Thursday, December 29, 2011

Carrot Cake with Mascarpone Frosting

Carrot cake is a classic. You mess with carrot cake, you go to jail.

Woahhhh Nelly, hold your horses! (neigghhhh...!) Hate to break it to ya but you're wrong! You CAN mess, but you gotta do it legitly. Every legit carrot cake needs to have real carrots, walnuts or pecans (we used both because we couldn't decide), cream cheese frosting, and those cheesy little carrots piped around the top. Whether or not you throw in crushed pineapple, coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, buttermilk, chopped ginger or raisins is up to you, and will allow you to determine who your real friends are.

We adapted this beauty from Sam's famous carrot cake on Allrecipes, and paired it with mascarpone cream cheese frosting. The mascarpone balances the tang of the cream cheese and adds a nutty sweetness. We don't like tooth-achingly sweet frosting. Paula once put SIX cups of powdered sugar to one stick of butter and one 8-oz brick of cream cheese. Don't know about y'all, but we ain't wearin' dentures/have Deen Family Sugar Tolerance. So we reduced the sugar in both the cake and the frosting, and it's still plenty sweet and scrumptious.

Sam told us to use 8 oz of crushed pineapple with juice, but we think that the juice made the cake a little too sticky; we wanted a fluffier, lighter cake, so we suggest draining the pineapple of excess juice. Also, we substituted some of the white sugar for brown sugar, but this may have also made the cake slightly denser and moister (akin to a sticky toffee date pudding, which some may prefer); maybe all white sugar is the way to go. Also, let the cake cool completely before wrapping in plastic wrap to prevent condensation. We think raisins don't go with carrot cake as well as crystallized ginger does - ginger just fits so well in the cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg clique. But if you're not a ginger fan, fret not, we're sure you'll find other friends. In the meantime, make this cake!

Revised and Tested Recipe - the World's Best Carrot Cake
THIS CARROT CAKE IS DELICIOUSLY FRAGRANT AND MOIST thanks to the combination fo buttermilk, flaked coconut, and crushed pineapple. It is also not too sweet because we reduced the sugar from 2 cups to 1 ¼ cup and swapped out raisins for crystalized ginger, which perfectly matches the spiced cake. It contains less oil than most carrot cake recipes, allowing the delicate flavor of the carrots to shine and results in a cake that isn’t too greasy. The mascarpone adds a natural sweetness and lends complexity to an otherwise traditional cream cheese buttercream that is essential to carrot cake.

For the cake:
2 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour (270 g)
1 ¾ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
1/8 tsp allspice (optional)
3 large eggs (room temp)
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk (room temp)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups white sugar (reduced from 2 cups)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ½ cups shredded carrots, about 4-5 large (370 g)
¾ cup unsweetened flaked coconut (75 g, optional)
3/4 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
140 g crushed pineapple, drained well
1/2 cup chopped candied ginger

For the mascarpone frosting:
19 Tbsp butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
16 oz cream cheese, cool
8 oz mascarpone cheese, cool

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line with parchment circles two 8-inch round cake pans. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour mixture and mix well. In a medium bowl, combine shredded carrots, coconut, nuts, pineapple and candied ginger. Using a large wooden spoon or a very heavy whisk, add carrot mixture to batter and fold in well. Pour into prepared pans, and bake at 350 F (175 C) for 50 minutes. Press lightly in the center to check for spring and do the toothpick check (few crumbs cling to toothpick inserted in center). Cool cakes 15 minutes in the pans, remove and cool on wire rack for 5 hours until no longer warm. Wrap with plastic wrap and store at room temp overnight or in the fridge or freezer until ready to frost.

* we shredded 75% of the carrots by hand to produce an interesting texture and visible carrot pieces in the cake. We then processed the remaining unshreddable ends in the food processer until pretty finely ground, and added them to the cake to make 2 ½ cups total (370 g).

For mascarpone frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and powdered sugar on lowest speed until all of the sugar is incorporated. Increase speed to high and beat 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add cream cheese 8oz at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition or until smooth and fluffy. Add mascarpone cheese and beat 1 more minute or until smooth, satiny, and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar to taste or if your frosting is too stiff. Remove some frosting and add food coloring to make carrots.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Ultimate Banana Cream Pie

Banana cream pie is already up to no good, so it wouldn't hurt to make it naughtier... adding salted caramel and two types of shaved chocolate! But the food nerds think....
...there's STILL room for improvement. :D Updated, ultimate ultimate version coming in the near future. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Desserts

It's a good thing we don't normally have this much spare time on our hands. The problem with making desserts is that we have no choice but to taste test along the way, so we inevitably get caught on a sugar high, which fuels our maniacal desire to churn out more desserts...with scrumptious yet fattening consequences. Some wise guys retort: Oh that's so silly, why don't you just exercise some self control and not nibble along the way? Clearly, they've never found themselves in the possession of a mixing bowl or whisk covered in some vanilla-scented pastry cream or warm chocolate ganache...or a few raspberries or blueberries that just missed the Fruit Tart Train. In these situations, before anyone can stop them, greedy fingers kidnap an unsuspecting berry and mercilessly smear it in some cream and chocolate...and the berry is never heard from again. A somber moment indeed, but at the same time an unavoidable sacrifice integral to the Circle of Life. Naaaaaa...tsaben yaaaa...Babbalycheebabbo! There is more to eat than can ever be eaten...


