…7. How aurum-in-a-can saved the day – Pumpkin Spice Cream, Pumpkin Cremeur, Pumpkin Bread, and Molasses and Crème Fraîche Quenelles with Pumpkin Seed Velvet (pg.182).

I’m going to get this out of the way right now: my love affair with the Wagner Painter Power spray gun is over.  Well, no. We’re on a break.  I’ll explain why I’m sort of traumatized when it comes to cakes that are sprayed with chocolate.

When I was in school we had to spray a tart with chocolate.  It was something ridiculous like an apricot streusel tart topped with pistachio “crème brulée”, a name which confuses me to this day because it wasn’t bruléed and it contained gelatin.  Anyway, here is the finished tart:

Do you see those chunks of white crap? Clearly the white chocolate spray session was a major Fail because the chocolate cracked from condensation almost immediately, leaving the tart looking like it was garnished with a giant psoriasis plaque, which out of the many thousands of gross skin ailments, psoriasis is one of the less horrific ones, but I wasn’t thinking about how thankful I should be that my tart didn’t appear to have leprosy, I was only thinking about not getting a minus a million for a grade, so I scraped it all off in shame.

At the time, I blamed both the 35+ summer heat (that’s Celsius) and my incompetence.  But mostly the heat.

The second time I gave it a whirl was when I learned that the chocolate should be cooler than normally advised because my freezer is a bad freezer (while my fridge seems to be an alright freezer, weird).  Fail # 2.

The third time, the Lego cake, was a success, until I dropped the spray gun on the cake and dented it.

This…this was not so much a success as much as it was a test of my patience, which if measured in volume would amount to about four millilitres.

I have no shame in admitting I my money situation is…corseted.  Expensive school and my desire to own silly pastry equipment and only the expensive cookbooks has not helped matters.  On top of that, I almost exclusively spend what’s left after bills and debts on this blog.  Basically, I fucked up this cake because I ran out of money.  Le Sigh.

Pumpkin Bread, Gluten Free, Adapted (pg. 185)

This makes an 8” round cake 1/2” thick — sorry, I didn’t weigh the gluten-free flours. I always screw it up if I don’t go by volume.

56g Butter, melted and cooled to 21 degrees

1 Egg

25g Whiskey

127g Pumpkin Purée

124g Sugar

1/4 C. Millet

1/4 C. Brown Rice Flour

1/4 C. Arrowroot

1 tsp Xantan Gum

5g Baking Powder

2 tsp Cinnamon

Not gonna lie, I browned the butter because browned butter is delicious.  I almost always brown butter if the recipe calls for it to be melted.

Whisk egg with purée and whiskey, drizzle in butter to emulsify.

Whisk all dry ingredients together.

Add to wet.  Spread in pan. Bake until set at 350 in a sad oven like mine, 320 in a real oven.


What the hell is a Cremeur, you ask?

I tried to find out, but UrbanDictionary.com does not have a definition, nor does NinjaWords.com.  This word was never used when I was in school, but my Chef at the bistro liked to call most things Cremeux.  I guess I should have asked him why.  I will hypothesize that a Cremeur is a thick, creamy product that is neither a mousse (light, airy) nor a ganache (emulsion of cream and chocolate).  Cremeux is pipe-able usually, though this recipe is thickened with gelatin rather than butter or starch, so it was surprisingly liquid.

This recipe is just an anglaise with pumpkin and gelatin.

I made use of a silicone mold I picked up on a foodie trip to Chicago.  We visited the Chicago School of Mold Making, a mecca for pastry sculpture aficionados.  They let us run around their tiny supply room and I bought $350 worth of silicone molds (or 4 pieces, no joke).  The customs officer at O’Hare was…confused.

Migoya freezes the Pumpkin Cremeur in pvc pipes.  Specialty silicone I have, pvc I do not.  So I used the sphere mold instead.

Spice Cream.

I like this because instead of infusing the cream with whole spices, he throws in the ground product.  I like flecks and speckles in things for visual excitement.  This was just another Bavarois.  I was always nervous about making Bavarian cream, residue from the first experience in school (the Saint Honoré, which was the last and “OMG the hardestthinginbasic!”), but after making 4 cakes in the last month with Bavarian bases, I’m getting a little bored. **Oh shit, I’ve forgotten my pastry smarts: Saint Honoré is made with a Chiboost, not Bavarian Cream.  See, so traumatizing I forgot it even existed.

Quenelles  (pg. 187)

Equal parts Crème Fraîche and Whipping cream, whipped on high together with 11% molasses until stiff.

