Posts tagged ‘salty-sweet’

July 13, 2011

Pumper Pasties

“He had never had any money for candy with the Dursleys, and now that he had pockets rattling with gold and silver he was ready to buy as many Mars Bars as he could carry — but the woman didn’t have Mars Bars. What she did have were Bettie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum, Chocolate Frogs. Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes, Licorice Wands, and a number of other strange things Harry had never seen in his life. Not wanting to miss anything, he got some of everything and paid the woman eleven silver Sickles and seven bronze Knuts.

Ron stared as Harry brought it all back in to the compartment and tipped it onto an empty seat.

“Hungry, are you?”

“Starving,” said Harry, taking a large bite out of a pumpkin pasty.”

-Aboard the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Pumpkin pasties are a mutual favorite treat shared by Harry and many of his friends throughout the series. Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna, and Ginny have all been known to snack on pasties once in a while. Here in the muggle world, Potter fans seem equally as fond of the handheld sweets, for when I started researching pumpkin pasty recipe ideas, I was overwhelmed with the amount of feedback I received. The only issue was, it seemed every reader had interpreted Pumpkin Pasties in a very similar way, as there were minimal variations in recipes. It was always a sweet, flaky pie-pocket filled with the same pumpkin pie filling.

While I’m sure these versions are delicious, I decided to go a different route.  I thought it might be interesting to do more of a Pumpkin Pastry, but still find a way to make it whimsical and fun.  In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, there’s a time during holiday when Harry and Ron sat by the fire for hours on end, “eating anything they could spear on a toasting fork — bread, English muffins, [and] marshmallows. ” Naturally, I loved the idea of the two friends snacking on my favorite sweet, and I decided to incorporate the mallows. With that, the Pumpkin-Marshmallow Napoleon was born… although I think I’ve come up with a much better name for them:

Pumper “Pumpkin Pasty” Pastries

Inspired by: The Hogwarts Express Food Trolley’s “Pumpkin Pasties”

Adapted from Phyllo and Pumpkin Marshmallow Napoleons,” Baking Obsession

Caramel-Glaze Spiced Pastry Rounds

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

¼ cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon all spice

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste

–recipe yield:  about 24-30 disks,
about 8-10 assembled napoleons

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
On a lightly floured surface, unfold one sheet of thawed puff pastry.  Using a floured rolling pin, gently smooth out creases from folds and roll out puff pastry sheet to about 1/4 – 1/8-inch thickness.  Using a 2-3 -inch cookie cutter or a round glass, cut pastry into about 12-15 disks and place onto parchment-lined baking sheet.  Using a fork, prick a few holes into each disk.  Transfer to the refrigerator to chill for about 5 minutes.

In a saucepan over medium heat, dissolve granulated sugar in ¼ cup water, bring to a boil, and turn off heat.  Stir in brown sugar, butter, salt, spices, and vanilla, continuing to stir until butter has melted and the mixture has formed a warm glaze.  Use a pastry brush to paint a small amount of glaze onto one side of each chilled pastry disk, placing the painted disks back onto the lined baking sheet.  Cover the disks with another layer of parchment paper, and place another baking sheet directly on top of the paper to weigh down the disks as they bake.  Bake disks for 10 minutes before removing from oven and flipping.  Paint the glaze onto the opposite side of each half-baked pastry round, replace parchment paper covering and additional baking sheet cover, and then transfer back into the oven for an additional 10 minutes.  Repeat all instructions for the second sheet of puff pastry.  Allow rounds to cool completely on wire racks before assembling napoleons.  Pastry disks can be prepared ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.

Pumpkin-Marshmallow Filling

¼ cup cooked, pureed pumpkin

½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ all spice

pinch ground ginger

1½ envelopes unflavored gelatin

½ cup cold water, divided

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ cup light corn syrup

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste

In a small bowl, stir together the pumpkin and spices until combined.  Set aside.  In a large glass mixing bowl, sprinkle gelatin into ¼ cup of cold water and let sit.  Have an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan, combine the remaining ¼ cup water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt.  Cover saucepan and place over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes before removing lid and attaching a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature of the syrup.  Let the syrup cook until it reaches 240 degrees (about 5-6 minutes), and then immediately remove it from heat.  With the mixer on a low speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatin mixture, allowing it to pour down the side of the bowl into the gelatin.  Once all the syrup has been added, increase the mixer speed to high and continue to whip the mixture until cools to lukewarm and becomes extremely thick, or about 12-15 minutes.  The vanilla bean paste can be added during the last minute of whipping.

