it wasn’t hard either. It was pretty tasty, and I don’t feel like it lacked anything by switching the grapefruit out for the blood orange. The orange helped to cut the richness of all of that cream, and the nuts added some well needed texture. I think I would make this one again.

25th Recipe: The Ricky Ricardo

Honey, peaches, and pecans–how can you go wrong? Well this recipe was a lot of peoples favorite. Slightly too sweet for my taste, but it was balanced nicely with the peaches. Here’s the pic….

The base was basically a pecan pavlova…a meringue baked so it’s crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Pecans are folded into the meringue before it’s baked. This was my favorite part of the dish. A disc of peach coulee that is mixed with a gelatin is placed on the pecan base, with a honey mousse ( the molded part) topping that. A white chocolate glaze covers the whole thing, and then it’s garnished with fresh peaches. Here is how mine looked….

I guess I didn’t tint my glaze dark enough, since the honey mousse shows through too much. The peach garnish was another story! Here’s how they suggest doing it.

Although I thought my peaches were firm enough (as they suggest) , they obviously were not. Very frustrating. Not being essential to the recipe, I finally decided to ley it go! Somethings are just not meant to be. All in all, not enough WOW factor in proportion to the work for me.

24th Recipe: Concerto

For coffee lovers everywhere! Almost like a coffee candy bar. Salty and sweet, It has everything. Caramel, coffee mousse, chocolate, and peanuts. Here’s the picture….

The crust is an almond/chocolate dough, and OF COURSE there was another mold to buy. By the time I finish this book, I will have a store’s worth of slightly used equipment, between the Ice cream makers, various silicone molds, and special pans. But these little beauties are about 3 inches in diameter, and I think they could come in handy. Once you have the crust baked , you need to make the domes (another mold!) out of the coffee cream, then freeze till you’re ready to assemble. In the bottom of the mold, you put a layer of peanuts, with a layer of thick caramel sauce poured over them. Then the coffee cream domes are glazed with a coffee/caramel mirror glaze. Those cute little decorations on the top are Phyllo dough, buttered, sugared, and baked into sweet, crunchy, little bites. My husband’s favorite part. I barely had enough to decorate with, since he kept stealing them off the pan ! I really think that chocolate curls or even gold dust would also be very attractive. Here’s how mine turned out……

My execution is still not quite up to snuff. It looks like my cup molds were slightly smaller than they should be for the size of my domes. But the taste far outweighs the problems with this recipe.

23rd Recipe: Cancale

Layers of fun! I think this recipe really tests plating techniques more than it does baking abilities. Here it is….

The layers consist of Joconde Biscuit (almond cake), blueberry coulis, and cheesecake mousse, with a white chocolate glaze. The whole trick to the recipe is to get the layers VERY thin, and as uniform as you can. I only did so-so. What do you think ?

The coulis in my case tipped slightly in the freezer, resulting in uneven layers. The cheesecake mousse was spread between all the layers to hold it all together. So although I understood needing more of it; I was shocked at how much it made! I had enough leftover that I filled a graham cracker crust (can’t escape the everyday cook !), and made a whole cheesecake. The trick also came in cutting these without squishing or marring them. Although this recipe very much tasted similar to blueberry cheesecake, it certainly looks different ! Of course…that IS the point.

22nd Recipe: Oregon Get Down

Well nothing got down here but ME. Ever have one of those days? Especially baking or cooking. You know. You get distracted and your dinner burns or you forget to add the sugar in a pie(my mother did that once!) or you slave for hours on your favorite dish (that you probably need to take somewhere) and it tastes like….well, let’s just say BAD. Here’s the picture (and of course, the goal)……

Let me just explain what you’re looking at. It’s an almond tart crust, with a layer of caramelized and brandied pears, covered with hazelnut cream, and a final layer of Rosemary ganache. Floating on top, is a disc made of almond Nougatine (remember recipe 19? ), and of course a sprig of rosemary. This is how mine turned out…..

My day began with the crust. Not my best work as you can see. After making the 1st one(yes there was more), I put it in the oven only to have the sides melt down, despite the pie weights I used. Back to scratch. The second attempt was much better. This one baked and cooled. Then I moved it. It slipped off the sheet pan, hit the floor, and that’s all she wrote. Back to the drawing board. So by the time number 3 was finished, I didn’t much care whether it was perfect or not. I hate to admit that, but it’s true. The disc on top was interesting. Remember how I said I would make the nougatine again? Well I got my chance. I’ll refresh your memory….

Well this time, you make the nougatine and then you run it through the food processor. This turns it to a fine sand, which you sift over a ring mold and bake to melt it back to a solid state. Like a candy crust. All in all, a lot of work for a so-so dessert.

21st Recipe: Cherry Bomb

I was so excited to make this recipe…I had always wanted to do a “mirror glaze”, and this made this cake visually stunning.

The balls are chocolate covered with edible gold leaf. The author suggests floating the gold leaf on water, then plunging the chocolate ball into it and underwater. Easier said than done. Just sayin’. The other bits you see sprinkled on top and around the sides, are cinnamon streusel bits.(remember recipe 13..Spanish Coffee?) Those same little cookie-like gems are also covered in chocolate and layered into the cake along with chocolate cream, cherries, almonds, and chocolate almond cake. Yum. Here’s mine…

The chocolate mirror glaze was fun, and even though my gold leaf did not seem to want to stick, I’d still rank this one as a success. But 9 eggs. I don’t want to sound like I’m harping about this all the time, but I just can’t seem to get past the amount of eggs all these French recipes use! On the upside…none of these cakes take any leavening. There’s not baking powder or baking soda used. Usually just whipped egg whites. This gives the cakes a delicate sponginess. This chocolate almond cake was no exception. The chocolate cream had the texture of a ganache or a very soft fudge, with the cherries sunk into it. Very rich.