This just pissed me off.  I can make quenelles, dammit.  I couldn’t get crème fraîche, so I thickened some sour cream with lemon juice but it didn’t cut it, so the result was too lose and couldn’t properly be quenelled and then they collapsed before the terrible freezer could keep them looking remotely presentable.  Fuck.

Pumpkin Seed Velvet

Okay, so I didn’t have enough money to buy more cocoa butter because all I can get is raw stuff from the local health food store where they gut you like a fish every time you buy something, so silly me who wasn’t thinking until it was too late (as always, I figure it out but seconds too late), I subbed some white chocolate, not thinking that since it sets at a much lower temperature, would result in the spray running off the cake.  Would have had more success had I not put in the oil, but heck, cute but stupid.

I managed to give the cake a shell of white chocolate but had to resort to using most of a brand spanking new can of spray-gold to make the thing look remotely appetizing, but it’s still a ridiculous monstrosity I am totally embarrassed to have made.  Thankfully, everyone at my friend’s birthday party ate it so it no longer exists.

Self loathing kicks in in 5, 4, 3…

…6. Maple Pot de Crème & Banana Macaron (pg. 247, 276).

Pot de Crème, a light but very rich custard, is delicious, though I prefer crème brulée, likely because I like to burn things and I like the taste of burned things.

I wanted to dig up some great info on Pot de Crèmes because I have very little of interest to say in this post, but I didn’t find anything exciting.  Aside from the existence of http://www.potdecreme.com, which I thought was one of those trick search engine sites, but amazingly it is real.

Maple Pot de Crème (pg. 247)

125g Cream

145g Milk

108g Maple Syrup

68g Yolks

Pinch of Salt

I admit I couldn’t bring myself to make it entirely with cream, as the recipe goes, nor was I able to track down maple sugar, so I added milk and used maple syrup.  At least I didn’t lower myself to using Aunt Jemima.

You can either whisk the ingredients cold or heat them as though you are cooking a crème anglaise.  I prefer the latter as they will set faster in the oven and you won’t shock the ingredients by putting them in a pan of hot water in a hot oven.  Sometimes the pastry product should be shocked (as when you take a hot cake out of the pan and transfer it to the freezer to keep it moist), but it’s best to not shock custards.  They are too delicate.  Either way, always strain your custards before cooking.

These took over an hour.  Close to 1.5 hours actually.  Two reasons: no convection (you foil me almost every time, stove!) and this was the only way I could get them in enough water because of how small and silly my oven is:

 So pathetic.

Banana Macaron

Migoya takes a moment in his book to address the issue of organic products and quality.  He very clearly states that not all that is organic is necessarily better.  This is a fact I have been confronted with every time I buy organic bananas, but like women who have spawned and do so more then once, I never remember the organic banana experience as really being that bad, so I frequently do it over and over.

It was, in fact, that bad.  Maybe more so.

Migoya suggests cooking a banana butter to fill the macarons, which sounds like a delightful alternative to adding banana liquor to buttercream.  Banana. Butter. Cinnamon. Pot. Cook until soft.  Piece of cake.

Um..What. Is. Happening?           AH!                                             Ew.

I blame you, Organic Bananas. Taste is good… texture… could be better.

To save this disaster, I whip up a batch of ganache (pg.211) and pipe it around the disgusting banana mash.  I dusted it with cocoa instead of poppy seeds.  I don’t care for poppy seeds.

The Pot de Crème was delicious.  The suggestion to top it with maple syrup made it look very nice, but eating it reminded me of digging in to set yogurt without pouring off the separated liquid, which I don’t care for.  The Macaron was salvaged by the ganache.  I’ll try the banana butter again eventually.

…5. Looks like delicious, delicious childhood – Espresso Cream, Crisp Chocolate Meringue, and Flourless Chocolate Cake (pg.150).

Any time people have asked me things like “So if I need to travel with _____ for _____ number of hours/days…” I immediately cut them off and say “I don’t recommend that.”  I am very adamant that my products be served at their optimal-life state, either ten minuted out of the oven or two hours from being decorated.  While a lot of bad pastry comes from mediocre recipes, some from poor technique, many suffer from irresponsible storage or age (see Macaron rant when I post it).

My first food job was at a café that specialized in fresh-baked scones.  The concept was brilliant — the scones were baked in small batches all day long.  The likelyhood of anyone buying a scone baked more then 2 hours earlier was extremely low, unless it was a very, very slow day.  And while this commitment to freshness caused some issues (different flavours sold at different rates on different days so being out of one or two flavours out of eight was likely, but a fresh batch was never more then 30 minutes away for the patient), it meant the product was always at it’s optimal state.  This is why I am now so picky about when I finish and then deliver cakes.