Once the marshmallow mixture has been fully whipped, use a spatula to fold about ½ cup of the mallow into the pumpkin-spice mixture.  Then, pour the lightened pumpkin to the mixing bowl and fold it gently but thoroughly into the marshmallow.  Transfer the combined mixture into a pastry or zip-top bag fitted with a small, plain round pastry tip.

Assembly

Pipe 5-6 small dollops of pumpkin-marshmallow filling onto the surface of each pastry round.  Set aside 1/3 of the mallow-dolloped  pastry rounds.  Use a water-moistened finger to lightly flatten the tops of each of the dollops on the remaining 2/3 of the pastry rounds.  Let all pastry disks sit out, uncovered, for about an hour to allow the mallow filling to set.  Stack up two disks with flattened dollops and top with an un-flatted dolloped disk to complete each napoleon.  Serve, or store covered in an airtight container at room temperature.

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June 2, 2011

Macaron Mess, Part III: Practice Makes Perfect

I’ve been going a bit overboard with macaron practice and production lately.  The delicate cookie that I once loathed has recently become my favorite kitchen experiment and my favorite gift to give away.  I’m constantly thinking and talking about them, and I may have even had a few dreams revolving solely around the macaron and its endless flavor combination possibilities.  It became clear to me that it was time to re-visit the chocolate-peanut butter macaron recipe from my very first attempt (emphasis on the word “attempt”) about a month ago.  Regardless of the fact that I’ve been a mac-making machine lately, making chocolate macaron shells still brought about a whole new challenge for me.  The addition of cocoa powder into the batter scared the living daylights out of me.  And as David Lebovitz suggests cutting back on almond flour while Tartelette suggests cutting back on powdered sugar when attempting chocolate macarons, I was torn and confused.  What’s the difference between unsweetened cocoa powder and Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa anyway?

Luckily, my chocolate shells turned out very nicely due to David’s recipe (although that doesn’t mean that Tartelette’s wouldn’t have turned out just as well!).  I went with my original inspiration and filled the shells with a salted-peanut butter buttercream, mimicking my sister-in-law’s peanut butter buckeyes.  I kept my promise to my sister-in-law and my brother and made sure that they got to taste these less-fragile, correctly made cookies.

In other (much more exciting) news, Evan’s great friends, Sam and Megan, were married at a gorgeous black tie ceremony in Detroit this past weekend.  Evan selected some really nice wedding gifts to be shipped to their home, but I also decided to bake them something nice and have it waiting for them in their suite after the reception.  I wanted to make them something really special and pretty… something personalized just for them on their special day.  I didn’t even find out until after I’d given them the cookies that Megan just so happens to be allergic to gluten.  Thank goodness I’d ended up making these… one of the few fancy and gluten-free treats that I’ve come to grow so fond of whipping up!

As purple was one of the theme colors of their wedding decor, I chose to make Megan and Sam some violet shells with a blackberry buttercream filling.  I hand-painted some of the macs with tiny designs and flourishes, including one with their initials.  I saw the beautiful couple two days after the wedding and found out how much they enjoyed the cookies.  Congratulations, newlyweds!

Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Macarons

Inspired by: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Buckeyes

Chocolate Macaron Shells

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s “French Chocolate Macarons”

1 cup confectioners sugar

½ cup almond flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

¼ cup superfine sugar

2 egg whites, aged & room temperature*

small pinch of cream of tartar

-recipe yield: about 17 filled macarons

Substituting the vanilla ingredients for the chocolate ingredients and proportions above, follow the French Macaron Shell directions portion of the recipe (as well as the extra tips listed just before the recipe).  The cocoa should be added into the food processor and ground along with the confectioners sugar and almond flour.  Baking time may need to be increased by an extra minute or so.

Salted Peanut Butter Buttercream

½ cup smooth peanut butter           ½ teaspoon table salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter        ½ cup confectioner’s sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract              2 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

In a medium bowl, cream together peanut butter and  butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in vanilla and salt.  Gradually add confectioner’s sugar and continue to beat.  When the sugar has been combined, drizzle in heavy cream and whip until fluffy, being careful not to over-whip.

