Archive for April, 2008

April Daring Bakers Challenge – Cheesecake Pops!

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

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April’s Daring Bakers challenge was cheesecake lollipops dipped in chocolate. I had first seen and eaten these cheesecake pops at Davidburke and Donatella restaurant in New York (their pops come with bubble gum whipped cream) and thought the concept was really quite inventive and playful. In an episode of Road Tasted on FoodNetwork, it was revealed that David Burke’s children were the actual inspiration for these pops and now they’re a huge seller. A chef from the restaurant demonstrated how their pops are created. After baking the cheesecake, it is whipped, put into a pastry bag, piped onto a sheet, then dipped into chocolates, tuxedo style. In our challenge recipe, the cheesecake was baked, frozen, scooped into balls, then dipped in chocolate.
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We were given free reign in our choice of toppings and in the shapes of the pops, so I eventually settled on five toppings: cocoa nibs, chopped dried cherries, crystallized ginger chips, crushed chocolate chip cookies, and crushed chocolate cookies. I think my pops turned out resembling meteoritic space balls, but I was not unhappy with the look.

At first, I dipped a single topping onto each pop, but I starting mixing it up a bit to accommodate eaters who might like to sample several of the toppings at once.

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I also experimented with the shape a bit and used round cutter to create a drum-like shape with sides. This allowed me to alternate toppings a bit easier.

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Thanks to Deborah from Taste and Tell and Elle from Feeding my Enthusiasms, who were this month’s hostesses. Deborah has the recipe posted on her site if you’re interested. The recipe calls for adding shortening in the chocolate to create a snap, but I used cocoa butter instead, which worked well. I also flavored my pops with seeds from a vanilla bean. To be frank, if I made these again, I would try another cheesecake recipe. I think at the very least, the cheesecake itself could have used a kick with more citrus flavors. I would also try the piping method to avoid the mess created from rolling the cheesecake balls by hand. To check out what other Daring Bakers have done for this challenge, click here.

Tarte aux Fruits

Monday, April 21st, 2008

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It’s been a while since my last post, I know. I actually have been quite busy baking for a recent dessert party, so you’ll be seeing some non-cake posts for a while. First up is a classic fruit tart. Despite my recent propensities to tinker with recipes, there is little I would want to mess with when it comes to this dessert.

My sister likes to remind me of a sad little story about me and fruit tarts. In my first trip to Paris during my college days, I salivated over these glistening tarts in the patisserie windows. Though I was backpacking throughout Europe and my budget was limited, I had passed by too many shops before I finally purchased one, which was carefully packaged in a cardboard box. I placed it in my bag to savor that evening. I had been wandering by myself that day and had gotten lost trying to meet up with my sister that evening, so it was a pretty miserable day for me. All I looked forward to was my precious tart. Well, as you’ve probably guess my now, by the time I opened the box, the perfect tart form was completely destroyed, its custard innards scrambled with fruit and broken shells. It was pretty sad. I learned a lesson that day about how the ephemerality and fragility of beauty.

I’ve made apple tarts before using the recipe here, but I’ve never actually attempted a fruit tart with tart dough and pastry cream. Despite my overbaking the tart shell, it was so simple, I wondered why on earth I haven’t made this before. The tart was extremely well-received.

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Fresh Fruit Tart

Pastry Cream (recipe based on one from a class by chef Chad Pagano)
2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
3 tblsp cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 stick (2 tblsp) butter

In a saucepan, dissolve first portion of sugar in milk, bringing to boil. Whisk egg and yolks in a bowl. Sift cornstarch and second portion of sugar into eggs and beat until smooth. Slowly pour hot milk into eggs in a steady stream (to avoid cooking eggs). Transfer mixture back to saucepan and reheat until boiling. Stir constantly. When mixture comes to a boil – it will be thick – remove from heat. Stir in butter and mix until melted. Transfer to a clean bowl and chill for at least three hours. I added a tablespoon of Cointreau to my pastry cream after the butter. Pastry cream can be flavored with other liqueurs, vanilla bean, chocolate, etc.

Sweet Tart Dough (from Desserts by Pierre Herme, by Doree Greenspan)
This recipe makes enough for three batches of tart dough. This larger quantity is recommended because it is easier to prepare a larger batch at once. It can be frozen for later use.

2.5 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup lightly packed ground blanched almonds
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
3.5 cups all purpose flour

Beat butter on low speed in the bowl of a mixer with paddle attachment. Add rest of ingredients, except flour, and blend on low speed, scraping down sides occasionally. Add flour in 3-4 additions, still on low speed, just until mixture comes together.
Divide dough into three discs (for 10″ tart pans) and wrap each in plastic. Chill/rest in refrigerator for at least 4 hours or freeze up to a month.

Roll out dough a floured surface until it is large enough to come up the sides of the tart pan (about 1/8″ thick). To prevent sticking, keep rotating the dough. Trim edges by rolling the pin across the top edges of the pan, patching any holes as necessary. Chill dough in pan for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blind bake tart dough. Place parchment paper or foil onto dough and fill with dry beans or rice for 18-20 minutes. Remove paper and beans/rice and bake 5 more minutes or until golden. Transfer to wire rack and cool.

To assemble tart, spread pastry cream over shell. Arrange sliced fruits in decorative manner. Glaze with apricot jam, that has been heated and thinned with a little water. Strain jam and brush over fruits.