And yet I am going against everything I believe in right now.

The espresso-filled Lego-shaped cake in the trunk was finished at 8am this morning.  It is now 7:42pm (it’s in a portable fridge, don’t worry).  It will be served two days from now (say whaaaat?).  Le sigh.

This cake is made with the following:

A chocolate meringue disk —

Meringue, which I can only spell because I have to say Mer-rang-guay in my head, as with So-Crates and Jel-la-pen-o (and we all know I so often have to write Socrates and Jalapeno in the snail-mail I compose), is equal parts sugar and eggwhites.  It can be made three ways – cooking whipped whites with sugar at 120 degrees (I-tal-ien style), whisked over a pot of simmering water until thick and fluffy (the Swiss way, which I like to think of as the Difficult way, because the Swiss were always difficult and “neutral”), and by just whipping the whites with the sugar, the efficient French way.

To make this chocolate meringue, you make a French meringue, add 1/4 of the meringue’s total weight in Icing sugar (ie. 50g i.sugar to 200g meringue when 100g whites and 100g sugar are used), whip for at least 5 minutes, then fold in the same quantity of sifted cocoa powder.

Now, here is the point where I explain why this came out weird.  I have a gas stove with no fan.  Yes, the meringues came out quite flat.  And they took 3.5 hours instead of 2 (at 200 degrees instead of 187, wtf).  BUT they are pretty awesome.

Dip said meringue in chocolate.  More awesome.

Migoya’s Flourless Chocolate Cake – pg.152

100g Yolks

75g Sugar

225g 64% Chocolate

112g Butter

150g Egg Whites

Prep a pan with parchment, sheet pan or springform.  Heat oven to 350.  Whip yolks and 1/2 sugar to ribbon stage while melting butter and chocolate over a bain marie. Combine once chocolate is melted but not hot.  Whip whites and remaining sugar to just before stiff and fold into chocolate mix carefully.  Spread evenly in pan with offset.  Bake until firm.

This I made to the same thickness as the meringues, which means my montage should be good.  This recipe is wonderful.

Espresso Cream

This is really just a Bavaroise.  And instead of using espresso beans, I used ground espresso for the look and the mouth feel.  I have a very crippling coffee addiction, so the idea of eating the grinds excites rather then hinders me.

This is a cake with no photo, but Migoya’s instructions say to place a silicone block inside the cake mould, then build the cake upside-down so the result is to have a recessed space for those chocolate-coated puffed rice he is so into.  As I did not have said rice puffs, I opted to make 12 salted ganache demi-spheres, which I froze, then lined up on the frozen barvaroise before spraying the cake with a chocolate-loaded paint-sprayer.

Hence why my cake looks like Lego. GIANT CHOCOLATE LEGO.

But that’s okay, I made it for my big brother’s birthday, the guy who gave me 10kilos of lego when he moved out.  Happiest 5 year old ever.  Given his coffee addiction and love of chocolate, this seemed like the perfect birthday present.

Here is my spray-station.

Thankfully, I’m the girl who moves into an apartment with a giant roll of window-plastic for winter and never puts it up but also never gets rid of it.  I knew that roll of plastic was going to come in handy eventually.

Here is the part of the cupboard I didn’t protect.  Lesson: make a good spray-station!

When you spray your cake with chocolate, always use equal quantities chocolate to cocoa butter.  The cocoa butter has a higher melting temperature, but it liquifies the chocolate and allows it to set as soon as it hits the frozen cake, which is how the texture is achieved.  I had to lower the temp to 34 degrees rather then the more common 38 because my freezer is not awesome, so the cakes are never as cold as they would be in a quality commercial freezer.  If the chocolate is too hot, it will not texture, just wash over the cake and look liquid and shitty.  It’s happened to me before.  Don’t let it happen to you.

This is the Wagner spray-gun I use.  Oooo, ahhh.

Regrets: In the future I will be very careful about placing demi-spheres, as I did manage to disturb the barvaroise even though it was frozen.  I should have heated an offset and smoothed the surface.  Also, I have this tendency to, due to strain from over-use and arthritis from immune deficiency, release things spontaneously.  Like drop a bag of groceries in the street.  My hands sometimes just let go.  And, as you can see in the upper portion of the cake, I dropped the spray gun ON THE CAKE.  Silly me didn’t make extra ganache orbs.  I hate how imperfect this cake is.  I want a remake.  I can’t look at this anymore.

