Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Compost Cookies

Have you ever had a baked good, only to spend hours on end wondering what, exactly, was in it? What was that indescribable, absolutely addictive taste?
If that's your thing, meet the Compost Cookie.

For all the salty-sweet lovers out there, listen up. For those not so convinced by the power of a chocolate-covered pretzel, well, listen up too. You just might be pleasantly surprised.

The compost cookie is officially the creation of pastry chef Christina Tosi from Momofuku Milk Bar in New York--but I'm pretty sure home bakers all around the world have been experimenting with add-ins in their cookies for quite a while. A quick survey around me found tasters (i.e. my fellow colleagues) to think of the obvious when I asked them to guess what exactly was in these compost cookies. Chocolate? Check. Some kind of nut? Check (almonds and hazelnuts, finely chopped). Salted butter? Nope. They ran out of ideas, and ended up pretty surprised when they heard the remaining ingredients...scroll down for the answer!

The subtelty of the compost cookie is that while you may add strange ingredients, that seemingly don't pair well at all, the result is completely cohesive from a flavor standpoint. Brown sugar imparts a butterscotch aroma to the baked cookies, which in turn pairs quite well with chocolate, pretzels, or... corn chips. "Don't knock it till you've tried it" is what they say. 

The preparation of the batter is an oddity as well--ten minutes of beating and a good hour (at least) in the refrigerator make for some cookies that ended up a little too much on the crunchy side for me. Good thing I kept part of the cookie dough and baked it in individual pans, making two huge cookie "bars"--chewy and utterly addictive.

It's hard to summarize a cookie with so many ingredients in just one sentence. But here goes: have you ever dreamt of going to the concession stand at the movies and getting one of everything? 

Let your dream come true with a compost cookie.

Compost Cookies
adapted from the Momofuku Milk Bar

yields 12 large cookies

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. granulated sugar
3/8 c. light brown sugar
1/2 TB corn syrup (I didn't have any and left it out with no noticeable effects)
1/2 TS vanilla extract
1 large egg
3/4 c. + 2 TB all purpose flour
1 TS baking powder
1/2 TS baking soda
1 TS salt
3/4 c. of your favorite baking ingredients (options: chocolate chips, nuts, etc.)
3/4 c. of your favorite snack foods (chips, pretzels, etc.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor, cream butter, corn syrup and sugars until fluffy and light in color.

Add egg and vanilla. Beat on high for ten minutes (or a little less if, like me, you're afraid of killing your mixer): mixture should become pale and almost double in size.

Delicately mix in flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until just combined. Stir in baking ingredients and snack foods.

Drop cookies onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate for at least one hour and up to one day.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400°F / 200°C.

Bake 9 to 11 minutes, until golden. Cool cookies completely on pan and store in an airtight container.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Blown Out of Proportion

It's easy to make a big deal out of nothing.

A quick sideways glance can become a declaration of love for some.

In other cases, it's all about the crumb. You dropped that cookie crumb on the ground? And pretended like you didn't see it? The perfect start to a dramatic tirade. Not like that's my type or anything.

When I get tired of things being blown out of proportion all day long, I react in a manner that is perfectly bizarre. I blow other things out of proportion--in an outburst of complete giddiness. Well, first it starts with a childish temper tantrum. But it all becomes filled with rainbows and blue skies when I pick up a spatula and preheat the oven.

Let's get it on, food processor. 

It's easy to make a big deal of cupcakes: who doesn't? Sure, you've got the ones who rain on the cupcake parade all the time, with statements along the lines of "Cupcakes are overrated", or "They aren't really anything special". I beg to differ: yes, they are. When you've had a rather annoying day for various reasons, a pink and sprinkle-laden baked good is an amazing little thing. 

Eating a cupcake becomes an act akin to deep meditation. You look at it closely, taking in the color of the frosting and its apparent creaminess. It's like a treasure chest waiting to be opened. First, the wrapper, followed by a first bite. It can be tricky to get just the right amount of frosting and cake in that first bite, but don't despair. When you succeed, the creamy taste of butter melds with a smooth vanilla flavor and a just-right sweetness for an unforgettable few seconds.

Am I blowing things out of proportion? Probably, but rightfully so. 

Don't pay attention to all those cake crumbs I'm dropping on the ground, though.

 Vanilla - Vanilla Cupcakes
makes 12-14 cupcakes

cake recipe adapted from Rose Levy Berenbaum's Heavenly Cakes

for the cake:
3 large egg whites
2/3 c. milk
1 1/2 TS vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. granulated sugar
2 1/2 + 1/8 TS baking powder (I only used 2 1/2 TS)
1/2 TS salt
1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.

