Sunday, June 26, 2011

'Tis the season of the cherries

It's official. I now have a new favorite fruit.

I was always more of an apple or mandarin orange kind of girl. Those two fruits are practical. They are easy to store/handle (strawberries are super fragile! so I discovered this week at work), easy to eat (minimum soiling of hands/space from the juices, easy to dispose) and they have a pretty long fridge life (the strawberries I buy always go bad within a couple of days). Yeah, I'm not a strawberry fan unless they are already inside a dessert. Haha. But cherries.. Yum! Those I will more than tolerate.

Back in Indonesia, it was one of the most expensive fruits in the supermarket aisle. Here in France, they're everywhere and at such a great price! It's cherry season and has been since May. The price dropped from 10ish or so euros per kilo to, the cheapest I've seen today, four euros. The individual fruit also got bigger, shinier and not to mention sweeter. Hence, our mandarin orange supply at lunch has been switched to cherries.

So when I came across Pierre Herme's cherry and pistachio tart recipe from here, I just have to try it. I've also just gotten a few pastry supplies including tartelette pans and pistachio paste that are begging to be used. 

For these 5cm tartelettes, I baked them in a 180C oven for five minutes before adding the streusel topping. After that, they needed another 30 minutes. Compared to the recipe, this is a lot longer considering the size. Cooking times will vary according to what kind of oven you have. Mine is a miniature sized one so it's good to check the baking from time to time. Two good indicators are the topping and the bottom of the tart shell. The streusel topping and the bottom of your tart should turn golden brown. I finished off the tart with a dusting of icing sugar, a molded version of the previous white chocolate mousse and a cherry. Here is what it looks like inside~

Friday, June 17, 2011

Not exactly tiramisu

People have been asking whether this cake is a tiramisu. It could be...but I'd like to think not. The flavor combinations are similar but the cake came to be as an experiment on layering and on finding out whether coffee goes with spicebread.

Coffee and Spicebread
with mascarpone cream
  1. Pain d'epices
  2. Coffee syrup for soaking (strong coffee with some sugar)
  3. Thin layer of mascarpone and coffee cream
  4. Dark chocolate and coffee ganache
  5. Mascarpone and coffee cream
  6. Dusting of cocoa powder
Dark chocolate and coffee ganache

250ml whipping cream
25g instant coffee
187g dark chocolate (chopped)
  1. Bring the cream and coffee to a boil.
  2. Weigh and place the chocolate in a bowl.
  3. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate.
  4. Whisk continually in the center until the mixture turns smooth and glossy.
  5. Mold and freeze.

Mascarpone Cream
adapted from a couple of pastry magazines

250ml whipping cream
250g mascarpone cheese
50g sugar
1 gelatin sheet
2 tbsp water

  1. Soak the gelatin in the water and melt over a bain marie until very hot to the touch.
  2. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, beat the cream, cheese and sugar until firm peaks.
  3. In a small bowl, pour the hot, now liquid, gelatin and add a whiskful of the cream.
  4. Whisk immediately until fully incorporated.
  5. Fold back the cream-gelatin mix into the original cream.
To Assemble:
  1. Cut the pain d'epice to the shape of the mold and place the layer on the bottom.
  2. Spread a thin layer of the mascarpone cream.
  3. Unmold the frozen ganache, cut 1cm off each side, and place over the first mascarpone layer.
  4. Pipe the remaining mascarpone cream until the top of the mold.
  5. Pipe the decorations (optional)
  6. Freeze.
As for the leftover mascarpone cream...

Giving it another shot

It's been a while since I've made a cake 'with the works' at home - a layered buttercream cake or a layered mousse entremet. Last year, I made them week after week at school. These past few months, I was always tired after work and spent weekends going out. Plus, the tiny apartment's kitchen equipment and oven can't be compared to the professional's that I just thought it would be impossible to make anything worthwhile.

This week, I decided to give it another shot. Since I'll be moving to Petits Gateaux, I felt inspired and wanted to try something more elaborate than just cake bases at home. In French Pastry, a complex multilayered cake is called an entremet. It usually has one to two layers of cake and more layers of different creams, mousses and jellies. Sometimes, it has a tart base and most of the time, it's glazed. But it's always very rich in flavor and texture - in most pastry shops, it's made up of 4 to 5 different elements in one.

At school these were some of the entremets we made:
And they were considered the basics. So armed with the Pain d'epices, a bargain square cake ring and some pastry magazines and sites, I set to experiment. Here are pain d'epices entremets two ways (over 2 posts).

