Posts tagged ‘orange’

August 3, 2011

Éclairs With A Flair

I’m very pleased to share with you the news of my recent enrollment in a 6-month pastry program at a French culinary school here in the DC area.  Classes started just a couple weeks ago and I’ve already learned so much about the technique and art of pastry… I couldn’t be more thrilled with my personal and career decisions that have led me to culinary school and the exploration of the wonderful world of pastry!

My favorite of all of the lectures, demonstrations, and lessons thus far has been that of a simple and delicious pastry cream.  Pastry cream has been a staple for my desserts for quite a while now, but, as I’ve enhanced my understanding and adapted my techniques, my entire idea of pastry cream has completely changed.  My new go-to recipe is about ten times more simple than my old version, and the finished product is a billion times more delectable.  I’ve edited the recipe on my instructional pastry cream page (found on the upper tab above) and have been itching to include it in a Pumpercake recipe.
I decided to incorporate another of the “basics” I’ve learned so far in class into today’s recipe, “Choux paste,” which is the dough base for cream puffs, éclairs, and other pastries.   The appeal of the choux is that it can be piped into just about any shape (swans, anyone?) and, once baked, it acts as a bit of a blank canvas as it is beautifully hollow and can be filled with a delicious custard, curd, or cream.

On a mission to make a super summer version of the ever-traditional éclair, I chose to fold some citrus-y sweet fruit curds into the vanilla pastry cream and used brightly colored white chocolate glazes to coat the tops of them.  An explosion of strawberry-pomegranate and orange-grapefruit flavors burst from a buttery crisp envelope of delicate choux, which is then topped off with a bright and sweet chocolate glaze to dress up the pretty little pastries.  These tiny sweet treats are decadent enough to feel indulgent, yet light enough to allow for continuous enjoyment of 2 or 3 of them.  In fact, I’ve found that making the éclairs extra-tiny can really help to rationalize eating at least 4 per sitting…

Sweet Summertime Éclairs

-In flavors of Strawberry-Pomegranate and Orange-Grapefruit

Inspired by: Éclairs

Choux Paste (Éclair Base)

100 grams unsalted butter
(about 7¼ tablespoons)

½ cup milk

½ cup water

150 grams all-purpose flour
(about 1 cup & 2 tablespoons)

½ teaspoon salt

3-4 large eggs,
plus 1 for egg wash

–recipe yield:
about 50 4-inch éclairs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, melt butter.  Add milk and water, increase heat to medium, and bring mixture to a full boil.  Remove immediately from heat and add combined flour and salt at once.  Stir together with a wooden spoon into a panade (thick, almost paste-like mixture).  Replace saucepan onto warm burner to evaporate some of the water and dry out the panade slightly, allowing easier incorporation of the eggs.  When panade can “flake” easily while breaking with a wooden spoon, transfer the mixture to a bowl.  Using a paddle attachment of an electric mixer on a low speed, turn and loosen the dough, allowing it to cool slightly until it reaches the point where you can touch the bottom of the bowl comfortably.  Mix in 2 eggs until absorbed, then add the 3rd egg, mixing until it has also been absorbed.  Beat the 4th egg in a separate dish and add gradually, as the entire egg may not be needed.  The choux paste is finished when it can be pulled up by the paddle attachment into a distinct point that easily folds when flipped (like a soft peak).

Transfer choux paste into a pastry bag fitted with a large, plain round tip.  Pipe paste into desired size éclair rectangles.  Coat each mound with a small amount of egg wash (1 egg, beaten) using a pastry brush, and tap the tops surface of each brushed éclair with the back of a fork that’s been dampened with water.  The egg wash helps the pastry to achieve a golden brown color, while the fork marks create expanding ridges, much like ribbing in clothing.  Bake until puffed, golden, and firm (about 20-25 minutes).

