Thursday, December 31, 2009

Final post of 2009

All I have to say is that I'm one exhausted puppy and still have three small caters to go...

After my last job tomorrow, we'll be taking a weekend away at a spa and consuming massive quantities of wine! Have a happy New Years everyone and see you in 2010.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Yule Log Demo Finale

My logs sold out faster than I could decorate them but I snapped a few quick pics to give you one idea for finishing work. Last year I stayed contemporary by doing a poured mirror glaze. This year, I wanted a contemporary inside but a more traditional outside. I started by added a cut limb.

To do this, simply take a molded cylinder of the mousse, freeze it, and then cut it in half on bias (angle).

Next, press it into the side of your log. On one of my loaf formed logs, I placed it on top.

You can sort of see the log coming together now. One more step. I could have used more mousse here, but I wanted another textural element so I made a cinnamon butter cream.

50 g Dark chocolate, melted and brought to room temp
1 C. Sugar

1/2 C. Water

12 Egg yolks

1 Pound butter, room temp

1 T. Cinnamon

Boil sugar and water to 242ºF. While bring the syrup to temp, place yolks in mixer and mix on low for just a few seconds to break up. When the syrup hits temp, carefully pour it down the sides of the mixer bowl with the mixer on low. Slowly bring the mixer up in speed until you get to high when you can let it run for 5-10 minutes. Feel the bottom of your bowl, when it is no longer hot, and has come to room temp, you're done.

My kitchen tends to run a little cold so whenver I make butter cream I also have a heat gun ready. I start by warming the bottom of the mixer bowl - not enough to cook the eggs on the inside, but enough that I feel the warmth. Then right before I pour the syrup I hit the inside of the bowl with the heat gun for about 30 seconds. The idea is that if your eggs or bowl are too cold the syrup will form a big lump and ruin the butter cream. I have had a large lump form before where I just keep the heat gun going and the speed on low until the lump finally dissolves. It may not be perfect, but it works. Similarly, I have placed my bowl upside down under a very hot tap water for five minutes prior to using it and that helps.

When the eggs and syrup get to room temp, sprinkle in the cinnamon and pour in the chocolate, and then on med-low speed add the butter a tablespoon at a time. Once all of the butter has been incorporated, run the mixer on high for another minute to really fluff it up.

I used the Ateco #48 to pipe the butter cream. I like it because it would give me a lot of little ridges and it would cover space quickly. Don't be too methodical about this - tree bark is not very uniform. I always suggest people go look at a tree before doing this step so they can see how bark forms around branches and such. Finally, I made a royal icing (1 C. powdered sugar and about 1/3 of one egg white) and piped snow onto the branches. Oddly enough we had 6" of snow yesterday which hasn't happened in three years. The royal icing is more than your chance to hide the flaws (which I don't worry too much about - remember my previous musings about customers not buying perfectly finished pastries). It is also your chance to provide some definition. These defining lines are what look like straight lines in the picture - think about snow being blown on a cold windy night and sticking on the ridges of the bark.

My last step is to use my finger to push down any edges that I just don't like and make any misaligned icesickles hang a little more straight. The cut stumps get a twirled fork for faux grain and then this project is done for another year.

I love making these because I know that they will bring lots of joy to the families who buy them, moreso than most pastries. They're not hard and contrary to the number of recipes, really do only take about 90 minutes of hands-on time.
(HERE is last year's demo)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Yule Log Demo

I assume most people are used to Yule Logs that are essentially jelly rolls with buttercream. That's not really my thing. I prefer the more contemporary logs that have multiple tastes and textures. And even though we're just a few days til Christmas, you can still do this log - and even though the recipes are long, this can be done with just a couple hours of work.

I like to use just about any filling that I've enjoyed over the past year. For this log, I've really liked Pierre Hermé's flourless chocolate disk sprinkled with turbinado sugar, as well as his chocolate mousse. I also like Lebovitz's chocolate shortbread. Any old creme brulée (less the brulée) will do for a texture and strong vanilla taste. I also had some scrap genoise laying around so we'll soak that with some rum syrup. But, pick your own elements - just think about texture, taste and also time since you're running out of it.

