Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Maple Mousse in Chocolate Dipped Almond Bowls (DB)

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!

Sadly, I didn't have time to get real creative with this challenge, so I simply made the recipes as they were posted and did not come up with my own unique "edible container."  I made a half recipe of the maple mousse and poured it into two edible almond cups.  I would have loved to have tried making some bacon cups for the mousse (I love salty and sweet combos!), but I ran out of time.

The flavor in the maple mousse was absolutely amazing, though probably slightly too sweet for my taste.  I hardly ever complain of anything being too sweet, so you know it must be pretty sweet! I did read that some bakers cut back about 25% on the amount of maple syrup in the recipe to decrease the sweetness just a tad.  If you've never had good quality maple syrup, you really need to try it.  Especially if you've been using maple-flavored pancake syrup which is nothing compared to pure maple syrup! If you're looking for a good deal, you can get a 32 oz. jug of Coomb's Family Farms 100% Pure Organic Maple Syrup for $16.83 (with subscribe & save).  (If you don't use maple syrup all that often, you may want to pay a little more and get two 16 oz. jugs for $17.88 since the syrup can mold after a while but has a long shelf life as long as it's sealed.)

Thanks Ria and Jamie, for hosting this month's challenge.  It was the perfect way to showcase the wonderful flavor of maple syrup and I'll definitely be making it again. I've seen some pretty amazing creations on some other blogs already, so make sure you check out the Daring Bakers' Blogroll to see how everyone else enjoyed this sweet, maple-y treat.

Maple Mousse:
• 1 cup (240 ml/ 8 fluid oz.) pure maple syrup (not maple-flavoured syrup)
• 4 large egg yolks
• 1 package (7g/1 tbsp.) unflavoured gelatine
• 1 1/2 cups (360 ml. g/12 fluid oz) whipping cream (35% fat content)
1. Bring maple syrup to a boil then remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit of the maple syrup in while whisking (this is to temper your egg yolks so they don’t curdle).
3. Add warmed egg yolks to hot maple syrup until well mixed.
4. Measure 1/4 cup of whipping cream in a bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Place the bowl in a microwave for 45 seconds (microwave for 10 seconds at a time and check it in between) or place the bowl in a pan of barely simmering water, stir to ensure the gelatine has completely dissolved.
5. Whisk the gelatine/whipping cream mixture into the maple syrup mixture and set aside.
6. Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour or until the mixture has the consistency of an unbeaten raw egg white.
7. Whip the remaining cream. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture. Fold in the remaining cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.
8. Remove from the fridge and divide equally among your edible containers.

Bacon Cups:
• 24 thin slices good quality bacon

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C.
2. Take a muffin pan or 6 small ½ cup capacity heat-proof bowls, turn upside down and carefully form aluminum foil covers on the back of 6 muffin cups or the bowls.
3. Taking 2 strips of bacon at a time crisscross the strips over the backs of the muffin cups and cut to size a tad longer then the bottom part of the cup. Now use 1 to 2 more strips to cover the sides of the muffin cups in a weaving fashion. You want a full tight weave because bacon shrinks a lot. For smaller cups I used a shot glass with a square of bacon for the bottom and I wrapped 1 strip around the side.
4. Tuck the ends of the bacon strips inside otherwise they will curl while cooking. A good idea is to insert 4 toothpicks where the crisscrossed bacon meets in the weave.
5. Place muffin pan in a cookie tray to catch drippings. Bake in oven for about 25 to 40 minutes, or until the bacon is golden and crisp but not burned.
6. Cool completely, a good hour, before removing your cups delicately from the foil.

Nut Bowls:
• 1 1/2 cups crushed nuts of your choice such as almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts
• 1 egg, beaten, at room temperature
• 2 tbsp sugar
• 1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces

1. Use a food processor or a zip-lock back with a rolling pin to crush your nuts if whole, use about 1 cup of whole nuts to get 3/4 cups crushed. You want it somewhat coarse.
2. In a bowl mix the nuts with the beaten egg and the sugar.
3. Take 6 small ½ cup capacity Pyrex cups or a similar container and line the inside with aluminum foil. Spread ¼ cup of the mixture in the bowl, all the way up to the sides making sure you have a thin and even clean layer all around.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F/175 degrees C. until the nuts are golden and fragrant (about 15 minutes). Let cool completely before unmolding.
5. Melt chocolate (either in the microwave or over a double boiler). Dip the rims of the cooled nut bowls in the chocolate. Place in the freezer for at least 15 minutes or until the chocolate has hardened and is set.

Vegan Maple Mousse:
• 1 package (12 oz.) soft silken tofu
• ¾ cup (14 fluid oz.) pure maple syrup
• 2 tsp agar-agar

1. Let tofu come to room temperature. Using a food processor, blender, or hand mixer, blend tofu until just smooth.
2. Sprinkle agar-agar on the maple syrup and let it rest for 10 minutes. Heat maple syrup on the stove to a boil and then let it simmer 5 minutes until the agar-agar has dissolved.
3. In a food processor, blender, or a large bowl, blend the tofu with the maple syrup until creamy.
4. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Remove from the fridge and divide among your edible containers.