Strawberry Pomegranate Curd

½ cup strawberry pulp, strained

¼-1/3 cup pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ tablespoon cornstarch

1 egg, plus 2 yolks

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon salt

Place strawberry pulp and ¼ cup pomegranate juice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to simmer.  Allow liquid to reduce by about half (4-5 minutes) before removing the syrup from heat and stirring in lemon juice and an extra splash of pomegranate juice.  While syrup cools, whisk together sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.  Whisk in egg and yolks until combined.  While continuing to whisk, gradually drizzle in the cooled syrup until it has all been added, and the sugar has dissolved and is no longer grainy.  Transfer mixture back into saucepan and place over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  After 6-8 minutes, when the curd has thickened greatly, remove from heat and push through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl.  While stirring, gradually add in small pieces of the butter until it has all been dissolved into the curd.  Mix in salt, and continue to stir until curd has cooled.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the curd so that it doesn’t develop a skin.  Store cooled, covered curd in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Orange Grapefruit Curd

½ cup orange juice

¼ cup grapefruit juice

zest of 2 oranges & ¼ grapefruit

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1½ teaspoons orange extract

1/3 cup granulated sugar

½ tablespoon cornstarch

1 egg, plus 2 yolks

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon salt

Place fruit juices in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to simmer.  Allow liquid to reduce by about half (5-6 minutes) before removing the syrup from heat and stirring in zest, lemon juice and orange extract.  While syrup cools, whisk together sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.  Whisk in egg and yolks until combined.  While continuing to whisk, gradually drizzle in the cooled syrup until it has all been added, and the sugar has dissolved and is no longer grainy.  Transfer mixture back into saucepan and place over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  After 6-8 minutes, when the curd has thickened greatly, remove from heat and push through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl.  While stirring, gradually add in small pieces of the butter until it has all been dissolved into the curd.  Mix in salt, and continue to stir until curd has cooled.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the curd so that it doesn’t develop a skin.  Store cooled, covered curd in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Additional Ingredients & Preparation:

A full batch of pastry cream should be prepared, and divided into two equal parts to be folded into the two fruit curds.  Pastry cream is the standard filling for éclairs, so one may choose to omit the curd portion of the recipe and fill the éclairs with only the vanilla cream.  Fruit curd-pastry creams should be stored the same as a regular pastry cream, refrigerated and covered tightly with a layer of plastic wrap draped onto the surface of the mixture.

A full batch of chocolate glaze should be prepared using white chocolate in the place of semisweet.  The prepared glaze can be divided in half and colored with pink rose and orange gel food colorings, if desired.

Assembly:

Transfer fruit curd pastry creams into pastry or zip-top bags fitted with small round tips.  Using a sharp paring knife, create two tiny slits on each end of the underside of each cooled éclair.  Place the tip of one of the bags of curd-cream into one slit, squeeze until slightly plumped, and then into the other slit, squeezing again.  This will help the éclairs to be filled evenly and prevent tearing or bursting.  Repeat this process with all the éclairs, filling half of them with strawberry pomegranate filling and half with orange grapefruit filling.

Dip the tops of each filled  éclair into the coordinating cooled chocolate glaze, and set aside at room temperature or in the refrigerator to allow the chocolate glaze to set.  Éclairs should be served immediately to prevent sogginess, however, leftovers may be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

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July 14, 2011

Summer Pudding & Keeping Away the Nargles

I’m sad to admit that the end of Potter Week is near, but undeniably happy to be less than 24 hours away from the long-awaited final movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.  I have a few more Harry-themed recipes to share, including today’s Summer Pudding, which I just love.

While researching various British desserts for this week, I learned that the common British use of the word  “pudding” is somewhat interchangeable with the American use of the word “dessert.”  Any mention of pudding in the Harry Potter book series and films, therefore, may not actually be a reference to the sweet and creamy custard I’d always pictured.  And “loony” Luna Lovegood, the dreamily carefree, pudding-loving friend of Harry’s, wasn’t constantly craving a heaping bowl of vanilla tapioca or even rice pudding.  Luna, instead, frequently found herself with a bit of a sweet tooth and simply wanted a dessert of some sort (I can relate).  Either way, I still like to imagine Luna happily rushing over to the Ravenclaw table at the Hogwarts feast and scooping herself a large serving of rich, custard pudding.

If you haven’t guessed, it’s pretty apparent in the book series and even more so in the films that Luna is quite fond of pudding.  Upon first meeting Harry and friends in the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Luna both informs the group of her belief that her odd jewelry charm “keeps away the nargles,” and also expresses her desire for pudding, all in the same breath.

