1st Adaptation: Nougatine

Sorry it’s been so long guys….hope there’s still some of you hangin’ with me ! We are showing our home to prospective buyers these days, and that means a CLEAN kitchen ! And writing this blog is anything but a clean endeavor !

In the first recipe I decided to tackle , The challenge was to make the hard candy easier. To refresh your memories here’s a picture of how they looked in the book, followed by the picture of how mine turned out.

Back then, the recipe called for cooking and stirring the sugar until just the right hue and temperature .So to make this easier…I found a recipe for peanut brittle made in the microwave. I adapted this by not adding the baking soda at the end..which makes the candy foam up and have that light texture that peanut brittle has. I of course substituted the toasted almonds for the peanuts, and to Christmas-fy it…..decorated it with white chocolate ! They turned out beautifully, and only took about 1/2 hour to make. Success ! Here they are….

Actually…I think the color is more appealing…and they taste great .The internet is full of these recipes , generally titled ” 10 minute microwave brittle”. Definitely recommend trying this for a quick and simple candy !

41st Recipe: A Moment of Zen

Well friends…this is it! The dessert on the cover of the book, that ultimately lured me into this journey ! My final recipe. It seems so sad. But truthfully, I intend to pick 12 recipes that I can change by making them lighter, easier, and appropriate for Christmas. So let’s get back to the business at hand. This is what the dessert should look like…..

Obviously this one needed a very specialized mold. What the picture doesn’t show, is that there is a tart shell supporting all this fruit and of course the Zen paisley. The tart shell is filled with a cherry flavored liquor pastry cream, with a layer of Blackberry coulis, topped by more of the pastry cream. The paisley mold was filled with Raspberry mousse, and covered with a Raspberry glaze. then the other “side” is filled by fruit of all kinds and edible flowers. Here’s mine……

Not as smooth as the original. What you also don’t see in the pics, is that the paisley is about 2 to 2 1/2 inches high. So getting all that fruit to pile up and stay is a challenge in itself ! Also hard to cut and serve. A whole segment of tasters won’t even get a slice of Raspberry mousse… just a pile of fruit on a thin tart. Very tricky. I feel as though I can honestly say I pretty much rose to the challenges of this recipe book…..and had a lot of fun doing it. Thank you to all that have read these posts and supported my efforts! I hope you come back and check out my Christmas Alterations !

40th Recipe: Not Your Grandmother’s Buche de Noel

The traditional Buche de Noel is made to represent a log…remember ? (Recipe # 31) . This one is meant to bring it into the 21st century. This Christmas dessert is a mousse rather than a jelly roll cake. Here’s the picture from the book….

Gorgeous, uh ? There’s a thin chocolate cake on the bottom, a Chocolate Mousse as the filling, and see that dark center with the white cloud above it? That’s a row of brandied cherries , with a piped cloud of cannoli (ricotta cheese) with cinnamon, orange, and chocolate chip in it. Very Christmas-type flavors. The glaze is dark chocolate, with pistachio decorations. Before I show you my picture…let’s discuss the problems. AGAIN….another mold. She suggests cutting a shipping tube in half, and closing off the ends. Done. Not a problem. The decorative balls on top are to be made from different colors of cocoa butter (and just where do you find that?) and luster dust. We must have had different gold luster dusts, because mine just left a grainy finish. Here’s how mine turned out….

The glaze did not want to stick to the mousse. Perhaps I had it too warm, since it seemed to want to melt the underlying mousse. I finally ended up using some gold balls as decoration, since I couldn’t seem to get the colored ones to look right. Very difficult, but very tasty. There seems to be a trend here….all the recipes seem to taste great. It’s just a matter of getting them to look spectacular ! Next week, as my final recipe, I will tackle the most difficult recipe in the book. The one on the cover. I’ve been anticipating this one for a long time !

39th Recipe: Rabelo

This one certainly lived up to the “challenging” difficulty level. But oh so pretty !!!! I personally was not impressed with the taste…I’m not a fig and spice cake kinda girl. But my husband and some of my friends loved it. Here’s how it looked in the book….

