• Pear Pie with Creme Fraiche Caramel

    Hello my blossoms! Apparently National Pie Day was this week? Personally I think that’s dumb, everyone knows that Pie Day should be March 14th, aka 3.14 like pi, right?? Anyway, I’m not one to pass up an opportunity to make pie, and I’ve had my eye on this recipe for a long time and am so glad I finally got around to it. Taken from the cookbook Sweeter off  The Vine by Yossy Arefi, this book was actually one of the first cookbooks in my collection, given to me by my sister Kathleen when I turned 21. The book is entirely fruit based, and separated into seasons and then broken up even further by each fruit, which I really LOVE.

    What really caught my eye about this recipe was the caramel mixed into the filling, specifically because of how easy it was. There’s no thermometer required, and it literally takes 5 minutes to come together. What I’m getting at is we should all be making more caramel all the time, we have no excuse. This caramel is slightly different because instead of heavy cream being whisked in at the end, it’s creme fraiche, which is a thicker, soured french cream that adds a lovely tartness to offset the sweetness of the caramel. Combine that with the warmth of cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg, PLUS the light freshness of pears, and you have reached dessert heaven.

    *Also asa side note, Sweet D now has her very own Facebook page, which can be found here. If that is something that interests you, please follow along!! Love love love.

    As per usual, here are 5 things to be happy about today before we get started!
    ONE. Bread and butter with pots of jam.
    TWO. A smile, a sunny day, an ice-cold Coca-Cola, and a best friend to share it with.
    THREE. An orderly kitchen.
    FOUR. Winter bringing long, silent nights to dream on.
    FIVE. Upper New York State.

    MAKES: 1 9-inch pie
    PREP TIME: 45 minutes
    BAKE TIME: 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes

     

    CREME FRAICHE CARAMEL INGREDIENTS

    1 cup white sugar
    ¼ cup water
    1 tsp sea salt
    ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
    1 vanilla bean, split, or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
    ½ cup creme fraiche, at room temperature

    CREME FRAICHE CARAMEL STEPS

    ONE. Combine the sugar, water, and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook on medium-high heat, swirling the mixture but not stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.

    TWO. Add the butter and vanilla (with the pod if you’re using the whole vanilla bean), and continue to cook, swirling occasionally and not stirring, until it turns a deep amber color. It’s important to keep an eye on it at this point, because it can go from amber to burnt very quickly!

    THREE. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the creme fraiche carefully, as the caramel tends to splatter. Take out the vanilla pod if you used one (it can be rinsed and re-used!), and allow the caramel to cool slightly before you use it.

    PEAR PIE INGREDIENTS

    1 recipe Perfect Pie Crust, found here
    2½ lbs firm but ripe pears (about 5 or 6)
    ¼ cup white sugar
    ¼ cup all purpose flour
    ½ tsp cinnamon
    ¼ tsp nutmeg
    ¼ tsp allspice
    Juice of ½ a lemon
    ½ cup creme fraiche caramel
    Egg wash (1 egg + 1 Tbsp water)
    Turbinado sugar

    PEAR PIE STEPS

    ONE. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of your pie crust dough into a circle large enough to fit your pie plate. Set aside or in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

    TWO. Peel and core the pears, then slice into ¼” thick slices. Mix in a large bowl with the flour, sugar, spices, and lemon juice. Add half of this filling to the prepared bottom crust, drizzle the caramel on top, and add the remaining pears on top.

    THREE. Roll out the top crust and cover however you feel like! I used a lattice, directions for which can be found here, or you could simply use a full top crust and cut slits in the top. Brush the top crust with egg wash and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. Place on a sheet pan before baking to catch any spills.

    FOUR. Bake at 425ºF for the first 20 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350ºF and bake for another 40-50 minutes, or until the crust is golden and crisp, and the filling is bubbly. Allow to cool slightly before serving, best eaten with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and another generous drizzle of caramel.

    YAY!! xoxoxoxoxD

     

  • Sweet D’s First Birthday Baby Princess Cakes

    HELLO ALL!! As you can tell from the title of this recipe, I am very excited to say that it’s Sweet D’s first birthday!!! My goodness how time flies when you get to do what you love! I won’t do some long, sappy post here since I did that ~fairly~ recently with my 50th recipe post, but if you’re feeling it, you can read that here. What I will say is thanks for sticking around a whole year, and here’s to many more years ahead!