White Chocolate and Spicebread
with peach puree


  1. Pain d'epices
  2. Peach puree (from here)
  3. White chocolate mousse
  4. Strawberry and speculoos crumbs

White Chocolate Mousse
adapted from So Good magazine, June 2009 edition

85ml milk
218ml whipping cream
200g white chocolate
3 gelatin sheets


  1. Soak the gelatin in plenty of water.
  2. Whip the cream and store in the fridge until needed.
  3. Weigh and chop chocolate. Place them in a bowl.
  4. Boil the milk and add the gelatin, previously drained. Bring to a boil again.
  5. Pour the boiling milk over the chocolate. 
  6. Whisk in the center until the chocolate turns to a smooth, elastic, glossy texture.
  7. When the mixture is at 37C, pour over the whipped cream (If the chocolate mixture is less than 37C after being whisked, reheat it over a bain-marie.)
To Assemble: 
  1. Cut the pain d'epices to the shape of the mold and place on the bottom.
  2. Spread the peach puree immediately after it's cooked in the saucepan.
  3. Freeze.
  4. After the peach puree is firm, pour in the white chocolate mousse.
  5. Freeze.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Things I will miss

Walking along the Pont Marie bridge and seeing the Notre-Dame from behind..

The hustle and bustle of people walking and queueing in the narrow streets of rue des Rosier and rue Veille du Temple..

The smell of melted butter and viennoisseries on the way to the metro at 5.30 every work day morning..

The aroma of honey, spice and tea from making pain d'epice..

This week marks the end of my stay at the Biscuit (cake production) station, which means that I have completed 4.5 out of 6 months of the internship. Last stop (up next) is Petits Gateaux, the assembly of individual-portioned cakes and tarts. I can't help but feel slightly sad. For the move at work but also for the foreshadow of leaving Paris soon. Like adapting to the lifestyle, I've grown to enjoy working in this station.

It wasn't always so. I remember not being able to sleep over my first few days at Biscuit. The station's notorious for requiring the fastest pace and accepting the least mistakes. Logically, it's sound. They have to make big batches of genoise, joconde, biscuit a cuilliere, choux or whatever cake type is required for the bi-weekly, weekly or daily stock of the shop. Every weekday morning, their sure task is to fill and glaze 20 or so eclairs (per flavor, we have two), several round choux and glaze a dozen trays of tarts with white or red glaze. On weekends, the number of eclairs spikes up to between 30-40 per flavor and there's the addition of a dozen or so bigger round choux for religieuse. This, of course, excludes the special orders of mini eclairs and round choux. "If you don't run throughout the day, you don't finish.." so my chef de partie likes to say. In practice, it's a lot to take on in the beginning for a fresh graduate. I remember my confusion of what goes where, what comes next, where is what and how do you tell when...I've also had some really bad being sent to another station or messing things up one after another in front of the Head Chef in just one day.

You kind of get the hang of it after three weeks or so..Hahaha..and it's shortly after this time that I have to leave. Hence my reluctance. I've just learnt how to assemble the millefeuille, received fewer critiques on my pate a choux glazing and gotten the chance to fold/spread the genoise or make some whole cake recipes on my own (when required in a smaller scale). I want to practice them more. But well, I am grateful for the chance to at least see the processes. 

One of those cakes that I've made on my own before is the Pain d'Epice (french spice bread). Pain d'epice is not your typical american ginger bread. The spice can be anything that you want and the bread is usually denser. It's not very sweet and some places serve foie gras on slices of them. It makes a great afternoon tea cake.

The ingredients scaling of this cake at work is troublesome - a couple from the storage downstairs, a few from the Traiteur on the other side, the flour from the Boulangers downstairs on the other side and biscuits that I sometimes have to grind in the food processor first (it's supposed to be the job of another person, but the biscuits always run out of stock when he has a day off). To top it off, 80% of the time, the recipe falls short of the requirements - so begins the whole collection process again. Even so, I always look forward to making it. The mixture smells wonderful when the spice is added to the boiling honey, tea and milk and very well worth the trouble.

Luckily when you make it at home, you get the aroma and all the ingredients are within 2 sq meters (or so in my case). I didn't have the exact ingredients as at work and so changed the whole recipe. The cake came out lighter and tasted more nutty, something which I prefer. It tastes better after several hours.

