Monday, July 4, 2016

Chocolate Tuiles With Cherry Diplomat Cream

Oh yes I just needed yet another reason to make one of my favorite things - tuiles!  I honestly don't recall liking cherries all that much, I had obviously not tasted the good ones. This season has been different. I am actually looking out for cherries and even planning to freeze some for later use. Bright red cherries, delicious and elusive even during the season are the the inspiration behind this dessert and post.

I made the tuiles first, unsure if I would be able to whip the dairy cream. Or even find cherries for that matter! Just as well, I told myself, tuiles are supposed to keep well for about a month stored airtight. The tough part is guarding those seriously fragile cookies from breaking, the humidity another challenge!

I was so thrilled to whip dairy cream and loved the taste of it. This opens up so many more possibilities I just can't wait to try! The small big joys of being a  home baker in India. I checked on it now and then just to make sure it hadn't turned into something else! Thankfully it retained its shape and texture quite satisfactorily.

Luckily, I found cherries at a nearby store, though I had to shell out some extra bucks, but worth it. Or I would have spent more time worrying about the precious cookies and a chance to put up a blog post. Rushed home to take a couple of pictures of the gorgeous fruit in the fading evening light.

Made some pastry cream, popped it into the refrigerator to chill. All I had to make was the cherry compote in the morning, cool and fold it in with the whipped cream and pastry cream. And that diplomat cream turned out to be delicious, I suspect it had to do with the taste of the dairy cream! I had invited a friend to taste the dessert. Hurriedly shaped the tuiles lest there should be a power failure. 

After she arrived, filled the dainty, crisp cookies filled with the diplomat cream and served with some compote alongside.

Cherry compote. I had to change the recipe slightly. Please do refer this post by David Lebovitz

Fresh cherries - 200 grams
Sugar - 2 tablespoons (or as needed)
Water - 1/2 cup
Cornstarch - 1/2 teaspoon

Wash, stem and pit the cherries. Take all ingredients in a heavy saucepan, cover and simmer on low heat till the cherries are cooked through and mushy. I had to add water as the cherries did not leave out much juices. I have dissolved the cornstarch in a teaspoon of water and added to the cherries, cooked till it thickened and turned syrupy. Cool and use as needed. Leftovers can be frozen.

To assemble

Chocolate tuiles - 12-15 .Recipe here
Pastry cream, chilled - 1 cup. Recipe here
Whipped cream, lightly sweetened and chilled  - 1/2 cup or to taste
Cherry compote - 1/3 cup 

Fold in the whipped cream into the pastry cream. Fold in the cherry compote. Arrange the tuiles on a plate. Spoon the mixture gently taking care not to break them. Serve immediately with more compote on the side.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Puff Pastry Tarts With Lime Cream & Poached Pears (eggless)

Having puff pastry in the freezer is dangerous and very tempting! I had some leftover when I made this Really easy puff pastry last month, hope you do try it sometime! I sound like an unruly kid  but I would have made more and stashed it away if only the mercury levels hadn't shot up so suddenly! No, am not a summer person at all and puff pastry is just another reason for me to adore winters. 

I was contemplating making 'something' with that pastry when I noticed that some strawberry ice cream I had made hadn't set inspite of freezing it overnight. Alarm bells clanged like crazy! Was the puff pastry ruined already? I had to make something real quick!

I sent up a prayer, put the pastry in the refrigerator to thaw, and then made some quick orange and lime posset. I have made it more than 3 times now and absolutely loved the simplicity of this refreshing summer dessert. Just 3 ingredients and 10 minutes is all it takes to put together this ridiculously easy make-ahead cream. You can serve it as it topped with fresh fruit like strawberries, kiwi fruit or mangoes. 

If I have managed to tempt you just a bit, do watch this video on the posset, I promise you will make it soon! 