Stunning, uh? Well, my first challenge was finding something to decorate them. Since it is August…in Mid Wisconsin, fresh pansies were out. So I found these little white roses made out of edible wafers (not particularly tasty though!) by the Wilton company, and I colored them with food color. The inside of these beauties consist of a heavily spiced cake, topped with mission figs soaked in port wine and then blended. On top of that rests the port wine mousse. What she doesn’t explain is that the beautiful glaze doesn’t want to stick to the very cold mousse, and keeps running off. I had to repour mine several times. Here’s how mine turned out….

The molds were a challenge also. I took heavy plastic, cut and hot glued them…then lined them with food grade acetate. So now I have 12 ring molds and I didn’t have to buy ANOTHER mold. You know for Christmas, these would be stunning done with a champagne mousse, gold dust swirled glaze, and oh ! can you imagine the decoration possibilities ???? Hmmmm…….

38th Recipe: Bye, Bye Pumpkin Pie

This recipe was a new take on an old classic. Pumpkin pie. The bottom “crust” had a chocolate almond cake, and the side “crust” was an almond cake with pepitas embedded in it. Then there was a layer of caramel, topped with a layer of spiced pecans. The main body of the “pie?” was a pumpkin bavarois ,which is a Frenchy way of saying mousse. On the very top was an apricot glaze, and it was decorated with macarons. Yipee! My third chance to get them right. (And I DID !!) Here’s the version from the book…..

See how the macarons are shiny with that little rim at the bottom (called the “foot”) ? Well…mine finally got there. Here’s my picture….

Alright…so my glaze with the gold dust doesn’t look so perfect, and my almond cake maybe a little overdone, and a little of the caramel might be seeping out of the bottom; but I STILL feel like a proud parent!!! The spiced pecans were made with garam masala, and if you are familiar at all with those spices, you know there are a thousand and one blends of spices called “Garam Masala”. I picked a recipe that sounded good to me and I blended my own. And it turned out great. I put a bowl of extra nuts on the counter that night, and my husband couldn’t stop eating them. The flecks in the macarons are because I didn’t use a blanched almond flour. Using an unblenched of course, leaves a more natural coloring. They still turned out great, didn’t they ????

I can’t believe we have only three recipes left ! Since they are the most difficult in the book…I hope they all go this well.

37th Recipe: Pe`tanque

Petanque is a game much like bocce ball. Obviously played in France. To quote the recipe book…”This is the most time-consuming dessert to make in this book.” That certainly turned out to be true!! There are so many components in this dessert. Hazelnut cake, A hand-made chocolate box, hazelnut-almond praline, praline pastry cream, chocolate “gravel”(the court), and the pate-a-choux “players”, complete with craquelin. Here’s how it should look……

The hazelnut cake is used in the bottom of the chocolate box, spread with a layer of orange marmalade, then a layer of praline pastry cream is added followed by the chocolate gravel, which is simply chocolate mixed with praline and paillete feuilletine. If you remember from previous recipes, that’s like a crushed wafer-like cookie. Here is how mine turned out….

Not TOO bad for such an intimidating recipe !!!! The dessert ended up being VERY sweet. Much like a giant candy bar. A little too much hard dark chocolate for a lot of my tasters. The whole thing was only 5″ x 11″ and it took 3 days to complete. Whew! Glad I’ve gotten that one under my belt !

36th Recipe: Chocolate Pandemonium

This recipe was all about the Chocolate !!! There was chocolate meringue straws, layers of chocolate ganache, and a trio of chocolate mousse…white, milk and dark chocolate. Here’s the picture….