Pain d'Epice
makes a 28cm x 22cm x 2.5cm cake

125ml milk
207g honey
Tea leaves from one bag of Twinnings orange-cinnamon tea (can be any tea you want)
40g sugar
5g baking soda
3g chilli powder
20g unsalted butter
125ml milk
50g chestnut spread
207g buckwheat flour (any wholemeal flour really)
5g baking powder
105g biscuits, ground to fine powder (I used speculoos but they can be anything; I've seen ice cream cones, eclairs, sponge fingers and even macaron shells being used)


  1. Preheat oven to 180C, butter and flour your mold.
  2. Prepare your mise en place:
    1. Whisk and sieve the flour, baking powder and biscuits into a medium bowl. 
    2. Mix the sugar, baking soda and chilli powder in a small bowl.
    3. Weigh your butter.
    4. Put 125ml of milk and the chestnut spread in another small bowl.
  3. Bring the other 125ml of milk, honey and tea leaves to a boil in a saucepan.
  4. Sieve the mixture and bring it to a boil again.
  5. When the mixture is bubbling and boiling, take off from the heat and whisk in the sugar-chilli mixture.
  6. Whisk in the butter.
  7. After the butter has fully melted, whisk in the milk and chestnut spread until fully incorporated.
  8. Pour the hot liquid mixture over the dry ingredients in the bowl.
  9. Incorporate the liquid into the flour in a slow folding motion but using a whisk. Stop as soon as all the flour has been incorporated. You don't want to overbeat the mixture/ whisk vigorously as this will make the cake tougher. 
  10. Pour the batter into the mold and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted to the center comes out clean.
  11. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before unmolding and cooling the cake to room temperature on a rack.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Not just another tart

I didn't realize until the start of this post that I have been putting up tart recipes for the last few entries. Weird, lol. This will be another one, but before you dismiss it, hear me out. This is one recipe you do not want to miss. Plus, it isn't entirely a tart. You'll see what I mean.

One of the benefits of living in the Marais is easy access to great food. For french fare, there is Le dome du Marais or the modern-furnished Glou. For steaks, Robert & Louise serves them well-seasoned (with sea salt!) cooked over a flaming grill. If you're looking for more exotic flavors, Nanashi has an interesting reinvented gyudon (traditionally cooked beef over rice; Nanashi transformed it into a salad with lots of Arugula leaves and a light refreshing Japanese dressing) and L'as du Falafel has the best falafels worth queuing up to 20 minutes for. For something on the lighter side, there are several Jewish bakeries selling bagels, a few boulangeries with the standard baguette sandwiches, Candelaria for tacos or Tartes Kluger. True to its name, this cafe serves only tarts, both salty and sweet.

The tart which left an impression on me was their Chocolate Tart. It was the first time I had a moist brownie-like cake inside a tart shell. Although the chocolate was a tad bit too sweet I found the concept fascinating. What started as meaning to just have one bite ended up being the whole slice.  

Thus began my search for the chocolate filing to recreate the dessert at home. I wanted to keep the moist consistency but lessen the sweetness. The filling is definitely softer than an american style brownie and I'm pretty sure doesn't contain condensed milk like one recipe suggested. Being french-style, it's most likely a fondant cake and my favorite baker has one online recipe on it.

Her recipes in the past hadn't failed me. Neither did this one. It was beyond what I expected and if I may say, I preferred this filing to the original's. Not too sweet, very moist, kind of crumbly and really chocolatey. The recipe stands on its own without the tart base, so like I mentioned in the beginning, it's actually a brownie recipe. The best I've found thus far.

Strangely enough, I couldn't find the paddle attachment of my electric beater this morning. The recipe calls for the eggs and sugar to be beaten for 2 minutes with the electric beater. But seeing how they make genoise in the pastry kitchen of my internship got me thinking of an idea. The recipe below has been modified to be entirely hand-made :D

French Brownie Tart
adapted from here
makes a 20cm tart

220g sweet shortcrust pastry (pate sucree)
85g bittersweet chocolate (70% Lindt)
50g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
35g salted butter (or 85g unsalted butter and a pinch of salt)
2 eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
a pinch of cinnamon
chocolate chips, for garnish (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Line a tart ring/mold and blind-bake the shell for 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown
  3. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a bain mairie (a saucepan of simmering water).
  4. Take off the bowl, add the butter into the chocolate and mix until the butter is fully melted. If there are pieces that are not melting, put it over the water again. Ensure that the mixture doesn't get too hot. Set aside.
  5. In a medium bowl, crack the two eggs and whisk until the yolks and whites are mixed well (important to ensure the sugar is incorporated properly in the next step).
  6. Add half of the sugar and whisk immediately.
  7. Set the bowl over a bain mairie, whisking all the while, until the egg mixture is hot to the touch (when the eggs are tempered).
  8. Once the eggs are tempered, take the bowl out of the bain mairie, add the rest of the sugar and continue whisking until the mixture is thick and pale (almost white).
  9. Pour in the melted chocolate-butter mixture and mix only until it is incorporated.
  10. Fold in the flour and cinnamon powder.
  11. Scrape the batter into the tart shell, top with the chocolate chips if using, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted to the center comes out clean.
  12. Leave the tart to cool in the mold/ring for several minutes before unmolding and transferring it to a rack to cool to room temperature.
  13. Slice and serve :)


Related Posts with Thumbnails