While Luna seems to be quite the pudding-fan, we cannot say the same for Dobby, the beloved house elf.  In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, mischievous Dobby sends evil Aunt Petunia’s “masterpiece of a pudding” crashing to the floor, disrupting a dinner party, and leaving Harry at the scene of the crime, completely covered in sugared flowers and cream.  Regardless of Dobby’s potential distaste, I thought it important to create some sort of pudding for Potter Week, and fell in love with the idea of “Summer Pudding,” a super simple, no-bake, berry-filled concoction.  I think that it would be a beautiful addition to any Hogwarts feast or perhaps ‘Harry Potter Movie Marathon Party’ buffet table…  fit for wizards, house elves, and muggles alike!

Summer Pudding

Inspired by: Luna Lovegood’s favorite (and Aunt Petunia’s ruined) “Pudding”

“I’ll just go down and have some pudding and wait for it all to turn up.  It always does in the end…”
-Luna Lovegood, lightheartedly referencing her missing possessions, hidden by Hogwarts students in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Adapted from Craig Stoll’s
“Summer Berry Pudding,”
Fine Cooking

2 pints fresh strawberries

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 pints red raspberries

2 pints black raspberries

2 pints blackberries

juice and zest from 1 orange

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 loaf fine-crumb white bread

–recipe yield: about 8-12 servings

Hull and roughly chop strawberries into a small dice and place into medium saucepan.  Toss sliced strawberries with the sugar and place over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until berries have broken down into a thick syrup.  Remove and discard any large strawberry pieces, and reduce heat to low.  Add into the liquid the red raspberries, black raspberries, and blackberries.  Allow the berries to slightly soften in the hot syrup for about 5 minutes before removing the whole berries from the liquid with a slotted spoon or strainer and transferring them to a small bowl to cool.  The syrup should remain in the saucepan over low heat for about 5 more minutes, allowing it to simmer and reduce.  Then, remove the reduced syrup from heat and stir in the orange juice and zest, Grand Marnier, and lemon juice.

As berries and syrup cool, butter the inside of  a large bowl line with plastic wrap. Remove all crusts from each slice of bread. Fit a few bread slices into an even layer lining bottom and sides of prepared bowl, further trimming slices if necessary. Dip slices into the cooled fruit syrup and arrange soaked slices back into the bowl. Spoon about ½ cup of berries into the center of the bowl atop the soaked bread. Cover berries with a few more slices of soaked bread, spooning on another ½ cup of berries onto those slices. Repeat bread-soaking and berry-layering until layers reach near level with the top of bread-lining up the sides of the bowl. Level with side bread-lining, arrange a final layer of soaked bread to cover the top of the berries completely and the entire surface of the dessert.

Cover the surface of the dessert with plastic wrap, and fit a small plate or round cardboard cutout into the bowl on top of the wrapped surface.  Place some slightly heavy objects (canned goods or a few small boxes of sugar, etc.) on top of the round cutout to weigh it down and condense the dessert into a dense solid.  Set the weighted dessert onto a rimmed sheet tray and place into refrigerator to chill overnight.  Invert the chilled dessert onto a serving dish, peeling away and discarding the plastic wrap.  Garish with confectioner’s sugar and/or extra berries if desired, slice, and serve.

July 10, 2011

Harry Potter and the Incredible Crumble

This week is Potter Week at Pumpercake!  Harry Potter inspired recipes will be published all week as we count down the days before the final movie is released into theaters!

Some of Harry’s happiest memories are those he has of time spent with his beloved Godfather, Sirius Black.  Sirius and Harry had a couple very memorable conversations during the tail-end of a meeting with the Order of the Phoenix, some of which took place during dinner.  Mrs. Weasley served up an extravagant feast for this particular occasion, and ended the meal with an impressive “rhubarb crumble and custard” that Harry thoroughly enjoyed.  This is my version of Harry’s favorite chef’s dessert.

I went with crimson-cherry rhubarb, twice baked, infused with orange flavors and a hint of cardamom.  I knew I needed to incorporate some sort of Sherbet Lemon element in one of the recipes for Potter Week.  Sherbet Lemon, of course, being “a kind of Muggle sweet” that Albus Dumbledore is “rather fond of.” The custard that Mrs. Weasley serves alongside her crumble was the perfect opportunity for me to include Albus’s favorite flavors.