The most time urgent is a creme brulée because we want to bake, cool, set and then freeze this element. Alton Brown's recipe will do just fine:

1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (I used 1 T. vanilla paste)

1/2 cup vanilla sugar

6 large egg yolks

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use. If you use the vanilla paste then you won't need to steep.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the warm/hot cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 9x13 pan lined well with saran wrap. Place the 9x13 into a jelly roll or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come a bit up the sides of the 9x13. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 60 to 75 minutes. At altitude, this took me about 2 hours. Remove the 9x13, cover with saran so a skin doesn't form, then chill in the fridge until set.

Its time for your big decision! What size log do you want to make. A terrine pan is great, a 4" PVC pipe is even better, but a loaf pan will do too. Figure out the length of your pan - for the sake of example, let's say its an 8x4 loaf pan. Your internal elements will be 7"x3".

Take the chilled creme and cut it into strips that are 7x3. No need to separate them, just re-cover with saran and freeze. Here is what mine looked like:

Next, I want a crunchy element but I don't want to add any more sweetness than I already have. I will temper dark chocolate and add crunch. For that crunch you can use rice krispies but I made gavottes (lace crepes) because they're fast and flat.

1/3 C. Milk
8 g (2/3 T) Butter unsalted

35 g (1/3 C) AP Flour

15 g (1 T) Egg, beaten

3.5 g (1 t) Sugar

Vegetable oil

Oven to 430ºF (220ºC). Heat the milk and butter in the microwave until the butter is completely melted. Sift the flour into the warmed milk whisking constantly to remove any lumps. Whisk in the egg and sugar. Thinly spread the batter over a baking sheet coated with a light coating of the oil - I warm my sheets in the oven for a few minutes first. Do your best to spread the batter evenly - it will not keep its shape...that's the lace. Bake until nicely browned - don't leave it pale or it won't be crisp. When they're done, cool to room temp and break up into small pieces.

The astute reader will say, "But Rob, I see pale pieces." And that astute reader would be correct...I didn't spread carefully enough. It'll work just fine, but I lose points.

Next, if you're comfortable tempering chocolate do it, if not, since this is a chilled dessert, we don't really need to temper. Whichever, melt a cup of chocolate, add the gavottes flakes and then spread very thinly on a silpat or parchment paper. If you tempered, just let it sit on the counter. If you didn't plop in the freezer to set. With both methods, once the chocolate is firm but not hard, use a pizza cutter to cut into your finished size (7x3 in our example). Let continue to harden.

For those of you who are freaking out already, know that we've spent less than 20 minutes at this point doing active kitchen work for the first two recipes. Moving on...

Lebovitz's chocolate shortbread recipe is a great little cookie, but it'll make an even better base. Your base needs to be the firmest element so it can hold up to the cutting, but it should also be delicate enough to be easily cut (that's why I picked a shortbread).

245 g (1 3/4 C) AP Flour
50 g (1/2 C) Dutch-processed cocoa

1/4 t Salt

230 g (2 sticks) Butter unsalted at room temp

125 g (1 1/4 C) Powdered sugar

Sift flour, cocoa and salt together. Cream the butter and sugar in mixer just until combined. Add the flour mixture and stop just when combined. Gently form dough into large flat rectangle on top of silpat or parchment. Take a second silpat and lay on top of dough, roll out until 1/8" thick (or a bit thicker). You can use a bit of flour on top if you need to but brush off excess before baking. Using the pizza cutter, cut your final size strips. Sprinkle with a good, large salt. I used French grey, but Kosher is fine too. This will add a bit of saltiness to this otherwise sweet dessert.

Freeze the dough for 15 minutes. Oven to 325ºF (160ºC). Bake 12-15 minutes until set but not hard. Cool and separate the rectangles.