And then I poached a couple of pears in vanilla syrup, left it to chill. All I had to do was bake the pastry the next day and serve. I love recipes like this, where each element can be made well ahead, makes it all so easy, but satisfying. The plan was to serve the cream and poached pears on top of the flaky pastry. 

Ingredients: To make 12-15 little tarts

Puff pastry - 1 recipe
Lime and orange cream - 1 recipe
Firm pears - 2-3
Water - 1.5 cups
Sugar - 1/4 cup or more to taste
Vanilla bean - 1/4 

Make the cream ahead and refrigerate overnight to set. Thaw the puff pastry overnight (if you have stored it in the freezer)

To poach the pears :

Wash and peel the pears, slice into half lengthwise. Bring the water, sugar and the vanilla bean to a simmer. Lower the pears into it and simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes. The pears must be soft enough to pierce a knife easily into it, but not mushy. Turn off the heat and let the pears cool in the syrup. Slice them decoratively ( mine were badly bruised in places so could make them look pretty at all!), leave in the syrup. Refrigerate airtight till serving time. You could serve these as it with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for a light dessert. 

To bake the puff pastry :Line a baking tray with baking parchment.  Remove the pastry from the fridge and leave it on the counter for about 10 minutes. Just till it is firm but malleable enough to roll with just gentle pressure. Dust flour lightly on the counter. roll the pastry 3-4 mm thick and cut out circles using a cookie cutter. Prick all over with a fork to prevent the pastry from puffing up in the oven. 

Place the circles on the lined sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer if needed. Bake at 180 C for 25-30 minutes or till golden and crisp. Store airtight if needed.

To serve : Just before serving, rewarm the pastry. When it is no longer hot or even warm, spoon the cream and top with the drained pear slices. Serve immediately without any delay. 

It was a relief to see the pastry turn out crisp and flaky, in spite of the obvious problem with the freezer. The dessert did not look pretty as I had thought it would, but it surely made an enjoyable dessert for us. And I guess in the end , that's all that matters! 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Îles Flottantes / Floating Islands

Îles flottantes or Floating Islands is the intriguing name of this traditional French dessert.  Fluffy  poached meringue floating in chilled crème anglaise, garnished with shards of caramel. A summer dessert was my thought when I drooled over it first! Not that you need to wait for a particular season or reason to relish anything good! The soaring mercury levels just make ‘cool and sweet’ a much more welcoming thought.

Whether or not a particular recipe makes to my list of favorites is immaterial, a new technique is compelling enough to give it a try. Meringue is magical of course and I had never poached whipped egg whites.  So I did not waste any time making some orange crème anglaise, left in the fridge to thicken and chill really well . Washed and dried the bowl and beaters to whip the whites the next day.  I can be quite annoyingly obsessive here! 

Whenever I leave homemade custard to chill, I just can’t resist eating it by the spoonful.  But I do keep reminding myself that  it is a component of the dessert and I must stay away from it.  Just as well, this orange scented custard stayed in the fridge in my baking kitchen or it would not have made it!

It was amazing to see spoonfuls of whipped meringue puffing up like crazy within seconds when poached! You must watch this if you haven’ t yet. They tuned out spooky light and soft. The caramel is optional but added a very nice textural contrast, so do not skip it. It felt a bit weird to eat the poached meringue, but I might develop a taste for it!

This recipe is from Dorie Greenspan, from her book Baking – From My Home To Yours. Have taken Dorie’s very clear recipe ad verbatim from here

So this is how we go about it.    

For the Crème Anglaise:

Whole milk : 480 ml / 2 cups 
Egg yolks - 108 grams / 6 large (careful when you separate, keep the whites for the meringue)
Sugar - 100 grams / 1/2 cup
Pure vanilla extract 
1½ teaspoons

For the Islands:

Milk -  480 ml / 2 cups 
Egg whites - 120 grams / 4 large,  at room temperature
Cream of tartar - 1/2 teaspoon
Sugar - 50 grams / 1/4 cup

For the Caramel (optional)

Sugar - 100 grams / ½ cup sugar
Water - 80 ml / 1/3 cup 

To make the crème anglaise: Traditionally the milk used to poach the whites is used for making the custard, but if you love your custard chilled, make it at least 8 hours ahead.  For a detailed recipe with tips, please refer this post if making homemade custard for the first time.