-Optional:

Once macaron shells have baked and cookies have assembled and sandwiched with buttercream, prepare a small batch of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil over the stove, reduced to a syrup and cooled) to brush over top of the shells.  Sprinkle a little kosher or flaked sea salt over top of the syrup-brushed cookies for an extra salty bite.

Blackberry Wedding Macarons

Pretty Purple Macaron Shells

For purple (or any other color) macaron shells, follow the French Macaron Shell recipe (as well as the extra tips listed just before the recipe).  Desired amount of gel food coloring can be added to macaron batter just after dry ingredients are sifted in and just before starting to fold dry ingredients into the meringue.  A good way to do this is to squeeze the gel directly onto a clean spatula before using the same spatula to fold the batter.

Blackberry Buttercream

Adapted from sammyw‘s “Raspberry Buttercream Frosting”

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ cup seedless blackberry preserves

2-3 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

In a medium bowl, whip butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add in blackberry preserves and beat until homogeneous.  Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar until desired sweetness has been achieved.  Once sugar has been dissolved, drizzle in heavy cream and whip until fluffy.

-Optional

To make the designs, I diluted some more of the purple food coloring with a drop or so of water and used a fine paintbrush to apply a small amount of the thick purple liquid to the tops of the cookies in different designs.  Allow painted shells to dry completely before stacking, packaging, handling or serving.

May 5, 2011

A Salty-Sweet & Crunchy Treat

When I first started pumpercake, I was overwhelmed by the immense amount of support from friends and family regarding the blog and my baking.  One of the most, if not THE most enthusiastic of those supporters is my mom.  Along with her loving support and pride in my new project, she also offered me a little suggestion for a dessert to try out… some sort of chocolate covered potato chips, inspired by the popular Neiman Marcus chips that she and I used to indulge in a little while back.  Although I thought her idea was great, I’ve been focusing so much on more extravagant and difficult recipes to challenge myself with (like those silly macarons) that I guess it just slipped my mind.  But, when it came time to think up a special something to make her for Mother’s Day, this simple and scrumptious salty-sweet treat was an obvious choice.

To make this quick and easy snack a little more special, I used blend of a few different types of rich chocolate that I knew she’d like and also added a little decorative chocolate drizzle and a sprinkle of coarse salt.  I decided that Pringles would be the potato chip of choice, mainly due to the shape of the chips and the container and the fact that I knew it would make for a super cute presentation.

Happy (early) Mother’s Day to all those wonderful moms out there!  I hope my ‘Mama Lew’ loves her little stack of treats and hope she knows how much I love her.

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

Inspired by: “Chocolate-Covered Potato Chips”  –Neiman Marcus

There are no rules when it comes to the types of chocolate to be used for these.  I used the list below to make different blends and layers of flavor, but adapt the quantities and cacao content percentages to fit your taste.  If you plan on drizzling chocolate onto a covered chip, try using a sweeter chocolate paired with a less sweet type, using one as a base and one as a drizzle.

¾ cup chopped dark chocolate       ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup white chocolate chips            ½ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

about half a container of Pringles   kosher salt (coarse) for sprinkling

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl filled with the chopped dark and semisweet chocolate.  Remove the bowl of almost completely melted chocolate from the double boiler and stir to melt completely.  One at a time, coat half of the potato chips  with the melted chocolate by gently holding each chip with a pair of tongs, dipping the chip in the bowl, and spreading the chocolate with a spatula to evenly coat.  Place each covered chip onto parchment paper, sprinkle with coarse salt, and allow to cool completely.  Repeat this process with ¾ cup of the white chocolate (there will be less white chocolate coated potato chips than dark).

When the chocolate coated chips have been salted and completely cooled, melt the bittersweet chocolate and the remaining white chocolate in separate double boilers to be drizzled.  Drizzle the melted chocolate using whatever your preferred drizzling method is, mine being a pastry or zip-lock bag filled with the melted chocolate with the corner of the bag snipped.  Allow drizzled potato chips to cool (at room temperature or in the refrigerator) before stacking in between tiny squares of parchment paper and stacked back into their original tall container.  Store in the refrigerator to keep chocolate from melting partially onto other chips.