No plated version, as this was a gift.

But I did sneak this montage photo, which I will post later.


Ohohohwait! This was tasty! Again, not sweet.  The only adjustment I would make would be to add maybe 50g oil to the melted chocolate the meringue is dipped in, because we found it umpossible to cut with a fork, and that isn’t acceptable.

…4. I’m a terrible party guest, and the Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Wheat Beer and Lemonade (pg.432).

Much to my surprise, several of my more worldly friends had experienced this drink, commonly known as a Radler.

I needed a drink to go to a foodie party hosted by the city’s Ice Cream Queen, Soup Lady, and Confiture Gent, and my original plan was the Riesling and Cranberry Juice with Pomegrante, but at the last minute decided to make a jug of Radler because a large quantity of Riesling was not available and I was too poor to buy fancy fruit.  Lemons and beer it is!

My research skills discovered that Radler is German for Cyclist.  Automatically I should feel some kind of connection to this drink, as my bike is like…an extra leg…with wheels…and 24 speeds.  Best leg/simile ever.  Apparently, this drink is said to have been invented when a group of cyclists rode into town for some refreshments and a bar owner, itching for sweaty change, discovered he didn’t have enough beer to fuel them all, so he cheated them by filling the pints half way with Sprite.  Or a lemon-lime soda of some kind.  The cyclists found this drink so refreshing and appropriately low in alcohol for their heavy cycling lifestyle, they likely cheered the shady bartender and the Radler was popular ever after.

At first, I was intrigued by the idea of an unprounounceable drink mixed with homemade lemonade.  But as I arrived home from my day of staring at pretty things I can’t buy because I spend all my money on butter and sugar, I put the beer and lemons on my counter and started to worry.

Was I really going to bring this to a foodie party?

I took baby steps, understanding with some dread that if this turned out to be revolting, I would have to go empty-handed.  I had no idea what this party was going to be like.

I poured the wheat-beer into the jug.  Let the 16 inches of head prove why I never became a bartender.

 I wait for this to calm.

I make the lemonade.  Admittedly with a bottle of lemon juice.  Again, I spend all my money on butter etc…

When I combined the two, I didn’t much care for it (whoa, really? didn’t see that one coming) so I upped the ratio of lemonade to beer.  Still gross, but less so.  I topped it off with lemon slices and shoved the jug into a plastic wine store bag (always classy) and went to buy cigarettes to easy my anxiety and give me a reason to go to a party, but not actually be inside the party, which is just plain stressful.

Once there, I realized there were lots of people and the lighting was low enough that I successfully kept my jug of shame hidden in a dark corner sheathed in plastic.  I think I caught a glimpse of a couple of drink-hunters sniff it out, grimace, and steal someone else’s wine.  Score?

 To be fair, the flavour matured and improved with the oils from the lemon skins.  Either that or my constant sipping managed to adjust my tastebuds to the Radler.  I dunno.  But what I do know is I’m never making this again.

Oh, and the unfortunate thing was we left the party early to go eat Vietnamese soup and I only realized later that I’d left them, as a horribly disappointing host gift, 1.6 litres of Radler.

…3. Those photos are looking better, sort of, and Butternut Squash Butter & Caramel Mousse Cake with Gingerbread Génoise and Ginger Spice Glaze (pg.192)

I have something to admit: I don’t care much for cake.  I am, and have always been, a much bigger fan of the things cake carries.  It’s a vessel for buttercream, mousses, ganache, compotes, and curds.  On it’s own, I don’t so much care.  Probably because one needs to consume an awful lot of plain cake before the sugar bloat takes hold and you no longer have the will to live.

There are a few cakes I have found that I do not dislike.  The Classic Génoise is not one of them.  Sure it’s basic; eggs, sugar, flour is all you need.  But I don’t know, there is something about the texture and the slightly sweet eggy flavour I’m not fond of.  The first time I made a Génoise, I was so horrified by how, visually, it reminded me of the dimpled upper-thigh of a 50 year old woman, that I threw it out and made it a second time.  Horrified again (this time I actually tasted it), I chucked it and chose a different recipe.  I didn’t make it again until school, when I realized I’d made it right both times.

This cake requires a Gingerbread Génoise.  The added spices gave me hope.  Usually a genoise is soaked in a flavoured light syrup.  This is why it is so versatile; you always make the same cake, then soak it in whatever suits your needs, and suddenly the texture of the cake is fixed too — dry and sticky to moist and velvety.  The Gingerbread Génoise is not soaked, though I wanted to drench it in Green Ginger infused Fortified Wine.