    Now it’s only fair to have a cake recipe for a birthday, no matter whose it is, and these cakes are so very important. A traditional princess cake is a full-sized cake rather than a set of mini ones, but following this recipe from Molly Yeh, these little babies just bring so much joy. They’re also very customizable, as the jam filling can be anything you feel like, the marzipan can be dyed any color of the rainbow, and your decorations can be as high or low maintenance as you please. Plus they look VERY impressive and almost too pretty to eat- the key word being almost, because not eating these would be a tragedy. Word to the wise, when the directions tell you to put the cakes covered in whipped cream in the freezer to set before covering, actually do it. It makes them soooo much easier and neater to cover with marzipan, and it will save you many a headache and ripped marzipan. Other than that, you’re ready to go!!

    But first, here are five things to be happy about today:
    ONE. Keeping fresh flowers by your bed, fresh herbs in the kitchen
    TWO. The smell of a coffee can opening
    THREE. Comfortable, stretchy clothes
    FOUR. Large colonial fireplaces
    FIVE. The soft splat of snow falling
    Let’s get birthday baking!!

    Makes: 24 Princess Cakes
    Prep/ Decoration Time: 2 hours
    Bake Time: 18-20 minutes

    Almond Cake Ingredients

    1¼ cups all-purpose flour
    ¾ cup almond flour
    ½ tsp kosher salt
    1 tsp baking powder
    ¼ tsp baking soda
    ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
    ¾ cup sugar
    1 egg
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    ¼ tsp almond extract
    ½ cup buttermilk

    Almond Cake Steps

    ONE. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the all purpose and almond flours, salt, and baking powder + soda.

    TWO. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes until pale and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. Alternating between the two, add a third of the flour mixture, then a third of the buttermilk, until all is just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared sheet pan and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool fully in the pan, then cut into 20 2-inch circles using a biscuit cutter.

    Assembly Ingredients

    1 cup heavy cream
    ½ cup powdered sugar
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    ¼ tsp almond extract
    1 jar store bought raspberry jam (or whatever jam you feel like!)
    24 oz. marzipan
    Assorted food coloring

    Assembly Steps

    ONE.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and extracts until stiff peaks form. Spread each cake circle with a layer of jam, then, using a piping bag, pipe a small, uniform mound of whipped cream on top in a swirl. Once all the cake circles are topped with jam and whipped cream, pop the tray in the freezer to set while you prep the marzipan.

    TWO. Dust a clean surface with powdered sugar, and knead your desired food coloring into the marzipan to change its color. Set aside a small portion to use for decorations, such as rose buds, hearts, or polka dots. Roll the marzipan out into a 1/8″ layer, and cut out circles large enough to cover the cakes entirely without ripping. I ended up using a 3½” cookie cutter here and it worked out perfectly! This may take some trial and error depending on the size of your cakes, but you can always re-roll the marzipan if you make a mistake!

    THREE. Cover each cake with a marzipan circle and trim off any excess from the bottom, re-rolling the scraps. For decoration, create small, flat strips and roll them into rosebuds and add petals, or use mini cookie cutters or the tops of piping tips to cut out hearts and circles to affix to the top.

    Now bask in how cute these look and throw a tea party somewhere!! xoxoxoxoxoD

  • Coconut Paris Brest

    Hello and happy Tuesday my blossoms! Today’s recipe sounds super fancy because it IS, but it’s also not super hard to make, which in my book is always a plus. What is a Paris Brest you ask? Aside from something that made all my siblings laugh every time I said it, a Paris Brest is a ring of choux pastry, the kind you would have in an eclair or a cream puff, cut in half and typically filled with praline cream and topped with a dusting of powdered sugar. When I served this to my family the other day, my Grandpa, being the world traveler that he is, wondered if this pastry got its name by being served on the train between the cities of Paris and Brest in France. Turns out he’s not that far off, because when I searched for the origin of this dessert, I found that it was commissioned by Pierre Giffard, a French journalist, to commemorate a bicycle race from Paris to Brest and then back to Paris. Who knew?

    So, recently, I came across this recipe from Zoe Bakes for a Raspberry Paris Brest and I was immediately interested. However, I had been using too much raspberry in my baking recently, so I decided that I would take the basic idea for this pastry and try something different. We had a lot of shredded coconut leftover from the holidays so suddenly it hit me: a Coconut pastry cream filled Paris Brest complete with toasted coconut. And wow was I happy I tried this because it is a DREAM. The pastry cream is made with cans of coconut milk rather than whole milk, which provided a delicate coconut flavor amplified by the toasted flakes that I sprinkled on top. While this is best consumed the same day that it’s been assembled, that won’t stop me from eating this until there is not a scrap left. Also a note, the dough recipe below will leave you with a lot leftover if you’re simply piping the three rings for your pate a choux. I got nervous and underestimated how much it would grow while baking, so I added more piped rings until I had used all the batter, and it produced a truly enormous ring. Like bigger than my head, could have maybe used it as a hoola hoop. This was not a problem for me because I have a big family and I love baked goods, but if you fear it will be too much, only pipe the original three rings and save the rest of the dough for some eclairs or even a second Paris Brest with a different flavor combo!