Christmas Dessert Menu

Assortment of cookies
Strawberry Blueberry and Pineapple Mango Linzer Cookies, Chewy Ginger Cookies, Dark Chocolate Macarons, Jasmine Creme Fraiche Macarons, Pistachio White Chocolate Cranberry Icebox Cookies

Fruit Tart
Tartine Bakery's Pate Brisee, creme fraiche pastry cream, assorted fruit, mango pineapple jelly glaze

Chocolate Rose Cake
Ina's Chocolate cake, cream cheese mascarpone berry filling, strawberry swiss meringue buttercream

Apple Cranberry Pie
Tartine's flaky pate brise, granny smith apples, cranberries, turbinado sugar



Strawberry Blueberry and Pineapple Mango Linzer Cookies (adapted from Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies)

Pistachio White Chocolate Cranberry Icebox Cookies (adapted from Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies)

Dark Chocolate and Jasmine Creme Fraiche Macarons (adapted from recipes courtesy of the impossible-to-please chef, Yanqiang Tan :D)
Chocolate ganache (makes 20 macarons)
110g dark chocolate (Scharffen Berger 72%), finely chopped
110g creme fraiche (too tangy against the acidic Sharffen Berger...I'd use cream next time!)
38g butter, room temp

Heat cream in microwave until just about to boil. Pour the hot cream over finely chopped chocolate. Whisk slowly to melt chocolate. Add butter and stir until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate until just stiff enough to pipe but not too hard; alternatively, refrigerate overnight and allow to sit at room temp for 5 hours before piping.

Jasmine ganache (makes 20 macarons)
95g white chocolate (valrhona) chopped fine
105g creme fraiche (goes well with white chocolate's sweetness!)
8g jasmine tea leaves

Microwave creme fraiche until just about to boil; add tea leaves and infuse for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, heat white chocolate on 15-second intervals in the microwave until just melted. Strain the hot cream into the melted white chocolate, whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate until just stiff enough to pipe but not too hard; alternatively, refrigerate overnight and allow to sit at room temp for 5 hours before piping.

Shells (makes 36-40 shells)
90 g almond flour
120 g confectioner's sugar
30 g granulated sugar
70 g egg white (2 large whites)
2 g cocoa powder, plus more for dusting (omit this for the jasmine ones; we dusted green tea powder on top instead)

Sift almond flour, confectioner's sugar, and cocoa powder with a medium-mesh sieve and whisk to blend. With oil-free beaters and a clean metal bowl, whisk egg whites until white and frothy, and add granulated sugar 1 tablespoon at a time while whisking on medium high speed. Fold 1/2 of the dry ingredients into the meringue until just incorporated. Add the remaining dry ingredients and fold 15-20 times to make a lava-like batter. Fill a piping bag fitted with a large round tip and pipe 2-inch circles onto a silpat-lined baking sheet. Rap them a few times to wake up the neighbors, remove air pockets, and flatten any stubborn bumps. With a fine mesh sieve, dust the tops with cocoa powder or green tea powder, depending on the flavor you want to make. Let rest for 45 minutes until dry to the touch, meanwhile preheating the oven to 300 F with rack on the lower third. Bake macaron shells on the lower third of the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the center ones don't wobble when nudged. Remove silpat onto the table and allow shells to cool 30 minutes before removing. Match them based on size and fill with ganache. Refrigerate or freeze immediately and allow them to get happy overnight. Allow to rest at room temp (30 minutes if from the fridge, 2 hours if from freezer) before enjoying.

Fruit Tart (inspired by Pastiche, Providence, RI)
The pastry cream can be made up to 48 hours in advance, but don’t fill the prebaked tart shell until 30 minutes or less before serving before serving. Once filled, the tart should be topped with fruit, glazed, and served within about 30 minutes (for best results). This recipe makes way more than a 9 inch tart. With the extra pastry cream and berries, make some baby tarts!