I did, however, make it gluten-free.  I didn’t want to feel bad about eating this cake.  Unfortunately, this happened:uhoh

Hm.  Well.  I’ve made gluten-free Génoise before and this freaked me out.  This is not what a Génoise should look like.  Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph the cake upon removal from the pan, when all the candied ginger adhered to the base, despite being heavily buttered and floured.

The first thing to do is chop up a butternut squash and throw it in a pot with some butter, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and star anise.  Cook this until completely soft.  I mashed it, but did not purée or run through a tamis because I was too lazy.  I would if I were doing this for money, not giving it away to my friends.

Cool cake in freezer.  When it is almost frozen, level it.  Place it in a frame, I used an 8” round pastry ring, which I used to cut the cake to size.  Spread with butternut squash butter.  Freeze.

As the cake cooled in the freezer, I made the caramel mousse.  Not hard.

Migoya’s Caramel Mousse

74g sugar

24g butter

58g Cream

1 egg

3g gelatine — powder, 3.4g gold leaf

200g cream, whipped soft peaks, chilled.

  • Cook sugar to a deep amber
  • Deglaze with butter, then add cream
  • Whip eggs on high until fully fluffed, pour in caramel (à la Italian Meringue)
  • Add bloomed gelatine while caramel is still warm and whip until 21 degrees C
  • Fold caramel mixture into cream (I do the cream to soft peaks so I can whip mixtures in, reducing the chance of the mousse collapsing)

Pipe or spread mousse over squash butter.  The ideal way of doing this is to pipe the mixture around the ring, then use a small offset spatula to pull the mousse up the sides, then fill the ring just below the rim with mousse and level, then clean the edge with your thumb and forefinger.  Spreading the mousse up the sides prevents air pockets in your montage.

My calculations were slightly off (I’ve adjusted the recipe here for you, don’t fret), and I was just shy of what the ring would take, so inevitably the glaze was too thick.  Thankfully, the glaze was super tasty.

 Migoya’s Ginger Spice Glaze

Fresh ginger

120g cream

Cinnamon Stick, 2 cloves, nutmeg, toasted

103g sugar

20g molasses

2g salt

10g water

7g cornstarch

2.5g gelatine (powder, 3.5g gold leaf)

Infuse cream with toasted spices and ginger by bringing to a boil, steeping 20 minutes, then straining.  Heat again, add sugar, molasses, salt.  Whisk water and cornstarch into a slurry, add to cream and bring to a full boil.  Let cool, with saran over the surface, until 35 degrees C either at room temp or stirring over ice.  When cake is frozen, glaze, freeze again, then remove the ring with a hot towel or hand torch.

The only thing I will say is that while I reduced the gelatine as I was using the powdered variety rather then fancy gold leaf (powder blooms at 225, leaf at 200, so powder sets stiffer), I didn’t reduce it enough so the glaze was a bit…chewy.

This was a cake that was not shown in the book.  Migoya kindly published on Ptitchef.com three of the “lost cake” photos, including this one, which would normally have been decorated with white chocolate covered puffed rice.  I don’t have such frivolous things.  I stole some candied ginger and orange caramel corn I make at work and threw on a cinnamon stick and vanilla bean.  It is not a handsome cake.  I’ll put more thought into the next one.

Here I plated it with that Ginger Caramel I’m in love with myself for making, some caramel corn, and licorice ice cream.

Licorice Ice Cream

350g milk

350g cream

350g natural Panda licorice

1 drop anise oil

50g sugar

Bring licorice, milk, and cream to a boil, then simmer until the licorice has mostly broken down and the liquid is a beige colour.  Strain.  Stir in anise oil and sugar.  Mature in the fridge over night with saran on the surface to prevent a skin.  The next day, the base should be thick enough to churn without egg yolk.  Yay simple ice cream!

Note: the people I work with said “tastes like a pumpkin pie!” Um…this cake cost me $50 in ingredients alone.  I do not appreciate that it just tastes like pumpkin pie.  And it tastes wayyyy better then a pumpkin pie. Pfft.

…2. Um, what’s the deal with the cheese-y blog name?, and The Ultimate Chocolate Chunk Cookie (pg. 288)

nomnomnomFirst, I apologize for this set of photos.  I’m lame at that stuff sometimes.