     

    Now that that’s settled, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
    ONE. The smell of fresh coffee and bacon waking you up on a Saturday morning.
    TWO. Getting an unexpected letter or message from someone you love.
    THREE. Grilled cheese and tomato soup.
    FOUR. Trying something new at a restaurant and discovering you love it.
    FIVE. When winter days start getting longer and the sun stays up past 5pm.

    Happy? Good. Let’s bake!

    Makes: 1 12-inch choux ring, or 1 8-inch ring with leftover dough
    Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
    Bake Time: 50 minutes

    Pâte à Choux Ingredients

    ½ cup whole milk
    ½ cup water
    1 stick (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut small
    1 Tbs white sugar
    ½ tsp salt
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    4 large eggs, room temperature
    Egg wash; 1 egg + 1 Tbs water
    ¼ cup slivered almonds

    Pâte à Choux Steps

    ONE. To start, set up a large sheet pan with parchment paper, and trace an 8-inch circle on the opposite side of the paper. Flip the paper back over so that you can see the traced circle but no pencil lead will get on the pastry.

    TWO. In a large saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt to a simmer over medium heat. Once at a rapid simmer (not before!), add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook the mixture on low heat, stirring until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 4-5 minutes.

    THREE. Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and begin mixing. Add the eggs one at a time until the dough becomes smooth and sticky, and not too stiff so that the mixture can be piped and will rise nicely.

    FOUR. Set up a piping bag with a large round tip, then fill the bag with your dough. Pipe an even circle around the outside of the traced circle on your parchment paper, then pipe a second circle inside of the first. Pipe a third circle on top of the first two circles, in the seam between the two. Now, because I had so much dough left, I then added a third ring to the bottom layer, then a second to the middle, and one on the very top, but be warned, this makes a very wide Paris Brest (not that that’s a bad thing AT ALL). If you have a lot of dough left over but don’t want to make an enormous pastry, you could always make some eclairs as well! Just pipe the remaining batter into logs and bake.

    FIVE. Paint the ring of choux dough with egg wash, and sprinkle the almonds evenly on top. Bake the dough at 375ºF for 30 minutes, then, without opening the oven door, reduce the temperature to 350ºF ad bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the top is evenly golden. Turn the oven off and allow the pastry to cool there for one hour.


    Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients

    4 cups canned coconut milk (I used Goya)
    1 cup white sugar, divided
    4 Tbs unsalted butter
    ½ tsp salt
    2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, or 1 whole vanilla bean, deseeded
    6 Tbs cornstarch
    2 eggs
    6 egg yolks

    Coconut Pastry Cream Steps

    ONE. Bring the coconut milk, ½ cup sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla to a light boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium. Remove from heat.

    TWO. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch to get rid of any lumps. Add the eggs and egg yolks to this bowl and whisk until smooth and combined.

    THREE. Carefully and slowly drizzle some of the hot coconut milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to temper the eggs but not cook them. When the eggs are warm to the touch, pour them back into the saucepan with the milk and return to a boil. Stirring constantly, the mixture will get thick pretty quickly, but continue to cook for 2-3 minutes so that the custard will set and won’t separate.

    FOUR. Strain the pastry cream through a sieve into a large bowl to catch any stray cooked egg, then press a sheet of plastic wrap to the surface to prevent a skin forming. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool the eggs, then keep in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.


    Assembly Extras

    ½ cup coconut, toasted at 325ºF until golden
    Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

    Assembly Steps

    ONE. Using a flexible bread knife, slice the pastry ring in half long ways. Fit a piping bag with a large round tip and fill with the pastry cream. Pipe a generous layer of cream inside the bottom ring, then top with a generous sprinkling of toasted coconut. Repeat with another layer of pastry cream and coconut, then place the top ring back on top. Generously dust with the confectioners sugar and TADA!! Serve in slices and tell everyone you went to culinary school in Paris.

     

     

    YAY!! xoxoxoxoxD