Pastry Cream
1 1/2 cup whole milk + 1/2 cup creme fraiche (can substitute 2 cups half and half)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean powder
5 large egg yolks, chalazae removed
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 4 pieces

Pate Brisee
1 1/2 Tsp Fine sea salt
2/3 Cup (150ml) Ice cold water
3 Cups + 2 Tbs (455g) All-purpose flour
1 Cup + 5 Tbs (300g) Chilled butter, cut into small cubes

Fruit and Glaze
assorted fruit, sliced 1/8 inch thin (raspberries, strawberries, mangoes, kiwi, blueberries, blackberries, persimmon)
1/2 cup pinapple mango jelly (can use apple or apricot jelly)

For the Pate Brisee: Place the flour and salt in a big bowl. Add the butter. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until you obtain a mixture ressembling coarse sand. Pour the water over the crumbly mixture. Stir and toss with the help of a knive until the dough starts to come together. Continue mixing (very gently) until you obtain a ball of dough which is not completely smooth. On a floured surface, divide pastry in two, shape into a 2.5cm (1-inch) thick disk and wrap in plastic film. Put in the fridge and let rest for about 2 hours or overnight. Roll out one of the disks on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 0.3cm (1/8 inch thickness) and from the center toward the edge in all directions, without forgetting to lift and rotate the pastry a quarter turn every now and then. Once your pastry is a circle 1 1/2 inches larger than the tart pan, carefully transfer it to the buttered pan (folding in half, if necessary). Ease it into the bottom and sides of the pan and pressing into place. Trim the edge with a knife. Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork, line with baking paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Preheat the oven to 190° C (375° F). Bake blind until the surface of the dough looks dry and has no opaque areas left, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the paper as well as the weights/beans, then return the shell to the oven for an extra 2-5 minutes (if the center starts to rise, gently pierce with a knife. Let cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

For the Pastry Cream: Heat the whole milk+creme fraiche or half-and-half, 6 tablespoons sugar, salt and vanilla bean powder in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until they are thoroughly combined. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds. When the milk mixture reaches a full simmer, gradually whisk the simmering milk into the yolk mixture to temper. Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure every bit makes it into the saucepan. Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly (this is important, don’t stop stirring!), until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds to one minute. Off the heat, whisk in the butter. Transfer the mixture to medium bowl, press plastic wrap directly on the surface, and refrigerate until the pastry cream is cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 48 hours.

To Assemble and Glaze the Tart: When the tart shell is completely cool, spread cold pastry cream over the bottom, using an offset spatula or large spoon. At this point, you can press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate the filled shell for up to 30 minutes. Arrange the fruit on top of pastry cream from outside to inside. Bring the jelly to a boil in a microwave safe cup in the microwave. When boiling and completely melted, apply the jelly to the tart by dabbing and flicking it onto the fruit with a pastry brush; add 1 teaspoon water and return the jelly to a boil if it becomes too thick to drizzle. (The tart can be refrigerated, uncovered, up to 30 minutes.)

Chocolate Rose Cake
Ina's chocolate cake (baked in 3 8-inch round cake pans, made ahead and refrigerated tightly wrapped)

Strawberry swiss meringue buttercream (made right before assembly)

Cream cheese mascarpone berry filling (made right before assembly)
We made this on a whim, so the exact numbers may be off. We realized that we had gone from 12 sticks of butter to 1/2 a stick, so needed to improvise with this recipe a bit...and decided to add creme fraiche, which turned out to make the frosting exceptionally tasty.

1/2 stick of butter, room temp
1 cup powdered sugar
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup creme fraiche
blueberries, raspberris, strawberries, blackberries

Blend butter and powdered sugar with a pastry blender or fork. Using a handheld whisk, beat in the cream cheese and creme fraiche until smooth and whipped.

To Assemble the Cake: Place one of the three chocolate cake layers on a cardboard circle. Spread a generous third of the cream cheese mascarpone cream evenly onto the cake. Embed the cream layer with an assortment of berries, making sure the tops of the berries are even with the top of the cream. Place another cake on top, being careful to center it, and press lightly to anneal the layers. Repeat this process for the next layer of filling, topping with the third cake layer when finished. Put the remaining scant 1/3 of cream on the top of the cake and spread it down to the sides, smoothing it with an offset spatula to make a thin even crumb coat. Chill the cake in the fridge for 15 minutes if the kitchen is warm. If not, proceed with piping roses to entirely cover the tops and sides of the cake using the strawberry swiss meringue buttercream and a rose tip. Embed berries in between the roses. Store the cake in the fridge in a handmade cake box (get Annie to make one for you) until 2 hours before serving. Make sure you take the cake out at least 2 hours before serving so it can get happy at room temp and the buttercream will be melt-in-your-mouth creamy!

Apple Cranberry Pie