April 26, 2011

Passover pumperKugel

Having the passion for food that I do, I’m always eager to try new things and learn about the traditional foods from different backgrounds.  I’m lucky enough to have been exposed to an array of exciting and delicious Jewish foods, as well as the history and stories behind each dish, thanks to Evan’s grandmother.  I look forward to each and every holiday with Evan’s wonderful family and I enjoy so much spending time visiting with them and sharing in their family traditions.

My favorite of the many delectable dishes I’ve had with Evan’s family is undoubtedly the kugel.  A kugel is a sweet, noodle pudding that is normally served as a side dish (but can very easily pass as an indulgent dessert) during Passover.  Other versions of kugel start with a potato or sweet potato base, but Evan’s grandma’s luscious concoction of egg noodles, pineapple, and golden raisins has me convinced that noodles are the way to go.  Although I might miss her incredible candied sweet potatoes, I could easily be satisfied with a Passover feast composed of a plate filled with only kugel.

I’ve experimented with a couple different recipes in the past, but the kugel that I created for this year’s Passover was my best effort yet.  I incorporated pineapple and golden raisins as a tribute to Evan’s grandmother’s version, and even threw in a few bites of creamy, baked sweet potato in order to have both of my favorite of her dishes represented in the meal.  I topped it with ground cinnamon, just as she does, along with a salty-sweet matzo crumble, my own little twist.  Evan agreed that the kugel was the best of my previous attempts and described it as being delicious and extra “dessert-y” (Me? Dessert? Big surprise).  It may not be the most glamorous dish but, kugel doesn’t need any fancy frills or even a holiday to be delicious.

Sweet Potato Noodle Kugel

Inspired by: ‘Grandma’ Millie’s “Pineapple-Raisin Kugel”

Adapted from Andrea Marks Carneiro & Roz Marks’ “Apple-Raisin Noodle Kugel,” The Modern Girl’s Guide To Cooking Like A Jewish Grandmother

1 sweet potato

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted, divided

2 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon granulated sugar, divided

½ teaspoon salt

12 ounces chunk pineapple (in juice)             ¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ cup golden raisins                                      3 eggs

6 ounces egg noodles                                    ¼ cup heavy cream

½ cup cream cheese                                      1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup sour cream                                           2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided

½ cup ricotta cheese                                      -recipe yield: about 5-8 servings

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a sheet tray with tin foil.  Peel and dice the sweet potato and place in a medium bowl.  Toss the diced potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter, ½ teaspoon sugar, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper until potatoes are evenly coated.  Arrange coated potatoes in an even layer onto the lined tray and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.  Set aside to cool and reduce oven heat to 325 degrees.  Butter the bottom and sides a 2 ½-quart souffle dish and set aside.

Pour into a saucepan about ½ cup or so of the extracted pineapple juice.  Heat the juice over low-medium heat for a few minutes until warmed through.  Turn off the heat and pour the hot juice into a small glass bowl or mug.  Add in the golden raisins and allow them to rehydrate and soak in the juice for about 10 minutes, until they have slightly plumped.  Strain the raisins, discarding the juice, and in a small bowl, toss them together with the cooled sweet potatoes.  Slice each of the pineapple chunks in half and toss them with the potato-raisin mixture as well.

Bring to boil a large pot of lightly salted water.  Add egg noodles to the boiling water and cook until just tender for about 6-8 minutes, or according to package instructions.  Drain noodles and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and the remaining granulated sugar until fluffy and creamed.  Beat in ricotta cheese and sour cream until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Whisk in heavy cream, vanilla and 1 teaspoon of the ground cinnamon.  Gently stir in the pineapple-potato mixture.  Pour in the cooked, drained noodles and drizzle in the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Toss the entire mixture together until noodles are well coated.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Mazto Crumble Topping

This crisp-like topping is completely optional, as the kugel is divine on it’s own.  The crumble gives it a little extra crunch and salty-sweetness that can help balance out the ultra-richness of the noodle-pudding.

¼ cup whole grain (as this dish is so health concious) matzo meal*

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small pieces

Empty all ingredients into food processor and pulse until texture is crumbly, adding a teaspoon of cold water if necessary.  Sprinkle the crumble into an even layer onto the kugel before baking, and top with another teaspoon of ground cinnamon.**  Bake kugel at 325 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, or until it has set and the top is golden.