“Three helpings of rhubarb crumble and custard later and the waistband on Harry’s jeans was feeling uncomfortably tight (which was saying something, as the jeans had once been Dudley’s).”
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Rhubarb Crumble
with
“Sherbet Lemon”
Custard Sauce

Inspired by: Molly Weasley’s
“Rhubarb Crumble & Custard,” and Professor Dumbledore’s favorite
“Sherbet Lemon”

Adapted from Dinah Bucholz’s
“Rhubarb Crumble with Custard Sauce,”
The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

Rhubarb Crumble

1½ pound crimson red rhubarb

1/3 cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon orange extract

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon cardamom

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

zest from ½ an orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a sheet pan with foil.  Slice rhubarb into ½-inch pieces and toss together with granulated sugar, orange and vanilla extracts, cardamom, baking soda, and ¼ tablespoon of the cornstarch.  Spread rhubarb mixture onto lined sheet tray and bake for about 10 minutes to help soften and caramelize rhubarb.  Once removed from the oven, toss the mixture to cool it slightly.  Sift onto the rhubarb mixture the remaining cornstarch and the flour and mix, stirring in the orange zest as well.  Pour in an even layer into a 1-quart casserole dish and set aside while preparing crumble topping.

Crumble Topping

½ cup all-purpose flour              ½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup steel cut oats                  ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup almond flour                   6 tablespoons unsalted butter

¾ cup brown sugar

Mix together in a food processor all ingredients, except for the butter, until thoroughly combined.  Cut the cold butter into a small dice and add the pieces into the food processor with the dry crumble mixture.  Pulse until butter has incorporated and the texture of the mixture resembles clumpy, wet sand. Sprinkle the crumb mixture into the dish in an even layer on top of the rhubarb.  Place in 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until rhubarb is bubbly and topping is golden.

“Sherbet Lemon” Custard Sauce

3 egg yolks

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup whole milk

¼ cup heavy whipping cream

zest from 1 lemon

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

juice from ½ a lemon

1 tablespoon sherbet powder

–recipe yield: about 1¼ cups custard sauce

In a small bowl, lightly break up egg yolks with a fork, then set bowl aside.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine sugar, salt, and cornstarch.  Whisk in milk, cream and lemon zest until cornstarch has dissolved.  Place over medium-high heat, constantly stirring, until thoroughly heated but not boiling.  Reduce heat to low and, while whisking the egg yolks, slowly pour into the small bowl a couple tablespoons of the hot liquid to bring eggs gently up to temperature without cooking them.  Once yolks have been heated, transfer the warm mixture into the saucepan and replace heat to medium-high.  Constantly stirring, continue to heat until mixture is thick and bubbling.  Remove from heat and pour mixture into a small bowl, allowing it to pass through a fine mesh sieve, discarding any solid pieces of egg.  Stir the vanilla and the lemon juice into the hot custard until incorporated.  Serve warm or chilled.  If not serving immediately, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the custard sauce so the sauce doesn’t develop a skin.  Store covered custard sauce in refrigerator.

May 9, 2011

Turkish Java & Molten Lava

This past Holiday season, upon opening a Christmas card from a family that I’d gotten to know shortly after moving to the area, I was surprised to discover a gift card to their favorite place to get Middle Eastern food.  When Evan and I visited the little Lebanese restaurant, we were very strategic in placing our appetizer and entree orders and made sure to leave room for a dessert selection as well.  On impulse, I decided on a chocolate molten lava cake, mainly because the menu described it as being served alongside homemade  marshmallow cream.  Little did I know, although the pair was absolutely delicious, it was neither the lava cake, nor my beloved marshmallow fluff that would turn out to be the star of the dessert (as well as the entire dinner experience).  There was another component to this little dessert trio, and that was a dollop of an unbelievable pistachio and orange ice cream.  Sounds strange, a chocolate “Turkish Coffee” cake served alongside marshmallow, pistachio and orange flavors, I know.  But, when gathered onto one spoon, the combination of the different flavors, textures, and temperatures seemed as deliciously obvious as a pairing of spaghetti and meatballs.

