Buttery Double Vanilla Cake

Hello and happy Tuesday my friends, today we’re slowing things down with a simple tea cake. But when I say simple, I am referring only to the level of skill required to make this cake, and not at all to the depth of its flavor. I love recipes with a catch, and this recipe’s catch is that it’s got not one, but TWO types of vanilla in it. Classic vanilla extract is necessary, but the secret is an additional teaspoon of vanilla bean paste, which adds an extra punch of vanilla as well as flecks of vanilla bean so you KNOW what you’re getting before you even eat it. I used the very last of both my fancy vanilla extract AND my fancy vanilla bean paste, but I can’t imagine a better way for them to go. Taken from this recipe here by Posie Harwood, this cake is the perfect complement to a cup of tea- it’s buttery and dense and rich, and because the cake pan is lined with sugar instead of flour, it’s got a delicate, caramelized crunch on the outside.

To match the simplicity of this recipe, I will keep it short and sweet here as well, because we all know why you’re here and it’s to BAKE not to read! Thank you love you for reading, here we go!

But of course, before we get started, here are 5 things to be happy about today!
ONE. Hot drinks in clear glass mugs.
TWO. Teaching yourself calligraphy by practicing the alphabet over and over.
THREE. Mini succulents in individual pots.
FOUR. The idea that everything happens for a reason, and sometimes not planning is the best way to be.
FIVE. Mint green kitchen appliances.

Let’s bake!!

MAKES: 1 8-inch round cake
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
BAKE TIME: 35-40 minutes

INGREDIENTS

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for the pan
3 eggs, warmed
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
1 cup flour
14 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly

STEPS

ONE. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Line an 8-inch cake pan with a parchment circle, then grease the sides and bottom of the pan with butter. Coat the buttered pan with white sugar and shake around until it’s evenly coated.

TWO. If your eggs are at anything other than room temperature, warm them in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes, this will help when you’re whipping air into them later. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the warmed eggs and cup of granulated sugar for 4 to 5 minutes, until they are doubled in size, pale yellow, and fall in thick ribbons when the mixer is turned off.

THREE. Add the vanilla bean paste, vanilla extract, and salt. If you don’t have any vanilla bean paste, just add an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract to make it three total. Sift the flour over the egg mixture and fold in with a rubber spatula. It’s important to fold gently in order to maintain the air beaten into the eggs and not deflate them!

FOUR. Drizzle the melted butter into the batter and mix, again gently, but until it’s totally incorporated. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The cake will puff in the oven and then sink a little when it’s removed, but that’s normal!

FIVE. Remove the cake from the oven and run a knife around the edges, then allow it to cool for 5 minutes before removing it from the pan. Turn the cake onto a wire rack and continue to cool completely.

This cake is best enjoyed slightly warm with a cup of tea!! xoxoxoxoxoD

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Valentine’s Day Cookies Year II

Hello and welcome to my second ever Valentine’s Day post!! Inspired as I always am by Molly Yeh, I have been making variations on these cookies ever since I came across the original recipe. They are versatile and greatly exceed any other sugar cookie you will ever make with the addition of lemon zest and almond extract, and that’s not even the HALF of it. These babies aren’t complete without a mirror-shiny glaze and a bit of buttercream on top, and the best part is you can do as little or as much as you want!

So because I have too much time on my hands and I’ve been trying to improve my piping skills, I set out to cover these cookies in some good old fashioned buttercream roses. I wore my comfiest clothes, put on my headphones and got to work. And, 2 hours later, I couldn’t flex my right hand out of piping position, but I ended up with some GOOD rose cookies and I was very satisfied. They were almost too pretty to eat….almost.

I’ll be honest, Valentine’s Day is not really my ~thing~, and although I can always count on a mini box of chocolates from my mom (LOVE YOU MOM!!), it’s easy to feel sad or simply indifferent on a day focused so much on love and relationships. My solution? Bake it out! Whether or not you have a Valentine to share the day with (@Harry Styles, call me), why not make the day that much cuter! (P.S. you can see last year’s version here, slightly different, just as cute!)

Before we bake, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
ONE. A rainbow of ribbons.
TWO. Chocolate covered cherries.
THREE. White on the evergreens.
FOUR.
Breaking out of an old routine.
FIVE. Bacon frying in cast iron skillets.

 

Let’s bake!

MAKES: About 3 dozen cookies
PREP TIME: 1 hour + decorating to your heart’s desire
BAKE TIME: 10 minutes

SUGAR COOKIE INGREDIENTS

4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
zest from ½ a lemon
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

SUGAR COOKIE STEPS

ONE. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and the sugars until the butter is pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon zest and mix to combine, then the vanilla and almond extracts. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix between each. Finally, add the flour mixture and mix until combined.