Bring the milk to a boil.

Meanwhile, put the yolk and sugar in a heavy saucepan and whisk vigorously until thick and pale, 2 to 3 minutes. Still whisking, drizzle in a little of the hot milk — this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining milk. Put the saucepan over medium-low heat and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook until the custard thickens, lightens in color and coats the spoon (this can take 10 minutes or so) — if you run your finger down the spoon, the track should remain. For this recipe, the crème anglaise should be cooked until it reaches 180˚F on an instant-read thermometer.

Immediately remove the pan from the heat, strain the custard into a bowl and stir in the vanilla extract. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the custard to create an airtight seal and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, or for up to 3 days. (The crème anglaise will improve with at least on overnight rest.)

To make the islands: Please read this post on separating and whipping whites if you have never whipped whites before.  Watch the above video about separating eggs. 

Spread a clean kitchen towel on the counter near the stove and have a large slotted spoon at hand. [The towel will help the floating islands drain after poaching.] Put the milk in a wide saucepan and bring it to a simmer over low heat.

Meanwhile, put the egg whites in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or use a large bowl and a hand mixer. Beat the whites on medium speed just until foamy. Add the cream of tartar. When the eggs turn opaque, increase the mixer speed to medium-high and add the sugar about 1 tablespoon at a time. Whip until the meringue is firm but satiny and still glossy.

You have two options in shaping the islands: you can just scoop up some meringue — specifically, an amount about twice the size of an egg — in which case you'll have the equivalent of a rocky volcanic island, or you can smooth the meringue to get a manicured island. For the smooth look, use a large oval spoon to scoop up the meringue, then use another large oval spoon to very gingerly transfer the meringue from spoon to spoon a couple of times to form a smooth oval. 

Do not worry about the shape of the ‘islands’ they are meant to look homey. So you have every excuse to forget that ‘neat’ bit! 

Either way, one by one, lower the islands into the simmering milk, adding only as many islands as you can fit into the pan without crowding. Poach the meringues for 1 minute, gently turn them over and poach 1 minute more, then lift the islands out of the milk and onto the towel. Repeat until you've poached 12 islands. Put the puffs (which will have inflated when poached and will deflate when cooled) on a wax paper-lined baking sheet and chill them for at least 1 hour, or for up to 3 hours.

To make the optional caramel: Decide whether you want to serve the meringues in one large bowl or six individual bowls, and have the bowl(s) at hand.

This needs to be made at the last minute literally before you pass on the bowl. Please do read this post if making caramel for the first time. 

Right before serving, stir the sugar and water together in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat, bring the sugar to a boil and cook without stirring, swirling the pan occasionally, until the caramel turns a pale gold color, 6 to 8 minutes or so. Pull the pan from the heat and let the caramel cool just until it is thick enough to form threads when it is dropped from the tines of a fork. (If the caramel hardens, rewarm it slowly over low heat.)

Either pour the crème anglaise into a large serving bowl and top with the meringue islands, or make six individual servings. If using the caramel, working quickly, dip the tines of a fork into the caramel and wave the fork over the floating islands to create threads that will quickly harden.

Serving: Once the dessert has been assembled, it should be served immediately.

Storing: You can make both the crème anglaise and the meringue puffs in advance and keep them chilled, but the assembled dessert won't keep.

I also read about baking the meringue for this desert and I am certainly going to be trying that as well! (I can see the French purists glare at me) Expect an update here on what I liked better – the baked meringue or the poached one!

Should you try this? If you love crème anglaise and everything eggy, absolutely!              
if making caramel for the first time