This unforgettable dessert has very frequently been the topic of conversation between Evan and I since our visit to that restaurant.  Clearly, I had to recreate this dish, but very delicately.  There was no way I was going to tweak any of the perfect flavors in the slightest degree and risk compromising the divinity of this dessert.  I decided, instead, to deconstruct the assembly of the cake.  The result is what I’m calling a “semifreddo lava cake,” composed of a rich, spiced chocolate sheet cake wrapped around a pistachio-orange semifreddo creme.  The “hot lava” took the form of a hot-fudge sauce and was drizzled atop the dessert, and with the obvious inclusion of my favorite marshmallow frosting, the reconstructed dish was complete and just as euphoric as we’d remembered it the first time.

Semifreddo Lava Cake

Inspired by: “Molten Chocolate ‘Turkish Coffee’ Cake”

-Lebanese Taverna (Arlington, VA)

Mocha-Spice Sheet Cake

Adapted from “Mocha Cake,” Gourmet – August 2009

Rich and chocolate-y with a subtle hint of coffee and spice, this flourless cake stays fluffy, moist and soft when frozen… perfect for a semifreddo dessert.

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

3 teaspoons  espresso powder

6 eggs, separated

½ cup granulated sugar, separated

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter and line a 13×9 inch pan.  Prepare a double boiler fitted with a small glass bowl to melt the chocolate.  Before turning on the heat under the double boiler, dissolve the espresso powder by stirring it into 3 tablespoon of hot water.  Once dissolved, strain the espresso into to bowl of chocolate, turn on the heat, and melt the chocolate together with the espresso.  Once almost completely melted, remove bowl from heat, stir to melt completely, and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks, ¼ cup of the sugar, the salt and the cardamom until the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 8 minutes.  Beat in the cooled chocolate.  In a separate bowl, beat the room temperature egg whites until they’ve reached soft peaks, gradually add in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and continue to beat until the meringue just creates stiff peaks.  Gradually and gently fold the egg whites in small batches into the chocolate mixture.

Spread the batter as evenly as possibly (without deflating it) into the prepared pan and bake for 12-14 minutes, or until it has puffed and is dry and springy to the touch.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cover the cake with two layers of damp paper towel.  Let the covered cake rest for about 3 minutes, remove the towel (allowing the crispy top layer to peel away with it), and allow the cake to cool completely in the pan.  Once the cake has completely cooled, loosen the edges of the cake with a knife and invert onto a large cutting board or sheet pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  Transfer the cake (still covered with parchment atop the cutting board) to the freezer for 2-3 hours for easy slicing and assembly.

Pistachio-Orange Semifreddo

Adapted from Tim Nugent’s “Pistachio Semifreddo,” Top Chef

This semifreddo is simply divine and can stand alone as a truly delectable dessert.  The flavors are amazing, but it’s the texture that makes this semifreddo so special.  Make sure to whip each layer of ingredients carefully as directed and fold as gently as possible for a beautiful, airy-light finish.

4 eggs, separated                               1 cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup superfine sugar, separated       zest from half an orange

1/3 cup pistachio paste*                      1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl and, over medium-low heat, whip together the egg yolks and ¼ of the caster sugar.  Continue to whip on a high speed until as much volume as possible has been achieved, about 5-8 minutes.  At this point, remove from heat and, while still warm, add the pistachio paste and gently swirl it into the yolk mixture.  Set bowl aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whip the room temperature egg whites until they’ve reached soft peaks.  Gradually add in the remaining superfine sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks have been achieved.  In small batches, gradually fold the stiffened egg white meringue gently into the yolk-pistachio mixture.  In a separate bowl, beat the cold whipping cream to soft peaks, add in the orange zest and juice, and continue to whip slightly until they’ve reached medium-stiff peaks (do not over-whip or the cream can turn into butter).  In gradual batches, gently fold the whipped orange cream into the fluffy pistachio mixture.  Once the semifreddo base has been combined and poured into properly lined pan (as directed below), allow to freeze overnight before serving.

*I made my own pistachio paste for this dessert, but it actually ended up being quite a bit of work and not as easy as the recipe makes it seem.  I would suggest just purchasing some pre-made pistachio paste and adjusting the amount of sugar in the semifreddo accordingly, as it may not be quite as sweet as my homemade paste turned out.