TWO. Turn the mixture out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and form a disc of dough. Tightly wrap the disc and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before proceeding. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375ºF and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

THREE. Cut the disc of dough in half (it’s easier to work with a smaller batch at a time), and roll out on a lightly floured surface until about a quarter to a half inch thick. Cut out your desired shapes and lay them on your prepared cookie sheets about 1 inch apart.

FOUR. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, until they’re just turning brown, and cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Processed with VSCO with al1 preset


GLAZE INGREDIENTS

4 cups confectioners sugar
¼ cup corn syrup
5 Tbsp whole milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
pinch of salt
1 tsp maraschino cherry liquid or food coloring (optional)

GLAZE STEPS

ONE. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined and smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more milk at a time, if it’s too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.

TWO, Once the cookies are cooled, carefully dip each cookie face down in the glaze, making sure the whole surface is coated, and then allow the excess to drip back into the bowl before placing the cookie back on a wire rack over a sheet of parchment paper (this will catch the drips and make cleanup soooo much easier). If you’re continuing with buttercream on top, let the cookies dry slightly, but if you’re just adding sprinkles, add them now before the glaze dries and you’re all set!

 

BUTTERCREAM INGREDIENTS

3¾ cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3-4 Tbsp whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Food coloring

BUTTERCREAM STEPS

ONE. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the softened butter and confectioners sugar together until incorporated- you may want to drape a dish towel over the bowl at the beginning, the mixer tends to throw a lot of loose sugar.

TWO. Add the milk a tablespoon at a time until the desired spreadable consistency is reached, keeping in mind that a slightly softer frosting will be easier to pipe with. Add the vanilla and food coloring (if using) and mix until thoroughly incorporated.

THREE. Fill a piping bag fitted with a coupler and decorating tip (the coupler allows you to switch tips without using multiple piping bags) and decorate away!! (Read here for some buttercream rose tips!)

Happy Valentine’s Day!! xoxoxoxoD

Passion Fruit Napoleons

Well well well, as you can see this week I really went for it, and baked a twist on one of my favorite bakery pastries. You know those GOOD Italian bakeries where all the pastries are lined up in rows upon rows of joy and they somehow get everything from eclairs to sfogliatelle just perfect? If I could live in one of those I would, and whenever I go, I’m faced with a choice between two things: the eclairs and the napoleons. Similar components, and yet so, so different, I have an almost impossible time deciding if it’s going to be an eclair day or a napoleon day.

BUT! Today, for all of you, is a glorious napoleon day. And not just any napoleon day, PASSION FRUIT napoleon day. It’s been so cold and sad this week and what better way to cheer up than with the fresh, sunny, summery flavor of passion fruit curd? If you close your eyes, you can almost feel the beachy breeze, can’t you? Well, maybe not quite. But anyway, as if that wasn’t enough, this passion fruit curd is mixed with a generous helping of pastry cream, sandwiched between buttery, crisp layers of puff pastry, then topped with a silky, chocolate ganache glaze. I know, I’m crying just typing this. Petition to change all wedding cakes to passion fruit napoleon stacks, who’s with me??

2 quick notes about this, I know that some people make their own puff pastry dough but I, however, did not. I am lazy and like to sleep late on Saturdays, which does not match with dough prep, so I am using the good old frozen, pre-made kind and I promise it’s good. If you feel like making your own, I admire you and your determination, best of luck. Also, I’m sure in a pinch you could buy pre-made passion fruit curd, but this recipe is pretty quick and easy, so 10/10 would recommend making your own.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
ONE. Soft pile rugs.
TWO. Piping hot biscuits.
THREE.
A kettle on a wood burning stove.
FOUR.
Someone who makes you happy by loving you, being alive with you, filling up your life.
FIVE. 
A hazy metropolitan skyline growing out of the horizon.

MAKES: 16 individual napoleons
PREP TIME: 1 hour, 30 minutes
BAKE TIME: ~20 minutes per tray

PASTRY CREAM INGREDIENTS
adapted from ZoeBakes

4 cups whole milk
1 cup white sugar, divided
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
½ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla bean paste/ extract, or 1 vanilla bean (pod and scrapped beans)
6 Tbsp cornstarch
2 eggs
6 egg yolks

PASTRY CREAM STEPS

ONE. Bring the milk, ½ cup sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt to a gentle boil in a saucepan on medium. Remove from heat.

TWO. In a medium heat-safe bowl, whisk together the remaining ½ cup sugar and the cornstarch to remove any lumps. Add the eggs and egg yolks, and mix until smooth.

THREE. Whisking constantly, carefully drizzle some of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture- this will bring the eggs and milk closer in temperature without cooking the eggs. Once the eggs are warm to the touch, transfer the entire egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and return to a boil, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken quickly, but continue to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes to stabilize it, this will set the custard and keep it from separating later.

FOUR. Strain the custard through a sieve to catch any stray cooked egg, then transfer to a glass bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap to the custard’s surface to prevent a skin forming. Chill the custard for 15 minutes in the freezer, then place in the fridge to cool completely before using.

 

PASSION FRUIT CURD INGREDIENTS

8 egg yolks
½ cup passion fruit juice
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1¼ sticks (10 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

PASSION FRUIT CURD STEPS

ONE. In a heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, passion fruit juice, and sugar until smooth. Cook on medium-high, stirring constantly and scraping the sides of the pot, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 8 to 10 minutes.

TWO. Remove the pan from the heat and add the salt and the cold butter, one piece at a time, stirring until all is incorporated. Strain through a sieve into a medium-sized bowl, and just like with the pastry cream, press a sheet of plastic wrap to the surface to prevent a skin forming while cooling. Chill in the refrigerator until completely cooled and set, at least 1 hour.

THREE. When both the curd and the pastry cream are cold, mix the fruit curd into the pastry cream until fully incorporated, then return to the fridge until you’re ready for assembly.

 

NAPOLEON PASTRY INGREDIENTS

2 packages frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

NAPOLEON PASTRY STEPS

ONE. Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Prepare your baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper. Cut each sheet of puff pastry into 6 equal pieces (3 vertical cuts, then horizontal halfway through) and lay out on the prepared baking sheets evenly.

TWO. Prick holes in each piece of pastry using a fork, then put a second sheet of parchment paper on top. Place another baking sheet of the same size (or a cooling rack) on top of the pastry to weigh it down. This will keep everything from puffing up too much and resulting in uneven heights. Bake until the strips are lightly golden, about 14 minutes. You’ll have to bake the pastry in batches to ensure even browning, one tray at a time.

THREE. At this point, remove the top tray and parchment paper, and bake for an additional 4-6 minutes until fully golden. Allow the pastry to cool completely. Once the pastry is cool, you may want to slice each square in half, the second baking tray weighs the pastry down but it still puffs up slightly and may be too thick to stack whole. 

 

NAPOLEON ASSEMBLY INGREDIENTS

 2/3 cup heavy cream
5 oz. dark semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 tsp corn syrup
Fresh raspberries, for garnish

NAPOLEON ASSEMBLY STEPS

ONE. Bring the heavy cream to just barely a boil, then remove from heat. Place the chopped dark chocolate into a bowl and pour the hot heavy cream over it and allow the chocolate to melt. Whisk in the corn syrup and set aside to cool.

TWO. To make each individual napoleon, we’ll be using 3 pieces of puff pastry, with 2 layers of pastry cream. If your puff pastry sizes aren’t all the same, feel free to trim them with a serrated knife to make them even and easier to stack. Start with a piece of puff pastry and carefully spread a layer of passion fruit pastry cream on top, leaving a half inch border on all sides.

 

THREE. Top with a second puff pastry and repeat with more pastry cream, again leaving a half inch border on all edges. For the final piece, spread a thin layer of the chocolate glaze on top and carefully place on top of the pastry cream layer. Top with raspberries.

FOUR. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the remaining pastries, then chill in the fridge for at least an hour to set. Now go open the bakery you were always meant to!

YUM! xoxoxoxD

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

Instant Pot Short Rib Lasagna

WELCOME! As you can probably tell by the title of this recipe, I recently came into the possession of an Instant Pot and boy do I have a lot to say about it. First off, I got my Instant Pot for $30 (THIRTY. DOLLARS!!!) because I got a bunch of Amazon gift cards for Christmas and this seemed like as good a purchase as any, right? Watching it deduct $75 from the list price made me feel like one of those extreme couponers and I finally GET IT. My first adventure was this chicken tortilla soup and after working out some of the kinks it turned out delicious, so I was feeling confident. I then came across this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis and thought, I can adapt this to my Instant Pot no problem!!

Well, as I’m sure you can guess, it was in fact a problem. But, the magic of this blog is that I work this out so that you don’t have to! Turns out, Instant Pots do NOT like flour, and if you add even the tiniest bit of flour to your sauce, it will sink to the bottom, burn, and tell you repeatedly that the whole thing is burning four to five times until you take everything out, scrub the inner pot, and the start over. Yeah. So, I did this several times and had several full on tantrums before it worked. I still get mad at myself very easily when cooking things don’t work out the first time I try them, which I know is a bad habit and one I am certainly trying to kick, but this was truly testing me.

Now, another note about Instant Pots is that while yes, they definitely cut down the cooking time on things like stews and short ribs that would otherwise take several hours, you have to factor in the time that the pot takes to come to its set temperature and pressure, which, according to the manual, can take anywhere between 10 and 40 minutes depending on the volume and starting temperature of the food inside it. So, if your ribs need to cook for an hour and 10 minutes total, remember to add in an average 30 minutes or so because the hour and 10 minutes doesn’t start until it’s come to full pressure. After several false starts, my short ribs had almost come to a full, high pressure cooking situation several times, and as a result, I ended up lowering my overall cooking time to take that into account. However, according to the chart that came with my pot, beef ribs should be cooked for about 20-25 minutes per pound, so you can use that factor accordingly.

This is what it should look like, if you don’t burn yours several times before starting like I did!

In the end, this worked out and the lasagna was to DIE for, but I for sure gave myself a baptism by fire here. I feel as though my Instant Pot and I are destined to be enemies, but like ones that have some playful banter going, you know? I look forward to getting to know the ins and outs of this thing, and seeing how many day-long recipes I can turn into quicker projects. This recipe can also be started on a stovetop instead of the Instant Pot, and I’ve included those directions at the bottom as well.

Anyways, enough ranting, here are 5 things to be happy about today before we get to cooking:
ONE. When it’s been a week since New Year’s and you’re still following some resolutions.

TWO. An afternoon iced coffee to give you that energy kick you need.

THREE. Waking up to rain on a Saturday morning with nothing to do but stay in bed and catch up on TV.

FOUR. When you hear your grandparents talk about things they used to do growing up.

FIVE. Aquariums.

Ingredients

2 Tbs olive oil
4 oz. diced pancetta
3½-4 lbs. bone-in short ribs
Kosher salt, to taste
2 medium onions
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 cups beef broth
2 sprigs rosemary
4 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2½ cups jarred pasta sauce (or your own if you feel like it!)
2 boxes no-boil lasagna noodles (12-15 noodles total)
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups parmesan cheese

Steps (stovetop directions at bottom)

ONE. Turn your Instant Pot to Sauté, then add the olive oil. When the olive oil is heated, add the pancetta and cook until crisp and rendered. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate. In the pot with the rendered fat and olive oil, sear your short ribs for roughly 4 minutes, meat side down, turning if necessary so all sides are cooked. Do this in batches if you need to! Transfer cooked ribs to a bowl and set aside.

TWO. Add all chopped vegetables to the pan and allow to sweat, scraping the brown bits from the bottom as you go. I learned this the hard way, the scraping of the Instant Pot is NECESSARY, otherwise you will continue to get an annoying “burn” message. Add kosher salt here (about 1 to 2 tablespoons) and cook until the veggies are translucent and soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.

THREE. Add the red wine, crushed tomatoes, broth, and tomato paste, then add the seared short ribs and pancetta, layering so that no tomato paste will burn to the bottom of the pot. Make sure that the meat is entirely covered by the liquid, but that the liquid is not going over the 2/3 limit of your pot! Tie together the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves with twine and toss in on top.

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FOUR. Securely close the top of your Instant Pot and set to the “Meat/Stew” setting, on Normal, and adjust the cooking time based on the amount of meat you’re cooking with. According to the Instant Pot cooking chart, it should be about 20-25 minutes per pound of beef ribs, so mine cooked overall for 1 hour and 10 minutes (if you count how many times it came up to temperature and then claimed it was burning lol).

FIVE. Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Once the meat is finished cooking, remove bones and herb bundle and shred the meat, placing it in a large bowl. Add 3 cups of the tomato cooking liquid to the meat and mix. Feel free to save the remaining sauce for pasta, however I would let it chill and then skim some of the fat off once it hardens. To assemble the lasagna, spread a thin layer of jarred tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Add a layer of 4 to 5 lasagna noodles, breaking them and arranging them as necessary to fit. Spread half the meat mixture over the first layer of noodles, then top with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and ½ cup of parmesan. Add another layer of noodles, the rest of the meat, and then another cup of mozzarella plus ½ cup parmesan. Top with a final layer of noodles, 2 cups of jarred tomato sauce, 1 cup of mozzarella, and the rest of the parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly before serving.

*For the stovetop, simply complete steps one through three in a dutch oven or other large pot, then cook for 3 hours, uncovered for the last hour, before continuing with step 5.

Now bask in the praise of your dinner guests! YUM! xoxoxoxoxoxoD