Meringue (optional):
• 3 large egg whites at room temperature
• ¾ cup (165 g./5.5 oz) sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F/150 degrees C.
2. Put the egg whites in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer beat for a few minutes until the whites become stiff. Now add the sugar, a little at a time, whisking until the mixture is stiff and glossy. You should be able to turn the bowl upside down and the mixture won’t fall out.
3. Place baking parchment on to a clean baking sheet. Using a spoon or a piping bag, dollop the meringue into circles that fit inside the rim of your edible cups. (See mine, I wanted height but they fell a bit...which is OK...freeform art)
4. Put the tray in the oven, then immediately turn the oven down to 250 degrees F/130 degrees C. and bake for 45 minutes.
5. Turn off the oven and allow the meringues to cool in the oven for a few hours.
6. Place meringues as decoration on your maple mousse which has already be spooned into your edible containers.

Recipe Notes (from Evelyne):
• Putting aluminum foil on the muffin pan heat-proof bowls is essential or they will be stuck to the form. Be gentle when removing the aluminum foil from bacon cups.
• Bacon shrinks a lot so make sure weave is tight on the form. Tuck the ends of the bacon strips inside otherwise they will curl while cooking. A good idea is to insert 4 toothpicks where the crisscrossed bacon meets in the weave.
• For the nut bowls, use about 1 cup of whole nuts to get 3/4 cups of crushed.
• In the maple mousse recipe, after the gelatine has bloomed (softened) in the cold whipping cream, the gelatine MUST be heated to melt completely…contrary to popular belief. Follow the directions as described and never let gelatine boil or it will become stringy and unusable.
• If you make the meringues let them cool in the oven once they are baked… just don’t forget to turn off the oven when they are done. This cooling process will help then dry out nicely and be crispier.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Valerie of Une Gamine dans la Cuisine: Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies. I have to admit that I almost skipped out on this recipe.  When you compare it to a lot of the other recipes in the book, this one just doesn't sound that exciting! They're traditional shortbread cookies with a twist - aside from substituting some of the flour for cornmeal, the zest of a lemon (or lime, in my case) is rubbed in with the sugar to give it a little extra something.

Boy am I glad that I didn't skip this one! The cookies are buttery sweet and crumbly like you'd expect shortbread cookies to be, but the citrus zest gives it the most wonderful flavor.  The cornmeal gives it an interesting crunch (they have just the slightest gritty texture), though I wouldn't really know that there was cornmeal in these cookies unless you told me there was.

Thanks Valerie, for hosting this week.  I'm so glad you got me to try a recipe I'd probably otherwise skip in this book! If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you check out the TWD Blogroll, to see how everyone else enjoyed this buttery, crumbly treat!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bakeware Bargains

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a blessed Easter weekend.  Usually after every holiday I head out to the stores to buy some half price candy... this year I was able to score some nice bakeware too!

I was able to get some Wilton mini springform pans (3) for $5, a Nordic Ware muffin pan for $5, and a Nordic Ware mini bundt pan* for $6! If you're you in the market for any of these items, check your local Target.  The mini springform pans were with the clearance Easter candy, but the Nordic Ware pans were on an end cap near the dishes and bakeware.  I don't even think they were marked as clearance, but since they have Easter eggs on the packaging and the underside of the pans are bright pastels, that means they're 50% off! Hope this helps someone...

I also wanted to congratulate Tammy (comment #334) who was the winner of my La Crème Sweepstakes for a $100 VISA gift card and Sue (comment #120) who was the winner of my Stouffer’s Sweepstakes for a $100 VISA gift card.  I'm sure you'll both put the money to good use! :) Stay tuned because I have another giveaway coming up for some yummy, all natural treats.

* Note - the mini bundt pan doesn't ring up as 50% but if you show them that they are in the same Easter packaging as the muffin pans that are 50% off they'll give it to you.  Of course YMMV but I don't see why you wouldn't get the discount on them since there are Easter eggs on them!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tourtely Apple Tart (TWD)

Things have been crazy busy here lately; I can't believe that it's been two weeks since I last posted! Where did the time go?! I hope to have some time in the coming week to get caught up with things so I can finally get around to blogging about some of the great recipes I've recently tried...

But, without further ado, here's my Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) post.  This week's recipe was chosen by Jeannette of The Whimsical Cupcake: Tourtely Apple Tart.  This is about as homey as you can get.  It's a filling of apples cooked in brown sugar, tossed together with nutty browned butter, raisins, and ground almonds.  The aroma of the filling after is just made is simply amazing.  I love browned butter.  The filling is then sandwiched between two layers of sweet, sugary almond cookie dough.

I only had one (very large, one pound) Fuji apple left in the house, so I made a half recipe which was just enough for one mini tart.  The filling probably could have used a few more apple chunks, but that was more my fault than the recipe's fault since I didn't have any more apples on hand.  If you've never browned butter before, I'd suggest turning the heat down just a tad because it does go from brown to burnt very quickly if you don't watch it closely (and it will brown at the lower heat, it will just take longer).  I did add the "optional" cinnamon to the filling, and added more than a pinch, just because it seems wrong to make an apple dessert without cinnamon :) (I know that Grace would agree.)