Hot Lava Fudge

Adapted from the Old Occidental Hotel’s “Hot Fudge Sauce,”  -Muskegon, Michigan

1 cup superfine sugar          1/3 cup cocoa powder          2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons flour              1 cup milk                             1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-recipe yield:  1 ¾ cups sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour and unsweetened cocoa powder.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine and stir together the milk, butter and vanilla just until the butter has melted.  Add in the dry ingredients to the milk mixture, constantly whisking.  Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, until thick and smooth, about 5 minutes.  Remove from stove and transfer to serving cup or gravy-boat to allow to cool.  Refrigerate unused portion.   Leftovers be reheated in a double-boiler or microwave as needed.

For the marshmallow fluff, make a half-batch of my favorite marshmallow frosting recipe.

Assembly:

Once the sheet cake has chilled in the freezer, remove it and peel back the top layer of parchment paper.  Using a large loaf pan as a guide, trace onto the removed parchment paper the shape of the top, bottom, and two longest sides of the loaf pan.  Cut the shapes out of the parchment paper and arrange them on top of the sheet cake.  Using a sharp paring knife, slice the cake in the shapes of each of the parchment paper to (eventually) fit along the inside of the loaf pan.

Line the large loaf pan with two large pieces of parchment paper, allowing the paper to drape outside of the pan, creating “tabs” that can eventually be pulled up to remove the dessert from the pan.  Handling the cake very gingerly, place into the bottom of the lined loaf pan the slice of cake that fits accordingly and gently press it so that it’s lying across the entire bottom of the pan.  Place both long side pieces of cake into the lined loaf pan along the matching sides and gently press.  Pour the semifreddo base into the cake-lined loaf pan and cover the semifreddo with the final slice of cake fitting the very top of the loaf pan.  If the semifreddo doesn’t reach the top of the pan, slice this piece of cake to fit into the pan atop the semifreddo accordingly.  Cover the loaf pan with plastic wrap and allow assembled dessert to freeze overnight.
To serve, remove the dessert from the freezer and lift the parchment tabs to loosen the dessert from the loaf pan.  Place plate or serving tray on top of loaf pan and flip to invert the dessert onto server.  Peel back the parchment paper.  Cut dessert into slices, drizzle the hot fudge, and spoon a dollop of marshmallow fluff on or next to the dessert or slices.  Serve immediately.

April 5, 2011

Whoopie! for Carrot Cake Creme Pies

As a huge ‘Food Network’ fan, I often find myself daydreaming about what I’d do with the secret ingredient on Iron Chef: America or what kind of witty yet soul-crushing critique Geoffrey Zakarian might give me should I find myself competing on Chopped.  And I’ve thought long and hard about what I’d select as my favorite dish on Best Thing I Ever Ate.

Well, I found my answer a couple months ago when I first visited this cute little lounge a few blocks away from my apartment just outside Washington, DC.  I went for a late-morning Saturday brunch, and needless to say, have been back almost every Saturday since my first visit.  It’s getting embarrassing.  The waitress knows my name and I think my body is starting to become conditioned to crave brunch food from their menu come Saturday morning (or earlier in the week).  They make a rosemary waffle with silky poached egg and wild mushroom, crème’ fraiche topping, and it is the Best Thing I Ever Ate.  Having the ever-persistent sweet tooth that I do, it seems odd that my all-time favorite dish be a savory one.  Therefore, I’ve allowed myself a second favorite for those (much more frequent) days in which I find myself craving something sweet.  Luckily, this little lounge has created a stuffed French toast that is nothing short of a masterpiece.  Sweet and refreshing orange cream cheese filling oozes from thick cut, crispy brioche that is warmly spiced to perfection.

This French toast was my inspiration behind today’s recipe.  I did my best to recreate the orange filling and then sweetened it up a touch to resemble the marshmallow-y frosting found in the middle of whoopie pies.  I used a cookie recipe as a base and altered it to make it a little more cake-like, yet still dense enough to hold its shape and the filling.  I chose to go with a carrot cake theme, as I knew the sweet carrots could stand up to the many different spices I imagined the brioche being dredged in to make the French toast.  Also, I found myself with an abundance of carrots that I needed to do something with.  But let’s go with the first reason.

And here is the result!  It’s the oatmeal creme pie your mom used to pack in your lunch box meets carrot cake meets my favorite brunch-time treat:

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies

Inspired by: “Stuffed French Toast”

–Eleventh Street Lounge (Arlington, VA)



Carrot Cake Cookies

-adapted from Martha Stewart’s “Carrot Cookies”

½ pound (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour*

½ cup whole wheat flour*

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground clove

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

2 cups quick cooking oats

1 ½ cup finely grated carrot (about 5 medium or 3 large carrots)

1 ¼ cup golden raisins (red raisins work fine, too!)

Peel and grate the carrots using the finest side of a box grater, and then set aside.

Spread your raisins out on a large cutting board and give them a rough chop.**  This can turn into quite the sticky situation.  After the raisins are roughly chopped, I like to throw them in a medium bowl, and then spin them through the measured dry oats, coating the raisins completely.  I do this for two reasons: 1) As the oats are covering the raisins, they naturally break apart any sticky raisin-clumps that may have formed, and 2) this dry coating really helps keep the dense raisins suspended in the cookie as they bake, as opposed to sinking to the bottom of the cookie and burning.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars with an electric mixture until fluffy (3-4 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, vanilla, and carrots, beating on medium speed until combined.  Set aside.

Sift together flours, salt, baking powder and soda, and spices.  Stir to combine.  Gradually add flour mixture to carrot mixture on lowest speed until just blended.  Stir in raisins and oats.

At this point, it’s important to cover and chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour in order to let the dough firm up.  This will ensure that the cookies will hold their shape in the oven.  Room temperature dough will cause the cookies to spread out too much and you’ll end up with flimsy whoopie pies. Which will still taste delicious, of course, but will make a giant mess when attempting to eat or handle.

Using a medium sized ice cream scoop, scoop out balls of dough spaced a couple inches apart onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake cookies for about 12-15 minutes at 350′, rotating sheets halfway through baking in order to ensure even color.  Transfer baked cookies to wire racks and allow to cool before handling or assembly.

Orange Cream Cheese Filling

The tangy sweetness of this frosting can work harmoniously with many different kinds of cakes or cookies.  It also makes a delicious dip for fruit!

5 ounces of cream cheese, softened

¼ pound of unsalted butter (1 stick), softened

2 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ½ tablespoons of orange zest

about ¼-½ inch of fresh ginger root, finely chopped

1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

a pinch of ground nutmeg

-optional: chopped pecans, flaked coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

Using an electric mixer, cream together cheese and butter in a large bowl until the mixture is homogeneous.  Gradually add powdered sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl throughout mixing.  Continue to cream together the mixture until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add orange and vanilla extract, zest, ginger and spices and continue to beat until well incorporated.

Transfer filling to pastry or zip-lock bag, if desired.  Refrigerate filling before pie assembly to allow it to set up and maintain stiffness.

Assembly:

Once cake-cookies have cooled completely and filling as set up in the fridge, it is time for assembly.  If you’re a control-freak perfectionist about your confectionaries, like me, the first step will be to pair up each like-sized cookie with its mate in order for the prettiest finished product.  If you’re using a pastry bag, squeeze out a small ring of filling right in the center of the bottom of half of the cookies, being careful not to get filling too close to the outer edge of the cookie.  If you’re not using a pastry bag, you can just as easily use a small cookie-dough scoop or melon-ball scoop to drop a couple tablespoons of filling in the center of half of the cookies.  Press remaining cookies on top of frosted cookies, pressing down so that the filling reaches the outer edge of cookie-sandwich and is visible.

If desired, roll the assembled pies through chopped pecans or flaked coconut so that the exposed filling picks up the topping.  With your fingers, press pecans or coconut lightly into the filling.

Whoopie pies should be stacked in between layers of parchment paper and stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator up until ready to serve.  Also freezes well.

*If you’re choosing to make a batch of carrot cake cookies by themselves, as opposed to the whoopie pies, go ahead and cut back to only 2 cups of flour total (instead of 2 ¼ cups total).  This can mean using only whole wheat or only all purpose flour, or your choice of a mixture of both.  I like the depth of flavor and texture that this mixture gives, and the whole wheat flour can definitely stand up to all the spice!
**This is another step you can skip if you’re going the “cookie-only” route.  Although, in this case, re-hydrating the raisins is a great idea.  To do this, soak the whole raisins in some hot water for about 5-8 minutes or until they’ve plumped up, then drain them and pat dry with a towel, breaking up with your fingers any raisins stuck together.  Better yet, add a tiny splash of rum or rum extract to the water to give the raisins a little kick!