Another special mold was needed for this. Since the recipe made enough for two of these, I chose not to buy 2 molds, but instead, used the extra components in smaller molds that I already had. Here’s how mine looked.

and…

I think it turned out pretty good. Their recipe called for airbrushing the final dessert with a chocolate spray. I didn’t want to invest in a food airbrush, so I chose to try sifting cocoa powder over the final dessert. I really think it looks fairly comparable. And it must not have lacked in taste, because most of my tasting testers claimed it was their favorite! But then…who doesn’t like chocolate???? The chocolate “nest” was fun to make. It was simply a chocolate meringue that was piped in long lines onto cookie sheets, baked, and then broken into pieces ! The chocolate ganache base was very much the consistency of fudge. Then, the dome was poured into layers of the 3 different chocolates. She points out that if the melted chocolate and the cooler whipped cream are not mixed at exactly the right temperature, the chocolate will harden too fast and leave a granular effect in the mousse, instead of being nice and smooth. Well, I did good on 2 out of 3. The white chocolate layer had small grains of pure white chocolate in it. Again, it seemed not to affect the taste. But the texture was not as silky as the other 2 layers. All in all, definitely learned some tricks with this one !!!

35th Recipe: The Royale

The difficulty in this recipe lies most with getting them to look as beautiful as the picture in the book. Being slightly artistic in nature…I couldn’t wait to try. And I was so disappointed when I fell short. But on a brighter note…they tasted great, and the attempt was fun anyway. Here’s the pic….

Truly beautiful ! The first problem I had was that I only had 1 mold (containing 6 demispheres) . I improvised for the other 6, (it made 12) by substituting another disc mold. These beauties consist of chocolate mousse resting on a disc of chocolate-hazelnut crunch, which in turn rests on a disc of almond dacquoise (meringue, remember?). All of this is covered in a chocolate glaze, with hazelnut frosting piped around it. Here are mine….

As you can see, my dacquoise discs turned out too big. I felt it was too dangerous to try to cut them. They probably would have been destroyed, and I would have had to remake them. Quite frankly, now that we are in the topmost difficulty level, and the recipes take so much time and effort; you may be seeing more of my original flaws, since it is more daunting to think about remaking things !

34th Recipe: Jerez

The author explains that the name “Jerez” represents a region in Spain that is known for their sherry. Sherry wine has a pretty broad taste spectrum. There are dry, sweet, and nutty varieties. I used a cream sherry; dry and sweet. Here is the picture in the book….

That’s caramelized pine nuts you see, surrounding a caramel glazed, sherry mousse, with two layers of hazelnut dacquoise (meringue),and a layer of cinnamon streusel, with one more layer of dried fruit soaked in sherry. Quite complicated. You make this in a 8 inch circular pan and then cut it into a triangle before glazing it. Here is how mine turned out…..

I opted not to put on the little signs. The reviews for this were mixed. Most people liked the sherry mousse and the pine nuts. Even the streusel. But the dacquoise was difficult to cut through, and the dried fruit(apricots, prunes, candied orange peel) was a bit much. One taster even went so far as to say “perhaps her palette wasn’t sophisticated enough”. I kind of felt that way too. Not so impressed. Now….on a personal note…I visited my doctor this week, and found that I had gained quite a bit of weight, and many points on my cholesterol level since I have started this journey. Even though I give away a majority of what I make, apparently these very rich desserts make a big difference. So. My thought is, to finish the last 7 desserts, and then do what my gut (apparently, literately!) has told me to do all along. I can remake these recipes into much easier, and lighter versions, that will be just as tasty ! The plus side (besides my health!) will also be that I will be more likely to make these desserts again for special occasions if they don’t take so long and cost so much, both monetarily, and in fat content.

33rd Recipe: Daddy Mac

Let’s get right to it……

That’s the picture in the book. The top decorations consist of a vanilla bean, a toasted apricot (which is in the filling) and some……??physalis or ground cherries ????? Really? Nothing else looked good to decorate with ?? Not sure at all where THAT came from. The dessert itself consists of 2 giant macrons (hence-Daddy Mac), a pistachio mousse with toasted fresh apricots, surrounded by puffs of white chocolate vanilla cream. Yum ! This one rated as an all-time favorite ! But look closely at those macarons. Do they look green to you? They didn’t to me either. So when the recipe called for adding “green food coloring as desired”, I opted for none. Nix on the ground cherries as well. Here’s mine….

Again, my macarons lack the definitive “foot”, or edge. I obviously still have to perfect that. But I was assured that, in spite of that, it was still one of my more successful desserts. The macarons were still crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. Besides, there’s still one recipe left later on that calls for macarons, so I’ll get another chance to redeem myself.