The result was a very homey, comforting dessert.  It was like a cross between an apple pie and an apple tart.  I find that a lot of Dorie's desserts are quite sweet, but this one was just barely sweet.... and that was more from the tart crust than from the filling itself.  I love that you can make the tart dough and the filling ahead of time, and then just assemble and bake the tart when you're ready.  I'll definitely be making this one again.  (And next time I'll be more careful not to over bake the crust so much!)

Thanks Jeannette, for hosting this week.  If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you check out the TWD Blogroll, to see how everyone else enjoyed this sweet, appley treat!
* Recipe tips:
- When baking your crust, instead of removing the foil completely after 20 minutes, gently remove it, cut a hole in the center to create a "pie crust shield," and then put it back over your tart.  This will allow the center to brown without burning the edges of your crust.  I forgot to do that this time, resulting in the very brown edges you see in my photos!
 - For more recipe tips, click here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Almond Powder Puffs (TWD)

I'm supposed to be posting about a coffee ice cream tart today (chosen by Jessica of Domestic Deep Thought of the Day) but seeing as the recipe calls for store bought ice cream, that pretty much just leaves the tart to be made from scratch.  I read in the P & Q (problems & questions) that the tart gets frozen so hard that by the time the tart thaws out enough to be eaten, the ice cream is melted :(  So, I considered using Dorie's sweet tart dough instead, but in the end just ran out of time and motivation.  My apologies to Jessica for not baking along this week.  Instead, I have for you today last week's recipe, which I neglected to post seven days ago!

Last week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Tianne of Buttercream Barbie: Pecan Powder Puffs. I made these well before the posting date, but then I totally forgot about them until now! I'll blame it on "mommy brain" ;)

Looking at the name, I thought these were some type of cream puff, until I looked at the recipe and realized that they're actually cookies! They are Mexican wedding cookies, which are made from ground nuts, flour, sugar, and butter and then rolled in confectioner's sugar.  I didn't have any pecans on hand, so I made almond powder puffs instead.  I don't usually like whole nuts in my desserts, but I do enjoy things made with ground nuts (like this awesome chocolate dipped macadamia nut shortbread).

These cookies were super easy to make, the only hard part was waiting for the dough to chill in the refrigerator for two hours before baking! They aren't too buttery and the salty nutty flavor balances out quite well with the sweet sugary coating.  My husband had one and I fully expected these to be 'not his thing,' but instead he immediately exclaimed, "What are these?! They are good!"  So, I guess these will be making another appearance in our household in the near future :) I haven't had too many Mexican wedding cookies before, but I think the general opinion among other TWD bakers was that these are far better than any other Mexican wedding cookie encountered!

Thanks Tianne, for a great pick.  If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you check out the TWD Blogroll, to see how everyone else enjoyed these nutty, crumbly treats!  And, if you haven't already, head on over here to enter my current giveaway. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Honey Cream Caramels (SMS)

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays (SMS) recipe was chosen by Carmen of Baking is My Zen: Honey Cream Caramels.  I was very excited to see this recipe picked.  If you've been following my blog, then you know that I love all things caramel! If you look on my side bar, you'll see that I even have a tag for caramel sweets :)

I've made fleur de sel caramels in the past (a must try by the way), and was eager to try this recipe out.  The honey flavor really comes through in these, so be sure to use a honey that you enjoy.  It's been a while since I've had caramels, but I think these were a bit on the sweeter side.  You could definitely cut back on the sugar a bit and probably not miss it too much.  These would probably be good with a little fleur de sel or sea salt sprinkled on top, too, to counter some of the sweetness.

I lined my pan with foil and buttered the foil, instead of pouring the caramel directly into the pan - a trick I've found to be most useful when it comes to clean up! I did learn the hard way, however, that the mixture bubbles up quite a bit as it comes up in temperature and almost ended up with caramel all over my stove because I used a saucepan that was too small! Next time I'll definitely use a 2 quart saucepan.  Otherwise, this recipe went off without a hitch and I had no issues cutting the caramel into squares.  I found the caramel to be so easy to work with that I didn't even have to butter my knife to cut it.

Thanks Carmen, for hosting this week. If you'd like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you check out the Sweet Melissa Sundays Blog Roll to see how everyone else enjoyed this sweet treat! If you haven't already, don't forget to enter my giveaway here before it ends on April 11th.

* Recipe notes:
- Make sure you use a large saucepan (at least 2 quarts) because the caramel really rises up when it starts boiling! I used a 1.5 quart saucepan and it nearly boiled over!
- I use this digital thermometer for all my candy making - works great both for candy and for cooking meat! (No need to get a separate meat thermometer and candy thermometer.)
- Consider removing your pan from the heat as it approaches 250F because the temperature may continue to rise a few degrees after you take it off the heat.  If it doesn't get hot enough after you take it off the heat, then you can always put it back on the heat.
- Line your pan with foil and then butter the foil to make clean up easier when you're done.