We're only at about 45 minutes (less cleanup and baking time), so let's keep going! One more element - flourless chocolate disc:

115 g (4 oz) Dark chocolate
87 g (6 T) Unsalted butter, softened

142 g (1/2 C) Sugar

1 t. Dutch processed cocoa

2 L Egg yolks

1 L Egg

6 L Egg whites

Melt chocolate and cool to 114ºF. Cream butter, 3 T of sugar and the cocoa. Add the yolks and then the eggs. It will look gross at this point, but don't worry. Next add the melted chocolate and mix only until satiny. Don't overmix. In separate bowl, whip whites to soft peaks and add the remaining 5 T of sugar gradually. Whip until glossy and firm. Fold a quarter of the whites into the chocolate, then add the remaining whites until consistent. Spread on a silpat or parchment, sprinkle with turbinado sugar, and bake 350ºF for 25-30 minutes. Once out of the oven, cool, then cut into rectangles.

Are you sick of making things yet? Remember, you could have put anything in this - extra sugar cookie dough, gingerbread cake...whatever.

Line your pans with saran. You can see I use a variety of pans for options for my customers. I spritzed each with water to hold the saran in place better. The white pan is a PVC pipe that I snipped a base so the log will have a flat side. It works well and is a bit more traditional.

So, let's review. We've made creme brulée (minus the brulée), chocolate shortbread, gavottes with chocolate, flourless chocolate cake and we had some old sponge cake laying around.

We have one more recipe - the mousse.

1 3/4 C. Cream
1 T Cinnamon

2 Eggs, room temp

4 Egg yolks, room temp

10 oz Chocolate, chopped small - I used Cocoa Barry 64%

1/2 C. Sugar

3 T. Water

Whip cream to med-firm peaks adding the cinnamon near the end. Hold in cooler. In mixer whip eggs for a just a few seconds to break them up. Melt chocolate in microwave or stove top and allow to cool to 114ºF. In sauce pan combine sugar and water and bring to a boil until 257ºF (at altitude I only go to 255º). Carefully pour the sugar into the yolks with the mixer on low, then increase speed to high and whip for about 5 minutes or until pale and doubled. Fold a quarter of the cream into the chocolate, then combine the remaining cream. Very carefully fold in the egg mixture into the cream mixture. Put in piping bag.

In less than 90 minutes we've made everything. Get a kid to do your cleanup and then this really is no big deal. Its time for assembly. Squirt some mousse into the base. You don't need to be super neat until the mousse is your final finish. I'm going to do a few finishes, but the mousse with a mirror glaze is sexy as all get out.

And now we just start stacking. First the genoise. I added some sugar to rum and brushed that syrup onto the genoise. Press the genoise into the mousse to remove any air pockets.

A splat of mousse topped with the creme, more mousse, then the flourless disc, followed by more mousse.

The tempered chocolate strip, more mousse, and the shortbread.

The mousse in between layers should be thin. Think of it as glue. There will be plenty of mousse on the sides and top. Pipe the sides really well and give the edges a nice finish.

Cover with saran and freeze. Get caught up and we'll finish this tomorrow - I'm off to do mine right now!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bon Bons (andadamagedspacebarkey)

My space bar is acting up and my attempted repair is not doing so here's a quick picture 0f some chocolates I made for the store. I think I've got the temper process down pretty well. The fillings are raspberry cream and caramel with Murray River flake salt.

Tomorrow I will post a Yule Log demo.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I still exist

Like many of you, I'm buried under catering jobs and holiday baking. I'm going to get some Yule Logs done this week - traditional and contemporary, so I'll post a step-by-step for anyone interested before the 25th.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Few Pics

Nothing earth shattering here, just some recent pics that I wanted to get out of my hold-folder.

An Armenian cookie with walnuts and cinnamon

I love Israeli cous cous

I love this pic: Fiori Salt from Ritrovo Fine Foods

My nocino is getting better by the day - this is from a couple of months ago when I pulled the stuff out of the hooch.

And I've been playing with pâte sablée for my big secret project (still looking for a partner in crime).