Note: All ingredients should be room temperature.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg whites, 3 TB milk and vanilla until lightly combined.

In a stand mixer or food processor, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt for 30 seconds. Add butter and remaining milk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes.

Gradually add the egg mixture to the batter in two parts, beating for 30 seconds after each addition.

Scoop into prepared cupcake pan, filling each liner about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until a knife inserted in the centers comes out clean.

Let cupcakes cool in pan for 10 minutes, and cool completely on a wire rack.

for the frosting:
3 TB all-purpose flour
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 TS vanilla
food coloring, optional

In a saucepan, heat flour and milk, stirring constantly, until thickened. The resulting mixture should be very thick, like glue. Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer or food processor, beat sugar and butter together until fluffy and creamy.

Add flour mixture, vanilla and beat until smooth. Mix in food coloring if using.

Use immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ensconced in Scones

Scones are seemingly the epitome of tea-time chic. Does anything sound more dainty than inviting friends over for scones and a cup of tea? Perhaps petit fours or a platter of financiers--if you're stateside--but here in France, les scones are basking in admiration from all around.

Last weekend, I was getting all worked up about my great grandmother's pound cake recipe. I wanted to bake a marbré, the classic vanilla-chocolate marbled cake that accompanies many snacks in France and around the world. A chat on the phone with my Aunt Mimi left me longing for more: stories of how the cream used for the cake came directly from the barn only fed my appetite even more. Right after that small interlude of family lore, my thoughts turned to the cream I was about to use. I did not, in fact, have the necessary crème épaisse--a sour-cream type of dairy product. That's all, folks. Just kidding: you'll hear about the marbré eventually.

As my mind raced, my heartbeat went through the roof, and I wondered what in the world I could possibly bake, I settled on scones. Not that I needed to bake anything in particular, mind you, but I just had to bake.


Heavy cream in hand, I took my rings off  and got down to it. For some, it's getting their hands dirty in a rusty car motor that makes their Sunday worthwhile. In my case, it's all about sinking my hands into some kind of dough. (Of the 500 euro bill variety, obviously.) Scones bring exactly that kind of joy; add a cinnamon sugar topping and you go straight to heaven.

Hot from the oven, you can tell the scones are everything they promised to be. Crunchy on the outside with the cinnamon sugar, warm and pillow-soft on the inside. They are just the right kind of sweet: tasty on their own, and delightful if you add some jam. What about if you dunk them straight into chocolate pudding? Yeah, no, I didn't do that. You might want to try though: I hear it's great.

Simple Cream Scones, Cinnamon Sugar Topping
makes 8 large scones or 16 mini-scones

2 c. flour

1 TB baking powder
1/2 TS salt
1/4 c. sugar
1 c. heavy cream

for the cinnamon topping:
2 TB brown sugar
1 TB raw cane sugar
1 TS cinnamon

Preheat oven to 220°C / 425°F.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
Stir in cream with a fork until the mixture looks easy enough to handle.
On a floured surface and with floured hands, lightly knead (the lighter the touch, the lighter your scones) the dough into a 1/2 inch thick round. Cut into 8 wedges and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, or drop onto a baking sheet if making mini-scones.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until scones just start to become golden.

Serve immediately and store remaining scones in an airtight box or bag for 2 days maximum.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's Everywhere: The Baked Brownie

It was seriously starting to become an obsession.

I felt like every blog I turned to, or almost, featured a brownie. I'm not talking about any old brownie--all I read about was the Baked brownie.

Baked, for those not familiar with it, is a bakery in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. If you live in New York, make a stop next time you go to Ikea. That, or go to Baked, then stop by Ikea. We all know it's difficult to be within a mile of Ikea and not step in. And once you've stepped in, well, the downward spiral begins: candles, pizza cutters, sheets... I know, you needed all that.

In any case, trip to Ikea or not, the brownie at Baked has made quite a reputation for itself. In its "true" version, it benefits from the addition of ancho chile powder and fresh ground ginger. I can only imagine the depth of flavor from the pairing of dark chocolate, sprightly ginger, and a little heat. I ran across the original version a few times, and then some tweaks, here and there. Toffee and pretzels were a welcome addition, and a pared-down chocolate-only brownie was equally appealing.