Allow kugel to cool and set for at least 15-20 minutes.  Kugel can be enjoyed warm or cold (both are delish, but Evan and I prefer it cold) and should be covered and stored in the refrigerator.

*Although the matzo made the dish much more Passover-traditional, I only used it because I had some leftover from the matzo ball soup I’d prepared earlier in the week.  The matzo meal can easily be substituted for flour.

**If choosing to omit the crumble topping, sprinkle the top of the kugel with an extra generous teaspoon of ground cinnamon before baking.

April 14, 2011

A Short Tale of Shortbread

The economic troubles our country is currently struggling through have been truly devastating to many people.  Many have found themselves being laid off, receiving a pay cut or have had a lot of difficulty finding work at all.  Even those who are fortunate enough to have gotten or held onto a great job may be making the extra effort to spend their money wisely and making a few cutbacks during this difficult time.  It came as no surprise to me when I heard that even the Girl Scouts of America were making some “cookie-cutbacks” in lieu of the economic downturn.  Upon hearing this, being the food lover I am, I immediately had to see which of their cookies were being omitted from the selection this year.  Regardless of the fact that I don’t think I’ve purchased or eaten a girl scout cookie since I was a girl scout myself, over 15 years ago, I was very relieved to see that all of my familiar favorites would still be included in production.

Scanning through the list of the “chosen” cookies that had made it past the cut, my eyes fell upon the ever comforting ‘Trefoil’ cookie.  Yes, Trefoils are good, but compared to something with rich peanut butter cream or something covered in swirls of chocolate and coconut… aren’t they kind of plain?  How had they made the cut?  I’ll tell you why.  Shortbread is a true crowd-pleaser.  Soft or crunchy, cookie or biscuit, salty or sweet, twice baked or raw dough and spoon… everyone likes shortbread.

The reliability and comfort of the Trefoil inspired me to make a sheet of shortbread of my own.  It turned out just as expected, just as always.  It was sweet, salty, buttery, crumbly, and melt in your mouth delicious.  I divided the cookies into a few different packages to pass out to friends, including quite a few for Evan to bring to work the next day.  Needless to say, the dependable shortbread worked its magic again and was a huge hit at his office.  I love the fact that they even acted as a bit of an icebreaker with a couple of his superiors.  And let’s face it.  In this economy, winning a few brownie (shortbread?) points at work can’t hurt.

Reliable Shortbread

Inspired by: “Trefoils” – Girl Scouts of the USA

-adapted from Marie Simmons’ “Cookies,”  Williams-Sonoma Collection Series

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup confectioners’ sugar         -optional: 1 tablespoon coarse salt for sprinkling

½ cup granulated sugar                              -½ cup semisweet or white chocolate

1 teaspoon vanilla extract                           -¼ cup chopped pecans

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

Cover a shallow 9×13 pan with buttered parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until fluffy and pale yellow.  Add both sugars and continue to beat the mixture until all the sugar is well dissolved.  The mixture should be smooth when rubbed between your thumb and forefinger, not gritty.  Add in the vanilla and continue to beat.

In another large bowl, measure out and sift together the flour and the 2 teaspoons of salt.  Gradually add the sifted mixture into the butter and sugar mixture while mixing on a low speed until crumbly, yet combined.

At this point, I find it helpful to allow the dough to refrigerate for about an hour.  The chilled dough will be much easier to press into your prepared pan then room-temperature dough would be.  Floured fingertips also help to keep the sticky-ness to a minimum.

Once the chilled dough has been pressed into an even layer onto the pan, use a fork to prick holes into the dough wherever you plan to cut the baked cookies.  This scores the dough, making it easier to slice later and helping to ensure that you don’t end up with a crumbly mess.

Sprinkle the pressed, scored dough with the coarse salt, if desired, and place on the middle shelf of  an oven preheated to 300 degrees.  Bake for anywhere from 40-50 minutes, or until desired golden color  has been achieved.  Allow the shortbread to cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before removing them from the pan, peeling away the parchment paper, and returning to the wire rack to cool completely.

Once completely cool, transfer shortbread to counter-top or a large cutting board and slicing along the score lines into desired shapes.  Then, if desired, melt chocolate using a double boiler and drizzle the onto selected cookies.  Sprinkle chopped pecans onto cookies while the chocolate is still warm.  Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.