I’m not gonna lie.  Subway cookies are amazing.  They are raw and gross in the centre, which doesn’t matter because I don’t think they are made with anything that could go off (ie. sawdust and cornsyrup), you can bend them in half before they break and their edges have a slight crispness to them.  I won’t eat them because I know they aren’t food.

When I was a kid I loved those super soft Chips Ahoy! despite them not actually tasting like anything.  Not even sugar.  But they were so, unnaturally soft.  Needless to say, I firmly believe the best cookie is an unbaked cookie.

For years I have been trying to find a chocolate chip cookie recipe that satisfies all my cookie needs:

  • Tastes like delicious; by this I mean it has a good strong chocolate flavour, but the dough can stand on it’s own — slightly sweet, with vanilla and maybe a pinch of nutmeg.
  • Soft and slightly underdone on the inside, doesn’t dry out when cooled. No sharp edges to scrape the roof of my mouth.
  • Spread to a large disk and awesome, but not pooled and over-mixed.

Okay, so most of these things can be easily controlled.  If you over-whip your butter and sugar, your cookies are going to spread.  If you bake them on low heat for longer then instructed and remove them when the centres are still light, they won’t be dry inside.

But the first one is tough, because it’s based only on ratios.

At work I make a good chocolate cookie.  I think I amended the David Lebovitz recipe.  These cookies sell almost faster then I can make them, for good reason.  They are very handsome and very tasty

As far as gluten-free, I’ve had fair success with Kate Zuckerman’s recipe she offers in The Sweet Life (amazing book, by the way), which is soft and dry rather then greasy.  Like the President’s Choice cookie but good.

Migoya says his is the best.  He says if you make it properly, deliciousness will ensue, and thus the blog-name is revealed.

Here it is:

212g butter – 21 degrees

151g sugar

143g brown sugar

90g eggs – room temp

4.5g vanilla paste, whisked in with eggs

3g salt

4.5g baking soda

317g flour

317g chocolate chunks (I used Cocoa Barry 66% Cocoa Mexican Pistolles because I didn’t have enough block-form Callebaut.  Note: I made these again two days later with the Callebaut and they were still great, but if you’re looking for a big, rich chocolate flavour, go for a high-quality dark chocolate bar if Cocoa Barry isn’t around).

Cream butter and sugar, just until combined. Scrape sides.

Add egg little by little, scrape down sides as you go.

The only strange thing about his cookie is the baking soda and the salt are added to the egg-butter-sugar goodness, not the flour.  I’ve never seen this before.  Why?  I don’t know.  Baking soda starts doing its business right away.  Is this to keep it from levening but still acting as a brown-ing device? He doesn’t say.

Add flour.

Fold in chocolate.

Scoop with a #16 scoop.  I don’t know what this is.  I only have a yellow japanese scoop I bought at an antique store, so it has no numbers.  If the recipe actually yields 50 cookies which would be unlike every other recipe that claims to make three dozen and you actually get eight, then my scoop is 200% too big.  But nobody hates giant cookies.

I made a batch of normal people cookies and gluten-free cookies.  Right from the get-go, the batches behaved differently.  The butter for the gluten-free batch wouldn’t mix with the sugar.  It actively refused.  I’ve never seen that before, at least with 21 degree butter.  4 degree butter is defiant against almost anything, but this was just confusing.  Then the butter wouldn’t play nice with the eggs.  What. The. Fuck.  I had already made the normal people batch, and it was great!  Whatever.  I kept going.  The dough ended up soppy.  Sigh.

Bake at 347 degrees.

Really?  Problem the second.  This is my stove dial:

347, eh?

On top of being the most vague stove ever, it is gas and non-convection.  This has proven to be a problem in the past.  Almost all the time.  And I never remember because I’m so excited to make things that it isn’t until disaster strikes that I recall how horrible my oven is.  This is not a cookie oven.  No matter how many cookie sheets I stack in there, the bottoms will always burn and the tops will never bake.  And now I had to figure out what the non-convection cookie-burning oven temperature equivalent is to 347 degrees.

Here are the results.

On the left the gluten-free guys, all flat and over mixed.  FAIL.

On the right are the regular guys.  My crazy oven took 20 minutes to bake them.  Probably because I did not press them as much as I should have and they were likely too cold since I was so excited I just shoved them in the freezer.  I am impatient.

Here’s a more intimate view.

Okay, we know who wins.  This is a good cookie.  It has a surprisingly audible crunch, like when you eat rice crispies.  The crunch isn’t thick and full-on crunchy.  It’s totally a light crisp shell that mainly serves to protect the soft inside and provide a bit of an exciting mouthfeel, like the characteristics of a great baguette.  And if you use Mexican chocolate  I used, this cookie won’t be crazy sweet, but it will be incredibly rich, so a glass of milk or black coffee is a must.