Daydreams and nightmares about brownies soon invaded my life--I could no longer deal with the pressure. Worse than Mean Girls and high school cliques, I just had to give in to the trend. I was finally going to get up close and personal with the Baked brownie.

It came together quickly, and I made two versions, both omitting chili powder. Mini brownies filled with peanut butter chips, for work, and a larger brownie for two (or three, but not really). The top seemed disappointingly cake-like, and I began to be doubtful. What if the Baked brownie didn't live up to all the hype in my kitchen?

My first bite proved me wrong: the texture is chewy yet silky. It melts in your mouth like a perfectly fudgy brownie should, yet it has de la matière, as the French say. This is a brownie that can be proud of itself, and that you, of course, could be very proud of as well.

Now if only I could find out how to recreate Red Hook and an Indian Summer in my apartment...

The Baked Brownie
adapted from Baked - New Frontiers in Baking
makes 16 brownies 

3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 TS salt
1 TB + 1 TS Dutch-processed cocoa powder
5 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
1 TS vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter an 8x8 inch pan, muffin pan, or mini-muffin pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and cocoa powder.

Melt chocolate and butter over a double boiler. Turn heat off and add sugars. Mix until combined. Remove from heat and let cool for approximately 20 minutes.

Add eggs  and vanilla to chocolate-butter mixture and whisk until just combined. Do not overmix!

Sprinkle flour mixture over chocolate. Fold in until combined, oce again without overmixing.

Pour batter into the pan and bake for anywhere from 15 minutes (in a mini-muffin pan) to 40 minutes (8x8 inch pan), until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

Cool completely before serving.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Brioche aux Pralines

When I look back, I realize I've always gotten pretty excited over small culinary events. Sorting through pictures of when I was around eight years old, there's one that baffles me every time. I'm sitting on the front lawn, surrounded by Easter chocolates sent from France and a brand new pair of pistachio-green shoes.

Yes, pistachio-green shoes. But that's beside the point (and no, I do not still wear them, just in case you were wondering--I outgrew them). The Easter chocolates seem to have thrown me into this kind of trance: I've got such a smile on my face, you wonder if my Maman wasn't standing behind the camera, threatening to eat all my chocolate if I didn't smile enough.

Sometimes, in lieu of chocolates, another sweet treat would come in a box sent from France: les pralines. Pralines, not to be confused with what Americans call pralines, are sugar syrup-coated almonds. Conveniently, they are usually dyed pink--which only makes it better. From the outside, they look rocky and rough. A single bite, however, brings you into another dimension: the nuttiness of the almonds collides with the sweet, crunchy coating. If you are looking for an addictive snack, search no further.

The point to which I can get excited about small things in food is exactly why I decided to enter Project Food Blog hosted by Foodbuzz. My blog may be small, but I feel it really shows just how important food and cooking are to me. I like to think my love of cooking stems from all the food experiences I had as a child: meals and foods I loved created long-lasting memories, which in turn have shaped the way I cook and bake today. 

Take these pralines roses, which I can thankfully find easily now that I live in Paris. I actually have the willpower not to eat the whole bag at once--I call that maturity and growing up. Now, only half of the bag will go directly into my mouth. Better, right?

What we're interested in today, however, is where that other half is going. Sorry to break it to you, pralines, but you are going to be crushed into pieces....and incorporated into a fluffy brioche, just in time to become a French classic: la brioche aux pralines.

Don't be afraid of yeast, at least for this once, and give this brioche a try. Just in case you have a little girl running around (or a boy who enjoys pink, even better), let them into the secret world of pink baked goods. They will thank you with one of those large, crazy smiles children know how to dole out.

I know why there's no picture of me with a huge smile sitting near a brioche aux pralines, though. I'm not sure it can travel 7000 kilometers without harm. And taking the risk of only having a semi-smile on the picture, well, that just wasn't possible.

I'll just stop for a second and daydream: if I became the next food blog star (in the words of Foodbuzz!), I would use the prize money for one single thing: help teach children  and adults alike that creating wide smiles is easy. All it takes is flour, butter, and a little bit of imagination.

Brioche aux Pralines
adapted from Le Larousse des Desserts

Note: This version yields an almost cake-like crumb. Don't be surprised if the dough doesn't rise much: adding the crushed pralines beforehand will prevent the dough from filling with air. If you'd like to have the consistency of a classic brioche--pillow-soft--incorporate the pralines right before baking.

brioche dough:
5g fresh yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 TB granulated sugar
1 TS salt
3 large eggs
10.5 TB unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized chunks

praline filling and coating:
3/4 cup pink pralines, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup pink pralines, crushed to a powder (optional: if you want a very fluffy, traditional brioche texture, leave this out)

Break yeast into little pieces in a large bowl. Mix with flour, sugar and salt.

Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. When dough starts to detach from the sides of the bowl when mixed, add butter, one tablespoon at a time. Mix well until dough becomes easy to handle. If using, add crushed pralines and mix.

Place dough in another bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to double in size for 3 hours.

Once dough has risen, "punch" it down to let gas particles out of the dough.  Leave in a warm place for another hour.

Roll dough in coarsely chopped pralines to coat.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place brioche dough in a round or loaf pan, as desired.

Bake until golden on top, approximately 40 minutes. Cool in pan for five minutes and invert onto a wire rack. Serve warm or once cooled completely.

Store brioche, wrapped in plastic wrap, for two days maximum.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

If It Works...Well, Try Another Version!

It's four in the afternoon on a cold, dreary day in France.

Children run out past the school gates, towards their mothers, fathers, siblings or nannies, and all await one single thing: le gouter. In France, the after school snack is something of a national tradition, and very rightfully so. After a long day of learning conjugations or the name of all the rivers in the country, children have built up quite an appetite. While some families choose a daily stop at the boulangerie for a warm pain au chocolat--bakeries time the availability of warm pastries according to when school ends--others opt for a snack at home.

The afternoon snack is an important moment of the day: students around the country mellow down, have a seat, and chat about their day. It's a great opportunity to talk about what went well or what went wrong, and why. Sitting at the kitchen counter, a mug of hot chocolate between my cold hands, I cherished the conversations I had with my Maman during my four o' clock snack.

Besides the ubiquitous pain au chocolat, another after school staple is the madeleine. Its shape--shell-like, golden, with a beautiful bump in the center--makes it attractive from the first look. Next comes smell: warm butter, a slight citrus aroma. Irresistible, if you ask me. 
Held between the index finger and thumb, it is moist yet holds its shape. After the first bite, it becomes nearly impossible to put down. You can only hope that there are more where that came from, because stopping after only one madeleine is like refusing a free pair of diamond studs. Wait, where did I even get that idea? My ears aren't even pierced, so actually I could, in theory, refuse a free pair of studs. Never mind, then.

Few treats compare to a madeleine when the subject of afters chool culinary joy is evoked. One of those treats might just be chocolate mousse. For many Americans, chocolate mousse is a fancy dessert, beloved by French-inspiration restaurants. In France, however, mousse au chocolat is just the opposite: a simple dessert eaten straight out of a large bowl or slathered onto a thick slice of fresh buttery brioche.

If you put two and two together, an amazing after school snack comes to life: madeleines chocolate mousse. Although I have a classic, easy-yet-delicious recipe for each, I couldn't resist trying out something new. Juste pour voir. 

The end result? Rich madeleines infused with lemon aroma, fluffy like a dense, brand-new pillow. A silky chocolate mousse, delicate yet with a powerful chocolate taste. Together, they form a tasty duo: complementary flavors, complementary textures--something you might want to try for your next after school snack.

Oh, one more thing: I had my after school snack at ten at night. Does anyone ever tell you, when you're eight years old, that school won't end at four forever? 

makes 12 

zest of 1 untreated lemon
80g / 1/3 c. + 1.5 TB granulated sugar
85g / 3/4 c. + 1.5 TB  all-purpose flour
10g / 1 scant TB baking powder
80g / 5.5 TB unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
15g / 2TS honey

Make batter the day before baking.

Combine granulated sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl. Rub together to release lemon oils from zest. In another bowl, sift flour and baking powder togather.

Add eggs and honey to bowl, beat until foamy. Gently incorporate flour mixture. Add melted butter and stir. Do not overmix. Refrigerate batter overnight or at least 12 hours in a closed container.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400°F/200°C.
Butter and flour a madeleine pan if using metal. Fill each hole 3/4 up.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes until golden. Let cool in pan five minutes and invert onto a wire rack.

Serve immediately or store in an airtight container.

Chocolate Mousse
serves 4 to 6

180g / 1 c. / 6.5 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 TB whole milk
10cl / 1/3 c. + 1.5 TB whipping cream
10g / 3/4 TB unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into pieces
3 eggs, separated
1 TB granulated sugar

Place chopped chocolate in a large bowl.

Bring milk and cream to a boil in a saucepan. Pour over chocolate and whisk for one to two minutes until mixture cools down to 100°F/ 40°C. Whisk in butter.

Beat egg whites with sugar to stiff peaks. Add egg yolks a few seconds before you stop the beaters.

Incorporate one fifth of egg mixture into chocolate ganache and mix. Pour back into the remaining egg whites, and incorporate delicately until combined.

Refrigerate until serving, but no longer than 24 hours.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Letting You In On A Secret

...This is a little hard for me to say. I've got a secret cake.

You know the one. When you have company and serve it, all you can hear are sighs of pleasure around the table. People go crazy over it. The paparazzi chase it around town.
Alright, I may be exaggerating just a tad--but you get the point. Everyone has a cake in their repertoire that looks insanely time-consuming, tastes amazing, and takes just a few minutes to put together. And no, I'm not even talking about anything requiring a box mix. The secret ingredient here is...ladyfingers.

Last year, I was off to Saint Dié for a Summer weekend with my family during my Maman's stay in France. The day before I arrived, she asked me if I wanted to eat any type of cake in particular. I didn't have to think much before the words spurted out of my mouth:

Mascarpone. Raspberry. Layer Cake. Almonds.

I could never really put the name of this cake into words: what it really is, I can hardly describe. Like a fluffy mountain of cake, moist layers hidden between cloud-like mascarpone mousse...and fresh, juicy raspberries. Imagine all this, encased in a layer of toasted slivered almonds. 

Before hanging up with Maman on the phone, I mentioned one last thing: "Don't bake this cake if it's too time-consuming, though."

Her reply: "Bake? What? This is the easiest of no-bake cakes, ma poule."

You know those paintings of the Holy Light? Pardon the blasphemy, but I saw the clouds part and spears of bright, beautiful sunlight bear down on me right at that moment. My beloved cake doesn't even go near an oven, yet it becomes a beautiful, beautiful thing.

My advice here would be not to make your own ladyfingers. If you do, this just becomes a regular--albeit amazing and unforgettable--time-consuming cake. If you can find fine, fresh ladyfingers (if you live in France, you can), don't pass up the opportunity to be in on the secret.

Let others taste, but don't divulge a single thing. This is a secret you'll enjoy keeping--but let's keep it between us, alright?

Raspberry Mascarpone Cake
serves six to eight

Note: I made a small version of this cake by diving the whole recipe by five.

for the cake:
500g / 1 lb. fresh raspberries
40 fresh ladyfingers
350g / 1.5 c.  mascarpone
30cl / 1 and 1/4 c. whipping cream, very cold
125g / scant 3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 TS vanilla extract

for the syrup:
125g / 1 c. confectioner's sugar
3 TB raspberry eau de vie (feel free to substitute any alcohol you like)
30cl / 1 and 1/4 c. water

20 raspberries
80g / 1/2 c. slivered almonds

Make syrup: Heat water and confectioenr's sugar in a saucepan until sugar dissolves. Add alcohol and remove from heat.

Make mascarpone cream: Beat mascarpone, granulated sugar, and vanilla together.

In a cold bowl, beat whipping cream to stiff peaks. Delicately oncorporate mascarpone mixture and set aside.

Dip lady fingers one by one in syrup, without getting them too wet, and place in bottom of a 9 in ch springform or classic cake pan.

Spread 1/3 of mousse on top. Add 1/2 of the raspberries.

Add another layer of ladyfingers dipped in syrup, 1/3 of the mousse and 1/2 of the raspberries. Finish off with another layer of ladyfingers dipped in syrup.

Refrigerate for 12 hours or overnight. Refrigerate remaining mousse.

An hour before serving:
Toast slivered almonds in a dry skillet or in the oven.
Place cake on a plate and frost with remaining 1/3 of the mousse. Decorate with toasted slivered almonds and fresh raspberries.

Refrigerate another hour before serving.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

What's for Dinner? Zucchini. What's for Breakfast? Zucchini.

It's that time of year, they say.

"Zucchini abounds in your vegetable garden--what a better way to use it than in dessert?"

Let's get things straight here. I do not have a vegetable garden. My vegetable garden bears the name of Carrefour Market, has bright green walls and bright lighting. And no, I'm not referring to some kind of greenhouse. 

The few zucchini I do get from a vegetable garden come from my aunt Mimi or my uncle Roland in Saint Dié, which consequently isn't very often. When I get homegrown zucchini, I can't wait to eat it raw (do you do that too?) or lightly sauté it with some delicious pesto. As much as I love zucchini bread, it's the last thing that comes to mind when I've only got a pound for my personal use.

I keep reading about homegrown vegetables and what to do with your bumper crop, and I'm getting jealous. I wish I had a vegetable garden of my own and so much zucchini it fills my whole apartment. In the meantime, I decided I would just pretend--and the best way of doing that is to make zucchini bread.

"I just don't know what to do with all this zucchini. Whew. I had to make zucchini bread--couldn't help it."

On a more serious note, this is a great bread. For those of you who aren't huge fans of cinnamon in baked goods, you might think some zucchini breads go overboard spice-wise. I personally love spices, but also enjoy a bread with a more simple taste that lets the zucchini shine. Adding low-fat yogurt was a great way to bring moisture and make the bread breakfast-healthy. 

Even if you don't have crates of zucchini lying around, I suggest you give this a try. It might just convince your friends to give you their extra zucchini--and that's never a bad thing.

Yogurt Zucchini Bread
makes one loaf

1 medium zucchini, grated (yields about 1 to 1 1/4 c.)
3/4 c. low-fat or fat-free plain yogurt
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 TS baking powder
1/2 TS baking soda
1/2 TS salt
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. raw cane sugar or brown sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C.

Grease a 9-inch long loaf pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix yogurt, oil, eggs and sugars. Add grated zucchini and mix.

In a large bowl, mix remaining dry ingredients. Delicately incorporate wet ingredients, but do not overmix.

Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake until golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Cool in pan and invert onto a wire rack.

Store loaf at room temperature, in plastic wrap, for three days maximum.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tiramisu: Not the Final Try

Oh, Versailles... Strolling through Marie-Antoinette's gardens, stopping at the fountains... You almost feel like you're in Italy.

Wait, what?

I'm getting everything mixed up. But I know why. It all started with Tiramisu.

I've been wanting to make tiramisu for a while, but every time I even think about it, our Italian neighbor's amazingly creamy version comes to mind. If only I could make tiramisu like that, I think. Don't ask why, but when I finally decided to make some for last weekend, I pulled out my classic French Larousse des Desserts.

Well that's a little strange, you might think. Who pulls out a Betty Crocker book when they need a recipe for profiteroles? Let me explain. The Larousse des Desserts is a pretty amazing compilation of all the well-known and not-so-famous desserts of France, directed by Pierre Hermé. And like many bakers, I tend to consider Pierre Hermé as someone to look up to, and especially some who never gets it wrong.

Sure, it puzzled me a little that the egg white to yolk ratio was 1:1, but I kept going. I wanted this tiramisu to be the real deal. Alright, I'll admit, I strayed away from the original a bit when I added grated chocolate and included almond extract instead of marsala. But still--I had high hopes that my tiramisu might come somewhere near the heavenly memories I still have of the one I had over two years ago.

Maybe next time. As I feared, the texture of this tiramisu is very mousse-like, and airy rather than very creamy. It's by no means bad--I had no trouble whatsoever eating my share and a little more than that. All I could say is that it's a bit underwhelming....and disappointing. But like I always say, a disappointment can only lead to more successful tries in the future--anyone feel like sharing a great recipe?

That will teach me not to get French and Italian desert classics mixed up in the future. As a result, I'm booking my flight right now to go spy on my neighbors as they prepare a tiramisu. Well, that or I could just ask my parents to knock on their door. Not as fun, though.

yields three to four servings

2 eggs, separated
5 to 10 fresh ladyfingers, depending on their size (mine were very large so I only used five, especially since I was serving the tiramisu in individual glasses)
125g (1/2 c.) mascarpone
40g (3.5 TB) granulated sugar
150 ml (1/2 c. + 2 TB) water
100 ml (1/3 c. + 1 TB) freshly brewed coffee
marsala (optional: I used bitter almond extract)
approx. 30 g / 1 oz. chocolate, grated

Whip egg whites to soft peaks.

In a saucepan, mix water and sugar together. Bring to a boil and boil for no longer than three minutes. Pour slowly into egg whites and beat until cooled.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and mascarpone until smooth. Delicately incorporate into egg white mixture.

Lightly dip ladyfingers into coffee and place in individual glasses or in a medium dish. Sprinkle with marsala or a drop of almond extract. Add a layer of mascarpone,  and grated chocolate. Top with another layer of ladyfingers, mascarpone, and chocolate until you have used up all the filling.

Refrigerate at least two hours, and ideally a full day or night, before serving.