…1. Hey there, and the Apple Millefeuille and Bavarois Tart (pg.259)

It is 9 am on Sunday.  The tart is done, photographed and in the fridge awaiting delivery.    I am eagerly awaiting my brewing coffee.  I would be perched before the machine, salivating and humming, but instead of degrading myself so early on such a loverly fall day, I have forced myself to sit here and type. Words. That enter. My mind.

My galley kitchen — actually, I think it’s a half galley, more of a lower-case L shape than a U or a shape that utilizes both sides of the space.  Here, I offer a panoramic view:


It does not look like this now.  It is more like a pastry explosion, with strips of parchment, pieces of caramelized apple, barvarois trimmings, flakes of sablé.  When I finish all the elements of a cake at 3 am, have a quick nap on the couch, then spring into action in the morning for assembly, I am often too excited (and admittedly rushed, but only because I don’t want to be late, I tend to finish up with many hours to spare) to tidy as I go.  Then I fret over the things I don’t like, but convince myself that I am “insane” and “no-one will notice or care” and I need to live with cake that looks like cake rather than the photoshopped perfections that are so rampant these days.

So my form needs a little work.  That’s why I am here.  As a Canadian, there are more jobs that require a pastry chef to create more…rustic confections.  That is to say, with this tart in mind, that a plain-Jane double-crust apple pie is in greater demand then anything with the words “Bavarian Cream”.  I don’t make the delicate and somewhat more finicky French pastry elements where I work. I make pies. And scones. And cinnamon buns. All kinds of very North American treats.  I enjoy it, it pay the bills (aaand the student loan), but I am terrified of losing my fancy French training.

And that’s how we arrived here, with the Apple Millefeuille.

The “mille” refers to the thousand layers a properly made puff dough will have – the “feuilles” – sheets of which are enrobed with pastry cream or jam, stacked, and glazed with liquid fondant.  Personally I find traditional Millefeuilles a tad too sweet and very messy to eat, which is why it’s somewhat ironic that they are found more often than not at standing-room formal functions.  You can always tell who has indulged by the snow-fall of feuilletée on his or her suit and dress.

Migoya offers a clean alternative to the messy puff.  His millefeuille takes apples, peeled, cored, and sliced, layered with cinnamon and sugar, and slow-baked to soften and caramelize them into a beautiful slab of concentrated apple-hug with the burnt sienna hue of maple syrup. He places this a-top a Bavarian cream, which is nestled in a simple French crust.

Here, I have layered the apples (15) with sprinklings of cinnamon and brown sugar (3/4 C), 4 layers.  Not gonna lie, I had to read the instructions several times to figure out how they were supposed to be layered, but I still didn’t do it right.  In my defense, I was in a hurry as I just needed to get the apples pressing in the fridge so I could continue on with my over-scheduled Friday night, but I know this is a silly stance because in my heart I know a pastry chef should never have to rush.  Fast and efficient is a-okay, but rushing is a no-no.

I tell myself that once the apples have baked down, there will be fewer…gaps.  I line the top with saran, put two baking pans identical to the apple vessel on top, weight it with two 8lb dumbells and set off for my glass of wine and pint of beer because I’ve eaten too many apple trimmings and rogue slices to accommodate dinner.

The apples did not release as much liquid as I thought, and I did not save it like Migoya suggested because I knew it would just plant itself among the other inhabitants of the pastry cemetery in the back of my fridge and I’d start swearing at it come February.  I must reiterate: my professionalism abounds at work, but at home I’m a mess. I’m working on it.

The next day I procrastinate by going to the market, picking up more expensive pastry utilities at the commercial supply shop, and go to the video store to pick up the box-set of Twin Peaks I’ve ordered so I have something awesome and fall-ish to watch while I wait for the apples to bake for 8 hours.

8 HOURS.  Good thing I get home at…6pm?

Apples go in oven – non-convection gas, start at 300, end up reducing to 250 after 4.5 hrs.

Here are the results after 6 hours.

Make Bavarois.

Madagascar Vanilla Bavarois — adapted from The Modern Café’s Tahitian Vanilla Cream

210g 35% Cream

420g Milk

1 vanilla pod or 1T vanilla paste

225g sugar

8 yolks

450g 35% Cream, whipped to soft peaks and chilled

30g Gelatin – I used Knox as my gold-leaf options are limited, and since Knox sets up firmer than gold-leaf, I reduced the original recipe, but I had to change whole recipe based on the quantity I was making, and the quantity of cream I had, which, as it turned out, was not enough. Ha. Ha ha *sigh*.

Have a square (or circular if you wish) pastry mold or ring on a Silpat or lined with saran (or acetate if you’re fancy — I am not, because there are few pastry stores here, and I don’t actually PAY for the internet, so I don’t order things on-line. Yes I’m a luddite. Yes I should go back in time and live happily there. Again, working on it.)

*Cooking a Crème Anglaise*

Place cream and milk in heavy pot, medium heat.  Add over half the sugar and stir to encourage dissolution.  With your yolks in another bowl, add the rest of your sugar and whisk until they’ve lightened in colour.  When your milk simmers, pour a quarter (or so) of the milk into the yolks, whisk briskly, then add the yolks to your pot.  Stir evenly and quickly with a spatula or wooden spoon (no whisking!) until mixture reaches 82 degrees or you can run a line through the mixture when it coats the back of your spoon.

Remove from heat!  Pour through a strainer.  And for god’s sake, if you over cook it, don’t put it in a blender.  If you always strain your Anglaise, it will be fine.  At this point you should ice-bath it to cool it down.

Once cooled, bloom your gelatin in a quarter of a cup of Anglaise, or soak them in water if you are using leaf gelatin (but remember to squeeze the water out) and warm about a cup of Anglaise over a hot-water bath.  Add the bloomed gelatin then stir it in to the reserved Anglaise.  This should now be about 30 degrees, or cooler then body-temp, but not cold.  If this is cold you’ll run the risk of setting the gelatin when you add it to the whipped cream, and then you’ll have lumps.  You’ll cry, and I’ll laugh, as a Chef instructor of mine used to say.

Okay, here goes: Add a bit of the whipped cream to the Anglaise, stir it around, then add the Anglaise to the whipped cream and whip it quickly with a whisk to incorporate everything evenly before the gelatin starts setting.  Pour it into a prepared pan and freeze.  Lick the spoon because you’re at home and no one is watching.

*Tart Dough*

I hesitate to post the recipe here.  See the About section for my reason.  Martha Stewart gives us this Sablée recipe:

225g butter, soft

3/4c. Icing sugar

300g all purpose flour

pinch of salt

Cream butter and sugar till fluffed, sift salt and flour, add on low mixer or by hand until combined.  Wrap and chill well before rolling.

OR you can make it Gluten-Free with this recipe, which I adapted from ________. Not a Sablée technique wise, but the result is very good:

1c Brown Rice flour

1/4c Amaranth

1/4c Millet

1/2c Arrowroot

2 T Cane Sugar

1/4 t salt

2 T Ice Water (I needed more…)

1 Egg

3/4 c Butter – cold

In food processor, combine dry and pulse.  Add cubed butter, pulse until an almond-flour texture.  Add egg. Pulse. Add 1/2 water, pulse.  Add more until it just comes together, but not moist.  Chill before shaping (may be difficult to roll…)

Bake frozen crusts at 325F, but don’t brown them or they will be too difficult to cut with a fork.  I admit, I don’t own pie weights or even dry beans, so silly me, my square shell collapsed on one side. The extra round one I made was fine, but (obviously) shrank too much and my round version was an epic fail as I didn’t have a cutter the right size for the shrunken crust.

I don’t know why I didn’t take amazing photos of this.  Next time, I promise I will photograph disasters.  The square one I salvaged by cutting off the sides, so the end result was more like a giant sugar cookie than a tart, but I don’t actually care, it looked awesome.

I trimmed the frozen cream and unmolded my apples (which I froze after they cooled from 6hrs in the oven — the batch was small and they were the colour I was going for so I didn’t give them the full time) and trimmed them.

I carefully stacked them.  The apples shrank a lot, which I anticipated, and so I put two layers on the cream to a) go with the proportions in the book and b) so the cream doesn’t over-power the star, the slow baked apples.

Woohoo.  I don’t have a problem with this result.  It looks a little shabby, I had to do some cutting and pasting with the apples, but overall I’m happy.  I topped it with dried vanilla pod, tiny heritage apple I sugared and torched, some african mace, and gold maple nuggets because edible gold-leaf is not available.

What does it taste like?

Tart Tatin à la mode, but not sweet in all the right ways.  If I wasn’t giving this away, I would plate it with a smear of caramel pumpkin butter (recipe later if you’re nice) and apple cider reduction.

Up next: The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie…